Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jesus's Quick Death on the Cross Was Proof that He Wasn't Human (and Secret Mark)

The Gospel of Mark has Jesus crucified in the 'sixth hour.' The Gospel of John, has 'the third hour.' Eusebius, of Ceesarea, Severus, Ammarius, Theophylact, and other early Greek writers, are also of the opinion that John wrote 'third,' and that 'sixth is a simply error. The Greek way of writing three and six differed by only one stroke. But this still misses the point. Jesus's death was abnormally quick. Most people lasted for days on the cross, in the gospel of Mark we read for instance:

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers.  They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.  And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.  And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.   It was the third hour (= nine in the morning) when they crucified him.   The written notice of the charge against him read: 'the king of the jews.'

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,  come down from the cross and save yourself!”   In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.   At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

And at the ninth hour (= three in the afternoon) Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.  With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.   The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.   And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached,  Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.

The point however isn't just that fourth century writers correct the gospel account, the third century writer Origen calculates it to have been a three hour death - from the sixth to the ninth hour (Commentary on Matthew 5. 140) and speaks of it as a "miraculum, quoniam post tres horas receptus est." Here is the whole passage:

Since those crucified persons who are not stabbed, suffer greater torment, and survive in great pain, sometimes the whole of the following night, and even the whole of the next day ; and since Jesus was not stabbed, and his enemies hoped that by his hanging long upon the cross he would suffer the greater torment, he prayed to the Father and was heard, and as soon as he had called was taken to the Father ; or else, as one who had the power of laying down his life, he laid it down when he chose. This prodigy astonished the centurion, who said — ' Truly this man was a son of God.' — For it was a miracle that he who would otherwise perhaps have survived two days on the cross, according to the custom of those who are crucified but not stabbed, should have been taken up after three hours, so that his death seems to have happened by the favour of God, and rather through the merit of his own prayer than through the violence of the cross.

The sixth hour is only witnessed by John but the ninth hour comes only from the synoptics.  Irenaeus makes clear that the followers of Mark (= the Marcosians) took a deep mystical interest in the reference to the 'sixth hour,' following the tradition interest of Jews and Samaritans in the number six.  But most important of all is the fact that all signs point to a lost Alexandrian gospel tradition that presented the death as that of a God (or an angel) rather than a man.

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