Soon after the Lord's death, the chief priests came to Pilate, requesting that the. bodies might be taken down before sunset, because the next day was the Sabbath. Obtaining their request, the legs of the two malefactors are broken to hasten their death; but Jesus, being found already dead, is pierced with a spear in the side. At this time, Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate, and informing him that Jesus was already dead, asks His body for burial; and Pilate, after satisfying himself that He was actually dead, orders the body to be given him. Aided by Nicodemus, Joseph took the body, and winding it in linen cloths with spices, laid it in his own sepulchre, in a garden near the cross; arid shut up the sepulchre. Some women beheld where He was laid, and, returning home, prepared spices and ointments, that they might embalm Him after the Sabbath was past. During the Sabbath the council obtains permission from Pilate to seal up the sepulchre and to place a watch, lest the disciples should steal the body.
John xix. 31-37.
Matt, xxvii. 57-60.
John xix. 38-42.
Mark Xv. 42-46.
Luke xxiii. 50-54.
Luke xxiii. 55, 56.
Matt, xxvii. 61.
Mark Xv. 47.
Matt, xxvii. 62-66.
It was the custom of the Romans to permit the body to remain on the cross till it was consumed by the birds and beasts, or wasted by corruption.1
1 Pearson on Creed, art. 4.
But it was an express command of the law, (Deut. xxi..23,) that the body should not remain all night upon the tree, but must be taken down and buried the same day.1 Aside from this command of the law, it was probably thought desirable by the rulers, that the body of Jesus should be, as early as possible, removed from public sight. It is not certain whether the Jews who came to Pilate knew that He was actually dead; but their request that the legs of the crucified might be broken, implies that they did not. If so, they must have come to Pilate about three p. M., or a little before His death. If, however, they did know that He was dead, as is not improbable from the marked circumstances that attended the act of dissolution, their request had reference to the two malefactors, who were still living; and perhaps also was designed to make the death of Jesus certain.2 That the natural effect of the breaking of their legs would be to hasten death is plain, and this was the end the Jews sought. Usually the Romans did not in this, or any other way hasten it; though sometimes the crucified were subjected to personal injuries, as pounding with hammers or breaking of limbs, in order to increase their sufferings. The term crurifragium^ though literally applicable only to the breaking of the legs, and which sometimes constituted a separate punishment, seems to have been aj)plied to various other acts, which tended to increase the pain, and so to shorten life; and may have included the use of the spear. The Jews wished not to increase their sufferings, but to hasten death ; and we may well suppose that the soldiers were directed, if the breaking of the legs should not prove sufficient, to use other means.3 Whether, in addition to the breaking of the legs of the two malefactors, other violent means were used, is not certain ; but the narrative does not imply it.
* Josephus, War, 4. 5. 2 ; Josh. x. 26. * So Meyer.
3 Friedlieb, Archaol. 164.
The object of piercing the Lord's side was not so much to cause death as to make sure that He was already dead. Which side was pierced, is not said; and the painters, as well as commentators, have been divided in opinion: most, however, suppose the left side. With what intent does the apostle mention the flowing out of the blood and water ? Does he mention it as a simple physiological fact, and in proof of the Lord's death; or as a supernatural event, to which some special significance is to be attached ? As this point has an important bearing upon the question respecting the physical cause of the Lord's death, it deserves our consideration.
Lying at the basis of all inquiries respecting the Lord's death, physiologically regarded, is the question whether He died as other crucified persons died, death being the natural consequence of His physical sufferings; or whether He gave up His life hy an immediate act of His own will, or by an immediate act of His Father in answer to His prayer. The latter opinion seems to have prevailed in the early Church, though by no means universally.1 Of recent writers may be mentioned Tholuck : " By an act of power the Redeemer actually separated His spirit from His body, and placed it, as a deposit, in His Father's keeping." Alford : "It was His own act,—cno feeling the approach of death,' as some, not apprehending the matter, have commented, but a determined delivering up of His spirit to the Father." Stier: " He dies, as the act of His will, in full vigor of life."2 If this opinion be correct, and Jesus died by His own act, it is not easy to see how it can be said that He was slain by the Jews. His death was in consequence of His own volition, and not of any sufferings inflicted upon Him by His enemies.
