Wednesday, September 2, 2015
(Updated April 11, 2017)
Advisory: See follow-up [Article #32], 'The Empire 'Halfheartedly' Strikes Back'.
THE DEFT POLITICAL MANEUVERINGS OF JESUS AND JEWISH OFFICIALS UNDER A PRECARIOUS ROMAN SHADOW
"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."
Pharisee Nicodemus confers with Jesus at a private, late night, visit at the carpenter's
residence to coordinate critical 'feigned opposition' strategy towards Jesus' ministry,
thereby ensuring the continuation of good relations between Rome and Jewish
authorities in Judea.
"Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?"
The existence of a Roman occupation throughout the Levant circa 30 AD precluded Jewish authorities in Judea and Galilee-Perea openly accepting Jesus as the Messiah. If Jesus was realized to be the Messiah, the Jewish authorities in Judea and Galilee would have played a game of feigned hostility towards Jesus, thereby placating an always watchful Rome that dealt swiftly with even perceived threats to Roman rule. We see then that the Gospels’ narrative of Jewish officialdom hostility towards Jesus’ ministry is behavior one would expect from those officials. Is there, then, within the Gospels themselves evidence of Jewish officialdom’s acceptance and knowledge of Jesus’ claim to the Messiah? In fact, there’s direct evidence.
When Jesus was in Jerusalem on His first mission there at the beginning of His ministry, the Pharisee named Nicodemus paid Jesus a discreet visit at night informing Jesus that the Temple leaders knew Jesus was sent from God. Nicodemus admits, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him."
The miracle that would have clearly directed the Sanhedrin’s attention to Jesus’ divine nature would be the immobilization of the Roman garrison within the Antonia Fortress, two of whose towers overlooked the Temple courtyards below; the stationing of a Roman garrison at the Temple ("But on the corner, where it [Antonia Fortress] joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both: through which the guards (for there always lay in this tower a Roman legion) went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals; in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations."
"Now while the Jewish affairs were under the administration of Cumanus, there happened a great tumult at the city of Jerusalem, and many of the Jews perished therein. But I shall first explain the occasion whence it was derived. When that feast, which is called the Passover, was at hand, at which time our custom is to use unleavened bread, and a great multitude was gathered together, from all parts to that feast, Cumanus was afraid lest some attempt of innovation should then be made by them; so he ordered that one regiment of the army should take their arms, and stand in the temple cloisters, to repress any attempts of innovation, if perchance any such should begin: and this was no more than what the former procurators of Judea did at such festivals.") was to control outbursts of religious zeal that could lead to riots/rebellion. In the western wall was the main gate named the Gate of Coponius after the first procurator; it was decorated with the golden eagle as a sign that the Temple had been placed under the protection of Rome. The Roman garrison’s inaction in arresting Jesus and bringing Jesus before Pilate for adjudication stemming from the melee1 Jesus caused in the Temple courtyards convinced the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ divine origins; the signs Jesus performed in Jerusalem after the clearing of the Temple could have been clever tricks for all the Sanhedrin knew, but the immobilization of the Roman garrison in the Antonia Fortress could not be explained away.
When Jesus immobilized the Roman garrison in the Antonia Fortress, He also had to immobilize those in the Temple who were about to revolt against Rome. You see, when those present inside the Temple witnessed the immobilization of the Roman garrison they would have known immediately that Jesus was the Messiah and therefore would have revolted there and then against Rome but they too were immobilized. The Roman garrison at the Antonia Fortress was situated within that fortress to stamp out the periodic religious themed revolts/rebellions that took place at the Temple, so when the crowd in the Temple witnessed Jesus’ 'violent' actions and the Roman refusal to intervene and stop Jesus, the crowd would have revolted, but they couldn’t. This second immobilization - immobilization of the Jewish revolt within the Temple upon witnessing the conspicuous absence of Roman soldiers in the courtyards - would have been one of the "signs" Nicodemus was referring to when he told Jesus "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him.”
