Civilization in Muslim Spain

JANUARY 1985 EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF CRUCIFIXION 23 AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE CRUCIFIXION By Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhri In 1907, a book titled The Crucifixion by an Eyewitness was published by the Indo-American Book Co. of Chicago. It was an English translation of a Latin manuscript found in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 19th century. This manuscript was in the form of a letter written in Latin by an elder of the Essene Brotherhood in Jeru- salem to his Essene brethren in Alexandria in reply to their letter inquiring the truth about Jesus about whom they had heard rumors. The letter was written seven years after the crucifixion by a person who claims to have been an eyewitness to the event of crucifixion. He describes it in detail. About the origins of this Latin manuscript, the translator writes in the preface of this book: “A member of the Abyssinian Mercantile Company discovered in Alexandria an ancient house, formerly occupied by Grecian friars, in whose library—to oblivion abandoned—was found an old parch- ment. A French literate, accidentally present, at once commenced deciphering it; but a missionary, in the ardor of fanatical orthodoxy, tried by all means to destroy the antique document. But the efforts of the Jesuit missionary do not seem to have been successful, as a copy of the Latin original was written, of which a copy, through the Freemasons, found its way into Germany. It has been proved from the archeological discoveries made on the spot, that the house where the parchment was found was owned and occupied by the Order of “Essenes.” Further, that the document found was the only remains of literature from the once well-filled library of this scientific and religious Order of Brotherhood. The French literate, who first conceived the importance and historical worth of the manuscript, tried hard to enrich the French Academy with the original, but, owing to the intrigues of the Jesuit mission in Egypt (bent on destroying a document so detrimental to their doctrine), he was not successful; although it was preserved principally through the interference of influential Abyssinian mer- chants and Pythagorical Societies, from whom the copy above spoke of, came into the possession of the modern institution of 24 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 Freemasons, and a society in Germany now possesses, without doubt, the only copy in existence”, (pp. 17-18) The letter opens with the Essene greeting “Peace be with you dear brethren”. In the early part of the letter some of the events of the life of Jesus are described and it is stated that Jesus was a member of the Essene Brotherhood and that he was initiated at a place called Jutha, close to the Castle of Masseda. Details of the initiation ceremonies are given and it is further stated that John the Baptist was also an Essene and was initiated along with Jesus. About Jesus, the author writes: “He was sent of God, chosen by the Almighty, beloved of us all, and inspired both in teaching and in the knowledge of nature and its elements”, (p. 55). While describing the events of crucifixion in detail, the author says that the Essene policy was not to interfere in public matters. Never- theless they tried to save Jesus by their secret efforts. About the nail- ing of Jesus on the cross, the writer says that contrary to rumors, only the hands of Jesus were pierced through with thick iron nails but not his feet. This seems credible as otherwise Jesus would not have been able to journey on foot on the road to Emmaus, on Sun- day evening so soon after being nailed to the cross. Describing the event of the cross, the author of the letter writes as an eyewitness: “Darkness descended over the earth, and the people returned to Jerusalem. But Jesus’s disciples, his friends, and the leaders of our holy Order remained on Golgotha, our Order having nearby a colony for worship and for partaking of our feast of love. “And Jesus recognized his mother among the weeping women from Galilee, standing close by the silent John (the Evangelist). Jesus called out loudly, in the anguish of his pain, citing the twenty-second Psalm, praying God thereby to deliver him from his sufferings. “The heat grew steadily more intense, more unendurable, and a fire was forming in the earth and air, such as is essential to the purification of the elements. The Essene brethren, through their knowledge of nature and its elements, knew that an earthquake was coming, as had formerly occurred in the days of our forefathers. “As the night approached, the earth began a terrible shaking, and the Roman Centurion became so terrified that he prayed to the heathen gods. He believed that Jesus was beloved by the gods. Most of the frightened people hastily departed from the place and returned to Jerusalem; and the Centurion, who was a noble man of JANUARY 1985 EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF CRUCIFIXION 25 compassionate nature, permitted John to conduct the mother of Jesus close to the cross. “As he recommended his mother to the