Astronomy

Asteroid locations at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus

Asteroid locations at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus


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I am interested in learning the locations and velocities of the near earth asteroids at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I would like to back-calculate the paths of all known near earth asteroids to find out if any was between the earth and the sun at the time of Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday. The Horizons system of NASA JPL only permits back calculations to about 1400AD.

I want to see if there was a clustering of asteroids on Good Friday between the earth and sun. If so they could be the remnants of a gigantic collision that would have been capable of making a dust cloud in interplanetary space that could have produced a shadow on the entire earth which would account for the observations reported by the gospels and the Chinese astronomers and St. Dionysius and others.

In other words if any asteroids are calculated to have been between the earth and sun on Good Friday they may be left-over debris from the possible collision that produced the dust cloud.

My question is this. Do you know of any available computer program like the JPL Horizons program that will work to give asteroid positions back in the time period between 29AD and 35AD? (I give a range of years because biblical scholars give a range of possible years for the Crucifixion of Jesus. The determination of a debris asteroid would help historians know the timing of the Crucifixion better, also.) Thank you for your attention and assistance. Best Regards, Dr. Francis Kelly President, The Catholic Association of Scientists and Engineers


The computer program you are asking for is literally impossible: Even ignoring the affect of the greater universe and transient visitors such as comets on hyperbolic orbits, the Solar system is a chaotic complex system. We have a pretty good handle on the motion of the bodies we are, and have been aware of, during the time modern astronomy has been studying the skies, i.e., over the past few hundred years. (Remember that in the earlier years of telescopic astronomy, we were unaware of most of the currently known members of the Solar system, including all of the asteroids, and every massive object beyond Saturn.) As you deviate further from the present (either past or future), the chaotic nature of the system comes more into play, especially on smaller bodies such as asteroids. As a result, stating orbital positions either far in the past or far in the future requires a larger margin of error as the time differential grows. Eventually you get to a point where the error is so great that we cannot say reliably where an object was or will be. Perhaps if someone had come up with the laws of planetary motion sooner than Kepler, we would have more reliable data further into the past, and therefore more accurate orbital elements over a longer range than we do, but that didn't happen.

The asteroid belt (white) and Jupiter's trojan asteroids (green)

From Wikipedia, linked from the Asteroid page

In addition to the chaotic nature of the Solar system, there's also the fact that the vast majority of the asteroids revolve around the Sun outside of the Earth's orbit, so the chances of any asteroids we know of having "a gigantic collision… that could have produced a shadow on the entire Earth" (i.e., between the Earth and the Sun) are between slim and none. (Note also that the amount of material present in said "dust cloud" would have to be immense in order to have a noticeable affect on the amount of sunlight falling on the Earth.) The only way such a collision could have occurred would be if two objects traveling through the Solar system happened to collide in such a manner that the "dust cloud" the collision produced happened to fall between the Earth and Sun - and also left the Solar system without a trace afterwards. This would have required the objects being in similar trajectories crossing the plane of the ecliptic at a high angle and speed - a chaotic event if there ever was one!

So, basically you're looking for a way to prove that a chaotic event happened sufficiently far in the past that chaotic errors make our knowledge of most of the Solar system (asteroids and such) and outside influnences questionable - no, that's not going to happen. Math doesn't work that way.


Just for clarification, it sounds like you're asking, in addition to asteroid tracking, about a possible astronomical explanation to Crucifixion Darkness. That would require a collision in transit between the Earth and the Sun that would make a debris cloud large enough for 3 hours of shade.

Such an astronomical event would be very rare because asteroid on asteroid collisions are rare and this one would need to be precisely timed and placed. Ideally you'd want the debris field to be moving in roughly the same direction as the earth relative to the sun, to maximize the shading period of time. Such an event is extremely extremely unlikely but not impossible.

I am interested in learning the locations and velocities of the near earth asteroids at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The NEO Program has greatly increased the tracking of Near Earth Asteroids. Current estimates put the number of 1-km or greater asteroids at 981 +/- 19. Smaller asteroids, the number grow exponentially. Smaller asteroids are harder to see. According to this, 16,000 have been identified and there are thousands more.

As pointed out in the other answer, Near Earth Asteroids are subject to gravitational perturbations and that makes predicting their location a couple thousand years ago quite difficult, especially if they make more than one close pass to Earth because orbital changes get amplified with each pass, the closer the pass, the greater the amplification of uncertainty. Tracking thousands of asteroids back nearly 2,000 years is an enormous task.

any was between the earth and the sun at the time of Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday.

Asteroids are too small to block the sun in any meaningful way. We only study near Earth Asteroids to be prepared for collisions. Other than the occasional collision (and possible space mining), Near earth asteroids are astronomically boring objects that are too small to see. They would have gone mostly unnoticed to anyone before telescopes because they wouldn't have been visible, even in transit.

a clustering of asteroids on Good Friday between the earth and sun. If so they could be the remnants of a gigantic collision that would have been capable of making a dust cloud in interplanetary space that could have produced a shadow on the entire earth which would account for the observations reported by the gospels and the Chinese astronomers and St. Dionysius and others.

Asteroids don't "cluster". They're too few and too far apart. A collision of two is possible but rare. A cluster of many, enough to block the sun for 3 hours is impossible.

Asteroid collision and a dust cloud is an interesting proposal. Unlikely but worth exploring.

Here's a question about asteroid collisions with other asteroids in space. While it's believed that they happen, they're rare events.

From the answer:

inter-asteroid / asteroid-comet / inter-comet collisions are extremely rare. They are in fact so rare, that there is basically no statistics about it. It is hard or near impossible to put a number of that.

However, there are attempts to predict collisions. Keeping in mind that orbital parameters of small and distant objects can only be determined with some uncertainty, the idea is to go through the database of known objects and predict when a pair of objects comes into a certain proximity. This gives candidates for collision events. They are rather interesting for researchers, who are studying the structure or chemical composition of such objects. Another however, the amount of collisions actually happening after such a prediction is still incredibly low.

So, while we know that asteroid on asteroid collisions do happen they are so rare that none has ever been observed. For such an event to block out the sun, you'd need a couple very large asteroids, and the collision would probably need to be quite close to the Earth and in ideal placement between the Earth and the Sun where the debris field moved in relation with the Sun and Earth so as to maintain a shadow.

And the collision would need to be high speed enough to create a large spray of dust, so not a glancing blow, but a full on impact. That's improbabilities on top of improbabilities.

Meteor and comet trails (not to be confused with comet tails) follow an elliptical orbit. Those are easy to trace back to their origin because all the debris is lined up and orderly.

Impact collisions

Collisions behave very differently and you'd need a sufficiently large high speed collision to create any kind of large dust cloud to create 3 hours of shade on Earth. Tracking debris from a 2,000 year old collision is very hard without having that debris in hand - then, maybe.

An impact crater is what the footprint of a collision looks like. (Resemblance to the Death Star is purely coincidental)

This is what a larger collision looks like (no longer visible to the eyes but detectable by gravitational and crustal density anomalies.

This is what an even larger impact looks like, where you get enough debris blown off where it forms into a moon.

Explanation (scroll down to giant impact)

It's thought that Binary asteroids sometimes called double asteroids or asteroids with a moon are relatively common, and may be the result of impacts, but there in lies one problem. A 2,000 year old impact might just look like a binary asteroid. It wouldn't be possible to discern the date of the impact just by telescope and orbital tracking, but statistically a 2,000 year old impact would be abnormally young.

Finally, the largest, highest speed collisions, the two objects would just blow their debris apart - and there would basically be nothing to detect 2,000 years later. Debris from a collision would either coalesce back into an asteroid or binary asteroid by gravity or simply drift apart. In either case, evidence of a collision wouldn't be obvious outside of some hands on analysis of glassy compounds formed by impact or other chemical studies, but we'd actually have to get the debris into a lab to study it that closely. By telescope, there would no evidence of such a collision and debris cloud after 2,000 years. Any debris from the cloud would look just like all the other space dust with nothing distinguishable about it at least by telescope.

The other problem with finding a theoretical impact that you're looking for is that you can't limit it to near earth asteroids. Any comet or longer period asteroid that crosses the Earth could have had such an impact and any evidence of that comet being impacted would have left with the comet as it flew past the outer planets long ago, perhaps changing it's trajectory so it's no longer an earth crosser. The number of objects to look for grows enormously when you consider that one of the objects could have come from much further out.

A third problem with your theory is that such an impact, close enough to cause visible shade would very likely shower the Earth with debris and that would have been noted in the history books as well as a meteor shower like none before or since.

A long or medium period comet being struck by an asteroid might be a better explanation as the icy body being impacted would create a dirty gas cloud of some size while reducing debris impact on Earth as much of the ices would melt into gases and disburse under the sun's rays. That would decrease the showered by meteors problem, but make finding the impacted object even harder.

Your space impact idea is a clever attempt to explain crucifixion darkness, but astronomically speaking, hugely improbable. And the answer to your question is that evidence, if such an event did happen, would be very hard to detect, and with current technology, probably impossible. Good question though.

Another way to think about evidence is that, when a collision happens on a planet, the planet's surface is relatively static and the record is preserved. Obviously there's some weathering but information can be deduced by impacts that are hundreds of millions of years old. In space, in the solar system, everything moves. Things fly apart from each other while orbiting the sun. A two thousand year old collision in space, even a large one, might leave no detectable record after 2,000 years, or if one object survived it could be virtually anywhere in the solar-system 2,000 years later.

Hope that helps.


First off, Jesus death was on a Wednesday and not a Friday. Why, Creation of the Sun, moon, and stars was on the 4th day. Also, anything to do with the life of Yeshua, has to line up with Leviticus 23 which is the word Season's in Genesis 1:14. Years is the Shemitah and Jubilee Years. The Menorah has 7 candles. The fourth candle is called the Christ candle or servant Candle and also you have to line up His death to Daniel 9:27 in the MIDST of/Middle of so the year would have been on Passover (not a Sabbath) on Wednesday, 4000 years from Creation (Aleph-Tav in Genesis 1:1) in 30 CE (Wednesday) between 27(Sunday) to 33 CE (Saturday).

2). NASA (NOT a straight aswer) is trying to hide Trappist, Nemesis, El Shaddai, the Destroyer who brings in the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments a of Revelation in 2019 between Passover (April 20th) and Day of Atonement on October 10th. The orbital path of Nibiru( the Crossing) is an elliptical orbit and comes around every 300-350 years. Gill Broussard's work will help you out on this one or Jardalkalataol.blogspot.com.

Yes, there was an asteroid that did occur at Yeshua's death just like the one's at His second Coming during this week. Asteroid 2016 JP 21.1000 H 7,292,673 km 19 April 2019

Asteroid 2017 UT2 24.6000 H 19,652,952 km 21 April 2019

Asteroid 2016 WQ3 28.8000 H 10,862,251 km 21 April 2019

Asteroid 2019 FY 22.9030 H 9,793,095 km 26 April 2019

Asteroid 2013 KJ6 19.9000 H 17,478,956 km 26 April 2019

Asteroid 137805 1999 YK5 16.6000 H 7,923,219 km 4 May 2019

https://www.asteroidsnear.com/year?year=2019 As you can tell we are in the baseball park and parking lot for an exciting two weeks of hitting balls (asteroids) as they come by the earth. At the time of this reporting, there will not be any home runs until May to October time frame with 2 hits (Asteroid by Sea and asteroid by land (wormwood) of Revelation chapter 8.


New Testament places associated with Jesus

The New Testament narrative of the life of Jesus refers to a number of locations in the Holy Land and a Flight into Egypt. In these accounts the principal locations for the ministry of Jesus were Galilee and Judea, with activities also taking place in surrounding areas such as Perea and Samaria. [1]

Other places of interest to scholars include locations such as Caesarea Maritima where in 1961 the Pilate Stone was discovered as the only archaeological item that mentions the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, by whose order Jesus was crucified. [2] [3]

The narrative of the ministry of Jesus in the gospels is usually separated into sections that have a geographical nature: his Galilean ministry follows his baptism, and continues in Galilee and surrounding areas until the death of John the Baptist. [1] [4] This phase of activities in the Galilee area draws to an end approximately in Matthew 17 and Mark 9.

