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Do We Know Why Jesus Went to Jerusalem?

Browsing through my blog posts I came across this one from exactly six years ago today.  Amazingly, I still agree with it!  It deals with an unusually important question, one that, in a sense, involves a decision that changed the entire history of our world.

 

QUESTION

Just what did the historical Jesus think he was doing that last week in Jerusalem? It looks to me like he was working as hard as he could to get himself killed. If that’s what he was doing, then why was he doing it?

 

RESPONSE

Interesting question!  There have been scholars, of course, who have argued that this is precisely what Jesus was doing, that he went to Jerusalem in order to be crucified.

It is interesting that those who take that view cover as wide a range of ideology and theology as you could possibly imagine.   Conservative Christian thinkers (from protestant fundamentalists to Roman Catholic theologians to … well, take your pick) have long thought that the point of the Jerusalem trip was in fact the crucifixion, since this was all part of God’s plan.   Jesus’ mission on earth was to be crucified; he went to Jerusalem to make it happen.   This is what I myself thought for many, many years.

On the other side of the theological spectrum is someone like Hugh Schonfield, the British New Testament scholar and Dead Sea Scrolls expert who understood Jesus in very human terms, and thought that Jesus came to understand himself as the messiah and purposefully arranged to have himself killed in order to fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah.   All of this is laid out in Schonfield’s brilliant but absolutely quirky best-selling book, The Passover Plot (1965).

Here I can summarize the thesis of the book from my discussion of it in my book Forged (I do not claim that Schonfield forged his book!  I look at it as a modern fabrication of Jesus’ life.  I do this in the context of considering modern forged Gospels about Jesus).

Schonfield was a brilliant and widely acknowledged scholar of ancient Judaism, with a complete set of bona fide credentials.  But his historical reconstruction of what really happened to Jesus reads more like a Hollywood production than serious scholarship.  The short story is …

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Why Are The Gospels Called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
Bogus Christian Apologetics and a First-Century Fragment of Mark

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    godspell  May 19, 2018

    Obviously I don’t agree with either the conservative view, or Schonfield’s wacky idea of faking your death on a cross.

    However, I think Jesus would have to have been very stupid not to know what he was doing was courting death, after his teacher, John the Baptist, was killed for much less.

    He may not have known for sure what would happen. Remember the tradition he comes from–God asks something very hard of you, and you do it–like God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Jesus does seem to have had visions–this might have been one of them.

    In his mind, God wants him to go to Jerusalem and confront the source of the evil in his world, Rome and the Temple authorities. He knows what they do in response to that, particularly at Passover. He’s not expecting an uprising, nor does he want one. He expects the Son of Man to come, but suppose he believes his sacrifice is necessary for that to happen? We’re not talking about an ordinary person here. We’re talking about a mystic and a visionary, who sees a different world.

    You can’t just dismiss all the indications that he warned his disciples, in his typically oblique manner, what was coming. They were angered and frightened by it, didn’t understand what he was getting at, but they had come to believe he was Messiah (I don’t think this is how he saw himself). So they trusted there was some purpose to it.

    Now I seem to recall some discussions here where you’ve said Jesus didn’t attract large crowds. Can’t have it both ways. If he was just ranting to a handful of mildly interested people looking for a diversion, it’s hard to justify the special attention he got from the authorities–unless he sought it out. Unless he was provoking them. Which he was. He knew what he was doing. What he didn’t know was what God would do–that’s his test. To take this enormous risk–after he had spent most of his ministry being very cautious of provoking the civil authorities, particularly after what happened to John–and trust God, as his disciples trusted him.

    Bart, I realize that it’s a huge demotion, seeing someone as the all-powerful all-knowing Lord of Creation to seeing him as an itinerant rabbi who didn’t even know what would happen the next day.

    But we can still recognize him as a remarkable person, and remarkable persons often do remarkable things. Things you or I would not do. Things that they know can lead to their deaths. If we don’t recognize this, we’re not going to understand him, and that is, after all, the job of an historian primarily interested in a particular historic figure.

    When those Buddhist monks in Vietnam set themselves on fire, what do you think they believed would happen? They believed they’d die. Jesus may have hoped that the cup would pass his lips–that the Son of Man would come before he died. But after seeing a man he believed as least as important as himself to God–John the Baptist–be executed by a two-bit tyrant like Herod–could he really have believed he could go up against Rome and the Temple and survive unscathed? When he knows God asks terrible things of precisely those who are closest to him?

    Just taking the most contrary route from what historians have believed is not always the best way.

    • Avatar
      Iskander Robertson  May 20, 2018

      Dr Ehrman,what can we know about crucified people back in Jesus’ time? Are there any records outside of the gospels which have people chatting to the crucified ? if jesus was left hanging on the cross, would the people celebrating passover care ? how sure are scholars that crucifixion must have happened at busy religious time ? What evidence is there that jews have criminals crucified hours before religious holiday?

      • Bart
        Bart  May 22, 2018

        We have spotty evidence, I’m afraid, just allusive comments here and there. We just don’t have detailed descriptions precisely about these kinds of questions.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

        Julius Caesar once crucified 500 pirates in a single day. He broke the legs of all of them out of mercy, save for the leader, whom he forced to stay Up There until he died naturally — which took days.

        When Marcus Licinius Crassus crushed the Spartacus slave revolt in 73 BC, he noted that he had exactly 6600 captured slaves, and there was exactly 132 Roman miles of road between Rome and Capua on the Appian Way. He must have been a genius for working this out in his head with Roman numerals, but he determined, if there were 5,000 feet in every Roman mile, and if he had 6600 slaves, he could crucify one slave along the entire length for every 100 feet exactly of the Appian Way. So that’s what he did. And he did NOT break legs. He made ’em dangle and strangle there until they all died. And he LEFT them on the crosses for an entire YEAR, just rotting away and turning into bones.

        • Avatar
          qazarly  May 23, 2018

          What is the source of the Caesar story ? I don’t see these details in Plutarch’s account.

        • Avatar
          godspell  May 24, 2018

          Always be very skeptical of numbers–in any account from that era, or from much later. The chroniclers of the Crusades seem to have killed off the entire population of Palestine several times over, which clearly did not happen, though not from want of trying.

      • Avatar
        godspell  May 22, 2018

        I don’t believe Jews in Palestine personally crucified anyone, though as Bart says, there’s a lot we don’t know.

        Other than stonings, which were essentially impromptu mob lynchings, execution in areas under direct Roman governance was reserved for the Roman authorities, wasn’t it? Herod and his heirs may have had the authority, as a puppet king, but not in Jerusalem.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  May 23, 2018

          That is the whole point of all the Gospel stories.

          Much as the Gospels TRY to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, in the end, all of they are forced to admit that the Jews had NO power to execute anybody, and that only Romans could execute suspects.

