Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 12, 2020
Shavuah Tov and Chol-HaMo’ed Same’ach (Happy Half-Holiday),
He is Risen! (Part 3 of 3)
By Raymond Finney
“HE IS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID:” But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Yeshua who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
INTRODUCTION: This report represents the third question-and-answer RR in a three-part series on the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiach.
WHERE WAS GOLGOTHA? Yeshua was crucified at Golgotha. From the Aramaic, Golgotha translates to “Skull” or “Place of the Skull.” The Latin equivalent of Golgotha is Calvaria (source of the English “Calvary,” which also translates to ”Skull”). In anatomy, the calvarium is the rounded brain case, or the portion of the skull which excludes the lower jaw (mandible) and lower facial bones.
Some believe there was, here, a rock formation resembling a skull. Others believe “the Skull” merely referred to a place of execution. Outside of Jerusalem’s walls on Mt. Moriah alongside an ancient footpath (near the Damascus Gate, across from today’s bus station) is a craggy rock cliff. There are still indentations in the cliff which resemble the orbits (eye sockets) and nose of a skull. Is this cliff Golgotha? See multiple photographs of the presumptive Golgotha rock formation (piactured above and) at: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FT8rGZeB9oAuxlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=golgotha+pictures&fr=mcafee .
Could Yeshua and the two criminals have been crucified by the side of this cliff alongside a footpath frequented by many Jerusalem citizens? This thought is consistent with John 19:17-18: Then they took Yeshua. He went out, carrying His own crossbar, to the Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on each side and Yeshua in between.
WHAT CAUSED THE DARKNESS AT NOON DURING YESHUA’S CRUCIFIXION? Gospel accounts record a supernatural event, inexplicable by man’s knowledge (Matthew 27:45): Now from the sixth hour, darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. The same event is recorded in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:45. [Sixth hour = noon; ninth hour = 3:00 pm]
Some might dismiss this darkness as a solar eclipse. Wrong! Yeshua was crucified in the season of Passover, which occurs at the time of a full moon. For a solar eclipse to occur, the moon must pass between the sun and earth. With a full moon, the sun and moon are opposite each other in our view of the sky, and the moon cannot orbit between the sun and earth. Also, a solar eclipse shields sunlight from the earth for only a very few minutes, not three hours.
Disbelievers say this was just a tale concocted by Gospel authors to elevate the status of their Messiah. Wrong! There are multiple writings, often by non-Believer authors, to substantiate this Gospel claim, including:
** The Syrian Greek historian Thallus, a pagan, wrote his book of history, “Third History,” in AD 52 (approximately twenty years after Yeshua’s crucifixion), stating that darkness totally covered the land at the time of Passover in the year Yeshua was crucified.
** A little later, Julius Africanus quoted Thallus’ historical account, adding credence that Thallus’ manuscript was not tampered with by a later generation of Believers.
** Another Greek pagan historian, Phlegon, wrote in his book, “Olympiades,” in AD 138 about the “great and extraordinary” darkness of the sun that occurred at the time of Yeshua’s death.
** The Christian historian Tertullian (AD 160-220) consulted official Roman government archives available in his day (since destroyed), and found that official documents recorded an unusual darkness that occurred at noon at the time of Yeshua’s crucifixion.
** Similarly, the Christian teacher Lucian of Antioch wrote about reading the account of darkness during the reign of Pilate in official Roman archives, before Lucian’s death as a martyr in AD 312. Roman officials, including Pilate, were required to make annual reports to Rome to document noteworthy or unusual occurrences in the provinces. Such archives have since been destroyed, but Lucian’s account adds credibility to the claim that Pilate reported an unusual darkness in the season and year of Yeshua’s crucifixion.
** The Gospels were written, at most, a few decades after Yeshua’s crucifixion. Early Christians knew about this supernatural darkness, because they experienced it. Later Christians read about the darkness in official Roman records, before the records were destroyed as Rome fell. This darkness was known and discussed throughout the Roman Empire, but not one person wrote that this event, claimed by Christians and pagans alike, did not occur.
Amos, who wrote his prophecies nearly eight centuries before Yeshua’s crucifixion, prophesied this darkness at noon and the mourning for an only Son (Amos 8:9-10): “It will be in that day” – declares my Lord Adonai– “I will make the sun go down at noon, yes, I will darken the earth in daylight. I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into a dirge. I will pull up sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head. I will make it like the mourning for an only son– its end a bitter day.”
The significance of this supernatural darkness is that man tried to kill the Light of the world. See John 9:5: [Yeshua said] “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” God withheld the light of the sun for three hours to show His displeasure. When we rebel against God, we have no assurance that He will continue to grace and bless us. Compare this darkness to the ninth plague sent by God against Egypt to force Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage. This plague was intense darkness for three days (Exodus 10:21-29).