care of John, it was growing darker, although the full moon should have been shining in the heavens. From the Dead Sea was observed to rise a thick, reddish fog. The mountain ridges round about Jerusalem shook violently, and .the head of Jesus sank down upon his breast. ‘ ‘When he uttered his last groan of pain and anguish, and passed away, a hissing sound was heard in the air; and they of the Jews that still remained were seized by a great fear, for they believed that the evil spirits who dwell between heaven and earth were pro- ceeding-to punish the people. It was that strange and unusual sound in the air that precedes an earthquake. “Soon the mountain began to shake, the surrounding country and the city commenced to rock, and the thick walls of the temple gave way until the veil in the temple parted and fell from its place. Even the rocks burst asunder, and the hewn sepulchres in the rock were destroyed, as were also many of the corpses kept therein. “And as the’ Jews regarded all this as extremely supernatural, so , . the Roman Centurion believed now in the divinity and innocence of Christ, and comforted his mother.” There was a certain Joseph, from Arimathea. He was rich, and being a member of the council, he was much esteemed by the peo- ple. He was a prudent man, and whilst he did not appear to belong to any party, he was secretly a member of our sacred Order and liv- ed in accordance with our laws. His friend Nicodemus was a most learned man, and belonged to the highest degree of our Order. He knew the secrets of the “Terapeuts,” and was often together with us. “Now it so happened that after the earthquake, and many of the people had gone away, Joseph and Nicodemus arrived at the cross. They were informed of the death of the crucified, in the garden of our Brethren, not far from Calvary. “Although they loudly lamented his fate,”it nevertheless ap- peared strange to them that Jesus, having hung less than seven hours, should already be dead. They could not believe it, and hasti- ly went up to the place. There they found John alone, he having determined to see what became of the beloved body. “Joseph and Nicodemus examined the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus, greatly moved, drew Joseph aside and said to him: ‘ ‘As sure as is my knowledge of life and nature, so sure it is possi- ble to save him.” “But Joseph did not understand him, and he admonished us that we should not tell John of what we had heard. Indeed, it was a secret to save our Brother from death. Nicodemus shouted: “We 26 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 must immediately have the body with its bones unbroken, because he may still be saved”, then, realizing his want of caution, he con- tinued in a whisper, “saved from being infamously buried.” “He persuaded Joseph to disregard his own interest, that he might save their Friend by going immediately to Pilatus, and prevailing upon him to permit them to take Jesus’ body from the cross that very night and put it in the sepulcher, hewn in the rock close by, and which belonged to Joseph. “I, understanding what he meant, remained with John to watch the cross and prevent the soldiers from breaking the bones of Jesus”. “The Jewish council had already demanded of Pilate an order to the soldiers to break the bones of the crucified, that they might be buried.” “Soon after Joseph and Nicodemus had departed, each one on a sacred mission, a messenger arrived bringing the order to the Centurion to take down the corpses and bury them. I myself was greatly agitated by this information, for I knew that if he were not handled with great care he could not be saved, and still less if his bones were to be broken.” “As the messenger arrived I hastened to him, thinking and hoping that Joseph already might have seen Pilate, a thing of which there in reality was no possibility.” “Does Pilate send you?” I asked of him. And he answered, “I come not from Pilate, but from his Secretary, who acts for the governor in such important matters”. “The Centurion, observing my anxiety, looked at me, and in the manner of a friend I said to him: “You have seen that this man that is crucified is an uncommon man. Do not maltreat him, for a rich man among the people is now with Pilate, to offer him money for the corpse, that he may give it a decent burial.” “My dear Brethren, I must inform you that Pilate often did sell the bodies of the curcified to their friends, that they might bury them.” “And the Centurion was friendly to me, inasmuch as he had conceived from the events that Jesus was an innocent man. And therefore, when the two thieves were beaten by the soldiers with heavy clubs and their bones broken the Centurion went past the cross of Jesus, saying to the soldiers: “Do not break his bones, for he is dead. “To be sure of it, one of the soldiers stuck his spear into the body in such manner that it passed over the hip and into the side. The body showed no convulsions, and this was taken by the Cen- turion as a sure sign that he actually was dead; and he hurriedly went away to make his report. JANUARY 1985 EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF CRUCIFIXION 27 “But from