Friday, March 21, 2008

For the sake of His Passion

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts. But they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant, there have they dealt treacherously against me. (Osee 6;6-7)

Then [the chief priests and the Pharisees] led Jesus from Caiphas to the governor's hall. And it was morning; and they went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch. 29 Pilate therefore went out to them, and said: What accusation bring you against this man? 30 They answered, and said to him: If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee. (John 18;28-30)

1 Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment. 3 And they came to him, and said: Hail, king of the Jews; and they gave him blows. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him. 5 (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he saith to them: Behold the Man.

6 When the chief priests, therefore, and the servants, had seen him, they cried out, saying: Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Take him you, and crucify him: for I find no cause in him. 7 The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 8 When Pilate therefore had heard this saying, he feared the more. 9 And he entered into the hall again, and he said to Jesus: Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore saith to him: Speakest thou not to me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?

11 Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin. 12 And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him. But the Jews cried out, saying: If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar. 13 Now when Pilate had heard these words, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14 And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews: Behold your king. 15 But they cried out: Away with him; away with him; crucify him. Pilate saith to them: Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar.

16 Then therefore he delivered him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him forth. 17 And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha. 18 Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. 19 And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19;1-19)


On Passover Eve they hanged Jesus of Nazareth. And the herald went out before him for forty days: 'Jesus of Nazareth is going out to be stoned because he practiced sorcery, incited [to idol worship] and led Israel astray. Whoever knows an argument in his favor should come and argue on his behalf.' But they did not find an argument in his favor, and they hanged him on Passover Eve ... Jesus ... had close connections with the non-Jewish authorities, and those authorities were interested in his acquittal. Thus it was necessary to give him all the opportunity to clear himself, so that the justice of his conviction not be challenged ... Was Jesus of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an inciter, and the Torah (lit., "the Merciful") says: "You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him"! (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, Steinsaltz edition, Vol XVII, Part III)

... the Talmud is here offering a subtle commentary upon Jesus' political connections. The Gospels portray the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as going to great lengths to spare Jesus (Mark 15: 6-15). Although this passage may well have been written to appease the Roman authorities and blame the Jews, the Talmudic passage points in the same direction ...

... the passage suggests rabbinic willingness to take responsibility for the execution of Jesus. No effort is made to pin his death upon the Romans. In all likelihood, the passage in question emanates from fourth-century Babylon, then the center of Talmudic scholarship, and beyond the reach of both Rome and Christianity. Although several hundred years had elapsed since the lifetime of Jesus, and therefore this is not at all a contemporary source, the Talmudic passage indicates rabbinic willingness to acknowledge, at least in principle, that in a Jewish court and in a Jewish land, a real-life Jesus would indeed have been executed ... ("Jesus in the Talmud," Steven Bayme, American Jewish Committee National Director, September 24, 2003)


The very fact that the Talmud's claim of Jesus' closeness to the Roman government reflects some knowledge ... of the New Testament narrative, particularly of of John's version of it ... this detail exonerates the Roman government from the blame of Jesus' condemnation and consequently, adopting the Gospels' message, puts the thrust of the accusation on the Jews ... What we then have here in the [Babylonian Talmud] is a powerful confirmation of the New Testament Passion narrative, a creative rereading, however, that not only knows some of its distinct details but proudly proclaims Jewish responsibility of Jesus' execution. (Jesus in the Talmud, Peter Schafer, Princeton University Press, pp.73-74)