Continued from Part 15
53:9: “his grave was set with the wicked”
The burial of Jesus
How was Jesus’ grave “set with the wicked”? Many Christians connect “wicked” with the two lestai (“thieves,” “brigands”) executed alongside Jesus (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27; “others,” in John 19:18).
Other Christians connect the lestai with, “a company of evil-doers have enclosed me” (Psalms 22:17 [verse 16 in some versions]). But, crucifixion was not the punishment for common criminals. Lestai was a derogatory Roman term for insurrectionists, who, by armed action opposed Roman rule. These two men were more likely put to death for opposing Roman rule of the land of Israel and not for being “wicked.” In any case, the Gospels say, Jesus was not buried with them.
The point is made by Christians that he was buried in a new empty tomb. As such, he was buried alone and there is nothing in the New Testament to illustrate how “his [Jesus’] grave was set with the wicked.”
53:9: “and his grave was set … with the rich in his deaths”
The burial companions: first the wicked now the rich.
How was Jesus’ grave “set … with the rich in his deaths”? Christians identify Jesus as the subject of “with the rich in his deaths” to be in conformity with the Gospel of Matthew. It is only in Matthew’s narrative that Joseph of Arimathea is identified as a “rich man” (Matthew 27:57) who laid the corpse of Jesus “in his own new tomb” (Matthew 27:60). In Mark he is described simply as “a prominent member of the Council” (Mark 15:43). Luke describes him as “a member of the Council, a good and righteous man” (Luke 23:50). In John he is “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one” (John 19:38).
It is not by chance that Matthew 27:57 specifically identifies Joseph as “a rich man from Arimathea.” Given Matthew’s propensity for adding biblical allusion to his narrative it is no wonder that he alone adds that Joseph was rich and that he placed Jesus’ corpse in his own tomb thereby supposedly fulfilling: “And his grave was set . . . with the rich.”
The character of Joseph of Arimathea was introduced into Matthew’s Gospel narrative as a rich man in order to show a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9, which says that God’s servant will be buried “with the rich.” This is but one more example of Matthew attempting to introduce supposed biblical “fulfillment of prophecy” into his narrative. The material peculiar to Matthew is a creation of its author’s own imagination.
It should be emphasized that despite the claim that Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb he was not buried “with the rich.” The Gospels make a point of stating that Jesus alone was buried in the tomb (Luke 23:53, John 19:41). Thus, if Jesus was buried in the new tomb of Joseph then he was buried with neither the wicked nor rich, but alone.
53:9: “although he had done no violence”
The violent side of Jesus
The Gospels record a number of instances where Jesus did commit acts of violence.
- Whip in hand, causing a fracas, he attacked the merchants in the Temple area (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:15).
- He destroyed a fig tree for not having fruit out of season (Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:13-14).
- He caused the death, by drowning, of a herd of swine by allowing demons to purposely enter their bodies (Matthew 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33).
Were Jesus’ actions justified?
Biblically, it would not matter if Jesus actions were justified. The question is, “Did this individual literally perform violent acts?” All New Testament applications of Isaiah 53 to Jesus presume a literal fulfillment. However, a literal application to Jesus of the phrase “he had done no violence” is not possible.
The Gospels inadvertently indicate that forms of violence were perpetrated by Jesus. By the very fact that an individual committed violent acts, even if they can be justified, he does not qualify as one having done no violence. These are acts of violence under any circumstance and if applied literally to an individual that person could not be the fulfillment of verse 9. Jesus’ acts of violence demonstrate that he did not literally fulfill this description of the servant as prescribed by the New Testament citations of Isaiah 53.
Christians provide novel reasons for Jesus’ destructive actions, but they still remain acts of violence. All the excuses cannot hide the fact that these violent acts disqualify Jesus from being the servant. One cannot excuse his actions as those of a supernatural being, who allegedly had the authority to do as he pleased. Do what he will, Jesus would still be disqualified from being the servant.