Bible As History
by Werner Keller
8 of 10
321 -- DIGGING
UP THE NEW TESTAMENT
I -- Jesus of Nazareth
35 -- PALESTINE
ON MARE NOSTRUM -- A
Province of the Roman Empire - Greek cities on the Jordan - The
New Testament - The governor appears in history - A census every
the fulness of the time was come God sent forth his son.... - Gal.
In the wide circle of countries which surround Mare
Nostrum, 1 from North Africa and
Spain to the shores of Asia Minor, the will of Rome, now mistress
of the world, reigned supreme. After the disappearance of the great
Semitic empires of the "Fertile Crescent", Palestine was
drawn into the new world and shared its destinies. Roman occupation
troops enforced the will of Rome in a land which was ruled and exploited
by men who were likewise nominees of Rome.
Life in the Roman Empire took on more and more the
stamp of Greece: Roman civilisation was to a large extent Greek
civilisation: Greek was the world language which united all the
subject peoples of the East.
Anyone wandering through Palestine at the turn of
the eras might have imagined he was in Greece. Across the Jordan
lay out and out Greek cities. The "Ten Cities"' of the
gospels (Matt. 4:25; Mk. 5:20) took Athens as their model: they
had temples which were sacred to Zeus and Artemis, they had their
theatre, their pillared forum, their stadium, their gymnasium and
their baths. Greek in architecture as well as in the habits of their
citizens were likewise Caesarea, the seat of Pilate's government,
which lay on the Mediterranean south of Carmel, Sepphoris and Tiberias,
which lay a few miles north of Nazareth on the Lake of Galilee,
Caesarea Philippi, built at the foot of Hermon, and likewise Jericho.
Only the many small towns and villages in Galilee, as in Judah,
had retained their Jewish style of architecture. It was in these
genuine Jewish communities that Jesus lived and worked, and nowhere
do the Gospel writers speak of his ever having lived in
one of the Greek cities but only in their neighbourhood (Mark 7:31).
Nevertheless Greek dress and much of the Greek way
of life had long before Jesus' day penetrated into the purely Jewish
1 -- The
Roman name for the Mediterranean.
322 -- Natives of Galilee and Judah wore the same sort of clothes
as were worn in Alexandria, Rome or Athens. These consisted of tunic
and cloak, shoes or sandals, with a hat or a cap as head covering.
Furniture included a bed and the Greek habit of reclining at meals
was generally adopted.
The Old Testament covers a period of nearly 1,200
years if we reckon from the Exodus from Egypt under Moses, or nearly
2,000 years if we reckon from the time of the patriarchs. The New
Testament on the other hand covers a period of less than 100 years.
From the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to the end of the Acts
of the Apostles is only a little more than thirty years. The Old
Testament largely reflects the varied history of the people of Israel;
the New Testament is concerned with the life and sayings of a few
individuals: it revolves exclusively round the teaching of Jesus,
round his disciples and the apostles.
Archaeology cannot produce extensive evidence from
the world of the New Testament. For the life of Christ offers nothing
that would leave any material traces on this earth: neither royal
palaces nor temples, neither victorious campaigns nor burnt cities
and country sides. Jesus was essentially a man of peace, he taught
the Word of God. Archaeologists have recognised their task to be
that of reconstructing his environment and rediscovering the villages
and cities where he lived, worked and died. Yet for this purpose
they have been given a unique guide. No event out of the whole of
Graeco-Roman history, no manuscript of any classical author has
come down to posterity in anything like so many ancient copies as
the scriptures of the New Testament. They can be numbered in thousands,
and the oldest and most venerable among them are only a few decades
removed from the time of Christ.
A manuscript containing part of St. John's Gospel,
for example, the famous Papyrus Bodmer II, comes from the time of
Trajan, the Roman emperor who reigned from A.D. 98- 117. This precious
document in Greek script, so far probably the oldest New Testament
writing, was discovered by a lucky chance in Egypt in 1935.
it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from
Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing
was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went
to be taxed every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up
from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the
city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the
house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife...
- Luke 2:1-5.
The census is by no means the invention of modern
statisticians. Practised in ancient times, it fulfilled then as
now two extremely
323 -- reasonable purposes. It provided the relevant information
firstly for calling up men for military service and secondly for
taxation purposes. In subject countries it was the second of these
that mostly concerned the Romans.
Without exacting tribute from its foreign possessions,
Rome would never have been able on the strength of its own resources
to afford the luxury of its much admired magnificent buildings and
pleasances, its extravagant way of living, or its expensive system
of administering its empire. Roman emperors were able to guarantee
their people "Panem et Circenses", "bread and circuses",
on a grand scale at no cost to themselves. Egypt had to provide
the corn for the free bread. And the great arenas for the games
were built by slaves with money derived from tribute.
The census, which was its official name in Rome,
was originally held every five years. This five year period even
entered the literature of Rome as the "lustrum" and this
word enjoyed great favour among Roman writers and in formal speech.
Changes in the economy as well as in the constitution, the introduction
of immunity from taxation for Roman citizens and the troubles of
the later Republican period led to the gradual abandonment of the
census. Especially in the later Republican period there was no longer
any question of a regular five yearly census. It is true that Augustus
revived the census, particularly in the provinces, but even he did
not reintroduce it on the old five year basis. It is important to
remember this for the dating of the birth of Jesus depends upon
it to some extent.
:Cyrenius the governor" was the senator P.
Sulpicius Quirinius, who is otherwise known to us from Roman documents.
The Emperor Augustus rated highly the outstanding ability of this
social climber both as soldier and administrator. He was born in
modest circumstances near Tusculum in the Alban hills, a place which
was reckoned among the favourite resorts of the noble Roman families.
In A.D. 6 Quirinius went as legate to Syria. Coponius
was sent with him from Rome to be the first Procurator of Judaea.
Between A.D. 6 and 7 they carried out a census. Can this refer,
however, to the census mentioned by St. Luke? In the first place,
Luke speaks of an Imperial decree "that all the world should
be taxed", i.e. the whole Roman empire.
But the census taken in the years 6 and 7 A.D. was merely a provincial
one and, secondly, Jesus would then have been born around 7 or 6
B.C. as many believe. According to the Biblical account, the census
decreed by Caesar Augustus took place about the year Christ was
born. There is no record of a general census throughout the empire
in the years 7 and 6 B.C.
Is it possible that St. Luke made a mistake?
For a long time it seemed as if he had. It was only
when a fragment of a Roman inscription was discovered at Antioch
that the surprising fact
324 -- emerged that Quirinius had been
in Syria once before on a mission from the Emperor Augustus in the
days of Saturninus the pro-consul.
At that time his assignment had been purely military.
He led a campaign against the Homonadenses, a tribe in the Taurus
mountains in Asia Minor. Quirinius established his seat of government
as well as his headquarters in Syria between 10 and 7 B.C. Top
325 -- Chapter
STAR OF BETHLEHEM -- A
suggestion by Origen - Halley's comet over China - Kepler's observations
in Prague - Astronomical tablets found at Sippar-Babylonian astronomers'
records - Modern astronomical calculations - December frost in Bethlehem.
when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod
the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen
his star in the east, and are come to worship him - Matt. 2:1, 2.
International expeditions of astronomers have been
regarded as a matter of course for a long time now. Scientists from
all countries, laden with special instruments and measuring apparatus,
stream into every corner of the globe when there is a total eclipse
or some other important astronomical phenomenon to be observed.
For centuries St. Matthew's story of the Messianic
star has exercised men's imaginations. Laymen and experts alike
have aired their views on the subject and these have found expression
in a considerable volume of literature. Anything that has ever moved
across the canopy of heaven, as well as much that has only existed
in men's imaginations, has been dubbed the "Star of Bethlehem".
That this is a case of a phenomenon in the sky of
quite an unusual type is indicated by the Bible in unmistakable
terms. Astronomers are the experts in these matters of heavenly
phenomena and we should therefore expect from them an explanation
which would fit in with modern scientific knowledge.
If we think of a sudden bright light in the sky,
we can only reckon with two types, apart from shooting stars: either
a comet or an exploding star, technically known as a "nova".
Conjectures of this kind were expressed in early
times. Origen, one of the Christian Fathers, who lived in Alexandria
about A.D. 200, wrote as follows: "I am of the opinion that
the star which appeared to the Wise Men in the east was a new star
which had nothing in common with those stars which appear either
in the firmament or in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Presumably
it belonged to the category of these heavenly fires which appear
from time to time and have been given names by the Greeks depending
on their shape, either comets, or fiery beams, or starry hosts,
or starry tails, or vessels or some such name."
Bright comets, with tails often stretching half
across the sky, have
326 -- always made a deep impression on men's minds. They were
held to portend special events. Is it surprising that this most
magnificent of all stellar spectacles should be associated with
the idea of the star of the Wise Men of the East? Artists seized
upon this attractive motif: in many popular representations of the
crib in pictures of the birth of Christ a radiant comet shines over
the manger bed of Bethlehem.
Excavations and ancient writings which have come
to light have produced astonishingly detailed information about
astronomical occurrences stretching back over thousands of years.
