Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Triple Bill no 2 – Why was Jesus killed?

Well the usual answer to the question about the crucifixion is that Jesus died to save us all.  But why did he really die?  Let me run through some of the personalities and the events to throw up a few theories.
JESUS -   This charisma kid managed to get himself killed after less than a week in Jerusalem which is quite an achievement.  He was obviously annoying.  He so got on people’s nerve in his home town of Nazareth that they were going to throw him off a cliff but relented.  He then left (or was forced to leave) Nazareth to wander the Galilee.  So Jesus was clearly no saint.  Only Jesus could unite both the Nazarenes and the Romans by being so irritating that the two groups wanted to kill him which again is quite an achievement.  He then had a couple of years building up his following in the north of Israel urging reform of Judaism.  He seems bipolar from afar.  He spent 40 days depressed, alone and hallucinating about the devil in the desert and then bounced back hyper and as charismatic as ever.  He stole the Pharisee Hillel’s Golden rule.  He was one of many Messiahs and would be Messiahs of that era. He sounds like a bit of a prick but as you know, I’m a bit biased.
JUDAS – He was the real victim.  He and Peter were the 2ics of the little group from the north.  He was the organiser and the money holder.  Like any CFO, he urged financial restraint, particularly when Jesus wanted an expensive foot rub.  I believe he was set up by the Gospel writers for every story needs a hero and anti hero.  His death is mired in ambiguity.  One account says he hung himself in remorse but another says that he died of some abdominal issues.  Judas has become a victim of history and unfairly represents betrayal.  I respect Judas as a solid, no nonsense plain speaker.
PETER – He was called the “Rock” but was weak as water.  He chickened out at the crucifixion.  He then chickened out again at the Jerusalem Council with St Paul some 20 years later.  I suspect that he gained favour with Jesus because he was a bit of a “yes” man but that is supposition.  Clearly the gospels portrayed him well.
CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE – Jerusalem was a tourist centre and money changing was needed for both tourism and taxation.  I imagine that the money changers, whilst not taxation authorities themselves, were associated with the odium of taxation.  So attacking the money changers was not an unpopular strategy.  Jesus threw some sort of tantrum which was dangerous to do.  The Romans, nervous with the huge crowds of the Passover pilgrimage, valued stability over everything else.  Whatever the cause of this hissy fit, it was very risky.
PONTIUS PILATE – This man was a complete bastard whitewashed by the Gospels.  He was so cruel he attracted demonstrations at his palace in Caesarea on the coast.  He was sacked by the Romans for being too pitiless which is an extraordinary achievement.  The Gospel writers exonerated Pilate as reluctant and vacillating as they had to suck up to the Romans.  Every story needs a bad protagonist and this could not be the Romans.  There’s no point in making the Romans the baddies of the story for they looked like being permanently in power and so Pilate was redeemed.  We need some accurate historical revisionism on this bastard.
THE SANHEDRIN – This was the Jewish parliament that virtually never condemned a man to death.  That too is evidence of a Roman whitewash.
JOSEPH CAIAPHAS – the other JC of the story.  He was the High Priest of the Temple, a fashion tragic and maybe or maybe not a quisling.  This JC raises the question when collaboration is noble (such as the Anglo Saxon Robin Hood collaborating and supporting the Norman King Richard) or ignoble (Marshal Petain).  He is an interesting quandary and I believe Caiaphas to have been defamed by history.
In short, I believe that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  By Good Friday he was dead.  There is no way the Jewish Sanhedrin parliament condemned him as that was not their style.  However, cruelty was Pilate’s style and so Jesus was just another trouble maker bumped off by the Romans. The Romans have been saved by the Gospel writers and this scripture cannot be viewed in any other way than a lie.
What is your view?
Was Pilate the vacillator of history or the complete bastard we now know him to be?
Are the Gospels a Roman whitewash?
Why do you think Jesus was killed?
Over to you…


  1. Interesting that you feel that Judas has been stitched up in the gospels. When I read the bible I got the feeling that the devil was rather unfairly maligned. He always appeared to be the voice sanity next to god. It wasn't the devil sending plagues and mass death.

    Anyhow, as to your question of why did jesus die; the theological value of it has always remained unfathomable to me. "He died for my sins? How does that work exactly?"

    As to historically why did he die? (Assuming that the story wasn't just a myth invented by a breakaway sect of jews to give themselves more credibility) I suspect you are right. The romans didn't like trouble makers around when there were large crowds of people that they had to control so they did away with him.

