Thursday, 12 May 2011


Here's something I never knew.
In the interview of the dying Darius with Alexander, Darius proceeds to make certain requests, which conclude as follows:
"And as for Trandokht my mother, regard her now as if thou thyself wert born of her, and consider my wife as thy sister, and take my daughter Roxane for thy wife, that the seed of Darius and of Philip may be mingled in her." Then Alexander brought his hand to the face of Darius, who said, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit"; and straightway his soul departed.*
The element of imitation in the version amounts, practically, to a commentary, particularly when the equation or parallel between Alexander and Jesus, in Persian Syriac literature, is borne in mind. It contains not only the parallel noticed by Budge but also a parallel to John 19:28-29. [F. W. Buckler, "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?" The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 55:4 (Oct., 1938), pp. 385-86]
Buckler's footnote: '*Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, The History of Alexander the Great (Cambridge, 1889), p. 81. Budge notices the "reminiscence of S. Luke's Gospel ch. xxiii. 46, "betraying" the Christian translator."' But I never realised that statements of this sort were part of the repertoire of the dying king. Does this mean that the famous gospel sentiment is actually not only regal, but a kind of admission of power passing from one authority to another? That's not how conventional Christianity takes it, of course.

Buckler thinks the phrase has been distorted by scribal error, and that what Jesus actually said was: 'Into thy hands I commend my people, O my Lord'. Here's his summary of the context of that hypothetical statement:
Dalman has shown that among the rights and responsibilities of a dying criminal was the testamentary disposition of his estate and rights. For instance: "Jewish marital legislation insisted that everything should be definitely settled before it was too late. It happened, for instance, that one who was crucified gave his wife, shortly before expiring, freedom to marry again, and so a bill of divorcement could be written out, which entitled her to marry another man before the actual death of her present husband." The case of Our Lord was parallel to that of a married man, in that a principle of dominium was at stake. As the firstborn of Mary, He had both the authority and the responsibility, which would have de- volved on her second son James. The automatic devolution was ap- parently undesirable, so Our Lord used the authority He possessed as a dying criminal to commit her to the care of one whom He could trust-the Beloved Disciple. This was the first commendation (John 19: 26-27). The second was His commendation of His people to His Lord God (Mark 15:34a-c, Matt. 27:46a-b), by which He delivered up His Kingdom unto God even the Father (cf. I Cor. 15:24). The signifi- cance of this clause of the Testamentum Christi was missed by the Evangelist and remained obscured behind the oracle of the Psalmist (Ps. 22:6). By the irony of circumstance, this final act of the establish- ment of the Kingdom of God on earth," relegated by Saint Paul to the realm of eschatology (I Cor. 15:24), was greeted by the crowd in derision as His appeal to Elias!'
But Buckler, I think, has an agenda: he likes his version more, because 'it removes the element of despair and the complete breakdown of faith, inherent in the inter- pretation of the Evangelist (or his redactor), and with it the air of disillusionment which surrounds the accepted view of the Crucifixion, by which the way was paved for the intrusion into Christianity of the despair, of which Jewish Apocalyptic eschatology is the embodiment.' That's the part I like best, though.

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