JESUS  and  the  PHARISEES  #2


From  the  book  "The  Trial  and  Death  of  Jesus"


by  the  late  Haim  Cohn (Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel)




We learn that the "chief priests and scribes" were "sore displeased" with Jesus when they saw "the wonderful things" that he had done and were apprised of the ovations that he had received (Matt. 21:15); he had, indeed, done "wonderful things," healing the blind and the halt (21:14). In two earlier instances, his feats of healing had already provoked adverse comment. When he healed a man "sick of palsy," having first forgiven him his sins, "certain of the scribes" had "said within themselves, This man blasphemeth" (Matt. 9:2-3), because nobody but God can so forgive (Mark 2:7); in the Gospel According to Luke, the "scribes" are joined by "Pharisees" (5:21). At another time, there "was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils" (Matt. 12:22-24). Luke replaces the "Pharisees" by the "people," who "wondered and said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils" (11:14-15).


There are, then, three variations on the one theme: Jesus' miraculous successes as a healer displeased the "scribes," with or without "Pharisees," first, that they were covetous (Luke 16:14) and envied him his applause; second, that they saw in his pretensions a usurpation of divine prerogatives; and, third, that they suspected him of diabolic machinations in casting out devils. 


Now it is intrinsically probable that many "scribes" and "Pharisees" may have envied Jesus his healing powers: it is only human to be jealous at the sight of a fellow's exceptional achievements. At that time, therapeutic processes and methods were not the monopoly of any medical profession or school of thought. People believed a disease or a disability to be God's punishment for either one's own sin or one's ancestors', or a sinister, hellish mischief. Certain ancient sources seem to suggest that physical ailment would be due to divine intervention, mental to satanic. Therapy, of course, had to be adapted to the nature and origin of the complaint. Casting out devils was a different process from winning God's mercy and forgiveness. We know from the Talmud that "whispering," for instance, was a recognized mode of treatment,21 but there was a dissentient view that no whispering ought to be allowed "in respect of demons," which seems to imply that for demoniac states other cures were prescribed, and that whispering was good only for natural, that is, divinely sent, illnesses. That healing was essayed by touching the sick part of the body, or by the laying on of hands or by massage, or by rubbing spittle on it, is likewise vouched for in the Talmud;22 and, needless to say, prayers would always be the best and last resort (Num. 12:13). 


What all these techniques have in common, of course, is that they require no mechanical or chemical contrivances: rather than medical knowledge or surgical skill, their success depends on divine grace and condescension. Pharisaic scholars, who may with justice have considered themselves eminently qualified to pray to God and invoke His help and mercy, must have undergone abysmal frustration at their helplessness to heal or even assuage the pain of the sick man whom Jesus set to rights by a few words or by the touch of his hand. And those who—as everybody did—believed in demons may well have thought that supernatural powers were aiding Jesus, more particularly where the malady was one commonly attributed to demonic evil.


As for sicknesses inflicted as God's punishment, every Jew believed in God's omnipotence, and His unfathomable choice of the instrument to carry out His will and of the objects of His grace would never be challenged. Envy there could be of the divine choice falling on one's neighbor, who might, in human judgment, be deemed unworthy, but there would never be any demonstration or activation of the "displeasure" aroused by it. 


Nor could the manifest divine acceptance of Jesus' healing stir any charge of blasphemy: on the contrary, what might be blasphemous would be denial of God's manifestation in the miraculous healing of the apparently incurable. That these people were cured was a fact amounting to conclusive proof that their sins had been forgiven, else God would not have remitted the punishment which He had seen fit to lay on them. Jesus' words, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5; Matt. 9:2), may be read as expressive of a forgiving by God and not necessarily of a forgiving by Jesus in independence of Him. Bible and Talmud are full of authoritative pronouncements by mortal men that God has forgiven, or will forgive, sins in general or particular transgressions. Never has it entered anybody's mind to regard such pronouncements as blasphemy, or as in any way trespassing on God's own prerogative. There is no escaping the suspicion that the allegation of blasphemy, out of place as it is in this context, was inserted only to prepare the way, and the mind, for the charge of "blasphemy" that is to reappear at a much later and more critical stage.


