Chapter XVIII


144. Jesus is taken to Golgotha
        The third lamentation
        Jesus is crucified
145. Jesus is buried
147. Pilate sets a guard
147. The tomb is found empty
148. The guards spread a rumor
149. Two of the disciples see Jesus
150. Eleven of them see Jesus
151. Disciples see him in Galilee
        The appearances according to John
        The appearances according to Paul



(John 20;John 21)
(I Cor. 15:5-8)






We have reached the last day of Jesus' life. We have seen him preaching throughout Galilee; we have seen many healings take place in his presence; we have followed his confrontations with the chief priests and elders in Jerusalem, his last meal with the disciples, his praying in the garden, his arrest, and the trials. Now we come to the scene of execution.


Convicted seditionists executed by crucifixion were normally compelled to carry their own cross to the place of execution, but on this occasion we are told that they conscripted a passer-by named Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Jesus. They may considered that he was too weak after the beatings he had undergone to be able to carry it himself. The man conscripted is said to have been the father of Alexander and Rufus, who are mentioned in one of the letters of Paul.

(Luke 23:26-27)
        On the way there Luke reports that they were followed by a great crowd and by many women who bewailed him. It was at this moment, when he was only minutes away from suffering and death, that Jesus turned to these women and uttered a passage which I call his third lamentation, supporting and confirming the first two:
(Luke 23:28-31)
JESUS: Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. For the days are coming, in which people will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs which never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. For if these things be done when the tree is green, what will they not do when the tree is old and withered?

Coming at this moment, together with his plaintive cry when he was still in Galilee, and his weeping exclamation when they arrived at Jerusalem less than one week before, we are triply confirmed in our view that his overriding purpose in his entire preaching career was to try to swerve the Jews from their headlong plunging into disaster at the hands of the Romans, which he clearly foresaw, and also he foresaw that it would be because of the Zealot movement and their insistence on driving out the Romans by military power. It is worth recalling each of these two previous lamentations here along side this third one:
(Luke 13:34-35;Matt.23:37-39)
JESUS (on leaving Galilee): O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those that are come to save her! how often would I have gathered your children together, as a mother hen gathers her brood! and ye would not let me! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, and I tell you, you will not see me, until you can welcome and bless the one that comes in the name of God!
(Luke 19:41-44)
JESUS (weeping on seeing Jerusalem on its hill): If thou had known in these days, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but they are hid from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you, when your enemies shall build a bank around you, and compass you all around, and hem you in on every side, and shall dash you to the ground, and your children within you! and they shall not leave within you one stone upon another, because you did not understand the purpose of my mission.

The sorrow and pathos in these three passages is almost unbearable, and while we may never understand what it was that Jesus hoped to accomplish by going to his death, we can feel and appreciate his sense of loss if Jerusalem was destroyed. And that he would be thinking of their welfare, when his own life was about to be cut short, only further proves this view of his life and death.


At the top of the hill of Golgotha, three crosses were erected, because there were two "malefactors" also to be crucified; the Greek word used is "lestai", meaning robbers, but Josephus uses that word to refer to the Zealots, so it is probable that the two others had been involved in "the insurrection" or in some insurrection. Once he was nailed up (just saying that makes one feel like a torturer), they offered him wine mixed with myrrh or gall, in either case an extremely bitter herb. Mark says that he refused to drink, Matthew says he tasted it and then refused to drink any more.

All three gospels say that "they parted his garments among them", which is actually a quotation from Psalm 22:18. Only Luke records that he spoke at this point:
(Luke 23:34)
JESUS: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

However, this exclamation is open to doubt, for it implies that he considered himself the "son" of God in some special way, and we have never seen him express himself that way in the rest of the gospels. Nonetheless, it is a marvelous saying from someone who has just been legally murdered.

Mark reports that passers-by scoffed at him and taunted him, and also that the chief priests and elders came by and scoffed, saying, Let him come down from the cross, that we may believe. (Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-38;Matt.27:39-43) But it is improbable that anyone was allowed by the Roman soldiers to come near the actual place of execution, so that these tales were probably made up by the evangelists or their predecessors who had a dramatic turn at writing.

A curious discrepancy between all four Gospels is the mention of what the inscription was on the cross: Mark says it was THE KING OF THE JEWS; Matthew says it was JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS; Luke reports it as THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS; and the gospel of John says that it was JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Of course people have fallible memories, so this is not so strange; but we would think that such a dramatic moment would have resulted in more consistent reports.

