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The Origins of the New Testament

The Origins of the New Testament: Chapter 4

Chapter IV



THE catechesis we have called evangelical, though officially certified by names deemed to be apostolic, does not go back to the earliest age of Christianity and is far from such antiquity. First and foremost it is a catechesis. True it is that the majority of modern critics, in our time, obstinately regard it as a collection of memories, more or less authentic, of the life of Jesus. It is however, nothing else than a manual of Christian initiation, as the eschatological catechesis was before it, but with this difference, that whereas the latter presented the risen Christ, glorious with God and on the point of coming to set up the Great Kingdom, the evangelical catechesis presents the Christ, the Kingdom and the Good News in quite another light. In the eschatological teaching the epiphany of the Messiah has yet to come; in the gospel teaching this epiphany is antedated, and considered as already effected in and by the earthly life of its hero; this earthly epiphany, coming to its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is what the evangelical catechesis now offers. This anticipation corresponds to a general move forward in belief, to the need of defending the faith, and to the transformation of the primitive Gospel into a mystery of salvation incorporated, so to say, with the present life. 

Under the light of these observations we now venture upon an analysis of the four evangelical books, beginning with that which all probabilities indicate as the oldest, that is, the Gospel according to Mark.


An unprejudiced reader of our second Gospel could not fail to recognize that it contains, beneath a certain superficial unity, a conglomerate of incoherent materials which ill disguise the additions made to an original form or the transformations it has undergone, and this in cases where the material is of most im-


portance. We may, without much difficulty, distinguish two parts in the Gospel; one may be called the baptismal catechesis in which the epiphany of the Christ is begun in the baptism of Jesus by John; the second, which may be called the catechesis of the Communion Supper, or of the saving death, may be said to open with the confession of Peter and to be completed on the discovery of the empty tomb, offered as material proof that Jesus rose from the dead. It is obvious that here we must confine ourselves to pointing out the features that are most striking and the contradictions most evident.

First of all, that the epiphany of the Christ, and the catechesis are strictly confined to his public life. Accordingly, the messianic consecration of Jesus is effected, or seems to be, by his baptism or on the occasion of it. The presentation of John the Baptist (Mark i, 1-8) serves as the needed preamble to this baptism, a preamble embarrassed by the fact that the covering prophecy, quoted as coming entirely from Isaiah (xl, 3) comes, as to its first part, from Malachi (iii, i), thereby betraying the overlapping text from Malachi as a surcharge. The account of John the Baptist is obviously intended to present him as a forerunner subordinate to the Christ, and his baptism as an empty sacrament, prelude to Christian baptism in the Holy Spirit a distinction imagined after the event and ill concealing the original identity of the two rites. Moreover, Matthew (iii, 7-12) and Luke (iii, 7-9; 16-18) having here a more extended text, original in relation to Mark, the presumption is that Mark depends on their source; in other words, that the account of John the Baptist is a later addition in Mark's catechesis. In like manner the story of the temptation in the wilderness gives the impression of being a shorter account original in relation to Matthew (iv, 1-11; cf. Luke iv, 1-13). All the features in this picture of Jesus presented as Messiah at his baptism betray the antedating of the messianic consecration, which the earlier eschatological catechesis reserved for the risen Jesus. At this stage of the catechesis it is at his baptism that God says to him: "Thou art my beloved son; in thee I am well pleased" and not, as in the Apocalypse of Peter, after his resurrection (cf. supra, p. 52).

Looking closely into the matter, it is perfectly natural that, in the early rudiments of the Gospel catechesis, Jesus should be


represented as making his first appearance at the moment when his public ministry began, and that afterwards the feeling should arise that this was also the right moment to explain the initial relations between John and Jesus, between John's baptism and Christian baptism by interpreting John's providential mission as preliminary to the higher messianic mission of Jesus. Moreover, the descent of the Spirit into Jesus seems to be understood, not as a simple operation of the Spirit, but as the realization of an immanence of the Spirit which, in Jesus, was itself his higher being, the very person, we might say, of the Son of Man, of Christ the Saviour. The description of the descent as "like a dove" marks the perceptible individuality of this Spirit.

Next in order comes the calling of the first disciples (i, 16-20) whom Jesus is deemed to have intended for apostles. Another anticipation. We shall have many occasions to remark that the apostolate was originally understood as instituted by Jesus when risen from the dead, and in place of its institution after his death we shall find the myth of the miraculous draught of fishes during his lifetime.

Mark appears to be specially interested in the thaumaturgic activity of Jesus, and chiefly with the cure of the demoniacs, whose evil spirits recognize the messianic quality of their exorcist. It is no part of our purpose to discuss these cases from the pathologist's point of view, nor their relation to the real history of the Galilean prophet, a history which the documents withhold from our grasp and which it is not their object to narrate. Whoso will may believe that Jesus cured many of these madmen, exorcising their evil spirits, who loudly proclaimed him the Messiah, in spite of the constant injunction laid on them to keep silence, lest he should be recognized. The systematic intention of these stories is quite clear. In Mark i, 24 the man with an unclean spirit says to Jesus: "What is there in common between us and thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Thou art come to destroy us! I know who thou art, the Holy One from God." The cures of the demoniacs are offered as proofs of Jesus' supernatural powers, confessed by the demons themselves. The fourth Gospel, as we know, drops the argument and omits all these demoniac-cures. The importance attached to them by the Synoptic catechesis is all the more significant. Note that the cure of the Capernaum demoniac (i, 23-26, 27b) is superimposed on the scene of the preaching in the synagogue (i, 21-22, 27a, 28) and belongs, therefore, to a secondary layer of editorial deposits (as also i, 34b and the last words of 39). Thus we may conclude that this earliest form of Gospel catechesis was not completed currente calamo by a single author. On the contrary it was a long time on the anvil.

To commentators in search of its historical explanation much embarrassment has been caused, more or less everywhere, by the silence which Jesus enjoined on the cured demoniacs, on the sick whom he healed (i, 32-34), on individual witnesses of his miracles and sometimes on his disciples, a silence which the Gospel editors declare to have been actually kept in regard


some of the events they have just recorded. But the explanation is quite easy, not indeed by any circumstances attending the ministry of Jesus, but by those of the Gospel catechesis in the process of its formation. Our Gospel catechesis was first drawn up with an eye to the eschatological catechesis, already in being, in which Jesus was exalted to Messiahship when he ascended to God, and not till then. From the moment his epiphany as Messiah was thrown back into his public ministry on earth an explanation became necessary of these marvellous novelties, now heard of for the first time as belonging to the activity of the Christ before his saving death. The silence repeatedly enjoined on these occasions was the explanation, naive enough, but indispensable, of why they had not been heard of before.

It is not surprising, then, that Jesus has to withdraw himself from the crowds of sick folk flowing into Capernaum. He resolves to preach elsewhere, his mission being essentially that of a teacher (i, 35-39). This is required because moral instruction must have its place in the catechesis under elaboration. Hence the place assigned to it beside the miracles.

The healing of the leper (i, 40-45) takes place in a setting of Jewish legalism and under injunction to keep silent; the story, as arranged by its editor, is clearly that of the day at Capernaum told over again in another form, and with the same deep significance the ministry of salvation brought by the Christ to the Jews.

There follows a series of anecdotes in which Jesus is shown in conflict with the Pharisees, a conflict whose real background


consists of certain later points of friction with Jewish legalism, and belongs to a time when the Christian sect was already separated from the main stock of Judaism. The paralytic of Capernaum is the first case (ii, 1-12), editorially constructed as a miracle of healing, on which has been grafted a declaration addressed by Jesus to the Pharisees concerning the power "of the Son of Man to forgive sins on the earth" (ii, 5b-10). In Mark's Gospel the Son of Man is identified with the Christ of mystery, who by his death has paid the penalty of human sin; a conception which corresponds to an important stage in the growth of the Gospel catechesis, though perhaps not the earliest.