    1. Thanks Boof. Interesting take on the Devil. And I agree that the theological take is indeed quite coutner intuitive. How does dying help others deal with their sins? To me it is informed by the notion of sacrifice which we do not do anymore.
      Thanks again.

  2. Oh Dick! I think this is the naughtiest and funniest thing I've ever seen you write. Would that are our old theist friends where here to get their knickers in a twist over Jesus being "bipolar"! Poor chap was likely schizophrenic too.

    Not a woman to be seen in this little story. I'm not sure what that says, so I'll just sit with it as an observation for now.

    Not being a working day for me today, I thought I'd nip down to Bunnings to get some things I need to do some work in the garden. Why do I forget every year that Good Friday shuts down even Bunnings?

    Palm Sunday doesn't interest me in the slightest but the BLOODY Palm Oil used unnecessarily in Easter Eggs brings tears to my eyes. Why should more and more forest habitat and the home of the wonderful Orang-outang have to be destroyed just so we can gorge ourselves on crap chocolate? I'm always amused when theists call atheists arrogant and only interested in our selves, but can't see how their stupid traditions are truly selfish and self-absorbed.

    1. Anonymous8:09 PM

      If the complicity of Catholics in the palm oil problem pisses you off, then I wonder how you feel about their complicity in the elephant problem. According to Bryan Christy, a Nat Geo journalist, about 25,000 elephants are slaughtered every year for their ivory. And an important driver of the killing is the demand from Filipino Catholics for ivory to manufacture their favourite icon, Santo Nino de Cebu.

      Every Filipino owns a Santo Nino. Most believe that the blessings you receive in life are linked to the devotion you invest in your Santo Nino. For these people wood is not a good enough material. They must have elephant ivory.

      Between 2005 and 2009 over 19 tons of illegal ivory (for which about 1,800 elephants would have been killed) was seized either in the Philippines or bound there. I assume this is only a fraction of the amount of ivory that made it past the authorities.

      How, I wonder, do Catholics live with themselves?


    2. Thanks Kate. It didn't feel naughty as I wrote it?! As for the Palm oil issue, which I think is an important element in the deforestation debate, I think that chocolate is a weakness that transcends the theist/atheist dichotomy. Are not we all guilty in more than the Catholic sense??? I know I am.
      Yours in too much tolerance.

    3. Terry the ivory issue makes me weep. You are right to raise it. Dick

  3. Oh, Dick. Australia has its own Salman Rushdie. What I wouldn't give for a couple of theist opinions. Do Christians or those of the Jewish persuasion have a fatwa equivalent?

    Firstly Judas must be the most important dude in the story coz, Tim Minchin, has the role in Jesus Christ Superstar.

    Peter, was piss weak. Enough said.

    Cleansing Of The Temple. Many temple/churches these days are being turned into the most magnificent bookstores. A far better use of beautiful architecture, in my humble opinion. Refer below for a couple of examples.

    The first I've not seen personally, but a friend is not long returned from a rapturous visit.

    Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht. :)

    The second I spent many happy hours/days, and many Scottish pounds in, in 2002.

    Pontius Pilate, a bit of a sooky lala.

    Take a look at this video on YouTube:

    Joseph Caiaphas and friends:-

    Take a look at this video on YouTube:

    Jesus. Well all I can say is this incarnation is a bit of a hottie.

    Take a look at this video on YouTube:

    Judas - AKA Tim Minchin gets the last word in my version.

    Take a look at this video on YouTube:

    I have to say this beats the Good Friday's of my childhood. Kneeling for hours in a draughty church, then after fasting for hours having to eat smoked cod in white sauce. Bleurgh!

    1. An evocative portrayal of awful Easters past. How damaging. See you soon Tricia. Dick

  4. Dickster the time is off. I posted my previous comment at 5.46pm, not 11.46pm. Just sayin...

    By the way, where's Mary Magdalen in your wonderful Good Friday summation? Are herself and Eve sharing the apples that adorn the Gross jacket?

    Sorry I've not been commenting, I've been doing stuff! Part of the 'stuff' required me to search through the old GG's for the On Dave and Death blog. I miss changebroker's 10+ part comments. Think I'll send her an email. But without any theists what would cb do. Hey, Malcolm S, you and she could always rumble.:)

    Kate: If they close Bunnings on Good Friday how is one supposed to build a cross?
    On a more serious note, some supermarket brand hot crossed buns have that bloody palm oil in them.

  5. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Only 6 hours off? All of Dick's blogs were (allegedly) posted on December 31, 1969 02:00:00 pm. Time is relative (which is why it seems like ages when your in laws visit).


