Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem – Palm Sunday

 

An unusual encounter happened one day while Jesus of Nazareth was working his way through villages and towns heading toward Jerusalem for the final time. Some Pharisees forewarned him that Tetrarch Herod was seeking to have him killed.[1]

No fan of the Pharisees nor Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist, the response was blunt: “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’” [2]Jesus finished by quoting from Psalms 118:26.[3]

LK 13:35 “…I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

PS .118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (NKJV)

Lazarus had been raised from the dead in Bethany by Jesus of Nazareth who had then slipped away to Ephraim to escape the constant celebrity turmoil. After a short period of time, he returned to Bethany for a Saturday night dinner at the home of Simon the leper, presumably one of the many lepers previously healed by Jesus.

Martha was serving the meal, her sister Mary and brother Lazarus were also in attendance along with all 12 Disciples.[4] Outside, a crowd of onlookers gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus, the novelty man who had been raised from the dead after 4 days.[5]

Sunday the next morning, Jesus sent Disciples, Peter and John into Jerusalem a couple of miles away to fetch a donkey and find a place to observe the Passover.[6] The entire episode was a mysterious mission – finding a donkey with its young colt belonging to an unidentified person who would also provide a place to eat the Passover meal.[7]

Not knowing any specific details, only clues, the sign for the Disciples would be to find a man carrying a jar of water and a tied-up mother donkey with its colt.[8] They were to untie the donkey and if he asked about it, they were to say, “The Lord needs it.”[9] From there, they were to follow the man to a house, then say to house owner, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”[10]

Exactly as Jesus had predicted, it happened. Peter and John found the donkey with a colt; the person with the donkey asked what they were doing; and after responding as instructed, the man then led them to a house. The owner showed them an upstairs room, fully furnished and prepared for the Passover. [11] Afterwards, the two Disciples then took the donkeys to Jesus.[12]

Matthew and John Gospels point out that this event was a fulfillment of the Zachariah messiah prophecy that foretold the King of Israel would arrive riding on a donkey. Specifically, the foal colt of a donkey – at that age, it had never been ridden.[13]

Zech 9:9:  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NRSV)

All four Gospel authors write about that triumphal day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on a donkey colt. Many people, including ones who had seen Lazarus raised from the dead, began chanting, laying down their outer garments and placing palm branches in his path. Seeing and hearing all the commotion, others asked, “Who is this?” Christianity refers to this triumphal entry as “Palm Sunday.”[14]

JN 12:12-13  “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:  “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”” (NKJV)

“Hosanna” is a shortened version of the Hebrew saying “Anna Adonai hoshi-‘ah-nna” from Psalms 118:25.[15] A customary cry of joyful celebration, “hosanna” traces to ancient Jewish times when a marching procession would wave branches of palm, myrtle and willow each day of the Sukkot festival (aka the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles). [16]

“According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm — and then called him “the King of Israel.” … The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah…” – Jewish Encyclopedia [17]

Sukkot, usually falling in the month of September, begins five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one of the three annual pilgrim festivals required by the Law.[18] Often referred to as the “season of our Rejoicing,” the Sukkot holiday serves a dual purpose to both celebrate the harvest as well as the Hebrews emerging from the 40 years of wondering in the Sinai desert wilderness where they had lived in temporary shelters called “tabernacles.”

Seventh and final day of the Sukkot festival is called “Hoshanna Rabbah” meaning “Great Salvation.” It is the day when the Jewish nation is judged by God whether or not to be worthy of the seasonal rains.[19]

Psalms 118 is regarded in Judaism as the concept of salvation pointing to the arrival of the Messiah.[20] In Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi’s commentary of the Micah 5:2(1) Bethlehem prophecy, he quoted from Psalms 118:22 saying “the stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone” expounding that this refers to “the Messiah, son of David.”[21] In reverse, interestingly the Rabbi did not provide this same commentary for the actual verse of Psalms 118:22.[22]

Days earlier, Jesus predicted the Pharisees would not see him until people shouted out the Psalm 118 Messiah praise. The Zechariah prophecy foretold most specifically that the Messiah would come riding on a foal colt donkey. Both scenarios occurred a short time later with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on an unbroken colt donkey and the throng shouting the exact Psalms hosanna praise.

Were Zechariah’s prophecy and the Psalms 118 prediction by Jesus, both Messiah prophecies, fulfilled that Palm Sunday during his final entry into Jerusalem?

 

Updated September 20, 2022.

