§ 90. The Crucifixion, Death and Burial of Jesus

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 90.

The Crucifixion, Death and Burial of Jesus.


1. The procession to Calvary

Mark 15, 21, 22

Jesus is led out of the city to Golgotha (i.e. as Mark translates the name of this place, the place of the skull) and a man who has just come from the field is forced to carry the cross. Mark calls him Simon of Cyrene *), and it was from him that the others first learned the name of this man and the place of execution. But nowhere do we complain about the name Golgotha, which Josephus should have mentioned more often; but he didn’t know him yet, because it was only Mark who formed him. And Simon of Cyrene? Before you dare to blame us for our unbelief in this name and its Lord, first answer us, why was he requisitioned, a man who had just come from the field? Did not people go with the procession? Does such a procession happen without escorts?  Who was first curious enough to inquire about that man’s name? As if a name were that difficult to form! As if Mark hadn’t created a Jairus before!
As if that feature shouldn’t serve purely and simply to indicate that Golgotha lies outside the city, because strangers can only meet a person who comes from the field as such if one is close to the gate, either still within the city or already outside of it. Mark doesn’t even say that or if Jesus had carried the cross until then, or if he had given signs of exhaustion. It is determined by one interest only, namely, to impress the reader with the most definite idea that Jesus suffered outside the city; for Jesus is the sin offering of the Day of Atonement, whose body was burned outside the camp. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews already found this evangelical view and explains it correctly when he says: Jesus also suffered outside the gate so that he could sanctify the people with his own blood. C. 13, 11-13. Luke and Matthew took Simon’s note from their account, but the fourth erased it, he says: Jesus carried his cross, because he wants to make the matter more sensitive by saying that Jesus himself “went out to the place of the skull carrying the cross. ” C. 19, 17.

*) The further determination: “the father of Alexander and Rufus” is an overabundance that is alien to Mark. It is an addition that a very late reader added. The two names were taken arbitrarily from the letters of the NT.


Luke has formed an episode here: Not only does he say here that the two criminals who were crucified with him were led out together with Jesus, but he also tells us that a large crowd of people joined the procession and that the women who also went, mourning and weeping for Jesus. Jesus answers them that they should not weep for him, but for themselves and their children, for there will come a time when people will say what Luke reads in the scripture of Mark (Mark 13:17), that those who are pregnant and nursing should be pitied, when they will say what the miserable say in the scripture of Hosea: Mountains fall upon us (Hos. 10, 8); because, Jesus concludes his discourse (C. 23, 27-32), if that happens to the green tree, what will happen to the dry tree? — whether that means: if this happens to pregnant women, how should it go for hard sinners — or not is unclear, is also extremely irrelevant; – only so much is clear that the evangelist takes a saying of Ezekiel (C. 20, 47. 21, 3), namely the saying that the judgment should fall on the dry and green wood, the unjust and the just, in a very unclear way not processed here, but only attached.


2. The bitter potion.

Mark 15, 23. 36.

Twice Mark has a bitter and astringent drink given to the Lord, the first time immediately after the arrival at Calvary adding myrrh to the wine, and afterwards, when Jesus uttered his last lamentation, vinegar, with which one of those close to him had soaked a sponge.

When Jesus rejects the wine the first time, we should not, indeed, look for everything that people usually thought and dared to invent. It was believed that, before being executed, criminals were allowed the favor of throwing off the burden of consciousness by drinking heavily spiced wine. Myrrh does not intoxicate! Now, however, when Jesus is still free to dispose of himself, he rejects what someone else will later give him when he can no longer resist; namely, that drink which Matthew has somewhat clumsily revealed, when he wrote for the first time that Jesus was given vinegar mixed with gall. This is the drink over which the Righteous One of the Old Testament already complains, that when he was thirsty, they gave him vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21). Matthew added gall to the vinegar, of which the Righteous One says that they put it in his food. Mark mixed the drink in such a way that the historical probability was not too greatly violated, and the situation was not too greatly mocked.

Luke knows of one drink, the second one that was given to Jesus when he was already hanging on the cross (Luke 23:36). He says that the soldiers gave him vinegar out of mockery, but he does not say how they came up with such mockery. His episodes did not leave him room for the first drink and for the proper introduction of the second one. He had just reported the speech of Jesus to the women of Jerusalem, and now, as soon as he reports that Jesus was nailed to the cross, he wants to remark that Jesus, as Isa. 53:12 is prophesied, prayed for sinners. Father, says Jesus (C. 23, 34), forgive them, for they know not what they are doing; just as Luke has Stephen pray before his departure (Apostles 7:60): Lord, do not hold this sin against them!


Because of his episodes (the negotiations of the Jews with Pilate about the title on the cross and the arrangement of the lottery of Jesus’ clothes), the fourth did not have any time left for the first drink either: but he gives the second all the importance that it is due. Jesus not only calls so that the scripture (Ps. 69, 22. Ps. 22, 16) would be fulfilled: I am thirsty, but he also takes the vinegar to be able to have it immediately: It is finished. The thirst of Jesus, the giving of the vinegar and the consumption of it have now put the final seal on the fulfillment of Scripture.


3. The lottery of Jesus’ clothes.

Mark 15, 24

Immediately after the crucifixion—immediately thereafter, so that the scene is at the foot of the cross—the soldiers divided Jesus’ garments among themselves in such a manner that they cast lots over them to determine “who shall receive.”

Luke omits the last specification given and merely says that they cast lots when they divided the clothes (C. 23, 34). Matthew reports the matter just as briefly, but he also tells us why Mark wrote this feature, because it was important and necessary for the Scriptures that prophesied of this distribution of clothing to be fulfilled (C. 27, 35. Ps 22, 19). Finally, the fourth, since in the psalm the same thing is signified by two parallel expressions, takes this signification seriously and, as Strauss was the first to remark, forms his new story from it. For it is written in the Psalm: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18) The fourth gospel then tells us that the soldiers, who had suddenly become four in number, divided Jesus’ clothes into four parts and “cast lots” for his tunic, which was woven in one piece and they did not want to tear apart – as if they had torn apart the other clothes, which not even the fourth gospel dared to say! – so that, as the fourth gospel adds, the scripture would be fulfilled (John 19:23-24), as Matthew had already taught us.


4. Jesus on the cross.

Mark 15, 26-36.

Mark only knows how to tell of the mockery that Jesus suffered on the cross.

Even the attached plaque with the inscription: the king of the Jews! is a mockery, the continuation of those that Pilate had already allowed himself before.

Two robbers are crucified on either side of him in order to equate him with the rejected.

The passers-by mock him, nod their heads scornfully and say: aha! who wanted to tear down the temple and expand it in three days! rather save yourself and get off the cross!

Even the high priests stoop to this mockery and add to it from the miracle side in general, saying, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe.”

Even those crucified with him mock him.

At the sixth hour, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. Then, at the ninth hour, Jesus spoke with the words of the psalm (Psalm 22:2): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The exclamation “Eloi, Eloi” gave rise to some thinking about the connection between the Messiah and Elijah, which led to mockery: “He is calling Elijah!” and even the one who gave him the sponge with vinegar said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down from the cross!”

Matthew also tells the story essentially and in almost the same words in chapter 27, verses 37-49. The small change that he has the entire body of the high priests, along with the scribes and the elders, station themselves at the cross to mock Jesus instead of just the high priests alone, is not noteworthy.


However, Luke had to make changes because he had left out the testimony of the witnesses about what Jesus said in the temple earlier, and had reserved it for the story of Stephen. He could not have the people in general utter the mocking words, and then have the high priests say something different. He had to simplify or, if he could not do so intelligently, confuse the story. He did both! (Luke 23:35-45) First, he simplified: “The people stood there watching, and the leaders even scoffed at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.'” But now, because Luke did not want to ignore it and, in his slavish dependence on Mark, could not ignore it, he includes the soldiers’ mockery of giving him vinegar – not, of course, mocking the exclamation “Eloi, Eloi!”, but a variation on the same mockery of the leaders, which Mark reports and which Luke had just mentioned himself: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” Only after these words – too late and in the wrong place – did it seem appropriate to Luke to mention the inscription on that sign that was attached to the cross.

A new mockery follows! Only one of the two criminals actually mocked Jesus – but how? – with the words that Luke reads as the mockery of the high priests in Mark’s account: “If you are the Messiah, save yourself – of course! – and us!” With this episode, Luke’s account is directed. The other criminal rebukes his companion, asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingly power, and Jesus responds: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”


The note about the solar eclipse that follows is very misleading in Luke’s account, because he had to omit what gives it context in Mark’s account. He does not indicate the duration of the three hours, because he had already reported the incident of someone waving at Jesus out of mockery, which gives rise to the new taunt prompted by Jesus’ cry of “Eloi!” Now he cannot report the taunt again. In his anxiety to fill the gap, but only the spatial gap, he says that darkness covered the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn”, as if the darkness of the sun followed the darkness and as if the tearing of the temple veil did not occur until after Jesus’ death. Luke has everything out of order because he introduced the note about the person who gave Jesus vinegar too early and then wanted to report some new information (v. 48, 49) later.

The original account was as follows: Mark himself says why the two criminals were necessarily placed beside Jesus, so that the scripture would be fulfilled, which says: “He was numbered with the transgressors,” Isa. 53:12. The taunting in general was necessary because the Righteous One of the Old Testament laments: “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” Ps. 22:7-8. Finally, Matthew cites verse 9 from this psalm to emphasize how the people must taunt the Messiah: “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him if he wants him.”

