We have been arguing on good grounds that gospels elicit internal evidences – in fact, hard evidences – which alludes that its verses have been penned to meet biased theological agendas; as such on one hand where the gospels compromise with historical facts, on the other hand, it defies the very concepts of divine “inspiration”.
Thus, in this paper we would bring to light another intriguing incident which shows that gospel of John’s portrayal of “doctrine of vicarious atonement” through the alleged death of Jesus (peace be upon him) was the result of that conscious engineering which was meant to bolster one of the fundamental “orthodox” doctrine, albeit, at the cost of conflict with Mark’s gospel!
Mark’s “Passover” did pass!
Mark narrates that before being trialed by the Sanhedrin and subsequent crucifixion, Jewish Jesus (peace be upon him) ate the famous “Passover” feast with his disciples:
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day the lambs for the Passover meal were killed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and get the Passover meal ready for you?” Then Jesus sent two of them with these instructions: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters, Teacher says,Where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room, prepared and furnished , where you will get everything ready for us.” The disciples left, went to the city and found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve disciples.While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you that one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.” The disciples were upset and began to ask him, one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, do you?” Jesus answered, “It will be one of you twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with me. The Son of Man will die as the Scriptures say he will; but how terrible for that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!” While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant.” (Mark 14:12-24)
It is vitally important to observe a few incidents as it turned out in the above passage:
Firstly, note the day. It starts with the day before the Passover is to be eaten. In other words, it is the day when the sacrificial animal would be slaughtered for the Passover meal: “the lambs for the Passover meal were killed”
Secondly, Jesus (peace be upon him) specifically directed his disciples where they should prepare the Passover meal for him: at the house where the man with the pitcher of water enters.
Thirdly, the disciples prepared the Passover meal for Jesus (peace be upon him)and they ate it.
Fifthly, on the foregoing, Jesus (peace be upon him) symbolized that the food and drink is like his body and blood!
From all of the above, we want to stress that Jesus (peace be upon him) ate the Passover meal with his disciples at his chosen place before any case and conviction by Pontius Pilate. In fact immediately after the meal, Jesus (peace be upon him) goes to the well-known garden of Gethsemane where he is subsequently arrested by Roman authorities with Jewish elders (c.f. Mark 14:27-49). Thereafter he was convicted to be finally, biblically, crucified to death.
This is good enough a narration on the face of it; however, when this is juxtaposed with John’s narration of the same incident it starts to create problems!
John’s “Passover” never passed!
Quite contrastingly, John claims that Jesus (peace be upon him) was captured, litigated, convicted and crucified before the Passover meal was ever eaten by him:
“When Pilate heard these words, he took Jesus outside and sat down on the judge’s seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (In Hebrew the name is “Gabbatha.”) It was then almost noon of the day before Passover. Pilate said to the people, “Here is your king!” They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “The only king we have is the Emperor!” Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took charge of Jesus. He went out, carrying his cross, and came to “The Place of Skull,” as it s called. (In Hebrew it is called “Golgotha.”) There they crucified him; and they also crucified two other men, one on each side, with Jesus between them. (John 19: 13-18)
Notice that Jesus (peace be upon him) is being prosecuted when it was “almost noon of the day before Passover”, in other words, more or less the exact time when the slaughter animal would be made ready for sacrifice and simultaneously preparations for other associated rituals would be made. This in turn implies that John’s Jesus (peace be upon him), unlike Mark’s Jesus (peace be upon him), did not ever had chance to eat the Passover meal.
In fact, John’s narration gets internal support for his timing of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) prosecution; this is so because John alludes that the Jewish elders who conspired against Jesus (peace be upon him) did not enter into Pontius’ hall. They tarried outside while Jesus (peace be upon him) alone was standing in front of the Roman governor:
Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house to the governor’s palace The Jewish authorities did not go inside the palace, for they wanted to keep themselves ritually clean, in order to be able to eat the Passover meal.(John 18:28)
Note the reason why the Jewish priests did not enter into Pontius’ hall; so that they might not be defiled for being into the chambers of a pagan gentile – Pontius Pilate. And, they wanted to remain “ritually clean” so that they “be able to eat the Passover meal”! So, Passover feast is yet to materialize and Jesus (peace be upon him) ingospel of John is being prosecuted.
