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Who Was Pontius Pilate? Benevolent Pawn, Bloodthirsty Tyrant or Misunderstood Hunk?

The answer, according to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's Kosher Jesus, "has been used time and again to justify the worst Christian atrocities against Jews. It remains a crucial point of contention between the two religions even today."

by
Rhonda Robinson

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August 18, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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PilateClip

In the clip above the historical accounts of Pilate are much more grave than that of a handsome, yet arrogant Roman soldier in over his head. The author explains that Tiberius was forced to recall Pilate from the governor’s post in 36 AD, because of Pilate’s extreme cruelty, and inhumanity.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

The Romans were a culture that later would light Christians on fire as torches to burn in Nero’s palace. They watched Christian men, women and children be eaten alive by lions as a spectator sport. And Pilate was too cruel for these people?

Just a week before Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, with shouts “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord!” These were not Romans shouting; they were Jews.

Then, when Jesus is brought before Pilate, he asks the Jews what to do with him?

This is where the author believes that the New Testament must have been later edited for political reasons — to slander the Jews and separate Jesus from Judaism. Pilate would not ask, what he considered to be an inferior people, what to do with a prisoner.

Boteach makes a compelling point and contrasts it with Matthew’s account:

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why?” What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

Why would a man that is so entrenched in bloodshed bother to wash his hands and claim innocence?  Why would a people go from complete adoration to incomprehensible cruelty in just five days? All roles seem reversed.

I’ve never been one to question the accuracy of scripture. Nor have I understood, how the two faiths could become such enemies. Could the whitewashing of Pilate be the answer? Boteach certainly thinks so, claiming this passage from Matthew has been used throughout history to justify Christian antisemitism at best, atrocities at worse.

Who else but the Romans could have carried out such a torturous death? Both Christians and Jews have suffered the most severe cruelty under Roman rule. Yet the two faiths blame one another. Are we still going to buy into the fantasy that Pilate was just a sensitive son of a Roman knight? Nothing more than an ambitious man in over is head, unwittingly thrown into history?

After 2000 years, its time we stop blaming religion and putting a pretty face on evil.

Do you believe the Gospels could have been edited for political expediency?

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Rhonda Robinson writes on the social, political and parenting issues currently shaping the American family. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Middle Tennessee. www.amotherslife.me Follow on twitter @amotherslife

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Top Rated Comments   
It's also a total distortion and falsehood. That account about a statue of Tiberius is most likely an exaggeration of either the Roman Standards Affair or the Golden Shields Incident or both:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate#Pilate_in_Jewish_literature

In both cases, incidentally, Pilate ultimately caved to the Jews' demands that these potentially idolatrous items be removed. As for setting up any statues of Tiberius, that claim is preposterous on the face of it: Tiberius was no believer in Emperor worship himself and never asked Pilate to do any such thing, and the reason Pilate set up the golden shields with honorary inscriptions to Tiberius on them was because he wanted to pay tribute to Tiberius *without* setting up statues, since he knew graven images would anger the Jews; yet they took the shields for an insult anyway.

You know who actually tried to set up a Caesarian statue in Jerusalem? the Emperor Caligula in his later madness, who insisted he was indeed a god, and planned to place his idol to his own divinity in the Holy of Holies itself. Herod Agrippa was able to weasel a reversal of this plan out of Caligula by getting him drunk at a lavish party and extracting a promise to do anything Agrippa asked out of him.

And aharris, your understanding of Roman governorship is faulty; at some times and places, less scrupulous Roman governors did go seeking graft from their positions, but Emperor Tiberius was particularly known for his harsh measures against such corruption during his reign. When one Prefect Aemilius Rectus of Egypt sent some extra money he'd gathered over his quota to Tiberius expecting to be commended for enriching Rome, Tiberius instead wrote back a rebuke for extortion, telling him he wanted his sheep sheared and not fleeced! In the precarious years after the fall of Sejanus, Pilate wouldn't have dared to antagonize his boss in any way, was certainly in no position to hire any mobs, and had no motivation to do so. Don't let your imagination run away with you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Short answer: Boteach is full of it. The sources he cites are pretty heavily biased against Pilate, and hardly to be trusted.

