Another “guest post”, one might say:
It is no more imaginable that the British vice-regent of India should sentence a Hindu to death for expressing heterodox opinions about the teachings of Buddha, than it is that a Roman procurator should interfere on account of an accusation like the one made against Jesus, according to Mark 14:58 . . . and that he should do so in the face of admittedly conflicting evidence. He is reported to have said:
“I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.”
The Gospel according to St. John takes this statement in a symbolic sense. Taken literally as it is in Mark, it does not seem to imply anything socially dangerous.
Let us suppose that a man of our own day should be accused of having said: “I will destroy Christiansborg [i.e. one of the principal royal palaces at Copenhagen, . . . occupied by the Rigsdag, the Supreme Court, and various government departments], but within three days I will build another palace of much greater spiritual beauty.”
The court would then first make sure that he had really said such a thing. Then it would inquire whether the defendant actually had taken any steps toward the material destruction of the palace. This not being the case, the matter would undoubtedly be dropped. Any inquiry whether steps had been taken toward the building of a heavenly Christiansborg may be regarded as quite out of the question.
In the same way, the Roman official would undoubtedly first of all have ascertained whether the defendant had made any attempt to tear down the Temple. If this were denied, he must have understood that the utterance credited to Jesus, if ever made as reported, must be taken in a figurative or poetic sense, and thereupon he would have dropped the case as none of his concern.
Of this we may be pretty sure, for in the Acts 18:12, where, quite exceptionally, an historical personality appears, thus lending credibility to the story, we read of the answer given by Junius Annaeus Gallio, the brother of Seneca, when he was procurator of Achaia (A. D. 51-52) and the Jews of Corinth accused Paul of “persuading me to worship God contrary to the law.” He said:
“If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but it if be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it: for I will be no judge of such matters.”
All through the Old Testament appear statements that might be interpreted as referring to a Messiah-like the one supposed to have arrived. In Deuteronomy 18:15 . . . “The Lord they God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me [Moses] . . . . . In John 6:14, a reference to these words follows immediately after the story about the feeding of 5,000 . . . And in Acts 3:22, Peter draws support from the same statement by Moses.
Several passages occur in the Prophet Zechariah which evidently have suggested acts ascribed to Jesus. In Zechariah 9:9 we read as follows: “Rejoice greatly . . . Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee . . . riding upon an ass. . .”
And again we read in Zechariah 14:21: “And in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” This may be regarded as an excuse for ascribing to Jesus his otherwise quite unreasonable attack on those who sold doves for sacrifice in the outer court of the Temple, or who exchanged the coins that were to be paid in tithes. Imagine a modern reformer trying to drive away the old women in front of Notre Dame who are selling wax candles to be lighted for the peace of the dead!
No doubt some of those dove sellers wanted to see Jesus sued.
The Gospel authors were smart enough to know that you cannot get from a failed potential or even merely apparent political insurrectionist to a heavenly saviour so they created a much more sensible story that explained Jesus’ death as the sacrifice of an innocent lamb or another atoning Isaac. We make fools of ourselves trying to pull it apart to satisfy our needs for historicity.
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