We now possess notes and observations from Greek, Roman, Babylonian,
Egyptian and Chinese sources.
After the assassination of Caesar, shortly after
the Ides of March in 44 B.C., a brilliant comet was seen. Seventeen
years before the turn of the eras, another extremely bright comet
appeared suddenly, and was observed for a whole night in Mediterranean
countries. The next dazzling comet to be reported was in the year
A.D. 66, shortly before Nero committed suicide.
Between these two there is another account with
most precise details, this time from Chinese astronomers. Their
observations are recorded in the Wen-hien-thung-khao
encyclopaedia of the Chinese scholar Ma Tuan-lin: "In the first
year of [the Emperor] Yuen-yen, in the 7th month, on the day Sin-ouei
[25 August] a comet was seen in the region of the sky known as Toung-tsing
[beside the Mu of the Gemini]. It passed over the Ou-tschoui-heou
[Gemini], proceeded from the Ho-su Castor and Pollux] in a northerly
direction and then into the group of Hien-youen [the head of Leo]
and into the house of Thaiouei [tail of Leo]....
On the 56th day it disappeared with the Blue Dragon [Scorpio]. Altogether
the comet was observed for 63 days."
This very full account from ancient Chinese sources
contains the first description of the famous Halley's comet, that
great trailing star which always reappears close to the sun after
an interval of seventy-six years. The last time it was seen was
between 1909 and 1911. The strange display will be seen again in
1986. For the comet keeps to a strict time schedule on its tremendous
elliptical course through space. But it is not always visible and
not equally visible everywhere. Thus in the year 12 B.C in China
it was an astral phenomenon which could be accurately observed in
all its phases. Whereas in the Mediterranean countries, in Mesopotamia
and Egypt, there is no mention whatever at that time of a heavenly
body of such striking and impressive brilliance.
The same is true of "new stars". These
"Novae" are constellations in space which suddenly burst
asunder in an atomic explosion of colossal magnitude. Their radiance,
which outshines the light of all other stars, is so noticeable and
so unusual that it is always remarked upon. About the turn of the
eras the blazing light of a new star is only twice mentioned, in
134 B.C. and A.D. 173. None of the old sources and
327 -- traditions says anything about a bright comet or a new
star in the
Mediterranean world about the year A.D. I.
Shortly before Christmas 1603, on December 17th,
the Imperial Mathematician and Astronomer Royal Johannes Kepler
was sitting through the night high above the Moldava in the Hradcyn
in Prague, observing with his modest telescope the approach of two
planets. "Conjunction" is the technical name for the position
of two celestial bodies on the same degree of longitude. Sometimes
two planets move so close to one another that they have the appearance
of a single larger and more brilliant star. That night Saturn and
Jupiter had a rendezvous in space within the constellation of Pisces.
Looking through his notes later Kepler suddenly
remembered something he had read in the rabbinic writer Abarbanel,
referring to an unusual influence which Jewish astrologers were
said to have ascribed to this same constellation. Messiah would
appear when there was a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the
constellation of Pisces.
Conjunction of Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in December 1603 according
to Kepler. Top
Could it have been the same conjunction at the time
of the birth of Christ as Kepler had observed at Christmastide in
1603? Had it announced, as Kepler wrote later, the coming of the
real "Star of Bethlehem"? Or was this constellation perhaps
itself the "Christmas Star" as some people believed at
a still later date with Kepler as their authority?
Kepler checked his calculations again and again.
He was a mixture of scholar and quack, astronomer and astrologer,
a disciple of those doctrines which had been put in the same class
as mixing poisons as far back as the Code of Justinian. The result
was a three-fold conjunction within the space of a year. Astronomical
calculations gave the year as 7 B.C. According to astrological tables
it must have been 6 B.C. Kepler decided in favour of 6 B.C. and
dated the conception of Mary consequently 7 B.C.
His fascinating discovery was published in a number
of books, but this enlightened genius who established the planetary
laws named after him eventually steeped himself overmuch in the
realm of mysticism. Consequently Kepler's hypotheses were for a
long time rejected and finally disregarded. It was not until the
19th century that astronomers remembered them again.
Finally in 1925 the German scholar P. Schnabel deciphered
"papers" in Neo-Babylonian
cuneiform of a famous professional institute in the ancient world,
the School of Astrology at Sippar in Babylonia. Among endless series
of prosaic dates of observations he came across
a note about the position of the planets in the constellation of
Pisces. Jupiter and Saturn are carefully marked in over a period
of five months. Reckoned in our calendar the year was 7 B.C.!
Archaeologists and historians have to reconstruct
their picture of a bygone age with enormous effort, from monuments
and documents, from individual discoveries and broken fragments.
It is simpler for the modern astronomer. He can turn back the cosmic
clock at will. In his planetarium he can arrange the starry sky
exactly as it was thousands of years ago for any given year, any
month, even any day. The position of the stars can be calculated
backwards with equal precision.
In the year 7 B.C. Jupiter and Saturn did in fact
meet in Pisces and, as Kepler had already discovered, they met three
times. Mathematical calculations established further that this threefold
coniunction of the planets was particular1y clearly visible in
the Mediterranean area.
The time-table of this planetary encounter when
it is presented in the prosaic dating system of modern astronomical
calculations looks something like this:
About the end of February
in 7 B.C. the clustering began. Jupiter moved out of the constellation
Aquarius towards Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. Since the
sun at that time was also in the sign of Pisces its light covered
the constellation. It was not until April 12th that both planets
rose in Pisces heliacally with a difference of 8 degrees of longitude.
"Heliacal" is the word used by astronomers to indicate
the first visible rising of a star at daybreak.
On May 29th, visible for fully two hours in the
morning sky, the first close encounter took place in the 21st degree
of Pisces with a difference of 0 degrees of longitude and of 0.98
degrees of latitude.
The second conjunction took place on October 3rd
in the 18th degree of the constellation of Pisces.
On December 4th for the third and last time a close
encounter of the planets Jupiter and Saturn took place. This time
it was in the 16th degree of Pisces. At the end of January in the
year 6 B.C. the planet Jupiter moved out of Pisces into Aries.
"We have seen his star in the east" (Matt.
2:2), said the Wise Men, according to the A.V. The translation is
however incorrect, for the words "in the east" are in
the original "En te anatole" - the Greek singular - but
elsewhere "the east" is represented by "anatolai"
- the Greek plural. The singular form "anatole" has, it
conjunction of Jupiter
and Saturn on December 4th in 7 B.C. in the constellation of Pisces.
329 -- quite a special astronomical significance,
in that it implies the observation of the early rising of the star,
the so-called heliacal rising. The translators of the Authorised
Version could not have known this.
When "en te anatole" is translated properly,
Matt. 2:2 reads as follows:
"We have seen his star appear in the first
rays of dawn." That would have corresponded exactly with the
astronomical facts, if the constellation under discussion, and this,
of course, is the big question, was the Star of the Wise Men, the
Star of Bethlehem, the Christmas Star. Perhaps the following considerations
will help us.
But why this ancient learned expedition of the three
Wise Men to Palestine when, as we know, they could see the occurrence
just as well in Babylon?
The skygazers of the east in their capacity as astrologers
attached a special significance to each star. According to the Chaldeans,
Pisces was the sign of the West, the Mediterranean countries: in
Jewish tradition it was the sign of Israel, the sign of the Messiah.
The constellation of Pisces stood at the end of the sun's old course
and at the beginning of its new one. What is more likely than that
they saw in it the sign of the end of an old age and the start of
a new one?
Jupiter was always thought of by all nations as
a lucky star and a royal star. According to old Jewish tradition
Saturn was supposed to protect Israel: Tacitus equates him with
the god of the Jews. Babylonian astrology reckoned the ringed planet
to be the special star of the neighbouring lands of Syria and Palestine.
Since Nebuchadnezzar's time many thousands of Jews
had lived in Babylon. Many of them may have studied at the School
of Astrology in Sippar. This wonderful encounter of Jupiter with
Saturn, guardian of Israel, in the constellation of the "west
country", of the Messiah, must have deeply moved the Jewish
astrologers. For according to astrological ways of thinking it pointed
to the appearance of a mighty king in the west country, the land
of their fathers. To experience that in person, to see it with their
own eyes, that was the reason for the journey of the wise astronomers
from the East.
This is what may have happened: on May 29th in the
year 7 B.C. they observed the first encounter of the two planets
from the roof of the School of Astrology at Sippar. At that time
of year the heat was already unbearable in Mesopotamia. Summer is
no time for long and difficult journeys. Besides that, they knew
about the second conjunction on October 3rd. They could predict
this encounter in advance as accurately as future eclipses of the
sun and moon. The fact that October 3rd was the Jewish Day of Atonement
may have been taken as an admonition, and at that point they may
have started out on their journey.
330 -- Travel on the caravan routes even on camels, the swiftest
means of transport, was a leisurely affair. If we think in terms
of a journey lasting about six weeks, the Wise Men would arrive
in Jerusalem towards the end of November.
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
"When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him"(Matt. 2:2-3).