The fourth gospel only tells of one of these mockeries, namely that two criminals were crucified on either side of Jesus, and the other, that Pilate attached a plaque to the cross with the inscription – in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as Luke later learned from Mark and from him the fourth gospel learned – “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. As already noted above, his episodes took up too much space and time for the evangelist. He now adds a new episode immediately after the casting of lots for the seamless garment, one that makes the mockery mentioned earlier pale in comparison. Notably, the space it takes up must come at the expense of other details reported by Mark. The evangelist has incorporated the notice of the women who “from afar” – as is the only way that makes sense and is reasonable – watched and afterwards observed where Joseph placed the body. The women, together with the beloved disciple, are suddenly standing at the foot of the cross, so that Jesus can entrust his mother to the disciple’s care (John 19:25-27). Since we have already valued the notice of these women in their worth above, the criticism of this episode in the fourth gospel is also given, and it is therefore not worth the effort to mention that the fourth gospel lists other women than Mark, namely three Marys: the mother of Jesus, her sister, and Mary Magdalene.


5. The hours of the day of death.

The way in which Mark calculates the hours of the day of Jesus’ death is beyond doubt due to the context. When he says in Chapter 15, verse 25, that it was the third hour when Jesus was crucified, and the sixth when the darkness came, which lasted until the ninth hour, at the end of which Jesus died, it is clear that our third hour of the morning is his ninth, his ninth is our third hour of the afternoon, because the sixth hour is noon: the darkness – that is the contrast that Mark worked towards – came when the sun reached its culmination point.

For the remark of when Jesus was crucified, Luke has no space – due to the episode of Jesus praying for his enemies in Chapter 23, verse 34 – and no time, because he struggles with the transition to the mocking of Jesus by the people and the rulers. Afterwards, he reports the time and duration of the darkness; and Matthew reports only the latter, for the remark of when Jesus was crucified, he had no space, since he quoted the scripture that was fulfilled when they divided up Jesus’ clothes.

Luke has no space to comment on when Jesus was crucified because of the episode of Jesus praying for his enemies, c which Obem must torment very much. But afterwards he reports the time and duration of the darkness; the latter is also reported by Matthew alone, for he had no room to note the time at which Jesus was crucified, since he was citing Scripture, which was fulfilled when the robes of Jesus were given away.

Due to his episodes, the fourth Gospel does not even have enough space left to mention the darkness. Without much thought, he uses a number that caught his eye in the writings of his predecessors, for his purposes: at the sixth hour *), it was, he says in chapter 19, verse 14, when Pilate finally gave in to the stormy demands of the Jews and handed Jesus over for crucifixion.

*) Above (in the criticism of the ev. Gesch. d. Joh. p. 45) we probably made a mistake when we accepted the fourth and the connection in honor that the tenth hour is our tenth in the morning. Since the fourth is capable of everything, it is more likely that he calculates C. 1.40 in the same Hebrew way that he also follows C. 4, 6 for in the last place the sixth hour can only be that of noon. The sixth hour of the Suffering Day is nothing at all, it was only thoughtlessly noted down by him.


6. The death of Jesus.

Mark 15, 37-39.

The last words Mark put in his master’s mouth—my God! my God! why did you leave me? he wrote, without getting involved in any way with the possible consequences, only to show that Jesus had really proved himself to be the Messiah right up to the moment of his last sufferings, and the Holy Spirit already had a picture of his pain revealed long before to the psalmist.

With a loud cry, Jesus soon dies. The temple curtain must tear apart to make it clear that the world now has free access to God, and the captain of the Roman guard, who was standing in front of Jesus, must be prompted by the cry (!) with which Jesus died to exclaim, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” This is not so that one might later ponder in what sense he spoke of a Son of God, but rather so that the last moment of Jesus may be glorified through the testimony of a non-Jewish person. Now that the Jews seem to have won, a harbinger of the faithful Gentile world must come forward to announce the victory of the crucified one in advance.


How Luke has disrupted the development of this scene is shown. When the temple curtain was torn apart, Jesus – similar to Stephen in Acts 7:59 – said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke had to provide an exclamation for Jesus, as he could not use the other one: “Eloi! Eloi!” Additionally, the centurion said, “Truly, this man was righteous.” Luke had to soften the statement of the Gentile, as there was no need for any special testimony after Jesus had just previously told the repentant criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Finally, since Luke had already mentioned the women (in chapter 8, verses 2-3), he had to include the note from Mark about them here, too. He also leaves space (!) for male acquaintances who watched from a distance and for the other note – the counterpart to the above note about the weeping women of Jerusalem – that all the assembled crowds (!) beat their breasts. Now, he believes, it was time for the prophecy of Zechariah (12:10) to be fulfilled. (Luke 23:46-49.)

Matthew follows Mark, but between the note of the renting of the veil and the size of the centurion, inserts the remark that an earthquake happened, the rocks rent, the tombs opened, many of the buried saints—an Abraham, Moses, David, etc. — rose again, emerged from the grave, after their *) resurrection went into the holy (!) city and showed themselves to many (C. 27, 50-54). When it is said that “the chief and the guards who were with him” (which Matthew very inappropriately has them spying and speaking with their leader) saw the earthquake, the point is that they also saw the resurrection of the saints and their departure into the holy city. This miracle was what finally caused them to exclaim, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” In other words, the episode is ultimately overwhelmed by the context – which is only correct in Mark’s writing.

*) not after the resurrection of Jesus, as later scrupulocity changed to give Jesus back the privilege of being the first of the resurrected. It is to be read αυτων, not αυτου.


The interests already mentioned and the interest that now follows (in verse 31), namely his concern for the purity of the Jews who will be partaking of the Passover lamb that night – all of this has so preoccupied the Fourth Gospel writer that he does not even mention anything about the tearing of the temple curtain.


7. The Real Death and Burial of Jesus.

Mark 15, 42-46.

While Mark reports that an honest councillor, Joseph of Arimathea, plucked up the courage and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, he does not yet think of overwhelming the interest to the point that he would dwell on it for a long time and the benevolence of Joseph motivated and explained. Rather, he is only concerned with proving that the dictum of the Holy Spirit, that after his death the Messiah will find his tomb with the rich after he had been appointed with the criminals, was fulfilled (Isa. 53:9), he only has the other interest of confirming the death of Jesus as having actually taken place, in order to at the same time confirm the subsequent miracle of the resurrection as a miracle. Pilate, namely, when Joseph presents his request, is surprised that Jesus has “already” died, lets the centurion stand guard, and asks him whether Jesus—here the evangelist’s interest is betrayed somewhat too keenly—had died “long ago.” , and when he heard the confirmation from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. He wraps him in linen and places him in a rock vault, in front of which he then rolls a stone.


Luke does not see the significance of Pilate’s questions to Joseph and the centurion, but rather leaves out everything related to it because he has other interests. He describes Joseph to us more closely: “he was a good and righteous man who had not consented to the counsel and deed of his fellow council members – (or!), Luke writes very carelessly – and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.” This formula, which belongs solely to Luke’s standing language, was only inserted into the Gospel of Mark by a later hand. Additionally, Luke suddenly tells us that Joseph also embalmed the body, but like Mark, he also says that the women from Jesus’ entourage watched where Joseph laid the body, and like Mark, he also says that the women went to the tomb on the morning after the Sabbath to perform the embalming, as if they could think of doing so when they had seen that Joseph had already taken care of it. Finally, Luke tells us the news that no one had yet been laid in the tomb (Luke 23:50-55).

Matthew also did not pay attention to how important it was to establish the true death of Jesus; he omits Pilate’s relevant discussions and instead mentions Joseph, probably to incorporate the cue of that prophecy, as a rich man. He further develops the pragmatism of Luke by stating that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, and finally, only out of negligence and not because he wanted to follow Mark’s account, he leaves out the fact that the women wanted to embalm the body – he only reports that Joseph performed the embalming (Matthew 27:57-61).


With the cumbersome heaviness of someone who has to struggle to immerse himself in the customs of the Jews, the Fourth Gospel writer narrates the burial of Jesus’ body – in an unused tomb – and its embalming; in particular, he says that Nicodemus, who happens to come along as if on cue, brought the necessary materials – a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes. He also knows that Joseph, a disciple of Jesus, had been hiding out of fear of the Jews. What a clever or curious pragmatism! Then Joseph would have had to be most afraid now.

We are now approaching the point where the question of chronology will be answered.

The Fourth Gospel writer is so meticulous that he says the place where Jesus found his tomb was a garden that happened to be nearby, and they brought Jesus’ body there because time was pressing, as it was now the moment when they had to prepare for the Sabbath – not just for the enjoyment of the Passover meal!

He uses the same motive to remove Jesus’ body from the cross. The Jews, he says, asked Pilate to have the bodies removed from the cross so that they would not remain there until the Sabbath, and to break their bones beforehand – but we do not hear of this custom anywhere else. So the soldiers did this to the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they spared him this procedure, and only one of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear. (John 19:31-42)

He himself says why he thought these things were necessary, and he also lets us know how highly he values them when he says, “He who saw it has testified to it, and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – the all-knowing one knows that he is telling the truth! – so that you may believe”!! All of this happened, he says, to fulfill the scripture that commanded (Exodus 12:46) that no bone of the Passover lamb should be broken, and which said in another place (Zechariah 12:10) of the Messiah that they would see him whom they had “stabbed”.


In short, the Fourth Gospel writer has no intention of confirming the death of Jesus, but rather uses the note from Mark that Jesus was truly dead to further his Christological dreams. However, he has another purpose: to prove that he did not write the so-called first letter of John. The author of that letter – whoever he was, it doesn’t matter here, but what is certain is that he was a man and wrote as a man with a soft pen, unlike the Fourth Gospel writer who has softened the forms of his style and taken away every muscle and nerve – that man says that Jesus came with water and blood, meaning that at the beginning of his ministry he was attested as the Messiah through baptism with water and ultimately through baptism with blood, so that water and blood testify on earth in communion with the Spirit (1 John 5:6, 8). And the Fourth Gospel writer makes this testimony, this blood and water testimony, consist in the fact that when that soldier had stabbed Jesus in the side, blood and water flowed out!

