HOW JESUS CAME ABOUT TO BEING KILLED? What really happened The evidence SHOWS that Pontius Pilate must have been in consultation with the Jewish authorities prior to the arrest of Jesus. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a Roman cohort involved in the arrest. The evidence also shows that during the Roman proceedings, Pilate wanted Jesus put to death, treated him with contempt, and never had any serious intention of realizing him. John tells us that there was no Jewish trial between the arrest of Jesus and the Roman proceedings and that the Jewish authorities specifically rejected Pilates offer to conduct their own trial. This confirms the Mishnaic principle that under Jewish law there could be no Jewish proceedings during the holiday; therefore, the Jewish council couldn’t hand down a death sentence. Luke transform Mark’s full-blown evening trial into a mere daytime inquiry, with no finding that Jesus violated Jewish law. Paul also said that the Jews found “no cause for a sentence of death”. We know, therefore, that prior to the arrest the Jewish authorities had no plans to conduct any official proceedings against Jesus or to hand down any verdict against him for violating Jewish law; after the arrest, no such trial or inquiry took place. If Pilate had been in consultation with the Jewish authorities early on, he had to know that no such Jewish proceedings would occur. So, if Pilate had conferred with the Jewish authorities and knew that they would conduct no official proceedings and hand down no verdict, and if Pilate never wanted to release Jesus but did want to execute him for claiming to be King of the Jews, why would the Roman soldiers turn Jesus over to the Jewish authorities with the apparent understanding that the Jewish authorities would bring Jesus back to Pilate in the morning? The Romans had their own custodial facilities. What was the point of the temporary transfer? Why risk bringing Jesus through the packed public streets during the busy daylight hours, past hordes of potential Jesus fans, in order to affect a transfer of custody when it was expected that Jesus’ followers might riot if they learned he had been arrested? Also, why were the disciples allowed to go free and why was Jesus taken to the unfortified house of the high priest rather than to secure custodial facility, especially if there were fears of a potential riot over the arrest of this popular prophetic figure? How long could it take before the disciples went around telling everyone that Jesus had been arrested? For that matter, why wasn’t there a riot or massive protest in front of the high priest’s home? There is clearly something wrong with the gospel picture. Jesus should have remained in Roman custody; his disciples should have also been taken into custody; the many followers of Jesus should have also been out in force protesting the arrests. Why didn’t this happen? Jesus in Jewish Custody The main reasons the Romans brought troops into Jerusalem and its environs for the Passover festival were to keep the peace on this very crowded holiday and to make sure that there were no popular demonstrations against Roman rule that got out of control. Jesus had a large following, but he was not from Pilate’s jurisdiction and would be expected to return to Galilee after the Holidays were over. Ordinarily, as long as Jesus didn’t cause much public disruption or lead any troublesome protests against Roman authority, it’s not likely that Pilate would be much concerned. He had more serious problems, such as the Fourth Way, the militant group of Pharisee rebels that aggressively opposed Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland. On this particular Passover, shortly before Jesus arrest, there had been a violent insurrection that led to deaths. It is likely that Roman soldiers were targeted by Jewish militants and that many innocent civilians were accidentally killed in the panicky aftermath of the Roman response. Under these circumstances, Pilate and the Roman military would have been on high alert and not very tolerant of any form of public resistance or public protest. The presence of a popular prophetic leader preaching the coming of a new kingdom that would replace the Romans would now become a problem. The situation was fluid and volatile. If Jesus continued his preaching, the potential existed for more public demonstrations against Rome and further possibility of more riots, more violence, and more roman and Jewish deaths. Pilate was intolerant and would not consent to any diminution of his authority or allow any scenario to suggest that he was either afraid to act or could be cowed by mob pressure. He didn’t wash his hands. And he did not allow mass public demonstrations against Roman authority. Still, any attempt to crack down on Jesus could trigger more demonstrations and perhaps another violent insurrection against Pilate and the Roman soldiers. The governor had to consider the impact of whatever decision he made, and either choice could have disastrous consequences. Both Pilate and the Jewish authorities would have been concerned about the situation, and each would be looking for ways to minimize the potential for new outbursts. Any solution had to preserve the appearance that Pilate was in full and complete control I suggest that the only logical