1 See Stroud, Physical Cause of Christ's Death. London, 1847, p. 47.
2 In like way speak Greswell, Alexander, Jones, Baumgarten.
We therefore conclude, that though He voluntarily gave Himself to death, and submitted to be nailed to the cross, yet that death came to Him as to the two malefactors, naturally, not supernaturally; and was the consequence of His physical sufferings, aggravated by mental distress.1
Many, however, have found difficulty in explaining, in this way, the quickness of the Lord's death. He was not upon the cross, at the longest, more than six hours; while it is well known that the great majority of the crucified live at least twelve hours; many, one 01^ two days; and some, three or four days. But there seems no valid reason why we may not attribute this speedy decease to the great physical weakness caused by His previous bodily and mental sufferings, superadded to the ordinary agonies of crucifixion. That those sufferings were most intense we know from the account given of the hour passed at Gethsemane ; and that the Lord, already exhausted by His great spiritual conflicts with the power of darkness, by the excitement and fatigue of that awful night, and by the scourging inflicted upon Him, should have died so much sooner than was usually the case, can excite no surprise. Kor do the objections of Stroud, based upon the natural vigor and healthfulness of the Lord's body; the short duration of His mental agony in the garden ; and the proof of unabated physical strength shown by the loudness of voice with which He uttered His last words upon the cross, seem of much weight.2
Those who regard the Lord's death as a natural event, yet one whose quick consummation is not adequately explained by the pains attendant upon His crucifixion, are forced to give another explanation. Of these, several have been presented. One is that of Stroud, that the immediate physical cause was rupture of the heart, caused by the great mental suffering He endured, (pp. 74 and 143.)
1 So, in substance, Pearson, Bloomfield, Stroud, Ellicott.
2 As to the pains of crucifixion, and their natural effects in destroying life, see Richter in Friedlieb, Arehaol. 155.
Another, that attributes His, death to the piercing of the spear, is so directly at variance with the evangelical narrative, that it may be at once dismissed, (John xix. 30 and 33.) As the incident of the flowing of the blood and water from His side furnishes the chief ground upon which Stroud rests his explanation, we turn to its consideration.
The first question that arises is, does the Evangelist narrate here a natural or a supernatural event ? That he attached some special importance to it, is apparent from His words, (v. 35,) which seems to refer chiefly to it,1 though the reference may be to all related, vs. 32-34. Commentators are by no means agreed in opinion.2
If the former view be correct, and the flowing of the blood and water was without any miraculous features, why is it here mentioned ? Some reply, to prove the reality of the Lord's body as against the Docetse.3 But the reality of His body had been proved, in a thousand ways, during His life; and if His body, sensible to touch and sight, was a phantasm, so might much more easily be this seeming blood and water. According to Alford, it was to show that the Lord's body was a real.body, and underwent real de'ath, " not so much by the phenomenon of the water and blood, as by the infliction of such a wound." But the Evangelist had distinctly stated that Jesus wras dead before this wound was inflicted; and none of the other Evangelists mention the piercing, though all speak of His death. But, granting this to be the intention of St. John, how is the reality of His death thus shown ? Are proper blood and water here meant, aqua pur a et vera, sanguis purus et verus, as said by Bengel ?
1 So Meyer.
2 On the one side may be mentioned Calvin, who says, Ilallucinati sunt quidam, miraculum hie Jlngentes; A. Clarke, Tholuck, Ebrard, Ewald, Alford ; on the other, Lightfoot, Bengel, Greswell, Luthardt, Meyer.'
3 So Coleridge in Stroud : " The effusion showed the human nature. It was real blood, composed of lymph and erassamentum, and not a mere celestial ichor, as the Phantasmatists allege."
No, for this would remove it into the region of the supernatural. Have we, then, in these terms, merely a hendiadys for reddish lymph, or bloody water? This is inadmissible. Does the apostle then mean blood that had decomposed, and was thus resolved into crassamentum and serum, or the thick red part of the blood and the aqueous transparent part ? This is the view taken by many; and it is said that we have in this, conclusive proof not only of His death, but that He had also been some time dead, since the blood had begun to decompose. Thus Neander says: " I must believe that John, as an eye-witness, meant to prove that Christ was really dead from the nature of the blood that flowed from the wound."
