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25. THE DAY OF JESUS DEATH ARTIFICIALLY FIXED IN JN.
True, it always remains a riddle how Jn. can have been led to give us his account, which, in view of what we have said, is necessarily wrong. But the riddle can be solved, and even Jn. himself expressly indicates how this may be done. According to xix. 31-36, Pilate, at the instigation of the Jews, gives command for the thighs of Jesus and of the two men who were crucified with him to be broken, that their death might be hastened, and that they might be buried before the sunset with which in Jn. the feast begins. But the soldiers find Jesus already dead, and therefore in his case do not carry out the command. Jn. then tells us that this happened in order that the passage in the Old Testament might be fulfilled: “a bone of him shall not be broken.” Of whom? The paschal lamb (Ex. xii. 46). Consequently, Jn. regards Jesus as the true paschal lamb, 127and thinks that in him what is said of the paschal lamb in the Old Testament must be fulfilled. Paul had expressed the thought: “for our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ” (1 Cor. v. 7); Jn. elaborates it more exactly, and tells of the sufferings and death of Jesus as they must have happened if they were in precise agreement with the injunctions about the paschal lamb.
He does this, it should be noted, not merely in the matter we have mentioned, where he tells us that Jesus bones were not broken, but in every case where there are injunctions in the Old Testament about the lamb which might have been fulfilled in Jesus as well. The lamb had to be slain in the afternoon (Ex. xii. 6; Deut. xvi. 6: towards evening, but in Jesus time as early as from one or two o’clock). In accordance with this, Jesus is still standing before Pilate (Jn. xix. 14) at midday, though, according to the Synoptics (Mk. xv. 25), he was crucified at nine o’clock in the morning. This, however, makes it the more difficult to understand why Jn. should represent that Jesus was already dead towards five o’clock in the afternoon, for we know that, by no means seldom, crucified men have continued to live on the cross for several days. Further, the lamb had to be chosen on the 10th of Nisan (Exod. xii. 3); in harmony with this, the anointing of Jesus in Bethany, which, according to the Synoptics (Mk. xiv. 8) as well as Jn. (xii. 7), is of the nature of a consecration for his death, is represented in Jn. xii. 1 as taking place on the sixth day before the feast, though Mk. xiv. 1 tells us that it happened on the second day before it (the first and the last day being included; reckoning backwards, therefore, from 15th Nisan as the first day of the feast, this gives us really the 10th Nisan). But, in particular, the day on which the lamb had to be slain was the 14th Nisan (Ex. xii. 6), and this now 128explains the whole dislocation which Jn. has introduced into the last events of Jesus’ life. In the interest of an idea, to Jn. an idea of some importance, Jesus has been made to carry out to the exact letter, in his own person, the whole fate of the paschal lamb, in order to show that all the injunctions concerning it have now been fulfilled and so abolished for ever, and with them all the commands of the religion of the Old Testament.
It might be doubted whether that Evangelist whose work Clement of Alexandria called—and certainly not unjustly—the pneumatic, or the spiritually-centred, gospel, can have attached such importance to this verbal fulfilment of the Old Testament. Yet Jn. has expressly drawn attention to the fact that when Jesus thighs were not broken, an Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled. And in like manner, it is only he who gives Jesus cry on the cross, “I thirst” (xix. 28), and adds that it was made in fulfilment of a passage in the Old Testament (Ps. xxii. 16). It is only he who tells us (xix. 23 f.) that after Jesus crucifixion his cloak and his tunic were differently disposed of, and who adds here also that this was done in fulfilment of a passage in the Bible, the 19th verse of this same 22nd Psalm: “they divided my raiment among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” The Synoptics introduce from this Psalm (besides the cry undoubtedly made by Jesus, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”) other matter that might serve to embellish the story of Jesus passion (Mt. xxvii. 39, 43); but they have rightly understood verse 19 to imply only one action (Mk. xv. 24). Jn., in understanding it of two actions, shows, on the one hand, that he has no idea how often, times without number, in the Old Testament one idea is expressed by two clauses slightly differing from each other, and, on the other hand, how anxious he is to demonstrate 129in the history of Jesus the literal fulfilment of the Old Testament. Much as he felt himself to be exalted above it, so far as it contains injunctions as to life, yet in so far as the prophecies are concerned, he held fast very tenaciously, just as the apostle Paul did, to the thesis that “the scripture cannot be broken” (x. 35). Jesus says to the Jews in this Gospel (v. 39), “Ye search the Scriptures because ye think that in them ye have eternal life” (that is to say, have received assurance of eternal life), “and these are they which “in reality “bear witness of me” Compare further the quotations in xiii. 18 (compared with xvii. 12), xv. 25, xix. 37, xii. 38, and the reference to the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness as being a symbol of the lifting up of Jesus on the cross in iii. 14 f.; also ii. 17, vi. 31, 45, x. 34.
The matter may therefore be summed up as follows. The Synoptics report that the arrest, condemnation, execution, and burial of Jesus took place on a day on which all these things would be associated with difficulties, but would by no means be impossible; and as to how they could have arrived at this, by mistake or of set purpose, if the day were really another one, no one has yet been able to offer a suggestion which is even remotely probable. In the case of Jn., on the other hand, we can tell point by point how he must have come to fix upon another day, supposing the Synoptics were right. As soon as we have perceived this, the question ought to be decided, Are we obliged to believe Jn. on this one point, even though in everything else we have been able to put so little faith in him?
But if any one persists in giving the preference to Jn. here, we must ask him one more question in conclusion; to what are we to trace the agreement between the last acts in the closing day of Jesus’ life and those associated with 130the paschal lamb? Is it chance? Chance in no less than four points? Any one who has not the courage to say this, should realise that only one supposition remains, and one which has been put forward only by the very strictest believers: God so arranged the course of the Passion that everything in it agreed exactly with the injunctions concerning the paschal lamb, purposing in this way to make men realise that Jesus died as the true paschal lamb, and thus did away with the Jewish feast of the Passover and the whole Jewish religion. This view may be found wholly unacceptable, and yet no defender of the statement of the days as given in Jn. can refuse to accept it, unless he is prepared to see here a really very remarkable accident.
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