          • Avatar
            godspell  May 24, 2018

            Well sure, but a small number of influential Jews quite possibly did want him dead, may well have brought him to the attention of the Roman authorities, and if that were the case, it would be fine to blame them, personally. Not collectively. Edmund Burke was very clear about that.

            The Romans, as a whole, don’t deserve the blame either. Pilate and maybe a few others were involved. Most Romans never had an inkling that Jesus existed, until long after his death. The Roman system, perhaps. Roman colonialism. How many innocent people has our system killed?

            Hell, maybe Jesus deserves the blame. He did, after all, come to Jerusalem, and he wasn’t quiet about it. Do we blame somebody for doing what we intended them to do? Anyway, he said to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

            Nobody ever listens.

  2. Avatar
    bradhart78  May 19, 2018

    Bart, you have mentioned before how Jesus was ultimately killed because of his claim to be “King of the Jews” (if I am misquoting you please forgive the faux pas). I wonder, how do you reconcile Jesus’ declaration that he was king of the Jews with what you argue in this blog post? In other words, if Jesus was ultimately killed because he saw himself as the king of the Jews, wouldn’t that add credence to the notion that he went to Jerusalem to die for the sins of mankind?
    Love the blog, BTW. I’m new here and look forward to learning from all this killer content! Don’t ever stop!

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      My view is that he thought the kingdom was coming soon and people needed to prepare for it. THat’s what he preached. With the disciples in private he told them they would be rulers of the kingdom, and he would be the king/messiah. Judas betrayed that insider information and that’s why he was charged with calling himself the king of the Jews.

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      • Avatar
        godspell  May 20, 2018

        He told all his disciples he would be an earthly King.

        And that didn’t survive in any account that came down to us.

        Even though many things that clearly contradict what the early Christians (and present-day Christians) wanted to believe about him did.

        And even though this would be exalting himself–and he said those who exalted themselves would be humbled in the Kingdom.

        It’s probably impossible to know exactly what he believed was coming, but even if he believed he’d be a King, he wouldn’t have talked about it.

        I’m not sure he’d even have wanted it.

        (I’m also having a hard time keeping track of whether we’re supposed to believe there was a Judas or not.)

        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2018

          Believing in a Judas is optional. 🙂 (But I think he certainly existed)

          • Avatar
            godspell  May 22, 2018

            All beliefs are optional. That’s what makes them beliefs. In a theocratic regime (some of which have been atheist, you know), dogma is mandatory. They can make you say the words. They can’t make you believe them, though.

            “The Kingdom is coming” might mean, to a literal-minded Roman, that someone is planning to overthrow Roman rule.

            They never did understand monotheists at all well.

        • Avatar
          Wilusa  May 22, 2018

          If Jesus had become convinced he was the Messiah, he may have thought that somehow, before he was born, he had *agreed* to “humble himself” by being born as a peasant in Galilee…and he’d be “exalted” in the Kingdom.

          Alternatively, he may have meant “humbling oneself” as a warning to his *disciples*. (Yes, they’d be sitting on thrones in the Kingdom, but they shouldn’t reveal it to anyone now!)

          • Avatar
            godspell  May 24, 2018

            I don’t think Jesus believed anything of the kind. That might be the kind of thing Paul would believe about Jesus, but Jesus thought of himself as a man, who had been chosen, after his birth, probably at the time he was John the Baptist’s disciple.

            Was John a millennarian, like Jesus? Presumably. Did he believe he had an important part to play in some future transformation? Probably. Did he tell anyone he’d be a king? Unlikely. Did they kill him anyway? Definitely.

            The fact is, charismatic preachers who can’t be controlled or used in some way tend to make people in power nervous. Always have.

        • Avatar
          prestonp  June 5, 2018

          It’s probably impossible to know exactly what he believed was coming, but even if he believed he’d be a King, he wouldn’t have talked about it.

          And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

          • Avatar
            prestonp  June 24, 2018

            For the forgers and others who altered the nt to promote Jesus as more than an apocalyptic preacher, why didn’t they eliminate all or most of the passages that indicate He was a mere mortal? They would have been more successful if they had made more changes. Did they really think all the miraculous stuff would be convincing? And, the whole idea that He rose again from the dead? Why would they think anyone would believe such a preposterous story? Ultimately, many bought their hype but why would anyone think he could pull off something that ridiculous?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 25, 2018

            I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      • Avatar
        bradhart78  May 20, 2018

        Ok, now I recall you mentioning this in a previous book if I recall. You may have also mentioned this ( I cannot recall) but why did Judas go to the authorities in the first place?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2018

          Ah, that’s something we’ll never know. Even the Gospels give different reasons. Maybe I’ll post on that.

          2
          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

            According to the Gospels themselves, Jesus not only knew what Judas was doing; he SENT Judas to do his bidding.

            See, SOMEONE had to tell the Temple authorities where to find Jesus. And Jesus WANTED to be found — though on his own terms.

      • Avatar
        jhague  May 21, 2018

        Is it correct to say that Judas likely had what he thought was a good intention for revealing the insider information?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2018

          I’m afraid we can’t say much of anything about his interior thought processes. Wish we could!

          • Avatar
            jhague  May 22, 2018

            If Judas would not have revealed the insider info, do you think Jesus would have been arrested anyway due to causing a commotion during the celebration?

          • Bart
            Bart  May 23, 2018

            Good question. I’d *suspect* the answer is yes, but I don’t think there’s anyway really to know.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

          It is ABSOLUTELY true that Judas had good intentions!

          See my postings elsewhere for more detail. But basically, Jesus WANTED the confrontation with the Temple authorities, and he wanted it in the Garden. Whether he wanted it because he wanted to be arrested and crucified, or whether he wanted it because he wanted to bring about the Day of the Lord — either way, he WANTED it.

          And the Temple authorities of course would have NO idea Jesus WANTED to meet them on the Mount of Olives.

          Therefore, SOMEONE had to go to them to tip them off. Someone who may indeed have POSED as a betrayer in order to win their confidence.

          As I explain in greater depth elsewhere here, Judas wanted very much to see the Jewish Revolution go forth and drive out the hated Romans. And THIS explains why he was so distraught in Matthew that he killed himself in grief.

          If Judas were a crass betrayer, he should have taken the 30 pieces of silver and go out and have a good time with it. Why KILL himself? But, if he were a loyal follower, ah, NOW this makes PERFECT sense.

      • Avatar
        madmargie  May 29, 2018

        I agree with your conclusions, Bart. I have read several points of view and yours makes the most sense.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 7, 2018

        With the disciples in private he told them they would be rulers of the kingdom, and he would be the king/messiah. Judas betrayed that insider information and that’s why he was charged with calling himself the king of the Jews.
        Bart

        Judas didn’t tell them anything about Christ’s claims that he was God that they didn’t already know, that they hadn’t heard before. That’s why they had been plotting and seeking for a way to get rid of him for some time, from what I read in the N.T.