Admitting, for the moment, that the blood and water were the constituent parts of blood now decomposed, whence came they? According to Stroud, from the pericardium, into which, through the rupture of the hearty there was a great effusion of blood, and which was there decomposed. The pericardium, being pierced by the spear, it flowed in crassamentum and serum, " a full stream of clear watery liquid, intermixed with clotted blood, exactly corresponding to the clause of the sacred narrative." Ebrard (563) supposes it to have been extravasated blood, that, flowing into some of the internal cavities of the chest, there decomposed, and these cavities being opened by the spear, the constituent parts made their escape.
Against all these explanations which are based upon the coagulation of the blood, and aside from the physiological objections to which they are open, we find an invincible difficulty in the words of the Psalmist,4 that God would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption; and in the declaration of St. Peter, that " His flesh did not see corruption." His body was not to see corruption; or, in other words, the usual processes of decay were not to commence in it. Decomposition of the blood can scarcely be considered as other than the initial step of corruption. The full separation of His soul and His body must take place; but, after this, he "that had the power of death " had no more power over the Holy One.
The explanations of the Gruners and of the Bartholines1 are free from this difficulty, since they do not affirm a coagulation of the blood. The former suppose that both pericardium and heart were pierced by the spear; and that from the former came the water, and from the latter the blood. The statement of the elder Gruner, that "the pericardium is full of water when a person dies after extreme anxiety," does not seem to be sustained by facts. That there must have been a considerable quantity of water as well as of blood flowing forth, appears from the fact that the apostle, standing doubtless at some distance from the cross, was able to distinguish them. It is in a high degree improbable that any such quantity of serum should have been found in the pericardium as to be visible to him. It is also difficult to explain, in this way, the flowing of the blood, since the heart of a dead person is usually emptied of its blood; or, if any remains, it would flow very slowly: and to say that Jesus was not wholly dead when pierced with the spear, is contrary to the sacred narrative.
The second explanation, that of the Bartholines, supposes that the water and blood came from one or both of the pleural sacs. It is said that, during the sufferings of crucifixion, a bloody serum was effused in these sacs, from which, when pierced by the spear, it flowed out. But aside from the fact that such an effusion of bloody serum or lymph as the narrative demands, is not proved in cases of crucified persons, if indeed in any case whatever; there is the further objection that such bloody serum does not answer to the Evangelist's " blood and water."
i See Stroud, 135-137.
We conclude, then, that the attempts to explain this phenomenon as a merely natural event, and upon physiological grounds, are by no means satisfactory. They are wholly unable to explain how so much clear serum, as the narrative plainly implies, could have been found in the pericardium, or in the pleural sacs, or in any of the internal cavities which the spear could have reached. Against the view that it was coagulated blood, stands the fact that the Lord's body saw no corruption ; nor would any unlearned reader understand the terms " blood and water " of decomposed blood. We therefore infer, that the event was something supernatural. It is not here the place to inquire into its special significance. It may have been a sign to all beholders that the body was not subject to the common law of corruption. The spirit of Jesus had departed, and with it that vital energy which held together the constituent elements of the body; yet disorganization and dissolution did not begin. According to Lange,1 it was a sign that the change in the body, preparatory to the resurrection, had already begun; the power of God was already working in it, to prepare it for immortality and incorruptibility.
It was in the power of governors of provinces to grant private burial to criminals when requested by friends ; and this was usually done, except they were very mean and infamous,2 But for the request of Joseph of Arimathea, the body would probably have been buried in some place appropriated to criminals, and where the two malefactors were actually buried.
i Note in loco. 2 Pearson, Creed, 332.
" They that were put to death by the council were not to be buried in the sepulchres of their fathers; but two burying places were appointed by the council, one for those slain by the sword and strangled, the other for those that were stoned or burnt."1 Pilate could have no objection to granting Joseph's request; as, on the one hand, his position as a member of the Sanhedrim entitled him to a favorable hearing; and, on the other, he was not unwilling that the innocent victim should have an honorable burial. (Mark xv. 45. He gave the body to Joseph; or, more literally, made a gift or present of the body to him.) According to Mark, xv. 44, Pilate was surprised that He was already dead; and, calling the centurion, made inquiries how long He had been dead. How is this coming of Joseph related to that of the Jews, (John xix. 31,) who asked that the bodies might be taken down? We may suppose that the Jews came about 3 p. M., before the coming of Joseph, and were ignorant of the Lord's death. Joseph may have stood near the cross, and heard His last words, and thus have known of His death so soon as it occurred. .He went to Pilate "when the even was come," (Matt, xxvii. 57,) or from 3-6 P. M. Going at once to Pilate he informs him of it; and the latter, knowing that sufficient time has not elapsed for the execution of the order respecting the breaking of the legs, or at least for their death after their legs were broken, is surprised. The Jews, indeed, may have preferred their request after Joseph had preferred his, and Pilate have given the soldiers orders to make sure that Jesus was really dead, ere He was given up for burial; but the former order is most probable. It is not necessary to suppose that Joseph knew of the purpose to have the bodies taken down, though he might have done so.
