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fact. The superstitious and believing Jews must have invented it. They believed in devils and in the possibility of ordering them to leave one set of beings and invade another. They regarded such a transfer as a miracle calculated to bring converts into the fold. The story is grotesquely irrational and may be rejected without hesitation.
Hardly satisfactory or probable, again, is the reply attributed by the believing Jews to Jesus in connection with the question of the scribes and hypocrites, “By what authority doest thou do these (miraculous) things?" He is represented as knowing that the question was tricky and as resenting it. Yet what does he do? Decline to answer, treat his questioners with deserved contempt? No; he is said to have asked them a question about the baptism of John-a question they could not answer without getting themselves into trouble. Since, being hypocrites, they naturally gave an evasive answer, Jesus found in that evasion a sufficient reason for refraining from answering their question respecting his authority. The placing of Jesus on the level of the scribes and hypocrites is not exactly a tribute to his person or mission. Because they were cowardly and insincere, it did not follow that he was justified in his refusal to give a frank answer! If he wished to defy them and expose their cunning and treachery, other episodes recorded of him show that he knew how to do that without comparing himself with men he despised and often chastised. Again, we must doubt the accuracy of the report of the incident.
Finally, we come to the most astonishing riddle-or paradoxin the whole narrative-namely, the alleged complaint and cry of despair on Jesus' part about the ninth hour after the crucifixion. Matthew and Mark give virtually the same account of the alleged outburst. To quote the latter:
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, which, being interpreted, is My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? . . .
"And Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost."
The account of the alleged episode in Matthew is, except for verbal differences of slight importance, identical with the above. Not so with Luke's version, however. According to Luke, Jesus, after crying (something) with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." According to John, Jesus uttered no cry at all while on the cross. but said, "I thirst" in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, and
after receiving the vinegar, only said, “it is finished," bowed his head and gave up the ghost.
Which is the correct version? We cannot answer this question unless we consider the probabilities of the case; unless we ask whether Jesus could have uttered cries of despair and astonishment without contradicting some of his most solemn and deliberate previous sayings and interpretations of his high and unique mission. Many theologians are sorely perplexed by the alleged bitter cry and complaint, and some, absurdly enough, see in it a consistent reference to that very mission. But the latter cannot, by any amount of ingenuity or sophistry, reconcile the alleged complaint with the following statements of Mark:
"For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day."
"Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"
How can the Son of man, after thus foretelling his fate and glorying in it, complain of or to God of the failure to save him from that fate? Is it reasonable to assume that Jesus was at the last unequal to his ordeal, though he had expected it and appreciated its significance in the whole drama ? Inconsistency is human and pardonable, even in a genius, but why assume it?
That Jesus said something on the cross is morally certain. Just what he said, and the words he used, we shall never know. The recorders of his final sayings were not present at the crucifixion; they had to accept the dubious testimony of believing Jews, who, perhaps. relied on the impressions and recollections of other believing Jews.
Enough has been said to demonstrate the proposition that in studying the gospels the only safe and rational course is to disregard incongruities, contradictions and divergencies, and to form a conception or image of Jesus on the strength, solely, of his most vital and essential doctrines and sayings. To do that is entirely legitimate; it is the course adopted by all philosophical historians and biographers. But, alas, to do that is to arrive at the depressing conclusion that few of the self-styled Christians care to live up to the cardinal and central teachings of Jesus. Some day Christianity may become a religion—a guiding creed and way of life for civilized men and women; so far, Christianity has been a barren ideal, a form of lip service. Jesus is admired, but not obeyed or followed. A religion men do not live by is not a religion.
REVERENCE OF RANCOR AND REVENGE
BY HARDIN T. MCCLELLAND
N FIRST notice, a contradiction would seem to be here given,
but there really are some sects whose members grow devout and dignified only when there is a program of umbrage and intolerance, rancor and revenge. The destructive spirit is purposely cultivated and refined until the whole ritual and rubric is given over to nihilist procedure, blood sacrifice, eternal damnation and malicious ceremony. The Kamitok celebration of the ugly Siberian Chuckchi, with its orgy of sensual pleasure and its wild climax of war dances and the depraved sense of filial piety expressed in murdering the sick, aged and infirm, gives full play and free hand to anyone wishing to exercise his vengence on an enemy even within the same tribe; one good feature of the feast is that when a killer hesitates or appears to be unwilling to perform the ritual atrocities he is considered sick or infirm himself and straightway becomes a victim of the ceremony, thus quickening the tribe's approach to extinction. Internecine practice is not so horrible when it offsets increase of offspring by incest. In the rites of the Burmese Buddhists great license of speech and action is allowed, and advantage is often taken by vindictive priests and almsmongers to read into the text a private plea for sacrifice and succor ; when the occasion for sacrifice is near at hand some victim must be found and fattened so as to appear worthy and acceptable to the gods. But neither of these malicious phases of religious practice and devotion can be considered as suave in subtle vengeance as the creed of the Yezdis who worship death and the devil, bowing to the peacock symbol of creation through pride and destruction, immolation and phoenix rebirth. Although their great patron saint, the last Sassanian king, Yezdegerd, was completely routed when the Mohammedans conquered Persia, there are many secret rites of death and deviltry still practiced here and there throughout Armenia, Mesopotamia and Kurdistan.