      • Avatar
        RG959  August 31, 2018

        Do you really believe Judas betrayed Jesus on his own? Judas gospel said Jesus told him to betray him. Hard to know for sure I guess? I don’t believe there was ever a betrayal. Jesus flipped over some tables and was crucified on day of preparation (like in John’s gospel). I think the gospel writers stole from psalms when it says that even the person I have shared bread with has betrayed me. Psalm 41:9. This psalm was about king David correct? It all contradicts anyways. Man it be nice to know what REALLY happened 🙂

        • Bart
          Bart  August 31, 2018

          I don’t think Jesus gave him instructions, no. That idea was a later Christian explanation for how the all-knowing son of God could have been taken by surprise. (Explanation: he wasn’t! It was his idea!) And yup, we’d really love to know.

          • Avatar
            RG959  August 31, 2018

            So it was Jesus idea to be taken? Hence no betrayal by Judas? Sorry if I missed your point. Seems to me Jesus was on a death wish when he flipped over the tables and brought a whip with him as it says in Luke’s gospels.

          • Bart
            Bart  September 2, 2018

            No, I think Judas really betrayed Jesus and that Jesus himself neither wanted nor expected it to happen.

            1
    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

      You asked, “In other words, if Jesus was ultimately killed because he saw himself as the king of the Jews, wouldn’t that add credence to the notion that he went to Jerusalem to die for the sins of mankind?”

      No it wouldn’t.

      What it would lend credence to is the idea that he went to Jerusalem to proclaim himself to be the Messiah, to oust the Romans from power — via a miracle from God — and to establish the Age of the Messiah on earth.

      He went to Jerusalem, NOT to sacrifice his life, but definitely to RISK his life. He risked his life on the hope that God would usher in the Age of the Messiah. When God didn’t, Jesus paid the rice, and FAILED in his bid to be the Messiah, just as, 100 years later, Shimon bar Kochba likewise FAILED in HIS bid to be and become the Messiah.

      See my lengthy posting elsewhere for elucidation.

  3. Avatar
    John Uzoigwe  May 19, 2018

    So can we then say that the passage where Jesus said he was gonna die and ressurrect in the third day was just a makeup story by later scribes.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      Yes, I’d say that was put on his lips by story tellers (in the oral tradition)

      3
      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 5, 2018

        So can we then say that the passage where Jesus said he was gonna die and ressurrect in the third day was just a makeup story by later scribes. Yes, I’d say that was put on his lips by story tellers (in the oral tradition)

        Did Metzger share your point of view on this matter?

        If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement

        • Bart
          Bart  June 7, 2018

          Yes, that’s a widely held view that I also share. Metzger did not agree with it.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  June 17, 2018

            “So can we then say that the passage where Jesus said he was gonna die and ressurrect in the third day was just a makeup story by later scribes.”

            Yes, I’d say that was put on his lips by story tellers (in the oral tradition)

            Was it placed on the disciple’s lips by story tellers that Christ rose from the dead?

  4. Avatar
    Tony  May 19, 2018

    The author of Mark absolutely intended for his fictional character Jesus to die in Jerusalem. He works the anticipated death of his Jesus character into the narrative three times as Jesus prophesies. It also gave the author a nice opportunity to make Peter look stupid (Mk 8:33).
    Mark provides Jesus with a prophetic summary of the Jerusalem events to come in Mk 10:32-34 as a set-up for the Jerusalem passion story.

    1
  5. Altosackbuteer
    Altosackbuteer  May 19, 2018

    NOT QUITE, Professor Ehrman.

    I QUITE agree; Jesus did NOT go up to Jerusalem to die. However, he DID go to Jerusalem to RISK dying. He went to Jerusalem to fulfill the Prophecy of Joel 3, the Day of the Lord prophecy, the day on which the sun, moon, and stars go dark, there is an ultimate battle between Good and Evil, the Messiah wins, and ushers in the Age of the Messiah where, in the words of Isaiah, the lion lies down with the lamb; the nations beat their swords into plowshares; nations do not war on each other anymore, and all come to know The One True God.

    We KNOW that Jesus at least ATTEMPTED to fulfill Joel 3, because the Apostle Peter says in Acts 2, not only that Jesus did fulfill it, but he, Peter, PERSONALLY witnessed it happen.

    The events in the Garden are the key to understanding the entire Passion saga.

    It starts when Jesus SENT Judas to tell the Temple authorities where they could expect to find Jesus shortly. Judas did NOT betray Jesus; he did exactly what Jesus told him to do, and he committed suicide in grief because he saw how badly it all went.

    Ask yourself — since WE KNOW that Jesus KNEW EXACTLY what Judas was doing, how can it be said that Judas “betrayed” Jesus? He did no such thing. He was Jesus’ most beloved follower. His very NAME “Iscariot” is NOT a proper family name; it is a STREET name, and means “Daggerman.” Calling him Judas Iscariot is like calling him Mack the Knife.

    As yourself — if Jesus knew what Judas was doing — and we know he did — and if Jesus did not want to be “betrayed,” then all he had to do to avoid being “betrayed” was NOT SHOW UP. If Jesus wanted to be arrested, why send Judas to fetch the Temple authorities to arrest Jesus in the Garden? Why would Jesus not simply present himself to the Temple authorities and say, “Here I am, boys, come ‘n get me if you can!”

    But — he NEEDED Judas to get the Temple authorities to go to the Garden, which was on the Mount of Olives. Why? Because in Jewish tradition, this is where the Messiah would become manifest. Simply reporting himself to the Temple wouldn’t get the job done.

    Then there is the matter of the two swords. In Luke 22, Jesus drops the mask. He’s been the “Prince of Peace” up to this point, but now that time is over. At the conclusion to the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, now the Revolution is ON. NOW is the time to arm yourselves! And if you don’t have enough money to buy a sword, then sell the shirt off your back to raise money to buy a sword.

    Then a follower finds 2 swords and shows them to Jesus, asking, will 2 be enough, and Jesus says “Yes.”

    HUH?? TWO swords? What can Jesus hope to accomplish with TWO swords? And note; it’s NOT “NO” swords; it’s NOT “MANY” swords. It’s TWO swords. And with TWO swords, it will be enough.

    Enough for WHAT? To fulfill the Prophecy of Joel, that’s what!

    Now — Jesus was no dope. Surely he knew that one could not defeat the entire Roman Empire with but TWO swords. So again — WHY THE TWO SWORDS?

