Bad Guys Can’t Shoot Straight


We’ve all seen the movies where the good guys are pitted against the bad guys. The bad guys have numerous faceless henchmen, armed with weaponry that fires off projectiles at incredible rates. After the flurry is over, and the force of the attack shreds all the items within the vicinity, the good guy is unscathed. Or, at best, a flesh wound (that will not affect their performance for the rest of the flick.)

He or she, of course, assesses the situation, and with hands tied, shoots once, which ricochets off a convenient steel plate, severing the rope holding the equally convenient chandelier, which drops on the faceless henchmen, rendering them unconscious.

The Evil Villain often brings in the “expert” to do the job right. The hired gun; the assassin.

This is the situation presented in the New Testament. The “Bad Guys” which consisted of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the chief priests as well as unidentified “Jews” were frustratingly unable to kill Jesus. So they had to bring in the hired guns of the Romans.

Why didn’t the Chief Priests simply kill Jesus upon his conviction? Because they were the bad guys—and bad guys can’t shoot straight. We all know that.


Being the Easter season, as I typically do, I re-read the various accounts of Jesus’ accusation, trial, death, burial and resurrection. It is a simple question, really—If the chief priests convicted Jesus of blasphemy, the punishment being death—why did they get the Romans involved at all? Why not just stone him and be done with it?

A little background as to the animosity between these individuals and Jesus would be appropriate. Beginning in the first Gospel—Mark;

The very first encounter we see between Jesus and the bad guys is the healing of the Paralytic. (Mark 2:1-12) The one where the four friends lower the sick person through the roof. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” The teachers of the law, who happened to be there on instructions from the Fire Marshall due to the over-capacity crowd, recognize that this is blasphemy. The first confrontation, and the first accusation against the Jesus were to remain the same throughout Jesus’ entire recorded career.

Jesus shows them up by healing the paralyzed fellow.

The Pharisees confront Jesus about fasting and eating and healing. In each situation Jesus is able to foil them with witty repartee. By Mark 3:6, the Pharisees and Herodians were already plotting to kill Jesus.

Jesus continues to teach, to heal and to confront the various leaders. Once he clears the temple, we are reminded again that the chief priests and the teachers of law (and presumably the Pharisees and the Herodians) plotted for a way to kill him. (Mark 11:18) Jesus has quite a few enemies at this point!

Yet they continue to attempt to trap Jesus by tricky words. And continue to be stumped by Jesus’ pithy statements. Finally, they were able to coerce one of the Twelve Disciples to betray Jesus, and arrest him in the Garden. (Mark 14:43-50)

The Sanhedrin listened to numerous conflicting testimonies that were clearly not doing the job. (Worthless faceless henchmen.) Finally the High priest stands up and asks Jesus whether he was the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One. (Mark 14:610 Odd, considering claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemy.

Jesus replies, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” A nondescript response that could mean a number of things, not necessarily that Jesus was claiming to be God, or equal to God. Yet the High Priest considers this answer sufficient and they condemn Jesus to death. (Mark 14:63-64)

Now would have been the time to stone him. But what do they do instead? Take him to Romans…Curious.

How does Matthew record the relationship? Following Mark, the author records the first confrontation and accusation being the paralytic, forgiveness of sins and claims of blasphemy. (Matt. 9:1-7) Again, we see the pattern of fasting, eating and healing, followed by the Pharisees (but no Herodians) plotting to kill Jesus. (Matt. 12:14)

Matthew veers a bit from Mark, by including some parables after the cleansing of the temple before reminding us that the Chief priests and the Pharisees (but no Herodians or teachers of the law) wanted to arrest Jesus. (Matt. 21:45)

Mathew follows Mark’s tale of the betrayal, arrest in the Garden, the accusations before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest’s question, Jesus’ response and the condemnation of death. (Matt. 26:57-66) Again, now would have been the time to stone him. Yet we see them get the Romans involved. (Matt: 27:1-2) Why?

Luke also includes the first accusation of blasphemy at the healing of the Paralytic. (Luke 5:17-26) Luke has the fasting, eating and healing. He removes some of the teeth of Mark and Matthew by stating that the Pharisees and teachers of the law began to discuss “what they might do to Jesus.” No explicit death threat here. (Luke 6:11)

Luke also is less emphatic over whether the bad guys intended to do physical harm to Jesus after he confounds them. The author records that they wanted to “besiege him with questions.” (Luke 11:53-54) Irritating—perhaps. Deadly? Not at all. Most striking, Luke indicates Pharisees helping Jesus, since Herod wants to kill Jesus! (Luke 13:31) (Interestingly Luke only records Herod imprisoning John the Baptist (Luke 3:20) and that subsequently John is dead (Luke 9:7) Did Luke know the history of Josephus that said Herod killed John the Baptist out of fear of insurrection, and not the accusation of Herod’s wrongdoing? Was Luke correcting Mark’s history, here?)

Luke conforms to Mark’s indicating the chief priests and teachers of law began to plot to kill Jesus following the cleansing of the temple. (Luke 19:47-48) It should be noted that Luke indicates the chief priests “were included” in the people that wanted to kill Jesus. Rather than being the sole or precipitating cause, they were just some among the many.

By Luke 20:19, they moved to the forefront of the people desiring to kill Jesus.

Luke includes the betrayal, and corrects Mark’s error by moving the trial before the Sanhedrin to the morning (Luke 22:66) Luke also adds to Jesus’ claim. In this instance, Jesus is recorded as being asked the additional question “Are you the Son of God?” (whatever a Jew would think that meant) and Jesus replies, “You are right saying I am.” (Luke 22:70)

Luke never states what Jesus was specifically condemned for. Luke never has the Jews stating Jesus committed a Jewish law worthy of death.

Luke does include an interaction between Herod and Pilate that is not recorded in any other Gospel. The author states Pilate, upon learning Jesus was from Galilee, sends Jesus to Herod. Now would have been a perfect time to kill Jesus.

We have Herod, who killed John the Baptist out of fear of an uprising, and who we have been informed desires to kill Jesus. He has the legal authority to do so. This would be the opportunity. Yet Herod does not kill Jesus. Why not? What sense does this make? (Luke 23:8-12)

Previously, Luke records Herod desiring to kill Jesus, but the Pharisees protecting him. In a (slight) role reversal, Luke now has Herod protecting Jesus and the chief priests and teachers of law desiring to kill Jesus! Is Luke absolving the Pharisees? (They have dropped out of the picture since Luke 19.) Even so, what happened to change Herod’s mind from desiring to kill Jesus to saving him?

At this point we are left puzzling until our puzzler is sore—if the Priests had condemned Jesus to death, wanted to kill him—why not pick up stones and stone him?

The Gospel of John adds an interesting insight. John, like Luke, does not include a specific condemnation, nor does it include the trial transcript of Mark. No, what John includes is Jews stating, “But we have no right to execute anyone.” (John 18:31)

Now that would make the rest of the pieces fall into place. If the religious leaders did not have the right to implement capital punishment—this would explain why, in the other Gospels, the leaders turned Jesus over to the Romans. They wanted him dead. They couldn’t do it on their own. So they take him to the authorities that can. (This does not resolve the problem of Herod, who clearly DID have the authority to kill Jesus. Not surprisingly John fails to record the claim that Herod was involved in any way.)