Luke, and Luke alone, reports that one of the "malefactors" asked him to save them, that while they two were punished justly, Jesus was blameless, and begged Jesus to remember him when he came "into his kingdom" (Luke 23:39-43). This is patently an invention, to report that another person being executed recognized that Jesus was the messiah and that he would be returning to set up his kingdom, which not even the disciples realized; and further that Jesus would tell the man that they would both be in paradise that very day, even before they had died! But none of those claims are supported in the gospels: Jesus has never said that he was the messiah, or that he would be returning to set up a kingdom, or that there was any such place as "paradise". A careful examination of all the passages where Jesus refers to "the kingdom of God" shows that he believed and taught that the kingdom was to be attained here in this life (Luke 17:20-21), and that it would be attained by some of those who heard him preach (Mark 9:1;Luke 9:27;Matt.16:28), and was not some future place of existence. And even the disciples did not have that view of the future ascribed to this crucified felon: that Jesus would become a king or return to life.
(Mark 15:33-41;Luke 23:44-49;Matt.27:45-56)
        But Jesus was not yet dead. We are told by all three writers that a darkness came over the country at the sixth hour, which lasted until the 9th hour. Mark, copied by Matthew, says that he cried out with a loud voice, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? which is quoted from Ps.22:1; and that passers-by who heard this cry ignorantly told each other, He is calling for Elijah. All three tell us that he cried with a loud voice; Luke says his cry was, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, which is a quotation from Ps.31:5; and then he "gave up the ghost". Again, it is doubtful that anyone could have been close enough to hear him. Matthew's sense of proportion goes haywire at this point, and he tells us that there was an earthquake, and great boulders were split apart and tombs cracked open; and the bodies of the entombed rose and walked through the streets, and appeared "unto many".

The scene is brought to a close with the report that the Roman centurion who had carried through the execution said, "Surely this was a righteous man." Mark has it that his words were, "This man was the son of God", and Matthew copies that description. But I doubt that a Roman soldier would have a concept of "the" son of God as if there was only one.

After this, we are told that the crowds returned to the city in great distress, and that many women were there beholding the event, including Mary Magdalene, and Mary "the mother of James and Joses", and Salome, and "many other women who had come up with him from Jerusalem."

(Mark 15:42-47;Luke 23:50-55;Matt.27:57-61)
        All three gospels, and John with them, report next that a man named Joseph from a place called Arimathaea came to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus to bury in his own tomb. Pilate was mystified, and asked the centurion to verify that Jesus was actually dead. But then he let Joseph take the corpse; and Joseph wrapped his body in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb, and rolled a stone against the door. And finally we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where it was that the body of Jesus had been laid. We may wonder if the name "Joses", the son of the second Mary, both here and in the preceding paragraph, is a misspelling of "Jesus", so that this was Jesus' mother, in spite of the gospels' silence on the point.

        Matthew includes, probably from document M, an assertion that the chief priests and scribes came to Pilate and asked him to take precautions to see that the body of Jesus was not stolen by the disciples who would then claim that he had risen from the dead. Pilate told them, Fine; set your guards upon the tomb, and keep it from any intrusions. What we have seen in this handbook is that Jesus did not say he would rise after three days; he was quoting from Hosea when he said that his spirit would reawaken in the disciples and empower them. (Hos. 6:2)

(Mark 16:1-8;Luke 23:56-24:9;Matt.28:1-8)
        The three gospels tell us that the two Marys and Salome came to the tomb at sunrise on the first day of the week with spices to embalm the body of Jesus, and that they had been wondering how they would roll away the stone from the entrance. But when they arrived, they saw that the stone was already rolled away. In amazement they entered the tomb, and we are told that they saw a young man sitting, who told them that Jesus had arisen, and that they should go and tell the disciples. But the women were overcome with fear and trembling, and they left and told no one what they had seen.

        But how do we know this, if the women left and told no one what they had seen? And who could this young man have been? Matthew describes him theatrically as arrayed in white garments, but Matthew also says that there was an earthquake which had rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. Both Mark and Matthew report that this young man told the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to see him, as it was also reported that he said to them by both Mark and Matthew on the occasion of his prediction of their defection (Mark 14:28; Matt.26:32).

Matthew finishes by saying that the two women met Jesus himself on the path, who repeated his instruction to the disciples to meet him in Galilee, and they would see him there. But neither Mark nor Luke say anything about that appearance. (Matt.28:9-10)

This is the end of the authentic story given by Mark. Scholars as long ago as Origen of Alexandria in 225 CE had observed that from Mark 16:9 to 16:20 was written later than the rest of Mark. Luke adds two verses explaining that the women did tell the "apostles",  and that those "apostles" disbelieved; and that Peter went to the tomb, and looked within, and saw the linen cloths lying there. But these verses in Luke (24:10-12) are revealed as spurious by the reference to the disciples as the "apostles"; that was a way of referring to the disciples which arose among the early Christians much later in the history of Christianity.

So the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and the body of Jesus was gone. This is all we can tell from the authentic portions of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. The discovery of the empty tomb is the last detail of the story on which Mark, Matthew, and Luke may be said to reasonably agree.


Did the disciples steal the corpse? Why? What would it have proved? What could they have done with it? Anyway, Matthew follows up on his previous report about setting a guard on the tomb and tells us that the guards came and told the chief priests and scribes that the stone was moved and the body had disappeared. Then the chief priests decided to instruct the soldiers to tell everyone that the body had been stolen by the disciples. Matthew further tells us that this rumor was still extant among the Jews in his day (Matt.28:11-15).

