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בס"ד

The Trial and Condemnation of Jesus.

By J. Salvador. 

Translated by Henry Goldsmith.

(Concluded from p. 556.)

This is not all; the decree for his arrest was preceded by admonition. Jesus one day having entered the temple, assumed there an authority contrary to the established right; he then preached to the people, and said, That all those who had faith in him could do every thing. “If ye shall say to this mountain, ‘Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea,’ it shall be done.” Then the chief priests and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority doest thou these things? who gave thee this authority?”

In the mean time some perfidious person reveals the place of his retirement; the guards, authorized by the high priest and the elders, seize him. One of his disciples, putting himself in open revolt, cuts off an ear of one of the guards, and draws upon himself the censure of this master. As soon as Jesus is arrested, the enthusiasm of the Apostles is extinguished; they all abandon him. (See Mark 14:50, and Matthew 16:56.) He is conducted before the high council, where the priests sustain the accusation. The witnesses make their depositions, and they must have been numerous, since the facts with which he was charged passed in presence of all the people. The two witnesses whom Matthew and Mark accuse of falsity, report a discourse, which John alleges to be true, in relation to the power which Jesus attributed to himself. (See Matthew 26:60,61; Mark 14:58; John 2:19.)* Finally, the high priest addresses himself to the accused, and says, “I adjure thee, by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered in the affirmative, adding, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven.” At these words Caiphas tore his garments as a sign of mourning, for having heard the profanation of the name of God. “You have heard it,” he says. The council deliberates. The question agitating the people was already. “Has Jesus made himself God?” The senate, then judging that Jesus, son of Joseph, born at Bethlehem, had profaned the name of God in usurping it for himself, who was only a plain citizen, applied to him the law on blasphemy; (Deuteronomy 13:1, 3, 3, 4, 5, and 18:20;) according to which, “any prophet, even if he performs miracles, must be punished if he speaks of a god unknown to the Hebrews and to their fathers.” The extreme penalty of the law is then pronounced. As regards the maltreatment which followed the sentence, it is contrary to the spirit of the Hebrew law; nor is it natural to suppose that a senate, composed of the most respectable persons in the nation, should have permitted such an outrage on a person whose life they held in their hands. The writers who have transmitted these details to us not having been present at the process themselves, have probably exaggerated the picture, either through their extreme affection for Jesus, or for the purpose of casting an odium upon the Judges.

* Let the reader glance at the authorities here quoted, and he will find a contradiction of a most palpable nature, which, to say the least of, certainly requires great ingenuity to reconcile. (Note by the Translator.)

One thing is certain, that the council met again the next day, or the day afterwards, according to law, to confirm or annul the sentence. It was confirmed. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the governor, whom the Romans had appointed over the Hebrews. They had still the power to try a person according to their laws; but the executive power rested with the governor. No criminal could be put to death without his consent. This was in order to deprive the senate of the means of attacking persons that were sold to, and in the interest of the Romans.† Pilate signed the verdict. His soldiers, who were composed of a mixture of several nations, were charged with the execution. They it was who conducted him to the Praetorium, stripped him in presence of the populace, put a crown of thorns on his head, and a reed in his hand, who, in short, made him undergo a kind of torture, common in Rome, but never practised amongst the Hebrews. (Mat. 27:27.) But, previous to the execution, the governor granted to the condemned an appeal to the people, who, respecting the verdict of the council, would not extend their mercy to him, and expressed their refusal in the following terms: “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Pilate then gave them the choice, either to save him or a man who was accused of committing a murder in a revolt. The people declared in favour of the latter, giving their reason that Jesus sowed in the midst of the people the seeds of discord at a time when union was indispensably necessary. Jesus was then put to death. The senators and priests were present at the execution; and, since the sentence rested on the fact that he had unlawfully arrogated to himself the title of Son of God, even that of God himself, they called out to him thus: “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God.” According to the Evangelists, these words were said in mockery; but the character of the people that pronounced them, their dignity, their age, the order which they followed in the trial, prove that they were sincere. Would not a miracle at that very moment have been decisive?‡

† The duties of Pilate, were to inquire to what extent a sentence interfered with the interest of Rome; there ended his province. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that Pilate, who know but little of the Hebrew laws, should have signed the verdict without having personally recognised the guilt of Jesus. It will be seen afterwards, that at that time there were several parties amongst the Jews. Among whom were the Herodians, or the mercenaries, partisans of Herod, and devoted to the stranger. The same persons always spoke of Caesar, of obedience to Caesar, of tribute to Caesar. They insisted that Jesus pretended to be king of the Jews, but the nature of this accusation was not considered by the senate of sufficient importance to demand capital punishment.

‡ The author’s question is too inviting not to add a few remarks on it. Certainly, “a miracle at that moment would have been decisive.” The Jews were not used to see their prophets and godly men so roughly handled, and so ignominiously treated. “Touch not mine anointed, harm not my prophets.” When the man of God came to Jeroboam, to rebuke him for his iniquity, Jeroboam’s hand was withered in stretching it out against the man; nor was it restored until the man entreated of God to restore it. See how fearlessly Elijah presents himself before Ahab, whom he knew not to be friendly disposed towards him. The Jews had hitherto been in the habit of seeing the persons of their prophets, protected by the hand of God, in so far that no human being could frustrate the object of their missions. I therefore say, that if God intended that Jesus should be understood and considered as a god, or even as a prophet, what better opportunity could have presented itself, than to prevent his execution by a miracle. But it may be said, “It is not for man, to dictate to the Deity, when and where He shall show his miracles.” True enough; but when a new revelation is to be brought to light, which in a measure is to upset and supersede the old one, (at least as it was then understood by the Jews,) it is necessary to have some more substantial testimony, than the mere ipse dixit of the person who alone is apparently interested. (Note by the Translator.)