The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Sunday, May 16, 2010

MURDER AT GOLGOTHA - REVISITING THE MOST FAMOUS CRIME SCENE IN HISTORY

Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was murdered in full public view, during daylight hours, in what was most likely the year A.D. 30. The crime scene was a hill called Golgotha, the "Place of the Skull," just outside the city of Jerusalem in the then Roman-occupied province of Judaea.

In the Garden of Gethsemane

In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and
his sweat fell on the ground like great drops of
blood. (Luke 22:44)

Is there any way that a man could indeed "sweat blood?" According to the veteran New York medical examiner Frederick Zugibe, who has taken a great deal of interest in this description, Jesus was experiencing a classic "fight or flight" reaction. After a rush of adrenalin which would have caused his heart rate to increase, his blood vessels would have first constricted, and then dilated. This would have sent blood sugar levels soaring. He would have panted to increase his oxygen intake. This would have been followed by extreme physical tiredness, then exhausted resignation. His heart rate would have slowed, accompanied by sweating. As the blood rushed into the capillaries close to the sweat glands these would have ruptured, generating great drops of sweat mixed with blood. Medically called haematodrosis, this is readily recognizable as what Jesus was experiencing. So we have no reason to doubt the Luke testimony that "his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood."

The First Interrogation
Anytime that Jesus made a pertinent point, such as protesting how openly he had taught in the Temple and the synagogues, the guards reportedly stepped in to administer a corrective beating.

At these (Jesus') words one of the guards standing
by gave Jesus a slap on the face, saying "Is that the
way that you answer the High Priest? (John 18:22)

The Matthew, Mark, and Luke versions all refer to the guards similarly behaving violently towards Jesus without either interrogator voicing the slightest call for restraint.

They spat in his face and hit him with their fists;
others said as they struck him, "Prophesy to us,
Christ! Who hit you then?" (Matthew 26:67-68)

According to the Matthew, Mark, and Luke versions, Caiaphas ultimately put to Jesus the key question of whether he was the Jewish people's expected messiah.

From this day onward you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power (i.e. God) and
coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64)

At this declaration Caiaphas reportedly tore his priestly robe as a ritual token that Jesus had effectively signed his own death warrant. He pronounced that as Jesus had uttered an obvious, blatant blasphemy, no further witnesses were necessary. Whoever was present on the interrogation side that night, they collectively decided that Jesus deserved to die.

The Scourging: Visions of the nineteenth-century nun Anne Catherine Emmerich, as recounted to her interpreter Clemens Brentano
And now came to meet Jesus the executioners' servants with their whips, rods, and cords. ... There were six of them.... There was something beastly, even devilish, in their appearance, and they were half intoxicated.... Two of the bloodhounds with sanguinary rage began to tear with their whips the sacred back from head to toe.... Our Lord quivered and writhed like a poor worm under the strokes of the criminals' rods.... A large of thick, red juice was brought to them, from which they guzzled until they became perfectly furious from intoxication. They had been at work about a quarter of an hour.... Jesus' body was .... enirely covered with swollen cuts.... The second pair of scourgers now fell upon Jesus with fresh fury. They made use of different rods, rough, as if set with thorns.... Under their furious blows.... his blood squirted around so that the arms of his tormentors were sprinkled with it.... The last two scourgers struck Jesus with whips consisting of small chains, or straps, fastened to an iron handle, the ends furnished with iron points, or hooks. They tore off whole pieces of skin and flesh from his ribs.... Only blood and wounds, only barbarously mangled flesh could be seen on the.... body.... The terrible scourging.... lasted fully three-quarters of an hour.

Sentenced to Death
With or without the bloody excesses of the Gibson movie, Jesus' scourging must have rendered him a very sorry spectacle indeed, wracked in pain, gasping for breath, and covered with great, purplish bruise marks, many no doubt oozing blood from breaks in the skin at each point of impact. Even so, the Roman soldiers had not finished with him. According to the John testimony, they

twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his
head and dressed him a purple robe. They kept
coming up to him and saying "Hail king of the Jews!"
and slapping him in the face. (John 19:2-3)

No doubt some bully boy soldier hit upon the idea of twisting some of the thorn branches into a mock crown, then performing the heavy-handed "coronation" upon this unlikely looking "king of the Jews." For good measure he even threw over the prisoner's bloody shoulders an old cloak, as a "royal robe," to complete his handiwork. In all history, Jesus is the sole individual ever recorded to have received such a mockery, and if only for this reason of singularity, it carries all the hallmarks of having been a real occurrence.

Was our victim subjected to further punishment prior to his crucifixion? Certainly. The mocking "King of the Jews" cloak was removed from Jesus, and his own clothes put back on him. These would inevitably have stuck to his flesh wherever this had already become caked with blood and sweat. He was then made to shoulder the large length of timber on which he would be crucified, and led by the soldiers out of the Praetorium on what would be the last walk of his life.

What was the crucifixion procedure as carried out by the Romans? The first stage was for the victim to be stripped of his clothing. Given all the blood and sweat with which Jesus' body would have been caked when his clothing was returned to him after the scourging, this was all part of the torture. We all know the pain when even a small bandage is pulled sharply away from our skin. Imagine how many times worse this would have been when the "bandaging" was full-length clothing.

The next stage of the crucifixion procedure was the nailing of the victim to the wood of the cross. To carry the weight of an adult body that cross would have demanded some strong nails - heavy and at least six inches long. It would have been via the wrists rather than the palms that Jesus' body would have been nailed to the cross. The driving in of the nail would have hit the median nerve, causing, in Dr. Fred Zugibe's words,

one of the worst pains known to man, which physicians
call causalgia. Soldiers who experienced shrapnel
wounds to the median nerve during World War I often
went into profound shock if the pain was not promptly
relieved ... It was unbearable, burning, and incessant,
like a lightning bolt traversing the arm.

What would have been the effect of ankle-nailing on our victim? Any nail driven through the ankles would almost surely have been as devastating on Jesus' nerves as the continuing torture that he was suffering already from his entire body weight hanging on the nerves and bones in his wrists. This was what crucifixion really involved, and which Jesus - who had done nothing but heal and teach people to lead good lives - had to go through.

(Excerpted from Ian Wilson's Murder at Golgotha - a direct reaction to Mel Gibson's much-talked-about movie The Passion of the Christ. A marvelously detailed account of the last moments of Jesus' earthly life.)

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