The Capture, Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus

Yeshua (Jesus) and his entourage were easily outmaneuvered. The Romans swooped on them in the garden of Gethsemane while Jewish residents slept. John’s gospel claimed a cohort of soldiers was consigned to collar him:

“Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3 JB.) Judas had betrayed him to the Romans.

A cohort was six hundred Roman soldiers, one tenth of a legion. Pilate wouldn’t have sent this many men to arrest an agreeable, unarmed, peace-loving preacher who thought he was God. Yeshua was a big fish with an entourage of admirers, and a city packed with potential patrons, so he needed to be decisively dealt with before things got out of hand. 

arrest of Jesus 3Some of his disciples were with him at the time of his arrest. One or more of them was supposed to be on watch. It must have been intimidating to have that many soldiers tramping toward you in the dead of night, torchlight reflecting off their swords and armor, shining up a silhouette of trees in the distance. Jesus machine gunIt was no contest. There may have been a minor scuffle, but it’s obvious most of his mates dashed off into the dark, leaving him to his fate. They were taken by surprise, outplayed by a more experienced and professional opposition. Jesus would have been willing to fight, and seriously pissed off that his comrades ran away.

arrest 7Much is made in the Gospels about the guilt Peter felt at abandoning Jesus. There were others in the troop too terrified to put their lives on the line, and they must have felt just as guilty.

Jesus supposedly surrendered meekly. He was trumped before he’d made his master move, taken into custody and unable to issue instructions. His allies had let him down, and he must have known what was in store. Luke claimed he was sweating blood (Luke 22; 44,) which is not physiologically possible. He was trying to tell how terrified Jesus was about his impending crucifixion.

Jesus would’ve felt abandoned not only by his friends but also by his god. His work and dreams had come to nothing, and I imagine he may have played the last card of a wretched man by begging his god for a miracle.

 

                                                                       The Trial

Matthew claims Jesus was arrested because he claimed he was divine, but Yeshua didn’t fantasize he was God. Jews believed in only one god, Yahweh, and he wouldn’t have had any helpers if he’d made such a blasphemous claim. Nor could the Romans have cared less about a peasant’s delusions of grandeur. They were wise enough to never get involved in Jewish religious disputes unless they turned into a security issue. The high priest, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, Pilate and his army all knew Yeshua had hoped to start a rebellion against Rome.

jesus-pilate-3
He was taken before Pilate and the accusation made:

“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23:2 NKJ.) Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the Jews and Jesus answered,

“It is as you say it” (Luke 23:3 NKJ.) This perfectly described the crux of the issue: Jesus was accused of undermining the government and the taxation system. He effectively signed his own death warrant by admitting he thought he was king of the Jews. Genuine Jewish kings didn’t pay Roman tax, so this contradicted Jesus’ earlier injunction to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (see Matthew 22:21.) (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/james_still/jesus_trial.html).

 

herod-jesusLuke was the only author who had Jesus appear before Herod, and related that Jesus refused to talk to him. Yeshua would have hated Herod, the man who had his cousin (John) killed. Herod allegedly found Jesus not guilty, which is impossible to believe, as the same author had earlier claimed Herod wanted him killed. (Luke 13:31.)

Then a Jewish crowd allegedly turned en masse against Jesus. Mark claimed,

“the chief priests however had incited the crowd” (Mark 15:11, NJB.) This poorly explained excuse was the only reason given in any of the Gospels for “the crowd” turning against Jesus. They shouted they wanted him crucified, and that they’d rather have Barabbas, a common criminal, freed in preference. No such custom of releasing the crowd’s favorite was ever recorded in any non-biblical document.

There was probably no public trial. A trial with a Jewish crowd in attendance at that time of year would be just asking for trouble.

It’s implied this crowd was made up from the people of Jerusalem, who had been earlier described as the “multitudes” that had welcomed their king as a hero in a ticker tape parade as he rode into the city. They’d allegedly thought he was a prophet and laid clothes and branches at his feet. The chief priests feared they’d create “an uproar” if Jesus was arrested. Can anyone imagine this crowd had a complete change of mind about their hero?