Thus, the significance to the Fourth Gospel writer of Jesus finally being shown as the true Passover lamb is evident, and this explains the transformation he allowed himself in the chronology of Holy Week.


8. The chronology of the week of suffering.

Therefore, the Fourth Gospel has taken away the character of the Passover meal from the last supper of Jesus with the disciples, he has reported nothing about the institution of the Lord’s Supper, he has afterwards reminded anxiously that the celebration of the Passover meal was approaching that evening, he has finally concocted a feature that made Jesus equal to the Passover lamb, so that it would be certain and every reader would notice that Jesus himself was the true Passover lamb and was sacrificed for the sins of the world, while the Jews enjoyed the shadow, the old legal Passover meal. According to him, Jesus was not sacrificed on the first day of Passover, but on the Sabbath following the Passover evening, which is this first holiday – he therefore says very awkwardly (as if this coincidental circumstance could only have persuaded the Jews not to allow the bodies to remain on the cross) that Sabbath day was a great day (chapter 19, verse 31) – thus, his account is also fragmented on this aspect, as it becomes clear that the significance of this Sabbath, which he initially set to be the first day of Passover, is blurred.

Mark arranged things so that Jesus offered his body, blood, and flesh to the disciples at the same moment that the Jews had to content themselves with the shadow, the Paschal lamb. Jesus was crucified on the first day of Passover, and the Sabbath during which he lay in the grave was now the counterpart to that Sabbath on which God once rested after creating the new world.

Furthermore, it was only Luke who called the first day of Passover the preparation day for the following Sabbath, thus robbing it of its independent meaning (Luke 23:54). The parallel remark in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 15:42) is partly a later addition borrowed from the fourth Gospel, as evidenced by the overcrowding of the sentence, a style not typical of Mark. Matthew only used the term “preparation day” in his episode about the Roman guards after learning it from Luke (Matthew 27:62).

We do not want to hold the Fourth Gospel responsible or rely on it when we overturn the chronology of Mark. We also do not want to note how unlikely it is that the trial took place on the first day of Passover and that the priests dared to execute Jesus on this day when they feared his followers. Nor do we want to remind ourselves that the account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper has dissolved, or that all parts of this story have suffered the same fate of dissolution, so that we have no more history before us. Rather, we need only to recall how the chronology of the Passion Week was shaped by the Christian idea to have the right to say that it was formed later than there was a Christian community, a Christian self-consciousness. This is the kind of tautology that the spirit has suffered from, been tormented and bloodthirsty, for eighteen centuries.


Like true Christian art, especially painting, when it was still truly Christian, reached its peak in the portrayal of the sufferings and martyrdoms of the saints, and found its highest task in depicting the instruments of torture, the executioners, the gruesome contortions, distortions, and disfigurements that the bodies of the saints must suffer under the rough fists of the persecutors, so in this section the evangelical view has heaped up the most significant descriptions from the Old Testament of the sufferings of the righteous and worked them into one story. The only difference from the Old Testament view is that if in the latter the idea of suffering turns into the victorious revenge, the Christian spirit has given suffering a deeper meaning and sought to bring about the reversal, the peripeteia, in a different way. But not yet in the true sense! Suffering is still worked out too much in its crude externality, not yet fully grasped as inner and in itself world-conquering. Moreover, it is only viewed in this person as the true, as the highest, so its overcoming and dissolution cannot be viewed in a general form in the ongoing development of history. This person must rather rise bodily, she must win by bodily means, as she suffered bodily and as her bodily suffering appeared as a significant object of contemplation: i.e. this person must rise bodily and through the sense of touch convince her own that she has won. —-



§ 89. The trial of Jesus before Pilate

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 89.

The trial of Jesus before Pilate.


1. The Report of the Fourth.

John 18:33-40. 19:1-16.

The Jews who have their Passover lamb at hand stay outside remain standing outside when they have handed Jesus over to the governor as a criminal deserving of death. Pilate then goes back into the praetorium, welcomes Jesus and asks him whether he is the king of the Jews. If he now, instead of outright declaring himself, thinks he must raise a counter-question, he should in any case have asked it more clearly than he actually did. His question: are you talking about yourself or did others tell you? the judge couldn’t understand and neither do we. Whether the question is meant to ask whether Pilate is considering Jesus’ claim to kingship from a Roman perspective or from the perspective of the Jews who hold this claim, there would be no difference, which is what Jesus seems to be emphasizing at this moment, as the Jews, when speaking with Pilate about the matter, could only present it to him in the dangerous light in which it must have appeared to the Roman.


Or, if the question is meant to ask whether Jesus is speaking about his claim to kingship as a divine belief that he himself holds, or whether he has been told this by others, then we might reasonably ask whether it was the time for Jesus to gain new followers or to pursue any even remotely appearing chance of gaining such followers. However, could he really have been uncertain about who Pilate had heard from that he was the King of the Jews?

Both cases that we had to consider as possible, the meaningless tendency of the question and this pretentious one, have crossed the mind of the Fourth [Gospel writer]. Both are present in the question itself, but these already baseless allusions could not be followed up and shaped into a coherent thought by the Fourth [Gospel writer], because he can never shape and because this time he pursued different tendencies at the same time.

(It is not worth noting that it is inappropriate for the Jews to have argued back and forth without telling Pilate what kind of criminal they were bringing, and for the governor to suddenly ask, “Are you the King of the Jews?” However, it is indicative of the Fourth Gospel writer’s style, or rather, the way he borrows from his predecessors and develops their statements. When Mark says that the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate and he asked him if he was the King of the Jews, that is something completely different; it is told in a sensible manner.)

“Am I a Jew? replies Pilate. Your people and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” So because he is not a Jew, he has nothing to do with investigating what Jesus’ supposed claims are all about? And what does that mean, putting off the investigation first and then ask, “What have you done? Well, this latter question is only meant to bring about Jesus’ declaration that his kingdom is not of this world. So you are a king after all? replies Pilate, naive and curious as a child, and Jesus has not even denied it hitherto! He was supposed to only have the opportunity to notice that he is indeed a king and to impart the same formulas he uses throughout the whole fourth Gospel about his purpose for coming into the world. As he also mentions the word “truth” for this purpose, Pilate asks, “What is truth?” However, the Fourth Gospel did not come up with all those interesting intermediate thoughts that later cleverness combined with this question. The evangelist simply wanted to end the conversation and therefore lets Pilate pose a question to which he had very little to answer unless he wanted to teach the same old formulas over and over again. He then says that Pilate went out to the Jews with these words.


We believe Pilate’s report to the Jews that he found no fault in this man during the wonderful interrogation. However, if he was convinced of Jesus’ innocence, he could not even take the middle ground and propose, in accordance with the Paschal custom of releasing a prisoner at that time, whether they wanted him to release to them the King of the Jews. Furthermore, if he wanted to save the accused, it was a childish and reckless obstinacy on his part to provoke the Jews through the form of the proposal, not to mention that it is not the custom of authorities to label the innocent with the title of the accusation.

Although these contrasts all collapse before the human eye, they repeat themselves again and again, until we run out of patience and are compelled and justified to cast down the concoction of this pragmatism with contempt. But it doesn’t even get that bad with him: it falls apart in our hands.

The people want Barrabas, a robber, free. Pilate obeys, takes Jesus, has him scourged, and the soldiers dress him in a mocking royal garb, taunt and mistreat him.


Now we might think that it’s enough and the matter is over. But no! it goes on again and again from the beginning, and we can’t understand how it can ever come to an end.

Once again Pilate goes out to show the Jews, by bringing Jesus out with him, that he finds no fault in him. What a foolish man! How could he hope to find a hearing for his proposals by presenting Jesus to the Jews in a mocking king’s costume! Of course, the high priests and their servants cry out: “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Then Pilate answers, “Take him and crucify him!” As if they hadn’t already said before that they didn’t have the right to execute the death penalty. And if they had just said it again: “He is guilty, but we are not allowed to execute the death sentence ourselves.” No! They answer: “According to our law, he is guilty because he made himself the Son of God.”

Pilate is said to have become “even more” afraid, and he goes back (!) to the Praetorium, asking Jesus where he comes from – ποθεν, as Pilate is familiar with the language of the holy John – but Jesus remains silent. Pilate tries to win him over, reminding him that he has the power to crucify him or to set him free, and – can anyone treat their hero more frightfully, degrade him more deeply? – with this threatening argument, Jesus is actually moved to answer. However, even an answer that rebuked the governor was inappropriate if Jesus had already decided not to answer; indeed, an answer that only elevated his own person above Pilate’s pretended power was the most inappropriate in this case. He should have better introduced or used his reworked version of the saying he read in Luke, the saying (Chapter 22, verse 53) that “this is the power of darkness at this hour”. Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”


The thing then starts again from the beginning. From then on, it is said – but he had proved from the beginning that he had this intention! — Pilate sought to set him free. But—the steps he tried to carry out his intention are not given! Naturally! because the stuff that his predecessors gave to the Fourth has finally run out — the Jews shouted, if you let him go, you’re no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes himself king defies the emperor! Finally – as if he hadn’t known from the beginning that this man would attach himself to the kingship, as if it didn’t matter in what sense he attached it to himself etc etc etc — Pilate sits outside on his judge’s seat, carrying Jesus with him, but starts again the unworthy, we should mean long ago hounded joke that he introduces Jesus to the Jews as their king, and then asks them when they demand the crucifixion, should he crucify their king? Only when they reply that we have no king but the Emperor is the matter finally settled. But we still have no rest. Pilate gives Jesus to the Jews to be crucified. The Jews! The fourth, who now had so much to do with the Jews and finally wanted to quench their anger, forgets that Jesus could not be handed over to the Jews, but only to the Roman soldiers, according to the assumptions that he himself had so glaringly emphasized!