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REFERENCES:

[1] Luke 13:31.
[2] Luke 13:32. NJKV.
[3] Luke 13:35.
[4] Matthew 26:6; John 11:43-44, 54; 12:1-2.
[5] John 12:9.
[6] Luke 22:8.
[7] Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 19:28-36. John 11:18; 12:12.
[8] Mark 14:13. Luke 19:30-34.
[9] Matthew 21:3; Luke 19:31-35.
[10] Mark 14:14.
[11] Mark 14:15.
[12] Matthew 21:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:14.
[13] Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.
[14] Matthew 21:2-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16.
[15] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna> Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021.<https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/118-25.htm> “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm>  “Hosanna.” YouTube. photo. 2022. <https://i.ytimg.com/vi/pRpF_lQiroE/maxresdefault.jpg
[16] “What is Sukkot.” Chabad.org. 2014. <http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4784/jewish/What-is-Sukkot.htm>  Rich, Tracey R.  “Sukkot.” JewFAQ.org. n.d.  <http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm>
[17] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2021. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna
[18] Deuteronomy 16:9-17. “Tabernacle, Feast of | Sukkot.” YouTube. photo. 2022. <https://i.ytimg.com/vi/KxFzn-ivQv0/maxresdefault.jpg
[19] Lawrence, Natan. HoshanaRabbah.org. “Origin of “Hoshana Rabbash.”” 11/15/2019. <https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2019/11/15/origination-of-hoshana-rabbah> Rich. “Sukkot.”
[20] “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13051-salvation> “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Psalms 118:15. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/118-15.htm>  “3444. yeshuah.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3444.htm>  Psalms 118:15. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16339/showrashi/true>  Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Interlinear. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/interlinear/psalms/118-25.htm>  “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.
[22] Micah 5. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true> Psalms 118. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.

Was Jesus Born as the Messiah, the Son of God?

 

Two big questions are commonly asked about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Was he really born, a real person, and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah? Answers to the questions involve logic and the U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances.

Straightforward logic can answer the question about the historicity of Jesus of  Nazareth. Regardless if he is the Messiah, the likelihood that calendars were changed based on someone who never existed is a very difficult concept to believe.

A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars making Jesus the most impactful figure in history. The modern-day effort to change “BC” and “AD” to “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact the calendar change occurred at the same point in time as the life of Jesus.[1]

Setting aside logic, religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish ancestral birth records and lineage of Jesus are undisputed by Judaism.[2] The Jewish Encyclopedia in its article “Jesus of Nazareth” states that Jesus is a real historical figure, even pinpointing a date of his birth.[3] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are also recognized by the Quran.[4]

Addressing the question if Jesus is the Messiah, while ultimately this is a personal decision, there is much to consider. Circumstantially, an entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound changed the official views of the Roman empire with Christianity going on to become the largest religion in the world, over 2 billion people today.[5]

Caesar Augustus as the ruling Emperor of Rome; King Herod as the head of the Judean government; Quirinius, Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod – all these historical figures are referenced in the Gospels consistent with secular history. As such, it raises the bar of Gospel answerability and credibility to the highest degree.[6]

Mary gave birth to Jesus in a totally unexpected, unplanned location in Bethlehem 90 miles away instead of Nazareth.[7] The angel who appeared independently months apart to Mary and Joseph didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem.[8] Joseph and Mary planned to stay in Nazareth for the birth of their baby surrounded by family and friends.

A Roman Caesar’s decree forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus.  Augustus’ official decree in Nazareth compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor.

Months in the making by the Roman government, announcement in Nazareth of Caesar’s decree more than a week earlier or a week later would have resulted in Jesus being born in Nazareth. Had Jesus been born in there, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[9]

Hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome,  Magi made preparations to travel around the edges of the vast Arabian Desert on a month’s long journey to Judea to find the newborn King of Israel. These astronomy experts began their quest based on seeing “His Star,” not because of any Messiah prophecy.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time shortly before the birth of Jesus, seconds in astronomical time. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, all occurred over the course of only months.[10] NASA astronomy science and technology confirms it all happened, both in timing and close proximity.[11]

When the Magi began their month’s long journey to Judea, their final destination was unclear. They sought out the ruthless King Herod in Jerusalem for assistance in finding the newborn King signaled by “His star.”[12]

Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the Micah 5:2 (1) prophecy foretelling the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.[13] The King indicated he believed the prophecy had been fulfilled evidenced by pointing the Magi to Bethlehem to find the babe in exchange for telling him the exact location of the newborn.[14]

Messiah prophecies that may have been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth originate in the Scriptures, the Tenakh or the Old Testament. Christianity accepts prophecies about the Messiah, such as the Branch prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah; the Psalms; the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Judaism does not unanimously recognize some of these prophecies as pertaining to the Messiah. Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each with differing views on some Messiah prophecies.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed by Jews or Christians – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[15] Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was a royal heir to David, a fact not a disputed by Judaism.