As Jesus cleared the Temple courtyards, outside the Temple gates, and throughout Jerusalem, Jews are rioting, believing Rome is preventing them from entering the Temple - naturally no one who hadn’t been evicted by Jesus from the Temple courtyards would believe that one Jewish lunatic had cleared the Temple courtyards of both man and beast. These Jews new on the scene are witnessing Roman patrols outside the Temple walls similarly immobilized as the Roman soldiers are within the Antonia Fortress, proving that the first Jewish revolt would have taken place at this time, not in 66 AD, if it weren't for a third immobilization, an immobilization of the Jews in Jerusalem.
Since this was Passover week, Pilate was either quartered at the Antonia Fortress or at Herod's Palace located two-thirds of a kilometer distance from the Temple. Pilate can hear the riots taking place in Jerusalem, but refuses to investigate. In fact after the Temple melee, Jesus remains in Jerusalem for Passover week where He’s unmolested by Roman patrols as the 'lunatic' Messiah performs miracles, acts Rome also calls insurrection. This entails the fourth immobilization, an immobilization of all Roman forces in Judea and Syria.]
Nearly three yeas later while Jesus is in Judea, approaching Jerusalem to complete His mission on Earth, chief priest Caiaphas implicitly admits that Jesus is the Messiah, and that His death must come at the right time, otherwise Judea will be destroyed:
"Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life."2
Notice, high priest Caiaphas says Jesus' death would be, "for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one". While the rest of the Sanhedrin want Jesus to die now, out of fear of Roman retribution, Caiaphas reminds the Sanhedrin that the time is not yet for Jesus' death, otherwise, "the whole nation [would] perish." The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem was waiting for Jesus to give the sign that He was ready to die, that sign being the provocative entry into Jerusalem with the mob,3 an act that Pilate was in Jerusalem to stop if it should occur; Roman governors were required to be in Jerusalem the week before Passover to ensure no false claimant to being the Messiah took place, yet Pilate once again turns a blind eye to Jesus, and the mob, entering Jerusalem. In fact for approximately three years now Pilate is turning a blind eye to Jesus & disciples, who commit what Rome calls sedition by attracting large crowds. Candida Moss, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, informs us on Rome’s watchful eyes4…
"If we give any credence to the apocryphal acts and believe that the apostles attracted large crowds, then we have to concede that the apostles might have been viewed as revolutionaries. If they were arrested, then the charges levied against them may have been insurgency or inciting unrest among the people. As the death of Jesus shows, Romans had no problems executing people who caused trouble or could potentially start a rebellion. They were taking elementary precautions."5
Concurring assessments by other New Testament academicians...
"Jesus would have represented a kind of activist and resister in Pontius Pilate's experience that he had been dealing with for years, and with varying degrees of success and effectiveness, obviously. Jesus would have been a blip on the screen of Pontius Pilate, because the unrest and the uprisings were so common, part of daily life for the Roman administration of Judea, that Jesus would have been seen, I think, as very little out of the ordinary." (Fast-forward to 48:50 minutes in Part 1 of the PBS Frontline documentary, From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians).
"Now I don't for a moment think that Pilate would have been worried that Jesus could have challenged the power of the emperor. That's not the point. The point is, any challenge to Roman authority...any challenge to the peace of Rome would have been met with a swift and violent response." (Fast-forward to 49:23 minutes in Part 1 of the PBS Frontline documentary, From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians).
The significance of Pilate's inexplicable multiple failures to apply a military preemptive strike in response to Jesus' and disciples’ provocations evades New Testament academicians! In fact, after Jesus' resurrection the next nine Roman governors of Judea (until 66 AD, when Roman rule in Judea is interrupted by the First Jewish-Roman War) are following Pilate's stand down policy towards the Jesus sect community, called ‘The Way’ (the terms 'Christians' and 'Nazarenes' coming later in usage), where Jesus' apostles are still attracting large crowds and causing riots in the Temple. These atypical behaviors by ten Roman governors informs us that the behaviors weren't individual ad hoc behaviors, but policy set by the emperor in Rome.6 In fact when Paul and Peter, and their disciples, are roaming the eastern Roman Empire (outside of the Levant) they too are attracting large crowds, and what are the Roman governors doing about this sedition? Nothing. As with the ten Roman governors of Judea, they too refuse to immediately arrest Paul and Peter (and their disciples), then adjudicate and execute them for sedition.