For these Eastern astronomers that must have been
the first and obvious question, which would however arouse nothing
but startled concern in Jerusalem. They knew nothing about schools
of astrology in the Holy City.
Herod, the hated tyrant, was alarmed. The announcement
of a new-born king brought his sovereignty into question. The people
on the other hand were pleasurably startled, as appears from other
historical sources. About a year after this conjunction of planets
which has just been described, a strong Messianic movement came
into being. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that
about this time a rumour went around that God had decided to bring
the rule of the Roman foreigners to an end and that a sign from
heaven had announced the coming of a Jewish king. Herod, who had
been appointed by the Romans, was in fact not a Jew but an Idumaean.
Herod did not hesitate. He "gathered all the
chief priests and scribes of the people together" and "demanded
of them where Christ should be born". They searched through
the ancient sacred scriptures of the nation and found the allusion
which is contained in the book of the prophet Micah, who had lived
700 years before in the kingdom of Judah: "But thou, Bethlehem
Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet
out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is
to be ruler in Israel ..." (Micah 5:2).
Herod therefore summoned the Wise Men and "sent
them to Bethlehem" (Matt. 2:4-8). Since Jupiter and Saturn
came together for the third time in the constellation of Pisces
on the 4th December, "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy"
and set out for Bethlehem "and lo, the star, which they saw
in the east, went before them" (Matt. 2:10, 9).
On the road to Hebron, 5 miles
from Jerusalem, lies the village of "Bet Lahm", which
was the old Bethlehem of Judah. The ancient highway, which Abraham
had once passed along, lay almost due north and south. At their
third conjunction the planets Jupiter and Saturn appeared to have
dissolved into one great brilliant star. In the twilight of the
evening they were visible in a southerly direction, so that the
Wise Men of the East on their way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem had
the bright star in front of their eyes all the time. As the gospel
says, the star actually "went before them".
Every year millions of people all over the world
hear the story of the Wise Men of the East. "Star of Bethlehem",
a symbol which is always
p 331 -- associated with Christmas, impinges on life in other
ways. In biographical dictionaries and on tombstones it has its
place beside the date of birth. Top
Christendom celebrates Christmas from December 24-25.
Astronomers and historians, secular and ecclesiastical, are however
unanimous that December 25 of the year one was not the authentic
date of the birth of Christ, neither as regards the year nor the
day. The responsibility for this lies at the door of the Scythian
monk Dionysius Exiguus, who made several mistakes and miscalculations.
He lived in Rome, and in the year 533 he was instructed to fix the
beginning of the new era by working backwards. But he forgot the
year zero which should have been inserted between I B.C. and A.D.
1. He also overlooked the four years when the Roman emperor Augustus
had reigned under his own name Octavian.
The Biblical tradition gives us this clear indication:
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days
of Herod the king ... " (Matt, 2:1). We know from numerous
contemporary sources who Herod was and when he lived and reigned.
In 40 B.C. Herod was designated king of Judaea by the Romans. His
reign ended with his death in 4 B.C. Jesus must therefore have been
born before 4 B.C. if Matthew's statement is correct.
December 25 is referred to in documents as Christmas
Day in A.D. 354 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian
1 it was recognised as an official holiday.
An old Roman festival played a major part in the choice of this
particular day. December 25 in ancient Rome was the "Dies Natalis
Invicti", "the birthday of the unconquered", the
day of the winter solstice and at the same time, in Rome, the last
day of the Saturnalia, which had long since degenerated into a week
of unbridled carnival, and therefore a time when the Christians
could feel most safe from persecution.
note: Regarding Dec.25 - refer to The Two Babylons , by Rev.Alexander
Hislop, Ch. III, p.91 "Festivals". Top
Meteorologists as well as historians and astronomers
have something of importance to contribute to this question of fixing
the date of the birth of Jesus. According to St. Luke: "And
there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping
watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8).
Meteorologists have made exact recordings of the
temperature at Hebron. This spot in the southern part of the highlands
of Judah exhibits the same climatic conditions as Bethlehem, which
is not far distant. The temperature readings show over a period
of three months that the incidence of frost is as follows: December
2.8 degrees; January 1.6 degrees; February 0.1. The first two months
have also the greatest rainfall in the year: approximately 6 inches
in December, and nearly 8 inches in January. According to all existing
information the climate of Palestine has not changed appreciably
in the last 2,000 years,
1 -- A.D.
332 -- consequently modern accurate meteorological observations
can be taken as a basis.
At Christmas-time Bethlehem is in the grip of frost,
and in the Promised Land no cattle would have been in the fields
in that temperature. This fact is borne out by a remark in the Talmud
to the effect that in that neighbourhood the flocks were put out
to grass in March and brought in again at the beginning of November.
They remained out in the open for almost eight months.
Around Christmas-time nowadays both animals and
shepherds are under cover in Palestine.
What St. Luke tells us points therefore to the birth
of Jesus as having taken place before the onset of winter, and the
description of the brilliant star in St. Matthew's gospel points
to the year 7 B.C.
In recent years, several publications dealing with
the life of Christ have appeared. They have attracted a good deal
of attention although some of them are not from the pens of professional
Biblical specialists. We cannot merely disregard them, as some of
them provide us with thoroughly prepared collections of material
while also presenting us with a reliable assessment of the opinions
of the specialists. These publications have not actually produced
any new facts, although they have sometimes shed new light on already
published material. Yet, in fact, this new light is not really new,
for these views have for long been under discussion among the experts.
The public has been made aware of these questions, however, by these
publications and this is a sufficient reason for not neglecting
It will probably not be generally realised that
Johannes Kepler himself did not consider the conjunction of the
planets Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, which he had calculated, as
the actual "Star of Bethlehem", the "Christmas Star",
but merely as its forerunner. For his part he still remained convinced
that Jesus was born later
and not as early as 7 or 6 B.C. Of course, nobody can guarantee
that in the days of Jesus people saw any connection between him
and the heavenly phenomenon calculated by Kepler and observed in
Babylon. Everything else that can be deduced and has actually been
deduced from this heavenly phenomenon and from the fact that it
was also noticed in Mesopotamia may indeed be very ingenious, but
it remains mere speculation, however brilliant, which in itself
lacks all conclusiveness and would require convincing proof in order
to be unreservedly accepted as correct.
For the problem of the "assessment" mentioned
in Luke 2:1-5 still remains. It is a historical fact that it was
made in the year 6/7 after
Christ's birth, although with the reservation that during the year
in question no general census throughout the empire was made, as
Luke asserts, but merely a limited provincial one.
In consequence, of all these facts and considerations,
333 -- expressed today in regard to the date of the birth of
Jesus are much more restrained than was the case a few years ago.
The period between the year 7 B.C. (if Kepler's conjunction of planets
is to be connected in any way with the birth of Jesus) and the year
A.D. 7 (on account of the population census by Quirinius) is the
time span in question. Jesus must have been born during this period.
It is not possible today to be more specific ...
One thing is remarkable. Towards the end of Herod's
reign, about the year 6 B.C., a Messianic dispute between Herod,
who regarded himself as a kind of Messiah, and the Pharisees who
had other notions about the Messiah, became so acute that the Pharisees
predicted Herod's early death, whereupon Herod had the ringleaders
executed. This was about the time of Kepler's conjunction of the
planets. We naturally do not know whether there were people who
believed in the stars and who actually ascribed some Messianic interpretation
to this conjunction and whether it was this, among other things,
which inflamed people's minds and feelings. That would, however,
be a possibility. It would also be possible that the action taken
by Herod against his opponents in the Messianic quarrel was the
reason why the Evangelist Matthew portrays Herod as a pitiless persecutor
of the Messiah who did not even shrink from the Massacre of the
Innocents at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). Top
334 -- Chapter
37 -- NAZARETH IN GALILEE
of King Herod - "The most cruel tyrant" - Unrest in the
land - Checking Jerusalem's finances - Sabinus steals the Temple
treasures - Varus crucifies 2,000 Jews - " Nazarene" or
when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a
dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child
and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead
which sought the young child's life.... But when he heard that Archelaus
did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid
to go thither - Matt. 2 19, 20, 22.
at the age of seventy in 4 B.C., thirty-six years after Rome had
made him king. It is said that immediately after his death there
occurred an eclipse of the moon which modern astronomers reckon
to have happened on March 13th.
passes harsh judgement on him when he comes to write about Herod
a few decades later: "He was no king but the most cruel tyrant
who ever ascended the throne. He murdered a vast number of people
and the lot of those he left alive was so miserable that the dead
might count themselves fortunate. He not only tortured his subjects
singly but ill treated whole communities. In order to beautify foreign
cities he robbed his own, and made gifts to foreign nations which
were paid for with Jewish blood. The result was that instead of
their former prosperity and time honoured customs the people fell
victim to utter poverty and demoralisation. Within a few years the
Jews suffered more misery through Herod than their forefathers had
done in the long period since they left Babylon and returned under
years hardly a day passed without someone being sentenced to death.
