We’ve just seen one story of Jesus’ crucifixion, together with a psalm which seems to parallel it. Indeed, Jesus is evidently refering to that very psalm from the cross. (Quoting the first line of a familiar passage often means that the speaker recited the entire text.)
The other two synoptic gospels (Matthew, Luke) seem to have taken their story either directly from here or from the same source. And John, often differing wildly from the synoptics, is very close in this passage.
Was there in fact any of Jesus’ followers at hand to witness the crucifixion? Showing a sympathetic interest in someone being executed as a rebel against Roman authority could be hazardous to one’s immediate survival. The male disciples are supposed to be generally in hiding about now, even according to the gospels, and this is certainly no safe place for a woman. Possible, but not likely.
Would they be close enough to hear a man, exhausted and struggling for each breath, recite a psalm?
It seems very likely here that one of Jesus’ followers remembered/found that psalm, saw things in the closing lines very close to the significance of Jesus’ death as they understood it–and concluded that the psalm must be about Jesus. And therefore they took their account of the event from the psalm.
The dividing & casting lots for his clothes is the clearest example. For people to divide the wardrobe and cast lots for the garments of a warrior-chieftain like David on one of those bad days when he was on the run–that sounds very likely. To divide the one suit of clothes that a man had on his back while he was arrested, manhandled and beaten?
The other details are more plausible, if only Romans and Jews friendly to Rome were likely to be around. But the language is awfully close…
Did the gospel writers really work this way? Certainly, at least once. Where Zechariah has the King enter Jerusalem, “humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.”
“Matthew,” apparently unaware that this is a poetic repetition, has Jesus enter Jerusalem riding two animals, sitting on a cloth draped between them. It sounds extremely awkward.
A fraudulent procedure? No, merely the result of a strong belief that whatever really happened must have matched scripture as they understood it.