In yet another Gospel passage illuminating acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, when Temple officials, accompanied by Temple guards, enter the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, upon approaching Jesus they prostrate themselves before Jesus in terror of Jesus’ reaction to the sickening task they are assigned to perform…
“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’
‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.
‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’
‘Jesus of Nazareth, they said.
Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.’ This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have not lost one of those you gave me.’”
Soon after Jesus’ resurrection the apostles are causing problems in the Temple, leading to two arrests. The first arrest involves the trial of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin; the second arrest all twelve apostles are tried.7 Are the apostles executed for blasphemy? No, the Sanhedrin tell the apostles to stop talking about Jesus, and let them go! The only person taking the lead in 'persecuting'8 the followers of Jesus is Paul, but this doesn't last long because the Sanhedrin sends Paul off on a red herring to Damascus,9 where Paul is confronted by Jesus, and is rebuked. Notice: Jesus doesn't rebuke the Roman authorities or the Jewish authorities for 'persecuting' His followers, only Paul, because it's only Paul who is taking an active lead in 'persecuting' Jesus' followers. If the Roman and Jewish authorities were 'persecuting' Jesus' followers, Jesus would have rebuked them too, but since they weren't 'persecuting' Jesus' followers (in the case of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, they abstained from initiating any 'persecution' of Jesus' followers), there is no need to rebuke them!
King Agrippa I
The death of any of Jesus' disciples in Judea took place only when a Roman governor was absent. Between 41-44 AD Roman rule in Judea is temporarily suspended when Agrippa I (nephew of Herod Antipas, nominal ruler of Galilee and Perea) is given Judea to administer by Emperor Claudius as a present for his assistance after the assassination of Emperor Caligula. In 39 AD Agrippa I was already king of Galilee and Perea, convincing Emperor Caligula to depose Herod Antipas and hand those two territories over to him. For the first time in nine-hundred and seventy-one years Israel was united, which many Jews believed would be accomplished by the Messiah.10 Towards the end of his reign, Agrippa I comes to accept this laudatory attribution of Messiah, and proceeds to annihilate Jesus’ apostles, since it’s reasoned they must be followers of the false Messiah Jesus. In 44 AD Agrippa I arrests and puts to death Jesus' disciple, James the son of Zebedee. Agrippa I then arrests Jesus' disciple Peter, intending the same fate, but Peter escapes from custody. Instead of remaining in Jerusalem to await the capture of Peter, Agrippa I swiftly leaves Jerusalem for Cæsarea on the Mediterranean coast where, suffering from great pain, he mysteriously dies a week after his arrival. Roman rule returns to Judea with the appointment of Procurator Cuspius Fadus (44-46 AD). I direct the reader’s attention to the revealing observation that Agrippa’s hostile moves against Jesus’ disciples only occurs in the last month of his reign, the year being 44 AD, three years after Rome ceded Judea to him.