AH  SO  THE  AUTHOR  NOW  PUTS  CONNIVING  SCHEMES  INTO  THE  MINDS  OF  THE  GOSPEL  WRITERS….DOING  THIS  DELIBERATELY  FOR  ANOTHER  PURPOSE  YET  TO  COME  TO  DOWN  THE  ROAD  -  Keith Hunt


It is told that priests and scribes were even more sorely put out by what Jesus did in the temple and said about it. Indeed, his assertion that "There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2; Mark 13:2) was likely—and was meant—to sadden and alarm: it was a prophecy of impending doom, of divine retribution soon to be exacted. Like the forebodings of Jeremiah to exactly the same effect centuries earlier, so must Jesus' prediction have filled Jewish hearts with fright and dismay. But there was nothing offensive or unlawful about it: that God visited His people at times with dire calamity was borne out only too convincingly by the Roman oppression and the loss of freedom and independence. That, notwithstanding such unmistakable portents of God's wrath, men did not mend their ways but persisted in sinfulness, none knew better, or deplored more bitterly, than priests and Pharisees. And that God's blazing fury might soon ignite another, more horrendous, conflagration was a timely warning, and it did not take much originality to sound it. Nor was Jesus alone in this: from Josephus we learn of at least two others who trumpeted the same anticipations of disaster,23 and there must have been not a few unchron-icled. 


There is nothing in the Gospels to show that it was this kind of prophecy that spurred priests or scribes or Pharisees to action or to indignation, nor was there anything in it to warrant any such impulse, so long as it had not conclusively been proved false (Deut. 18:21-22). Another utterance attributed to Jesus, that he would himself destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (John 2:19), was chosen by Mark (14:58) and Matthew (26:61) as the matter of his indictment before the Sanhedrin; and we shall revert to that in due course and in greater detail.


But while the words of Jesus about the imminent destruction of the temple can be explained, and accepted, as neutral and inoffensive prophesying for the wholly laudable purpose of exhorting the folk to mend their ways, it is claimed that his acts in the temple were bound to inflame the priests and elders in authority to such incandescent anger that drastic steps against him were inescapable. This is the famous story: "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matt. 21:12-13). When the "scribes and chief priests heard it," they "sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mark 11:18). 


It is not without significance that only Mark and Luke report this reaction on the part of chief priests and scribes; Matthew records none at all; in John the Jews merely ask Jesus for his authority to do these things (2:18); and Luke very meaningfully reports, following his account of the cleansing, that Jesus "taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him" (19:47). If, indeed, as has often been argued, Jesus' "attack on the temple" endangered the whole trading system and "constituted a most radical challenge to the authority of the sacerdotal aristocracy," and if, indeed, it was "taken by the sacerdotal aristocracy as a declaration of war against them by Jesus,"24 it is difficult to understand why the temple authorities did not proceed instantly against him. They had the armed temple police at their disposal and could easily have had Jesus arrested there and then. That Jesus enjoyed popular backing and may even—as is surmised25— have done the cleansing with the aid of "an excited crowd of his supporters," would afford all the more reason for prompt and energetic police intervention to restore order and prevent violence and plunder. Not only do the authorities not interfere, but they apparently welcome Jesus to the temple and let him teach there every day. Even if they did not have him taken into custody by temple police, the least they would do would be to eject him and deny him any facility to teach in the temple. But, instead, they let him eject the buyers and sellers and moneychangers.


