The Life Of Jesus
Embassy From John In Prison To Jesus—Death of John—Relations of His School With That Of Jesus
WHILST joyous Galilee was celebrating in feasts the coming of the well-beloved, the sorrowful John, in his prison of Machero, was pining away with expectation and desire. The success of the young master, whom he had seen some months before as his auditor, reached his ears. It was said that the Messiah predicted by the prophets, he who was to re-establish the kingdom of Israel, was come, and was proving his presence in Galilee by marvelous works. John wished to inquire into the truth of this rumor, and, as he communicated freely with his disciples, he chose two of them to go to Jesus in Galilee. [Matt. xi. 2, and following; Luke vii. 18, and following.]
The two disciples found Jesus at the height of his fame. The air of gladness which reigned around him surprised them. Accustomed to fasts, to persevering prayer, and to a life of aspiration, they were astonished to see themselves transported suddenly into the midst of the joys attending the welcome of the Messiah.* They told Jesus their message: "Art thou he that should come? Or do we look for another?" Jesus, who from that time hesitated no longer respecting his peculiar character as Messiah, enumerated the works which ought to characterize the coming of the kingdom of God—such as the healing of the sick, and the good tidings of a speedy salvation preached to the poor. He did all these works. "And blessed is he," said Jesus, "whosoever shall not be offended in me." We know not whether this answer found John the Baptist living, or in what temper it put the austere ascetic. Did he die consoled and certain that he whom he had announced already lived, or did he remain doubtful as to the mission of Jesus? There is nothing to inform us. Seeing, however, that his school continued to exist a considerable time parallel with the Christian churches, we are led to think that, notwithstanding his regard for Jesus, John did not look upon him as the one who was to realize the divine promises. Death came, moreover, to end his perplexities. The untameble freedom of the ascetic was to crown his restless and stormy career by the only end which was worthy of it.
The leniency which Antipas had at first shown towards John was not of long duration. In the conversations which, according to the Christian tradition, John had had with the tetrarch, he did not cease to declare to him that his marriage was unlawful, and that he ought to send away Herodias. [Matt. xiv. 4, and following; Mark vi. 18, and following; Luke iii. 19.] We can easily imagine the hatred which the granddaughter of Herod the Great must have conceived toward this importunate counsellor. She only waited an opportunity to ruin him.
Her daughter, Salome, born of her first marriage, and like her ambitious and dissolute, entered into her designs. That year (probably the year 30) Antipas was at Machero on the anniversary of his birthday. Herod the Great had constructed in the interior of the fortress a magnificent palace, where the tetrarch frequently resided.* He gave a great feast there, during which Salome executed one of those dances in character which were not considered in Syria as unbecoming a distinguished person. Antipas, being much pleased, asked the dancer what she most desired, and she replied, at the instigation of her mother, "Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger." [A portable dish on which liquors and viands are served in the East.] Antipas was sorry, but he did not like to refuse. A guard took the dish, went and cut off the head of the prisoner, and brought it. [Matt. xiv. 3, and following; Mark vi. 14-29; Jos., Ant., XVIII. v. 2.]
The disciples of the Baptist obtained his body and placed it in a tomb, but the people were much displeased. Six years after, Hareth, having attacked Antipas, in order to recover Machero and avenge the dishonor of his daughter, Antipas was completely beaten; and his defeat was generally regarded as a punishment for the murder of John.*
The news of John's death was brought to Jesus by the disciples of the Baptist.* John's last act toward Jesus had effectually united the two schools in the most intimate bonds. Jesus, fearing an increase of ill-will on the part of Antipas, took precautions and retired to the desert,* where many people followed him. By exercising an extreme frugality, the holy band was enabled to live there, and in this there was naturally seen a miracle. [Matt. xiv. 15, and following; Mark vi. 35, and following; Luke ix. 11, and following; John vi. 2, and following.] From this time Jesus always spoke of John with redoubled admiration. He declared unhesitatingly [Matt. xi. 7, and following; Luke vii. 24, and following.] that he was more than a prophet, that the Law and the ancient prophets had force only until he came,* that he had abrogated them, but that the kingdom of heaven would displace him in turn. In fine, he attributed to him a special place in the economy of the Christian mystery, which constituted him the link of union between the Old Testament and the advent of the new reign.
The prophet Malachi, whose opinion in this matter was soon brought to bear [Malachi iii. and iv.; Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 10. See ante, Chap. VI.], had announced with much energy a precursor of the Messiah, who was to prepare men for the final renovation, a messenger who should come to make straight the paths before the elected one of God. This messenger was no other than the prophet Elias, who, according to a widely spread belief, was soon to descend from heaven, whither he had been carried, in order to prepare men by repentance for the great advent, and to reconcile God with his people. [Matt. xi. 14, xvii. 10; Mark vi. 15, viii. 28, ix. 10, and following; Luke ix. 8, 19.] Sometimes they associated with Elias, either the patriarch Enoch, to whom for one or two centuries they had attributed high sanctity;* or Jeremiah,* whom they considered as a sort of protecting genius of the people, constantly occupied in praying for them before the throne of God.* This idea, that two ancient prophets should rise again in order to serve as precursors to the Messiah, is discovered in so striking a form in the doctrine of the Parsees that we feel much inclined to believe that it comes from that source.* However this may be, it formed at the time of Jesus an integral portion of the Jewish theories about the Messiah. It was admitted that the appearance of "two faithful witnesses," clothed in garments of repentance, would be the preamble of the great drama about to be unfolded, to the astonishment of the universe.*
It will be seen that, with these ideas, Jesus and his disciples could not hesitate about the mission of John the Baptist. When the scribes raised the objection that the Messiah could not have come because Elias had not yet appeared,* they replied that Elias was come, that John was Elias raised from the dead. [Matt. xi. 14, xvii. 10-13; Mark vi. 15, ix. 10-12; Luke ix. 8; John i. 21-25.] By his manner of life, by his opposition to the established political authorities, John in fact recalled that strange figure in the ancient history of Israel.* Jesus was not silent on the merits and excellencies of his forerunner. He said that none greater was born among the children of men. He energetically blamed the Pharisees and the doctors for not having accepted his baptism, and for not being converted at his voice.*
The disciples of Jesus were faithful to these principles of their master. This respect for John continued during the whole of the first Christian generation.* He was supposed to be a relative of Jesus.* In order to establish the mission of the latter upon testimony admitted by all, it was declared that John, at the first sight of Jesus, proclaimed him the Messiah; that he recognized himself his inferior, unworthy to unloose the latchets of his shoes; that he refused at first to baptize him, and maintained that it was he who ought to be baptized by Jesus. [Matt. iii. 14, and following; Luke iii. 16; John i. 15, and following, v. 32, 33.] These were exaggerations, which are sufficiently refuted by the doubtful form of John's last message. [Matt. xi. 2, and following; Luke vii. 18, and following.] But, in a more general sense, John remains in the Christian legend that which he was in reality—the austere forerunner, the gloomy preacher of repentance before the joy on the arrival of the bridegroom, the prophet who announces the kingdom of God and dies before beholding it. This giant in the early history of Christianity, this eater of locusts and wild honey, this rough redresser of wrongs, was the bitter which prepared the lip for the sweetness of the kingdom of God. His beheading by Herodias inaugurated the era of Christian martyrs; he was the first witness for the new faith. The worldly, who recognized in him their true enemy, could not permit him to live; his mutilated corpse, extended on the threshold of Christianity, traced the bloody path in which so many others were to follow.
The school of John did not die with its founder. It lived some time distinct from that of Jesus, and at first a good understanding existed between the two. Many years after the death of the two masters, people were baptized with the baptism of John. Certain persons belonged to the two schools at the same time—for example, the celebrated Apollos, the rival of St. Paul (toward the year 50), and a large number of the Christians of Ephesus. [Acts xviii. 25, xix. 1-5. Cf. Epiph., Adv. Haer., xxx. 16.] Josephus placed himself (year 53) in the school of an ascetic named Banou,* who presents the greatest resemblance to John the Baptist, and who was perhaps of his school. This Banou* lived in the desert, clothed with the leaves of trees; he supported himself only on wild plants and fruits, and baptized himself frequently, both day and night, in cold water, in order to purify himself. James, he who was called the "brother of the Lord" (there is here perhaps some confusion of homonyms), practiced a similar asceticism. [Hegesippus, in Eusebius, H. E., ii. 23.] Afterward, toward the year 80, Baptism was in strife with Christianity, especially in Asia Minor. John the evangelist appears to combat it in an indirect manner. [Gospel, i. 26, 33, iv. 2; 1st Epistle, v. 6. Cf. Acts x. 47.] One of the Sibylline [Book iv. See especially v. 157, and following.] poems seems to proceed from this school. As to the sects of Hemero-baptists, Baptists, and Elchasaites (Sabiens Mogtasila of the Arabian writers), who, in the second century, filled Syria, Palestine, and Babylonia, and whose representatives still exist in our days among the Mendaites, called "Christians of St. John;" they have the same origin as the movement of John the Baptist, rather than an authentic descent from John. The true school of the latter, partly mixed with Christianity, became a small Christian heresy, and died out in obscurity. John had foreseen distinctly the destiny of the two schools. If he had yielded to a mean rivalry, he would to-day have been forgotten in the crowd of sectaries of his time. By his self-abnegation he has attained a glorious and unique position in the religious pantheon of humanity.
First Attempts on Jerusalem
JESUS, almost every year, went to Jerusalem for the feast of the passover. The details of these journeys are little known, for the synoptics do not speak of them,* and the notes of the fourth Gospel are very confused on this point.* It was, it appears, in the year 31, and certainly after the death of John, that the most important of the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem took place. Many of the disciples followed him. Although Jesus attached from that time little value to the pilgrimage, he conformed himself to it in order not to wound Jewish opinion, with which he had not yet broken. These journeys, moreover, were essential to his design; for he felt already that in order to play a leading part, he must go from Galilee, and attack Judaism in its stronghold, which was Jerusalem.
The little Galilean community were here far from being at home. Jerusalem was then nearly what it is to-day, a city of pedantry, acrimony, disputes, hatreds, and littleness of mind. Its fanaticism was extreme, and religious seditions very frequent. The Pharisees were dominant; the study of the Law, pushed to the most insignificant minutiae, and reduced to questions of casuistry, was the only study. This exclusively theological and canonical culture contributed in no respect to refine the intellect. It was something analogous to the barren doctrine of the Mussulman fakir, to that empty science discussed round about the mosques, and which is a great expenditure of time and useless argumentation, by no means calculated to advance the right discipline of the mind. The theological education of the modern clergy, although very dry, gives us no idea of this, for the Renaissance has introduced into all our teachings, even the most irregular, a share of belles lettres and of method, which has infused more or less of the humanities into scholasticism. The science of the Jewish doctor, of the sofer or scribe, was purely barbarous, unmitigatedly absurd, and denuded of all moral element. [We may judge of it by the Talmud, the echo of the Jewish scholasticism of that time.] To crown the evil, it filled with ridiculous pride those who had wearied themselves in acquiring it. The Jewish scribe, proud of the pretended knowledge which had cost him so much trouble, had the same contempt for Greek culture which the learned Mussulman of our time has for European civilization, and which the old catholic theologian had for the knowledge of men of the world. The tendency of this scholastic culture was to close the mind to all that was refined, to create esteem only for those difficult triflings on which they had wasted their lives, and which were regarded as the natural occupation of persons professing a degree of seriousness.*
This odious society could not fail to weigh heavily on the tender and susceptible minds of the north. The contempt of the Hierosolymites for the Galileans rendered the separation still more complete. In the beautiful temple which was the object of all their desires, they often only met with insult. A verse of the pilgrim's psalm,* "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God," seemed made expressly for them. A contemptuous priesthood laughed at their simple devotion, as formerly in Italy the clergy, familiarized with the sanctuaries, witnessed coldly and almost jestingly the fervor of the pilgrim come from afar. The Galileans spoke a rather corrupt dialect; their pronunciation was vicious; they confounded the different aspirations of letters, which led to mistakes which were much laughed at. [Matt. xxvi. 73; Mark xiv. 70; Acts ii. 7; Talm. of Bab., Erubin 53a, and following; Bereschith Rabba, 26c.] In religion, they were considered as ignorant and somewhat heterodox [Passage from the treatise Erubin, loc. cit.]; the expression, "foolish Galileans," had become proverbial.* It was believed (not without reason) that they were not of pure Jewish blood, and no one expected Galilee to produce a prophet.* Placed thus on the confines of Judaism, and almost outside of it, the poor Galileans had only one badly interpreted passage in Isaiah to build their hopes upon. [Isa. ix. 1, 2; Matt. iv. 13, and following.] "Land of Zebulon, and land of Naphtali, way of the sea, Galilee of the nations! The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." The reputation of the native city of Jesus was particularly bad. It was a popular proverb "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?"*
The parched appearance of Nature in the neighborhood of Jerusalem must have added to the dislike Jesus had for the place. The valleys are without water; the soil arid and stony. Looking into the valley of the Dead Sea, the view is somewhat striking; elsewhere it is monotonous. The hill of Mizpeh, around which cluster the most ancient historical remembrances of Israel, alone relieves the eye. The city presented, at the time of Jesus, nearly the same form that it does now. It had scarcely any ancient monuments, for, until the time of the Asmoneans, the Jews had remained strangers to all the arts. John Hyrcanus had begun to embellish it, and Herod the Great had made it one of the most magnificent cities of the East. The Herodian constructions, by their grand character, perfection of execution, and beauty of material, may dispute superiority with the most finished works of antiquity. [Jos., Ant., XV. viii. xi.; B. J., V. v. 6; Mark xiii. 1, 2.] A great number of superb tombs, of original taste, were raised at the same time in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. [Tombs, namely, of the Judges, Kings, Absalom, Zechariah, Jehoshaphat, and of St. James. Compare the description of the tomb of the Maccabees at Modin (1 Macc. xiii. 27, and following).] The style of these monuments was Grecian, but appropriate to the customs of the Jews, and considerably modified in accordance with their principles. The ornamental sculptures of the human figure which the Herods had sanctioned, to the great discontent of the purists, were banished, and replaced by floral decorations. The taste of the ancient inhabitants of Phoenicia and Palestine for monoliths in solid stone seemed to be revived in these singular tombs cut in the rock, and in which Grecian orders are so strangely applied to an architecture of troglodytes. Jesus, who regarded works of art as a pompous display of vanity, viewed these monuments with displeasure. [Matt. xxiii. 27, 29, xxiv. 1, and following; Mark xiii. 1, and following; Luke xix. 44, xxi. 5, and following. Compare Book of Enoch, xcvii. 13, 14; Talmud of Babylon, Shabbath, 33b.] His absolute spiritualism, and his settled conviction that the form of the old world was about to pass away, left him no taste except for things of the heart.
The temple, at the time of Jesus, was quite new, and the exterior works of it were not completed. Herod had begun its reconstruction in the year 20 or 21 before the Christian era, in order to make it uniform with his other edifices. The body of the temple was finished in eighteen months; the porticoes took eight years;* and the accessory portions were continued slowly, and were only finished a short time before the taking of Jerusalem.* Jesus probably saw the work progressing, not without a degree of secret vexation. These hopes of a long future were like an insult to his approaching advent. Clearer-sighted than the unbelievers and the fanatics, he foresaw that these superb edifices were destined to endure but for a short time. [Matt. xxiv. 2, xxvi. 61, xxvii. 40; Mark xiii. 2, xiv. 58, xv. 29; Luke xxi. 6; John ii. 19, 20.]
The temple formed a marvelously imposing whole, of which the present haram,* notwithstanding its beauty, scarcely gives us any idea. The courts and the surrounding porticoes served as the daily rendezvous for a considerable number of persons—so much so, that this great space was at once temple, forum, tribunal, and university. All the religious discussions of the Jewish schools, all the canonical instruction, even the legal processes and civil causes—in a word, all the activity of the nation was concentrated there. [Luke ii. 46, and following; Mishnah, Sanhedrim, x. 2.] It was an arena where arguments were perpetually clashing, a battlefield of disputes, resounding with sophisms and subtle questions. The temple had thus much analogy with a Mohammedan mosque. The Romans at this period treated all strange religions with respect, when kept within proper limits,* and carefully refrained from entering the sanctuary; Greek and Latin inscriptions marked the point up to which those who were not Jews were permitted to advance. [Philo, Legatio ad Caium, §31; Jos., B. J., V. v. 2, VI. ii. 4; Acts xxi. 28.] But the tower of Antonia, the headquarters of the Roman forces, commanded the whole enclosure, and allowed all that passed therein to be seen. [Considerable traces of this tower are still seen in the northern part of the haram.] The guarding of the temple belonged to the Jews; the entire superintendence was committed to a captain, who caused the gates to be opened and shut, and prevented any one from crossing the enclosure with a stick in his hand, or with dusty shoes, or when carrying parcels, or to shorten his path. [Mishnah, Berakoth, ix. 5; Talm. of Babyl., Jebamoth, 6b; Mark xi. 16.] They were especially scrupulous in watching that no one entered within the inner gates in a state of legal impurity. The women had an entirely separate court.
It was in the temple that Jesus passed his days, whilst he remained at Jerusalem. The period of the feasts brought an extraordinary concourse of people into the city. Associated in parties of ten to twenty persons, the pilgrims invaded everywhere, and lived in that disordered state in which Orientals delight. [Jos., B. J., II. xiv. 3, VI. ix. 3. Comp. Ps. cxxxiii. (Vulg. cxxxii.)] Jesus was lost in the crowd, and his poor Galileans grouped around him were of small account. He probably felt that he was in a hostile world which would receive him only with disdain. Everything he saw set him against it. The temple, like much-frequented places of devotion in general, offered a not very edifying spectacle. The accessories of worship entailed a number of repulsive details, especially of mercantile operations, in consequence of which real shops were established within the sacred enclosure. There were sold beasts for the sacrifices; there were tables for the exchange of money; at times it seemed like a bazaar. The inferior officers of the temple fulfilled their functions doubtless with the irreligious vulgarity of the sacristans of all ages. This profane and heedless air in the handling of holy things wounded the religious sentiment of Jesus, which was at times carried even to a scrupulous excess.* He said that they had made the house of prayer into a den of thieves. One day, it is even said, that, carried away by his anger, he scourged the vendors with a "scourge of small cords," and overturned their tables. [Matt. xxi. 12, and following; Mark xi. 15, and following; Luke xix. 45, and following; John ii. 14, and following.] In general, he had little love for the temple. The worship which he had conceived for his Father had nothing in common with scenes of butchery. All these old Jewish institutions displeased him, and he suffered in being obliged to conform to them. Except among the Judaizing Christians, neither the temple nor its site inspired pious sentiments. The true disciples of the new faith held this ancient sanctuary in aversion. Constantine and the first Christian emperors left the pagan construction of Adrian existing there [Itin. a Burdig. Hierus., p. 152 (edit. Schott); S. Jerome, in Is. i. 8, and in Matt. xxiv. 15.], and only the enemies of Christianity, such as Julian, remembered the temple.* When Omar entered into Jerusalem, he found the site designedly polluted in hatred of the Jews. [Eutychius, Ann., II. 286, and following (Oxford, 1659).] It was Islamism, that is to say, a sort of resurrection of Judaism in its exclusively Semitic form, which restored its glory. The place has always been anti-Christian.
The pride of the Jews completed the discontent of Jesus, and rendered his stay in Jerusalem painful. In the degree that the great ideas of Israel ripened, the priesthood lost its power. The institution of synagogues had given to the interpreter of the Law, to the doctor, a great superiority over the priest, There were no priests except at Jerusalem, and even there, reduced to functions entirely ritual, almost, like our parish priests, excluded from preaching, they were surpassed by the orator of the synagogue, the casuist, and the sofer or scribe, although the latter was only a layman. The celebrated men of the Talmud were not priests; they were learned men according to the ideas of the time. The high priesthood of Jerusalem held, it is true, a very elevated rank in the nation; but it was by no means at the head of the religious movement. The sovereign pontiff, whose dignity had already been degraded by Herod,* became more and more a Roman functionary,* who was frequently removed in order to divide the profits of the office. Opposed to the Pharisees, who were very warm lay zealots, the priests were almost all Sadducees, that is to say, members of that unbelieving aristocracy which had been formed around the temple, and which lived by the altar, while they saw the vanity of it. [Acts iv. 1, and following, v. 17; Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 1; Pirke Aboth, i. 10.] The sacerdotal caste was separated to such a degree from the national sentiment and from the great religious movement which dragged the people along, that the name of "Sadducee" (sadoki), which at first simply designated a member of the sacerdotal family of Sadok, had become synonymous with "Materialist" and with "Epicurean."
A still worse element had begun, since the reign of Herod the Great, to corrupt the high-priesthood. Herod having fallen in love with Mariamne, daughter of a certain Simon, son of Boethus of Alexandria, and having wished to marry her (about the year 28 B.C.), saw no other means of ennobling his father-in-law and raising him to his own rank than by making him high-priest. This intriguing family remained master, almost without interruption, of the sovereign pontificate for thirty-five years. [Jos., Ant., XV., ix. 3, XVII. vi. 4, xiii. 1, XVIII. i. 1, ii. 1, XIX. vi. 2, viii. 1.] Closely allied to the reigning family, it did not lose the office until after the deposition of Archelaus, and recovered it (the year 42 of our era) after Herod Agrippa had for some time re-enacted the work of Herod the Great. Under the name of Boethusim,* a new sacerdotal nobility was formed, very worldly, and little devotional, and closely allied to the Sadokites. The Boethusim, in the Talmud and the rabbinical writings, are depicted as a kind of unbelievers, and always reproached as Sadducees.* From all this there resulted a miniature court of Rome around the temple, living on politics, little inclined to excesses of zeal, even rather fearing them, not wishing to hear of holy personages or of innovators, for it profited from the established routine. These epicurean priests had not the violence of the Pharisees; they only wished for quietness; it was their moral indifference, their cold irreligion, which revolted Jesus. Although very different, the priests and the Pharisees were thus confounded in his antipathies. But a stranger, and without influence, he was long compelled to restrain his discontent within himself, and only to communicate his sentiments to the intimate friends who accompanied him.
Before his last stay, which was by far the longest of all that he made at Jerusalem, and which was terminated by his death, Jesus endeavored, however, to obtain a hearing. He preached; people spoke of him; and they conversed respecting certain deeds of his which were looked upon as miraculous. But from all that, there resulted neither an established church at Jerusalem nor a group of Hierosolymite disciples. The charming teacher, who forgave every one provided they loved him, could not find much sympathy in this sanctuary of vain disputes and obsolete sacrifices. The only result was that he formed some valuable friendships, the advantage of which he reaped afterward. He does not appear at that time to have made the acquaintance of the family of Bethany, which, amidst the trials of the latter months of his life, brought him so much consolation. But very early he attracted the attention of a certain Nicodemus, a rich Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a man occupying a high position in Jerusalem.* This man, who appears to have been upright and sincere, felt himself attracted toward the young Galilean. Not wishing to compromise himself, he came to see Jesus by night, and had a long conversation with him. [John iii. 1, and following, vii. 50. We are certainly free to believe that the exact text of the conversation is but a creation of John's.] He doubtless preserved a favorable impression of him, for afterward he defended Jesus against the prejudices of his colleagues,* and, at the death of Jesus, we shall find him tending with pious care the corpse of the master.* Nicodemus did not become a Christian; he had too much regard for his position to take part in a revolutionary movement which as yet counted no men of note among its adherents. But he evidently felt great friendship for Jesus, and rendered him service, though unable to rescue him from a death which even at this period was all but decreed.
As to the celebrated doctors of the time, Jesus does not appear to have had any connection with them. Hillel and Shammai were dead; the greatest authority of the time was Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel. He was of a liberal spirit, and a man of the world, not opposed to secular studies, and inclined to tolerance by his intercourse with good society. [Mishnah, Baba Metsia, v. 8; Talm. of Bab., Sota, 49b.] Unlike the very strict Pharisees, who walked veiled or with closed eyes, he did not scruple to gaze even upon Pagan women. [Talm. of Jerus., Berakoth, ix. 2.] This, as well as his knowledge of Greek, was tolerated because he had access to the court. [Passage Sota, before cited, and Baba Kama, 83a.] After the death of Jesus, he expressed very moderate views respecting the new sect.* St. Paul sat at his feet,* but it is not probable that Jesus ever entered his school.
One idea, at least, which Jesus brought from Jerusalem, and which henceforth appears rooted in his mind, was that there was no union possible between him and the ancient Jewish religion. The abolition of the sacrifices which had caused him so much disgust, the suppression of an impious and haughty priesthood, and, in a general sense, the abrogation of the law, appeared to him absolutely necessary. From this time he appears no more as a Jewish reformer, but as a destroyer of Judaism. Certain advocates of the Messianic ideas had already admitted that the Messiah would bring a new law, which should be common to all the earth.* The Essenes, who were scarcely Jews, also appear to have been indifferent to the temple and to the Mosaic observances. But these were only isolated or unavowed instances of boldness. Jesus was the first who dared to say that from his time, or rather from that of John,* the Law was abolished. If sometimes he used more measured terms,* it was in order not to offend existing prejudices too violently. When he was driven to extremities, he lifted the veil entirely, and declared that the Law had no longer any force. On this subject he used striking comparisons. "No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment, neither do men put new wine into old bottles." [Matt. ix. 16, 17; Luke v. 36, and following.] This was really his chief characteristic as teacher and creator. The temple excluded all except Jews from its enclosure by scornful announcements. Jesus had no sympathy with this. The narrow, hard, and uncharitable Law was only made for the children of Abraham. Jesus maintained that every well-disposed man, every man who received and loved him, was a son of Abraham.* The pride of blood appeared to him the great enemy which was to be combated. In other words, Jesus was no longer a Jew. He was in the highest degree revolutionary; he called all men to a worship founded solely on the fact of their being children of God. He proclaimed the rights of man, not the rights of the Jew; the religion of man, not the religion of the Jew; the deliverance of man, not the deliverance of the Jew. [Matt. xxiv. 14, xxviii. 19; Mark xiii. 10, xvi. 15; Luke xxiv. 47.] How far removed was this from a Gaulonite Judas or a Matthias Margaloth, preaching revolution in the name of the Law! The religion of humanity, established, not upon blood, but upon the heart, was founded. Moses was superseded, the temple was rendered useless, and was irrevocably condemned.
Intercourse of Jesus With the Pagans and the Samaritans
FOLLOWING out these principles, Jesus despised all religion which was not of the heart. The vain practices of the devotees,* the exterior strictness, which trusted to formality for salvation, had in him a mortal enemy. He cared little for fasting.* He preferred forgiveness to sacrifice. [Matt. v. 23, and following, ix. 13, xii. 7.] The love of God, charity and mutual forgiveness were his whole law. [Matt. xxii. 37, and following; Mark xii. 28, and following; Luke x. 25, and following.] Nothing could be less priestly. The priest, by his office, ever advocates public sacrifice, of which he is the appointed minister; he discourages private prayer, which has a tendency to dispense with his office.
We should seek in vain in the Gospel for one religious rite recommended by Jesus. Baptism to him was only of secondary importance;* and with respect to prayer, he prescribes nothing, except that it should proceed from the heart. As is always the case, many thought to substitute mere good-will for genuine love of goodness, and imagined they could win the kingdom of heaven by saying to him, "Rabbi, Rabbi." He rebuked them, and proclaimed that his religion consisted in doing good.* He often quoted the passage in Isaiah, which says: "This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." [Matt. xv. 8; Mark vii. 6. Cf. Isaiah xxix. 13.]
The observance of the Sabbath was the principal point upon which was raised the whole edifice of Pharisaic scruples and subtleties. This ancient and excellent institution had become a pretext for the miserable disputes of casuists, and a source of superstitious beliefs. [See especially the treatise Shabbath of the Mishnah and the Livre des Jubiles (translated from the Ethiopian in the Jahrbucher of Ewald, years 2 and 3), chap. 1.] It was believed that Nature observed it; all intermittent springs were accounted "Sabbatical." [Jos., B. J., VII. v. 1; Pliny, H. N., xxxi. 18. Cf. Thomson, The Land and the Book, i. 406, and following.] This was the point upon which Jesus loved best to defy his adversaries. [Matt. xii. 1-14; Mark ii. 23-28; Luke vi. 1-5, xii. 14, and following, xiv. 1, and following.] He openly violated the Sabbath, and only replied by subtle raillery to the reproaches that were heaped upon him. He despised still more a multitude of modern observances, which tradition had added to the Law, and which were dearer than any other to the devotees on that very account. Ablutions, and the too subtle distinctions between pure and impure things, found in him a pitiless opponent: "There is nothing from without a man," said he, "that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man." The Pharisees, who were the propagators of these mummeries, were unceasingly denounced by him. He accused them of exceeding the Law, of inventing impossible precepts, in order to create occasions of sin: "Blind leaders of the blind," said he, "take care lest ye also fall into the ditch." "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." [Matt. xii. 34, xv. 1, and following, 12, and following, xxiii. entirely; Mark vii. 1, and following, 15, and following; Luke vi. 45, xi. 39, and following.]