the insignificant wound flowed blood and water, at which John wondered, and my own hope revived. For even John knew, from knowledge of our Brotherhood, that from a wound in a dead body flows nothing but a few drops of thickened blood; but now there flowed both water and blood, “Joseph and Nicodemus returned in great haste. Joseph through his dignity had moved Pilate, and Pilate, having received informa- tion as to the death of the crucified, gave the body to Joseph, and without taking any pay therefor. For Pilate had a great reverence for Joseph, and secretly repented of the execution. When Nicodemus saw the wound, flow- ing with water and blood, his eyes were animated with new hope, and he spoke encouragingly, foreseeing what was to happen. “He drew Joseph aside to where I stood, some distance from John, and spoke in a low, hurried tone: “Dear friends, be of good cheer, and let us to work. Jesus is not dead. He seems so only because his strength is gone. “While Joseph was with Pilate I hurried over to our colony and fetched the herbs that are useful in such cases. But I admonish you that you tell not John that we hope to reanimate the body of Jesus, lest he could not conceal his great joy. And dangerous indeed would it be if the people should come to know it, for our enemies would then put us all to death with him. “After they hurried to the cross, and, according to the prescrip- tions of the medical art, they slowly untied his bonds, drew the spikes out from his hands, and with great care laid him on the ground. “Thereupon, Nicodemus spread strong spices and healing salves on long pieces of “byssus” which he had brought, and whose use was known only in our Order. “These he wound about Jesus’ body, pretending that he did so to keep the body from decaying until after the feast, when he would then embalm it. “These spices and salves had great healing powers, and were us- ed by our Essene Brethren who knew the rules of medical science for the restoration to consciousness of those in a state of death-like fainting. And even as Joseph and Nicodemus were bending over his face and their tears fell upon him, they blew into him their own breath, and warmed his temples. “Still Joseph was doubtful of his recovery to life, but Nicodemus encouraged him to increase their efforts. Nicodemus spread balsam in both the nail pierced hands, but he believed that it was not best to close up the wound in Jesus’ side, because he considered the flow of blood and water therefrom helpful to respiration and beneficial in the renewing of life. 28 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 “The body was then laid in the sepulchre made in the rocks, which belonged to Joseph. They then smoked the grotto with aloe and other strengthening herbs, and while the body lay upon the bed of moss, still stiff and inanimate, they placed a large stone in front of the entrance, that the vapors might better fill the grotto. But Caiaphas, although it was the Sabbath day, had sent out his secret spies. He was anxious to know who were the secret friends of Jesus. His suspicions had fallen upon Pilate because of his having given Joseph of Arimathea the body without any pay, he being rich, a Rabbi and member of the high council, who never had appeared to take any interest in the case of Jesus previously, but who now had given his own place of burial for the crucified.” “Fear of this caused him great anxiety, and for this reason he hoped to discover some secret means of accusing Joseph and hav- ing him thrown into prison. He betrayed this fact himself by send- ing late in the night a number of his armed servants to an obscure valley close by the grotto in which lay the body of Jesus. Some distance from them was stationed a detachment of the temple guard, to assist the servants of the high-priest, if necessary. “But the rumor has told you that these guards were Roman sol- diers, which was not the case. The high-priest even distrusted Pilate. • “Meanwhile, Nicodemus had hastened with me to our brethren, and the oldest and wisest came to confer as to the best means of restoring Jesus to life. And the brethren agreed immediately to send a guard to the grove. Joseph and Nicodemus hurried to the city, there to fulfil their further mission. “After midnight and towards morning, the earth again com- menced to shake, and the air became very oppressive. The rocks shook and cracked. Red flames burst forth from the crevices, illu- minating the red mists of morning. “This was, indeed, a dreadful night. Beasts, horrified by the earthquake, ran howling and crying in every direction. Through the narrow opening the little lamp in the grotto threw trembling shadows into the horrible night, and the servants of the high-priest were full of feax, listening to the hissing in the air and the roaring and rumbling in the earth. “One of.our brethren went to the grave, in obedience to the order of the Brotherhood, dressed in the white robe of the fourth degree. He went by way of a secret path which ran through the mountain to the grave, and which was known only to the order. “When the timid servants of the high-priest saw the white-robed Brother on the mountain slowly