Monday, March 08, 2004

The Jewish Trial of Jesus (Part I). There were two trials of Jesus, maybe even three, as he made his way to the Cross. The first and most controversial was the trial before the Chief Priests. The second, maybe in two parts, was before Pilate. The third before Herod.

But the first is the most interesting, in part because it presents a vivid example of how an advanced legal system, designed to safeguard the right of the accused and even to frustrate the imposition of capital punishment, can come under terrible political stress at the most critical moment in its history. It is also interesting because it is generally misunderstood to have been the direct cause of Jesus' death and, as a result, has provided grist for the pagan mill anti-Semitism over the years. The legal system that actually condemned and executed Jesus was Roman, of course. This fact has implications beyond the anti-semitism question. It has great significance theologically.

Finally, in the Jewish trial we confront the question of whether Jesus was a passive victim of a mindless legal process or whether he participated in that process actively, as part of his submission to God's will.

My approach will be first to describe the Jewish legal system as it may have existed during Jesus' time. Then, with that background, to look at the scriptures and see how that system played out when Jesus entered it.

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