Long answer: Boteach is *really* full of it! Every one of his sources is garbage, he clearly is a complete historical illiterate, and his scholarly arguments are shopworn threadbare nonsense that never held up to the slightest historical scrutiny.

Philo, for his part, hated Rome and all Roman rule with a passion and was himself "a man of very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate" in his own attacks on various Romans. Part of the evidence we have that Pilate was never punished for anything of which he is accused is that Philo loved to brag about all the punishments inflicted people he hated, and yet is utterly silent about Pilate's ultimate fate. Apparently, all the venom Pilate's enemies (such as the cantankerous partisan Philo) spewed at him was considerably less than persuasive to Emperor Gaius, more popularly known as Caligula, who presided over Pilate's trial.

As for the Herods? Another ridiculously biased source! Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas, it's worth remembering, were enemies for the majority of Pilate's tenure; of course all reports back to Rome from Antipas and his relatives cast Roman rulers in the worst light possible, and are best taken with a massive grain of salt. As for the first Herod Agrippa, one does well to recall that he had great influence over Caligula in the early months of his reign, and that had any of the charges he leveled against him in that letter been at all credible, Pilate would surely have been convicted. Again, however, all evidence points to Pilate's having been acquitted, or at least not sentenced to any severe punishments, in his trial before Caligula. One suspects Agrippa was being duplicitous and may well have written that letter more as a political ploy to appeal to his future constituents in Israel than as any actual indictment against Pilate; considering his influence over Caligula, he may even have worked quietly behind the scenes to have the charges quashed!

Concerning the attitudes of Pilate's fellow Romans and particularly Emperor Tiberius, one does well to remember that Tiberius in his final years was increasingly paranoid and murderous himself, having been betrayed by his long-time confidante and co-ruler Sejanus. In his subsequent purges, Sejanus' entire family was cruelly and brutally slaughtered (his ten-year-old daughter, in particular, being raped before she was strangled, since Roman law forbade executing virgins) and thousands upon thousands of Sejanus' former partisans were slaughtered and pitched down the Stairs of Mourning into the Tiber. Sejanus, incidentally, had also been Pilate's sponsor for his position as governor of Judea. Considering his precarious position under Tiberius, does it occur to anyone that being told he was "no Amicus Caesaris [no Friend of Caesar]" if he released Jesus might have influenced Pilate's decision? Not that historical illiterate Boteach, apparently.

Finally, we have the matter of those "slaughtered" Samaritans. Once again, Boteach thoroughly discredits himself by casually accepting at face value all the biased and lying accounts against Pilate without hearing Pilate's side of the story. In fact, the Samaritans in question were followers of an imposter who gave himself out as the "Taheb" ("Restorer" i.e. Samaritan Messiah) and told them all to bring weapons to a gathering at Mount Gerazim where he was planning to unearth some sacred vessels from the Ark of the Covenants which Moses had allegedly buried there. Of course, this gathering was to have profound military implications, as it was prophesied that this "Taheb" would conquer eleven nations and rule the world (i.e. he would overthrow Rome). In plain point of fact, those four thousand Samaritans Pilate allegedly "slaughtered" were no innocents and their deaths were no massacre of innocents; they were insurrectionists and enemies of Rome and were quite deservedly slain in battle or executed afterward for treason against Rome.

I could say more, but a far greater historian than I has already written a compelling account of Pilate's life based on exhaustive research of the historical evidence: Paul L. Maier, whose books Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome are some of the best historical novels I've ever read:

http://www.amazon.com/Pontius-Pilate-Paul-L-Maier/dp/0825432960
http://www.amazon.com/The-Flames-Rome-A-Novel/dp/0825432979