THE  AUTHOR  CAN  HARDLY  BELIEVE  THIS  STORY  IS  TRUE,  AS  HE  HAS  GIVEN,  WHAT  SOME  WOULD  SAY  IS  PRETTY  GOOD  HUMAN  LOGIC,  AS  TO  WHY  IT  SHOULD  BE  TAKEN  WITH  A  PINCH  OF  SALT  AS  THEY  SAY  -  Keith Hunt


The incongruity of the story has not escaped the author of the Gospel of Mark, who feels that he has to give some reason why the "scribes and chief priests" did not proceed at once against Jesus. So he informs us that "they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (11:18), meaning, to be sure, that they resented not only what he did and taught, but, more particularly, his immense popularity: only the day before, the citizens of Jerusalem had accorded him a rousing reception (11:8-10). If they desired to rob him of the popular loyalty, what better opportunity could there be than to catch him out in flagrante delicto and apprehend him for desecration of the temple grounds and usurpation of temple authority? The burgesses were not likely to stomach a desecration of the temple, and the keeping of peace and order in the sacred precincts was a police duty, whose due discharge would surely command public support and aid. And if Jesus' followers had resisted his arrest, and their resistance had been successful, the authorities would then have had a perfectly lawful and reasonable cause to prosecute him whenever they could lay their hands on him; and it is just that, we are told, that they so badly wanted to do!


SO  WHAT  IS  THE  ANSWER?  THE  AUTHOR  GOES  ON  TO  GIVE  ONE,  TRYING  TO  MAKE  OUT  IT  SHOULD  HAVE  BEEN  NO  BIG  THING,  AND  THE  PHARISEES  AND  OTHERS  SHOULD  HAVE  HARDLY  GOT  THEIR  PANTS  IN  A  KNOT  FROM  IT  ALL  -  Keith Hunt


The simple fact is that Jesus' act of "cleansing" was no offense at all: our data are an indication that it must—at least tacitly— have had the approval of the temple authorities.


Let us, first of all, look at the milieu where it could have taken place. The Gospel translations, which render it as "the temple," are inaccurate: the locality mentioned in the Gospels is the Mount of the Temple,26 an area which comprised not only the temple proper but also administrative buildings, stores, stables, and bazaars. The area outside the temple on the Mount was accessible to everybody, including the impure and unwashed: there was no restriction of movement in it, or any limitation, restriction, or supervision of trading. It is true that, for their business, all the traders speculated on the needs of temple visitors: moneychangers converted the coins brought by the pilgrims from their districts into the shekel (or half-shekel), the only currency circulating as the prescribed temple gift (Exod. 21:13-16), and three weeks before the festivals, when the great pilgrimages to the temple started, the moneychangers had already to be at their counters.27 There is an ancient report that on the Mount there stood two large cypresses: under one were four booths for the sale of pure sacrificial animals, under the other so many dovecotes that, from the birds bred in them, not only all temple requirements but the markets all over Israel could be supplied.28 Doves were in especial demand, being the sacrificial offering of the proletariat which could not afford costlier victims (Lev. 5:7). There were, no doubt, also booths for the sale of frankincense, wine, oil, and fine flour-all of them concomitants of sacrifice (Lev. 2:5-7, 15; 7:12).


TO  JESUS  ALL  WITHIN  THE  OUTER  WALLS,  RETAINING  WALLS,  OF  HEROD'S  TEMPLE,  WAS  THE  TEMPLE.  OF  COURSE  THIS  DID  NOT  TAKE  PLACE  IN  THE  HOLY  PLACE  OR  HOLY  OF  HOLY  -  THE  PRIESTLY  TEMPLE  PROPER,  THERE  WOULD  NEVER  HAVE  BEEN  ROOM,  AND  THE  MASS  PUBLIC  WAS  NOT  ALLOWED  ANYWAY  -  Keith Hunt