    Because Jesus was a mystic. Jesus was counting on a MIRACLE from God. Jesus knew very well from the Old Testament that great miracles require an initial human input to catalyze them, to spark them, to get them going. For example, to make the Nile turn red; Moses himself had to dip his staff into the river, and then God provided the rest of the miracle. To make water come from a rock, Moses had to strike the rock; then God provided the rest of the miracle. In Joshua’s time, when the Children of Israel were in a battle in the Valley of Ayalon and needed more time to finish off the foes, Joshua had to hold his arms up to make the sun stand still. God did that miracle too, but would not do it unless Joshua would do his little widow’s mite and partner-up with God.

    So this is what Jesus was doing with TWO swords. He, Jesus, would himself COMMENCE the Battle of the Great Day of the Lord, as per Joel 3 — and then GOD HIMSELF would provide the rest of the miracle! And the Age of the Messiah would be upon the entire world, and Jesus would be the very much alive, never-slain Messiah to lead it all.

    JESUS DID NOT WANT TO DIE.

    But Jesus knew very well that he was risking death. He was proposing to rise in revolt against Rome. Jesus was HOPING for a miracle from God, but was NOT SURE whether God would come through. And Jesus knew, if God would decide not to come through with the rest of the miracle, then the cross was Jesus’ LIKELY destination.

    This explains why Jesus was praying so hard. See — in the traditional Christian story, there is no reason for Jesus to pray. Because the traditional story is fatalistic. It MUST end on a cross. That being the case, there is nothing for Jesus to pray for. The events are cast in stone. The events are set into motion, and nothing will recall them. So why pray?

    But — if Jesus HIMSELF IS NOT CERTAIN how it will turn out, NOW it makes a GREAT DEAL of sense to pray!

    Jesus was a Jew. And in Judaism — on Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, God writes down in the Book of Life the fate of every person for the forthcoming year — whether he will be rich or poor, healthy or sick, whether he will live or die during the upcoming year.

    But — God does NOT write in the Book of Life with indelible ink. God uses a pencil. And the pencil has an eraser. And once God writes one’s fate for the year, God CAN change a bad decree and turn it into a favorable decree.

    But God needs a REASON to do so. And that reason is personal prayer. Prayer can change a bad decree into a good decree.

    In Judaism, God writes in the Book of Life on Rosh HaShanah, but has until the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, to make changes. And that is why Jews pray so hard during these 10 days. They are hoping that if the matter dangles in balance on a knife’s edge, and it could fall either way, then maybe, just maybe, the little extra power of prayer JUST MIGHT reverse the decision and turn it into a good one.

    So THIS is why Jesus was praying so hard — because HE WAS NOT CERTAIN how it would turn out. He had done everything he could do up to this point. But if the matter were still uncertain, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, the little extra power of his prayer might, JUST MIGHT, turn defeat into victory.

    And this is why Jesus was so ANGRY with his disciples. See, in the traditional Christian story, it makes no sense for Jesus to be so angry with them. If the matter is already all pre-determined anyway, what difference does it make, CAN it make, if the disciples sleep or not?

    But — if the matter MIGHT be decided by prayer, NOW it makes sense for Jesus to be so angry with them — because, just as Jesus’ own prayer has power, so too does the prayer of each disciple, and if their prayer-power is added to his own, maybe THAT just might mean the difference between victory and disaster.

    But the Temple authorities came, and arrested Jesus. God did NOT intervene with a great miracle, and the pathetic little revolt was over before it even began. And this is why, especially in Mark, Jesus’ spirits are crushed, and why, in the end, he asks God, “My God, my God, WHY have You forsaken me?” It is a VERY AUTHENTIC scene.

    ***

    But now, what about the sun, moon, and stars going dark?

    The gospels report that there was a great darkness when Jesus was crucified. I cannot account for that. It was surely no solar eclipse, since the moon is full at Passover.

    But as for the MOON — AHA! THE MOON DID GO DARK!

    I show this in my book Calculating the Dates of the Birth and Death of Jesus of Nazareth; there WAS a LUNAR eclipse at the time of the Crucifixion. And in fact, at sunset, the moon rose under partial eclipse over Jerusalem!
    (www.thesevenbignoahidelaws.com)

    Imagine — you are the Apostle Peter. You’ve just had the WORST day of your whole life. Not only has your beloved master been executed, but you denied him three times! Your great dreams of the great Jewish Revolution, which would usher in the Age of the Messiah, has crumbled into nothing!

    So it’s sunset and you’re going home to observe the Passover. But when the moon is full, sunset is also the time of moonrise.

    You already saw the sun go dark — however that happened. And now, you watch the moon rise AND IT TOO IS DARK!

    What Peter saw was a receding partial eclipse. Peter has seen eclipses before and knows how they run. He knows very well that the moon was under a more general eclipse a few hours before — RIGHT WHEN JESUS DIED.

    The proverbial penny dropped. Peter saw the eclipse, and instantly he realized — Jesus DID fulfill the Day of the Lord after all! — though, albeit in a very strange and unexpected way.

    And how do we know this?

    Simple. PETER TOLD US SO. He told us in Acts 2, he PERSONALLY saw both the sun and moon go dark, and PERSONALLY saw Jesus participate in the Great Day of the Lord.

    ***

    Anyway — that’s my version and I’m sticking with it.

    Jesus did NOT go to Jerusalem because he wanted to die. He WANTED to live and complete his job as the Messiah. He knew he was RISKING his life, but the risk was worth it, considering the payoff.

    ***

    I do not believe that Jesus was God. I don’t believe he claimed to be God.

    In the end, Jesus FAILED. He FAILED to usher in the Age of the Messiah.

    But what a MAGNIFICENT failure! Nobody has ever in pursuit of a more worthwhile goal! The Age of the Messiah. An age of no more war. Of brotherhood. Of a united mankind, all serving The One True God.

    THAT is what Jesus was TRYING to do!

    In life, God does not reward us for results, but for EFFORT. Even if we fail, God rewards us for trying.

    Jesus deserves great, great credit for TRYING to make this into a better world.

    Isn’t this reason enough to follow Jesus? Must he also be GOD?

    Altosackbuteer.

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    • Avatar
      godspell  May 20, 2018

      So this is what it’s like to read my posts here. With some allowance for writing style. ‘Altosackbuteer’? 🙂

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      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

        A “sackbut” is a Renaissance trombone. The alto version is a half-sized version of the ordinary tenor version. And I play one. Hence, “Altosackbuteer.”

        • Avatar
          Wilusa  May 23, 2018

          Hey, I *had* thought it was something musical! Because of the syllable “alto,” and something close to “sax.”

        • Avatar
          godspell  May 24, 2018

          I learned something! 🙂

    • Avatar
      prestonp  June 5, 2018

      So THIS is why Jesus was praying so hard — because HE WAS NOT CERTAIN how it would turn out. He had done everything he could do up to this point. But if the matter were still uncertain, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, the little extra power of his prayer might, JUST MIGHT, turn defeat into victory.

      Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” He seems to know exactly what is going to happen and it was extremely painful to anticipate the next few hours of torture, crucifixion and being made “sin”. That He had to shed His blood for the remission of sin is a central tenet of Christianity. As a human being, He had to be horrified and prayed if possible to let Him out of this debacle, but He knew He had come into this world for this very purpose.

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  May 19, 2018

    Re Schonfield’s book: But didn’t he know the Messiah *wasn’t* expected to die and rise from the dead? Even if he acknowledged he was writing fiction (I don’t know whether he did), he should have wanted to make it plausible fiction.

    Re your commentary: I was surprised by your not mentioning Judas. Elsewhere, you’ve indicated that his role was crucial. That he told the Romans Jesus had been calling himself the (presumably future) “King of the Jews”…and whether or not it was true, *that* was the offense that was punishable by death.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      No, he thought this *was* the expectation that Jesus knew about. I didn’t mention Judas simply because I was condensing the story as much as I could.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  May 20, 2018

        Unlike others, I don’t think Jesus had *any* expectation of being arrested, let alone executed. With its being Passover Week, there may have been a dozen itenerant preachers doing something like he was!

        I see it as being in *no way* comparable to John the Baptist’s situation. John had been a gadfly irritating Herod Antipas for some time – months, maybe? Finally, making an issue of his *marriage*. And John seemingly had a good number of followers. Pilate had almost certainly never heard of Jesus.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

        Not only did Judas NOT betray Jesus; he actually did Jesus’ bidding. He did EXACTLY what Jesus told him to do — to go to the Temple authorities and tell them where, in a few hours, they could expect to find Jesus, because Jesus WANTED the confrontation with them, as the necessary catalyst to bring about the great Day of the Lord as per Joel 3, when the Messiah becomes manifest.

        See my posting elsewhere.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

        Professor Ehrman:

        Do you know what Judas’ name REALLY means?

        Note that he’s the only disciple with a “family surname.” But it’s NOT a surname; it’s a STREET name. Calling him “Judas Iscariot” is like calling him “Mack the Knife” of “The Joker” or “The Riddler.”

        I want to break down the name for you.

        “Iscariot” is a composite Latin / Aramaic name.

        Professor, you surely know who the Sicarii were. The original Latin noun is “sicarius” — plural is “sicarii” — and it means “dagger(s).” It is from this word that we derive the modern words “cigar” and “cigar-ette,” since both resemble a dagger — small, long, and lean.

        The Sicarii of the time of Jesus were Jewish Zealots who practiced assassination of Romans — and sometimes other Jews too — by sneaking up on them with daggers, stabbing them, and running away. Flavius Josephus wrote at length about them.

        The original noun acquired an added meaning as a result of the Jewish Revolt, and returned to its original language enhanced with the new meaning. To this day, on Sicily, a “sicario” is a paid killer, an assassin. And the recent movie action movie “Sicario” had a graphic at the beginning which acknowledged the original Jewish Sicarii, and added that in Mexico today, “sicario” means “hit man.”

        (Other words which originally meant something, were borrowed, and returned to their home languages likewise enhanced is the Arabic hashish — which, under the Cult of the Old Man of the Mountain, became hashashin, or assassin — and the Russian / Polish word robota, which simply meant work, but was borrowed by sci-fi writers in the 20th century, enhanced with the meaning of artificial man, and returned to Polish / Russian so enhanced.)

        Anyway, in Hebrew / Aramaic, “iot” is the feminine noun plural ending. For example, in modern Hebrew, a “mechanit” is an automobile; its plural form is 2 “mechaniot.” Or, the Hebrew feminine noun for “mother” is “ima;” the plural is “imot.”

        So now we have “sicariot.” Where does the “is” come from?

        In Hebrew / Aramaic, “ish” means “man.” In the Book of Genesis, God created the man — ish — and the woman — isha.

        So now put it all together. Judas was the Ish-sicariot. The Man (Ish) of Daggers (sicariot). Ish-sicariot. Judas the Man of Daggers. Judas the Daggerman.

        Professor, Judas was not only a follower of Jesus; he was not only a Zaelot; JUDAS WAS A KILLER! VERY strange for Jesus, the so-called “Prince of Peace,” to have a man like THAT in his inner core of 12 disciples!

        And, given that Judas was a KILLER OF ROMANS, does it make the SLIGHTEST SENSE that THIS man, of ALL men, would cravenly and consciously betray his beloved master, the one he thought to bring about the Jewish Revolution, for a mere 30 pieces of silver??

        Judas was the LAST person to betray Jesus. And THAT is why, after Judas saw that Jesus’ pathetic revolution ended before it had begun, that Judas realized his own role in the farce, knew that he had — INADVERTENTLY! — had helped bring about Jesus’ death, that he was overcome with grief, remorse, and guilt, and hanged himself.

        Comment?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2018

          As you no doubt know, there are numerous explanations of the name Iscariot, none of them satisfactory. I explain it all in my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

          1
  7. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  May 19, 2018

    I think your proposal really makes things clear. But I find myself wondering why imprisonment wouldn’t have been sufficient as opposed to crucifixion.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      Calling oneself king was treasonous, and Romans wanted everyone to know, in public, that treason was punished by public torture to death.

      1
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    forthfading  May 19, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    If he was there stirring up trouble and animosity during a very hectic time in Jerusalem, how does the sign proclaiming Jesus the king of the Jews factor into his crucifixion?

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      My view is that he thought the kingdom was coming soon and people needed to prepare for it. THat’s what he preached. With the disciples in private he told them they would be rulers of the kingdom, and he would be the king/messiah. Judas betrayed that insider information and that’s why he was charged with calling himself the king of the Jews.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  May 20, 2018

        Just one point: I think it’s *possible* – though not *likely* – that Jesus hadn’t said any such thing. That Judas had turned against him for some *other* reason, and made a false claim that he knew would be punishable by death.

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      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

        Jesus himself made an unmistakable, public proclamation that he was the King Messiah, in fulfillment of the Prophecy of Zachariah, when he rode on donkeyback into Jerusalem on the occasion of the Triumphal Entry. And the adoring crowds understood EXACTLY what Jesus was saying, crying out to him, “Hosheana l’ben David” — “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (This, and the palms, tells us that this happened at Succot and not Passover, but that’s another story for another time.)

        This being the case, there was no “insider information” for Judas to “betray.” Jesus’ self-identity of himself as the Messiah was known to everyone already.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 23, 2018

          Yes, that is the image the Gospel writers were trying to portray. I do not think the event can possibly be historical, though; I lay out my reasons in my book Jesus Before the Gospels.

