The Railroading of Yeshua Hanotzri
November 09, 2010
In the Roman province of Judea, the inhabitants reckoned the passage of time according to the Roman calendar. For instance, Herod became King of Judea in 713 AUC ("ab urbe condita" - from the foundation of the city of Rome) and founded the Herodian dynasty. And so it was that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. (Matt.2:1).
Around the year 783 AUC, Yeshua, an itinerant preacher from the country, appeared in the Temple area in Jerusalem. Joseph Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest, Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator, and Tiberias Caesar, successor to Augustus, ruled in Rome.
Each day this preacher, Yeshua Hanotzri, addressed the crowds where they gathered in the Temple precincts - there was unlimited freedom of speech in the Jerusalem of the Roman period.
Attitudes towards Yeshua polarized rapidly - his reputation had preceded him. His supporters saw him as the 'ideal' Israelite, as the man destined to save the nation, as a man who projected the values of God into society.
To some, however, he was seen as a troublemaker who drew support from the 'lower 'classes, a man bent on overturning accepted values, a blasphemous lawbreaker and companion of 'undesirables'.
A conflict of values developed...
The Opposition Parties
It is possible to discern three main groups forming the 'opposition' to Yeshua Hanotzri.
The Establishment: Composed of priests, lawyers and scribes. These had a monopoly on education and controlled channels of information through the orthodoxy of the synagogues. This political-priestly junta had gradually cemented itself into power during the 200 year period since the revolt against Syria and the Maccabean Wars.
The Respectable citizens: These held the tokens of respectability of more account than personal commitment to moral issues. Better to let sleeping dogs lie and leave decisions to 'the authorities'. In the moment of decision, they embraced 'respectability' and rejected 'right'.
The mob: To the mob, might is right. The mob believes what is has been told to believe. The three essential characteristics of the mob are an uncritical acceptance of information fed to it, an inability to reason, and violent imposition of its owns standards upon others. It can direct its activities 'downwards' towards non-conformists, or 'upwards' against established authority. When supported by the power of the state, it has supreme power. Its attitude to Yeshua reflected the three essential mob characteristics.
Accusations against Yeshua
A malcontent and troublemaker: When the high priest and councillors took Yeshua Hanotzri before Pilate, they insisted that the prisoner was a troublemaker who stirred up the people in Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem. (Luke 23:5)
A blasphemer: The high priest examined the prisoner when the witnesses failed to sheet home the charges against him. He asked Yeshua if he claimed to be 'the anointed' (i.e. the Messiah). When he received an answer he disapproved of, he accused the prisoner of blasphemy. (Matt 26:65, Mark 14:64, Luke 5:21, John 10:33).
Insane: When 'religious' people received replies they disapproved of, they accused Yeshua of being insane (John 10:20) and of being an insane Samaritan (John 8:48).
Making treasonable utterances: The accusers placed Pilate in a dilemma by saying that Yeshua had claimed to be a king. He had therefore set himself against the rightful ruler, Tiberias. If Pilate released the prisoner it could be interpreted as approval for Yeshua's treasonous utterance. (John 19:12).
A companion of undesirables: The lawyers and their scribes observed Yeshua dining with men who collected the Roman taxes, and with other 'common' people. The lawyers made known their disapproval. (Luke 5:30, Mark 2:16).
A toper: The critics said that John the Baptist was insane because he ate no bread and drank no wine. The same critics said Yeshua Hanotzri was gluttonous and a winebibber because he did eat bread and did eat wine. (Luke 7:34).
A law-breaker: Yeshua and his disciples were accused on a number of occasions of breaking the strict law concerning the keeping of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:24, Luke 6:2, John 9:16).
A con man: None of the scholars or leaders took any notice of the teachings of Yeshua Hanotzri: it was only the ignorant common people who were taken in by him. (John 7:48).
Uncouth and common: An occasion was observed when Yeshua did not wash before a meal. His supporters frequently ate their bread with unwashed hands. This attitude showed scant regard for the traditions of the elders. (Luke 11:38, Mark 7:2, Matt 15:2).
The 'common’ people
Between the respectable citizens and the mob stood that large group of citizenry untroubled by social pretensions and status. They lacked investment in the hierarchical structure of society. Without that vested interest to preserve and protect, they could face change in the established order.
It was from the 'common' people of Israel that Yeshua drew much of his support. The conflict of values developed and the issues were dramatised in the Temple area of Jerusalem. Yeshua Hanotzri declined to accept as absolute the standards of the Establishment, the respectable citizens, and the mob.
A divided community was developing - a dangerous situation in Roman Jerusalem. The Romans would take any and all measures necessary to preserve the 'Pax Romana'. The Establishment might have taken no action against Yeshua if he had desisted from his activities - he did not! His life was measured against the safety of the community and it was found expedient that "one man should die for the nation".
So the Establishment took direct action - informers were planted in Yeshua's audience, agents tried to trap him with loaded questions, a whispering campaign started. These methods failing, one of his supporters was induced to accept a bribe. Now the authorities knew where they could find Yeshua after sunset.
He was arrested in the middle of the night while the 'common' people slept. Within hours, he was in the hands of the Romans and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out by Roman soldiers. A small handful of his associates, mainly women, watched as he was crucified beside two convicted criminals. The 'common' people were presented with a 'fait accompli'.
The techniques of distortion, manipulation and deception are timeless and universal. Human nature is nothing if not consistent.