The second case is the association of Jesus with publicans and sinners (ii, 15-17); these are they who need salvation; it justifies the mission to the Gentiles. The third is the question of fasting (ii, 18-22); the answer of Jesus inclines to allegory; his disciples will have their fast-days in commemoration of his death (19-20)  a touch which dates the invention of the incident. The following sentences present Jewish legalism as outworn, another mark indicating an origin long after the age called apostolic. The fourth case presents two anecdotes about the Sabbath aimed at rabbinical casuistry; the first is the story of the ears of corn, in which the disciples are defended by the example of David and by the rational aphorism: "The Sabbath was made for man," etc., capped by the saying not in line with the preceding: "So that the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath," meaning that the Christ of mystery can dispense his followers from a sabbatical observance. The second sabbath-story presents a miraculous cure (iii, 1-6) justified by the right and duty of everyone to do good at all times. Our catechesis is here attacking official Judaism on the highest ground. But note how this whole bloc of stories is concluded (iii, 6): the Pharisees take counsel with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus. All the cases we have been considering are grouped from a point of view which looks back on the death of the Christ as a past event. In its first stage the Gospel catechesis did not place them as far away from that termination as they are in the passages now before us.

In the chapters that follow we find a good deal of matter that is, in truth, little more than padding. First come two short scenes, of which one presents the beneficent activity of the


Christ (iii, 7-12) and the other the choice of the Twelve (13-19). In the actual arrangement of the stories, the first seems to prepare the way for the dispute about the exorcisms here placed after the intervening choice of the apostles. Matthew and Luke use it as preamble to the great discourse which appears in Matthew as the Sermon on the Mount. Obviously a piece of no historic significance which the Gospel draughtsmen could insert wherever they found it convenient. The choice of the Twelve, which is represented as taking place "on the mountain," was not made at the very beginning, as here depicted. The Twelve, who we are here told were chosen as apostles at the side of Christ during his lifetime, were not so elected even after his death. They were the leaders of the first believing group in Jerusalem, and were only transformed into apostles by a later legend which at first opposed them to Paul and put them above him. In other parts of Mark's Gospel we shall find their importance deliberately belittled. Whence the presumption that the two short scenes now in question are additions of later date to the catechesis named after Mark.

The dispute about the exorcisms makes an unnatural breach in the story of the attempt by the family of Jesus to bring him back into the house (iii, 20-21 and 31-35). The disputants are nascent Christianity and Jewish doctrine, and their dispute turns on the probative value of Christian exorcisms. If the move made by the family be taken as historical, it reflects no honour on his kindred, whom Jesus himself is made to repudiate on the spot. The story may be taken as relatively an old one. But may it not be intended as a figure of the Jewish attitude towards Jesus, who has found outside official Judaism a new family in his faithful believers? None the less this group of sayings, motived by ill-will, has been carefully put together. As it has no attachments to what precedes or follows it must have been placed where it is for amplification of the narrative.

A point of difficulty not to be passed over in silence is the mention of sin against the Spirit, which is said to be the only sin that is unforgivable (iii, 28-30). This declaration is in keeping with a particular conception of the Spirit, and of its role in the Church, of which no explanation is given in our texts. Although the editors of Mark have tried to integrate it with the dispute


about exorcism, its presence there is adventitious. Luke (xii, 10) gives it as an isolated saying among others concerning the action of the Spirit. Matthew (xii, 31-32) attaches it, like Mark, to the dispute about exorcism, but gives it rather different form, identical in the main, with the reading in Luke. While Mark distinguishes blasphemy against the Spirit, alone punishable, from blasphemy in general, Matthew and Luke declare "a word against the Son of Man" to be a pardonable offence, in contrast to blasphemy against the Spirit, for which there is no pardon. There is no proof of any kind that Mark's reading is primitive in relation to Matthew's and Luke's, of which it is rather a deliberate attenuation. What we need to know is how the difference between blasphemy against the Son of Man and blasphemy against the Spirit can have been conceived. There is no reason to have recourse to Montanism for the explanation of this singular feature. It was in opposition to the "spiritual men" of gnostic theory that the Church declared itself the depository and dispenser of the Spirit (cf. Acts viii, 18-24), and sin against the Spirit is committed by him who denies the Church that privilege. The saying thus fits in with the notion of the Spirit as replacing the Christ in the guidance of the Church. We must therefore regard it as an element of secondary origin and a relatively late addition to the Synoptic catechesis (cf. supra, p. 44).

Another conglomerate, of which the elements are more or less erratic, consists of parabolic discourses (iv, 1-34). Here the drafting seems to have passed through several stages. A first edition had assembled certain parables as a specimen of Jesus' teaching, that of the Sower and that of the Seed, with a preamble and appropriate conclusion (iv, 1-9; 21-29, 33). A second has inserted, after the parable of the Sower, an aside addressed by Jesus to the disciples in explanation of the parable (iv, 10, 13-20) and perhaps the parable of the Mustard Seed and other sentences (iv, 21-25; 30-32), taken from the collection of Jesus' oracles which must be assumed as a common source of the three Synoptics. Between the demand for explanation and the commentary on the Sower, a final edition has lodged a reflection on the object of parables in general, which is said to be that of causing the blindness of the Jews predicted by Isaiah (vi, 9-10), while it is given" to the disciples alone to "understand the mystery of the


Kingdom of God." This mystical interpretation of the parables along with "the mystery" in which we are to look for their inner meaning, is a belated final touch. The parabolic mode of utterance, which was common among the rabbis of the time, has nothing in it to cause blindness, and the parable of the Sower is to be commended for the ease with which it can be applied to the results of Gospel preaching. But it is in regard to the mystery of salvation by the death of the Christ that parables are deemed to have become a cause of blindness to them that are without meaning, no doubt, the Jews in particular and unbelievers in general. In other passages of Mark we find that the Galilean disciples themselves are not immune to this blindness. Perhaps that is the reason why the request for explanation (iv, 10) is so strangely attributed to the people who were about Jesus "with the disciples."

The discourse in parables is followed by four miracles, appeasement of the tempest (iv, 35-41), cure of the madman at Gerasa (v, i-20), raising of Jairus' daughter and cure of the woman with an issue of blood (v, 21-43). These form a group the members of which are apparently bound together, though the group as a whole stands isolated in the compilation. The stories are full of life, but of life given to them by the faith and imagination of the narrator rather than by the precision of real memories or by intimate connection between the parts of the action. That they are not, in some degree, legendary reproductions of incidents that really happened cannot be rigorously demonstrated; still less can it be disproved that they are largely constructed, according to pre-existing types, to the glory of the Christ; the first of them giving pre-eminence to power over the elements presented under the figure of his role as Saviour, and especially his presence with the Church in the days to come; the second, power over the demons and their master, in conditions which symbolize the conversion of the pagans; while the third, in its double recording (cleansing of a woman affected with perpetual impurity and raising of a dead girl to life), presents the Saviour's role which, by faith, procures both pardon and immortality for mankind.

It cannot be said that this symbolism is a gratuitous supposition on our part. For the evangelist and for his first readers the chief interest of these stories lay precisely in the symbolism.


There too, is the only reasonable explanation and the only possible justification of two indisputable facts which force themselves upon us in spite of ourselves: the extreme poverty of the evangelical legend in narratives considered as such, and the not less extreme incoherence, together with the artificial and arbitrary character of the literary construction. The two things that mattered most to the success of the catechesis in the attainment of its object were moral instruction and the education of faith. With this end in view the evangelists were able to find, or to put into their more or less fictitious narratives, the depth of meaning which they had discovered or introduced with the parables. No complicated method is needed to understand it, and it can be proved without endless research.