He did not know the Gentiles sufficiently to think of founding anything lasting upon their conversion. Galilee contained a great number of pagans, but, as it appears, no public and organized worship of false gods.* Jesus could see this worship displayed in all its splendor in the country of Tyre and Sidon, at Caesarea Philippi and in the Decapolis, but he paid little attention to it. We never find in him the wearisome pedantry of the Jews of his time, those declamations against idolatry, so familiar to his co- religionists from the time of Alexander, and which fill, for instance, the book of "Wisdom."* That which struck him in the pagans was not their idolatry, but their servility. [Matt. xx. 25; Mark x. 42; Luke xxii. 25.] The young Jewish democrat agreeing on this point with Judas the Gaulonite, and admitting no master but God, was hurt at the honors with which they surrounded the persons of sovereigns, and the frequently mendacious titles given to them. With this exception, in the greater number of instances in which he comes in contact with pagans, he shows great indulgence to them; sometimes he professes to conceive more hope of them than of the Jews. [Matt. viii. 5, and following, xv. 22, and following; Mark vii. 25, and following; Luke iv. 25, and following.] The kingdom of God would be transferred to them. "When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto these husbandmen? He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."* Jesus adhered so much the more to this idea, as the conversion of the Gentiles was, according to Jewish ideas, one of the surest signs of the advent of the Messiah.* In his kingdom of God he represents, as seated at a feast, by the side of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men come from the four winds of heaven, whilst the lawful heirs of the kingdom are rejected. [Matt. viii. 11, 12, xxi. 33, and following, xxii. 1, and following.] Sometimes, it is true, there seems to be an entirely contrary tendency in the commands he gives to his disciples: he seems to recommend them only to preach salvation to the orthodox Jews,* he speaks of pagans in a manner conformable to the prejudices of the Jews. [Matt. v. 46, and following, vi. 7, 32, xviii. 17; Luke vi. 32, and following, xii. 30.] But we must remember that the disciples, whose narrow minds did not share in this supreme indifference for the privileges of the sons of Abraham, may have given the instruction of their master the bent of their own ideas. Besides, it is very possible that Jesus may have varied on this point, just as Mohammed speaks of the Jews in the Koran, sometimes in the most honorable manner, sometimes with extreme harshness, as he had hope of winning their favor or otherwise. Tradition, in fact, attributes to Jesus two entirely opposite rules of proselytism, which he may have practiced in turn: "He that is not against us is on our part." "He that is not with me, is against me." [Matt. xii. 30; Mark ix. 39; Luke ix. 50, xi. 23.] Impassioned conflict involves almost necessarily this kind of contradictions.
It is certain that he counted among his disciples many men whom the Jews called "Hellenes." [Josephus confirms this (Ant., XVIII. iii. 3). Comp. John vii. 35, xii. 20, 21.] This word had in Palestine divers meanings. Sometimes it designated the pagans; sometimes the Jews, speaking Greek, and dwelling among the pagans;* sometimes men of pagan origin converted to Judaism. [See in particular, John vii. 35, xii. 20; Acts xiv. 1, xvii. 4, xviii. 4, xxi. 28.] It was probably in the last-named category of Hellenes that Jesus found sympathy.* The affiliation with Judaism had many degrees; but the proselytes always remained in a state of inferiority in regard to the Jew by birth. Those in question were called "proselytes of the gate," or "men fearing God," and were subject to the precepts of Noah, and not to those of Moses. [Mishnah, Baba Metsia, ix. 12; Talm. of Bab., Sanh., 56b; Acts viii. 27, x. 2, 22, 35, xiii. 16, 26, 43, 50, xvi. 14, xvii. 4, 17, xviii. 7; Gal. ii. 3; Jos., Ant., XIV. vii. 2.] This very inferiority was doubtless the cause which drew them to Jesus, and gained them his favor.
He treated the Samaritans in the same manner. Shut in, like a small island, between the two great provinces of Judaism (Judea and Galilee), Samaria formed in Palestine a kind of enclosure in which was preserved the ancient worship of Gerizim, closely resembling and rivalling that of Jerusalem. This poor sect, which had neither the genius nor the learned organization of Judaism, properly so called, was treated by the Hierosolymites with extreme harshness. [Ecclesiasticus l. 27, 28; John viii. 48; Jos., Ant., IX. xiv. 3, XI. viii. 6, XII. v. 5; Talm. of Jerus., Aboda zara, v. 4; Pesachim, i. 1.] They placed them in the same rank as pagans, but hated them more. [Matt. x. 5; Luke xvii. 18. Comp. Talm. of Bab., Cholin, 6a.] Jesus, from a feeling of opposition, was well disposed towards Samaria, and often preferred the Samaritans to the orthodox Jews. If, at other times, he seems to forbid his disciples preaching to them, confining his Gospel to the Israelites proper,* this was no doubt a precept arising from special circumstances, to which the apostles have given too absolute a meaning. Sometimes, in fact, the Samaritans received him badly, because they thought him imbued with the prejudices of his co-religionists;*—in the same manner as in our days the European free-thinker is regarded as an enemy by the Mussulman, who always believes him to be a fanatical Christian. Jesus raised himself above these misunderstandings.* He had many disciples at Shechem, and he passed at least two days there.* On one occasion he meets with gratitude and true piety from a Samaritan only.* One of his most beautiful parables is that of the man wounded on the way to Jericho. A priest passes by and sees him, but goes on his way; a Levite also passes, but does not stop; a Samaritan takes pity on him, approaches him, and pours oil into his wounds, and bandages them.* Jesus argues from this that true brotherhood is established among men by charity, and not by creeds. The "neighbor" who in Judaism was specially the co-religionist, was in his estimation the man who has pity on his kind without distinction of sect. Human brotherhood in its widest sense overflows in all his teaching.
These thoughts, which beset Jesus on his leaving Jerusalem, found their vivid expression in an anecdote which has been preserved respecting his return. The road from Jerusalem into Galilee passes at the distance of half an hour's journey from Shechem,* in front of the opening of the valley commanded by mounts Ebal and Gerizim. This route was in general avoided by the Jewish pilgrims, who preferred making in their journeys the long detour through Perea, rather than expose themselves to the insults of the Samaritans, or ask anything of them. It was forbidden to eat and drink with them.* It was an axiom of certain casuists, that "a piece of Samaritan bread is the flesh of swine."* When they followed this route, provisions were always laid up beforehand; yet they rarely avoided conflict and ill-treatment. [Jos., Ant., XX. v. 1; B. J., II. xii. 3; Vita, 52.] Jesus shared neither these scruples nor these fears. Having come to the point where the valley of Shechem opens on the left, he felt fatigued, and stopped near a well. The Samaritans were then as now accustomed to give to all the localities of their valley names drawn from patriarchal reminiscences. They regarded this well as having been given by Jacob to Joseph; it was probably the same which is now called Bir-lakoub. The disciples entered the valley and went to the city to buy provisions. Jesus seated himself at the side of the well, having Gerizim before him.
It was about noon. A woman of Shechem came to draw water. Jesus asked her to let him drink, which excited great astonishment in the woman, the Jews generally forbidding all intercourse with the Samaritans. Won by the conversation of Jesus, the woman recognized in him a prophet, and, expecting some reproaches about her worship, she anticipated him: "Sir," said she, "our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."*
The day on which he uttered this saying, he was truly Son of God. He pronounced for the first time the sentence upon which will repose the edifice of eternal religion. He founded the pure worship, of all ages, of all lands, that which all elevated souls will practice until the end of time. Not only was his religion on this day the best religion of humanity, it was the absolute religion; and if other planets have inhabitants gifted with reason and morality, their religion cannot be different from that which Jesus proclaimed near the well of Jacob. Man has not been able to maintain this position; for the ideal is realized but transitorily. This sentence of Jesus has been a brilliant light amidst gross darkness; it has required eighteen hundred years for the eyes of mankind (what do I say! for an infinitely small portion of mankind) to become accustomed to it. But the light will become the full day, and, after having run through all the cycles of error, mankind will return to this sentence, as the immortal expression of its faith and its hope.
Commencement of The Legends Concerning Jesus—His Own Idea of His Supernatural Character
JESUS returned to Galilee, having completely lost his Jewish faith, and filled with revolutionary ardor. His ideas are now expressed with perfect clearness. The innocent aphorisms of the first part of his prophetic career, in part borrowed from the Jewish rabbis anterior to him, and the beautiful moral precepts of his second period, are exchanged for a decided policy. The Law would be abolished; and it was to be abolished by him.* The Messiah had come, and he was the Messiah. The kingdom of God was about to be revealed; and it was he who would reveal it. He knew well that he would be the victim of his boldness; but the kingdom of God could not be conquered without violence; it was by crises and commotions that it was to be established.* The Son of man would reappear in glory, accompanied by legions of angels, and those who had rejected him would be confounded.
The boldness of such a conception ought not to surprise us. Long before this, Jesus had regarded his relation to God as that of a son to his father. That which in others would be an insupportable pride, ought not in him to be regarded as presumption.
The title of "Son of David" was the first which he accepted, probably without being concerned in the innocent frauds by which it was sought to secure it to him. The family of David had, as it seems, been long extinct;* the Asmoneans being of priestly origin, could not pretend to claim such a descent for themselves; neither Herod nor the Romans dreamt for a moment that any representative whatever of the ancient dynasty existed in their midst. But from the close of the Asmonean dynasty the dream of an unknown descendant of the ancient kings, who should avenge the nation of its enemies, filled every mind. The universal belief was, that the Messiah would be son of David, and like him would be born at Bethlehem. [Matt. ii. 5, 6, xxii. 42; Luke i. 32; John vii. 41, 42; Acts ii. 30.] The first idea of Jesus was not precisely this. The remembrance of David, which was uppermost in the minds of the Jews, had nothing in common with his heavenly reign. He believed himself the Son of God, and not the son of David. His kingdom, and the deliverance which he meditated, were of quite another order. But public opinion on this point made him do violence to himself. The immediate consequence of the proposition, "Jesus is the Messiah," was this other proposition, "Jesus is the son of David." He allowed a title to be given him, without which he could not hope for success. He ended, it seems, by taking pleasure therein, for he performed most willingly the miracles which were asked of him by those who used this title in addressing him. [Matt. ix. 27, xii. 23, xv. 22, xx. 30, 31; Mark x. 47, 52; Luke xviii. 38.] In this, as in many other circumstances of his life, Jesus yielded to the ideas which were current in his time, although they were not precisely his own. He associated with his doctrine of the "kingdom of God" all that could warm the heart and the imagination. It was thus that we have seen him adopt the baptism of John, although it could not have been of much importance to him.
One great difficulty presented itself—his birth at Nazareth, which was of public notoriety. We do not know whether Jesus strove against this objection. Perhaps it did not present itself in Galilee, where the idea that the son of David should be a Bethlehemite was less spread. To the Galilean idealist, moreover, the title of "son of David" was sufficiently justified, if he to whom it was given revived the glory of his race, and brought back the great days of Israel. Did Jesus authorize by his silence the fictitious genealogies which his partisans invented in order to prove his royal descent? [Matt. i. 1, and following; Luke iii. 23, and following.] Did he know anything of the legends invented to prove that he was born at Bethlehem; and particularly of the attempt to connect his Bethlehemite origin with the census which had taken place by order of the imperial legate, Quirinus? [Matt. ii. 1, and following; Luke ii. 1, and following.] We know not. The inexactitude and the contradictions of the genealogies* lead to the belief that they were the result of popular ideas operating at various points, and that none of them were sanctioned by Jesus.* Never does he designate himself as son of David. His disciples, much less enlightened than he, frequently magnified that which he said of himself; but, as a rule, he had no knowledge of these exaggerations. Let us add, that during the first three centuries, considerable portions of Christendom* obstinately denied the royal descent of Jesus and the authenticity of the genealogies.
The legends about him were thus the fruit of a great and entirely spontaneous conspiracy, and were developed around him during his lifetime. No great event in history has happened without having given rise to a cycle of fables; and Jesus could not have put a stop to these popular creations, even if he had wished to do so. Perhaps a sagacious observer would have recognized from this point the germ of the narratives which were to attribute to him a supernatural birth, and which arose, it may be, from the idea, very prevalent in antiquity, that the incomparable man could not be born of the ordinary relations of the two sexes; or, it may be, in order to respond to an imperfectly understood chapter of Isaiah,* which was thought to foretell that the Messiah should be born of a virgin; or, lastly, it may be in consequence of the idea that the "breath of God," already regarded as a divine hypostasis, was a principle of fecundity. [Gen. i. 2. For the analogous idea among the Egyptians, see Herodotus, iii. 28; Pomp. Mela, i. 9; Plutarch, Quaest. symp., VIII. i. 3; De Isid. et Osir., 43.] Already, perhaps, there was current more than one anecdote about his infancy, conceived with the intention of showing in his biography the accomplishment of the Messianic ideal [Matt. i. 15, 23; Isa. vii. 14, and following.]; or, rather, of the prophecies which the allegorical exegesis of the time referred to the Messiah. At other times they connected him from his birth with celebrated men, such as John the Baptist, Herod the Great, Chaldean astrologers, who, it was said, visited Jerusalem about this time,* and two aged persons, Simeon and Anna, who had left memories of great sanctity.* A rather loose chronology characterized these combinations, which for the most part were founded upon real facts travestied. [Thus the legend of the massacre of the Innocents probably refers to some cruelty exercised by Herod near Bethlehem. Comp. Jos., Ant., XIV. ix. 4.] But a singular spirit of gentleness and goodness, a profoundly popular sentiment, permeated all these fables, and made them a supplement to his preaching. [Matt. i., ii.; Luke i., ii.; S. Justin., Dial. cum Tryph., 78, 106; Protoevang. of James (Apoca.), 18, and following.] It was especially after the death of Jesus that such narratives became greatly developed; we may, however, believe that they circulated even during his life, exciting only a pious credulity and simple admiration.
That Jesus never dreamt of making himself pass for an incarnation of God, is a matter about which there can be no doubt. Such an idea was entirely foreign to the Jewish mind; and there is no trace of it in the synoptical gospels [Certain passages, such as Acts ii. 22, expressly exclude this idea.]; we only find it indicated in portions of the Gospel of John, which cannot be accepted as expressing the thoughts of Jesus. Sometimes Jesus even seems to take precautions to put down such a doctrine. [Matt. xix. 17; Mark x. 18; Luke xviii. 19.] The accusation that he made himself God, or the equal of God, is presented, even in the Gospel of John, as a calumny of the Jews. [John v. 18, and following, x. 33, and following.] In this last Gospel he declares himself less than his Father.* Elsewhere he avows that the Father has not revealed everything to him.* He believes himself to be more than an ordinary man, but separated from God by an infinite distance. He is Son of God, but all men are, or may become so, in divers degrees.* Every one ought daily to call God his father; all who are raised again will be sons of God.* The divine son-ship was attributed in the Old Testament to beings whom it was by no means pretended were equal with God. [Gen vi. 2; Job. i. 6, ii. 1, xxviii. 7; Ps. ii. 7, lxxxii. 6; 2 Sam. vii. 14.] The word "son" has the widest meanings in the Semitic language, and in that of the New Testament.* Besides, the idea Jesus had of man was not that low idea which a cold Deism has introduced. In his poetic conception of Nature, one breath alone penetrates the universe: the breath of man is that of God; God dwells in man, and lives by man, the same as man dwells in God, and lives by God.* The transcendent idealism of Jesus never permitted him to have a very clear notion of his own personality. He is his Father, his Father is he. He lives in his disciples; he is everywhere with them;* his disciples are one, as he and his Father are one.* The idea to him is everything; the body, which makes the distinction of persons, is nothing.
The title "Son of God," or simply "Son," [The passages in support of this are too numerous to be referred to here.] thus became for Jesus a title analogous to "Son of man," and, like that, synonymous with the "Messiah," with the sole difference that he called himself "Son of man," and does not seem to have made the same use of the phrase, "Son of God." [It is only in the Gospel of John that Jesus uses the expression "Son of God," or "Son," in speaking of himself.] The title, Son of man, expressed his character as judge; that of Son of God his power and his participation in the supreme designs. This power had no limits. His Father had given him all power. He had the power to alter even the Sabbath.* No one could know the Father except through him.* The Father had delegated to him exclusively the right of judging.* Nature obeyed him; but she obeys also all who believe and pray, for faith can do everything. [Matt. xvii. 18, 19; Luke xvii. 6.] We must remember that no idea of the laws of Nature marked the limit of the impossible, either in his own mind, or in that of his hearers. The witnesses of his miracles thanked God "for having given such power unto men."* He pardoned sins [Matt. ix. 2, and following; Mark ii. 5, and following; Luke v. 20, vii. 47, 48.]; he was superior to David, to Abraham, to Solomon, and to the prophets. [Matt. xii. 41, 42, xxii. 43, and following; John viii. 52, and following.] We do not know in what form, nor to what extent, these affirmations of himself were made. Jesus ought not to be judged by the law of our petty conventionalities. The admiration of his disciples overwhelmed him and carried him away. It is evident that the title of Rabbi, with which he was at first contented, no longer sufficed him; even the title of prophet or messenger of God responded no longer to his ideas. The position which he attributed to himself was that of a superhuman being, and he wished to be regarded as sustaining a higher relationship to God than other men. But it must be remarked that these words, "superhuman" and "supernatural," borrowed from our petty theology, had no meaning in the exalted religious consciousness of Jesus. To him Nature and the development of humanity were not limited kingdoms apart from God—paltry realities subjected to the laws of a hopeless empiricism. There was no supernatural for him, because there was no Nature. Intoxicated with infinite love, he forgot the heavy chain which holds the spirit captive; he cleared at one bound the abyss, impossible to most, which the weakness of the human faculties has created between God and man.
We cannot mistake in these affirmations of Jesus the germ of the doctrine which was afterward to make of him a divine hypostasis [See especially John xiv., and following. But it is doubtful whether we have here the authentic teaching of Jesus.], in identifying him with the Word, or "second God," [Philo cited in Eusebius, Praep. Evang., vii. 13.] or eldest Son of God,* or Angel Metathronos,* which Jewish theology created apart from him.* A kind of necessity caused this theology, in order to correct the extreme rigor of the old Monotheism, to place near God an assessor, to whom the eternal Father is supposed to delegate the government of the universe. The belief that certain men are incarnations of divine faculties or "powers," was widespread; the Samaritans possessed about the same time a thaumaturgus named Simon, whom they identified with the "great power of God."* For nearly two centuries, the speculative minds of Judaism had yielded to the tendency to personify the divine attributes, and certain expressions which were connected with the Divinity. Thus, the "breath of God," which is often referred to in the Old Testament, is considered as a separate being, the "Holy Spirit." In the same manner the "Wisdom of God" and the "Word of God" became distinct personages. This was the germ of the process which has engendered the Sephiroth of the Cabbala, the AEons of Gnosticism, the hypostasis of Christianity, and all that dry mythology, consisting of personified abstractions, to which Monotheism is obliged to resort when it wishes to pluralize the Deity.
Jesus appears to have remained a stranger to these refinements of theology, which were soon to fill the world with barren disputes. The metaphysical theory of the Word, such as we find it in the writings of his contemporary Philo, in the Chaldean Targums, and even in the book of "Wisdom," [ix. 1, 2, xvi. 12. Comp. vii. 12, viii. 5, and following, ix., and in general ix.-xi. These prosopopoeia of Wisdom personified are found in much older books. Prov. viii., ix.; Job xxviii.; Rev. xix. 13.] is neither seen in the Logia of Matthew, nor in general in the synoptics, the most authentic interpreters of the words of Jesus. The doctrine of the Word, in fact, had nothing in common with Messianism. The "Word" of Philo, and of the Targums, is in no sense the Messiah. It was John the Evangelist, or his school, who afterward endeavored to prove that Jesus was the Word, and who created, in this sense, quite a new theology, very different from that of the "kingdom of God."* The essential character of the Word was that of Creator and of Providence. Now, Jesus never pretended to have created the world, nor to govern it. His office was to judge it, to renovate it. The position of president at the final judgment of humanity was the essential attribute which Jesus attached to himself, and the character which all the first Christians attributed to him.* Until the great day, he will sit at the right hand of God, as his Metathronos, his first minister, and his future avenger.* The superhuman Christ of the Byzantine apsides, seated as judge of the world, in the midst of the apostles in the same rank with him, and superior to the angels who only assist and serve, is the exact representation of that conception of the "Son of man," of which we find the first features so strongly indicated in the book of Daniel.
At all events, the strictness of a studied theology by no means existed in such a state of society. All the ideas we have just stated formed in the mind of the disciples a theological system so little settled, that the Son of God, this species of divine duplicate, is made to act purely as man. He is tempted—he is ignorant of many things—he corrects himself [Matt. x. 5, compared with xxviii. 19.]—he is cast down, discouraged—he asks his Father to spare him trials—he is submissive to God as a son. [Matt. xxvi. 39; John xii. 27.] He who is to judge the world does not know the day of judgment.* He takes precautions for his safety. [Matt. xii. 14-16, xiv. 13; Mark iii. 6, 7, ix. 29, 30; John vii. 1, and following.] Soon after his birth, he is obliged to be concealed to avoid powerful men who wish to kill him.* In exorcisms, the devil cheats him, and does not come out at the first command. [Matt. xvii. 20; Mark ix. 25.] In his miracles we are sensible of painful effort—an exhaustion, as if something went out of him. [Luke viii. 45, 46; John xi. 33, 38.] All these are simply the acts of a messenger of God, of a man protected and favored by God.* We must not look here for either logic or sequence. The need Jesus had of obtaining credence, and the enthusiasm of his disciples, heaped up contradictory notions. To the Messianic believers of the millenarian school, and to the enthusiastic readers of the books of Daniel and of Enoch, he was the Son of man—to the Jews holding the ordinary faith, and to the readers of Isaiah and Micah, he was the Son of David—to the disciples he was the Son of God, or simply the Son. Others, without being blamed by the disciples, took him for John the Baptist risen from the dead, for Elias, for Jeremiah, conformable to the popular belief that the ancient prophets were about to reappear, in order to prepare the time of the Messiah. [Matt. xiv. 2, xvi. 14, xvii. 3, and following; Mark vi. 14, 15, viii. 28; Luke ix. 8, and following, 19.]
An absolute conviction, or rather the enthusiasm, which freed him from even the possibility of doubt, shrouded all these boldnesses. We little understand, with our cold and scrupulous natures, how any one can be so entirely possessed by the idea of which he has made himself the apostle. To the deeply earnest races of the West, conviction means sincerity to one's self. But sincerity to one's self has not much meaning to Oriental peoples, little accustomed to the subtleties of a critical spirit. Honesty and imposture are words which, in our rigid consciences, are opposed as two irreconcilable terms. In the East, they are connected by numberless subtle links and windings. The authors of the Apocryphal books (of "Daniel" and of "Enoch," for instance), men highly exalted, in order to aid their cause, committed, without a shadow of scruple, an act which we should term a fraud. The literal truth has little value to the Oriental; he sees everything through the medium of his ideas, his interests, and his passions.
History is impossible, if we do not fully admit that there are many standards of sincerity. All great things are done through the people; now we can only lead the people by adapting ourselves to its ideas. The philosopher who, knowing this, isolates and fortifies himself in his integrity, is highly praiseworthy. But he who takes humanity with its illusions, and seeks to act with it and upon it, cannot be blamed. Caesar knew well that he was not the son of Venus; France would not be what it is, if it had not for a thousand years believed in the Holy Ampulla of Rheims. It is easy for us, who are so powerless, to call this falsehood, and, proud of our timid honesty, to treat with contempt the heroes who have accepted the battle of life under other conditions. When we have effected by our scruples what they accomplished by their falsehoods, we shall have the right to be severe upon them. At least, we must make a marked distinction between societies like our own, where everything takes place in the full light of reflection, and simple and credulous communities, in which the beliefs that have governed ages have been born. Nothing great has been established which does not rest on a legend. The only culprit in such cases is the humanity which is willing to be deceived.
Two means of proof—miracles and the accomplishment of prophecies—could alone, in the opinion of the contemporaries of Jesus, establish a supernatural mission. Jesus, and especially his disciples, employed these two processes of demonstration in perfect good faith. For a long time, Jesus had been convinced that the prophets had written only in reference to him. He recognized himself in their sacred oracles; he regarded himself as the mirror in which all the prophetic spirit of Israel had read the future. The Christian school, perhaps even in the lifetime of its founder, endeavored to prove that Jesus responded perfectly to all that the prophets had predicted of the Messiah. [For example, Matt. i. 22, ii. 5, 6, 15, 18, iv. 15.] In many cases, these comparisons were quite superficial, and are scarcely appreciable by us. They were most frequently fortuitous or insignificant circumstances in the life of the master which recalled to the disciples certain passages of the Psalms and the Prophets, in which, in consequence of their constant preoccupation, they saw images of him. [Matt. i. 23, iv. 6, 14, xxvi. 31, 54, 56, xxvii. 9, 35; Mark xiv. 27, xv. 28; John xii. 14, 15, xviii. 9, xix. 19, 24, 28, 36.] The exegesis of the time consisted thus almost entirely in a play upon words, and in quotations made in an artificial and arbitrary manner. The synagogue had no officially settled list of the passages which related to the future reign. The Messianic references were very liberally created, and constituted artifices of style rather than serious reasoning.
As to miracles, they were regarded at this period as the indispensable mark of the divine, and as the sign of the prophetic vocation. The legends of Elijah and Elisha were full of them. It was commonly believed that the Messiah would perform many. [John vii. 34; IV. Esdras, xiii. 50.] In Samaria, a few leagues from where Jesus was, a magician, named Simon, acquired an almost divine character by his illusions. [Acts viii. 9, and following.] Afterward, when it was sought to establish the reputation of Apollonius of Tyana, and to prove that his life had been the sojourn of a god upon the earth, it was not thought possible to succeed therein except by inventing a vast cycle of miracles. [See his biography by Philostratus.] The Alexandrian philosophers themselves, Plotinus and others, are reported to have performed several. [See the Lives of the Sophists, by Eunapius; the Life of Plotinus, by Porphyry; that of Proclus, by Marinus; and that of Isidorus, attributed to Damascius.] Jesus was, therefore, obliged to choose between these two alternatives—either to renounce his mission, or to become a thaumaturgus. It must be remembered that all antiquity, with the exception of the great scientific schools of Greece and their Roman disciples, accepted miracles; and that Jesus not only believed therein, but had not the least idea of an order of Nature regulated by fixed laws. His knowledge on this point was in no way superior to that of his contemporaries. Nay, more, one of his most deeply rooted opinions was, that by faith and prayer man has entire power over Nature. [Matt. xvii. 19, xxi. 21, 22; Mark xi. 23, 24.] The faculty of performing miracles was regarded as a privilege frequently conferred by God upon men,* and it had nothing surprising in it.
The lapse of time has changed that which constituted the power of the great founder of Christianity into something offensive to our ideas, and if ever the worship of Jesus loses its hold upon mankind, it will be precisely on account of those acts which originally inspired belief in him. Criticism experiences no embarrassment in presence of this kind of historical phenomenon. A thaumaturgus of our days, unless of an extreme simplicity, like that manifested by certain stigmatists of Germany, is odious; for he performs miracles without believing in them; and is a mere charlatan. But, if we take a Francis d'Assisi, the question becomes altogether different; the series of miracles attending the origin of the order of St. Francis, far from offending us, affords us real pleasure. The founder of Christianity lived in as complete a state of poetic ignorance as did St. Clair and the tres socii. The disciples deemed it quite natural that their master should have interviews with Moses and Elias, that he should command the elements, and that he should heal the sick. We must remember, besides, that every idea loses something of its purity, as soon as it aspires to realize itself. Success is never attained without some injury being done to the sensibility of the soul. Such is the feebleness of the human mind that the best causes are ofttimes gained only by bad arguments. The demonstrations of the primitive apologists of Christianity are supported by very poor reasonings. Moses, Christopher Columbus, Mohammed, have only triumphed over obstacles by constantly making allowance for the weakness of men, and by not always giving the true reasons for the truth. It is probable that the hearers of Jesus were more struck by his miracles than by his eminently divine discourses. Let us add, that doubtless popular rumor, both before and after the death of Jesus, exaggerated enormously the number of occurrences of this kind. The types of the gospel miracles, in fact, do not present much variety; they are repetitions of each other and seem fashioned from a very small number of models, accommodated to the taste of the country.
It is impossible, amongst the miraculous narratives so tediously enumerated in the Gospels, to distinguish the miracles attributed to Jesus by public opinion from those in which he consented to play an active part. It is especially impossible to ascertain whether the offensive circumstances attending them, the groanings, the strugglings, and other features savoring of jugglery,* are really historical, or whether they are the fruit of the belief of the compilers, strongly imbued with theurgy, and living, in this respect, in a world analogous to that of the "spiritualists" of our times.* Almost all the miracles which Jesus thought he performed, appear to have been miracles of healing. Medicine was at this period in Judea, what it still is in the East, that is to say, in no respect scientific, but absolutely surrendered to individual inspiration. Scientific medicine, founded by Greece five centuries before, was at the time of Jesus unknown to the Jews of Palestine. In such a stale of knowledge, the presence of a superior man, treating the diseased with gentleness and giving him by some sensible signs the assurance of his recovery, is often a decisive remedy. Who would dare to say that in many cases, always excepting certain peculiar injuries, the touch of a superior being is not equal to all the resources of pharmacy? The mere pleasure of seeing him cures. He gives only a smile, or a hope, but these are not in vain.