Isaiah 52-53 describes the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant” consistent with a Roman crucifixion that was developed hundreds of years later. Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death, all described in the Gospels involving the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[16]

Psalms contains varied messianic views by Judaism and Christianity. For example, Psalms 22 closely mirroring a crucifixion is not recognized as a Messiah prophecy by Judaism. On the other hand, Psalms 118 is included in the traditional Jewish Hallel about the Messiah.[17]

Zechariah 12:10 foretells someone from the lineage of the House of David would be thrust through or pierced, killing him. His death would cause morning as deep as for an only son. A faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a including Rashi believed it to be Messianic, consistent with the view of Christianity.[18]

Assessing all the circumstances involving the life of Jesus of Nazareth obviously has a direct impact on believability. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.

What are the odds that Jesus was born as the Son of God, the Messiah?

 

Updated October 26, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Hocken, Vigdis. “Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE).” TimeandDate.com. 2020. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/ce-bce-what-do-they-mean.html> Mark, Joshua J. “The Origin and History of the BCE/CE Dating System.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/article/1041/the-origin-and-history-of-the-bcece-dating-system>
[2]“Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>  Messiah. Triton World Mission Center. image. n.d. <https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrFGczYdVhjL.gT5Bg2nIlQ;_ylu=c2VjA3NlYXJjaARzbGsDYnV0dG9u;_ylc=X1MDMTM1MTE5NTcwMgRfcgMyBGZyA3locy1hZGstYWRrX3NibnQEZnIyA3A6cyx2OmksbTpzYi10b3AEZ3ByaWQDMzh6Tm9GQmVSYTJoSU9hTDIzbDFOQQRuX3JzbHQDMARuX3N1Z2cDMARvcmlnaW4DaW1hZ2VzLnNlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzAEcHFzdHIDBHBxc3RybAMwBHFzdHJsAzIzBHF1ZXJ5A01lc3NpYWglMjBwcm9waGVjeSUyMGltYWdlcwR0X3N0bXADMTY2Njc0MjIyNw–?p=Messiah+prophecy+images&fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Ai%2Cm%3Asb-top&ei=UTF-8&x=wrt&type=yhs-adk_sbnt_appfocus1_sm_ff&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&param1=20210118&param2=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&param3=searchmanager_%7EUS%7Eappfocus1%7E&param4=%7Efirefox%7E%7E#id=158&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Ftritonubf.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2018%2F04%2FThe-Messiah-in-Judaism-Christianity-and-Islam-04.jpg&action=click
[3] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  CR I Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. Book 1, #7. The Complete Works of Josephus.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Hall, David Markel.  “The Temple of G-d.”  1997.  Zion Messianic Congregation of Austin, Texas. <http://tzion.org/articles/temple.html>  “Jewish Genealogy & Surnames.” Archives. Archives.com. n.d. <http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-jewish.html>  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. pp 246-251. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd edition. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>
[4] Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. n.d. Search “Jesus.” <http://search-the-quran.com>  “The Descriptive Titles of Jesus in the Quran (part 1 of 2): “The Messiah” and “a Miracle.”’ IslamReligion.com. 2020. <http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/230>  The Quran. JM Rodwell Translation With text notes. “Preface.” <http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Quran/Rodwell/Introduction.html>
[5] “What is the #1 religion in the world?” Search. Google. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+the+%231+religion+in+the+world&oq=what+is+the+%231+rel&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0j69i57j0j0i22i30l4.10361j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>
[6] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[7] Luke 1:39, 2:1-5. Map of Israel (active, untitled).  Bing.com/maps. Mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nazareth.  n.d. <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>  Oshri, Aviram.  “Where was Jesus Born?” Archaeology. Volume 58 Number 6. November/December 2005. <http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html> Arbez, Edward. “Bethlehem.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 2. 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>
[8] Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-37.
[9] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
[10] Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154 >  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt> Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[11] Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.” NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. Video. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  CR “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[12] Matthew 2:1-3.
[13] Matthew 2:4-6.
[14] Matthew 2:7-8.
[15] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4.  Numbers 17-19. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[16] CR Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13. Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[17] “Psalms 118.” JewwishAwareness.org. 2011. <http://www.jewishawareness.org/psalm-118>  McKelvey, Michael G. “The Messianic Nature of Psalm 118.” Reformed Faith & Practice. 2017. <https://journal.rts.edu/article/messianic-nature-psalm-118> “Hallel” EncyclopædiaBritannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hallel>
[18] Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216/showrashi/true>

 

Pharisees & Jewish Leaders vs. Jesus

 

Pharisees and the Jewish leadership were the dogged antagonists of Jesus of Nazareth. Their provocations elicited from Jesus his revelations about being the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah, to which they had forbidding reactions.