But why didn’t he close the matter with the fact that Jesus was handed over to be scourged by the governor and mocked by the soldiers with that king’s habit! Why does he then have this endless tangle of going back and forth, going out and going in, leading out and in! Why is he only now bringing up the fact that the Jews regarded Jesus as guilty of death because he had made himself the son of God! Why does he bring up Luke’s saying about the power of darkness here in the first place! In general, he has to fix the mistakes he made in the composition so poorly, and he even processes the new incident points that the other two have added to the original report, such as the note about the increasing fear of Pilate, even more clumsily than his predecessors!


We’ll catch our breath when we read the original report.

2. The original report.

Mark 15, 1—21

Jesus is handed over to Pilate by the priesthood. He asks him, are you the king of the Jews? Jesus affirms it, but says nothing about all the accusations of the priests, remains silent even there, to the astonishment of Pilate, when he draws his attention to the seriousness of the accusations.

In short, Pilate is at a loss as to what to do.

The fact that the mob stormed up to the praetorium—the negotiations were taking place inside— *) and reminded him that he was in the habit of releasing a prisoner for them at Passover time. He immediately takes this opportunity to propose to them whether he should not release the king of the Jews to them; for he saw that the priests had handed him over to him only out of spiteful envy. Rather, they incited the people to demand Barrabas, a man who had committed murder in a rebellion and was imprisoned with the conspirators. From this proposal Pilate asks what he should do with the king of the Jews, they cry crucify him! and after he had noticed that he had done nothing wrong, and the people had repeated his cry, he gave him up to be flogged and crucified, but released Barabbas, which the fourth had completely forgotten to report on more important matters. The soldiers now lead Jesus into the courtyard, call the whole cohort together, clothe Jesus in that mocking royal garb, mock him, put his own clothes back on him, and then lead him out to be crucified.

*) V. 8: αναβας. After V. 18 :  ο εστι πραιτωριον is a later gloss.


Before we examine the original report more closely, we shall first free it from the additions with which the other two hoped to enrich it for its own good.

3. Luke’s account.

Luke 23, 1-25.

Not even at the beginning, although he is still trying to preserve the structure of the original report, can Luke resist the temptation to improve, to change, to define more precisely; but if these changes are already unfortunate in the beginning, the definiteness which Luke imposes on the original features is only fragmentary, namely only spotted out here and there, while the other features remain as he finds them in the writing of Mark:— so he finally broke through the original report at one point and changed one feature so much that in this respect his account can compete with that of the fourth.

It is far too suggestive when the Jews come forward with the accusation that Jesus deceives the people and prevents them from paying taxes to Caesar by saying that he is the Messiah-King; This detailed and suggestive accusation is now the subject of Pilate’s question: are you king of the Jews? afterwards, when Jesus answers this question in the affirmative, it is much too early and unnaturally hasty that Pilate assures “the priests and the crowd” that he finds no guilt in this man, and when the adversaries affirm again , he stirs up the people by teaching throughout Judea, and that he began his career from Galilee to here is, according to the proportion in which the Gospel passages are worked out and expressed, a very unnecessary and superfluous remark.


To Pilate, the word Galilee was like a godsend. When he heard that Jesus was a Galilean, he remembered that Herod, the accused’s ruler, was present in the capital right now, and sent Jesus to him. Later, after the account of Jesus’ unsuccessful interrogation by Herod, Luke informs us that Herod and Pilate, who had previously been enemies, were good friends at that time.

Pilate hit it very well with his idea. Herod was happy to see Jesus, for he had wanted to see him for a long time and he hoped to see a sign from him. But he asked him a lot!! Jesus was silent and — but where do they come from? did they know that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod? Must they always be where there is something for them to do? — the chief priests and scribes accused him severely! — the chief priests whom Pilate must later call together again when Jesus returns; the high priests, who, if they had accompanied Jesus to Herod, would certainly not have let him go alone on his return!

Later, however, when Pilate calls the priests back, he himself says that he sent them to Herod – but Luke should have mentioned this earlier instead of presenting the matter as if what happened between Pilate and Herod was only a private matter, only a proof of their renewed friendship! And if the priests were sent to Herod with Jesus, shouldn’t they have returned to Pilate with Jesus at the same time?

Things are back to where they were now. Pilate must again protest the innocence of this man and in vain – but no! Luke did not even know how to put the matter in such a way that Pilate, when the people reminded him of the Passover custom, made the suggestion that he should accordingly release the accused — No! after Pilate had declared, without reminding of this custom and without regard to it, that he wanted Jesus, after having him —! — have scourged, release, the people suddenly cry out, without us learning how the idea came about: take him and instead release us Barrabas! Therefore, when Pilate later makes his proposal again and even repeats it once more, despite the people’s outcry, stating that he finds nothing deserving of death in this man, this sets the stage for that endless and senseless expansion that so painfully tormented us in the fourth Gospel. On the other hand, it is not even explained how it came about that the dice were cast between Jesus and Barabbas, i.e., it is not motivated why Pilate persisted with his repeated proposals.


And yet this interlude was originally intended to give Pilate an opportunity to extricate himself from his embarrassment, even through Luke’s unclear and confused presentation this determination can still be seen. — — —

i.e. if Pilate wanted to get himself out of the embarrassment by Jesus’ settlement to Herod – although Luke did not even know how to write in such a way that he would have clearly stated this intention – then a disturbing excess has entered the account.

Finally, the mockery of Jesus in the royal robe is only intended to conclude the development, and because of its crude character, it can only come from the soldiers and as the conclusion of this act, only from the Roman soldiers to whom the condemned was handed over for crucifixion. And, as Luke says, Herod dressed Jesus in the purple robe, mocked him with his soldiers, and sent him back to Pilate in the purple robe.

Not a word more about a report of this kind! We have already shown above that Luke used what Mark reports about the relationship between Herod and the Baptist in the most adventurous way to work out this novel between Jesus and Herod, and his imagination was so poor in this regard that he only knew how to process in this novel what can be read in the original report of the interrogation of Jesus before Pilate and of his mockery by the soldiers.


Matthew has other news to tell us.

4. The account of Matthew.

C. 27, 2. 11-31.

He kept the order of things as they were in Mark, and copied more faithfully than Luke. However, when he comes to that incident and mentions the Paschal custom at the time, and then lets Pilate make the proposal without further explanation: “Whom shall I release to you, Jesus or Barabbas?” – how does the governor know that a certain Barabbas comes into play here? It is because Matthew is excessively hasty and inserts what he has learned from Mark’s scripture into Pilate’s mind without considering it. He had already made an extraordinary mistake in allowing Pilate to speak before telling us that the people reminded the governor of that custom.

As he sits on the judge’s seat and makes that very suggestion, the Fourth Gospel has the note from Matthew about the judge’s seat, which he then introduces in his own very laborious and anxious way. He only has Pilate ascend the seat at the end for the sake of solemnity, and also because the harried Pilate has been running back and forth before. Suddenly, while he is making this suggestion, his wife sends word to him, telling him not to harm this innocent man, for she has suffered much in a dream on account of him. It’s a pity that we don’t hear what she suffered, but it’s unfortunate that this episode is drowned out by the context! Because what did the people say in response to that proposal? We don’t hear it! No, because of that episode, once it’s finished, the story starts all over again: the priests convince the people to demand the release of Barabbas, and in response to this demand – as if it had never been made! – Pilate must reply: which of the two shall I release? The story thus falls into a bottomless abyss from which it will never emerge, and the episode is dragged down with it.


A new episode! Finally, after Matthew has worked his way up to the point with the help of Mark where Pilate is forced to give in to the will of the people, he tells us that Pilate took water, washed his hands in front of the eyes of the people – washing his hands in innocence! – and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. You can see for yourselves!” to which the people replied, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

What is the world in which a judge so vehemently protests the innocence of an accused and, when he nevertheless sentences him, thinks himself white-faced and settles the matter completely, as soon as he presents himself before the eyes of malicious persecutors, to whom he exposes the innocent, wash hands? What is the world in which the judge, who sits publicly free in the marketplace among the people, as soon as it enters his mind, immediately has water at hand to wash symbolically, or rather ridiculously earnestly, by washing his hands, to ensure his innocence? It is that world of Matthew in which the Roman governor must at all costs pronounce the innocence of Jesus, whatever the consequences may be. It is the world in which Jesus’ innocence must be declared at any price, even at the price of a Roman governor making himself look ridiculous; it is the same world in which people are sent dreams just as they are necessary for a petty pragmatism: for petty is this effort to establish the innocence of Jesus in every way.

Incidentally, the reason for the last episode, or at least one element that Matthew has processed in it, is that word that, according to Luke’s account, Jesus said to the women who wept for him on the way to Golgotha: Rather weep for you and yours Children!

After the episodes, the contortions, the endless extensions have experienced their fate, the original report will not be able to escape its fate either.


5. Resolution of the original report.

Very wise remarks have been made that Jesus, after briefly professing himself before Pilate as King of the Jews, is silent on all further accusations; but the thing is simply this: Jesus had to be silent, because the Holy Spirit had dictated to the prophet that it would be so, because Jesus is the Lamb which, when it is led to the slaughterhouse (Isa. 53:7), does not open its mouth.

By resisting the demands of the priests, Pilate must provide the proof that Jesus really was innocent, by his inclination for the innocent he must provide the foil on which the raging fury of the Jews appears in all its gloom. and finally he has to declare that he finds no guilt in this man, so that he can speak like those princes who, in contrast to the vengeful priests, declared that Jeremiah (26:16) was not guilty of death.