Jesus had no more idea than his countrymen of a rational medical science; he believed, like every one else, that healing was to be effected by religious practices, and such a belief was perfectly consistent. From the moment that disease was regarded as the punishment of sin,* or as the act of a demon [Matt. ix. 32, 33, xii. 22; Luke xiii. 11, 16.], and by no means as the result of physical causes, the best physician was the holy man who had power in the supernatural world. Healing was considered a moral act; Jesus, who felt his moral power, would believe himself specially gifted to heal. Convinced that the touching of his robe,* the imposition of his hands,* did good to the sick, he would have been unfeeling, if he had refused to those who suffered, a solace which it was in his power to bestow. The healing of the sick was considered as one of the signs of the kingdom of God, and was always associated with the emancipation of the poor. [Matt. xi. 5, xv. 30, 31; Luke ix. 1, 2, 6.] Both were the signs of the great revolution which was to end in the redress of all infirmities.
One of the species of cure which Jesus most frequently performed, was exorcism, or the expulsion of demons. A strange disposition to believe in demons pervaded all minds. It was a universal opinion, not only in Judea, but in the whole world, that demons seized hold of the bodies of certain persons and made them act contrary to their will. A Persian div, often named in the Avesta,* Aeschma-daeva, the "div of concupiscence," adopted by the Jews under the name of Asmodeus [Tobit, iii. 8, vi. 14; Talm. of Bab., Gittin, 68a.], became the cause of all the hysterical afflictions of women. [Comp. Mark xvi. 9; Luke viii. 2; Gospel of the Infancy, 16, 33; Syrian Code, published in the Anecdota Syriaca of M. Land, i., p. 152.] Epilepsy, mental and nervous maladies [Jos., Bell. Jud., VII. vi. 3; Lucian, Philopseud., 16; Philostratus, Life of Apoll., iii. 38, iv. 20; Aretus, De causis morb. chron., i. 4.], in which the patient seems no longer to belong to himself, and infirmities, the cause of which is not apparent, as deafness, dumbness [Matt. ix. 33, xii. 22; Mark ix. 16, 24; Luke xi. 14.], were explained in the same manner. The admirable treatise, "On Sacred Disease," by Hippocrates, which set forth the true principles of medicine on this subject, four centuries and a half before Jesus, had not banished from the world so great an error. It was supposed that there were processes more or less efficacious for driving away the demons; and the occupation of exorcist was a regular profession like that of physician. [Tobit, viii. 2, 3; Matt. xii. 27; Mark ix. 38; Acts xix. 13; Josephus, Ant., VIII. ii. 5; Justin, Dial. cum Tryph., 85; Lucian, Epigr., xxiii. (xvii. Dindorf).] There is no doubt that Jesus had in his lifetime the reputation of possessing the greatest secrets of this art. [Matt. xvii. 20; Mark ix. 24, and following.] There were at that time many lunatics in Judea, doubtless in consequence of the great mental excitement. These mad persons, who were permitted to go at large, as they still are in the same districts, inhabited the abandoned sepulchral caves, which were the ordinary retreat of vagrants. Jesus had great influence over these unfortunates. [Matt. viii. 28, ix. 34, xii. 43, and following, xvii. 14, and following, 20; Mark v. 1, and following; Luke viii. 27, and following.] A thousand singular incidents were related in connection with his cures, in which the credulity of the time gave itself full scope. But still these difficulties must not be exaggerated. The disorders which were explained by "possessions" were often very slight. In our times, in Syria, they regard as mad or possessed by a demon (these two ideas were expressed by the same word, medjnoun*) people who are only somewhat eccentric. A gentle word often suffices in such cases to drive away the demon. Such were doubtless the means employed by Jesus. Who knows if his celebrity as exorcist was not spread almost without his own knowledge? Persons who reside in the East are occasionally surprised to find themselves, after some time, in possession of a great reputation, as doctors, sorcerers, or discoverers of treasures, without being able to account to themselves for the facts which have given rise to these strange fancies.
Many circumstances, moreover, seem to indicate that Jesus only became a thaumaturgus late in life and against his inclination. He often performs his miracles only after he has been besought to do so, and with a degree of reluctance, reproaching those who asked them for the grossness of their minds. [Matt. xii. 39, xvi. 4, xvii. 16; Mark viii. 17, and following, ix. 18; Luke ix. 41.] One singularity, apparently inexplicable, is the care he takes to perform his miracles in secret, and the request he addresses to those whom he heals to tell no one. [Matt. viii. 4, ix. 30, 31, xii. 16, and following; Mark i. 44, vii. 24, and following, viii. 26.] When the demons wish to proclaim him the Son of God, he forbids them to open their mouths; but they recognize him in spite of himself. [Mark i. 24, 25, 34, iii. 12; Luke iv. 41.] These traits are especially characteristic in Mark, who is pre-eminently the evangelist of miracles and exorcisms. It seems that the disciple, who has furnished the fundamental teachings of this Gospel, importuned Jesus with his admiration of the wonderful, and that the master, wearied of a reputation which weighed upon him, had often said to him, "See thou say nothing to any man." Once this discordance evoked a singular outburst,* a fit of impatience, in which the annoyance these perpetual demands of weak minds caused Jesus, breaks forth. One would say, at times, that the character of thaumaturgus was disagreeable to him, and that he sought to give as little publicity as possible to the marvels which, in a manner, grew under his feet. When his enemies asked a miracle of him, especially a celestial miracle, a "sign from heaven," he obstinately refused. [Matt. xii. 38, and following, xvi. 1, and following; Mark viii. 11.] We may therefore conclude that his reputation of thaumaturgus was imposed upon him, that he did not resist it much, but also that he did nothing to aid it, and that, at all events, he felt the vanity of popular opinion on this point.
We should neglect to recognize the first principles of history if we attached too much importance to our repugnances on this matter, and if, in order to avoid the objections which might be raised against the character of Jesus, we attempted to suppress facts which, in the eyes of his contemporaries, were considered of the greatest importance.* It would be convenient to say that these are the additions of disciples much inferior to their Master who, not being able to conceive his true grandeur, have sought to magnify him by illusions unworthy of him. But the four narrators of the life of Jesus are unanimous in extolling his miracles: one of them, Mark, interpreter of the apostle Peter [Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39.], insists so much on this point, that, if we trace the character of Christ only according to this Gospel, we should represent him as an exorcist in possession of charms of rare efficacy, as a very potent sorcerer, who inspired fear, and whom the people wished to get rid of.* We will admit, then, without hesitation, that acts which would now be considered as acts of illusion or folly, held a large place in the life of Jesus. Must we sacrifice to these uninviting features the sublimer aspect of such a life? God forbid. A mere sorcerer, after the manner of Simon the magician, would not have brought about a moral revolution like that effected by Jesus. If the thaumaturgus had effaced in Jesus the moralist and the religious reformer, there would have proceeded from him a school of theurgy, and not Christianity.
The problem, moreover, presents itself in the same manner with respect to all saints and religious founders. Things now considered morbid, such as epilepsy and seeing of visions, were formerly principles of power and greatness. Physicians can designate the disease which made the fortune of Mohammed. [Hysteria Muscularis of Shoenlein.] Almost in our own day, the men who have done the most for their kind (the excellent Vincent de Paul himself!) were, whether they wished it or not, thaumaturgi. If we set out with the principle that every historical personage to whom acts have been attributed, which we in the nineteenth century hold to be irrational or savoring of quackery, was either a madman or a charlatan, all criticism is nullified. The school of Alexandria was a noble school, but, nevertheless, it gave itself up to the practices of an extravagant theurgy. Socrates and Pascal were not exempt from hallucinations. Facts ought to explain themselves by proportionate causes. The weaknesses of the human mind only engender weakness; great things have always great causes in the nature of man, although they are often developed amidst a crowd of littlenesses which, to superficial minds, eclipse their grandeur.
In a general sense, it is therefore true to say that Jesus was only thaumaturgus and exorcist in spite of himself. Miracles are ordinarily the work of the public much more than of him to whom they are attributed. Jesus persistently shunned the performance of the wonders which the multitude would have created for him; the greatest miracle would have been his refusal to perform any; never would the laws of history and popular psychology have suffered so great a derogation. The miracles of Jesus were a violence done to him by his age, a concession forced from him by a passing necessity. The exorcist and the thaumaturgus have alike passed away; but the religious reformer will live eternally.
Even those who did not believe in him were struck with these acts, and sought to be witnesses of them. [Matt. xiv. 1, and following; Mark vi. 14; Luke ix. 7, xxiii. 8.] The pagans, and persons unacquainted with him, experienced a sentiment of fear, and sought to remove him from their district. [Matt. viii. 34; Mark v. 17, viii. 37.] Many thought perhaps to abuse his name by connecting it with seditious movements.* But the purely moral and in no respect political tendency of the character of Jesus saved him from these entanglements. His kingdom was in the circle of disciples whom a like freshness of imagination and the same foretaste of heaven had grouped and retained around him.
Definitive Form of The Ideas of Jesus Respecting The Kingdom of God.
WE suppose that this last phase of the activity of Jesus continued about eighteen months from the time of his return from the Passover of the year 31, until his journey to the feast of tabernacles of the year 32. [John v. 1, vii. 2. We follow the system of John, according to whom the public life of Jesus lasted three years. The synoptics, on the contrary, group all the facts within the space of one year.] During this time, the mind of Jesus does not appear to have been enriched by the addition of any new element; but all his old ideas grew and developed with an ever-increasing degree of power and boldness.
The fundamental idea of Jesus from the beginning, was the establishment of the kingdom of God. But this kingdom of God, as we have already said, appears to have been understood by Jesus in very different senses. At times, we should take him for a democratic leader desiring only the triumph of the poor and the disinherited. At other times, the kingdom of God is the literal accomplishment of the apocalyptic visions of Daniel and Enoch. Lastly, the kingdom of God is often a spiritual kingdom, and the approaching deliverance is a deliverance of the spirit. In this last sense, the revolution desired by Jesus was the one which has really taken place: the establishment of a new worship, purer than that of Moses. All these thoughts appear to have existed at the same time in the mind of Jesus. The first one, however—that of a temporal revolution—does not appear to have impressed him much; he never regarded the earth or the riches of the earth, or material power, as worth caring for. He had no worldly ambition. Sometimes by a natural consequence, his great religious importance was in danger of being converted into mere social importance. Men came requesting him to judge and arbitrate on questions affecting their material interests. Jesus rejected these proposals with haughtiness, treating them as insults.* Full of his heavenly ideal, he never abandoned his disdainful poverty. As to the other two conceptions of the kingdom of God, Jesus appears always to have held them simultaneously. If he had been only an enthusiast, led away by the apocalypses on which the popular imagination fed, he would have remained an obscure sectary, inferior to those whose ideas he followed. If he had been only a puritan, a sort of Channing or "Savoyard vicar," he would undoubtedly have been unsuccessful. The two parts of his system, or, rather, his two conceptions of the kingdom of God, rest one on the other, and this mutual support has been the cause of his incomparable success. The first Christians were dreamers, living in a circle of ideas which we should term visionary; but, at the same time, they were the heroes of that social war which has resulted in the enfranchisement of the conscience. and in the establishment of a religion from which the pure worship, proclaimed by the founder, will eventually proceed.
The apocalyptic ideas of Jesus, in their most complete form, may thus be summed up. The existing condition of humanity is approaching its termination. This termination will be an immense revolution, "an anguish" similar to the pains of child-birth; a palingenesis, or, in the words of Jesus himself, a "new birth,"* preceded by dark calamities and heralded by strange phenomena.* In the great day, there will appear in the heavens the sign of the Son of man; it will be a startling and luminous vision like that of Sinai, a great storm rending the clouds, a fiery meteor flashing rapidly from east to west. The Messiah will appear in the clouds, clothed in glory and majesty, to the sound of trumpets and surrounded by angels. His disciples will sit by his side upon thrones. The dead will then arise, and the Messiah will proceed to judgment. [Matt. xvi. 27, xix. 28, xx. 21, xxiv. 30, and following, xxv. 31, and following, xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke xxii. 30; 1 Cor. xv. 52; 1 Thess. iv. 15, and following.]
At this judgment men will be divided into two classes according to their deeds. [Matt. xiii. 38, and following. xxv. 33.] The angels will be the executors of the sentences.* The elect will enter into delightful mansions, which have been prepared for them from the foundation of the world;* there they will be seated, clothed with light, at a feast presided over by Abraham [Matt. viii. 11, xiii. 43, xxvi. 29; Luke xiii. 28, xvi. 22, xxii. 30.], the patriarchs and the prophets. They will be the smaller number.* The rest will depart into Gehenna. Gehenna was the western valley of Jerusalem. There the worship of fire had been practiced at various times, and the place had become a kind of sewer. Gehenna was, therefore, in the mind of Jesus, a gloomy, filthy valley, full of fire. Those excluded from the kingdom will there be burnt and eaten by the never-dying worm, in company with Satan and his rebel angels. [Matt. xxv. 41. The idea of the fall of the angels, detailed in the Book of Enoch, was universally admitted in the circle of Jesus. Epistle of Jude 6, and following; 2d Epistle attributed to Saint Peter, ii. 4, 11; Revelation xii. 9; Gospel of John viii. 44.] There, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [Matt. v. 22, viii. 12, x. 28, xiii. 40, 42, 50, xviii. 8, xxiv. 51, xxv. 30; Mark ix. 43, &c.] The kingdom of heaven will be as a closed room, lighted from within, in the midst of a world of darkness and torments. [Matt. viii. 12, xxii. 13, xxv. 30. Comp. Jos., B. J., III. viii. 5.]
This new order of things will be eternal. Paradise and Gehenna will have no end. An impassable abyss separates the one from the other.* The Son of man, seated on the right hand of God, will preside over this final condition of the world and of humanity. [Mark iii. 29; Luke xxii. 69; Acts vii. 55.]
That all this was taken literally by the disciples and by the master himself at certain moments, appears clearly evident from the writings of the time. If the first Christian generation had one profound and constant belief, it was that the world was near its end,* and that the great "revelation" [Luke xvii. 30; 1 Cor. i. 7, 8; 2 Thess. i. 7; 1 Peter i. 7, 13; Revelations i. 1.] of Christ was about to take place. The startling proclamation, "The time is at hand,"* which commences and closes the Apocalypse; the incessantly reiterated appeal, "He that hath ears to hear let him hear!" [Matt. xi. 15, xiii. 9, 43; Mark iv. 9, 23, vii. 16; Luke viii. 8, xiv. 35; Revelations ii. 7, 11, 27, 29, iii. 6, 13, 22, xiii. 9.] were the cries of hope and encouragement for the whole apostolic age. A Syrian expression, Maran atha, "Our Lord cometh!"* became a sort of password, which the believers used amongst themselves to strengthen their faith and their hope. The Apocalypse, written in the year 68 of our era,* declares that the end will come in three years and a half. [Revelations xi. 2, 3, xii. 14. Comp. Daniel vii. 25, xii. 7.] The "Ascension of Isaiah" [Chap. iv., v. 12 and 14. Comp. Cedrenus, p. 68 (Paris, 1647).] adopts a calculation very similar to this.
Jesus never indulged in such precise details. When he was interrogated as to the time of his advent, he always refused to reply; once even he declared that the date of this great day was known only by the Father, who had revealed it neither to the angels nor to the Son.* He said that the time when the kingdom of God was most anxiously expected, was just that in which it would not appear. [Luke xvii. 20. Comp. Talmud of Babyl., Sanhedrim, 97a.] He constantly repeated that it would be a surprise, as in the times of Noah and of Lot; that we must be on our guard, always ready to depart; that each one must watch and keep his lamp trimmed as for a wedding procession, which arrives unforeseen [Matt. xxiv. 36, and following; Mark xiii. 32, and following; Luke xii. 35, and following, xvii. 20, and following.]; that the Son of man would come like a thief, at an hour when he would not be expected;* that he would appear as a flash of lightning, running from one end of the heavens to the other.* But his declarations on the nearness of the catastrophe leave no room for any equivocations. [Matt. x. 23, xxiv., xxv. entirely, and especially xxiv. 29, 34; Mark xiii. 30; Luke xiii. 35, xxi. 28, and following.] "This generation," said he, "shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." [Matt. xvi. 28, xxiii. 36, 39, xxiv. 34; Mark viii. 39; Luke ix. 27, xxi. 32.] He reproaches those who do not believe in him, for not being able to read the signs of the future kingdom. "When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" [Matt. xvi. 2-4; Luke xii. 54-56.] By an illusion common to all great reformers, Jesus imagined the end to be much nearer than it really was; he did not take into account the slowness of the movements of humanity; he thought to realize in one day that which, eighteen centuries later, has still to be accomplished.
These formal declarations preoccupied the Christian family for nearly seventy years. It was believed that some of the disciples would see the day of the final revelation before dying. John, in particular, was considered as being of this number;* many believed that he would never die. Perhaps this was a later opinion suggested toward the end of the first century, by the advanced age which John seems to have reached; this age having given rise to the belief that God wished to prolong his life indefinitely until the great day, in order to realize the words of Jesus. However this may be, at his death the faith of many was shaken, and his disciples attached to the prediction of Christ a more subdued meaning.*
At the same time that Jesus fully admitted the Apocalyptic beliefs, such as we find them in the apocryphal Jewish books, he admitted the doctrine, which is the complement, or rather the condition of them all, namely, the resurrection of the dead. This doctrine, as we have already said, was still somewhat new in Israel; a number of people either did not know it, or did not believe it. [Mark ix. 9; Luke xx. 27, and following.] It was the faith of the Pharisees, and of the fervent adherents of the Messianic beliefs. [Dan. xii. 2, and following; 2 Macc. vii. entirely, xii. 45, 46, xiv. 46; Acts xxiii. 6, 8; Jos., Ant., XVIII. i. 3; B. J., II. viii. 14, III. viii. 5.] Jesus accepted it unreservedly, but always in the most idealistic sense. Many imagined that in the resuscitated world they would eat, drink, and marry. Jesus, indeed, admits into his kingdom a new passover, a table, and a new wine;* but he expressly excludes marriage from it. The Sadducees had on this subject an apparently coarse argument, but one which was really in conformity with the old theology. It will be remembered that according to the ancient sages, man survived only in his children. The Mosaic code had consecrated this patriarchal theory by a strange institution, the levirate law. The Sadducees drew from thence subtle deductions against the resurrection. Jesus escaped them by formally declaring that in the life eternal there would no longer exist differences of sex, and that men would be like the angels. [Matt. xxii. 24, and following; Luke xx. 34-38; Ebionite Gospel, entitled, "Of the Egyptians," in Clem. of Alex., Strom. ii. 9, 13; Clem. Rom., Epist. ii. 12.] Sometimes he seems to promise resurrection only to the righteous [Luke xiv. 14, xx. 35, 36. This is also the opinion of St. Paul: 1 Cor. xv. 23, and following; 1 Thess. iv. 12, and following.], the punishment of the wicked consisting in complete annihilation. [Comp. 4th book of Esdras, ix. 22.] Oftener, however, Jesus declares that the resurrection shall bring eternal confusion to the wicked. [Matt. xxv. 32, and following.]
It will be seen that nothing in all these theories was absolutely new. The Gospels and the writings of the apostles scarcely contain anything as regards apocalyptic doctrines but what might be found already in "Daniel," [See especially chaps. ii., vi.-viii., x.-xiii.] "Enoch," [Chaps. i., xlv., lii., lxii., xciii. 9, and following.] and the "Sibylline Oracles," [Book iii. 573, and following; 652, and following; 766, and following; 795, and following.] of Jewish origin. Jesus accepted the ideas, which were generally received among his contemporaries. He made them his basis of action, or rather one of his bases; for he had too profound an idea of his true work to establish it solely upon such fragile principles—principles so liable to be decisively refuted by facts.
It is evident, indeed, that such a doctrine, taken by itself in a literal manner, had no future. The world, in continuing to exist, caused it to crumble. One generation of man at the most was the limit of its endurance. The faith of the first Christian generation is intelligible, but the faith of the second generation is no longer so. After the death of John, or of the last survivor, whoever he might be, of the group which had seen the master, the word of Jesus was convicted of falsehood. [These pangs of Christian conscience are rendered with simplicity in the second epistle attributed to St. Peter, iii. 8, and following.] If the doctrine of Jesus had been simply belief in an approaching end of the world, it would certainly now be sleeping in oblivion. What is it, then, which has saved it? The great breadth of the Gospel conceptions, which has permitted doctrines suited to very different intellectual conditions to be found under the same creed. The world has not ended, as Jesus announced, and as his disciples believed. But it has been renewed, and in one sense renewed as Jesus desired. It is because his thought was two-sided that it has been fruitful. His chimera has not had the fate of so many others which have crossed the human mind, because it concealed a germ of life which having been introduced, thanks to a covering of fable, into the bosom of humanity, has thus brought forth eternal fruits.
And let us not say that this is a benevolent interpretation, imagined in order to clear the honor of our great master from the cruel contradiction inflicted on his dreams by reality, No, no; this true kingdom of God, this kingdom of the spirit, which makes each one king and priest; this kingdom which, like the grain of mustard-seed, has become a tree which overshadows the world, and amidst whose branches the birds have their nests, was understood, wished for, and founded by Jesus. By the side of the false, cold, and impossible idea of an ostentatious advent, he conceived the real city of God, the true "palingenesis," the Sermon on the Mount, the apotheosis of the weak, the love of the people, regard for the poor, and the re-establishment of all that is humble, true, and simple. This re-establishment he has depicted as an incomparable artist, by features which will last eternally. Each of us owes that which is best in himself to him. Let us pardon him his hope of a vain apocalypse, and of a second coming in great triumph upon the clouds of heaven. Perhaps these were the errors of others rather than his own; and if it be true that he himself shared the general illusion, what matters it, since his dream rendered him strong against death, and sustained him in a struggle, to which he might otherwise have been unequal?
We must, then, attach several meanings to the divine city conceived by Jesus. If his only thought had been that the end of time was near, and that we must prepare for it, he would not have surpassed John the Baptist. To renounce a world ready to crumble, to detach one's self little by little from the present life, and to aspire to the kingdom about to come, would have formed the gist of his preaching. The teaching of Jesus had always a much larger scope. He proposed to himself to create a new state of humanity, and not merely to prepare the end of that which was in existence. Elias or Jeremiah, reappearing in order to prepare men for the supreme crisis, would not have preached as he did. This is so true that this morality, attributed to the latter days, is found to be the eternal morality, that which has saved humanity. Jesus himself in many cases makes use of modes of speech which do not accord with the apocalyptic theory. He often declares that the kingdom of God has already commenced; that every man bears it within himself; and can, if he be worthy, partake of it; that each one silently creates this kingdom by the true conversion of the heart. [Matt. vi. 10, 33; Mark xii. 34; Luke xi. 2, xii. 31, xvii. 20, 21, and following.] The kingdom of God at such times is only the highest form of good.* A better order of things than that which exists, the reign of justice, which the faithful, according to their ability, ought to help in establishing; or, again, the liberty of the soul, something analogous to the Buddhist "deliverance," the fruit of the soul's separation from matter and absorption in the divine essence. These truths, which are purely abstract to us, were living realities to Jesus. Everything in his mind was concrete and substantial. Jesus, of all men, believed most thoroughly in the reality of the ideal.
In accepting the Utopias of his time and his race, Jesus thus was able to make high truths of them, thanks to the fruitful misconceptions of their import. His kingdom of God was no doubt the approaching apocalypse, which was about to be unfolded in the heavens. But it was still, and probably above all the kingdom of the soul, founded on liberty and on the filial sentiment which the virtuous man feels when resting on the bosom of his Father. It was a pure religion, without forms, without temple, and without priest; it was the moral judgment of the world, delegated to the conscience of the just man, and to the arm of the people. This is what was designed to live; this is what has lived. When, at the end of a century of vain expectation, the materialistic hope of a near end of the world was exhausted, the true kingdom of God became apparent. Accommodating explanations threw a veil over the material kingdom, which was then seen to be incapable of realization. The Apocalypse of John, the chief canonical book of the New Testament [Justin, Dial. cum Tryph., 81.], being too formally tied to the idea of an immediate catastrophe, became of secondary importance, was held to be unintelligible, tortured in a thousand ways and almost rejected. At least, its accomplishment was adjourned to an indefinite future. Some poor benighted ones who, in a fully enlightened age, still preserved the hopes of the first disciples, became heretics (Ebionites, Millenarians), lost in the shallows of Christianity. Mankind had passed to another kingdom of God. The degree of truth contained in the thought of Jesus had prevailed over the chimera which obscured it.
Let us not, however, despise this chimera, which has been the thick rind of the sacred fruit on which we live. This fantastic kingdom of heaven, this endless pursuit after a city of God, which has constantly preoccupied Christianity during its long career, has been the principle of that great instinct of futurity which has animated all reformers, persistent believers in the Apocalypse, from Joachim of Flora down to the Protestant sectary of our days. This impotent effort to establish a perfect society has been the source of the extraordinary tension which has always made the true Christian an athlete struggling against the existing order of things. The idea of the "kingdom of God," and the Apocalypse, which is the complete image of it, are thus, in a sense, the highest and most poetic expressions of human progress. But they have necessarily given rise to great errors. The end of the world, suspended as a perpetual menace over mankind, was, by the periodical panics which it caused during centuries, a great hindrance to all secular development. Society being no longer certain of its existence, contracted therefrom a degree of trepidation, and those habits of servile humility, which rendered the Middle Ages so inferior to ancient and modern times.* A profound change had also taken place in the mode of regarding the coming of Christ. When it was first announced to mankind that the end of the world was about to come, like the infant which receives death with a smile, it experienced the greatest access of joy that it has ever felt. But in growing old, the world became attached to life. The day of grace, so long expected by the simple souls of Galilee, became to these iron ages a day of wrath: Dies irae, dies illa! But, even in the midst of barbarism, the idea of the kingdom of God continued fruitful. In spite of the feudal church, of sects, and of religious orders, holy persons continued to protest, in the name of the Gospel, against the iniquity of the world. Even in our days, troubled days, in which Jesus has no more authentic followers than those who seem to deny him, the dreams of an ideal organization of society, which have so much analogy with the aspirations of the primitive Christian sects, are only in one sense the blossoming of the same idea. They are one of the branches of that immense tree in which germinates all thought of a future, and of which the "kingdom of God" will be eternally the root and stem. All the social revolutions of humanity will be grafted on this phrase. But, tainted by a coarse materialism, and aspiring to the impossible, that is to say, to found universal happiness upon political and economical measures, the "socialist" attempts of our time will remain unfruitful until they take as their rule the true spirit of Jesus, I mean absolute idealism—the principle that, in order to possess the world, we must renounce it.
The phrase, "kingdom of God," expresses also, very happily, the want which the soul experiences of a supplementary destiny, of a compensation for the present life. Those who do not accept the definition of man as a compound of two substances, and who regard the Deistical dogma of the immortality of the soul as in contradiction with physiology, love to fall back upon the hope of a final reparation, which, under an unknown form shall satisfy the wants of the heart of man. Who knows if the highest term of progress after millions of ages may not evoke the absolute conscience of the universe, and in this conscience the awakening of all that has lived? A sleep of a million of years is not longer than the sleep of an hour. St. Paul, on this hypothesis, was right in saying, In ictu oculi!* It is certain that moral and virtuous humanity will have its reward, that one day the ideas of the poor but honest man will judge the world, and on that day the ideal figure of Jesus will be the confusion of the frivolous who have not believed in virtue, and of the selfish who have not been able to attain to it. The favorite phrase of Jesus continues, therefore, full of an eternal beauty. A kind of exalted divination seems to have maintained it in a vague sublimity, embracing at the same time various orders of truths.
Institutions of Jesus.
THAT Jesus was never entirely absorbed in his apocalyptic ideas is proved, moreover, by the fact that at the very time he was most preoccupied with them, he laid with rare forethought the foundation of a church destined to endure. It is scarcely possible to doubt that he himself chose from among his disciples those who were pre-eminently called the "apostles," or the "twelve," since on the day after his death we find them forming a distinct body, and filling up by election the vacancies that had arisen in their midst. [Acts i. 15, and following; 1 Cor. xv. 5; Gal. i. 10.] They were the two sons of Jonas; the two sons of Zebedee; James, son of Cleophas; Philip; Nathaniel bar-Tolmai; Thomas; Levi, or Matthew, the son of Alphaeus; Simon Zelotes; Thaddeus or Lebbaeus; and Judas of Kerioth. [Matt. x. 2, and following; Mark iii. 16, and following; Luke vi. 14, and following; Acts i. 13; Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39.] It is probable that the idea of the twelve tribes of Israel had had some share in the choice of this number. [Matt. xix. 28; Luke xxii. 30.]
The "twelve," at all events, formed a group of privileged disciples, among whom Peter maintained a fraternal priority [Acts i. 15, ii. 14, v. 2, 3, 29, viii. 19, xv. 7; Gal. i. 18.], and to them Jesus confided the propagation of his work. There was nothing, however, which presented the appearance of a regularly organized sacerdotal school. The lists of the "twelve," which have been preserved, contain many uncertainties and contradictions; two or three of those who figure in them have remained completely obscure. Two, at least, Peter and Philip [For Peter, see ante, p. 174; for Philip, see Papias, Polycrates, and Clement of Alexandria, quoted by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 30, 31, 39, v. 24.], were married and had children.
