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CHAPTER III

“I, JOSEPH"

AT

T about nine o'clock the next morning there was a

knock at Father Ripon's door and Lindner, Sir Michael's confidential man, entered.

He seemed slightly agitated.

“I beg your pardon, Father," he said, “but Sir Michael instructed me to come to you at once. Sir Michael begs that you will read the columns marked in this paper and then join him at once in his own room.”

The man bowed slightly and went noiselessly away.

Impressed with Lindner's manner, Father Ripon sat up in bed and opened the paper. It was a copy of the Daily Wire which had just arrived by special messenger from the station. The priest's eyes fell first

news summary. A paragraph was heavily scored round with ink.

upon the

Page 7.-A communication of the utmost gravity and importance reaches us from Palestine, dealing with certain discoveries at Jerusalem, made by Mr. Cyril Hands, the agent of the Palestine Exploring Fund, and Herr Schmöulder, the famous German historian."

Ripon turned hastily to the seventh page of the paper, where all the foreign telegrams were. This is what he read :

“ NOTE

In reference to the following statements, the Editor wishes it to be distinctly understood that he prints them without comment or bias. Nothing can yet be definitely known as to the truth of what is stated here until the strictest investigations have been made. Our special Commissioner left London for the East twenty-four hours ago. The Editor of this paper is in communication with the Prime Minister and His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. A special edition of the 'Daily Wire' will be published at two o'clock this afternoon.

“MOMENTOUS NEWS FROM JERUSALEM

For the last three months, under a new firman granted by the Turkish Government, the authorities of the Palestine Exploring Society have been engaged in extensive operations in the waste ground beyond the Damascus Gate at Jerusalem.

“It is in this quarter, as archæologists and students will be aware, that some years ago the reputed site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre was placed. Considerable discussion was raised at the time and the evidence for and against the new and the traditional sites was hotly debated.

“Ten days ago, Mr. Cyril Hands, M.A., the learned and trusted English explorer, made a further discovery which may prove to be far-reaching in its influence on Christian peoples.

“During the excavations a system of tombs were discovered, dating from forty or fifty years before Christ, according to Mr. Hands's estimate. The tombs are indisputably Jewish and not Christian, a fact which is proved by the presence of kókîm, characteristic of Jewish tombs in preference to the usual Christian arcosolia. They are Herodian in character.

“These tombs consist of an irregularly cut group of two chambers. The door is coarsely moulded. Both chambers are crooked, and in their floors are four-sided depressions, 1 foot 2 inches deep in the outer, 2 feet in the inner chamber. The roof of the outer chamber is 6 feet above its floor, that of the inner 5 feet 2 inches.

“The doorway leading to the inner tomb was built up into stone blocks. Fragments of that coating of broken brick and pounded pottery, which is still used in Palestine under the name hamra, which lay at the foot of the sealed entrance, showed that it had at one time been plastered over, and was in the nature of a secret room.

“In the depression in the floor of the outer room was found a minute fragment of a glass receptacle containing a small quantity of blackish powder. This has been analysed by M. Constant Allard, the French chemist. The glass vessel he found to be an ordinary silicate which had become devitrified and coloured by oxide of iron. The contents were finely divided lead and traces of antimony, showing it to be one of the cosmetics prepared for purposes of sepulture.

* When the interior of the second tomb had been reached, a single loculus or stone slab for the reception of a body was found.

“Over the loculus the following Greek inscription in uncial characters was found in a state of good preservation, with the exception of two letters :

[See drawing of inscription on this page, made from photographs in our possession. We print the inscription below in cursive Greek text, afterwards dividing it into its component words and giving its translation.-Editor, Daily Wire.]

FACSIMILE IN MODERN GREEK SCRIPT

**

Εγωιωσηφοαποαριμαθειαςλαβω
ντοσωματουιησουτουαπονα
ρεταπoτoυμνημειουοπουτοπρωτ
ονεκειτοεντωτοπωτουτωενεκρυψα

**= lacunæ of two letters.

FINAL READING OF THE INSCRIPTION

Εγω Ιωσηφ και απο Αριμαθειας λαβων το σωμα του Ιησου του απο Ναζαρετ απο του μνημείου όπου το πρωτον έκειτο εν v τω τοπω τουτω ένεκρυψα. .

**= letters supplied.

“ TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH OF THE INSCRIPTION

"I, JOSEPH OF ARIMATHÆA, TOOK THE BODY OF JESUS, THE NAZARENE, FROM THE TOMB WHERE IT WAS FIRST LAID AND HID IT IN THIS PLACE.

“The slight mould on the stone slab, which may or may not be that of a decomposed body, has been reverently gathered into a sealed vessel by Mr. Hands, who is waiting instructions.

“Dr. Schmöulder, the famous savant from Berlin, has arrived at Jerusalem, and is in communication with the German Emperor regarding the discovery.

At present it would be presumptuous and idle to comment upon these stupendous facts. It seems our duty, however, to quote a final passage from Mr. Hands's communication, and to state that we have a cablegram in our possession from Dr. Schmöulder, which states that he is in entire agreement with Mr. Hands's conclusions.

“To sum up. There now seems no shadow of doubt that the disappearance of The Body of Christ from the first tomb is accounted for, and that the Resurrection as told in the Gospels did not take place. Joseph of Arimathæa here confesses that he stole away the body, probably in order to spare the Disciples and friends of the dead Teacher, with whom he was in sympathy, the shame and misery of the final end to their hopes.

The use of the first aorist' évekpuţa,' 'I hid,' seems to indicate that Joseph was making a confession to satisfy his own mind, with a very vague idea of it ever being read. Were his confession written for future ages, we may surmise that the perfect "Kekpupa,' 'I have hidden,' would have been used."

So the simple, bald narrative ended, without a single attempt at sensationalism on the part of the newspaper.

Just as Father Ripon laid down the newspaper, with shaking hands and a pallid face, Sir Michael Manichoe strode into the room.

Tears of anger and shame were in his eyes, he moved jerkily, automatically, without volition. His right arm was sawing the air in meaningless gesticulation.

He glanced furtively at Father Ripon and then sank into a chair by the bedside.

The clergyman rose and dressed hastily. “We will speak of this in the library," he said, controlling himself by a tremendous effort. Meanwhile

He took some sal volatile from his dressing-case, gave some to his host, and drank some also.

As they went down-stairs a brilliant sun streamed into the great hall. The world outside was bright and frostbound.

The bell of the private chapel was tolling for matins.

The sound struck on both their brains very strangely. Sir Michael shuddered and grew ashen grey. Ripon recovered himself first.

He placed his arm in his host's and turned towards the passage which led to the chapel.

Come, my friend," he said in low, sweet tones, come to the altar. Let us pray together for Christendom. Peace waits us. Say the creed with me, for God will not desert us."

They passed into the vaulted chapel with the seven

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