The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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Crucifixion: Further Dependence on Old Testament Verses

As we have seen earlier, the dependence of the evangelists on Old Testament verses to construct the details of the crucifixion is almost total. Below are two more examples:

The Dividing of the Garments

According to all four gospels, the soldier divided the garments of Jesus among them by casting lots:

Mark 15:24 (Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:34' John 19:23-24)
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

That the soldiers could have done this is not impossible. In fact by the reign of Hadrian (AD117-138) the custom was already established that the ownership of the clothing of the victims of crucifixion was one of the perks of being an executioner! But the additional detail of the soldiers casting lots to decide who gets which piece of Jesus' garments reveals to us that the actual source of this episode is not history but the Old Testament: [1]

Psalms 22:18
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

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The Crowd at the Crucifixion

The synoptics' description of the crowd present at Jesus' execution was one that was hostile to the Galilean. Given below is Mark's account of what happened:

Mark 15:29-31
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from your cross and save yourself!" In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! Let this Christ, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also hurled insults at him.

The theologian D.E. Nineham had convincingly demonstrated that, the contents of the passage above show that the evangelist had no historical sources for this. [2]
  • In the first place the insults hurled by the passersby amount to no more than a repetition of the charges brought against him by the Sanhedrin (his threat to destroy the temple and his claim of messianic status).
  • Secondly the presence of the chief priests and scribes at the scene of the crucifixion on the first day of Passover strains our credulity.
  • Thirdly many of the details reflect Old testament passages so closely that it is improbable that these account did not stem ultimately from them. Some of the passages are given below:

    Lamentations 2:15
    All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head...

    Psalms 22:7
    All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head...

    Psalms 69:9
    It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

    Wisdom of Solomon 2:17-20
    Let us see if his words are true and let us test what will happen at the end of his life, for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insults and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to what he says, he will be protected.

    In fact the Greek word for insult in the Septuagint version of Psalms 69:9 is exactly the same used in Mark 15:32. The exact correspondence between these Old Testament passage and Mark's account points to the fact that Markís source was not working from the traditional eye-witness material but from a belief that the Old Testamentís contains predictions about Jesusí life.

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1.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p398
Guignebert, Jesus: p482
2.Nineham, Saint Mark: p425

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