the temple affair: politics and religion don’t mix

According to the Markan Gospel on its account of the Sanhedrin trial, after failing to get sufficient evidence about the Temple affair the high priest then asked Jesus directly whether he claimed to be the Messiah of Israel: “Are you the Christ (the Messiah) , the Son of the Blessed?” That he should have asked such a question, following on the Temple charge, clearly shows that the high priest connected revolutionary action with Messianic claims. In contemporary Jewish belief the Messiah would bring the existing world order to an end.

Rossano Manuscript. 590 C.E. Read More:

Mark reports Jesus as affirming that he was the Messiah, and the affirmation is stated in terms of current apocalyptic expectation: ” I am; and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The high priest takes this answer as a blasphemy, and, with the concurrence of the Sanhedrin, condemns Jesus to death.

Now we encounter one of the greatest problems of the Markan account.In the first place, although Josephus tells of many Messianic pretenders during the period A.D. 6-70, there is no record of any being condemned to death by the Sanhedrin for making such a claim. Secondly, according to Jewish Law the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning- the death of Stephen provides a contemporary instance of this. But the Sanhedrin does not proceed to arrange for the execution of this sentence in the case of Jesus. Instead, Mark goes on to relate , without a word of explanation, that in the morning the jewish authorities handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate. The charge preferred by them is not mentioned, but it was obviously a political one, for Pilate immediately asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Matthias Stom (fl. 1615–1649) Link back to Creator infobox template
Title Christ before Caiaphas
Date early 1630s— image:Wiki

This action of the Jewish leaders, and the alteration of the charge, have caused much debate among scholars. There seems to be evidence that at this time the Sanhedrin could condemn on a capital charge, but the sentence had to be confirmed by the Roman governor. Presumably, if the Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy, they would have applied to Pilate for confirmation. If this had been given, Jesus would have been executed by stoning. That this was not so, and that Jesus was delivered to Pilate on a charge of sedition, indicates that the Jewish authorities were concerned with the political, not the religious significance of Jesus.

—Early in the morning, Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod Antipas, and Pilate again (Matt. 27:1-30; Mark 15:1-19; Luke 22:66–23:25; John 18:28–19:16). Jesus was then led to the cross and crucified at 9:00 a.m. and died at 3:00 p.m. and was buried later that day (Matt. 27:31-60; Mark 15:20-46; Luke 23:26-54; John 19:16-42). Christ the Paschal Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) died at the time when the Israelites were sacrificing their Passover lambs.
[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 92]
Painting: “Christ before Pilate” by Mihaly Munkacsy
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This concern is understandable. The high priest and the Sanhedrin were responsible to the Roman governor for Jewish affairs. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his action in the Temple had clearly disturbed the peace and good order of the Jewish state, besides challenging their own positions. That the Romans would hold them responsible for the continuance of the menace which Jesus constituted is attested by John 11:47-48 , where Caiphas, the high priest is reported as saying to the Sanhedrin: “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

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