Jesus arrestedRomans were made to look as if they were innocent bystanders during the trial. Pilate read a letter from his wife about a dream she had that Jesus was innocent. Pilate supposedly said,

“I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4 KJV.) He tried to talk the angry Jews out of having Jesus crucified, but gave in to the public clamor, because

“in fact a riot was imminent” (Matt. 27:24.) So the crowd that was going to riot if Jesus was arrested (see Matt. 26:3–6) was now about to riot if he wasn’t crucified!

pilate washes handsPilate washed his hands of any responsibility for the decision to kill Jesus. This didn’t happen; it was theatrical propaganda, not real history. To pronounce a man innocent, then command your troops to kill him anyway, is preposterous.

Pilate’s job was to keep the peace and make sure Jews paid tax. From his perspective Yeshua was nothing more than a vagrant and a dangerous subversive, so he would have regarded him with contempt and couldn’t have found him innocent.

Pilate, the man described by secular historians, was notorious for his cruelty toward the Jews. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, writing in 41 CE, stated that Pilate’s tenure was associated with

“briberies, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injustices, constantly repeated executions without trial, and ceaseless and grievous cruelty” (Legatio ad Gaium, 301–302.) Josephus too reported several instances of Pilate flagrantly inciting an insurrection, which he then ruthlessly purged with his soldiers. In 36 CE, Vitellius, the Roman Syrian governor, removed Pilate from his office after a particularly violent attack on the Samaritans (Josephus, Antiquities 18.4.85.) He was ordered to Rome to face complaints of excessive cruelty against the Jews, found culpable, and exiled to Vienne, France. His true colors come across in secular history, not in the Gospels. He clearly wasn’t a character wracked with ambivalence about whether to crucify Yeshua.

Jewish crowdThe gospel authors couldn’t have Romans responsible for killing the son of God, because the Catholic Church became the Church of Rome. The solution was simple; they accused the anonymous Jewish rabble of wanting Jesus dead.

One of the authors of Matthew had Jews say,

“His blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:24–25, NJB.) Jews publically cursed themselves for being Christ-killers, which is highly improbable.

The Jewish passersby allegedly mocked him:

“The passersby jeered at him; they shook their heads and said ‘if you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’” (Matt. 27:39–40, NJB.) The crowd wouldn’t have been that callous to their own countryman. The average Jew would have been appalled that one of their own was dying such a degrading death.

Jesus in painWhat’s more, if Jews had wanted to kill him, he would’ve been stoned, which could only have happened if the Romans gave them permission. Crucifixion was an agonizing, demeaning, public death; one reserved for insurgents. It was used only by Romans to intimidate anyone who might undermine their authority. The Roman soldiers always nailed zealots up naked on a cross; it was part of the humiliation. The degrading death was designed to discourage other charismatic leaders from having their own dangerous dreams.

The sign or “titulus” (Latin for “inscription” or “label”) was the Roman way of exhibiting the explanation for the execution. It was written by Pilate, and read “King of the Jews,” a reflection of Jesus’ real crime.

 

Angry Jesus 2Luke had a dying Jesus say

“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NJB,) referring to the Roman soldiers who had just scourged, mocked and nailed him to a cross. Yeshua is more likely to have damned these soldiers with his dying breath.

A centurion supposedly said,

“In truth this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54, NJB.) Yet Christianity, which claimed Jesus was the son of God, had yet to be invented!

The men Yeshua was crucified with were labeled as “lestai,” incorrectly translated in some Bibles as “robbers.” In fact “lestai” was a derogatory term for insurrectionists, who, by armed action, opposed Roman rule (http://www.drabruzzi.com/jesus_movement.htm and http://haqol.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/the-updated-niv-translates-translates-lestai-rebel/). So Jesus was crucified between two zealots, but we’re told wasn’t one himself. I think informed readers are too perceptive to fall for that.

Roman law allowed no burial rights to those killed by crucifixion. Yeshua’s emaciated body would have been left for the scavenging birds and dogs as a deterrent to others who might disobey Rome, although it’s possible Pilate made an exception and gave permission for the body to be buried.