Jesus evidently confided secrets to the twelve, which he forbade them to communicate to the world. [Matt. xvi. 20, xvii. 9; Mark viii. 30, ix. 8.] It seems as if his plan at times was to surround himself with a degree of mystery, to postpone the most important testimony respecting himself till after his death, and to reveal himself completely only to his disciples, confiding to them the care of demonstrating him afterwards to the world. [Matt. x. 26, 27; Mark iv. 21, and following; Luke viii. 17, xii. 2, and following; John xiv. 22.] "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." This spared him the necessity of too precise declarations, and created a kind of medium between the public and himself. It is clear that there were certain teachings confined to the apostles, and that he explained many parables to them, the meaning of which was ambiguous to the multitude. [Matt. xiii. 10, and following, 34 and following; Mark iv. 10, and following, 33, and following; Luke viii. 9, and following; xii. 41.] An enigmatical form and a degree of oddness in connecting ideas were customary in the teachings of the doctors, as may be seen in the sentences of the Pirke Aboth. Jesus explained to his intimate friends whatever was peculiar in his apothegms or in his apologues, and showed them his meaning stripped of the wealth of illustration which sometimes obscured it. [Matt. xvi. 6, and following; Mark vii. 17-23.] Many of these explanations appear to have been carefully preserved. [Matt. xiii. 18, and following; Mark vii. 18, and following.]
During the lifetime of Jesus, the apostles preached,* but without ever departing far from him. Their preaching, moreover, was limited to the announcement of the speedy coming of the kingdom of God.* They went from town to town, receiving hospitality, or rather taking it themselves, according to the custom of the country. The guest in the East has much authority; he is superior to the master of the house, who has the greatest confidence in him. This fireside preaching is admirably adapted to the propagation of new doctrines. The hidden treasure is communicated, and payment is thus made for what is received; politeness and good feeling lend their aid; the household is touched and converted. Remove Oriental hospitality, and it would be impossible to explain the propagation of Christianity. Jesus, who adhered greatly to good old customs, encouraged his disciples to make no scruple of profiting by this ancient public right, probably already abolished in the great towns where there were hostelries. [The Greek word πανδοκειον, in all the languages of the Semitic East, designates an hostelry.] "The laborer," said he, "is worthy of his hire!" Once installed in any house, they were to remain there, eating and drinking what was offered them, as long as their mission lasted.
Jesus desired that, in imitation of his example, the messengers of the glad tidings should render their preaching agreeable by kindly and polished manners. He directed that, on entering into a house, they should give the salaam or greeting. Some hesitated; the salaam being then, as now, in the East, a sign of religious communion, which is not risked with persons of a doubtful faith. "Fear nothing," said Jesus; "if no one in the house is worthy of your salute, it will return unto you." [Matt. x. 11, and following; Mark vi. 10, and following; Luke x. 5, and following. Comp. 2 Epistle of John, 10, 11.] Sometimes, in fact, the apostles of the kingdom of God were badly received, and came to complain to Jesus, who generally sought to soothe them. Some of them, persuaded of the omnipotence of their master, were hurt at this forbearance. The sons of Zebedee wanted him to call down fire from heaven upon the inhospitable towns.* Jesus received these outbursts with a subtle irony, and stopped them by saying: "The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
He sought in every way to establish as a principle that his apostles were as himself. [Matt. x. 40, 42, xxv. 35, and following; Mark ix. 40; Luke x. 16; John xiii. 20.] It was believed that he had communicated his marvelous virtues to them. They cast out demons, prophesied, and formed a school of renowned exorcists,* although certain cases were beyond their power.* They also wrought cures, either by the imposition of hands, or by the anointing with oil,* one of the fundamental processes of Oriental medicine. Lastly, like the Psylli, they could handle serpents and could drink deadly potions with impunity.* The further we get from Jesus—the more offensive does this theurgy become. But there is no doubt that it was generally received by the primitive Church, and that it held an important place in the estimation of the world around.* Charlatans, as generally happens, took advantage of this movement of popular credulity. Even in the lifetime of Jesus, many, without being his disciples, cast out demons in his name. The true disciples were much displeased at this, and sought to prevent them. Jesus, who saw that this was really an homage paid to his renown, was not very severe toward them. [Mark ix. 37, 38; Luke ix. 49, 50.] It must be observed, moreover, that the exercise of these gifts had to some degree become a trade, Carrying the logic of absurdity to the extreme, certain men cast out demons by Beelzebub [An ancient god of the Philistines, transformed by the Jews into a demon.], the prince of demons. They imagined that this sovereign of the infernal regions must have entire authority over his subordinates, and that in acting through him they were certain to make the intruding spirit depart.* Some even sought to buy from the disciples of Jesus the secret of the miraculous powers which had been conferred upon them.* The germ of a church from this time began to appear. This fertile idea of the power of men in association (ecclesia) was doubtless derived from Jesus. Full of the purely idealistic doctrine that it is the union of love which brings souls together, he declared that whenever men assembled in his name, he would be in their midst. He confided to the Church the right to bind and to unbind (that is to say, to render certain things lawful or unlawful), to remit sins, to reprimand, to warn with authority, and to pray with the certainty of being heard favorably. [Matt. xviii. 17, and following; John xx. 23.] It is possible that many of these words may have been attributed to the master, in order to give a warrant to the collective authority which was afterward sought to be substituted for that of Jesus. At all events, it was only after his death that particular churches were established, and even this first constitution was made purely and simply on the model of the synagogue. Many personages who had loved Jesus much, and had founded great hopes upon him, as Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, Mary Magdalen, and Nicodemus, did not, it seems, join these churches, but clung to the tender or respectful memory which they had preserved of him.
Moreover, there is no trace, in the teaching of Jesus, of an applied morality or of a canonical law, ever so slightly defined. Once only, respecting marriage, he spoke decidedly, and forbade divorce. [Matt. xix. 3, and following.] Neither was there any theology or creed. There were indefinite views respecting the Father, the Son, and the Spirit [Matt. xxviii. 19. Comp. Matt. iii. 16, 17; John xv. 26.], from which, afterward, were drawn the Trinity and the Incarnation, but they were then only in a state of indeterminate imagery. The later books of the Jewish canon recognized the Holy Spirit, a sort of divine hypostasis, sometimes identified with Wisdom or the Word. [Sap. i. 7, vii. 7, ix. 17, xii. 1; Eccles. i. 9, xv. 5, xxiv. 27; xxxix. 8; Judith xvi. 17.] Jesus insisted upon this point [Matt. x. 20; Luke xii. 12, xxiv. 49; John xiv. 26, xv. 26.], and announced to his disciples a baptism by fire and by the spirit [Matt. iii. 11; Mark i. 8; Luke iii. 16; John i. 26, iii. 5; Acts i. 5, 8, x. 47.], as much preferable to that of John, a baptism which they believed they had received, after the death of Jesus, in the form of a great wind and tongues of fire. [Acts ii. 1-4, xi. 15, xix. 6. Cf. John vii. 39.] The Holy Spirit thus sent by the Father was to teach them all truth, and testify to that which Jesus himself had promulgated.* In order to designate this Spirit, Jesus made use of the word Peraklit, which the Syro-Chaldaic had borrowed from the Greek (παρακλητος), and which appears to have had in his mind the meaning of "advocate," [To Peraklit was opposed Katigor, (κατηγορος), the "accuser."] "counsellor," [John xiv. 16; 1st Epistle of John ii. 1.] and sometimes that of "interpreter of celestial truths," and of "teacher charged to reveal to men the hitherto hidden mysteries." [John xiv. 26, xv. 26, xvi. 7, and following. Comp. Philo, De Mundi opficio, § 6.] He regarded himself as a Peraklit to his disciples [John xiv. 16. Comp. the epistle before cited, l. c.], and the Spirit which was to come after his death would only take his place. This was an application of the process which the Jewish and Christian theologies would follow during centuries, and which was to produce a whole series of divine assessors, the Metathronos, the Synadelphe or Sandalphon, and all the personifications of the Cabbala. But in Judaism, these creations were to remain free and individual speculations, whilst in Christianity, commencing with the fourth century, they were to form the very essence of orthodoxy and of the universal doctrine.
It is unnecessary to remark how remote from the thought of Jesus was the idea of a religious book, containing a code and articles of faith. Not only did he not write, but it was contrary to the spirit of the infant sect to produce sacred books. They believed themselves to be on the eve of the great final catastrophe. The Messiah came to put the seal upon the Law and the Prophets, not to promulgate new Scriptures. With the exception of the Apocalypse, which was in one sense the only revealed book of the infant Christianity, all the other writings of the apostolic age were works evoked by existing circumstances, making no pretensions to furnish a completely dogmatic whole. The Gospels had at first an entirely personal character, and much less authority than tradition. [Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 39.]
Had the sect, however, no sacrament, no rite, no sign of union? It had one which all tradition ascribes to Jesus. One of the favorite ideas of the master was that he was the new bread, bread very superior to manna, and on which mankind was to live. This idea, the germ of the Eucharist, was at times expressed by him in singularly concrete forms. On one occasion especially, in the synagogue of Capernaum, he took a decided step, which cost him several of his disciples. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven."* And he added, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." [We find an analogous form of expression provoking a similar misunderstanding, in John iv. 10, and following.] These words excited much murmuring. "The Jews then murmured at him because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" But Jesus insisting with still more force, said, "I am that bread of life; your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." [All these discourses bear too strongly the imprint of the style peculiar to John, for them to be regarded as exact. The anecdote related in chapter vi. of the fourth Gospel cannot, however, be entirely stripped of historical reality.] The offense was now at its height: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus going still further, said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." Several of his disciples were offended at such obstinacy in paradox, and ceased to follow him. Jesus did not retract; he only added: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The twelve remained faithful, notwithstanding this strange preaching. It gave to Cephas, in particular, an opportunity of showing his absolute devotion, and of proclaiming once more, "Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God."
It is probable that from that time, in the common repasts of the sect, there was established some custom which was derived from the discourse so badly received by the men of Capernaum. But the apostolic traditions on this subject are very diverse and probably intentionally incomplete. The synoptical gospels suppose that a unique sacramental act served as basis to the mysterious rite, and declare this to have been "the last supper." John, who has preserved the incident at the synagogue of Capernaum, does not speak of such an act, although he describes the last supper at great length. Elsewhere we see Jesus recognized in the breaking of bread,* as if this act had been to those who associated with him the most characteristic of his person. When he was dead, the form under which he appeared to the pious memory of his disciples, was that of president of a mysterious banquet, taking the bread, blessing it, breaking and presenting it to those present. [Luke l. c.; John xxi. 13.] It is probable that this was one of his habits, and that at such times he was particularly loving and tender. One material circumstance, the presence of fish upon the table (a striking indication, which proves that the rite had its birth on the shore of Lake Tiberias*), was itself almost sacramental, and became a necessary part of the conceptions of the sacred feast.*
Their repasts were among the sweetest moments of the infant community. At these times they all assembled; the master spoke to each one, and kept up a charming and lively conversation. Jesus loved these seasons, and was pleased to see his spiritual family thus grouped around him.* The participation of the same bread was considered as a kind of communion, a reciprocal bond. The master used, in this respect, extremely strong terms, which were afterward taken in a very literal sense. Jesus was, at the same time, very idealistic in his conceptions, and very materialistic in his expression of them. Wishing to express the thought that the believer only lives by him, that altogether (body, blood, and soul) he was the life of the truly faithful, he said to his disciples, "I am your nourishment"—a phrase which, turned in figurative style, became, "My flesh is your bread, my blood your drink." Added to this, the modes of speech employed by Jesus, always strongly subjective, carried him still further. At table, pointing to the food, he said, "I am here"—holding the bread—"this is my body;" and of the wine, "This is my blood"—all modes of speech which were equivalent to, "I am your nourishment."
This mysterious rite obtained great importance in the lifetime of Jesus. It was probably established some time before the last journey to Jerusalem, and it was the result of a general doctrine much more than a determinate act. After the death of Jesus, it became the great symbol of Christian communion,* and it is to the most solemn moment of the life of the Savior that its establishment is referred. It was wished to see, in the consecration of bread and wine, a farewell memorial which Jesus, at the moment of quitting life, had left to his disciples.* They recognized Jesus himself in this sacrament. The wholly spiritual idea of the presence of souls, which was one of the most familiar to the Master, which made him say, for instance, that he was personally with his disciples* when they were assembled in his name, rendered this easily admissible. Jesus, we have already said, never had a very defined notion of that which constitutes individuality. In the degree of exaltation to which he had attained, the ideal surpassed everything to such an extent that the body counted for nothing. We are one when we love one another, when we live in dependence on each other; it was thus that he and his disciples were one.* His disciples adopted the same language. Those who for years had lived with him, had seen him constantly take the bread and the cup "between his holy and venerable hands," [Canon of the Greek Masses and the Latin Mass (very ancient).] and thus offer himself to them. It was he whom they ate and drank; he became the true passover, the former one having been abrogated by his blood. It is impossible to translate into our essentially determined idiom, in which a rigorous distinction between the material and the metaphorical must always be observed, habits of style the essential character of which is to attribute to metaphor, or rather to the idea it represents, a complete reality.
Increasing Progression of Enthusiasm and of Exaltation.
IT is clear that such a religious society, founded solely on the expectation of the kingdom of God, must be in itself very incomplete. The first Christian generation lived almost entirely upon expectations and dreams. On the eve of seeing the world come to an end, they regarded as useless everything which only served to prolong it. Possession of property was interdicted. [Luke xiv. 33; Acts iv. 32, and following, v. 1-11.] Everything which attaches man to earth, everything which draws him aside from heaven, was to be avoided. Although several of the disciples were married, there was to be no more marriage on becoming a member of the sect. [Matt. xix. 10, and following; Luke xviii. 29, and following.] The celibate was greatly preferred; even in marriage continence was recommended. [This is the constant doctrine of Paul. Comp. Rev. xiv. 4.] At one time the master seems to approve of those who should mutilate themselves in prospect of the kingdom of God.* In this he was consistent with his principle—"If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire." [Matt. xviii. 8, 9. Cf. Talmud of Babylon, Niddah, 13b.] The cessation of generation was often considered as the sign and condition the kingdom of God. [Matt. xxii. 30; Mark xii. 25; Luke xx. 35; Ebionite Gospel, entitled "Of the Egyptians," in Clem. of Alex., Strom. iii. 9, 13, and Clem. Rom., Epist. ii. 12.]
Never, we perceive, would this primitive Church have formed a lasting society but for the great variety of germs deposited by Jesus in his teaching. It required more than a century for the true Christian Church—that which has converted the world—to disengage itself from this little sect of "latter-day saints," and to become a framework applicable to the whole of human society. The same thing, indeed, took place in Buddhism, which at first was founded only for monks. The same thing would have happened in the order of St. Francis, if that order had succeeded in its pretension of becoming the rule of the whole human society. Essentially Utopian in their origin, and succeeding by their very exaggeration, the great systems of which we have just spoken have only laid hold of the world by being profoundly modified, and by abandoning their excesses. Jesus did not advance beyond this first and entirely monachal period, in which it was believed that the impossible could be attempted with impunity. He made no concession to necessity. He boldly preached war against nature, and total severance from ties of blood. "Verily I say unto you," said he, "there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.*
The teachings which Jesus is reputed to have given to his disciples breathe the same exaltation. [Matt. x., entirely, xxiv. 9; Mark vi. 8, and following, ix. 40, xiii. 9-13; Luke x. 3, and following. x. 1, and following, xii. 4, and following, xxi. 17; John xv. 18, and following, xvii. 14.] He who was so tolerant to the world outside, he who contented himself sometimes with half adhesions,* exercised toward his own an extreme rigor. He would have no "all buts." We should call it an "order," constituted by the most austere rules. Faithful to his idea that the cares of life trouble man, and draw him downward, Jesus required from his associates a complete detachment from the earth, an absolute devotion to his work. They were not to carry with them either money or provisions for the way, not even a scrip, or change of raiment. They must practice absolute poverty, live on alms and hospitality. "Freely ye have received, freely give," [Matt. x. 8. Comp. Midrash Ialkout, Deut., sect. 824.] said he, in his beautiful language. Arrested and arraigned before the judges, they were not to prepare their defense; the Peraklit, the heavenly advocate, would inspire them with what they ought to say. The Father would send them his Spirit from on high, which would become the principle of all their acts, the director of their thoughts, and their guide through the world. [Matt. x. 20; John xiv. 16, and following, 26, xv. 26, xvi. 7, 13.] If driven from any town, they were to shake the dust from their shoes, declaring always the proximity of the kingdom of God, that none might plead ignorance. "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel," added he, "till the Son of man be come."
A strange ardor animates all these discourses, which may in part be the creation of the enthusiasm of his disciples [The expressions in Matt. x. 38, xvi. 24; Mark viii. 34; Luke xiv. 27, can only have been conceived after the death of Jesus.], but which even in that case came indirectly from Jesus, for it was he who had inspired the enthusiasm. He predicted for his followers severe persecutions and the hatred of mankind. He sent them forth as lambs in the midst of wolves. They would be scourged in the synagogues, and dragged to prison. Brother should deliver up brother to death, and the father his son. When they were prosecuted in one country they were to flee to another. "The disciple," said he, "is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."* "Whosoever, therefore," continued he, "shall confess to me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." [Matt. x. 32, 33; Mark viii. 38; Luke ix. 26, xii. 8, 9.]
In these fits of severity he went so far as to abolish all natural ties. His requirements had no longer any bounds. Despising the healthy limits of man's nature, he demanded that he should exist only for him, that he should love him alone. "If any man come to me," said he, "and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." [Luke xiv. 26. We must here take into account the exaggeration of Luke's style.] "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."* There was, at such times, something strange and more than human in his words; they were like a fire utterly consuming life, and reducing everything to a frightful wilderness. The harsh and gloomy feeling of distaste for the world, and of excessive self-abnegation which characterizes Christian perfection, was originated, not by the refined and cheerful moralist of earlier days, but by the somber giant whom a kind of grand presentiment was withdrawing, more and more, out of the pale of humanity. We should almost say that, in these moments of conflict with the most legitimate cravings of the heart, Jesus had forgotten the pleasure of living, of loving, of seeing, and of feeling. Employing still more unmeasured language, he even said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and follow me. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake and the gospel's, shall find it. What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" [Matt. x. 37-39, xvi. 24, 25; Luke ix. 23-25, xiv. 26, 27, xvii. 33; John xii. 25.] Two anecdotes of the kind we cannot accept as historical, but which, although they were exaggerations, were intended to represent a characteristic feature, clearly illustrate this defiance of nature. He said to one man, "Follow me!"—"But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Jesus answered, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Another said to him, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." Jesus replied, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." [Matt. viii. 21, 22; Luke ix. 59-62.] An extraordinary confidence, and at times accents of singular sweetness, reversing all our ideas of him, caused these exaggerations to be easily received. "Come unto me," cried he, "all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."*
A great danger threatened the future of this exalted morality, thus expressed in hyperbolical language and with a terrible energy. By detaching man from earth the ties of life were severed. The Christian would be praised for being a bad son, or a bad patriot, if it was for Christ that he resisted his father and fought against his country. The ancient city, the parent republic, the state, or the law common to all, were thus placed in hostility with the kingdom of God. A fatal germ of theocracy was introduced into the world.
From this point, another consequence may be perceived. This morality, created for a temporary crisis, when introduced into a peaceful country, and in the midst of a society assured of its own duration, must seem impossible. The Gospel was thus destined to become a Utopia for Christians, which few would care to realize. These terrible maxims would, for the greater number, remain in profound oblivion, an oblivion encouraged by the clergy itself; the Gospel man would prove a dangerous man. The most selfish, proud, hard and worldly of all human beings, a Louis XIV. for instance, would find priests to persuade him, in spite of the Gospel, that he was a Christian. But, on the other hand, there would always be found holy men who would take the sublime paradoxes of Jesus literally. Perfection being placed beyond the ordinary conditions of society, and a complete Gospel life being only possible away from the world, the principle of asceticism and of monasticism was established. Christian societies would have two moral rules; the one moderately heroic for common men, the other exalted in the extreme for the perfect man; and the perfect man would be the monk, subjected to rules which professed to realize the gospel ideal. It is certain that this ideal, if only on account of the celibacy and poverty it imposed, could not become the common law. The monk would be thus, in one sense, the only true Christian. Common sense revolts at these excesses; and if we are guided by it, to demand the impossible, is a mark of weakness and error. But common sense is a bad judge where great matters are in question. To obtain little from humanity we must ask much. The immense moral progress which we owe to the Gospel is the result of its exaggerations. It is thus that it has been, like stoicism, but with infinitely greater fullness, a living argument for the divine powers in man, an exalted monument of the potency of the will.
We may easily imagine that to Jesus, at this period of his life, everything which was not the kingdom of God had absolutely disappeared. He was, if we may say so, totally outside nature: family, friendship, country, had no longer any meaning for him. No doubt from this moment he had already sacrificed his life. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that, seeing in his own death a means of founding his kingdom, he deliberately determined to allow himself to be killed. [Matt. xvi. 21-23, xvii. 12, 21, 22.] At other times, although such a thought only afterward became a doctrine, death presented itself to him as a sacrifice, destined to appease his Father and to save mankind.* A singular taste for persecution and torments* possessed him. His blood appeared to him as the water of a second baptism with which he ought to be baptized, and he seemed possessed by a strange haste to anticipate this baptism, which alone could quench his thirst.*
The grandeur of his views upon the future was at times surprising. He did not conceal from himself the terrible storm he was about to cause in the world. "Think not," said he, with much boldness and beauty, "that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. There shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." [Matt. x. 34-36; Luke xii. 51-53. Compare Micah vii. 5, 6.] "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?" [Luke xii. 49. See the Greek text.] "They shall put you out of the synagogues," he continued; "yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service."* "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. Remember the word that I said unto you: The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you."*
Carried away by this fearful progression of enthusiasm, and governed by the necessities of a preaching becoming daily more exalted, Jesus was no longer free; he belonged to his mission, and, in one sense, to mankind. Sometimes one would have said that his reason was disturbed. He suffered great mental anguish and agitation.* The great vision of the kingdom of God, glistening before his eyes, bewildered him. His disciples at times thought him mad.* His enemies declared him to be possessed. [Mark iii. 22; John vii. 20, viii. 48, and following, x. 20, and following.] His excessively impassioned temperament carried him incessantly beyond the bounds of human nature. He laughed at all human systems, and his work not being a work of the reason, that which he most imperiously required was "faith." [Matt. viii. 10, ix. 2, 22, 28, 29, xvii. 19; John vi. 29, etc.] This was the word most frequently repeated in the little guest-chamber. It is the watchword of all popular movements. It is clear that none of these movements would take place if it were necessary that their author should gain his disciples one by one by force of logic. Reflection leads only to doubt. If the authors of the French Revolution, for instance, had had to be previously convinced by lengthened meditations, they would all have become old without accomplishing anything; Jesus, in like manner, aimed less at convincing his hearers than at exciting their enthusiasm. Urgent and imperative, he suffered no opposition: men must be converted, nothing less would satisfy him. His natural gentleness seemed to have abandoned him; he was sometimes harsh and capricious. [Matt. xvii. 16; Mark iii. 5, ix. 18; Luke viii. 45, ix. 41.] His disciples at times did not understand him, and experienced in his presence a feeling akin to fear. [It is in Mark especially that this feature is visible; iv. 40, v. 15, ix. 31, x. 32.] Sometimes his displeasure at the slightest opposition led him to commit inexplicable and apparently absurd acts. [Mark xi. 12-14, 20, and following.]
It was not that his virtue deteriorated; but his struggle for the ideal against the reality became insupportable. Contact with the world pained and revolted him. Obstacles irritated him. His idea of the Son of God became disturbed and exaggerated. The fatal law which condemns an idea to decay as soon as it seeks to convert men applied to him. Contact with men degraded him to their level. The tone he had adopted could not be sustained more than a few months; it was time that death came to liberate him from an endurance strained to the utmost, to remove him from the impossibilities of an interminable path, and by delivering him from a trial in danger of being too prolonged, introduce him henceforth sinless into celestial peace.
Opposition To Jesus.
During the first period of his career, it does not appear that Jesus met with any serious opposition. His preaching, thanks to the extreme liberty which was enjoyed in Galilee, and to the number of teachers who arose on all hands, made no noise beyond a restricted circle. But when Jesus entered upon a path brilliant with wonders and public successes, the storm began to gather. More than once he was obliged to conceal himself and fly. [Matt. xii. 14-16; Mark iii. 7, ix. 29, 30.] Antipas, however, did not interfere with him, although Jesus expressed himself sometimes very severely respecting him.* At Tiberias, his usual residence, the Tetrarch was only one or two leagues distant from the district chosen by Jesus for the center of his activity; he heard speak of his miracles, which he doubtless took to be clever tricks, and desired to see them.* The incredulous were at that time very curious about this class of illusions. [Lucius; attributed to Lucian, 4.] With his ordinary tact, Jesus refused to gratify him. He took care not to prejudice his position by mingling with an irreligious world, which wished to draw from him an idle amusement; he aspired only to gain the people; he reserved for the simple, means suitable to them alone.
On one occasion the report was spread that Jesus was no other than John the Baptist risen from the dead. Antipas became anxious and uneasy [Matt. xiv. 1, and following; Mark vi. 14, and following; Luke ix. 7, and following.]; and employed artifice to rid his dominions of the new prophet. Certain Pharisees, under the pretense of regard for Jesus, came to tell him that Antipas was seeking to kill him. Jesus, notwithstanding his great simplicity, saw the snare, and did not depart.* His peaceful manners, and his remoteness from popular agitation, ultimately reassured the Tetrarch and dissipated the danger.
The new doctrine was by no means received with equal favor in all the towns of Galilee. Not only did incredulous Nazareth continue to reject him who was to become her glory; not only did his brothers persist in not believing in him,* but the cities of the lake themselves, in general well-disposed, were not all converted. Jesus often complained of the incredulity and hardness of heart which he encountered, and although it is natural that in such reproaches we make allowance for the exaggeration of the preacher, although we are sensible of that kind of convicium seculi which Jesus affected in imitation of John the Baptist [Matt. xii. 39, 45, xiii. 15, xvi. 4; Luke xi. 29.], it is clear that the country was far from yielding itself entirely a second time to the kingdom of God. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!" cried he; "for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee."* "The queen of the south," added he, " shall rise up in the judgment of this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here."* His wandering life, at first so full of charm, now began to weigh upon him. "The foxes," he said, " have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."* Bitterness and reproach took more and more hold upon him. He accused unbelievers of not yielding to evidence, and said that, even at the moment in which the Son of man should appear in his celestial glory, there would still be men who would not believe in him.*
Jesus, in fact, was not able to receive opposition with the coolness of the philosopher, who, understanding the reason of the various opinions which divide the world, finds it quite natural that all should not agree with him. One of the principal defects of the Jewish race is its harshness in controversy, and the abusive tone which it almost always infuses into it. There never were in the world such bitter quarrels as those of the Jews among themselves. It is the faculty of nice discernment which makes the polished and moderate man. Now, the lack of this faculty is one of the most constant features of the Semitic mind. Subtle and refined works, the dialogues of Plato, for example, are altogether unknown to these nations. Jesus, who was exempt from almost all the defects of his race, and whose leading quality was precisely an infinite delicacy, was led in spite of himself to make use of the general style in polemics.* Like John the Baptist,* he employed very harsh terms against his adversaries. Of an exquisite gentleness with the simple, he was irritated at incredulity, however little aggressive.* He was no longer the mild teacher who delivered the "Sermon on the Mount," who had met with neither resistance nor difficulty. The passion that underlay his character led him to make use of the keenest invectives. This singular mixture ought not to surprise us. M. de Lamennais, a man of our own times, has strikingly presented the same contrast. In his beautiful book, the "Words of a Believer," the most immoderate anger and the sweetest relentings alternate, as in a mirage. This man, who was extremely kind in the intercourse of life, became madly intractable toward those who did not agree with him. Jesus, in like manner, applied to himself, not without reason, the passage from Isaiah:* "He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench."* And yet many of the recommendations which he addressed to his disciples contain the germs of a true fanaticism [Matt. x. 14, 15, 21, and following, 34, and following; Luke xix. 27.], germs which the Middle Ages were to develop in a cruel manner. Must we reproach him for this? No revolution is effected without some harshness. If Luther, or the actors in the French Revolution, had been compelled to observe the rules of politeness, neither the Reformation nor the Revolution would have taken place. Let us congratulate ourselves in like manner that Jesus encountered no law which punished the invectives he uttered against one class of citizens. Had such a law existed, the Pharisees would have been inviolate. All the great things of humanity have been accomplished in the name of absolute principles. A critical philosopher would have said to his disciples: Respect the opinion of others; and believe that no one is so completely right that his adversary is completely wrong. But the action of Jesus has nothing in common with the disinterested speculation of the philosopher. To know that we have touched the ideal for a moment, and have been deterred by the wickedness of a few, is a thought insupportable to an ardent soul. What must it have been for the founder of a new world?
The invincible obstacle to the ideas of Jesus came especially from orthodox Judaism, represented by the Pharisees. Jesus became more and more alienated from the ancient Law. Now, the Pharisees were the true Jews; the nerve and sinew of Judaism. Although this party had its center at Jerusalem, it had adherents either established in Galilee, or who often came there. [Mark vii. 1; Luke v. 17, and following, vii. 36.] They were, in general, men of a narrow mind, caring much for externals; their devoutness was haughty, formal, and self-satisfied. [Matt. vi. 2, 5, 16, ix. 11, 14, xii. 2, xxiii. 5, 15, 23; Luke v. 30, vi. 2, 7, xi. 39, and following, xviii. 12; John ix. 16; Pirke Aboth, i. 16; Jos., Ant., XVII. ii. 4, XVIII. i. 3; Vita, 38; Talm. of Bab., Sota, 22b.] Their manners were ridiculous, and excited the smiles of even those who respected them. The epithets which the people gave them, and which savor of caricature, prove this. There was the "bandy-legged Pharisee" (Nikfi), who walked in the streets dragging his feet and knocking them against the stones; the "bloody-browed Pharisee" (Kizai), who went with his eyes shut in order not to see the women, and dashed his head so much against the walls that it was always bloody; the "pestle Pharisee" (Medinkia), who kept himself bent double like the handle of a pestle; the "Pharisee of strong shoulders" (Shikmi), who walked with his back bent as if he carried on his shoulders the whole burden of the Law; the "What-is-there-to-do?-I-do-it Pharisee," always on the search for a precept to fulfill; and, lastly, the "dyed Pharisee," whose externals of devotion were but a varnish of hypocrisy.* This strictness was, in fact, often only apparent, and concealed in reality great moral laxity. [Matt. v. 20, xv. 4, xxiii. 3, 16, and following; John viii. 7; Jos., Ant., XII. ix. 1; XIII. x. 5.] The people, nevertheless, were duped by it. The people, whose instinct is always right, even when it is most astray respecting individuals, is very easily deceived by false devotees. That which it loves in them is good and worthy of being loved; but it has not sufficient penetration to distinguish the appearance from the reality.