There is only one problem with this. Where is it indicated that the Jews could not execute someone by stoning? In fact, the first place we can look to see that they could is the Gospel of John itself!

In John 8:57-59, the “Jews” (the Gospel of John commonly uses this vernacular rather than chief priests, teachers of law or Pharisees) are amazed by Jesus’ claim to have seen Abraham. They question how that could be, and Jesus responds, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” I need not remind the readers of the “I am” of the burning bush. (Exodus 3:14) Nor, apparently did the Jews need any such reminding.

They picked up stones to stone Jesus. No plotting. No tricky questions. No fear of a crowd. Justice at its most simple—Jesus claims to be God; Jesus is stoned. But lest we forget, these are the Bad Guys. There is still an hour left in the movie. Bad Guys can’t shoot straight. Jesus is able to slip away.

If the Jews could not stone people under Roman law it sure wasn’t stopping them. Twice.

John records another instance of Jesus in the temple area where Jesus proclaims, “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30. Again, the Jews pick up stones to stone him. No plots, tricky questions or worry about the crowd. (John 10:31) Again, they forgot they wear the Black Hats; they miss. (John 10:39-40)

The Disciples certainly seemed to grasp the Jews’ ability to stone Jesus. When He wants to go visit sick Lazarus, the disciples say, “Hey. Last time you were there, they were going to stone you!” Jesus responds with the obvious answer, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (John 11:8-9)

Wha--? According to Mark, Matthew and Luke, Jesus had made it quite plain to his disciples that he was going to suffer at the hands of the chief priests and be killed. (Mark 8:31-32, Matt. 16:21, Luke 9:22)

Jesus: I am going to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed by Gentiles and raised again.
Disciples: Don’t go! They are going to kill you!
Jesus: [smacking his head with that “don’t you get it?” look] You should walk in the day, so you don’t stumble like at night.

No one is saying, “Hey, don’t worry. They can’t kill you.” Everyone acts as if that is exactly what can occur—Jesus, the Disciples, and the Jews.

At this point, in John the High Priest and the Pharisees DID plot to kill Jesus. So Jesus stopped working in public. John 11:45-57. This is a good justification for the reason of the need of a betrayer. They couldn’t find Jesus. Notice, though, the limitation seems to be on finding Jesus—not on whether they could kill him or not.

Humorously, when Jesus is questioned by the High Priest, he replies that he has always spoken openly, and said nothing in secret. What about having just been in hiding from the Jews? That wasn’t in the open. And when he WAS in the open, and DID speak openly, they tried to stone him. Twice.

In Mark the Sanhedrin seems to be looking for a reason to condemn Jesus. In John, despite having been ready to stone him (twice) we still see them looking for a reason. It is as if everyone completely forgot the very basis of plotting against Jesus!

The Jews want to kill Jesus, try to stone him, and he escapes. Herod wants to kill him, has him in his grasp and Jesus escapes. It is a Hollywood staple—the plot must proceed and the movie would end unceremoniously early if the Bad Guys can hit.

It should also be noted that Stephen was stoned with no thought or qualm about the legal right to do so. Acts 7:59. Paul records being stoned, without any indication as to a legal irregularity. 2 Cor. 11:25. The Sanhedrin is indicated as having the ability to sentence Peter to death. Acts 5:33. And James the Just is recorded by Josephus as having been stoned to death.

What changed? What happened that by the time of Peter’s preaching, Stephen, Paul and James, the religious leaders clearly could stone, yet at the time of Jesus, they could not?

It is my position that Mark, in writing his Gospel was utilizing the Tanakh, and used Psalm 22 as the outline for Jesus’ death. A crucifixion. In order to do so, he needed Jesus to die by the Romans (Jews would not have crucified a condemned person), so he has the chief priests turning Jesus over to Pilate.

Matthew and Luke follow Mark’s outline (correcting awkward problems as need be.) But by the time of John, the question as to why the Romans were involved at all was raised. So, the sole Gospel to do so, John attempts to offer a defense, claiming that Jews did not have the right to execute. A claim that is problematic in light of John itself other books of history.

This Easter season, I ask the question: Why didn’t the Jews just stone Jesus?

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The bad guys can't hit."

Jesus had the power to lay down his life on his own accord and to raise himself up. I would bet everything I owned that you couldn't have hit Jesus with a stone before the time had come for him to die.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee! I believe that stoning was the punishment reserved for those within the community. To hand Jesus over to the Romans was to completely and ultimately reject Him and sever the community ties (which membership was highly valued) and I believe, to render a more humiliating and exposing death. His challenge of their spiritual authority completely offended their pridefulness and invoked hatred within them.

Jesus's popularity amongst the marginalized community was raising awareness of the the religious leaders' fallibilities in expressing love and I imagine they would have preferred to undermine and deride His influence rather than kill Him, but from their perspective of self-righteousness, it had to be done - their works were too valuable to humble themselves and denounce their practices and traditions as empty and devoid of God's love. How many people, once they gain a successful public life based on their own reputations and works are willing to give that up if proven vain?

Some of what you mentioned about the gospels and Jesus's responses and actions towards the Pharisees has to do with Jesus's prophetic insight - Jesus could identify spiritual infections/influences and pronounce their manifestions - but He was offering spiritual intervention and continues to offer that to this day. Many of Jesus's statements are prophetic and demonstrative of the division between God's Way and the world's.

As far as the Pharisees being the "bad" guys, Jesus loved them deeply and forgave them. Even though He acknowledged the truth that they were like a den of vipers and sons of Hell, He didn't reject them - they were infected and bonding with something God never intended. He desired their salvation into a Kingdom of love rather than waging endless power struggles amongst themselves and others.

Lee, I hope you have a great weekend and that your dogs are doing well - I've been watching the Dog Whisperer and am working with mine - please wish me well!

Anon 1035

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 354 I would bet everything I owned that you couldn't have hit Jesus with a stone before the time had come for him to die.

Ah. Then you do not subscribe to Jesus being 100% human. Some type of super-human, then?

That raises the interesting prospect, of course, as to how much Jesus suffered then, doesn’t it? If he was super-human, perhaps the scourging was like bullets bouncing. Then…er…why did Jesus have to hide in John 8:59 to avoid being stoned.


Anon 1035

I think you offer about the only out feasible—the leaders wanted something more despicable for Jesus’ death. But isn’t this stated with 20-20 hindsight?

We see they had no problem stoning Stephen, Paul or James the Just. And certainly with Peter or James the Just, these were individuals with a far greater available power base, which would be far more likely to require a death to demoralize the community.

Further, we see in John that twice they attempted to stone Jesus. There was no call to bring the Romans in.

Finally, put yourself in the position of the Sanhedrin. You want Jesus dead in the worse possible way. Assassin, stoning, accidental donkey accident—you don’t care. He is condemned by his own words. You have the power to kill him. You have the crowd on your side. And Pilate has been difficult following Jewish customs before. You think he would crucify Jesus just on your say-so, but that is not certain.