Jesus’ death was a deeply disheartening development. Any military muscle the movement may have mounted in Jerusalem had not come to anything, and their commander had been crucified. The kingdom of God must have seemed like an unattainable dream. Yet all was not lost. Yeshua was only one man. The Nazarenes could bounce back, just as they had after John’s demise. Someone charismatic needed to take control. That person was James, Yeshua’s brother.

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16 Responses to The Capture, Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus

  1. Scott Morgan says:

    As for why the Jews would insist on crucifixion, MIGHT it not be because Jesus seriously undermined the public influence of the Pharisees as well as “threatened” to distrupt Caiaphas’s control of temple profits?

    • Mark Fulton says:

      It would be possible to write a book in reply to this! I do believe Jesus was fundamentally opposed to some Jews, namely the Sadducees, who were the high priest and the family is associated with him, who was allied to Rome. There were some other pro Roman jews as well, maybe some Pharisees, and maybe tax collectors and other people who had benefited financially from the Roman occupation. Yet the Gospels make a flagrant reinterpretation of the history by blaming the crucifixion of Jesus on “the Jews.” It was most definitely the Romans, not the Jews, who crucified Jesus. If Jews had wanted him crucified, he would’ve been stoned, just like Stephen in the book of acts. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals and zealots… and it was a punishment used by the Romans, not by Jews.

      • Scott Morgan says:

        You’re right that the Roman’s crucified him, not the Jews. However, whether we work with your interpretation of the real Jesus or the traditional Christian view, its more than plausible that some of those Sadducees (especially the Sadducees), Pharisees, and tax collectors desired to see him die more hideously. Notice I said “some”. By and large, I don’t think that most of the Jews, even those who disliked him, wanted to see him crucified–for reasons you already understand.

        As for Stephen’s execution by stoning, it might be relevant to note that those who stoned Stephen dragged him out of the city first before killing him. It seems, from the context, that in their haste and anger they elected to bypass Roman authorization and avoid detection. The Jews had to have Roman approval to execute, regardless of the method, and there’s no record in Acts that this approval was obtained. Its likely that Jesus was too publicly recognized for the Jews to pull such a stunt.

  2. Jason D'Haviland Firestone says:

    Hi Mark,
    Couple things. As you can see, I’m finally getting around to the New Testament. My interest has always been the connections to the Sumerian myth system, and Ancient Isra-El. As far as the Durant comment above goes, there was no Moses. During the last days of the Exile, Ezra, and the Judean priests, using material, (P) they were exposed to during the exile, (ie the Babylonian materials and myths), added it to the J source, and E source, and cooked up the final version of the Torah of Moses, which King of the Assyrians authorized Ezra to take back with him to Isra-El, along with the “authorization” for Ezra, and the King of Isra-El to rule, in his name. This “authorization letter”, is called the Letter of Artaxerxes, (it’s quoted in Ezra). Ezra had it, and the Moses Torah in his hands, when he got back. That fall, he organized a festival, and introduced it, for the first time in human history, the Pentateuch was seen in a combined form. The J source was entirely mythical. There was no “exodus event” as we know it, no Abraham, no Isaac, and no Jacob. It is simply impossible. Abraham traveled in Genesis from Ur, on a camel. Camels were not domesticated, and used by non-royals, in the ancient Near East until 1000 BCE. There was camel use, but no baby camel skeletons found, with the earlier camel bones, so they KNOW they were not in use until then, in widespread, non-courtly use.

    Anyhow..back to Jeebus.
    So here are some thought about the trials, I have.
    1. The notion that any lower, peasant-class follower of this man, (assuming there was such a person), would actually be present in a roomful of Roman soldiers,and aristocrats, and Jewish leaders, and somehow be recording the events, is utterly preposterous. So the question arises, where did the facts of the trial come from, if, as the gospels say, the followers all fled ? Even Peter was just “lurking” outside, in the courtyard. Nope. The witness problem is insurmountable. Not one gospel addresses this matter, as it’s just too ridiculous to consider. It is simply not conceivable any one, or group of followers, would have been permitted into, or near the actual official rooms where these activities were, or might have, been taking place. No witnesses are identified, in any of the gospels.

