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Jesus’ Private Teachings about the King of the Jews

In this thread I am discussing whether Jesus considered himself the messiah prior to his death.   So far I have made one major argument for that view, involving his death itself.  All of our sources report Jesus was executed by the Romans specifically for calling himself the King of the Jews.  They do not report that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered him crucified for raising an army, or for causing a disturbance in the temple, or for being a pain in the neck for the Sadducees, Pharisees, or anyone else.  They report that the charge was for calling himself the Jewish king. This seems almost certainly historical, because it is not a report Christians would have made up.  The title “King of the Jews” appears in the Gospels only in connection with Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.  It is not a title that Christians ever (so far as we can tell) used of Jesus.  And so it’s unlikely they invented it for the occasion of his death. Moreover, I think it is fair to say [...]

2020-04-03T02:52:05-04:00November 23rd, 2016|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Jesus’ Crucifixion as King of the Jews

One of the main reasons I think Jesus called himself the future messiah is that this best explains the best attested event of his entire life: his crucifixion by the Romans. There are a few things we can say with virtual certainty about Jesus.  For example: he was a Jewish preacher from rural Galilee who made a fateful trip to Jerusalem and was crucified by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  There are, of course, lots of other things that we can say, without quite so much certainty (see my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium).  But that much is certain.  So why did the Romans crucify him? Romans had to have a reason to crucify a person.  There had to be a criminal charge.  There could be lots of charges – runaway slaves, brigands, insurrectionists, all could be crucified.  So why was Jesus crucified?  The Gospels tell us, and in this particular case, there are very good reasons for thinking what they say is right.  Jesus was crucified for calling himself King of [...]

2019-11-10T11:09:21-05:00November 21st, 2016|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Why Would Jesus’ Disciples Think He Was The Messiah?

The big question to emerge from my previous post is: If Jesus’ disciples (or at least some of them) believed he was the messiah before he died (as I tried to show they must have done) then what would have led them to think so? I think there are two possibilities, one of which strikes me as implausible.  The implausible one, in my opinion, is that Jesus did things that the messiah was expected to do, and because of that, his followers thought he was the messiah.  My reason for not being drawn to this interpretation is precisely that Jesus in fact did not do any of the things that the messiah was expected or supposed to do. Some of my Christian students don’t get this.   Doesn’t the Bible predict that... The Rest of this Post is for Members Only.  It doesn't cost much to join -- about a Starbuck's coffee a month (NOT a decaf caramel macchiato or whatever crazy other thing people drink -- just a coffee!) .  And the blog will keep [...]

2020-04-03T02:54:30-04:00November 18th, 2016|Early Judaism, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Jesus Death as King of the Jews

I now can mount a second argument for why Jesus almost certainly called himself the messiah during his lifetime.  Remember: by that I do not mean that Jesus wanted to lead a military rebellion against the Romans to establish himself as king. On the contrary, I think Jesus was not a supporter of a “military solution.”   Jesus was an apocalypticist who believed that God himself would take action and do what was needed – overthrow the evil ruling authorities in a cataclysmic show of power and destroy all that was opposed to himself, and so bring in a good, utopian kingdom on earth.  And Jesus would be made the king. I don’t need here to give the extensive reasons for thinking that Jesus held to this kind of apocalyptic view in general – I’ve talked about it at length both in a number of my books and on the blog.  The question here is the more narrow one: did Jesus think he would be the king of the coming kingdom?  I have given one strong [...]

2020-04-03T13:06:02-04:00December 2nd, 2015|Historical Jesus|

Jesus’ Crucifixion as King of the Jews

It is often said that one of the best pieces of evidence that Jesus is to be understood as a political insurgent who favored the overthrow of the Roman empire by means of (human) force is that he was crucified on charges of political insurgency. If he was charged with insurgency, he was probably an insurgent. There is, of course, a powerful logic to this view, but it has its flaws, and an alternative explanation actually works better. In terms of flaws, it needs to be noted and emphasized that in our sources the other two people crucified with Jesus were called lestai (sometimes translate “robbers” – but Josephus uses it to refer to someone engaged in guerrilla warfare against the ruling authorities, an armed insurgent). So too in the Gospel of John, Barabbas – the one the crowds preferred to Jesus – is also called a lestes. But – here’s the *big* point: Jesus is NOT called a lestes in these accounts. Ever. And he is not condemned to death –as are these others [...]

2020-04-03T17:36:30-04:00January 6th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|
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