It is easy to understand the antipathy which, in such an impassioned state of society, must necessarily break out between Jesus and persons of this character. Jesus recognized only the religion of the heart, whilst that of the Pharisees consisted almost exclusively in observances. Jesus sought the humble and outcasts of all kinds, and the Pharisees saw in this an insult to their religion of respectability. The Pharisee was an infallible and faultless man, a pedant always right in his own conceit, taking the first place in the synagogue, praying in the street, giving alms to the sound of a trumpet, and caring greatly for salutations. Jesus maintained that each one ought to await the kingdom of God with fear and trembling. The bad religious tendency represented by Pharisaism did not reign without opposition. Many men before or during the time of Jesus, such as Jesus, son of Sirach (one of the true ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth), Gamaliel, Antigonus of Soco, and especially the gentle and noble Hillel, had taught much more elevated, and almost Gospel doctrines. But these good seeds had been choked. The beautiful maxims of Hillel, summing up the whole Law as equity [Talm of Bab., Shabbath, 31a; Joma, 35b.], those of Jesus, son of Sirach, making worship consist in doing good [Eccles. xvii. 21, and following, xxxv. 1, and following.], were forgotten or anathematized. [Talm of Jerus., Sanhedrim, xi. 1; Talm of Bab., Sanhedrim, 100b.] Shammai, with his narrow and exclusive spirit, had prevailed. An enormous mass of "traditions" had stifled the Law,* under pretext of protecting and interpreting it. Doubtless these conservative measures had their share of usefulness; it is well that the Jewish people loved its Law even to excess, since it is this frantic love which, in saving Mosaism under Antiochus Epiphanes and under Herod, has preserved the leaven from which Christianity was to emanate. But taken in themselves, all these old precautions were only puerile. The synagogue, which was the depository of them, was no more than a parent of error. Its reign was ended; and yet to require its abdication was to require the impossible, that which an established power has never done or been able to do.
The conflicts of Jesus with official hypocrisy were continual. The ordinary tactics of the reformers who appeared in the religious state which we have just described, and which might be called "traditional formalism," were to oppose the "text" of the sacred books to "traditions." Religious zeal is always an innovator, even when it pretends to be in the highest degree conservative. Just as the neo-Catholics of our days become more and more remote from the Gospel, so the Pharisees left the Bible at each step more and more. This is why the Puritan reformer is generally essentially "Biblical," taking the unchangeable text for his basis in criticizing the current theology, which has changed with each generation. Thus acted later the Karaites and the Protestants. Jesus applied the axe to the root of the tree much more energetically. We see him sometimes, it is true, invoke the text against the false Masores or traditions of the Pharisees. [Matt. xv. 2, and following; Mark vii. 2, and following.] But in general he dwelt little on exegesis—it was the conscience to which he appealed. With one stroke he cut through both text and commentaries. He showed, indeed, to the Pharisees that they seriously perverted Mosaism by their traditions, but he by no means pretended himself to return to Mosaism. His mission was concerned with the future, not with the past. Jesus was more than the reformer of an obsolete religion; he was the creator of the eternal religion of humanity.
Disputes broke out especially respecting a number of external practices introduced by tradition, which neither Jesus nor his disciples observed. [Matt. xv. 2, and following; Mark vii. 4, 8; Luke v. sub. fin., and vi. init., xi. 38, and following.] The Pharisees reproached him sharply for this. When he dined with them, he scandalized them much by not observing the customary ablutions. "Give alms," said he, "of such things as ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you."* That which in the highest degree hurt his refined feeling was the air of assurance which the Pharisees carried into religious matters; their paltry worship, which ended in a vain seeking after precedents and titles, to the utter neglect of the improvement of their hearts. An admirable parable rendered this thought with infinite charm and justice. "Two men," said he, "went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." [Luke xviii. 9-14; comp. ibid., xiv. 7-11.]
A hate, which death alone could satisfy, was the consequence of these struggles. John the Baptist had already provoked enmities of the same kind. [Matt. iii. 7, and following, xvii. 12, 13.] But the aristocrats of Jerusalem, who despised him, had allowed simple men to take him for a prophet. [Matt. xiv. 5, xxi. 26; Mark xi. 32; Luke xx. 6.] In the case of Jesus, however, the war was to the death. A new spirit had appeared in the world, causing all that preceded to pale before it. John the Baptist was completely a Jew; Jesus was scarcely one at all. Jesus always appealed to the delicacy of the moral sentiment. He was only a disputant when he argued against the Pharisees, his opponents forcing him, as generally happens, to adopt their tone. [Matt. xii. 3-8, xxiii. 16, and following.] His exquisite irony, his arch and provoking remarks, always struck home. They were everlasting stigmas, and have remained festering in the wound. This Nessus-shirt of ridicule which the Jew, son of the Pharisees, has dragged in tatters after him during eighteen centuries, was woven by Jesus with a divine skill. Masterpieces of fine raillery, their features are written in lines of fire upon the flesh of the hypocrite and the false devotee. Incomparable traits, worthy of a son of God! A god alone knows how to kill after this fashion. Socrates and Moliere only touched the skin. He carried fire and rage to the very marrow.
But it was also just that this great master of irony should pay for his triumph with his life. Even in Galilee, the Pharisees sought to ruin him, and employed against him the maneuver which ultimately succeeded at Jerusalem. They endeavored to interest in their quarrel the partisans of the new political faction which was established.* The facilities Jesus found for escape in Galilee, and the weakness of the government of Antipas, baffled these attempts. He ran into danger of his own free will. He saw clearly that his action, if he remained confined to Galilee, was necessarily limited. Judea drew him as by a charm; he wished to try a last effort to gain the rebellious city; and seemed anxious to fulfill the proverb—that a prophet must not die outside Jerusalem.*
Last Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem.
JESUS had for a long time been sensible of the dangers that surrounded him. [Matt. xvi. 20, 21; Mark viii. 30, 31.] During a period of time which we may estimate at eighteen months, he avoided going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.* At the feast of Tabernacles of the year 32 (according to the hypothesis we have adopted), his relations, always malevolent and incredulous,* pressed him to go there. The evangelist John seems to insinuate that there was some hidden project to ruin him in this invitation. "Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world." Jesus, suspecting some treachery, at first refused; but when the caravan of pilgrims had set out, he started on the journey, unknown to every one, and almost alone.* It was the last farewell which he bade to Galilee. The feast of Tabernacles fell at the autumnal equinox. Six months still had to elapse before the fatal denouement. But during this interval, Jesus saw no more his beloved provinces of the north. The pleasant days had passed away; he must now traverse, step by step, the painful path that will terminate only in the anguish of death.
His disciples, and the pious women who tended him, met him again in Judea. [Matt. xxvii. 55; Mark xv. 41; Luke xxiii. 49, 55.] But how much everything was changed for him there! Jesus was a stranger at Jerusalem. He felt that there was a wall of resistance he could not penetrate. Surrounded by snares and difficulties, he was unceasingly pursued by the ill-will of the Pharisees.* Instead of that illimitable faculty of belief, happy gift of youthful natures, which he found in Galilee—instead of those good and gentle people, amongst whom objections (always the fruit of some degree of ill-will and indocility) had no existence, he met there at each step an obstinate incredulity, upon which the means of action that had so well succeeded in the north had little effect. His disciples were despised as being Galileans. Nicodemus, who, on one of his former journeys, had had a conversation with him by night, almost compromised himself with the Sanhedrim, by having wished to defend him. "Art thou also of Galilee?" they said to him. "Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet."*
The city, as we have already said, displeased Jesus. Until then he had always avoided great centers, preferring for his action the country and the towns of small importance. Many of the precepts which he gave to his apostles were absolutely inapplicable, except in a simple society of humble men. [Matt. x. 11-13; Mark vi. 10; Luke x. 5-8.] Having no idea of the world, and accustomed to the kindly communism of Galilee, remarks continually escaped him, whose simplicity would at Jerusalem appear very singular. [Matt. xxi. 3, xxvi. 18; Mark xi. 3, xiv. 13, 14; Luke xix. 31, xxii. 10-12.] His imagination and his love of Nature found themselves constrained within these walls. True religion does not proceed from the tumult of towns, but from the tranquil serenity of the fields.
The arrogance of the priests rendered the courts of the temple disagreeable to him. One day some of his disciples, who knew Jerusalem better than he, wished him to notice the beauty of the buildings of the temple, the admirable choice of materials, and the richness of the votive offerings that covered the walls. "Seest thou these buildings?" said he; "there shall not be left one stone upon another." [Matt. xxiv. 1, 2; Mark xiii. 1, 2; Luke xix. 44, xxi. 5, 6. Cf. Mark xi. 11.] He refused to admire anything, except it was a poor widow who passed at that moment, and threw a small coin into the box. "She has cast in more than they all," said he; "for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." [Mark xii. 41, and following; Luke xxi. 1, and following.] This manner of criticizing all he observed at Jerusalem, of praising the poor who gave little, of slighting the rich who gave much,* and of blaming the opulent priesthood who did nothing for the good of the people, naturally exasperated the sacerdotal caste. As the seat of a conservative aristocracy, the temple, like the Mussulman haram which succeeded it, was the last place in the world where revolution could prosper. Imagine an innovator going in our days to preach the overturning of Islamism round the mosque of Omar! There, however, was the center of the Jewish life, the point where it was necessary to conquer or die. On this Calvary, where certainly Jesus suffered more than at Golgotha, his days passed away in disputation and bitterness, in the midst of tedious controversies respecting canonical law and exegesis, for which his great moral elevation, instead of giving him the advantage, positively unfitted him.
In the midst of this troubled life, the sensitive and kindly heart of Jesus found a refuge, where he enjoyed moments of sweetness. After having passed the day disputing in the temple, toward evening Jesus descended into the valley of Kedron, and rested a while in the orchard of a farming establishment (probably for the making of oil) named Gethsemane,* which served as a pleasure garden to the inhabitants. Thence he proceeded to pass the night upon the Mount of Olives, which limits the horizon of the city on the east. [Luke xxi. 37, xxii. 39; John viii. 1, 2.] This side is the only one, in the environs of Jerusalem, which offers an aspect in any degree pleasing and verdant. The plantations of olives, figs, and palms were numerous there, and gave their names to the villages, farms, or enclosures of Bethphage, Gethsemane, and Bethany. [Talm of Bab., Pesachim, 53a.] There were upon the Mount of Olives two great cedars, the memory of which was long preserved amongst the dispersed Jews; their branches served as an asylum to clouds of doves, and under their shade were established small bazaars. [Talm. of Jerus., Taanith, iv. 8.] All this precinct was in a manner the abode of Jesus and his disciples; they knew it field by field and house by house.
The village of Bethany, in particular [Now El-Azerie (from El-Azir, the Arabic name of Lazarus); in the Christian texts of the Middle Ages, Lazarium.], situated at the summit of the hill, upon the incline which commands the Dead Sea and the Jordan, at a journey of an hour and a half from Jerusalem, was the place especially beloved by Jesus.* He there made the acquaintance of a family composed of three persons, two sisters and a brother, whose friendship had a great charm for him.* Of the two sisters, the one, named Martha, was an obliging, kind, and assiduous person;* the other, named Mary, on the contrary, pleased Jesus by a sort of languor,* and by her strongly developed speculative instincts. Seated at the feet of Jesus, she often forgot, in listening to him, the duties of real life. Her sister, upon whom fell all the duty at such times, gently complained. "Martha, Martha," said Jesus to her, "thou art troubled, and carest about many things; now, one thing only is needful. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away."* Her brother, Eleazar, or Lazarus, was also much beloved by Jesus.* Lastly, a certain Simon, the leper, who was the owner of the house, formed, it appears, part of the family. [Matt. xxvi. 6; Mark xiv. 3; Luke vii. 40-43; John xii. 1, and following.] It was there, in the enjoyment of a pious friendship, that Jesus forgot the vexations of public life. In this tranquil home he consoled himself for the bickerings with which the scribes and the Pharisees unceasingly surrounded him. He often sat on the Mount of Olives, facing Mount Moriah,* having beneath his view the splendid perspective of the terraces of the temple, and its roofs covered with glittering plates of metal. This view struck strangers with admiration; at the rising of the sun, especially, the sacred mountain dazzled the eyes, and appeared like a mass of snow and of gold. [Josephus, B. J., V. v. 6.] But a profound feeling of sadness poisoned for Jesus the spectacle that filled all other Israelites with joy and pride. He cried out, in his moments of bitterness, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." [Matt. xxiii. 37; Luke xiii. 34.]
It was not that many good people here, as in Galilee, were not touched; but such was the power of the dominant orthodoxy, that very few dared to confess it. They feared to discredit themselves in the eyes of the Hierosolymites by placing themselves in the school of a Galilean. They would have risked being driven from the synagogue, which, in a mean and bigoted society, was the greatest degradation.* Excommunication, besides, carried with it the confiscation of all possessions. [1 Esdr. x. 8; Epistle to Hebrews x. 34; Talmud. of Jerus., Moedkaton, iii. 1.] By ceasing to be a Jew, a man did not become a Roman; but remained without protection, in the power of a theocratic legislation of the most atrocious severity. One day, the inferior officers of the temple, who had been present at one of the discourses of Jesus, and had been enchanted with it, came to confide their doubts to the priests: "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?" was the reply to them; "but this people who knoweth not the Law are cursed."* Jesus remained thus at Jerusalem, a provincial admired by provincials like himself, but rejected by all the aristocracy of the nation. The chiefs of schools and of sects were too numerous for any one to be stirred by seeing one more appear. His voice made little noise in Jerusalem. The prejudices of race and of sect, the direct enemies of the spirit of the Gospel, were too deeply rooted there.
His teaching in this new world necessarily became much modified. His beautiful discourses, the effect of which was always observable upon youthful imaginations and consciences morally pure, here fell upon stone. He who was so much at his ease on the shores of his charming little lake, felt constrained and not at home in the company of pedants. His perpetual self-assertion appeared somewhat fastidious.* He was obliged to become controversialist, jurist, exegetist, and theologian. His conversations, generally so full of charm, became a rolling fire of disputes,* an interminable train of scholastic battles. His harmonious genius was wasted in insipid argumentations upon the Law and the prophets,* in which we should have preferred not seeing him sometimes play the part of aggressor.* He lent himself with a condescension we cannot but regret to the captious criticisms to which the merciless cavillers subjected him. [Matt. xxii. 36, and following, 46.] In general, he extricated himself from difficulties with much skill. His reasonings, it is true, were often subtle (simplicity of mind and subtlety touch each other; when simplicity reasons, it is often a little sophistical); we find that sometimes he courted misconceptions, and prolonged them intentionally [See especially the discussions reported by John, chapter viii., for example; it is true that the authenticity of such passages is only relative.]; his reasoning, judged according to the rules of Aristotelian logic, was very weak. But when the unequalled charm of his mind could be displayed, he was triumphant. One day it was intended to embarrass him by presenting to him an adulteress and asking him what was to be done to her. We know the admirable answer of Jesus.* The fine raillery of a man of the world, tempered by a divine goodness, could not be expressed in a more exquisite manner. But the wit which is allied to moral grandeur is that which fools forgive the least. In pronouncing this sentence of so just and pure a taste: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," Jesus pierced hypocrisy to the heart, and with the same stroke sealed his own death-warrant.
It is probable, in fact, that but for the exasperation caused by so many bitter shafts, Jesus might long have remained unnoticed, and have been lost in the dreadful storm which was soon about to overwhelm the whole Jewish nation. The high priesthood and the Sadducees had rather disdained than hated him. The great sacerdotal families, the Boethusim, the family of Hanan, were only fanatical in their conservatism. The Sadducees, like Jesus, rejected the "traditions" of the Pharisees. [Jos., Ant., XIII. x. 6, XVIII. i. 4.] By a very strange singularity, it was these unbelievers who, denying the resurrection, the oral Law, and the existence of angels, were the true Jews. Or rather, as the old Law in its simplicity no longer satisfied the religious wants of the time, those who strictly adhered to it, and rejected modern inventions, were regarded by the devotees as impious, just as an evangelical Protestant of the present day is regarded as an unbeliever in Catholic countries. At all events, from such a party no very strong reaction against Jesus could proceed. The official priesthood, with its attention turned toward political power, and intimately connected with it, did not comprehend these enthusiastic movements. It was the middle-class Pharisees, the innumerable soferim, or scribes, living on the science of "traditions," who took the alarm, and whose prejudices and interests were in reality threatened by the doctrine of the new teacher.
One of the most constant efforts of the Pharisees was to involve Jesus in the discussion of political questions, and to compromise him as connected with the party of Judas the Gaulonite. These tactics were clever; for it required all the deep wisdom of Jesus to avoid collision with the Roman authority, whilst proclaiming the kingdom of God. They wanted to break through this ambiguity, and compel him to explain himself. One day a group of Pharisees, and of those politicians named "Herodians" (probably some of the Boethusim), approached him, and, under pretense of pious zeal, said unto him, "Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man. Tell us, therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" They hoped for an answer which would give them a pretext for delivering him up to Pilate. The reply of Jesus was admirable. He made them show him the image on the coin: "Render," said he, "unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." [Matt. xxii. 15, and following; Mark xii. 13, and following; Luke xx. 20, and following. Comp. Talm. of Jerus., Sanhedrim, ii. 3.] Profound words, which have decided the future of Christianity! Words of a perfected spiritualism, and of marvelous justness, which have established the separation between the spiritual and the temporal, and laid the basis of true liberalism and civilization!
His gentle and penetrating genius inspired him when alone with his disciples, with accents full of tenderness. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine; and I lay down my life for the sheep."* The idea that the crisis of humanity was close at hand frequently recurred to him. "Now," said he, "learn a parable of the fig-tree: When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." [Matt. xxiv. 32; Mark xiii. 28; Luke xxi. 30; John iv. 35.]
His powerful eloquence always burst forth when contending with hypocrisy. "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
"But all their works they do to be seen of men; they make broad their phylacteries [Totafoth or tefillin, plates of metal or strips of parchment, containing passages of the Law; which the devout Jews wore attached to the forehead and left arm, in literal fulfillment of the passages (Ex. xiii. 9; Deut. vi. 8, xi. 18.)], enlarge the borders of their garments [Zizith, red borders or fringes which the Jews wore at the corner of their cloaks to distinguish them from the pagans (Num. xv. 38, 39; Deut. xxii. 12.)], and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi. Woe unto them! . . .
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge, shut up the kingdom of heaven against men! [The Pharisees excluded men from the kingdom of God by their fastidious casuistry, which rendered entrance into it too difficult, and discouraged the unlearned.] for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, for ye devour widows' houses, and, for a pretense, make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves! Woe unto you, for ye are as graves which appear not; and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.*
"Ye fools, and blind! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you!
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter [The purification of vessels was subjected, amongst the Pharisees, to the most complicated laws (Mark vii. 4.)]; but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee [This epithet, often repeated (Matt. xxiii. 16, 17, 19, 24, 26), perhaps contains an allusion to the custom which certain Pharisees had of walking with closed eyes in affectation of sanctity.], cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. [Luke (xi. 37, and following) supposes, not without reason, that this verse was uttered during a repast, in answer to the vain scruples of the Pharisees.]
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye are like unto whited sepulchers,* which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Wherefore, ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 'Therefore, also,' said the Wisdom of God [We are ignorant from what book this quotation is taken.], 'I will send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias,* whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.' Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." [Matt. xxiii. 2-36; Mark xii. 38-40; Luke xi. 39-52, xx. 46, 47.]
His terrible doctrine of the substitution of the Gentiles—the idea that the kingdom of God was about to be transferred to others, because those for whom it was destined would not receive it [Matt. viii. 11, 12, xx. 1, and following, xxi. 28, and following, 33, and following, 43, xxii. 1, and following; Mark xii. 1, and following; Luke xx. 9, and following.], is used as a fearful menace against the aristocracy. The title "Son of God," which he openly assumed in striking parables [Matt. xxi. 37, and following; John x. 36, and following.], wherein his enemies appeared as murderers of the heavenly messengers, was as an open defiance to the Judaism of the Law. The bold appeal he addressed to the poor was still more seditious. He declared that he had "come that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind."* One day, his dislike of the temple forced from him an imprudent speech: "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands." [The most authentic form of this sentence appears to be in Mark xiv. 58, xv. 29. Cf. John ii. 19; Matt. xxvi. 61, xxvii. 40.] His disciples found strained allegories in this sentence; but we do not know what meaning Jesus attached to it. But as only a pretext was wanted, this sentence was quickly laid hold of. It reappeared in the preamble of his death-warrant, and rang in his ears amidst the last agonies of Golgotha. These irritating discussions always ended in tumult. The Pharisees threw stones at him [John viii. 39, x. 31, xi. 8.]; in doing which they only fulfilled an article of the Law, which commanded every prophet, even a thaumaturgus, who should turn the people from the ancient worship, to be stoned without a hearing. [Deuter. xiii. 1, and following. Comp. Luke xx. 6; John x. 33; 2 Cor. xi. 25.] At other times they called him mad, possessed, Samaritan,* and even sought to kill him. [John v. 18, vii. 1, 20, 25, 30, viii. 37, 40.] These words were taken note of in order to invoke against him the laws of an intolerant theocracy, which the Roman government had not yet abrogated.*
Machinations of The Enemies of Jesus.
JESUS passed the autumn and a part of the winter at Jerusalem. This season is there rather cold. The portico of Solomon, with its covered aisles, was the place where he habitually walked.* This portico consisted of two galleries, formed by three rows of columns, and covered by a ceiling of carved wood. [Jos., B. J., V. v. 2. Comp. Ant., XV. xi. 5, XX. ix. 7.] It commanded the valley of Kedron, which was doubtless less covered with debris than it is at the present time. The depth of the ravine could not be measured, from the height of the portico; and it seemed, in consequence of the angle of the slopes, as if an abyss opened immediately beneath the wall.* The other side of the valley even at that time was adorned with sumptuous tombs. Some of the monuments, which may be seen at the present day, were perhaps those cenotaphs in honor of ancient prophets [See ante, p. 316. I am led to suppose that the tombs called those of Zachariah and of Absalom were monuments of this kind. Cf. Itin. a Burdig. Hierus., p. 153 (edit. Schott.)] which Jesus pointed out, when, seated under the portico, he denounced the official classes, who covered their hypocrisy or their vanity by these colossal piles. [Matt. xxiii. 29; Luke xi. 47.]
At the end of the month of December, he celebrated at Jerusalem the feast established by Judas Maccabeus in memory of the purification of the temple after the sacrileges of Antiochus Epiphanes. [John x. 22. Comp. 1 Macc. iv. 52, and following; 2 Macc. x. 6, and following.] It was also called the "Feast of Lights," because, during the eight days of the feast, lamps were kept lighted in the houses. [Jos., Ant., XII. vii. 7.] Jesus undertook soon after a journey into Perea and to the banks of the Jordan—that is to say, into the very country he had visited some years previously, when he followed the school of John [John x. 40. Cf. Matt. xix. 1; Mark x. 1. This journey is known to the synoptics. But they seem to think that Jesus made it by coming from Galilee to Jerusalem through Perea.], and in which he had himself administered baptism. He seems to have reaped consolation from this journey, specially at Jericho. This city, as the terminus of several important routes, or, it may be, on account of its gardens of spices and its rich cultivation [Eccles. xxiv. 18; Strabo, XVI. ii. 41; Justin., xxxvi. 3; Jos., Ant., IV. vi. 1, XIV. iv. 1, XV. iv. 2.], was a customs station of importance. The chief receiver, Zaccheus, a rich man, desired to see Jesus. [Luke xix. 1, and following.] As he was of small stature, he climbed a sycamore tree near the road which the procession had to pass. Jesus was touched with this simplicity in a person of consideration, and at the risk of giving offense, he determined to stay with Zaccheus. There was much dissatisfaction at his honoring the house of a sinner by this visit. In parting, Jesus declared his host to be a good son of Abraham; and, as if to add to the vexation of the orthodox, Zaccheus became a Christian; he gave, it is said, the half of his goods to the poor, and restored fourfold to those whom he might have wronged. But this was not the only pleasure which Jesus experienced there. On leaving the town, the beggar Bartimeus [Matt. xx. 29; Mark x. 46, and following; Luke xviii. 35.] pleased him much by persisting in calling him "son of David," although he was told to be silent. The cycle of Galilean miracles appeared for a time to recommence in this country, which was in many respects similar to the provinces of the north. The delightful oasis of Jericho, at that time well watered, must have been one of the most beautiful places in Syria. Josephus speaks of it with the same admiration as of Galilee, and calls it, like the latter province, a "divine country." [B. J., IV. viii. 3. Comp. ibid., I. vi. 6, I. xviii. 5, and Antiq. XV. iv. 2.]
After Jesus had completed this kind of pilgrimage to the scenes of his earliest prophetic activity, he returned to his beloved abode in Bethany, where a singular event occurred, which seems to have had a powerful influence on the remaining days of his life. [John xi. 1, and following.] Tired of the cold reception which the kingdom of God found in the capital, the friends of Jesus wished for a great miracle which should strike powerfully the incredulity of the Hierosolymites. The resurrection of a man known at Jerusalem appeared to them most likely to carry conviction. We must bear in mind that the essential condition of true criticism is to understand the diversity of times, and to rid ourselves of the instinctive repugnances which are the fruit of a purely rational education. We must also remember that in this dull and impure city of Jerusalem, Jesus was no longer himself. Not by any fault of his own, but by that of others, his conscience had lost something of its original purity. Desperate, and driven to extremity, he was no longer his own master. His mission overwhelmed him, and he yielded to the torrent. As always happens in the lives of great and inspired men, he suffered the miracles opinion demanded of him rather than performed them. At this distance of time, and with only a single text, bearing evident traces of artifices of composition, it is impossible to decide whether in this instance the whole is fiction, or whether a real fact which happened at Bethany has served as a basis to the rumors which were spread about it. It must be acknowledged, however, that the way John narrates the incident differs widely from those descriptions of miracles, the offspring of the popular imagination, which fill the synoptics. Let us add, that John is the only evangelist who has a precise knowledge of the relations of Jesus with the family of Bethany, and that it is impossible to believe that a mere creation of the popular mind could exist in a collection of remembrances so entirely personal. It is, then, probable that the miracle in question was not one of those purely legendary ones for which no one is responsible. In other words, we think that something really happened at Bethany which was looked upon as a resurrection.
Fame already attributed to Jesus two or three works of this kind. [Matt. ix. 18, and following; Mark v. 22, and following; Luke vii. 11, and following, viii. 41, and following.] The family of Bethany might be led, almost without suspecting it, into taking part in the important act which was desired. Jesus was adored by them. It seems that Lazarus was sick, and that in consequence of receiving a message from the anxious sisters Jesus left Perea. [John xi. 3, and following.] They thought that the joy Lazarus would feel at his arrival might restore him to life. Perhaps, also, the ardent desire of silencing those who violently denied the divine mission of Jesus, carried his enthusiastic friends beyond all bounds. It may be that Lazarus, still pallid with disease, caused himself to be wrapped in bandages as if dead, and shut up in the tomb of his family. These tombs were large vaults cut in the rock, and were entered by a square opening, closed by an enormous stone. Martha and Mary went to meet Jesus, and without allowing him to enter Bethany, conducted him to the cave. The emotion which Jesus experienced at the tomb of his friend, whom he believed to be dead [John xi. 35, and following.], might be taken by those present for the agitation and trembling [John xi. 33, 38.] which accompanied miracles. Popular opinion required that the divine virtue should manifest itself in man as an epileptic and convulsive principle. Jesus (if we follow the above hypothesis) desired to see once more him whom he had loved; and, the stone being removed, Lazarus came forth in his bandages, his head covered with a winding-sheet. This reappearance would naturally be regarded by every one as a resurrection. Faith knows no other law than the interest of that which it believes to be true. Regarding the object which it pursues as absolutely holy, it makes no scruple of invoking bad arguments in support of its thesis when good ones do not succeed. If such and such a proof be not sound many others are! If such and such a wonder be not real, many others have been! Being intimately persuaded that Jesus was a thaumaturgus, Lazarus and his two sisters may have aided in the execution of one of his miracles, just as many pious men who, convinced of the truth of their religion, have sought to triumph over the obstinacy of their opponents by means of whose weakness they were well aware. The state of their conscience was that of the stigmatists, of the convulsionists, of the possessed ones in convents, drawn, by the influence of the world in which they live, and by their own belief, into feigned acts. As to Jesus, he was no more able than St. Bernard or St. Francis d'Assisi to moderate the avidity for the marvellous, displayed by the multitude, and even by his own disciples. Death, moreover, in a few days would restore him his divine liberty, and release him from the fatal necessities of a position which each day became more exacting, and more difficult to sustain.