    2. The trials significantly contradict each other, depending on which gospel one reads. There are many. The one which pops out the most to me is the one about what Jesus does, or does not say. In Matthew 27, Jesus is silent before Pilate, and says virtually nothing. In Mark 15, he is silent before Pilate. In Luke he adds the extra steps of going before Herod, after seeing Pilate, which the other two do not mention, at all. Herod sends him back, so the Jews can be blamed for the death. Before going to Herod, in front of the Sanhedrin, (which the others also skip), he does say a few lines, and is not entirely silent. So who is exactly witnessing what ? Are they running around ? Obviously nobody. It’s all a fiction. These high level Romans and Jews would not be concerned with a common crook, who broke the Pax Romana. There was a standing order to execute these types, and there was no need for a trial, at all. They had better things to do. There was no trial, we can be sure. Lastly, in John, it’s a whole different deal, altogether. In John 18, the trial is vastly different, and Jesus gives a speech . No more silent Jeebus for John.

    3. The Essene connection in Matthew 26:64, and the other similar statements with the “Son of Man” statement is striking. This statement concerning the “son of man”, is too long to discuss here, but it betrays an influence of the Essenes, and is well worth looking into.

    4. The day of death is not the same !! Woops ! In Mark the Last Supper is done, and the they go out to the garden on the day of Preparation for Passover. Actually the Day of Preparation, according to Jewish custom, ends at sunset, and Passover Day, begins at sundown, (like Vespers begins the new day, later on). So In Mark, he dies on Passover day, around 9:00 AM. In John, he directly contradicts this, (among many other strange contradictory details), by saying he goes before Pilate, and dies AFTER noon, on the Day *OF* Preparation. (John19:14). Oh oh. So something is VERY wrong here.

    There is also an interesting tiny vestige of Secret Mark, in Mark 14:51, with the young man in the sheet, running away naked. In Secret Mark, Jesus probably had a sexual relationship with this guy, and in fact if you read the Coptic Gnostics, there is a very large amount of “homo”-centric, if not outright homosexual content. (There is even a line about Jesus turning Mary Magdalene into a man, so she can be worthy to join the group). Very strange stuff, indeed. ??? I’d have to find it. I think it’s in the Gospel of Thomas ??

    One other thing I have been thinking about….the blood. What about the blood ? In Jewish culture, touching or having anything to do with blood it totally forbidden. It was an abomination. It’s right in front of our stupid faces. It’s KOSHER !! The Kosher laws. So the very idea, of Jesus proposing to his Jewish followers, that they actually drink blood, would be SO utterly repugnant, it would literally make them vomit. (We have a delightful Jewish neighbor, and she entered our home once when my mom was taking a ham out of the oven and it made her gag.) So just think about this. It would be like us eating poop, or something similarly repugnant. It is simply 100% impossible that Yeshua ben Josef, (if there was one), proposed to Jewish men of that time, that they even think about drinking blood. His or anyone else’s. Communion came from the ‘thanksgiving feast” (the Eucharist), which Paul got from Mithraism, which is another story.

    Thus endeth Bucky’s too-long lesson. :)

  3. Mike Durant says:

    Mark,
    Above you said that you have read the Bible many times and have never seen “God’s purpose” in the Bible (Except perhaps Paul’s idea of God’s purpose).
    If one were to beleave that there is a God, (And agreeably that is a stretch for many) But let’s say for the sake of argument that there is a God, Then the purpose is very clear and seen from the beginning of the Bible through the end. That purpose has always been for God and man to have a relationship. From communing with “Adam” in the cool of the day in the “Garden of Eden” to talking face to face with Moses, to the prophets. Then Jesus came to bring us back into a right relationship again through the now available Holy Spirit, cutting out the Prophets, preachers, and guys like Moses. Although Christians do not have an exclusive “Lock” on the Holy Spirit, (There have been many from all walks of life who seem more tuned in) Supposedly for a Christian, that “Spirit” is there for the asking. (Although, like a paraplegic, legs may be there but are useless) If a Christian has the Holy Spirit but does nothing prompted by it, it becomes useless, however if one drops what they are doing and responds to this leading, it becomes tuned in and a Christian feels like God is working through them FOR others, prompting them to see and hear what the self center in us otherwise misses.
    All of this is meaningless when there is NO GOD.

