8 Consequences in:

Steuart Campbell

The Rise and Fall of Jesus, page 167 - 192

A Complete Explanation for the Life of Jesus and the Origin of Christianity

3. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4346-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7327-8,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
Consequences The Arrest According to Klausner (1925), Jewish law forbade the party to return to Bethany that night; instead it required them to stay in the district of Jerusalem, which included the Mount of Olives. Whatever reason Jesus gave for going to the Garden, it is clear, as Joyce noted, that he hung about awaiting capture. Indeed, so long did he wait there, praying or pretending to pray, that most of the disciples fell asleep. As Salibi observed, they would not have wanted to spend the rest of the evening ‘in a public park’ (1988:178/9). Perhaps they were told that Jesus was waiting for Judas to meet them. Jesus may have underestimated the time required for Judas’ information to produce action and for the guard unit to be dispatched. Indeed, he appears to have been anxious about the delay and fearful of the ordeal ahead of him, sweating profusely (Luke 22:44). Because Luke likened the drops of perspiration to drops of blood, Wilson appears to have believed that Jesus actually did sweat blood. Smith proposed that, during the evening, Jesus initiated a new disciple (the naked young man) by baptism. It is not clear what body of water could have been used; the Kidron valley was dry for most of the year. However, this may have been the excuse for being in the Garden at that time of night. Helms (1989:109f) thought the incident a fiction based on the story of Elijah’s flight from Ahab and Jezebel (III Kings 19, LXX). Indeed, because he thought the authorities could have arrested Jesus at any time, Helms thought that the story of the arrest was invented, although, because it was so humiliating afterwards, he allowed that the disciples’ cowardice ‘may well be historical’. Not only did Jesus wait until the posse arrived, he announced its arrival, neither resisting nor allowing his disciples to resist. Because he wanted to be arrested, he facilitated the apprehension to the best of his ability. He emphasized to his disciples that he must be arrested to fulfil 8 167 the Scriptures (Matt. 26:54). Judas either led the arresting party or preceded it at a safe distance so that he did not appear to be leading it. The posse consisted of armed officers of the chief priests and Pharisees (John 18:3) but it was commanded by a Roman officer, whom John describes as a military tribune (chiliarchos, John 18:12). This was a high ranking officer, commanding several hundred soldiers. Although John may have raised this officer’s rank out of respect for Jesus, we are entitled to accept that he was an officer and that he brought Roman troops with him. Zeitlin believed that the High Priest had a Roman cohort at his disposal for the arrest of malcontents. It seems most likely that the posse consisted of Roman troops accompanied by Jewish officers representing the High Priest. This proves collusion between Caiaphas and Pilate, although not necessarily for this arrest. The arrest itself must have been made by the tribune on behalf of Rome; it was not a Jewish arrest. On the question of why Mark omitted mention of the Roman involvement, Winter noted that he would have invited opprobrium on his cause if he had stated that the Emperor’s troops had seized Jesus. He thought it more likely that Mark would omit reference to Rome than that John would invent it. Of course it is a mystery why John’s Gospel, which goes to such trouble to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death, is the only Gospel to indicate Roman participation in the arrest. Such discrepancies indicate that a stubborn truth could not be removed. Winter noted the discrepancy between the statement that the (Jewish) Council dared not arrest Jesus during the feast and the fact that he was arrested on the eve of it and executed on the first day. He could not understand why Jesus was arrested or who ordered the arrest. It seems unlikely that the Sanhedrin, and certain that the governor, did not consider arresting Jesus during the feast. Some believe that the Sanhedrin desired Jesus’ death on account of blasphemy and that they needed Pilate’s help in securing that death. Kamelsky thought that the Sanhedrin co-operated to deliver Jesus to Pilate so that Jesus’ prophecies could come true. Linklater suggested that the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus taken into protective custody for his own benefit and the protection of other people’s lives and property, but his account is unconvincing. Sanders (1993:265) thought that Caiaphas had Jesus arrested because of his prophetic demonstration at the Temple, overturning tables, and be- 8 Consequences 168 cause he feared that Jesus might incite a riot (ibid.:269). Caiaphas was mistaken and Jesus was exonerated at his trial (ibid.:271). Schofield thought that, well before ‘holy Week’, Caiaphas issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest. Thiering (1996:vii) thought that Jesus was crucified (arrested) because he was believed to be an associate of anti-Roman zealots. It seems more likely that the Sanhedrin had no hand in the matter and that Jesus himself arranged the arrest; he forced the Romans to take him prisoner. John records that Simon Peter, in an attempt to defend Jesus, cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest (John 18:10). Wilson believes that this servant was in fact Saul of Tarsus. The event is corroborated by the synoptic evangelists (Mark 14:47; Matt. 26:51; Luke 22:50), although Luke added a healing miracle. Powell altered Matthew’s text to show that one of those with Jesus ‘struck the high priest’s servant and snatched his sidearm [not “ear”]' and that Jesus then told him to return the weapon. Carmichael (1995:102) saw the carrying of swords as evidence for his notion that Jesus led an armed gang that had attempted to control the Temple. Could Peter have been carrying a weapon? Did the disciples customarily carry arms? Did they need weapons for protection and why, if they were not expecting arrest, did they have weapons with them on that night? The answer lies in Luke 22:36–38, where Jesus told the disciples to buy swords. He told someone who had a purse and a wallet (surely Judas) and someone who had no purse but who could sell a garment (Peter?) to go and buy swords. Indeed two swords were obtained (Luke 22:38). When told of the acquisitions, Jesus said, ‘it is enough’. Enough for what? Enough for their protection? Surely not, and if Jesus wanted to be arrested that night, why did he insist on the purchase of swords? Jesus himself explained why he needed some disciples to carry swords; he quoted from Isaiah 53 (v. 12), where the Servant of the Lord is ‘reckoned among the transgressors’ and he stated that this Scripture must be fulfilled in him. Indeed, if he regarded himself as that Servant, then he must see that the Scripture was fulfilled. It is clear that he gave instructions, perhaps during the Seder or even before that, with the intention that the Scripture should be fulfilled. But how did the purchase of two swords fulfil the Scriptures? The word translated as ‘transgres- The Arrest 169 sors’ (anomon) means ‘lawless’ or rather here ‘lawless ones’. A modern interpretation would be ‘outlaw’ or (as in the NEB) ‘bandit’. Law-abiding citizens did not carry swords and to have such swords was a sign of lawlessness. It put the disciples in the company of Zealots (see Josephus’ description of the Sicarii who ‘concealed daggers under their garments’ – War 2:13:3). It cannot have been Jesus’ intention that the swords should be used. That is why he told Peter to sheath his sword or to give Malchus back his dagger. It was sufficient to have been carrying the swords; by doing so the disciples enabled him to fulfil yet another Scripture. He told them, ‘these words must find fulfilment in me’ (NEB). They must find fulfilment in him if he was the Messiah-ben-Joseph. Mark thought that the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled at the Crucifixion (Mark 15:28). In fact the story of the two thieves may have been invented to show fulfilment of the prophecy and in ignorance of its arranged fulfilment by Jesus. Cohn believed that the Jewish officers asked for and were given custody of the prisoner until shortly before the trial on the following morning. He assumed that the close relationship between Pilate and Caiaphas enabled the latter to learn of the impending arrest, assuming that he did not initiate it, even of Judas’ false charge, very soon after Pilate himself. This assumes that Pilate ordered the arrest and that he either wished to or was obliged to inform Caiaphas. There are some difficulties with this view. Why would Pilate bother to inform Caiaphas at all? As Cohn himself noted, the governor was in no way beholden to the Jewish authorities; his own authority would be threatened by any sign of weakness. But perhaps Caiaphas had spies in Pilate’s praetorium. In this way he might learn of the impending arrest. However, the presence of Jewish guards and his own servant in the posse indicates that Caiaphas knew of the arrest and had a right to be represented in it. Cohn was loath to consider Jewish responsibility for the arrest and that Caiaphas instigated it. Part of the agreement may have been that Caiaphas could interrogate Jesus before the trial. 