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tions of his master's approaching fate, and Peter, James, and John, who might already have begun, like Jesus, to transfer their hopes to a kingdom to be revealed hereafter from heaven; the disciples in general retained their first expectations, and trusted, in spite of all adverse appearances, that Jesus was he which should redeem Israel. The doctrine of a suffering Messiah was to them all too surprising to allow of their minds being accommodated to it on so short a notice; and when the capture of Jesus was soon afterwards effected, the whole of the disciples, after some feeble attempts at resistance, forsook him and fled.
The constancy with which men sustain their pretensions under persecution, insult, and the fear of death, is generally regarded as a strong, although not infallible, proof of their sincerity. The highest degree of evidence of this kind is afforded by the conduct of Jesus during his trial. It shews that, if he had deluded others by his assumption of the Messiahship, and the promise of his approaching kingdom, he himself fully shared in the delusion. Before the tribunals of his judges, he abated nothing of the claims which he had announced in secret to his disciples. To the high priest he asserted that he was the Christ, and the son of man, who would be seen hereafter coming on the clouds of heaven.* To the Roman governor he also admitted at once that he was the King of the Jews. The quiet confidence with which
* Matt. xxvi. 64.
+ Luke xxiii. 2, "And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this man perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying, that he himself is Christ a king. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? and he answered him, and said, Thou sayest." From Luke xxii. 70,71, it appears
that this was a form of assent.
Matt. xxvii. 11, "And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? and Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest." Afterthis, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus answered no further questions. John alone inserts a further conversation, in which Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world. But some reasons will be given in chap. vi. for considering the dialogues in this last gospel chiefly as a convenient form adopted by the writer for delivering the doctrines of his own time.
he maintained pretensions apparently so extravagant, when a renunciation of them might possibly have saved his life; the firm self-possession with which he declined to answer the accusations brought against him, thereby neglecting the opportunity, to which few men in such circumstances shew themselves indifferent, of making a favourable impression on the bystanders, by clearing away misrepresentations, extenuating or explaining the most obnoxious parts of their conduct, and finally appealing to their pity or admiration;-these points in the conduct of Jesus seem to betoken a high-minded and sincere enthusiasm, free from any consciousness of imposture. He behaved like a prophet, Messiah, and Son of God, because he believed himself to be such.
Pilate did not consider the mere assumption of the title Christ as a capital crime, since it appeared to be unaccompanied by any overt act* of treason, and was willing to spare the life of Jesus. But he suffered himself to be overruled by the priests. He had some respect for the native leaders of Judea, and could not refuse to oblige them with the death of one man, As a Roman soldier, his object was to preserve the country in subjection to the empire, and the administration of strict justice would appear to him a less certain and obvious method than a system of prompt executions. The sacrifice of a Jew accused of sedition by his own countrymen, could at least do no harm. He gave sentence, then, that it should be as they required; and Jesus, after being scourged, was crucified by the soldiers. He expired in the unusually short time of about six hours; and before he was taken down from the cross, one of the soldiers, in order to ascertain, or to ensure his death, pierced his side with a spear.‡
* Matt. xxvii. 23, Why, what evil hath he done?
† According to Mark, who is the most exact in noting the time, Jesus was crucified at the third hour, the darkness began at the sixth hour, and he expired at the ninth hour. (xv. 25, 33, 34.) Matthew and Luke appear to mean also, that the darkness, not the crucifixion, began at the sixth hour. But John says it was about the sixth hour when Pilate said, Behold your king, previously to the crucifixion. Since the other three agree very well, it is most reasonable to attribute the mistake to the last gospel.
‡ Notwithstanding the surprise of Pilate that Jesus should be
Joseph of Arimathea obtained permission of Pilate to bury the body of Jesus in his own tomb and garden; which was done, in concert with Nicodemus, the same evening.*
so soon dead (Mark xv. 44), I cannot find sufficient reason to doubt the reality of his death before he was taken from the cross; for, firstly, The injuries undergone by Jesus, viz. the scourging and other ill-treatment from the soldiers before crucifixion, the loss of blood by the piercing of the hands and feet, and the unnatural distortion of the limbs during six hours, might be sufficient to cause death to a man not very robust. Secondly, The Roman soldiers were well accustomed to their business, and were not likely to pass by Jesus at the breaking of the legs, unless they were satisfied of his death. Thirdly, The piercing of his side was an additional security. Fourthly, Pilate's attention was drawn to the matter, and he therefore must have obtained what he considered satisfactory evidence of the death from the centurion, before he granted the body to Joseph. Fifthly, In the subsequent controversies between the disciples of Jesus and the Jews, the latter never pretended that Jesus had not really died on the cross, but answered the story of the resurrection another way.
