Friday, Apr. 08, 2011

The Roman Trial of Jesus

The trial of Jesus may just be the most important trial in history and yet, we don't know that much about it outside of what appears in the Bible.

Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 63 B.C., who over the next several decades installed burdensome laws relating to the census, taxation and land ownership. A Jewish uprising in 6 A.D. led to the crucifixion and enslavement of thousands of Jewish people.

Some time after that, a new leader emerged among the Jews: John the Baptist, who among other things prophesied the immanent coming of God. The Roman-appointed ruler of Israel's Galilee region, Herod Antipas, had him executed. But then came Jesus, with similar teachings, and many of John's followers began to follow him instead. Tensions between the Romans and the Jews were high, so when Jesus insulted the Roman-backed priests, expelled the "moneychangers" (people buying and selling merchandise) and flipped over a table at Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, he was promptly arrested. What happened next is difficult to determine, as even the separate books of the Gospel report the proceedings differently. Eventually, Jesus was turned over to Roman prefect Pontius Pilate for execution. Rome didn't want to incite another uprising by executing yet another prominent Jewish leader (especially one that some had come to call the Messiah), so they offered to let him free. Famously, the mob outside chose to let another prisoner, Barabbas, go instead. Jesus was thus executed by crucifixion. What happened next? Well, that is a matter of faith.

Whatever your belief, the crucifixion of Jesus was undeniably significant. Without it, Christianity as we know it would not exist. So many events in history involve conflicts between those who believe in Christianity and those who do not (or those who adhere to one form of Christianity and those who prefer another) that it's nearly impossible to imagine our world without it.