Palm Sunday, Easter Week, Jesus and Insurrection!
Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem
The First Easter
The story of the first Easter is well-known.
On the Sunday before Passover, Jesus, who was believed by many to be the Messiah, entered Jerusalem on a donkey. It was a wonderful day. Crowds of followers shouted 'Hosanna' and spread palm leaves in the road before Jesus.
Then things became more serious. Jesus went into the Temple and tipped up the tables, accusing the priests of turning it into a den of thieves.
The Romans, who regularly executed insurrectionists, wanted no trouble at this emotionally charged time of year. But the priests and officials were furious and worried. They wanted to get rid of Jesus and the disciple Judas was happy to betray his leader for twenty pieces of silver.
Consequently, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and questioned by both Pontius Pilate* and Herod. He was mocked, abused and finally crucified.
His remaining eleven disciples fled. Peter denied him three times before the cockerel crowed. Given the chance to have him freed, the crowds cried 'crucify him!' and had Barabbas, the murderer, freed instead.
Jesus died on the cross and was put into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea but, by the Sunday, Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had risen!
That is the basic story of the first Easter.
*Pontius Pilate was in office, as Prefect of the Roman Province of Judaea, under Emperor Tiberius, from 26 AD (CE) until 36 AD (CE).
The First Easter
Palm Sunday Story - Good Friday Story - Easter Sunday Story
As we have noted, the New Testament story of Easter week begins with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday and culminates, for Christians, with the apparent triumphant Resurrection of Jesus on the following Sunday - Jesus having been crucified on the Friday.
In this article, I shall give my interpretation of these events, based upon my reading of the Bible and on my study of other books on the subject.
I am a historian, who has studied some religious history; I am not a Biblical scholar and I cannot speak Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, so I am relying on the knowledge and ability of translators, etc.
Article Copyright Tricia Mason. All rights reserved.
Part of the Gospel of Mark
Gospel Dating and Authorship
Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong, in 'Who Was Jesus?'(1977) gave these approximate dates for the canonical gospels:
Mark ~ 65 AD
Matthew and Luke ~ 75 AD
John ~ 85 AD
It is assumed, by learned theologians, that the writers of the gospels probably never met Jesus, and were almost certainly not named Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
To clarify; when I note, for example, that 'John' stated something, I simply mean that this is written in the 'Gospel of John', not that John, himself, (whoever 'John' might have been) said anything on the subject.
Jesus? The Gospels? True?
Most, but not all, historians and theologians agree that there is reason to believe that Jesus was a real person. However, there is no real proof of this; no contemporary corroborative evidence, not even the gospels.
Certain aspects of the gospel stories, and a look at the ways other people responded to stories about Jesus, may lead us to believe that he probably was real.
For the purposes of this item, I am assuming that Jesus was, indeed, a real person. Whether he was God incarnate, of course, is another matter - for another article.
Artist Views of Jesus
Why was Jesus crucified?
Many, many people were crucified in ancient times. Jesus is probably the most famous of all.
But why were men crucified? What sort of punishment was it?
According to John MacArthur, whose essay 'The Wickedness of the Cross' is published on the 'Scripture Truths' site, "It is estimated that by the time of Christ the Romans had crucified some 30,000 men in Israel alone, primarily for insurrection."
['Scripture Truths' states that it 'is dedicated to proclaiming the truths contained in the Bible'.]
Crucifixion was a very public, painful, horrific and humiliating form of capital punishment, primarily used to deal with lowly insurrectionists.
Hence, it was not just a punishment, but also a deterrent - a message to others who might consider being involved in sedition.
So, was Jesus an insurrectionist? Was he involved in sedition?
Could he be described as a radical ~ a revolutionary?
Was he a political 'Zealot'?
Is there any evidence to this effect in the Bible - specifically in the story of Palm Sunday and following days?
Let us attempt to find out.
Crucifixion Punished Insurrection and Sedition. But what were they?
What is / was 'Insurrection'? What is / was 'Sedition'?
According to the Oxford Dictionary (online edition) 'insurrection' can be defined as 'a violent uprising against an authority or government' and 'sedition' is 'conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch'.
In the case of Jesus, he was a member of the nation of Jews, then living in a land that was controlled by the Roman Empire. Insurrectionist behaviour would not be at all surprising in such circumstances and, if Rome was to keep control, then crucifixion would not be a surprising response.
But reaction to Rome might be different for different people.
There was a 'party' called the Zealots. These were revolutionary men, who might be called violent freedom fighters - some might even term them 'terrorists'. An extreme section of this movement were the Sicarii, who carried daggers and were ready to use them on Romans - and on Jews who were considered traitors.
There were also non-violent reactionaries, who wanted change but who did not support the behaviour of the Zealots and Sicarii. These included radical preachers, who supported the weak and the poor and were critical of the rich and powerful.
It would depend on exactly what these men said and did as to whether or not they were considered to be insurrectionists who deserved crucifixion.
Where did Jesus fit into this picture?
The Bible Stories - Any Signs of Insurrection?
Does the Bible give any indication that Jesus might have been an insurrectionist?
Or, indeed, does it give any reason to believe the opposite?
Does it explain why Jesus was executed by crucifixion?
'Love One Another', 'Love Thy Neighbour', 'Turn The Other Cheek'
Jesus seemed to want peace.
He said that the meek would inherit the earth and it is written in the 'New Testament' that he told people to 'love one another', to 'love thy neighbour', to 'turn the other cheek', etc. Even to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them!
In the parable of 'The Good Samaritan', he also showed them just what a good neighbour was ~ and that it might be someone often considered an enemy.
These do not seem to be the words of an insurrectionist.
In John 13:34, Jesus says; "A new command I give you; Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Again, these do not sound like the words of a violent revolutionary. But what about a peaceful revolutionary, perhaps??
'The Good Samaritan' Parable - A Story of Brotherly Love?
In the Gospel of 'Luke', 10:30-37, Jesus tells this story:
A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell among thieves, who stripped him, wounded him and left him for dead.
Luckily, a priest came along, but, though he saw him, he just carried on walking. Then a Levite came along, saw him and passed on by.
However, when a Samaritan, came along and saw him, he felt compassion towards him. He treated his wounds, bound them and, setting him on his own beast, he took him to an inn, where he looked after him and then paid the innkeeper to carry on doing so; 'Take care of him; and, if you need to spend more, I will repay you when I return.'
Jesus asked; 'Who was the good neighbour? Then he said; 'Go, and do likewise'.
An innocent story of brotherly love, loving one's neighbour - even one's enemy? Perhaps. But it is not quite that simple. Describing the priest and the Levite as uncaring, while the enemy was the compassionate hero, was actually rather radical, revolutionary even. It could incite trouble in certain quarters.
'St Peter's Sword'
Swords? or Peace?
After the 'Last Supper', Jesus told his disciples to sell their clothes, so that they could buy swords! Yes, he told them to get some weapons ~ some swords!
And, on an earlier occasion, he had said that he had not come to bring peace, but a divisive sword. Perhaps the latter was just meant to be a figure of speech, but it does not sound like a peaceful promise.
Luke 14:26 ~ ~ Jesus: "If any man comes to me,who does not hate his father, his mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters ... he cannot be my disciple."
Was the Sword just a Figure of Biblical Speech?
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
(Hebrews 4:12 KJV).
Sword not Peace
Sword - Roman Gladius
Division and the Sword??
Did Jesus say that he had come to bring 'a sword' or did he say 'division'?
Either way, this does not sound like 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild'
Luke 12:51-53 (King James Version):
Jesus: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
Matthew 10:34-36 (King James Version):
Jesus: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
'Jesus, the Freedom Fighter' Theory
Is it possible that a real rebel was behind the character of Jesus in the Gospels stories?