  4. Bucky Ball says:

    Am not all that familiar with the discussions re the historicity of Yeshua bar Josef, but being a skeptic, I am not quite sure what to make of 2 things :
    a: why would James, and the Jerusalem community, (Christians), have disagreed with Paul and his camp about the direction of their movement, unless there was actually “something” to actually disagree about, and even more, allow that fight to become SO public ? There can be no doubt that a series of events caused the formation of “some” communities, and they disagreed about the fundamental meanings of the original preacher, and his message, (and in fact turned the preacher into the message), whom they followed. The meaning and “reality” of those events is, obviously, in dispute. (For example when a human “says” or repeats the linguistic string “Jesus rose from the dead”, what is REALLY happening, is that they MEAN to say, “I experienced an event which my brain interprets as …bla bla bla”. ) Just because a human brain interprets something as “something”, does not mean “something” actually happened, in the “real” world. (Am not about to get into the “Idealism” debate about whether objective “reality” exists apart from anyone’s brain…”I stubbed my toe….ouch”…is enough of THAT crap for this dullard, AND when most people are dreaming they are experiencing things as “real”.) So they experienced Jesus as resurrected. For humans who never even had an arithmetic class, or a Biology class, what “resurrected” means could be an almost infinite number of things. It ain’t so simple.
    b. What about the brief statement of Flavius Titus Josephus ? Some say it was a forgery inserted into his manuscript, and if you look very carefully at the actual document, the handwriting DOES look different. Do you folks have any opinions on the Josephus debate ? Just curious.
    Anyway, so I conclude for now that he did exist, and he caused a ruckus, and got himself executed for that. After that MANY different meanings were slapped onto the events, and they are still fighting about those today, (and usually never looking at the real meanings and nuances of the words they use to describe the events and the meanings). Oh well.
    Happy New Year all.
    Bucky, an insufferable know-it-all. (I need to go surfing down there.) ;)

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi Bucky, so sorry I’ve been so long getting back to you. I have been editing the book x10. Thanks for your input!

      Gee….where do I start? I’ll just have to state some facts…
      -James and the Jerusalem community were never Christians. This is a very common misconception. I can prove it to you, but that would take some hours. They were nazarenes….fundamentalist messianic Jews. They abhored Paul and everything he stood for. Ironic, isn’t it, as Paul was the founder of Christianity
      -None of Jesus’ family or his original disciples thought Jesus had risen from the dead. That was made up by Paul (and he may not have been referring to Jesus (Yeshua))
      - The Testimonium Flavum was almost certainly a forgery inserted by Eseubius.

  5. Brian McKinstray says:

    Interesting comments above as to “other” evidence for the very existence of “Jesus”. I vaguely remember that there may have been references in the writings of Josephus? I also watched a documentary some time ago which claimed that some graffitti (carved, as per the Roman wont) on an amphitheatre excavated in Galilee which not only mentioned J but suggested that he was the illegitimate offspring of a Roman soldier and a jewish girl. Could do with trying to find out more about the provenance of these claims but it would sure explain the virgin birth story as a fine cover-up to protect Mary’s honour!
    Also once read an article, moving to the other end of the story, that suggested that the origin of the, undoubtedly anomalous, Barabbas story was that he and Jesus were “aspects” of the same organisation – like political wing and military wing – but this doesn’t really explain why someone as allegedly ruthless as Pilate would give the “mob” a choice between two “terrorists”??

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi Brian, in my opinion there are no genuine references to the character Jesus we think we know so well in the writings of Josephus. Volumes have been written on this.

      James Tabor ( and Monty Python) as well as others, think the biological father of Jesus may have been a Roman soldier. There was a war, and many thousands of Roman soldiers, in Galilee in 4BC which would fit with the idea.

      I strongly suspect “Barabbas” is a fabrication. There was no custom of releasing convicts.

