According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Friday, April 18, 2014

ASOR - Passover as Jesus Knew It

Passover as Jesus Knew it

April 10, 2014 8:00 am by: Kaitlynn

By: Helen K Bond

Jerusalem in the 30s CE was in a frequent state of heightened political and religious tension, no time more so than at the great religious festivals. Passover was particularly hazardous, with tens of thousands of pilgrims flocking to the holy city not only from Palestine but from all over the Jewish diaspora. Some, like Jesus, would have stayed with friends in the surrounding towns and villages. Others crammed themselves into the narrow city streets, or even passed the chilly nights in tents outside the city walls. The first visitors began to appear over a week in advance, ready to take part in purification rituals, to prepare themselves spiritually, or simply to spend time in the capital.

James Tissot, Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, painted between 1886 and 1894.

It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.

Model of the Antonia Fortress, part of the famous Holyland Hotel
Model of Jerusalem, now displayed at the Israel Museum.

Riots in Jerusalem were, of course, the very last thing that the Roman prefect of Judaea wanted. The small province had only been under direct Roman control for twenty years, and the prefect’s primary responsibility was to maintain law and order. Not surprisingly, he took extra security precautions at Passover, leaving his Headquarters in Caesarea-on-Sea with a detachment of troops to bolster the city’s meagre garrison. These were auxiliaries, men drawn from the largely pagan cities of Caesarea and Sebaste; they would be housed in the Antonia Fortress while Pilate based his praetorium in Herod’s former palace (visiting Herods would have to make do with the older and less luxurious Hasmonean stronghold).

Albrecht Dürer, Small Passion: 20.
Pilate Washing His Hands, 1511.
The prefect in Jesus’ day was Pontius Pilate, a Roman knight who had been in post since 26 CE, and who had presumably enjoyed an impressive career on the battlefield prior to his provincial posting. He would have been sure to make a striking entry into the city, riding on a horse, accompanied by men in armour, a clear statement of Roman power. Once settled in Jerusalem, the troops were there to be seen, and quickly took up their stations on top of the Temple porticoes in full view of the assembled pilgrims. They would certainly have instilled fear in the onlookers, but their very presence also stoked up resentment. Josephus notes the ill will that existed between the populace and these pagan troops, and no doubt their very presence sometimes caused the riots they were supposed to deter.

Rome had few officials in the provinces, and the prefect needed to rely on the help of indigenous leaders, particularly the High Priest and the Jerusalem aristocracy. Their knowledge of local customs, diplomacy and (it was hoped) the respect they commanded amongst the ordinary people, were invaluable to the Roman governor. In the 30s, the High Priest was Joseph Caiaphas, ably assisted by his father in law, Ananus I (the Annas of the New Testament).

Ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, Israel Museum.
By this time, the High Priesthood was a Roman appointment, and presumably only men who could be trusted to pursue a pro-Roman line could expect preferment. Caiaphas had been appointed by Pilate’s predecessor, Gratus in 19 CE, but Pilate allowed him to continue in office, probably finding him to be an able leader and a useful ally. (In fact, both Pilate and Caiaphas lost their posts within a few months of each other in 37 CE). Scholars nowadays doubt the existence of a fixed, formal, judicial body known as ‘the Sanhedrin.’ While there may have been some kind of a town council which oversaw routine administrative matters, governance of the city seems to have been in the hands of the High Priest alone. Typical of the times, he would have presided over affairs through face-to-face diplomacy, temporary liaisons, and by summoning meetings of relevant aristocrats.

In the tense Passover season, the High Priest, just as much as the Roman prefect, wanted to see peace in Jerusalem. Caiaphas’ chief concern was the smooth running of the vast Temple complex. The regular rounds of feasts and sacrifices guaranteed God’s continued care and blessings not only to the land of Israel, but to the whole world. There was no room for error, and no room for disruption. Riots in particular might lead to Roman involvement, perhaps even profane Roman troops in the sacred enclosures of the Temple. In the turbulent years after the death of Herod I, Roman legions had swept down through the country, stamping out insurrection wherever they found it. Eventually they arrived at the Temple; many Jews lost their lives, the treasury was plundered, and parts of the outer porticoes were burned. Further destructed was averted by the surrender of the city, but the incident must have remained in many people’s memories as an indication of what Rome might do when riled. The fear of the chief priests in John 11:48 that the disruption caused by Jesus might bring about Roman destruction of the Temple, was not an idle one. Order had to be maintained, at all costs.

Giotto di Bondone, Expulsion of the Money-changers
from the Temple,  painted between 1304 and 1306.
There were advantages for both Pilate and Caiaphas in working together. Perhaps they met one another soon after the prefect’s arrival to agree tactics. They would have agreed that these were delicate times, that disorder could not be tolerated, and that troublemakers were to be rounded up quickly, before things could escalate. Most routine disturbances could be dealt with by the Roman forces and their commanders; the prefect might be bothered only with more difficult cases. And so a plan of action emerged, an uneasy compromise in the interests of national security between two men who doubtless in other circumstances would have had little time for one another. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Those flocking to Jerusalem for the feast would have known the score. It had been the same every year since the Romans came to power. And as a Galilean prophet rode into the holy city for the Passover and stood in the outer courts of the Temple, ready to overturn the tables of the merchants and money-changers in a symbolic act which signified the end of the sacred complex, he could have had no doubt of the fate that awaited him.

Helen K Bond is Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Edinburgh.


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Jesus: The Last Day
Edited by Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt

The most important events in Jesus' life took place in less than 24 hours.

Why did the Romans arrest Jesus? What happened at Gethsemane? Which route did Jesus follow to Golgotha? How did the earliest Christians interpret his Passion? Where was Jesus buried?

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Table of Contents:

What Jesus Did at the Last Supper
By Bruce Chilton
Where Was Gethsemane?
By Joan E. Taylor
What Really Happened at Gethsemane?
By Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Jesus' Triumphal March to the Crucifixion
By Thomas Schmidt
Tracing the Via Dolorosa
By Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
The Archaeological Evidence for Crucifixion
By Vassilios Tzaferis
New Analysis of the Crucified Man
By Hershel Shanks
Where Was Jesus Buried?
By Dan Bahat

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