Luigi Cascioli believed that Jesus was a Freedom Fighter. Or, rather, he didn't believe that Jesus existed at all, but that the life of a rebel extremist had been superimposed onto a mythical God figure by The Church.
Cascioli was an Italian author who, as a boy, attended a Roman Catholic seminary. Later, he became an atheist and, in 2006, he attempted to sue a one-time class-mate as a representative of the RC Church.
He accused the Church of lying to the people, perpetrating a fraud about Jesus, whom he considered to be an invented character, based upon the freedom fighter, John of Gamala. This John was, apparently, the son of Judas of Galilee, another revolutionary zealot and revolutionary.
Cascioli's book is titled: 'The Fable of Christ; Book of Accusation'.
Blessed are the Meek
Jesus's Choice of Apostles
Jesus had many followers who might be termed 'disciples' but he chose a special 'twelve' to become his 'apostles'.
There are descriptions of Jesus choosing this special band of followers. They are not, necessarily, disciples who chose him but specific men, whom Jesus decided upon.
Why? We cannot really know.
Who? Let us see what the Bible says.
Is there anything to suggest that Jesus was choosing a band of freedom fighters?
If Jesus were an insurrectionist, then he would need a group of strong rebels to support him. Is that what 'The Twelve' were?
Was Jesus a freedom fighter, leading a band of innocents? Was he an Innocent, leading a band of freedom fighters?
The identities, backgrounds and intentions of the disciples is of great importance, considering Jesus and the 'crime' for which he was crucified.
The Apostles - Any Evidence of Insurrection?
Simon, and Andrew
Simon (Peter) was called ‘Bar Jonah’, by Jesus. This is usually translated as 'son of Jonah / John', but the Barjonim were bandits or rebels, who hid out in the countryside and the wilderness. Simon Peter was carrying a sword at the 'Last Supper' and, later, he used it on someone in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Of his brother, Andrew, one-time disciple of John the Baptist, I have found nothing indicating violence, but he was a disciple of two very radical preachers!
James and John
The brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee, were, apparently, nicknamed, by Jesus, 'Boanerges' ~ 'sons of thunder' ~ thus implying, perhaps, that they were wild and impetuous. Since they wanted to bring 'heavenly fire' down on one village, then one can also assume, perhaps, that they were potentially violent.
Philip and Nathanael - Bartholomew
I had found nothing to indicate that Philip and Nathanael / Bartholomew had any violent tendencies, though I did wonder whether the descriptive 'of Cana' for Nathanael might indicate 'Kanoi', or Zealot. Then I discovered that Dr M D Magee agreed with this and also that he wrote that, in the 'Acts of Philip', Philip was called another 'son of thunder!
Thomas, Thaddaeus, Judas
Thomas and Thaddeus are usually listed as two people, but 'Thomas' just means 'twin', like 'Dydimos'. It takes some detective work to discover that 'Judas of James' seems also to be both Lebbaeus Thaddeus and Thomas. Only in the 'epistle of the apostles', is there a hint that Judas was a rebel ~ he is known there as Judas Zelotes - Zealot!
James Son of Alphaeus
Was James a brother to Matthew? ~ There is a shared father's name. Was James a brother to Judas? ~ The Greek says that he was Judas of James; which could indicate son or brother.
Matthew / Levi Son of Alphaeus
The fathers of Matthew and James shared a name, but were they one and the same? ~ Who can say?!
The name 'Levi' indicates a priestly ancestry.
Was Matthew a revolutionary; a Zealot? It seems unlikely, since Matthew was a tax collector and Zealots were violently anti-taxation.
Simon the Zealot or Kanoi (Canaanite) ~ the name says it all. Either he had been a Zealot, or was a Zealot, or he was considered to have Zealot tendencies.
Judas Iscariot was son of Simon Iscariot. The family may have been from Kerioth ~ unless there is another reason for this 'surname'. 'Iscariot' could have been equivalent to 'Sicarii' ~ a name for the dagger-toting extreme members of the Zealot movement. It could also simply have meant 'betrayer' ~ which is how Judas is regularly described in the Gospels.
Saint John the Baptist
Did Jesus Inherit John's Radical or Revolutionary Movement?
Matthew 3:1-10 ...
'In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
This indicates that there was enmity between John and the Pharisees and Sadducees ~ just as there was with Jesus.
(Compare: Matthew 12:34 (New International Version):
Jesus to some Pharisees, who were plotting to kill him: "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?")
Jesus seems to have inherited John's disciples and his movement ~ but was John's movement revolutionary, or just radical?
The Twelve Apostles
Brothers and Zealots?
"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda and Simon?' (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55-56).
It would not be surprising if Jesus's brothers were also his chosen disciples.
Did he have followers called James, Joses, Juda and Simon?
We can find three names out of the four: James, son of Alphaeus, Judas/Thomas/Thaddeus, later called 'The Zealot', and Simon Zelotes ~ ie 'the Zealot'. Could they be his brothers? Could his brothers have been revolutionary Zealots?
If James were the brother of both Jesus and Matthew, then Matthew could have been a half- or step-sibling.
It is interesting to note that the New Testament also describes John the Baptist as a relative of Jesus.
Slay Them Before Me!
Happenings Before the First 'Palm Sunday'
It is mainly the Gospel of John that sets the scene for the first Palm Sunday.
However, there is also something interesting in 'Luke'.
'Luke' records Jesus telling the parable of 'The Ten Minas', apparently shortly before Passover. In this case, Jesus ends his tale with: "... those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them ~ bring them here and kill them in front of me." This seems rather violent and unexpected!
'John' says that Jesus had revived a dead friend, named Lazarus, and that this had caused a stir, bringing Jesus a lot of attention ~ and many followers.
The Pharisees and Chief Priests arranged a meeting of the Sanhedrin. They were worried: “This man is performing many miracles. If it continues, everyone will believe in him and the Romans will take away our temple and our nation.”
They plotted to have Jesus killed.
Jesus must have known about this because he no longer travelled amongst the people in Judea but withdrew to the village of Ephraim, near the wilderness, with his disciples.
When Passover time arrived, both his followers and his enemies were on the lookout for him as they thought that he might come out of hiding to visit Jerusalem. If he did, then the Chief Priests were ready to have him arrested.
Jesus did come to Jerusalem. 'John' says that he arrived at the home of Lazarus and his family, at Bethany near Jerusalem, six days before Passover.
When they discovered where Jesus was, crowds came to see both him and the man whom he had raised from the dead. As a result, the chief priests decided to kill both men, since Lazarus was causing more people to become followers of Jesus.
Clearly, Jesus was well-known and central to political events at that time. He had many supporters but also many enemies and some wanted him dead.
Signs of Trouble?
Jesus telling a story, which involves bringing his enemies before him and killing them, could be a sign of problems brewing.
Reviving an apparently deceased Lazarus had already caused the Pharisees and Chief Priests to plot to have Jesus killed.
Until he decided to go to Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus was already in hiding, in the wilderness, with his men.
There had been other mentions of enemies plotting against Jesus.
Back to Palm Sunday ~
According to John's gospel, many people who had arrived for the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem and they gathered up palm leaves and went to meet him.
According to Matthew, a multitude spread their garments along the path and others cut branches off the trees and strewed them in the road. (See Psalm 118:27)
According to 'Luke', the disciples spread their clothes in the path as Jesus rode along.
According to 'Luke', it was when Jesus was nearing the city, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, that 'the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice'. This was, apparently, because of 'all the mighty works that they had seen'.
The crowds in front and behind were shouting; "Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
According to Matthew, they shouted: "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
According to John, they shouted; "Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel who is coming in the name of the Lord!"
According to Luke, they were saying; "Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!'
The quote 'Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD' is from Psalm 118 ~ verse 26.
Luke adds that some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said to Jesus; "Master, rebuke your disciples,' but Jesus answered; "If these people were to hold their peace, then the very stones would cry out."
Hosannah! - On the First 'Palm Sunday'!