WHY DID YESHUA’S BODY DISAPPEAR FROM HIS TOMB? WHY WERE HIS GRAVE CLOTHS FOLDED? All of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) describe Yeshua’s burial. Yeshua, a pauper, was laid to rest in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. Because the tomb was owned by a rich man, it was fitted with a large, round stone to be rolled across the tomb’s entrance. At the insistence of Jewish religious leaders, Roman guards were stationed at the tomb’s entrance. The Jewish religious elite feared Yeshua’s disciples would steal His body and claim He had been resurrected. The women coming to the tomb to prepare properly Yeshua’s body for burial at daybreak on Sunday (the first day of the week, a day now celebrated as Easter morning) found the guards had fled, the massive stone had been rolled aside, and Yeshua’s grave cloths were folded neatly in the tomb (John 20:1-9): Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Miriam from Magdala comes to the tomb. She sees that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. So she comes running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Yeshua loved. She tells them, “They’ve taken the Master out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put Him!” Then Peter and the other disciple set out, going to the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first. Leaning in, he sees the linen strips lying there. But he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter comes following him, and he entered the tomb. He looks upon the linen strips lying there, and the face cloth that had been on His head. It was not lying with the linen strips, but was rolled up in a place by itself. So then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also entered. He saw and believed. For they did not yet understand from Scripture that Yeshua must rise from the dead.
I wish I had space to write several RRs on this passage, because so much is told to us in these verses! John, “the other disciple” who wrote this Gospel, was an eyewitness, as he entered the empty tomb. He admitted that he and Peter did not fully grasp what they witnessed at this time.
In a later section, I will comment on the linen cloths described by John. Why would John seemingly waste space (John 20:6 -7) on such an insignificant observation that Yeshua’s burial cloths were lying inside the tomb, neatly folded? To us, this observation has no meaning. To a first-century audience, though, this most important observation would have been understood by all.
Yeshua left His grave cloths behind, because He had no further use for them. In John’s Gospel (John 20:6-7), John records that Yeshua’s grave cloths were neatly folded in the tomb. To understand the significance of this observation, consider first-century dining customs. Formal meals may have lasted a lengthy time, much longer than our dinners. If a diner needed to leave the table for some reason but planned to return, he/ she would casually drop the napkin on the table. Servers recognized that this diner planned to return, and the meal setting was left in place. If a diner was through eating and did not plan to return, he/ she would neatly fold the napkin and place it on the table. Servers recognized that this diner would not return, and the meal setting was removed. By neatly folding His burial cloths, Yeshua left a silent message that He was through with the cloths and the tomb, and He would not return. Yeshua’s message to His followers was: “Thank you for the tomb, but I have no more use for it. I shall not return.”
WAS ANYONE ELSE RESURRECTED, WHEN YESHUA WAS RESURRECTED? Yes. We read (Matthew 27:51b-53): … And the earth quaked and rocks were split apart. And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the kedoshim who were sleeping were raised to life. And coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. [kedoshim = holy ones = saints || holy city = Jerusalem] By resurrection of many, God has reassured Believers of all generations that resurrection to eternal life was not only for Yeshua, but is a gift of grace available to all.
Bible critics claim this mass resurrection is a preposterous tale concocted by Gospel authors to prop up Yeshua as God (possessing power of life over death). However, non-canonical manuscripts found in the Ante-Nicene Library (important texts that are not included in the Bible) document that numerous contemporary religious figures saw the saints who arose from the grave with Yeshua. These saints reportedly remained on earth for forty days after Yeshua’s resurrection. We do not include the Apocrypha in our Bible, but consider this apocryphal text from the Gospel of Nicodemus, volume 8, chapter 1: “When we were coming from Galilee we met at the Jordan a very great multitude of men, fathers who had been some time dead. And they went and walked around all the region of the Jordan and the mountains, and they were coming back without finding them. And, behold, suddenly there appeared coming down from Mount Amalech a very great number, as it were, twelve thousand men, who had risen with the Lord.”
IS IT POSSIBLE YESHUA’S BURIAL CLOTHS STILL EXIST? First-century Jews buried their dead by covering the corpse with two pieces of linen. A smaller piece (translated “face cloth” in the previously quoted John 20:1-9 passage) covered the face. Then, the body was placed on a larger strip of linen more than twice the length of the body. This larger piece (shroud) was doubled over the body, sandwiching the body between top and bottom layers of linen. The Gospels tell us that Yeshua’s body was not properly prepared for burial initially because Shabbat was fast approaching, a time when the devout Jewish women would do no work. The women planned to come back to prepare Yeshua’s body after the Shabbat (that is, Sunday morning). Yeshua’s bloodied body would have been covered by the face cloth and the shroud. Blood would have stained both linen cloths. Years ago, I became fascinated with these two relics and read about them extensively. I will spare you details about the relics, other than briefly mentioning them:
** Sudarium (Shroud) of Oviedo: The sudarium, a blood-stained strip of linen, measuring 33 x 21 inches, is kept in the Cámara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain. This cloth first appeared in written documents in AD 570. The cloth was “borrowed” (never returned) from Byzantine owners in AD 614. The cloth was eventually taken to Oviedo, Spain for safe-keeping in ca AD 840.