    1. This computer illiterate will try to fix. Dick

    2. Dick, when it comes to computers I don't know my patootie from my patella. (I realise this may shock you - not) I amused myself by pointing out the time thingy. Sometimes this potty pawed princess needs to be ignored, some might say most of the time.

      Hiya Pirate. How's 'life on the ocean waves'? Have ya chucked the in laws overboard yet? Obviously 1969 was a good blog vintage, heady with a touch of tannin.

      Finished being silly, for now....

    3. Anonymous5:19 AM

      Well, I'm still computer illiterate enough to have my posts as "anonymous" because Ican't figure out which menu item will put my name on things!


    4. Try the "name/url" option

    5. Pirate, with computers I work on the principle of push all the buttons until something happens. Somehow I managed to be a follower as well as a member of Godless Gross, but I'm BIIK how I did it. Also I don't know the difference between follower and member. Just means my little ted, reading his book gets his upside picture on the site twice.:) And let's just say the picture was meant to be upside down.

    6. Long John silver10:06 PM

      I can remember my name, but what's the URL? OR is it based on that TV show - "My name is url"?


    7. Long John silver10:08 PM

      Apparently it works even if I leave the "URL" blank. But I don't get the cute little pirate picture.

  6. I take a measly few months off to bring forth the next generation of the godless and when I get back I find that you've upped sticks and left. Not cool man.
    Still, I like the new digs and look forward to some interesting discussions to come. I've been continuing my 'militant atheism' by not shunning, maiming or killing people with different beliefs to me and posting passive aggressive atheist memes on Facebook.

    1. Hiya Irish Girl.
      It's good to be reading your words again. I missed your comments.
      Little hug of congratulations on the birth of your babe.

    2. Great to virtually see you again Paddy IG. Congrats on the bub and the departure was imposed. So I agree - not cool.


  7. Having seen what was done in 70AD, the gospel writers didn't want piss off the greatest empire on the planet at the time, that had them by the short and curlies, so they wrote a fiction about Pilate and what he allegedly did.

    A bit of detective work suggests that the easter story is a fiction designed to please the Romans or create some new facts. The dog in the night method works well with Pilate.

    Holmes, " I draw your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night."
    Watson, " But the dog did nothing in the night, Holmes."
    Holmes, " Exactly Watson, that is the curious incident."

    Holmes was referring to behaviour out of character of the guard dog. From this he has able to infer that the account he had been given of the events under examination was false and he was able to dig out the culprit, a method that has gone into modern police and court usage.

    The interesting thing about the account of Pilate's alleged interaction with Jesus is that it shows a Roman ruler, who was apparently of an elite cavalry background and a ruthless user of the second oldest profession as you would expect from a military dictatorship at the height of its power, acting out of character in his dealings with Jesus in regard to what are the principle logistical problems facing a military commander in the Roman empire and in particular one running a troublesome province on the edge of the empire.

    The biggest logistical problems facing an army of expanding empire engaged in warfare is feeding hundreds or thousands of soldiers every day. This is still a major consideration for armies of occupation and invasion. The other problem is getting wounded soldiers off the battle field, getting them fixed up so they can return to fight so you don't have to find and train new troops.

    Either the miraculous events that Jesus is alleged to have done in feeding crowds the size of a number of roman legions and healing debilitating injuries and bringing people back to life were fabrications, so its not surprising that Pilate knew nothing of them, or Pilate was breathtakingly incompetent in maximizing his political and logistical advantage, which would be so out of character for a Roman such as himself. Any Roman commander worthy of the post Pilate had would not have executed a magician who could cut his food requirements by 99% and instantly heal his wounded soldiers as well as helping them cross waterways. Of course he could have been having a bad hair day but I suspect that would've just made him more determined.


    1. Jesus wasn't a genie, nor is He one today.

      Dick Gross, or anybody else on this blog, do you want Jesus to be real? Or are you just frustrated that He's seemingly not that to you?

      Is there a way to partner with theists (of any sort) to bring your vision of peace in the world to the earth?

      Do you think your vitriol is a stronger mortar than love? Do you think there's a way to love somebody out of belief? Or would you rather just make fun of them until they realize they're stupid? This is to say, is there a way to show Jesus' love -- even if you think it's fabled -- to everybody?

      My prayer to God everyday is that they know I'm Christian by my love. What do you hope people know see through your love?

      Hope you have a great day, brotha.


  8. Because he knew too much!

    1. Well Robin that is a different view to mine. I thought it was because he was instability when they were obsessed with stability. Dick

    2. Was supposed to be a joke actually. Should have put a smiley :)

    3. Nevertheless I agree about stability - I would imagine that, being an occupied people, they had good reason to be obsessed with stability and maintaining a coherent culture connected to the past.