However, the evangelical view cannot be consistent because it is never concerned with portraying a character accurately, as it does not recognize the value of any individual character or person, and only its momentary needs and contrasts are of importance. Therefore, it should not surprise us when Pilate is suddenly used in a different way and has to renounce his willingness to support Jesus at the moment when another contrast is necessary. As if he could be heard through such bitter jests, he presents Jesus as the King of the Jews to his opponents, because this is what Mark wants at that moment, as he aims to humble the pride of the priests while also demonstrating the Romans’ contempt for all Jewish beliefs.

As for Barabbas, Mark is the only witness who teaches us about that Passover custom, which the people suddenly thought of when things were quite different, but which they had to think of in order to be accepted by Pilate’s suggestion and through the insinuations of the priests it could happen that the lot was drawn over two people who touched each other in a strange way *). The copyist who wrote about Barrabas Matth. 27, 16 first added the addition “Jesus” may have already seen who Barrabas is. Barrabas, i.e. “the son of the father”, is the image of the Messiah created by Mark, namely the lying image of the true Messiah. The Jews demanded the false image and rejected the heavenly archetype. In a rebellion in which he stained himself with blood, Barabbas wanted to fight for the earthly freedom of his people, while Jesus taught freedom and the service of the kingdom of heaven, whose citizenship one only obtains by accepting it as a child. Furthermore, by his name Barabbas is the lying image of him whom his father from heaven called his beloved son. When finally on the Day of Atonement the lot was thrown over two, namely over the two goats, one of which had to fall to the Lord as a bloody sacrifice for the sin of the people, while the other went free, that one had to be chosen in a similar way who was to shed his blood for the sins of the people and the world.

*) As I said, I don’t want to spoil the end of my work by mentioning theological lies and shamefulness here. The theological archeology of the passion story is only a tautology, which merely repeats the information given by the evangelists and has the impertinence of wanting to count as the result of historical research. In another place, however, if one really wants it, although the matter is completely settled with the above criticism, I shall show to what lies theologians have taken refuge in this matter.


The mocking coronation of Jesus by the Roman soldiers—the mockery of the world power at the promised king of Israel—is intended to bring the mockery to the extreme it could reach before the crucifixion and before the scenes that took place at it.



§ 88. The interrogation before the high priest

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 88.

The interrogation before the high priest.

1.The interrogation before Annas.

John 18, 12-14. 19 – 24.

The fourth would have to know the matter quite well and his report would have to be the most reliable, if he really is that other disciple who was known to the high priest Annas and through whose mediation Peter succeeded in penetrating into the vestibule of the high priestly palladium.

But before we believe him that Jesus was brought into the palladium of Annas, who was only the father-in-law of the real high priest, Caiaphas, he would have to prove better than he has done that he is at home in the area he describes and with which he is so anxiously familiar, and he should not speak as if he were less acquainted with nothing than with the Jewish constitution at that time. Caiaphas, he says, was the high priest of that year. About this new enrichment of our knowledge of history, i. e. about the note that the high priests in Jerusalem changed annually, we do not want to come out of joy or displeasure, we prefer to note immediately how the fourth came to this note: in the writing of Mark he finds the category “the high priests,” misunderstands this determination of the majority, misunderstands also the other note in the writing of Luke, that Jesus appeared when Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, (C. 3, 2) thinks that the dignity changed annually between the two, or perhaps they followed each other in dignity at that time, and finally imagines that because Annas was the father-in-law of the reigning – – – but let us leave that!


The interrogation that Jesus has to undergo is very short, but also meaningless; yes, if we consider how Annas’ question about Jesus’ teachings and disciples and his answer that he has always taught freely and publicly arose, the interrogation dwindles to a minimum, or rather, into nothing. The only new thing that the fourth Gospel adds to Jesus’ speech is the rather abrupt remark: “Why do you ask me? Ask my listeners what I have said to them; they know what I have said.” One of the servants then strikes Jesus in the face because he answered disrespectfully to the High Priest’s question, and after Jesus has fairly sentimentally defended himself against the servant (“if I have answered badly, prove it; but if it was appropriate, why do you strike me?” … if it wasn’t important to him to say a few more words, he should have expressed himself more fully to the High Priest) – the matter is settled.


Annas now sends Jesus bound – already before the Roman cohort, their colonel and the servants of the Jews had bound him when he was captured – to Caiaphas, from where he was led to the praetorium in the morning without any further action being taken with him. Or rather only up to the Praetorium, since the Jews, in order not to defile themselves for the enjoyment of the Passover lamb on the evening, do not want to step into the Gentile house: Pilate must therefore step out of the government building, and after he had had to take a very defiant answer in return for his condescending favor, he must in addition so far forgive himself his dignity as to take Jesus into his custody as a capital criminal, before he can learn from the Jews why he had forfeited life (C. 18, 28-32).

However, we have not heard that Jesus was found guilty of death after an interrogation, nor why he deserved to die. Therefore, when the Jews answer Pilate’s question about what charges they have against this man by saying, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” it is not only ridiculous, arrogant, and audaciously disrespectful towards the authorities, whom they should have tried to win over, but it is also tantamount to saying nothing, as all the prerequisites necessary for such a statement are missing.

All those novelties that the fourth Gospel reports – and everything he reports consists of novelties – All that we do not want to list again has left no room for him to report on the main thing, the actual interrogation, and he had to bring in these novelties because he did not dare to report on the main thing. Why? It will become clear when we look at the original report.


2. The original report.

Mark 14, 53 – 65.

Mark does not yet know the name of the High Priest to whom Jesus would be brought, and out of obedience to Mark, Luke does not mention him, although he did name the names of Caiaphas and Annas in the opening of his work, which is his own creation. Matthew combines the earlier information from Luke with this last part of the Gospel, and on his own account, names the High Priest as Caiaphas. Peter had also followed his Lord to the palace of the High Priest.


Mark knows of only one interrogation. The synod had tried to find false witnesses, but could not reconcile their testimony. Some of them testified that they had once heard Jesus say that he would tear down this temple and erect another one in three days; but even their testimony could not bring anything to a decision, since it was not true. In vain the high priest asked Jesus to answer, and only then, when he asked him the decisive question, whether he was the Son of the Blessed One, the accused answered: I am He, and from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his garment and said, “Why do we need witnesses?” and the assembled council pronounced a sentence of death for blasphemy.

Now follows the mocking and maltreatment of Jesus by the servants, the denial of Peter, and the statement that the priesthood came in the morning and handed Jesus over to Pilate – Mark does not yet know anything about that ridiculous scruples of the Jews regarding impurity, of course also because he does not need to impress upon his readers so anxiously that tonight only the Passover lamb will be eaten.

Matthew tells the same and has strictly kept to the original report, while the report of Luke already forms the transition to that of the fourth, namely is just as incomplete and confused.


3. Luke’s Report.

Luke22, 54-71.

Immediately after the notice that Jesus was led “into the house” of the high priest, the report of Peter’s denial follows, and immediately after that the report of the taunts and mockings that Jesus had to suffer. There is no mention of an interrogation yet.

Only in the morning the Sanhedrin gathers, Jesus is summoned, asked if he is the Christ, and although he now makes a lot of dodges: “If I say it, you will not believe, and if I ask, you will neither answer me nor let me go”, although we should therefore expect him to abstain from all answers, he nevertheless adds, not only without any motive – for it would then have to be: yes, I am! – but also in contradiction to the motive introduced: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power of God. Now we should think that the questions would be over, but no! As if it were a different one from the first, a second one follows: if he is the Son of God, Jesus answers it in the affirmative, his opponents shout: why do we still need a testimony, and he is led to Pilate.

It is clear: the anxious confusion in Jesus’ first answer, the anxious appearance of a twofold question, came about because Luke knew that the interrogation had to be longer, and because he was unsure how to accomplish this extension. It is equally clear that the mockery of Jesus, if it occurs before his declaration that he is the Lord of Glory, has lost its basis; and that Peter’s denial, only after Jesus’ condemnation, as the incident that completes the measure of the sufferings of this night, requires no explicit proof.

The report, however, is not only highly deficient in its arrangement – namely completely confused and shifted, but that an important component of the interrogation is suppressed by Luke and yet the structure of the original report is maintained, is evident from the question (Chapter 22, verse 71): what need have we of further witnesses? What kind of question is this if it was not previously reported that efforts had been made in vain to obtain witness statements! Luke wanted to reserve that testimony, that Jesus had uttered blasphemies against the temple – “the holy place”, Acts 6:13 – for the story of Stephen. Hence the incomplete nature of the report and its convoluted arrangement.


Luke had shown the fourth how to do it, if he wanted to use the statement of the false witnesses otherwise. On the occasion of the cleansing of the temple, the fourth had really put that saying about the temple into the mouth of the Lord and used the note of Mark that the testimony of the accusers was not the same to ascribe a misunderstanding to the people concerning that saying (John 2, 19 – 21) – reason enough to do everything to fill the gap that arose in every possible way. But he should not have made the gap even more unbearable by completely omitting to inform us that and how the synod condemned the Lord to death!


4. Release of the original report.

Trifles – which, however, are not trifles at all for history as well as for a proper history book – as e.g. that the synod could be assembled immediately in the night, since one did not know whether the attack of Judas would succeed today or when at all; the other, that the synod had to meet again in the morning, since the matter had already been decided – but it happened only because Mark needed a transition and a starting point for the following – whether finally the synod could admit that the servants were allowed to exercise their crudities on the accused so unguardedly, we will not mention.