It has been suggested that all these creatures and commodities had to be "officially inspected" so as to exclude "any doubt of ritual purity"; that the pilgrims had no choice but to pay well and even exorbitantly for the certainty that their offerings would not be rejected for some flaw; and that the priests, to whom inspection fees went, were so interested in their "perquisite" that they must have fumed against any meddling with the traders and moneychangers as a brazen trespass on their own revenue.29 There is no authority whatever for this suggestion. Any animal not "without blemish" (Lev. 3:1, 6) could not be sacrified, and would, admittedly, be set aside by the priest, but the vendor must take it back and return the purchase money, it being of the essence of any sale concluded there that it be "without blemish" and fit for the altar. The insinuation that because of their financial interest in getting a commission on sales the priests were so corrupt as to sacrifice flawed animals is not only unsupported by any evidence, but also intrinsically unreasonable: there were always hundreds of priests and Levites on duty in the temple, and scores of persons learned in the law present, so that any least departure by an officiating priest from elementary sacrificial rules would have been detected by a dozen sharp eyes and at once stopped. If, on the other hand, the creatures and commodities sold were "without blemish" and fit for sacrifice, a condition easily ascertainable by outward inspection, why should the vendors, or, for that matter, the buyers, the public, have agreed to pay commission to any priest? It advantaged the priests to keep the prices of sacrificial animals at the lowest possible level, so that more could afford to buy, because whatever was left after sacrificing belonged to the priests (Lev. 7:8 et al.): the costlier the animals, the more the people would protest that they could not spare the money and content themselves with sacrificing doves, of which nothing would be left over for the priests. In short, there is no reason, and no testimony, for the assumption that priests or elders or any other persons in authority had any financial or other personal interest in the trade on the Mount of the Temple.30


THAT  WAS  PROBABLY  VERY  TRUE,  AS  FOR  THE  PRIESTS  OR  ANY  ELDER  OF  AUTHORITY  PER  SE  -  Keith Hunt


While, then, priests and elders and other persons in authority may be acquitted of any part in illicit dealings, the traders and moneychangers have no such presumption to rely upon. There were no bars, either of law or of known custom, on setting oneself up as a trader in sacrificial stock; there was no licensing system under which one must show any moral or professional qualification. It was, thus, practically unavoidable that there should at all times be among the traders and moneychangers men below what one would expect temple standards to be: hard bargainers, unscrupulous profiteers, unfair competitors, uninhibited canvassers, and all sorts of busybodies soliciting business and volunteering advice and guidance. The spectacle is familiar to every visitor of Eastern bazaars or the market places in front of the great churches and mosques in Mediterranean lands.


It is not improbable that Jesus came upon a trader or moneychanger in the act of cheating or profiteering, or found hucksters brawling over a customer or a deal, or witnessed a disturbance of the peace in the market. Many others would, perhaps, not have cared, but Jesus was deeply upset by the desecration of the temple precincts: that the place destined to be the house of prayer for all the nations (Isa. 56:7) should give thieves a chance to make their den there (Mark 11:17; Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46) was more than he could in silence bear. Again, his outburst is an echo of Jeremiah's thundering, "Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?" (7:11), and there was nothing in Jesus' words which was not familiar to every listener. 


Some authors31 regard the incident as proof of his zealotic inclinations or association; but he need have been neither zealot nor fanatic to be enraged by such misdemeanors, and his quick and violent reflex may have been instinctive and unplanned. The theory that he must have had powerful support, and that he could not have "succeeded unaided in driving from their place of legitimate business a company of traders when engaged with their customers who needed their services to fulfill their religious duties,"32 appears to be irrelevant, if our premise is correct that the traders in question were caught by Jesus in illicit transactions. They might well protest at his interference, but the customers—and there may have been very many of them—would at once rally to his side; the traders would never summon the temple police, because Jesus and the customers would then have lodged complaints against them, rather than contrariwise.


It is human nature that for people who day in, day out, carry on a routine business in the very shadow of a holy place the sanctity of it will gradually be dimmed: what fills the worshiper with awe and reverence finds shopkeepers of long standing cold and unmoved. It would not be surprising, therefore, if, on that occasion, Jesus had seen traders quitting their stands and carrying merchandise or tools into one of the temple porches (Mark 11:16), whether to help a customer handle his purchase or even to traffic there. This was a grave offense, for no one might enter the temple in a state of impurity (Lev. 15:31). Entry into the precincts was forbidden even "with one's walking-stick, shoes, briefcase, or with dusty feet." They must not be used as a short cut on one's way; one must not spit in them.33 All that being so, any assistance lent by the people to get rid of transgressors who, in bearing or outfit, profaned the sanctity and purity of the place would assuredly earn the approbation and thanks of the temple police.


