Saturday, July 2 2022

Today is Good Friday. Christians around the world will take time to reflect on the day it commemorates, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Romans, who in turn were encouraged by elements of the Judean Sanhedrin, who thought Jesus was a dangerous troublemaker. It is a day that believers must go beyond to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Tomorrow, Easter begins. While “officially” Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur surpass it, many Jews consider it their most important holiday. It celebrates the day (the night, in fact), when the Hebrews in Egypt marked their gates with lamb’s blood so that the Angel of Death would “pass” over their homes and limit his visits, fatal to the first sons- born, to the houses of the Egyptians. The passing of the death angel was the last of the plagues promised by Moses, and the one that caused Pharaoh to allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt (“the Exodus”).

The two feasts are linked because Jesus and his 12 apostles, all Jews themselves, were in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The “Last Supper,” which Christians remembered last night (“Maundy Thursday”), was a traditional Passover Seder meal, a ritual dinner that Jews have celebrated every year for at least, if my calculations are correct, 3,200 years old. I say at least, because while mainstream scholars place the Exodus around 1200 BCE, and some even doubt it happened, recent findings suggest it took place around 400 or 500 years ago. earlier.

I find the latter view compelling, although the traditional date, which places the Exodus in the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, made very good theater when Cecil B. DeMille filmed “The Ten Commandments.” I have read and watched many things that seek to explain both the Exodus and the Crucifixion. Most of them seek to tell the viewer or reader “what really happened”. I find most of them interesting, some persuasive and none likely to alter my religious beliefs.

For example, some scholars now believe that the Hebrews actually crossed the marshy “Sea of ​​Reeds” north of the Red Sea, not the deep waters to the south. Thus, they say, the tidal action of the Mediterranean Sea north of the Sea of ​​Reeds withdrew water from the swamp, creating dry land for the Israelites to cross, and the return tide hopelessly mired the Egyptian chariots . This seems more likely to me than the parting of the sea shown so dramatically in the DeMille film.

Likewise, much ink and documentary films have been spilled or shot about who is responsible for the execution of Christ – the Romans or the Jewish leaders. The question is important because throughout history since then those who have been ignorant, or clever, or both, have used the Crucifixion as an excuse to persecute the Jews. Even today, crimes against Jews are the most frequent “hate crimes”.

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I don’t claim to be the final word on the subject, but here are some things I’ve gathered: First, crucifixion was a Roman form of execution used primarily for political prisoners or foreign enemies because it was so brutal . Roman auxiliary soldiers escorted Jesus to his execution.

Second, Judea had historically enjoyed a special status among client kingdoms that were nominally independent but ruled by Rome. The rulers of the Herodian dynasty provided troops and support to Rome. In turn, Judeans of all subject kingdoms were exempted from recognizing Roman deities. But, despite this special status, the Judeans were not happy under Rome.

A large number of Judeans wanted an armed revolt. So Judea was a dry little wood waiting to be burned, and the fire was to break loose in AD 66, 30 years after Christ’s execution, in a revolt that the Romans brutally suppressed.

So the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrin, were terrified of any movement or leader that might anger Rome. At the same time, many other Jews believed the Sanhedrin to be collaborators who flattered the Romans and also used their connections to get rid of anyone they themselves disliked.

So Jesus’ followers, all of them Jews themselves, believed that the Judean rulers had maliciously pointed the finger at Jesus to arrest and execute him. So the Romans killed Christ, but they had help from the Sanhedrin.

At least that’s my opinion. And no, I don’t hate Jews any more because of that than I hate Italians, and that’s not at all.

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