King Agrippa II
The death of James the Just follows the death in office of Roman Procurator of Judea, Porcius Festus (59 -61 AD). Upon the death of the Roman governor, Agrippa II (the son of Agrippa I), who was previously granted by Rome in 48 AD the right to appoint the Temple high priest in Jerusalem, appoints Ananus ben Ananus the new high priest of the Temple. Ananus ben Ananus proceeds to arrest Jesus' brother, and leader of the Church of Jerusalem, James the Just (aka, James, son of Alphaeus and James the Less), and puts him to death for blasphemy. The nobility of Jerusalem condemn the actions of Ananus ben Ananus, many of them riding out of Jerusalem to quicken the arrival in Judea of the new Roman Procurator, Lucceius Albinus (62-64 AD), "...some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent."11 Upon arrival in Judea, Procurator Lucceius Albinus wrote to Ananus ben Ananus, ordering him to cease his activities against Jesus' disciples, whereupon Agrippa II removed Ananus ben Ananus from the high priest position, an assignment held for three months. Notice, with the death of James the Just some of Jerusalem's nobility, "...went...to meet Albinus...and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent." Why would the nobility of Jerusalem do that since Jesus and His followers were blasphemers, and the followers of The Way should have been put to death decades earlier? Why wouldn't the nobility of Jerusalem be delighted that the insidious and blaspheming followers of Jesus were finally getting the justice they deserved under the Law of Moses? Instead, incredulously, the nobility “...were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa II], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified…”12
Upon the death of Procurator Porcius Festu, Agrippa II moves fast in appointing a new high priest to the Temple, because Agrippa II knows that neither the current high priest nor the prospective new Roman governor will go along with the prosecution of Jesus’ apostles. As the son of Agrippa I, Agrippa II was emotionally attached to the belief that his father was the Messiah since, he would have reasoned, wasn’t it his father who had united Israel after nine-hundred and seventy-one years. For these two men (Agrippa I and Agrippa II), and these two men alone, the observable facts to Jesus being the Messiah, as attested to Jesus by Nicodemus, are overpowered by delusional vanity.
The Sermon on the Mount took place in King Antipas' territory of Galilee, where crowd scenes led by charismatic figures such as Jesus were not illegal. Galilee being nominally independent of Rome, Rome maintained a military presence there to secure Antipas' safety while at the same time ensuring Antipas' loyalty. Notice, dispersed among the crowd, Roman soldiers watching and listening to Jesus. Pictures of the Sermon on the Mount don't include the presence of Roman soldiers, but they were there by necessity.
In the fifth year of Emperor Nero’s reign, 58 AD, Paul returns to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey across the eastern Roman Empire, delivering a wondrous report to the Church of Jerusalem of the many gentiles converted to Jesus. James, the head of the church in Jerusalem, and other elders of the church, congratulate Paul on his Herculean task, reciprocating Paul’s accomplishments by informing the intrepid trekker that presently in Jerusalem there are thousands[sic]13 of Jews who believe in Jesus “…and all of them are zealous for the law.” James’ inclusion that the Jews in Jerusalem who came to Jesus are “zealous for the law” is a warning to Paul that many followers of The Way believe that Paul has turned away from the laws and customs of Moses, and worse yet that Paul is urging Jews to do the same. To alleviate this concern about Paul, James counsels Paul, “What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.”
A faithful rendering of Paul's arrest, highlighting the steps Paul climbs as he's being
escorted by Roman soldiers to the Antonia Fortress barracks, located on the other side of
the wall; the Temple courtyards are located to the right of the cloister columns.
A week later, after Paul had taken James’ advice, and while at the Temple, Jews from the Roman province of Asia recognize Paul from his missionary travels, and in possession of the false reports concerning Paul telling Jews to turn their backs to the customs and traditions laid down by Moses, become inflamed by the apostle's presence in the Temple. The Jews from Asia direct others' attention to Paul's presence, telling the perplexed onlookers that Paul, “teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place”, whereupon a mob erupts and nearly kills Paul before Paul is rescued by Roman soldiers from the adjacent Antonia Fortress. The commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem,Claudius Lysias, fearing for Paul's life, sends the apostle to Caesarea to be adjudicated by the Roman governor, Antonius Felix. After two years under Roman protective custody in Caesarea, Antonius Felix makes no ruling on Paul's fate. When the next Roman governor of Judea arrives in Caesarea, Porcius Festus, Paul finally exercises his right as a Roman citizen to be adjudicated by the emperor. Porcius Festus replies to Peter’s demand, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” When Paul reaches Rome in 60 AD he’s placed under house arrest for yet another two years, subsequently beheaded by Nero, though the year of the execution is unspecified.
