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Helpless pawn or ruthless villain? The Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, is famous because of his role in the New Testament Gospels. Pilate’s name is even mentioned in ancient Christian creeds. Yet in many Christian retellings of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion Pilate’s role is often portrayed incorrectly. In this video Marc Turnage reexamines Pilate’s character based on ancient literary sources, including the New Testament, and archaeological finds. In doing so, Turnage offers a new take on a familiar character.
In an important study entitled The Gospel of Signs, Robert Fortna correctly identified a Jewish-Christian source embedded in the Fourth Gospel. This article is based upon the conclusions of Fortna’s research and explores their significance. I will also point out additional evidence Fortna overlooked that clarifies the origins and intentions of the Jewish-Christian source embedded in the text of the Fourth Gospel.
The Pharisee Gamaliel is mentioned twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:34; 22:3). In Acts 5:34 he appears as an advocate of the nascent congregation of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and is called “a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, held in honor by all the people.” Then, in Acts 22:3, Paul says that he was “brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel.” Indeed, Gamaliel was an important spiritual leader of the Pharisees and a Jewish scholar. He also is well known from Jewish sources.
Kevin Kilty and Mark Elliott have written yet another article arguing that the Talpiot tomb is likely to be the tomb of Jesus’ family. Their new article aims to overturn a number of objections made by Jodi Magness in her book Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). As with their earlier work, Kilty and Elliott’s latest effort displays a faulty understanding of the numbers involved in calculating the odds that the Talpiot tomb is the tomb of Jesus’ family.
Careful analysis shows that a Hebraic source ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels and that this source is best preserved in Luke. Luke’s version of the Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb preserves details—such as Jesus taking the initiative to send the two disciples, commanding the disciples to prepare the lamb, and using Hebraic idiom—that fit the cultural context of first-century Judaism.
It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.
Jesus made bold messianic claims when he spoke. To thoroughly understand these claims, however, we must get into a time machine and travel back in time to a completely different culture, the Jewish culture of first-century Israel. We must acculturate ourselves to the way teachers and disciples in the time of Jesus communicated through allusions to Scripture.
In Luke 24:7 two men in dazzling apparel reminded the women that “the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” To people living in Europe or North America, rising on the third day could be interpreted that Jesus remained in the tomb over 48 hours. In light of the way ancient Jews calculated time, however, Jesus was in the tomb for a shorter period.
Based on archaeological excavations near the southern wall of the temple, the research of Shmuel Safrai, and a nuance of the Hebrew verb that is one of the equivalents for Greek ekballein (drive out, banish; throw out; throw away, reject; cast out of a place, expel; remove, get rid of; put out), it may be necessary to reinterpret the gospel accounts of Jesus’ “cleansing” of the temple, even suggesting a different location for Jesus’ action.
One of the most poignant pictures which exemplify the chasm of historical misunderstanding between Jews and Christians is that found in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. It is a photograph of a life-size crucifix that stood outside an unknown German village prior to World War II. In a twist of tragic irony a sign was hung on the cross to warn Jews not to enter the village. It read: “Jews are not welcome here.”
Many archaeological finds in Israel result from the chance uncovering of various ancient remains during the course of construction work. Some of these fortuitous discoveries prove to be of tremendous importance for understanding the history and archaeology of the land of Israel.
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