The four miracles are followed by a series of incidents still worse adjusted each to other than their predecessors. First comes the fruitless preaching of Jesus "in his own country" (vi, 1-6), a repetition in some respects of his preaching at Capernaum (i, 21- 22; 270-28), but here turned so as to figure the failure of Christian propaganda among the Jews; it probably contains nothing to guarantee historical tradition except the indications about the family of Jesus. The mission of the apostles (vi, 7-13) duplicates that previously mentioned (iii, 13-15), but in the present context, with an abridgment of the discourse which Matthew and Luke (x, 1-16) give in extenso, it figures Christian propaganda among the Gentiles. The story of John the Baptist's death (vi, 17-29) is legendary throughout. Introduced most unnaturally by statements put into the mouth of Antipas (vi, 15-16, an enlargement of viii, 28) and violently wedged in between the mission of the Twelve and their return, it might seem to be wholly without purpose. But, for the Gospel editor v/ho inserts such a passage, the object in view would be, not to record the death of John as a matter of interest belonging to the narrative, but to hint that his burial was the end of him, a rather summary way of disowning any relation of Jesus and Christianity with John and the sect which survived him.

The first multiplication of loaves, for which the return of the disciples prepares the ground, is a symbolic miracle if ever there "was one, and we are repeatedly told that the disciples understood nothing of its meaning (vi, 52; viii, 21). It represents the oldest


myth of the institution of the Christian communion meal, not yet arrived at the eucharistic theory in which the saving death of the Christ was mystically signified in breaking the bread-body and distributing the wine-blood of Jesus, but at the earlier stage when the Father was praised for the life and knowledge which "he has made known by his servant" Jesus, as in the Didache (ix, 2 and x, 2).

Welded on, as best might be, to what goes before, comes the miracle of walking on the water. The symbolism is analogous to that of the calmed tempest (iv, 35-41) which it duplicates, the construction showing influence from the first stories of so-called tradition about apparitions of Jesus after his resurrection. In that respect it antedates material which belonged originally to the eschatological catechesis, images of the invisible presence of the Christ among the faithful as they waited for his second coming.

The next passage, relating to the coming of Jesus to Gennasar, or Gennesareth (vi, 53-56), is a transition piece, an interlude loaded with miracle, which betrays the editorial hand but has no significance peculiar to itself. It forms a natural introduction to the anecdote of the Syro-phenician woman (vii, 24-30) from which it is cut off by the dispute about the washing of hands. This dispute is a fragment of anti-Jewish polemic for which this was probably thought to be the best place. Like the discourse in parables, it is built up on some sayings attributed to the Christ (vii, 9-i2; 14-15), the last of them imparting moral instruction in terms rather gross. This has been overlaid with a gloss (vii, 3-4), a prophetic quotation (6-8) and an admonitory explanation, the whole tending to make Jesus proclaim the futility of Jewish prohibitions and scruples about food.

The miracle of a cure operated at a distance, in response to the mother's prayer, on a girl possessed by a devil, the mother being a woman of the country and said to be Syro-phenician, forms a counterpart to the story of the Roman centurion in the other two Synoptics (Matthew viii, 5-13; Luke vii, 1-10) and signifies in like manner that nations never visited by Jesus, as the Jews have been visited, will be saved by him. The cure of the deaf-mute in the country of the Decapolis is a miracle operated for symbolic reasons in pagan territory, which are also the reasons for the utterly unintelligible itinerary which the narrative makes Jesus


follow between the two miracles of multiplied loaves. This cure of the deaf-mute, peculiar to Mark, is counterpart to that of the blind man at Bethsaida (viii, 22-26), the two being cut out on the same model. Both must be attributed to an editor of Mark who may have freely exploited some deposit of written or oral tradition or may himself have constructed the two stories with a view to the lesson to be drawn from them, on the lines of other Gospel narratives or of the practice commonly followed by exorcist-healers in those times.

No argument is needed to prove that the second miracle of multiplication is a duplicate of the first. It may have been imagined to figure the initiation of the Gentiles into the Christian mystery; or it may be that another version of the first miracle has been utilized for that purpose. At all events it is not by chance that in the first multiplication twelve baskets full of fragments are left over, twelve being the cypher for Israel, and corresponding to the Twelve who first governed the community of Aramean-speaking believers in Jerusalem, while in the second miracle there are seven baskets, the cypher for the Gentiles, corresponding to the Seven presiding over the group of hellenist believers whose dispersion after the death of Stephen set on foot the propagation of the Gospel outside Palestine and among the pagans. It is noteworthy that the second multiplication does not occur in the third Gospel, and that the stories are omitted which Mark has lodged between the first and the confession of Peter: whence we may infer that this long section of Mark (vi, 45 to viii, 26) belongs to a late stage in the development of our Gospel.

As though to explain and justify the future reprobation of the mass of the Jews the evangelist has introduced, after a second multiplication of loaves, a sentence about the Pharisees asking for signs, in which Jesus refuses the sign demanded (viii, 11-12). This trait comes from a source known to Matthew (xii, 38-40; cf. xvi, 4) and to Luke (xi, 29-30). But in the source the sign mentioned is the sign of Jonah. Did our evangelist reflect that the sign of Jonah, that is the sign of the resurrection, did not take place for the Jews? It is more probable that the sign of Jonah, which was made much of at the first, soon became embarrassing with its three days and three nights, which could not be


fitted into the liturgical framework adopted by most churches in the second century for commemoration of the Passion and the Resurrection. The liturgical framework being interpreted as a chronology in which Jesus rose the third day after his death it was difficult to see how he could have spent three days and three nights in the tomb, like Jonah in the belly of the fish.

Thinking it appropriate to follow this up by a reflexion of his own, on the first disciples' lack of understanding in presence of the mystery of salvation, our editor attaches it to a saying about the leaven of the Pharisees, which the collection of logia places in another context (cf. Luke xii, i^), his object being to make Jesus unsuccessfully hint to the disciples that the two multiplications signify the inexhaustible gift of salvation: whereas the disciples were thinking only of food to put into their mouths. As an historical record it is of no value. But the indication it gives of ill-will towards the Galilean disciples is important and should be kept in mind.

The cure of the blind man at Bethsaida (viii, 22-26) has also a symbolic value, but falls into another current. It serves as introduction to Peter's confession and seems intended to figure the progressive education of the first disciples, their adhesion to the messianic faith and the origin of the Jewish-Christian community. If we refer to the third Gospel, where Peter's confession follows on immediately after the multiplication of loaves (Luke ix, 10-21), it would seem that the version of Mark which the writer to Theophilus has reproduced presented the two events in the same close succession, and localized both the miracle and the confession at Bethsaida. A complete misunderstanding of the character and origin of our documents is shown by those critics who explain the relation between Mark and Luke, in this part of the two Gospels, by supposing that Luke was making use of an accidentally mutilated copy of Mark. Is it, then, so natural that Mark, in its earliest form, had the multiplication of loaves and the calming of the tempest, etc., twice over? In these matters the simplest hypotheses are not always the best. To be sure, canonical Mark is a very slender document; nevertheless it shows no lack of duplications, re-shapings, overlays and editorial superfluities.



With the confession of Peter (viii, 27-30) we enter on the second part of the Gospel catechesis, the cycle of the Last Supper, and encounter at the outset an almost certain antedating of an element fundamental in the eschatological catechesis, namely Peter's faith in Jesus-Messiah, in Jesus-Christ. No account need be taken of the preamble (viii, 27-28) which has already served to introduce the legend of John the Baptist (vi, 14-16). The essential element is the messianic confession of Simon: "Thou art the Christ." As in all similar cases, the imposition of silence on the disciples (viii, 30) is a sure sign that material of post-resurrection origin is being thrown back into the record of Jesus' ministry on earth. Whatever the historical preparation may have been for Peter's faith in Jesus as the Christ, his first affirmation of that faith was not made until, in his belief, Jesus was already risen as the Christ. That granted, we may be sure that the natural sequel, and probably the original sequel, to Peter's confession is to be found in the declaration of Jesus (ix, 1), with all restriction removed, "Those who are here shall see the coming of God's kingdom," intimating that the Great Event is at hand. Attached to this is the disciples' question about the preliminary coming of Elijah, with the answer given by Jesus (ix, 11-13): "Elijah indeed is already come, and they have done to him what they would, as it is written of him," to be understood of the ministry of John conceived as preliminary, not to the earthly ministry of Jesus, but to the advent of Jesus-Messiah in the Kingdom of God. The insertions in the text between these two eschatological utterances belong to the development of the Gospel catechesis. Let us now consider these in turn.