But this is not a trifle, that the saying of the temple, if Jesus, as it is the premise of the original evangelist, had really recited it once before the people, would have been understood by no one. The temple that Jesus wants to found in three days after the overthrow of the old one is the church that is founded with the resurrection: but who would have understood this among the people? Who will present things that no one among the listeners understands? But no one can recite such things either: sayings always come into being only when, and where, they are understood.


The elements out of which this saying and the whole situation is formed are the following.

That false witnesses stand up against the righteous is taught by many Psalms (e.g. Ps. 27, 12); but just one conclusion about a statement concerning the sanctuary Mark learned from the writing of Jeremiah. This prophet also once prophesied the downfall of the temple and was therefore accused by the priesthood of being guilty of death: “he is worthy of death, say the accusers and judges of Jeremiah, he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard with your ears” (Jer. 26:11) much as in the writing of Mark the priest says: “You have heard blasphemy, what do you think?” and how the others now reply that he is guilty of death. The only difference is that, while Jeremiah knew how to justify himself and was protected by the princes, the testimony about Jesus’ statement could not decide the matter, which here had to end in death, and only Jesus’ declaration that he was the Messiah had to bring about the verdict.

The hardships that Jesus had to endure after his redemption were absolutely necessary and could not be spared to the Messiah, so that what the Holy Spirit had dictated to the prophet long before (Is. 50, 6) about the fate of the Messiah would be fulfilled.


5. The Denial of Peter.

In the usual manner of the fourth gospel, in which the words only have value and are worthy of the Lord, when they are quite vaporous floating or cretinous bloated, Jesus says during the last meal to the disciples (C. 13, 33) that he must now tell them the same thing that he once told the Jews (C. 7, 34), that they were looking for him, but where he was going, they could not go. Of course, the disciples must not understand these words as much as they understood the Jews at that time. Peter therefore asks very curiously: where are you going? Where I am going, Jesus answers – but Peter has hardly become wiser now – you cannot follow, but later – Jesus adds, having in mind the legend of Peter’s death on the cross – you will follow me. Again, in the manner of the fourth, it is natural that Peter does not understand a word of what Jesus said, but rather wonders why he cannot follow the Lord now, since he would lay down his life for him. You? Jesus answers, you will lay down your life for me? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (V. 36 – 38.)

Luke also inserted very improper reflections into the original text. Once, after he had settled the childish contest of the disciples about the precedence, Jesus remarks (C. 22, 31-34), “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift you as the wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not, and when you are converted some day,-thus also a reflection to the future, but what reflection! is “some day” so far off? Shall it not be concluded with the cockcrow? – so strengthen your brothers. Peter declares that he will follow the Lord to prison and death, whereupon he must then hear that he will rather deny him three times before the cock crows today.

Luke has set a threefold machinery in motion and each of them makes the other superfluous or an illusion. If the shocking impression of the cockcrow is completely paralyzed and canceled out, when Jesus’ prayer is supposed to bring about the decision, then again the prayer has become superfluous, when Peter is brought to himself immediately after the third denial by the fact that the Lord – we do not know how it was possible, since Jesus was inside in the palladium, Peter outside in the courtyard – turned to him and looked at him.


Matthew, who remained faithful to the original account, makes the Lord – and it is only right and appropriate – remark on the way to Gethsemane (Chapter 26, 30-35) that all of them would be offended because it is written: “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Peter – note the progression! – declares that even if all the others were to be offended, he would not, and he insists on the opposite even after Jesus had told him that he would deny him three times that night before the rooster crowed. The other disciples also assure that they would remain steadfast — —

just like Mark (C. 14, 26 – 31), only that the original character of his report is revealed in his entangling antithesis:  “this night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times!”

We already know what is meant by the marvelous historical knowledge of the fourth, that Jesus is led into the palace of Annas, that in the same palace, into which he gained entrance through the mediation of the other disciple, Peter denies his Lord, what is meant by this admirable vividness. First Peter has to deny his Lord before the door of the palladium, when he gets entrance through the mediation of the other disciple (C. 18, 15-17) – how inappropriate it is that here, where Peter has to stand alone, another disciple appears, which either repulsive or meaningless role this other plays, while Peter falls and rises again from the fall, that, then Peter denies his master in front of the servants with whom he warms himself at the fire, and he repeats his denial when a relative of poor Malchus speaks to him about having seen him in the garden! Then the cock crows (v. 25-27).


We recover immediately at the primal account (Mark 14, 66-72). Peter, who had followed his master into the palladium of the high priest, warms himself in the courtyard at the fire, one of the maids addresses him as one who had also been in the company of the Nazarene Jesus, he denies, retreats into the porch and the cock crows. The same maid, seeing him again, decouples him to the bystanders, he denies and – note this connection! – denies again, when shortly afterwards the bystanders remark that his Galilean dialect betrays him. With an oath Peter denies this time, then the cock crows, he remembers the words of Jesus and – for all this the fourth one had no more thoughts after his great efforts – cries. This is coherence and simplicity of presentation, economy of means and all the greater effect.

Luke has already violated the law of parsimony by not letting the maid appear twice, but instead introducing “another” to Peter the second time and letting another, very loosely even, affirm that Peter is one of the group for the third time, because – but how did he know? – he is also a Galilean. Luke has also overlooked how the two crowings of the rooster hold the whole development together. The same has also been overlooked by Matthew, and he has no less disregarded how beautiful and simple it is if the same maid who recognized Peter first and alone shows him to the other person the second time: the second time, he introduces another maid.

Mark was the first to form the entire story and formed it to enhance the impression of the abandonment in which the Lord stood after his condemnation. Jesus must also predict Peter’s fall to make it certain that he not only stood above the collision with the calmness and certainty of his spirit but was also not surprised by any incident of it in any way. –


Peter will not hold it against us if we add a critique of the reports on the end of the traitor as an appendix here.


6. The End of the Traitor.

In his Gospel, Luke remains faithful to the original type of the evangelical story to the extent that he tells nothing about the fate of Judas. Only in the Acts of the Apostles does he know how to tell that the traitor bought a field with the blood money, but suddenly — how floating and unstable the report is fabricated! — fell down and burst in the middle, so that — glorious imagination — all (!) his entrails spilled out, and that now, when it became known to all inhabitants of Jerusalem, the field was called Akeldama, the Field of Blood.

So because (Acts 1:18-20) the villain’s entrails were lying on this field, it was called the Field of Blood! And all the inhabitants of Jerusalem hear that news! And they take so much interest in the long-gone story, perhaps take so far for Judas and against the murdered Messiah, that they baptize that field the Field of Blood. But no! They only call it the Field of Blood because of the entrails!

This time, Luke had the interest of completing the number of twelve apostles and, at the same time, to emphasize vividly the gap in the story by establishing the end of the traitor. He cites the two prophecies that had to be fulfilled now. The heritage of the evildoer must become desolate, and he himself must perish (Ps. 69:26) — of course, this time the heritage that the evildoer acquired with his sin money — and, Ps. 109:8, his office must be given to another. Another, however, must be chosen by lot this time so that, when this other disappears without a trace, the truly other, the true replacement, Paul, later appears even more significant.


Whether Matthew became acquainted with the field of blood from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, or whether this field already existed in the circle where he learned the Gospel of his predecessor, detached from the written letter and discussed, cannot be decided here. Enough, he includes it, and to make the matter more melodramatic and to introduce the new melodrama in his Gospel, he breaks the original structure of the Gospel history and separates the note that Jesus was brought to Pilate from the other, that he now stood before the governor. If the end of the betrayer were to be reported in a Gospel, it must now happen immediately, not later as in the Acts of the Apostles. This new arrangement can even be called an improvement compared to the one made by Luke, who does not let much time pass between the ascension of Jesus and the election of his replacement, yet speaks as if Judas had possessed the field for a longer time, as if the death of the betrayer had already occurred for some time, and as if the field had borne the name given to it by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem for a longer time. Luke had the first agony of invention; Matthew does it better, even if he had to slow down the development of the Gospel history to make it better. (Chapter 27, 2-11)

Immediately, as Judas sees that Jesus has been condemned by the priests, he feels remorse etc and brings back his, that is, the prophet’s, silver coins to the priests so that they could be sent to their true destination, commanded by the prophet. Judas even helps with this. When the priests respond to his complaint that he has betrayed innocent blood by saying that it is none of their concern, his and the evangelist’s desperation helps him so much that he succeeds in throwing the silver coins into the temple, after which he hangs himself. The priests must now take care of the expedition of the silver coins. As blood money, they think they cannot keep them in the temple, so they purchased the Potter’s Field – which was therefore very cheap! – and designated it as a burial place for strangers, and the field itself was called the Field of Blood from then on. The confusion of this world: to call or even prove all of this and everything that follows as confusion or chaos, such as that Judas could enter the temple, that the priests immediately found the silver coins in the temple, and guessed their former owner immediately, would be a deliberate waste of time, since we have already seen that these silver coins are only given to Judas by Matthew.


We have only to explain the prophecy which Matthew provided for its fulfillment.

That shepherd, Jehovah himself, whose earnings have been estimated at thirty pieces of silver, says indignantly to the prophet (Zech. 11:13): “Throw the glory of the price at which I am valued by them into the treasury” (Treasure ! this is here יןצר). The prophet knows immediately what kind of treasure is meant, he “takes the pieces of silver and throws them into the temple, into the treasury. ” If Jehovah’s glory otherwise dwells in the temple, then it should now , where he breaks with the people, instead of him the ridiculous price at which his people valued him can be found in the temple. Tooth for tooth! mockery for mockery!