Key to understanding the friction between the Jewish leadership and Jesus of Nazareth is knowing the backdrop of the Jewish religious power base, especially the Pharisees. Three main religious factions played an influencing role in Jerusalem – the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes – all with common ground being the written Law of Moses.[1]

Essenes were a very closed sect keeping to themselves and are not mentioned in the Gospels. References in the Gospels to the Pharisees are 10-fold greater than the Sadducees who strongly disagreed with the Pharisees:

“…[Pharisees] have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them” – Josephus [2]

Jewish leadership was comprised of the high priests, Pharisees and Sadducees who often had membership in the Sanhedrin (Sanhedrim), a supreme court of 71 judges established under Moses.[3] The Sanhedrin progressively gained political power during its final years under the Roman Empire.

Four prominent Jewish historical figures were Pharisees who provided insights to the Jewish authority apparatus. Flavius Josephus was a Sanhedrin-appointed Pharisee General before he was captured by the Romans and became an official Jewish historian for Rome.[4] Nicodemus and Josephus of Arimethea were both Pharisee members of the Jewish Council. Saul, who became the Apostle Paul after his conversion, also was previously a Pharisee.[5]

Power and influence increased significantly for the Pharisees under Jewish Queen Alexandra a generation before King Herod.[6] On his death bed, King Alexander advised his daughter, Queen Alexandra, to grant some of her powers to the Pharisees to gain their favor in the kingdom.[7]

Queen Alexandra followed the King’s advice and granted the Pharisees “all things into their power, both to the dead body, and as to the affairs of the kingdom…”[8] In return, the Pharisees threw their support behind Alexandra as ruler…but it came with a price:

“Now Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree….while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her.” – Josephus [9]

Pharisees had their own contingent of officers with full arrest powers.[10] Once they were sent to arrest Jesus simply because the crowd was murmuring about things he was teaching.[11] Officers of the Pharisees were part of the posse that arrested Jesus on Mt. Gethsemane.[12] Saul admitted zealously arresting Christians on behalf of the Sanhedrin before his own conversion to Christianity.[13]

Josephus described the Pharisees as legal experts “esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their law.”[14] According to Josephus, the Pharisees “valued themselves highly upon the exact skill they had in the law of their fathers, and made men believe they were highly favored by God.”[15]

Etching by Rembrandt – 1649 AD

Gospel accounts of the Pharisees indicate Jesus of Nazareth had a very similar view as Josephus. Jesus acknowledged the religious authority of the Pharisees yet despised their hypocritical behavior.[16]

Confronting Jesus numerous times, the Jewish leadership wanted to know by what authority he was forgiving sins and performing miracles. Responses from Jesus came in the form of parables, riddles or not answered at all. On a few dramatic occasions shortly before he was arrested and crucified did Jesus answer them directly…

October is the month when the Feast of the Tabernacles celebration, now known as Sukkot, is observed in Jerusalem.[17] Six months before Jesus would be crucified, the Disciples of Jesus attended this week-long festival without him.[18] Midweek Jesus secretly slipped into the city and taught at the Temple.

Officers reported the appearance of Jesus to the Pharisees and Jewish leadership prompting them to find him.[19] When they heard Jesus say “I am the light of the world,” the Pharisees objected and pressed him further when Jesus said:[20]

JN 8:24 “…for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.” (ISV)

Turning to his Judean believers, Jesus explained further, then the dialog turned to Abraham. When Jesus spoke as though he knew Abraham, it led to this exchange:

JN 8:57-58 “‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” (NKJV)

God referred to Himself as “I AM” and Jesus just claimed to be I AM. Blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses, was to be punished by stoning.[21] “They picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.”[22]

December before Jesus would be crucified, he attended the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, today known as Hanukkah.[23] Under Solomon’s Portico at the Temple, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”[24] They got a succinct answer:

JN 10:30 “The Father and I are one.” (NET)

Again, the reaction was severe – Jewish authorities picked up stones to kill Jesus and he asked them why.[25] Instead, Jesus suggested they should consider the “good deeds” he had performed because miracles could only be accomplished with the power of his Father – God.[26]

JN 10:36-38 “…do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (NET)

Response from the Jewish religious authorities: “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”[27] An attempt was made to seize Jesus rather than to stone him.

