The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Greeks, masters of art, learning, literature, and science, instinct with beauty and progress, had not the art of government or organization, and when Alexander died of a fever at Babylon his vast empire was divided among his generals. But Greek language and civilization remained among the conquered nations, and enabled the Apostles to spread the Gospels in that language and convert these peoples.
But another universal language, and a fully organized and powerful government, with a great central city, were required for the universal religious empire of the Hebrew King Messiah. The sons of Ascenez, " The Race," Noe's grandson, (Genesis x. 7, 3.) first settled Asia Minor thus called after him, built Troy and the surrounding cities, which the Greeks destroyed, when, under Eneas, the children of Ascenez took shipping, colonized Italy, and built Rome, "The Fortress."
With the blessing of Noe on them, descending from Gomer, eldest son of Japheth, they did what no other people ever did before or since; these people built an empire from one city. From the bleak hills of Scotland to the deserts of Africa, from the Atlantic's shores to the plains of Babylonia, they spread their empire, bringing their Latin language, government, customs, order and regularity. "When Israel's foretold King, Christ, was born in Bethlehem, Augustus Caesar ruled the world from his Palatine palace, and a Roman procurator sat in the palace of Herod and the Machabees when Christ was crucified.
It was eighty-one years before Christ, when Roman armies for the first time appeared before Jerusalem's walls. Pompey 1 passed over to Egypt, subdued the rebels, slew 17,000 Numidians, marched against the Arabians, captured Arabia Petra, and led his victorious army north against Judea. Jerusalem soon fell. 2
He even went into the Holy of Holies of the Temple, a terrible profanation in Jewish eyes. All Syria fell before him, and thus Latin language, customs, and Roman government were introduced into Judea as a providential preparation for the crucifixion, the New Testament, the preaching of the Gospel.
Greek and Latin were the languages of Pilate's Roman court and palace in the time of Christ, and a Roman judge sat in judgment on the Lord and condemned Him to the cross. We cannot look on these historic facts but as providential. All other languages are changing or dying out, but Greek and Latin still live on, taught in every college and university of the world.
THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, SADDUCEES
AND ESSENES, SYNAGOGUES AND RABBINS.
To understand the people among whom Christ lived, and the causes which led to His death, we must make a study of the religious and political parties into which the Jews were divided in His day.
The Gospels often mention the Scribes and Pharisees, Christ's bitterest enemies. Let us see who they were, their history, and their duties.
The word Scribe comes from the Hebrew, sapphor: "to write." In Greek they were called the Grammateis, " Men of letters," " Learned people." In Latin they are the scribes, " writers." Their duties were to copy the sacred Books of the Old Testament, to see that no errors crept into the sacred text, and to explain the meaning of the Scriptures. They carefully counted every letter, they arranged its commands and doctrines, and they copied the holy books; they published many works now lost; they sold copies of their histories of the Hebrew people, the Divine decrees, the civil and religious laws, and they kept the genealogies, or family records of the priestly, royal, noble, and Levitical families. They knew the theory and practice of law, for they were the lawyers of that time. They practiced law before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish courts. The policy of the nation was founded on their interpretation of the public documents, the Law and the Prophecies which had come down from their forefathers. 3
Lightfoot and other writers arrange them into classes.' (Haram. S. 77.) Scribes of lower rank occupied themselves with the Mikra. Above these were the lawyers, who studied the Mishna, before the Talmud was written. They also attended the meetings of the Sanhedrin as counselors and practicing attorneys. The next higher were the Doctors of the Law, who were the expounders of the Gemara, and sat as judges of the Sanhedrin.
The name Cariath-Sepher, "The City of Letters," in Greek polls grammaton, is found in Josue (Josue xv. 15; Judge i. 12.) and Judges. They were teachers of the people. In Deborah they are found as men of military functions. Scribes are often mentioned in later parts of the Old Testament, as kings secretaries, captains of public functionaries, keepers of records, and writers. The Captivity gave a great impulse to the office of Scribe. Every Jewish family in Mesopotamia wished to have a copy of the sacred books, each synagogue had to have Scrolls of the Torah or Law, copies of the Hymn Book—the Book of Psalms, and the Scribes were kept busy reproducing them. During this time of seventy years, when the old Hebrew was being lost, and the Syro-Chaldaic was becoming the spoken language of the exiles, it was the work of the Scribes to preserve the old Hebrew, to teach it to the people, and to tell them what was written in the Law and Prophets. In the eyes of Cyrus the great Persian king, Esdras was " the great Scribe of the Law of the God of heaven," (Esdras vii. 21.) and this was a greater honor for him than his priesthood.