But we of the professedly Christian nations are little better or different, except that our methods of approach and assent are more seductive and insidious; both sorts of rituals or rubrics are red, theirs with blood and ours with ink, theirs is honest and realistic, while ours is specious and symbolistic. By all manner of promised reward and threatened torture, equally questionable salvation and damnation are held ever imminent over our lives. Historical Christianity is a bloody chronicle of eristic controversy, passional conflicts, sacerdotal assumption, strategems and spoils ; it has tried to cudgel its proselytes and bribe its devotees into submission; it has even attempted with occasional success, to compromise philosophy and secular government. It has almost invariably sought prestige in this world by simony of rewards in the next; advancement and expansion making little treasure for the humble. Church doctrines, whether Christian or not, usually advance first a program of persuasion and inducement veiled more or less thinly under promise of power, knowledge, influence or other reward; and when these tactics fail, the true disposition comes forth and recourse is had to a more coercive policy, while if the opposition is specially well directed or entrenched, "good old Bourbon Orthodoxy” will parry with a program of retribution and revenge. It is quick enough to assume a title to a tithe of this world's treasure, but loathe to assume any responsibility for its trouble, sin or sorrow; this is the usual happiness-philosophy of every worldling who ever wanted the sweet without the bitter. The Church idea of religion is "Catch fish while you may though suckers are better than none; the world is full of religions and the Devil rules all but one." (Heinie: Gods in Exile.)
The first pronouncements of the Old Testament largely affecting problems or conditions of the present life only, are carried further in the New and are made to apply even more inexorably to our lives hereafter. Conscious bliss or torment is prescribed for the selfsame reason that any other joy or sorrow is predicted—because no power of persuasion exists in an argument which has nothing personal to offer, which promises an impersonal disembodied future full of unconscious rewards and inexperienceable punishments. Dogmatic religion used the ruthless bludgeons of corrupt desire and superstitious fear to discipline(?) a phase of human nature which is still incorrigible and irreverent. It took more stock in cupidity and credulity than in commonsense and courage; that alone accounts for half the fools and knaves which swarm and buzz in futile industry around our flourishing religious pragmatism. Utility and power have no honest sense of creative genius, courage, devotion, love or piety. We are veneered to smothering, but we are really very little more civilized than Izedi or Chuckchi. Any malicious eschatology is no more fallacious than one which offers us all the heavenly beatitudes for a mere pittance of learning and lip-service.
All the crawfish apologists in the world, whatever religious code they champion, have evaded the challenge of scientific criticism with this or that imbecile quotation, irrelevant issue, textual anagoge, Gnostic hermeneutic or intellectual entrechat. But they do not once acknowledge or try to see that a few pagan and patristic traditions can discount not one title of life, much less render effective categorical imperatives against the immutable laws of the Universe. Institutional Christianity, or churchianity in any creed, is indeed a weak religion casting desperately about for grounds and proofs and sanctions, especially when, failing in this, it has to resort to vulgar subterfuge and bribe or threaten its way into the hearts and minds of men. But I do not believe it would resort to this picayune procedure if it were not basically fallacious and corrupt; in fact if it did not covet the very power and authority over individual citizens which ancient kings and modern states have for ninety centuries been strangely able to exercise. It is uncommon that vested authority, whether secular or “spiritual,” is ever very effectively opposed by the private individual until he himself has assumed some appreciable degree of authority, copying the vestry tactics of superior power or subtle persuasion, while sometimes having to fall back on those less subtle tokens of moral suasion known as penalties and persecutions, conscription and confiscation, condemnation and exile (or excommunication).
Dante, the most atrocious and melodramatic chronicler of Hell's freeze-over, gloried in devising endless agonies for his enemies. He claims blithely that eternal punishment is necessary to prevent the sinner's relapse after having once been aroused to be good. (I know of many church members in good standing who will wish that their own particular form of relapse had not been quite so worldly and gregarious.) But some excuse is allowed to Dante, as it was a popular fad with the poets and priests of the medieval days to refine and enlarge upon the different kinds of evil, culpability, retribution and damnation; all sorts of pre-arranged sortilege, seduction and suppression were in vogue, the common policy being shaped to fit the cynical humanism that everyone had either to be bribed, wheedled, blackmailed or forced into formulist virtue or conversion. All this