Herod spared no one, neither his own family nor his closest friends,
neither the priests nor least of all the people. On his list of
victims stand the names of the two husbands of his sister Salome,
his wife Mariamne and his sons Alexander and Aristobulus. He had
his brother-in-law drowned in the Jordan and his mother-in-law Alexandra
put out of the way. Two scholars who had torn down the golden Roman
eagle from the gateway of the Temple were burned alive.
last of the Hasmoneans was killed. Noble families were exterminated
root and branch. Many of the Pharisees were done away with. Five
days before his death the old man had his son Antipater
335 -- assassinated. And that is only a fraction of the crimes
of this man who
"ruled like a wild beast".
of the Innocents at Bethlehem, which the Bible lays at his door
(Matt. 2:16), fits in perfectly with this revolting picture of his
After the murder
of Antipater, Herod on his death bed made a will in which he nominated
three of his younger sons as his successors. Archelaus was to succeed
to the kingdom, Herod Antipas and Philip were to be tetrarchs, rulers
of Galilee and Peraea, part of Transjordan, and the territory north-east
of the Lake of Galilee. Archelaus was acknowledged as king by his
family and was acclaimed by Herod's mercenaries-Germans, Gauls and
Thracians. But throughout the country the news of the despot's death
brought uprisings of a violence which had seldom been seen in Jewry.
Their burning hatred of the house of Herod was mingled with their
loathing of the Romans.
lamenting the death of Herod they proclaimed their grief over the
deaths of his innocent victims. The people demanded that the learned
Jehuda ben Saripha and Mattathias ben Margoloth, who had been burned
like torches, should be atoned for. Archelaus replied by sending
his troops to Jerusalem. Three thousand people were butchered on
one day alone. The courts of the Temple were strewn with corpses.
This first act of Archelaus revealed at one stroke the true character
of the man-Herod's son yielded nothing to his father in cruelty
and in justice.
will had to be approved by the Emperor Augustus. Archelaus and Herod
Antipas accordingly set out for Rome one after the other. At the
same time fifty of the elders representing the people of Israel
hastened to Augustus to beseech him to rid them of this "monarchy".
In the absence of the Herodians the unrest assumed more serious
proportions. As a security measure a Roman legion was despatched
to Jerusalem. Right in the midst of this turmoil, as luck would
have it, there arrived one of the hated Romans in the person of
Sabinus, agent of the Imperial Treasury. Disregarding all warnings
he took up his abode in Herod's palace and proceeded to audit the
taxes and tribute of Judaea.
Masses of pilgrims
were streaming into the Holy City for the Feast of Weeks. Bloody
clashes ensued. Bitter fighting broke out in the Temple area. Stones
were thrown at the Roman troops. They set fire to the arcades, then
rushed into the Temple and pillaged all they could lay hands on.
Sabinus himself relieved the Temple treasury of 400 talents. At
which point he had to retreat precipitately to the palace and barricade
from Jerusalem through the country like wildfire. The royal palaces
of Judaea were plundered and set ablaze. The governor of Syria hastened
to the scene with a powerful Roman army strengthened
336 -- with troops from Beirut and Arabia. As soon as the marching
columns appeared in sight of Jerusalem the rebels fled. They were
pursued and captured in droves.
men were crucified.
The Roman governor
of Syria who issued this order wrote his name in the history books
through a decisive defeat which he suffered in A.D. 9. He was Quintilius
Varus, who was posted from Syria to Germany, and lost the battle
of the Teutoburgian Forest.
This was the
terrifying situation when Joseph, on his way back from Egypt, "heard
that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod".
It was for this reason that "he was afraid to go thither".
is one of those figures in world history whom we know only from
what their adversaries said about them. The impression created is
correspondingly sinister. It is confirmed by the account of the
Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). At the same
time, however, it must be remembered that we have here an example
of the widespread literary motive of the chosen child, who for that
very reason is exposed to danger - a motive that was attached to
a number of prominent figures in antiquity, to Sargon of Akkad,
Moses, Cyrus the Great and even to the Emperor Augustus as well
as to such mythical characters as Oedipus whom his father Laius
maimed and rejected.
We have consequently
become much more cautious nowadays in regard to our views on the
historicity of the Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem. Today
we look upon the doubtful story rather as an attempt, prompted by
the mentality of those days and using the methods current at the
time, to emphasise the importance of Jesus. In so doing, matters
such as the historicity of the measures taken by Herod in his quarrel
with the Pharisees concerning the Messiah form an additional factor
(cf. the end of the preceding chapter). Furthermore, the story of
the Massacre of the Innocents linked Jesus with Moses who, as the
Bible tells us, miraculously escaped from similar persecution by
the Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 1:15 - 2:10). Herod's persecution of
Jesus fits in very well with the flight of Joseph, Mary and the
child to Egypt, for which the Evangelist gives as the real reason:
"... that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord
by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son (Matthew
2:15. Cf. also Hosea 11:1). This constitutes another reference to
Moses whose name can mean "son" in Egyptian. On the other
hand, there is absolutely no historical or archaeological proof
of the flight to Egypt any more than there is for Jesus' stay in
the term "Nazarene" is capable of more than one interpretation.
Although it means "man from Nazareth", there may also
be a punning intention on the Hebrew word nezer
which means twig" or "rod" (cf. Isaiah 11;1: "...
a rod out of the stem of Jesse"). The word "Nazarene"
occurs in Matthew in connection with a
337 -- promise: "... that it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matthew
2:23). This does not make matters any easier, for to which words
Matthew is referring, if not to the words quoted from Isaiah, is
not clear. Perhaps a certain echo of the appellation
Nazarite ("consecrated by or dedicated to God")
is intended, although this presents certain philological difficulties.
Nazarite is a descriptive term, earlier applied to Samson (Judges
13:5 and 7, also 16:17) which demanded of him who claimed to be
one, a certain asceticism, such as the observance of a number of
taboos. Again there is uncertainty and it cannot be denied that
more than one specialist considers the statements in the Gospels
regarding the birth-place of Jesus as emanations from the fantasy
of the Gospel writers who, not properly understanding the word,
simply changed it to Nazarene. Mark Lidzbarski has even asserted
that a place called Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jesus.
It can be objected, however, even if we do not know what Nazareth
was called in Jesus' day, that occupation of this spot, if by "occupation"
we mean living in wretched caves, was continuous from about 900
B.C. to about A.D. 600, as has been shown by the unearthing of small
objects among which are a number dating from the time of King Herod
the Great (40 or 37-4 B.C.). The somewhat deprecatory words of Nathanael
(John 1:46): "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
may well refer to the wretchedness of the place in those days, although
the Bible calls it a "town". There is no reference to
Jesus, Mary or Joseph. The spring in Nazareth where women still
draw water in pitchers as they did in the time of Jesus is not on
record under the name "Mary's spring or fountain" before
the 11th century .... Top
338 -- Chapter
38 -- JOHN THE BAPTIST
witness of Josephus -A forbidden marriage - Herod Antipas orders
an arrest - The castle of Machaerus in Moab - The dungeon of death
- Princess Salome - Capernaum "on the sea" - Ruins in
a eucalyptus grove - The place where Jesus taught.
cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan, unto John, to be baptised of
him - Matt. 3:13.
This was the
event which took Jesus for the first time from his Nazareth home.
After the years of childhood and youth, about which we are told
almost nothing, he stepped on to the stage for his public ministry.
"And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty
years of age" (Luke 3:23 - R.V.).
and baptised in the Jordan valley south of Jericho, where the river
is crossed by the well-known ford. He was therefore in the territory
of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch appointed by Rome.
his baptism of Jesus, it is principally through his tragic end that
John has become known throughout the world. He was beheaded.
are puzzled by many questions concerning him. What was his attitude
towards the Essenes who left behind them the famous Dead Sea scrolls
in Qumran? Was he perhaps a Nazarite, as the Old Testament calls
the sort of person, like the hero Samson, who had dedicated himself
entirely to God and as a sign of this observed certain taboos? And
was he really the forerunner of Jesus as the New Testament describes
him? What part did he play in the Messianic movements of his day?
Did he consider himself, or did people consider him perhaps as a
kind of Messiah? Was he perhaps, as has been suggested, a sort of
rival to Jesus whom the Jesus tradition has appropriated and remodelled
as the forerunner of Jesus?
Did the godly
Baptist, who appears at the decisive turning point in Jesus' life,
exist at all? His contemporary, Josephus, tells us that John was
a high-minded man "who urged the Jews to strive towards perfection
and exhorted them to deal justly with one another and walk humbly
with God and to present themselves for baptism. As they flocked
to him from all directions Herod Antipas began to be alarmed lest
the influence of such a man might lead to disturbances. In conse-
339 -- quence of Herod's suspicions John was put in chains,
sent to the castle of Machaerus and there beheaded."
Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him and put him in prison
for Herodias' sake..." (Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19).
According to the Gospels this was the reason for John's arrest.
Josephus has some more background detail to offer:
In the course
of a trip to Rome Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great got to
know Herodias, his brother's wife, and was so much attracted by
her that he ventured a proposal of marriage. Herodias agreed and
brought with her into the marriage her daughter Salome.