'Mark' and the other Gospels tell us that Jesus and his 'twelve disciples' were going to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast (though it has been suggested that it was actually for the festival which has come to be known as 'The Feast of the Tabernacles').
They were nearing Jerusalem ~ by Bethany, and the Mount of Olives ~ when he told two disciples; "Go into that village and bring me a colt that has never been ridden (Matthew says both an ass and a colt). If anyone challenges you, say that the Lord needs him."
Accordingly, the men found the colt and brought it to Jesus, who climbed on.
According to Matthew and John, this was so that an old prophecy would come true.
The original is in Zechariah 9:9
'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee:
he is just, and having salvation;
lowly, and riding upon an ass (donkey),
and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.' [KJV]
According to 'John', Jesus's disciples did not understand these things at first but, when Jesus was glorified, they then remembered the things that had been written about him ~ and that they were the things that had actually happened.
The crowds were chanting 'Hosannah!' (This was, according to Oxford dictionaries, an 'expression of adoration, praise, or joy', actually meaning 'save, we pray!')
The crowds were on their way to a festival, so they may have been shouting 'Hosanna!' and 'Hallelujah!' anyway, but, when they saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the symbolism would not have been lost on them ~ especially as they had already been uplifted by his teachings and amazed at his miracles.
They began to chant slogans that would have been very worrying to the authorities ~ slogans about Jesus being King of the Jews ~ at a very volatile time of year.
"Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel who is coming in the name of the Lord!"
The behaviour of Jesus and the reaction of the crowd were bound to draw attention and, quite possibly, result in punishment.
Signs of Palm Sunday Insurrection?
Thus, on the day that would become known as Palm Sunday, the New Testament states that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, in order to fulfill a prophecy written in the book of Zechariah.
Rejoice, greatly, Zion!
Behold, your King is coming to you, riding on a colt, the foal of an ass.
It has been suggested that Jesus rode into the city on a donkey to show humility but, actually, this indicates that Jesus was portraying himself as King of the Jews.
It seems to have been deliberate, since he had made a point of collecting and presumably arranging for, the donkey's foal, and thus ensuring that he would fulfil the prophecy, that the King of the Jews would arrive on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He rode into Jerusalem surrounded by chanting crowds ~ shouting "Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel!" Because he was riding, he was raised up above them, even if only on a donkey. Indeed, especially as he was riding a donkey.
Portraying himself, or being seen as, 'the King of the Jews' was likely to have been considered insurrectionist.
As Dr. Ben Witherington noted, 'this is the only place in the gospels, where Jesus elevates himself above the crowd'! It may be perceived as a 'royal gesture'.
And that would have been breaking Roman law. Punishment for which could have been crucifixion.
'Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee'
Was this Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Nazorean, or Nazarene?
Was this Jesus of Galilee, or Jesus the Galilean?
'Galilean' could mean rebel, freedom-fighter, insurrectionist, etc.
Entering Jerusalem - On The First Palm Sunday
Luke continues that, when Jesus arrived at Jerusalem and beheld the city, he wept over it.
Matthew adds that when he arrived in Jerusalem, all the city was moved and people asked; "Who is this?" To which, the crowd answered; "This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee".
Mark says that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, he went into the temple and that, by the time he had had a look around, it was evening and he went to Bethany with his twelve companions ~ but Luke says that he went into the temple and began to cast out the traders.
Jesus Entering Jerusalem on a Donkey
Any Signs of Insurrection in the Temple?
Passover was near!
This was a time of celebration when hundreds of people were descending on the city of Jerusalem.
It was also a time when Jews remembered the special time when they were freed from bondage. Yet, once again, they were now under a foreign yoke ~ this time, it was Rome, rather than Egypt.
It was a very volatile time of year.
Zealots did not want Roman occupation of their homeland ~ especially of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Roman officials would not have wanted trouble. It threatened their control.
Yet here was a Jewish leader, believed by many to be the new 'King of the Jews', with crowds of followers, armed with a whip, rebelling against the status quo and upsetting Temple officials.
Rome could not, and would not, tolerate anyone claiming to be a king, and gathering huge numbers of followers, in their empire, without their authority. It was bound to cause trouble.
As John Dominic Crossan said, in the documentary: 'Jesus; the Man behind the Myths';
"He goes there to make trouble."
It is "a demonstration against High Priestly collaboration" with Rome.
And it is "at the most volatile time of year ~ Passover!"
Dr Stephen Pfann said that 'the scene which he effected was tantamount to treason and could result in death'.
Trouble in the Temple - Monday
All four canonical gospels tell, basically, the same story.
'Mark' tells us that, on the day following 'the first Palm Sunday', Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem.
Jesus went into the temple ~ carrying a whip! ~ and he cast out the people who were trading there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of men selling doves. He would not allow any man to carry a vessel through the temple.
John 2:15: 'When he had made a scourge / whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple ....'
He said; "Is it not written that my house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations? Yet you have turned it into den of thieves!
(Luke says that this happened the same day that Jesus arrived, while John describes these events in a different part of his story all together ~ yet still at Passover.)
John states that Jesus drove out those selling oxen and sheep and pigeons with a whip and he upturned the table of the money-changers.
The scribes and chief priests heard what was going on and wanted to destroy him. They feared him, because the people were so impressed by his doctrine.
In the evening, Jesus left the city.
'Luke' continues that Jesus taught daily in the temple and that the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people wanted to destroy him, but could not find a way to do it, because the people were very keen to listen to his teachings.
'Luke' states that Jesus taught at the temple each day, before retiring every evening to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.
Matthew adds that the blind and the lame came to him in the temple and he healed them, but the chief priests and scribes were not happy when they saw the wonderful things that he was doing. Nor were they impressed when they heard children crying "Hosanna to the son of David!"
Jesus in the Temple - Wielding a Whip
Jesus often taught using parables and they were often critical of the elite people ~ those who had power over the lowly. This elite included the priests and scribes, who recognised that Jesus was telling stories which reflected badly on them. This was very disrespectful in their eyes and was likely to cause serious Jesus problems.
In Matthew 23:1-3 (English Standard Version) Jesus states to the disciples and the listening crowds: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you ~ but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice."
Then, seven times, Jesus cries: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
'Hypocrite' is from the Greek 'hupokritēs', meaning 'actor', which, in turn, is from 'hupokrinesthai' meaning to 'play a part, or pretend' ~ from 'hupo' meaning 'under' + 'krinein' meaning to 'decide, or judge'. In the Gospels, Jesus uses this term a number of times.
Back to the Temple - Tuesday
The synoptic gospels say that when Jesus and his disciples returned to the Temple, the chief priests, scribes and elders asked him; "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you permission?"
Jesus answered them with a question; "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?"
They reasoned that, if they said 'from Heaven', then Jesus would ask why they didn't believe him and if they said 'of men', then they feared the response of the people ~ who were sure that John the Baptist was a prophet. Luke says they believed the people would stone them. They answered; "We cannot tell." And Jesus answered; "Neither can I."
Jesus then told some parables, which the chief priests and Pharisees perceived were about them. They wanted to seize him, but they feared the reaction of multitude.
According to Luke, they decided to watch Jesus and to send spies to trap him, so that they could deliver him to the governor.
The gospels state that Jesus preached a warning against the 'Teachers of the Law'.
These 'Teachers of the Law' are also known as 'the Scribes'.
At first glance, this story of planning to trap Jesus, does not seem to suggest insurrection on his part.
However, the fact that the Pharisees should plan this particular trap, indicates that they expected Jesus to incriminate himself - if he had not realised that he was being tricked. Since he did realise, he used words to baffle his opponents, without really answering the question.
The Pharisees must have had reason to believe that Jesus would, under usual circumstances, incriminate himself through his own words.
