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completely a confession of the substance of Christian faith.
THE INSCRIPTION ON THE CROSS. The Gospels vary slightly in their wording of the inscription on the cross. Some interpreters have sought to harmonize these inconsequential variations by assuming that the title varied slightly in the three languages in which it was written. This would seem a needless striving for mere verbal agreement. If, however, this be accepted as the explanation, the title on the cross may have read somewhat as follows:
ישוע הנצרי מלך היהודים
Ουτος εστιν Ιησους ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων.
The letters “I. N. R. I.” displayed above the cross in paintings of the crucifixion stand for the Latin reading, “IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM.”
The Church of Santa Croce in Rome contains a tablet of wood much decayed and nearly illegible, which Helena is said to have brought from Jerusalem as that containing the threefold inscription.
The three languages were made necessary by the three civilizations which met at the foot of the cross, like three tributary streams converging into one, the civilizations of the old world gave their best to make possible the origin and spread of the faith that came in the fulness of time. . To the Hebrew people it owed its origin; and its spread was immensely facilitated by the unification of the world in the Roman government, and the permeation of the whole empire by the Greek language and literature.
The DiscoVERY AND Loss OF THE ALLEGED TRUE
Cross. According to tradition, the cross of Christ was discovered by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, and deposited in the great church or basilica erected by Constantine in 335 A. D., over the alleged true place of the Crucifixion. The silence of Eusebius concerning this discovery is a serious break in the chain of evidence for the finding of the cross at all, and the miracles by which its true character were disclosed rest on insufficient evidence. Nevertheless, the cross deposited in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was for eight hundred years the most venerated relic in Christendom. Splinters of it were sold from time to time, but a large part of the wood remained intact. Laden with gold and richest gems, it was carried into battle by the Crusaders, and lost to the Saracens in the battle of Hattin, July 5, 1187. Not since Israel sorrowed over the capture of the Ark of God by the Philistines was there more genuine grief over the loss of a sacred relic. The Saracens took care that the wood was not returned, and its ultimate fate is unknown.
LEGENDS OF THE TREE OF THE CROSS. There are many curious legends of the tree that became the cross. All of them are without authority, but a number are interesting. It is affirmed in a Greek gend that Adam bore out of Eden, as a staff, a branch of the Tree of Knowledge—the very branch that bore the fatal apple. Reaching the site of Jerusalem in his wanderings, he thrust it into the ground, and it took root and grew into a tree, which lasted until our Saviour's time, when it was cut down and fashioned into the cross. Another Greek legend tells that Abraham on the bank of the Jordan, found a shepherd bewailing his sins. “Son,” said the patriarch, "be comforted.
Plant here three trees, and tend them carefully. Thus shall your mind find solace and relief in useful tasks.” The man obeyed, planting a cedar, a cypress, and a pine. In forty days they were well grown, each with its separate root and branches, but all united in one trunk. This triune tree grew till the time of Solomon, when it was cut down and split into timbers for the Temple. But the workmen found it impossible to cut the beams the proper length. So Solomon, divining that the wood was destined for some other use, placed the three beams upon a pedestal, and bound them together with thirty rings of silver. These beams were used in making the cross, and the thirty rings were given to Judas to reward his treachery.
The little crosses sold to tourists in Jerusalem are commonly of cypress wood, which is said to have been the wood of the cross. This tradition, however, is not undisputed. The same claim is made for many trees, including the mistletoe. This, it is said, was once a tall, stout tree, but after it had furnished wood for the cross it was accursed, and reduced to the form of a weak parasite. According to other legends it was the aspen tree that gave the wood, and so the leaves of that tree perpetually tremble with remorse and apprehension. The gypsies say it was the ash tree, and yet others the elder and the oak. And still another very ancient legend tells that four trees, cedar, palm, cypress, and olive, were employed: “To Cedar were his pierced feet nailed sore:
To beams of sacred Palm, his outstretched hands; A Cypress tree his tortured body bore; On Olive wood his kingly title stands.”
ARIMATHÆA. The name is associated solely with that of Joseph, a wealthy counselor, and secret disciple of Jesus. The location of the town is not known.
THE PHYSICAL CAUSE OF THE DEATH OF JESUS. Did Jesus die, literally, of a broken heart?
In 1847 there appeared a work by an English physician, Dr. Stroud, who attempted to prove, on the evidence of the bloody sweat in Gethsemane, and the separation of the serum from the clot as described by John as the issue of “water and blood” from the spearthrust, that Jesus died of a rupture of the heart. This view has been contested by many scholars, but is still held by a great number, both of physicians and other authorities. An extended article opposing this view is found in the Bibliotheca Sacra for 1905.
THE DARKNESS. Matthew, Mark and Luke all state that there was darkness from twelve to three o'clock. For this dark
no natural cause can be ascribed. Whatever explanation may be given of the cause of the phenomenon, it certainly could not have been due to an eclipse of the sun, as it was the time of the Paschal full moon. Some suggest a sand-storm or the darkness preceding an earthquake; others assign it to purely supernatural
We do not know.
The Passion FLOWER. The passion-flower, when found by the Spaniards in Mexico, was hailed with adoration, since it displayed within itself all the instruments of the Passion—the crown, the scourge, the spear, and the nails. There are other flowers which, fable says, were growing at the foot of the cross, and 'were stained with drops of our Lord's blood; such as the purple orchis, the arum, the woodsorrel, and the tiger-lily. The scarlet anemone that blooms at Passion-tide is called in Palestine "blood-drops of Christ.”
THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
There is no one spot in Christendom venerated by so large a number of Christians as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. To recover this site, believed to have been that of the crucifixion and burial of our Lord, the Crusades were organized; and to stand within its walls thousands every year make pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The spot is believed by many to have been identified by Helena, mother of Constantine, who built a church here in 333 A. D. This edifice was destroyed by the Persians in 614. A second structure was destroyed in 1010, and the spot lay desolate for thirty years. A third structure was then erected, and was the one entered by the Crusaders, walking barefoot, and singing jubilant songs, after their conquest in 1099. These walls stood till they were destroyed by fire in 1808. The present church was dedicated September 11, 1810. It cost nearly $3,000,000, of which about a million went for fees and bribes. The church, as it now stands, covers many alleged holy sites, including that of Calvary. It is occupied jointly by the Greeks, the Roman Catholics, and the Armenians, who do not always agree. Modern discoveries make it very probable that the site of the church was within the walls at the time of the Crucifixion, but the place will always command the reverent interest of Christians of all names.
THE ROLLING STONE. In the Tombs of the Kings, north of Jerusalem, is found a vault with a rolling stone, fitted in a descending groove, and closing the door of the tomb. It is a thick flat disc, making the door secure, and requiring considerable strength to roll it away. It was probably such a stone that closed the door of Joseph's tomb.