No one knew it better than Matthew — after all, above C. 26, 15 he literally formed his text after that, where the prophetic passage about the pieces of silver is. Nevertheless he now quotes Jeremiah (C. 26, 9). Why? Because he wants to remind the reader that the moment has now come when his prophecies will also be fulfilled, and because he borrowed the note from the potter’s field from his writing, the note which he immediately weaves into the quotation from the writing of Zechariah. He already understood the word יןצר in the writing of Zechariah to mean potter, and Jeremiah teaches him what the potter means here. He was once commanded by Jehovah to go down to the potter’s house and to learn from the arbitrariness with which he dealt with the clay how arbitrarily Jehovah could deal with his people (C. 18, 1-6). . Even more! In front of the brick gate in the valley of Ben Hinnom, where the potters are working – that is the connection that connects both prophecies! — shall Jeremiah go, buy himself an earthenware jar from the potter, break it in front of the elders of the people and the priests, and say: Jehovah also will break this people and this city in pieces! (C. 19, 1-11.)


Matthew has now made sure that the priests, through their purchase on the potter’s field, carry the pledge that Jehovah has to redeem in the fall of their city.



§ 87. The Capture of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

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.




How (and Why) Jewish Scriptures are used in Mark’s Passion Narrative — a review of Writing with Scripture, part 9

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by Neil Godfrey

All posts reviewing Nathanael Vette’s Writing With Scripture are archived at Vette : Writing With Scripture

With thanks to T&T Clark who forwarded me a review copy.

Having “settled” again (this time Thailand) I can resume my discussion of Nathanael Vette’s [NV] Writing With Scripture. We come now to the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Mark, the culmination of Mark’s narrative and the part most intertwined with Scriptural references and allusions. The point of NV’s discussion is to demonstrate that here our Markan author uses Scripture in the same way as we find it used in other extra-canonical Second Temple literature, sometimes explicitly but very often as implicit allusions. The former method is generally expositional (containing a commentary on the meaning of the Scripture), the latter compositional (repeating motifs and images to flesh out a story.) And the question that inevitably arises:

  • Are the scenes of the Passion Narrative created from Scripture?

NV zeroes in on five echoes of Scripture in the Passion Narrative:

  1. Mark 14:21 where Jesus cites Scripture to announce that one of the disciples eating with him would betray him;
  2. Mark 14:24 where Jesus speaks of his blood (represented by the wine) being poured out for many;
  3. Mark 14:27 where Jesus quotes Zechariah to predict his disciples would desert him;
  4. Mark 14:34 where we read of Jesus’ sorrow in Gethsemane;
  5. Mark 15:21-41 where the crucifixion reminds readers of Psalm 22.

NV studies each case by comparing how the other evangelists wrote the parallel scenes and how other Jewish texts also treated the Scripture Mark appears to have used. NV is also alert to the possibility that Mark is “scripturalizing” a pre-existing tradition or narrative — as per Mark Goodacre’s attempt to find a mid-way point between “prophecy historicized” and “history remembered” (Crossan). I think Crossan has the upper hand, though, insofar as he bases his analyses on the sources available. If there is no evidence for an existing tradition or source behind Mark then it is undoubtedly unnecessary to speculate on Mark’s adaptation of such a tradition or source.

The following notes focus only on key conclusions NV draws from in-depth discussions of each:

  1. Re Mark 14:21 — When NV notes that Matthew and Luke do not follow the details of Mark’s account of the betrayal with its apparent references to Psalm 41:9 (e.g. Judas eating bread with Jesus) he suggests the possibility that they did not recognize what we take to be Mark’s source in the Psalms. Perhaps. Yet the variants surely demonstrate that the simplest conclusion to draw and one that goes no farther than interpreting the evidence at hand rather than the mind of the author or hypothetical sources, is that the variations of the other Gospels indicate nothing more than that the authors were at liberty to rewrite Mark according to their own theological and literary interests and each felt free to use Scriptures as their source according to their narrative plans.
  2. Re Mark 14:24 — NV is unable to decide if the words “this is my blood of the covenant” (taken from Exodus 24:8) are combined with Isaiah’s suffering servant who is “poured out to death” and concludes with Howard Clark Kee, “There are no sure references to Isa 53.” (No mention is made of Leviticus 9:9 where Aaron’s sin offering involves blood being “poured out” (ἐξέχεεν) at the altar in preparation for making atonement for the people or the possibility that Mark was combining sacrificial terms from Exodus and Leviticus. We know from the opening verses of Mark that the author was quite capable of combining passages from different books to make a new “scripturalized” saying.)
  3. Re Mark 14:27 — While Zech 13:7 is quoted by Jesus to predict what his followers would do when he was handed over, the ensuing scene is not composed with the same words we find in Zechariah. Zechariah’s words for striking, fleeing, and the sword are replaced by effective synonyms in Mark’s description of the action: “It would appear then the words of Zech. 13:7 serve to interpret the flight of the disciples, not to describe the act of desertion itself.” (NV, p. 175) The words may not be the same but the actions described can surely be explained as being inspired by Zechariah as the narrative’s source. 
  4. Re Mark 14:34 — The echo of Psalm 42 is surely real given the regularity with which that Psalm is used in other Jewish literature in connection with the suffering of the righteous one.
  5. Re Mark 15:21-41 — There is little doubt that Psalm 22 was the source for many of the details of the crucifixion, just as the same Psalm is found as a source for narrative details for stories of Esther, in Qumran literature and in the story of Joseph and Aseneth. But it is not the only source since one finds sporadic details from other Scriptures in the mix, too. All this is one with other Jewish literature and its use of Scripture, as earlier posts have indicated.

NV notes the way Mark has woven the Passion Narrative with reminders of the “Little Apocalypse” of Mark 13 (the command to Watch, the supernatural darkness, the prophecy of seeing the Son of Man coming, etc) in order to drive home the cosmic significance of the crucifixion. Mark links both directly and through symbolism the crucifixion to the war of 66-70 which was seen as God’s judgment on his people for their rejection of Jesus.

Something different about Mark

This brings me back to an important difference between Mark’s use of Scripture and how the other evangelists deployed it.

As NV writes, Mark does not

. . . introduce a schema of prophetic-fulfilment for the Passion Narrative as a whole. Elsewhere in the Gospel, there are isolated instances where certain events correspond to, or happen in fulfilment of, the Jewish scriptures. [Mk 1:2-3; 7:6-7; 9:12-13]. But Mark lacks the explicit interpretive schema one finds in the editorial comments of Matthew (1:22; 2:17,23:4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9) and John (12:16, 38; 15:25; 18:9; 19:24, 36). For the most part, the concept of prophetic-fulfilment is undeveloped in Mark. (NV, 165. My bolding in all quotations)

Other aspects (e.g. motivation of actions and words, explanatory background) of Mark’s narrative also appear undeveloped and the best reason I have found to explain such characteristics in Mark is given by Nicole Duran in Power of Disorder: Ritual Elements in Mark’s Passion Narrative. Mark is writing not only a “scripturalized narrative” but, unlike the other evangelists, he is also writing a “ritualized narrative”. Continue reading “How (and Why) Jewish Scriptures are used in Mark’s Passion Narrative — a review of Writing with Scripture, part 9”


Clarification of the Thesis — a review of Writing with Scripture, part 8

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by Neil Godfrey

All posts reviewing Nathanael Vette’s Writing With Scripture are archived at Vette : Writing With Scripture

With thanks to T&T Clark who forwarded me a review copy.

I have come to a turning point in my reading and review of Nathanael Vette’s Writing With Scripture. I first learned of the book on the Biblical Criticism & History Forum where a member described it as “amazing. A real game changer” — How could I not read it! What I was expecting was a theoretical analysis of how the author of the Gospel of Mark used Scripture to construct his narrative. It was with that optimism that I approached the book. After my first reading I thought I might have read too quickly and that I would see more with a slower re-reading as I wrote about it for this blog. But after having now arrived at what I think can be described as the beginning of the work’s most critical section, subtitled The Jewish scriptures in the Passion Narrative, and having re-read it several times, marking it, following up the footnotes, and trying to digest it as best I can, I have to conclude several things that fall within four categories:

1. I am not part of the reading audience the author had in mind;

2. The work is written primarily for New Testament scholars and informed lay “liberal” believers in the Bible;

3. The thesis advanced affirms that scripturally allusive passages in the Gospel of Mark “seem to have been triggered by some genuine aspect of Jesus’ career” and similar types of passages in the Passion Narrative likewise have some “traditional or historical sources” behind them – however uncertain we inevitably remain about the exact nature and extent of those sources.

4. The work conforms to the assumptions and methods embedded within mainstream biblical studies, a point I have difficulty with because, as I have demonstrated repeatedly by reference to other historians and philosophers of history, these assumptions and methods are at odds with much of the way historical work outside biblical studies is undertaken. Despite that difference, and when not engaged in apologetics disguised as scholarship, New Testament scholars do often produce works of informative insight and value.

I have also said that Nathanael Vette [NV] raises many issues that invite discussion and debate. And who can complain about that! So let’s continue. Continue reading “Clarification of the Thesis — a review of Writing with Scripture, part 8”


Miriam stood afar off

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by Neil Godfrey


And his sister stood afar off [μακρόθεν in LXX], to know what would be done to him. — Exodus 2:4

1.22. And his sister stood afar off (ii, 4). Why did Miriam stand afar off? R. Amram in the name of Rab said: Because Miriam prophesied, ‘My mother is destined to give birth to a son who will save Israel’; and when the house was flooded with light at the birth of Moses, her father arose and kissed her head and said: ‘My daughter, thy prophecy has been fulfilled.’ This is the meaning of: And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel (Ex. xv, 20);’ The sister of Aaron,’ but not of Motes?—[She is so called] because in fact she said this prophecy when she was yet only the sister of Aaron, Moses not having been born yet. Now that she was casting him into the river, her mother struck her on the head, saying : ‘ My daughter, what about thy prophecy ?’ This is why it says: And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be the outcome of her prophecy. — Exodus Rabbah

And there were also women looking on from afar off [μακρόθεν], among whom also were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the least and of Joseph, and Salome — Mark 15:40





Jesus’ Death as the Death of the People of God: Communion and Passion

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by Neil Godfrey

continuing the series of

Eucharist: Body and Blood of the People

We read about Jesus, on the eve of his death, as the eucharist or Last Supper meal, or as the ideal end-time sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice that effects not only forgiveness of sins but the communion of God and his people. The Passover feast has been reinterpreted but the changes have all come from other ideas found within the Jewish interpretations of Scriptures at the time.

