Easter 2023 Blog Post 3/3: Who Killed Jesus?

Pilate Washes His Hands by James Tissot 

For my previous 2 posts in this Easter 2023 miniseries, I talked about:

Happy Easter: My Favorite Easter Joke

It’s Holy Saturday, So What Happened To Jesus Between Good Friday And Easter?

Piggybacking off of those, especially the first one, I’d like to conclude in the following way:

It’s not academically controversial to concede there are exegetical allusions in Mark’s crucifixion narrative that have to be “put out of play” or “bracketed” as to their historicity because they are rewrites of Psalms and 2nd Isaiah, and so the early church would have had motivation to invent such theologically charged passages out of whole cloth. That’s not to say they did, but who knows?

As I said previously, this gets really interesting with allusions to Psalm 22:16b LXX and especially Paul in Galatians 3:13 which is appropriating Deuteronomy 21:23 because perhaps the crucifixion itself is an invented detail, whereas Jesus actually died by other means (such as stoning) at the hands of the Jews, not the Romans. Perhaps Paul invented this crucifixion detail to suggest the way Jesus was treated by the Jewish leadership and crowd was as bad as Roman flogging and crucifixion, the most tortuous and humiliating death known to the ancient world. And in fact Paul never says Jesus was killed by Pilate or the Romans, but by the archons of this aion which seems to refer to the demons possessing the puppet leadership, which could certainly refer to the Jewish supreme council who are demonized by the gospels. And, when it comes to blaming humans for Jesus’ death, Paul doesn’t reference the Romans, but says:

  • “14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).”

There is dispute as to the authenticity of the above passage with arguments on both side, but it actually makes good sense with what I’ve been arguing in my three Easter 2023 posts. And, this matches up exactly with Matthew’s claim that the blood of Jesus was on Jewish hands (Matt 27:25):

  • So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Greek: Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν) (Matthew 27:24-25)

It’s difficult to square the idea that the Jewish leaders couldn’t have persecuted/executed Jesus if he was being a nuisance, because they had a habit of doing just that (such as with the death of John the Baptist in Josephus or the gospels, or the stoning of Stephen etc.). Why would the Jewish leaders need to trick Pilate into executing Jesus (as the gospels suggest the Jewish leaders couldn’t execute Jesus themselves) when all the evidence points that they could have done just that? The later gospels are based on Mark and Mark is Pauline, so Mark might have just been running with Pauline crucifixion imagery to present “Roman critique symbolism” scholars such as Crossan find of the peace through justice message of Jesus countering the peace through victory message of Rome.

So, I’m on break from blogging for a while as we focus on Keith Augustine’s research into the soul survival debate, so please enjoy his first of 3 posts:

Survival Researcher or Christian Apologist? Could You Tell the Difference? (Part 1 of 3)

And happy Easter!