Do you take the certain death of stoning, or toss the dice, messing with Pilate?

Anon 1035: He desired their salvation into a Kingdom of love rather than waging endless power struggles amongst themselves and others.

Interesting description of the state of Christianity today, eh?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dagoods! Lol - "accidental donkey death"

Remember, Jesus didn't fully reveal Himself until He had been apprehended personally by the Jewish leaders. Wanting to stone someone who is more popular than you might is at a different emotioanl/mental level than wanting to kill someone who is directly confronting your impotence as an authority figure so the progression and escalation of punishment seem reasonable. Revealing Himself as the Messiah was reproachable to them. (Some personal experience in dealing with pride here - more than a few logs have been sent to Weyerhauser).

The others who were stoned did not bear the proclamation of being the Messiah themselves so they may have been perceived differently. My pridefulness was less threatened by someone talking about Jesus than Jesus Himself.

About dice tossing: Somehow, it seems as though the Jewish leaders had a relationship (part of their selling out to the world) with the Roman government so I doubt that it was a gamble to send Jesus to Pilate- I'm sure Pilate's character were familiar to the Jewish leaders. They probably had a cooperative understanding seeing as how both populations were set upon the same worldly foundation. The Jewish population no doubt provided a good tax basis to fund the Roman government, don't you think? Responsible, cooperative and good, honest workers were no doubt viewed with some regard.

I agree with you about the state of Christianity today - it is not uncommon to fall prey to nurturing pridefulness in a human heart - I know firsthand. At the end of the day, not very much fun - more enjoyable to just sit down and enjoy a good meal and conversation and learn about God's creation in one another.

Thanks so much, Dagoods!

Anon 1035

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

The trial is perhaps the most suspect of the non-miraculous parts of the Gospels. I'll discuss this in a moment, but again it happened that I was reading a section of Enslin that particularly bears on the question you ask -- though this time I WOULD like another source for what he says. (It is on p. 117 of CHRISTIAN BEGINNINGS during a discussion of the Pharisees. Unfortunately, in the book, he limits his use of footnotes. In the quote, emphasis is mine.))

"Again, it should be pointed out that much of the discussion that seems to us casuistry and hair-splitting was to facilitate the keping of the law by making it next to impossible to commit what we might call "the deadly sins." Terrible penalties were imposed, but the legislation was so hedged about that in many cases the crime was almost impossible; in others, the conviction. The penalty for blasphemy ws death, but blasphemy was not committed by uttering the sacred name or even by using it as an oath. It consisted in 'cursing God by the name of God" -- "God damn God!" -- which it will be admitted would not often occur."

If Enslin is even partially correct, the idea of blasphemy as a heretical or sacriligeous statement was not what was meant in these times. As for claiming to be the Messiah, since there were, for much of the post Maccabean times, many claimants to that title, it was not considered blasphemous.

(I personally doubt if Jesus ever made that claim, since the Messiah was a political-military figure come to restore Israel to its glory in the eyes of most Jews of the time. What seems more likely is that he might have put himself forward as the religious figure who was expected to accompany and sanctify the Messiah, much as Rabbi Akiba sanctified the cause of Bar Kochba -- who DID claim to be the Messiah -- in the next century. I sometimes wonder if Jesus was, in fact, looking for someone to take this role when he went to Jerusalem, though this is pure speculation.)

As for other aspects of the trial, the Sanhedrin met during the daytime, not -- ever -- at night. And if the Last Supper was in fact a Passover seder, the idea of the Sanhedrin meeting during Passover -- specifically on the first night which is especially important to Judaism -- can only be considered as totally absurd.

As for the Pharaisees, I'd suggest Anon 1035 should read other sources to understand who they, in fact, were. Enslin, Josephus, Guignebert, Max Dimont all cover them, and they were hardly the hypocrites that the Bible portrays them as.

I personally doubt that the Jews had anything to do with the crucifixion.

(Of course, if we had more of an idea of what Jesus actually preached, we might have a better answer to this. All the words that Jesus are quoted as saying in all four Gospels can be spoken in an evening. Even if they are all considered authentic, they can represent only a miniscule fraction of what he said during a preaching career that lasted anywhere from 'a few months' (Guignebert) to a year (the Synoptics) to three years (John). Perhaps he was far more political than the preserved words show. Certainly this was a very political time in a period when the history of Palestine was filled with wars, revolts, double-dealing and political shifts that would make watchers of 24 dizzy -- again, see Josephus who was involved in much of this.)

However, by the time the Gospels were written, the Jesus movement had been influenced by Paul, had greatly abandoned its original Jewishness, and had begun to be spread throughout the Roman Empire.
It's true that there were Jews in all corners of the Empire already and Judaism as a religion was very popular there. However, Jerusalem had just finished fighting a bitter and fierce war with Rome which ended with the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of those Jews who had remained 'at home.' Jews as a political group were very unpopular among the Romans. How better for Christians to distinguish themselves from those Jews than by saying 'we don't like them either, they killed our prophet, not your Procurator.' (And the slight blame on Pilate was not really that bad, since he had, I believe, already been recalled to Rome in disgrace.)

Boy did I ramble, sorry for taking this much space.

Anonymous said...

That is not what Christians believe. Pharisees were hyprocrites, but Jews did not kill Jesus. Our sins killed Jesus.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Ignoring Mr. Anonymous the Homileticist -- I'll take you on on topics of belief, ethics, doctrine, etc, but you are a distraction when we are discussing history -- let me ask a further question. If the Jews were so anxious to silence the radical teacher, Jesaus, why did they leave groups such as the Essenes, the Thereputae, the Covenanters of Damascus, or even the 4th Philosophy/Home Rule Party unattacked? These groups were far more disturbing to the Pharisees and far more radical that -- as far as we know from the Bible -- the Jesus movement was, yet they were allowed to exist unmolested.

Anonymous said...

If we're following history, then apparently the "Jesus movement" was more "radical" then any of those other movements.

Anonymous said...

If you're following history, then the best we have is the bible. But, however, the bible was not made for history but for the present.

Anonymous said...

Jesus exudes a very palpable spirit - one that transcends history. It is this spirit, not words alone, that attract(ed) followers to Jesus and poses a threat to those who are bonded to pridefulness and territorialism. That is no doubt the reason the other movements were allowed to go unmolested.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

You might actually look into those other movements and what they taught, They were far more radical than Jesus, who was, as far as we lnow, much more in the mainstream of Jewish thought -- again, we have such a small percentage of his words and can't be sure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the exchange Prup - my attention span is a little short for thoroughly understanding all that you write - you're very articulate. What were the other movements promoting?? I'd love to hear about them.

I am a witness for faith so I don't mind opposing views - that is very much a part of the truth.

Take care! 1035

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
in the tradition of the anonymous Homileticist I offer my two cents.
"Folklore whether oral or written is characterized by multiple existence and variation. The variation may be reflected in such details as different names, different numbers, or different sequences of lines". Dundes, Alan. Holy Writ as Oral Lit: The Bible as Folklore. Lanham, Maryland. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (p. 7)

DagoodS said...