The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem are not concerned by Paul’s missionary work, where Paul is spreading the message of Jesus (with Paul now on Jesus’ side, there are currently tens of thousands of believers in Jerusalem alone, and the followers of Jesus, including the elders of the Church of Jerusalem, aren’t presently being ‘persecuted’), but are alarmed by the rumors they’ve heard concerning Paul’s alleged proselytizing Jews living among the gentiles to “…turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs." Somewhere along the line, however, the concern the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem have concerning Paul shifts from the claim of abandoning the laws of Moses, to a question of doctrine. Paul identifies the new issue that is causing his current troubles, "Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)" Immediately after Paul zeros-in on his alleged crime, the Pharisees, in unison, vigorously proclaim their support for Paul, “We find nothing wrong with this man.” Paul is on the firing line due to differences of opinions on a matter of doctrine--will people one day be resurrected--not Paul's missionary work for Jesus. Once again Paul identifies the new source of his troubles, "Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’” Also note: There are tens of thousands of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem for Pentecost safely going about their way, unconcerned with being dragged into jail and executed for blasphemy under the Law of Moses!
The Gospels as Theater
Jesus being omniscient God, the Gospels must be read as one would watch a play unfold. Just as a scriptwriter knows every line of dialogue and where the dialogue is to take place even before the play is presented to the producer or cast, similarly when Jesus reads His dialogue (dialogue He knew would be spoken even before the creation of the universe) as found in the Gospels, one must be aware that Jesus knows not only the dialogue of others, He also knows their thoughts, and knows the answers to the questions He asks, but nevertheless Jesus asks those questions for the benefit of future audiences.
In Matthew 16 Jesus asks His disciples who do people say He, the Son of Man, is. Naturally Jesus knows the answer to the question, but asks anyway to assist future readers in recognizing Peter’s special qualities of perception, thereby cementing readers’ acceptance of Peter as the future head of Jesus’ Church. When Temple officials and soldiers enter the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, Jesus asks them, “Who is it you want?” Well, Jesus knows who they want, but asks anyway as a pretext that allows a followup exchange where Jesus tells the Temple officials not to arrest His disciples, which allows Jesus to remind us that He had earlier predicted He would lose not one disciple. As the Gospel author informs us, "This [the exchange between Jesus and the Temple officials] happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have not lost one of those you gave me.'"14 In the same manner, Jesus’ periodic caustic condemnations of the Pharisees and Sadducees must be understood as theater, allowing for those authorities to remain in the good graces of Rome. In Matthew 23, Jesus fires several broadsides against the Temple priests when He tells them, “So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
Is this the same Jesus who on the cross, says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”?15 It’s the same Jesus alright, but now He’s not playing theater, He’s playing Himself.
We are in a position to clarify an issue that has perplexed New Testament scholarship since the 17th century, and that is the Testimonium Flavianum, the name given to the passage found in Book 18, Chapter 3.3 of the Antiquities of the Jews, in which the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Roman authorities, specifically referring to Jesus with the following, "He was Christ."
It is this reference to Jesus as being Christ [Greek for ‘Messiah’] that troubles New Testament scholars, since we are told by the early Church Father Origen in his Commentary on Matthew (Book X, Chapter 17) that Josephus did not accept Jesus as the Christ. As my research above proves, Jewish officials in Judea knew Jesus to be the Christ, though for political reasons kept that knowledge close to themselves.
Josephus' family was wealthy, and his father came from the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, which was the first of the 24 orders of priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, Josephus would have been well aware of the intelligence reports the Sanhedrin received concerning Jesus' true nature, hence there would be no conflict with Josephus not only accepting Jesus as the Christ, but knowing Jesus is the Christ.
1. Did Jesus clear the Temple once or twice, where the second clearing is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke? Or is John referring to the same clearing as recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s accounts? Matthew, Mark and Luke’s accounts differ in that (1) the animals remain in the Temple; (2) Jesus doesn’t manufacture a whip; and (3) Jesus and the Temple authorities’ pronouncements are different than in John’s account. These discrepancies could be reconciled for a unitary clearing of the Temple if it were not for John’s inclusion in his account of the total ignorance of the Jews to any signs Jesus has performed up to that day, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”, an impossibility for a unitary clearing since Jesus and the signs He performed were well known by the time Jesus entered the Temple for the last time, proving that Jesus cleared the Temple twice.