The first insertion (viii, 31-38) opens with the first announcement of the passion and resurrection of the Son of Man, and we are told that the announcement was made publicly, in contrast to what just before has been indicated concerning the Messiahship of Jesus. Now the Son of Man is constantly, in our Gospel, the Messiah who redeems mankind from sin by his saving death; he is the Christ of the salvation-mystery as presented in the gnosis of the Epistle to the Romans. There follows, on the announcement, a vigorous protest from Peter, who has understood nothing


of the mystery's economy, with the yet more vigorous reprimand of Jesus: "Get thee gone, Satan!" etc. (viii, 31-33). This episode plainly to Peter's discredit, falls into the current of mystical gnosis and is in line with the invectives launched in the Pauline Epistle against the old disciples, reputed apostles and treated as Judaizers. After this comes a general call to renunciation as a normal condition of salvation (viii, 34-38); this is a gloss of the evangelist on sayings taken from the collection of logia, an oracle of some Christian prophet speaking in the name of Jesus (cf. x 38-39; 32-33). Taken by themselves these sayings in the logia already implied the obligation laid upon the believer to become united mystically and morally with the risen Christ, if he would be recognized by Jesus when he came in his glory.

The second insertion (ix, 2-10) is the miracle of the Transfiguration, an antedating of the exaltation of Jesus as the Christ, of his assumption into glory, as taught in the eschatological catechesis. Here the final exaltation is reduced to a provisory miracle, prelude to the final glory. The antedating is again betrayed by the charge to keep silence, which we are told was kept by the three witnesses of the miracle. These witnesses were chosen with a purpose in view; because this abbreviated miracle could not be conveniently presented as a public spectacle, and also because it was designed to exhibit the three disciples as witnesses who did not understand what they saw, aiming especially at Peter, who is credited with the absurd notion of domiciling Jesus, Moses and Elijah on the mountain by building three tents for them to live in (cf. supra, pp. 53-4).

The miracle of the epileptic (ix, 17-29), artificially co-ordinated with the miracle of the Transfiguration, is a common case of exorcism, but strongly dramatized, with a view to emphasizing the power of true faith, in presence of the mighty and beneficent Christ, the incredulity of the Jews and the impotence of the disciples. The mention of a journey incognito across Galilee serves to bring in a second prediction of the Passion (ix, 31-32), presented as not understood by the disciples, and for the same reason.

There follows a series of lessons the interconnection of which is not easily grasped; they must have been taken from the collection of logia, and compose a catechesis mainly ethical, which the



Gospel editors have framed in their usual manner. First comes the lesson of apostolic service, conceived as having been provoked by the preposterous claims of the disciples another point not intended to enhance their glory and combined with instruction on the obligation to receive the least of the Christ's people and the advantage that follows from receiving him as one who is the Christ himself and God in the Christ (ix, 36-37). Next the saying: "Who is not against us is with us," strange counterpart to "who is not with me is against me" in the collection of logia (Matthew xii, 30; Luke xi, 23) here brought in as conclusion to the anecdote about the unqualified exorcist (ix, 38-40), together with the saying about the cup of water given in the name of the Christ (ix, 41; cf. Matthew x, 42) the whole permeated by the spirit of mystical gnosis. Next, propositions about scandal and the punishment in store for him who causes it (ix, 42), and on scandal already experienced, which must not continue, on pain of Gehenna. Finally, the metaphor of the savourless salt with the appropriate lesson (ix, 49-50).

From this example, one of many others, we are able to see that the Gospel editors proceeded in their work as if the sayings they utilized were teachings whose sense was not very clearly defined, and whose connections of time and place in the life of Jesus could be laid down at will, for the simple reason that nothing whatever was known about the matter. We have already remarked how they operated in the same way with the facts adorning their narratives. By these proceedings they were able to construct and fill out a legend, astonishingly poor in real memories; into the artless mosaic before us, whose incoherence is ill-disguised by the manifold devices of the editors to provide it with a containing frame.

The itinerary of the journey to Judea is vague enough, and the editor, in search of matter to garnish it, found to hand the question of divorce (x, 1-12), the saying about children, with whose simplicity men should accept the announcement of the Kingdom (x, 13-16), and the case of the rich young man (x, 17-22), into which are brought the sayings about the difficulty of salvation for the rich (x, 23-27) and the reward in store for those who have left all for Christ (x, 28-31). The reprobation of divorce is a characteristic feature of early Christianity. We are given the


biblical ground for condemning divorce (x, 2-9), the origin of which has still to be explained. The biblical argument is some fragment of controversy on the subject; the reprobation is taken from the collection of logia (cf. Matthew v, 32; Luke xvi, 18); the setting is artificial (cf. i Corinthians vii, 10, where the reprobation seems derived from Christian mysticism). The story of the children is the original version in relation to the version which doubles it in ix, 36, but seems to have been conceived to enforce the duty of receiving the announcement of the Kingdom with unquestioning simplicity.

Though not otherwise dated or localized, the anecdote of the rich young man is more circumstantial, but, in spite of this, is typical rather than historical. Even the saying: "Why callest thou me good? None is good save God" is a mystic subtilty rather than a living trait; the command to follow Jesus seems to carry, not a literal sense, but the moral sense of initiation into the Christ and entry into the community of the believers, while the reflections on the difficulty of salvation for the rich are made to fit in with corresponding features in the narrative. Entirely second-hand and artificial is the promise of double reward, in this world and the next, to those who have followed Jesus, that is, to believers (x, 28-31). The source, derived perhaps from the eschatological catechesis, probably contained the promise of thrones to the twelve disciples, as arranged in the tradition which glorified them (Matthew xix, 28; cf. Luke xxii, 30): the outlook toward the messianic triumph has been replaced by the promise of reward for renunciation and by a clear and detailed prophecy of the Passion (x, 33-34).

Judging by the preamble to it (x, 32) and by the context of it (x, 32-34) this prediction seems intended to introduce the Jerusalem cycle of the Gospel legend; taken as a whole and in connection with what follows (the request of James and John and the lesson of service, 35-45), it would seem to be constructed on the idea of the messianic triumph, as we have just seen, but so as to push it back in order to mark the conditions to be fulfilled before the Great Event. After the two earlier prophecies of the Passion, the point made prominent is the lack of understanding on the part of the disciples, especially on Peter's. Here this lack of understanding is fixed


upon James and John, and figured by their claim to the two highest thrones on the right and left of the Christ. Jesus answers by announcing their coming martyrdom and throwing back upon God the distribution of places in the Kingdom; after which he turns to the disciples in a body and gives them the lesson of service, of which all are supposed to be in need, supporting it with the authority of his own example: "The Son of Man is come to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Both the pretensions of the disciples and the lesson of service have been anticipated in the preceding cycle (ix, 33-35). This repetition and expansion of a lesson already given is yet another witness to the poverty of the tradition. As we have just seen, the lesson of service corresponds to the mystical conception of salvation by the death of the Christ and to the age when the Christian community was organized. Its insertion into the legend of Jesus is, therefore, artificially contrived.

The miracle at Jericho (x, 46-52) is presented under the same conditions as the chief miracles in Galilee. It is a symbol and figure of salvation, of the light given to faith. It is fittingly placed at the threshold of the great mystery and may have been originally conceived as a fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah xxxv, 5). The story is otherwise isolated, and the narrator has not thought of making it contribute to the coming outburst of enthusiasm on the Mount of Olives. All the incidents in the Passion cycle of the Gospel are presented as independent one of another, the reason being that they are not a sequence of memories but are deduced, more or less, from biblical texts.

Clearly, also, the messianic triumph on the Mount of Olives (xi, 1-10) has been constructed on certain Old Testament texts (cf. Zechariah ix, 9; Psalm cxviii, 26; Genesis xlix, 11). The localization of the incident is in like manner related to a text in prophecy (Zechariah xiv, 4). Have we not already seen the Mount of Olives chosen for the messianic exaltation (supra, p. 54)? The invention of the preliminaries in Mark is" a masterpiece of childlike invention (xi, 1-6).