and historically plausible solution for why, under these circumstances, the Romans arrested Jesus but allowed him to remain in Jewish custody was that some sort of deal had been made in the expectation that the problems could be avoided if such an agreement were carried out. What kind of bargain would have been struck? The deal, as I see it, had the following components. Jesus would instruct his followers to remain calm and not engage in any public demonstrations either on behalf of Jesus as the messiah or against Pilate or Rome. To ensure that his followers kept their end of the bargain, Jesus agreed to remain a hostage in the custody of the Jewish high priest until after the holidays were over, at which time he would be released and allowed to return to Galilee. To facilitate the arrangement, Pilate agreed that the disciples would remain at large in order to keep Jesus followers under control. Jesus agreed to this for humanitarian reasons, to avoid a large number of innocent civilian deaths. Such an arrangement was a win-win deal for Pilate. If it worked, he would have kept the peace without surrendering any authority. Jesus would go home to Galilee, a different political jurisdiction, and would not be of any further bother to him. Pilate didn’t much like Herod Antipas, and this Jesus fellow could be the tetrarch’s headache instead. If the plan failed, then Pilate would already have Jesus in custody and could take the appropriate punitive action. It is this agreement, I suggest, that led to Judas reputation as the one who handed Jesus over. Someone had to represent Jesus in the course of the three-way negotiations between Pilate, the high priest, and Jesus. As treasurer of the movement, Judas appears to have been among the most trusted of Jesus disciples. Judas is clearly depicted in the gospels as meeting with the chief priests to discuss the handing over of Jesus not for money but saving civilian lives, and all four gospels depict this hand over. Pursuant to these negotiations, Judas arranged for Jesus to turn himself in to a Jewish delegation from the high priest. The transfer was to take place at an isolated place away from the city crowds. Pilate, not necessarily convinced that everything would come together, or perhaps worried about a trap or trick, sent a large military force along to make sure that Jesus was taken into custody as agreed, and to be fully prepared in case Jesus’ followers balked at the arrangement. Initially, things went according to plan. Jesus was taken to the high priests home, the disciples were let go, and no riots broke out. But in the morning, something went wrong. Jesus was transferred to Roman custody. Why? WHAT WENT WRONG? If such an agreement had been reached, why would the Jewish authorities deliver Jesus to Pilate the following morning? If Pilate was satisfied with the arrangement, the high priest had no incentive to break the deal. It would only make him look bad among the Jewish constituency and reflect badly on his honor. He had given his word to consummate a deal. Pilate would probably not be too pleased with the sudden change in circumstances either. But Pilate had given his word also. He had much to lose in prestige if he broke his public commitment. Something significant must have taken place to cause Pilate to back off his end of the deal. One possibility is that Jesus followers violated the terms of the agreement, but we have no evidence that this is the case. We do have evidence, however, for another explanation-intervention by Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas feared prophetic figures with large Jewish followings in his area of dominion, Galilee and peraea. The evidence suggested that he was not particularly well liked by his constituents and that he feared that such leaders could incite an insurrection against him. For this reason, he had already beheaded john the Baptist,(who was arch considered like Jesus). Afterwards, he feared that Jesus was another John the Baptist. Mark preserves traditions that Herodians had it in for Jesus; Luke tells us that just before the Passover holiday, Herod had planed to kill Jesus. Just prior to leaving for the Passover festival, Jesus taunted Herod, challenging the tetrarch to come after him in Jerusalem. Strangely, Luke’s account of the Roman proceedings introduces a trial by Herod in which the tetrarch initially appears to have a somewhat benevolent attitude toward Jesus, despite the fact that Herod earlier planned to kill Jesus and latter treated Jesus with contempt. According to Luke, hero concurred with Pilate’s determination that Jesus was innocent of wrongdoing and should be released. No other Gospel records a Herodian trial, and we pointed out some additional objections to the credibility of Luke’s herodian interlude. For one, it contradicted Luke’s more believable earlier depiction of hostility by Herod toward Jesus (as well as Mark’s representation that the Herodians plotted to kill Jesus). Second, it appeared that herod served as a substitute for Pilate, with Luke shunting off Pilate’s graphic hostility toward Jesus onto this semi-roman, semi-Jewish figure. Third, and most importantly, Luke’s entire thesis about herod’s benevolence depends on an portrait of Pilate as thinking Jesus innocent and wanting to set him free. As our evidence