Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Many Last Words of Jesus

Last words of famous people are always important. Look at Humphrey Bogart's dying statement of, "I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis." Or Winston Churchill's, "I'm bored with it all." And of course Pancho Villa, who left us with the words, "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something."

But throughout history, whose last words could be more important than those of Jesus Christ? With that in mind, I sought His last words in the New Testament. The first book of the New Testament is Matthew. Chapter 37 of Matthew speaks of the Crucifixion, and in verse 46 we read:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Fortunately Matthew was kind of enough to take the time to translate. However, this was rather disappointing. Jesus died on the cross with no parting advice - just a question to God. Matthew doesn't even tell us if God answered. I think it would have been pretty interesting to hear God's reply. I mean, if He forsake His Son, I'd like to know what to do so He doesn't forsake me too!

The next verses go on about some people getting confused and thinking Jesus was calling for Elias. Were these English speakers who couldn't understand the native language? Why couldn't Matthew translate for them too?

Next I went to Mark. Mark got to the Crucifixion in only 15 chapters. Mark 15:34 says the same thing as Matthew 37:46. Unfortunately, Mark doesn't pay attention for an answer from God either. He also goes on about the same fools waiting for Elias to come to Jesus. Why were neither of these guys listening for God's reply?

The next book is Luke. Luke 23:46 tells us:

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Now what the hell is going on here? Luke heard something altogether different! Why didn't Luke hear Jesus's question about being forsaken? And why didn't Luke talk about the confused English speakers? Hadn't Luke been paying attention? Was he just making things up as he went along? Exactly how credible was the word of Luke? What about all the cool stuff that Linus says each year in "The Peanuts Christmas Special"? Things that we all know, like:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

That's from Luke Chapter 2, and none of the other gospels have that in them. Mark and John don't mention the birth of Jesus at all, and Matthew just gives it one line (Matthew 1:25) after getting bogged down with all the "begats." So was Luke just daydreaming during the First Christmas? Did he just made up a bunch of things later for us to use in holiday TV specials? Did he make up things about The Crucifixion too?

I turned to John to get some confirmation. John 19:30 says,

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Where was John standing to hear only that? No mention of Jesus speaking to God at all - just His telling us that it's finished. Does this mean that John has no credibility either? What about John 3:16, where John tells us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

People have made fortunes putting this on signs and billboards from New Jersey to California, but now the credibility of the guy who wrote is in question. What if John only made that up? Think of all the empty signs and lost income if that gets out!

On the other hand, how do I know that I can trust Mark and Matthew? Just because their stories match doesn't mean that they're right. Maybe they didn't make it to The Crucifixion in time. Maybe they just collaborated on some fabrication together. Or maybe one wasn't paying attention. Maybe he fell asleep, or was flirting with some girls or something. So maybe he copied off of the other.

The big question here is which gospel do we believe? Should I doubt all four until I know the truth? With something so important, couldn't they have sat down together and made sure their stories matched? Were they in some kind of competition, or what? Was creative writing a big thing back then? Did they get a prize for the most original story? Couldn't someone have sat down and edited this later? Isn't it an editor's job to find errors? God was writing back in Genesis; why didn't He edit out the errors in the gospels?

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