In the view of Grappe and Marx (authors of Sacrifices scandaleux? quoted in the previous post) Jesus returns to the original (pre-Flood) ingredients of sacrifice, bread and wine, to function as both the sacrifice of reparation for sin and the sacrifice of the communion of God and his people (see the previous post for these two sacrifices explained). Further, these same ingredients represent the feast of the eschatological Kingdom of God. “Bread and cup become the place of the encounter with the one who gives his life” in the inauguration of God’s kingdom where both forgiveness and communion are freely offered.

In the old blood sacrifice, different parts of the animal were separated out and divided among the respective participants: offerer, priest, God. With the grain offering, on the other hand, God and priests share the same food that has been prepared the same way for both of them. So the ideal that was meant for the beginning of creation is projected to the end time. (Grappe and Marx, pp. 139-40)

We have seen this ideal from the beginning being re-instituted at the end-time in the Community Rule scroll from Qumran.

And when they shall gather for the common table, to eat and to drink new wine, when the common table shall be set for eating and the new wine poured for drinking, let no man extend his hand over the firstfruits of bread and wine before the Priest; for it is he who shall bless the firstfruits of bread and wine, and shall be the first to extend his hand over the bread. Thereafter, the Messiah of Israel shall extend his hand over the bread, and all the congregation of the Community shall utter a blessing, each man in the order of his dignity.

It is according to this statute that they shall proceed at every meal at which at least ten men are gathered together

(1QSa 2:11-22 — Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English)

Variations on the Passover liturgy and meal

What we see in the gospels is not an interpretation of a historical Jesus, an interpretation that makes him a worthy sacrifice replacement for Passover. No, what we see is the reverse: the rituals and traditions relating to Passover have led to the creation of the figure of Jesus. The bread of the Passover meal and the sacrifice itself are together personified in the figure of Jesus. Here it is important to bring to our attention a custom associated with Passover that is not apparent from reading the gospels.

From Jewish Boston

A Passover custom that appears to have had roots among some Jewish circles back into the Second Temple period and following is the breaking of a piece of bread and setting it aside, having wrapped it in white cloth to remain unseen, hidden, and to be eaten as the last thing of the meal. This piece of bread, the final item tasted, is called the aphikoman. This piece is said in rabbinic literature to represent Isaac, the son whom Abraham was willing to sacrifice. (For a description of this ceremony in French see the online article by R. Guyon beginning from Comment Jésus peut-il s’identifier à une matsah? – quoted by NC)

Now the word aphikoman/afikoman means “dessert”, or literally “he who is to come”, the dessert being delayed until the end of the meal. But of course “he who will come” has other connotations.

NC cites several scholarly works in this discussion and I have delayed posting this outline until I was able to track down some of them, in particular, essays by Eisler and Daube. Eisler’s article caused quite a storm when it appeared, as one can see from a section of Israel Jacob Yuval’s Two Nations in Your Womb:

Robert Eisler

In 1925—1926, Eisler published a rwo-part article named “Das letzte Abendmahl” in the journal Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kundeder âlteren Kirche, in volumes 24—25, presenting an approach that comparcd the afikoman of the Jewish ceremony with the Host of the Christian one. Eisler was a great scholar of the New Testament, but he knew less about Judaism, and his article suffered from some errors. Yet this fact still does not confute his essential argument, and his article was an important contribution to uncovering the messianic significance of the afikoman and the potential for research latent in an understanding of the parallel developments of Passover and Easter.

This approach became a thorn in the flesh of both Jewish and Christian scholars. Immediately after the first part of Eisler’s paper was published, the journal’s editor, Hans Lietzmann, wanted to rescind his agreement to publish the second part. Eisler refused to give in and insisted that Lietzmann honor his commitment to publish the complete article. He even hired an attorney and threatened a lawsuit. Lietzmann was forced to come around, and Eisler’s attorney even forbade him to append an editor’s note stating that the article was published against his will and under legal duress. Instead, at the beginning of volume 25 (1926), Lietzmann published his own critique of Eisler’s theory, along with a sharp article by Marmorstein. Eisler demanded the right to reply in volume 26 (1927), but Lietzmann refused. Eisler then suggested that Lietzmann publish his reply in a journal outside Germany, on condition that Lietzmann report its contents in the “From Foreign Journals” section, but Lietzmann refused to do even that. Eisler remained isolated, attacked on all sides, and unable to reply to his critics.

David Daube

Forty years later, in 1966, Daube delivered a lecture on the afikoman at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, vindicating Eisler’s interpretation of the afikoman, with certain necessary corrections and adding his own new findings. Daube told his audience of the bitter fate of his predecessor and expressed doubts whether the time had come for such comparative studies between Christianity and Judaism. To illustrate his concerns, he pointed out the fact that in the Goldschmidt edition of the Passover Haggadah there was no mention of the New Testament, even though it contains valuable information on the ancient version of Passover customs. Since Daube was not sure that the time was ripe, he refrained from disseminating his lecture widely and was satisfied with its publication in a pamphlet available only through personal request to the secretariat of the Committee for Christian-Jewish Understanding in London. Unlike Eisler, Daube was not muzzled, but his interpretation remained on the periphery of scholarship and has not yet been accorded the scholarly recognition it deserves.

(pp 90-91)

Ah, the gentle ethereal world of scholarly exchanges.

Having read Yuval’s account I had to track down the articles by Eisler (both of them), Lietzmann, Marmorstein and Daube. You can access them through the links I supplied in the bibliography at the end of this post. In short, to quote the conclusion of Yuval,

If we trace the history of the afikoman and that of the Host in parallel, we discover a very ancient similarity. In I Corinthians 11:26, Paul addresses the following injunction to the disciples: ‘For as often as you eat this bread (…) you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’. The consumption of the consecrated bread and wine during the Eucharistic meal is indeed an evocation of the crucifixion and the Parousia. This is also the precise meaning of the afikoman – a term that does not derive etymologically from the Greek epikomon but from aphikomenos, i.e. ”He who is to come”, as Robert Eisler (1925) and David Daube (1956) have glossed. Eating the afikoman therefore means anticipating the coming of the Messiah, according to the well-known rule: that “in Nissan comes deliverance and in Nissan comes salvation”.

(translated from p. 322 of the French edition of Yuval’s book in Hebrew, Deux peuples en ton sein, — quoted by NC, p. 380-381)

Contrary to Yuval’s conclusion elsewhere, Eisler and Daube insist that it is the gospel of Matthew that has been influenced by the Jewish custom.

There is an article in French by René Guyon describing the Passover customs and relating them to their reinterpretation in the gospels: http://www.garriguesetsentiers.org/article-12116051.html. Scroll down to the heading “Rite of Jesus”: a web translator is always an option, too. Included here are suggestions that Jesus is understood to have fulfilled the meanings of the several cups drunk at the Passover meal, with the fifth cup, normally not touched because it is poured out for Elijah, being drunk by Jesus. The suggestion is that by drinking the fifth cup at the end of the meal Jesus is declaring that he has fulfilled what Elijah came to proclaim: his own advent. (Perhaps, but I would have thought an evangelist would have dropped in a hint that it was explicitly the final or fifth cup that Jesus drank.)

Personification makes sense of it all

Continue reading “Jesus’ Death as the Death of the People of God: Communion and Passion”


Can the Gospels be “True Fiction”? Did Ancient Historians Have a Different Understanding of “True”?

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by Neil Godfrey

A few days ago someone thoughtfully sent me a link to a Westar video interviewing Professor Arthur Dewey, author of Inventing the Passion: How the Death of Jesus Was Remembered. Dewey begins by addressing the prevalent belief that the Passion story of Jesus is essentially true history. He says:

Unfortunately, not just people who are literalists who read the Bible assume this to be the case when we come to the Passion, but also many biblical historians. The reason for that is the assumption that the text is document and is reflecting what actually happened. 

Of course regular readers will know that it is that assumption that we regularly question here. But Dewey, his interviewer and Westar generally are addressing a different audience and I like to think that that is the reason they seem to couch arguments in a way more appealing or acceptable to a certain kind of Christian believer, in something of a “liberal apologetic”, than I like to do.

I have not read his book (there does not seem to be a copy available either commercially or in any library in Australia, not even digitally) so my comments here are entirely my reactions to the interview.

Arthur Dewey begins by pointing out that ancient historians were primarily interested in “truth” as “insight” into the meaning of events for their audiences. He does not say that they were not interested in “facts”, too, but that their main focus lay elsewhere. There is a certain truth to this as (again) we have discussed many times when posting on the methods of ancient historians. What niggles me when I encounter a biblical scholar elaborating on this point (Dewey is far from the only biblical scholar to present this “truth as insight” characteristic of ancient historians) is that I think the other side of what ancient historians were all about is lost. I think they too easily overstate the case in the interests of attempting to keep the gospels relevant at least for the more liberally minded believers. I hope that’s not too harsh or unfair but it is how it comes across to me. Continue reading “Can the Gospels be “True Fiction”? Did Ancient Historians Have a Different Understanding of “True”?”