clearly showed, Pilate never meant to set Jesus free once the Roman proceedings began. Luke’s benevolent portrait of Herod is false. If that is the case, where is this anti-Jesus tetrarch in the course of the arrest and prosecution of Jesus? The answer is that herod Antipas got involved and demanded that Pilate execute Jesus for claiming to be king of the Jews. Herod would have been very unhappy with Pilate’s arrangement. It called for the release of Jesus and his return to Galilee. The last thing Herod wanted was the return of a free Jesus to Galilee, where he could continue to stir up troubles for the tetrarch. Herod wanted Jesus dead when he was in Galilee and he would have wanted him dead in Jerusalem. John (or more likely one of his sources) may have deceptively preserved Herod’s complaint to Pilate. During the Roman proceedings, John alleges that when Pilate continued to press for the release of Jesus, the Jews responded, “if you release this man [Jesus] you are no friend of the emperor”. everyone who claims to be king sets himself against the emperor. When examing this passage, we saw that it lacked credibility for a number of reasons. The chief objection, however, is that Pilate never intended to release Jesus, so the entire scenario is unlikely. A little later in the dialogue, the Jews shout again, “We have no king but the emperor”, this declaration was made in response to Pilate’s question, “Shall I crucify your King?” Again, I pointed out why this exchange lacked credibility. Both alleged Jewish statements, however, would make sense if they came instead from Herod, in response to learning about Pilate’s agreement to release Jesus at the end of the holidays. Herod would have been pushing Pilate to execute Jesus and threatening to report him to the emperor if he released a man being hailed as the king of the Jews. John would even be technically correct, although highly deceptive, by claiming that this threat came from the Jews, since Herod was a Jew. He merely held back which Jew made the charge and when it was made. A threat from Herod against Pilate would not be insubstantial. He had as much if not more clout with the emperor than Pilate did. Indeed, in the golden shields affair, Herod would almost certainly have been one of the four herodian princes that complained to the emperor about the governor’s misdeeds. Pilate understood that Herod could do him serious damage by telling the emperor that the governor sided with a man hailed by Jews as ushering in a new kingdom that would displace Rome. Having already had one disastrous run-in with Herod and the emperor, Pilate wouldn’t have been anxious for a repeat performance, especially from a rival who would be anxious to undermine the governor’s prestige. Such a complaint from Herod could lead to Pilate’s removal from office. What’s a poor Roman tyrant to do? On the one hand, he faced potential violence, riots, deaths, and a rotten public relations fiasco; on the other was job security and all the figs he could eat. Pilate must have taken almost all of a New York minute before choosing job security. He broke his word and demanded that the high priest bring Jesus to him. This brings credibility to the apocryphal Gospel of Peter, (GOP), which stated: According to the GOP Herod was the one who gave the order for the execution. “Herod the king commanded that the lord (Jesus) be taken saying to them (Pilate), what things [what] soever I commanded you to do unto him (Jesus), do”. THE MORNING SESSION All four Gospels depict some sort of morning session before Jesus was turned over to Pilate, but the circumstances of the meeting are vague. Mark talks about some sort of ambiguous consultation, even though he depicts an earlier full-blown trial and verdict the night before. Matthew says that the chief priests conferred in order to bring about Jesus’ death. Luke presents a redacted account of Mark’s evening trial but has no verdict. John says simply that Jesus was brought to Caiaphas and turned over to Pilate. Having determined that there was no evening proceeding following the arrest of Jesus, and given the ambiguity and lack of specification in Mark and John as to what happened in the morning, I suggest that this morning session was in response to Pilates demand that Jesus be turned over to roman custody and that the Jewish authorities were concerned about the consequences of Pilate’s revocation of his commitment. In that regard, I suggest that john’s story about the Jewish council reacting to a roman threat, which john positions several days earlier, actually occurred on the morning in question. The dialogue between Caiaphas and the council makes more sense in this context. As you may recall, a council member expressed the concern that the growing popularity of Jesus would lead the Romans to destroy the nation and the Temple. In response, caiaphas said, “you do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed”. (Does this indicate the Universally sacrifice was applied later?). John said that from that day on, the council planned to put him to death. At the time, I expressed some reservations about this scenario. I pointed out that it made no sense for the Jews to want to put Jesus to death if the Romans had the problem with him. However, if we put this council meeting in the context of a demand by Pilate