§ 87. The Capture of Jesus

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 87.

The Capture of Jesus.

According to the report of the Synoptics, it is Judas who makes Jesus recognizable to the henchmen by kissing him according to the agreement made with them. The Fourth, on the other hand, presents the matter in such a way that Judas only shows the place where they find Jesus, and he makes himself known to the crowd by coming out of the circle of his disciples (John 18, 4) and finally surrendering voluntarily, while he is captured by force according to the Synoptic account. (Mark 14, 46.)

Both are mutually exclusive: if the betrayer has already made Jesus recognizable by that kiss, he does not need to decoupage himself from his henchmen, or the appearance that he still gives himself, as if he wants to expose himself voluntarily to their violence, would be violently affected. Only one of the two is possible. We will first examine whether the report of the Fourth has the greater probability for itself.

Since Jesus – we know this introduction C. 18, 4 from before, C. 13, 1 – knew everything that was to come over Him, He came out to the crowd, asked – did He not also know? – whom they were looking for, and when they answered, Jesus of Nazareth, he said, I am he. Then the henchmen stepped back and fell to the ground, i.e. his appearance made such a wonderful impression on them that they trembled back and fell to the ground in worship, or at least in such a way that their powerlessness in the face of the divine became clearly apparent. For the second time, as if he had not heard it, as if he did not know it by himself and from the beginning, Jesus asks the people: whom are you looking for, they answered as before: Jesus of Nazareth, and he can now answer them: I told you, it is me.

If the people had really fainted, it would still have been timid if he asked again who they were looking for, since he knew their intentions very well and if he wanted to do it he could simply hand himself over to me.

If the people had really fallen down in a swoon, it would still have been a shame if he had asked again whom they were looking for, since he knew their intention very well and could have simply surrendered to them if he had wanted toBut this is only a pretense, that Jesus wants to know where he is and whether these are really the people who are looking for him: the repeated question is rather meant to express the inner joy of the heart over the contrast between his peace of mind and the embarrassment and powerlessness of the henchmen – an inner tickle in which only the evangelist takes such great pleasure, the evangelist who also formed the first question and the whole situation. Jesus, so it seemed worthy to the Fourth alone, is not to be captured by force by the henchmen, but as from the beginning he has always presented his suffering as one which he undertakes voluntarily, so also now, when the hour has come, he is to act absolutely with free will and hand himself over to the enemies. – But just as in the past, when danger threatened him, the attacks of the enemies were thwarted and even the hand that was already ready, the blow that was to be struck, was stopped because the hour had not yet come, so here, too, in the end, the divine power must once again intervene, strike down the enemies and make them powerless, i.e., in the midst of all striving, the divine power must be able to do the same. That is, the evangelist did not notice that he had set in motion his pragmatism, which was already highly unfortunate in itself, at the wrong time, because he was so anxious to secure the power and majesty of the Lord against all doubts. For if otherwise the blow was stopped because the hour had not yet come, now at least it was a very inappropriate waste of the divine miraculous power if the enemies were paralyzed again when the hour had really come.


Whether the account of Mark is as historical as it is simple, and whether the betrayal kiss of Judas is fabricated for the sake of contrast, will be determined when the final judgment on this whole section of the Passion story is made. Luke no longer simply reports that contrast; he reflects on it by putting the reflection in Jesus’ mouth: Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? (22:48), and Matthew has turned this reflection back to the general by merely having Jesus ask: Friend, why have you come? (26:50).


According to the account of Mark, only a group sent by the chief priests, scribes and elders came with the traitor. Matthew reports the same thing, at least in the beginning of Luke, when he (C. 22, 47) speaks of only a mob. But the fourth distinguishes from this group, which Judas had taken from the servants of the Pharisees and the high priests (C. 7, 32), a Roman cohort, which (C. 18, 3. 12) had come under their leader, i.e. the fourth sent this cohort out of his own power onto the battlefield (!) to immediately summon the Jewish and the Roman power against the Lord. A whole cohort! But the fourth knows no human measure, with one pound of nard Mary anoints the feet of her Lord, with a hundred pounds of species the body of Jesus is embalmed! But as easily as the evangelist, the priests could not command the Roman occupation, they had not yet drawn Pilate into their cause anyway – they did it only on the following day. Luke had given the fourth evangelist these warlike thoughts.

Although Luke speaks at first only of a crowd, he has at once, when he wants to list the persons to whom Jesus spoke the words at the moment of his arrest: “How against a robber have you gone out with swords and staves – of which, moreover, Luke had said nothing before, only Mark mentions them before? Since I taught daily with you in the temple, you did not lay a hand on me” – Luke suddenly (C. 22, 52) summoned the chief priests and elders, created a temple army and summoned their generals, so that they also heard that reproach of Jesus. The latter also had to hear him, because their army was busy in the temple.

Luke took offense at the idea that those words were supposed to be addressed to the subordinate, inherently powerless servants – as Mark portrays it, and Matthew follows suit – he saw correctly that the words were actually a reproach against the priests and the true enemies, but he coped poorly by suddenly making the high priests, elders, and generals of the temple army emerge from the ground.