Mosaic law marriage with a sister-in-law was forbidden and - according
to the gospels - John the Baptist denounced it, an offence which
in the eyes of the enraged Herodias could only be expiated by his
the event in a concrete historical setting, the castle of Machaerus,
one of the numerous strongholds which Herod the Great had built
the place where John forfeited his life, lies in dark and rugged
country on the east side of the Dead Sea. No road links this isolated
spot with the outside world. Narrow paths lead up from the valley
of the Jordan into the bare and desolate mountains of what was once
Moab. In the deep wadis a few Bedouin families wander with their
flocks over the scanty rough grass.
Not far from
the river Arnon one lofty peak rises above the round humps of the
other mountains. Its summit, which is swept by chill winds, is still
crowned with ruins. "El Mashnaka", "The Hanging Palace",
is what the Bedouins call this deserted place. This was the fortress
of Machaerus. Far to the north can be seen with the naked eye the
part of the Jordan valley where John baptised the people and where
he was arrested.
So far no excavations
have been carried out among the ruins of "El Mashnaka"
and few have visited the lonely spot at all. Below the summit the
rock-face is at one point hollowed out to a considerable depth.
Narrow passages lead into a large vaulted chamber which from time
to time provides shelter for nomads and their flocks when sudden
storms take them by surprise among the mountains of Moab. From the
carefully shaped walls it is obvious that this was once the castle
dungeon. This gloomy vault sheltered John the Baptist after his
arrest. It is probable that he was beheaded here, if the statement
of Josephus is correct, for according to Mark 6:17ff the execution
evidently took place in Galilee, presumably in the new palace which
had recently been constructed by Herod Antipas at Tiberias on the
Lake of Galilee.
has heard of the beheading of John associates automatically with
it the name of Salome, and thinks at once of the daughter of Herodias
who at her mother's behest is said to have asked for the
340 -- head of John as a reward for her dancing. This Salome
has taken her place in the literature of the world. Oscar Wilde
wrote a play "Salome", Richard Strauss made the story
of this Jewish princess the theme of his famous opera "Salome",
even Hollywood has used the story of Salome as the subject of one
of its epoch-making films.
But in the
New Testament we may search in vain for the name of this princess.
The Bible makes no mentioh of Salome. In the story of John the Baptist
she is simply called the "daughter of Herodias" (Mark
It is Josephus
who has told us the name of this "daughter of Herodias".
A small coin has preserved her appearance for posterity. She is
depicted on it with her husband Aristobulus. The coin bears the
inscription "King Aristobulus - Queen Salome". Salome
must have been still a girl when John the Baptist was beheaded -
about nineteen years
when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison he departed
into Galilee: and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,
which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of ZabuIon
and Nephthalim - Matt. 4:12,13.
short course of Jesus' ministry, which according to the evangelists
Matthew, Mark and Luke cannot have lasted more than a year and a
half, one place always takes priority. Matthew indeed on one occasion
calls it "his own city" (Matt. 9:1): Capernaum on the
Lake of Galilee.
At the north
end, not far from the spot where the fast running waters of the
Jordan pour into the lake, the shore curves into a small bay. Out
of the dark greenness of eucalyptus bushes comes a glint of white
stone flags with four pillars rising out of them. Tufts of grass
sprout from between the paving stones of the courtyard, shattered
columns and blocks of basalt with carved ornamentation lie strewn
around. All that remains of what was once the entrance are the broad
steps of a staircase, the last remnants of a one-time splendid synagogue.
That is all
that is left to bear witness to ancient Capernaum.
In 1916 the
German archaeologists H. Kohl and C. Watzinger discovered hidden
under rubble and overgrown with grass the fragmentary remains of
this edifice. Franciscans rebuilt part of the old facade out of
the ruins. The walls of the original building consisted of white
limestone: on three sides it was surrounded by rows of tall pillars.
The interior, measuring 80 x 50 feet, was decorated with sculptures
of palms, vine branches, lions and centaurs. From there the view
through a large window ranged southwards over the broad surface
of the lake to where Jerusalem lay behind the pale blue outlines
of distant hills.
were convinced that they had found the synagogue of Capernaum dating
from the time of Christ. But in the whole of Palestine there is
not one synagogue left from those days.
341 -- When the Romans in two bloody wars razed Jerusalem to
the ground and the inhabitants of the ancient country were scattered
to the four winds, their sanctuaries also fell a prey to destruction.
came into being for the first time about A.D. 200 on top of the
ruins and foundations of the synagogue in which Jesus often stood
and taught on the Sabbath day: "And they went into Capernaum;
and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue
and taught" (Mark 1:21).
Most of the
inhabitants of the little town of Capernaum lived on the natural
riches of the lake: huts and houses in large numbers nestled quietly
on the gentle slopes or surrounded the synagogue. On the day when
Jesus came from Nazareth to Capernaum he took the first decisive
step towards proclaiming his message: "Now as he walked by
the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting
a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them:
Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mark
1:16-17). He met another pair of brothers, James and John, as they
were mending their nets. The first people to listen to his words,
to accept his teaching and to become his disciples, were simple
men, fishermen of Galilee.
wandered up from the lake into the Galilean hills, and preached
in many of the towns and villages, but always returned to the little
fishing town: it remained the main centre of his mission. And when
one day he left Capernaum and set out with twelve disciples for
Jerusalem, it was his last journey. Top
342 -- Chapter 39 -- THE
LAST JOURNEY, TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION
through Transjordan - The tax-collector of Jericho - View from the
Mount of Olives - Arrest on the Mount of Olives - The "clubs"
of the high priests - The Procurator Pontius Pilate - Vincent discovers
the "Pavement" - Scourging in the courtyard of the Antonia
- "The most cruel form of execution" - A crown of Syrian
Christ-thorn - A drink to stupify - Heart failure as the cause of
death - Crurifragium hastens the end - A solitary tomb under the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Tacitus mentions "Christus"
- The evidence of Suetonius.
he took unto him the twelve and said unto them, Behold we go up
to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning
the Son of man shall be accomplished - Luke 18:31.
Out of all
the journeys that Jesus undertook in his lifetime, one can be traced
without difficulty - his last journey through Palestine, the journey
from Capernaum to Jerusalem.
He went a
long way round to get there. The shortest route from Galilee to
the Holy City lies directly south through the hills of Samaria.
The path keeps to the hills, over the tops of Gerizim and Ebal,
the site of ancient Shechem, and then on through Bethel into the
heart of Judah, along the old high road which Abraham followed with
his family and his flocks.
It took three
days to make this journey on foot from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Jesus too would
have chosen this road through Samaria (Luke 9:51-56). But since
the anti-Jewish feeling among the Samaritans was well known it seemed
doubtful to him whether they would permit his little company to
pass through their territory. To make sure, he sent his disciples
James and John in advance. And indeed the Samaritans refused permission.
Jesus and his
disciples therefore went by way of "the borders of Judaea and
beyond Jordan" (Mark 10:1 - R.V.). The road goes down-stream
through the middle of the wide and torrid valley, where the banks
alone are fringed with tropical growth, with little clumps of tamarisks
and poplars, with castor oil and liquorice trees. There is solitude
and stillness in the "pride of Jordan" (Zech.11:3'; Jer.
12:5) . For
343 -- the valley, which for nine months of the year is as sultry
as the tropics, is but thinly populated.
At the ancient
ford, where once the children of Israel under Joshua's leadership
had passed over in safety, Jesus crossed the Jordan and arrived
in Jericho (Luke 19:1). It was no longer the fortified city of old
Canaan, entrenched behind its walls. On the south side of the hill
lay a new up to date city, built by Herod the Great, a gem of Graeco-Roman
architecture. At. the foot of the citadel called Cyprus, a magnificent
palace had arisen. A theatre, an amphitheatre, cut into the hillside,
and a circus, all adorned with dazzling white pillars, sparkled
in the sunlight. Magnificent fountains played in the luxuriant gardens
with their massed banks of flowers. Outside the town stretched the
balsam plantations - the most precious plants in the whole of the
Mediterranean land - while deep palm groves offered coolness and
the night in Jericho in the house of the Jewish tax-collector Zacchaeus
(Luke 19:2ff), far away from all this magnificence. He could not
have avoided Jericho, which was a centre of Greek paganism. For
the road to Jerusalem led through the city.
It is 23 miles
from Jericho to Jerusalem. Twenty-three miles of dusty road winding
and twisting between steep and almost barren cliffs nearly 4,000
feet high. Hardly anywhere else in the world can there be a stronger
contrast than this short stretch of road affords. Straight from
the wonderfully luxuriant growth and the sheer unbearable heat of
a tropical sun by the Jordan's banks, one is whisked into the chill
air of forbidding and barren mountain peaks.
This was the
road, like a prelude to the end, which Jesus followed with his disciples
a week before the Passover. This was the time when Jews from far
and near flocked to celebrate the feast in the Holy City.
