Archive for Christian texts

Curious Circumstances Regarding Jesus’ Trial

Posted in belief, Bible, Christianity, faith, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by chouck017894

There are a considerable number of questionable things in the accepted New Testament versions of Jesus’ ministry and the alleged events of his final days, especially the account of his blasphemy trial which was allegedly presided over by Pontius Pilate.  Pilate was indeed the Prefect of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea from c. 29 to 36 CE, having been appointed by Emperor Tiberius.  And yes, he was endowed with the power of supreme judge.  But it is highly improbable that the trial of Jesus’ alleged “treason” trial would have been conducted as portrayed in the crafted texts. 

There is the fact that the Prefect, a Roman governor who was not particularly sympathetic to the religious convictions or spiritual pride of the Jews, would have personally interrogated some gentle rebel of that faith.  The Roman jails held many other felons who merited more serious attention, and in addition it would have been the duty of the Prefect’s subordinates to interrogate the common-law violators.  Remember that Jesus was, for the most part, known only as a wandering preacher, and not yet renowned as someone bearing the exalted caliber of “Christ.”  (That designation originated in the Greek community of Antioch before the timeframe set as Jesus’ birth, which would not have been respected by Jews.)  Also, in cases which related to religious matters, the seriousness of an accused Jew’s offence was determined by the Sanhedrin–the Jewish supreme council and tribunal.  The Sanhedrin is portrayed as having found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, but that council did not have the power to sentence him with death.  Jesus was then allegedly brought before Pilate (Mark 15:5, Matthew 27:1-14, Luke 23:17, and John 18:29-38–all of which sustained several rewrites).

Pilate is portrayed rightfully as having refused to approve the judgment of death without Roman style investigation, and here again this duty would have been carried out by underlings.  This cautionary procedure purportedly inspired the Jewish priests to invent other charges against Jesus which allegedly led Pilate to interview Jesus privately.  On the surface this sounds reasonable, but nothing is ever conveyed how this interview with a jailbird could have occurred.  Jesus is said to have spoken Aramaic, and Pontius Pilate may have known some Hebrew, but his native language was Latin.  Did Jesus carry the omniscient gene of his divine father and thus understand everything about everything?  According to John’s Gospel, Pilate conversed with Jesus without need of an interpretor.  Curious.

According to John, the Jewish conspirators had led Jesus to the judgment hall but would not enter the Roman facility for fear of being defiled and thus rendered unqualified to partake of Passover.  Pilate obliged them and went outside to ask what accusations they made against Jesus.  Not particularly impressed with the Jews’ claim, Pilate told them to judge Jesus according to their own law, to which the Jews replied that it was unlawful for them to put any man to death (John 18:31).  At this point Pilate allegedly went back into the judgment hall and conversed with Jesus (without an interpretor), asking Jesus pointedly “Art thou the King of the Jews?”  Jesus never said yes exactly, and he didn’t say no; he said only that “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Pilate apparently just shrugged, saying, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and went back outside to tell the accusers, “I find in him no fault at all.”

The situation then became a bit more muddled with Pilate saying to the Jews (verse 39), “But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?”  Verse 40 continues, Then cried they all again saying, Not this man, but Barabbas.  (We will ignore here that the name Barabbas means son of the father, which could be applied to the only begotten son of God.)  The chapter concludes saying, Now Barabbas was a robber.  Chapter 19 begins by saying that “Pilate therefore took Jesus and sourged him.”  Are we to believe that a Roman governor would personally scourge a jailbird?  For what offense?  Pilate had found no fault in Jesus.  The crime of Jesus is the allegation of treason, but it was not treason or blasphemy in the eyes of Roman law, so Pilate said simply, “Behold the man.”  To which the chief priests and officers allegedly cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”  And Pilate is said to have replied to the malicious priests, “Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.”  In Matthew 27:19 Pilate is quoted as saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”

Now we get into even murkier territory.  Pilate had already announced that he found no fault in Jesus, and so the resposibility of a death sentence was passed back to the Jews.  But—and this is an important but—crucifixion was not a killing techique among the Jews; for the crime of blasphemy Jesus would have been, by Leviticus law, stoned to death.  Pilate sought to release Jesus (John 19:12), but for the Christian authors to get the crucifixion angle to work Pilate was pictured as being maneuvered by the priests who taunted Pilate saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend; (to) maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”  This is pathetic story plotting: even if Jesus claimed to be a king, he would not have been seriously considered in Rome to be any threat to imperial authority.  On the other hand the Christian cult desperately needed a messiah capable of resurrecting without too much physical damage.  And so Jesus was, by Gospel accounts, nailed to a cross–allegedly by the order of Pontius Pilate.

Another weakness in this crucifixion plotline is that the disgraced victims–Jews or not–were rarely permitted to be taken down for burial as is described for Jesus.  Customarily victims were left upon the cross to the mercy of dogs and wild beasts, for the crosses upon which victims were impaled were not the high silhoettes that Christian artists love to glorify; the Roman instrument of slow murder was rarely more than eight feet tall once it was anchored in the ground in an upright position.  The remains of the executed victims were, in due course, dumped into a mass grave.

There is an interesting footnote to Pontius Pilate’s alleged role in condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion.  Back in the nineteenth century the records of Pilate’s court were still in existence, and a distinguished scholar-educator (rabbi) Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), was able to study those records in a search of evidence of Jesus’ famous blasphemy trial.  Rabbi Wise could find absolutely nothing concerning such a trial.