Josephus mentions in his Contra Apionem that it was granted to him as a favour by Titus, at Tekoa, that he might have three crucified men whom he knew taken down from the cross.
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter five||
The feeding of the five thousand is explained in the following way. When Jesus saw the multitude and hungered, He said to His disciples, “We will set the rich people among them a good example, that they may share their supplies with the others,” and he began to distribute His own provisions, and those of the disciples, to the people who were sitting near them. The example had its effect, and soon there was plenty for every one. The explanation of the transfiguration is somewhat more complicated. While Jesus was lingering with a few followers in this mountainous district He had an interview upon a high mountain at night with two dignified-looking men whom His three companions took for Moses and Elias. These unknown persons, as we learn from Luke ix. 31, informed Him of the fate which awaited Him at Jerusalem. In the early morning, as the sun was rising, the three disciples, only half awake, looked upwards from the hollow in which they had been sleeping and saw Jesus with the two strangers upon the higher part of the mountain, illuminated by the beams of the rising sun, and heard them speak, now of the fate which threatened Him in the capital, now of the duty of steadfastness and the hopes attached thereto, and finally heard an exhortation addressed to themselves, bidding them ever to hold Jesus to be the beloved Son of the Deity, whom they must obey. . . . Their drowsiness, and the clouds which in an autumnal sunrise float to and fro over those mountains, left them no clear recollection of what had happened. This only added to the wonder of the vague undefined impression of having been in contact with apparitions from a higher sphere. The three who had been with Him on the mount never arrived at any more definite knowledge of the facts, because Jesus forbade them to speak of what they had seen until the end should come.
In dealing with the raisings from the dead the author is in his element. Here he is ready with the unfailing explanation taken over from Bahrdt that they were only cases of coma. These narratives should not be headed “raisings from the dead,” but “deliverances from premature burial.” In Judaea, interment took place three hours after death. How many seemingly dead people may have returned to consciousness in their graves, and then have perished miserably! Thus Jesus, owing to a presentiment suggested to Him by the father’s story, saves the daughter of Jairus from being buried while in a cataleptic trance. A similar presentiment led Him to remove the covering of the bier which He met at the gate of Nain, and to discover traces of life in the widow’s son. A similar instinct moved Him to ask to be taken to the grave of Lazarus. When the stone is rolled away He sees His friend standing upright and calls to him joyfully, “Come forth!”
The Jewish love of miracle “caused everything to be ascribed immediately to the Deity, and secondary causes to be overlooked; consequently no thought was unfortunately given to the question of how to prevent these horrible cases of premature burial from taking place!” But why does it not appear strange to Paulus that Jesus did not enlighten His countrymen as to the criminal character of over-hasty burial, instead of allowing even his closest followers to believe in miracle? Here the hypothesis condemns itself, although it has a foundation of fact, in so far as cases of premature burial are abnormally frequent in the East.
The resurrection of Jesus must be brought under the same category if we are to hold fast to the facts that the disciples saw Him in His natural body with the print of the nails in His hands, and that He took food in their presence. Death from crucifixion was in fact due to a condition of rigor, which extended gradually inwards. It was the slowest of all deaths. Josephus mentions in his Contra Apionem that it was granted to him as a favour by Titus, at Tekoa, that he might have three crucified men whom he knew taken down from the cross. Two of them died, but one recovered. Jesus, however, “died” surprisingly quickly. The loud cry which he uttered immediately before His head sank shows that His strength was far from being exhausted, and that what supervened was only a death-like trance. In such trances the process of dying continues until corruption sets in. “This alone proves that the process is complete and that death has actually taken place.”
 Paulus prided himself on a very exact acquaintance with the physical and geographical conditions of Palestine. He had a wide knowledge of the Literature of Eastern travel.—TRANSLATOR.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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