Victorinus, who was crucified under Nerva, with his head downwards, lived three days. The martyrs Timotheus and Maura lived nine days. Eusebius says that some who were crucified in Egypt died only of hunger; yet St. Andrew, who was fastened with cords instead of nails, in order that his death might be slower, died in two days; which would lead us to suppose that death in one day or less, with the usual method, might often occur. Lipsius de Cruce, 1. 2. cap. viii. & ix.
Josephus (Vitâ 75) relates that he obtained leave from Titus to take down three of his friends who had been crucified, and were still alive; that the utmost care was taken of them, but that one only recovered. He does not say how long they had been suspended.
* Schoettgenius, Horæ Heb. 1. 9, gives an account of all that can be found in the writings of the Rabbis concerning Jesus. But the whole throws hardly any additional light on his history; for it consists mainly of incidental and obscure allusions to him, and of stories which have the appearance of absurd legends. He is mentioned as the son of Mary, the plaiter of women's hair, who is also called Satda or Stada, and of a man named Pandira. He is said to have gone to Alexandria when King Jannay slew the rabbins, to have brought enchantments out of Egypt, and to have been hanged on the evening of the Passover for having dealt in sorceries and seduced Israel. In another place it is said that the son of Satda was first stoned in Lydda, and then hanged.
HISTORICAL SKETCH, CONTINUED FROM THE DEATH OF JESUS TO THE END OF THE FIRST CENTURY.
THE expectation of the disciples, and probably his own feelings, had led Joseph of Arimathea to come forward, and secure an honourable burial for the body of Jesus; but he soon became aware that by so doing he had rendered himself more conspicuous than he desired to be. His garden became the centre of attraction to the followers of Jesus; his conduct might appear suspicious to his fellow nobles; and he seemed to have pointed himself out to the disciples as a protector and leader. These characters he was not at all anxious to assume. He had listened with pleasure to the discourses of Jesus, but had no idea of forsaking all to follow him. He feared that the followers of Jesus, who had come up with him from Galilee, although terrified for a moment by their master's death, might attempt to excite the populace of Jerusalem to avenge him; an attempt the more dangerous at that moment, as Jerusalem was full of country people come up for the passover. From his previous connexion with Jesus, and from the body's remaining in his garden, it was likely that any tumult would be laid to his charge, and possibly he might be the government's next victim. He determined to extricate himself by relieving himself of his charge, and inciting, if possible, the followers of Jesus to return immediately to their own country, Galilee.*
* None of the disciples, or any other writers, have given an account of what passed between Joseph and Nicodemus on the Friday evening and the sabbath; doubtless because they knew no more concerning it than the little which we now find in the four gospels. The filling up, therefore, of Joseph's conduct must at this time be mainly supposition, and that offered here rests upon the following considerations :
He had the body secretly removed from the tomb, or from that part of it where the women had seen it laid, and stationed an agent in the tomb, who informed the first visitants that Jesus was not there, but risen, and gone into Galilee, whither they were to follow him.* Those to whom the message was first delivered, were Mary Magdalene and some other women, by whom and the subsequent narrators the occurrence was converted into the appearance of an angel, of two angels, and, finally, of Jesus himself. The disciples at first treated the whole as idle tales; but when they found, on their visit to the tomb, that the body had really disappeared, the thought
Firstly, Joseph stood in peril.
Secondly, He was not of a temper to encounter martyrdom. Thirdly, On the other hand, he was attached to Jesus and his disciples, and would be unwilling to cast them off harshly.
Fourthly, The expedient in question would seem to meet all these three difficulties.
Fifthly, The character of the disciples, for the most part simple country people, and believers in miracles, admitted of its being practised upon them.
Sixthly, Joseph had better means than any of the disciples of knowing what became of the body of Jesus. The total absence, therefore, of his important testimony, on either side of the question, confirms the suspicion that he had some peculiar motives for silence.
Seventhly, The conduct and writings of the disciples shew that most of them were sincere believers in the resurrection and approaching re-appearance of their master.
* Mark xvi. 5-7. "And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; he is risen, he is not here; behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you."
This agrees nearly with the accounts of Matthew and Luke, except that Luke mentions two men at the tomb, and Matthew adds an earthquake. John says that Mary Magdalene saw the stone taken away when she first came, and, on coming a second time, saw the two men or angels. The concurrent testimony of the first three, not essentially contradicted by John, seems thus to establish the fact, that the women who visited the tomb were told by some one there that Jesus was risen, and gone into Galilee. After this, the four accounts diverge into numberless contradictions.