Closing Remarks of the German Translator
For an enlightened Christian, it will be wholly indifferent whether the life of Jesus, as recorded by the gospel, has an historical foundation or not. It remains a scientific problem whether Jesus really died on the cross, or was taken down only apparently dead, and not a religious one; for in the moral world the very determination to die for truth and virtue ought to be considered as highly as the physical death.
The intelligent man, that has made the thought clear through science and study, and overcome the superstition of tradition, may be a true defender of the Christian spirit if he even doubts everything in the gospel that appears to him in any way mythical or inexplicable.
But there are men whom only that is holy that they cannot explain or comprehend themselves; and others again, who will try to lull their own minds into tranquil faith on undoubted scriptural authority; men that consider the outward events for the aim of Jesus' life, and keep their minds chained down to a dead literal faith; further, there are persons, who, through their simplicity of mind and education, do not ponder on the subject at all, who consider sinful every examination into the ideas prevailing in past centuries.
There are also persons who keep others in ignorance that they may not examine into the account of the miracles.
All such persons are not true defenders of the Christian spirit, and they therein contained moral liberty of thought. Such persons will never take a step toward the improvement of the Christian Spirit in the external life, and it is just herein Christianity ought to appear, not therein that men absorb themselves in their own selfish conceits, expecting the spirit without doing anything themselves. No, the Christian spirit ought to be introduced into the actual ever-changing life, to be modified to the wants of the every-day life.
These reflections did the translator ponder upon when he tried to understand how orthodox and superstitious people could imagine every thread in the garb of the Saviour a product of Divinity, or how they in individual impotence or spiritual bondage, with eager hands, grasp for a pillar in superstition and bigotry, this class of persons coming across the old Essene letter, would necessarily charge it with profanity, and above all with non-genuineness.
Although it cannot be proved by living witnesses that the original, from which the Latin copy is translated, was a genuine document of the time of which it informs, yet this letter contains so many interesting events, singularly corresponding with the account of the gospel, and recorded without any apparent motive of the author in a pious, simple and in no way excited manner.
Just through the simplicity of the author will many inexplicable events and mythological accidents in the life of Jesus appear clear that were leading threads, and there is much that may be explained by the external life of Jesus and his spiritual mission.
And when we minutely examine into the account given by the Essenes, raised as they were above the common superstition of their time and well informed in the secrets of nature, we find effects and consequences rationally explained and many things made clear that the gospel surrounds with mystery.
It is to be regretted that there are in our day people who consider the Christian life profaned by the rational and reasonable explanation and account of the miracles, even when it has the stamp of testamental accuracy, and is placed on a natural foundation, although any man possessed of common understanding remains convinced of the non-existence of miracles; while the superstitious, in miracle believing, often is brought in situations where he is given to hypocrisy and conceit for to be able to believe.
It is just this hypocrisy that so often fills the mind of the rational thinker with disgust. And in the present, as well as to all times, the religious people have been divided into the same three directions into which it already was directed at the time of Christ. Even the present time has its "Essenes", its "Sadducees" and its "Pharisees".
Both then and now the number of the Essene defenders of the faith are few. It comprises of the free scientific thinkers of they that search for truth, of they that exercise virtue in every idea of life, of they that can understand and explain the acquired wisdom and make it useful. To these, as the old recovered document proves, Jesus belonged, and this is as much more probable, as the gospel never reports Jesus to have spoken against the Essene, although in many ways he combated against the doctrines of the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
Even the present time has its Sadducees, the same class of infidels as now, raised above tradition, gormandizing, worldly rich men, who, unconcerned about eternity, wished to enjoy themselves in this life.
But to all times the Pharisees have been numerous. From time immemorial has hypocrisy been the handmaiden to embrace every tradition that has characterized them. With them have good and bad angels exercised their undefined influence.
The miracles have spurred them to outward piety, outward hypocritical gestures and public benevolent acts, which have served as a cloak for the corrupted soul.
The translator of the old recovered parchment views the matter from the Essene standard, and feels satisfied to know that this view of the matter has got to be a necessity for every free-minded, scientific, unprejudiced and really intelligent man.
Several efforts have been made already in past times to explain the myths of the gospel rationally, and indeed, penetrating minds have succeeded to give them the character of probability, but they could not be proved through any historical event, as the canonical dictators defined, what was authentic, only that which was serviceable to their canonical reign, and declared all such traditions to be apocryphal that will say not useful, which in reality were built on historical foundation or were not written according to the desire of a holy seer for miracles.
Even the Essene letter that we have recorded above would by them have been considered apocryphal writing.
If we examine the Essene letter, that is written to a brother of the Order in Alexandria to inform him and the other brethren of the highest degree of the Brotherhood concerning the wonderful events that transpired in Jerusalem, and which through rumors were made known all over Asia, we will find many points of great interest, that invite to a closer reflection.
In the first place, it is to be noted that the Essene brethren in Alexandria doubled the reports of miracles that the rumor had brought them, and that they, to obtain information wrote to the Brotherhood in Jerusalem to hear their opinion. Thus there were already many people there that were raised above the superstitions of the common people.