8 Consequences 170 Interrogation It is popularly believed that Jesus was taken for trial before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin). Certainly this is the claim of the synoptic Gospels. However John tells us that Jesus was interrogated only by Annas and Caiaphas, although not at the same time. If Jesus was arrested on a Roman charge, then he could not be tried by the Jews; but he could have been interrogated by the High Priest and other high officials. The latter could have included Annas, and John and Alexander who interrogated the disciples (Acts 4:6). Cohn pointed out that no Sanhedrin was allowed to sit as a criminal court outside the Temple precincts, that it was not permitted to try criminal cases at night and that no such case could be heard on a festival or eve of a festival. Stauffer claimed that, when the Sanhedrin lost the right to pass sentence of death, it was also forbidden to meet in the Temple court, in the Hall of Hewn Stones, and that it met instead in Annas’ Hall on the Temple Mount. If no Sanhedrin could meet outside the Temple, then banning it from the Temple effectively removed its power, although it may have continued to meet for discussion. Klausner (1925) believed that the meeting place was the ‘house of Annas’ at the ‘hill of anointing’ near Gethsemane. If there was such a building going by Annas’ name, probably because, in the eyes of the Jews, Annas was still the legitimate High Priest, then we can understand how John thought that Jesus was taken first to see Annas. Perhaps this building was the official residence of the High Priest (‘the court of the high priest’, Mark 14:54; ‘the house of the high priest’, Luke 22:54), where Annas still lived. Caiaphas and other priests could have gathered there for the interrogation. There cannot have been a full meeting of the Sanhedrin, nor can there have been a trial. Carmichael (1995:87) believed that the account of a Jewish trial was invented to throw blame on the Jews. Cohn tried to show that the Sanhedrin was hurriedly convened in order to find some way of preventing Jesus’ death the following day. He argued that Jesus was not regarded as a threat by the Jewish leaders and that their prime concern was for their own survival and reputation among the people. They feared criticism if it were known that they had connived to arrest and execute Jesus or even if they made no attempt to save him. Cohn argued that the Sanhedrin saw it as necessary to Interrogation 171 seek any means to find an effective defence to the charges already laid against Jesus. He believed that they examined the likely witnesses and found, to their satisfaction, that they did not agree. Since the Roman court needed two witnesses in agreement, it would be unable to convict Jesus. But there was another way in which Jesus could be convicted – if he admitted guilt. For this reason, Cohn claimed, Caiaphas put a direct question to Jesus regarding his claims. When he found, to his horror (sic), that Jesus had no intention of denying the charges, he tore his robe in dismay. With such a willing prisoner, what good was all his trouble to provide a defence? The whole night’s work was wasted and he could see certain conviction. Jesus was doomed and it is in this light that Cohn interpreted the cry of the Sanhedrin, ‘he is liable to death’ (Matt. 26:66). These words were not a verdict, for it was not a trial; they were a despairing prediction. Blinded by modern interest in Jesus and attempting to exonerate Jewish implication in his death, Cohn attributed to the Jewish leaders too great an interest in Jesus and motives that are too high-minded. Caiaphas could never have thought the matter required a gathering of the whole Council which, in any case, had no legal power. The evidence of the Gospels is strongly that the chief priests and scribes wanted Jesus’ death. When Jesus’ claims to Messiahship became known to Caiaphas, his natural reaction must have been that Jesus should be silenced. Although it might be a Christian interpolation, the words of John may accurately reflect the attitude of the Sadducees; ‘if we leave him alone all men will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation’ (John 11:47–53). In any case, they must have seen the dangers in the Nazarene movement that threatened to throw up a popular king, the Pharisees’ Messiah. It was in their interest to pinch out this bud before it grew out of control. Cohn showed how the idea that Pilate was expected to ratify a decision of a Jewish trial does not bear close examination. But he overlooked the possibility that the chief priests examined Jesus in preparation for the Roman trial. Caiaphas had the opportunity to interrogate this mysterious Galilean and to learn something of his movement. Klausner (1925) informs us that the Sanhedrin possessed the right of preliminary examination. As we have seen, it must have been Caiaphas who instituted the arrest and claimed the right to examine the prisoner 8 Consequences 172 before he was taken to Pilate. Caiaphas may also have wished to ensure that the charge against Jesus would stick. He must be sure that Jesus would be found guilty and condemned to death. He needed to examine the witnesses to test their stories and to ensure that they agreed with each other. It appears that Caiaphas did not know how willing Jesus was to be convicted, for he searched that night for witnesses (Mark 14:55). That Caiaphas had to make a search for witnesses and that he could not find two who agreed with each other (Mark 14:56–59), demonstrates how unprepared he was. He had not planned to examine Jesus that night. But Caiaphas’ problem was solved when Jesus admitted that he was the Messiah; the admission was enough to secure a conviction in the Roman court, although it would not have convicted him in a Jewish one (Innes). Upon this admission, Caiaphas tore his robe, a symbolic action permitted by the Mishnah (despite Lev. 21:10) signifying that the prisoner was liable to a death sentence. Truly he did not need the witnesses any more (Mark 14:63). The synoptic evangelists claim that Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy and that this was the crime for which he was sent to trial. Schweitzer (1925) accepted this. However Jesus appears never to have used the name of God, a major blasphemy (slander) that would have earned the condemnation of the priests. Sanders (1985) claimed that it is likely that the charge of blasphemy was not firmly rooted in tradition. Mowinckel noted that there was no blasphemy in claiming Messiahship, but it was quite another thing for a man to claim to be that Son of Man who was also ‘the Son of the Most High God’ or of ‘the Blessed’. Jesus claimed to be that supernatural being who would rule the kingdom of the heavens and his claim was seen by Caiaphas as a major blasphemy deserving capital punishment. But however slanderous Jesus’ claims were, Caiaphas could not put a charge in those terms to Pilate. Powell believed that Jesus was convicted of blasphemy for allowing himself to be called ‘the son of God’. John, who normally seems to have been better informed, reports only that Annas asked Jesus