      • Avatar
        GregAnderson  May 26, 2018

        Dr. Ehrman, I thoroughly enjoy reading you, and I quite humbly respect your knowledge, so please take what I’m about to say in that light:

        I feel you do yourself a disservice by not clearly marking such statements as — “With the disciples in private he told them they would be rulers of the kingdom, and he would be the king/messiah. Judas betrayed that insider information and that’s why he was charged with calling himself the king of the Jews” — as your own speculations. You’re entitled to those opinions of course, and I frankly can’t say I’ve ever heard a more convincing explanation of what may have happened.

        But are there any historical references to back them up? It seems certain that Jesus went to Jerusalem, that he created some sort of disturbance in the temple, that Judas somehow led the authorities to him, and that those authorities arrested him. How can we know anything more detailed than that?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 27, 2018

          The argument is too long and involved for a reply here. I lay it all out in my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot if you want to see it.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

      Recall the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Note what the adoring crowd said, “Hosheannot l’ben David” — “Hosannas to the Son of David!”

      The Son of David, OF COURSE, is the Messiah. That is what the Prophet Jeremiah said. And that is the entire purpose of Matthew’s geneology — to prove that Jesus descended in the male line from King David and therefore deserves to be regarded as the Messiah. (That both Matthew and Luke undercut their own argument by stipulating that Joseph was not really Jesus’ father is a mystery to me.)

      Anyway, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on donkeyback. That was SURELY a fulfillment of the Prophecy of Zechariah which foretold that this is what the Messiah would do. But there was nothing miraculous in Jesus doing it. It wasn’t like he was the first person who ever realized how to fulfill the prophecy. On the contrary, all the Jews knew about it, and so when Jesus did it, they recognized it for what it was — that he, Jesus, was CLAIMING to be the Messiah.

      Jesus riding on donkeyback into Jerusalem was the ancient equivalent of a modern candidate for political office making his candidacy official by filing the necessary nomination papers with the respective government department.

      Now, a “messiah” is NOT a divine figure. He is nothing but a king (or high priest) who is elevated into his office by the pouring of oil over his head. There is nothing blasphemous about claiming to be the Messiah.

      Jesus’ proclamation — that he was the Messiah, AND THEREFORE THE KING OF THE JEWS — was greeted with great enthusiasm by all of Jerusalem. Could not help but come to the attention of the Romans and their quisling lackeys the Sadducees.

      Since any king not approved by the Romans was a rival to Roman power, OF COURSE the Romans would want to crucify Jesus AND mock him in the process with his own claim.

      Hence — INRI, on every Catholic crucifix in the world today, meaning “Iesus Nazarethi Rex Iudorum” — “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”

  9. Avatar
    Tobit  May 19, 2018

    Hi Bart, in your recent appearance on the Mormon Stories podcast, you said the four canonical gospels are first century and all other gospels are later, but isn’t Papyrus Egerton 2 a candidate for being as old as the gospel of John?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      It’s possible, but it’s usually dated to the early second century, a decade or so after John.

  10. Avatar
    Steefen  May 19, 2018

    You say Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet but also say Jesus was incapable of the psychic phenomenon or miracle of prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem. The account in the gospels about the details of the fall of Jerusalem were written after the Jewish Civil War and Revolt against Rome were underway. If we date Mark to year 66, I say, the handwriting was on the wall for anyone to see but if, in 33 CE Jesus did speak the exact words in the gospels then we do have 70 CE prophecy.

    Second, the Romans helped build his heavenly Father’s house of prayer. Can we have six reasons, articulated by Jesus, why the Romans were evil circa 27 – 33 CE? How did they go from the Augustan Age of peace throughout the Roman Empire to some Jesus, in Galilee, claiming Caesar Augustus had no long game in political legacy? We are honestly to believe Jesus’ concept of God and communication from God judged Caesar Augustus and Emperor Tiberius not only failures but evil–while other Roman provinces honored the legacy of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus? The empire of Caesar Augustus needed to be overthrown? So Jesus was born in his administration to announce its overthrow?

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    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      The pax romana refers principally to the fact that the frontiers were safe and there was relative safety of travel. The Romans were brutal and ruthless to uprisings and threats inside the empire. Jesus, of course, never preaches against Rome in the Gospels so no, there aren’t any articulated reasons that survive.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

        Professor Ehrman, simply claiming to be the Messiah = King of the Jews, was ITSELF preaching against Rome.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

      Even if Mark himself wrote his original gospel in 66, there is every chance that a latter-day redactor got his hands on the manuscript before it became official and canonical and inserted the necessary words into it, to make it appear retroactively like Jesus had made a stunning prophecy when in fact he did no such a thing.

      • Bart
        Bart  May 22, 2018

        One, of course, would need evidence of that to think it probable.

        1
        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

          Do you know about the Harvard University copy of a 1st century Matthew manuscript?

          According to a friend of mine who studied at the Divinity School there, and was either a classmate or a student of Harvey Cox, he personally inspected this manuscript. And it was MISSING The Salutation — Matthew 16:13-20. This is the section in which Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which he (Jesus) will build his church.

          This passage has for many centuries been the Catholic Church’s justification for the primacy of Peter and all future Bishops of Rome over the entire Christian world.

          By it being missing in a 1st century copy of Matthew, before the time when it was apparent that the Bishop of Rome was a big deal, it implies that a 2nd century redactor got his hands on the manuscript and forged and inserted words of Jesus which he never actually said.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 23, 2018

            No, there is no first century manuscript of Matthew, at Harvard or anywhere else. (For what it’s worth, Harvey Cox was not an expert in ancient manuscripts, or even the NT. He was a theologian. I”m not sure if he could read Greek)

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

          Here is another clear proof of the hidden hand of a latter-day redactor, putting words into Jesus’ mouth that the real Jesus never possibly could have said.

          Matthew 16:24: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

          This remark makes a great deal of sense to a modern Christian, who understands very well that the exhortation “to take up one’s cross” means to follow Jesus and be like him.

          But it makes NO sense in the context of Matthew 16, because the Crucifixion happens in Matthew 27, and this scene in Chapter 16 takes place long BEFORE the Crucifixion.

          It makes NO sense for Jesus to tell his disciples BEFORE the Crucifixion to “take up their crosses.” They’d not have had the faintest idea of what Jesus was saying. And Jesus couldn’t possibly have expected them to.

          That being the case, Jesus could not have said this remark, and it is the work of a latter-day redactor, putting words into Jesus’ mouth that he never actually said.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 23, 2018

            A redactor is someone who edits a written work once it has become available. Here you are talking about something else: changes to the words of Jesus made in the *oral* stage of the tradition. That, of course, happened all the time.

  11. Avatar
    fishician  May 19, 2018

    Mark has Jesus say on the cross, “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” No doubt of legendary origin, but could it be based on a kernel of truth? Do you think Jesus could have expressed this sentiment before his unexpected death, and then it was spun into a quote from Psalms in the retelling by his followers?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      I’m afraid there’s just no way to know about Jesus’ inner thoughts. But it’s hard to imagine he didn’t feel possibly surprised and betrayed at the end.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  May 20, 2018

        I think “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me” is the most authentic of all the Seven Last Words.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 5, 2018

        I’m afraid there’s just no way to know about Jesus’ inner thoughts.

