A Jewish Woman.
Pool Of Bethesda.
Yet, while reflecting on the millions who have come to Palestine to see what they believed to be the actual sepulchre of the Son of God, we are forced to ask ourselves - Can it be possible that a delusion has exerted such a mighty influence in human history? But it was not the actual sepulchre (genuine or false) which revolutionized the minds of men, it was the idea behind it. The fact that Moslems held this land to the exclusion of Christ's followers, is what aroused the Christian world to take up arms, and led to Palestine the legions of the Cross. The one essential thing was the idea; for, as Napoleon truly said, "Imagination rules the world."
In the opinion of many students and travelers - including the writer of these pages, - the probable site of Calvary is a remarkably formed cliff, a little beyond the Damascus Gate, which from a distance bears a striking resemblance to a death's-head, with natural caverns in the rock suggestive of eyeless sockets. Since the outlines of this hillock are to-day almost certainly what they were nineteen hundred years ago, it would not be strange if it had then been popularly called Golgotha, "the place of a skull." There evidently was a place so called, outside the city of Jerusalem, and the peculiar conformation of this knoll would justify the name to-day. It must always have been outside the walls, yet, from its nearness to the Damascus Gate, it would have been contiguous to one of the great thoroughfares to Jerusalem, so that "the passers by" could easily have "railed on him." Moreover, this skull-shaped cliff was then, as it is now, in a very conspicuous position; and the Saviour's form upon the Cross would have been plainly visible to the "people who stood beholding," and to the "women looking on afar off."
Of all the hills that rise around Jerusalem beyond the deep ravines, which form almost a circle about the city, the most profoundly interesting is, of course, the Mount of Olives. Passing from the uncertainties of the Holy Sepulchre, one looks on this with genuine satisfaction, for of its authenticity there can be no doubt. The eighteen centuries which have come and gone since Jesus was wont to retire to its slopes at eventide for prayer and contemplation, can have made little difference in its form. It is true, the palm-trees that once flourished here, from which the exultant multitude plucked branches to adorn the path of Christ on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, have disappeared, and there are now few olive groves to justify its name; but it is nevertheless the very hill associated with so many thrilling scenes in the life of Christ. Probably, too, the general direction of the road that crosses it is the same as when the Saviour trod it on His way to Bethany. Moreover, at the foot of Olivet is a little area, enclosed in whitewashed walls. This is the reputed Garden of Gethsemane. The traveler may enter it, for courteous Franciscan monks are always in attendance. My first impression here was one of disappointment. The modern-looking pathways lined with flowers, the plants, and carefully trimmed hedges, - what had these to do with the historic Garden of Gethsemane? The conservatory in the corner, also, where the monks cultivate their choicest flowers, seemed painfully unsuited to a place whose principal characteristics were undoubtedly retirement and purely natural surroundings. But the monks maintain that to cultivate flowers here is certainly no sin, especially as every visitor buys some; while the fine olive-oil yielded by the trees, and the numerous rosaries manufactured from the olive-stones, are also sold at a high price. One must live, they argue, even upon the slopes of Olivet.
The Mount Of Olives.
Within this enclosure there are a number of old olive-trees, which are said to be the very ones within whose shadow Jesus knelt in spiritual anguish. But this is quite impossible. It is well known that both Titus and Hadrian, in their successive conquests of Jerusalem, cut down all the trees in its vicinity, and the Crusaders found this region well-nigh destitute of wood. Still, since it is characteristic of the olive to sprout repeatedly from the same roots, even though cut off at the ground, it is not wholly improbable that these trees have sprung from the ones beneath which on the midnight air were uttered the agonizing words: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!"