Monday, 14 March 2016

The tragedy of Calvary. Part 50.

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

A view of Gennesareth valley from the top of Tel Kinnereth
To touch the eyes, mouth, ears, nose or face, or even one hand with the other before washing, might bring a disease on the part touched. The hands must be washed after cutting the nails, or killing a flea. 1 The more water used the more piety. " He who used much water for hand washing will have abundant riches," says R. Chasda. If one had not been out of the house that morning, it was enough to pour water on the hands, but if he was outside and had come in, he must plunge his hands into at least sixty gallons of water. The quantity given is forty seah, and the Rabbis give a seah as holding about a gallon and a half. 2

The table, the house, the dishes and articles of whatever material were continually purified, lest they might become unclean, or lest they might have been used by one unclean. There was a continual strife between the lordly Sadducees, the party to whom, in the time of Christ, the Temple priests belonged, and the Pharisees, who laid great stress on the legal purity of the dishes and utensils of Temple and home. A Pharisee would die before eating without washing his hands. Ilabbi Akiba had been put in jail, and his jailor brought him water when he was dying with thirst, and in place of drinking the water he washed his hands with it, saying: " It is better in time of persecution to die of thirst than to break the commandment, and thus die eternally." 3 They washed, not only every utensil used in the Temple service, but also the golden candlestick after each service, lest they might have been denied by touch of some unclean person. When once a Pharisee was carrying out the golden candlestick to wash it, a Sadducee remarked that before long they would wash the sun. 4

Sitting thus around the table for the morning meal, they all washed their hands saying: "Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by thy commandment, and has given us the command concerning the washing of the hands." On the table were cakes made of unbolted flour, baked in the oven outside the house. These cakes were about eighteen inches in diameter and half an inch thick. They are still used in Jerusalem and sold in the booths. When taking the bread, each recited the prayer, " Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth." All these prayers were in the original Hebrew, and they had come down to them from the most remote times of the Hebrew people.

It was a frugal meal. Wine was seldom used at break fast. Tea and coffee were not known. Water was the usual beverage. What other things they ate we do not know. History is silent regarding that breakfast in Bethany.

After the meal the hands were washed again, and all together they recited Psalm cxxv. Then the head of the house said:

Let us say grace." And the others replied: " Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for ever."

The leader: " With the sanction of those present."

The others : " Blessed be our God, he of whose bounty we have partaken, and through whose goodness we live."

All together say: " Blessed be his name, yea continually to be blessed forever and ever." The leader repeats the same and says a long prayer of thanksgiving, which varies for different feasts.

The progress of the Aryan race, the white men, for two thousand years has brought many improvements into the world, so that the homes of even our poorest are filled with luxury. We must go to the changless East to see the way Christ lived and to realize the price of our redemption.

The house of the wealthy family of Lazarus and his sisters was composed of two rooms, each about twenty feet square. The house was built of the peculiar whitish yellow stone of Judea, the walls being about eight feet high and unplastered inside and out. The roof was of sticks stretched across, covered with well-packed earth, overlayed with cement. In the outer room the animals belonging to the family were stabled, while the members of the family occupied the inner room. The house had no windows, the door letting in the light and out the smoke.

Around three sides of the living room ran a wide seat, built of stone, covered with mats, cushions, blankets and quilts. On this divan the members of the family slept. During the day this raised seat was used to sit or recline on, and the modest dishes of earthenware were placed on it when washed. In one corner was a painted chest, in which were kept the few heirlooms of the family. In an other corner were some water-jars, the mouths filled with aromatic herbs to keep the water sweet. Near the door was a brazen movable fireplace, in which they burned charcoal or dry dung when cooking. The floor was made of stones There was not a picture, statue or image of any kind, for every graven thing was forbidden by the law of Moses.

