Extracts from the book «Jesus was Caesar»
© Francesco Carotta, Kirchzarten
© 2005, Uitgeverij Aspekt b.v., Soesterberg, The Nederlands
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p. 45-50 (original German Edition), = p. 59-63 (English Edition)
We have shown some similarities and parallels between Caesar and Jesus. There are just as many to be found when we compare the narratives of their respective passions.
Both Caesar and Jesus were murdered. In both cases their elimination was of no gain to the murderers: Brutus died and so did Judas; Caesar had a successor, Jesus resurrected; Caesar was elevated to the gods, Jesus ascended into heaven.
The main discrepancy lies in the fact that Caesar was stabbed and Jesus crucified. At this point the parallels seem to come to an end.
So let us have a closer look at this essential difference.
Firstly, to get our bearings, we will recall the structure of their respective passion narratives.
Concerning Caesar we have (a) the conspiracy, (b) the assassination, (c) the posthumous trial, (d) the cremation, (e) the conflict about his heritage, (f) the succession.
Concerning Jesus we have (a) the conspiracy, (b) the capture, (c) the trial, (d) the crucifixion, (e) the burial, (f) the resurrection.
A structural correspondence is plain to see. The main discrepancy is that Caesar was murdered at the attack, whereas Jesus was merely captured. All the other differences are the result of this: regarding their trials, the only difference is that one is already dead whilst the other one is still alive. Whether we are dealing with funeral or crucifixion depends on whether Jesus was still alive or not at the time. Conflict about the inheritance on the one hand and the burial of Jesus body on the other only seem to be different: in both cases it is about the corpus. Succession or resurrection, it is about the Empirewhether on earth or in heaven.
The first question we have to deal with is whether Jesus was still alive at his trial.
It is striking that Jesus says nothing more after his capture.
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. (Mk 14:61)
And when he does finally speak, what does he say?
Thou sayest it. (Mk 15.3; Mt 26:64 according to Mk 14:62 in different manuscripts)
Which again means nothing: the other one says it, not he himself.
It is not necessary to take Jesus last words into consideration: they are an invention in some phase or other of the tradition. This is something all scholars agree on. Namely, that it was a common literary topos in antiquity to put last words into the mouth of anyone famous who was dying. Indeed, Mark, and after him Matthew, have the famous My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mk 15:34); Luke has instead: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Lk 23:46); John, showing little respect, has him settle his last Will and TestamentWoman, behold thy son!
Behold thy mother (Jn 19:26)then toast to itI thirst (Jn 19:28)and to set the seal on itIt is finished (Jn 19:30).
The same can be applied to his conversation with those who were crucified along with him. Mark merely reports that they reviled him and offers no further elaboration. The conversation only starts with the later Evangelists.
Conclusion: Jesus is silent after his capture. He, the fearless individualist, acting alone against everybody from the beginninghe who had come not to bring peace but the swordshould suddenly become speechless? Here, the gifted orator with whom the word was from the beginning, and who had something eloquent and incisive to say on every occasion, whether it were Sermons on the Mount or parables, is now dead silent at his trial, the crucial moment when he finally has a stage? We immediately think of the apology of Socrates, the other famous orator who was unjustly condemned. This silence of Jesus is inexplicablethat is why there is such an extensive literature about it.
Was his trial conducted posthumously? Was he already dead?
The following sentence of Mark is also quite strange:
and they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. (Mk 15:21)
Here Mark says pherousin, they carried him, and not, as one would expect, they led him. We hesitate because, here, where according to the traditional story Jesus should still be alive, he is carried to the place of a skull. Was he not capable of going by himself? We note that just before this, Simon the Cyrenian had been forced to take Jesus cross and carry it. So he must have been unable to do it himself. Of course this debility is usually attributed to the earlier flagellation that he had endured. But the fact is, if Mark is to be taken literally, he not only did not carry his cross, he even had to be carried himself.