Assuming that Jesus did upset the tables of moneychangers and cast out traders and would not suffer dealers to sully the holiness of the temple,34 and assuming further, as we must, that in so doing he acted from the best and purest of motives, there is nothing, even on the face of the Gospel accounts themselves, to warrant any counsel or design on the part of anybody, except, maybe, those selfsame traders and moneychangers, to seek revenge.


WHAT  THE  AUTHOR'S  LOGICAL  THOUGHTS  HAVE  DONE,  IS  BRING  YOU  TO  A  POINT  WHERE   YOU'LL  AGREE  THE  WRITERS  OF  THE  GOSPELS,  HAVE  "MADE  THINGS  UP"  TO  A  FURTHER  DOWN  THE  ROAD  "EVILNESS"  THEY  WANT  YOU  TO  SEE  IN  THE  SCRIBES  AND  PHARISEES  -  Keith Hunt


The only grievance that the authorities could possibly have entertained—in the sound perception of the author of the Gospel According to John—was that Jesus had acted without formal authority or competence: he should have lodged a complaint with the powers-that-be and asked that proper steps be taken by them. And even that vagary would scarcely have irked the authorities in the case of a man who, as Jesus did, acted on the spur of the moment, coming upon delinquents in flagrante delicto: it was not the law then, any more than it is generally the law nowadays, that instead of preventing, as best you can, the continuation of an offense which is being committed in your presence, you have to let the offenders go on with their criminal pursuits and content yourself with informing the police. In the situation in which Jesus found himself, it was natural and lawful for him to act as he did, and no one would have welcomed that more than the temple administrators. In the Gospels of Matthew (21:23), Mark (11:28), and Luke (20:2), "chief priests and elders," with or without "scribes," asked Jesus, "By what authority doest thou these things, or who is he that gave thee this authority?"; the question was put, not necessarily in connection with the cleansing of the temple, but generally, in respect of his doings and teachings. At a very early stage in Jesus' ministry, when he taught in the synagogue in Capernaum, people "were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:21-22). Matthew (7:28-29) makes this same astonishment follow upon the Sermon on the Mount. Teaching as one who has "authority" cannot merely mean that his speeches were powerful and his doctrines impressive (cf. Luke 4:32); it is that his authoritative teaching is, ostensibly, differentiated in a particular way from the teachings of scribes, which might be impressive and powerful as well. For everybody knew that Jesus had no "authority"—hence the astonishment that he taught as if he had; not as the scribes, who would, like all ordinary preachers, describe and explain to you in intelligible form what the laws required of you and how best to observe them if you wished reward and not punishment, but rather as one who had the "authority" to lay down the law and determine it for you and prescribe new rules of conduct. Such "authority" no man might take himself: it had to be conferred by a person already in "authority" in a formal act of ordination, a scholar already ordained "authorizing" a second.35 In the time of Jesus such ordinations were very rare,36 so that everybody knew who was and who was not ordained. The astonishment that Jesus spoke as if he were is suggestive of admiration rather than spleen: here is a man, the people might have said, who has the courage of his own opinions and looks at the world with eyes of his own. But what, for the impressed listener, was something to admire was, for the authorities, a matter for concern: if Jesus desired to teach with "authority," he should observe the procedures and first seek ordination. The question which the chief priests and elders are said to have addressed to him may reflect that concern: having no lawful "authority," how is it that you purport to teach as if you had? Jesus' answer could have simply been: I do not purport to teach with "authority," I never professed ordination, and it is none of my fault if people misunderstand. But there is, of course, an "authority" other and better than formal ordination: if John the Baptist, who had not been ordained either, nevertheless spoke with "authority," he must have had that authority from Heaven; and so may I. But, as you cannot tell whether he had divine authority, "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things" (Mark 11:33; Matt. 21:27) .37


The theory has been put forward that the chief priests and elders posed their question as a means of procuring evidence against Jesus as a "rebellious elder" (Deut. i7:i2),38 but it is untenable, if only for the reason that the rebellious elder was, by definition, an ordained scholar,39 and the questioners well knew that Jesus had not been, and would not be, ordained. Apart from that, none of Jesus' teachings would appear to fall within the category of a rebellious elder's offense:40 at that time, already, the law as to rebellious elders was held to apply to Sadducees only,41 and Jesus was certainly not one.