In later times they become still more prominent, and we find them mentioned as " masters of assemblies," " under one shepherd," producing " many books," of which " there is no end."(Eccl. xii, 11, 12 ; I. Par, ii, 25.) Later they appear as the " families of the Scribes (Jeremias xxxvi, 12.) occupied with the Midrash: " the story," "margin," or "commentary." They preserved the Scriptures and arranged them in the present form; but the names of all of them have not come down in history. Silently they did their work to promote reverence for the Law, the Prophets, the Services of the Temple, and the celebration of the great Feasts of Israel. At the time of Christ they were occupied with the Mikra, " recitation " or "reading " of the sacred books. One of them, Simon the Just, who lived 300 years before Christ, says: " Our fathers have taught us three things: to be cautious in judging, to train many scholars, and to set a fence about the Law." (Pirka Aboth I, See Jos. I. 95.) They not only wished to make the Law of Moses the rule of life for every member of the Jewish race, but to keep it from all other men, for Israel was the " chosen nation," and all the other races were Gentiles, doomed to hell, and they alone were the interpreters of the Law.
The Scribes interpreted the Law in a different sense from the Pharisees ; there was one rule for the Temple, and another for the synagogue, and all Israel was divided into two hostile camps. It came to pass that in Christ's day the decisions of the Scribes were honored above the Law. The wonderful prophecies relating to Christ, had become obscured, or were twisted into meanings foreign to the mind of the Holy Spirit in giving them. The Scribes and Pharisees had built on the Old Testament a system of regulations, a code of laws, decisions of courts, explanations of Scripture, and rules of conduct sanctioned by centuries of practice, so that Christ hardly made a convert in Jerusalem, most of His followers being from Galilee, where Greek, Roman, and foreign ideas had broken into terrible isolation of the Jerusalem Jew.
The Scribes were not friendly with the Sadducees, but were closely allied with the Pharisees. In all three par ties there were shades of division built on common practice. But they were always disputing, and two Jews could hardly meet without a discussion. This is always the sign of the decay of faith, the unrest of the soul. The Temple arcades, or cloisters, were always filled with groups of men, talking, arguing, discussing and disputing on different points of religion. The Hebrew writings, especially the Talmud, are filled with the most minute details of frivolous things, and you will wade through page after page before you will find anything worth recording.
After the prophets ceased to instruct the Hebrews, they wandered into most childish theories and foolish details. Religion was on the lips, in the externals, in the Temple and synagogue services, while the heart was far from God. This struck the writer when he assisted at the Passover Service in Jerusalem. While reading that sacred Liturgy followed by our Lord at the Last Supper, the head of the house smoked cigarettes, and old men stopped to discuss minute points. It was a lip service, with no devotion, no feeling, no grace,
In Hebrew writings numerous famous Scribes are mentioned. In 140-130 before Christ appeared Joses ben-Joezar, a priest, and Joses ben-Jochanan, both famous Scribes, who separated themselves, with their disciples, from all contact with men, so they might not become defiled. They were the fathers of Pharisaism, "The Separated," and that gave rise to the Chaberim, which branched out later into the Essenes and the Pharisees. They looked on themselves as brothers, and on the rest of the earth as defiled, vile, and low. One of this school, Joshua ben-Perachiah who was contemporary with the famous John Hyrcanus (B. C. 185-108,) enjoyed the latter's friendship till it was no longer to his interest, when he passed over to the Sadducees. (Pirke Aboth.)
1 Cneius Pompeus Magnus, born Sept, 29, 106 B. C., assassinated in Egypt, Sept. 28. B. C. 48.
2 Josephus, Antiq. XIV. iv. 2, 3, 4.
3 See Smith's Dictionary, "Scribes."