In this scene, which he had already overcrowded with Jesus’ repeated question, the Fourth [Gospel writer] could not make that accusation, so he omits it and brings it up later in a different form. Annas, the high priest, asked Jesus about his disciples and his teachings during the first trial of the night, and Jesus answered: (John 18:19-20) I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogue (!) and in the temple, where — we thank you for the archaeological information; the high priest must have received it with gratitude! (—) all the Jews come together, and I have said nothing in secret.

Mark did not pay attention to the inconvenience that Luke tried to remedy by making it even greater. His attention was rather focused on making sure that the readers would not miss the contradiction between Jesus’ public and free appearance and the secret way in which his enemies now took him into their power – and again, just to reassure the reader that what happened at this moment was done according to the divine plan and under the guidance of a higher necessity, he has Jesus add briefly to that reproach: “But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:49). Luke elaborated on this reflection and instead of that short reference to the Scriptures he put the words: “but this is your hour and the power of darkness” into the mouth of the Lord. (C. 22, 53.) Matthew transformed what Mark gives as the words of Jesus into his reflection: “All things were done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (26, 56). For this, when the brave disciple was to be rebuked, he lets the Lord say before: “how else would the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must come to this? – Jesus had to say before: “Do you think that I cannot ask the Father at this moment and that he would give me more than twelve legions of angels to command me?” so that the reader is completely convinced of his sublimity above the collision and of his free surrender to it (B. 53. 54).


Now the tapestry then! Mark, who is only interested in a contrast to the free surrender of Jesus, merely says about that brave one: one of those standing there drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear (14, 47). Luke, who no longer sees that this incident is only a foil to Jesus’ opposite behavior, has the Lord heal the wounded man, whose ear was not cut off, but only hit. Matthew, who, like Luke, describes the brave man more closely as one from Jesus’ environment, lets the ear be cut off without salvation, since he “has no time for the healing: Jesus must not only command the brave to put the sword in its place, but also use the opportunity immediately to pronounce the teaching that whoever takes the sword perishes by the sword. And the fourth? He who knows that the brave man was Peter, who knows that the servant of the high priest was called Malchus, who has united the notes of Luke and Matthew to the effect that the ear was the right one, but that it had been cut off without salvation, for he could not spare any time for the healing, because Jesus commands the brave man to sheathe the sword, and with the words of the synoptic usage – and with reference to the omitted report of the battle of souls – must ask: Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?

Previously, says the fourth, Jesus asked the captors to spare the disciples. We must admit that this request was made in a very appropriate place and time, i.e. it was made and inserted by the Fourth, when the moment after, the brave Peter shaved off the right ear of poor Malchus. There can be nothing more inappropriate. But there is also nothing more inappropriate than the way in which the evangelist sees the fulfillment of a word that the Lord spoke on the same evening (in chapter 17, verses 12 and 18:9), the word: “None of those whom you have given me have I lost,” a word that originally referred to spiritual guidance, i.e., in the moment when the evangelist formed it. But the evangelist knows that his sayings are infinitely profound and contain at least a twofold meaning. How touching it is also when in that prayer, a tender glance is given to Judas, the son of perdition: “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition!”


The natural sequence up to the account of the fourth Gospel makes it almost impossible for us to agree with Wilke‘s assumption that the note about that brave person who drew the sword must be missing in the Gospel of Mark. It is true that Jesus expected only cowardice from the disciples that night, but the behavior of that brave person is only a momentary recklessness, against which the calm and composure of Jesus stands out all the more brilliantly. It is true that the following statement of Jesus, “Have you come out against me with swords and clubs as though I were a robber?” (v. 48) should immediately follow the note that they laid hands on him (v. 46), and it is also only truly fitting if none of the disciples reached for the sword. But if Mark was looking for a contrast elsewhere, could he not have made a mistake in composition once? Is he a real artist? And perhaps he said with good reason, “one of those standing nearby” drew the sword? Without having found a reason for it in the Gospel of Mark, Luke would hardly have formed his story, and Matthew and the fourth would certainly not have excluded the same story.

*) p. 491. 492.

But in this we must agree with Wilke, that after the words “and they all fled,” Mark did not form the story of that young man who followed Jesus with only a linen cloth on his bare skin, and when they seized him, left the cloth in the hands of the captors and fled naked (14:50-52). Everyone had to flee immediately, only Peter had to follow from afar. None of the other evangelists betray that they read this note in the Gospel of Mark, and the “other disciple” who follows Peter from afar in the fourth Gospel is the least likely to have originated in the original Gospel. So the note is certainly a later addition by a reader who wanted to point out that now was the time – as Amos prophesied when he said, “even the strong shall flee naked on that day” (2:16). —


Only Peter, say the Synoptics, followed him, “and another disciple,” adds the fourth. But where? To the palace of Annas, answers the fourth, where the Roman cohort and the servants of the Jews brought Jesus, and where he underwent a hearing in the night.



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