  6. Donald Boos says:

    Whether Jesus was real or not, or who killed him is irrelevant. According to the christian bible that was part of “god’s plan”. Modern christians should quit agonizing over over an event that may or may not have happened and accept it as part of god’s plan

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi Donald, thanks for your comment. It sounds as though you are uncertain as to whether Jesus was a real character or not. Is that right? If so, I agree with you….we can’t be sure he even existed.

      As to who killed him (if he did exist)…it is very clear to me it was the Romans. Unlike you, I consider this relevant, because it was the Roman world (not the Jewish world)that made up stories about his life , his teachings and his purpose. I find it ironic that they turned him into a god a century or so after they killed him. If I were a Christian, I would prefer to worship a real person, not a fabrication.

      Tell me about ‘god’s plan” as you understand it. I’ve read the bible many times and haven’t come across it….unless of course you are talking about Paul’s delusions.

  7. Drenn says:

    I think that the main assumption with which I am in disagreement with is the existence of a real person named Jesus. Outside of the Bible there is no credible references that Jesus existed at all. With the exception of some forgeries and second hand references to Christians who talked of a Jesus, there is nothing.
    I do feel however, that the reference to Jews being responsible sounds like an effort to undermine the Jewish people by a growing Christian belief system that aspired a greater following.

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi….thankyou for your comments. I agree there may never have been a real character Jesus.

      However, despite the absence of evidence in the historical record, I believe that Jesus probably did exist, and that some of the facts in the Gospels are loosely based on his life. I believe this for a number of reasons. We do have non-biblical evidence for the existence of John the Baptist, and for James, the brother of Jesus. John and James were leaders of a sect of Jews, and there was another historical character, Jesus, who was leader of this same sect for a short time between these two. Members of this sect, including descendants of Jesus’ family, believed in the existence of Jesus for centuries after his death. There were also numerous-second century stories about Jesus, some of which still exist, which never made it into the Bible, and it seems likely to me they were not entirely fictional. Paul, who was a contemporary of Jesus, never did meet him, although he claimed he did meet members of Jesus’ family and some of his original disciples.
      The real Jesus, if he existed, just wasn’t as remarkable as the Gospels would have us believe. His genuine historical record probably documented his relative mediocrity and so was destroyed by evangelical Christians in the second, third, and fourth centuries.

      Thanks for your comments….please feel free to contribute more. Regards, Mark

  8. Supernova says:

    I can see where you’re going with this, but the problem with evaluating the story is that the only sources you have are the gospels. This story isn’t told in any other found manuscript. So while you may think they were painting Jesus in a better light than the events they’re describing (and I agree), it’s difficult to make any statements about what “really” happened.

    But if you accept the bible as true, it’s safe to say that Jesus could’ve been killed for any number of crimes. One of the people on a cross next to Jesus was described as a robber… if they’ll use the death penalty to punish petty crime, they might’ve even used it to cure Jesus’ habit of jay-walking.

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi Supernova, thankyou for your comments. Yes, it is true that any assessment of Jesus’ life of necessity has to heavily rely on the gospels, as there are no contemporary secular records of Jesus. The gospels are not reliable historical documents ( I think they were only first written in the early second century by we don’t know who, and they were heavily edited for a couple of hundred years afterwards). So ANY assessment of Jesus’ life involves much guesswork, and the secular historian has to some extent “cherry pick” from the gospels. I have placed Jesus into what I believe is his correct historical context…that of a poor fundamentalist Jewish peasant from Galilee who was bitterly opposed to Roman rule. As to why he was crucified…well…you weren’t strung up on a cross by the Romans for minor offences…it was a punishment designed to be a warning to people not to undermine Roman authority. The translation in some bibles that calls the two he was crucified with as “robbers” is incorrect, it actually meant zealot ( someone who fought against Rome). There is no doubt it was the Romans who killed him, and not because he thought he was god or some such nonsense. They killed him because he was a zealot. Peter Cresswell has written an excellent book “Jesus the Terrorist” which expands on this theme. I think this is big news because it undermines the very foundations of Christianity, that is Paul’s entirely fabricated spiel that Jesus was the son of god who died for everyone’s sins. I have a lot more circumstantial evidence for my claims…it is a little hard to briefly summarize it all. Please feel free to keep commenting, Mark

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