Why did the Romans kill Jesus?  Was it really because he was calling himself “King of the Jews”?  Was that really what he was calling himself?  How would we know?  I’ve been asked these questions several times in connection with my posts about Jesus’ (death and) burial.  Here is what I’ve said about the matter before, in reference to whether Jesus considered himself the “messiah” (i.e., the future king):


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 the Jews.

There are several points to make that, taken altogether, suggest this is historically what actually happened.  First, all the Gospels agree that at Jesus’ trial this is what Pontius Pilate accused Jesus of, based on what the governor had learned from the Jewish authorities.  Second, this is the charge that is written against Jesus on the placard over his head on the cross – again, in all our accounts.

So those two points are suggestive, but not in themselves convincing.  Two other points show why the Gospels are historically correct about this.  The first is

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