"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's"
It was the Jewish Zealots ~ the insurrectionists ~ who refused to pay taxes to Rome. This was illegal and the response could be execution. Did the Pharisees and their supporters believe that Jesus had Zealot tendencies? Is that what they were trying to prove when they questioned him?
The Pharisees decided to trick Jesus into saying something illegal or troublesome. They sent some followers, with the Herodians.
They said to Jesus; 'Master, we know that you are honest, and you truthfully teach God's way, without being influenced by others, so can you tell us what you think about this; is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?' [Tribute ~ an imperial tax payable by subject peoples, but not Roman citizens].
But Jesus recognised their intent and he said, 'Why are you trying to trap me, hypocrites?' Then he added; 'Show me the tribute money', and they brought him a denarius. He asked them; 'Whose is this image and inscription?' They said; 'It is Caesar's'. Then he said to them; 'Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's'.
Why did they specifically choose to ask Jesus about taxes?
According to Gene Getz, in his book, 'The Apostles: Becoming Unified Through Diversity', the Zealots 'refused to pay taxes to Rome. They believed that Palestine was a “holy land” and none of what it produced should go to a foreign occupying power'. So yes, it would indeed appear that Jesus was being tested to see if he was a Zealot, or had Zealot tendencies.
The documentary, 'The Story of Jesus', indicates that 'denying Caesar's right to collect taxes was punishable by death'. The documentary also points out that, logically, since everything belongs to God, then there is nothing separate that belongs to Caesar ~ and this is something of a riddle, used by Jesus, to stump his would-be accusers.
Josephus mentions the payment of taxes, in Antiquities 18:
".. there was one Judas, a Gaulanite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who taking with him Sadduc [Zadok], a Pharisee, became jealous to draw them to a revolt, who said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty, as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honour and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them ..".
"Give Caesar that disgusting piece of money!"
A Christian blogger, named Evan Curry, suggests:
'... it’s almost as though Jesus is saying, “Give Caesar that disgusting piece of money! I don’t want it. He can have it. But Give to God what he desires ....".' [Evan Curry]
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Render_unto_Caesar...
Tribute Denarius - Reign of Tiberius
'Jesus of Nazareth, Illegal Tax Protester'
This quote from Wikipedia adds another viewpoint:
'One of the theses of an essay by Ned Netterville entitled, 'Jesus of Nazareth, Illegal-Tax Protester', is that the principal reason why Pilate crucifed Jesus was his opposition to Rome's taxes.
'Evidence of Jesus' guilt could have been presented showing he had interfered with Rome’s collection of taxes by calling Matthew (Levi) away from his tax booth in the midst of his duties (Matthew 9:9).
'Pilate may have known or could have been told that Jesus had induced one of his chief tax collectors, Zacchaeus, to repent and resign his leading position in a Roman territory where Pilate was personally responsible for tax collections (Luke 19:1-10).
'Evidence could have been introduced showing that Jesus spoke disparagingly of tax collectors on several occasions (Matthew 5:46, 18:17), even equating tax collectors with prostitutes (Matthew 21:32).
'Jesus was known to enjoy the company of tax collectors, for instance at dinners in the homes of Matthew and Zacchaeus, so he may have influenced others to quit their profession to follow him. ....'
Temple Issues - Insurrection?
Was Jesus inciting insurrection or warning his followers that there could be troubles ahead, when he said that the Temple would be destroyed.
He was accused of threatening to destroy the Temple:
'The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” [Matthew 27:59-61 ~ NIV 2011]
Destruction and War
The synoptic gospels state that, as they were leaving the temple, the disciples exclaimed to Jesus over its magnificence; "Master, look at these stones and these buildings!
Jesus answered; "See these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. They shall all be thrown down.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives near the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately; "Tell us when this will happen? Will there be a sign?"
Jesus said various things, including that they would hear of wars, that the end would not be yet, but that "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom", that there would be earthquakes and famines and sorrows.
He told them that they would be hated because of him ~ and much more
Two Days Before Passover
Matthew and Mark state that Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and scribes were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him ~ “But not on the feast day, or the people may riot.”
Matthew 26 also adds that Jesus had just finished telling parables, when he said to his disciples; "You know that it will be Passover in two days and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."
Mark, Matthew and Luke mention that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests, who were very pleased and promised him money ~ thirty pieces of silver ~ to betray Jesus. After this, Judas watched for the chance to help them.
Crucifixion = Insurrection
If Jesus was certain that he was about to be crucified, then he must have known that he would be accused of insurrection ~ so he must have believed that he was either guilty of sedition, or that there were accusations of sedition, against him, which could be supported.
After all, this was not long after John the Baptist had been killed.
Jesus Knows That He Will Be Crucified
First Day of Unleavened Bread / Last Supper
On the first day of unleavened bread ~ the day that the Passover lamb was sacrificed ~ Jesus sent two disciples (Peter and John, according to 'Luke') into the city to find a man carrying a pitcher of water. They must tell him either that the Master asked about the guest chamber where he might eat the Passover meal with his disciples, or that ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’
His disciples went into the city, found what Jesus had described, and made ready for Passover.
In the evening, Jesus arrived with his twelve disciples, and they ate together.
The Last Supper
The Kiss of Judas - Giotto
Judas - Betrayer
While they were eating, Jesus said; "one of you, sharing this meal, is going to betray me."
The twelve were upset and asked who it would be.
Jesus then either said that it was the one whose hand was dipped in the dish at the same time as him, or the one to whom he would hand the bread that had been dipped in the dish.
Either way, it was Judas Iscariat ~ and "woe betide the man who betrays the Son of man!"
John says, 'As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him'.
Matthew says, Judas responded: “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
John says, Jesus told Judas: “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
Last Supper - 'Bread and Wine' - Bouveret
Bread and Wine and Denial
'Matthew', 'Mark' and 'Luke' agree that Jesus and his apostles ate together and that Jesus had wished to eat the Passover meal, with them, before his time of suffering.
He then gave thanks for the wine and bread before sharing it with them, saying that the bread is "my body which is given for you" while the cup of wine was the new covenant ~ his blood shed for them.
He also told Peter that he would deny him three times before cock-crow and foretold that the others would leave him.
According to 'John', Jesus gave the apostles the commandment to 'Love one another!' ~ "As I have loved you, so you must love one another".
Before this time, Jesus had sent his apostles out 'without purse, bag or sandals' and they had lacked 'nothing'.
Now he is telling them to buy swords. Swords!
What is more, two of them already have swords with them. We discover that one of these is Simon, called Peter. Why would a fisherman, the disciple of a rabbi, be carrying a sword?
'Sica' Dagger / Sword
Before leaving for the Mount of Olives, as they did each evening, Jesus asked his disciples; "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They answered that they had lacked for nothing.
Then he said to them; “But now, if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag and if you have no sword, sell a garment and buy one. That which has been foretold will be accomplished in me."
They said; "Look Lord, we have two swords". And he said; "That is enough".
Did Judas Iscariot Carry a Dagger?
Judging from his name, it is possible that Judas Iscariot may have been a member of the 'Sicarii'.
According to Wikipedia, the Sicarii were 'dagger-men', whom they describe as 'an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers (sicae)'.
The 'sica' itself, they describe as a short sword, or large dagger, of the ancient Thracians/Dacians, which was used in Ancient Rome too'. They give this description: 'It was originally depicted as a curved sword, ... with a blade about 16-18 inches long.'
Jesus Knew that he had been causing uproar. He had alienated the elite members of Jewish society ~ and possible broken Roman laws of sedition.
He had ridden into Jerusalem as King of the Jews and started a riot in the Temple.
He did not need Judas to betray him ~ he had said a few times that he would be crucified.
He knew that cruficfixion was the punishment for insurrection, so he knew that he would be accused of, and punished for, this crime.
John 18, Luke 22: Matthew 26 and Mark 14 agree that, after 'The Last Supper', Jesus and his disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.