Everything, in fact, seems to lead us to believe that the miracle of Bethany contributed sensibly to hasten the death of Jesus. [John xi. 46, and following, xii. 2, 9, and following, 17, and following.] The persons who had been witnesses of it, were dispersed throughout the city, and spoke much about it. The disciples related the fact, with details as to its performance, prepared in expectation of controversy. The other miracles of Jesus were transitory acts, spontaneously accepted by faith, exaggerated by popular fame, and were not again referred to after they had once taken place. This was a real event, held to be publicly notorious, and one by which it was hoped to silence the Pharisees.* The enemies of Jesus were much irritated at all this fame. They endeavored, it is said, to kill Lazarus.* It is certain, that from that time a council of the chief priests* was assembled, and that in this council the question was clearly put: "Can Jesus and Judaism exist together?" To raise the question was to resolve it; and without being a prophet, as thought by the evangelist, the high priest could easily pronounce his cruel axiom: "It is expedient that one man should die for the people."
"The high priest of that same year," to use an expression of the fourth Gospel, which well expresses the state of abasement to which the sovereign pontificate was reduced, was Joseph Kaiapha, appointed by Valerius Gratus, and entirely devoted to the Romans. From the time that Jerusalem had been under the government of procurators, the office of high priest had been a temporary one; changes in it took place nearly every year. [Jos., Ant., XV. iii. 1, XVIII. ii. 2, v. 3, XX. ix. 1, 4.] Kaiapha, however, held it longer than any one else. He had assumed his office in the year 25, and he did not lose it till the year 36. His character is unknown to us, and many circumstances lead to the belief that his power was only nominal. In fact, another personage is always seen in conjunction with, and even superior to him, who, at the decisive moment we have now reached, seems to have exercised a preponderating power.
This personage was Hanan or Annas, [The Ananus of Josephus. It is thus that the Hebrew name Johanan became in Greek Joannes or Joannas.] son of Seth, and father-in-law of Kaiapha. He was formerly the high priest, and had in reality preserved amidst the numerous changes of the pontificate all the authority of the office. He had received the high priesthood from the legate Quirinius, in the year 7 of our era. He lost his office in the year 14, on the accession of Tiberius; but he remained much respected. He was still called "high priest," although he was out of office [John xviii. 15-23; Acts iv. 6.], and he was consulted upon all important matters. During fifty years the pontificate continued in his family almost uninterruptedly; five of his sons successively sustained this dignity [Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 1.], besides Kaiapha, who was his son-in-law. His was called the "priestly family," as if the priesthood had become hereditary in it. [Jos., Ant., XV. iii. 1; B. J., IV. v. 6 and 7; Acts iv. 6.] The chief offices of the temple were almost all filled by them. [Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 3.] Another family, that of Boethus, alternated, it is true, with that of Hanan's in the pontificate. [Jos., Ant., XV. ix. 3, XIX. vi. 2, viii. 1.] But the Boethusim, whose fortunes were of not very honorable origin, were much less esteemed by the pious middle class. Hanan was then in reality the chief of the priestly party. Kaiapha did nothing without him; it was customary to associate their names, and that of Hanan was always put first.* It will be understood, in fact, that under this regime of an annual pontificate, changed according to the caprice of the procurators, an old high priest, who had preserved the secret of the traditions, who had seen many younger than himself succeed each other, and who had retained sufficient influence to get the office delegated to persons who were subordinate to him in family rank, must have been a very important personage. Like all the aristocracy of the temple,* he was a Sadducee, "a sect," says Josephus, "particularly severe in its judgments." All his sons also were violent persecutors. [Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 1.] One of them, named like his father, Hanan, caused James, the brother of the Lord, to be stoned, under circumstances not unlike those which surrounded the death of Jesus. The spirit of the family was haughty, bold, and cruel [Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 1.]; it had that particular kind of proud and sullen wickedness which characterizes Jewish politicians. Therefore, upon this Hanan and his family must rest the responsibility of all the acts which followed. It was Hanan (or the party he represented) who killed Jesus. Hanan was the principal actor in the terrible drama, and far more than Kaiapha, far more than Pilate, ought to bear the weight of the maledictions of mankind.
It is in the mouth of Kaiapha that the evangelist places the decisive words which led to the death of Jesus. [John xi. 49, 50. Cf. ibid., xviii. 14.] It was supposed that the high priest possessed a certain gift of prophecy; his declaration thus became an oracle full of profound meaning to the Christian community. But such an expression, whoever he might be that pronounced it, was the feeling of the whole sacerdotal party. This party was much opposed to popular seditions. It sought to put down religious enthusiasts, rightly foreseeing that by their excited preachings they would lead to the total ruin of the nation. Although the excitement created by Jesus was in nowise temporal, the priests saw, as an ultimate consequence of this agitation, an aggravation of the Roman yoke and the overturning of the temple, the source of their riches and honors.* Certainly the causes which, thirty-seven years after, were to effect the ruin of Jerusalem, did not arise from infant Christianity. They arose in Jerusalem itself, and not in Galilee. We cannot, however, say that the motive alleged in this circumstance by the priests was so improbable that we must necessarily regard it as insincere. In a general sense, Jesus, if he had succeeded, would have really effected the ruin of the Jewish nation. According to the principles universally admitted by all ancient polity, Hanan and Kaiapha were right in saying: "Better the death of one man than the ruin of a people!" In our opinion this reasoning is detestable. But it has been that of conservative parties from the commencement of all human society. The "party of order" (I use this expression in its mean and narrow sense) has ever been the same. Deeming the highest duty of government to be the prevention of popular disturbances, it believes it performs an act of patriotism in preventing, by judicial murder, the tumultuous effusion of blood. Little thoughtful of the future, it does not dream that in declaring war against all innovations, it incurs the risk of crushing ideas destined one day to triumph. The death of Jesus was one of the thousand illustrations of this policy. The movement he directed was entirely spiritual, but it was still a movement; hence the men of order, persuaded that it was essential for humanity not to be disturbed, felt themselves bound to prevent the new spirit from extending itself. Never was seen a more striking example of how much such a course of procedure defeats its own object. Left free, Jesus would have exhausted himself in a desperate struggle with the impossible. The unintelligent hate of his enemies decided the success of his work, and sealed his divinity.
The death of Jesus was thus resolved upon from the month of February or the beginning of March.* But he still escaped for a short time. He withdrew to an obscure town called Ephraim or Ephron, in the direction of Bethel, a short day's journey from Jerusalem. [John xi. 54. Cf. 2 Chron. xiii. 19; Jos., B. J., IV. ix. 9; Eusebius and St. Jerome, De situ et nom. loc. hebr., at the words Εφρων and Εφραιμ.] He spent a few days there with his disciples, letting the storm pass over. But the order to arrest him the moment he appeared at Jerusalem was given. The feast of the Passover was drawing nigh, and it was thought that Jesus, according to his custom, would come to celebrate it at Jerusalem. [John xi. 55, 56. For the order of the events, in all this part we follow the system of John. The synoptics appear to have little information as to the period of the life of Jesus which precedes the Passion.]
Last Week of Jesus.
JESUS did in fact set out with his disciples to see once more, and for the last time, the unbelieving city. The hopes of his companions were more and more exalted. All believed, in going up to Jerusalem, that the kingdom of God was about to be realized there.* The impiety of men being at its height, was regarded as a great sign that the consummation was at hand. The persuasion in this respect was such, that they already disputed for precedence in the kingdom.* This was, it is said, the moment chosen by Salome to ask, on behalf of her sons, the two seats on the right and left of the Son of man. [Matt. xx. 20, and following; Mark x. 35, and following.] The Master, on the other hand, was beset by grave thoughts. Sometimes he allowed a gloomy resentment against his enemies to appear; he related the parable of a nobleman, who went to take possession of a kingdom in a far country; but no sooner had he gone than his fellow-citizens wished to get rid of him. The king returned, and commanded those who had conspired against him to be brought before him, and had them all put to death.* At other times he summarily destroyed the illusions of the disciples. As they marched along the stony roads to the north of Jerusalem, Jesus pensively preceded the group of his companions. All regarded him in silence, experiencing a feeling of fear, and not daring to interrogate him. Already, on various occasions, he had spoken to them of his future sufferings, and they had listened to him reluctantly. [Matt. xvi. 21, and following; Mark viii. 31, and following.] Jesus at last spoke to them, and no longer concealing his presentiments, discoursed to them of his approaching end. [Matt. xx. 17, and following; Mark x. 31, and following; Luke xviii. 31, and following.] There was great sadness in the whole company. The disciples were expecting soon to see the sign appear in the clouds. The inaugural cry of the kingdom of God: "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,"* resounded already in joyous accents in their ears. The fearful prospect he foreshadowed, troubled them. At each step of the fatal road, the kingdom of God became nearer or more remote in the mirage of their dreams. As to Jesus, he became confirmed in the idea that he was about to die, but that his death would save the world.* The misunderstanding between him and his disciples became greater each moment.
The custom was to come to Jerusalem several days before the Passover, in order to prepare for it. Jesus arrived late, and at one time his enemies thought they were frustrated in their hope of seizing him.* The sixth day before the feast (Saturday, 8th of Nisan, equal to the 28th March [The Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan. Now in the year 33, the 1st of Nisan corresponded with Saturday, 21st of March.]) he at last reached Bethany. He entered, according to his custom, the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, or of Simon the leper. They gave him a great reception. There was a dinner at Simon the leper's [Matt. xxvi. 6; Mark xiv. 3. Cf. Luke vii. 40, 43, 44.], where many persons were assembled, drawn thither by the desire of seeing him, and also of seeing Lazarus, of whom for some time so many things had been related. Lazarus was seated at the table, and attracted much attention. Martha served, according to her custom. [It is customary, in the East, for a person who is attached to any one by a tie of affection or of domesticity, to attend upon him when he goes to eat at the house of another.] It seems that they sought, by an increased show of respect, to overcome the coolness of the public, and to assert the high dignity of their guest. Mary, in order to give to the event a more festive appearance, entered during dinner, bearing a vase of perfume which she poured upon the feet of Jesus. She afterward broke the vase, according to an ancient custom by which the vessel that had been employed in the entertainment of a stranger of distinction was broken. [I have seen this custom still practiced at Sour (Zoar.)] Then, to testify her worship in an extraordinary manner, she prostrated herself at the feet of her Master and wiped them with her long hair. [We must remember that the feet of the guests were not, as amongst us, concealed under the table, but extended on a level with the body on the divan, or triclinium.] All the house was filled with the odor of the perfume, to the great delight of every one except the avaricious Judas of Kerioth. Considering the economical habits of the community, this was certainly prodigality. The greedy treasurer calculated immediately how much the perfume might have been sold for, and what it would have realized for the poor. This not very affectionate feeling, which seemed to place something above Jesus, dissatisfied him. He liked to be honored, for honors served his aim and established his title of Son of David. Therefore, when they spoke to him of the poor, he replied rather sharply: "Ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." And, exalting himself, he promised immortality to the woman who in this critical moment gave him a token of love. [Matt. xxvi. 6, and following; Mark xiv. 3, and following; John xi. 2, xii. 2, and following. Compare Luke vii. 36, and following.]
The next day (Sunday, 9th of Nisan) Jesus descended from Bethany to Jerusalem.* When, at a bend of the road, upon the summit of the Mount of Olives, he saw the city spread before him, it is said he wept over it, and addressed to it a last appeal. [Luke xix. 41, and following.] At the base of the mountain, at some steps from the gate, on entering the neighboring portion of the eastern wall of the city, which was called Bethphage, no doubt on account of the fig-trees with which it was planted,* he had experienced a momentary pleasure. [Matt. xxi. 1, and following; Mark xi. 1, and following; Luke xix. 29, and following; John xii. 12, and following.] His arrival was noised abroad. The Galileans who had come to the feast were highly elated, and prepared a little triumph for him. An ass was brought to him, followed, according to custom, by its colt. The Galileans spread their finest garments upon the back of this humble animal as saddle-cloths, and seated him thereon. Others, however, spread their garments upon the road, and strewed it with green branches. The multitude which preceded and followed him, carrying palms, cried: "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" Some persons even gave him the title of king of Israel. [Luke xix. 38; John xii. 13.] "Master, rebuke thy disciples," said the Pharisees to him. "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out," replied Jesus, and he entered into the city. The Hierosolymites, who scarcely knew him, asked who he was. "It is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth, in Galilee," was the reply. Jerusalem was a city of about 50,000 souls.* A trifling event, such as the entrance of a stranger, however little celebrated, or the arrival of a band of provincials, or a movement of people to the avenues of the city, could not fail, under ordinary circumstances, to be quickly noised about. But at the time of the feast, the confusion was extreme. [Jos., B. J., II. xiv. 3, VI. ix. 3.] Jerusalem at these times was taken possession of by strangers. It was amongst the latter that the excitement appears to have been most lively. Some proselytes, speaking Greek, who had come to the feast, had their curiosity piqued, and wished to see Jesus. They addressed themselves to his disciples;* but we do not know the result of the interview. Jesus, according to his custom, went to pass the night at his beloved village of Bethany.* The three following days (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) he descended regularly to Jerusalem; and, after the setting of the sun, he returned either to Bethany, or to the farms on the western side of the Mount of Olives, where he had many friends. [Matt. xxi. 17, 18; Mark xi. 11, 12, 19; Luke xxi. 37, 38.]
A deep melancholy appears, during these last days, to have filled the soul of Jesus, who was generally so joyous and serene. All the narratives agree in relating that, before his arrest, he underwent a short experience of doubt and trouble; a kind of anticipated agony. According to some, he suddenly exclaimed, "Now is my soul troubled. O Father, save me from this hour."* It was believed that a voice from heaven was heard at this moment: others said that an angel came to console him. [Luke xxii. 43; John xii. 28, 29.] According to one widely spread version, the incident took place in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, it was said, went about a stone's throw from his sleeping disciples, taking with him only Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and fell on his face and prayed. His soul was sad even unto death; a terrible anguish weighed upon him; but resignation to the divine will sustained him. [Matt. xxvi. 36, and following; Mark xiv. 32, and following; Luke xxii. 39, and following.] This scene, owing to the instinctive art which regulated the compilation of the synoptics, and often led them in the arrangement of the narrative to study adaptability and effect, has been given as occurring on the last night of the life of Jesus, and at the precise moment of his arrest. If this version were the true one, we should scarcely understand why John, who had been the intimate witness of so touching an episode, should not mention it in the very circumstantial narrative which he has furnished of the evening of the Thursday.* All that we can safely say is, that, during his last days, the enormous weight of the mission he had accepted pressed cruelly upon Jesus. Human nature asserted itself for a time. Perhaps he began to hesitate about his work. Terror and doubt took possession of him, and threw him into a state of exhaustion worse than death. He who has sacrificed his repose, and the legitimate rewards of life, to a great idea, always experiences a feeling of revulsion when the image of death presents itself to him for the first time, and seeks to persuade him that all has been in vain. Perhaps some of those touching reminiscences which the strongest souls preserve, and which at times pierce like a sword, came upon him at this moment. Did he remember the clear fountains of Galilee where he was wont to refresh himself; the vine and the fig-tree under which he had reposed, and the young maidens who, perhaps, would have consented to love him? Did he curse the hard destiny which had denied him the joys conceded to all others? Did he regret his too lofty nature, and, victim of his greatness, did he mourn that he had not remained a simple artisan of Nazareth? We know not. For all these internal troubles evidently were a sealed letter to his disciples. They understood nothing of them, and supplied by simple conjectures that which in the great soul of their Master was obscure to them. It is certain, at least, that his divine nature soon regained the supremacy. He might still have avoided death; but he would not. Love for his work sustained him. He was willing to drink the cup to the dregs. Henceforth we behold Jesus entirely himself; his character unclouded. The subtleties of the polemic, the credulity of the thaumaturgus and of the exorcist, are forgotten. There remains only the incomparable hero of the Passion, the founder of the rights of the free conscience, and the complete model which all suffering souls will contemplate in order to fortify and console themselves.
The triumph of Bethphage—that bold act of the provincials in celebrating at the very gates of Jerusalem the advent of their Messiah-King—completed the exasperation of the Pharisees and the aristocracy of the temple. A new council was held on the Wednesday (12th of Nisan) in the house of Joseph Kaiapha. [Matt. xxvi. 1, 5; Mark xiv. 1, 2; Luke xxii. 1, 2.] The immediate arrest of Jesus was resolved upon. A great idea of order and of conservative policy governed all their plans. The desire was to avoid a scene. As the feast of the Passover, which commenced that year on the Friday evening, was a time of bustle and excitement, it was resolved to anticipate it. Jesus being popular,* they feared an outbreak; the arrest was therefore fixed for the next day, Thursday. It was resolved, also, not to seize him in the temple, where he came every day,* but to observe his habits, in order to seize him in some retired place. The agents of the priests sounded his disciples, hoping to obtain useful information from their weakness or their simplicity. They found what they sought in Judas of Kerioth. This wretch, actuated by motives impossible to explain, betrayed his Master, gave all the necessary information, and even undertook himself (although such an excess of vileness is scarcely credible) to guide the troop which was to effect his arrest. The remembrance of horror which the folly or the wickedness of this man has left in the Christian tradition has doubtless given rise to some exaggeration on this point. Judas, until then, had been a disciple like the others; he had even the title of apostle; and he had performed miracles and driven out demons. Legend, which always uses strong and decisive language, describes the occupants of the little supper-room as eleven saints and one reprobate. Reality does not proceed by such absolute categories. Avarice, which the synoptics give as the motive of the crime in question, does not suffice to explain it. It would be very singular if a man who kept the purse, and who knew what he would lose by the death of his chief, were to abandon the profits of his occupation* in exchange for a very small sum of money. [John does not even speak of a payment in money.] Had the self-love of Judas been wounded by the rebuff which he had received at the dinner at Bethany? Even that would not explain his conduct. John would have us regard him as a thief, an unbeliever from the beginning,* for which, however, there is no probability. We would rather ascribe it to some feeling of jealousy or to some dissension amongst the disciples. The peculiar hatred John manifests toward Judas [John vi. 65, 71, 72, xii. 6; xiii. 2, 27, and following.] confirms this hypothesis. Less pure in heart than the others, Judas had, from the very nature of his office, become unconsciously narrow-minded. By a caprice very common to men engaged in active duties, he had come to regard the interests of the treasury as superior even to those of the work for which it was intended. The treasurer had overcome the apostle. The murmurings which escaped him at Bethany seem to indicate that sometimes he thought the Master cost his spiritual family too dear. No doubt this mean economy had caused many other collisions in the little society.
Without denying that Judas of Kerioth may have contributed to the arrest of his Master, we still believe that the curses with which he is loaded are somewhat unjust. There was, perhaps, in his deed more awkwardness than perversity. The moral conscience of the man of the people is quick and correct, but unstable and inconsistent. It is at the mercy of the impulse of the moment. The secret societies of the republican party were characterized by much earnestness and sincerity, and yet their denouncers were very numerous. A trifling spite sufficed to convert a partisan into a traitor. But if the foolish desire for a few pieces of silver turned the head of poor Judas, he does not seem to have lost the moral sentiment completely, since when he had seen the consequences of his fault he repented,* and, it is said, killed himself.
Each moment of this eventful period is solemn, and counts more than whole ages in the history of humanity. We have arrived at the Thursday, 13th of Nisan (2nd April). The evening of the next day commenced the festival of the Passover, begun by the feast in which the Paschal lamb was eaten. The festival continued for seven days, during which unleavened bread was eaten. The first and the last of these seven days were peculiarly solemn. The disciples were already occupied with preparations for the feast. [Matt. xxvi. 1, and following; Mark xiv. 12; Luke xxii. 7; John xiii. 29.] As to Jesus, we are led to believe that he knew of the treachery of Judas, and that he suspected the fate that awaited him. In the evening he took his last repast with his disciples. It was not the ritual feast of the passover, as was afterward supposed, owing to an error of a day in reckoning;* but for the primitive church this supper of the Thursday was the true passover, the seat of the new covenant. Each disciple connected with it his most cherished remembrances, and numerous touching traits of the Master which each one preserved were associated with this repast, which became the corner-stone of Christian piety, and the starting-point of the most fruitful institutions.
Doubtless the tender love which filled the heart of Jesus for the little church which surrounded him overflowed at this moment,* and his strong and serene soul became buoyant, even under the weight of the gloomy preoccupations that beset him. He had a word for each of his friends; two among them especially, John and Peter, were the objects of tender marks of attachment. John (at least according to his own account) was reclining on the divan, by the side of Jesus, his head resting upon the breast of the Master. Toward the end of the repast, the secret which weighed upon the heart of Jesus almost escaped him: he said, "Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." [Matt. xxvi. 21, and following; Mark xiv. 18, and following; Luke xx. 21, and following; John xiii. 21, and following, xxi. 20.] To these simple men this was a moment of anguish; they looked at each other, and each questioned himself. Judas was present; perhaps Jesus, who had for some time had reasons to suspect him, sought by this expression to draw from his looks or from his embarrassed manner the confession of his fault. But the unfaithful disciple did not lose countenance; he even dared, it is said, to ask with the others: "Master, is it I?"
Meanwhile, the good and upright soul of Peter was in torture. He made a sign to John to endeavor to ascertain of whom the Master spoke. John, who could converse with Jesus without being heard, asked him the meaning of this enigma. Jesus having only suspicions, did not wish to pronounce any name; he only told John to observe to whom he was going to offer a sop. At the same time he soaked the bread and offered it to Judas. John and Peter alone had cognizance of the fact. Jesus addressed to Judas words which contained a bitter reproach, but which were not understood by those present; and he left the company. They thought that Jesus was simply giving him orders for the morrow's feast. [John xiii. 21, and following, which shows the improbabilities of the narrative of the synoptics.]
At the time, this repast struck no one; and apart from the apprehensions which the Master confided to his disciples, who only half understood them, nothing extraordinary took place. But after the death of Jesus, they attached to this evening a singularly solemn meaning, and the imagination of believers spread a coloring of sweet mysticism over it. The last hours of a cherished friend are those we best remember. By an inevitable illusion, we attribute to the conversations we have then had with him a meaning which death alone gives to them; we concentrate into a few hours the memories of many years. The greater part of the disciples saw their Master no more after the supper of which we have just spoken. It was the farewell banquet. In this repast, as in many others, Jesus practiced his mysterious rite of the breaking of bread. As it was early believed that the repast in question took place on the day of the Passover, and was the Paschal feast, the idea naturally arose that the Eucharistic institution was established at this supreme moment. Starting from the hypothesis that Jesus knew beforehand the precise moment of his death, the disciples were led to suppose that he reserved a number of important acts for his last hours. As, moreover, one of the fundamental ideas of the first Christians was that the death of Jesus had been a sacrifice, replacing all those of the ancient Law, the "Last Supper," which was supposed to have taken place, once for all, on the eve of the Passion, became the supreme sacrifice—the act which constituted the new alliance—the sign of the blood shed for the salvation of all.* The bread and wine, placed in connection with death itself, were thus the image of the new testament that Jesus had sealed with his sufferings—the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ until his advent.*
Very early this mystery was embodied in a small sacramental narrative, which we possess under four forms [Matt. xxvi. 26-28; Mark xiv. 22-24; Luke xxii. 19-21; 1 Cor. xi. 23-25.], very similar to one another. John, preoccupied with the Eucharistic ideas,* and who relates the Last Supper with so much prolixity, connecting with it so many circumstances and discourses*—and who was the only one of the evangelists whose testimony on this point has the value of an eyewitness—does not mention this narrative. This is a proof that he did not regard the Eucharist as a peculiarity of the Lord's Supper. For him the special rite of the Last Supper was the washing of feet. It is probable that in certain primitive Christian families this latter rite obtained an importance which it has since lost. [John xiii. 14, 15. Cf. Matt. xx. 26, and following; Luke xxii. 26, and following.] No doubt, Jesus, on some occasions, had practiced it to give his disciples an example of brotherly humility. It was connected with the eve of his death, in consequence of the tendency to group around the Last Supper all the great moral and ritual recommendations of Jesus.
A high sentiment of love, of concord, of charity, and of mutual deference, animated, moreover, the remembrances which were cherished of the last hours of Jesus.* It is always the unity of his Church, constituted by him or by his Spirit, which is the soul of the symbols and of the discourses which Christian tradition referred to this sacred moment: "A new commandment I give unto you," said he, "that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. These things I command you, that ye love one another." [John xiii. 33-35, xv. 12-17.] At this last moment there were again evoked rivalries and struggles for precedence. [Luke xxii. 24-27. Cf. John xiii. 4, and following.] Jesus remarked, that if he, the Master, had been in the midst of his disciples as their servant, how much more ought they to submit themselves to one another. According to some, in drinking the wine, he said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." [Matt. xxvi. 29; Mark xiv. 25; Luke xxii. 18.] According to others, he promised them soon a celestial feast, where they would be seated on thrones at his side.*
It seems that, toward the end of the evening, the presentiments of Jesus took hold of the disciples. All felt that a very serious danger threatened the Master, and that they were approaching a crisis. At one time Jesus thought of precautions, and spoke of swords. There were two in the company. "It is enough," said he.* He did not, however, follow out this idea; he saw clearly that timid provincials would not stand before the armed force of all the great powers of Jerusalem. Peter, full of zeal, and feeling sure of himself, swore that he would go with him to prison and to death. Jesus, with his usual acuteness, expressed doubts about him. According to a tradition, which probably came from Peter himself, Jesus declared that Peter would deny him before the crowing of the cock. All, like Peter, swore that they would remain faithful to him. [Matt. xxvi. 31, and following; Mark xiv. 29, and following; Luke xxii. 33, and following; John xiii. 36, and following.]
Arrest and Trial of Jesus
IT was nightfall* when they left the room.* Jesus, according to his custom, passed through the valley of Kedron; and, accompanied by his disciples, went to the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives [Matt. xxvi. 36; Mark xiv. 32; Luke xxii. 39; John xviii. 1, 2.], and sat down there. Overawing his friends by his inherent greatness, he watched and prayed. They were sleeping near him, when all at once an armed troop appeared bearing lighted torches. It was the guards of the temple, armed with staves, a kind of police under the control of priests. They were supported by a detachment of Roman soldiers with their swords. The order for the arrest emanated from the high priest and the Sanhedrim. [Matt. xxvi. 47; Mark xiv. 43; John xviii. 3, 12.] Judas, knowing the habits of Jesus, had indicated this place as the one where he might most easily be surprised. Judas, according to the unanimous tradition of the earliest times, accompanied the detachment himself [Matt. xxvi. 47; Mark xiv. 43; Luke xxii. 47; John xviii. 3; Acts i. 16.]; and according to some [This is the tradition of the synoptics. In the narrative of John, Jesus declares himself.], he carried his hateful conduct even to betraying him with a kiss. However this may be, it is certain that there was some show of resistance on the part of the disciples. [The two traditions are agreed on this point.] One of them (Peter, according to eye-witnesses*) drew his sword, and wounded the ear of one of the servants of the high priest, named Malchus. Jesus restrained this opposition, and gave himself up to the soldiers. Weak and incapable of effectual resistance, especially against authorities who had so much prestige, the disciples took flight, and became dispersed; Peter and John alone did not lose sight of their Master. Another unknown young man followed him, covered with a light garment. They sought to arrest him, but the young man fled, leaving his tunic in the hands of the guards.*
The course which the priests had resolved to take against Jesus was quite in conformity with the established law. The procedure against the "corrupter" (mesith), who sought to injure the purity of religion, is explained in the Talmud, with details, the naive impudence of which provokes a smile. A judicial ambush is there made an essential part of the examination of criminals. When a man was accused of being a "corrupter," two witnesses were suborned who were concealed behind a partition. It was arranged to bring the accused into a contiguous room, where he could be heard by these two without his perceiving them. Two candles were lighted near him, in order that it might be satisfactorily proved that the witnesses "saw him." [In criminal matters, eye-witnesses alone were admitted. Mishnah, Sanhedrim, iv. 5.] He was then made to repeat his blasphemy, and urged to retract it. If he persisted, the witnesses who had heard him conducted him to the tribunal, and he was stoned to death. The Talmud adds, that this was the manner in which they treated Jesus; that he was condemned on the faith of two witnesses who had been suborned, and that the crime of "corruption" is, moreover, the only one for which the witnesses are thus prepared. [Talm. of Jerus., Sanhedrim, xiv. 16; Talm. of Bab., same treatise, 43a, 67a. Cf. Shabbath, 104b.]
We learn from the disciples of Jesus themselves that the crime with which their Master was charged was that of "corruption" [Matt. xxvii. 63; John vii. 12, 47.]; and apart from some minutiae, the fruit of the rabbinical imagination, the narrative of the Gospels corresponds exactly with the procedure described by the Talmud. The plan of the enemies of Jesus was to convict him, by the testimony of witnesses and by his own avowals, of blasphemy, and of outrage against the Mosaic religion, to condemn him to death according to law, and then to get the condemnation sanctioned by Pilate. The priestly authority, as we have already seen, was in reality entirely in the hands of Hanan. The order for the arrest probably came from him. It was before this powerful personage that Jesus was first brought. [John xviii. 13, and following. This circumstance, which we only find in John, is the strongest proof of the historic value of the fourth Gospel.] Hanan questioned him as to his doctrine and his disciples. Jesus, with proper pride, refused to enter into long explanations. He referred Hanan to his teachings, which had been public; he declared he had never held any secret doctrine; and desired the ex-high priest to interrogate those who had listened to him. This answer was perfectly natural; but the exaggerated respect with which the old priest was surrounded made it appear audacious; and one of those present replied to it, it is said, by a blow.