After the death of the Baptist, and Jesus' proclamation as Christ by Peter his ministry continues along his final journey towards Jerusalem through Perea and Judea. [5] [6] The journey ends with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21 and Mark 11. The final part of Jesus' ministry then takes place during the his last week in Jerusalem which ends in his crucifixion. [7]


NASA spacecraft sent asteroid rubble flying in sample grab

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft crushed rocks and sent rubble flying as it briefly touched an asteroid, a strong indication that samples were collected for return to Earth, officials said Wednesday.

Scientists won’t know until next week how much was gathered at asteroid Bennu — they want at least a handful of the cosmic rubble. But close-up pictures and video of Tuesday’s touch-and-go operation raised hopes that goal was achieved.

“We really did kind of make a mess on the surface of this asteroid, but it’s a good mess, the kind of mess we were hoping for,” said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona at Tucson.

It was the first asteroid-sampling effort by the U.S., coming four years after the spacecraft rocketed from Cape Canaveral and two years after it reached Bennu. Japan has taken asteroid samples twice.

The carbon-rich Bennu is a time capsule believed to contain the original building blocks of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago and, as such, can help scientists better understand the origins of Earth and life as we know it.

Osiris-Rex scored a near bull’s-eye, reaching down with its robot arm to within a yard (meter) of its intended target zone in the center of boulder-rimmed Nightingale Crater. The sampling container on the arm made contact with the black, crumbly terrain for about six seconds and pushed at least three-quarters of an inch (2 centimeters) into the ground, crushing a large rock in the process, officials said.

As planned, pressurized nitrogen gas fired onto the surface a second later, to kick up a shower of debris so the spacecraft could suck up as much dust and as many pebbles as possible.

The spacecraft quickly backed away and, by Wednesday, was a safe 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Bennu.

Several hours passed before the pictures started pouring in. Lauretta said he was up until the wee hours Wednesday, overjoyed at what he saw. He watched the touch-and-go video about 100 times — “it’s just so cool” — then went to sleep.

“I dreamed of a wonder world of Bennu regolith particles floating all around me,” he said.

Over the next few days, a camera on the spacecraft will aim at the sampler on the end of the robot arm, looking for signs of asteroid residue. If the lighting is right, the camera might even be able to peek into the sample chamber. The spacecraft will also be put into a slow spin, with its arm extended, to provide a more accurate measure of the precious payload.

Based on the images, “the sampling event went really well, as good as we could have imagined it would, and I think the chances that there’s material inside … have gone way up,” Lauretta said.

If fewer than 2 ounches (60 grams) were collected, the team must decide by Oct. 30 whether to try again. A second attempt would not occur until January — at another location.

The plan calls for Osiris-Rex to depart Bennu in March, which would put the samples on track for a touchdown in the Utah desert in 2023.

“We’re nowhere near the end,” cautioned Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Strange Mystery of the Vatican’s Secret Time Machine

The highly secretive Vatican has long been a treasure trove of mysteries and conspiracies. Locked away from the world and only seen by a very few, the inner sanctum of this place has spawned all manner of weird stories, including long lost texts, Illuminati secrets, covert information on all manner of unsolved mysteries, and even stories of biblical artifacts or even aliens and UFOs buried within the archives here. One very odd and pervasive story is that the Vatican once held, or perhaps still does, a sort of device for time travel, and it is a rather wild tale to be sure.

The bizarre story begins in the early 1960s, when a Father François Brune was on a boat ride across the Grand Canal in Venice when he by chance made the acquaintance of a physicist and priest named Father Pellegrino Ernetti, and the two began a deep discussion on religion and biblical interpretations based on their mutual knowledge of theology and love of science. As they were both scientists, at some point in the conversation the topic turned to science, with Ernetti suggesting that science could be useful for concretely proving certain biblical interpretations. When this got a raised eyebrow from Brune, Eretti then brought him aside and admitted that not only was it possible, but that it had been done, that there existed a time machine of sorts that could look through the mists of time to witness events long since passed. From that moment on the two shared frequent correspondence, during which Ernetti would weave a tale of the alleged machine, that was at once fascinating, mysterious, and completely bonkers.

Ernetti called it the Chronovisor, and according to him it had been invented in the 1950s by a dedicated and secret cabal of twelve renowned scientists commissioned by the Vatican for the purpose of creating a device that would allow the world’s greatest biblical mysteries to be observed and proven. Some of the names Ernetti dropped among those responsible for the machine’s creation were himself, the German-born American aerospace engineer, space architect, and eventual NASA rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, and the great physicist Enrico Fermi, who had won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1938 for proving new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation. The machine itself was described as being a large cabinet containing an array of cathodes, dials, levers and several antennae containing rare, precious alloys, with a large cathode ray tube on its front that made it look like some sort of bizarre TV set. In a way, that’s exactly what it was, as rather than physically bringing time travelers back to the past, the Chronovisor rather allowed the viewer to look back into history and see and hear events that had taken place hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Ernetti was quite specific about how all of it worked, even drawing up diagrams of what it looked like and how it functioned. According to him, it worked by picking up the electromagnetic radiation left behind from past events and then decoding that to produce an image of the event, complete with accompanying audio. Ernetti explained that everything that happened left behind these radiation signatures, like echoes from the past just bouncing around space and time, and that the Chronovisor merely translated these to reproduce them on a screen. All one had to do was to use a special instrument panel to select a date and location that one wanted to see, and after a few moments of translating the radiation signature the event would play out like a movie on the screen. Ernetti claimed that he had personally watched many scenes from history on the enigmatic device, including a speech given by Napoleon Bonapart, scenes from ancient Rome such as Marcus Tullius Cicero’s speech to the Roman senate in 63 B.C. and a performance of the Roman poet Quintus Ennius’s lost play Thyestes, as well as biblical events including the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Last Supper, and even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, among others, which he said proved they happened for real. As proof, Ernetti even produced an image that he claimed was an actual photo taken from the screen of Jesus Christ, as well as a copy of Thyestes that he claimed to have transcribed word for word.

Ernetti claimed that the machine had been locked away by the Vatican and that he had been sworn to keep the whole project secret, Brune being the first one he had mentioned it to. Indeed, he said that Pope Pius XII had ultimately deemed the Chronovisor to be too dangerous for mankind, forbidding anyone from speaking of it, hiding it away, and even threatening to excommunicate anyone who tried to use it again, before eventually having it dismantled altogether. Despite all of this secrecy, the story would somehow leak and get out into the wild with an article in a May, 1972 issue of the Italian magazine La Domenica del Corriere, complete with the sensational headline “A Machine That Photographs the Past Has Finally Been Invented,” and even the alleged photo of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, supposedly mailed in by an anonymous party. After this, the story heavily made the rounds all over Italy, appearing in numerous sensational and often trashy headlines.

Father Pellegrino Ernetti

Even as this stirred a great deal of awe, wonder, and debate, it also drew a large amount of skepticism as well. It was pointed out that the photo of Jesus was quite obviously fake, and that the play Thyestes was riddled with Latin errors that suggested that it was not as old as he claimed and that Ernetti had probably written it himself. It was also fairly suspicious that the machine was nearly exactly the same as a device featured in the science fiction novella, E for Effort, by T.L. Sherred, which was published in 1947. Further adding to all of this is that Ernetti never provided any complete instructions for how the machine was made, nor did he ever go into any particularly great detail on the finer points of how it worked, with most of his explanations remaining very technical-sounding, yet ultimately vague and not very useful. There was also the fact that Von Braun never made mention of such a device, and Fermi had died in 1954 before the story ever came out, making it impossible to corroborate their involvement in it all. There just isn’t any concrete evidence such a device ever existed.

Despite all of this, Ernetti continued to insist that the Chronovisor was real, even penning an open letter stating as much shortly before his death in 1994. There would later be a relative of Ernetti’s who claimed that he had made a deathbed confession that it he had indeed faked the play and photograph, and that Fermi had never been involved, but he curiously continued to insist that the machine was real. Brune would dismiss this as either a false claim or a false confession coerced by the Vatican or other authorities. After all, why would such a respected scientist and priest make up such a story and keep it up for decades, only to recant it all at the last minute? It certainly is odd. For his part, Brune would write a book on it all in 2002, entitled Le Nouveau Mystère du Vatican, and would continue to insist that the Chronovisor was real all the way up to his own death in 2019. The story has gone on to become a popular topic for conspiracies, with all manner of debate on what was going on here and plenty of claims that the device is not only actually real, but may even still be locked away in the Vatican. Considering the Vatican’s long history of complete secrecy, it is not hard to imagine. Is there anything to this at all, or is just some long-running hoax, perpetrated by Ernetti or even Brune? The safe bet is that this is an elaborate urban legend of sorts, but who knows? Whatever the case may be, it is a wild story that only adds to the mystique and conspiracies orbiting the Vatican.


Asteroid locations at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus - Astronomy

The Location of the Crucifixion

Of the sites suggested by scholars for the location of the crucifixion of Christ, Scriptural evidence points to a steep slope on the Mount of Olives east of the Temple. It is located outside of the city near a first century road. The slope was unpopulated due to Temple activities in the area. This site fits the truth laid out in God's Word pertaining to the crucifixion.

  1. Outside of the city.
  2. Near the Temple.
  3. Golgotha - a place of registry where heads were counted.
  4. Romans often crucified their condemned men at the place of their crime or at the place of their arrest.

1. Jesus Christ suffered without [outside] the gate of the city of Jerusalem.

Hebrews 13:10:12 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp . Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate .

There was an area for burning the bodies of the sacrifices outside of the city gate. This location is referred to in the Old Testament as a place "without [outside of] the camp" of Israel. After the Temple was built , this place for burning the bodies of the sacrifices had a specific location outside of the city. According to the Mishnah, a second-century Judean commentary, a bridge had been built over the Kidron Valley from the Temple area eastward to the Mount of Olives leading to this location for burning the bodies.

"They made a causeway from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, an arched way built over an arched way, with an arch directly above each pier [of the arch below], for fear of any grave in the depths below. By it the priest that was to burn the Heifer, and the Heifer, and all that aided him went forth to the Mount of Olives." - Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah (Oxford University Press, 1933), p.700.

The bridge led from the east Temple gate to a place near the summit of the Mount of Olives. The priest could pass over this bridge uncontaminated by the graves below in order to burn the bodies of the animals outside the city.

2. Jesus was crucified near the Temple.

John 19:20b . for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city.

According to John 19:20, "the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city." This is a mistranslation. The word place in the Greek is associated with "the city," so that this verse should be translated, " Jesus was crucified near the place of the city. " "The Place of the city" was the Temple, which is also called " the place ."

Ezekiel 43:21 - Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house , without the sanctuary. ( The house is also a term used for the Temple.)

John 11:48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

"The text reads - take away the place and the nation . By the place - the Pharisees meant the Temple. The area of burning on the Mount of Olives east of the city was considered part of " the place. " This location was outside the city and yet near (and part of) the Temple proper.

3. "Golgotha" refers to a place of registry where heads were counted and not a place that looks like a skull as the King James version implies.

John 19:17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha .

Ezekiel 43:21 - Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house , without the sanctuary.

The words " appointed place " in the Hebrew is the word " miphqad ." Miphqad comes from the verb paqad which means to number . The gate of the city that led to the "appointed place" was called the Miphkad Gate.

The Miphkad Gate (referred to in Nehemiah 3:31 ) was located on the east wall just north of the east gate leading to the Temple. The Miphkad Gate opened onto the road leading up the Mount of Olives just north of the place where the bodies were burned. This road led to the Miphkad, or "appointed place," where people registered for the Temple tax. Each person [ head count ] was taxed at this location. The word " Golgotha ," used in the Gospels to describe the place of the crucifixion, is an Aramaic word which suggests this area of registry known as Miphkad. The related Hebrew word bears the same meaning. It is gulgoleth , which means "skull, head, or poll." It is a head count .

Exodus 38:25-26 And the silver of them that were numbered [paqad, to appoint or number] of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: A bekah for every man [gulgoleth, head] , that is half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered [paqad] .

In the time of Jesus Christ, this place of numbering, or registration, for the Temple tax was called Golgotha. This was the Miphkad area on the Mount of Olives east of the Temple and near the place outside the city where the bodies of sacrifices were burned.

4. Romans often crucified their condemned men at the place of their crime or at the place of their arrest.

Luke 23:2 : And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King .

Matthew 27:37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS .

The crime that Jesus was accused of was that he was proclaimed to be king. This "crime" took place on the Mount of Olives.

Luke 19:37-38 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives , the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Luke 22:39 - 54 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives and his disciples also followed him. (V54) Then took they him .

Jesus Christ was proclaimed king [HIS CRIME] on the Mount of Olives and later arrested at the garden of Gethsemane of the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives was the place of his arrest. Golgotha (the place of the head count for the Temple tax) was on the Mount of Olives near the place where the bodies of sacrificed Temple animals were burned. This steep slope on the Mount of Olives east of the Temple was outside the east gate of the city of Jerusalem and fits all Scriptural evidence for the location of the crucifixion.

It is also interesting to note that Jesus Christ ascended from the Mount of Olives and "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."


The Astronomy Behind The Star Of Bethlehem

One of the classic images of the Christmas holiday is that of three wise men or kings traveling to Bethlehem, over which hangs a brilliant star. The Star of Bethlehem has its roots in the opening verses of the Gospel of Matthew, which states:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

The wise men, or magi in the original Greek, are often represented as kings, but in context were likely astrologers. According to Matthew, they saw some astronomical event as a foretelling of Christ's birth. There is debate among scholars as to the historical accuracy of event. Matthew is the only gospel that mentions the magi, and many scholars feel it's a bit of pious allegory to show that the destiny of Jesus was written in the stars. But if we assume for the moment that Matthew's account is accurate, it raises the question of what exactly the Star of Bethlehem could have been.

Although it's referred to as a star, it's clear that's the one thing it couldn't have been. On human time scales, stars are fixed and unchanging, and astrology of the time didn't focus on the stars themselves. Instead it focused on astronomical events, such as the last appearance of a particular star before sunrise, or the conjunctions of stars and planets. One clue is buried in the verse itself, where "in the east" could also be interpreted as "at the rising." This could be a heliacal rising, where a constellation or planet appears in the sky just before sunrise. For example, the first appearance of Venus as the morning star. Since Venus was long known to astronomers, its heliacal rising would not have been special by itself, but it could have been seen as significant if paired with another bright planet such as Jupiter. One idea proposed by Craig Chester is that it could have been the morning of Venus near the star Regulus (in the constellation of Leo, the lion) followed by a morning conjunction with Jupiter about nine months later. This occurred around 2 BC, but Herod likely died in 4 BC, meaning it didn't occur "in the days of Herod."

Another possibility is that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet. Bright comets do appear in the sky from time to time, and have been described as "hanging over" particular cities or lands, as the Star of Bethlehem is often represented. We know that Halley's comet was visible in the region in 12 BC, and would have been bright enough to be described as a star. But the writers of Matthew would likely have known the difference between a comet and a star, and specifically noted the event as a star. There's also the fact that comets were generally seen as bad omens, rather than good ones, so it would be unlikely that a comet would mark such an auspicious birth.

A third possibility is that it could have been a nova or supernova. These appear in the sky as "new stars" and are sometimes brighter than even Venus or Jupiter in the night sky. This would match the Biblical description, and might have been interpreted as a good omen. Chinese and Korean astronomers noted the appearance of a nova in 5 BC, which would be around the right time frame, but this nova wasn't noted by astronomers in other regions, so it likely wasn't particularly bright. A truly bright nova or supernova, such as the one observed by Tycho Brahe in 1572, would have created a remnant that we could observe today, and there is no known remnant that can be dated to the time of Jesus. It's possible that there could have been a supernova in the Andromeda galaxy or the Magellanic Clouds, but there is no astronomical record of such an event.

More than anything else, this shows the problems of astrological prophesy. While there isn't a single event that stands out as a clear origin to the Star of Bethlehem, there are lots of options that "kind of" fit after the fact. This is even true of the Gospel of Matthew itself. Matthew was written around 80 AD, decades after the events it describes, so the astronomical event it mentions would have been interpreted long after the Crucifixion and the rise of Christianity. Even if the author of Matthew felt the Star of Bethlehem was accurate history and not pious fiction, we'll likely never know the particular event they had in mind.

Paper: Chester, Craig. The Star of Bethlehem. Imprimis. December, 22(12) 1993.


Contents

Sources Edit

Sources on Pontius Pilate are limited, although modern scholars know more about him than about other Roman governors of Judaea. [11] The most important sources are the Embassy to Gaius (after the year 41) by contemporary Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria, [12] the Jewish Wars (c. 74) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94) by the Jewish historian Josephus, as well as the four canonical Christian Gospels, Mark (composed between 66 and 70), Luke (composed between 85 and 90), Matthew (composed between 85 and 90), and John (composed between 90 and 110). [11] Ignatius of Antioch mentions him in his epistles to the Trallians, Magnesians, and Smyrnaeans [13] (composed between 105 and 110). [14] He is also briefly mentioned in Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus (early 2nd c.), who simply says that he put Jesus to death. [11] Two additional chapters of Tacitus's Annals that might have mentioned Pilate have been lost. [15] Besides these texts, coins minted by Pilate have survived, as well as a fragmentary short inscription that names Pilate, known as the Pilate Stone, the only inscription about a Roman governor of Judaea predating the Roman-Jewish Wars to survive. [16] [17] [18] The written sources provide only limited information and each has its own biases, with the gospels in particular providing a theological rather than historical perspective on Pilate. [19]

Early life Edit

The sources give no indication of Pilate's life prior to his becoming governor of Judaea. [20] His praenomen (first name) is unknown [21] his cognomen Pilatus might mean "skilled with the javelin (pilum)," but it could also refer to the pileus or Phrygian cap, possibly indicating that one of Pilate's ancestors was a freedman. [22] If it means "skilled with the javelin," it is possible that Pilate won the cognomen for himself while serving in the Roman military [20] it is also possible that his father acquired the cognomen through military skill. [23] In the Gospels of Mark and John, Pilate is only called by his cognomen, which Marie-Joseph Ollivier takes to mean that this was the name by which he was generally known in common speech. [24] The name Pontius indicates that he belonged to the Pontii family, [21] a well-known family of Samnite origin which produced a number of important individuals in the late Republic and early Empire. [25] Like all but one other governor of Judaea, Pilate was of the equestrian order, a middle rank of the Roman nobility. [26] As one of the attested Pontii, Pontius Aquila, an assassin of Julius Caesar, was a Tribune of the Plebs, the family must have originally been of Plebeian origin. They became ennobled as equestrians. [25]

Pilate was likely educated, somewhat wealthy, and well-connected politically and socially. [27] He was probably married, but the only extant reference to his wife, in which she tells him not to interact with Jesus after she has had a disturbing dream (Matthew 27:19), is generally dismissed as legendary. [28] According to the cursus honorum established by Augustus for office holders of equestrian rank, Pilate would have had a military command before becoming prefect of Judaea Alexander Demandt speculates that this could have been with a legion stationed at the Rhine or Danube. [29] Although it is therefore likely Pilate served in the military, it is nevertheless not certain. [30]

Role as governor of Judaea Edit

Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, during the reign of the emperor Tiberius. The post of governor of Judaea was of relatively low prestige and nothing is known of how Pilate obtained the office. [31] Josephus states that Pilate governed for 10 years (Antiquities of the Jews 18.4.2), and these are traditionally dated from 26 to 36/37, making him one of the two longest-serving governors of the province. [32] As Tiberius had retired to the island of Capri in 26, scholars such as E. Stauffer have argued that Pilate may have actually been appointed by the powerful Praetorian Prefect Sejanus, who was executed for treason in 31. [33] Other scholars have cast doubt on any link between Pilate and Sejanus. [34] Daniel R. Schwartz and Kenneth Lönnqvist both argue that the traditional dating of the beginning of Pilate's governorship is based on an error in Josephus Schwartz argues that he was appointed instead in 19, while Lönnqvist argues for 17/18. [35] [36] This redating has not been widely accepted by other scholars. [37]

Pilate's title of prefect [c] implies that his duties were primarily military [40] however, Pilate's troops were meant more as a police than a military force, and Pilate's duties extended beyond military matters. [41] As Roman governor, he was head of the judicial system. He had the power to inflict capital punishment, and was responsible for collecting tributes and taxes, and for disbursing funds, including the minting of coins. [41] Because the Romans allowed a certain degree of local control, Pilate shared a limited amount of civil and religious power with the Jewish Sanhedrin. [42]

Pilate was subordinate to the legate of Syria however, for the first six years in which he held office, Syria's legate Lucius Aelius Lamia was absent from the region, something which Helen Bond believes may have presented difficulties to Pilate. [43] He seems to have been free to govern the province as he wished, with intervention by the legate of Syria only coming at the end of his tenure, after the appointment of Lucius Vitellius to the post in 35 AD. [31] Like other Roman governors of Judaea, Pilate made his primary residence in Caesarea, going to Jerusalem mainly for major feasts in order to maintain order. [44] He also would have toured around the province in order to hear cases and administer justice. [45]

As governor, Pilate had the right to appoint the Jewish High Priest and also officially controlled the vestiments of the High Priest in the Antonia Fortress. [46] Unlike his predecessor, Valerius Gratus, Pilate retained the same high priest, Caiaphas, for his entire tenure. Caiaphas would be removed following Pilate's own removal from the governorship. [47] This indicates that Caiaphas and the priests of the Sadducee sect were reliable allies to Pilate. [48] Moreover, Maier argues that Pilate could not have used the temple treasury to construct an aqueduct, as recorded by Josephus, without the cooperation of the priests. [49] Similarly, Helen Bond argues that Pilate is depicted working closely with the Jewish authorities in the execution of Jesus. [50] Jean-Pierre Lémonon argues that official cooperation with Pilate was limited to the Sadducees, noting that the Pharisees are absent from the gospel accounts of Jesus's arrest and trial. [51]

Daniel Schwartz takes the note in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 23:12) that Pilate had a difficult relationship with the Galilean Jewish king Herod Antipas as potentially historical. He also finds historical the information that their relationship mended following the execution of Jesus. [52] Based on John 19:12, it is possible that Pilate held the title "friend of Caesar" (Latin: amicus Caesaris, Ancient Greek: φίλος τοῦ Kαίσαρος ), a title also held by the Jewish kings Herod Agrippa I and Herod Agrippa II and by close advisors to the emperor. Both Daniel Schwartz and Alexander Demandt do not think this information especially likely. [31] [53]

Incidents with the Jews Edit

Various disturbances during Pilate's governorship are recorded in the sources. In some cases, it is unclear if they may be referring to the same event, [54] and it is difficult to establish a chronology of events for Pilate's rule. [55] Joan Taylor argues that Pilate had a policy of promoting the imperial cult, which may have caused some of the friction with his Jewish subjects. [56] Schwartz suggests that Pilate's entire tenure was characterized by "continued underlying tension between governor and governed, now and again breaking out in brief incidents." [54]

According to Josephus in his The Jewish War (2.9.2) and Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.1), Pilate offended the Jews by moving imperial standards with the image of Caesar into Jerusalem. This resulted in a crowd of Jews surrounding Pilate's house in Caesarea for five days. Pilate then summoned them to an arena, where the Roman soldiers drew their swords. But the Jews showed so little fear of death, that Pilate relented and removed the standards. [57] Bond argues that the fact that Josephus says that Pilate brought in the standards by night, shows that he knew that the images of the emperor would be offensive. [58] She dates this incident to early in Pilate's tenure as governor. [59] Daniel Schwartz and Alexander Demandt both suggest that this incident is in fact identical with "the incident with the shields" reported in Philo's Embassy to Gaius, an identification first made by the early church historian Eusebius. [60] [54] Lémonon, however, argues against this identification. [61]

According to Philo's Embassy to Gaius (Embassy to Gaius 38), Pilate offended against Jewish law by bringing golden shields into Jerusalem, and placing them on Herod's Palace. The sons of Herod the Great petitioned him to remove the shields, but Pilate refused. Herod's sons then threatened to petition the emperor, an action which Pilate feared that would expose the crimes he had committed in office. He did not prevent their petition. Tiberius received the petition and angrily reprimanded Pilate, ordering him to remove the shields. [62] Helen Bond, Daniel Schwartz, and Warren Carter argue that Philo's portrayal is largely stereotyped and rhetorical, portraying Pilate with the same words as other opponents of Jewish law, while portraying Tiberius as just and supportive of Jewish law. [63] It is unclear why the shields offended against Jewish law: it is likely that they contained an inscription referring to Tiberius as divi Augusti filius (son of divine Augustus). [64] [65] Bond dates the incident to 31, sometime after Sejanus's death in 17 October. [66]

