For me there is no better way to welcome the change of season than with a new “dedicated” Facebook page, focused, for the time being, on sharing the ideas central to my published historical books on the life of Jesus. (One is about to be released: “A Select Second Edition” of The Matthias Scroll further exploring the thesis of my study.) As for the new FB page, it’s tagged “Abram’s Historical Writing” and I hope my FB friends, and others who are interested, will find time to visit and put in their own thoughts. To kick things off I’m having a CONTEST! The winners are those who follow clues I present incrementally (you should check daily) then, in a month or so, upon my supplying the final piece to the ancient puzzle, attempt to solve the mystery which all agree has tantalized scholars for the better part of two millennia. The crime? Jesus’ crucifixion. The mystery: Whodunnit, and why.
Your “solutions” are to be sent to my email address, just prior (or, perhaps not long after) my announcing the actual launch of my new book, the Select Second Edition of “The Matthias Scroll,” bearing the subtitle, “Jesus’ life as he would have remembered it.”
The prize to those “detectives” whom I determine to be basically correct, shall be a free, signed, softcover edition.
(Ruled out at the beginning: The Romans did it because Jews who hated Jesus told them to. Frankly, this proposition is more than specious blather. It constitutes a crucifixion coverup which is exposed in my forthcoming book for the first time–and which you shall be equipped to solve with the clues provided over the coming weeks!)
To be sure, both Jews and Christians are commonly nervous when their beliefs are subject to analytical scrutiny. Relying as so many of us do on faith, we reserve a very personal place for our religious beliefs, above the maelstrom of historical controversy. To ameliorate that concern, as an individual who explores spiritual paths, I should reassure all, that I have no desire to dismantle anybody’s religious beliefs. SO PLEASE DON’T RISK READING MY WORK IF IT IS GOING TO CAUSE YOU SLEEPLESS NIGHTS! Otherwise, for those who are confident, as I am, that God shall survive my inquiries and conclusions, permit me to invite those who choose, to join this expedition to meet the historical Jesus.
Put on your favorite sleuth’s garment! I am not going to present the facts as I see them in the manner of a barrister making his argument. No doubt, that is a safer literary model. State the reasoned conclusion at the outset, introduce the evidence, support it with witnesses and rely on the jury–you, the reader, to either be persuaded or not. But what I’m suggesting in these next pages is my presentation of “clues,” for you to discern, which when linked to their subsequent occurrences slowly become an ominous parade of misfortunes leading to the catastrophe of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Your bonus, if you draw the correct conclusion as to why and by whom he was murdered on the cross (sent privately to my email) shall be a free softcover copy of my new book, the Select Second Edition of The Matthias Scroll, scheduled for release in October.
However, anybody who states that his execution was done by the Romans at the behest of “some Jews” ( as noted above) is automatically disqualified. Only if you follow the statement of clues, passages and commentary from the Gospels, shall you solve the question I have posed: How would Jesus’ have remembered what actually happened during the last eighteen months of his life, leading to his arrest and crucifixion?
Check regularly for clues!
THE GREAT JESUS WHODUNNIT CONTEST
We have a written, Gospel account describing a legal proceeding, the so-called “hearing” of Jesus the night of his fateful judgement by Pontius Pilate. It is a record of the grim events according to Matthew, Mark and Luke. All concur the Jewish witnesses refused to testify they had ever heard Jesus claim to be “King of the Jews” (Mark 14:55 and//’s) and therefore, based on Hebrew law, there was no legal basis to put him to death. As a result Caiaphas (the High Priest) became irate and said, “Why do we still need witnesses!” (Matthew 26:65).
If the account is correct, the Jews who are often blamed for abetting Jesus’ execution, were attempting to frustrate the demand the sentence be carried out. One may even suggest their intentions were to win Jesus’ a reprieve by denouncing him as a disturbance, rather than verify he was a leader of sedition against the empire. But what clue do we have that the one who recorded the events in Caiaphas’ house that night, was himself providing a reliable account?
You, the detective, should seek him out as a witness to what occurred in a famous earlier scene where he was shown to have Peter’s full faith in his unshakeable credibility. Don’t let the fact deter you that his identity is unknown in the setting you find.