His implicit claim that, like John the Baptist, he had his "authority" from Heaven cannot have been sensational tidings to his questioners. First, that he had succeeded in gathering around him throngs of enthusiastic listeners would to anyone conscious of ever-present divine guidance and determination afford at least prima-facie proof of divine approbation. Second, it certainly was always legitimate for any deeply religious man to believe in his own divine mission: God had bestowed on him the power to persuade and inspire and guide other men for some purpose, and what finer purpose could there be than to bring God nearer to their hearts and minds? But, third, Jesus seems to have claimed divine "authority" before: when he had wrought certain miraculous feats, the "Pharisees," with or without "scribes," "came forth and began to question with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven" (Mark 8:11; Matt. 12:38), which surely means perceptible proof of a kind that he was, indeed, doing God's will. 


The evangelist's gloss that, by this question, they wished to tempt him (Mark 8:11) is altogether unwarranted: 


SO  FOR  THE  AUTHOR  HIS  LOGIC  HAS  BROUGHT  HIM  TO  WHERE  THE  GOSPEL  WRITERS  WERE  NOT  INSPIRED,  BUT  HAD  CLOAKED  MOVIES  TO  HAVE  THE  PHARISEES  THE  "BAD  GUYS"  WHO  WERE  GOING  TO  DO  EVIL  TOWARDS  JESUS  -  Keith Hunt


it was very common usage in those days for contentious scholars, each insisting that his was the true interpretation of God's laws and his the true precept to do God's will, to appeal to Heaven for a "sign" as to who was right and who wrong; and several instances are recorded in which a "heavenly voice" was heard to pronounce the divine verdict.42 It is characteritic of the Pharisaic frame of mind that in one of these talmudic instances the vanquished disputant flatly rejected that verdict and would not abide by "heavenly voices," affirming that the true law is no longer "in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us?" But it has been handed down to humans on earth, and "is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart" (Deut. 30:12-14). In the same spirit, they might well have regarded any divine authority claimed by Jesus as less than enough to make up for the ordination required by human laws; but their challenge to him to show them a "sign" from Heaven only goes to show that they were very far from dismissing his claim out of hand.


THEY  WERE  JUST  ENQUIRING,  WITH  ALL  GOOD  INTENTIONS,  COHN  WANTS  YOU  TO  BELIEVE  -  Keith Hunt


No Pharisee would ever count as blasphemous or otherwise improper an assertion of divine authority. Whoever aired an opinion, suggested a course of action, or propounded a norm of law or ethics would aver that he was divinely inspired or his the only true, "authorized," or authentic interpretation of God's will and word: there would be no listeners if all that he had to convey were his personal views, unless, of course, it was a case of royal bidding backed by physical enforcement. Express or implied ascriptions of divine "authority" were inherent in any teacher's qualification: if he himself did not, or could not, assert it, what could there be at all in what he taught? Naturally, therefore, the divine "afflatus" would be preferred not only by the many saviors and messiahs who appeared at that phase,43 seeking to comfort the oppressed and the depressed with vistas of early salvation at God's hands through their own good offices, but also by the "scribes," who, according to the Gospel texts, were, with sanction, teaching and preaching everywhere. In contemporary Jewish society the nexus between man and God was direct and immediate: a Jew's approach to God was unhampered by priestly or rabbinical barrier, so that a claim to be divinely inspired was nothing extraordinary and in no wise a trespass on priestly or rabbinical privilege or monopoly. In this respect, Jesus was no different from scores of his fellow Jews, and his arrogation of divine "authority" could not have given either the "Pharisees" or anybody else the slightest ground for pique or ill will.