Jesus took Peter, James and John with him, while he prayed, leaving the others 'about a stone’s throw beyond them'. (according to 'Luke')
Mark, Matthew and Luke agree that, at this point, Jesus became deeply distressed sorrowful and troubled. He said; “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. Then he prayed; “My Father, Abba, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The distress and prayers seem to have continued for some time. Luke says that, as Jesus sweated blood, an angel appeared to give him support. He continued to pray, and each time he checked, Peter and the others were not keeping watch, but sleeping.
Finally, he said: "The hour has come ~ the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Here comes my betrayer!”
'The Capture of Christ' - Simon Peter Wielding His Sword
"Here comes my betrayer!”
Jesus knew that Judas had betrayed him. We do not know how. Was it divine knowledge, or intuition, or was it planned that Judas would 'help' him to achieve his end, which could only be crucifixion? There are various theories.
Judas arrived with Roman soldiers.
But Jesus also knew that two of his men were carrying swords. And Simon Peter, the fisherman, actually cut off a man's ear.
Certainly Jesus told him to put away his sword, yet it was Jesus who had ensured that swords ~ deadly weapons ~ were being carried before they went to the garden.
Was it planned that Jesus would escape? It is difficult to interpret what exactly was expected to happen.
The Garden of Gethsemane in Modern Times - with Mary Magdalene Church
Judas Iscariot arrived with a large group of soldiers and others, sent by the chief priests and elders.
They were carrying swords, clubs and lanterns. 'John' states that Judas knew the place because Jesus often went there with his disciples.
Judas then kissed Jesus. According to 'Luke', Jesus asked: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
But according to 'Matthew', Jesus said: “Do what you came for, friend.”
This was when someone cut off the ear of the high priest's servant with his sword. According to 'John', it was Simon Peter. Jesus ordered him to put away his sword and he healed the man's ear.
Then Jesus asked if the soldiers thought that he was leading a rebellion, that they should come for him like this. After all, he had been teaching in the Temple, daily, so they could have arrested him openly, in daylight.
They seized Jesus and led him away ~ while his disciples fled.
This is said to have taken place in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the lower part of the Mount of Olives.
Wikipedia: 'Matthew' (26:36) and 'Mark' (14:32) call it χωρἰον (18:1), a place or estate. 'John' says Jesus entered a garden (κῆπος) with his disciples.
"Put Away Thy Sword!"
Messiah Blasphemy, Etc
The Messiah was an 'anointed one'. This was a man who was expected to lead his people. It did not refer to being God or Son of God but, more correctly, chosen by God.
It was not blasphemous to suggest that one might be the Messiah.
However, claiming to be God or Son of God, or to be divinely favoured, might be termed blasphemy.
Blasphemy was not a reason to be executed. Sedition was. If apparent blasphemy led to riots and rebellion, then that might be included in sedition.
(Interestingly, the Messiah, or the Christ, meant 'the anointed one' and Jesus was anointed with spikenard, by Mary of Bethany.)
Jesus was seized, tied up and taken by soldiers, according to John, to the High Priests. Caiaphas and Annas are mentioned by name.
The Sanhedrin and Priests wanted evidence against Jesus that would result in execution but, though some lied to this end, they had none.
Jesus said that he had always taught openly in the synagogue, never in secret, so his teaching were known to the Jews who had heard him. They could testify as to whether he had done anything wrong.
Jesus was asked if he considered himself to be 'the Messiah' and the 'Son of God'. Jesus's reply was; “That is what you say", or words to that effect ~ or, possibly, "I am", depending on the version of the story. He added; "Henceforth, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” But who would have known, for sure, in order to record this?
The High Priest accused him of blasphemy and said that Jesus deserved death. They blindfolded him. Some then spat at him and punched him, insulted him and mocked him.
Pilate and Herod
Very early next morning, the elders and Sanhedrin handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the governor, as part of their plan to have him executed.
"To avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover meal."
Pilate suggested that they tried him by their own laws, but they said that this was not suitable, as they had no authority to execute him. Pilate asked about the charges.
“He is a subversive; he opposes the tribute; he claims to be Messiah and king.”
Pilate asked him if he were king of the Jews. “You have said so". He answered, but would reply to no other accusations.
When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee ~ Herod’s jurisdiction ~ he sent him to Herod, who was then in Jerusalem.
Herod wanted to see miracles and he wanted answers, but he got neither. Then he and his men mocked Jesus, put a robe on him and sent him back to Pilate.
Pilate told the Chief priests and rulers that neither he nor Herod had found Jesus guilty of anything deserving death, so he would be punished and freed.
It seems unlikely that either Herod or Pilate would be feeling merciful towards a Jew whom they considered a rebel-rouser. However, it is possible that they would not want to inflame the passions of thousands of Jews who had congregated in the city of Jerusalem and who were that Jew's supporters.
Equally, they would not want the thousands to conclude that they had any power over Rome. One can only assume that they would wish to be rid of Jesus, but not when large numbers of his supporters would be there to help him. What would they do? Everyone who knows the Easter story knows the answer.
Pilate + Herod Books
Better for one who draws attention to himself to die?
John 11:49-50 (New International Version)
'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”.'
The priests saw that Jesus was a danger to them all. Rome could be a terrifying master, but would leave the Jews to their own devices as long as everyone obeyed their rules and provided there was no trouble. No sedition. No insurrection. This might be interpreted by ordinary devout Jews as treason on the part of the priests, but it might also be seen as self-preservation.
Release and Revolt - Crucify!
Apparently, it was a tradition that the governor should free one criminal at the Passover festival. Pilate asked the crowd whom they wanted. (In truth, it is highly unlikely that this ever happened, since Pilate could have been accused of committing treason, himself, if he had freed known insurrectionists.)
According to the Bible story, they could choose between the rebel and murderer, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus known as 'the Messiah'.
Under the influence of the chief priests, the crowd called for Barabbas to be set free.
As for Jesus the Messiah, they still shouted “Crucify him!” Pilate washed his hands of the matter, freed Barabbas, had Jesus flogged and sent him for crucifixion.
The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium, where they stripped him, put a robe on him and constructed a crown of thorns for on his head. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they mocked. They hit him, spat on him and took him to be crucified.
The chief priests shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” He must die, because he claimed to be Son of God and king ~ anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
The non-canonical Gospel of Peter states that it was Herod, the Scribes, etc, who were responsible for the execution of Jesus, and not Pontius Pilate.
There had been an Uprising - This was Insurrection!
So there had been Insurrection
It seems that there had, indeed, been some kind of insurrectionist riot at exactly the time that Jesus was stirring things up in Jerusalem!
Not only is Barabbas an insurrectionist and a murderer, but the two men who eventually flank Jesus are guilty of sedition.
Something seditious ~ planned or unplanned ~ had certainly occurred in Jerusalem!
Insurrection is Mentioned
According to the gospel of 'Mark' 15:6-8 (English Standard Version), Barabbas, 'had committed murder in the insurrection'.
Luke 23:13-25 tells us that Pilate proclaimed to all;
"You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people. I have examined him before you and did not find him guilty of any of the charges.
"Neither did Herod...
"He has done nothing which deserves death. I will therefore punish and release him".
So, there had been insurrection, but not by Jesus. Or is this just the Gospel-writer's conclusion?
Jesus bar Abbas - (Son of the Father) - Murderer and Insurrectionist?
Quote from Dr M D Magee - 'The Mystery of Barabbas'
Dr M D Magee isn't convinced of Jesus's innocence:
'The gospels tell .. [of an uprising] in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion. The freedom fighter specifically mentioned was Jesus Barabbas. Yet it was .. gentle Jesus, who was charged with treason! ....
'There was one Jesus only .. a freedom fighter leading a revolution against the Roman occupiers of Judaea .... This was why Jesus was arrested .... No other interpretation even of .. the gospels makes sense.