Thank you very much for your input, Prup (aka Jim Benton). One of the advantages of a group contribution on a blog is this type of interaction. Your comments, and greater depth on some of the (seems like countless) issues surrounding the this period is greatly appreciated.

History

One problem in the discussion of history is that we see it through the lens of the present. Although it is a natural human tendency, we have to be careful not to cloud that lens with the bias of what we know now.

If I gave you a time machine, and you dialed it back to 33 CE, where would you go? Or 1215 CE? Or December 7, 1941? Part of our concentration on history is based upon events that we are aware occurred subsequently. We concentrate on the history of Japanese naval movements and communications of 1941, only because we are aware of what happened at the end of the year.

We now recognize that the events of 33 CE, =/- 3 years have significance. That Jesus, whether a complete myth, a partial myth, or the Son of God, living in Galilee at that time would have an impact on the rest of the world for 1000’s of years to come. For us it makes sense that the Pharisees would concentrate their efforts on the Jesus’ movement—being what would eventually be a chief competitor for its religion.

But (as Prup (aka Jim Benton) correctly points out—this is all in hindsight. At the time the Pharisees enjoyed the popularity of the people, but not the official positions. The Sadducees held those. There were competing factions within the Pharisee movement, as well as Judas the Galilean, the Essenes, the Qumran community to deal with. Not to mention the invading Romans that controlled the politics of the country.

And what do we have with Jesus? Yet another person that claims to be the Messiah. (Big deal—as Gamaliel correctly points out the test for whether a person was the Messiah was relatively easy: If they brought peace and world-wide worship of YHWH they were. If they didn’t—they weren’t.) We have vocal back and forth, which, if you believe the Gospels as history, at best embarrassed the Pharisees. Again, as pointed out, there is a great deal of question that Jesus would be able to stump the Pharisees with their own laws so easily.

When we view the same type of behavior in Peter and Stephen, they want to stone them. When we see the same claims of Jesus, they want to stone him.

Why did the Gospel of John state that the Jews claimed they could not execute Jesus?

The Sadducees, to use James the Just for political gain, stone him. If Jesus was for political concern, there is no conceivable reason to not stone him.



Anon 1035

Jesus had declared himself. That is why they desired to stone him before, according to the Gospel of John. Twice. How do you get around those passages? Further, do you agree that the Gospel of John is incorrect that the Jews could have stoned Jesus?

The Jews hated the Romans. The Romans despised the separatist feelings of the Jews. History does not record a very cooperative endeavor in Judea.



Anonymous 1108: Our sins killed Jesus.

So you would agree with me that stoning would have been just as sufficient? Or pushing Jesus conveniently under a passing cart? Or any other means? Why didn’t they stone Jesus?

Look—you can consider the Gospels as history. That is fine. But there are things in there that don’t go away merely by asserting over and over and over and over that the Gospels are history. Either you choose to deal with them or you can ignore them. Can you see why your decision to ignore concerns is not persuasive to us?

There are other historical factors that contradict what the Gospels say. Again you can defend this with asserting over and over and over that “Gospels are history.” Luckily for you, there are millions of people sitting in pews this morning that would nod their head in agreement and scowl at me as a heathen skeptic.

The only thing I can say is that you are not persuaded when the Mormons or Muslims or Hindus or Aztecs or American Natives or other religions do the same. Hopefully, then, you can relate to why we aren’t when you employ the same tactic.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dagoods! You asked me about getting around some passages. If I were to get around passages, I would have to perceive them as needing to be gotten around - but I don't. I don't claim a God of History but a God of a pure expression of spiritual love. I see my own heart and life in the gospels and I see the heart of God - once, two separate realms. So I suppose my comments are not so much for debating as much as they are for presenting and trying to soften hearts towards a God who loves all people. I am already at peace with the notion that I will not be an influence towards most.

As far as history being the sole proprietor of Jesus's life - I think, historically, and presently, in our own hearts, a trend for human nature can be seen. We have a tendency to be provoked into throwing stones (whether it be literal physical violence or mental, emotional, verbal attacks)and is in keeping with our feelings of being threatened when we perceive our boundaries challenged. But the God of Easter promises to not be an historical figure nor solely one of scriptural, legal or manmade source, but, rather a living, spiritual one.

The message of the gospel was pretty threatening to my sense of security when that security was based on the finite and seen aspects of life. It is one thing to romanticize the notion of a peace filled humanistic world, but ultimately, unless I have something of infinite value to turn towards in times of distress, I can become a casualty of fight or flight impulses and the judgements and condemnations of others who could care less for me.

Dagoods, on a personal note, I dont think of you as a heathen skeptic - perhaps you're okay with that- but I feel those here who are antagonists are pretty easy to love. Yours and others' transparency does evoke a feeling of protectiveness and warmth for you guys. Also, I am softened by the thoughtfulness and concerns expressed here.

Okay, as John would say, "enough".

1035

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

1035: "What were the other movements promoting?" I'll do my best to answer on some. The 'fourth Philosophy/Home Rule' group were, I believe, the same as the group called 'Zealots,' political 'revolutionaries for God.' They were in fact to become the inspirers of the final rebellion that resulted in failure and the destruction of Israel, and had some of the bloodthirstiness and willingness to use terror of future revolutionaries.

The Pharaisees -- with their belief in the idea that 'we don't need political power if whoever rules us is willing to permit us to obey the law,' would have been far more against them than the Jesus movement.

The Thereputae - who seem only to have been mentioned in an essay by Philo seem to be the most obscure group, much the equivalent of the earliest Christian monks, living a contemplative life, allowing women but enforcing chastity. Certainly not a threat to Judaism, but more radical than the Jesus movement in renouncing the ideals of family and community that have always been primary in Judaism.

The Covenanters seem to have been something like the Amish of today, separating from the community in order to live a more strict and Mosaic life, seeing the Pharisees as too lax in observance -- in fact, changing themselves to fit the law rather than accepting that the law needed to be reinterpreted to fit the world -- and that such interpretation could be done (as the Pharisees insisted) without violating the essence of the law. Of the groups, they were -- from the little that is known of them -- the least 'threatening.'

The Essenes were the Qumran community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. (One problem with being an auto-didact, you suddenly discover gaps that you wish weren't there. This is one for me. If I had managed to re-start my Questia subscription, I would have done some research and discussed them. But, as I tell the cats when they complain I'm late with their meals "I'm working on it. I'm working on it.")

I can discuss the Essenes from what was known earlier than the discovery of the scrolls. That they were a mystical community, ascetic -- and asceticism was not an idea ever favored in Judaism -- dualist (seeing the body and the spirit in opposition -- again more Persian than Jewish) and, in some groups, even disdaining sexual relations for preocreation -- and thus remaining alive only through conversions like the Shakers.

I do hope to update my knowledge, and welcome any correction, but even these ideas were far more repugnant, far more worthy of attack by the mainstream than anything Jesus taught.

Anonymous said...

Prup, that was really generous of you to write that - thanks so much!!

1035

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 1035: If I were to get around passages, I would have to perceive them as needing to be gotten around - but I don't. I don't claim a God of History but a God of a pure expression of spiritual love.