about his teaching. He received an insolent reply (John 18:20–21). Interrogation 173 Some ask how we can know what took place at this interrogation. John Robinson (1985:117) believed that John was an important fishmonger (sic) who had access through the tradesmen’s entrance into the High Priestly household and was able to witness the interrogation. It would be simpler to suppose that one or more of those entitled to be present, perhaps a servant, related the events to an early evangelist. Trial Early the following morning, at cock-crow (John 18:27), Jesus was led back into Roman custody. There is no reason to believe that Pilate knew anything about the arrest or the interrogation by the priests. However he may have been informed as a matter of routine. So far as he was concerned, the prisoner had been arrested the previous evening on a charge arising from information supplied to the High Priest. The transfer from Roman to Jewish guards and back again might have been, as Cohn suggested, a private arrangement between the commanders concerned. It was not a matter of consulting Jewish law or of referring the matter to the Sanhedrin, which was not extant. Pilate held his own court for crimes against Rome; once the charges had been laid and the accused detained, he was obliged to proceed with the trial. Jesus was now led into Pilate’s praetorium (John 18:28), his military and gubernatorial headquarters. We are told that the judgement seat (bema) was located in a place called The Pavement (lithostraton), which many scholars place at or near the Tower of Antonia, where the Roman troops were garrisoned. Robin Lane Fox claims that the Pavement was a cobbled area outside the palace (1991:246). However Schonfield (1974) believed that the trial was held in the courtyard of Herod’s Palace. Certainly the praetorium was wherever the commander-in-chief resided; if he resided in the Palace, then that was his praetorium. Grant (1973) was sure that the governors resided in the Palace, where there must have been a ‘pavement’ and a judgement seat, formerly used by the kings of Judaea. Only recently have archaeologists been able to confirm that Pilate’s praetorium was in the Hasmonean Palace (Thiede 1990:127). 8 Consequences 174 Cohn pointed out how impossible it was either that the Jewish leaders accused Jesus before Pilate or that they were present at the trial, which was held in camera. If, as he claimed, the Sanhedrin had learned of the futility of attempting to defend a prisoner who was determined on self-destruction, they would have had no reason to wait outside the praetorium. But, to lay a charge, Caiaphas at least had to be present and surely he remained to see a conviction. But Caiaphas could not enter the praetorium for fear of defilement before the Sadducean Passover. Instead, Pilate had to go outside to speak to him. Wilson thought that the trial scene was invented and Helms (1989:118) regarded the account of the trial as speculative, ‘since there were no followers of Jesus present’. Even if this were true, and Helms can have no way of knowing, some of the guards may have reported what took place. Powell thought that the Roman trial was constructed from the trial before the High Priest. Although Carmichael (1995:77) thought that the account of the trial is ‘tendentious’, the account in John (John 18:29–19:16) does seem to contain realistic components. Phrases like ‘am I a Jew?' and ‘what is truth?' are unlikely to have been invented; they seem to come from a real, quick-witted and touchy personality. Pilate must first have asked for the charge (John 18:29). It seems unlikely that he was merely told that Jesus was a criminal, as claimed by John (John 18:30); this response would fit better with the report that Pilate attempted to release Jesus. The Gospels are all agreed that Pilate asked Jesus whether he was ‘king of the Jews’ (e.g. Matt. 27:11). Therefore the charge must have been in those words. Cohn thought that the charge was ‘pretending to be King of the Jews without being appointed or recognized as such by the Emperor’. In fact we may deduce that Caiaphas accused Jesus of claiming to be king of the Jews (John 19:21). Jesus may have replied, as the Gospels claim, that indeed he was a king or, as we might say nowadays, ‘you said it.' (Mark 15:2). Graves and Podro claim that Jesus’ reply (to the High Priest), ‘you say that I am’ (Luke 22:70), is an abbreviation of an Aramaic saying ‘so you say, but I reserve my opinion’. Since Jesus must have spoken in Greek, this seems an unlikely explanation for Jesus’ reply to Pilate; in any case, Jesus was absolutely sure of his identity. John’s version, ‘do you say this yourself, or have others told you about me?' (John 18:34), seems un- Trial 175 likely to have been invented and is complex enough to have come from Jesus. Pilate must then have enquired where Jesus’ kingdom was, although this question is not recorded. Jesus explained that his kingdom is ‘not of this world’, not of the cosmic order that God had created in the beginning and in which they yet lived. His kingdom was the cosmic order to come, the new heaven and the new Earth. So Pilate asks, ‘you are not really a king then?' (John 18:37), but Jesus’ reply, about truth and destiny, is lost on the prefect. Pilate may have been cruel and heartless, although there seems to be little evidence for this view, but he must have seen that Jesus was no ferocious rebel. Although he had been in the company of some with swords, he had not himself been armed and he had not, as far as we know, led an armed revolt. He was not known to be, nor did he claim to be, a direct descendant of the Jewish kings. Pilate’s first conclusion may have been that Jesus was insane or at least a harmless eccentric. How could he be king of the Jews when the kingdom he claimed did not exist? He laid claim to no existing kingdom. Consequently it is understandable that Pilate may have told Caiaphas that he did not believe that Jesus was guilty of any crime. He may well have ordered a scourging as a token punishment and encouraged his troops to mock the ‘king’ (John 19:1–5). Wilson believed that Pilate was afraid of Jesus and that, if he had him executed, there would be an uprising. However this view does not seem to be justified. It may be true that there then followed an altercation between Pilate and the priests, the latter claiming that, according to their laws, Jesus should die for calling himself ‘the Son of God’. In fact Jesus called himself obliquely ‘the Son of Man’, which the priests knew stood for the Messiah, but Pilate would not have understood the term. The priests may also have warned Pilate that his loyalty to Caesar might be questioned (John 19:12) and they declared their own loyalty (John 19:15). Schofield noted that the priests’ cry, ‘you are no friend of Caesar’, was an echo of an earlier request by Herod’s sons over the matter of the votive shields that Pilate should show that he was ‘caesar’s friend’. Caiaphas played the same card against the same opponent. Pilate may have believed that Jesus was harmless, but he was confronted by priests who took the matter so seriously that they threatened to report him to 8 Consequences 176 Rome. On the previous occasion, Pilate had been rebuked by the Emperor; another report could mean the end of his career. If Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews, even a future king, he was technically guilty. So Pilate signed the death warrant, but with a sting that would annoy the priests. The conclusion that Pilate made no concessions to Jewish demands and that he tried Jesus and found him guilty on his own admission is plainly at odds with the gospel record. However the evangelists’ motive is well known; to protect Christians who read or carried the Gospels, they had to portray the Roman governor as Jesus’ friend not his enemy. Consequently they claimed that Pilate found Jesus innocent and that he tried to release him. In fact, if Pilate had thought Jesus innocent, he could not have sentenced him; ‘the execution of an accused known to be innocent would, in Roman law, be murder for which he [Pilate] would be personally answerable’ (Cohn). The evangelists, in shifting blame from Pilate, risked calling his competence into question and that seems to be little better than blaming Rome for killing a god. Cohn found the tradition of the