After reading all of the evidence Maier provides for his accounts of Pilate and Roman history in the extensive footnotes at the end of these books, I can never again take the likes of Boteach or any other Biblical and historical illiterates at all seriously.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This note is directly to Ms Robinson (and indirectly to BronxZionist). I have no direct way to communicate, so I must post another comment. Ugh! Ms. Robinson, you have apparently experienced something that I have had many a time as a jack of all (or really many) intellectual trades and a master of none. Oh, I have ca. 20 years of uni. study in four countries with 3 doctoral titles and have published in 4 languages, including Chinese. I tout my academic achievements because I do know alot, a great, great deal, so much so that I know, despite it all, I am all too an amateur even in my own specialities, not to mention in areas where I am a rank amateur--e.g., the kosher-ity of Jesus. But, back to your discovery of the kosher Jesus. The experience is that of finding a book re a new area of ideas that seems to possess THE key to the matter. After much study one often finds, alas, that the book was but a possible "key" and naught more. There are too many other possibilities. Alas, we amateurs are all too likely to fall vicitim to a "key" that promises solutions to a very complex problem whereas it is no more than one way of seeing the matter and a way that can irritate the very people one might wish to reconcile.
You have read about the "Kosher Jesus". If you can read French seek out Gilles Bernheim and Philippe Barbarin, "Le rabin et le cardinal". Bernheim is perhaps the chief rabbi of France and Barbarin is a Catholic Cardinal. The book has a whole and informative chapter on the difficulties of a Christian/Jewish dialogue, one carried out by strong believers and yet full "professionals" who know their fields. Both dialoquers are aware of many difficulties for Christian/Jewish discussions, one theme deriving from the Christian/Jewish antagonism you are trying to overcome. Ms. Robinson, I mention Rabbi Bernheim because he presents a quite NON-kosher Jesus, a man (and Jesus was a man even for Christians) quite alien to the rabbinic tradition despite being a Jew. Oh woe, that is a different "key" that opens up different approaches and directs the seeker of truth in a different direction. A "kosher" or non-'kosher" Jesus leads to different interpretations that I read with pleasure, but have no competency of professional comment, let alone on an online source. Mr. BronxZionist lectures me that it "doesn't take that much effort to do a few simple [???] searches and find suggestions for books or sites presenting shorter overviews of the topic". He is correct, but fails to note that such "simple searches" takes the reader out of a PJM online media and hopefully unto sites of more complexity and, hence, professionality, i.e., unless mere "overviews of the subject" represents the only depth that interests the Zionist from the Bronx.The dialogue on such tragic relationships where basic values of the participants are easily heated can all too easily lead to derogatory comments such as BronxZionist's ad hominem slight re my "weak" faith and flat out accusation that my attempted advice is "unbecoming" as I am blaming others for MY "failings". Since when have I become a moral delinqent for suggesting that the topic matter does not find its most appropiate place in an online magazine for political opinions. I suggest with full passion that Christians read Jewish sources. From David Goldman I have found such gems such as Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Jon D. Levenson. Looking at Jesus with Jewish eyes and at Judaism with Jewish eyes is a rewarding experiment. I conclude with the same question: Ms Robinson, you, for the most praise worthy of reasons, seek to nudge us towards reconciliation. Reading the comments, can you honestly say that we of different faiths are NOW more reconciled? I apparently must crawl away exposed as a person full of antagonisms and failings and weak faith. I do not feel encouraged and my accuser strikes me of being just that type of amateur that, failing hemeneutic training, cannot or does not even want to understand my advice giving INTENT, rather contents himself by condemning me. That may be fun, but intellectually worthless. Alas, Mr. BronxZionist strikes me as a sad example of what can happen when such an imporant matter leaves the hands of a Rabbi Bernheim and a Cardinal Barbarin to fall into those of the Bronx where this time too small shoes are not being sold to me, rather my personal integrity is sown to the winds. I regret that I have participated in the posting of comments. Certainly, Ms Robinson, having antagonistic readers and leaving one poster of comments to regret such postings, certainly such effects were not part of your motivating intent. Alas, that is what we readers have done!!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For a note that is only "indirectly" to me you seem to spend quite a lot of time attacking me directly.

And what a pleasant note!

First you casually assert your own credentials then you blithely dismiss them.
Oh, certainly you are not pretending that your credentials make you infinitely superior to the rest of us. Of course not! After all, you relegate them to the trash heap even more summarily than you parade them.
No, all you want to do is demonstrate how when someone of your august standing is clearly incompetent to discuss a subject, how can anyone else who cannot match it possibly be qualified?