In what follows an artificial time-order is constructed to serve as frame for the events narrated and the teachings recorded. This time-order may well be in direct relation with the ritual commemoration of the events described, which are presented in their


mystical meaning 'and value, and not in the order of their real historical sequence, so far as they can be said to belong to that order at all.

The cursing of the fig tree (xi, 12-14) and its effect (xi, 20-21) separated the one from the other, sit awkwardly astride on the expulsion of the traders, an independent story, conceived as a fulfilment of prophecy (Malachi iii, 1; Zechariah xiv, 21), like the messianic triumph, with which it is logically co-ordinate. The miracle of the fig tree is a symbolic act, conceived in the same spirit as the parable of the fig tree (Luke xiii, 6-9), if not constructed upon it, to represent the Christ's futile visit to Israel and placed, with that intention, in connection with the arrival of Jesus in the temple. But, with a view to amplifying the teaching of Jesus in Jerusalem, this fiction is joined by the editors to the lesson of faith (xi, 22-23), taken from the collection of login (cf. Matthew xvii, 20), which they have exploited in the story of the epileptic (ix, 23-24; supra, p. 90). To this are added some words on the certainty of an answer to prayer and on the need to pardon one's neighbour in order to obtain pardon from God (xi, 24-26; cf. Matthew vii, 11; xviii, 19; Luke xi, 5-13; xviii, 1-8).

By an editorial combination the question of the priests (xi, 27-33) seems to be related to the expulsion of the traders, as the latter is more or less attached to the messianic triumph (xi, 12-14 makes a place for the cursing of the fig tree before the expulsion of the traders, while xi, 18-19 is a general remark originally conceived as the conclusion of the Jerusalem stories). In answer to the priests' demand for the authority on which he claimed to act, Jesus is made to pose an embarrassing question about the baptism of John. To discuss its historical probability would be wasted time; it bears witness to the link which originally existed between Christianity and the sect founded by John, to the advantage which Christian apologetic sought to derive from it and to the purely rabbinical subtilty of the argument when first started. Originally the incident must have figured among the savings about John the Baptist, of which the main body is preserved in Matthew xi, 2-19 and Luke vii, 19-35.

The natural conclusion of this story would be the retreat of the questioners (xii, 12: "And leaving him they departed"), who


thereupon send some of the Pharisees to trap him over the question of tribute. Between the anecdote and this conclusion someone has intercalated the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (xii 1-11)5 a short apocalypse which turns on the fall of Jerusalem, the evangelization of the pagans and of the assumption of Jesus into glory; a fragment of apologetic in the style of the discourses attributed in Acts to the first Christian preachers, and even ending with the usual quotation of the apologists (Psalm cxviii, 22-23). This must be the work of some Christian prophet, utilized at first as the conclusion of the Jerusalem ministry (note the correspondence of xii, 120: with xiv, 1-2) before being replaced for that purpose by the great apocalyptic discourse (xiii).

The question and answer about tribute to Caesar is intended to prove that the Christ was not a rebel against Roman authority. It was composed to prevent the Christians being classed with the Jewish Zealots, in revolt against the empire. No such question arose for Jesus and the believers of the first generation; but, when hopes of the Second Coming began to waver, the timeliness of thus defining the principle involved is not hard to understand.

Just as the question about tribute was conceived, for the setting of the scene, as posed by the Pharisees in league with the Herodians, so the question about the resurrection (xii, 14-27) is raised by the Saduccees, people "who say there is no resurrection," but here presented in a body, whereas in the preceding case the precaution had been taken of bringing to the front only some of the Pharisees and Herodians." The intention evidently was to show Jesus in conflict at close quarters with the principal Jewish sects. And yet no two things could belong to regions further apart than this question and that of the tribute, since the point raised about the resurrection is treated as a dispute of the schools, while the greater part of the passage, both question and answer, might have been borrowed, just as it stands, from Jewish scholastic. Nevertheless there are two elements in Jesus' answer: a direct argument drawn from the actual conditions in the Kingdom of God, and an argument derived from a mystical and spiritual conception of immortality, which is the more remarkable in this passage by reason of its incompatibility with the vulgar notion of the resurrection retained in the corpus of the


anecdote, and -which we shall presently see applied to the Christ himself.

Immediately following comes the Great Precept of love to God and man, brought in, like its predecessors, without natural connection. Taking the anecdote literally we should conclude that this principle, in which many in our time have gone out of their way to find the essence of the Gospel, was not announced by Jesus until he had to answer an academical question posed for him by a scribe who wished to test the soundness of his judgment. Comparing Mark's account of the incident with Luke xii 25-28, it seems that the story was first constructed without any indication of place, and that the questioner himself found the good answer to his question, Jesus merely praising him for answering so well. This the tradition of Mark has transposed to the Jerusalem ministry, and it is evident that the canonical version of the Gospel has been arranged so as to put the first announcement" of the great commandments in the mouth of Jesus. At least it is clear that the Gospel editors were not thinking about "the essence of Christianity."

The whole group of these arguments is wound up by the saying: "No man dared to ask him any more questions." The perspective is conventional; for, between the announcement of the Kingdom and Jewish authority, there was nothing to debate in matters of casuistry, morals or even chronology. But our Gospel goes further. It exhibits Jesus as taking the offensive and publicly raising the problem of the Christ (xii, 35-37). The scribes say that the Christ is the son of David; but are not the scribes under deception, seeing that David himself, in a text inspired by God (Psalm cx, i), addressed him as his Lord?

Tradition has here picked up, probably without understanding, some story born in Christian circles in which the authority of Scripture was invoked to get rid of the Messiah's Davidic descent, and profession made that the Lord Christ had no need of descent from an earthly king, if indeed he was humanly descended at all. So, once more, what we have before us is an anticipation, in which Jesus himself is made to bring to light the text which Christian tradition soon pitched upon as meaning that he was Lord Christ, not by filiation to David, but became so by resurrection from the dead.


The tradition of Mark has borrowed from the collection of logia an abridgment of invectives against the Pharisees (xii, 38-40) just as it borrowed from the same source an abridgment of the discourse on the apostolic mission (this collection seems originally to have consisted in the main of moral precepts and of anti-Jewish polemic, in keeping with the eschatological catechesis). If, in these cases, more was not taken from the source, the reason is that Mark's tradition makes no pretence to replace it, but rather indicates it by way of reference.

The story of the widow and her gift of two farthings (xii, 41-44) comes we know not whence. This story, which is of mediocre import, was probably constructed on a theme previously known, and inserted here for the simple reason that the compiler was in search of something more to say. It attaches to nothing in the context, and has no analogy with the other incidents grouped together as appropriate to the Jerusalem ministry.

Finally comes the great apocalyptic discourse (xiii) of which a detailed analysis would here be superfluous. Critics freely admit that it is based on a short Jewish apocalypse earlier than the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple by Titus in 70: we may even assume that it goes back to the time of Caligula. This Jewish apocalypse, adopted by the Christians, has been filled out at various points, as much to enrich its moral significance as to show that Jesus himself had revealed to his disciples that many things must happen before the Great Event, by him announced as near at hand. Needless to say the apocalypse in its Christian form is later than the year 70, and that it was not elaborated all at once; the three Synoptics give it in three different versions. All three attach the main prophecy to a special prediction about the destruction of the Temple (Mark xiii, 1-2; cf. Matthew xxiv, 1-2, Luke xxi, 5-6). But Mark's tradition has a significant peculiarity in that it makes Jesus address the discourse in private, as a secret, to the four leading disciples a proof that the Gospel catechesis at first knew nothing of the discourse as forming part of Jesus' teaching at Jerusalem. It is yet another fragment of the eschatological catechesis antedated in the evangelical.