3. To ensure Jesus was indeed signaling it was time for Him to die, the Sanhedrin conducted three night time Q&A sessions with Jesus (These proceedings were not trials, as under the Law of Moses trials can only take place during daylight hours, thereby also precluding any possibility of punishment; the Jewish authorities had no desire to execute Jesus, they were not going to be the ones blamed for killing the Messiah. The plan was to have Pilate execute Jesus instead.). Jesus’ refusal to provide an effective defense, constituting a sign proving Him to be the Messiah, informed the Sanhedrin that Jesus was indeed ready to die.
4. The contortions Pilate must suffer through in his avoidance to harm even one hair on Jesus’ head takes comedic turns when Jesus visits Jerusalem, making a spectacle of Himself when turning over merchants' tables in the Temple courtyards, not once, but twice. Next to the Temple is the Antonia Fortress with four towers, two of which overlooked the Temple’s courtyards where Roman garrison soldiers watched Jesus causing the duel mayhems with the merchants below. The fact that Jesus wasn’t immediately arrested and taken to Pilate when the first incident occurred proves orders were already given to leave Jesus alone. Giving such orders to his soldiers, and without any explanation for their oddity, Pilate would have been seriously undermining his credibility in the eyes of his soldiers.
The comedic level reaches fever pitch when the Temple authorities bring Jesus for Pilate’s adjudication. Pilate, however, believes he has a clever solution to his quandary: Learning that Jesus is a Galilean (as if Pilate hadn't already known this!), and knowing that King Antipas is in town for Passover (Antipas is the Roman appointed nominal sovereign ruler of Galilee), he dispatches Jesus to Antipas for adjudication (the Galileans Pilate massacred at the Temple the previous week weren't so lucky, but maybe that's because Antipas wasn't yet in Jerusalem for the anticipatory Passover festivities!). Pilate's brainstorm doesn't quite work out, however, because Antipas is more concerned with having to adjudicate Jesus than he is of disobeying an order of his Roman superior, so Antipas sends Jesus back to Pilate, even though the Gospels of Mark and Luke inform us that Antipas wanted to kill Jesus!
Jesus is now back before Pilate, and with the utmost of insincerity, Pilate tells the Temple officials, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him”! The Temple officials are unimpressed with Pilate’s attempt at washing his hands of Jesus, and remind Pilate that, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” Pilate was checkmated!
John the Baptist
Excepting for one instance where John the Baptist and disciples cross the Jordan River into Roman Judea to baptize in northern Samaria, at Aenon, near Salim, (in the presence of Jesus and His disciples, whose disciples are also baptizing), John and disciples confined baptizing rituals to the east side of the Jordan River in King Antipas' jurisdiction of Perea, in the knowledge that Pilate would dispatch a cavalry detachment to cut them down should John and disciples be so foolhardy to baptize in Judea. Aenon being a comforting mere one mile into Roman territory, and knowing that Rome has a hands off policy concerning Jesus, John is unconcerned that Pilate will dispatch a Roman cavalry force to attack him and his disciples at Aenon. However, John the Baptist and disciples may have ministered in Roman Judea, but close to the Jordan River (Luke's Gospel points out John's ministry took place in "...all the country around the Jordan [River]..."), proximity to the river allowing for a quick escape should Roman cavalry be spotted approaching in the distance.
