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
When on his death-bed, Adam said to his son Seth: " My son I am now about to die for my sin, as God told me. When I am dead bury me not, embalm my body and hand it down, for it will have a certain relation with the Seed of the woman who will crush the serpent's head. (Gen. iii. 15.)
Seth gave the embalmed body to his son. The patriarchs guarded it, Noe had it in the ark, and when he was about to die, three hundred and fifty years after the flood, he gave it in charge of his eldest son Sem, telling him not to bury it till the Lord would show him the place. When his father died, Sem became his heir, as priest and king of mankind.
Of the cursed race of Ham was born a strong, bold, wicked man, Nemrod: in Hebrew (Gen. x. 8 ; I. Par. 1, 10. 8) "The Rebel," who rebelled against his grand-uncle Sem ; seduced the seventy two families from his authority) ; established the worship of the natural forces in place of the religon of Adam and the patriarchs; taught that their fathers had gone to heaven and became the planets of the sky ; that the sky was a solid hollow crystal sphere, and that if they built a high tower he called .Bab-El, "The Gate of God," 1 they could go up to heaven without death. Later the Hebrews called the tower Babel: " Confusion."
Such was the origin of paganism, which started with pantheism, nature worship and the honor of the dead patriarchs as gods. Lest Nemrod might destroy and root out the whole of God's revelation to Adam. God changed the language of men, each of the seventy-two families spoke a different tongue, and they had to scatter to found the nations.
This Nemrod comes down in mythology as the strong man, Hercules, among the Greeks; Jupiter he is called by the Latins; Thor, etc., by the Northmen, and the patriarchs became the gods.
When the families separated because they could not understand each other, Sem in his old age was left alone. An angel appeared to him and told him to come and he would show him where to bury Adam's body. To the west they went for many a day, till they came to a little hill, where in a cave he laid to rest our father's body. He called the hill Golgotha, a corrupted Babylonian word meaning : "The Place of the Skull," Sts. Matthew, Mark and John mention the name, but the four Gospels give its Greek, Calvary. 2
Less than half a mile to the south rose a higher and a larger hill surrounded on three sides by deep valleys. There Sem built a little city he named Salem, " Peace." Later the word Jeru," City," was added to it, and thus it became Jerusalem. " The City of Peace," or " The Vision of Peace." In the middle of the little city, on the highest pinnacle of the rock, he erected a stronghold he called Sion, or Zion, " The Fortress."
Savage wild sons of Canaan, called Jebusites, Hittites, etc., lived then in the land—they knew not who Sem was, nor whence he came, and they called him Melchisedech, " The Just King." On Sion he lived, heir of Noe's high-priesthood. There he offered the lamb, and the bread and wine, on the very spot where Christ offered them when he celebrated the Last Supper. For the Lord was a priest not according to Aaron's priesthood of the temple which put him to death, but according to the order of Adam, Abel, Hence, Noe, Sem, or of Melchisedech, as David had foretold. (Psalm cix. 4.)
Sem or Melchisedech lived till Isaac was fourteen years of age. 3 He taught Abraham how to sacrifice the paschal lamb, taught him the religion of the patriarchs, the history of the world before the Flood, the religion of Adam, and of the great fathers of our race; and these passed down among the Hebrews till Moses wrote them down in the book of Genesis.
All these ages Adam's body remained in the cave on Calvary, till the earthquake at the death of Christ opened the rock, and the blood of the dead Christ flowed down even into the mouth of the first man, whose sin, in eating the forbidden fruit, called forth the eternal decree of the Incarnation. This is the reason you often see a skull at the foot of the cross.
Many early writers mention this legend, but while some doubt others believe it. St. Jerome says : " It tickles the ears but it is not true." St. Thomas of Aquin does not believe it.
Some writers explain the word Calvary, "The Skull," by saying that as it was a place of public execution, many skulls may have been lying around. But the strict Rabbinical customs, as well as the laws of Moses, would not allow that. Nothing they abhorred so much as a part of a dead body. Even the tombs were whitewashed a month before the Passover each year, so people could easily see them and not come near, lest they might be denied. Be sides the place was not called Skulls, but."The Skull." Others say that the hill was shaped like a skull. But this does not seem to be satisfactory. The legend making Calvary Adam's tomb seems the easiest solution. Visitors are still shown Adam's tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Was this the place of public execution ? If so, this was the way criminals were put to death according to the Babylonian Talmud: 4 After being condemned to death, the procession took its way to the place of execution outside the walls. A herald with a flag went before, crying out from time to time : " So and so is going to be stoned to death, for such and such a crime, committed at such a place on such a day, and at such an hour. If any one knows he is not guilty let him reveal it." When the condemned was ten ells from the court he was asked to confess. If he did not, but still denied his guilt, or if any one said the sentence was not just, the prisoner was brought back and the case reopened. This was done even four or five times, in order to give him every chance for his life.
At four ells he was stripped of his clothes, and if a male, he was covered in front with a cloth if a female she was covered before and behind. But sometimes, although rarely, males were stoned naked. From this custom we conclude that Christ was covered in front with a cloth as he is represented in Christian art.
The place of execution was a hill, or rock, twice the height of a man, and Calvary would serve this purpose, as it was about fifteen feet higher than the surrounding ground. When the procession came to the place, one of witnesses threw the prisoner on the ground ; if he fell on his face he turned him over on his back. Two wit nesses took a stone as heavy as they could lift, and threw it down on his chest, smashing in his vitals, while the multitude threw stones on him.
Sometimes they hung the condemned on a tree, tying his hands and hanging him by them. Blasphemers and idolatrous males were hanged with their faces towards the people. That was the way Christ was crucified. Females were hanged with their face towards the tree. Some of the Apostles in their writings allude to this where they say the Lord was hanged on the tree. The end of the tree was placed in a hole in the ground.
1 See Dutrip. Con. S. Script., word Babel.
2 Matt, xxvii. 33 ; Mark xv. 22; Luke xxiii. 33 ; John xix. 17.
3 Smith's Dictionary, Sem and Melchisedech.
4 Vol. viii,, xv,, xvi., Sanhedrin, p. 257, etc.