If we take an objective look at the corpse of Jesus, we have to observe that it bears a very unusual feature for someone who was crucified, namely a stab-wound in the side, and one so open and fresh that blood ran out of it. Very peculiar indeed, so much so that John, who quotes this detail, feels himself obliged to provide us with an explanation for the inexplicable:
But when they came to Jesus ... one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (Jn 19:33-34)
And because it was apparently unheard of, John fiercely swears that it is true:
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. (Jn 19:33)
And because still no one believes him John explains why he should be believed:
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled
(Zach. 12:10): They shall look on him whom they pierced. (Jn 19:36-37)
Critical biblical critics smirk here and say that the passage obviously has been invented to ensure that the prophecy is fulfilled: and they are right, but only partly.
Here we are dealing with a so-called midrash, a very formalized method for interpreting something inexplicable. The idea is that everything must already be present in the biblia iudaica; if an unusual event takes place and one has to justify it, then at least one passage has to be found in the Jewish books that can serve as a vaticinium ex eventu, a prophecy after the event. Some Gospel critics even deem the events in the Gospel text eventus ex vaticiniis, which would mean they are entirely invented on the basis of the prophecies. They thus misjudge intention and mechanism of the midrash. For, one sees immediately that the unexplainable must already be present so that the corresponding passage can be sought, otherwise simply any passage could be sought to justify anything. But the Gospels do not contain just anything but something definite, and very precisely defined at that.
Thus we conclude that the passage in John is probably interpolatedthe other Evangelists know nothing about ithowever the reason to search for a corresponding passage was pre-existent: they had stabbed him. That we may regard as a certainty.
An indirect proof that John is speaking the truth here is brought to us by an apocryphon, which means a scripture not accepted into the canon, the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate. There it is said that the soldier who perforated his side with a lance was named Longinus. Theologians speculate here that the name Longinus may have been invented: because lance in Greek is lonchê, the soldier was consequently named Longinus: in this they break the rules of the art. For Longinus is a proper name, lance a common term; the one rare and personal, the other one universally known. Experts speak of a lectio difficilior and a lectio faciliorby this they mean that in the process of tradition the easier word can replace the more difficult one: never the other way round. Thus Longinus is certain, and the pointed weapon was associated with his name and so became a lance. But the pointed weapon could have been of a different kind.
From where did John take the stab in the chest of Jesus? It can only have happened at his capture, where there was a violent engagement and the naked sword was drawn:
and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. (Mk 14:45-47)
We are accustomed to hearing sword used here and not dagger, because in the King James Version it was translated this way. But Mark does not say sword, but machaira, which primarily means knife, then dagger, or at most a short swordlike, for example, the Roman gladius.
That murderers were involved in the so-called arrest of Jesus is revealed by Marks choice of words in the next verse:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? (Mk 14.48)
as against a murderer. We can be confident that a gang went wild with daggers and other weapons, and indeed so wild that they wounded each other in the face. The arrest of Jesus seems to have been more murderous than it looks at first glance. Due to the fact that Jesus does not speak a word after the arrest and is later depicted with an open chest-wound, untypical for a crucified one, it is reasonable
John could have easily borrowed the stab in the side of Jesus from here and have made use of it at the descent from the cross.
So while we are at it, let us have a quick look at the parallel passage in the assassination of Caesar. The supposition that the Caesar source could have been used as a model for Mark is substantiated by the following detail, mentioned by Appianus:
Many of the attackers wounded each other, whilst they stabbed with the daggers.
If we leave the servant in Marks account of the capture of Jesus out of consideration for a moment116 and understand that the High Priest himself was the target of the stabbing, then Marks report superbly summarizes the attack on Caesar, pontifex maximus, High Priest.
And who stabbed him?LonginusC. Cassius Longinus:
Cassius stabbed into the face
says Appianus; and Suetonius:
Of all the many stab wounds, according the judgement of Antistius, his personal physician, only one was mortal, namely the second, which he took in his chest.
A posthumous crucifixion?
Well, the logical conclusion of this would be that the crucifixion of Jesus was actually his funeral, and therefore, either the crucifixion did not take place at all, or if it did, it too was posthumous.