release of a prisoner at the Passover entirely an invention; it was not mentioned by Josephus. Schonfield (1974) agreed that there was no such custom. However he suggested that one (Jesus) Barabbas was captured by mistake and that the chief priests released him after the error was discovered and Jesus the Nazarene had been handed over. It is hardly credible that Pilate would willingly release any criminal. Cohn also dismissed the story of Claudia Procula’s dream as a clumsy attempt to introduce a typical supernatural influence that might be expected to convince readers that Jesus really was the Son of God. He noted that ceremonial hand-washing was unknown among Romans; in fact it is a Jewish custom (Deut. 21:6; Ps. 26:6). Procula comes from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and should not have been in Jerusalem (Daniel-Rops). Stories about Procula abound, but it is unrealistic to believe that Pilate would react to her attempt to interfere with the course of justice. The story of Jesus being sent to Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6–11) has the ring of truth, although there is no cause to suppose that Pilate wanted to shirk his responsibility. Jesus’ origin in Galilee was irrelevant; the crime was committed in Judaea. Herod was in Jerusalem for the Passover; indeed he may have lodged with Pilate in the Palace. It Trial 177 may be that Herod, when he heard of Jesus’ arrest, asked to see him. He may have wanted to see whether Jesus really was John the Baptist resurrected and to see a miracle (Luke 23:8). Lane Fox thought the story more likely to have been invented to appear to fulfil Scripture, as indicated in Acts 4:26, Antipas representing ‘the kings of the earth’ (1991:297). Pilate probably owed his appointment to Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the ambitious and anti-Semitic Prefect of the praetorian guard who took effective control of the Roman Empire in 26 when Tiberius retired to Capri. According to Grant (1973), Sejanus had nominated both Pilate and his predecessor Valerius Gratus. Certainly Sejanus was cruel and unscrupulous and this may indicate that Pilate was also. Philo called Pilate cruel and remorseless (Leg. 301–3). To Guignebert (1935), Pilate was a man who could stand no nonsense and believed in strong-arm methods, while Klausner (1925) concluded that Pilate’s known cruelty (sic) prevented acceptance of all stories of his opposition to the Crucifixion. Morrison was sure that Pilate never deferred to Jewish feelings nor feared representations to Caesar (‘such threats produced no effect on Pilate in the case of the votive tablets’) and that he must have condemned Jesus in a moment of weakness. Stauffer, agreeing that Pilate was a creature of Sejanus, attributed the apparent change of attitude to the death of the latter, who was arrested and executed in 31 (this tends to confirm 33 as the year of Crucifixion). Pilate may not have felt so secure after Sejanus’ death. After a complaint by Samaritans in 36, Pilate was sent by Vitellius to answer charges before the emperor, although Tiberius died before Pilate reached Rome. Jesus must have been sure that he would be tried by Pilate and that Pilate would find him guilty. However, he probably knew nothing of Sejanus and the effect his death could have on Pilate’s attitude. If Pilate had indeed hesitated to condemn Jesus, then the latter owed the continued ‘success’ of his plans to the persistent Caiaphas. In this respect, Caiaphas also assisted Jesus onto his cross and enabled him to make his great sacrifice. Surprisingly Christians do not sing the praise of Caiaphas or Pilate for that matter; as Wilson has observed, it seems perverse to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death if it brought salvation to the whole world and they did not know that he was the Messiah. 8 Consequences 178 Cohn realized that, if Jesus pleaded guilty to the charge brought against him before Pilate, it need not have been because he was or thought he was in fact guilty; ‘it could well have been because he wanted his prophecies to come true’. In fact he probably pleaded guilty both because he believed that he was the Messiah and because he wanted the prophecies to be fulfilled, the latter most of all. While debate has raged over whether it was the Romans or the Jews who condemned Jesus to death, there seems to be little doubt that it was a self-condemned man who walked from the praetorium to Calvary. Jesus had thrown himself into legal machinery that had no alternative but to condemn him to death. In fact he forced it to do so. More than that, he chose both the method of execution and the time at which he would be executed. By arranging to be betrayed on the Thursday evening, he ensured that he would be tried and executed the following day. But since the approaching sabbath commenced at sunset on the Friday, he knew that such a timetable would necessitate his removal from the cross before that time. He could calculate the length of his agony precisely. If he had been arrested earlier in the week, he would have had to endure several days’ crucifixion and might not have survived. Only by arranging the arrest, trial and execution in his own time could he ensure that the required revival of the Messiah would be accomplished. Jesus presented himself to his judges as a prisoner who had already decided both the crime and the punishment. He used both Caiaphas and Pilate as instruments to achieve his aim; while they thought they were manipulating him, he was manipulating them. In 2013 a Roman Catholic Kenyan lawyer (Dola Indidis) petitioned the International Court of Justice in The Hague to overturn Pilate’s verdict as a ‘selective and malicious prosecution’, violating Jesus’ human rights. He accused Pilate of ‘judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias and prejudice’. The Kenyan High Court of Nairobi said that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case (The Times, 3 August 2013). Crucifixion The site of Calvary (Golgotha) has been hotly disputed. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the site of a previous Temple to Venus, Crucifixion 179 which was understood to have been built over the site of the Crucifixion. But identification of the site was only made in the fourth century by the Empress Helena after a vision. An alternative site was identified in 1882 (Lane Fox has 1885) by General Gordon of Khartoum, who noticed that a rocky outcrop to the north of the city, and known as The Grotto of Jeremiah, resembled a skull. ‘Golgotha’ certainly derives from the Aramaic gulgoltâ, which does mean ‘skull’ (Mark 15:22). Among the explanations advanced for this name, that which sees it as a topographical description seems most reasonable. The hill cannot have been so-named because it was littered with skulls; Jewish law did not permit skulls or any human remains to lie in the open. Lane Fox says that the appearance of a skull is due to modern quarrying (1991:248). Critical to the choice of site is the line taken by Jerusalem’s north wall at the time. Calvary was outside this wall (Heb. 13:12). If the wall ran along the line of Jerusalem’s present north wall, then Gordon must be correct. If the wall ran along the line of what is called ‘the Second North Wall’, then either site might be correct. Unfortunately archaeology has not yet determined the line of the north wall. But it does seem remarkable that, to the north of the city, the traditional site of executions, there should exist a hill that does resemble a skull. The odds seem to favour Gordon’s Calvary, even though his reasoning is suspect. Klausner (1925) was sure that the traditional site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, must have been inside the north wall in Jesus’ time. It is not known exactly how Roman crucifixions were conducted. It is known that the conventional Christian representation, in which Christ hangs by nails through his hands and feet, is impossible. In such a position, the body would fall off the cross. According to Cross (1968), after the victim was beaten with cudgels, he was tied with ropes or nailed or both to a wooden spar, probably by twisting his arms behind the spar. Finally the spar was attached to an upright post already planted in the ground, probably across the top of it, so forming a Tshape. There is no agreement