The author of the Gospel of Mark writes after the catastrophe of the Jewish war,
the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. He asks: How could this tragedy have happened?
Why could God allow the Gentiles to destroy the holy city and the temple that had been completed a few years earlier?
Was Josephus, the conservative Jewish historian, right in blaming the insurgents, who included Christians?
Were the Christians in Palestine to blame for the burning of Jerusalem under Titus, the son and successor of Vespasian, as the Roman Christians allegedly were for the burning of Rome under Emperor Nero?
The German text is printed in: Neumann, Johannes: War Jesus Statthalter von Galiläa? Radebeul 2009, p. 43-92. The book can be obtained from bookstores. More books can be found on my homepage www.johannesneumann.com
Today I interrupt the normal text to tell something about myself.
I am Johannes Neumann, I am 72 years old, I live near Dresden in the country of Saxony in Germany. Since my youth I have been interested in Christianity, its origin and the Bible.
While studying Protestant theology, I had doubts whether the biblical account of the origin of Judaism and Christianity corresponded to the historical truth. Later I studied history and dealt with the poetry of the Greeks and Romans. My hobbies are cycling and jogging, in winter alpine skiing and cross-country skiing.
I am especially happy about every single person who reads my blog and writes comments. It is great if you put a link to my blog on your homepage or recommend me in your Facebook group. I want my theses to become even better known so that they can find their way into the discourse of theology.
11. Jesus as god: the church’s working model of the divinity of Jesus, which is binding doctrine,
was the philosophical model of the complete separation of the divine and human nature of Jesus.
This model corresponds with the worshipping of the Roman emperor Augustus. His human nature was never doubted, but, in the activities of Augustus the human being, the people saw the divine powers acting and worshipped Augustus like a god.
In the doctrine of the church the human nature of Jesus has been kept philosophically untouched. This included, and still includes, his suffering and his integration into the causality of the world, which can be searched for and explained.
In the activities of Jesus as a human being the Christians saw – as the Romans did in Augustus – benevolent acts of divinity; they worshipped him as a god from the start.
6. Groups of Christian women, Mary, refused the damnatio memoriae,
which was connected with the crucifixion and supported an honourable burial, so that after the death the soul could settle down into the underworld, see Sophocles, Antigone. For annual celebrations of the yearly passion of Jesus a cenotaph (empty tomb) was erected.
7. Easter: the church of John, which had seen Jesus as example for a new beginning in one’s lifetime, had visions of Jesus. Here the kingdom of God was internalised. Jesus made possible an internal, psychological new beginning.
8. Pentecost: in the era of Pisces which was just beginning, the church of Peter saw a sign of Heaven; in Jesus they saw the foretold ruler from Judea. Here the kingdom of God was postponed to the (near) future and connected with the hope of a new creation.
Galilee at the time of Jesus can be seen as a miniature model of the Roman Empire
as regards East-West differences, the social classes and the different cultures. Moreover, the transition from the rule of the aristocracy to the monarchy was going on there and in Rome at the time of the emperor Augustus.
What did Jesus achieve? He created the basics of a homogeneous culture – later called Christian – for Galilee, which balanced the cultural and social differences and served as an example for the whole Roman Empire.
The religious transformation of Jesus’ culture was realized by the apostles; the writers of the gospels turned it into properly formulated literature.
1. Good governor in Galilee: Jesus realized his ideals of prosperity and reconciliation in the earthly Galilee, especially in the city of Tiberias, the example of the new society. A lot of people who reaped the benefits of his new policy admired him.
2. Tetrarch elected by the citizens (Messiah) in Caesarea Philippi.
3. Revolt: the people hoped Jesus would be the expected Messiah for all Israel.
a sepulchral monument to a person whose body is elsewhere. This is how the records of the empty tomb developed.
7. The church of John saw Jesus even in his lifetime as the man who had braved – for the purposes of the mystery religions – the death of the old and the rising of the new man.
The visions of the risen Jesus followed this idea, probably influenced by narcotics such vine or ergot, which were taken in the mystery religions.
8. The Ascension of Christ described the older myth of the raising of Christ as a narration. In the Acts Luke limited the authentic visions to a period of 40 days after the death of Jesus. Evidently the number of records about meetings with the risen Jesus increased in an inflationary fashion.
Right from the start, the passion narrations according to Mark and the other gospels were holy texts,
destined for reading aloud at the services of the early Christians. The Holy Communion was celebrated in the form of the tradition according to the gospels. Scenes such as the Triumphal Entry, Jesus before Pilate, the Crucifixion, and sometimes the whole passion were played.
The details of the passion legends are from the traditions of the individual churches, hence the critical statements about the respective apostle competitors. Only a few details are based on history. The whole literary unit was formed in order to serve as devotional literature for the early Christians.
1. From the church of Peter came the narratives of the Lord’s Supper and the betrayal by Judas. The story of the betrayal held the rebels, who followed Judas of Galilee, responsible for the execution of Jesus.
2. The Jewish Christians of the church of James did not forgive Peter his own Messianic claims and interpreted it as denial of Jesus. They worshipped the suffering Jesus and pointed out the suffering and Jesus’ despair in Gethsemane.
at least that is how the people saw it according to the record of Josephus, Ant. 18, 5, 2. In the Armenia crisis and in the Jesus revolt, the Nabataean king Aretas, whose daughter the tetrarch had disowned in order to marry Herodias, saw his chance to take revenge for the humiliation of his daughter without fear of Roman repayment.