'Jesus was Barabbas .. . one of the holy ones ... a failed rebel. Christians wanted their incarnated god to be .. a saintly man .... so gentle Jesus was invented and his true nature hidden.
'.. the gospel writers pretended Barabbas was not Jesus .... [They] could use the Aramaic word Barabbas knowing that few .. Latin or Greek speaking gentile converts would know its meaning ....'
Dr M D Magee ~ 'The Mystery of Barabbas'
Barabbas: Aramaic: ישוע בר אבא Bar ʾAbbaʾ, literally "son of the father".
Jesus Bar Abbas
Barabbas ~ how do we even know his name?
Why was this man recorded?
Some traditions claim that he was actually Jesus bar Abbas. Apparently, this is recorded in early Greece manuscripts of the Matthew Gospel and is also in the New Revised Standard Version. That makes it even more interesting.
Re: Barabbas ~ http://www.answering-christianity.com/jesus_barabbas.htm
Wikipedia states that the scholar Hyam Maccoby and author Benjamin Urrutia both believe that Jesus ( Yeshua) bar abba and Jesus Christ were one and the same. The term "bar-Abba" means 'son of the father' and Jesus apparently referred to God as 'Abba', when praying.
If the crowd truly asked for Yeshua Bar Abba to be freed, then they may well have meant Jesus.
Wikipedia claims that, while Barabbas is described as a murderer, Urrutia does not believe that Jesus was leading a violent insurrection, since he taught his followers to 'turn the other cheek'.
'King of the Jews'
Israel was part of the Roman Empire. Judea was ruled direct from Rome. Galilee had a client king, who ruled on Rome's behalf.
There could be no other king of the Jews, as far as Rome was concerned.
This sort of movement could cause serious trouble and would have been considered seditious.
The View from the Cross
Midday - 'Preparation of the Passover'
There are both differences and similarities in the Gospel descriptions.
At about midday on the 'Preparation of the Passover', Pilate asked the Jews “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests responded; “We have no king but Caesar”.
Soldiers took Jesus to Golgotha ~ the place of the Skull. John claims that he carried his own cross but the synoptic gospels agree that Simon of Cyrene was carrying it. Many people, including several women, followed, weeping.
Jesus was crucified. According to Mark it was nine o'clock in the morning. He died between two 'rebels'. Over his head was a sign: 'JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS'.
While Jesus hung on the cross, lots were drawn for his clothes and he was mocked:
~ “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!"
~ "He said that he was Son of God ~ let God rescue him now."
~ "If he can climb down from the cross, then we will believe that he king of Israel!"
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
At around noon, it had become dark and gloomy and this had lasted for about three hours. Then Jesus said loudly; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone then offered him a sponge soaked in vinegar. Jesus said: “It is finished ... Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” ~ and, with a loud cry, he died.
Matthew describes an event like a huge storm with an earthquake.
Certain witnesses walked sadly away. The womenfolk from Galilee ~ Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Salome?) ~ stood watching. (John states that it was Mary the mother of Jesus, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. )
The Crucified Christ
Crucifixion day was the 'Day of Preparation' ~ the day preceding a special Sabbath ~ and the Jewish leaders wanted the bodies taken down from the crosses before that Sabbath.
Accordingly, soldiers came to break the legs of the condemned men in order to speed their deaths. But Jesus was already dead.
A soldier pierced his side with a spear, causing a mixture of blood and water to flow.
Joseph from Arimathea, a rich council member and secret disciple, owned his own new tomb in a garden. He asked for the body of Jesus.
A man called Nicodemus ~ who brought about 75 pounds of mixed myrrh and aloes ~ helped him. They dressed the body with the spices and wrapped it in linen, according to custom, before placing it in the tomb. Then they rolled a big stone across the entrance. (The women also prepared spices and perfumes.)
The Garden Tomb - Jerusalem; Considered, By Some, To be The Tomb Used For Jesus After the Crucifixion
Day after Preparation Day (What is this Day?!)
The day after 'Preparation Day', the chief priests and Pharisees went to remind Pilate that Jesus had said; "After three days I will rise again".
They were concerned lest some disciples might steal the body and pretend that Jesus had risen on the third day.
The Transfiguration - Lodovico Carracci - 1594
Transfiguration. Mokvi Gospels. 1300
The Transfiguration - A Story for Chosen Disciples? - Or a Genuine Event?
Some time before Passover, the event known as 'The Transfiguration' is described in the Gospels.
The story can be found in: Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36.
This is what is said to have happened:
Jesus climbed up a mountain to pray. He took Peter, James and John with him.
While he was praying, a transfiguration took place; his face changed and shone like the sun. His clothes began to glow bright and white ~ whiter than bleached fabric; as white as a lightning flash.
Elijah and Moses then appeared. All three were standing in splendour and glory.
Then a cloud appeared above them and God's voice was heard;
“This is my chosen Son, whom I love; listen to him."
The disciples were terrified and amazed.
'Luke' notes; 'Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory.'
Then they were suddenly alone; just these disciples and Jesus.
Jesus told them not to mention what had occurred until after he had risen from the dead.
The disciples kept their experience secret.
The Apostle Simon.
The Catholic Encyclopedia Online, includes an item on the apostle, Simon Zelotes ~ entitled: 'Saint Simon the Apostle.'
They note that Simon is called 'Kananaios, or Kananites, and Zelotes' ~ they maintain that this is to differentiate him from Simon Peter.
They acknowledge that these names are 'a translation of the Hebrew qana (the Zealous)', but they claim that this 'does not signify that he belonged to the party of Zealots, but that he had zeal for the Jewish Law, which he practised before his call'.
In the Jewish online Encyclopedia, Kaufmann Kohler also mentions 'Simon the Zealot'. As he remarks, this apostle appears in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 ~ and in Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18. However, in the latter two, he is treferred to as 'Simon the Canaanite'. Kohler notes that this is 'obviously a corruption', since "ha-Kanna'i" = "the Zealot".
What does 'Messiah' actually mean?
And who were the Chief Priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes?
How can the The Catholic Encyclopedia Online help us to define and understand these terms?
Messiah: The Hebrew term 'Messiah' means 'the anointed one'. The word 'Christos' (Christ) is identical in meaning.
According to Wikipedia:
'In the Hebrew Bible messiahs are priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25.
In later Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, messiah refers to a leader anointed by God, and in some cases, a future King of Israel, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age of global peace.
In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a Son of God.
The translation of the Hebrew word Mašía was Khristós in the Greek Septuagint.'
Chief Priests: Most people understand that a priest is a minister related to worshipt' is identical in meaning. of the divine, but what is interesting, is that, etymologically, it leads to the term 'elder' ~ from 'presbyteros' / 'presbyter'.
The Sadducees were both a Jewish political party and a religious sect ~ with priestly powers and a part to play in the Sanhedrin. They had been closely involved with the ruling elite, which had made them unpopular with the poor and ordinary folk. They were the opponents of the Pharisees. From having supreme power under the Hasmoneans, the role of the Sadducees later diminished, both under Herod, and as the Romans took control of who would be high priest.
The Pharisees were both a devout Jewish religious sect and a political faction. They were strong and rigid defenders of Jewish tradition and law and they would not socialise with ‘heathens’. Their knowledge and devotion made them very influential and prestigious ~ their authority became more respected than the priest’s. Sometimes this power could lead to arrogance and corruption.
The Scribes are defined as teachers of Jewish law ~ professional men, who interpreted the Law in synagogues. It was a very important profession, because it was believed that God's Law expressed his will.
The Sanhedrin was the Jews' supreme council and court of justice.
New Advent / Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
Josephus and Zealots - Wikipedia Quotes:
According to Cupitt and Armstrong, the Zealots were 'nationalist revolutionaries' who were 'prominent in the history of the period'. This was a 'continuing tradition of revolt, especially strong in Galilee'. They write that 'Jesus certainly knew all about Zealots'.