on exactly how the victim’s feet were fastened. Some believe that support for the feet, by means of a foot block or tying, was necessary to allow the victim to breathe by taking the body weight off the arms. Others believe that nailing the feet, either sideways through the heel or in the traditionally portrayed manner, 8 Consequences 180 performed this function, besides restraining them. Many commentators concluded that the feet were not nailed and some believed that not even the hands were nailed (Goguel 1926). If nails were used to secure the arms, then they would need to have gone through the wrists where they would be secure; this would have caused disabling injuries, although Primrose (1949) disagreed. Cross (1970a) noted that tying would have been more effective than nailing and that perhaps both were used. A peg may have been provided to give support between the legs. It is likely, as the Church fathers believed, that Jesus was completely naked (Craveri); the Romans had no cause to spare the sensibilities of their victims. That Jesus risked crucifixion indicates that the method was not necessarily disabling, for survivors. The victim found the position agonizing and breathing was difficult and painful. Renan claimed that the unnatural position of the body ‘frightfully’ disturbed the circulation and that there were terrible pains in the head and heart. At length the limbs went rigid and traumatic fever and tetanus set in. Traumatic fever is not now considered a medical entity of any significance and since the average incubation period for tetanus is one week it can hardly be the cause of death when a crucified person dies in less than that time. Renan thought that strong victims might die of hunger, but Stauffer suggested that death was normally caused by exhaustion or heart failure. Since people can live for many weeks without food, starvation is unlikely. Nor is there any reason why a previously healthy victim of crucifixion should suffer heart failure. Daniel-Rops claimed that death was caused by ‘increasing asphyxia, the tetanic state of the muscles, hunger and, above all, thirst’. In the (London) Sunday Times of 18 April 1993, Dr R W Penny explained that death eventually came from asphyxiation when the victim was too weak to stand, although breaking the legs brought instant death. One week later in the same newspaper, J Saklatvala claimed that the victim drowns because he is unable to completely empty his lungs of water. The general opinion is that many factors are involved, but that death is due to asphyxiation (Holoubek 1995). Whatever the cause, death rarely came within 36 hours and could take as long as nine days. Craveri noted that death never came in less than two days. But the Gospels plainly tell us that Jesus expired after only a few hours, the same day that he was crucified. After crucifixion Crucifixion 181 in the morning, about 9 am (Mark 15:25), he ‘died’ in the afternoon, about 3 pm (Mark 15:34); he had lasted only about six hours. Strauss concluded that Jesus died after hanging on the cross not much more than two hours. The swiftness of Jesus’ death was regarded as a miracle even in the time of Origen (Craveri). If it was a miracle invented by the evangelists to fulfil prophecy, they failed to quote their Scriptural authority; indeed, the evangelists themselves exhibit no curiosity regarding this anomaly. If it is not a miracle it is a mystery and one that the evangelists could not explain. Why would an otherwise healthy man die after only six hours crucifixion? I doubt that such a thing had occurred before; certainly Pilate was amazed (Mark 15:44). Clearly such an unusual event is unlikely to be an invention of the evangelists. When the Gospels were written it was well known how long it took to die by crucifixion. Klausner (1925) believed that the speedy death showed Jesus to have been very feeble, but Stauffer countered with the claim that no one would have become a follower of such a man. If he was a builder, Jesus was used to heavy work. Furthermore, had he not fitted the Rabbis’ requirements (that the reflection of God’s presence could only rest on a tall and strong man) he could not have been encouraged to pursue his mission, nor could he have inspired others or believed in himself. Caldwell suggested that Jesus suffered from a mild form of tuberculosis, although this hardly simulates death. Craveri reviewed various causes of sudden death, but produced no real explanation for premature death. In the High Court in London in 1972, an eminent anaesthetist, giving evidence in a libel action, declared that Jesus suffered a faint that simulated death. He had to defend this view in the face of stiff questioning. Joyce suggested that death was feigned by use of a drug, perhaps derived from the opium poppy, among others, an idea also suggested by Baigent (2006:128). Gruber accepted that a drink containing opium was involved (Kersten & Gruber 1994:253). Thiering (1996:vii) thought that it had been arranged to give Jesus poison, ‘as a way of committing suicide’, but that, later, this poison was purged. While he dismissed any idea of a drug, Wilson ignored all evidence to the contrary and claimed that it would not be surprising if Jesus had died in only three hours: because ‘he must have been near to exhaus- 8 Consequences 182 tion and collapse even before his arrest’. Gruber observed that the suggestion that Jesus’ died because of mistreatment before crucifixion is a fairly weak explanation (Kersten & Gruber 1994:245). A faint or swoon is a popular explanation. However it is unlikely that the Roman execution squad was fooled. Since many might hope to escape death by such means, the squads must have been particularly alert to feigned death. Certainly they must have been able to distinguish between a faint and death. It has been suggested that Jesus was drugged by the wine given to him on the cross. It is known that an association of Jewish women provided an anodyne for condemned men and that this drink was drugged wine. But this drink did not cause unconsciousness; the Romans wanted their victims conscious. It can only have dulled the pain of crucifixion; it certainly cannot have simulated death. Thiering (1992) claimed that this wine was mixed with snake poison (sic), which rendered Jesus unconscious, implying that this state was mistaken for death. Apparently Jesus refused this drink (Matt. 27:34). But why would he do that? Did the evangelist fear to relate how his Lord bore death in a state of intoxication? Jesus could have had two reasons for refusing the anodyne. Firstly he needed to retain his wits so that he could give the signal for administration of the opium and to swallow it. Secondly a stomach full of wine would dilute the opium and weaken its effects. The evangelists are agreed that Jesus spoke from the cross, but John and Luke seem to know nothing of the words recorded by Mark and Matthew. Wells suggested that the plea (‘my god, my god, why did you forsake me?') was inserted by the evangelists to demonstrate the magnitude of the burden assumed by Jesus, but Schmiedel (‘gospels’, para. 139, Encyclopaedia Biblica) included the verse that contains these words in his short list of passages that ‘might be called the foundationpillars for a truly scientific life of Jesus’. If this cry was theologically important, why did Luke and John omit it? Moreover why did Mark tell us that the bystanders misunderstood the cry as a reference to Elijah? What perversity led a myth-maker to report words that are Christologically significant, but which are misunderstood? Mackinnon demonstrated that this misunderstanding could have arisen if Jesus had uttered the Hebrew version of Psalm 22:1. This, with its Eli (Matt. 27:46), might have been taken as a reference to Elijah (Elias in Greek). If Jesus Crucifixion 183 had spoken in Aramaic, with its Eloi (Mark 15:34), then he must have been understood by Jewish bystanders. As Craveri noted, it is absurd to believe that Jews could not have understood their own language. Powell saw the passage as a ‘uniquely Aramaic’ insertion, designed to invoke John (Elijah) as a witness to Jesus’ death. If Mackinnon is right, we have to ask why Jesus would speak in the ‘dead’ language of the synagogue, instead of in his native tongue. Clearly he did not speak, he quoted from the Scriptures. But why did