The summary impression left by the above analyses is to the following effect. While the legend of the Galilean ministry,


critically speaking, is extremely thin and artificially constructed, the story of the Jerusalem ministry, in spite of all these readjustments and additions, is even thinner and more artificial. Of the latter legend almost nothing is matter of fact save the very point which tradition has done its utmost to disguise, namely that Jesus came to Jerusalem as the herald of the Great Event, fully confident that he would succeed, through the intervention of God, in rooting out the rule of the foreigner and all the abuses rampant in Israel. This is what he expected. What met him was the wooden stake of crucifixion, unaccompanied by the extraordinary actions, discussions and discourses recorded in the story before us.

They waste their labour who search in the realm of historical reality for the solution of a problem that belongs to the realm of mystical speculation and religious myth-making. Such is the problem presented to exegetes by the contradiction between the Gospels as to the day on which Jesus suffered the death-penalty. According to the fourth Gospel it was the very day on which the Jews sacrificed the paschal lamb: according to the first three it was the next day, Jesus having eaten the Passover with his disciples on the day before (cf. supra., pp. 23-24). Critical exegetes up to now have been slow to recognize that this disagreement has nothing to do with the true day on which the Passion took place as an historical event, a day unknown to both sides, but corresponds to two divergent Easter observances between which the Christian churches were divided in the second century, those of Asia, which kept Easter on the same day as that on which the Jews kept the Passover, and the other, which celebrated theirs on the following Sunday, the fourth Gospel being in line with the Asiatic usage, called quartodeciman, while the Synoptics were in line with the celebration on Sunday. It is intelligible, on general grounds, that the first Christians should keep Easter on the same day as that on which the Jews kept the Passover. It is also intelligible that very soon they began to find in their Easter festival a sense peculiar to Christianity, in which the Jewish commemoration, at the Passover, of Israel's liberation gave place to commemorating the gift of salvation by Jesus Christ. Thus, for the churches of Asia, Easter celebrated the saving and triumphant


death of the Lamb, the Lamb-Christ, the Lamb of God. Nevertheless the custom established itself elsewhere, and gradually spread, of transferring the Passion, now become the Christian Easter, to the Sunday, the Lord's day, the day of the risen Christ, adopted as the day of resurrection on which the work of salvation came to its crowning point, rather than on the day of death, the commemoration of which was now attached to the preceding Friday, while the institution of the eucharist, now become a mystic symbol of the saving death, remained attached to the last meal of Jesus, understood as the paschal meal. Thus the Gospel catechesis, in its two forms, canonized the quartodeciman observance on the one side and the Sunday observance on the other. On neither side was there any concern to fix the historical day on which Jesus suffered. "We do not even know the precise year of the Passion; little wonder then that we are ignorant of the day. But let us first consider how Passion Week is presented in Mark.

The Passion in Mark

According to our Gospel (xiv, 1-2) two days before "the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Breads this, in the language of Mark and Matthew, might mean the previous day, that is, 13 Nizan, but including in it what would be for us the evening of i2th "the high priests and scribes" decided to make an end of Jesus, but to avoid arresting him during the festival, which might have provoked a tumult among the people. The matter in hand, then, was to get the affair over before 14 Nizan, the day of the feast. This preamble, which seems of ancient date in its present place, does not agree with what follows. It naturally introduces, and should be followed by, the plot hatched between the high priests and Judas for the secret arrest of Jesus (xiv, 10-11). But between the two there has been intercalated the scene of anointing at Bethany (3-9), lodged precisely in the place occupied by the last meal of Jesus the evening on which 13 Nizan began. The writer having delayed this last meal in order to identify it with the Jewish Passover the evening on winch 14 Nizan began has put another meal in place of that originally indicated as the last; but, just as he introduces into the last meal the symbolism of the saving death along with the institution of the mystic Supper, so he introduces it into his


duplicate of the last, making use perhaps of some story in which a sinful woman pours ointment on Jesus (cf. Luke vii, 36-50). The inventor of the scene in Mark was no admirer of the disciples who are here represented as railing at the woman for wasting her money, while Jesus has to explain to them the mystic sense of what she has done. It is interesting to note that the statements of Jesus about "the Gospel preached throughout the whole world" presupposes that the Gospel catechesis, to which the writer assigns a place in the scene just constructed, has already taken a constituted form.

Follows the bargain struck between the high priests and Judas for the betrayal of Jesus (xiv, 10-11). The question may well be asked whether the role assigned to Judas is not fictitious from beginning to end, a symbol of Judaism as the villain of the piece. The truth is, as we shall see, that the Judas-legend underwent continuous enlargement in Christian tradition, and that Judas (if he ever existed) cannot have been one of the Twelve, since the college of the Twelve was not instituted by Jesus. He is also an embarrassment in the legend of the Twelve, which was first formed with no knowledge of Judas. We have already called attention (supra, p. 92) to the saying about "the twelve thrones" reserved in the Kingdom for Jesus' companions (Matthew xix, 28): are we then to suppose that Judas was to occupy one of them? A traitor being needed for the elaboration of the drama, imagination invented the role of Judas and biblical texts were duly found to give authority to the legend.

The story of the last meal comes between the traitor's compact and the arrest of Jesus (xiv, 12-31). The preliminary story (12-17) of the finding of the guest chamber is a writer's fiction equally artless and cut to the same pattern as that of the tied colt which introduces the messianic triumph on the Mount of Olives (xi, 1-6). It was deemed appropriate to make Jesus, as the meal proceeded, announce the coming treachery of which he was to be the victim, the circumstances and form of the prediction showing that the writer had in mind the text of Psalm xli, 9 (expressly quoted in John xiii, 18), while the threat aimed at the traitor suggests that the evangelist was already acquainted with some sombre legend about Judas, such as that in Matthew xxvii, 3-8 and Acts i, 16-19.


The essential point of the meal lies in its mystical relation with the Christian Supper, of which it is the prototype. But two different conceptions of the Supper are present in the story, one superimposed on the other. According to the earlier conception it was imagined that Jesus, in the course of this his last meal, which was not the paschal meal, after pronouncing the customary benediction on the bread and the cup, announced to the disciples that their next meal together would be in the Kingdom of God (xiv, 25). In this type the Supper was understood as anticipating the fellowship of the elect with the Christ in his Kingdom, an anticipation in which memory of Jesus' death and resurrection is implied only. Upon this primitive and eschatological meaning of the Supper, already figured in the miracle of the multiplied loaves, the editing hand has grafted (xiv, 22-24) the conception of the mystic Supper, according to which the bread becomes symbolically the body of the Christ, and the wine his blood, the Supper being now understood as a rite of holy communion with Jesus, redeemer of mankind by his death, as announced in i Corinthians xi, 23-25. Note that, in this conception, the Christ is the paschal lamb of the Christians, and that this was not the precise point of departure for fixing Easter on Sunday. This in passing; what we have here to point out is the editorial artifice of the superposition. The artifice is clearly perceptible in Mark (xiv, 23-25):

And taking the cup, after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them: "This is my blood of the covenant, shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the product of the vine until that day when I shall drink it new in the Kingdom of God."

When the disciples had drunk the wine, the time was past for saying "this is my blood," which is here made to follow the drinking. The natural sequence after "they all drank of it" is "I will drink of it no more," etc. This was the order in the basis-story: it spoke only of the bread that he would eat no more and of the wine that he would drink no more till they ate and drank together in the Kingdom of God. The institution of the mystic Supper ("this is my blood," etc.) is a highly distinct afterthought in the development of the Gospel catechesis.