At the highest
point on the road, which is almost at the end of the journey, the
Holy City emerges from behind the top of the Mount of Olives as
if some wizard had conjured it out of the hills. The view that Jerusalem
presented to Jesus and the disciples can be imagined from a contemporary
who has not seen Jerusalem in all its beauty has never beheld a
great and lovely city in all his life: and anyone who has not seen
the structure of the second Temple has never seen an impressive
building in his life." This was the proud verdict of the Jewish
rabbis of the time.
the appearance of old Jerusalem has been summed up by
Garstang in the following words: "At no point in their history
can the Temple and the city have presented a more wonderful picture.
The rhythm and harmony of Graeco-Roman art, which stood out so marvellously
against the eastern sky, repressed the extravagant architectural
tendencies of Herod, and brought order and good taste into the traditional
chaos of the city."
344 -- The great walls towered 250 feet high above the valley.
Behind their battlements
rose the contours of mighty edifices from a constricted chequer-board
of houses, streets and alleys.
opposite the Mount of Olives lay the Temple, right in the foreground,
and outshining all other buildings in its magnificence. Its facade
150 feet high and of equal breadth, faced eastward and consisted
entirely of light marble. Its decorations were of pure gold. Pillared
colonnades hemmed in the spacious courts and vestibules. The crowning
glory was however the Tabernacle in the centre, sparkling "like
a snow capped mountain", to quote Josephus' words.
the north-west side of the Temple wall rose the Tower of Antonia,
perched on a rocky eminence. Each of its four great corner turrets
measured nearly 120 feet high. A viaduct led from the south side
of the Temple area to the palace of the Hasmoneans in the upper
city. At the highest point in the city stood Herod's palace by the
west wall, likewise surmounted by three towers 130, 100 and 80 feet
high. Herod had named them Hippicus, Phasael and Mariamne. From
this point a thick wall ran through the sea of houses to the Temple
area, thus dividing the heart of the city once more into two sections.
There is an
indomitable air about this city with its multiplicity of fortifications,
walls and towers surrounding its Temple. As the sight-seer looks
over Jerusalem he almost feels that he is breathing in its obstinacy,
rigidity and inflexibility. It was these very attributes of obstinacy,
rigidity and inflexibility which helped Israel for more than 1,000
years to stand out against every world-power. Obstinacy, rigidity
and inflexibility were also responsible for the eventual destruction
of Jerusalem and the ejection of Israel from the land of their fathers.
the future fate of Jerusalem. "And when he was come near, he
beheld the city, and wept over it" (Luke 19:41).
in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders
and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried
him away, and delivered him to Pilate. ... And so Pilate willing
to content the people ... delivered Jesus, when he had scourged
him, to be crucified - Mark 15:1, 15.
of the trial, sentence and crucifixion in the four Gospels have
been checked with scientific thoroughness by many scholars and have
been found to be historically reliable accounts even to the last
detail. The chief witnesses for the prosecution against Jesus have
been indirectly attested and the place where sentence was pronounced
has been accurately ascertained by excavations. The various incidents
in the course of the trial can be verified from contemporary sources
and modern research.
With the arrest
the incomparable tragedy began to unfold. Jesus had gathered his
disciples round him in the Garden of Gethsemane on the
345 -- Mount of Olives, "and immediately, while he yet
spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude
with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and
the elders" (Mark 14:43).
in the Talmud reminds us of the "clubs" and "staves"
of the Boethusian high priests who had been in control since Herod's
on the house of Boethus: a plague on their clubs! A plague on the
house of Annas: a plague on their spying!"
It ends: "For
they are high priests and their sons are in the Treasury, and their
sons-in-law in the Government and their servants beat the people
high priests who are expressly named is one well known to us: the
"Annas" in the gospels. "Then the band and the captain
and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, and led him
away to Annas first: for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which
was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave
counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die
for the people" (John 18:12-14).
Caiaphas had been appointed high priest by the Roman procurator
Valerius Gratus. He remained in office 1 under his
successor Pontius Pilate also.
After his arrest
Jesus was brought before the High Council - the Sanhedrin - which
at that time was the highest Jewish authority and combined within
itself all spiritual and temporal power. At the same time it functioned
as the highest judicial court of the Jews. It met below the Temple
near the bridge which gave access to the upper city.
the grounds on which the council condemned Jesus to death?
of the old Jewish prophets which centred on a future Messianic king,"
writes Professor Martin Noth, "had developed during the long
period of foreign domination into hope of a political liberator;
and the greater the resentment of the Roman government of the country
the more this picture of a Messianic conqueror who would destroy
the hateful foreign power filled their minds. Measured by these
standards Jesus of Nazareth could not be the Messiah they were waiting
for. ... But if Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah, 'the Christ',
then he must be a fraud and an impostor. And if he was a fraud and
an impostor then for the safety and peace of the religious life
of Jerusalem he must be got rid of. ... The fact that Jesus during
his trial claimed to be the Messiah and therefore, on the basis
of Old Testament teaching, the Son of God was sufficient ground
for condemning him to death on a charge of outrageous blasphemy."
From A.D. 18 - 36. Top
346 -- According to the existing law the sentence had to be
confirmed by the Roman procurator, to whom belonged the so-called
Only he could authorise the death penalty. The procurator of Judaea
was Pontius Pilate. 1
like Josephus and Philo of Alexandria describe him as an extortioner,
a tyrant, a blood sucker and a corruptible character: "He was
cruel and his hard heart knew no compassion. His day in Judaea was
a reign of bribery and violence, robbery, oppression, misery, executions
without fair.trial and infinite cruelty." 2 That
Pilate hated and despised the Jews was made unmistakably plain to
them again and again.
have recognised at once that the accused man, Jesus, was the object
of a hatred which had been stirred up by the Pharisees. That alone
must have been sufficient reason for him to reject their demand
and to acquit him. Indeed first of all and without hesitation he
actually declared him to be innocent: "Then said Pilate to
the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man"
But the mob,
incited and goaded by the councillors, tumultuously repeated their
demand for the death penalty. Pontius Pilate gave in.
How was it
that this tyrannical enemy of the Jews yielded to their request?
Gospel contains a cogent explanation: "But the Jews cried out,
saying, if thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend; whosoever
maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar" (John 19:12).
This was a
dangerous political threat which clearly implied reporting Pilate
to Rome for neglect of duty in acquitting a rebel. "Making
himself a king" meant treason against the Roman emperor. According
to the Lex Juliana the penalty for that was death. Pilate was afraid
of this unambiguous threat. He had not forgotten that the Jews had
carried it out once before.
Philo tells us, Pontius Pilate had brought to Jerusalem the golden
shields bearing the emperor's name and had hung them up in Herod's
palace in the middle of the city. That was a serious offence against
the rights of the Jewish religious community which had been guaranteed
by Rome. It was a challenge. He scornfully rejected their request
to have the golden shields removed from the Holy City. Thereupon
the Jews appealed to Rome and secured their rights. The Emperor
Tiberius himself ordered the removal. of the golden shields. Because
of this and sundry other arbitrary actions, which ran counter to
-- A.D. 26-36.
2 -- Philo of Alexandria A.D. 25-50.
of the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate.
347 -- policy, Pontius Pilate's reputation in Rome was at a
low ebb at the time of the trial.
therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down
in the judgement seat, in a place that is called t'he Pavement,
but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. ... Then
delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified - John 19:13,
in Pilate's court, where this scene took place, survived even the
destruction of Jerusalem in A.D- 70. Its rediscovery was the result
of years of work on the part of the archaeologist Father L. H. Vincent.
His success was due to the exact description given in St. John's
Version has translated the word "Lithostroton" by "Pavement".
It means a stone pavement. The Aramaic word "Gabbatha"
means "raised ground".
the north-west perimeter wall of the Temple there lay in the time
of Jesus the powerful Tower of Antonia. It stood upon a rocky eminence,
therefore on "raised ground". Herod I had built it and
called it after a friend. The Roman occupation troops had taken
it over as a garrison. In A.D. 70, at the conquest of Jerusalem,
Titus had the castle of Antonia demolished. Later buildings arose
upon the ruins.
On the spot
where the courtyard of the Antonia had been, Vincent was able to
establish the existence of a large flat pavement nearly 3,000 square
yards built in the Roman style and typical of the time of Jesus.
This was where
Jesus stood before Pilate while the mob howled outside. It was on
this Pavement too that the scourging took place (John 19:1). This
always preceded crucifixion, as Josephus expressly mentions twice.
For this horrible punishment the body was stripped naked and flogged
until the flesh hung down in bloody shreds.
was seized by Roman soldiers to complete the sentence of crucifixion.
Cicero calls it "the most cruel and most frightful means of
execution", Josephus recoils from it as "the most pitiable
of all forms of death". This typically Roman death penalty
was unknown in the
Jewish penal code.
the court buildings the soldiers vented their wanton mischief on
Jesus and "clothed him with purple and platted a crown of thorns
and put it about his head" (Mark 15:17).