5. The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, Candida Moss (2014), page 137.
6. Roman ‘persecution’ of Christians was initiated late in the reign of Emperor Nero, in the summer of 64 AD, thirty-one years after Jesus’ resurrection. The persecutions were the result of blame assigned to Christians for a massive fire that swept Rome that summer, leaving undamaged only four of Rome's fourteen districts. By this time, and since Jesus' execution in 33 AD, Rome had three emperors before Nero: Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius. With the death of Nero in 68 AD, individual prosecutions, not persecutions, of Christians occurred, usually involving Christians proselytizing others not to join the Roman legions (such proselytizing greatly subsiding by 200 AD, where Christians are now joining the Roman legions), or the refusal of Christians to participate in the Roman Imperial Cult. Proselytizing against joining the Roman legions and refusal to partake in the Roman Imperial Cult was viewed by Rome as treason, where any Roman subject, not just Christians, was subject to judicial execution. Jews managed to come to terms with Rome on this matter of the Roman Imperial Cult. Exempted from recognizing the Emperor as a divine entity, Jews assuaged Rome's sensitivities by merely offering sacrifice and prayer for the well being of Rome and its leaders.
During emergency situations that periodically afflicted imperial Rome, usually involving barbarian invasions, post-Nero, emperor-initiated, persecutions of Christians also took place, but were periodic and short lived, in the aggregate lasting no longer than ten to thirteen years at the most. Candida Moss, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, tells us:
“Between the death of Jesus around 30 CE and the ascension of Constantine in 313, Christians died as a result of active measures by the imperial government only (1) immediately following the Great Fire of Rome in 64, (2) around 250, during the reign of Decius, (3) briefly during the reign of Valerian in 257-58, and (4) during the “Great Persecution” under the emperor Diocletian, which lasted from 303 to 305 and was renewed by Maximinus Daia between 311 and 313. These dates represent the largest time span for active persecution in the period before Constantine. As we will see, not all of these episodes can reasonably be called persecutions, and their implementation was often limited to specific regions and to months rather than years. Even putting these caveats aside, we are talking about fewer than ten years out of nearly three hundred during which Christians were executed as the result of imperial initiatives.” (See footnote 5; page 129).
The standard narrative of Christians being violently persecuted by Rome for nearly three-hundred years is contradicted by the “…third-century Christian writer Tertullian [who] tells us, [that Christians were] able to succeed in politics, law, and business. They were not hiding, either in the catacombs in Rome or in general. On the eve of Diocletian’s Great Persecution—which, beginning in 303, outlawed Christian scriptures, prohibited Christians from meeting, and razed places of worship—a newly erected church nestled across from the imperial palace in Nicomedia in Turkey, a symbol of the confidence of Christians living in the Roman Empire.”
“In a famous episode in Asia Minor around 185[sic], a mob of Christians marched to the home of C. Arrius Antoninus, the governor of Asia, and demanded to be executed. The governor, no doubt irritated by the interruption, sent the Christians away, telling them that if they wanted to die, they had cliffs to leap off and ropes with which to hang themselves.” (See footnote 5; page 144).
It is critically important to discern the inexplicable actions of the Roman governor and Roman forces towards the Christian mob (actions that again evades New Testament academicians, proving their contribution to New Testament scholarship has its limits, limits that can only be filled by political science), where (1) the mob is allowed to gather and proceed to the governor’s residence unmolested by Roman forces; (2) the mob is allowed to assemble at the door of the governor’s residence; and after arriving at the governor’s residence; (3) the mob is allowed to leave unmolested! If this had been any other assemblage of Roman subjects, they would have been annihilated before they proceeded towards the governor's residence. This spotlights the special relationship Rome had so often shown towards Christians in the past, initiated during the ministry of Jesus and disciples in Judea, where even after Jesus’ execution the next nine Roman governors of Judea are following Pilate’s stand down policy towards the ‘insurrectionist’ sect, proving that the policies inaugurated by Pilate and followed by his successors weren’t ad hoc policies, independently carried out by each new governor of Judea, but imperial policy set by the emperor in Rome.
7. Now that the Sanhedrin has the apostles before them (belatedly, since the apostles were supposed to have been arrested and executed, executed under the acquiescence of the Roman governor, a year earlier), the assembly neglects to ask the twelve where they hid Jesus’ body! The Sanhedrin is incurious because it knows Jesus resurrected and ascended back to Heaven, therefore no hidden body of Jesus can exist. In fact, Gamaliel the Elder, a respected leading authority and Pharisee, gave inexplicable advice to the second Sanhedrin adjudicating all twelve apostles for blasphemy. Gamaliel the Elder pleaded with the Sanhedrin to refrain from slaying the disciples of Jesus and "Let them go!"
