Easter. The Passion of Jesus XXI. Crucifixion part 2.

Part 22, here.
Part 20, here.

You can read the whole series here.

Crucifixion 2.

Matthew follows Mark for the most part, but he makes some changes. “they came to a place called Golgatha which means the place of a skull and they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall.” Mark had myrrh in the wine, a flavoring, but gall is bitter, unpleasant. There is another Psalm here, Psalm 69:21. (KJV)

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

This is a parallelism and it’s two sides of the same coin as usual, saying the same thing twice. Once again, the writer at the time did not treat it as parallelism he saw it as two different acts. Mark is perhaps thinking of the Psalm in his narrative where at the beginning he has the wine with myrrh, and at the end, the vinegar or sour wine. Matthew is more pedagogical: at the beginning it’s gall, at the end it’s vinegar. He’s more precise in his adherence to the Psalm. The parallelism becomes two separate acts and we’ve seen this kind of misapprehension of parallelism before.

The garments are divided by casting lots, just as in Mark (Psalm 22 again). Matthew has nothing about the third hour but he has the three groups of mockers, though they combine the temple and the son of God mockery. Matthew makes the chief priests a bit more abrasive than Mark, they add, “he trusts in God, let God deliver him now if God desires him, for he said ‘I am the son of God.'” This is almost a direct quote from the Book of Wisdom 2:18-20. “The righteous man is God’s son. God will help him and God will deliver him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Now the robbers revile and there’s the darkness from 6th to 9th hour. Matthew has the Psalm 22 quote again, but he changes Eloi to Hebrew, the rest is in Aramaic. Then the second cry and Jesus dies.

Matthew adds to Mark in the temple veil incident: “Behold the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Matthew adds all these extra startling things. The earth shook, rocks are rent, tombs are opened and many bodies of the Saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they went into the holy city, and appeared to many.” Present are a number of Old Testament passages: Nahum 1:5-6, “the mountains quake before him, the rocks are broken asunder.” Then Daniel 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Ezekiel 37:12, “Behold, I will open your graves, and I will raise you from your graves.” This constitutes a hint at how Christians of Matthew’s period had begun to interpret the power of his death. He is the Savior of all, even the dead, and there is some of that Mormon retroactive effect of salvation (1 Peter 3:18-22; 4:6).

Luke’s picture of things is different from Mark and Matthew, it’s more positive. Jesus’ first words are, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Like some other Lukan sayings we’ve noticed, this one is missing from a number of important manuscripts. The evidence is divided on whether this statement is original in the tradition. Was it added in as a pious vignette? Who would want to delete such a statement from the tradition? So texts that don’t feature it must be better. But there are some reasons why it might have been omitted, and those reasons are somewhat uncomfortable: namely the developing hatred for Jews as carriers of the innocent blood of Jesus. All of them carry the guilt and they should be punished, shunned, killed, routed out. That sentiment existed and probably began to exist fairly early in the life of Christianity. You see hints in John for example, but it’s much more direct later in church fathers and apocryphal Gospels. That suggests that scribes had some motivation for deleting such a forgiving passage. This is interesting because it suggests that preaching had a higher value than such texts, and in some ways, Mormons still debate and struggle with that issue. The interface of scribality and orality is important in early Mormonism as well.

Luke has three groups come by, but for Luke the bystanders just watch, they don’t taunt Jesus. There’s an interesting thing with the priests: they only mention the son of God issue, and that matches Luke’s morning trial, where the temple is not considered. Now to keep things aligned numerically, Luke adds another group to taunt Jesus: the soldiers. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” A reference to the inscription. Luke has moved Mark’s narrative of the Roman soldiers making fun of Jesus down to this point. John moves it backward from Mark. He has it during the middle of the trial.

Luke also has the robbers make fun. But now Luke has the famous scene with the criminal. The robber who says to the other mocking robber, “don’t you fear God? This man has done nothing wrong.” The robber is repentant, admitting his guilt. He’s continuing Luke’s theme that Jesus’ innocence is utterly obvious. Herod knew it, Pilate knew it.

The robber is so cognizant of Jesus that he prays to him. “Remember me when you come into (some manuscripts say in) your kingdom.” Jesus responds: “Amen. Today you will be with me in paradise.” There’s a problem here, and it’s because of the paradise thing. By Luke’s time, the theology is such that Jesus doesn’t go to heaven until after the resurrection. You can see this when Jesus tells Mary, “you can’t keep holding me (KJV is wrong here, it’s not ‘don’t touch me’ she has grabbed hold of him) I have to go to God.” He hasn’t been there yet. And this isn’t the only place where you have this problem. So the “into your kingdom” or “in your kingdom” may be a theological choice just as the issue with “forgive them . . . .” Joseph Smith even has a linguistic argument here: paradise didn’t mean heaven, he says.

In any case, the interlude shows Luke’s mind.