The meal over, the company withdraws to the Mount of


Olives, and Jesus announces the defection of all the disciples conformably to the prophecy in Zechariah xiii, 7, a prediction of early date in the tradition, as is also the discovery of the suitable text. But what follows (xiv, 28): "But after my resurrection I will go before you into Galilee" is a palpable surcharge to bring in the discovery of the emptied tomb, a fiction whose adventitious and later character is thus plainly indicated. Another prediction is that of Peter's denial (xiv, 29-31). It is obvious that the denial, if it really happened (or even if it did not), and the defection or flight of the disciples must have formed part of the tradition before it was deemed advisable to make the Christ predict them. But, in view of the ill-will to the original Galilean disciples, and especially to Peter, which characterizes one of the currents in Mark, it is permissible, in the one case as in the other, not only to suspect, but to affirm, that even the story of the denial has been invented at all points in the tradition of Mark, although it seems to have been retouched on the last revision which attenuated Peter's cowardice by his repentance (xiv, 72). After all, the blow hits Peter no harder than the story of his protest at the first prediction of the Passion, or that of his obstinate slumber during the threefold prayer in Gethsemane, in which the offence is also thrice repeated. Indeed, the whole scene in Gethsemane, the agony of the Christ in the Olive Garden, seems, when probed to its base, to rest entirely on Psalm xxii (cf. Hebrews v, 7, a witness independent of our Gospels, but not pointing to the scene in Gethsemane; cf. p. 46). In the Gospel before us the whole story (xiv, 32-42) is given a turn which brings out the stupidity of the three leading disciples in presence of the mystery of the redeeming death. At the last moment (xiv, 42) another prediction, that of his coming arrest to follow the betrayal of Judas, is attributed to Jesus.

A rabble, recruited by the Sanhedrim in the middle of the night and guided by the traitor, now lays hands on Jesus after brief resistance by the disciples, in which a servant of the high priest has an ear cut off, the evangelist giving prominence to the kiss of Judas, the sign agreed between him and his following, and to Jesus' declaration that all has been providentially arranged (xiv, 24-50) the dramatic presentation of an event of which the real conditions are unknown to us. Then comes the conclusion,


which is primitive in relation to the rest: the disciples take to flight in a body, abandoning Jesus to his fate; which contradicts what is to be told us a little later on about Peter's proceedings and his denial.

A trait peculiar to our Gospel which the others have not retained doubtless thinking it insignificant, is the incident of a certain young follower in the crowd who fled naked, leaving in the hands of his assailants the cloth that covered him (51-52). Certain exegetes believe that this unknown and mysterious youth can be identified with Mark in person. Far more probably the incident is intended to fulfil a line of prophecy, "the courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day" (Amos ii, 16). It has been said that such an application would be forced. Doubtless it would, but it is no less likely for that reason. Can any application of prophecy be found hereabouts which is not forced?

The crucifixion of Jesus is explicable on one ground only: he was sentenced to death and executed by the Roman authority as a sower of sedition against itself, and simply so. The efforts of the traditional legend have been concentrated on transferring responsibility for his death to the Jews, and on doing this in such a way as to make it appear that the death sentence was extorted from Pilate, or imposed upon him, while he, for his part, acknowledged the perfect innocence of the accused. In pursuit of this purpose a sentence by the Sanhedrim was imagined, and condemnation pronounced on the ground that Jesus laid claim to be Son of God, that is, to the divine character which belonged to him in the faith which accepted the Christian mystery. In this there is a double anachronism: first, in view of the fact that the Sanhedrim, in the time of the procurators, had retained full powers over the Palestinian Jews, except in matters political; and, second, that Jesus, as all four evangelists are compelled to admit, was condemned to death by Pilate on political ground as "King of the Jews," that is, to use equivalent terms, as a messianic agitator laying claim to some kind of royalty in Israel subversive of the imperial government. Historically the case of Jesus is intelligible only  if we admit from the outset that he was sentenced to death by Pilate alone, acting as representative of Roman authority. Need we repeat once more that our texts are in no way concerned


with history in the strict sense of the term? Their object is catechetical and, in a minor degree, apologetic.

The fictitious account of the trial before the Sanhedrim (xiv 55-65) is oddly entangled with Peter's denial (53-72) of which a beginning is made in 53-54 and the rest of the story, given in 66-72. But, of the two stories, that of the denial is the added one. The trial scene is constructed of three elements easily distinguished: first, the evidence of the witnesses (55-59) which agrees with the saying about the temple, which Jesus was accused of boasting he would destroy and rebuild in three days, a saying which seems to have caused considerable embarrassment in Christian tradition and which, if really spoken, may have been brought up in evidence before Pilate as proof of messianic pretensions; second, the declaration of Jesus affirming his character as Son of God (60-64), brought in at that point to correct the impression given by the condemnation of the pretended King of the Jews, and to account for this condemnation by the blind fanaticism of the Jewish authorities in the presence of the Christ of mystery, divine saviour of mankind; lastly, the scenes of outrage (65) introduced for the accomplishment of prophecy, especially Isaiah 1, 6; liii, 3 (Septuagint). Peter's denial, in Mark's account of it, is complicated by a double cock-crow. We get a glimpse of a simpler story behind it in which the crowing of the cock was not a narrative detail, but an indication that it was the third hour of the night (according to Roman usage) when the triple denial was finished (cf. xiii, 35).

The morning session of the Sanhedrim, held before Jesus is led away to Pilate's court (xv, i), now duplicates the nocturnal session at which he was condemned. Originally, in the tradition of the second Gospel, this may have been the meeting at which the accusers concerted the charge to be brought before Pilate. In the trial before the procurator nothing has real consistence save the charge that of pretending to messianic royalty. Our Gospel (xv, 2-5) places the interrogation of the accused before the accusation, in presence of which Jesus keeps silence, as he had done before the witnesses of Caiaphas, and for the same reason the fulfilment of Isaiah liii, 7. Pilate's astonishment at his attitude is made to prepare the incident of Barabbas (6-15). Whatever may be the source of this fiction, which defies all probability, the aim


of it is to relieve Pilate's responsibility, while establishing the innocence of Jesus. Only at the last moment does the procurator concede the order for execution which he is represented in like manner as not being able to refuse in law, the verdict of the Sanhedrim having been given according to rule. [1] Before handing Jesus over to the Jews, Pilate has him scourged, after which there follows a scene of mockery in the pretorium, of comic royalty probably in imitation of the ancient carnivals which ended in the execution, sometimes pretended and sometimes real, of the carnival king. But here probabilities are all against the reality of a scene which is conceived in a fulfilment of a prophecy (Isaiah liii, 3-7) prefiguring the glory awaiting Jesus as celestial King (cf. Hebrews ii, 9).

Finally the soldiers, after divesting Jesus of his mock purple, give him back his own clothes and lead him off to crucifixion (xv, 20); to carry the cross, they lay hold of a bystander, Simon, a Cyrenian, "father of Alexander and Rufus" (21). So precise a detail in a story otherwise lacking in signs of clear memory, is somewhat surprising. The precision may be affected, like the name of Jairus in the resurrection miracle or that of Bar-Timaeus at Jericho. But the detail was not invented to signify that the believer must carry the cross as he follows Jesus, since it is not under compulsion, as here, that the cross must be carried: the object was rather to spare Jesus the humiliation of carrying it. The sad procession goes on its way and finally comes to a halt at a place called Golgotha, that is, Calvary (xv, 22), which was probably the usual place for execution by this method.

It seems likely that, in the story at the base of all this, mention of crucifixion (24a) followed immediately on the arrival at Golgotha, and that what is said further on about the inscription on the cross (26) followed the fixation of the body. The incidents of the aromatic wine (23) and the division of the garments (24b) mark the fulfilment of prophecies; the indication of the hour (25) belongs to the writer's systematic time-scheme which proceeds to divide the day of the Passion into four parts, the judgment of Pilate taking place in the first quarter and the fixing to the cross m the second details connected with the ritual commemoration

[1] File situation in which Pilate is thus placed is not without analogy to that of certain "Oman magistrates who, in the time of the Antonines, found themselves compelled to sentence Christians to death against their own conscience.


rather than memories. The offering of aromatic wine may be the first form under which the fulfilment of Psalm lxix, 21 was represented: "They gave me gall for meat and vinegar to slake my thirst"; while the refusal by Jesus was possibly suggested by verse 22 of the same Psalm. The clothes of the executed criminal were the perquisite of his executioners, but the evangelists mention it only as marking the fulfilment of Psalm xxii, 18. The inscription bearing the charge is a detail of Roman usage; it is mentioned by the evangelists in order that the cross may have above it the idea of messianic royalty, and they have worded it accordingly. "The King of the Jews" is the simple wording of our Gospel. The two thieves crucified with Jesus (27) are mentioned to signify the fulfilment of Isaiah liii, 12, expressly cited in the common text of Mark, though not in the oldest manuscripts. The incident was suggested by the text. The passers-by who wag their heads in derision come from Psalm xxii, 7; the insults of the Sanhedrim, who we might think had moved in a body to Golgotha (31-32), adding themselves to those of the crowd (they seem to be a late addition) are aimed at the Christ of faith, Saviour and Son of God (cf. Psalm xxii, 8; Matthew xxvii, 43); while the reproaches of the two thieves (32) are a climax to the ignominy, and complete the fulfilment of the Psalm (xxii, 7).