    4. Oh, I see you probably mean stability from the Roman point of view. Oh well the NT pretty much says that.

      I imagine that the job of a governor would have been to ensure maximum stability - quelling a rebellion being a pretty bloody expensive exercise.

  9. It seems pretty clear Jesus was killed because, according to the Jewish leaders, he was blaspheming by calling himself God.

    The problem for them was: he had a growing following.
    The problem for Pilate was: he had a growing following.

    Pilate didn't want to start a rebellion, even though I'm sure he would have been comfortable crushing one. He was ruthless, but not stupid.

  10. My take...follow the money, or rather the tithes, lots and lots of tithes. Any excuse to wander into the lands of the Jewish burial pit banks would be manna from heaven for an empire that's culturally and financially stretched to it's breaking point. Rome was about to enter it's end game of fracture and disestablishment. It had raided the Jewish coffers before and considered it a cash cow (golden calf?), indeed, Constantine thought the neo-Jewish customs would invigorate the Byzantium Roman rump as well as solidifying a power base that was to take on the new enemy, the Hun. So on the pretext of settling a theocratic dispute (that is, the allowing of gentiles to participate in Jewish rituals and in doing so fill the rebel tithe pits with non-Jewish coinage, which upset the ruling religious class creating a synagogue civil war), charged in. The Romans were careful not to destroy either faction. On the one hand crucified the rebel faction leaders to mollify the main players, and, on the other, just going through the motions of sacrifice but being half-arsed with following it through letting whoever they strung up off the hook ('scuse pun), both sides made money you see, it's always about the money.
    Paddy Irish Girl, Congrats on the bub, er.. Ogham's a nice Celtic name, only if it's a girl that is ;)

    1. Oh Great and Powerful Og, money is the driver of so many things.

    2. I am not sure what relevance Constantine has to a discussion about the crucifixion of Jesus.

      But I am having trouble with the idea that the Jewish people would be much of a cash cow at any time, never mind during the time of Constantine.

    3. Robin, I never said Constantine was around at the time of JJ and crew, I drew reference to the fact that the Roman empire was always aware of the potential money spinner the Jewish cults were, which came about because of tithes.
      Pompey in 68 BC attacked Judea because Hyrcanus and Aristobulus had started a bloody civil war, which was ruining Judaea. To Pompey the situation offered a golden opportunity. There's evidence in the DSS of 8000 and 6000 kg lots of silver and 800kg gold chains, also from the DSS "The conqueror saw the Menorah, the treasure and all sacred vessels."
      This was repeated in 70 ad by Titus depicts the golden horde paraded through the streets of Rome.
      It's always about the money

    4. I didn't say that you said that he was around at the time. I said I couldn't see the relevance and I still can't.

      The DSS treasure is surely pretty problematical - what were a group of ascetics doing with a big stash?

      We don't really know that it existed.

      The Arch of Titus depicts the treasures of the Temple as the spoils of war but whether or not this can be regarded as a "horde" or not I am not sure.

      In any case the Siege of Jerusalem left the Jewish people decimated and scattered. They couldn't even get away with swallowing stuff to smuggle it out as the Roman soldiers would kill them and cut it out (which was apparently an action too cruel for even Titus).

      People talk of "tithes" as though they would have been a massive source of income but we have no reason to believe this. Did a scattered and beaten people really regroup and build up a new treasure in a couple of centuries so that it would be worth the attention of a Roman emperor?

      And the question remains - what does this have to do with the story of Jesus' death? Where was the money in this case? Not for the golden Menorah and trumpets in the temple since they were apparently still there in 70 CE

    5. Robin,"what does this have to do with the story of Jesus' death?" The Jesus parables, and they are only a stories, no proof whatsoever, came out of these times of upheaval. To understand this story one must try to understand the politics and peoples of the time.
      Vespasian discovered that the Roman empire was broke when he became emperor, but the spoils of war from Judea, the riches of the Temple treasury the golden vessels from the Temple and the seized personal treasures of Jewish citizens created enormous wealth for Rome and the army commanded by his son Titus. Feldman (Louis H, Studies in Hellenistic Judaism) describes a hidden inscription on the Colosseum itself that suggests the construction of the amphitheater was financed by the plundered booty from the Jewish Revolt.
      "Did a scattered and beaten people really regroup and build up a new treasure in a couple of centuries so that it would be worth the attention of a Roman emperor?"
      Yes, tithes were the income tax of the day and handed to the priests, equating to 25% of earnings, made up of a Temple tax a Land Sabbath Tax and a Special Profit-Sharing Tax. Big business such as this came about only with religious fervor or the sword.
      "Where was the money in this case?" In burial pits found, even today, throughout Judea in archaeological digs.