approaching, and partially obscured by the morning mist, they were seized with a great fear, and they thought that an angel was descending from the mountain. JANUARY 1985 EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF CRUCIFIXION 29 “When this Brother arrived at the grave which he was to guard, he rested on the stone which he had pulled from the entrance according to his orders; whereupon the soldiers fled and spread the report that an angel had driven them away. “Thirty hours had now passed since the assumed death of Jesus. And when the Brother, having heard a slight noise within the grotto, went in to observe what had happened, he smelled a strange odor in the air, such as often occurs when the earth is about to vomit forth fire. “And the youth observed with inexpressible joy that the lips of the body moved, and that it breathed. He at once hastened to Jesus to assist him, and heard slight sounds rising from his breast. The face assumed a living appearance, and the eyes opened and in astonishment gazed at the novice of our Order. ‘ ‘This occurred just as I was leaving with the brethren of the first degree, from the council, with Joseph, who had come to consult how to bring help. “Nicodemus, who was an experienced physician, said, on the way, that the peculiar condition of the atmosphere caused by the revolution of the elements was beneficial to Jesus, and that he never had believed that Jesus was really dead. And he further said that the blood and water which flowed from the wound was a sure sign that life was not extinct. “Conversing thus, we arrived at the grotto, Joseph and Nicodemus going before. We were, in all, twenty-four brethren of the first degree. “Entering, we perceived the white-robed novice kneeling upon the moss strewn floor of the grotto, supporting the head of the revived Jesus on his breast. “And as Jesus recognized his Essene friends, his eyes sparkled with joy; his cheeks were tinted with a faint red, and he sat up, asking: “Where am I?” “Then Joseph embraced him, folded him in his arms, told him how it had all come to pass, and how he was saved from actual death by a profound fainting fit, which the soldiers on Calvary thought was death. “And Jesus wondered, and felt on himself; and, praising God, he wept on the breast of Joseph. Then Nicodemus urged his friends to take some refreshments, and he ate some dates and some bread dipped in honey. And Nicodemus gave wine to drink, after which Jesus was greatly refreshed, so that he raised himself up. “Then it was that he became conscious of the wounds in his hands and in his side. But the balsam which Nicodemus had spread upon them had a soothing effect, and they had already commenced to heal. 30 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 “After the “byssus” wrappings had been taken off and the muckender was removed from his head, Joseph spoke and said: ‘This is not a place in which to remain longer, for here the enemies might easily discover our secret, and betray us.’ “But Jesus was not yet strong enough to walk far, wherefore he was conducted to the house belonging to our Order, that is close by Calvary, in the garden, which also belongs to our brethren. “Another young Brother of our Order was dispatched at once to assist the novice who had been watching by the grave of Jesus, to annihilate every trace of the byssus wrappings and the medicines and drugs used. “When Jesus arrived at the house of our brethren he was faint and weak. His wounds had begun to cause him pain. He was much moved, in that he considered it all as a miracle. “God has let me rise,” he said, “that he may prove in me that which I have taught, and I will show my disciples that I do live.” .(pp. 62-82) According to the author, it was one of the Essene members who was present in sepulcture who said to the women when they came to visit the site: “Jesus is risen. Do not look for him here. Say to his disciples that they will find him in Galilee.” (p. 83) As Jesus was anxious to see his disciples and prove that he was still alive, members of the Essene sect advised him to live in seclusion for the sake of his safety and thus remain “dead to the world”. Then one of the elders of the Brotherhood said: “Thou art not safe in this country, for they will search after thee. Do not, therefore, go any more among the people to teach, for what thou hast taught will live among thy friends forever, and thy disciples will publish it to the world. Remain, I pray thee, dead to the world. The Brotherhood has brought thee back to life through its secrets, therefore live henceforth for our holy Order to which thou art bound. Live in the seclusion of wisdom and virtue, unknown to the world, (p. 91) “And the brethren warned Jesus of his danger, that he might avoid his enemies and thus fulfil his mission. For they had been secretly informed that Caiaphas intended quietly to arrest and assassinate Jesus, in that he believed him to be a deceiver.” (p. 118) After this, the author of the letter relates various journeys and ap- pearances of Jesus in post crucifixion period. In contrast to the ac- counts of gospels which describe his appearances as sudden, mysterious, without