Peter and John had followed their Master to the dwelling of Hanan. John, who was known in the house, was admitted without difficulty; but Peter was stopped at the entrance, and John was obliged to beg the porter to let him pass. The night was cold. Peter stopped in the antechamber, and approached a brasier, around which the servants were warming themselves. He was soon recognized as a disciple of the accused. The unfortunate man, betrayed by his Galilean accent, and pestered by questions from the servants, one of whom, a kinsman of Malchus, had seen him at Gethsemane, denied thrice that he had ever had the least connection with Jesus. He thought that Jesus could not hear him, and never imagined that this cowardice, which he sought to hide by his dissimulation, was exceedingly dishonorable. But his better nature soon revealed to him the fault he had committed. A fortuitous circumstance, the crowing of the cock, recalled to him a remark which Jesus had made. Touched to the heart, he went out and wept bitterly. [Matt. xxvi. 69, and following; Mark xiv. 66, and following; Luke xxii. 54, and following; John xviii. 15, and following, 25, and following.]
Hanan, although the true author of the judicial murder about to be accomplished, had not power to pronounce the sentence upon Jesus; he sent him to his son-in-law, Kaiapha, who bore the official title. This man, the blind instrument of his father-in-law, would naturally ratify everything that had been done. The Sanhedrim was assembled at his house. [Matt. xvi. 57; Mark xiv. 53; Luke xxii. 66.] The inquiry commenced; and several witnesses, prepared beforehand according to the inquisitorial process described in the Talmud, appeared before the tribunal. The fatal sentence which Jesus had really uttered: "I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days," was cited by two witnesses. To blaspheme the temple of God was, according to the Jewish law, to blaspheme God himself. [Matt. xxiii. 16, and following.] Jesus remained silent, and refused to explain the incriminated speech. If we may believe one version, the high priest then adjured him to say if he were the Messiah; Jesus confessed it, and proclaimed before the assembly the near approach of his heavenly reign. [Matt. xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke xxii. 69. John knows nothing of this scene.] The courage of Jesus, who had resolved to die, renders this narrative superfluous. It is probable that here, as when before Hanan, he remained silent. This was in general his rule of conduct during his last moments. The sentence was settled; and they only sought for pretexts. Jesus felt this, and did not undertake a useless defense. In the light of orthodox Judaism, he was truly a blasphemer, a destroyer of the established worship. Now, these crimes were punished by the law with death. [Levit. xxiv. 14, and following; Deut. xiii. 1, and following.] With one voice, the assembly declared him guilty of a capital crime. The members of the council who secretly leaned to him, were absent or did not vote.* The frivolity which characterizes old established aristocracies, did not permit the judges to reflect long upon the consequences of the sentence they had passed. Human life was at that time very lightly sacrificed; doubtless the members of the Sanhedrim did not dream that their sons would have to render account to an angry posterity for the sentence pronounced with such careless disdain.
The Sanhedrim had not the right to execute a sentence of death. [John xviii. 31; Jos., Ant., XX. ix. 1.] But in the confusion of powers which then reigned in Judea, Jesus was, from that moment, none the less condemned. He remained the rest of the night exposed to the ill-treatment of an infamous pack of servants, who spared him no indignity. [Matt. xxvi. 67, 68; Mark xiv. 65; Luke xxii. 63-65.]
In the morning the chief priests and the elders again assembled. [Matt. xxvii. 1; Mark xv. 1; Luke xxii. 66, xxiii. 1; John xviii. 28.] The point was, to get Pilate to ratify the condemnation pronounced by the Sanhedrim, which, since the occupation of the Romans, was no longer sufficient. The procurator was not invested, like the imperial legate, with the disposal of life and death. But Jesus was not a Roman citizen; it only required the authorization of the governor in order that the sentence pronounced against him should take its course. As always happens, when a political people subjects a nation in which the civil and the religious laws are confounded, the Romans had been brought to give to the Jewish law a sort of official support. The Roman law did not apply to Jews. The latter remained under the canonical law which we find recorded in the Talmud, just as the Arabs in Algeria are still governed by the code of Islamism. Although neutral in religion, the Romans thus very often sanctioned penalties inflicted for religious faults. The situation was nearly that of the sacred cities of India under the English dominion, or rather that which would be the state of Damascus if Syria were conquered by a European nation. Josephus asserts, though this may be doubted, that if a Roman trespassed beyond the pillars which bore inscriptions forbidding pagans to advance, the Romans themselves would have delivered him to the Jews to be put to death. [Jos., Ant., XV. xi. 5; B. J., VI. ii. 4.]
The agents of the priests therefore bound Jesus and led him to the judgment-hall, which was the former palace of Herod [Philo, Legatio ad Caium, § 38. Jos., B. J., II. xiv. 8.], adjoining the Tower of Antonia. [The exact place now occupied by the seraglio of the Pacha of Jerusalem.] It was the morning of the day on which the Paschal lamb was to be eaten (Friday the 14th of Nisan, our 3d of April). The Jews would have been defiled by entering the judgment-hall, and would not have been able to share in the sacred feast. They therefore remained without.* Pilate, being informed of their presence, ascended the bima [The Greek word Βημα had passed in Syro-Chaldaic.] or tribunal, situated in the open air [Jos., B. J., II. ix. 3, xiv. 8; Matt. xxvii. 27; John xviii. 33.], at the place named Gabbatha, or, in Greek, Lithostrotos, on account of the pavement which covered the ground.
He had scarcely been informed of the accusation, before he displayed his annoyance at being mixed up with this affair.* He then shut himself up in the judgment-hall with Jesus. There a conversation took place, the precise details of which are lost, no witness having been able to repeat it to the disciples, but the tenor of which appears to have been well divined by John. His narrative, in fact, perfectly accords with what history teaches us of the mutual position of the two interlocutors.
The procurator, Pontius, surnamed Pilate, doubtless on account of the pilum or javelin of honor with which he or one of his ancestors was decorated,* had hitherto had no relation with the new sect. Indifferent to the internal quarrels of the Jews, he only saw in all these movements of sectaries, the results of intemperate imaginations and disordered brains. In general, he did not like the Jews, but the Jews detested him still more. They thought him hard, scornful, and passionate, and accused him of improbable crimes. [Philo, Leg. ad Caium, § 38.]
Jerusalem, the center of a great national fermentation, was a very seditious city, and an insupportable abode for a foreigner. The enthusiasts pretended that it was a fixed design of the new procurator to abolish the Jewish law. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. iii. 1, init.] Their narrow fanaticism, and their religious hatreds, disgusted that broad sentiment of justice and civil government which the humblest Roman carried everywhere with him. All the acts of Pilate which are known to us, show him to have been a good administrator. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. ii.-iv.] In the earlier period of the exercise of his office, he had difficulties with those subject to him which he had solved in a very brutal manner; but it seems that essentially he was right. The Jews must have appeared to him a people behind the age; he doubtless judged them as a liberal prefect formerly judged the Bas-Bretons, who rebelled for such trifling matters as a new road, or the establishment of a school. In his best projects for the good of the country, notably in those relating to public works, he had encountered an impassable obstacle in the Law. The Law restricted life to such a degree that it opposed all change, and all amelioration. The Roman structures, even the most useful ones, were objects of great antipathy on the part of zealous Jews. [Talm. of Bab., Shabbath, 33b.] Two votive escutcheons with inscriptions, which he had set up at his residence near the sacred precincts, provoked a still more violent storm. [Philo, Leg. ad Caium, § 38.] Pilate at first cared little for these susceptibilities; and he was soon involved in sanguinary suppressions of revolt [Jos., Ant., XVIII. iii. 1 and 2; Luke xiii. 1.], which afterward ended in his removal. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. iv. 1, 2.] The experience of so many conflicts had rendered him very prudent in his relations with this intractable people, which avenged itself upon its governors by compelling them to use toward it hateful severities. The procurator saw himself, with extreme displeasure, led to play a cruel part in this new affair, for the sake of a law he hated.* He knew that religious fanaticism, when it has obtained the sanction of civil governments to some act of violence, is afterward the first to throw the responsibility upon the government, and almost accuses them of being the author of it. Supreme injustice; for the true culprit is, in such cases, the instigator!
Pilate, then, would have liked to save Jesus. Perhaps the dignified and calm attitude of the accused made an impression upon him. According to a tradition,* Jesus found a supporter in the wife of the procurator himself. She may have seen the gentle Galilean from some window of the palace, overlooking the courts of the temple. Perhaps she had seen him again in her dreams; and the idea that the blood of this beautiful young man was about to be spilt, weighed upon her mind. Certain it is that Jesus found Pilate prepossessed in his favor. The governor questioned him with kindness, and with the desire to find an excuse for sending him away pardoned.
The title of "Kings of the Jews," which Jesus had never taken upon himself, but which his enemies represented as the sum and substance of his acts and pretensions, was naturally that by which it was sought to excite the suspicions of the Roman authority. They accused him on this ground of sedition, and of treason against the government. Nothing could be more unjust; for Jesus had always recognized the Roman government as the established power. But conservative religious bodies do not generally shrink from calumny. Notwithstanding his own explanation, they drew certain conclusions from his teaching; they transformed him into a disciple of Judas the Gaulonite; they pretended that he forbade the payment of tribute to Caesar.* Pilate asked him if he was really the king of the Jews. [Matt. xxvii. 11; Mark xv. 2; Luke xxiii. 3; John xviii. 33.] Jesus concealed nothing of what he thought. But the great ambiguity of speech which had been the source of his strength, and which, after his death, was to establish his kingship, injured him on this occasion. An idealist that is to say, not distinguishing the spirit from the substance, Jesus, whose words, to use the image of the Apocalypse, were as a two-edged sword, never completely satisfied the powers of earth. If we may believe John, he avowed his royalty, but uttered at the same time this profound sentence: "My kingdom is not of this world." He explained the nature of his kingdom, declaring that it consisted entirely in the possession and proclamation of truth. Pilate understood nothing of this grand idealism.* Jesus doubtless impressed him as being an inoffensive dreamer. The total absence of religious and philosophical proselytism among the Romans of this epoch made them regard devotion to truth as a chimera. Such discussions annoyed them, and appeared to them devoid of meaning. Not perceiving the element of danger to the empire that lay hidden in these new speculations, they had no reason to employ violence against them. All their displeasure fell upon those who asked them to inflict punishment for what appeared to them to be vain subtleties. Twenty years after, Gallio still adopted the same course toward the Jews.* Until the fall of Jerusalem, the rule which the Romans adopted in administration, was to remain completely indifferent to these sectarian quarrels.*
An expedient suggested itself to the mind of the governor by which he could reconcile his own feelings with the demands of the fanatical people, whose pressure he had already so often felt. It was the custom to deliver a prisoner to the people at the time of the Passover. Pilate, knowing that Jesus had only been arrested in consequence of the jealousy of the priests,* tried to obtain for him the benefit of this custom. He appeared again upon the bima, and proposed to the multitude to release the "King of the Jews." The proposition made in these terms, though ironical, was characterized by a degree of liberality. The priests saw the danger of it. They acted promptly [Matt. xxvii. 20; Mark xv. 11.], and in order to combat the proposition of Pilate, they suggested to the crowd the name of a prisoner who enjoyed great popularity in Jerusalem. By a singular coincidence, he also was called Jesus [The name of Jesus has disappeared in the greater part of the manuscripts. This reading has, nevertheless, very great authorities in its favor.], and bore the surname of Bar-Abba, or Bar-Rabban.* He was a well-known personage [Cf. St. Jerome. In Matt. xxvii. 16.], and had been arrested for taking part in an uproar in which murder had been committed. [Mark xv. 7; Luke xxiii. 19. John (xviii. 40), who makes him a robber, appears here too much further from the truth than Mark.] A general clamor was raised, "Not this man; but Jesus Bar-Rabban;" and Pilate was obliged to release Jesus Bar-Rabban.
His embarrassment increased. He feared that too much indulgence shown to a prisoner, to whom was given the title of "King of the Jews," might compromise him. Fanaticism, moreover, compels all powers to make terms with it. Pilate thought himself obliged to make some concession; but still hesitating to shed blood, in order to satisfy men whom he hated, wished to turn the thing into a jest. Affecting to laugh at the pompous title they had given to Jesus, he caused him to be scourged. [Matt. xxvii. 26; Mark xv. 15; John xix. 1.] Scourging was the general preliminary of crucifixion. [Jos., B. J., II. xiv. 9, V. xi. 1, VII. vi. 4; Titus-Livy, XXXIII. 36; Quintus Curtius, VII. xi. 28.] Perhaps Pilate wished it to be believed that this sentence had already been pronounced, hoping that the preliminary would suffice. Then took place (according to all the narratives) a revolting scene The soldiers put a scarlet robe on his back, a crown formed of branches of thorns upon his head, and a reed in his hand. Thus attired, he was led to the tribunal in front of the people. The soldiers defiled before him, striking him in turn, and knelt to him, saying, "Hail! King of the Jews!" [Matt. xxvii. 27, and following; Mark xv. 16, and following; Luke xxiii. 11; John xix. 2, and following.] Others, it is said, spit upon him, and struck his head with the reed. It is difficult to understand how Roman dignity could stoop to acts so shameful. It is true that Pilate, in the capacity of procurator, had under his command scarcely any but auxiliary troops. [See Inscript. Rom. of Algeria, No. 5, fragm. B.] Roman citizens, as the legionaries were, would not have degraded themselves by such conduct.
Did Pilate think by this display that he freed himself from responsibility? Did he hope to turn aside the blow which threatened Jesus by conceding something to the hatred of the Jews,* and by substituting for the tragic denouement a grotesque termination, to make it appear that the affair merited no other issue? If such were his idea, it was unsuccessful. The tumult increased, and became an open riot. The cry "Crucify him! Crucify him!" resounded from all sides. The priests becoming increasingly urgent, declared the law in peril if the corrupter were not punished with death.* Pilate saw clearly that to save Jesus he would have to put down a terrible disturbance. He still tried, however, to gain time. He returned to the judgment-hall, and ascertained from what country Jesus came, with the hope of finding a pretext for declaring his inability to adjudicate. [John xix. 9. Cf. Luke xxiii. 6, and following.] According to one tradition, he even sent Jesus to Antipas, who, it is said, was then at Jerusalem.* Jesus took no part in these well-meant efforts; he maintained, as he had done before Kaiapha, a grave and dignified silence, which astonished Pilate. The cries from without became more and more menacing. The people had already begun to denounce the lack of zeal in the functionary who protected an enemy of Caesar. The greatest adversaries of the Roman rule were suddenly transformed into loyal subjects of Tiberius, that they might have the right of accusing the too tolerant procurator of treason. "We have no king," said they, "but Caesar. If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." [John xix. 12, 15. Cf. Luke xxiii. 2. In order to appreciate the exactitude of the description of this scene in the evangelists, see Philo, Leg. ad Caium, § 38.] The feeble Pilate yielded; he foresaw the report that his enemies would send to Rome, in which they would accuse him of having protected a rival of Tiberius. Once before, in the matter of the votive escutcheons [See ante, p. 351.], the Jews had written to the emperor, and had received satisfaction. He feared for his office. By a compliance, which was to deliver his name to the scorn of history, he yielded, throwing, it is said, upon the Jews all the responsibility of what was about to happen. The latter, according to the Christians, fully accepted it, by exclaiming, "His blood be on us and on our children!" [Matt. xxvii. 24, 25.]
Were these words really uttered? We may doubt it. But they are the expression of a profound historical truth. Considering the attitude which the Romans had taken in Judea, Pilate could scarcely have acted otherwise. How many sentences of death dictated by religious intolerance been extorted from the civil power! The king of Spain, who, in order to please a fanatical clergy, delivered hundreds of his subjects to the stake, was more blameable than Pilate, for he represented a more absolute power than that of the Romans at Jerusalem. When the civil power becomes persecuting or meddlesome at the solicitation of the priesthood, it proves its weakness. But let the government that is without sin in this respect throw the first stone at Pilate. The "secular arm," behind which clerical cruelty shelters itself, is not the culprit. No one has a right to say that he has a horror of blood when he causes it to be shed by his servants.
It was, then, neither Tiberius nor Pilate who condemned Jesus. It was the old Jewish party; it was the Mosaic Law. According to our modern ideas, there is no transmission of moral demerit from father to son; no one is accountable to human or divine justice except for that which he himself has done. Consequently, every Jew who suffers to-day for the murder of Jesus has a right to complain, for he might have acted as did Simon the Cyrenean; at any rate, he might not have been with those who cried "Crucify him!" But nations, like individuals, have their responsibilities, and, if ever crime was the crime of a nation, it was the death of Jesus. This death was "legal" in the sense that it was primarily caused by a law which was the very soul of the nation. The Mosaic law, in its modern, but still in its accepted form, pronounced the penalty of death against all attempts to change the established worship. Now, there is no doubt that Jesus attacked this worship, and aspired to destroy it. The Jews expressed this to Pilate with a truthful simplicity: "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die; because he has made himself the Son of God."* The law was detestable, but it was the law of ancient ferocity; and the hero who offered himself in order to abrogate it, had first of all to endure its penalty.
Alas! it has required more than eighteen hundred years for the blood that he shed to bear its fruits. Tortures and death have been inflicted for ages in the name of Jesus, on thinkers as noble as himself. Even at the present time, in countries which call themselves Christian, penalties are pronounced for religious offenses. Jesus is not responsible for these errors. He could not foresee that people, with mistaken imaginations, would one day imagine him as a frightful Moloch, greedy of burnt flesh. Christianity has been intolerant, but intolerance is not essentially a Christian fact. It is a Jewish fact in the sense that it was Judaism which first introduced the theory of the absolute in religion, and laid down the principle that every innovator, even if he brings miracles to support his doctrine, ought to be stoned without trial. [Deut. xiii. 1, and following.] The pagan world has also had its religious violences. But if it had had this law, how would it have become Christian? The Pentateuch has thus been in the world the first code of religious terrorism. Judaism has given the example of an immutable dogma armed with the sword. If, instead of pursuing the Jews with a blind hatred, Christianity had abolished the regime which killed its founder, how much more consistent would it have been!—how much better would it have deserved of the human race!
Death of Jesus.
ALTHOUGH the real motive for the death of Jesus was entirely religious, his enemies had succeeded, in the judgment-hall, in representing him as guilty of treason against the state; they could not have obtained from the skeptical Pilate a condemnation simply on the ground of heterodoxy. Consistently with this idea, the priests demanded, through the people, the crucifixion of Jesus. This punishment was not Jewish in its origin; if the condemnation of Jesus had been purely Mosaic, he would have been stoned.* Crucifixion was a Roman punishment, reserved for slaves, and for cases in which it was wished to add to death the aggravation of ignominy. In applying it to Jesus, they treated him as they treated highway robbers, brigands, bandits, or those enemies of inferior rank to whom the Romans did not grant the honor of death by the sword. [Jos., Ant., XVII. x. 10, XX. vi. 2; B. J., V. xi. 1; Apuleius, Metam., iii. 9; Suetonius, Galba, 9; Lampridius, Alex. Sev., 23.] It was the chimerical "King of the Jews," not the heterodox dogmatist, who was punished. Following out the same idea, the execution was left to the Romans. We know that amongst the Romans, their soldiers, their profession being to kill, performed the office of executioners. Jesus was therefore delivered to a cohort of auxiliary troops, and all the most hateful features of executions introduced by the cruel habits of the new conquerors, were exhibited toward him. It was about noon. [John xix. 14. According to Mark xv. 25, it could scarcely have been eight o'clock in the morning, since that evangelist relates that Jesus was crucified at nine o'clock.] They re-clothed him with the garments which they had removed for the farce enacted at the tribunal, and as the cohort had already in reserve two thieves who were to be executed, the three prisoners were taken together, and the procession set out for the place of execution.
The scene of the execution was at a place called Golgotha, situated outside Jerusalem, but near the walls of the city. [Matt. xxvii. 33; Mark xv. 22; John xix. 20; Heb. xiii. 12.] The name Golgotha signifies a skull; it corresponds with the French word Chaumont, and probably designated a bare hill or rising ground, having the form of a bald skull. The situation of this hill is not precisely known. It was certainly on the north or northwest of the city, in the high, irregular plain which extends between the walls and the two valleys of Kedron and Hinnom,* a rather uninteresting region, and made still worse by the objectionable circumstances arising from the neighborhood of a great city. It is difficult to identify Golgotha as the precise place which, since Constantine, has been venerated by entire Christendom. [The proofs by which it has been attempted to establish that the Holy Sepulchre has been displaced since Constantine are not very strong.] This place is too much in the interior of the city, and we are led to believe that, in the time of Jesus, it was comprised within the circuit of the walls.*
He who was condemned to the cross, had himself to carry the instrument of his execution. [Plutarch, De Sera Num. Vind., 19; Artemidorus, Onirocrit., ii. 56.] But Jesus, physically weaker than his two companions, could not carry his. The troop met a certain Simon of Cyrene, who was returning from the country, and the soldiers, with the off-hand procedure of foreign garrisons, forced him to carry the fatal tree. Perhaps they made use of a recognized right of forcing labor, the Romans not being allowed to carry the infamous wood. It seems that Simon was afterward of the Christian community. His two sons, Alexander and Rufus,* were well known in it. He related perhaps more than one circumstance of which he had been witness. No disciple was at this moment near to Jesus.*
The place of execution was at last reached. According to Jewish custom, the sufferers were offered a strong aromatic wine, an intoxicating drink, which, through a sentiment of pity, was given to the condemned in order to stupefy him. [Talm. of Bab., Sanhedrim, fol. 43a. Comp. Prov. xxi. 6.] It appears that the ladies of Jerusalem often brought this kind of wine to the unfortunates who were led to execution; when none was presented by them, it was purchased from the public treasury. [Talm. of Bab., Sanhedrim, l. c.] Jesus, after having touched the edge of the cup with his lips, refused to drink. [Mark xv. 23; Matt. xxvii. 34, falsifies this detail, in order to create a Messianic allusion from Ps. lxix. 20.] This mournful consolation of ordinary sufferers did not accord with his exalted nature. He preferred to quit life with perfect clearness of mind, and to await in full consciousness the death he had willed and brought upon himself. He was then divested of his garments [Matt. xxvii. 35; Mark xv. 24; John xix. 23. Cf. Artemidorus, Onirocr., ii. 53.], and fastened to the cross. The cross was composed of two beams, tied in the form of the letter T. [Lucian, Jud. Voc., 12. Compare the grotesque crucifix traced at Rome on a wall of Mount Palatine. Civilta Cattolica, fasc. clxi. p. 520, and following.] It was not much elevated, so that the feet of the condemned almost touched the earth. They commenced by fixing it [Jos., B. J., VII. vi. 4; Cic., In Verr., v. 66; Xenoph. Ephes., Ephesiaca, iv. 2.], then they fastened the sufferer to it by driving nails into his hands; the feet were often nailed, though sometimes only bound with cords. [Luke xxiv. 39; John xx. 25-27; Plautius, Mostellaria, II. i. 13; Lucan., Phars., vi. 543, and following, 547; Justin, Dial. cum Tryph., 97; Tertullian, Adv. Marcionem, iii. 19.] A piece of wood was fastened to the upright portion of the cross, toward the middle, and passed between the legs of the condemned, who rested upon it. [Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., ii. 24; Justin, Dial. cum Tryphone, 91.] Without that, the hands would have been torn and the body would have sunk down. At other times, a small horizontal rest was fixed beneath the feet, and sustained them. [See the graffito quoted before.]
Jesus tasted these horrors in all their atrocity. A burning thirst, one of the tortures of crucifixion [See the Arab text published by Kosegarten, Chrest. Arab., p. 64.], devoured him, and he asked to drink. There stood near, a cup of the ordinary drink of the Roman soldiers, a mixture of vinegar and water, called posca. The soldiers had to carry with them their posca on all their expeditions [Spartianus, Life of Adrian, 10; Vulcatius Gallicanus, Life of Avidius Cassius, 5.], of which an execution was considered one. A soldier dipped a sponge in this drink, put it at the end of a reed, and raised it to the lips of Jesus, who sucked it. [Matt. xxvii. 48; Mark xv. 36; Luke xxiii. 36; John xix. 28-30.] The two robbers were crucified, one on each side. The executioners, to whom were usually left the small effects (pannicularia) of those executed [Dig., XLVII. xx., De bonis damnat., 6. Adrian limited this custom.], drew lots for his garments, and, seated at the foot of the cross, kept guard over him. [Matt. xxvii. 36. Cf. Petronius, Satyr., cxi. cxii.] According to one tradition, Jesus pronounced this sentence, which was in his heart if not upon his lips: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."*
According to the Roman custom, a writing was attached to the top of the cross, bearing, in three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the words: "THE KING OF THE JEWS." There was something painful and insulting to the nation in this inscription. The numerous passers-by who read it were offended. The priests complained to Pilate that he ought to have adopted an inscription which would have implied simply that Jesus had called himself King of the Jews. But Pilate, already tired of the whole affair, refused to make any change in what had been written.*
His disciples had fled. John, nevertheless, declares himself to have been present, and to have remained standing at the foot of the cross during the whole time. [John xix. 25, and following.] It may be affirmed, with more certainty, that the devoted women of Galilee, who had followed Jesus to Jerusalem and continued to tend him, did not abandon him. Mary Cleophas, Mary Magdalen, Joanna, wife of Khouza, Salome, and others, stayed at a certain distance,* and did not lose sight of him. [Matt. xxvii. 55, 56; Mark xv. 40, 41; Luke xxiii. 49, 55; xxiv. 10; John xix. 25. Cf. Luke xxiii. 27-31.] If we must believe John,* Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also at the foot of the cross, and Jesus seeing his mother and his beloved disciple together, said to the one, "Behold thy mother!" and to the other, "Behold thy son!" But we do not understand how the synoptics, who name the other women, should have omitted her whose presence was so striking a feature. Perhaps even the extreme elevation of the character of Jesus does not render such personal emotion probable, at the moment when, solely pre-occupied by his work, he no longer existed except for humanity.*
Apart from this small group of women, whose presence consoled him, Jesus had before him only the spectacle of the baseness or stupidity of humanity. The passers-by insulted him. He heard around him foolish scoffs, and his greatest cries of pain turned into hateful jests: "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. He saved others," they said again; "himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him! Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself." [Matt. xxvii. 40, and following; Mark xv. 29, and following.] Some, vaguely acquainted with his apocalyptic ideas, thought they heard him call Elias, and said, "Let us see whether Elias will come to save him." It appears that the two crucified thieves at his side also insulted him. [Matt. xxvii. 44; Mark xv. 32. Luke has here modified the tradition, in accordance with his taste for the conversion of sinners.] The sky was dark [Matt. xxvii. 45; Mark xv. 33; Luke xxiii. 44.]; and the earth, as in all the environs of Jerusalem, dry and gloomy. For a moment, according to certain narratives, his heart failed him; a cloud hid from him the face of his Father; he endured an agony of despair a thousand times more acute than all his torture. He saw only the ingratitude of men; he perhaps repented suffering for a vile race, and exclaimed: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But his divine instinct still prevailed. In the degree that the life of the body became extinguished, his soul became clear, and returned by degrees to its celestial origin. He regained the idea of his mission; he saw in his death the salvation of the world; he lost sight of the hideous spectacle spread at his feet, and, profoundly united to his Father, he began upon the gibbet the divine life which he was to live in the heart of humanity throughout infinite ages.
The peculiar atrocity of crucifixion was that one might live three or four days in this horrible state upon the instrument of torture. [Petronius, Sat., cxi., and following; Origen, In Matt. Comment. series, 140 Arab text published in Kosegarten, op. cit., p. 63, and following.] The haemorrhage from the hands quickly stopped, and was not mortal. The true cause of death was the unnatural position of the body, which brought on a frightful disturbance of the circulation, terrible pains of the head and heart, and, at length, rigidity of the limbs. Those who had a strong constitution only died of hunger. [Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., viii. 8.] The idea which suggested this cruel punishment was not directly to kill the condemned by positive injuries, but to expose the slave nailed by the hand of which he had not known how to make good use, and to let him rot on the wood. The delicate organization of Jesus preserved him from this slow agony. Everything leads to the belief that the instantaneous rupture of a vessel in the heart brought him, at the end of three hours, to a sudden death. Some moments before yielding up his soul, his voice was still strong. [Matt. xxvii. 46; Mark xv. 3.] All at once, he uttered a terrible cry [Matt. xxvii. 50; Mark xv. 37; Luke xxiii. 46; John xix. 30.], which some heard as: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!" but which others, more pre-occupied with the accomplishment of prophecies, rendered by the words, "It is finished!" His head fell upon his breast, and he expired.
Rest now in thy glory, noble initiator. Thy work is completed; thy divinity is established. Fear no more to see the edifice of thy efforts crumble through a flaw. Henceforth, beyond the reach of frailty, thou shalt be present, from the height of thy divine peace, in the infinite consequences of thy acts. At the price of a few hours of suffering, which have not even touched thy great soul, thou hast purchased the most complete immortality. For thousands of years the world will extol thee. Banner of our contradictions, thou wilt be the sign around which will be fought the fiercest battles. A thousand times more living, a thousand times more loved since thy death than during the days of thy pilgrimage here below, thou wilt become to such a degree the corner-stone of humanity, that to tear thy name from this world would be to shake it to its foundations. Between thee and God, men will no longer distinguish. Complete conqueror of death, take possession of thy kingdom, whither, by the royal road thou has traced, ages of adorers will follow thee.