In another incident recorded in both the Jewish Wars (2.9.4) and the Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.2), Josephus relates that Pilate offended the Jews by using up the temple treasury (korbanos) to pay for a new aqueduct to Jerusalem. When a mob formed while Pilate was visiting Jerusalem, Pilate ordered his troops to beat them with clubs many perished from the blows or from being trampled by horses, and the mob was dispersed. [67] The dating of the incident is unknown, but Bond argues that it must have occurred between 26 and 30 or 33, based on Josephus's chronology. [50]

The Gospel of Luke mentions in passing Galileans "whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1). This reference has been variously interpreted as referring to one of the incidents recorded by Josephus, or to an entirely unknown incident. [68] Bond argues that the number of Galileans killed does not seem to have been particularly high. In Bond's view, the reference to "sacrifices" likely means that this incident occurred at Passover at some unknown date. [69] She argues that "[i]t is not only possible but quite likely that Pilate's governorship contained many such brief outbreaks of trouble about which we know nothing. The insurrection in which Barabbas was caught up, if historical, may well be another example." [70]

Trial and execution of Jesus Edit

At the Passover of most likely 30 or 33, Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus of Nazareth to death by crucifixion in Jerusalem. [72] The main sources on the crucifixion are the four canonical Christian Gospels, the accounts of which vary. [73] Helen Bond argues that

the evangelists' portrayals of Pilate have been shaped to a great extent by their own particular theological and apologetic concerns. [. ] Legendary or theological additions have also been made to the narrative [. ] Despite extensive differences, however, there is a certain agreement amongst the evangelists regarding the basic facts, an agreement which may well go beyond literary dependency and reflect actual historical events. [74]

Pilate's role in condemning Jesus to death is also attested by the Roman historian Tacitus, who, when explaining Nero's persecution of the Christians, explains: "Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment. " (Tacitus, Annals 15.44). [11] [75] This passage is usually considered authentic, although a minority of scholars have disputed this. [76] Josephus appears also to have mentioned Jesus's execution by Pilate at the request of prominent Jews (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3). However, the original text has been greatly altered by later Christian interpolation, so that it is impossible to know what Josephus may have originally said. [77] Discussing the paucity of extra-biblical mentions of the crucifixion, Alexander Demandt argues that the execution of Jesus was probably not seen as a particularly important event by the Romans, as many other people were crucified at the time and forgotten. [78] In Ignatius's epistles to the Trallians (9.1) and to the Smyrnaeans (1.2), the author attributes Jesus's persecution under Pilate's governorship. Ignatius further dates Jesus's birth, passion, and resurrection during Pilate's governorship in his epistle to the Magnesians (11.1). Ignatius stresses all these events in his epistles as historical facts. [13]

Bond argues that Jesus's arrest was made with Pilate's prior knowledge and involvement, based on the presence of a 500-strong Roman cohort among the party that arrests Jesus in John 18:3. [79] Demandt dismisses the notion that Pilate was involved. [80] It is generally assumed, based on the unanimous testimony of the gospels, that the crime for which Jesus was brought to Pilate and executed was sedition, founded on his claim to be king of the Jews. [81] Pilate may have judged Jesus according to the cognitio extra ordinem, a form of trial for capital punishment used in the Roman provinces and applied to non-Roman citizens that provided the prefect with greater flexibility in handling the case. [82] [83] All four gospels also mention that Pilate had the custom of releasing one captive in honor of the Passover festival this custom is not attested in any other source. Historians disagree on whether or not such a custom is a fictional element of the gospels, reflects historical reality, or perhaps represents a single amnesty in the year of Jesus's crucifixion. [84]

The Gospels' portrayal of Pilate is "widely assumed" to diverge greatly from that found in Josephus and Philo, [85] as Pilate is portrayed as reluctant to execute Jesus and pressured to do so by the crowd and Jewish authorities. John P. Meier notes that in Josephus, by contrast, "Pilate alone [. ] is said to condemn Jesus to the cross." [86] Some scholars believe that the Gospel accounts are completely untrustworthy: S. G. F. Brandon argued that in reality, rather than vacillating on condemning Jesus, Pilate unhesitatingly executed him as a rebel. [87] Paul Winter explained the discrepancy between Pilate in other sources and Pilate in the gospels by arguing that Christians became more and more eager to portray Pontius Pilate as a witness to Jesus' innocence, as persecution of Christians by the Roman authorities increased. [88] Bart Ehrman argues that the earliest Gospel, Mark, shows the Jews and Pilate to be in agreement about executing Jesus (Mark 15:15), while the later gospels progressively reduce Pilate's culpability, culminating in Pilate allowing the Jews to crucify Jesus in John (John 18:16). He connects this change to increased "anti-Judaism." [89] Others have tried to explain Pilate's behavior in the Gospels as motivated by a change of circumstances from that shown in Josephus and Philo, usually presupposing a connection between Pilate's caution and the death of Sejanus. [85] Yet other scholars, such as Brian McGing and Bond, have argued that there is no real discrepancy between Pilate's behavior in Josephus and Philo and that in the Gospels. [72] [90] Warren Carter argues that Pilate is portrayed as skillful, competent, and manipulative of the crowd in Mark, Matthew, and John, only finding Jesus innocent and executing him under pressure in Luke. [91] N. T. Wright and Craig A. Evans argue that Pilate's hesitation was probably due to the fear of causing a revolt during Passover, when large numbers of pilgrims were in Jerusalem. [92]

Removal and later life Edit

According to Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews (18.4.1–2), Pilate's removal as governor occurred after Pilate slaughtered a group of armed Samaritans at a village called Tirathana near Mount Gerizim, where they hoped to find artifacts that had been buried there by Moses. Alexander Demandt suggests that the leader of this movement may have been Dositheos, a messiah-like figure among the Samaritans who was known to have been active around this time. [93] The Samaritans, claiming not to have been armed, complained to Lucius Vitellius the Elder, the governor of Syria (term 35–39), who had Pilate recalled to Rome to be judged by Tiberius. Tiberius however, had died before his arrival. [94] This dates the end of Pilate's governorship to 36/37. Tiberius died in Misenum on 16 March 37, in his seventy-eighth year (Tacitus, Annals VI.50, VI.51). [95]

Following Tiberius's death, Pilate's hearing would have been handled by the new emperor Gaius Caligula: it is unclear whether any hearing took place, as new emperors often dismissed outstanding legal matters from previous reigns. [96] The only sure outcome of Pilate's return to Rome is that he was not reinstated as governor of Judaea, either because the hearing went badly, or because Pilate did not wish to return. [97] J. P. Lémonon argues that the fact that Pilate was not reinstated by Caligula does not mean that his trial went badly, but may simply have been because after ten years in the position it was time for him to take a new posting. [98] Joan Taylor, on the other hand, argues that Pilate seems to have ended his career in disgrace, using his unflattering portrayal in Philo, written only a few years after his dismissal, as proof. [99]

The church historian Eusebius (Church History 2.7.1), writing in the early fourth century, claims that "tradition relates that" Pilate committed suicide after he was recalled to Rome due to the disgrace he was in. [100] Eusebius dates this to 39. [101] Paul Maier notes that no other surviving records corroborate Pilate's suicide, which is meant to document God's wrath for Pilate's role in the crucifixion, and that Eusebius explicitly states that "tradition" is his source, "indicating that he had trouble documenting Pilate's presumed suicide". [100] Daniel Schwartz, however, argues that Eusebius's claims "should not lightly be dismissed." [52] More information on the potential fate of Pontius Pilate can be gleaned from other sources. The second-century pagan philosopher Celsus polemically asked why, if Jesus was God, God had not punished Pilate, indicating that he did not believe that Pilate shamefully committed suicide. Responding to Celsus, the Christian apologist Origen, writing c. 248, argued that nothing bad happened to Pilate, because the Jews and not Pilate were responsible for Jesus' death he therefore also assumed that Pilate did not die a shameful death. [102] [103] Pilate's supposed suicide is also left unmentioned in Josephus, Philo, or Tacitus. [102] Maier argues that "[i]n all probability, then, the fate of Pontius Pilate lay clearly in the direction of a retired government official, a pensioned Roman ex-magistrate, than in anything more disastrous." [104] Taylor notes that Philo discusses Pilate as though he were already dead in the Embassy to Gaius, although he is writing only a few years after Pilate's tenure as governor. [105]

A single inscription by Pilate has survived in Caesarea, on the so-called "Pilate Stone". The (partially reconstructed) inscription is as follows: [106]

Vardaman "freely" translates it as follows: "Tiberium [?of the Caesareans?] Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea [ .. has given?]". [106] The fragmentary nature of the inscription has led to some disagreement about the correct reconstruction, so that "apart from Pilate’s name and title the inscription is unclear." [107] Originally, the inscription would have included an abbreviated letter for Pilate's praenomen (e.g., T. for Titus or M. for Marcus). [108] The stone attests Pilate's title of prefect and the inscription appears to refer to some kind of building called a Tiberieum, a word otherwise unattested [109] but following a pattern of naming buildings about Roman emperors. [110] Bond argues that we cannot be sure what kind of building this referred to. [111] G. Alföldy argued that it was some sort of secular building, namely a lighthouse, while Joan Taylor and Jerry Vardaman argue that it was a temple dedicated to Tiberius. [112] [113]

A second inscription, which has since been lost, [114] has historically been associated with Pontius Pilate. It was a fragmentary, undated inscription on a large piece of marble recorded in Ameria, a village in Umbria, Italy. [115] The inscription read as follows:

The only clear items of text are the names "Pilate" and the title quattuorvir ("IIII VIR"), a type of local city official responsible for conducting a census every five years. [116] The inscription was formerly found outside the church of St. Secundus, where it had been copied from a presumed original. [116] At the turn of the twentieth century, it was generally held to be fake, a forgery in support of a local legend that Pontius Pilate died in exile in Ameria. [115] The more recent scholars Alexander Demandt and Henry MacAdam both believe that the inscription is genuine, but attests to a person who simply had the same cognomen as Pontius Pilate. [117] [116] MacAdam argues that "[i]t is far easier to believe that this very fragmentary inscription prompted the legend of Pontius Pilate’s association with the Italian village of Ameria [. ] than it is to posit someone forging the inscription two centuries ago—quite creatively, it would seem—to provide substance for the legend." [114]

As governor, Pilate was responsible for minting coins in the province: he appears to have struck them in 29/30, 30/31, and 31/32, thus the fourth, fifth, and sixth years of his governorship. [118] The coins belong to a type called a "perutah", measured between 13.5 and 17mm, were minted in Jerusalem, [119] and are fairly crudely made. [120] Earlier coins read ΙΟΥΛΙΑ ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ on the obverse and ΤΙΒΕΡΙΟΥ ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ on the reverse, referring to the emperor Tiberius and his mother Livia (Julia Augusta). Following Livia's death, the coins only read ΤΙΒΕΡΙΟΥ ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ . [121] As was typical of Roman coins struck in Judaea, they did not have a portrait of the emperor, though they included some pagan designs. [118]

Attempts to identify the aqueduct that is attributed to Pilate in Josephus date to the nineteenth century. [122] In the mid twentieth century, A. Mazar tentatively identified the aqueduct as the Arrub aqueduct that brought water from Solomon's Pools to Jerusalem, an identification supported in 2000 by Kenneth Lönnqvist. [123] Lönnqvist notes that the Talmud (Lamentations Rabbah 4.4) records the destruction of an aqueduct from Solomon's Pools by the Sicarii, a group of fanatical religious Zealots, during the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73) he suggests that if the aqueduct had been funded by the temple treasury as recorded in Josephus, this might explain the Sicarii's targeting of this particular aqueduct. [124]

In 2018, an inscription on a thin copper-alloy sealing ring that had been discovered at Herodium was uncovered using modern scanning techniques. The inscription reads ΠΙΛΑΤΟ(Υ) (Pilato(u)), meaning "of Pilate". [125] The name Pilatus is rare, so the ring could be associated with Pontius Pilate however, given the cheap material, it is unlikely that he would have owned it. It is possible that the ring belonged to another individual named Pilate, [126] or that it belonged to someone who worked for Pontius Pilate. [127]