he quote from the first verse of Psalm 22? Schonfield (1965) suggested that the cry was a signal for the administration of a drug. But an equally convincing signal would have been the words recorded by John, ‘i thirst’. Bullinger (undated) pointed out that the words ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30) are the last words of Psalm 22 and he suggested that Jesus might have recited the whole of the Psalm during his ordeal. As we have seen, Jesus thought parts of this Psalm particularly appropriate to crucifixion and it is customarily recited by devout Jews facing death. However, Brandt thought that a crucified man ‘does not affect quotations’ (Klausner 1925). Schweitzer (1954) concluded that the words were written into the Gospels to show that, even at the last moment, Jesus fulfilled the role of the Messiah, but that no thought had been given to the inference that would be drawn. If Jesus was near to a successful conclusion of his mission, why would he cry out in despair? It might be thought that the words ‘it is finished’ referred to the fact that he had swallowed the opium, but that is too simplistic. Jesus would never have been so obvious. Schonfield may be right; his quotation might have been a signal that he was ready for the drug. This would not have been obvious, even to those who understood Hebrew, and its message of despair was completely at variance with its purpose – liberation from death. It also displays the melodramatic quality that seems to pervade all Jesus’ thoughts and actions. According to Luke, as he was being crucified Jesus said, ‘father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing’ (Luke 23:34a). These words are of doubtful authenticity and some editors omit them. Schonfield (1974) claimed that there is reason to believe that the words were borrowed from the dying speech of Jesus’ brother James. According to John, after he cried out in thirst, Jesus was given a drink of the anodyne in a sponge on a ‘hyssop’ (hussopos, thought by 8 Consequences 184 some to be a graphic error for husso, a pike). According to Mark (and Matthew), after Jesus had quoted from Psalm 22, ‘one hastened’ to fill the sponge and give it to him on a ‘reed’ (kalamos). Joyce suggested that again there had been confusion, this time between the Hebrew hanith (chanith, a spear) and kaneth (qaneh, a reed), although this seems unlikely. A spear would have been in the hand only of a Roman guard, but a reed might have been available for administration of the anodyne. Gruber agreed that there has been linguistic confusion and that the drink was administered on a spear, but he thought that the spear was in the hand of the Roman centurion (Kersten & Gruber 1994:253). But why should anyone ‘hasten’ to perform this task? Would a guard hurry himself? If a Nazarene was waiting for Jesus’ signal, he might hasten to obtain the sponge and the reed before anyone else could do so. He needed the sponge in which to conceal the opium. The quantity of opium required was small enough to be hidden in a sponge. Both Yerby and Joyce proposed that Jesus was given a drug hidden in the sponge. The cry recorded in Mark (Mark 15:37) could have been an involuntary reaction to the opium. Since the sabbath and the Sadducean Passover began at dusk, the priests asked Pilate to hasten death and have the body of Jesus and others if there were any removed that evening. It is known that the Romans did sometimes hasten the death of victims by breaking their legs and/or by a coup de grâce with a spear. If the cross was provided with a small step or the victim’s feet were tied or nailed to the upright post, then he was able to breath only by pushing himself upwards. If his legs were broken, he was no longer able to do this and he died of suffocation. Although Graves and Podro claimed that scelocopia (crurifragium in Latin), the breaking of legs, formed no part of the crucifixion ritual and that it was a distinct form of punishment, they suggested that it was done in this case on Pilate’s orders in accordance with Jewish sensitivities. Primrose stated that, far from being a concession to the victims in hastening death, it was a device to prevent the victims from leaving the place where they were thrown down from the cross. It seems unlikely that the execution squad would leave the victims until they were sure that they were dead. Whatever the purpose of the crurifragium, it was a treatment withheld from Jesus; when the squad came to him they found that he was al- Crucifixion 185 ready ‘dead’ (John 19:33). We can be sure that the squad commander was convinced of Jesus’ death; he assured Pilate to this effect (Mark 15:45). This means that the opium had done its work and that Jesus’ appearance was indistinguishable from that of death. There is no reason to suppose that the squad was familiar with the effects of opium poisoning, surely not a common occurrence. It has been suggested that the crurifragium was invented by the evangelists to show fulfilment of the condition of Exodus 12:46, that no bone of the sacrificial lamb was to be broken (John 19:36). This seems unlikely; it is a known Roman technique and John’s record is unusually accurate in such details. But Jesus would have known the verse and might have anticipated that his legs would not be broken, so fulfilling yet another Scripture. Only John records that one of the soldiers ‘pricked’ Jesus’ side with a lance and that ‘blood and water’ flowed out (John 19:34). Tradition has it that the lance was handled by the centurion and that his name was Longinus. However this name is derived from the Greek for a lance, logche (pronounced ‘long-khé'), and seems to mean ‘the lancer’ (Ravenseft). John thought this event so remarkable that he emphasized that he had seen it with his own eyes and that he was telling the truth (John 19:35). Considering the other remarkable claims of his Gospel, it is surprising that he should make such a comment only in this case. It might be thought that this action was a normal coup de grâce. But the commander was already convinced that Jesus was dead. Why would he order the coup to make sure of it? The notion that the account was introduced solely to show fulfilment of the prophecy that ‘they shall look upon me [him] whom they have pierced’ (Zech. 12:10), as might be concluded from John’s account (John 19:37), is undermined by the fact that the Septuagint version of Zechariah reads, ‘they shall look upon me because they have mocked me’. Only those who knew the Hebrew text would have known the prophecy. Jesus cannot have wanted to be speared and he must have thought that the prophecy was adequately fulfilled by the actions of crucifixion itself, with or without nails. Why would the evangelist feel the need to invent another episode to show fulfilment of a prophecy that was unknown to most of his readers? 8 Consequences 186 Perhaps, as Strauss suggested, the account was prompted by a concern to prove Jesus dead. We have no evidence that there was an early belief that Jesus had not died, but it may have been an attempt to refute Docetism, a doctrine that the second century Church regarded as a grave heresy. Clearly phantoms do not bleed. Nor do corpses, a fact pointed out by Origen, even though he believed that Jesus was dead (Kersten & Gruber 1994:250). But why would the evangelist record the release of blood and water? The water was more likely to convince readers that there was indeed something unusual about Jesus. Wells’s argument, that the water and blood show that the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist spring from the body of Christ, is unconvincing. The evangelist did not claim this, nor does he or someone else of the same name refer to the Crucifixion when he writes of water and blood in the first epistle (I John 5:6). Many critics have stumbled over this curiosity and various explanations have been proposed. Origen could only tell Celsus that it was a ‘miracle’. La Cava believed that the water was lung fluid oozing on account of circulatory stagnation. Strauss believed that what had been seen was the separation of blood into placenta (sic) and serum and he suggested that the water might have come from the pericardium. However, serum is not readily confused with water, nor is it easily separated. Joyce thought that the ‘blood’ was actually wine from the sponge, but he had