The Trials and Death of Jesus
With this article Dr. J.K. Elliott concludes his series on the role of historical fact and prophetic tradition in the accounts of the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels.
The importance of the trials and death of Jesus for the early Church is undeniable. The New Testament writers were interested in the events leading up to Jesus' death, but these events created two problems. First, the earliest Christians needed to explain why and how Jesus was killed by the Romans. Secondly, the early theologians of the Church, determined to promote Jesus as the new Jewish saviour, had the task of explaining why it was necessary for Jesus the Jew to become anathema to the Jews by being crucified. Today two questions come to mind whenever the crucifixion of Jesus is considered. These are 'Why was Jesus killed?' and 'With what justification did he suffer a Roman punishment?' Crucifixion meant that Jesus must have committed a crime against the Roman state. Had he merely offended against a technicality in the Jewish Law, then it is likely he could have been punished by Jews. It will be argued that, even during the Roman occupation, the Jews had the right to exercise the death penalty and that statements to the contrary in the New Testament are apologetically motivated.