1 Lightfoot on Matt, xxviii. 58.
Joseph, having received permission to take the body, is aided by Nicodemus; and, taking it down, they wrap it in linen cloths, with "myrrh and aloes about an hundred pound weight," which the latter had brought, and lay it in a new sepulchre in a garden near at hand, which belonged to Joseph.1 It has been questioned whether the spices were actually used, because of the shortness of time. But John's words are express that the spices were used. It, however, remains doubtful whether the customary embalming was then perfected. Lardner (x. 368) remarks, that "all was done, as may reasonably be supposed, after the best manner, by the hands of an apothecary or confectioner, or perfumer, skilled in performing funeral rites. There must have been many such at Jerusalem." Norton2 makes the transactions of anointing and burying the body,, to have occupied many hours, and the dawn of the Sabbath to have appeared ere all engaged in them had left the tomb. But it is more probable that Joseph and ISTieodemus were themselves able to do all that was necessary to be done; for there is no reason to suppose that the body was embalmed in any proper sense of that term. " The Egyptians filled the interior of the body with spices; but the Jews, who buried on the day of decease, only wrapped the body round with spices."3 It is probable that all was finished before the Sabbath began. If, however, the body was then properly prepared for its burial, why did the women, who " beheld the sepulchre and how the body was laid," prepare additional spices and ointments ? It could not well have been from ignorance of what Nicodemus had done. We must, therefore, suppose that this further anointing was something customary ;4 or that the first was imperfect, and this therefore necessary; or that it was a mark of love.5
1 It is not certain that Nicodemus came till the body had been taken from the cross.
a Notes, 317.
3 Michaelis on Resurrection, 93; Greswell, iii. 260, note.
4 Friedlieb, Arch. 172.
5 Meyer, Greswell; Alex, on Mark xvi. 1. Lange regards the first as only for the preservation of the body, and the second as the proper anointing. Jones affirms, that, as Joseph and Nicodemus were secret disciples, the women had no acquaintance with them, and did not know their purpose.
The Lord was crucified at a place called in the Hebrew, Golgotha, and His body was laid in a sepulchre in a garden near by. The site of this sepulchre has been much discussed, and with great learning and ingenuity, but without leading to any certain result. For many centuries the Christian Church received, without question, the traditionary tomb beneath the dome of the present church of the Holy Sepulchre as that to which He was borne, and from which He arose. Of this belief is still the great body of Christians. But a large number of modern travellers have been led, by a personal inspection of the spot, to doubt the tradition, and have brought very cogent arguments against it. Fortunately, here, as often, it is of little importance whether the traditionary site be, or be not, the true one. The fact of the Lord's resurrection is a vital one, but not whether He arose from a tomb in the valley of Jehosaphat, or on the side of Acra. Nor is, as affirmed by Williams,1 " the credit of the whole Church for fifteen hundred years in some measure involved in its veracity." Few will so press the infallibility of the Church as to deny the possibility of a topographical error. The little value attached by the apostles to the holy places, appears from the brevity with which they speak of them when they allude to them at all. Not to the places of His birth and of His burial would they turn the eyes of the early Christians, but to Himself—the ever-living One, and now the great High Priest at the right hand of God.
But however unimportant in itself, either as confirmatory of the Gospel narratives, or as illustrating the Lord's words, still, as a point that has so greatly interested men, it may not be wholly passed by. A brief statement of the question will therefore be given, that the chief data for a judgment may be in the reader's possession. It naturally presents itself, first, as a question of topography; and, second, of history. But before we consider it from either of these points of view, let us note what is said respecting the places of crucifixion and of burial by the Evangelists.
