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.)?
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.
3. in Rome Seian’s efforts towards clearing the social barriers between the knights
and the high aristocracy of the emperor led him into a personal disaster. On 18 October 31 CE Tiberius dismissed Seian and immediately had him executed. He restored the power system with the emperor at the top.
Seian’s loss of power weakened the positions of Jesus and of Pilate in Palestine. Jesus had the same power position in Galilee which had led to Seian’s downfall in Rome. This gave Jesus’ adversaries new arguments against the governor’s accumulation of power.
Pilate, as a Roman knight, came from the same social class as Seian and had officially had to cooperate with him in the past. As all of Seian’s contacts were now being checked out in Rome, Pilate had to be sure not to make any more mistakes in future.
The conflict between the Roman and the Parthian Empires was the historical background
of the death of Jesus. In the Armenia crisis of 35/36 CE the conflict was held on the territory of the client/buffer states from Armenia to Palestine.
In the beginning of the year 35 CE the situation in Palestine was instable because of the death of the tetrarch Philip in 34 CE and the dismissal of the governor Jesus some years before.
The Jewish and Oriental section of the populace was waiting for a sign of Roman weakness to appoint a king independent of Rome and to flee beneath the hegemony of the Parthian Empire – like two generations before, when Herod the Great had been forced to flee to Rome.
The Annals of Tacitus and the Antiquities of Josephus inform us about international affairs and regional conflict. Seeing Jesus as the governor of Galilee and identifying him with the Samaritan prophet we can understand the conditions and the series of events which led to the death of Jesus.
The years 68-70 CE marked the second turn of an era.
With Nero’s forced suicide the short era of the divine emperors and the hundred-year rule of the emperors of the high aristocratic family of Augustus were over. In 69 CE, the year of four emperors, Vespasian founded the Flavian dynasty. The new emperor understood himself not as a god, but as a human being and did not deny his low origins from the Italian countryside.
In the Flavian time the epos (poetry in the style of Homer and Virgil) experienced a revival by the poets Valerius Flaccus and Statius. The time until the rule of the emperor Nero was considered to be a completed era, to which tribute was to be paid and after which a new beginning was needed.
A fresh start was undertaken by thinking back to Greek culture. The Flavian epic poets give the Romans Greek legends as an Old Testament of Roman culture (Michael von Albrecht).
10. The eras and the turns of eras in Roman, Jewish and early Christian history in the 1st century CE
In about 30 CE a series of elderly gentleman trained under the reign
of Augustus were ruling in Rome and in Palestine. From the Isle of Capri the 70-year-old emperor Tiberius directed events in Rome. In the capital of the empire the knight Aelius Seianus, the chief minister of state, was in control of everything.
In Palestine the tetrarchs Herod Antipas and Philip had ruled the northern territories for more than 30 years. For more than 20 years Antipas had been supported by the governor Jesus.
Judaea and Samaria were under direct Roman administration as the province Judaea, and since 26 CE the knight Pontius Pilate had ruled with a rod of iron. In the following years this peaceful idyll of Augustean stability and Middle Eastern joie de vivre was about to be shaken by a line of events, in the course of which the rulers were completely exchanged.
In the years 36/37 CE responsibility for the political order was handed over to a new generation of political leaders.
When Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, Augustus passed on his throne to three of his sons. The challenge
which Herod’s successors had to meet was to turn the traditional reign of Herod into a new Augustean-style monarchy and to reduce the influence of the mighty aristocracy as Augustus had done in Rome.
The princes were expected to favour the prosperity of new social classes as allies against the aristocracy. The oldest of the sons, Archelaos, failed and in 6 CE he was banished to Gaul. Judaea was turned into a Roman province at the wishes of the Jewish aristocracy.
Philip in the North met the challenge: he introduced and kept peace in his reign and managed to die in office, highly estimated, in 34 CE.
Herod Antipas stood between these two alternatives. He was a full brother of Archelaus and got the small and agriculturally rich Galilee and Perea east of Jordan.
Three key words characterize the historical background of Jesus. Rome, the Parthian Empire and Galilee.
In Rome in the late Republic, the old aristocratic families had led the state to the brink of ruin with their struggles for power. Emperor Augustus had managed to build a stable monarchy in place of the rule of the aristocracy.
He retained the facade of the Republic and integrated the old elite into the New State with a lot of administrative offices and honorary posts. Under the rule of Augustus the economy boomed and orders for the building industry brought profits to the entrepreneurs and employment to the lower class.
Sculptors and poets were vying with each other to praise Emperor Augustus, the First Man of the state, and the Golden Age without war that he had brought about. Augustus became a celebrated example for all monarchs at the time, including the Herodian princes and the governor Jesus.