CLUE #2 (context)
From the hearing at Caiaphas’ house (see Clue #1), Jesus is brought for a verdict before the Roman procurator of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate. Towards the end of the pre-determined scene of judgment, the Gospels describe near-maniacal Jews pleading for the freedom of a prisoner (alternately, in the four Gospels: an “insurrectionist,” “bandit,” “murderer”) named Barabbas, rather than the freeing of Jesus, whose release Pontius Pilate supposedly offers as a traditional Passover figleaf to the Jewish populace. In the Gospels’ doctrinal version, long taken at face value, the voices of high priests on hand at that moment express their dissent from freeing Jesus, and clamor in screeching voices, “Crucify him!” sometimes, repetitively inciting a maniacal crowd. (Matthew and Mark both state that the high priests persuaded the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas.) Indeed, based on a superficial reading, one wonders how the high priest–oh, there was only one, so the Gospels got that wrong–well, how he managed time off when his most auspicious duties during the sacred first day of Passover demanded he attend the Temple services. Also, where was that enraged mass of angry Jews when Jesus was interrogated in Caiaphas’ house, then later, carrying the cross to Golgotha after departing the scene of judgment? Nowhere to be found! (Along the empty street, on the way to his crucifixion, the Roman guard has to require a passing Cyrene, a non-Hebrew to lift the dragging end of the cross and expedite the ascent.)
All of which brings us, my fellow detectives, to our next clue. If we are to believe the Gospels are guilty of falsely implicating the Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus, what was the motive?
There was no such attested name as “Barabbas” except as is found in the Gospels. “Bar” in ancient Aramaic means “son of” and “abbas” means “father.” If Jesus was, according to the Gospels, the son of God, our CLUE #2 IS: the name “Barabbas”
How does it help explain the Gospels’ blame of the Jewish People for Jesus’ death?
HERE ARE CLUES #3 #4.
CLUE #3: (context)
Permit me to assume that most who have recognized “Barabbas” as an eponym for “son of Satan” may ascribe the contempt for Jews as “crucifixion-complicit” to natural wrath directed toward God’s cosmic antagonists. Who wouldn’t blame Satan for killing God’s son, if Satan was available to blame? Of course, the assumption that it was the Jews, requires an absolutely necessary historical surmise: Jesus had experienced many confrontations with Galilean Pietists, an arrogant branch of super-observant Pharisees living in the north. He had traded insults with them on more than one occasion. But did the genre of his aggravation ever reach the same level of antipathy manifest in the “Barabbas” accusation? Did Jesus ever teach his disciples that the Jewish People were Satan’s spawn? If the opposite is true, and Jesus taught his disciples to appreciate their Hebrew heritage, then you must search for other clues to explain the Christian dogma’s harrowing apparition of evil with its false accusation.
Ultimately your clues shall lead to the cause of the crucifixion itself.
CLUE #3: Find evidence (at least one Gospel passage) that Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples that though they were Jews who had strayed from the tradition, they could learn Torah and return.
CLUE #4: Did Jesus see himself as the actual “Son of God?”
There was one recorded instance in the Gospels when Satan did try to kill Jesus. Find this passage and hypothesize a historical episode beneath the midrash as a first step in perceiving how Jesus saw himself.
CLUE # 5: (context)
We have reached the first milestone in the Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery.
If you have followed the clues to this point, you have ascertained that the blame placed on the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion was a coverup of the crime orchestrated at the behest of another (as yet unknown) personage or authorities–and perpetrated for motives still to be ascertained.
Again, to avoid confusion, I must acknowledge most people well-versed in the standard explanations offered by the church, especially in more recent Papal ecumenical pronouncements, have this stultified impression:
Supposedly, the High Priest Caiaphas, acting out of a tidal surge of Jewish contempt toward Jesus, handed him over to Pontius Pilate for judgment. Pilate then acquiesced in agreeing to the sentence of crucifixion.
One important contradiction to that scenario, hopefully reached in your even rudimentary assessment of the clues, is that the authors of the Barabbas literary patch, with its associated Jewish priests and crowd braying their hideous demand for Jesus’ crucifixion stands out as an editorial emendation, recognizably so from the fact that the witnessing Jews at Caiaphas’ hearing refused to testify Jesus was guilty of sedition. Nonetheless, the fact the Gospel insert is motivated by seething contempt requires we follow the trail to discern the source of malice which led the Gospels to subsequently portray the Jews as “Christ-killers.” In other words, it is highly suspicious that the Jews were made to look guilty when they were not. Our question must first be what made them such a good choice as scapegoats? Why would the early followers of Jesus, including at least some of his own disciples, be prepared to believe (or stipulate) there was Jewish responsibility for killing Jesus and let it become part of their religious canon?