And really, we are such peons, as you then boldly appeal to other authorities, showing how they clearly do not agree with anything presented by others here. And since those are authorities that have come to your attention, naturally they are of greater inherent worth than anything we of the common herd might offer.

And yes, it was so presumptuous of me to suggest seeking insight beyond the confines of PJM. After all, who knows what one might come across delving into such unstructured academia? Why, someone might come across anything! Even some truly inferior peasant who doesn't even know about PJM, let alone have qualifications such as yours, incompetent to this subject though they are, and definitely now anyone that you, though incompetent to the subject, approves of as competent to the subject. (Though how exactly you can make such a judgment is an intriguing question itself.)

And yes, how awful of me to take you at your word that you are not incompetent to discuss the subject, but indeed are devastated by its mere discussion amongst your intellectual inferiors?
How dare I?!?!?
How dare We!?!?!
Clearly we, and especially I, should know better than to disturb your meditations in your ivory tower with our crude and fumbling musings on a subject above both our social and intellectual.
How fortunate we are that you are here to chastise us and guide us back to our proper places!

Since when have you become a moral delinquent?
In that I will most assuredly defer to your list of credentials and allow that you have demonstrated it quite beyond my ability to properly explain.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The experience is that of finding a book re a new area of ideas that seems to possess THE key to the matter. After much study one often finds, alas, that the book was but a possible "key" and naught more. There are too many other possibilities."

Been there, done THAT. Still, there are some things are probably true. The Jewish world in the centuries surrounding Jesus life was a mess. The Canaanite style polytheism which Abraham had left persisted. We see this in what was being rejected by the centralization of sacrifice to Jerusalem and the Temple and the long struggle against "high places" and "asherot."

Even so, Daniel chapter 7's vision of the Ancient of Days and the younger seemingly divine figure sounds enough like the Canaanite 'El and Ba'al to get academic scholars like Daniel Boyarin pretty interested. Boyarin makes a good case that a close reading of Daniel in the first and second centuries BCE (and you had better believe that that was going on back then) meant that one set of messianic expectations was of a man with divine attributes. A messianic figure suffering and dying was on the table, too. (Don't forget, there were a number of messianic claimants in that time besides Jesus.) So was a leader who would throw off Roman oppression. A number of people tried that. It didn't end well.

There was no particular reason that these specifications were necessarily exclusive, and in fact the mainstream Jewish messianic expectation today is of a forerunner figure who will be killed in the attempt, to be followed by the real deal who spreads the Torah, brings the exiles back, throws off foreign oppression, and rebuilds the Temple. That set of specification seems to be what Rabbi Akiva saw in Bar Kochba who rose against Rome in the early second century CE. Numismatic evidence suggests that he may have begun the rebuilding of the Temple and may have offered sacrifices. In any case, Rabbi Akiva supported the rebellion and its leader; the subsequent Roman repressions were horrifying. The upcoming Yom Kippur liturgy contains a graphic description of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom.

But my point is that the predecessors of modern Judaism were pure monotheists who, while admitting Daniel to the canon, rejected any reading that smacked of Canaanite dualism. Perhaps that was the real parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity. (Certainly, if Boyarin is right, the offspring of that reading of Daniel is not pure unadulterated monotheism with no need for a Trinity. Subsequent centuries of Christian theological struggle over the nature of Christ, the godhead, and so on bear witness to the fact that the Rabbis had a point In fact, the Christian sects that resulted were categorized as out and out idolatry by important medieval Jewish legal scholars – especially ones living under Muslim rule.)

The Rabbis of the Talmud often castigated the 'amei haaretz, the peasantry whose ancestors had remained in Israel while the elites (including a lot of the priests) were carted off to Babylon. The peasantry who had perhaps, perhaps even probably, maintained traditions from the First Temple period or even before. Traditions that smacked of the practices of their Canaanite distant relatives. Traditions that were rejected by the intellectuals during their Babylonian sojourn. Traditions that went against new understandings and new practices developed by the proto-Rabbis. Traditions that persisted in rural areas like, oh, the Galilee. Traditions that Boyarin asserts may have been upheld by Jesus against the Pharisees, which is how he sees the Gospel of Mark. (Yes, I know... amateur, one book, key... but I think that Boyarin is right in The Jewish Gospels that Jesus was not rejecting kashrut.)