(Luke 24:13-32)
        Luke gives us two extended narratives about how the disciples saw Jesus again. They are simply too fictional to be believed. The first is how two of the disciples were walking along the road, and Jesus himself joined them, although they didn't recognize him. He feigned ignorance and induced them to give a report of how he had been executed and was gone. Jesus chides them about their not believing that he had risen, and explains ALL of the scriptures and how they predicted his death and resurrection. They sat down for a meal, and Jesus broke bread and blessed it, and after that they recognized him. And then pop! he vanished from their sight. This is clearly a mythical story, proven by the failure to say who the two disciples were and by telling us that Jesus would play a trick on them.

(Luke 24:33-53)
        The second story in Luke is that these two disciples returned to Jerusalem and found the other 9 disciples (Luke says 11), and while they were explaining how they had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to all of them there. Luke tells us they were affrighted, and Jesus allows them to touch his hands and his feet, and asks for a piece of fish and eats it. He repeats his comments about how the scriptures had been fulfilled in him, and tells them to go forth and preach repentance and remission of sins to all the nations. Then Luke caps the climax by telling how they all went out of Jerusalem back into Bethany, and that after he had blessed them, he disappeared into the skies.


Matthew does not report any appearances in Jerusalem or outside of Jerusalem; in fact, he reports only one appearance, in Galilee as he has twice promised them, according to Matthew, on the mountain where he had appointed them. He then claims ALL authority over the heaven and the earth, and tells them to go forth and preach in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, a formula which he has never used in any of the previous narratives. In fact, this is the only place in the New Testament where this formula is used, and this should convince us that this event too has been made up by some later Christian, if not by Matthew himself (Matt.28:15-20;Luke 24:47-49).


John's version of the crucifixion and resurrection differs from that of the Synoptics. In the first place, John says that Jesus himself carried the cross. He was crucified between two "others" (John does not call them thieves or malefactors). Pilate himself wrote the inscription above the cross, and when the chief priests and elders protested its wording, he told them: What I have written I have written.

John reports that the soldiers cast lots only for his coat, which was seamless, and the rest of his garments were divided among them. His mother Mary and the "beloved" disciple were at the foot of the cross, an improbable detail; and Jesus is reported to have cried out, "Woman, behold thy son!" and "Behold thy mother!" to that unnamed disciple. Finally the soldiers offered Jesus some spongy substance dipped in vinegar, and after Jesus touched his lips to it, he said, almost languidly, "It is finished," and "gave up the ghost", according to John. The writer then says that this witness statement was given by the "beloved" disciple, and that they "knew that his witness was true".

John then reports that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Jesus, and that the same evening he appeared to them at dinner, but with Thomas not present. But then 8 days later he appeared to all of them again including Thomas, who said he had to touch Jesus before he would believe, which has given rise to the expression, "a doubting Thomas". Some time after that, he appeared to them all as they were fishing in the sea of Galilee, and instructed them to cast their nets on the right side, which they did, and took in a vast multitude of fishes. We have seen this fanciful story in Luke, but before Jesus had actually begun preaching, not at the end of his life. We can conclude that it is a fictional story.

The final enigmatic portion of John tells us that Jesus three times asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter said, Yes, and each time Jesus responded, Feed my sheep, or Tend my sheep, or Feed my lambs. Then lastly when Peter asked Jesus what would become of the "beloved" disciple, still unnamed; and Jesus said, "If I will that he tarry until I come, what do YOU care?" which is a kind of sarcastic thing to say. But it gave rise to a legend that John (being the "beloved" disciple) lived to be a very old man. Anyway, none of these reports deserve any credit, since they all have Jesus referred to as "the Lord", and as we noted earlier, that form of appellation for Jesus did not come into use until long after the death of Jesus, before which, they called him Master, or Teacher, or Rabbi.


In the book of 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul enumerates the resurrection appearances known to him. They are as follows:
(I Corinthians 15:5-8)
        And Jesus was seen of Peter, and then of the twelve (!?);
        And then he appeared to more than 500 brethren at once, many of whom are still alive;
        And then he appeared to James the brother of Jesus;
        And then again to the 12 apostles.
        And finally to myself, as one who had not seen him during his lifetime.

Where did Paul get this information? None of these appearances is reported in the gospels, and this list does not include any of the appearances that ARE reported in the gospels. Paul twice refers here to the TWELVE, but how can that be, if Judas had defected and hanged himself? In the book of the Acts, we are told how Matthias is elected to replace Judas as an apostle, but no appearance to him is recorded. Finally, Paul includes the appearance of Jesus to Paul himself, but elsewhere he refers to that as only a light and a voice; did he actually see the risen Jesus, or were all the appearances reported in the gospels also just a light and a voice? Anyway, the lack of agreement between and among the gospels and the letter of Paul makes those reports completely unreliable, and I disbelieve them all.