Are you ignoring the monster; hoping it will go away? I have discussed with numerous liberal Christians. An oft-used tactic is when we introduce some problematic passage; it is discounted as being inauthentic, or unnecessary, or is simply ignored. And when I start to discuss the liberal Christian’s beliefs—it turns out they are based upon some scripture.

The verses say what they say. By what method do you choose which verses are not applicable and which are? How much of a myth are you proposing we subscribe to?

You state you do not claim a “God of History”—but look at all the historical facts you have claimed within this entry:

Anonymous 1035: I believe that stoning was the punishment reserved for those within the community.

To hand Jesus over to the Romans was to completely and ultimately reject Him and sever the community ties (which membership was highly valued) and I believe, to render a more humiliating and exposing death.

His challenge of their spiritual authority completely offended their pridefulness and invoked hatred within them.

Jesus's popularity amongst the marginalized community was raising awareness of the the religious leaders' fallibilities in expressing love and I imagine they would have preferred to undermine and deride His influence rather than kill Him, but from their perspective of self-righteousness, it had to be done - their works were too valuable to humble themselves and denounce their practices and traditions as empty and devoid of God's love.

…Jesus could identify spiritual infections/influences and pronounce their manifestions - but He was offering spiritual intervention and continues to offer that to this day.


Many of Jesus's statements are prophetic and demonstrative of the division between God's Way and the world's.

As far as the Pharisees being the "bad" guys, Jesus loved them deeply and forgave them.

Even though He acknowledged the truth that they were like a den of vipers and sons of Hell, He didn't reject them - they were infected and bonding with something God never intended.

He desired their salvation into a Kingdom of love rather than waging endless power struggles amongst themselves and others.

Remember, Jesus didn't fully reveal Himself until He had been apprehended personally by the Jewish leaders.

Wanting to stone someone who is more popular than you might is at a different emotioanl/mental level than wanting to kill someone who is directly confronting your impotence as an authority figure so the progression and escalation of punishment seem reasonable.

Revealing Himself as the Messiah was reproachable to them.


How can you make this long list of “facts” and then, when questioned upon them, retreat to saying you don’t claim a God of History? Am I to ignore, then, all these “facts” you have raised?

First you say that Jesus hadn’t revealed himself fully until being apprehended. I point out two passages where Jesus had certainly revealed himself enough to warrant capital punishment. I question how you can support your first statement in light of the two passages.

To which you reply that you do not claim of God of History. Didn’t you just? Didn’t you just claim a historical “fact” as to when Jesus revealed himself?

While your goal of softening hearts is admirable, should that be done on your terms or on those you are attempting to convince? When we raise a legitimate question, based upon the Book you use as an authority to make historical claims, by waving your hands and dismissing the question—it has nothing whatsoever to do with our hearts. It has to do with the lack of persuasion.

My “heart” thinks that some of the claims about Jesus within the Gospels are quite beautiful. But I recognize my “heart” also thinks that eating chocolate all day would be beautiful as well. It is my head that needs to reign in my heart and ask the difficult questions—like whether it is smart to eat that much chocolate, and by what method can I legitimately accept some of the Gospels as true and reject some of the Gospels as myth. Worse, if I am only rejecting those parts that cause what my “heart” wants, my “head” tells me I have become biased, and am no longer objective.

I stopped seeking truth; I started seeking what I want to be truth.

And I don’t mind being thought of as a heathen skeptic. Or not. I poke fun at everyone, including myself.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is quite a perspective of my perspective, Dagoods! :-) Thanks for the awareness alert that I use the Book as an authority to make historical claims - I didn't know that about me! I'm getting all sorts of enlightenment here. :-)

Dagoods, As a person of faith, I have to use both mind and heart - that's a good thing, but there used to be a schism in that realm for me. I've encountered religious people who stigmatize heartfeltness and label what is God-given as evil - with that attitude, they were alienating and breaking some people so I hope that hasn't happened to you!

About historical claims - I apply what I know of my own fallibility towards what I know to be true of what motivates me - in other words, if it has been brought to light an ulterior seed that would cause me to act out in an unfriendly manner, it is reasonable to understand why someone else might do so as well - not for the purpose of exposing/humiliating or punishing but for understanding and compassion. I don't consider what I write to be historical, but insightful. Certain trends of human nature are predictable and can be seen throughout history so in this regard, I suppose there is an historical element (in faith, I have been delivered from what might be considered genetic inherited tendencies and also some generational habitual tendencies in relationship habits so my insight does ring true with many who are willing and ready to uproot some of the more noxious spiritual weeds).

I understand what you are saying though so of course I am somewhat frustrated that I can't give you what you desire on a silver platter - but I am humbled to remember - that's actually a good thing because God wants to do that - afterall, He's the one that ultimately wants to enjoy a lively discourse with you.

As far as Jesus revealing Himself as the Messiah to those who were directly and ultimately empowered with the authority on such issues, I see no problem or confusion about that.

I have already spoken of scriptural diversity before. If you are looking solely to scripture for salvation, you will fail as many do. It's written that way on purpose. I used to approach the Bible much the way I would my personal relationships - in a demanding, superficial and cerebral, manner. But I was perishing. Not everyone can be trusted with scripture because some just want to package it up and truck along on their own devoid of growing loving relationship habits.I am glad that all my attempts to bypass God failed and I hope that yours do as well (I mean that with the utmost sincerity!)

I also appreciate your saying that my attempts to soften hearts is admirable, but the truth be told, I enjoy the company of intelligent and compassionate people, who I might add, I also find to be sharp witted and humorous (did I mention that before?). That is just natural, not divine.

I do also understand that a lot of "admirable" people approach others like a Trojan Horse - so I am okay with disagreements or any who might view me as operating with an ulterior motive (although it is a little demoralizing when people insist on applying ulterior motives) - I've been on the other side of that and have been mistreated/condemned by those who claim religious and moral superiority. I'm hopeful your encounters with the religious have all been good ones - there are plenty of easy-to-love believers in this world!

Dagoods, I could write volumes more, but as I mentioned in another post, perhaps my contributions here are an ill fit. I would love to be an influence but I also recognize when I fail to be a good one. At any rate, thanks for offering your insights and pespectives as well - I almost always, 98.5% of the time, feel edified after conversing with you!

Thanks!

Anon 1035

Anonymous said...

O.K., so DagoodS correctly notes that the Jewish community could not legally execute Jesus according to Roman law but then points out examples of a couple of riotous mobs acting on a spur of the moment in an unofficial capacity and with obviously illegal intentions and calls it a contradiction?

Then there's this gaffe:

"Herod wants to kill him, has him in his grasp and Jesus escapes. It is a Hollywood staple—the plot must proceed and the movie would end unceremoniously early if the Bad Guys can hit."

You do realize that the Herod who had Jesus "in his grasp" was the son of the man who had plotted to kill the Messiah some 30 years earlier? There's no evidence that Herod (the son) shared his father's paranoia or indeed that he even connected Jesus with his father's earlier actions. Not to mention Jesus didn't "escape" but was turned back over to the Roman authorities because Herod (the son) saw no reason to punish him.