Speaking of the Galilee, the archaeological finding that somewhere around the time of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE there was a synagogue in the Galilee shared by mainstream Jews and early (Jewish) Christians tickles me. Of course, they were probably related. Small town, after all.

But I don't think that modern academics who refer to "multiple Judaisms" as existing at the time are correct; that seems anachronistic to me. I think that Judaism in the time of Jesus was more complicated than Orthodox Jews today like to admit, but that also makes it more complicated than Christians like to think, too.

Speaking of the exiles returning: A recent development is that the majority of the world's Jews now live in Israel.

Sadly, Rabbi Bernheim turned out to be a serial plagiarist. That doesn't make what he said untrue, just dishonest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No more debating, no more arguing, just a question for anyone reading all the comments: Has reconciliation between Christianity and Judaism been furthered or has an antagonism appeared? I know my answer. What is yours? We are all amateurs, even if we are from the Bronx, and the matter is too serious and demands enormous erudition for us amateurs. My profession and my philosophy demands of me the pursuit of truth. In order to pursue truth, I need an environment in which the participants contribute professionally and antagonism is not provoked. I must, alas, repeat, an online magazine is not the place to do so. I come away a bit stressed and detressed. This was not the intent of the author. I supect that others share my feelings. If reconciliation has taken place, I praise it and excuse myself for my psychological limits. Good luck, even if you are from the Bronx (I never cared for that part of the world since some salesman sold my parents shoes for me a couple of sizes too small for me. Irrelevant, no? Or?)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You asked for reasons why early Christians writers may have wanted to engage in redaction and I told you the general concepts to research if you cared to really understand why they might do so.
It doesn't take that much effort to do a few simple searches and find suggestions for books or sites presenting shorter overviews of the topic.

Rather than do that, you have instead chosen to meander about continually challenging whether people have any "standing" to even present suggestions of what to look for, never mind the suggestions of what might have been the causes, or the history itself.
Why?
Is your faith truly that weak that someone merely suggesting it has not been monolithic from the dawn of creation presents an insurmountable challenge such that actual study would destroy that faith completely?
If so, then it is not an issue of whether reconciliation has been furthered, but what understanding you are capable of to begin with, whether or not the "environment" meets whatever you presume to be standards of "professionalism". It is not the failings of others, but your own antagonism that is causing you to feel stressed and distressed, and it is quite unbecoming of you to attempt to blame others for your failings.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The motives that one has for coming to read this article are one set of screens. The motives that one has for coming to reply, another set of screens.

I ask myself for what reason I came through the second set of screens, for I know why I came through the first. Basically, I'm too cheap to buy the book I am curious about and as well I have some reservations about the author. But now, having looked into that mirror, I see I have to consider purchasing some copy of it.

Thanks Rhonda Robinson for your work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" Basically, I'm too cheap to buy the book I am curious about and as well I have some reservations about the author."

Public library.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The book is $8 on Kindle, delivered. A used hard copy is about $4 more, delivered. A trip to the local library @15 miles round trip at the 2013 IRS milage rate of $0.565 costs $8.50.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would hate to make my acceptance of the Bible's authority dependent on whether King Herod said good things about Pilate.

The Romans were cruel but practical about their cruelty. As long as you paid your taxes and submitted to the Emperor, you were probably safe from their cruelty. The Roman Empire understood that there was much prosperity to be had by displaying tolerance toward their conquered lands. They tolerated the local customs, the local religions, and usually even the local satraps.

It's not likely that the Romans sent Pilate to Israel in spite of his cruel streak, though. Probably because of it. Roman tolerance had to be earned, whereas the Jews of that era were always conspiring against Roman rule. "Too cruel" in this context might not mean too cruel in the moral sense, but in the practical sense. The Romans would ruthless suppress rebellion but weren't too keen on inciting it.

