Skip to comments.Who Killed Jesus? The Historical Context of Jesusí Crucifixion
Posted on 03/11/2018 11:47:12 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Much of the scholarly discussion about the circumstances of Jesus death relates to the question of who was responsible for his arrest and crucifixion.
Who was responsible? The Jews or the Romans?
Historically, the primary responsibility has been placed on the Jewish leadership and the Jews in Jerusalem. Throughout the centuries, this has sometimes had tragic consequences, resulting in anti-Semitism and violence against Jews.
More recent trends in scholarship have shifted the blame to the Romans.
The tendency to blame the Jews, it is said, arose in the decades after the crucifixion with the churchs growing conflict with the synagogue and its desire to convince Rome that Christianity was no threat to the empire.
Most contemporary scholars recognize that there is not an either-or solution to this question, but that both Jewish and Roman authorities must have played some role in Jesus death.
First, Jesus was crucifieda Roman rather than a Jewish means of execution. (Stoning was the more common Jewish method.) There is good evidence that at this time the Jewish Sanhedrin did not have authority to carry out capital punishment (John 18:31; y. Sanh. 1:1; 7:2). The Roman governor Pontius Pilate no doubt gave the orders for Jesus crucifixion, and Roman soldiers carried it out.
At the same time, all that we know about Jesus teachings and actions suggest that he was more apt to offend and provoke the Jewish religious leaders than the Roman authorities. It is unlikely that the Romans would have initiated action against him without prompting from the Jewish authorities.
So was Jesus crucified for political reasons or religious reasons?
Raising the question this way actually misrepresents first-century Judaism, in which religion and politics were inseparable. Jesus death was no doubt motivated by the perceived threat felt by the religio-political powers of his day.
Lets take a look at the motivations, tendencies, and actions of these authorities.
The motivations of Pilate and the Romans
The evidence points to the conclusion that Jesus was executed by the Romans for seditionrebellion against the government.
While this evidence confirms the charge against Jesus, it raises the mystifying question of why Jesus was crucified, since he had almost nothing in common with other rebels and insurrectionists of his day. He advocated love for enemies and commanded his followers to respond to persecution with acts of kindness (Matt. 5:3848; Luke 6:2736). He affirmed the legitimacy of paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:14, 17; Matt. 22:17, 21; Luke 20:22, 25). At his arrest, he ordered his disciples not to fight but to put away their swords (Matt. 26:52; Luke 22:4951). His few enigmatic sayings about taking up the sword probably carry spiritual rather than military significance (Matt. 10:34; Luke 22:36, 38).
Jesus kingdom preaching would hardly be viewed by Pilate as instigating a military coup.
Furthermore, the fact that Jesus followers were not rounded up and executed after his death, and were even allowed to form a faith community in Jerusalem, confirms that Jesus was not viewed as inciting a violent insurrection. The early church was surely following the teaching of its master when it advocated a life of love, unity, and self sacrifice (Acts 2:4247; 4:3235).
Learn more in the online course:
Cultural Context of Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Why did Pilate have Jesus crucified?
While it is unlikely that Pilate viewed Jesus as a significant threat, he also had little interest in justice or compassion.
We know from other sources that Pilates governorship was characterized by a general disdain toward his Jewish subjects and brutal suppression of opposition. At the same time, his support from Rome was shaky at best, and he feared antagonizing the Jewish leadership lest they complain to the emperor. Pilate had originally been appointed governor of Judea in AD 26 by Sejanus, an advisor to Emperor Tiberius. When Sejanus was caught conspiring against Tiberius and was executed in AD 31, Pilate too came under suspicion. Pilates tenuous position is well illustrated by the Jewish philosopher Philo, who writes about an incident when the Jews protested against Pilates actions in placing golden shields in Herods palace in Jerusalem:
He feared that if they actually sent an embassy [to Rome] they would also expose the rest of his conduct as governor by stating in full the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injustices, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty. So with all his vindictiveness and furious temper, he was in a difficult position.*
While Philo may be exaggerating Pilates faults, the picture here is remarkably similar to that of the Gospelsan unscrupulous and self-seeking leader who loathed the Jewish leadership but feared antagonizing them.
When the Jewish leaders warn Pilate, If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar (John 19:12), he would surely have felt both anger and fear.
Most likely, Pilate ordered Jesus execution for three reasons:
Jewish opposition to Jesus
During Jesus Galilean ministry, he faced opposition primarily from the Pharisees and their scribes.
In his last week in Jerusalem, the opposition came especially from the priestly leadership under the authority of the high priest and the Sanhedrin, which was dominated by the Sadducees.
Torah (the law) and temple were the two great institutions of Judaism. Jesus apparently challenged the authority and continuing validity of both, posing a significant threat to Israels leadership.