Then you write this:

"It should also be noted that Stephen was stoned with no thought or qualm about the legal right to do so. Acts 7:59. Paul records being stoned, without any indication as to a legal irregularity. 2 Cor. 11:25. The Sanhedrin is indicated as having the ability to sentence Peter to death. Acts 5:33. And James the Just is recorded by Josephus as having been stoned to death."

And these, of course, are examples of Christian persecution by the Jews carried out under Roman authority. Since we know that it was illegal for the Jews to carry out capital punishment on their own, and since these examples appear to be official sentences carried out in public view (as opposed to the riotous mobs who tried to stone Jesus on a spur of the moment), it is not unreasonable to conclude that they had the authority of Rome to carry out the sentences in question.

But of course, we can't allow the benefit of the doubt here because it's the Bible, right? Give me a break.

So there's no contradiction here, just an ignorance on your part of the historical realities of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Well said anonymous,
watch The Passion of the Christ if you have questions on Christ's death.

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 1035: Thanks for the awareness alert that I use the Book as an authority to make historical claims - I didn't know that about me!

Color me confused. If you don’t use the Bible as a basis for Jesus…uh…where DO you learn about Jesus from? Do you use non-canonical Christian writing? You couldn’t use non-Christian writing for the claims you made.

And what is wrong with using the Bible as a historical basis about Jesus? Even non-believers such as myself do so. I’m not sure where else we could go to do so.

I did not mean to put words in your mouth. I, perhaps incorrectly, presumed the source for all those historical facts you listed was from the Bible.

Out of intense curiosity, where did you get your information about Jesus from, then?



Anonymous 429: You do realize that the Herod who had Jesus "in his grasp" was the son of the man who had plotted to kill the Messiah some 30 years earlier? There's no evidence that Herod (the son) shared his father's paranoia or indeed that he even connected Jesus with his father's earlier actions (emphasis in original)

Yep. To utilize your language, “You do realize” that Luke 13:31 indicates that Pharisees told Jesus to “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” (I mentioned it in my blog entry.)

Anonymous 429: And these, of course, are examples of Christian persecution by the Jews carried out under Roman authority. (emphasis in original)

Perhaps, then, you could point out for me where, in Acts it indicates that the Jews petitioned the Romans for permission to stone Stephen? Or Peter? Or Paul? Or where the Jews petitioned to Romans to stone Jesus in John 8:59. And John 10:39. (Where does it indicate these were “riotous mobs”? )


Anonymous 429: Since we know that it was illegal for the Jews to carry out capital punishment on their own,

Mmm…But what I was looking for was some proof of this. Some document. Some law. Something more than mere assertion. How do “we know”?

Anonymous said...

Dagoods, thanks for the inquiry - I would have to know you for about 2 years, 7 months, and 3 weeks before I go divulging details of divine intervention (and no, I'm not Pentacostal), especially in a public forum which seems to relegate such matters to the realm of the mentally/emotionally unstable. My level of faith isn't at the martyrdom stage as of yet (not that you aren't well worth that, but I do have people who adore me here - also, I believe it's scriptural that each virgin gets her own lamp oil.....).

I owe you an apology -I was totally blind in understanding what you were conveying in an earlier post. While enjoying a triple grande nonfat latte at Starbucks, it suddenly occurred to me - you mentioned a monster - you asked if I was totally ignoring the monster. You also suggested that I should be relating to people on the terms of those I am trying to convince. I had a relational deficit but I think I understand what you're talking about now (it eluded me before because I am not a proponent of such doctrines and didn't quite catch what you were talking about) - are you talking about Bible inerrency??? If so, as I understand it, I totally agree with you - it is a monster!!!

I don't have scriptural expertise and the doctrine of inerrency as I have had it related to me, means that Biblical writing is literally interpreted/factual.

If I misunderstood once again, I hope I can trust you to alert me to that.

Thanks!
Anon 1035

Anonymous said...

Postscript: Dagoods, I want to add something - While I do not take the Bible literally, God has brought value into my being so that I now take my new life literally - that is how I can now see the truth in the Bible and it is by His spirit that I learned that I did not know how to love because I had not been loved purely. 1035

DagoodS said...

Anon 1035

No, inerrancy is not the monster

Imagine everything we have written, the blog entry and the comments are on a blackboard. Imagine further we have erased it. I will attempt this from the proverbial clean state.

I notice that the Bible recounts the tale of Jesus being arrested, accused of blasphemy by impersonating a God, and sentenced to death by the Jewish leaders. According to the Mosaic Law, and other recorded incidents within the New Testament, the mode of capital punishment would be by stoning.

I further notice (writing on our clean blackboard) that previously Jesus had made claims that were considered blasphemy by impersonating a God, and for doing so was subject to capital punishment by stoning. John 8:57-59. John 10:39-40.

I am curious as to why, on the third occasion, the leaders do not resort to the most plausible action—stoning.

For an analogy, envision the Town Cop pulling over “Bob” for speeding. The Cop starts to write Bob a ticket, but is called away on an emergency, so Bob gets a break. The Cop pulls over Bob a second time for speeding, again starts to write a ticket, and again is called away on an emergency. Again Bob gets a break

The Cop pulls over Bob for the third time for speeding. In light of our past history (and other information that says the Cop has ticketed others for speeding) what is the most plausible thing to anticipate? Yet, in this instance, the Cop calls in the Army requesting it impose Military Law on Bob. Does that make sense?

You (with your turn at our fresh blackboard) explain that the third instance with Jesus was different in that he hadn’t “fully revealed himself until he had been apprehended personally by the Jewish Leaders.”

I am trying to figure out that difference. In the first instance, he made a statement equating himself to be God. They want to execute capital punishment for blasphemy. In the second instance, he made a statement equating himself to be God. They want to execute capital punishment for blasphemy. In the third instance, he made a statement equating himself to be God. They want to execute capital punishment for blasphemy.

I am uncertain how you explain the difference, in light of the first two instances. Continuing with my analogy, it is like saying “Oh, but in the third instance, Bob was going really fast!” That is not the point. In the first instance, Bob was speeding and warranted a ticket. In the second, another ticket. If, in the third the fine would be higher, so be it--it is still worthy of a ticket.

Or, in another way, imagine if Jesus more “fully revealed himself” by explaining the concept of the Trinity to the Jewish Leaders. So what. The death sentence occurred at claiming to be God, not explaining the concept of God “more.”

I understand you do not have a concern about those two previous instances. What I am curious is—why? What is the difference by which we can tell that the first two instances did not warrant a capital punishment by stoning?

Further (writing on our new blackboard) I am still curious as to how you can back up the claim that Jesus did not fully reveal himself until apprehended by the Jewish Leaders, without resorting to the Bible. You appeared to take offense at my pointing out the use of the Bible for defending historical incidents. Fine. Take it off the table. Remove it from the chalkboard.

That is the question I had for you—what is the difference in the type of punishment (it seems to be capital punishment in all three) for the third incident, and how can you support that without resorting to the Bible at all?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

DagoodS:
“You do realize” that Luke 13:31 indicates that Pharisees told Jesus to “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” (I mentioned it in my blog entry.)