Who, indeed, were they covering for? And, were they doing so wittingly, or not?
The first part–why would the followers of Jesus hate the Jews enough to consider them his probable murderers is obvious. Numerous instances of clashes between the Pietists and Jesus constitute a sad record of that interaction. Since it is not a “mystery” but an established, repetitive motif, permit me to summarize its central features.
1. The community of Pietists in the Galilee, an offshoot of the more moderate southern Pharisees (even mocked by them in the Talmud as exhibitionistic), rejected the “locals” who lived in the same northern towns, taking their ignorance of Torah observance and synagogue culture as signs of possible doubtful Hebrew lineage. This was reflected in their refusal to eat meals together, or to allow their families to “intermarry.” In the Gospels the disparagement is frequent, but a few examples which make the point are: Jesus being criticized for teaching “sinners,” (Mark 2:17) and the Pietists saying they are “fruit from a rotten tree.” (Matt. 7:18)
This exclusion was not a genre we appreciate from a modern perspective. Back then, two important temporal events were coinciding, deeply affecting every Jew. One was the year seven of the tithing cycle, when all anticipated prophesies of old could come true, and the other was a growing belief that the coming fall harvest holiday (the Feast of Booths/Sukkot) would be the advent of God’s return to the midst of His People to usher in His Kingdom as in the days of Moses. On the calendar, the year was 31 when Jesus was teaching and healing. He would die in spring of 31, the Hebrew month of Nisan. The Hebrew New Year, occurring in the fall (about five months post-crucifixion) still 31 of the Common Era (a calendar instituted later on), would be on the first of the Hebrew month of Tishri. With it would commence one of the two temporal events just noted: The beginning of the seventh year of the tithing cycle, the second, just 15 days later.
Why is this important for our investigation? Because the antipathy toward Jesus’ disciples and followers which would exclude them as doubtful Hebrews did NOT simply keep them from sharing meals–it kept them out of God’s coming Kingdom, anticipated to eventuate in that Rosh ha-shannah through Sukkot period.
Therefore, the hate felt by Jesus’ followers toward the Jews was for shutting the gates to God’s Kingdom.
Jesus is quoted as saying as much: Matthew 23:13-14.
Certainly there was Pietist contempt for Jesus followers reflected in their arrogant exclusion of them as doubtful Hebrews. But it was not hate. The disciples were a small and powerless group, at most an annoyance. Therefore, as interesting and as important as the Pietist role may be in ostracizing Jesus’ followers, to ascertain the motive for murdering Jesus, we would best look elsewhere.
(Note to my detective squad): If you have gotten stuck on clue #3, here’s the gist. Jesus was teaching his disciples they could, with his guidance and Torah study, return to the Jewish “family,” that is, the Covenantal fold from which they had strayed–therefore he certainly was not intending them to join the ranks of Satan.
As for Clue #4: Here, I must apologize. The clue as formulated, gets ahead of our inquiry, and is a misstep. The scene to which it refers is known as the “Temptation” and in Luke (4:9-12) takes place on the Temple Mount.
YES, we shall have a look at its significance in developing our “whodunnit” case. Just not quite yet, except, for now, to fully dismiss Jesus’ perceiving the Jews as Satan’s spawn. Simply, as dramatized, Satan’s ploy is to get Jesus to jump off the Temple precipice, proving he is God’s son–but actually to kill himself. For us what matters is there’s not even the slightest whisper of a hint that Satan is connected in any way to the Jews. If the author had it in mind to echo a hateful sentiment of Jesus, he would have done it. He held back because he knew it wasn’t true.
In sum (before moving on to the “Whodunnit” phase of the investigation) we have fully put to rest the villain-ization of the Jews as “satanic” according to Jesus. Although Jesus does denounce the Pietists for themselves being descendents of defiled lineages ( as one among several examples, Matthew 23:31) “You are the sons of those who have murdered prophets” he NEVER equates the Jews with Satan (as does the Barabbas slander).