Due to his role in Jesus' trial, Pilate became an important figure in both pagan and Christian propaganda in late antiquity. Perhaps the earliest apocryphal texts attributed to Pilate are denunciations of Christianity and of Jesus that claim to be Pilate's report on the crucifixion. According to Eusebius (Church History 9.2.5), these texts were distributed during the persecution of Christians conducted by the emperor Maximinus II (reigned 308–313). None of these texts survive, but Tibor Grüll argues that their contents can be reconstructed from Christian apologetic texts. [128]

Positive traditions about Pilate are frequent in Eastern Christianity, particularly in Egypt and Ethiopia, whereas negative traditions predominate in Western and Byzantine Christianity. [129] [130] Additionally, earlier Christian traditions portray Pilate more positively than later ones, [131] a change which Ann Wroe suggests reflects the fact that, following the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire by the Edict of Milan (312), it was no longer necessary to deflect criticism of Pilate (and by extension of the Roman Empire) for his role in Jesus's crucifixion onto the Jews. [132] Bart Ehrman, on the other hand, argues that the tendency in the Early Church to exonerate Pilate and blame the Jews prior to this time reflects an increasing "anti-Judaism" among Early Christians. [133] The earliest attestation of a positive tradition about Pilate comes from the late first-, early second-century Christian author Tertullian, who, claiming to have seen Pilate's report to Tiberius, states Pilate had "become already a Christian in his conscience." [134] An earlier reference to Pilate's records of Jesus's trial is given by Christian apologist Justin Martyr around 160. [135] Tibor Grüll believes that this could be a reference to Pilate's actual records, [134] but other scholars argue that Justin has simply invented the records as a source on the assumption that they existed without ever having verified their existence. [136] [137]

New Testament Apocrypha Edit

Beginning in the fourth century, a large body of Christian apocryphal texts developed concerning Pilate, making up one of the largest groups of surviving New Testament Apocrypha. [138] Originally, these texts served both to unburden Pilate of guilt for the death of Jesus as well as to provide more complete records of Jesus's trial. [139] The apocryphal Gospel of Peter completely exonerates Pilate for the crucifixion, which is instead performed by Herod. [140] Moreover, the text makes explicit that while Pilate washes his hands of guilt, neither the Jews nor Herod do so. [141] The Gospel includes a scene in which the centurions who had been guarding Jesus' tomb report to Pilate that Jesus has been resurrected. [142]

The fragmentary third-century Manichaean Gospel of Mani has Pilate refer to Jesus as "the Son of God" and telling his centurions to "[k]eep this secret". [143]

In the most common version of the passion narrative in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (also called the Acts of Pilate), Pilate is portrayed as forced to execute Jesus by the Jews and as distraught at having done so. [144] One version claims to have been discovered and translated by a Jewish convert named Ananias, portraying itself as the official Jewish records of the crucifixion. [145] Another claims that the records were made by Pilate himself, relying on reports made to him by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. [146] Some Eastern versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus claim that Pilate was born in Egypt, which likely aided his popularity there. [2] The Christian Pilate literature surrounding the Gospel of Nicodemus includes at least fifteen late antique and early medieval texts, called the "Pilate cycle", written and preserved in various languages and versions and dealing largely with Pontius Pilate. [147] Two of these include purported reports made by Pilate to the emperor (either unnamed or named as Tiberius or Claudius) on the crucifixion, in which Pilate recounts Jesus' death and resurrection, blaming the Jews. [148] Another purports to be an angry reply by Tiberius, condemning Pilate for his role in Jesus' death. [148] Another early text is an apocryphal letter attributed to "Herod" (a composite character of the various Herods in the Bible), which claims to respond to a letter from Pilate in which Pilate spoke of his remorse for Jesus' crucifixion and of having had a vision of the risen Christ "Herod" asks Pilate to pray for him. [149]

In the so-called Book of the Cock, a late-antique apocryphal passion Gospel only preserved in Ge'ez (Ethiopic) but translated from Arabic, [150] Pilate attempts to avoid Jesus's execution by sending him to Herod and writing further letters arguing with Herod not to execute Jesus. Pilate's family become Christians after Jesus miraculously cures Pilate's daughters of their deaf-muteness. Pilate is nevertheless forced to execute Jesus by the increasingly angry crowd, but Jesus tells Pilate that he does not hold him responsible. [151] This book enjoys "a quasi-canonical status" among Ethiopian Christians to this day and continues to be read beside the canonical gospels during Holy Week. [152]

Pilate's death in the apocrypha Edit

Seven of the Pilate texts mention Pilate's fate after the crucifixion: in three, he becomes a very positive figure, while in four he is presented as diabolically evil. [153] A fifth-century Syriac version of the Acts of Pilate explains Pilate's conversion as occurring after he has blamed the Jews for Jesus' death in front of Tiberius prior to his execution, Pilate prays to God and converts, thereby becoming a Christian martyr. [154] In the Greek Paradosis Pilati (5th c.), [148] Pilate is arrested and martyred as a follower of Christ. [155] His beheading is accompanied by a voice from heaven calling him blessed and saying he will be with Jesus at the Second Coming. [156] The Evangelium Gamalielis, possibly of medieval origin and preserved in Arabic, Coptic, and Ge'ez, [157] says Jesus was crucified by Herod, whereas Pilate was a true believer in Christ who was martyred for his faith similarly, the Martyrium Pilati, possibly medieval and preserved in Arabic, Coptic, and Ge'ez, [157] portrays Pilate, as well as his wife and two children, as being crucified twice, once by the Jews and once by Tiberius, for his faith. [155]

In addition to the report on Pilate's suicide in Eusebius, Grüll notes three Western apocryphal traditions about Pilate's suicide. In the Cura sanitatis Tiberii (dated variously 5th to 7th c.), [158] the emperor Tiberius is healed by an image of Jesus brought by Saint Veronica, Saint Peter then confirms Pilate's report on Jesus's miracles, and Pilate is exiled by the emperor Nero, after which he commits suicide. [159] A similar narrative plays out in the Vindicta Salvatoris (8th c.). [159] [160] In the Mors Pilati (perhaps originally 6th c., but recorded c. 1300), [161] Pilate was forced to commit suicide and his body thrown in the Tiber. However, the body is surrounded by demons and storms, so that it is removed from the Tiber and instead cast into the Rhone, where the same thing happens. Finally, the corpse is taken to Lausanne in modern Switzerland and buried in an isolated pit, where demonic visitations continue to occur. [162]

Later legends Edit

Beginning in the eleventh century, more extensive legendary biographies of Pilate were written in Western Europe, adding details to information provided by the bible and apocrypha. [164] The legend exists in many different versions and was extremely widespread in both Latin and the vernacular, and each version contains significant variation, often relating to local traditions. [165]

Early "biographies" Edit

The earliest extant legendary biography is the De Pilato of c. 1050, with three further Latin versions appearing in the mid-twelfth century, followed by many vernacular translations. [166] Howard Martin summarizes the general content of these legendary biographies as follows: a king who was skilled in astrology and named Atus lived in Mainz. The king reads in the stars that he will bear a son who will rule over many lands, so he has a miller's daughter named Pila brought to him whom he impregnates Pilate's name thus results from the combination of the names Pila with Atus.

A few years later, Pilate is brought to his father's court where he kills his half-brother. As a result, he is sent as a hostage to Rome, where he kills another hostage. As punishment he is sent to the island of Pontius, whose inhabitants he subjugates, thus acquiring the name Pontius Pilate. King Herod hears of this accomplishment and asks him to come to Palestine to aid his rule there Pilate comes but soon usurps Herod's power. [167]

The trial and judgment of Jesus then happens as in the gospels. The emperor in Rome is suffering from a terrible disease at this time, and hearing of Christ's healing powers, sends for him only to learn from Saint Veronica that Christ has been crucified, but she possesses a cloth with the image of his face. Pilate is taken as a prisoner with her to Rome to be judged, but every time the emperor sees Pilate to condemn him, his anger dissipates. This is revealed to be because Pilate is wearing Jesus's coat when the coat is removed, the Emperor condemns him to death, but Pilate commits suicide first. The body is first thrown in the Tiber, but because it causes storms it is then moved to Vienne, and then thrown in a lake in the high Alps. [168]

One important version of the Pilate legend is found in the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine (1263–1273), one of the most popular books of the later Middle Ages. [169] In the Golden Legend, Pilate is portrayed as closely associated with Judas, first coveting the fruit in the orchard of Judas's father Ruben, then granting Judas Ruben's property after Judas has killed his own father. [170]

Western Europe Edit

Several places in Western Europe have traditions associated with Pilate. The cities of Lyon and Vienne in modern France claim to be Pilate's birthplace: Vienne has a Maison de Pilate, a Prétoire de Pilate and a Tour de Pilate. [171] One tradition states that Pilate was banished to Vienne where a Roman ruin is associated with his tomb according to another, Pilate took refuge in a mountain (now called Mount Pilatus) in modern Switzerland, before eventually committing suicide in a lake on its summit. [163] This connection to Mount Pilatus is attested from 1273 onwards, while Lake Lucerne has been called "Pilatus-See" (Pilate Lake) beginning in the fourteenth century. [172] A number of traditions also connected Pilate to Germany. In addition to Mainz, Bamberg, Hausen, Upper Franconia were also claimed to be his place of birth, while some traditions place his death in the Saarland. [173]

The town of Tarragona in modern Spain possesses a first-century Roman tower, which, since the eighteenth-century, has been called the "Torre del Pilatos," in which Pilate is claimed to have spent his last years. [163] The tradition may go back to a misread Latin inscription on the tower. [174] The cities of Huesca and Seville are other cities in Spain associated with Pilate. [171] Per a local legend, [175] the village of Fortingall in Scotland claims to be Pilate's birthplace, but this is almost certainly a 19th-century invention—particularly as the Romans did not invade the British Isles until 43. [176]

Eastern Christianity Edit

Pilate was also the subject of legends in Eastern Christianity. The Byzantine chronicler George Kedrenos (c. 1100) wrote that Pilate was condemned by Caligula to die by being left in the sun enclosed in the skin of a freshly slaughtered cow, together with a chicken, a snake, and a monkey. [177] In a legend from medieval Rus', Pilate attempts to save Saint Stephen from being executed Pilate, his wife and children have themselves baptized and bury Stephen in a gilded silver coffin. Pilate builds a church in the honor of Stephen, Gamaliel, and Nicodemus, who were martyred with Stephen. Pilate dies seven months later. [178] In the medieval Slavonic Josephus, an Old Church Slavonic translation of Josephus, with legendary additions, Pilate kills many of Jesus's followers but finds Jesus innocent. After Jesus heals Pilate's wife of a fatal illness, the Jews bribe Pilate with 30 talents to crucify Jesus. [179]

Visual art Edit

Late antique and early medieval art Edit

Pilate is one of the most important figures in early Christian art he is often given greater prominence than Jesus himself. [180] He is, however, entirely absent from the earliest Christian art all images postdate the emperor Constantine and can be classified as early Byzantine art. [181] Pilate first appears in art on a Christian sarcophagus in 330 in the earliest depictions he is shown washing his hands without Jesus being present. [182] In later images he is typically shown washing his hands of guilt in Jesus' presence. [183] 44 depictions of Pilate predate the sixth century and are found on ivory, in mosaics, in manuscripts as well as on sarcophagi. [184] Pilate's iconography as a seated Roman judge derives from depictions of the Roman emperor, causing him to take on various attributes of an emperor or king, including the raised seat and clothing. [185]

The older Byzantine model of depicting Pilate washing his hands continues to appear on artwork into the tenth century [186] beginning in the seventh century, however, a new iconography of Pilate also emerges, which does not always show him washing his hands, includes him in additional scenes, and is based on contemporary medieval rather than Roman models. [186] The majority of depictions from this time period come from France or Germany, belonging to Carolingian or later Ottonian art, [187] and are mostly on ivory, with some in frescoes, but no longer on sculpture except in Ireland. [188] New images of Pilate that appear in this period include depictions of the Ecce homo, Pilate's presentation of the scourged Jesus to the crowd in John 19:5, [189] as well as scenes deriving from the apocryphal Acts of Pilate. [190] Pilate also comes to feature in scenes such as the Flagellation of Christ, where he is not mentioned in the Bible. [191]

