Chapter

Jesus and Empire

Christopher Bryan

in Render to Caesar

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780195183344
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835584 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195183347.003.0005
Jesus and Empire

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Jesus suffered crucifixion by the Romans. Is this because he was a rebel against Rome? Not according to the evangelists, who claim that the Sanhedrin under Caiaphas initially arraigned Jesus on a capital charge of blasphemy. References to Jesus’ death in Jewish sources (notably Josephus and the Talmud) also claim primary responsibility for the Jerusalem authorities. Having condemned Jesus, the Sanhedrin referred the case to Pilate, as would be necessary, given Rome’s normal practice of reserving the death penalty to itself. For Pilate’s benefit, the charge was restated in terms of maiestas laesa—high treason. The gospels describe Pilate as initially unconvinced and prepared to deal with Jesus of Nazareth as Albinus would later deal with Jesus ben Hananiah. Then, perhaps because he fears a riot, Pilate is persuaded to apply the death penalty. There is no good reason to doubt the essential truth of this record.

Keywords: Blasphemy; Caiaphas; Capital charge; Crucifixion; Jesus ben Hananiah; Josephus; Maiestas laesa; Pilate; Rebel; Sanhedrin

Chapter.  8780 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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