Sunday, April 3, 2011

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

A long time ago, I attended a security conference wherein the speaker debunked the concept of password security. Passwords, even passwords with character substitutions were worthless. After all, hackers are geeks, too, and they know all the standard character substitutions. Pass phrases; however, are nearly impossible to decipher because their length and complexity. This all made sense to me, and I started using Shakespeare quotations for passwords. For database connection strings my favorite pass phrase was, "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." You might recognize it as Shakespeare's Sonnet XXIX now, but would you have guessed it then? Besides how many hackers do you know who recite Shakespeare?

Today, I recalled Shakespeare as I was discussing with Claire the absolute continuity of the Passion Week presented in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I was taken by John's description of the rulers which believed in Jesus, but would not admit it for fear of men.

I showed Claire how one might think the passages were flawed recollections, but upon closer observation they supported each other with absolute synchronicity, making them entirely credible records of the events.

John's Gospel, for instance, follows two calendars. He follows the Julian calendar when discussing the time of day, but he follows the traditional Hebrew calendar when writing about the Passover. Matthew, Mark, and Luke mostly follow the Diaspora calendar when referring to both days and hours. This makes sense. Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their gospel accounts before the destruction of Jerusalem. John wrote his account years after the temple and its sacrificial system was destroyed. Why would John follow the defunct Diaspora calendar? Moreover, John was apparently the only disciple acquainted with Nicodemus. In fact, clues in John's gospel show that he was well known and accepted among the Pharisees and Sadducees. John's account of the crucifixion follows the traditional Hebrew calendar because his subjects, Joseph and Nicodemus were both Pharisees.

Once the two calendars are understood, Matthew can say that on the day of the Crucifixion, there was darkness from the 6th hour until the 9th hour, and John can say that at the 6th hour Jesus was standing before Pilate. There is no disagreement, the number assignments come from the Diaspora in Matthew's account, but from the Julian calendar according to John's account.

Because Matthew and Mark follow the Diaspora calendar, they refer to Wednesday of the passion week as the "first day of Unleavened Bread." Likewise, Luke can refer to the Wednesday evening meal as the Passover, while John calls Thursday, "the day of preparation for the Passover."

The different calendars were not the different means of labeling the same day. The Diaspora began each day in the morning at dawn, while the traditional Hebrew calendar begins each day at the evening twilight. Consequently, to those following the Diaspora calendar, Wednesday--the day the lambs were slaughtered--was both the day of the preparation and day of the Passover meal. Nevertheless, to the followers of the traditional Hebrew calendar, the day of preparation would not begin until the evening twilight on Wednesday. According to the traditional calendar, the lamb could not have been sacrificed until "between the twilights of Wednesday and Thursday." According to the Diaspora calendar, Wednesday was the day the Lambs were slaughtered. In effect, you have the same holiday two days in a row depending on your religious denomination.

Because John writes according to the traditional Hebrew calendar, Thursday, was the day of preparation. Because Thursday's crucifixion took place on the day of preparation, Joseph and Nicodemus were hurried to prepare Jesus for burial according to John's Gospel. Matthew refers to Friday as the "day after the preparation" when he says that the Pharisees and the chief priests went to ask Pilate to guard Jesus tomb for 3 days. Matthew acknowledges that there were two calendars in effect. When referring to the day of preparation, he is discussing the Pharisees which followed the traditional calendar otherwise, he used the calendar that was most prevalent at the time.

Some Christians still celebrate Good Friday as the day of the crucifixion, but they depend entirely on a Roman calendar to find parts of three days between the burial and resurrection. The audience of the Old Testament prophecies were not the Romans, but rather the Jews. Jesus, too, prophesied that he would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. A Thursday burial before the evening twilight would put the resurrection on schedule for sometime after a Saturday evening twilight. In fact, the Gospels teach that Jesus rose from the dead sometime before the morning twilight on Sunday.

When considering the four accounts of the Gospel writers, each emphasizing his own perspective, yet in perfect agreement regarding the timing of events, their testimony is certainly true (though church tradition would make each man's account somewhat less than true). While we have the evidence of the Gospels, those observing Jesus in Bethany and Jerusalem were presented with incontrovertible evidence to his divine nature.

Faith requires little evidence. Evidence, however, condemns those who refuse to believe. John writes of the religious rulers, saying, 
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
To such as these, Jesus said, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." Jesus implored them to come out of the darkness in which they were held by their fear of men. He asked them to come into the light where they could become "children of light."

Shakespeare knew of the compelling pressure of "men's eyes". He used his "disgrace" as a means of wooing a lover. He told the object of his Sonnet XXIX something to the effect you're very important to me because you're all that I have. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; Shakespeare just makes it sound better.)

Nevertheless, for us the question abides, How important is God's favor to us? Do we love the praise of men more than the praise of God? Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for believers, saying, "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

To be a follower of Christ is to be hated by the world. So, what do we do with the evidence of the Gospels? Do we insist that we need more proof? So did the religious leaders demand more miracles from Jesus. Do we believe in the same way that some the chief rulers believed in Jesus? Do we believe secretly with reservation? Do we believe as long as no one considers us too strange?

Or do we believe with the romantic abandon of a Shakespearean sonnet?

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