The eleventh century sees Pilate iconography spread from France and Germany to Great Britain and further into the eastern Mediterranean. [187] Images of Pilate are found on new materials such as metal, while he appeared less frequently on ivory, and continues to be a frequent subject of gospel and psalter manuscript illuminations. [187] Depictions continue to be greatly influenced by the Acts of Pilate, and the number of situations in which Pilate is depicted also increases. [187] From the eleventh century onward, Pilate is frequently represented as a Jewish king, wearing a beard and a Jewish hat. [192] In many depictions he is no longer depicted washing his hands, or is depicted washing his hands but not in the presence of Jesus, or else he is depicted in passion scenes in which the Bible does not mention him. [193]

Despite being venerated as a saint by the Ethiopian Church, very few images of Pilate exist in these traditions from any time period. [3]

High and late medieval and renaissance art Edit

In the thirteenth century, depictions of the events of Christ's passion came to dominate all visual art forms—these depictions of the "Passion cycle" do not always include Pilate, but they often do so when he is included, he is often given stereotyped Jewish features. [194] One of the earliest examples of Pilate rendered as a Jew is from the eleventh century on the Hildesheim cathedral doors (see image, above right). This is the first known usage of the motif of Pilate being influenced and corrupted by the Devil in Medieval Art. While some believe that the Devil on the doors is rendered as the Jew in disguise, other scholars hold that the Devil's connection to the Jews here is a little less direct, as the motif of the Jew as the Devil was not well-established at that point. Rather, increased tensions between Christians and Jews initiated the association of Jews as friends of the Devil, and the art alludes to this alliance. [195] Pilate is typically represented in fourteen different scenes from his life [196] however, more than half of all thirteenth-century representations of Pilate show the trial of Jesus. [197] Pilate also comes to be frequently depicted as present at the crucifixion, by the fifteenth century being a standard element of crucifixion artwork. [198] While many images still draw from the Acts of Pilate, the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine is the primary source for depictions of Pilate from the second half of the thirteenth century onward. [199] Pilate now frequently appears in illuminations for books of hours, [200] as well as in the richly illuminated Bibles moralisées, which include many biographical scenes adopted from the legendary material, although Pilate's washing of hands remains the most frequently depicted scene. [201] In the Bible moralisée, Pilate is generally depicted as a Jew. [202] In many other images, however, he is depicted as a king or with a mixture of attributes of a Jew and a king. [203]

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries see fewer depictions of Pilate, although he generally appears in cycles of artwork on the passion. He is sometimes replaced by Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas in the trial scene. [204] Depictions of Pilate in this period are mostly found in private devotional settings such as on ivory or in books he is also a major subject in a number of panel-paintings, mostly German, and frescoes, mostly Scandinavian. [205] The most frequent scene to include Pilate is his washing of his hands Pilate is typically portrayed similarly to the high priests as an old, bearded man, often wearing a Jewish hat but sometimes a crown, and typically carrying a scepter. [206] Images of Pilate were especially popular in Italy, where, however, he was almost always portrayed as a Roman, [207] and often appears in the new medium of large-scale church paintings. [208] Pilate continued to be represented in various manuscript picture bibles and devotional works as well, often with innovative iconography, sometimes depicting scenes from the Pilate legends. [209] Many, mostly German, engravings and woodcuts of Pilate were created in the fifteenth century. [210] Images of Pilate were printed in the Biblia pauperum ("Bibles of the Poor"), picture bibles focusing on the life of Christ, as well as the Speculum Humanae Salvationis ("Mirror of Human Salvation"), which continued to be printed into the sixteenth century. [211]

Post-medieval art Edit

In the modern period, depictions of Pilate become less frequent, though occasional depictions are still made of his encounter with Jesus. [212] In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Pilate was frequently dressed as an Arab, wearing a turban, long robes, and a long beard, given the same characteristics as the Jews. Notable paintings of this era include Tintoretto's Christ before Pilate (1566/67), in which Pilate is given the forehead of a philosopher, and Gerrit van Honthorst's 1617 Christ before Pilate, which was later recatalogued as Christ before the High Priest due to Pilate's Jewish appearance. [213]

Following this longer period in which few depictions of Pilate were made, the increased religiosity of the mid-nineteenth century caused a slew of new depictions of Pontius Pilate to be created, now depicted as a Roman. [213] In 1830, J. M. W. Turner painted Pilate Washing His Hands, in which the governor himself is not visible, but rather only the back of his chair, [214] with lamenting women in the foreground. One famous nineteenth-century painting of Pilate is Christ before Pilate (1881) by Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy: the work brought Munkácsy great fame and celebrity in his lifetime, making his reputation and being popular in the United States in particular, where the painting was purchased. [215] In 1896, Munkácsy painted a second painting featuring Christ and Pilate, Ecce homo, which however was never exhibited in the United States both paintings portray Jesus's fate as in the hands of the crowd rather than Pilate. [216] The "most famous of nineteenth-century pictures" [217] of Pilate is What is truth? ("Что есть истина?") by the Russian painter Nikolai Ge, which was completed in 1890 the painting was banned from exhibition in Russia in part because the figure of Pilate was identified as representing the tsarist authorities. [218] In 1893, Ge painted another painting, Golgotha, in which Pilate is represented only by his commanding hand, sentencing Jesus to death. [214] The Scala sancta, supposedly the staircase from Pilate's praetorium, now located in Rome, is flanked by a life-sized sculpture of Christ and Pilate in the Ecce homo scene made in the nineteenth century by the Italian sculptor Ignazio Jacometti. [219]

The image of Pilate condemning Jesus to death is commonly encountered today as the first scene of the Stations of the Cross, first found in Franciscan Catholic churches in the seventeenth century and found in almost all Catholic churches since the nineteenth century. [220] [221] [222]

Medieval plays Edit

Pilate plays a major role in the medieval passion play. He is frequently depicted as a more important character to the narrative than even Jesus, [223] and became one of the most important figures of medieval drama in the fifteenth century. [224] The three most popular scenes in the plays to include Pilate are his washing of hands, the warning of his wife Procula not to harm Jesus, and the writing of the titulus on Jesus' cross. [206] Pilate's characterization varies greatly from play to play, but later plays frequently portray Pilate somewhat ambiguously, though he is usually a negative character, and sometimes an evil villain. [225] While in some plays Pilate is opposed to the Jews and condemns them, in others he describes himself as a Jew or supports their wish to kill Christ. [226]

In the passion plays from the continental Western Europe, Pilate's characterization varies from good to evil, but he is mostly a benign figure. [227] The earliest surviving passion play, the thirteenth-century Ludus de Passione from Klosterneuburg, portrays Pilate as a weak administrator who succumbs to the whims of the Jews in having Christ crucified. [228] Pilate goes on to play an important role in the increasingly long and elaborate passion plays performed in the German-speaking countries and in France. [229] In Arnoul Gréban's fifteenth-century Passion, Pilate instructs the flagellators on how best to whip Jesus. [230] The 1517 Alsfelder Passionsspiel portrays Pilate as condemning Christ to death out of fear of losing Herod's friendship and to earn the Jews' good will, despite his long dialogues with the Jews in which he professes Christ's innocence. He eventually becomes a Christian himself. [231] In the 1493 Frankfurter Passionsspiel, on the other hand, Pilate himself accuses Christ. [232] The fifteenth-century German Benediktbeuern passion play depicts Pilate as a good friend of Herod's, kissing him in a reminiscence of the kiss of Judas. [202] Colum Hourihane argues that all of these plays supported antisemitic tropes and were written at times when persecution of Jews on the continent were high. [233]

The fifteenth-century Roman Passione depicts Pilate as trying to save Jesus against the wishes of the Jews. [226] In the Italian passion plays, Pilate never identifies himself as a Jew, condemning them in the fifteenth-century Resurrezione and stressing the Jews' fear of the "new law" of Christ. [234]

Hourihane argues that in England, where the Jews had been expelled in 1290, Pilate's characterization may have been used primarily to satyrize corrupt officials and judges rather than to stoke antisemitism. [235] In several English plays, Pilate is portrayed speaking French or Latin, the languages of the ruling classes and the law. [236] In the Wakefield plays, Pilate is portrayed as wickedly evil, describing himself as Satan's agent (mali actoris) while plotting Christ's torture so as to extract the most pain. He nonetheless washes his hands of guilt after the tortures have been administered. [237] Yet many scholars believe the motif of the conniving devil and the Jews to be inextricably linked. By the thirteenth century, medieval arts and literature had a well-established tradition of the Jew as the Devil in disguise. [195] Thus, some scholars believe that Anti-Judaism still lies near the heart of the matter. [195] In the fifteenth-century English Townley Cycle, Pilate is portrayed as a pompous lord and prince of the Jews, but also as forcing Christ's torturer to give him Christ's clothes at the foot of the cross. [238] It is he alone who wishes to kill Christ rather than the high priests, conspiring together with Judas. [239] In the fifteenth-century English York passion play, Pilate judges Jesus together with Annas and Caiaphas, becoming a central character of the passion narrative who converses with and instructs other characters. [240] In this play, when Judas comes back to Pilate and the priests to tell them he no longer wishes to betray Jesus, Pilate browbeats Judas into going through with the plan. [241] Not only does Pilate force Judas to betray Christ, he double-crosses him and refuses to take him on as a servant once Judas has done so. Moreover, Pilate also swindles his way into possession of the Potter's field, thus owning the land on which Judas commits suicide. [242] In the York passion cycle, Pilate describes himself as a courtier, but in most English passion plays he proclaims his royal ancestry. [206] The actor who portrayed Pilate in the English plays would typically speak loudly and authoritatively, a fact which was parodied in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. [243]

The fifteenth century also sees Pilate as a character in plays based on legendary material: one, La Vengeance de Nostre-Seigneur, exists in two dramatic treatments focusing on the horrible fates that befell Christ's tormenters: it portrays Pilate being tied to a pillar, covered with oil and honey, and then slowly dismembered over 21 days he is carefully tended to so that he does not die until the end. [244] Another play focusing on Pilate's death is Cornish and based on the Mors Pilati. [245] The Mystère de la Passion d'Angers by Jean Michel includes legendary scenes of Pilate's life before the passion. [227]

Modern literature Edit

Pontius Pilate appears as a character in a large number of literary works, typically as a character in the judgment of Christ. [220] One of the earliest literary works in which he plays a large role is French writer Anatole France's 1892 short story "Le Procurateur de Judée" ("The Procurator of Judaea"), which portrays an elderly Pilate who has been banished to Sicily. There he lives happily as a farmer and is looked after by his daughter, but suffers from gout and obesity and broods over his time as governor of Judaea. [246] Spending his time at the baths of Baiae, Pilate is unable to remember Jesus at all. [247]

Pilate makes a brief appearance in the preface to George Bernard Shaw's 1933 play On the Rocks where he argues against Jesus about the dangers of revolution and of new ideas. [248] Shortly afterwards, French writer Roger Caillois wrote a novel Pontius Pilate (1936), in which Pilate acquits Jesus. [249]

Pilate features prominently in Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita, which was written in the 1930s but only published in 1966, twenty six years after the author's death. [250] Henry I. MacAdam describes it as "the 'cult classic' of Pilate-related fiction." [249] The work features a novel within the novel about Pontius Pilate and his encounter with Jesus by an author only called the Master. Because of this subject matter, the Master has been attacked for "Pilatism" by the Soviet literary establishment. Five chapters of the novel are featured as chapters of The Master and Margarita. In them, Pilate is portrayed as wishing to save Jesus, being affected by his charisma, but as too cowardly to do so. Russian critics in the 1960s interpreted this Pilate as "a model of the spineless provincial bureaucrats of Stalinist Russia." [251] Pilate becomes obsessed with his guilt for having killed Jesus. [252] Because he betrayed his desire to follow his morality and free Jesus, Pilate must suffer for eternity. [253] Pilate's burden of guilt is finally lifted by the Master when he encounters him at the end of Bulgakov's novel. [254]