Blood stains are present, which seem to outline a man’s face (with healthy imagination and faith). A mishmash of illustrations, including the Sudarium, may be seen at: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrE1xk.Dn5eXF0AN0RXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=sudarium+of+oviedo+illustrations&fr=mcafee . Many believe the sudarium is Yeshua’s face cloth cataloged in John 20:6-7. If the Sudarium and the Shroud are placed over each other, blood stains overlap. (That is, the wounds are located the same place in the two relics.) Carbon-dating studies, which appear to make these relics more modern than Yeshua’s lifetime, suffer numerous errors.
** Shroud of Turin: This strip of linen cloth, measuring 14 feet, 5 inches x 3 feet, 7 inches, is housed in the Cathedral of Turin, Turin, Italy. This cloth bears the image of a young man, with blood and body fluid wound stains exactly as Yeshua’s wounds (stigmata) described in the B’rit Chadashah. There is an alteration in the linen threads which appears of near-photographic quality, which may be the image of Yeshua. Scientists cannot explain how this image occurred. Many persons (myself included) believe this relic is the burial cloth (shroud) of Yeshua and the appearance of Yeshua is presented. If so, has God has provided us with an image of Yeshua in this age of end-time apostasy? Did Yeshua or angels neatly fold Yeshua’s burial cloths in the borrowed tomb as a testimony that He had been resurrected? Does Yeshua “speak from the tomb” with this blood-soaked relic?
Multiple photographs of the Shroud are included at: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A2KLfSM3ZX5e4lYAIqVXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=shroud+turin&fr=mcafee . Younger readers may not appreciate the technique differences in these images. They may have never seen a photographic negative. Negatives were present in almost all homes during my youth. Before electronic cameras, cameras used film (a cellulose strip coated with silver salt), which was available in the familiar yellow Kodak boxes in most pharmacies and grocery stores. Light, focused by the camera’s lens, strikes the film, altering the silver particles. When placed in appropriate chemical solutions, the altered silver forms the opposite images of the real subject matter. This altered film record is called a “negative.” From a negative, an opposite (positive) photographic print can be prepared on special paper. In the above-cited Shroud illustrations, the photographs with tan backgrounds are the positive prints, and the photographs with black backgrounds are the negative prints. Some features may be seen better in positive prints, and other features may be seen better in negative prints.
Millions of words have been written about the Shroud (history, scientific studies, and so forth). Some day (maybe), I may write some RRs about the Shroud, which I find to be an extremely interesting topic.
YES, HE IS RISEN! Eyewitness accounts record that Yeshua is risen (an example from Matthew is present at the beginning of this RR). The Apostle Paul simplified the Gospel message to the sacrifice of Yeshua (1 Corinthians 2:2): For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah– and Him crucified. “And Him crucified” summarizes Yeshua as the perfect Passover Lamb sacrifice and His shed blood as the basis of God’s New Covenant with man.
Can a person be a Believer, if he/ she does not believe in the crucifixion death and resurrection to eternal life of Yeshua HaMashiach? Can a person believe in being raised or raptured to eternal life, if he/ she does not believe his/ her Savior has been raised to eternal life? If Yeshua died and His body merely decayed in a tomb, would Yeshua be any better than or different from others who have come to teach mankind how to live? To deny the supernatural miracle of Yeshua’s resurrection is to deny the Divinity of Yeshua.
Yes, nearly two millennia ago, two heartbroken women– Miriam of Magdala and “the other Miriam” – went to a tomb to anoint and prepare the body of Yeshua in the manner Jews had practiced for centuries. The women went to the tomb as early as possible after the mandated Shabbat rest (Sunday morning). Funerary rituals would have been followed. One such ritual involved washing the body (and Yeshua’s body would have been deeply bloodied and soiled) and anointing with fragrant oil. One fragrance would have been that of myrrh. Interestingly, one of the gifts of the Magi to the Baby Yeshua was myrrh (Matthew 2:1, 11). Myrrh was included as a gift as a reminder of mortality– the Son of Man would die for the sins of His people. I wonder if Miriam made the connection between the gifts of the magi– gold, frankincense, and myrrh– and Yeshua’s life. Would you go to a baby shower and give the expectant mother a spray of carnations to remind her that her baby would die some day?
The work for the two Miriams was shortened, that morning. They found an empty tomb. An angel told them not to look for Yeshua in the tomb. The tomb was– and still is– empty. They heard from the angel a promise and a hope to which generations of Believers have clung: HE IS RISEN! Importantly, He has promised that those who believe in Him will defeat the second death (death of the soul). In this season, take comfort that we follow a risen Savior, a Savior who will come again to draw Believers to His side. Shalom and Maranatha.