Dense darkness envelops the scene and lasts for three hours, from the sixth to the ninth. The darkness is an addition in Mark's version; it comes from Amos viii, 9-10 (connect with the trait mentioned above, p. 103). At the ninth hour Jesus cries with a loud voice in Aramean: "My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?" Such a cry of distress, say some of our modern critics, perhaps a little innocently, no one would ever have dared to put into the mouth of Jesus had he not really uttered it. They are the first words of Psalm xxii, which may be said to have guided the whole construction of the Passion, and it is natural enough that the idea of putting the first words of the Psalm on the lips of the dying Christ should occur at once to the evangelists, not indeed as attributing to him any feeling of despair (!) but the better to bring out the full realization of the Psalm, both in the incidents of the Passion and in the mind of the Christ. The appeal to God (Eli) provokes a paltry jest from a bystander about the name Elias, followed by the offering of vinegar (another


fulfilment of Psalm lxix, 21 supra cit.; cf. Psalm xxii, 16). Then Jesus, after emitting a great cry, breathes his last (37). In the fundamental document this cry, which is inarticulate but of superhuman violence, was the only cry mentioned, the quotation of Psalm xxii and what followed it being added in the course of the Gospels formation. At the moment of death the temple veil is rent from top to bottom and the centurion on guard cries out: "This man was the Son of God." The rending of the veil has the meaning of Hebrews vi, 19-20; x, 19-20. It signifies the rupture of the "veil which was his visible flesh" and the liberation of the Christ for his entry into the heavenly sanctuary, there to make oblation of his blood and open the way for believers into Eternal Life.

The centurion's profession of faith is the evangelist's; the witness also which the Gentiles render to Christ the divine. At the beginning, and for some time afterwards, this must have been the conclusion of the Gospel legend. Admirable conclusion and of high significance when rightly understood! It means that the Christ, freed from his earthly covering of flesh, enters immediately into the glory of his eternal life. His resurrection is spiritual; it coincides with the moment of death; death and resurrection may be commemorated simultaneously: the glorious death that saves mankind, the last sigh of Jesus and the exaltation of the Lamb; the three coincident. And this, clearly understood, will help us greatly to put the right value on the next stage of the Gospel revision.

What we now go on to read (xv, 40-xvi, 8) corresponds, in general, to the later concept of a material resurrection of the body verified the third day after the death of Christ. It would seem that there were present on Calvary certain women, their existence unsuspected hitherto, who had ministered to Jesus in Galilee and followed him to Jerusalem; we are told their names (xv, 40-41). [1] According to our Gospel these women it was who established the fact of the resurrection. But in order that a material resurrection may take place a tomb must be indicated and suitable conditions provided. Legend has provided them.

So it happened that a certain Joseph of Arimathaea, a new-

[1] The role assigned to these women in the service of the Christ and his companions mat ot the widows who, in the earliest times, ministered to the wants of the Christian communities.


comer on the scene and as unexpected as the women, a distinguished member of the Sanhedrim who awaited the Kingdom of God and was for that reason interested in the fate of Jesus, though we are not told that he was his disciple that this Joseph had the courage to beg permission from Pilate to bury the remains of the crucified. Before granting it, Pilate sends for a centurion and gets assurance that Jesus is really dead. This is to rule out the theory that the body had been carried away, a question disputed between Jews and Christians, neither of whom knew anything of what had really happened. The permission granted, Joseph purchases a winding sheet, which must be a new one for the Christ, wraps the body in it and lays it in a sepulchral cave, the evangelist forgetting to tell us how the cave came to be at Joseph's disposal. The tomb is said to have been hewn out of a rock, doubtless in reference to prophecy (Isaiah xxii, 16; xxxiii, 16); the great stone closing the entrance is to enhance the coming miracle. Finally the Galilean women, who have been brought to Calvary for the purpose, take note of the exact spot in the cave where the body has been laid. And all that takes place in the last minutes of "the preparation," that is, at the moment when Friday's sun is setting and the Sabbath about to begin (xv, 42-47).

In this way the story is given a form which makes Jesus remain in the tomb for the entire length of the Sabbath day, plus the first hours of the following night. As he will leave the tomb on Sunday morning, the theft of the body could hardly be effected without violation of the Sabbath, of which the disciples are supposed incapable. Moreover the chief advantage of the arrangement is that it assigns the resurrection to the Day of the Sun, the Lord's Day, the Day of the Risen Christ, chosen as necessarily the Day of Resurrection. It is with this aim in view that the crucifixion is fixed on Friday, the Sabbath offering all the advantages needed for the duration of the period in the tomb, alike for apologetic, as we have just seen, and for symbolism, the repose of the Sabbath day providing a fitting conception of the kind of interval that death would cause in the existence of the Christ. Nevertheless the time arrangement is somewhat mechanical, though this accords with the materialized conception of the resurrection it is intended to serve. We may add incidentally


that a relation exists between this ritual and symbolical time-scheme and the arrangement of the fetes of Adonis, which comprised a first day of feasting for the marriage of Adonis, followed by his death, then a day of mourning and, on the third day, the mystical fete of the resurrection. This relation cannot be fortuitous, since the text in Hosea (vi, 2-3) which was held to announce the resurrection of Jesus, seems to contain an allusion to the fetes of Adonis. [1]

The Sabbath ended, three women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, buy spices to embalm the dead body, and, Sunday morning come, arrive at the tomb just after the sun has risen. We are to suppose that Jesus had risen from the tomb as the sun rose, for the great stone is rolled to one side, the tomb is empty and a man in white, that is an angel, tells the women that Jesus the Nazarene [2] is risen and bids them inform the disciples and Peter to go into Galilee, where they will find him, as he foretold (xiv, 28; supra, p. 34). The frightened women then take to flight and "say nothing to any man."

So ends the authentic text of the Gospel named after Mark. The discovery of the empty tomb is held to be guaranteed by the experience of these women whom fear has prevented from speaking of it. The Gospel editor, a simple and well-intentioned man, says no more, the reason being that he is conscious of stating a fact, a pretended fact, of which nobody has heard until he here discloses it. Moreover lie knew well enough that, according to a tradition from which he had not the least intention of departing, the disciples' faith in the resurrection was formed in Galilee. And, further, he probably felt himself incapable of relating the later manifestations of the risen Christ, or thought he might abstain from doing so. We may well believe that his powers of invention had already been exercised to a point which made him think it advisable to call a halt. The silence he attributes to the women is to be explained in the same way as are the injunctions to say nothing imposed on all the anticipations of Jesus' Messiahship during his earthly career.

The evangelist did not suspect that his story would soon be

[1] Cf. Glotz, Les fetes d'Adonis sous Ptolemee, ii, in Revue des Etudes grecques, xxxiii, 12, April-June, 1920.

[2] A form substituted for "Nazorean" to mean more surely "from Nazareth"; cf. supra, p. 34.


judged unsatisfactory. But, before that feeling arose, other revisions of the Gospel catechesis had supplanted his in the usage of the churches. The conclusion known as deuterocanonical, the addition of which was deemed necessary, served simply to put his Gospel more or less in accord, for the Christian reader, with the other forms of the catechesis. Some of our exegetes discourse learnedly about the lost end of Mark one of the problems for which no solution can be found for the simple reason that they have no real existence. We have already said a word (p. 69) about the approximate date of Mark.

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