1 Holy City, ii. 2.
From their statements it appears, First, that the place of crucifixion was out of the city, (John xix. 17 ; Matt, xxviii. 11; Heb. xiii. 12.) Second, it was near the city, (John xix. 20.) Third, the sepulchre was near the place of crucifixion, (John xix. 41.). Fourth, it was in a garden and hewn in a rock, (Matt, xxvii. 60; Mark xv. 46; John xix. 41; Luke xxiii. 53.) It may, perhaps, be inferred from Mark xv. 29, "And they that passed by railed on Him," that the cross stood near some% frequented street, but much weight cannot be laid upon it. The name of the place where He was crucified was Golgotha, which Alexander calls " an Aramaic form of the Hebrew word for skull." " The proper writing and pronunciation of the word," says Lightfoot, " had been Golgolta, but use had now brought it to be uttered Golgotha." Some suppose it so called from its resemblance to the shape of a skull—a little hill so shaped;* others, because it was the usual place of execution. " They come to the place of execution commonly called Golgotha, not the ' place of graves' but the place of skulls; where, though indeed there were some buried of the executed, yet was it in such a manner that the place deserved this name rather than the other."2
If the first interpretation of the name be taken, it is still possible that it was the common place of execution. That it was a well known spot, appears from the use of the article, (Luke xxiii. 33 ; John xix. 17 ;) but it is doubtful whether the Jews had any one place set apart as a place of execution ;3 and if so, would a rich man like Joseph have had a garden there ?
1 So Reland, Meyer, Alexander, Winer.
2 Lightfoot, iii. 164; so early, Jerome, locum decollatorum; Ores well, iii. 243 ; Ewald, v. 484.
s See Kitto, Bib. Cyc, i. 779; Herzog's Cyk., v. 308.
We come now to the consideration of the topographical question; and as this has been most fully discussed by Robinson in his " Biblical Researches " on the one side, and by Williams in his "Holy City" on the other, our references will be chiefly to them. As we have seen, the place of crucifixion was without the city. The site of the Holy Sepulchre is within the present city wall. If, therefore, the present wall were the same that existed at the death of Jesus, this site could not be the true one. But it is admitted that the present wall is not the same ; and the point in dispute is, Where did that wall stand? Josephus mentions three walls.3 With the first, built by David and Solomon, and embracing Mount Sion, and with the last, built by Agrippa after Christ's death, we have no concern.
* i. 376, note 3.
a Holy City, ii. 240. Ewald (v. 485, note) identifies it with " the hill Gareb," Jer. xxxi. 39; Lewin, (130,) following Krafft, with Goath: "In the time of the prophets, Calvary appears to have been called Goath, and was without the city." See p. 35, where Gareb is identified with Bezetha.
s War, 5. 4. 2.
The question concerns only the position of the second wall, which began at the gate Gennath in the first wall, and reached to Antonia, encircling the northern part of the town. Did this include or exclude the present church of the Holy Sepulchre ?
Into the intricate discussions respecting the position of Acra, and of the valley of the Tyropoeon, it is not necessary here to enter. Acra may be, as maintained by Eobinson and others, on the north side of Sion, and the valley of the Tyropoeon lie between it and Sion ; and yet the position of the second wall be not thereby determined.1 To determine the position of the second-wall, Josephus gives us the two termini—the gate Gennath in the first wall and the tower Antonia; and implies that it ran not in a straight line but in a circle, Kvk\ov[juevov 8e To 7rpocrapKTLov Kai/a<xj &c, " encircling the northern part." "Where was the gate Gennath ? The name indicates that it was a gate leading to a garden, or near one. By "Robinson it is placed in the first wall, near the tower Hippicus, which both Robinson and Williams agree to have been upon, or very near, the site of the modern citadel El Kalah, not far south or southeast from the present Jaffa gate.2 By others it is placed farther to the east, near the Bazaars, which lie midway upon the street running from the Jaffa gate to the temple wall, and close to the traditional "Iron Gate, (Acts xii. 10.)3
1 Much importance is, indeed, given by many in this controversy to the exact locations of Acra and the Tyropoeon; so Williams and Eobinson. Schaffter makes the whole controversy to turn upon it. Raumer, on the contrary, who agrees upon these points with Robinson, does not find that they decide the course of the second wall.
2 So Raumer. According to Lewin, this is not Hippicus but Phasaelus.
3 So Williams, Schaffter. Lewin puts it east of the three great towers of Herod, and due south from the southwest corner of the Pool of Hezekiah.