Still, there is no reason to assume that the contemporary accounts of Pilate and the Bible contradicted. Is it possible that Jesus' character radiated something that struck a (positive) nerve in Pilate? It did, after all, in his wife. What the author explains as a conspiracy can be more simply explained by assuming Pilate was, like most of us, too complicated to sum up in one or two sentences.

To me, the most revealing moment of Pilate's character was when he asks, cynically, "What is truth?" That's the sort of utterance made by a man who has been given an impossible job.

> This is where the author believes that the New Testament must have been later edited for political reasons — to slander the Jews and separate Jesus from Judaism.

According to Paul Johnson, the Jewish priests understood within a couple of years they had made a terrible mistake in crucifying Jesus. The Christian religion was catching on like wildfire. At first their strategy essentially was to suck Christianity back into Judaism, but Paul stood athwart that effort, insisting that the Jewish rituals meant nothing for the Gentiles now that the prophecies had been fulfilled. That didn't work, so then they tried aggression again (e.g., murdering James), and incited Nero to persecute the Christians. That didn't end well for Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70 A.D.

So if some of the Bible was edited to whitewash Pilate and to vilify "the Jews", they would have had to edit much of the New Testament to tell the same story.

It is unfortunate that the New Testament can be interpreted as an anti-Semitic screed. I have always just taken the references to "the Jews" as references to the Sanhedrin. Today we would draw distinctions (i.e., the Nazis instead of the Germans), but maybe their audience implicitly understood that. Otherwise, since the people telling the tale were all, or at least mostly, Jews themselves, it seems we would have a dilemma.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Indeed. The Bible continues to square with the historical evidence a lot better than any of the anti-Biblical polemicists' cherry-picked accounts, although I think Johnson overestimates the Jews' influence on Nero. We have reason to believe they never actually bothered to press their case against Paul in court after he appealed to Caesar, which might explain why Acts ends unresolved with Paul still awaiting his trial; he may very well have been acquitted, or had his case inconclusively dismissed in the absence of the prosecution.

It is indeed unfortunate that anti-Semites have since managed to distort the Bible's message into some kind of screed against Jews, the vast majority of whom it clearly states had nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus' crucifixion and continue to have nothing more to do with it than any of our fellow sinners. As Paul L. Maier points out in his preface to his Pontius Pilate novel, it makes no more sense to blame all Jews for crucifying Jesus than it does to harbor hatred against all Italians for throwing Christians to the lions just because Nero and some of their ancestors did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While I haven't read this-I read 'Revolution in Judaea' by Hyam Maccoby-and I consider it the one to beat;the Romans considered Jesus a threat-and their Jewish appointees who ran the Temple during Jesus' era also considered Jesus a threat-the Jews in charge of the Temple were known as Sadducees(not Pharisees);the Sadducees went out of business when the Temple was destroyed in 70...(see Rabbi Joseph Telushkin 'Jewish Literacy p126-129).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...the Romans considered Jesus a threat-and their Jewish appointees who ran the Temple during Jesus' era also considered Jesus a threat-the Jews in charge of the Temple were known as Sadducees(not Pharisees)"

This is Boteach's position as well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Got links for those sources? I'm considering getting some books for my church's library. I agree the Romans might well have considered Jesus a potential threat, though their general lack of interest in him up to the time of the Chrestus Riots in Rome suggests he concerned them no more than the Zealots, or Theudas, or Bar-Kochba, or any of a dozen other self-proclaimed prophets and revolutionaries who'd gone around stirring up Israel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Let’s think about this for a minute."

Indeed.

First, let's talk about the "These were not Romans shouting; they were Jews" argument.

You can go to a Town Hall today and hear people protesting against the abuses of Obama. You can go to another and hear people next thing to worshipping him. That doesn't mean all of America changed her mind in two weeks, it means you were listening to two different factions within a single culture.

