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Reading Master & Margarita 16

Reading Master & Margarita 16

5 mins

Chapter 16                                    

The Execution

This is the second chapter of novel about Pontius Pilate and Yeshua-Ha-Nostri.

It mainly describes the arrival of the condemned to death prisoners to the bald mountain and then the condition of everyone present on the bald mountain is depicted; we return to the crucified prisoners only towards the end. A new character, Levi Mathew too is introduced.

The keywords are Sun, devilish heat, and scorching Sun and how does it affect the soldiers and their commanders.

While the ordinary soldiers were allowed to go and have water from time to time, the commanders were setting an example of endurance before the soldiers. Most remarkable was the behavior of Mark Krysoboi.

 “The sun beat straight down on the centurion without doing him any harm and the lions'“muzzles were impossible to look at - the eyes were devoured by the dazzling gleam of the silver which was as if boiling in the sun.

“His mutilated face expressed neither weariness nor displeasure, and it seemed that the giant centurion was capable of pacing like that all day, all night and the next day - in short, for as long as necessary. Of pacing in the same way, holding his hands to the heavy belt with its bronze plaques, glancing in the same stern way now at the posts with the executed men, now at the file of soldiers, kicking aside with the toe of a shaggy boot in the same indifferent way human bones whitened by time or small flints that happened under his feet.”

Let us think why Bulgakov is dealing in such detail the behavior of Mark Krysoboi:

We have noted in chapter 2 that Mark Krysoboi was the chief of security forces in Yerushalem. He was taller than the tallest soldier of his battalion. Krysoboi was so huge; his shoulders were so wide that they had covered the Sun which had just risen in the sky.

Here, the time is that of afternoon. The Sun is burning everyone, everything; but Krysoboi is just indifferent to it. He is doing his job, as if the devilish Sun is not at all affecting him, he is pacing holding his hands to the melting bronze plaques, kicking the human bones that had become white with time….he is used to deaths, bones, devilish Sun, he has no heart, he is just a machine used for execution!

Bulgakov says that it was the fourth hour after execution…three hours had passed…if you want to correlate the ancient with the contemporary, you can think that Sun is what figured in the popular slogan of those days – Stalin – Our Sun…and if you consider one hour as equivalent to one decade, we can guess that it was the fourth decade of the century, the thirties, when the Sun had really started burning everything, but it had no effect on Krysoboi, he was an instrument in the hands of powers.

Come to Levi Mathew. I am not using the exact name as given in the Holy Bible. 

What do we know about him?

- That he was a tax collector;

- He says that he was the only disciple of Yeshua-Ha-Nostri;

- He wanted to kill Yeshua before he is crucified, so that he could be saved from the torture on the cross.

Please compare this information with that given in the Holy Bible.

One more thing:

Those crucified were offered water on the cross before a spear pricks them on the navel and they are killed:

'Drink!' said the executioner to Yeshua, and a water-soaked sponge on the tip of a spear rose to Yeshua's lips. Joy flashed in his eyes; he clung to the sponge and began greedily imbibing the moisture.

From the neighbouring post came the voice of Dysmas:

'Injustice! I'm a robber just like him!'


Dysmas fell silent. Yeshua tore himself away from the sponge, and trying to make his voice sound gentle and persuasive, but not succeeding, he begged the executioner hoarsely:

'Give him a drink.'

WE shall return to this reference in the next chapter about Yeshua– Ha-Nostri, and hence, please let it be there in a corner of your mind.

There are certain sentences which I would like to draw your attention to:

When Levi could not reach Yeshua, he went to the backside of the mountain…he is cursing the God and asking him why He is causing so much suffering to Yeshua. And then he closed his eyes and cursed the Almighty…after a while when he opened his eyes he saw that the Sun had disappeared before reaching the sea, where it sank every evening. Having swallowed it, a storm cloud was rising menacingly and inexorably against the sky in the west. Its edges were already seething with white foam; its black smoky belly was tinged with yellow. 

The storm cloud was growling, threads of fire fell from it now and again.

Is Bulgakov hinting at the intervention that took place from the West?

And while everyone had left the bald mountain unable to face the lashes of rain from the sky, there was only Levi Mathew left on the mountain along with the bodies of prisoners on the cross. Levi reaches the cross on which Yeshua’s body was hanged. He cut the ropes on his shins, stepped up on the lower crossbar, embraced Yeshua and freed his arms from the upper bonds. The naked, wet body of Yeshua collapsed on Levi and brought him to the ground.

Levi wanted to heave it on to his shoulders straight away, but some thought stopped him. He left the body with its thrown-back head and outspread arms on the ground in the water, and ran, his feet slithering apart in the clayey mire, to the other posts. He cut the ropes on them as well, and the two bodies collapsed on the ground.

Several minutes passed, and all that remained on the top of the hill was these two bodies and the three empty posts. Water beat on the bodies and rolled them over.

By that time both Levi and the body of Yeshua were gone from the hilltop.

Did all this really happen?

We shall get back to this again in chapters 25 and 26.          

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