The arguments upon either side are not conclusive; nor which ever point be selected, does it decide the question ; since it is admitted by Robinson, (i. 410,) that if the second wall ran in a straight line from Hippicus to Antonia, it would leave the Holy Sepulchre without the city. Still, the nearer was this gate to Hippicus, 'the less the probability that it ran east of the present sepulchre; and the probability diminishes as the northern terminus is carried westward. It is, however, to be noted that all are not agreed as to the position of Hippicus. Schwartz places it on a high rocky hill, north of the so-called Grotto of Jeremiah; Fergusson identifies it with the present Kasr Jalud; Bonar denies that it is the citadel of David, but assigns no site.
As to the general position of Antonia, there is no doubt. It was on the north of the temple area, and probably on the northwest corner.1 Robinson, however, makes it to have occupied the whole northern part of the present Haram area. In this discussion the difference is unimportant.
With this knowledge of the termini, we now ask as to the course of the wall. It was not straight, but curved. Are there any ruins by which it may be traced ? Robinson discovered in the present wall, at the Damascus gate, some ancient remains, which he identifies with the guard houses of a gate of the second wall; and the identification is accepted by Williams. This narrows down the question to the course of the wall from the gate Gennath to the Damascus gate. Are there any remains that indicate its position between these points ? West of the Damascus gate, for about 300 feet, Robinson finds traces of an old wall, which he supposes may be the ancient second wall.2 If correct, this would remove its northern terminus so much farther westward; and here it is placed by Williams.
i Raumer, 389; Williams, 409. a So Wilson,
Similar remains have been found in an angle of the present, near the Latin Convent.1 If it is true that these remains mark the course of the second wall, it is aj:>parent that the present site of the sepulchre would be embraced within it, and is thus disproved.
On the other side, Williams (ii. 51) finds remains of two ancient gateways, as he supposes, of the second wall; one on the south side of ruins of the Hospital of St. John, and another farther to the north, and known by tradition as the " Porta Judicii," or Gate of Judgment. In these remains Robinson, however, finds no traces of the second wall. Of the first he says, it may have been one of the piers of a portal, but not more ancient than the hospital; of the second, that a single column furnishes no evidence of a gateway ; and that the tradition respecting the Judgment Gate goes no farther back than the end of the Crusades.2
All defenders of the present site of the sepulchre do not admit, with Williams, that the present gate of Damascus is a gateway of the second wall. Some make it to turn easterly from the Gate of Judgment to Antonia.3
The objection4 to the present site, drawn from the fact that the distance from it to the western wall of the Haram area is less than a quarter of a mile, thus making the city much too small for the number of inhabitants, is of weight, but not decisive, since we know that the ancient city extended much farther south than the present.6
Much stress has been laid by some upon the fact that within the present Church of the Sepulchre is a "rock-tomb, formed long before the church was built, and which probably belonged to an old Jewish sepulchre of an age prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans."6
i Robinson, iii. 219 ; Porter, i. 109.
2 See Schaffter, 46; Barclay, 226 ; Lewin, 119.
3 See Raumer, 896 ; Lewin, Map. 4 Robinson, i. 410.
s See Ritter, Theil xvi. 426. 6 Willis on Holy City, ii. 194.
"The existence of these sepulchres," says Stanley, (452,) "proves, almost to a certainty, that at some period the site of the present church must have been outside the walls of the city; and lends considerable probability to the belief that the rock excavation, which perhaps exists in part still, and certainly once existed entire, within the marble casing of the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, was at any rate a really ancient tomb, and not, as is often rashly asserted, a modern structure intended to imitate it." The antiquity of this rock-tomb is, however, denied by Robinson; and if this could be proved, he denies the conclusion that the second wall must have been to the east of the sepulchre.
Into a consideration of the novel view propounded by Fergusson, that the sepulchre wras in the rock now under the dome of the Mosque of Omar, and that this building is the identical church erected by Constantine, wre are not called to enter. It is stated by himself, in Diet, of Bible, i. 1018, &c, and rests mainly on architectural grounds.1
A new method of proving the genuineness of the present site was presented by Finlay, " On the Site of the Holy Sepulchre," 1847. He supposes that the Roman government had, from time to time, accurate surveys made of its territories, and that " maps were constructed indicating not only every locality possessing a name, but so detailed that every field was measured ;" and that this was clone throughout the provinces. Thus it was in the power of Constantine to trace the garden of Joseph, from the day of the crucifixion down, through its successive owners, and at any time to identify it. He was therefore able to find it, even though hidden under rubbish and covered over by the temple of Venus. All depends here upon the facts whether such minute and accurate measurements were made at intervals; and if made, whether they had been preserved from the day of the crucifixion to the reign of Constantine.