If the Jews didn’t do it–somebody else did. Ok, Pontius Pilate was the “Hit man.” But he went along for the ride. It’s time to do what any good TV detective does when questioning the neighbors and ask, “Is there anybody who might have wanted to kill Jesus? Has anybody said they intended to kill him if they got the chance?”
Keep in mind, even if you come up with evidence pointing in the direction of a possible suspect, we’d still be looking for a motive. If you come up with a name, you must link it to a possible motive.
CLUE #6 and CLUE #7 (context)
In Clue #5 you have already begun attempting to identify the true culprit, the one who wanted Jesus dead. You have eliminated a satanic Jewish People or even group of malevolent Jews, recognizing they were likely scapegoats for some kind of crucifixion coverup, and now are on the track of the one who did it.
Our next clue is a passage in the Gospel of Matthew (23:24), quoting Jesus as he rebukes Pietists (super observant Pharisees of the Galilee) in a verbal duel, “You would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” he declares. The Greek term for “swallow” was often used figuratively and meant “engorge” or “fill up with” in this context.
So, we are now to inquire who was the gnat and who the camel?
Here, I shall play the role of Dr. Watson. In that third decade of the first century, the Nabatean warrior king, Aretas, was pictured on his coinage, rather uniquely, with a camel. His “camel” nickname pronounced by Jesus would have been instantly recognized, as would have been the identity of the “gnat.”
Before you identify the “gnat” here is what you must know about Aretas. He had a daughter named Phaesalis who married a famous, powerful half-Jewish leader from the Galilee. They were together in a beautiful palatial home for years when her husband fell in love with another woman. That other woman was not only married, but was married to the man’s half brother, born as they were to different mothers. When her husband refused to give her a divorce, she managed to get one from the Roman administration. Pietists the Galilee over approved because she had a noble Hebrew lineage and would be an eligible Jewish queen one day. But it was not a divorce according to Torah law–and the “gnat” happened to be strictly observant.
When Aretas’ daughter Phaesalis fled her home and took refuge in Nabatea, Aretas mustered his camel warriors for an attack on the Galilee. Meanwhile, the “gnat” went around saying everybody should welcome his camel warriors and aid in his revenge until the incestuous and adulterous marriage was ended.
The region of the Galilee had swallowed the camel (filling up with its warriors) and Aretas had burned many villages–until the powerful leader of the region had the gnat arrested on grounds of sedition, for inciting the crowds to overthrow him. More than sedition, the insult to his wife as an adulteress was his motive for arresting the “gnat.” But it was the charge of sedition that legally empowered him to sentence him to die.
Identify the “gnat”
Identify the “important half-Jewish Galilean leader”
As in every decent criminal investigation of an unsolved murder, the detective queries the neighbors. “Do you know an individual who threatened to kill the victim?” Indeed, only one such overheard threat exists in the Gospels. The witness’ testimony is the Gospel text necessary to grasp the next clue.
CLUE #7: Cite evidence in the form of a witness’ testimony that the Galilean leader wanted to kill Jesus.
Clue #8 (context)
Here I must again be “Dr. Watson.” The “gnat” could not be executed simply for insulting the Galilean leader. His tetrarchy (a hint as to his identity) was totally subordinate to the Emperor Tiberius’ Roman law. Although the “gnat” had derided said Galilean tetrarch, publicly reviling his wife’s unholy bond with her living husband’s brother…it was NOT a capitol crime (Matthew 14:4) But when his speeches turned to incitement, popularizing northern support for Aretas’ incursion (Josephus: Ant.18:5:2) the offense became “sedition against the Empire,” a crime punishable by death. Thus, the “gnat” was executed.
CLUE #8: If you have found the evidence required in clue #7, and are prepared to argue the northern tetrarch ruling the Galilee wanted Jesus dead, you still have not established a motive. Find textual evidence that he identified Jesus as being the same as the “gnat” and infer the probability that, if so, he would intend to do exactly as the witness testifying in clue #7 stated he said he would. (Note: Again, even if he harbored feelings toward Jesus believing he was “the same as the gnat” you have yet to show any basis for a charge that Jesus insulted his adulterous matrimony or acted seditiously. In other words, you the detective must shortly search for clues something happened to cause him to cast jesus in that light!)