Why the Pharisees opposed Jesus
The opposition Jesus faced from the Pharisees and scribes centered especially on his teaching and actions relating to the law and the Sabbath. He claimed authority over the law, treated the Sabbath command as secondary to human needs, and accused the Pharisees of elevating their oral lawmere human traditionsover the commands of God. He also accused them of pride, hypocrisy, and greed, warning the people to do as they say but not as they do (Matt. 23:3). These actions certainly did not win him friends among the religious leaders.
Jesus proclamation of the kingdom of God and his calling of twelve disciples would have also provoked anger among the Pharisees, who considered themselves the rightful guardians of Israels traditions.
Jesus call for them to repent, his warning of coming judgment, and his actions in creating a new community of faith all sent the message that Israel needed restoration and that her leaders were illegitimate and corrupt. In the boiling cauldron of religion and politics that was first-century Palestine, Jesus words would have provoked strong opposition.
Why the Sadducees opposed Jesus
While Jesus certainly made enemies before his final journey to Jerusalem, it was the events of the final week which resulted in his crucifixion.
In fact, Jesus clearing of the temple is widely recognized as the key episode which provoked the Jewish authorities to act against him. His attacks were aimed at the Sadducees, who represented the religious leadership of Jerusalem.
Heres what happened: in Marks account of Jesus Jewish trial, false witnesses are brought forward who testify, We heard him say, I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man. The high priest then questions him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? to which Jesus replies, I am . . . and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. The high priest responds with rage and accuses Jesus of blasphemy. The whole assembly calls for his death (Mark 14:5865; cf. Matt. 26:5568; Luke 22:6671).
Questioning the historicity of Jesus trial
Some have questioned the historicity of this scene, claiming it violates Jewish trial procedures. For example, the Mishnah states that it is illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet at night, on the eve of Passover, or in the high priests home.
A second hearing would also have been necessary for a death sentence, and a charge of blasphemy could be sustained only if Jesus had uttered the divine name of God (m. Sanh. 4:1; 5:5; 7:5; 11:2).
This argument is not decisive for four reasons:
On closer inspection, Marks trial account makes good sense when viewed in the context of Jesus ministry.
Jesus temple action would naturally have prompted the high priest to ask if he was making a messianic claim.
Jesus response combines two key Old Testament passages, Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. The first indicates that Jesus will be vindicated by God and exalted to a position at his right hand. The latter suggests Jesus will receive sovereign authority to judge the enemies of God.
By combining these verses, Jesus asserts that the Sanhedrin is acting against the Lords anointed, that they will face judgment for this, and that Jesus himself will be their judge!
Such an outrageous claim was blasphemous to the body, which viewed itself as Gods appointed leadership, the guardians of his holy temple. Jesus was challenging not only their actions but also their authority and legitimacy. Such a challenge demanded a response.
Learn more in the online course:
Cultural Context of Jesus’ Life and Ministry
What a rebellion would mean
There were also political and social consequences to consider. Jesus actions in the templeprobably viewed by the Sanhedrin as an act of sacrilegetogether with his popularity among the people, made it imperative to act against him quickly and decisively.
A disturbance of the peace might bring Roman retribution and disaster to the nation and its leaders. The earlier words of the Pharisees and chief priests in John are plausible in this scenario: If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation (John 11:48).
The Sanhedrin therefore turned Jesus over to Pilate, modifying their religious charges to political onessedition and claiming to be a king in opposition to Caesarand gaining from Pilate a capital sentence.
As sinners we are all guilty.
And no one could do it forcefully except He chose to die - Thank God (for His Sacrifice)
John 10:17-18 King James Version (KJV)
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
I sure heard enough from my Irish grandfather about it.
As others have said, all of humanity since and including Adam and Eve are the "cause" of Jesus's death and sacrifice
Jesus' death was a necessary act, a pure sacrifice to save us, part of God's plan, so in a way the people who hammered the nails into Him, the ones who judged Him and the ones who mocked Him all did it according to God's plan (not that God directed them, but it was according to plan)
The people who ultimately condemned Jesus were the Jews and the ones who killed Him were the non-Jews.
Both are culpable, yet if either had not played their part, the great salvation of humanity would not have happened.
To hate Jews for killing one of their own, their own Messiah, Savior and God ignores this -- to hate Jews since the 1st century is simplistic idocism.
I remember the anecdote of an old Jewish lady who fell and was sent to a Catholic hospital -- the nuns were afraid she would not like to wake up and see a big crucifix in her room and asked her daughter. The old lady said "Why should I be upset? To see one of our own boys who did so good?"
This type of question never fails to annoy and anger me. Citing groups as responsible for actions betrays intellectual laziness. Groups cannot act, only individuals can act, even a herd mentality comes from individual decisions to join the herd.
It was neither "the Jews" nor "the Romans" it was specific individuals in positions of authority who made the decisions to try and then crucify Jesus.
These individuals, including Pilate and his advisors (it is unlikely that he would have decided without talking to his staff), specific Pharisees, and specific Sanhedrin who pushed these groups to end the life of someone they saw as a threat.
