Today’s installment concludes The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ,
our selection from Life of Christ by Frederic William Farrar published in 1874. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of six thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Time: c. 30 AD
Place: Golgatha, a Hill Ouside of Jersulam
And while it [the effects of Christ’s work – jl] thus evolved the idea of humanity as a common brotherhood, even where its tidings were not believed — all over the world, wherever its tidings were believed, it cleansed the life and elevated the soul of each individual man. And in all lands where it has molded the characters of its true believers it has created hearts so pure and lives so peaceful and homes so sweet that it might seem as though those angels who had heralded its advent had also whispered to every depressed and despairing sufferer among the sons of men: “Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold.”
Others, if they can and will, may see in such a work as this no divine Providence, they may think it philosophical enlightenment to hold that Christianity and Christendom are adequately accounted for by the idle dreams of a noble self-deceiver and the passionate hallucinations of a recovered demoniac. We persecute them not, we denounce them not, we judge them not; but we say that, unless all life be a hollow, there could have been no such miserable origin to the sole religion of the world which holds the perfect balance between philosophy and popularity, between religion and morals, between meek submissiveness and the pride of freedom, between the ideal and the real, between the inward and the outward, between modest stillness and heroic energy — nay, between the tenderest conservatism and the boldest plans of world-wide reformation. The witness of history to Christ is a witness which has been given with irresistible cogency; and it has been so given to none but him.
But while even the unbeliever must see what the life and death of Jesus have effected in the world, to the believer that life and death are something deeper still; to him they are nothing less than a resurrection from the dead. He sees in the cross of Christ something which far transcends its historical significance. He sees in it the fulfilment of all prophecy as well as the consummation of all history; he sees in it the explanation of the mystery of birth, and the conquest over the mystery of the grave. In that life he finds a perfect example; in that death an infinite redemption. As he contemplates the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, he no longer feels that God is far away, and that this earth is but a disregarded speck in the infinite azure, and he himself but an insignificant atom chance-thrown amid the thousand million living souls of an innumerable race, but he exclaims in faith and hope and love: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men; yea, he will be their God, and they shall be his people.” “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them.”
D They who had not thought it a pollution to inaugurate their feast by the murder of their Messiah, were seriously alarmed lest the sanctity of the following day — which began at sunset — should be compromised by the hanging of the corpses on the cross. And horrible to relate, the crucified often lived for many hours — nay, even for two days — in their torture. The Jews therefore begged Pilate that their legs might be broken, and their bodies taken down. This crurifragium, as it was called, consisted in striking the legs of the sufferers with a heavy mallet, a violence which seemed always to have hastened, if it did not instantly cause, their death. Nor would the Jews be the only persons who would be anxious to hasten the end by giving the deadly blow. Until life was extinct the soldiers appointed to guard the execution dared not leave the ground. The wish, therefore, was readily granted. The soldiers broke the legs of the two malefactors first, and then, coming to Jesus, found that the great cry had been indeed his last, and that he was dead already. They did not therefore break his legs, and thus unwittingly preserved the symbolism of that Paschal lamb, of which he was the antitype, and of which it had been commanded that “a bone of it shall not be broken.” And yet, as he might be only in a syncope — as instances had been known in which men apparently dead had been taken down from the cross and resuscitated — and as the lives of the soldiers would have had to answer for any irregularity, one of them, in order to make death certain, drove the broad head of his hasta into his side. The wound, as it was meant to do, pierced the region of the heart, and “forthwith,” says St. John, with an emphatic appeal to the truthfulness of his eye-witness — an appeal which would be singularly and impossibly blasphemous if the narrative were the forgery which so much elaborate modern criticism has wholly failed to prove that it is — “forthwith came there out blood and water.” Whether the water was due to some abnormal pathological conditions caused by the dreadful complication of the Savior’s sufferings, or whether it rather means that the pericardium had been rent by the spear point, and that those who took down the body observed some drops of its serum mingled with the blood, in either case that lance thrust was sufficient to hush all the heretical assertions that Jesus had only seemed to die; and as it assured the soldiers, so should it assure all who have doubted, that he, who on the third day rose again, had in truth been crucified, dead, and buried, and that his soul had passed into the unseen world.
This ends our series of passages on The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ by Frederic William Farrar from his book Life of Christ published in 1874. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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