Source: 'Who Was Jesus?' By Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong. BBC Publication. 1977.
According to Kaufmann Kohler, in the the Jewish encyclopedia, the Zealots opposed, 'with relentless rigor, any attempt to bring Judea under the dominion of idolatrous Rome'. They were zealous for the Law of God and zealous for the Jewish way of life and they came to be an 'aggressive and fanatical war party'.
It seems that they may have been founded by Judas the Galilean, of Gamala, or by his father, Hezekiah ~ or possibly the roots of the movement may have been earlier than that. How strong it was, or when it was at its most powerful, is difficult to say.
The Zealots were also called "Kanna'im" and "Sicarii". The Hebrew word 'kana'im' / 'Kanna'im' is the plural of 'Kanai'.
Kaufmann Kohler states that "Sicarii" refers to 'their custom of going about with daggers ("sicæ") hidden beneath their cloaks, with which they would stab any one found committing a sacrilegious act or anything provoking anti-Jewish feeling'.
Wikipedia defines Zealotry as 'originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism, which sought to incite the people of [Judaea, or] Iudaea, [Roman] province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the 'Holy Land' by force of arms'.
Wikipedia also states that 'the Zealots advocated violence against the Romans, their Jewish collaborators, and the Sadducees, by raiding for provisions and other activities to aid their cause' and that 'in the Talmud, the Zealots are also called the 'Biryonim', meaning "boorish", "wild", or "ruffians", and are condemned for their aggression ..'
Map of Ancient Galilee
A leaf from the "Judean Antiquities" - Josephus Flavius
Galilaeans and Zealots
From: 'Josephus on the Essenes and Galilaeans or Zealots' ~ by Dr M D Magee :
'The movement founded by Judas of Galilee, the Galilaeans, is plainly identified as the cause of all the troubles of the Jews and the Jewish War.
Galilaeans are Zealots, though Josephus calls them neither, at this point, restricting himself to saying that they were founded by Judas of Galilee and that they were zealous.'
This is what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:
"Generically, a Galilean is an inhabitant of Galilee. Galileans (or Galilæans) were also the members of a fanatical sect (Zealots), followers of Judas of Galilee, who fiercely resented the taxation of the Romans .."
If this is true that when Jesus was referred to as 'Jesus of Galilee', it is the equivalent of saying 'Jesus the Galilean'?
Was he being called a Zealot?
Or has this been exaggerated?
* * * * *
Luigi Cascioli believed that a 'Christian' story had been super-imposed onto the rebellious person of one of these 'Galilean' Zealots, from Gamala, thus producing a semi-mythical figure ~ half invented God and half freedom fighter.
Representative of the Poor and Lowly
Was Jesus a revolutionary ~ as in 'zealot', or a revolutionary ~ as in championing the poor, the sick, the criminals, the unpopular. Or are the two inseparable??
While Jesus was eating with his disciples, tax collectors and sinners would come and sit with him. The Pharisees could not understand this and asked about it.
Jesus heard them and said; 'Those who are well do not need a physician, but rather the sick ~ and I am not here to get the righteous to repent, but rather the sinners.'
When he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
According to the documentary: 'Jesus; The Man Behind The Myths', 'in the year 24 AD a new tax system had been introduced, which increased taxes on fishermen, so that they were being forced into destitution'.
This would have directly affected his disciples, who were fishermen.
According to 'The Story of Jesus', Jesus was bringing hope to the poor. Many were hungry, poor and ignored. Jesus championed their cause ~ and they flocked to him; this ordinary man, who stood up to the Jewish hierarchy and to Rome.
Radical or Radical?
Radicalism and Recent Documentaries
I have watched a few documentaries about Jesus ~ including one featuring Obery Hendricks.
I noticed how they all indicated that Jesus was making radical speeches and displaying radical behaviour.
He was 'raising up' the poor, the sick, the lowly. As a consequence, he was putting down the rich, the strong, the powerful.
He did this is his regular preaching, and also in his parables. He told them that the first would be last and the last would be first.
He befriended, and spent time, with criminals, the sick, tax collectors, etc. He stood up for an adulteress, for example.
Was he championing the down-trodden, as these documentaries imply? ~ In other words, was he simply a very radical preacher, who stood up to the mighty, on behalf of the poor and sick? Or was there more to it than that? Was he more revolutionary than radical?
According to the gospels, his radical behaviour would have made the Jewish leaders fear that he could bring the wrath of Rome down upon them.
Revolution and Wrath?
Jesus and Politics
Obery Hendricks - In 'The Story of Jesus'
Jesus ~ a Radical Fiery Revolutionary
Obery Hendricks claims that Jesus was 'a fiery revolutionary', but that this message was 'watered down' after the Roman Empire became Christianised, starting with the Emperor Constantine's 'conversion'.
The perspective changed. It became the religion of the oppressor rather than of the oppressed. Jesus's 'good news' was for the poor and the downtrodden. He wanted to liberate the oppressed.
At the time, Judea was ruled direct from Rome and Galilee had a client king. It was a time of occupation and oppression. Roman rule was hated by many ~ but a reaction to it was feared. Insurrection could be very dangerous for the people.
When Jesus preached against the status quo, he was seen as a major threat. He was 'extremely radical'. His was a 'deliberately political strategy'. He was critical of the Romans and of the Jewish authorities ~ and he was supporting the ordinary people.
His parables could be 'derisive' towards the elite. He said that the first will be last and the last will be first. The beatitudes were 'radical' ~ "blessed are ye poor" / "woe to the rich".
He was 'outraged by both the poverty and the riches' that he saw.
For months, possibly over three years, Jesus taught 'his revolutionary message' throughout the area. Finally, he took it to Jerusalem ~ at the time when people had come from far and wide to the festival of Passover. He rode in above the cheering crowds, on a donkey ~ as prophesied ~ 'a deliberately provocative act'!
First and Last - a Great Reversal!
Blessings and Woe
Jesus is calling for blessings upon the poor, the miserable, the hungry, the weak, the downtrodden ~ and calling for woe to befall the elite powerful ruling class.
As Obery Hendricks notes, this was revolutionary talk!
The Sermon of the Beatitudes - James Tissot
The Radical Beatitudes
He came down with them, and stood in the plain, in the company of his disciples and a great multitude of people, out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases...
He lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said,
Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Blessed are ...
Documentary: 'Rome Revealed - Ancient Superpower'
Some relevant quotes from this documentary on Roman Colonialism:
'The Provinces were milked for their money'
'The overwhelming concern was money'
'The Provincial governors had absolute power'
'In the far-flung provinces, Romanisation was the key ~ not troops.'
'Winning over the elite ~ the local power holders ~' was key!
Sepphoris - aka: Tzippori, Dioceserea, Saffuriya
Sepphoris was a beautiful place; 'the jewel of the Galilee', according to Josephus. This city, in the centre of Galilee, had needed to be re-constructed by Herod Antipas 'King of the Jews', a client king on behalf of Rome because, after his father Herod died in 4BC, Judah the Galilean, son of Hezekiah, had led a revolt here. This had resulted in the destruction of old Sepphoris.
There is a tradition that Mary ~ daughter of Anna and Joachim, and mother of Jesus ~ was born in old Sepphoris.
The new Sepphoris, Herod Antipas's capital, was a city re-constructed by ordinary Jewish workers for elite, high-status, Romanised Jews and / or Romano-Greeks ~ possibly in Greco-Roman style.
It has been suggested that, since the Bible indicates that Jesus and Joseph were builders ~ 'tektons', often translated as 'carpenters', but more likely meaning 'stone masons' ~ then they may well have been involved in the work on up-market Sepphoris.