The names of these people (aside from Pilate, IIRC) are lost to history, and they long ago faced the consequences of their actions.
Our Lord does not judge us as part of a group, we are judged as individuals.
Jesus was not given a fair trial by the Temple rulers... who broke their own rules to shanghai this man whom they were so jealous of, they conspired to kill Lazarus AGAIN, after they knew he had been raised from the dead, and they posted a stone at the front of Christ’s tomb to prevent problems with His body later.
As to whether or not the Jews enforced capital punishment, the regularly stoned people to death according to Jewish law
1. The stoning of the woman caught in adultery (but not the man...)
2. The stoning to death of Stephen
3. The attempted stoning of Jesus after He dared read the Messianic passages of Isaiah in His hometown....
The Jews were the controlling factor for the Romans.
Pilate repeatedly asked who should be set free that day, and the crowd called out “Jesus” and prophetically “Let His blood be upon our heads and that of our children!”
And His blood is upon all our heads, lest we accept Him and His propituary sacrifice for our sins. (Praise You Lord Jesus).
Mankind crucified Jesus. That was the physical act. God had Jesus crucified as part of His greater plan
This was a shadow from the old testament. This is what the temple was built for. Jesus is the “Lamb of God”, Spotless, with no blemish. Abraham sent to sacrifice his son, His hand was stayed and The Lord provided the sacrifice. The Lambs blood covered the Old Testament requirement. The priests performed the sacrifice. That was their job.
It all happened as it was supposed to happen. It’s ‘human sighted’ to think that there was someone to blame here. The romans were just the knife that the priests used to perform the sacrifice. Their hand was force by the priests because of the way the laws were being interpreted and enforced.
This is how the evil will ultimately be defeated. Because people lean on their own understanding instead of trusting the Lord with all their heart. The conflict of human nature, as terrible as it is, and beautiful as it can be, being the fuel that drives the engine of salvation.
We write articles like this because we don’t want to acknowledge the role that God has in these events. The Priests, the Roman Governor, the Soldiers, the Crowd... They all thought they were doing the right thing. The only one who knew this was wrong, and did it anyway was the evil that sought to destroy the work that was being done. The Darkness failed on that day.
In my opinion, we mitigate that failure when we forget these things.
If the question "who killed Christ" refers to direct human instrumentality, then it is the Romans, but if the question is who had Him put to death, then it is the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: (1 Thessalonians 2:15)
But since according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain," (Acts 2:23), then it is God who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, (Romans 8:32) effectively put His Son to death, by His Son's consent, for "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:18)
Yet since it was our sins that necessitated this Death and Resurrection if we were to be saved, thus he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed, (Isaiah 53:5) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed, (1 Peter 2:24) , then we all are responsible for His death. Glory to God.
Not let the redeemed sing one of the most theological gospel classical hymns:
1. One day when Heaven was filled with His praises, One day when sin was as black as could be, Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin, Dwelt among men, my example is He!
Refrain: Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; Buried, He carried my sins far away; Rising, He justified freely forever; One day Hes comingoh, glorious day!
2. One day they led Him up Calvarys mountain, One day they nailed Him to die on the tree; Suffering anguish, despised and rejected: Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!
3. One day they left Him alone in the garden, One day He rested, from suffering free; Angels came down oer His tomb to keep vigil; Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!
4. One day the grave could conceal Him no longer, One day the stone rolled away from the door; Then He arose, over death He had conquered; Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!
5. One day the trumpet will sound for His coming, One day the skies with His glories will shine; Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing; Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!
ONE DAY | J. Wilbur Chapman, 1908
“If the question “who killed Christ” refers to direct human instrumentality, then it is the Romans, but if the question is who had Him put to death, then it is the Jews:”
If I say to myself, “It was all just a terrible mistake that snowballed out of control”...I can see how things could end up being so controversial because who among them would have wanted to take the blame for something so hideous? I think the perpetrators had “MeToo” syndrome, or something similar to that. It would have taken another Jesus to keep this Jesus off of the cross.
Matthew 27:24-26 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves. And all the people answered, His blood be on us and on our children! Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
It was the will of the Father that this be done for the salvation of our souls.
How many people would be impressed by the concept of a Savior who “died in prison serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for our sins”?
This type of article takes the readers mind away from that important point.
Had we been there we would have been screaming “crucify him!”
With out the crucifixion of Christ we would not have Christianity. God set in motion the events that killed Jesus. It doesn’t matter who we think caused those events. It was meant to be and played out perfectly . Whom ever we blame could not have changed those events. It was all ready written.
Well; if we read the widespread Book that contains the reports of this world-changing event...
Did folks have SO little knowledge about Jesus and His message?
He HAD to be crucified!
Jesus himself the Jews were most to blame. He told Pilate: “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” Jn 19.11
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