Stephen, At The Wrong Place And Time
Between the execution of Jesus and the death of Stephen the following Passover (possibly the second Passover after Jesus’ execution), no others within Jesus’ community were put to death. Saint Stephen’s arrest was not precipitated by the Temple authorities but by Corinthians, Cyreneans, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia in Jerusalem for Passover, and being ignorant of events that had transpired with Jesus the previous year, went to the Temple authorities complaining of Stephen’s ‘blasphemy’. In order to placate these foreigners, and not attract the attention of the Roman governor who was in Jerusalem maintaining a close watch on the religious festivities should they become excited with religious fervor that could lead to rebellion against Rome, the Temple authorities, with the acquiescence of the Roman governor, executed Stephen.
Note: After Stephen is executed in 34 AD (or possibly 35 AD), the execution of a disciple of Jesus doesn't take place until 44 AD, with the death of James the son of Zebedee at the hands of King Agrippa I, which is eleven years after Jesus’ execution, and nine to ten years after Stephen’s death.
8. Since the followers of Jesus were members of a 'blasphemous' sect, then Paul was prosecuting those followers under the Law of Moses, not persecuting them.
9. Paul's solitary rampages throughout Jerusalem searching for followers of Jesus is breeding havoc in the city, a situation the religious authorities know can't last long before Pilate will intervene, hence the necessity of getting Paul not only out of the city, but out of Judea, on a mission to Damascus. Acts records that it is Paul who requests the mission to arrest followers of Jesus in Damascus, but this can't be Paul's idea because Paul would have plenty of work in Judea, pursuing Jesus' followers who had fled into the Judean-Samarian countryside, and not sabotage that mission by traveling to far away Damascus. The idea of going to Damascus must have been planted into Paul's mind by the Temple authorities, since Paul had no pressing immediate reason for going there. In fact, the ‘Typhoid Mary’ source of the contagion Paul is waging his personal war against--the twelve apostles--remain in Jerusalem unmolested!
10. As chief priest Caiaphas tells the Sanhedrin in John 11: “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”
13. Tens of thousands or thousands? The ancient Greek μυριάδες used in the original texts translates myriads, and one myriad contains ten thousand, not thousands. Correctly translated then, and as spoken by James, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are zealous for the Law." The reason the word tens was removed is that scholars couldn't accept such a large number of faithful Jews in Jerusalem at such an early time in church history. As my research proves, not only were there in Jerusalem tens of thousands of Jews at Jerusalem for Pentecost in 58 AD who were believers in Jesus, the real count is higher, including the religious authorities and countless others who remain closet believers.
14. It should be pointed out that the Temple officials had no orders to arrest Jesus’ disciples, since if they had such orders they would have arrested the disciples. This is borne out by the Sanhendrin’s behavior towards the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, where a hands off policy is implemented, even though the disciples continue to spread ‘blasphemy’.
15. We are now in position to comprehend the true meaning of the phrase, “…for they do not know what they are doing.” The persons Jesus is referring to can’t be the Jewish authorities nor Pilate, since (1) the Jewish authorities did know what they were doing (though were in error in assessing the precise purpose for Jesus’ death, believing Jesus’ death would reconstitute the Kingdom of Israel, when instead Jesus’ death is to die for mans’ sins); and (2) Pilate had no intention of executing Jesus, pressed into executing Jesus by the Sanhedrin authorities’ insistence that Pilate apply the Roman laws of insurrection/sedition. Therefore Jesus’ assignment of ignorance must be directed to the Roman soldiers who took part in the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus. This analysis is also confirmed by the next sentence to the paragraph where the "they" is identified, "And they [the Roman soldiers] divided up his clothes by casting lots."