According to Eric Meyers (Professor of Religion and Archaeology Duke University), having considered the archaeology:
'... the beginnings of Jewish culture in Sepphoris ... might be characterized as upscale, living very much as some of the Jews from Jerusalem might have lived at the same time in the Jewish quarter. We have frescoed rooms. We have houses, each with its own private ritual bath. That's an extravagance .... '
This comment reminded me, somewhat, of Cupitt and Armstong's descriptions of the homes of some elite Jews in Jerusalem:
'The houses of the priestly aristocracy are astomishing: very large Greco-Roman stone villas., well equipped with ritual baths and cisterns, decorated with rich mosaics and frescoes, and furnished withy luxury goods.' [Who Was Jesus?]
If Jesus belonged to the ordinary poor class of Jews and he saw this wealth being enjoyed by Jews, who appeared to be collaborating with their illegal Roman occupiers, then it would not be surprising if he harboured strong feelings about the unfairness of this situation.
(At the time of the Jewish Revolt, the population of Sepphoris seem to have supported Vespasian, which saved their beautiful city.)
Sepphoris in 1859
Jesus Had Made Many Enemies - Even In His Own Home Town
Luke 4:14-30 (King James Version)
Jesus returned to Galilee and taught in their synagogues, being praised by all.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath and read from the book of Isaiah:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
All wondered at his words and said; "Isn't this Joseph's son?"
He answered; "You will surely say "whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do the same for us", but no prophet is accepted in his own country. I shall tell you a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when there was a great famine, but Elijah helped only one of them and many lepers were in Israel, in the time of Elisha, but only one of them was cleansed."
All of those in the synagogue were filled with wrath, when they heard this and they thrust him out of the city and led him unto the brow of the hill, intending to cast him headlong over the cliff.
But he, passing through the midst of them, went on his way.
They Wanted to Stone Jesus In Judea!
Jesus heard that Lazarus of Bethany was sick. He waited two days and then said to his disciples; ”Let us go back to Judaea.”
His disciples said; “Master, they were going to stone you there, and you want to go back?!”
Headlong Over A Cliff?
Are there any cliffs in or near Nazareth?
It was when he went 'home', apparently to Nazareth, that the people of his village became disappointed with him, and decided to throw him off a hill.
There are cliffs at Gamala.
Was that really his home town?
That is where other revolutionary members of the House of David seem to have lived.
PS: Passover or Tabernacles?
Did this story really take place around the festival of 'Passover' ~ or was it really at the 'Feast of Tents' ~ known as 'Tabernacles'?
It has been suggested that the waving of branches indicates that this was, indeed the 'Feast of Tents'.
Jesus - The Truth? - The Options!
~ Is it a completely true story, just as described in the Gospels ~ give or take a few anomalies~ and Jesus was / is divine: God incarnate; Son of God?
~ Is none of it is true in any way? Is it made up?
~ Was Jesus real ~ probably of the House of David; a potential Messiah and King; a sometimes radical, sometimes gentle, preacher and potential revolutionary, supported by freedom fighters, who was crucified for rebelling against Rome ~ but not divine?
~ Could 'Jesus' have been a real man, who had a supernatural myth ~ possibly based on pagan solar gods ~ superimposed onto him, in order to artifically make him appear divine?
~ Is the story of Jesus just the re-interpretation of 'Old Testament' stories ~ eg. Moses, Joseph, Joshua?
The Real, Historical Jesus?
Related HubPages Articles from Trish_M:
While acknowledging the fact that Jesus may never have existed, for the purposes of this article, I shall assume that he did.
The gospels tell us that Jesus had many followers, but also many enemies. As Obery Hendricks has pointed out, his preaching was radical. He openly criticised those with wealth and power and uplifted the poor and the weak. This would, of course, find him followers amongst the lowly, but what about those in control? Neither the Romans who occupied the area, nor the elite Jews, who appeared to be doing their bidding, wanted trouble. The 'Holy Land' was in turmoil ~ and had been for some time. No-one in authority was going to want ~ or stand for ~ rebellious behaviour.
With enemies already plotting to kill him, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, during a festival, riding upon a donkey's colt ~ just as the prophet Zechariah had described the King of the Jews arriving to help his people. The people cried 'Save us!' ~ 'Hosannah!' By simply entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was challenging the authorities ~ claiming that he should be the King.
This was sedition. Sedition was punishable by death ~ by crucifixion!
Having arrived in the city, Jesus then takes a whip and causes uproar in the Temple ~ overthrowing tables, tipping up the money, setting animals free, controlling who passed through, criticising the people therein very loudly. This would have riled the Jewish priests and scribes ~ and could have aroused suspicion in the Roman soldiers in the area. It could, also, have aroused the interest of any zealots, freedom fighters, insurrections, etc ~ whether or not he was one of them.
Was he one of them? His advice to love one another, love one's neighbour, love one's enemy, etc, etc, does not sound like a violent man. Yet the promise to bring a sword, rather than peace, and to rip families apart, does not sound very peace-loving, either!
And the really worrying point is when Jesus told his men to arm themselves with swords, in advance of going to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he seems to have known that he would be arrested.
His men wanted to use those swords ~ and Peter actually did so. This behaviour, coupled with the nick-names of some of the apostles makes one wonder if they might not be rebels, themselves.
How rebellious? ~ Well, certainly violent enough to carry swords!
Since there are contradictions in the words attributed to Jesus, it is difficult to know how far he condoned violence ~ but he was involved with men, who could be violent, and he did want to bring change to Jerusalem and Israel. This was revolutionary talk and behaviour!
Jesus wanted God's kingdom on Earth ~ 'Thy Kingdom come'. He wanted to bring religio-political matters to a head, so that everyone would notice, when God took back his kingdom.
It could have been that the 'transfiguration' was something that he expected, rather than something that had happened ~ something that he expected to happen after his arrest, or even as he was being crucified.
He feared that it might not happen ~ hence the prayers and the sweating of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, before his arrest. And it did not happen ~ hence the prayer on the cross; why had he been forsaken?!
The troubles in the region continued. There were other Messiahs of the line of David. Other rebels were crucified. Eventually, there was outright war between Jews and Romans. Even the Temple was destroyed.
One question, often asked, concerns who is to blame for the death of Jesus. As in so many cases, it is probably 'the authorities' ~ in response to something that he did.
Crucifixion was a Roman punishment, but Roman Catholic Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, so Rome couldnn't take all of the blame.
If Jesus was causing problems for some of the Jewish elite, then maybe they were content for one man to be sacrificed, if it meant that Rome would leave everyone else in relative peace.
Jesus had many, many Jewish followers. His family was Jewish. He was Jewish! The Jews cannot be blamed. He later had many Roman followers. They cannot really be blamed either.
The situation was to blame. And if any people should have felt any guilt over the crucifixion, then maybe it should have been those who had the authority to cause it ~ whether Jews, or Romans, or Romano-Jews; people ruling the land, or people rabble-rousing. But it is and was a complex matter.
It is a disturbing story ~ yet one that is told, in its gentle, sanitised form, to children, and even babies, as they munch on chocolate eggs!
The Horrors of the First Easter Have Largely Disappeared - Replaced By Chocolate Eggs and Child-Friendly Story books!
I have enjoyed studying this subject and hope that no-one will find it offensive in any way. It is a fascinating topic!
I hope that I have not made any errors; do please let me know if you see any. Thanks!
Comments and questions would be much appreciated!
Copyright Tricia Mason. All Rights Reserved.
Some Sources and Resources
The Bible ~ Old and New Testaments ~ various translations.
The Jesus Dynasty ~ James D Tabor. 2006
Who Was Jesus? Con Cupitt and Peter Armstrong. 1977.
Jesus; Man Behind the Myths
The Story of Jesus
Rome Revealed ~ Ancient superpower
Articles / Websites:
I have read a number of online articles, to help me with my interpretation of the Gospels.
These sites are particularly helpful:
Various ~ Creative Commons / Wikimedia Commons