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Saturday, April 15, 2006
IN the 1960s, archeologists made a rather starting discovery. The name Pontius Pilate was found inscribed in the city of Caesarea, the seat of the Roman rule in Judea. It was the first physical confirmation outside of literature that one of the history's most notorious characters existed . Pontius Pilate was governor of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea from 26 to 36 CE and the port city of Caesarea was his base. Most likely as military governor he would have traveled to Jerusalem during Passover week to lead the troop buildup in the city at a time when the city was crowded , anti-Roman sentiment ran high, and insurrection was condiered mor elikely. Pilate seriously offended Jews of the day by bringing Roman shields and falgs into Jerusalem. They contained idolatrous images offensive to the Jews. Aftern 10 years in Judea, Pilate was eventually dsimissed and recalled to Rome after failing to contain the local uprising.

Bit it was Pilate who had ultimate authority over affairs in Jerusalem when Jesus was arrested, and he held the fate of Jesus or any other criminals in his hands. The question of who tried, convicted, and ultimately executed Jesus is more than a historical "parlor game" or religious "bar argument". In fixing the blame for Jesus' execution on the Jewish people as a whole lies the awful seeds of Christian anti-Semitism,or what Peter Gomes in the "The Good Book" terms "Christianity's original sin".

After his arrest in Gethsemane, Jesus was actually tired -- or interrogated -- twice. The first interrogation took place in the house or palace of Jerusalem's high priest, the highest ranking Jewish authority of the day. Another Gospel glitch here, though. Two Gospels don't name this high priest. Matthew calls him Caiaphas. But in John, Jesus is said to be taken first before the high priest named Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Annas had been high priest earlier and then deposed. Annas questions Jesus and then sends him to Caiaphas, the true high priest. In John, there is no account of Jesus being questioned by Caiaphas.

The Jewish council, or Sanhedrin, questioned Jesus on a numer of counts. In Mark, false witnesses are brought against him. While they don't agree on Jesus' specific crimes, they chiefly accuse him of plotting to destroy the Temple. When the high priest asks Jesus point blank , if he is the Messiah, Jesus replies, in Matthew and Luke, "You have said so," and in Mark, "I am"That's enough for the high priest, who decides Jesus has committed "blasphemy", a crime punishable under Jewish Law by stoning. But the actual power of life and death still lay in the hands of Rome's representative. So off they all went to Pontius Pilate for a second trial that conformed with tradition of Roman justice.

The men who brought Jesus to Pilate brought along a laundry lists of charges; Jesus is a subversive. He opposes paying taxes to the emperor -- which was excatly the ooposite of what Jesus had said. He is stirring up resistance to Rome. In all of the Gospels, Pilate is presented as intially reluctant to pass judgement in a case that appears to hin to be a local argument among Jews. In Matthew, Pilate's wife even gells her husband that in a dream she has been told that Jesus is innocent. In Luke, Pilate tries to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, the Jewish ruler of Galilee, but Herod sends Jesus back. Many commentators, Jewish and Christians, have detected an overly "apologetic" tone toward Pilate in the Gospels, shifting the "blame" for Jesus execution to both the Jewish authorities and in a larger sense to the Jewish people. This has been explained by the fact that the Gospel writers, who were confronting Roman persecution, did not want to further alienate the Romans.

This might be purely academic issue if not for the fact that centuries of Christians preaching that Jews were "Christ killers" underline the modern history of anti-Semitism. It was not until 1959 that Pope John XXIII removed the phrase "Perfidious Jews" from the Roman Catholic prayer said on Good Friday, and before his death he composed a prayer asking forgiveness for the church's anti-Semitism, which he called a "second crucifixion". At a Vatican Conference in 1962, teh Catholic chirch officially exonerated most of Jesus' Jewish contemporaries and all subsequent Jews of the vahrge of killing God, or deicide. Perhaps you've heard of closing the abrn door after the horses have run away? But better late than never.

In spite of the Gospel "spin" death sentences, and Pilate's handwashing, the Roman Pilate was ultimately responsible for Jesus execution. He may have been reluctant, not so much out of goodness as disinterest in a Jewish matter. What forced his hand was the threat of politcal pressure from Rome. When Jesus was accused of treachery toward Rome, Pilate could not simply overlook the charge. Doing so would have endangered his own political neck. It is ultimately on this charge of claiming knigship, a direct challenge to the emperor, that Pilate sentenced Jeus to death. Jesus was condemned and executed as a nationalistic freedom fighter who threatened Rome, not for claiming to he the Messiah. And thoug the Gospels report that Pilate turns Jesus over to the Jewish crowd, his execution was clearly carried out by the Roman soldiers., a fact confirmed by Roman historian Tacitus (c.55-117 CE), who wrote in discuaaing the Christians, "Christ, the originator of their name, had been condemned to death by Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius"

This is one of the few references to Jesus death outside the Bible sources.

(Source: DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE BIBLE by: Kenneth C. Davis)
posted by infraternam meam @ 3:47 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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