The majority of literary texts about Pilate come from the time after the Second World War, a fact which Alexander Demandt suggests shows a cultural dissatisfaction with Pilate having washed his hands of guilt. [247] One of Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt's earliest stories ("Pilatus," 1949) portrays Pilate as aware that he is torturing God in the trial of Jesus. [255] Swiss playwright Max Frisch's comedy Die chinesische Mauer portrays Pilate as a skeptical intellectual who refuses to take responsibility for the suffering he has caused. [256] The German Catholic novelist Gertrud von Le Fort's Die Frau des Pilatus portrays Pilate's wife as converting to Christianity after attempting to save Jesus and assuming Pilate's guilt for herself Pilate executes her as well. [255]

In 1986, Soviet-Kyrgiz writer Chingiz Aitmatov published a novel in Russian featuring Pilate titled Placha (The Place of the Skull). The novel centers on an extended dialogue between Pilate and Jesus witnessed in a vision by the narrator Avdii Kallistratov, a former seminarian. Pilate is presented as a materialist pessimist who believes mankind will soon destroy itself, whereas Jesus offers a message of hope. [250] Among other topics, the two anachronistically discuss the meaning of the last judgment and the second coming Pilate fails to comprehend Jesus's teachings and is complacent as he sends him to his death. [257]

Film Edit

Pilate has been depicted in a number of films, being included in portrayals of Christ's passion already in some of the earliest films produced. [258] In the 1927 silent film The King of Kings, Pilate is played by Hungarian-American actor Victor Varconi, who is introduced seated under an enormous 37 feet high Roman eagle, which Christopher McDonough argues symbolizes "not power that he possesses but power that possesses him". [259] During the Ecce homo scene, the eagle stands in the background between Jesus and Pilate, with a wing above each figure after hesitantly condemning Jesus, Pilate passes back to the eagle, which is now framed beside him, showing his isolation in his decision and, McDonough suggests, causing the audience to question how well he has served the emperor. [260]

The film The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) portrays Pilate as "a representative of the gross materialism of the Roman empire", with the actor Basil Rathbone giving him long fingers and a long nose. [261] Following the Second World War, Pilate and the Romans often take on a villainous role in American film. [262] The 1953 film The Robe portrays Pilate as completely covered with gold and rings as a sign of Roman decadence. [263] The 1959 film Ben-Hur shows Pilate presiding over a chariot race, in a scene that Ann Wroe says "seemed closely modeled on the Hitler footage of the 1936 Olympics," with Pilate bored and sneering. [264] Martin Winkler, however, argues that Ben-Hur provides a more nuanced and less condemnatory portrayal of Pilate and the Roman Empire than most American films of the period. [265]

Only one film has been made entirely in Pilate's perspective, the 1962 French-Italian Ponzio Pilato, where Pilate was played by Jean Marais. [263] In the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar, the trial of Jesus takes place in the ruins of a Roman theater, suggesting the collapse of Roman authority and "the collapse of all authority, political or otherwise". [266] The Pilate in the film, played by Barry Dennen, expands on John 18:38 to question Jesus on the truth and appears, in McDonough's view, as "an anxious representative of [. ] moral relativism". [266] Speaking of Dennen's portrayal in the trial scene, McDonough describes him as a "cornered animal." [267] Wroe argues that later Pilates took on a sort of effeminancy, [263] illustrated by the Pilate in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where Pilate lisps and mispronounces his r's as w's. In Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Pilate is played by David Bowie, who appears as "gaunt and eerily hermaphrodite." [263] Bowie's Pilate speaks with a British accent, contrasting with the American accent of Jesus (Willem Dafoe). [268] The trial takes place in Pilate's private stables, implying that Pilate does not think the judgment of Jesus very important, and no attempt is made to take any responsibility from Pilate for Jesus's death, which he orders without any qualms. [269]

Mel Gibson's 2004 film The Passion of the Christ portrays Pilate, played by Hristo Shopov, as a sympathetic, noble-minded character, [270] fearful that the Jewish priest Caiaphas will start an uprising if he does not give in to his demands. He expresses disgust at the Jewish authorities' treatment of Jesus when Jesus is brought before him and offers Jesus a drink of water. [270] McDonough argues that "Shopov gives US a very subtle Pilate, one who manages to appear alarmed though not panicked before the crowd, but who betrays far greater misgivings in private conversation with his wife." [271]

Pontius Pilate is mentioned as having been involved in the crucifixion in both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. The Apostles Creed states that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." [272] The Nicene Creed states "For our sake [Jesus] was crucified under Pontius Pilate he suffered death and was buried." [273] These creeds are recited weekly by many Christians. [274] Pilate is the only person besides Jesus and Mary mentioned by name in the creeds. [275] The mention of Pilate in the creeds serves to mark the passion as a historical event. [276]

He is venerated as a saint by the Ethiopian Church with a feast day on 19 June. [155] [277]

Pilate's washing his hands of responsibility for Jesus's death in Matthew 27:24 is a commonly encountered image in the popular imagination, [75] and is the origin of the English phrase "to wash one's hands of (the matter)", meaning to refuse further involvement with or responsibility for something. [278] Parts of the dialogue attributed to Pilate in the Gospel of John have become particularly famous sayings, especially quoted in the Latin version of the Vulgate. [279] These include John 18:35 (numquid ego Iudaeus sum? "Am I a Jew?"), John 18:38 (Quid est veritas? "What is truth?"), John 19:5 (Ecce homo, "Behold the man!"), John 19:14 (Ecce rex vester, "Behold your king!"), and John 19:22 (Quod scripsi, scripsi, "What I have written, I have written"). [279]

The Gospels' deflection of responsibility for Jesus's crucifixion from Pilate to the Jews has been blamed for fomenting antisemitism from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. [280]

Scholarly assessments Edit

The main ancient sources on Pilate offer very different views on his governorship and personality. Philo is hostile, Josephus mostly neutral, and the Gospels "comparatively friendly." [281] This, combined with the general lack of information on Pilate's long time in office, has resulted in a wide range of assessments by modern scholars. [19]

On the basis of the many offenses that Pilate caused to the Judaean populace, some scholars find Pilate to have been a particularly bad governor. M. P. Charlesworth argues that Pilate was "a man whose character and capacity fell below those of the ordinary provincial official [. ] in ten years he had piled blunder on blunder in his scorn for and misunderstanding of the people he was sent to rule." [282] However, Paul Maier argues that Pilate's long term as governor of Judaea indicates he must have been a reasonably competent administrator, [283] while Henry MacAdam argues that "[a]mong the Judaean governors prior to the Jewish War, Pilate must be ranked as more capable than most." [284] Other scholars have argued that Pilate was simply culturally insensitive in his interactions with the Jews and in this way a typical Roman official. [285]

Beginning with E. Stauffer in 1948, scholars have argued, on the basis of his possible appointment by Sejanus, that Pilate's offenses against the Jews were directed by Sejanus out of hatred of the Jews and a desire to destroy their nation, a theory supported by the pagan imagery on Pilate's coins. [286] According to this theory, following Sejanus's execution in 31 and Tiberius's purges of his supporters, Pilate, fearful of being removed himself, became far more cautious, explaining his apparently weak and vacillating attitude at the trial of Jesus. [287] Helen Bond argues that "[g]iven the history of pagan designs throughout Judaean coinage, particularly from Herod and Gratus, Pilate's coins do not seem to be deliberately offensive," [288] and that the coins offer little evidence of any connection between Pilate and Sejanus. [289] Carter notes this theory arose in the context of the aftermath of the Holocaust, that the evidence that Sejanus was anti-Semitic depends entirely on Philo, and that "[m]ost scholars have not been convinced that it is an accurate or a fair picture of Pilate." [290]


Spices and Perfumes

And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of G-d this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Here are some additional clues in our search!

  • It was the preparation day and the Sabbath was about to begin.
  • The women prepared spices and perfumes for Yeshua's body before the Sabbath.
  • The women rested on the Sabbath.
  • On the first day of the week after the Sabbath they returned to the tomb (chapter 24).

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion occurred on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the Sabbath
6. A Sabbath day occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the Sabbath

Do we find other mention in the Gospel accounts of spices and perfumes that could give us further clues about the timing of the events of Yeshua's crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection?

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

Here we see the women buying spices after the Sabbath. Let's add that to our criteria.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion occurred on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the Sabbath
6. A Sabbath day occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the Sabbath

If it was after the Sabbath was over (i.e. after sundown on Saturday) they couldn't just stop by the local 24-hour SpiceMart and pick up a several pounds of burial spices. They would have needed to wait until after dawn the following day when the market opened. That scenario, however, doesn't fit with their arrival at the tomb just prior to dawn.

This also appears to contradict the passage in Luke where it says the women prepared the spices and perfumes before the Sabbath. How can they prepare spices before the Sabbath that they haven't purchased until after the Sabbath?

There are a couple of possible explanations.

First, the passage in Luke refers to "the women who had come with Him out of Galilee". This group may have been separate from Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James. It seems unlikely as Mary Magdalene appears to have been a central female among the talmidim . If anything the other women would have gathered around her and Yeshua's mother during their time of mourning.

The second explanation involves two Sabbaths during the week of Pesach. This second explanation makes sense when we consider the commandment to rest and "not do any laborious work" on Chag HaMatzot [the Feast of Unleavened Bread] which also makes it a Sabbath [rest] day.

There is an additional confirmation of this in Mark 28:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

The Greek word here translated as "Sabbath" is sabbaton and it is in the genitive plural neuter form! 6 This passage literally reads "Now after the Sabbaths". plural. The Analytical Literal Translation (ALT) translates the verse this way:

Now after [the] Sabbaths, at the dawning into [the] first [day] of the week [i.e. early Sunday morning], Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the grave.

[bracketed terms above in the original]

If we consider that there were two Sabbaths during the week then the apparent paradox of "preparing spices before they were purchased" disappears because it was after the first Sabbath (Chag HaMatzot) that the spices were purchased and before the second (weekly) Sabbath that they were prepared.

Let's update the criteria again.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. A Sabbath day Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath


Contents

Jewish tradition and texts portray the Sanhedrin to be an established court based in Jerusalem with strict guidelines on how to function, including a prohibition against trials after dark, and a requirement that they occur in a public venue. [3] Talmud Sanhedrin (tractate) 32a reads: Hebrew: דיני נפשות דינים ביום וגומרים ביום ‎, lit. 'In cases of capital law, the court judges during the daytime, and concludes the deliberations and issues the ruling only in the daytime.' (Steinsaltz Translation) And further on 32a Hebrew: דיני נפשות גומרין בו ביום לזכות וביום שלאחריו לחובה לפיכך אין דנין לא בערב שבת ולא בערב יום טוב ‎, lit. 'In cases of capital law, the court may conclude the deliberations and issue the ruling even on that same day to acquit the accused, but must wait until the following day to find him liable. Therefore, since capital cases might continue for two days, the court does not judge cases of capital law on certain days, neither on the eve of Shabbat nor the eve of a Festival.' Maimonides quotes this mishna verbatim in his authoritative compendium of Jewish law Mishneh Torah, The Sanhedrin and the Penalties within their Jurisdiction §11.1 [4]

This is often considered by Christian sources to show that the Gospel authors accused the Sanhedrin of violating the Torah during the trial. [5] [6] [7] David Chapman and Eckhard J. Schnabel say that an exception to the usual procedural safeguards in capital cases was made in the case of someone suspected of seducing others away from Israel's religion. [8]

Raymond E. Brown and others [9] think that in the era in which the narrative is set, the Sanhedrin was, rather than a fixed court, more of an ad hoc body that the high priest consulted to investigate religious offenses or to discuss political concerns. [10] Craig A. Evans, citing theologian C.E.B. Cranfield, says that if the meeting at the house of Caiaphas is seen as "an informal hearing designed to gain a consensus among Jewish authorities that Jesus should be handed over to the Romans with a capital recommendation" there would be no violations of the rules regarding capital trials. [11]

The Sadduccean priesthood was widely despised. [12] Caiaphas had been installed as high priest by Pilate's predecessor, the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus. Gratus had earlier deposed Caiaphas' father-in-law Annas, and then installed and deposed three other high priests over the course of eleven years. [13] The family of Annas, including his son-in-law Caiaphas, is portrayed in Talmud Pesachim (tractate) 57a as having influence but using it against the interests of the people. [14]

In the narrative in the synoptic gospels, after the arrest of Jesus he is taken to the private residence of Caiaphas, the high priest. Matthew 26 (Matthew 26:57) states that Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest of Israel, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. Mark 14 (Mark 14:53) states that Jesus was taken that night "to the high priest" (without naming the priest), where all the chief priests and the elders gathered.