Yes, because we know the pharisees were above lying (sarcasm). Never mind the fact that they would have loved more than anything for Jesus to go some place else and stop bothering them whether or not Herod actually wanted him dead. In fact, based on later evidence--namely Jesus meeting Herod during the trail--we can conclude that Herod indeed did not want Jesus dead and regarded him more as a mild amusement than anything else.

More simply, the narrative only reports this as something the pharisees said; it is never presented as something Herod himself actually said.

Perhaps, then, you could point out for me where, in Acts it indicates that the Jews petitioned the Romans for permission to stone Stephen? Or Peter? Or Paul? Or where the Jews petitioned to Romans to stone Jesus in John 8:59. And John 10:39. (Where does it indicate these were “riotous mobs”? )

Regarding the latter two, try reading those verses in context of the larger passage (John 8:48-59 and John 10:22-39). They clearly depict a contentious encounter between Jesus and an angry mob. Same with Paul in Acts 14, where some Jews whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. If the latter was not sanctioned by the Roman authorities then we might assume that they at least turned a blind eye to it.

As for the narrative not making specific mention of the illegality of these incidents, why would you expect an author to make note of something that is so self-evident that it's not worth mentioning?

The trail and subsequent execution of Stephen (Acts 6 and 7) was clearly a public trail, done openly and likely with the full knowledge of local Roman authorities. Knowing what we know about Roman law, it is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the trial and execution was authorized by the Roman authorities.

As for the death of Peter by crucifixion, guess who used crucifixion as a means of capital punishment? That's right, the Romans.

Like I said, there's no contradiction here, just your own ignorance put on display.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Dagoods!

I speak with a degree of authority on issues of people who find offense and hate those who challenge their authority/righteousness, etc. etc. - I can speak with insight as to escalating hatred and reaction. I can speak and recognize some really ugly aspects of the human heart - you name it - manipulation, deceit, arrogance, hypocrisy - these were in my heart even though on a superficial level, I was considered sweet and sometimes, kind!

The path I took is not for those who desire to cling to romantic notions - I had to quit trying to guage good and bad and being condescending and tolerant in order to learn those were positions of arrogance in the eyes of God. Faith amongst people is the practice of mutual mercy and mutual edification - I love that you are an expert on scripture - I am not so I am edified when I read your posts.

My posts were insightful about murderous and hateful hearts - it seems that if one can gather enough support against a targetted threat, one can justify crucifying someone just because they are challenging your authority. I suppose the religious leaders feared they would become hated and rejected and humiliated and lose their position of worldly empowerment - those are painful situations when they happen!

I trust your accuracy in scriptural discourse - if there are instances whereby Jesus said, I am the Messiah prior to His final apprehension, I take and trust your word for it. But I can also testify to the fact that hatred has a habit of growing and escalating and gathering consensus.

Because I was willing to own more than a few demons and trust them to God, I learned there, that God is innocent and He doesn't need us to pretend that we're Him - He isnt intimidated or put off by my sin - quite the contrary. I'll never be God, nor do I need to be or want to be but I am finally able to understand that I am fully loved inspite of all the spiritual infections that were in my heart and demonstration of "love". That is more powerful to be fully known and fully loved. He really doesn't want to punish me or you but to save us.

I admit I was a little offended when you presumed a process on me -you weren't imagining that - and I acknowledge that offense is not a position of power, but one of weakness and being hurt. I am sorry. I didn't need to take offense.

I am able to see the truth in the Bible because I finally confronted and learned to love the truth in my everyday life. Trust me when I say, a lot who practice evangelical fundamentalism do not need to be debunked - they need to be set free.

Thanks, Dagoods!

Anon 1035

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 429: Yes, because we know the pharisees were above lying (sarcasm).

Ah. So it is not that we have “no evidence” as you previously stated, but rather that the evidence we have you do not believe comes from a reliable source.

Of course it is possible that the Pharisees were lying. Or the Pharisees were accurately reporting what Herod said, and Herod was lying. Or that Herod really did intend to kill Jesus, until he saw how useless of a proposition that was.

The problem seems that Jesus appeared to believe the Pharisees. You would think if the Pharisees were lying, Jesus would have noticed it. Instead, he tells them to tell Herod that he (Jesus) is going to Jerusalem anyway. Out of Herod’s jurisdiction.

If Jesus thinks they are telling the truth (as they know it)—should I? Or could Jesus have been wrong.

Obviously the crowds in John were not happy crowds. I mean—they were picking up rocks in order to throw so many at Jesus he would die. Safe to say this was not a crowd that was responding favorably to Jesus speech.

But on the other hand, to go to the extreme of painting them an unruly, out-of-control soccer stadium is not accurate either. I did look at the context. John 10

Jesus: I and the father are one.
*Crowd Picks up Rocks*
Jesus: What are you doing that for?
Crowd: Because you, being a man, make yourself God.
Jesus: In some sense, aren’t we all gods?
*Crowd tries to grab him.*
*Jesus slips away*

Here we are attempting to paint a contentious, unruly crowd, but in the meantime, they are having this peaceable conversation back and forth.

In John 8, They pick up rocks, Jesus walks away in the middle of them (presumably miraculously) and then immediately picks up the conversation again.

Look—you want to read in a contentious, unthinking mob in these passages—knock yourself out. I can only hope you see why it is not convincing to others, in light of the conversational tone that is recorded. While it may not have been an after-dinner tea, nor was it a free-for-all.

I asked for specific references as to where it was recorded the stoning of Stephen, the desire to kill Peter, the stoning of Jesus, Paul’s record of his own stoning, or (adding now) the stoning of James was done after the Jews petitioned the Roman authorities.

And all you can say is (in a nutshell) it is presumed. In other words—no specific references. Acts 14:19 does not include anything in which the Jews petitioned the Roman authorities for permission to stone Paul.

I’ll ask again the same thing I asked in the blog entry—what proof, what law, what document do we have to support the claim that the Jewish leaders could not have enforced capital punishment on their own? I am genuinely curious. I am unaware of such, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I don’t know everything. The only thing we have claiming it is the line in the Gospel of John.

Anonymous 429: As for the death of Peter by crucifixion, guess who used crucifixion as a means of capital punishment? That's right, the Romans.

Uh…yes. Was Peter’s death at the request of the Jews? Or was it done under Roman Law? I heartily agree that if the Romans had arrested Jesus, the Romans had prosecuted Jesus under Roman law, and the Romans had enforced a crucifixion—that Jesus would be crucified.

Isn’t that what happened with Peter? (Admittedly that is somewhat speculative, but I do believe that Peter was crucified, due to John 21 and 2 Peter.)

What I am wondering is—since Jesus was arrested under Jewish Law, and prosecuted under Jewish Law, and condemned to death under Jewish law—why wasn’t he stoned? Was there a law prohibiting the Jewish religious leaders from stoning Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Jesus was given to the Romans because no one was quite sure what to do with him. Even Herod didn't know what to do with him and asked the crowd, which they replied: "Crucify!"

EPSU said...

Jesus was given to the Romans because no one was quite sure what to do with him.

(Channeling Michael Palin in The Holy Grail) Look, it's really quite simple:

1. The gospel acounts repeatedly assert that the Jewish authorities and/or the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus, enough of one to want him dead.