Aretas made war on Herod Antipas and defeated the army of the prince, who lodged a complaint against the Nabataean with Tiberius. Before Vitellius could go ahead with the obligatory punishment, Tiberius died.
6. On 16 March 37 CE the emperor Tiberius died in Misenum in Campagna, Italy. He was very unpopular even among the Romans. The disrespectful people of the capital sang: Tiberium in Tiberum. May Tiberius be thrown into the Tiber River!
3. Later in 36 or in 37 CE Vitellius visited Jerusalem and re-organised religious affairs there.
He dismissed the high priest Caiaphas, known from the gospels, and appointed Jonathan, son of Ananus. Vitellius agreed that the vestment of the high priest should be kept in the temple in the custody of the priests.
From the time of Herod I. until then it had been stored in the stronghold of Antonia in the custody of the Herodians.
4. At the beginning of the Armenia crisis Herod Antipas was reserved. He was powerless against the Jesus revolt, but kept on the Roman side and closed the cities against the rebels. In a long-lasting revolt this could lead to conflicts, but not in a short one.
In the case of John the Baptist Herod Antipas decided to take action and have him beheaded before John could play a part in the revolt.
But now the facts, which are guaranteed by non-Christian authors:
1. After the suppression of the uprising, probably in early summer of 36 CE, the council of the Samaritans sent a delegation to Vitellius in Antiochia. Pilate was accused of fighting against the revolt unjustly, with troops.
It was said that the people had not rebelled against the Romans, but fled the wrongful administration of Pilate, Josephus, Antiquities 18, 4, 2. Was the Jesus revolt only a citizen’s action group against Pilate, a sit-down demonstration on the holy mountain?
The Samaritans killed two birds with one stone. On the one hand they got Vitellius in the right mood for Samaria, for the situation was still tense and a penalty against their homeland not out of question; on the other hand they took a shot at Pilate in order to get rid of the unpopular governor.
2. The devotion address of the Samaritans suited Vitellius just fine. If a new ruler or governor took up office, usually the local dignitaries paid their respect to him.
The loyalty address was thus in line with to the usual custom. Vitellius had taken on the job given him by the emperor of bringing peace to the East using a carrot and a stick.
14. After the death of Jesus: the historical events
On 18 October 31 CE emperor Tiberius stripped Seian of power and restored the imperial authority.
Crucially for the success of the coup, Seian was immediately executed. Otherwise the most powerful man in Rome yet would have been able to mobilize his followers and take steps against his prosecutors.
Jesus, too, was immediately crucified, and the burial of his dead body was prevented in order to deprive the rebels of his leader and to nip the revolt in the bud.
Now, however, some odd events took place which held the myth of Jesus alive. Jesus’ enemies could not enjoy their victory over him for long. Pilate and Caiaphas were dismissed, with Pilate awaiting trial in Rome; Herod Antipas suffered a humiliating defeat and was later deposed and exiled. A few months later the hated Emperor Tiberius died.
His young successor Caligula gave the principality of Philip, which the citizens would like to have been given to Jesus, to the likeable grandson of Herod I., Agrippa I., who was able to continue Jesus’ policy of reconciliation.
Did Jesus triumph posthumously? Did God justify Jesus afterwards (Is. 53, 4s.)?
13. Back to international affairs: In 35/36 CE the Roman emperor Tiberius expelled the Parthians from Armenia by Roman allies
and brought the Parthian king Artabanos III. into a tight corner with the initially successful counter-king Tiridates. Tiberius appointed Vitellius as legate in Syria and chief of the Roman armies against the Parthians.
14. Pilate closely watched the crisis in Armenia and the events in the Parthian Empire. He had to make amends with the emperor because of his close contacts with the overthrown Seian, and he had decided to do it as soon as possible.
Pilate knew the danger which came from news about Parthian victories and Roman defeats. In his eyes, the people from the Orient and in particular the Jews were fly-by-nights who needed to be shown Roman authority.
While the rebels dreamed of Parthian victories, Pilate knew the latest news, and it was good news for Rome.
11. The whole countryside (not the cities) cheered Jesus.
In the spring of 36 CE he went in triumph through Palestine. (Imagine a situation as with Napoleon, when in March 1815 he came back from Elba to France.)
Jesus’ followers gave him an enthusiastic reception, but the politically responsible men kept their distance from Jesus: the city gates stayed closed, Mk 1, 45. Unlike Napoleon Jesus was not a military leader, but his fascination was also based on the ideas of liberté, egalité, fraternité (freedom, equality, brotherhood).
Like Napoleon Jesus put an end to traditional aristocracy in favour of a monarchy where suddenly everybody had civil rights and the chance to set up in life.
8. The hands of time were turning. The third event recorded is the first death of a ruling monarch.
In 34 CE the tetrarch Philip died, and his tetrarchy, with the newly built capital Caesarea Philippi, stayed without a leader.
9. While the crises so far were soon under control, in 35 CE a crisis began which upset the whole eastern part of the Roman Empire.
It was the year of the death of the Armenian king Artaxias, who was a friend of Rome. The Parthian king Artabanos III. expected the decline of Rome under the emperor Tiberias in his old age; he conquered the Armenian capital Artaxata and appointed his eldest son Arsaces as king (Tacitus, Annals 6, 31ss, Josephus, Antiquities, 18, 4, 4).
Bets were made on the fall of Roman power in the East.