To further bolster John’s position, we can observe that Jesus (peace be upon him) is not portrayed as symbolizing his body and blood to the food and drink of the Passover meal respectively as he did in Mark’s gospel; simply because he was never present in the Passover meal! Probably, by the feast time, he was in his alleged tomb!
What did author of John achieve?
It is extremely difficult to resolve the conflict between the two so-assumed god breathed “injeels”. However, what exactly were these “orthodox” authors achieving by these well-thought manipulations of data. In fact in the passages to follow we would realize that the author of John did achieve an “orthodox” theological agenda which happens to be the cornerstone of the “orthodox” Christianity which, otherwise, would have been impossible to achieve:
Remember that we were talking about the Passover meal. And in Jewish culture it was marked by slaughter of an animal – a lamb for that reason.
Quite interestingly, John’s gospel happens to be the only gospel which symbolizes Jesus (peace be upon him) as a (sacrificial) animal – a lamb:
The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
So when author of gospel of John manipulated the timing of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) crucifixion from after Passover meal to before Passover meal when the “lamb” is traditionally “prepared” for slaughter, he was able to draw a strong theological link between the crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him) as the “lamb” slaughtered for the traditional Jewish “Passover”!
In other words, when Jews in Jerusalem were slaughtering their “lambs” for Passover meal, Jesus (peace be upon him) – the Lamb of Lambs, so to say – was also slaughtered for the “Passover” of the sins of the world unto himself. Not surprisingly, of this happening just at the exact time when traditional Jewish slaughter takes place, namely, just after noon so that when sunsets, i.e., when the Passover day really sets in, the Passover meal would be ready! Obviously this strong figurative correlation would have been impossible given the way Holy Ghost “inspired” Mark; thus, a manipulation of “God’s word” was inevitable and necessary.
In all of these, do keep in mind that when John’s gospel was being written, Pauline epistles with its outstanding emphasize on the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) than his life, was already available for at least half – a – century!
Therefore, if author of John’s gospel was one influenced by Pauline philosophy or used his epistles as source, then it certainly makes sense why Jesus’ (peace be upon him) crucifixion was meticulously shifted before the Passover meal in John’s gospel!
It is not the blatant contradiction between so called god-breathed “scriptures” which intrigues; rather, it is the hefty price of allowing flagrant contradiction(s) between gospels to meet skewed theological agendas – that has to be observed!
On this regard, it would be best to end this brief investigation with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s note:
“The main point is that the stories that Christians told and retold about Jesus were not meant to be objective history lessons for students interested in key events of Roman imperial times. They were meant to convince people that Jesus was the miracle-working Son of God whose death brought salvation to the world, and to edify and instruct those who already believed. Sometimes the stories were modified to express a theological truth. For the early Christians who passed along the stories we now have in the Gospels, it was sometimes legitimate and necessary to change a historical fact in order to make a theological point. These are the stories that the Gospel writers inherited.” (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction, The Traditions of Jesus in their Greco-Roman context, Chapter 3, Pp 48-49)
We need to think about a certain aspects! If gospel author(s) can manipulate the timing of alleged crucifixion for mere correlation with a Jewish custom, then is it possible that they can modify other aspects of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) life and alleged death as well! How about manipulating his words too which ended up in thecurrent New Testament? How about exaggeration of his status and miracles? In fact the possibilities just open up like opening of floodgates. We leave that for readers to cogitate further when they pick up New Testament.
Finally an exemplification at par for the treatment of “Scriptures”:
Then We made you heirs in the land after them, to see how ye would behave! But when Our Clear Signs are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, Say: “Bring us a reading other than this, or change this,” Say: “It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the penalty of a Great Day (to come).” (Qur’an 10:14-15, Yusuf Ali)
In the hostile situation where Prophet (peace be upon him) preached it was easier for him to compromise the revelations he was inspired with at least at nominal level, yet it was not in his authority to change God’s word.
- Unless otherwise mentioned all biblical text taken from Good News Edition.
- Textual emphasize wherever not matching with original is ours.