        “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”
        “Jesus wept.”
        He made a whip and used it on people who were defiling the Temple.
        He sweat as it were drops of blood asking to have the agony about to unfold to go away.
        He called religious leaders whitewashed tombs, vipers, children of the devil, fools, serpents, hypocrites

        • Bart
          Bart  June 7, 2018

          I’m referring to the historical Jesus, not to the Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. But even there we can’t discern internal thoughts. You have no clue what I’m internally thinking right now, e.g., and I’m here among you.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  June 7, 2018

            “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”
            “Jesus wept.”
            He made a whip and used it on people who were defiling the Temple.
            He sweat as it were drops of blood asking to have the agony about to unfold to go away.
            He called religious leaders whitewashed tombs, vipers, children of the devil, fools, serpents, hypocrites
            And when He saw the crowds he had compassion on them
            he had compassion on them and healed their sick
            He was moved with compassion for them
            Blessed are the merciful

            I have a pretty good idea what he was thinking

            Bart Ehrman was mentored by Bruce Metzger of Princeton University who was the greatest manuscript scholar of the last century. In 2005, Ehrman helped Metzger update and revise the classic work on the topic– Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament.

            What do Metzger and Ehrman conclude together in that revised work? Ehrman and Metzger state in that book that we can have a high degree of confidence that we can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament, the text that is in the Bibles we use, because of the abundance of textual evidence we have to compare. The variations are largely minor and don’t obscure our ability to construct an accurate text.

            “Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book is dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g. the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?”

            “Most textual variants (Prof. Metzger and I agree on this) have no bearing at all on what a passage means. But there are other textual variants (we agree on this as well) that are crucial to the meaning of a passage. And the theology of entire books of the New Testament are sometimes affected by the meaning of individual passages.
            From my point of view, the stakes are rather high: Does Luke’s Gospel teach a doctrine of atonement (that Christ’s death atones for sins)? Does John’s Gospel teach that Christ is the “unique God” himself? Is the doctrine of the Trinity ever explicitly stated in the New Testament? These and other key theological issues are at stake, depending on which textual variants you think are original and which you think are creations of early scribes who were modifying the text.”

          • Avatar
            prestonp  June 7, 2018

            “the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants …” Bart

            Bruce Metzger, has said that there is nothing in these variants that really challenges any Christian belief

  12. Avatar
    JohnMuellerJD  May 19, 2018

    You say you believe that in Jerusalem, “Jesus proclaimed that God would destroy the temple[.]” I thought the “destruction of the temple” was a major marker used to date when the gospels were written and hence believed to be put on the lips of Jesus by the authors. No?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 20, 2018

      Yes, you’re right — if the destruction of the temple were the only thing scholars use to date the Gospels after 70, and they also think that Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple, there would be a problem . My sense is that there are several other factors to consider – -for example the *specificities* of the predictions (often pointed to as indications that the predictions are looking back on an event that has already happened: e.g. “not one stone will be left on another…”; or “Jerusalemn will be surrounded by gentiles and….”) and probably more important that there are other things that point to the Gospels being written toward the end rather than the middle of the first century: e.g., they’re being written by second generation highly educated Greek speaking Christians who were not living in Palestine and who appear to have gotten their stories from long standing oral traditions, etc.

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      • Avatar
        godspell  May 20, 2018

        When someone of an allegorical bent makes vague allusions to future events, it’s not hard to look at them later and find reasons to think this person saw the future. Happens all the time. Nostradamus. And he wasn’t even God. Marxists are still trying to find some way for Marx to have predicted what we’re going through now. Good luck with that.

        Jesus was seeing the world around him, and like any intelligent person, could extrapolate with varying degrees of accuracy. Turbulent times lead to violent results.

        But the best assumption is that he believed God and the Son of Man would overthrow all earthly institutions, and that would certainly include the Temple, which he believed (not without reason) had been corrupted. Religion, in that sense, would no longer be needed in a world governed directly by God. Like a lame beggar healed–he throws the crutch away.

        It’s a safe bet that everything ever created will someday be destroyed.

        Anyway, the western wall is still there, so there are still stones standing on other stones, right?

        1
        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2018

          Yes, whoever wrote that had never visited the site, but had only heard of massive destruction.

          • Avatar
            godspell  May 22, 2018

            I suppose we can’t accuse others of excessive literalism if we practice it ourselves.

  13. Avatar
    John Murphy  May 20, 2018

    Bart.

    What does the ‘failed’ in the term ‘failed apocalyptic prophet’ mean? I’m not sure whether it’s a term that is widely used by NT scholars, but I have heard it from time to time.

    Does it simply mean that he was easily dispatched by Pilate without his followers or the general public’s putting up any resistance (to put it in modern terms, a loser) , or that he (through his death in particular) didn’t succeed in triggering some major intervention ordained by God?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 22, 2018

      It means the person’s prophecies did not come true. In this case, a prediction of the end of history as we know it.

  14. Avatar
    Franz Liszt  May 20, 2018

    What do you think of the argument that we have good reason to think the agony in Gethsemane is based partially on true history (embarrassment from Jesus seeming to doubt his own mission, arguably multiple attestation if John is independent) and therefore the historical Jesus was aware that he was about to be executed (maybe he thought that God would intercede and rescue him before his death, an interesting interpretation I heard from some liberals recently). By this argument, Jesus could have fled in the night and founded a community similar to the Essenes (like the Teacher of Righteousness did) if he really wasn’t intending to die.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 22, 2018

      It’s usually seen as not multiply attested (there is no agony in Luke and even less so in John; Matthew gets his version from Mark) and it doesn’t pass dissimilarity (since it shows that Jesus shares our pains and anxieties but was willing to do God’s will anyway). Nothing suggests that Jesus survived the next 24 hours.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

      See my postings elsewhere.

      Why the GARDEN?

      If Jesus WANTED to be arrested, why not have Judas tell the Temple authorities to find him in the Upper Room after the Last Supper? Or if Jesus wanted to be arrested, why not just present himself to the Temple authorities at the Temple and say, “Here I am, boys; c’mon and get me!”?

      Why the GARDEN?

      It is because Jewish tradition said that the Messiah would become manifest there.

  15. Avatar
    godspell  May 21, 2018

    I’ve got it!

    To get to the other side.

    Ever heard that one before, Bart? Maybe someday you could write a book about early Christian historian humor.

    🙂

  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  May 21, 2018

    A further thought…

    “When he arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaimed that God would destroy the Temple and wipe out those who were in control of it (the power players in Jerusalem: the high priest, the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees).