The Gospels are pretty clear that Christ was upsetting the priestly applecart. He made lots of people mad. He gave lots of people hope. I think it's safe to say in Jerusalem of that era, you could fill a pasture with people who loved Him, and a courtyard with people who were threatened by Him. There's no mystery or hidden conspiracy in both happening.

Second... Pilate was a military governor of a conquered province.

His job was to keep that province from exploding into rebellion, and to keep the taxes flowing. To do that he had to keep the local power structure at least somewhat mollified - that's how the Romans rolled from Vindolanda to the Levant. Give someone trusted by the conquered people an offer they can't refuse... then make it worth their while to stay on the Roman chain.

Herod - and to a lesser extent the religious authorities of the Temple - were that "someone" in first century Judea. They were the ones whose power was threatened - remember - Christ wasn't preaching against Rome. "Render unto Caesar" and "go the extra mile (carrying that Roman's gear for him)" is about all He has to say about Roman occupation - but He had llllooooottts to say about the Pharisees.

Doesn't take much to see where the political pressure to get rid of him was coming from. The standard model is the standard model for a reason.




None of which provides any reason to despise our Jewish brethren.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Ms Robinson, I thank you for your response and in no way doubt the intent of your article. You are well to be affected by the not particularly inspiring history of Christian antagonism to Judaism. Please just examine the medium you are using. The BronZionist treats Christianity as a Jewsih heresy. I can understand the why of this opinion, but it does not promote reconciliation as it threatens Christian self-interpretation. Riprake can only utter that Boteach (an impressive scholar to ME) "is full of it", which is hardly a reconciled reaction. Aharris chimes in that HIS "understanding of Roman governorship was ...". Just what I contended, namely the reading into the INTENTIONS of Pilate certain stereotype motivations which aharris uses to concoct a plausible sounding interpretation of what the Romans were doing (one that attracks me). Yet '"Der Spiegel" views the discussions between Jesus and Pilate as pure invention because, well, the nature of a Roman governor, particularly with Pilate's reputation, means that the man, pschologically speaking, never would have let himself into the famous discussions with Jesus. In other words, they did NOT happen and are put "fibs" that the followers of a non-risen rebel against Rome used to save the day for themselves, which included the historical non-post-event of the resurrection. Such thinking strikes me as in accord with the direction of Boteach's arguments. Plausibility is there, given certain assumptions about just how Roman govenors thnk and that the obvious pschology of Pilate qua Roman govenor allows for no such discussion with a Jewish rebel. Well, then there is JIRSWIN who begins with the brilliant historical category of "hack" and goes on to grasp matters referring to the unfriendly relationship between Jews and Emperor Vespian (forgetting that that antagonism started when Vespian was a provincial general at the time and no mention is made of Titus, the son of that general and later an emperor). But the silly historical method (or perhaps it is not so silly) is to discuss the times of Pilate in terms of those some 40+ years later under Vespian and Titus. Historical fisihing!! Going back to the BronZ I find confusion re dating matters. Christians dated matters no longer strictly in Hebrew terms. Take Christmas: The date of Dec. 25 was derived from a late Roman emperor, the last one perhaps to hold it all together, who, though a polytheist, was tending towards monotheism with his "deus invictus" (his god of war) which he celebrated on Dec. 25. Christians "stole" this date and used it for their resurrected God, the ressurection of whom really shows a "deus invictus". (By the way, that emperor was murdered--so much for Roman "Dei invicti".) What is my point? Dating is not the same for Christians as for Jews! But it can become a point of antagonism if it falls into amateurish hands. The selection of a date is more variable in Christianity than in Judaism, or so I think (and nothing more). All these matters need professional discussion, discussion not possible in a PJM medium.