So far, botanists
have not been able to agree on what sort of plant this was. The
only thing that is certain is that the "Christ's Crown of Thorns",
to Europe and U.S.A. in the present day, has nothing to do with
the Biblical crown of thorns. "It is a native of Madagascar
and was completely unknown in Jesus' day," says the American
botanist Dr. Harold Moldenke. Many other experts assume that the
crown of thorns was woven from the Syrian Christ-thorn, 2
1 -- Euphoribia
348 -- hence its name. The Syrian Christ-thorn is a bush or
small tree, 10 to 15 feet high, with pliant white twigs. Its stipulae
have each two strong thorns which curve backwards. According to
Dr. G. E. Post, who is an expert on these matters, this plant grows
in the neighbourhood of old Jerusalem, especially in the area where
Golgotha is said to have been.
The way from
the courthouse to Golgotha was mercifully short: "for the place
... was nigh to the city" (John 19:20), beside the main road
which entered Jerusalem from the north-west. A pilgrim from Bordeaux
who visited Jerusalem in the year 333 specifically mentioned "the
little hill of Golgotha 1 where the Lord was
gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not"
(Mark 15:23). Similar acts of mercy are frequently recorded on other
occasions. We read in an old Jewish Baraita: "Anyone who is
led out to execution is given a small piece of incense in a beaker
of wine to numb his senses. ... The good women of Jerusalem have
a custom of dispensing this generously and bringing it to the victims."
Moldenke, who has done much research into Biblical flora, has this
to say: "Wine mixed with myrrh was given to Jesus just before
the Crucifixion to lessen the pain, just as in the days before anaesthetics,
intoxicating drinks were poured into the unfortunate patients on
the eve of big operations." Jesus however declined the drink
and endured with all his senses the torture of being nailed to the
And it was
the third hour and they crucified him - Mark 15:25.
to our division of time the "third hour" in the Ancient
East is 9 a.m. "And at the ninth hour", in our reckoning
three o'clock in the afternoon, the tragedy came to an end. "And
Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost" (Mark
15 34, 37).
What was the
cause of Jesus' death? Some years ago Dr. Hermann Modder of Cologne
carried out scientific tests in an attempt to answer the question
from a medical point of view. In the-case of a person suspended
by his two hands the blood sinks very quickly into the lower half
of the body. After six to twelve minutes blood pressure has dropped
by 50% and the pulse rate has doubled. Too little blood reaches
the heart, and fainting ensues. This leads to a speedy orthostatic
collapse through insufficient blood circulating to the brain and
the heart. Death by crucifixion is therefore due to heart failure.
It is a well
authenticated fact that victims of crucifixion did not usually die
for two days or even longer. On the vertical beam there was often
a small support attached called a "sedile" (seat) or a
"'cornu" (horn). If the victim hanging there eased his
misery from time to time by supporting himself on this, the blood
returned to the upper half of his body and the faintness passed.
When the torture of the crucified man
-- Monticulus Golgotha.
p 349 -- was finally to be brought to an end, the "crurifragium"
was proceeded with: his legs were broken below the knee with blows
from a club. That meant that he could no longer ease his weight
on the footrests and heart failure quickly followed.
Jesus was spared
the "crurifragium". "Then came the soldiers, and
brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified
with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead
already, they brake not his legs" (John 19:32-33).
The Jews had
asked Pilate for the "crurifragium", for it was "the
day before the sabbath" (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54) and also the
day of preparation for the Passover. According to Jewish law the
bodies of victims after crucifixion were not allowed to remain hanging
overnight (Deut. 21:23) . And at 6 p.m. the Sabbath of Passover
week began, when all kinds of normal activity were forbidden. The
imminence of this important festival explains the precipitate haste
of the events which preceded it, the arrest by night, the condemnation,
execution and burial of Jesus all within a few hours.
It is barely
1,000 paces from the Ecce Homo arch, the site of Pilate's judgement
seat, along the narrow Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In 326 the
Emperor Constantine erected a magnificent sepulchral tower over
the tomb of Jesus, which had just then been rediscovered. Richly
decorated pillars supported a roof of gilded beams, as can be seen
from old books on pilgrimages and early Christian art. Today the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a chaotic jumble of dim chapels.
Every branch of the Christian Church has established for itself
a little place of worship in this holiest of all the sites of Christendom.
In the Chapel
of the Holy Sepulchre a well worn flight of steps leads down to
a grotto where a 6 foot long tomb is hewn out of the rock. Is this
the burial place of Jesus?
1,000 graves have been found in Palestine dating from this period,
but all of them were in cemeteries or family vaults. This tomb is
however by itself. According to the Gospel tradition Jesus was the
first to be laid in a great sepulchre: "And when Joseph had
taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it
in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled
a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (Matt.
has always been pressing for an answer since early times: How is
it possible that apart from the books of the New
It was in a Palestinian
tomb of this sort, with a millstone rolled across the entrance,
that Christ was buried. Top
350 -- Testament no contemporary records exist which deal with
the events of those days? "World history at the time took no
notice of him [Jesus of Nazareth]," writes Professor Martin
Noth in his important History of Israel. "For one short
moment his appearance stirred men's minds in Jerusalem: then it
became an episode in past history and people had to concern themselves
with what seemed more important things. And yet this was a final
decisive crisis in the history of Israel. It was only when the numbers
of his followers made them a force to be reckoned with in terms
of world history that his name began to be mentioned at all."
his Antiquities of the Jews, which he wrote in the last part
of the 1st century A.D., in referring to the early Christian community
in Jerusalem, speaks of "Jesus who was called Messiah".
1 Tacitus the Roman historian mentions
Jesus specifically in his Annals, 2
while explaining the meaning of the word "Christians":
"Christ, from whom they derive their name was condemned to
death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Emperor
The most important
comment comes however from the Roman Suetonius: 3
he is describing a messianic movement during the reign of Claudius,
who was Roman emperor from A.D- 41 to 54. Suetonius says of him
in his account of the life of the Emperor Claudius: "He drove
the Jews out of Rome who were rioting because of Chrestus."
The writer Orosius mentions that this expulsion took place in the
ninth year of Claudius' reign, i.e. A. D. 49. That means that a
Christian community is attested in Rome not more than fifteen to
twenty years after the Crucifixion.
There is, in
the Acts of the Apostles, an amazing corroboration of this Roman
evidence. When Paul came from Athens to Corinth he found there "a
certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy,
with his wife Priscilla: because that Claudius had commanded all
Jews to depart from Rome" (Acts 18:2).
be denied, however, that the rare non-Biblical reports on Jesus
are very problematical. Although there is a phonetic connection
between Greek long "e" and "i", which is known
as "itacism", so that chrestos
meaning "capable", "skilful", "valuable",
"good", could easily be confused with christos,
which means "the anointed one" and is the Greek translation
of the Hebrew word Messias, it is not at all certain whether the
disturbances in Rome which were provoked by the question of the
Messiah and which Suetonius mentions in his account of the life
of the Emperor Claudius, really had anything to do with Jesus. The
above quoted passage in Josephus must be considered a forgery. In
its positive and approving tone it does not fit in either with Josephus'
basic anti-Messianic attitude or with the surrounding
, 9, para. 200.
XV, 44 - written A.D. 115-117.
-- A.D. 65-135.
351 -- text which gives an account of the uprisings of Jewish
nationalists which in the opinion of Joseph were abominable and
to be condemned. Moreover, the internal structure of this passage
is not typical of Josephus' way of writing. It is more like the
preaching style of the Evangelist Luke. The statement made by Tacitus
does not yield much either. It nevertheless confirms that there
were Christians who derived from Christ their name "Christians"
- Christ who
had been crucified at the time of the Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14-37)
under the procurator Pontius Pilate. It is an open question whether
Tacitus himself thought this true. The only safe deduction we can
make is that during the reign of the Emperor Nero (A.D- 54-68),
whose persecution of the Christians provides the opportunity for
Tacitus to make his statement about them, a Christian community
was in existence in Rome and that in certain respects their traditions
coincided with points in the New Testament.
The year of
Jesus' death, moreover, is no less debated than the date of his
birth, concerning which we were able to say with any certainty only
that it must have occurred somewhere and at some time between 7
B.C. and A.D. 7. The time span between the limits set by modern
specialists for the year of Jesus' death is not so great, however,
as that for his birth. Today the possibilities have been narrowed
down to A.D. 29, 30, 32 and 33. If we wish to be very cautious,
then we have at our disposal the ten years of the period that Pontius
Pilate held his office (A.D. 26-36). Caiaphas, the High Priest,
held office from A.D. 18-37.
Even the day
of the trial and execution of Jesus is uncertain for if we work
out the dates indicated by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke
and compare them with those given by John, they show a difference
of a day. There is even less uniformity concerning the hour of Jesus'
the Evangelists linked the crucifixion of Jesus with so many passages
from the Old Testament that it would almost be possible to have
doubts about Jesus' crucifixion. Can all these terrible things have
been imagined merely for the sake of cross references in the Bible?
And it must not be forgotten that Jesus was by no means the first
god to be crucified! He had been preceded by fertility gods who
suffered and were put to death. In Berlin, for example, there is
a* small amulet with a crucified person, the Seven Sisters and the
moon which bears the inscription ORPHEUS BAKKIKOS. It has a surprisingly
Christian appearance. The same can be said of a representation of
the hanging Marsyas in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
On the other
hand, we know that a crucifixion took place and we also know who
ordered the crucifixion and who suffered this dreadful form of death.