A change in reaction may have been more for political self-interests and less for religious reasons. The Jewish leaders were afraid of the people because they viewed Jesus as a prophet yet he threatened their controlling influence over the people. Raising Lazarus from the dead caused his popularity to reach a point that became the catalyst for eliminating Jesus.[28]

Just hours before he was to be crucified came the most dramatic moment involving the high priest himself. During his nighttime trial by the Jewish leadership at the Temple, undoubtedly knowing it would cost him his life, Jesus testified under oath that he is ego eimi, Greek for “I AM”.[29]

MK 14:62 Jesus said, “I AM, and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.'” (ISV)

Jewish leadership and the Sanhedrin bore witness to the fact that Jesus testified under oath that he is “I AM.” Caiaphas immediately exclaimed, “‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Listen! You yourselves have just heard the blasphemy! What is your verdict?’ They replied, ‘He deserves to die!’”[30]

On three occasions, Jesus specifically identified himself as equal to God, the Son of God, and each time the Pharisees and Jewish leadership who heard it wanted to kill him. Jesus said it – the question is who was correct, the Jewish leadership or Jesus?

 

Updated October 9, 2022.

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REFERENCES:

[1] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XIII, Chapter V.9.  The Life of Flavius Josephus. I.2. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false> “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress. n.d. <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html>
[2] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6.
[3] Exodus 18:25-26; Deuteronomy 1:15-17, 16:18-20.  Josephus,. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter X.4 foot note *. Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter VIII.7-11.   “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin>  “Sanhedrin.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/sanhedrin> “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sanhedrin>  *93 Gospel mentions of Pharisees, 9 Gospel mentions of Sadducees or which 6 also included the Pharisees.
[4] Josephus, Flavius. The Life of Josephus. 12.[5] John 3:1, 7:50; Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23. “Paul the Apostle.” Denova, Rebecca. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2013. <https://www.ancient.eu/Paul_the_Apostle/#:~:text=Paul%20was%20a%20Pharisee%2C%20and,was%20the%20Law%20of%20Moses> “St. Paul the Apostle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Paul-the-Apostle>
[5]Josephus. The Life of Josephus. 12. 
[6] Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. “Antiquity of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter IV.3 foot note †;” “Book XIV, Chapter IX.4, footnote †;” Dissertation I.V; Book XIII, Chapter XVI foot note †. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus. Antiquity. Book IV, Chapter VII.14; Book XIV, Chapter IX.4. Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter XV.6. “Salome Alexandra.” New World Encyclopedia. 2019. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Salome_Alexandra>
[7] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XV.5, XVI.1.
[8] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XVI.1.
[9] Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter V.2.
[10] John 1:24; 7:32, 45; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[11] John 7:32.
[12] John 18:1-12.
[13] Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23.
[14] Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter VIII.14.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6.
[15] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[16] Matthew 3:7, 16:6, 12, 23:1-13, 15, 25, 27, 29, 33; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:43, 12:1, 18:11, 20:45-47.  Rembrandt (Harmenszoon van Rijn). Welcome Collection. photo. 1649. <https://wellcomecollection.org/works/j7evnu32
[17] “Sukkoth.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sukkoth-Judaism> “The Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles.” One For Israel. 2020. <https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/the-meaning-of-the-feast-of-tabernacles>
[18] John 7:2.  Footnote [18 (previously 17)  DELETED (references added to #4)
[19] John 7:1-9, 14, 32, 45; 8:12.  CR John 1:24; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[20] John 8:12.
[21] Leviticus 24:16.
[22] John 8:59.
[23] John 10:22. “Hanukkah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hanukkah> “Hanukkah.” History.com. 2020. <https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah>
[24] John 10:24. NET.
[25] John 10:31-32. NET. John 10:24. Netbible.org. Footnote 1. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Joh&chapter=10&verse=24>  CR John 10:31. International Standard Version, New Heart English Bible. <https://biblehub.com/john/10-31.htm>
[26] John 9:16. CR John 10:40-41.
[27] John 10:33. NET.
[28] Matthew 19:2, 21:46, 26:4-5; Mark 11:18, 14:1-2; Luke 12:1, 21:38; John 11:47-48; 12:18-19. Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.5, Chapter XI.5-6, Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[29] Matthew 26:63-64.
[30] Matthew 26:65-66. ISV. CR Mark 14:63-64.