Jesus In The Tomb.
IT was about three o'clock in the afternoon, according to our manner of reckoning [Matt. xxvii. 46; Mark xv. 37; Luke xxiii. 44. Comp. John xix. 14.], when Jesus expired. A Jewish law [Deut. xxi. 22, 23; Josh. viii. 29, x. 26, and following. Cf. Jos., B. J., IV. v. 2; Mishnah, Sanhedrim, vi. 5.] forbade a corpse suspended on the cross to be left beyond the evening of the day of the execution. It is not probable that in the executions performed by the Romans this rule was observed; but as the next day was the Sabbath, and a Sabbath of peculiar solemnity, the Jews expressed to the Roman authorities [John says, "To Pilate;" but that cannot be, for Mark (xv. 44, 45) states that at night Pilate was still ignorant of the death of Jesus.] their desire that this holy day should not be profaned by such a spectacle. [Compare Philo, In Flaccum, § 10.] Their request was granted; orders were given to hasten the death of the three condemned ones, and to remove them from the cross. The soldiers executed this order by applying to the two thieves a second punishment much more speedy than that of the cross, the crurifragium, or breaking of the legs,* the usual punishment of slaves and of prisoners of war. As to Jesus, they found him dead, and did not think it necessary to break his legs. But one of them, to remove all doubt as to the real death of the third victim, and to complete it, if any breath remained in him, pierced his side with a spear. They thought they saw water and blood flow, which was regarded as a sign of the cessation of life.
John, who professes to have seen it,* insists strongly on this circumstance. It is evident, in fact, that doubts arose as to the reality of the death of Jesus. A few hours of suspension on the cross appeared to persons accustomed to see crucifixions entirely insufficient to lead to such a result. They cited many instances of persons crucified, who, removed in time, had been brought to life again by powerful remedies. [Herodotus, vii. 194; Jos., Vita, 75.] Origen afterward thought it needful to invoke miracle in order to explain so sudden an end. [In Matt. Comment. series, 140.] The same astonishment is found in the narrative of Mark.* To speak truly, the best guarantee that the historian possesses upon a point of this nature is the suspicious hatred of the enemies of Jesus. It is doubtful whether the Jews were at that time pre-occupied with the fear that Jesus might pass for resuscitated; but, in any case, they must have made sure that he was really dead. Whatever, at certain periods, may have been the neglect of the ancients in all that belonged to legal proof and the strict conduct of affairs, we cannot but believe that those interested here had taken some precautions in this respect.*
According to the Roman custom, the corpse of Jesus ought to have remained suspended in order to become the prey of birds. [Horace, Epistles, I. xvi. 48; Juvenal, xiv. 77; Lucan., vii. 544; Plautus, Miles glor., II. iv. 19; Artemidorus, Onir., ii. 53; Pliny, xxxvi. 24; Plutarch, Life of Cleomenes, 39; Petronius, Sat., cxi.-cxii.] According to the Jewish law, it would have been removed in the evening, and deposited in the place of infamy set apart for the burial of those who were executed. [Mishnah, Sanhedrim, vi. 5.] If Jesus had had for disciples only his poor Galileans, timid and without influence, the latter course would have been adopted. But we have seen that, in spite of his small success at Jerusalem, Jesus had gained the sympathy of some important persons who expected the kingdom of God, and who, without confessing themselves his disciples, were strongly attached to him. One of these persons, Joseph, of the small town of Arimathea (Ha-ramathaim), [Probably identical with the ancient Rama of Samuel, in the tribe of Ephraim.] went in the evening to ask the body from the procurator. [Matt. xxvii. 57, and following; Mark xv. 42, and following; Luke xxiii. 50, and following; John xix. 38, and following.] Joseph was a rich and honorable man, a member of the Sanhedrim. The Roman law, at this period, commanded, moreover, that the body of the person executed should be delivered to those who claimed it. [Dig. XLVIII. xxiv., De cadaveribus punitorum.] Pilate, who was ignorant of the circumstance of the crurifragium, was astonished that Jesus was so soon dead, and summoned the centurion who had superintended the execution, in order to know how this was. Pilate, after having received the assurances of the centurion, granted to Joseph the object of his request. The body probably had already been removed from the cross. They delivered it to Joseph, that he might do with it as he pleased.
Another secret friend, Nicodemus,* whom we have already seen employing his influence more than once in favor of Jesus, came forward at this moment. He arrived, bearing an ample provision of the materials necessary for embalming. Joseph and Nicodemus interred Jesus according to the Jewish custom—that is to say, they wrapped him in a sheet with myrrh and aloes. The Galilean women were present [Matt. xxvii. 61; Mark xv. 47; Luke xxiii. 55.], and no doubt accompanied the scene with piercing cries and tears.
It was late, and all this was done in great haste. The place had not yet been chosen where the body would be finally deposited. The carrying of the body, moreover, might have been delayed to a late hour, and have involved a violation of the Sabbath—now the disciples still conscientiously observed the prescriptions of the Jewish law. A temporary interment was determined upon.* There was at hand, in the garden, a tomb recently dug out in the rock, which had never been used. It belonged, probably, to one of the believers. [One tradition (Matt. xxvii. 60) designates Joseph of Arimathea himself as owner of the cave.] The funeral caves, when they were destined for a single body, were composed of a small room, at the bottom of which the place for the body was marked by a trough or couch let into the wall, and surmounted by an arch.* As these caves were dug out of the sides of sloping rocks, they were entered by the floor; the door was shut by a stone very difficult to move. Jesus was deposited in the cave, and the stone was rolled to the door, as it was intended to return in order to give him a more complete burial. But the next day being a solemn Sabbath, the labor was postponed till the day following.*
The women retired after having carefully noticed how the body was laid. They employed the hours of the evening which remained to them in making new preparations for the embalming. On the Saturday all rested.*
On the Sunday morning, the women, Mary Magdalen the first, came very early to the tomb. [Matt. xxviii. 1; Mark xvi. 1; Luke xxiv. 1; John xx. 1.] The stone was displaced from the opening, and the body was no longer in the place where they had laid it. At the same time, the strangest rumors were spread in the Christian community. The cry, "He is risen!" quickly spread amongst the disciples. Love caused it to find ready credence everywhere. What had taken place? In treating of the history of the apostles we shall have to examine this point and to make inquiry into the origin of the legends relative to the resurrection. For the historian, the life of Jesus finishes with his last sigh. But such was the impression he had left in the heart of his disciples and of a few devoted women, that during some weeks more it was as if he were living and consoling them. Had his body been taken away [See Matt. xxviii. 15; John xx. 2.], or did enthusiasm, always credulous, create afterward the group of narratives by which it was sought to establish faith in the resurrection? In the absence of opposing documents this can never be ascertained. Let us say, however, that the strong imagination of Mary Magdalen [She had been possessed by seven demons (Mark xvi. 9; Luke viii. 2.)] played an important part in this circumstance.* Divine power of love! Sacred moments in which the passion of one possessed gave to the world a resuscitated God!
Fate of The Enemies of Jesus.
ACCORDING to the calculation we adopt, the death of Jesus happened in the year 33 of our era.* It could not, at all events, be either before the year 29, the preaching of John and Jesus having commenced in the year 28,* or after the year 35, since in the year 36, and probably before the passover, Pilate and Kaiapha both lost their offices. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. iv. 2 and 3.] The death of Jesus appears, moreover, to have had no connection whatever with these two removals.* In his retirement, Pilate probably never dreamt for a moment of the forgotten episode, which was to transmit his pitiful renown to the most distant posterity. As to Kaiapha, he was succeeded by Jonathan, his brother-in-law, son of the same Hanan who had played the principal part in the trial of Jesus. The Sadducean family of Hanan retained the pontificate a long time, and more powerful than ever, continued to wage against the disciples and the family of Jesus, the implacable war which they had commenced against the Founder. Christianity, which owed to him the definitive act of its foundation, owed to him also its first martyrs. Hanan passed for one of the happiest men of his age.* He who was truly guilty of the death of Jesus ended his life full of honors and respect, never having doubted for an instant that he had rendered a great service to the nation. His sons continued to reign around the temple, kept down with difficulty by the procurators,* ofttimes dispensing with the consent of the latter in order to gratify their haughty and violent instincts.
Antipas and Herodias soon disappeared also from the political scene. Herod Agrippa having been raised to the dignity of king by Caligula, the jealous Herodias swore that she also would be queen. Pressed incessantly by this ambitious woman, who treated him as a coward, because he suffered a superior in his family, Antipas overcame his natural indolence, and went to Rome to solicit the title which his nephew had just obtained (the year 39 of our era). But the affair turned out in the worst possible manner. Injured in the eyes of the emperor by Herod Agrippa, Antipas was removed, and dragged out the rest of his life in exile at Lyons and in Spain. Herodias followed him in his misfortunes. [Jos., Ant., XVIII. vii. 1, 2; B. J., II. ix. 6.] A hundred years, at least, were to elapse before the name of their obscure subject, now become deified, should appear in these remote countries to brand upon their tombs the murder of John the Baptist.
As to the wretched Judas of Kerioth, terrible legends were current about his death. It was maintained that he had bought a field in the neighborhood of Jerusalem with the price of his perfidy. There was, indeed, on the south of Mount Zion, a place named Hakeldama (the field of blood).* It was supposed that this was the property acquired by the traitor.* According to one tradition,* he killed himself. According to another, he had a fall in his field, in consequence of which his bowels gushed out.* According to others, he died of a kind of dropsy, accompanied by repulsive circumstances, which were regarded as a punishment from heaven. [Papias, in Munter, l. c.; Theophylactus, l. c.] The desire of showing in Judas the accomplishment of the menaces which the Psalmist pronounces against the perfidious friend* may have given rise to these legends. Perhaps, in the retirement of his field of Hakeldama, Judas led a quiet and obscure life; while his former friends conquered the world, and spread his infamy abroad. Perhaps, also, the terrible hatred which was concentrated on his head, drove him to violent acts, in which were seen the finger of heaven.
The time of the great Christian revenge was, moreover, far distant. The new sect had no part whatever in the catastrophe which Judaism was soon to undergo. The synagogue did not understand till much later to what it exposed itself in practicing laws of intolerance. The empire was certainly still further from suspecting that its future destroyer was born. During nearly three hundred years it pursued its path without suspecting that at its side principles were growing destined to subject the world to a complete transformation. At once theocratic and democratic, the idea thrown by Jesus into the world was, together with the invasion of the Germans, the most active cause of the dissolution of the empire of the Caesars. On the one hand, the right of all men to participate in the kingdom of God was proclaimed. On the other, religion was henceforth separated in principle from the state. The rights of conscience, withdrawn from political law, resulted in the constitution of a new power—the "spiritual power." This power has more than once belied its origin. For ages the bishops have been princes, and the Pope has been a king. The pretended empire of souls has shown itself at various times as a frightful tyranny, employing the rack and the stake in order to maintain itself. But the day will come when the separation will bear its fruits, when the domain of things spiritual will cease to be called a "power," that it may be called a "liberty." Sprung from the conscience of a man of the people, formed in the presence of the people, beloved and admired first by the people, Christianity was impressed with an original character which will never be effaced. It was the first triumph of revolution, the victory of the popular idea, the advent of the simple in heart, the inauguration of the beautiful as understood by the people. Jesus thus, in the aristocratic societies of antiquity, opened the breach through which all will pass.
The civil power, in fact, although innocent of the death of Jesus (it only countersigned the sentence, and even in spite of itself), ought to bear a great share of the responsibility. In presiding at the scene of Calvary, the state gave itself a serious blow. A legend full of all kinds of disrespect prevailed, and became universally known—a legend in which the constituted authorities played a hateful part, in which it was the accused that was right, and in which the judges and the guards were leagued against the truth. Seditious in the highest degree, the history of the Passion, spread by a thousand popular images, displayed the Roman eagles as sanctioning the most iniquitous of executions, soldiers executing it, and a prefect commanding it. What a blow for all established powers! They have never entirely recovered from it. How can they assume infallibility in respect to poor men, when they have on their conscience the great mistake of Gethsemane? [This popular sentiment existed in Brittany in the time of my childhood. The gendarme was there regarded, like the Jew elsewhere, with a kind of pious aversion, for it was he who arrested Jesus!]
Essential Character of The Work of Jesus
JESUS, it will be seen, limited his action entirely to the Jews. Although his sympathy for those despised by orthodoxy led him to admit pagans into the kingdom of God—although he had resided more than once in a pagan country, and once or twice we surprise him in kindly relations with unbelievers [Matt. viii. 5, and following; Luke vii. 1, and following; John xii. 20, and following. Comp. Jos., Ant., XVIII. iii. 3.]—it may be said that his life was passed entirely in the very restricted world in which he was born. He was never heard of in Greek or Roman countries; his name appears only in profane authors of a hundred years later, and then in an indirect manner, in connection with seditious movements provoked by his doctrine, or persecutions of which his disciples were the object. [Tacitus, Ann., xv. 45; Suetonius, Claudius, 25.] Even on Judaism, Jesus made no very durable impression. Philo, who died about the year 50, had not the slightest knowledge of him. Josephus, born in the year 37, and writing in the last years of the century, mentions his execution in a few lines [Ant., XVIII. iii. 3. This passage has been altered by a Christian hand.], as an event of secondary importance, and in the enumeration of the sects of his time, he omits the Christians altogether. [Ant., XVIII. i.; B. J., II. viii.; Vita, 2.] In the Mishnah, also, there is no trace of the new school; the passages in the two Gemaras in which the founder of Christianity is named, do not go further back than the fourth or fifth century.* The essential work of Jesus was to create around him a circle of disciples, whom he inspired with boundless affection, and amongst whom he deposited the germ of his doctrine. To have made himself beloved, "to the degree that after his death they ceased not to love him," was the great work of Jesus, and that which most struck his contemporaries.* His doctrine was so little dogmatic, that he never thought of writing it or of causing it to be written. Men did not become his disciples by believing this thing or that thing, but in being attached to his person and in loving him. A few sentences collected from memory, and especially the type of character he set forth, and the impression it had left, were what remained of him. Jesus was not a founder of dogmas, or a maker of creeds; he infused into the world a new spirit. The least Christian men were, on the one hand, the doctors of the Greek Church, who, beginning from the fourth century, entangled Christianity in a path of puerile metaphysical discussions, and, on the other, the scholastics of the Latin Middle Ages, who wished to draw from the Gospel the thousands of articles of a colossal system. To follow Jesus in expectation of the kingdom of God, was all that at first was implied by being Christian.
It will thus be understood how, by an exceptional destiny, pure Christianity still preserves, after eighteen centuries, the character of a universal and eternal religion. It is, in fact, because the religion of Jesus is in some respects the final religion. Produced by a perfectly spontaneous movement of souls, freed at its birth from all dogmatic restraint, having struggled three hundred years for liberty of conscience, Christianity, in spite of its failures, still reaps the results of its glorious origin. To renew itself, it has but to return to the Gospel. The kingdom of God, as we conceive it, differs notably from the supernatural apparition which the first Christians hoped to see appear in the clouds. But the sentiment introduced by Jesus into the world is indeed ours. His perfect idealism is the highest rule of the unblemished and virtuous life. He has created the heaven of pure souls, where is found what we ask for in vain on earth, the perfect nobility of the children of God, absolute purity, the total removal of the stains of the world; in fine, liberty, which society excludes as an impossibility, and which exists in all its amplitude only in the domain of thought. The great Master of those who take refuge in this ideal kingdom of God is still Jesus. He was the first to proclaim the royalty of the mind; the first to say, at least by his actions, "My kingdom is not of this world." The foundation of true religion is indeed his work: after him, all that remains is to develop it and render it fruitful.
"Christianity" has thus become almost a synonym of "religion." All that is done outside of this great and good Christian tradition is barren. Jesus gave religion to humanity, as Socrates gave it philosophy, and Aristotle science. There was philosophy before Socrates and science before Aristotle. Since Socrates and since Aristotle, philosophy and science have made immense progress; but all has been built upon the foundation which they laid. In the same way, before Jesus, religious thought had passed through many revolutions; since Jesus, it has made great conquests: but no one has improved, and no one will improve upon the essential principle Jesus has created; he has fixed forever the idea of pure worship. The religion of Jesus in this sense is not limited. The Church has had its epochs and its phases; it has shut itself up in creeds which are, or will be but temporary: but Jesus has founded the absolute religion, excluding nothing, and determining nothing unless it be the spirit. His creeds are not fixed dogmas, but images susceptible of indefinite interpretations. We should seek in vain for a theological proposition in the Gospel. All confessions of faith are travesties of the idea of Jesus, just as the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, in proclaiming Aristotle the sole master of a completed science, perverted the thought of Aristotle. Aristotle, if he had been present in the debates of the schools, would have repudiated this narrow doctrine; he would have been of the party of progressive science against the routine which shielded itself under his authority; he would have applauded his opponents. In the same way, if Jesus were to return among us, he would recognize as disciples, not those who pretend to enclose him entirely in a few catechismal phrases, but those who labor to carry on his work. The eternal glory, in all great things, is to have laid the first stone. It may be that in the "Physics," and in the "Meteorology" of modern times, we may not discover a word of the treatises of Aristotle which bear these titles; but Aristotle remains no less the founder of natural science. Whatever may be the transformations of dogma, Jesus will ever be the creator of the pure spirit of religion; the Sermon on the Mount will never be surpassed. Whatever revolution takes place will not prevent us attaching ourselves in religion to the grand intellectual and moral line at the head of which shines the name of Jesus. In this sense we are Christians, even when we separate ourselves on almost all points from the Christian tradition which has preceded us.
And this great foundation was indeed the personal work of Jesus. In order to make himself adored to this degree, he must have been adorable. Love is not enkindled except by an object worthy of it, and we should know nothing of Jesus, if it were not for the passion he inspired in those about him, which compels us still to affirm that he was great and pure. The faith, the enthusiasm, the constancy of the first Christian generation is not explicable, except by supposing at the origin of the whole movement, a man of surpassing greatness. At the sight of the marvellous creations of the ages of faith, two impressions equally fatal to good historical criticism arise in the mind. On the one hand we are led to think these creations too impersonal; we attribute to a collective action, that which has often been the work of one powerful will, and of one superior mind. On the other hand, we refuse to see men like ourselves in the authors of those extraordinary movements which have decided the fate of humanity. Let us have a larger idea of the powers which Nature conceals in her bosom. Our civilizations, governed by minute restrictions, cannot give us any idea of the power of man at periods in which the originality of each one had a freer field wherein to develop itself. Let us imagine a recluse dwelling in the mountains near our capitals, coming out from time to time in order to present himself at the palaces of sovereigns, compelling the sentinels to stand aside, and, with an imperious tone, announcing to kings the approach of revolutions of which he had been the promoter. The very idea provokes a smile. Such, however, was Elias; but Elias the Tishbite, in our days, would not be able to pass the gate of the Tuileries. The preaching of Jesus, and his free activity in Galilee, do not deviate less completely from the social conditions to which we are accustomed. Free from our polished conventionalities, exempt from the uniform education which refines us, but which so greatly dwarfs our individuality, these mighty souls carried a surprising energy into action. They appear to us like the giants of an heroic age, which could not have been real. Profound error! Those men were our brothers; they were of our stature, felt and thought as we do. But the breath of God was free in them; with us, it is restrained by the iron bonds of a mean society, and condemned to an irremediable mediocrity.
Let us place, then, the person of Jesus at the highest summit of human greatness. Let us not be misled by exaggerated doubts in the presence of a legend which keeps us always in a superhuman world. The life of Francis d'Assisi is also but a tissue of miracles. Has any one, however, doubted of the existence of Francis d'Assisi, and of the part played by him? Let us say no more that the glory of the foundation of Christianity belongs to the multitude of the first Christians, and not to him whom legend has deified. The inequality of men is much more marked in the East than with us. It is not rare to see arise there, in the midst of a general atmosphere of wickedness, characters whose greatness astonishes us. So far from Jesus having been created by his disciples, he appeared in everything as superior to his disciples. The latter, with the exception of St. Paul and St. John, were men without either invention or genius. St. Paul himself bears no comparison with Jesus, and as to St. John, I shall show hereafter, that the part he played, though very elevated in one sense, was far from being in all respects irreproachable. Hence the immense superiority of the Gospels among the writings of the New Testament. Hence the painful fall we experience in passing from the history of Jesus to that of the apostles. The evangelists themselves, who have bequeathed us the image of Jesus, are so much beneath him of whom they speak, that they constantly disfigure him, from their inability to attain to his height. Their writings are full of errors and misconceptions. We feel in each line a discourse of divine beauty, transcribed by narrators who do not understand it, and who substitute their own ideas for those which they have only half understood. On the whole, the character of Jesus, far from having been embellished by his biographers, has been lowered by them. Criticism, in order to find what he was, needs to discard a series of misconceptions, arising from the inferiority of the disciples. These painted him as they understood him, and often in thinking to raise him, they have in reality lowered him.
I know that our modern ideas have been offended more than once in this legend, conceived by another race, under another sky, and in the midst of other social wants. There are virtues which, in some respects, are more conformable to our taste. The virtuous and gentle Marcus Aurelius, the humble and gentle Spinoza, not having believed in miracles, have been free from some errors that Jesus shared. Spinoza, in his profound obscurity, had an advantage which Jesus did not seek. By our extreme delicacy in the use of means of conviction, by our absolute sincerity and our disinterested love of the pure idea, we have founded—all we who have devoted our lives to science—a new ideal of morality. But the judgment of general history ought not to be restricted to considerations of personal merit. Marcus Aurelius and his noble teachers have had no permanent influence on the world. Marcus Aurelius left behind him delightful books, an execrable son, and a decaying nation. Jesus remains an inexhaustible principle of moral regeneration for humanity. Philosophy does not suffice for the multitude. They must have sanctity. An Apollonius of Tyana, with his miraculous legend, is necessarily more successful than a Socrates with his cold reason. "Socrates," it was said, "leaves men on the earth, Apollonius transports them to heaven; Socrates is but a sage, Apollonius is a god." [Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, i. 2, vii. 11, viii. 7; Unapius, Lives of the Sophists, pages 454, 500 (edition Didot).] Religion, so far, has not existed without a share of asceticism, of piety, and of the marvellous. When it was wished, after the Antonines, to make a religion of philosophy, it was requisite to transform the philosophers into saints, to write the "Edifying Life" of Pythagoras or Plotinus, to attribute to them a legend, virtues of abstinence, contemplation, and supernatural powers, without which neither credence nor authority was found in that age.
Preserve us, then, from mutilating history in order to satisfy our petty susceptibilities! Which of us, pygmies as we are, could do what the extravagant Francis d'Assisi, or the hysterical Saint Theresa, has done? Let medicine have names to express these grand errors of human nature; let it maintain that genius is a disease of the brain; let it see, in a certain delicacy of morality, the commencement of consumption; let it class enthusiasm and love as nervous accidents—it matters little. The terms healthy and diseased are entirely relative. Who would not prefer to be diseased like Pascal, rather than healthy like the common herd? The narrow ideas which are spread in our times respecting madness, mislead our historical judgments in the most serious manner, in questions of this kind. A state in which a man says things of which he is not conscious, in which thought is produced without the summons and control of the will, exposes him to being confined as a lunatic. Formerly this was called prophecy and inspiration. The most beautiful things in the world are done in a state of fever; every great creation involves a breach of equilibrium, a violent state of the being which draws it forth.
We acknowledge, indeed, that Christianity is too complex to have been the work of a single man. In one sense, entire humanity has co-operated therein. There is no one so shut in, as not to receive some influence from without. The history of the human mind is full of strange coincidences, which cause very remote portions of the human species, without any communication with each other, to arrive at the same time at almost identical ideas and imaginations. In the thirteenth century, the Latins, the Greeks, the Syrians, the Jews, and the Mussulmans, adopted scholasticism, and very nearly the same scholasticism from York to Samarcand; in the fourteenth century every one in Italy, Persia, and India, yielded to the taste for mystical allegory; in the sixteenth, art was developed in a very similar manner in Italy, at Mount Athos, and at the court of the Great Moguls, without St. Thomas, Barhebraeus, the Rabbis of Narbonne, or the Motecallemin of Baghdad, having known each other, without Dante and Petrarch having seen any sofi, without any pupil of the schools of Perouse or of Florence having been at Delhi. We should say there are great moral influences running through the world like epidemics, without distinction of frontier and of race. The interchange of ideas in the human species does not take place only by books or by direct instruction. Jesus was ignorant of the very name of Buddha, of Zoroaster, and of Plato; he had read no Greek book, no Buddhist Sudra; nevertheless, there was in him more than one element, which, without his suspecting it, came from Buddhism, Parseeism, or from the Greek wisdom. All this was done through secret channels and by that kind of sympathy which exists among the various portions of humanity. The great man, on the one hand, receives everything from his age; on the other, he governs his age. To show that the religion founded by Jesus was the natural consequence of that which had gone before, does not diminish its excellence; but only proves that it had a reason for its existence, that it was legitimate, that is to say, conformable to the instinct and wants of the heart in a given age.
Is it more just to say that Jesus owes all to Judaism, and that his greatness is only that of the Jewish people? No one is more disposed than myself to place high this unique people, whose particular gift seems to have been to contain in its midst the extremes of good and evil. No doubt, Jesus proceeded from Judaism; but he proceeded from it as Socrates proceeded from the schools of the Sophists, as Luther proceeded from the Middle Ages, as Lamennais from Catholicism, as Rousseau from the eighteenth century. A man is of his age and his race even when he reacts against his age and his race. Far from Jesus having continued Judaism, he represents the rupture with the Jewish spirit. The general direction of Christianity after him does not permit the supposition that his idea in this respect could lead to any misunderstanding. The general march of Christianity has been to remove itself more and more from Judaism. It will become perfect in returning to Jesus, but certainly not in returning to Judaism. The great originality of the founder remains then undiminished; his glory admits no legitimate sharer.
Doubtless, circumstances much aided the success of this marvellous revolution; but circumstances only second that which is just and true. Each branch of the development of humanity has its privileged epoch, in which it attains perfection by a sort of spontaneous instinct, and without effort. No labor of reflection would succeed in producing afterwards the masterpieces which Nature creates at those moments by inspired geniuses. That which the golden age of Greece was for arts and literature, the age of Jesus was for religion. Jewish society exhibited the most extraordinary moral and intellectual state which the human species has ever passed through. It was truly one of those divine hours in which the sublime is produced by combinations of a thousand hidden forces, in which great souls find a flood of admiration and sympathy to sustain them. The world, delivered from the very narrow tyranny of small municipal republics, enjoyed great liberty. Roman despotism did not make itself felt in a disastrous manner until much later, and it was, moreover, always less oppressive in those distant provinces than in the center of the empire. Our petty preventive interferences (far more destructive than death to things of the spirit) did not exist. Jesus, during three years, could lead a life which, in our societies, would have brought him twenty times before the magistrates. Our laws upon the illegal exercise of medicine would alone have sufficed to cut short his career. The unbelieving dynasty of the Herods, on the other hand, occupied itself little with religious movements; under the Asmoneans, Jesus would probably have been arrested at his first step. An innovator, in such a state of society, only risked death, and death is a gain to those who labor for the future. Imagine Jesus reduced to bear the burden of his divinity until his sixtieth or seventieth year, losing his celestial fire, wearing out little by little under the burden of an unparalleled mission! Everything favors those who have a special destiny; they become glorious by a sort of invincible impulse and command of fate.
This sublime person, who each day still presides over the destiny of the world, we may call divine, not in the sense that Jesus has absorbed all the divine, or has been adequate to it (to employ an expression of the schoolmen), but in the sense that Jesus is the one who has caused his fellow-men to make the greatest step toward the divine. Mankind in its totality offers an assemblage of low beings, selfish, and superior to the animal only in that its selfishness is more reflective. From the midst of this uniform mediocrity, there are pillars that rise toward the sky, and bear witness to a nobler destiny. Jesus is the highest of these pillars which show to man whence he comes, and whither he ought to tend. In him was condensed all that is good and elevated in our nature. He was not sinless; he has conquered the same passions that we combat; no angel of God comforted him, except his good conscience; no Satan tempted him, except that which each one bears in his heart. In the same way that many of his great qualities are lost to us, through the fault of his disciples, it is also probable that many of his faults have been concealed. But never has any one so much as he made the interests of humanity predominate in his life over the littlenesses of self-love. Unreservedly devoted to his mission, he subordinated everything to it to such a degree that, toward the end of his life, the universe no longer existed for him. It was by this access of heroic will that he conquered heaven. There never was a man, Cakya-Mouni perhaps excepted, who has to this degree trampled under foot family, the joys of this world, and all temporal care. Jesus only lived for his Father and the divine mission which he believed himself destined to fulfill.
As to us, eternal children, powerless as we are, we who labor without reaping, and who will never see the fruit of that which we have sown, let us bow before these demi-gods. They were able to do that which we cannot do: to create, to affirm, to act. Will great originality be born again, or will the world content itself henceforth by following the ways opened by the bold creators of the ancient ages? We know not. But whatever may be the unexpected phenomena of the future, Jesus will not be surpassed. His worship will constantly renew its youth, the tale of his life will cause ceaseless tears, his sufferings will soften the best hearts; all the ages will proclaim that, among the sons of men, there is none born who is greater than Jesus.