Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

12. About Jesus / Gethsemane |
Madman or God?

This is a continuation of the eleventh segment (Mount of Olives) of Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God?. It is from Volume One, The Veil is Torn, of the twelve-volume historical series: The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years. This section of the chapter discusses the delicate issue facing Caiaphas, the Roman-appointed Jewish High Priest, who wanted Jesus arrested without inciting nation-wide riots.

Caiaphas’ dilemma: how to arrest the troublemaker Jesus without ultimately having thousands of Jews skewered to crosses

Arresting Jesus wasn’t simple. He had by now a huge following in the countryside, and hundreds of his followers had come to Jerusalem for Passover. If he had been arrested publicly a riot was almost certain. And the high priests emphatically did not want that. Forty years before, a riot that broke out at Passover had led to a further outbreak at Pentecost fifty days later, during which the Romans rounded up two thousand people and skewered them to crosses all over the city. Caiaphas didn’t want something like that on his conscience. The man had to be arrested, tried, convicted and put down before most people knew what was going on.

Jesus’ followers were uncommonly loyal. Except, that is, for one, a fellow named Iscariot who, as the high priests doubtless saw it, had finally perceived the essential fraudulence of this Nazarene and was willing to tell them where he could be quietly arrested without trouble—in the Gethsemane Garden up on the Mount of Olives, where he and his lieutenants would be spending the night.

The arrest came off with only a minor altercation—predictably caused by the designated favorite Simon who, as so often happens with such people, subsequently denied even knowing this Jesus. (Some “Rock!”) But the trial that followed went badly. To convict the accused, under the Jewish system, at least two witnesses had to agree. No two could be found who did.

That’s when Caiaphas played his trump card. Knowing the man’s bizarre theology, he first put the prisoner under oath—a questionable expedient, since he proposed to convict the witness out of his own mouth, but there were precedents for it. He then simply asked the man who he was. Jesus replied, as Caiaphas had plainly foreseen, with the name of God, and he quietly added that he would return as judge of the world. Now this must be either a staggering truth or a patently obvious blasphemy. Since to Caiaphas the former was ridiculous, he assumed the latter, declared it blasphemy, ritually ripped his high priestly robe, and pronounced the death penalty.

To continue reading from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years, Volume One — The Veil is Torn, Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God? and would like to proceed to the next section on Pontius Pilate.