Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea and Samaria, saw Jesus’ triumphal journey as an anti-Roman insurgency; he scattered the crowds

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall
Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall

and had Jesus and the other leaders crucified on the holy mountain Gerizim in Samaria in 36 AD. Josephus writes (Ant. 18.4.1):

The Samaritan nation too was not exempt from disturbance. For a man who made light of mendacity and in all his designs catered to the mob, rallied them, bidding them go in a body with him to Mount Gerizim, which in their belief is the most sacred of mountains…

Pilate blocked their projected route up the mountain with a detachment of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, who in an encounter with the firstcomers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential among the fugitives.

Josephus was an opponent of Christianity and would probably have preferred not to mention the events surrounding Jesus at all. However, he had to explain why the Samaritans complained to Vitellius, the governor of Syria, resulting in Pilate being removed from his position.

Josephus aims to portray Jesus as negatively as possible, using three literary devices: 1. Josephus has to admit that Jesus had many followers. However, he claims that they were not really convinced followers; Jesus was a populist who said what his audience wanted to hear, so gaining more followers than a serious speaker who convinces his hearers.

2. Josephus calls Jesus a deceiver, a person who did not hesitate to lie. This makes it easier for the reader not to feel sympathy for the man who was then crucified, and to view the punishment as justified.

3. For the same reason, Josephus does not mention Jesus’ name, because a person whose name the readers know arouses their sympathy more easily than an anonymous person.

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