2. The aforementioned authorities had a system in place for dealing with the likes of Jesus as he's represented in the gospels-- execution by stoning.

Saying that "they didn't know what to do with him" doesn't reconcile those two things. Why wasn't Jesus stoned to death? If he was guilty of violating specifically Jewish law, why would the Jewish crowd want him crucified, and not stoned to death?

Even Herod didn't know what to do with him

I think you meant Pilate.

The only thing we really know is that Jesus was crucified and not stoned. Which doesn't tell us much, except perhaps that the Romans wanted him dead more than the Jewish authorities.

It's not much of a stretch, either, given how Josephus portrays Pilate as a cruel and heartless administrator who wasn't above inciting Jews and then (on at least one occasion) even pitilessly slaughtering them for their temerity (things got so bad that a delegation was sent to the Emperor Tiberius to petition him to remove Pilate from his position. In the interest of maintaining order, Tiberius even assented).

The most likely turn of events is this: Jesus was just one of many apocalyptic types running around the region at those times, and additionally perhaps, occasionally running afoul of the Jewish powers that be. Fearing that Jesus and his followers might stir up anti-Roman sentiment that could lead to brutal reprisals by Roman authorities who already had a track record for that sort of thing, the Jewish powers that be opted to bring him to the attention of the Romans, who then-- in typical Roman fashion (see, for example, the way they handled the slave revolt led by Spartacus, as well as the practice of decimation within the legions)-- elected to make an example of Jesus. Or maybe the Jewish authorities were jealous of Jesus' popularity with the people, and decided to bring him to the attention of the Romans for that reason. Or perhaps Jesus was noticed by the Romans without any involvement on the part of the Jews, and interpreted his message as one that was seditious and thus worthy of crucifixion. In any event, what's clear is that the Romans were the ones who went to the actual trouble of having Jesus killed, not the Jewish authorities.

The gospel accounts often struggle to remain consistent about the level of animosity held toward Jesus-- for example, when Jesus first arrives in Jerusalem (at least in the synoptics-- and if memory serves, also when Jesus first arrives in Jerusalem for the last time in John), the crowds are represented as being more or less favorable to him. Yet, not long after, they're ready, en masse, to see him crucified. Their bloodlust and antipathy toward Jesus has become so great that they'd rather see Jesus crucified than someone who is supposed to have been guilty of far worse crimes(at least according to the Johannine gospel). Why the sudden change in attitude toward Jesus?

What's more likely is that the gospel accounts aren't so much representative of what actually transpired in the case of Jesus, but are more a response to the ways the mainstream Jewish community viewed the Jesus movement (especially John's gospel, which goes so far as to virtually exonerate Pilate-- and by extension, Rome-- for his role in Jesus' crucifixion by painting him as a reluctant administrator who only orders Jesus' death because he was forced to comply with the wishes of the angry, Jesus-hatin' Jewish mob). The gospel accounts (again, especially John's) at times seem to be as interested in addressing the question of why Jesus and the movement that arose after his death was not more widely accepted by his fellow Jews as they are concerend with spreading the "good news."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, BIG mistake by putting Herod. Of course I ment Pilate.

What I meant by they didn't know what to do with him, is that they were afraid of the consequences. The Pharisees didn't want to upset the Jews who did believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and the Romans (Pilate) didn't want to upset the Jews and the crowd. The Pharisees really did want Jesus dead, but they didn't want it on their hands, especially when he had performed miracles and already avoided one stoning, and if he really was who he claimed he was.

Since the Pharisees wanted him dead, they held the majority of the power in his death. The Jews didn't want to disobey the Pharisees, and there were still quite a few of Jews that hated Jesus.

This can pretty much explain the underlying of the gospels, since the thing of upmost importance is Jesus and his death, rather than the crowd.

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 1057: The Pharisees didn't want to upset the Jews who did believe Jesus to be the Messiah,…

I was going to bring this point up at another time, but here is as good a spot as any. On the one hand we have the leaders plotting in secret, painted as fearful of arresting Jesus, due to the people being so supportive.

(And let’s face it. The guy is healing and providing food, and very engaging, and obviously is putting on a show so big that he has to get into a boat in order to avoid all the people. I would be pretty scared to arrest him, too!)

Worse, he has a triumphal entry in which everybody is shouting accolades, and all but worshipping him.

Yet four days later, the religious leaders arrest him. Where did they get this fountain of courage? What happened that caused them to suddenly completely switch dispositions and not be afraid of the crowd.

Then, when things aren’t looking so promising in front of Pilate, they turn to these very same people, and are successful in them doing a total reversal, and going to the point of chanting, “May his blood be on our children. Crucify him!”

We have leaders that were scared of a crowd, and suddenly are so confident, they turn to the very same crowd to support them. We have a crowd that adores Jesus, and inexplicably, suddenly hate him with the passion of a 1000 suns.

Seems odd.

Anonymous said...

There were different Jews back then. When one person or group thought something they didn't all think the samething. If the gospels don't make sense to you, then watch the Passion of the Christ, that should clarify things up.

Anonymous said...

Exhibit A for the defense, Jesus Christ - I rest my case...

"Let's fact it. The guy is healing and providing food, and very engaging, and obviously is putting on a show so big that he has to get into a boat in order to avoid all the people I would be scared to arrest him, too!
Love ya, Dagoods!

Anon 1035

DagoodS said...

Anonymous 807,

Yeah that is the problem with Jewish crowds. Never know which group will show up. Will they support Jesus? Will they crucify him? Will they shrug and move on? Pretty lucky for the Jewish leaders that all those Jews supporting Jesus only a few days before had been replaced by new stock, eh?

I wonder how it is that the Jewish leaders were so clairvoyant as which crowd was currently in vogue?

Or, is it more likely that these are stories, and the authors could create whatever crowd was convenient for the moment?



Anonymous 1035,

I appreciate your good intentions. (Although that may not be very encouraging, since you know what they say about good intentions…) After reading your last long comment, replying to what I said, I see we are on different wavelengths.

Different wavelengths is good. Makes human interactions wonderfully fascinating. And, sometimes frustrating. I don’t want you to think I am ignoring you, but I couldn’t get a handle on how your reply fit my question, so I thought we could move on, and discuss something else another day.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Dagoods! But just look at what a wonderful thing you wrote about Jesus - wow! If only believers could describe Him as well, I might actually believe that they knew the guy! Hardly a menace to society though.

I find you are another one of those who is easy-to-love on the opposing side of faith! I just wish you guys would come to God's banquet - your company is really enjoyable!

Thanks!

Anon 1035

Anonymous said...

But on the other hand, to go to the extreme of painting them an unruly, out-of-control soccer stadium is not accurate either. I did look at the context. John 10

Jesus: I and the father are one.
*Crowd Picks up Rocks*
Jesus: What are you doing that for?
Crowd: Because you, being a man, make yourself God.
Jesus: In some sense, aren’t we all gods?
*Crowd tries to grab him.*
*Jesus slips away*

Here we are attempting to paint a contentious, unruly crowd, but in the meantime, they are having this peaceable conversation back and forth.


Yes. A "peaceable conversation" with a crowd of people preparing to throw large stones at you with the intent of killing you.

LOL