    ‘Not only was Jesus on bad terms with those in power, as he predicted that they would be destroyed by God. He was apparently gathering crowds willing to listen to his message. Passover was an incendiary time in Jerusalem. None of the authorities wanted uprisings or riots. Jesus was seen as a possible threat. If his following continued to grow, some very bad things could happen.”

    I’m remembering that when we were discussing the possibility of Jesus’s body not having been dealt with in the usual way after his death, you suggested that some of us may have been influenced by the *later* belief that he was “special.” Is it possible that here, *you’re* being influenced by that? As I see it, we can’t have any way of knowing whether there were “crowds willing to listen to his message,” or whether other crackpot preachers were making themselves as annoying to the “authorities” as he was. Given that, I think it’s possible that they wouldn’t have singled him out if Judas hadn’t claimed he was calling himself the (presumably future) “King of the Jews” – a crime that was necessarily punishable by death.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 22, 2018

      Yup, that’s possible. But there has to be *some* explanation for why authorities would want to get rid of him, and that at least is a plausible one — they didn’t like the fact that some people were taking him seriously.

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        godspell  May 22, 2018

        Or he went out of his way to be a troublemaker. He turned over tables at the Temple courtyard, defying both the Temple authorities and Rome. If he did, in fact, predict that the Temple would be destroyed (and after all, this wasn’t the first Temple, Herod had built it in his lifetime, there were people who imagined the World Trade Center being destroyed before it happened), that sounds insurrectionary, even if it’s not meant that way.

        I don’t think we can rule out that he went there to be confrontational, and unless he was completely blinded by his faith (which is possible), he must have known that what happened to John could happen to him. Only it would be Rome passing sentence, so probably crucifixion.

        It’s not a proven fact, but it’s hardly implausible.

  17. Avatar
    Nabal  May 22, 2018

    I don’t think Jesus was trying to get himself killed either, but I think he may have been trying to fulfill a prophecy, namely Malachi 3:1.

    ““Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.”

    I think Jesus might have thought that by “clearing” the Temple (or clearing a path), he could bring down the son of man figure (possibly interpreted as an archangel), and that he was probably shocked when it didn’t happen. He would not have been the only Messianic figure to try to bring about a miracle, and not the only one killed for it, and not the only one even crucified by Pilate. According to Josephus, Pilate killed an unnamed Samaritan prophet who claimed that he was going to find the sacred vessels of Moses on the Samaritan Temple mount. Pilate didn’t even wait for him to get up the mountain.

    ” But before they could ascend, Pilate blocked their projected route up the mountain with a detachment of cavalry and heavily armed infantry, who in an encounter with the first comers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential among the fugitive”

    There was also Theudas, who said he would part the Jordan river (and who again was stopped and killed before he could try) and the Egyptian, who led a crowd to the Mount of Olives with the promise that he would cause the walls of Jerusalem to fall at his command. This was again stopped by the Romans, but this time the Egyptian escaped, and according to Josephus, was never heard from again.

    So anyway, I think it’s plausible that Jesus was trying to make a miracle happen or even just claimed he was GOING to make it happen, and I think he was shocked when it did NOT happen.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  May 22, 2018

      Check out my previous posting about Jesus and the Prophecy of Joel 3.

      I agree with you. I think Jesus WAS trying to work a miracle, and he WAS NOT CERTAIN how it would play out, and THAT is why he was under such great tension in the Garden.

      Jesus was trying to usher in the Age of the Messiah. But he relied on God doing most of the heavy lifting. And God does perform miracles, but not very often.

      So Jesus knew very well that his hoped-for miracle MIGHT NOT happen. And if it did not, he was facing a horrific death.

    • Avatar
      godspell  May 24, 2018

      And I think that the notion of self-sacrifice is integral to his teachings. And that the death of his teacher John would have told him that when you defy authority, you may well pay the full price, even if no man born of woman is greater than you.

      Because of what happened to John, it’s almost impossible Jesus thought he could not be killed.

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    mannix  May 22, 2018

    While Schonfield’s “Plot” is far-fetched, at least it’s an answer to those who claim the Resurrection was historical because it’s the “only explanation” for the death and empty tomb. IOW, “Plot” IS an explanation with a higher probability (even if low) than a person coming back to life after truly dying (which has NEVER been documented).

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      godspell  May 24, 2018

      We don’t have to explain everything that happens in the gospels, because it’s a certainty that not everything in the gospels happened. Couldn’t have.

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        madmargie  May 29, 2018

        I agree with you godspell. I think much of the gospel stories are made up long after the events. Most certainly, these were second or even third hand accounts.

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    badgett  May 23, 2018

    What do you think of Marcus Borg’s suggestion that Jesus went to Jerusalem expecting to die (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:30; Mark 10:32) due to having made ‘anti-imperial’ statements (the kingdom of God on earth statements and also perhaps Mark 10:42-44).

    Thanks for your expertise and many excellent posts.

    bob

    • Bart
      Bart  May 23, 2018

      I think Marcus always had a way of getting to traditional Christian beliefs in unusual ways, and this is one of those instances: Jesus’ goal was to die! I simply don’t think so. The biggest problem I’ve always had with Marcus (from over 30 years ago when we first met and disagreed!) is that he refused to see that Jesus had an apocalyptic message about the coming Son of man who would destroy the forces of evil to bring in a good kingdom on earth.

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    JudyD  May 28, 2018

    Based on all I’ve read, this is the only thing that makes sense: Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist. Matthew records John the Baptist calling the Sadducees a “brood of vipers”. After John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus was left to carry on the Baptist’s apocalyptic teachings. Clearly Jesus and his followers must have feared John the Baptist’s fate awaited Jesus. If Jesus’ death could be faked in a very public way, then he could afterward slip away from the wrath of Herod, the Sadducees and the Romans. In that time, public execution was through beheading or stoning or crucifixion. The best chance for faking it would be crucifixion. And so, “the plot” was hatched – go to Jerusalem during the time of Passover, when there would be large crowds. Create a disturbance at the Temple to invoke the wrath of the Sadducees and the Romans. (Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers, accusing them of being a “den of thieves.”) Have Judas turn Jesus over to the authorities who would sentence him to die on the cross. By late afternoon, he should appear dead, but he would be superficially inflicted with a piercing to seal the deception. As it is against Jewish custom to have a funeral on the day of Passover, it was arranged that Jesus be crucified on that day and then taken down and placed in the tomb before dusk. After three days of recovery he would be taken away from the tomb, but the Sadducees and Romans would insist that Jesus had died. In the days to follow, he would be seen by numerous people. Against official reports of Jesus’ death, those who saw him alive would conclude that he had risen from the dead – most notable among those being Paul. Jesus, meanwhile, headed to the Middle East and India with his apocalyptic message.

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