1 For replies, see Williams, Holy City, ii. 90; Willis, same, ii. 196, note; Schaffter, 77; Robinson, iii. 263; Lewin, 146; Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1860. See also Fergusson's Answer to the Review, London, Murray, 1861.
Either of these is intrinsically improbable, and anything like demonstrative proof seems to be wanting.1
We now come to the historical question. It is certain that the places of crucifixion and burial must have been known, not only to the disciples, but to the priests and rulers, and to many of the inhabitants. It is in the highest degree improbable that they could have been forgotten by any who were witnesses of the Lord's death, or knew of His resurrection. As the apostles, according to a commonly received tradition, continued for a number of years after this at Jerusalem, there could be no doubt that each site was accurately known. Besides, the Evangelists, writing from twenty to fifty years after His death, mention distinctly Golgotha and the garden. Down to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A. D. 70, there can be no question that these places were well known. During the siege of the city, most or all of the Jewish Christians retired to Pella, but they seem soon to have returned.2 Was the city so destroyed that the former site of the sepulchre could not be recognized ? This is not claimed by any one. Robinson (i. 366) speaks of it as " a destruction terrible, but not total."
If, then, the site was known to the Jewish Christians after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, it could not well have been forgotten before its second destruction by Hadrian, A. D. 136. Whether up to this period it had been marked by any monument, does not appear. This is possible, although we cannot believe, as assumed by Chateaubriand, that a church was erected upon it. That the city was not wholly destroyed by Hadrian, and that the work of rebuilding began immediately after the close of the war, is historically proved. It became in many respects a new city, taking the name of Aelia Capitolina, by which it was generally known for many years.
1 So Williams, Holy City, ii. Q6; contra, Schaffter, 56.
2 Giesseler, i. 98.
It was at this period that the Jewish Christian Church at Jerusalem first elected a Gentile bishop; and Eusebius gives a list of his successors, twenty-three in number, down to the time of Constantine.1 From this time, 136 to 324 A. D., a period of about 190 years, we know nothing of the sepulchre except what we learn from a statement of Eusebius, that impious men had erected over it a temple to the goddess Venus, first covering it with earth.2 When this temple was erected, or by whom, we do not know. Jerome, at a later period, speaks of a statue of Venus standing upon the spot, and ascribes it to the time of Hadrian. That Hadrian erected upon the site of the Jewish temple a temple to Jupiter, is well known.3 It is then possible, at least, that at this time a temple to Venus may have been also erected upon the site of the sepulchre; the latter being in the eyes of .the Christians a sacred spot, as was the former in the eyes of the Jews, and therefore both alike dishonored by the Romans. How far the Roman government made a distinction between the Jews and the Christians, is not clear; but that Hadrian was so friendly to the latter that he would not erect a temple over the sepulchre, is not shown.4 But whether erected by Hadrian or not, there seems no good reason for doubting the statement of Eusebius. The objection of Robinson, that his language implies that Constantine learned the site by immediate revelation, and that therefore it could not have been previously known, is hypercritical. Eusebius plainly means that the thought of building a church over the sepulchre, was through divine impulse. This had long been " given over to forgetfulness and oblivion " in the purpose of its enemies; it was buried out of sight, and nothing existed to bring it to mind as the place of the Lord's burial; but he does not say that it was actually thus forgotten
i Williams, i. 215. 2 Robinson, iii. 257; Williams, ii. 239.
3 Robinson, i. 370. * See Giesseler, i. 125.
" In the days of Constantine not the least doubt was entertained where the sepulchre was situate ; but the only hesitation was, whether, by removing the temple, the sepulchre itself could be recovered."1
That Constantine erected a church where the temple of Venus stood, is admitted; that this temple actually stood on the site of the sepulchre, must rest upon the authority of Eusebius. This is supposed to find some support in the fact that a coin of Antoninus Pius contains a figure of Venus standing in a temple with the inscription, c. A. C. : Colonia Aelia Capitolina.2 The fables related by Cyril and others, in connection with the Invention of the Cross, do by no means show that the site of the sepulchre is fictitious.8 We cannot well doubt, that if its true position was wholly unknown, and, for purposes of pious fraud, a new one was to be selected, one would have been taken free from such obvious topographical difficulties as encompass the present site.