no explanation for the ‘water’. According to Stroud, the evangelist could have seen crassamentum (clots of blood) mixed with in clear serum, but only if the heart had previously ruptured and bled into the pericardium. He thought that intense emotion or shock could have produced the rupture and that alternative explanations do not agree with the Gospel account. Despite the endorsement of these views at the time by the renowned physician Sir James Simpson, who thought that death by rupture of the heart is accompanied by a piercing cry (this is not always so), Stroud’s views are not acceptable today. Renan thought that Jesus died of a ruptured heart vessel (sic). Strauss and others noted that blood does not flow from a dead body. An anaesthetist (Primrose) proposed that the ‘water’ was the result of the ‘nervous upset of the blood vessels locally caused by the overstimulating effect of the scourging by staves’. This, he claimed, results in the vascular system exuding a pale, straw-coloured fluid, which Crucifixion 187 floods the tissue and seeps into any cavity. This process increases rapidly for five or six hours and then slowly subsides. He believed that the scourging was mainly to the front of the body and that the fluid in the abdominal area drained into and filled the abdominal cavity, floating the intestinal contents upward. He estimated that, after six hours, just over a litre of fluid had accumulated and claimed, correctly, that the consequent dehydration of the rest of the body is always accompanied by thirst (John 19:28). He supposed that the spear was thrust into the lower abdomen and that it was this ‘clear’ fluid (water) that was observed (in fact effusions are yellowish in colour and more or less cloudy). He noted that it would be tinged with blood from the wound, but only if Jesus was still alive, and he claimed that the loss was twice the amount of plasma that blood donors are permitted to give at any one time.* Primrose claimed that this spear wound, of itself, was not surgically important and that it would have healed rapidly assuming no septic infection. He thought that the cause of Jesus’ collapse was surgical shock, i.e. circulatory failure caused by loss of fluid.† However, this shock had occurred unusually early. Schulte noted that the event was ‘extraordinary’ and hardly likely to have been invented for theological reasons. He concluded that the likelihood of blood being fluid in the heart and vessels increases with time after death and that if the thorax wall is perforated immediately after death a large amount of blood issues.ǂ However, he could not explain the ‘water’. In the (London) Sunday Times of 25 April 1993, J Saklatvala proposed that, because the victim could not breathe properly, the ‘water’ was really water that had accumulated in the lungs. John is the only Gospel to contain a curious quotation attributed to Jesus as he spoke in the Temple. He said, ‘he who believes in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow out of his belly’ (John 7:38). The evangelist immediately added a note explaining that Jesus here referred to the (Holy) Spirit, which believers would later receive. However, several problems arise. First, although it is claimed to be a quotation from Scripture, no such saying is known either in the Old Testament or the Apocrypha. Second, why did the evangelist feel the * Blood donors give whole blood, a quarter of it plasma. † The loss of one litre is sufficient to cause such failure. ǂ This is not true; to release a large amount of blood the heart itself must be pierced. 8 Consequences 188 need to comment? Was there a belief in a literal interpretation of this prophecy? In any case, the given explanation is not one that Jesus himself could have accepted; he did not know of a spirit being. Furthermore, according to the text, Jesus said that ‘living [i.e. fresh] water’ would flow out of the belly of the believer, not out of the belly of the Holy Spirit. If this Scripture did exist, it is possible that it was thought to refer to the Messiah. Such an interpretation would be justified by regarding the rock that Moses struck in Sinai as a type of the Messiah. When the rock was struck, ‘living water’ poured out (Num. 20:11). A belief may have emerged that when Messiah-ben-Joseph was struck down, fresh water would arise from his body. Thus the reference to water in John 19:34 may have been interpolated from the prophecy. Arguments against this explanation are not only that the prophecy cannot be traced, but that, as it is quoted by Jesus, it does not apply to him as Messiah. Also the evangelist does not quote it where it would make most sense, among the prophecies that he claimed were fulfilled during the Crucifixion (John 19:36–37). There remains the possibility that the evangelist really did see something like water pour out of Jesus and that he saw it as fulfilment of the unknown prophecy. One of the actions of opium is a general retardation of the loss of body fluids, causing the accumulation of fluid in the stomach. Another result is the loss of saliva and Jesus’ cry of thirst might be understood in this light. If the coup de grâce penetrated the stomach, the accumulated liquid would be released. Perhaps this is what the observer saw. Gruber claimed that ‘blood and water’ is a traditional idiom from the ornate Arabian language intended to emphasize a certain happening, as in ‘sweats blood’. He observed that the German equivalent is ‘sweats blood and water’ but did not appear to realize that this expression may itself derive from the Gospel. He thought that the evangelist was only stating that a great deal of blood poured out of Jesus (Kersten & Gruber 1994:251). This wound may have been the real and only cause of Jesus’ later death. There was very grave danger of infection in such a wound and death from peritonitis was highly probable within a few weeks. He may also have died from loss of blood. Jesus must have expected that he would be spared the coup; that it was not necessary to ‘kill’ a dead per- Crucifixion 189 son. But he had not reckoned with Roman efficiency. Perhaps the execution squads were in the habit of administering the coup to all those removed prematurely from the crosses, whether or not they appeared to be dead. Indeed, Joseph of Arimathea’s desperate attempt to obtain the body after the opium had taken effect may have been on account of his concern that a fatal coup might be administered. But Joseph failed and Jesus was doomed. It was sheer bad luck. A Roman soldier had put a spoke in the wheel of fate. All through his life Jesus had taken care to see that what he did was in accordance with Scripture, even though he had to struggle to ensure fulfilment. But as soon as he swallows the opium, the moment he loses control of events, fate takes a course of its own and undoes all his work. As Schweitzer (1954) put it, ‘soon after that [the appearance of the Baptist] comes Jesus, and in the knowledge that he is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on the last revolution which is to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and he throws himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes him.' Thirty-three years’ dedication to working out God’s plan have perished at a stroke. This little act ruined his life’s work. Many give reasons why Jesus died, usually some sort of self-sacrifice. The simple truth is that he died as the result of an accident. The idea that Jesus did not die on the cross goes back at least to Annet (1744), even though, as Renan observed, there is no record that the Jews claimed that Jesus revived. Strauss, faced with the choice that either Jesus was not really dead or he did not really rise again, claimed that rationalism favoured the former. He was scornful of explanations in which Jesus remained conscious and preferred the idea that he revived. However, he was inclined to doubt Jesus’ revival rather than his death. He noted a suggestion by Xenodoxien (unknown) that Jesus’ disciples planned to produce the appearance of death by means of a ‘potion’ and that he would be revived after early removal from the cross. 