According to John's gospel, Jesus was taken not to Caiaphas but to Annas, [15] who questioned him only privately. A former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, Annas remained very influential. The fact that Jesus was taken not to Caiaphas but to Annas is explained on the ground that the latter's palace was nearer the place of arrest than that of the former. Peter and other disciple, however, being ignorant of the state of affairs, went to Caiaphas' house in the night. [16]

In all four Gospel accounts, the trial of Jesus before the priests and scribes is interleaved with the Denial of Peter narrative, where Apostle Peter, who has followed Jesus, denies knowing him three times. [17] The intercalated narrative of Jesus' resolute determination offers contrast to the framing narrative of Peter's aggrieved denials (Mark 14:53–54, 14:66–72). [18] Luke 22 (Luke 22:61) states that as Jesus was bound and standing at the priest's house Peter was in the courtyard. Jesus "turned and looked straight at him", and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." [2] [19] [20] [17]

In John 18 (John 18:24), Jesus is sent from Annas to Caiaphas the high priest. Both Matthew and Mark say that another consultation was held among the priests the next morning. The second interview with Jesus was ". evidently held in the house of Caiaphas, rather than in the Chamber of Hewn Stone. " [21]

According to Luke 22:63, at Caiaphas' house, Jesus is mocked and beaten. He is accused of claiming to be both the Messiah and the Son of God. [2] [19] [20] Although the Gospel accounts vary with respect to some of the details, they agree on the general character and overall structure of the trials of Jesus. [22]

Mark 14:55-59 states that the chief priests sought witnesses to testify against Jesus but did not find any. Matthew characterizes these as false witnesses. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Finally two came forward and accused him of saying "I am able to destroy the temple and raise it again in three days". [23] Theologian Eckhard J. Schnabel points out that if the Sanhedrin had wished to contrive false testimony they would have prepared the witnesses so that their statements would have confirmed rather than contradict each other. [24]

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus speaks very little, and gives very infrequent and indirect answers to the questions of the priests, according to John 18:22 prompting an officer to slap him. In Matthew 26:62, the lack of response from Jesus prompts the high priest to ask him: "Answerest thou nothing?" In the Gospel accounts, the men that hold Jesus at the high priest's house mock, blindfold, insult and beat him, at times slapping him and asking him to guess who had hit him that time. [2] [19] [20] [25]

Mark 14:61 states that the high priest then asked Jesus: "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said "I am", at which point the high priest tore his own robe in anger and accused Jesus of blasphemy. In Matthew 26:63, the high priest asks: "Tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus responds "You have said it", and added "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven", prompting the High Priest to tear his own robe, [2] [19] [20] breaking Mosaic Law (Leviticus 21:10) [ disputed – discuss ] , and to accuse him of blasphemy.

According to Luke, Joseph of Arimathea was a counsellor, a member of the Sanhedrin who dissented from the decision. [26] According to John, Nicodemus was with Joseph of Arimathea to recover and bury Jesus' body, [27] leading to the inference that he also dissented.

Luke 22:66 states that, "as soon as it was day", the chief priests and scribes gathered together and led Jesus away into their council. [2] [19] [20] John 18:28 states that, early in the morning, Jesus was led from Caiaphas to Pontius Pilate in the Praetorium. [2] [19] [20]

In Luke 22:67, Jesus is asked: "If thou art the Christ, tell us. But he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe". But, in 22:70, when asked "Are you then the Son of God?", Jesus answers "You say that I am", affirming the title Son of God. [28] At that point, the priests say "What further need have we of witness? for we ourselves have heard from his own mouth", and they decide to condemn Jesus. [2] [19] [20]

Thereafter, in Pilate's Court, the Jewish elders ask Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. Such a claim would be considered treasonous, for being a direct challenge to the Roman authorities. [20]


What does science say about the darkness during the Crucifixion?

This Sunday I winced when we got to the following line in the Gospel reading:

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun (Luke 23:44-45).

“An eclipse of the sun”? Really? Surely the translators of the New American Bible, which we hear at Mass, didn’t render the passage that way!

Here’s why I had the reaction I did . . .

How the Moon Works

Luna—or “the moon” (as anyone who’s ever lived there calls it)—orbits the earth every 29.5 days. It also rotates on its axis once every 29.5 days.

That’s not a bizarre coincidence. It’s due to a phenomenon known as tidal locking.

Just like the moon’s gravity raises tides on earth, the earth’s gravity also tugs on the moon—so much so that over time this tugging adjusted the moon’s rotation and orbit until they were in synch.

This isn’t unique to our moon. Bunches of moons in the solar system are tidally locked to the planets they orbit.

One consequence of tidal locking is that the moon keeps the same face turned toward the earth at all times. We didn’t know what was on the far side of the moon until we started sending probes and space ships to orbit it.

But, much of the time, we can’t even see all of the near side of the moon.

When the moon is on the same side of the earth as the sun, the sun’s rays fall on the far side of the moon, so the near side—the side that always faces us—is dark. We call that the new moon.

When the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, the sun’s rays fall on the near side of the moon, illuminating it fully. We call that the full moon.

When the moon is alongside the earth, the sun’s rays fall on half of the near side, so half of it is lit up. We call that a half moon.

This is the true explanation for the phases of the moon we see each month. It isn’t the earth’s shadow falling on the moon (that rarely happens). It’s because of which part of the near side the sun’s rays are falling on as the moon goes around us.

So what does this have to do with the Crucifixion?

How Eclipses Work

An eclipse occurs when one astronomical body moves between two others.

Earth experiences two types of eclipses: solar ones and lunar ones.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the earth and the sun, blocking (or partly blocking) our view of the sun.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth moves directly between the sun and the moon, causing the earth’s shadow to fall on the moon and turn some or all of it dark (or red! Cool!).

Lunar eclipses are the rare occasions when the earth’s shadow really does fall on the moon.

When Eclipses Occur

Now, based on what we said about how the phases of the moon work, let me ask you a question: When is it possible for eclipses to occur?

If you think about it, the answers should come pretty quickly.

If a solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the earth and the sun then the moon must be between the earth and the sun—at the phase that we call a new moon.

Solar eclipses can’t occur at any other time, because the moon is in the wrong part of the sky.

(Also: Solar eclipses don’t occur every full moon because being on the same side of the earth as the sun is not the same as being directly between the earth and the sun.)

Conversely, if lunar eclipses occur when the earth is directly between the sun and the moon then they must happen when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun—at the phase we call the full moon.

That’s the only time lunar eclipses can occur.

(And: Lunar eclipses don’t occur every full moon because there’s a difference between being on the opposite side of the earth from the sun and being directly opposite the sun from the earth.)

So, again, what does this have to do with the Crucifixion?

How the Jewish Calendar Worked

In Jesus’ day, Jews used what is known as a lunisolar calendar. That means that it took into account information about the moon (like what phase it was in) and information about the sun (like when the equinoxes and solstices occurred).

The relevant part for our purposes is the lunar part. Specifically: The Jewish months were tied to the phases of the moon.

Every month began with a new moon feast, as we read about in the Bible (e.g., Colossians 2:16).

At Jerusalem, they even had a court declare the beginning of the month with the sighting of the new moon.

The Mishnah—a collection of oral laws written down around A.D. 200—even has rules about who can serve as a witness to the sighting of the new moon and how to test them to see if they’re lying or mistaken.

Once the court determined that the new moon had been sighted, messengers were sent from Jerusalem to proclaim the beginning of a new month (even in English, the word “month” comes from the word “moon”) to nearby Jewish communities.

So the sighting of the new moon was essential to the beginning of a month and to any holydays that occurred during that month.

Why Passover Is Important

Passover, the holiday that celebrated the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, is important for our purposes, because it is when Jesus was crucified.

All four of the Gospels link Jesus’ Crucifixion to Passover:

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matt. 26:2).

It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him” (Mark 14:1).

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it” (Luke 24:7-8).

[Pilate said:] “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:39).

So, chronologically speaking, we have really, really good evidence that Jesus was crucified at Passover.

In fact, it was in part because of Passover that Jesus was crucified then: He was in Jerusalem for the feast when the Jerusalem authorities decided to have him killed.

How Passover Worked

Passover took place on the 14th day of the month of Nisan. Leviticus explains:

In the first month [i.e., Nisan], on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is the Lord’s Passover (Lev. 23:5).

Nisan—like every month of the Jewish calendar—began with the sighting of the new moon.

So . . . what phase was the moon at when Passover occurred?

If the moon orbits the earth every 29.5 days then 14 days into that cycle would be at or very near the full moon.

Now the other shoe can drop: What kind of eclipse can occur at the full moon?

That’s Why I Flinched

The reason I flinched at Mass was because the translators of the New American Bible rendered Luke 23:44-45 as:

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.

GAH! No! That’s the kind of eclipse that can’t occur at Passover!

Now, you might think that the NAB translators didn’t know this.

But that’s not plausible, because the fact this wouldn’t have been a solar eclipse is regularly commented upon in commentaries on Luke, and the translators certainly were familiar with and consulted such commentaries in the translation process.

They knew, but for some reason they just didn’t care.

An Unforced Error

If you check the Greek text that they translated “because of an eclipse of the sun,” you’ll see that it reads:

Tou hēliou means “of the sun” (“of” here plausibly being taken in the sense “because of”).

Eklipontos sounds very much like the word “eclipse,” doesn’t it?

Was Luke asserting that there was an eclipse?

It’s possible that Luke didn’t understand the timing of eclipses. This was not widely understood in the ancient world, though some people were aware of how eclipses worked.

In fact, more than 600 years earlier, the Greek philosopher Thales wowed his contemporaries by predicting an eclipse that occurred on May 28, 585 B.C.

Even if Luke didn’t know about the timing of eclipses, though, he wasn’t asserting that an eclipse in our sense was occurring.

Eklipontos is a participle of the verb ekleipō, which means “fail/leave off/cease.”

This is where we get the English word “eclipse.” A solar eclipse is when the sun’s light fails or ceases because the moon passes in front of it.

But to say that the sun’s light failed is not the same thing as saying that a solar eclipse occurred. (After all, the sun’s light fails every single evening.)

The translators of the NAB have thus committed an unforced error.

The Greek text does not require the translation they have given. It is perfectly acceptable—and preferable—to translate the passage like other translations do:

  • [there was] darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed (RSV).
  • and the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (NJB).
  • there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened (Douay-Rheims).
  • there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened (KJV).
  • and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining (NIV).

What Science Says

Science does not tell us what the darkness that covered the land during the Crucifixion was.

It could have been caused—through divine providence—by any number of agencies God choose.

Some scholars have proposed that God used a sirocco to stir up a dust storm. Others have proposed it was dense cloud cover.

It could have been something else—including something even more directly miraculous.

Yet if science suggests anything about the darkness, it suggests that it was not a solar eclipse.

But our scientific detective story isn’t over yet.

To quote Lt. Columbo, “Just one more thing . . .”

One More Thing

Remember I asked what kind of eclipse could occur during the full moon at Passover?

So it’s natural to ask: Did one occur?

I’ve discussed elsewhere the fact that Jesus was most probably crucified on April 3, A.D. 33.

We may even have a reference to this in the New Testament.

On the day of Pentecost, as Peter preaches, he quotes a prophecy from Joel 2:31, telling the assembled crowd:

the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Acts 2:20).

Peter indicates Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled in their own day, and the fact that the sun had turned to darkness during the Crucifixion was known to Peter (and recorded by Luke, the author of Acts).

A lunar eclipse can make the moon appear reddish, and Peter may be alluding to the lunar eclipse that occurred a few weeks earlier, on April 3 of 33—the night that Jesus lay in the tomb.

Consider the symbolism: Jesus had just shed his blood, and now the moon in the sky seems to bleed.

No wonder Peter might see this as the fulfillment of prophecy!

So, next time you hear the NAB’s awful translation of Luke 23:44-45 read at Mass, take comfort in the fact that there may well have been an eclipse at the Crucifixion—just not a solar one.

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

Jimmy Akin Jimmy was born in Texas and grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”


Watch the video: The Last Temptation of Christ 1988 - The Crucifixion Scene 710. Movieclips (December 2022).