to produce Jesus, then a more logical scenario emerges. The council would have been debating what to do in the face of Pilate’s reneging on his promise. There was an issue of honor here. The council at the roman request and suffer a far more tragic consequence. Eventually, the council yielded ad entered into an agreement not only with Pilate but also with Jesus, and both parties had to be taken into consideration. If Pilate backed off the deal, then the fair thing would have been either to release Jesus or to refuse to turn him over. Both options carried deadly consequences. In either case, a forceful and violent Roman response could be expected. Such a debate would better explain Caiaphas’s response. He argued, essentially, that it was better to turn Jesus over to the Romans and have only one person die than to resist to the fear of direct confrontation with Roman troops and submitted to Pilate’s demand. They brought Jesus to him. The breaking of Pilate’s word would have caused a great deal of consternation among both the Jewish leaders and followers of Jesus. No doubt, many other Jews would have been deeply disturbed by what happened. Our analysis showed that the followers of Jesus were present and active in the crowd, asking that Pilate free Jesus pursuant to his holiday custom of releasing a prisoner. But Pilate refused ( Barnabas first name was Jesus but was taken out of later edition. Jesus Barnabas caused Muslims to wrongly believe that a substitute Jesus was killed on the cross). At this point, we should expect riots in reaction to the broken commitment, but none occurred. Why not? The most likely explanation, it seems to me, is that Jesus shared the council’s concern about the large number of deaths and injuries that might result from a confrontation with Pilate and wanted to avoid the shedding of innocent blood. He may have even directly participated in the council session, although we can’t be sure. In any event, he probably asked his followers to remain calm and told them not to worry about him, that the arrival of the new kingdom was imminent, and that when it came, they would all be reunited under the rule of Israel’s god. His followers, with great grief and restraint, acceded to his wishes. THE AFTERMATH At first, Christians did not blame Judas and the Jews for this catastrophe. It was well understood that they acted in good faith and that Pilate broke his word. But as opposition developed between Jews and Christians, the Jesus movement used polemical techniques to transform this story into one of betrayal. The deal negotiated by Judas with the high priest became the basis of charges that this disciple betrayed Jesus. The efforts of the Jewish leadership to take Jesus into its safekeeping for the holiday became the basis of charges that the Jews arrested Jesus with the help of Judas. The submission to Pilate’s demand to surrender Jesus in order to save hundreds if not thousands of innocent Jewish lives became , in Matthew’s words, a Jewish conspiracy, in which “all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death”. (In other words he died for the people who were living at that time, with the possibility of past and future lives also). The deal promising to release Jesus after the holidays, made before Jesus was taken into protective custody, became a post-arrest offer by Pilate to release Jesus. Pilate’s sarcastic remarks to the followers of Jesus about releasing “your King” became further evidence of Pilate’s efforts to release Jesus over Jewish opposition. Demands by roman soldiers the crowd to crucify Jesus wrongly became the demands of Jewish members of the crowd. Calls for the release of Barnabas by his followers wrongly became demands from the chief priests. Herod’s fear of Jesus’ popularity wrongly became the fear of the Jewish authorities. Herod’s opposition to the release of Jesus became Jewish resistance to Pilate’s offers to let Jesus go. Herod’s threats against Pilate wrongly became Jewish efforts to bully the governor. Herod’s insistence on the execution of Jesus wrongly became Jewish demands that Jesus be put to death. This substitution of the Jewish authorities and chief priests for Herod is all the more remarkable in that the Jews did not recognize Herod as having any official status whatsoever as a Jewish leader. He was simply a roman client and a roman loyalist, appointed over Jewish opposition to the post of tetrarch. He had no religious or moral authority over the Jews and he was highly unpopular among his Jewish subjects, especially after his murder of John the Baptist. Even the Herodian Jewish credentials were highly suspect among the Jewish people. As the historical misrepresentations passed on from one telling to another, Christian storytellers rearranged scenes, distorted the evidence, and invented new episodes in order to blame the Jews and exonerate the Romans. These distortions, falsifications, and deceptions took on nearly canonical proportions in the era when the gospels were being written, and after the gospels were written, they became canonical in fact. The harm done over the centuries to the Jewish people by those who accepted these gospel claims at face value is enormous and probably incalculable. Now the record has been set straight and lets make future persecutions or harassments less likely.