    6. That doesn't really answer my questions.

      You keep mentioning the treasures of the Temple that were taken by Vespasian. Well they can only steal that once.

      As for tithes, 25% is only a large number if is 25% of a much larger number.

      Again, what evidence is there that the Jewish people after 70 CE, those who survived the genocide, were not sold into slavery and were not scattered far and wide, regrouped and became the sort of economic powerhouse that could provide a massive source of wealth to the Roman empire during Constantine's reign. Some pots found in burial mounds is not evidence for that.

      And getting back to Jesus' time, as I pointed out before, the treasure of the Temple remained intact during this time. The Romans gathered tax from them as they did from those who they occupied but I am still not seeing how this relates to the subject of why Jesus was killed.

  11. As to Peter being "weak as water", you might need to think yourself into the situation. Everything had gone pear shaped and he had been spotted. He knew that he would probably be killed by those people and that he would be - like - HURT by them and they say "Do you know this man?".

    I would call him weak as water if I was sure that I would say "yes" in this circumstance.

    As it is I say that he failed to show extraordinary courage.

    Surely he showed courage later - preaching a religion regarded as heretical in circumstances where this might bring down every sort of grief on his head.

    As for his dealings with Paul - surely he was simply reconciled with him, or maybe compromised with him.

    1. Dear Robin,
      You are right. Peter was in an appalling situation. I just bring two acts together to make this assertion. First the incident at the crucifixion and secondly, the Convocation in Jerusalem decades later when he went into the meeting opposed to Paul's position on Jewish observance and then meekly folded. Both times, he was incredibly sensible. But one could also, in a jocular tone, argue that he lacked some spine. Easy to assert from 2000 years away in the comfort of my office. Dick

  12. Pilate exonerated?

    He is depicted as not wanting to punish Jesus and then, when it looks like people might make trouble for him, changes his mind and tortures and kills a man he regards as innocent because some people are making a fuss.

    Quite a new and unfamiliar usage of the word "exonerate" IMO

  13. Incidentally - do you have a source for saying that the Sanhedrin virtually never condemned people to death? Not doubting you understand but I have not heard it before and I would be interested.

    Incidentally, from the wording in the NT it appears that under the occupation they did not have the power to condemn someone to death.

    1. Yes good question. I forget where I read that. I think it was a Jewish encyclopaedia.?????

  14. The Jewish Virtual Library also confirms what is in John 18 - that this would be after the time that the Sanhedrin had lost the authority to pass a sentence of capital punishment - hence the need to ask the Romans to do it.

    Jesus was at the head of an armed group - it appears that he sometimes attracted large followings but was happy to alienate them too, which would seem pretty unstable behaviour.

    And he was clearly saying things that would have attracted a death sentence under Jewish law.

    So I see no major objection to the idea that the Sanhedrin wanted him dead.

    And as I say I can see no exoneration of Pilate - he is depicted as cruel, unjust, arbitrary and weak.

    1. The depiction of Pilate is contentious. I reckon that we can see both good and bad in the man depicted. Having said that, he was insufficiently evil in the gospels to attract blameworthiness in the centuries that followed. The Jews copped the blame and Pilate is seen in similar ways to that which I depicted Peter - a normal man in difficult circumstances who made an understandable judgment call. I hope that helps Robin. Dick

    2. I would agree that the blame attributed to the Jews in general is a gross misrepresentation and the Gospels probably do not fairly represent what happened - it is a story told by their enemies.

      As I said before I can't see how, even if the Sahendrin had sought his death that this would somehow equate to the Jews being responsible for his death.

      And your description of them as virtually never seeking a capital penalty is consistent with the way we see the Jewish religion developing in the Bible, from a strict and sometimes bloodthirsty cult in the first 5 books to a religion where strict religious observance is valued less than living a good life by the later prophets.

      But I still think that you have to read rather selectively to find any good in the depiction of Pilate. When Jesus is brought to him bound he say, in effect, "I am not going to kill him - you kill him".

    3. Thanks for that last one Robin. I appreciate that and all you have written about the culpability of the Jews.

      Yours in conflict of interest,


  15. Anonymous7:25 PM


    I've suspected for some time that biblical description of The Passion may simply be a description of the Roman mental health system of the time, so I'm glad to see someone else suggesting Jesus was bi-polar with a messiah complex.