Chapter 16

The Execution


Bald Mountain

Hebron Gate

Cappodocian cohort

Lightning legion

sickly fig tree

bread knife


"I curse you, God!"

The sun had disappeared

The Valley of Gion

criminals' clothing rejected by the executioners

water-soaked sponge

spear, bucket, sponge

pierced Yeshua through the heart

Bald Mountain --a hill in Kiev where witches gathered to affirm Satan's rule over the world.

The Hebron Gate was in reality not built at the time of the crucifixion of Christ.

Cappodocian cohort -- Cappodocia is a region in central Asia Minor (now Turkey). In Roman times it was first a client state, but when King Archelaus died in 17 AD Tiberius made it a province.

Lightning legion --The Twelfth Legion was nicknamed “Fulminata” – “wielder of the thunderbolt,” and its symbol was a thunderbolt. It was first levied by Julius Caesar and was later based in Syria. This legion was later sent to combat the Jewish Revolt.

sickly fig tree--perhaps displaced from the Biblical tree that withered upon being cursed by Christ (Matthew 21:19)

bread knife--an anachronism, since bread was not cut with knives at the time. But since the knife is intended to cut the body of Christ, it represents the knife used by the priest in the liturgy (to cut bread/the body of Christ) which, in turn, represents the spear used by the executioner. The knife also ties Levi Matvei in to the knife themes.

Bethany -- A village near Jerusalem mentioned several times in the Bible: Mark 11:1. Lazarus lived here, John 11:1, and it was from here Jesus ascended into heaven, Matthew 21:17. It was near here that Jesus caused the fig tree to wither as well.

"I curse you, God!"--When Levi Matvei curses God and calls him evil, it bears a striking resemblance to the part of Vladimir Zazubrin's (Zubtsov, 1895-1937) novel, Dva mira (1921). A white army officer during the Civil War kneels before an icon and curses God: "You see? You see our torments, evil old man? How stupid I was when I believed in your wisdom and goodness. Your joy is the suffering of men. No, I don't believe in you. You are the god of lies, violence, deception. You are the gd of inquisitors, sadists, executioners, robbers, murderers! You are their patron and defender." (Quoted in BES 256)

The sun had disappeared-- According to the Gospels, Jesus' death was followed by an earthquake and darkness. Levi Matvei notices that everything changes before the death. Bulgakov made a note from Strauss's Life of Christ to the effect that Luke's claim that the darkness was caused by a solar eclipse can't be correct, since the execution took place at the time of the Passover full moon (OR GBL f 562, k 8, ed. khr. 1 in Sokolov 526). Compare Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44.

The Valley of Gion is also known as the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna.

criminals' clothing rejected by the executioners--the Biblical version is different (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:24). In Bulgakov the sentries play dice later.

water-soaked sponge--according to the Gospels, Christ was given vinegar mixed with gall on a stick, not a spear: Matthew 27:34, 27:48, Mark 15:36, John 19:29.

pierced Yeshua through the heart--In Bulgakov Yeshua dies from the spear, while in John 19:34 Christ is pierced after he is already dead. (El'baum 49).