From the letter, we also see that Jesus himself, brought up in the school of the Essenes did not believe in miracles, although his mother, with her excitable mind and full belief in the Jewish traditions of miracles, had a powerful influence on him in his childhood and youth.
But the letter also describes that Joseph, his foster-father, had a great influence on the mind of Jesus, as it is said about him that he was a man of great experience.
The Essenes protected the child in its life until it was old enough to be received into the Order as a member. According to the letter, this took place in the country near Jutha, where lived then an Essene Brotherhood. Here it was that he was met by the elder of the Brotherhood, probably calculated by the Essenes to prepare him for his reception into the Order.
It is also told that here he was received into the Order contemporary with his friend John, and further on in the letter is recorded that John, who after his becoming a member perfected himself for a physician, was killed by the enemies. No doubt hereby is meant John the Baptist, who thus also has been an Essene.
It may appear remarkable that Jesus, as a member of the Essene Order and knowing all the secrets and duties of the Brotherhood, did not live in the solitude and join some particular Brotherhood. But Jesus felt called to preach to the people and could not satisfy his active mind by passing his time in the solitude, and not teaching the special doctrines abroad that he felt it his mission to proclaim.
We even see that the elders of his brethren always desired him to withdraw into the solitude, and not endanger his life among the people. We also are informed, that towards the end of his life, Jesus explained his motive of not staying more with them than he did, and at last he took their advice and retired into the solitude.
But of particular importance is the minute record of the sufferings of Jesus, and the way in which he conducted himself on the cross. The gospel records that Jesus really died on the cross, and thereby it stamps his recovery as a miracle, which the intelligent man considers a myth, and from which he extracts the allegorical meaning. But in this letter we are informed of events in their simple representation that contains so much that is probable, and with the circumstances corresponding, that it actually will be a necessity to believe on it.
The fact that Jesus only apparently died on the cross does not in the least diminish the sacredness of his mission, for his death for the divine truth was fulfilled thereby that he, full of resignation, suffered the pain of death until his physical life was exhausted.
In the old letter is recorded that he did not die on the cross, but passed into unconsciousness. Even the way in which Jesus appeared to die on the cross makes the probability of apparent death possible. First, he lost consciousness very early, so that even Pilate doubted his death, and before he allowed him taken down from the cross he ordered the Roman Centurion to convince himself thereof. Secondly, by the then existing mode of crucifixion, was not uncommon that the crucified could be brought to life.
We are also informed by the historians of that date that it was not an uncommon thing that the crucified criminals were brought back to life after being taken down from the cross. It is also proven that these unfortunates, among nations that did not have the Jewish custom of not allowing the crucified to hang on the cross over night, often would hang on the cross eight or nine days before death at last put an end to their dreadful sufferings.
When we examine into the method of the crucifixion as it was executed on Jesus, we will be convinced that it could not be impossible for life to remain for a long time. Not any of the appliances used were mortal, and the first got to be so when they acted for such a long time that the vital power was not able of reaction. Arms and feet were bound with thick and hard cords so tight that not only these limbs became numb, but even the circulation of the blood was almost stopped thereby.
That this actually was the case is proved by the description of the old historians, that the piercing of the hands with thick spikes produced no great expression of pain, and only for awhile caused bleeding. But the physiological consequence of thus tightly lacing the limbs would be the forcible pushing back of the blood to the brain and heart, whereby would be produced fits of apoplexy and deep swooning.
Both the thieves that were crucified with Jesus still lived when he was taken down and showed outward signs of life. Otherwise their bones would not have been crushed, as was the custom, and which was not done to Jesus, as they thought him dead. As he was exhausted already from the scourging, it is easily explained how he so soon passed into the state of unconsciousness and apparent death. Even the gospel records that he was very weak - that he sank down under the weight of the cross.
In the Essene Letter a particular weight is laid on the wound in the side, and the physiological knowledge of Nicodemus, who in this letter is ascribed great secret knowledge of nature, and especially in the Essene science of curing, is indeed to be admired; for it is recorded that Nicodemus, from the condition of the wound, received new hope that Jesus was not actually dead, and his hope was realized.
If Jesus really had been dead the wound could not bleed for such a long time, and especially not emit water and blood. An actual dead corpse will not bleed from an external wound that does not sever any arteries, because of the discontinuation of the circulation the blood very shortly will congeal.
Thus Nicodemus conceived that the circulation of the blood in Jesus' body had not ceased, and therefore, having sent the influential Joseph to Pilate, he hurried away to procure the proper drugs, pretending that he wanted to embalm his body.
Essene letter speaks repeatedly of the wound above the hip. Thus
this wound was lower down than what is generally believed and
In the letter this wound is not considered dangerous, and more attention is paid to the wounds in the hands after the spikes. Thus it appears that these were considered more dangerous. It is positively recorded that his feet were not pierced, and this was not the custom at crucifixions.
Even if the apparent death of Jesus in the old letter was maintained as a fact, still the existing historical circumstances make it more than probable.