Ms Robinson, I hope that my little tour through the responses shows what an amateurish attempt of resolution of a terrible problem can produce some unfriendly or debunking reactions amongst other amateurs. (I include myself as my profession is or was philosophy and literature--where I was mostly an advanced amateur when beyond my fields of concentration). So I return to my advice or, if you will, preference, namely that your well intended attempt to reconcile matters in an online magazine be your last attempt in said medium. Conitinue grappling with the problem, it is really in need of resolution. Sadly, the resposes indicate that the reverse has been forthcoming. And that is not what your marvelous intentions intended to produce. Thank you for your efforts and please do continue on, but not on online. Also, if the reconciliation is your mission, a very worthy one, THEN dip into the massive research and discussion--a "dipping" that is tedious at best and often just brings one to despair. Return as an professional and communicate your results in a professional journal. Thanks agains for the effort.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I do not treat Christianity as a Jewish heresy.
I am reporting on how Christianity was regarded over time in the first three centuries of its existence, both by outsiders and insiders.
And at first that was little more than just a variation on Judaism, gradually increasing to the point that it was progressively a cult, a heresy, and then its own "independent" religion.

Again, as for how individual Christians these days choose to interpret that is up to them.
As for how Christian commenters and synods chose to interpret that in those early centuries, a little research will turn up more than enough to occupy someone truly interested in it for decades, and even someone just casually interested for years.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To entertain this column one must reject the relevant Scripture.

I will need a little more than this melange of assumptions, aspersions and confected moral outrage against the Romans before I do that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If Pilate was sent to govern Judea, my understanding of Roman governorship was that one was expected to enrich oneself. This was often done by squeezing a province for all it was worth in taxes skimming the excess off for oneself among other, less savory pursuits or by taking bribes (which the Jewish elders would have been able to do if they decided to condemn Christ to death).

Romans were also famous for playing the mob by drumming up a crowd to say and do what they wanted when it suited their purpose. Pilate likely no more wanted to condemn a popular figure like Christ than the Jewish elders did. Money spread around to the right elements in the right places could have gotten a mob ready to say whatever Pilate wanted them to say. Just like the stacked Townhalls and sympathetic Obama crowds of today. Is it really so hard to imagine Pilate and/or the Elders paying a rent-a-mob to condemn? They wouldn't even necessarily have to buy the whole group. A skilled enough orator with enough sympathetic voices scattered through the crowd could get the proper emotions going.

In this way, all the pivotal figures maintain the façade of innocence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think I'll go with that. Pilate as a Roman community organizer, stirring up radical divisions among the Jews, so that he could easily bring down Rome's iron fist with perfect excuse. Boteach's account of Pilates dragging Caesar's statue worship to Iudea is certainly consistent with a hornet's nest stirring, community organizing, attitude.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's also a total distortion and falsehood. That account about a statue of Tiberius is most likely an exaggeration of either the Roman Standards Affair or the Golden Shields Incident or both:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate#Pilate_in_Jewish_literature

In both cases, incidentally, Pilate ultimately caved to the Jews' demands that these potentially idolatrous items be removed. As for setting up any statues of Tiberius, that claim is preposterous on the face of it: Tiberius was no believer in Emperor worship himself and never asked Pilate to do any such thing, and the reason Pilate set up the golden shields with honorary inscriptions to Tiberius on them was because he wanted to pay tribute to Tiberius *without* setting up statues, since he knew graven images would anger the Jews; yet they took the shields for an insult anyway.

You know who actually tried to set up a Caesarian statue in Jerusalem? the Emperor Caligula in his later madness, who insisted he was indeed a god, and planned to place his idol to his own divinity in the Holy of Holies itself. Herod Agrippa was able to weasel a reversal of this plan out of Caligula by getting him drunk at a lavish party and extracting a promise to do anything Agrippa asked out of him.

And aharris, your understanding of Roman governorship is faulty; at some times and places, less scrupulous Roman governors did go seeking graft from their positions, but Emperor Tiberius was particularly known for his harsh measures against such corruption during his reign. When one Prefect Aemilius Rectus of Egypt sent some extra money he'd gathered over his quota to Tiberius expecting to be commended for enriching Rome, Tiberius instead wrote back a rebuke for extortion, telling him he wanted his sheep sheared and not fleeced! In the precarious years after the fall of Sejanus, Pilate wouldn't have dared to antagonize his boss in any way, was certainly in no position to hire any mobs, and had no motivation to do so. Don't let your imagination run away with you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your earnest and good insights and analytical rendition are burdened by verbal off-gassing and casual misanthropy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Project much, bRR?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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