8 Consequences 190 THE SUPERSCRIPTION In the Roman Empire, condemned criminals were identified by an inscription placed at their place of execution so that everyone might know both the name of the criminal and the nature of the offence. It consisted of a board smeared with white gypsum on which the words were written in black. It was usually hung about the criminal’s neck on the way to execution and subsequently fixed to the cross over his head. Jesus’ crucifixion was no exception. All the Gospels agree that a superscription was placed over Jesus’ head and that it included the words ‘the King of the Jews’. Matthew adds the words ‘this is Jesus’ and John the words ‘jesus the Nazarene’. This is consistent with the notion that the superscription consisted of two parts, first the criminal’s name and second the offence. In this case the name was ‘jesus the Nazarene’, as John claims. The offence was claiming to be king of the Jews, which is how the priests wanted Pilate to phrase it (John 19:21). Pilate, infuriated at having his hand forced by the priests, retaliated by wording the inscription as if Jesus were king of the Jews, thereby showing the Jewish nation how Rome deals with usurpers. Since the priests took the matter seriously, then so did he. Zeitlin speculated that the priests feared that Pilate might use the titulus (the offence) against them; it implied that Jesus had been recognized as king. John tells us that the superscription was written in three languages – Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19:20). It is usually believed that the superscription, whatever its form of words, was written out in the three languages. However Winter thought that it was all in Greek. A very large board would have been needed to repeat ‘Jesus the Nazarene; King of the Jews’ in each of the three languages and it is doubtful that this interpretation is correct. We are told that Pilate wrote the title (titulus) and the implication from the priests’ complaint is that he wrote only the offence, ‘king of the Jews’. He would have written this in Latin. If part of the superscription was in Hebrew, it was not written by Pilate. We may suppose that the priests were permitted to write Jesus’ name and that they did so in Hebrew or Aramaic. If Greek was used, it was surely to translate all or part of the words already written in Hebrew or Latin. Latin was the only language on the superscription that was not understood by the people and it was therefore the only one in need of translation. Consequently someone must have translated the Latin titulus into Greek. The result would have been as follows:* Yeshua Nazarene [in Hebrew] עןשייךצנה King of the Jews [in Latin] REX•IVDÆORVM King of the Jews [in Greek] BAΣIΛEΥΣTΩNIOYΔAIΩN This layout may account for the differences between the Gospels. Mark records only the part written in Greek or Latin. John records all parts, confirming the view that the Gospel originated with a Jew, possibly the disciple of that name. The Greek text of John (19:20) even has the languages in the above order (the King James text, for reasons unknown, states Hebrew-Greek- Latin). The front cover of this book attempts to show how the Superscription board may have appeared, albeit in white on black. *Traditional representations of the Crucifixion usually show the Superscription ‘INRI’, standing for the Latin Jesus Nazaraeus Rex Judaeorum]. Crucifixion 191 WHEN DID JESUS DIE? This may not seem to be an important question. Surely it is more important to establish what happened to Jesus, rather than when it happened. However, according to Schonfield (1974), we can and must fix the year of the Crucifixion because it has a bearing on the whole course of events in early Christian history down to the fall of Jerusalem in 70. Apart from that, if Jesus and the Nazarenes chose a particular year for the death of Messiah-ben-Joseph, it would be important to know which year that was and why it had been chosen. If it can be shown that the year in question had special significance and was more appropriate than others, then the thesis that the Nazarenes followed a complex and carefully laid plan would be reinforced. The usual method of determining the year involves the use of astronomy. Accepting that the Crucifixion took place on a Friday, an attempt is made to find a year in which the date given in the Gospels for the Crucifixion fell on a Friday. Unfortunately, while the synoptic Gospels agree on 15 Nisan, John claims that it was 14 Nisan. Astronomy is asked to determine in which of the years between 26 and 36, the duration of Pilate’s governorship, 14 and 15 Nisan fell on a Friday. By making an assumption about when the new moon was first visible, it has been established that 15 Nisan fell on a Friday only in 27, too early, and 14 Nisan only on 7 April 30 and 3 April 33 (Doyle). Klausner (1925), under the impression that the astronomical calculations showed that 14 Nisan fell on a Friday only in 33, believed that the Crucifixion fell on Friday 14 Nisan in 30. He believed that an error of one day had been made. Humphreys and Waddington agreed that the choice lies between 30 and 33 and selected the latter on the strength of a lunar eclipse that, they believed, explained a reference (Acts 2:20) to a blood-coloured moon, but the only lunar eclipse in 33 was on 27 September. However Peter (or Luke) might merely have been quoting from Joel without any knowledge of the eclipse (27 September 33). Renan and Ogg accepted 33, as did Reade. Because he thought 33 made the chronology of the apostolic age ‘almost impossibly tight’, John Robinson (1985) opted for 30, as did Sanders (1993:250). Goguel (1933) believed that the year was 28, supporting his chronology by reference to the death in 44 of Agrippa. However he confused Agrippa I with Agrippa II and ignored the fact that Felix and Festus are also reference points. He thought that the Agrippa of Acts 25:13 was the same Agrippa who died in 44. But the Agrippa of Acts must be he who died in 93. Stauffer believed that Jesus was crucified in 32 and Schweitzer (1968) put it in 30. Based on the assumption that John the Baptist died in 35, Schonfield believed that Jesus died in 36, the last possible year. He based this assumption on the belief that Herodias’ first husband was the Philip who was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem. This Philip died in 34. However Herodias’ first husband was a Herod, sometimes called Philip, the son of Herod the Great and his third wife Mariamne, the second of that name. We do not know when this Philip died, but it was not before Herodias’ marriage to Antipas. John the Baptist criticized Antipas’ marriage because Philip still lived and had not divorced Herodias. Therefore Schonfield’s chronology is based on false assumptions, which are also made by Lane Fox (1991:33). We ought to ignore neither the astronomical evidence nor the opinion of Ogg, the acknowledged expert. His conclusion, that the Crucifixion occurred in 33, must surely be decisive. Doyle showed that 33 is the most likely year and that year is accepted by the Vatican. According to Schonfield, 33 was a sabbatical year. This is consistent with the proposition that there was a plan that Jesus should be crucified in that year. 8 Consequences 192

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What really happened to Jesus? Did he rise from the dead, and if not why do Christians believe that he did? Did he have a plan and, if so, what was it? Did he accomplish his purpose or did the plan fail? If it failed, what were the consequences?

Steuart Campbell, once a Christian, takes a rationalist look at the problem of Christian origins and shows that no previous writer has completely solved the riddle of Jesus. Here he shows us a new hypothesis, one that explains Jesus‘ curious behaviour.

Here is Jesus in historical context, the leader of an obscure Jewish sect which believed that it was fulfilling a divine plan revealed in the Scriptures. This plan required the Messiah to die and rise again to become the king of Israel, throwing the Romans out of Judaea and even replacing the Emperor as ruler of the known world. Read how Jesus expected to accomplish this.

The author displays immense knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Jews and he explains many mysteries. He builds on the work of many other authors and constructs what is surely the true explanation for the origin of Christianity. This should be the last word on the historical Jesus. It is certainly an excellent review of the many attempts to solve the mystery.