In concluding this brief statement, it may be added that, as the topographical argument now stands, it seems to make against the genuineness of the present sepulchre. Further excavations and researches may, however, wholly change the aspect of the question. The historical argument in its favor has not yet been set aside. Modern opinions are about equally divided. While most of the Roman Catholic writers defend its genuineness, some deny it; and on the other hand, many Protestants defend it.*
i Lewin, 155. 2 See Williams, i. 240.
3 See Winer, i. 437, note 6. Isaac Taylor (Ancient Christianity, ii. 277) argues more forcibly than fairly that the whole was a stupendous fraud.
4 Among those not already cited, who deny it, may be mentioned: Wilson, Barclay, Bonar, Stewart, Arnold, Meyer, Ewald. Among those who defend it: Tischendorf, Olin, Prime, Lange, Alford, Friedlieb, Lewin. Among those who are undecided: Bitter, Raumer, Winer, Bartlett, Stanley, Ellicott.
The next day, that which followed the day of preparation, or the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate, desiring that the door of the sepulchre might be sealed, and a watch set, to prevent the disciples from stealing the body; alleging, as the ground of their fear, His words, " After three days I will rise again." Whether the request was made on the Sabbath itself, or upon the evening following, is uncertain.1
Meyer regards all this account as unhistorical, chiefly for the reason that the Pharisees could not have heard Christ's predictions respecting His resurrection; or, at least, could not have thought them worthy of attention. If the disciples did not understand or believe these predictions, much less would His enemies. But this by no means follows. He had openly spoken of His death and resurrection to His disciples, (Matt. xvi. 21 ; xvii. 22, 23.) This was then unintelligible to them, because they truly believed that He was the Christ; and when He was actually crucified, in their grief and despair all remembrance of His words seems to have escaped them. To the Pharisees He had spoken of the sign of the prophet Jonah as to be fulfilled in Himself, (Matt. xii. 40;) and now that He was dead, they must have thought of its actual fulfilment. Besides, it is scarce possible that they should not, through some of the disciples, have heard of His words respecting His resurrection spoken to them. Judas must have known what his Lord said, and may have told the priests. They were far too sagacious not to take precautions against all possible contingencies. Even if they did not believe His resurrection possible, and had no faith in His words, still it was wise to guard against the stealing of the body. But it is not certain that they did not fear that He would rise. Did they not know of the resurrection of Lazarus ? and might not He who then bade the dead arise, Himself come forth?
1 For the former, Friedlieb; for the latter, Alford. Bucher puts it on the evening following the crucifixion, or the beginning of the Sabbath; so Jones.
In their state of mind, to seal the stone and set the watch was a very natural precaution.
But why was not the body at once taken charge of by the Pharisees, and not delivered into the hands of His disciples ? Very likely the request of Joseph for the body was something unknown and unexpected to them; but as it was given to him by permission of Pilate, they could not interfere. It was of no importance in what sepulchre it was placed, provided it was secure; and doubtless they knew that it was in the sepulchre ere they sealed the stone. When the stone was sealed, is not said: many suppose, upon the evening following the crucifixion. "They went to Pilate that same evening, which now no longer belonged to Friday, but formed part of the Sabbath." * But let us suppose, with Alford, that it " was done in the evening after the termination of the Sabbath." This delay presents no real difficulty. " The prediction of our Lord was that He would rise the third day; and till it was approaching they would give themselves no concern about His body. The absence of it from the tomb before the commencement of that day, would rather falsify the prediction than show the truth of it." 2 Perhaps they relied on the sanctity of the Sabbath as a sufficient preventive against His disciples, and thought no guard necessary till the day was past. Perhaps they supposed at first that with His death all cause of apprehension had vanished, and that afterward they began to reflect, and this step occurred to them. Of course it was in itself wholly unimportant when the stone was sealed, provided only that the body was then there.
That the account is given by Matthew only, is readily explained from the fact that he wrote specially for the Jews, among whom the report of stealing the body had been put in circulation. It was omitted by Mark and Luke, who wrote for another class of readers.3
1 Michaelis on Resurrection, 100; so McKnight, Bucher.
8 Town son, 93. 8 See Michaelis on Resurrection, 98.