adequate details and proper sequence, the descriptions by the author are logical and detailed. It is stated that JANUARY 1985 EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF CRUCIFIXION 31 while traveling, he was helped by members of the Essene sect with whom he stayed in various towns and the countryside. On the urging of his Essene friends, Jesus consented to go into solitude and return to the solitary countryside near the Dead Sea where an Essene community lived. On Jesus’ bidding farewell to his disciples on Mount Olive, the letter says: “And Jesus led them to the place most dear to him, near the summit of Mount Olive, where can be seen almost the whole of the land of Palestine; for Jesus longed once more to look upon the country where he had lived and worked. “To the east was seen Jordan, the Dead Sea, and the Arabian Mountains; and to the west shone the fires from the Temple Rock; but on the other side of the mountain was Bethania. “And the chosen disciples believed that Jesus would lead them to Bethania. But the elders of the Brotherhood had silently come together on the other side of the mountain, ready to travel, waiting with Jesus, as had been agreed upon. “And he exhorted his disciples to be of good cheer, and firm in their faith. As he spoke, his voice grew more and more melancho- ly, and his mind was absorbed in solemn transport. “He prayed for the friends he was about to leave, and lifting his arms he blessed them. And the mist rose around the mountain, tinted by the descending sun. “Then the elders of the Essene Brotherhood sent word to Jesus that they were waiting, and that it was then already late. “As the disciples knelt down, their faces bent toward the ground, Jesus rose and hastily went away through the gathering mist. When the disciples rose, there stood before them two of our brethren in the white garb of the Brotherhood, and they instructed them not to wait for Jesus, as he was gone, whereupon they hastened away down the mountain. “But in the city there arose a rumor that Jesus was taken up in a cloud, and had gone to heaven. This was invented by the people who had not been present when Jesus departed. The disciples did not contradict this rumor, inasmuch as it served to strengthen their doctrine, and influenced the people who wanted a miracle in order to believe in him.” (pp. 123-125) At the end of the letter, it says about Jesus’ life in seclusion: “But Joseph and Nicodemus had three times been with him in his place of concealment. And on their return they informed us of him. But his body was not vigorous enough to overcome the suf- ferings he had endured for want of rest. 32 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 But Joseph and Nicodemus had been with him the last full time when the sixth full moon was waning, and they came to our Brotherhood as we were preparing to partake of the feast of love, and revealed the secret to the elder of the Order. And their hearts were sorely grieved, for the chosen one was taken up into the heavenly dwellings of the Father. “The Eternal Spirit had gently burst the clay, and tranquil as his life was his death. “And he was buried by the physician close by the Dead Sea, as bids the regulations of our Brotherhood. “But Nicodemus enjoined silence concerning the death of his friend, to all who did not belong to the highest degree.” (p. 127-128) The author of the letter was not present and was not a witness to the supposed death and burial of Jesus close to the Dead Sea. Ob- viously he wrote about this part from hearsay. When Jesus had returned to the wilderness near the Dead Sea in company of the Essene community there, his friends wanted to keep it a secret as is obvious from their advice to Jesus to remain “dead to the world”. Probably it was this desire to keep silent about the life of Jesus, after he bade farewell to his disciples on Mount Olive, which resulted in rumors about his death on the Dead Sea shore. It is probable and ra- tional that Jesus wanted to keep secrecy about his period of stay in Palestine after the crucifixion as he was preparing to travel to the East in search of the lost Isralite tribes. We do not think that Jesus died on the Dead Sea shore as there is evidence of his migration to Kashmir in Northern India. Nevertheless, this letter by a leader of the Essene Brotherhood in Jerusalem, who claims to be an eyewitness to crucifixion, is most in- teresting and significant. -It gives a logical explanation of events which are shrouded in mystery in the Gospels. It confirms our thesis that Jesus did not die on the cross but was only mistaken as such and that he recovered due to the efforts of his secret disciples and friends. It gives details of efforts by the Essene Brotherhood to save Jesus from death at the hands of his enemies and their help in the post crucifixion period. It provides an explanation as to where Jesus lived in between his appearances to his disciples and about which the Gospels tell us nothing at all. The letter clarifies the mystery of men clothed in white robes which were seen in seplucher and also at Jesus’ departure at Mount Olive as related by the Gospels. It (continued on page 38)