The Dead Sea Scrolls mention as outrageous a mass crucifixion ordered
by Alexander Iannaios (103-76 B.C.). The Romans
352 -- showed a preference for this manner of execution. It
was inflicted on persons belonging to defeated peoples who had committed
crimes against the Roman State as well as on slaves. But the question
arises as to the actual cause of death of the crucified person as
well as to the length of time he remained alive on the cross.
There was also
disagreement concerning certain details of the way in which the
cruel punishment was carried out. A macabre discovery on a hill
named Givat Hamivtar on the eastern edge of Jerusalem helped solve
the problem. Two Israeli specialists, the archaeologist Vassilios
Tzaferis and the pathologist Nicu Haas, have published a report
on it, while the American journalist and author Jerry M. Landay
has written an account of it for the general public in his book
on Biblical archaeology Silent cities, sacred stones.
It was in the
summer of 1968. In the course of construction work a bulldozer cut
into graves dating from the time between the accession of Herod
the Great (37 B.C.) and the destruction of Herod's temple (A.D.
70). These graves lay on the hill of Givat Hamivtar so that the
people buried in them must more or less have been contemporaries
of Jesus. The name of one of the dead was Johanan Ben Ha'galgol.
It was noticed with feelings of horror that his feet were separated
from the smashed skeleton and were lying one on top of the other
and joined together by a rusty nail which had been driven through
both feet. Fragments of wood, the remains of a wooden slab, were
attached to it. Behind Johanan's feet, the nail was bent obviously
by having been driven into harder material. Johanan's fore-arms
also showed signs of having had nails driven through them. In the
course of Johanan's death struggles, his skin had suffered abrasions
on the nails.
undeniably called for detailed investigation. Vassilios Tzaferis
and Nicu Haas wondered whether any conclusions could be drawn from
Johanan's injuries concerning the shape of the crucifix and the
way in which the victim had been nailed to it. In fact, the nails
had not been driven through the palms of the hands in the way usually
depicted, but through the forearms near the wrist. Presumably this
was the usual practice for this manner of execution, for the palms
of the hands when pierced by nails would have torn under the weight
of a body writhing in the agonised throes of death. This fact had
already been established, moreover, in the gruesome experiments
of Dr. Barbet of Paris in connection with the "Turin Shroud"
which will be discussed in the next chapter. The crucified person,
whose imprint the shroud shows, contrary to all the artistic conventions
of the usual manner of depicting a crucifixion, had not had the
nails driven through his palms. There was one way, however, in which
the case of Johanan Ben Ha'galgol obviously differed from the normal
Roman method of execution. The question has been raised whether
the crurifragium, the smashing of the shinbones with a blunt instrument,
was an additional torture
353 -- or perhaps in the end an act of mercy, a "coup de
grace", for the victim then collapsed and died more quickly.
In Johanan Ben Ha'galgol's case, however, this "act of mercy"
was not deemed sufficient. Together with the nail and the wooden
slab his feet had been cut off his smashed legs. ... Top
354 -- Chapter 40 --
SHROUD -- Books
from Constantinople - Discovery in the photographic negative - Tests
by forensic medical experts - A scientific proof of authenticity?
took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with
the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury - John 19:40.
In the year
1204, during the course of the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders captured
Constantinople. In connection with this event the chronicler Robert
de Clari reports that a Frenchman named Otto de la Roche came into
the possession of a linen cloth as part of the spoils. This cloth,
which measured 1.10 metres in width and 4. 36 metres in length,
had the peculiarity that it bore marks made by blood and sweat.
On closer inspection the indistinct outlines of a human body, which
must have measured about 1.80 metres in height, became apparent.
Otto de la Roche took it with him back to France.
and a half later, the linen cloth reappeared in Besancon where it
was worshipped as Christ's shroud. When a fire occurred, it was
not consumed by the flames, it is true, but it did sustain slight
damage. Its subsequent history can be followed in detail.
When the plague
broke out in Milan, the devout Carlo Borromeo, bishop of the town,
who was subsequently canonised, fulfilled his vow to make a pilgrimage
to the shroud which had been brought for him from the south of France
to Turin where it has since remained.
cloth is said to have been in Jerusalem until the fifth or sixth
century. Tradition has it that this is the linen cloth in which
Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Christ.
It is impossible
to provide historical proof of these, claims. There are, moreover,
two pieces of linen in addition to that in Turin, for which the
claim is also made that they came into contact with Christ's body.
The more important
of these is the handkerchief of Saint Veronica. According to legend,
the saint gave Christ her handkerchief as he was on the way to his
crucifixion. When she received it back, it bore the imprint of his
of Christ in the possession of King Abgar V of Edessa, "Antiochia",
was also considered authentic, but the French theologian and historian
Chevalier came across proof to the contrary in the Papal archives
in a document dated 1389 which states that an artist had painted
such a cloth. When this became known, the Turin shroud was
355 -- identified as a copy by that artist and consequently
in the estimation of all those interested, it ceased to have any
value as a contemporary document.
have been the end of the matter if interest in the legendary piece
of linen had not been aroused anew in 1889. Technical progress had
made possible the first photograph of the "Turin shroud".
Something extraordinary was the result, for the photographic plate
converted the impressions on the cloth into black and white. A face
became clearly visible.
all over the world studied the sensational photograph. Art specialists,
to whom it was submitted, noticed, moreover, that the negative was
astonishingly natural and anatomically correct for, as with every
human being, the features are not the same on both sides of the
face. Artists in the early Middle Ages certainly did not pay any
attention to this dissimilarity. Attempts made by painters showed
that no artist was able, even when using a model, to convert a human
face by the processes of the mind into a negative image and paint
Shroud" could consequently not be a forgery insofar as it was
the imprint of a human face. Even art specialists, who began by
denying its authenticity, now admit that it cannot have been painted
as a negative. Nobody can do that.
exciting discovery, scientists also began to take an interest in
the shroud and a number of prominent specialists in various branches
of science began their researches. Decades of study, experiments
and investigations have brought certain conclusions. Concrete and
very significant results have been obtained. A whole mosaic of infinitely
painstaking studies exists which were undertaken to answer the question:
How did the
Vignon of Paris was the first to concern himself experimentally
with the impression of a body on linen. He placed a cloth sprinkled
with aloes in contact with a corpse. The experiments were not satisfactory,
however, as considerable distortions seemed unavoidable. Italian
forensic medical specialists, Professors Judica of Milan and Professor
Romanese of Turin, were more successful. In their experiments they
adhered to the Biblical account which indicates the correct method:
and there camealso Nicodemus ... and brought a mixture of myrrh
and aloes, about an hundred weight. Then they took the body of Jesus,
and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of
the Jews is to bury" (John 19:39-40). A long series of experiments
showed that the corpse must be powdered and the cloth moistened
with aromatic oil. Impressions which do not show any distortion
are obtained more particularly when the hair on the head prevents
too close contact of the side of the face with the cloth. The results
of the Italian tests provide the highest degree of correspondence.
356 -- The imprint on the "Turin shroud" shows swellings
on the face. It is possible that they result from blows. "Then
did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him
with the palm of their hands" (Matthew 26:67). Patches of blood
are clearly visible on the forehead and neck. "And the soldiers
platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head" (John 19:2).
Small swellings can also be seen on other parts of the body. They
come from wounds on the hands and feet made by nails as well as
from a wound on the right side of the chest ". . . one of the
soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there
out blood and water" (John 19:34).
of Paris has thoroughly investigated the nature of these wounds
and here, too, the results were surprising. The wounds do not correspond
to the customary manner of artistic depiction. The "Turin shroud"
clearly shows the places where the nails were driven in. They were
not driven through the palms of the hands, but through the wrists.
From the physical and medical angle, the artistic depictions are
wrong. And here, too, an unusual experiment led to a conclusion
in the shroud's favour.
nailed a corpse to a crucifix.The wound in the palm of the hand
was torn when bearing a weight Of 40 kilos. A wide tendon runs through
the wrist, however, and is strong enough to support the weight of
the human body.
men believed they were able to detect two kinds of blood in the
traces left by the wounds. They distinguished between blood which
must have flowed while the victim was still alive - such traces
are found on the head, the hands and the feet - and blood after
death from the wound in the side of the chest and also on the feet.
From what period
does the linen of the famous shroud date? Because of the manner
of weaving, specialists have repeatedly situated the shroud in the
decades around the beginning of our era, although a precise determination
of the time has not yet been attempted. It would be possible to
undertake this, however, by using highly sensitive Geiger counters.
The C 14 method developed by Professor W. F. Libby of the Chicago
Institution of Nuclear Physics would allow the date to be determined
within a range of a few years. We should then know at least when
the flax was grown from which the linen was made (cf. also p. 376).
These are the
results which scientific investigation could achieve, but the question
as to who the dead man was who lay in the shroud and when he lay
there would still not have been answered.