Let us see Christ's three loving friends with whom he used to stop and rest, when he came up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts according to the Law of Moses. Lazarus is the Greek form of Eleazar, " God is helper," a name quite common among the Hebrews. The first of this name was Aaron's third son, who succeeded him in the high priesthood, pontificating for seventeen years, and who was succeeded by his son Phinees. (Exod. vi, 25.) Nine men of this name are mentioned in the Old Testament, and one is given in the genealogy of St. Matthew's Gospel as St. Joseph's grandfather, whose son Mathan was Joseph's father. (Matt, i, 15)

On the western shores of Galilee a collection of a few Moslem hovels stands at the southeast corner of the plain of Gennesareth, now named in Arabic the el-Mejdel. It is the richest part of the fertile shores of the famous Sea. It was called Magdala, a Greek form of the Hebrew, Migdal-El, " God's Tower." Magdala was surrounded with rich farms in Christ's day. They raised indigo, made woolen cloth. There dwelled eighty families of cloth-makers, and a part of the town was devoted to dye ing cloth. 5 Olives, grapes, figs, etc., were raised in great abundance, and the region was called the " Udder of the Land." In this village alone were three hundred shops for the sale of doves for the sacrifices of the Temple.

There Lazarus, Mary and Martha were born. Their parents owned a large part of this fertile region, and they used to grow wheat on their lands for the proposition bread. Mary was called the Magdalen after Magdala the place of her birth. Besides the family is said to have owned a whole quarter of Jerusalem, and to have been of royal stock. To escape the great heat of the region of Galilee seven hundred feet below the sea, during the hot weather the family used to move to Bethany, where they had a summer house.

Some writers hold that Simon the leper was their father, who because of his disease was obliged to live separately from them, that Christ healed him, and that Lazarus is the rich young man, or ruler, who had great wealth, and who came to ask Jesus what he would do to be saved.  (Matt, xix ; Mark, x ; Luke, xviii.)

The Gospels tell us that women, most of them wealthy, ministered to the Lord in his travels. Some were attracted by His teachings, others He had healed of dis eases of soul and body. Writers of that age say Jewish women used to follow and wait on famous Rabbis, at whose feet they sat to learn their duties of the Torah, the Law, and that explains why Mary and Martha entertained the Saviour at their house.

Let us see what Jewish writers say of Mary. She had married a strict pharasaic Rabbi, Paphus, or Papus, a doctor of the Law, son of Jehudah. The Talmuds enter into minute details of marriage feasts, of the powder women put on their faces, forbidden to be used at the Passover feast or on Pentecost. With dark kohl, they painted eyelids and eyebrows. The groom gave vases of vermilion and carmine to color his bride's lips, cheeks and palms of the hands. They wore bows, called Towers, on the shoulders to keep up the dress, decked their heads with gold plaques, a custom still followed by the women of Bethlehem; wore false hair and teeth ; but they could not pick up a tooth on the Sabbath, all showing that women are about the same in every age and country.

Paphus and Mary did not get along well together. The strict Rabbi treated her harshly. Being cradled in wealth, she gave herself up to Greek customs and luxury, then prevalent in Galilee, and longed for the freedom she enjoyed in her father's home when a girl.

In the citadel at Magdala was a soldier, Pandira, men tioned by the early Fathers, was a friend to Paphus, and, as the paranymph, he went with Paphus to Mary's home, the day of the wedding, to bring the veiled bride to her husband's house, according to the Hebrew custom. Having the entrance to the house, he seduced Mary, and when her husband learned of the adultery, he brought his wife before the Temple priests to have the marriage dissolved.

According to the Talmud, if the wife denied her guilt, the husband brought her before the Sanhedrin, where she was frightened into pleading guilty, or condemned to drink the " bitter water " of the fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers. If she still protested her innocence, she was " set before the Lord "; that is, she was led into the Temple, and at the Nicanor Gate, her outer garments, jewels, etc., were taken off, and she was clothed in cheap black raiment, and told that if she was guiltless she had nothing to fear.

Herzog Reim., V. xii., p. 639.

2 Smith's Diet, of the Bible, Weights and Measures.

3 Geikie, Life of Christ, V. II., 140

4 Dedenbourg, p. 132-134.

Neubauer, p, 218