SO,  MANY  OTHERS  WERE  AROUND,  OR  HAD  BEEN,  WHO  ASSERTED  THEY  WERE  FROM  GOD.  IN  COHN'S  MIND  JESUS  WAS  JUST  ANOTHER  OF  "THEM"  AND  SO  THE  PHARISEES  WOULD  HAVE  HAD  NO  ULTERIOR  EVIL  PLANS  TOWARDS  JESUS,  OR  ANY ANIMOSITY,  JEALOUSY,  FEAR  OF  HIM  TAKING  "THEIR  PEOPLE"  AWAY  FROM  THEM.  THE  PHARISEES  AND  ELDERS  OF ISRAEL  WERE  JUST  "GOOD  GUYS"  REALLY,  JUST  WANTING  TO  KNOW  ALL  ABOUT  JESUS;  LIKE:  COME  TAKE  MY  HAND  IN  FELLOWSHIP  AND  TELL  ME  ALL  ABOUT  YOURSELF  -  Keith Hunt


It was the author of the Gospel According to John, again, who felt that the claim to divine authority or inspiration could in itself neither explain nor warrant a hostile attitude to Jesus; so he added to his breach of the Sabbath a stronger provocation, namely, that he had "said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (5:18). Let it be set down at once that there is nothing in any of the Synoptic Gospels to hint that Jesus ever said anything of the kind; if there was a tradition that he had, the evangelists would indubitably not have suppressed it: they would have underlined and emphasized it. That even the author of the Gospel of John was not too sure on the point appears from the fact—otherwise inexplicable—that when he was interrogated and charged afterward, no complaint was lodged against Jesus, even according to John, in respect of any claim that he was the son of God and equal with Him, and one would have expected this to be the first and foremost indictment. 


SO  FOR  COHN  WHAT  JOHN  SAID  WAS  JUST  "ADDING"  THINGS,  MAKING  UP  THINGS  THAT  JESUS  DID  NOT  REALLY  SAY,  AS  NONE   OF  THE  OTHER  GOSPELS  SAID  THAT  JESUS  SAID  ANYTHING  OF  THE  KIND.  WHEN  YOU  DON'T  BELIEVE  THE  GOSPELS  ARE  INSPIRED,  YOU  CAN  EXTRACT  FROM  THEM  WHATEVER  YOU  WISH [KEEP  THIS,  THROW OUT  THAT]  TO  GIVE  EVIDENCE  OF  YOUR  BELIEF  -  Keith Hunt


Moreover, while the Sabbath breaches and the claim to be a son of God and equal to Him are represented as grounds why the Jews persecuted Jesus and "sought to slay him" (5:16), yet, when he challenged them, "Why go ye about to kill me?" they are said to have answered: "Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?" (7:19-20), the innuendo being that they untruthfully denied a true charge but did not trouble to renew the previous charge of divine pretensions.


IT  IS  WRITTEN  IN  THE  GOSPELS  THAT  IN  A  FIGURE  OF  SPEECH,  IF  ALL  THAT  JESUS  DID  AND  SAID  WAS  WRITTEN,  THE  WORLD  COULD  NOT  HOLD  ALL  THE  BOOKS  IT  WOULD  TAKE  TO  DOCUMENT  IT  ALL.  JUST  BECAUSE  YOU  THINK  CERTAIN  LOGIC  SHOULD  HAVE  FOLLOWED  SOMETHING,  DOES  NOT  MEAN  WHAT  YOU  THINK  SHOULD  THEN  HAVE  BEEN  SAID  ABOUT  SOMETHING  ELSE  A  PERSON  WAS  RECORDED  IN  SAYING,  UNTRUE,  AND  NEVER  HAPPENED  -  Keith Hunt


It will have been observed that in tracing the mutual relations of Jesus and the Jews we have relied almost exclusively on the Synoptic Gospels, and only once or twice referred to the Gospel According to John. Our submission is that clashes and disputes between Jesus and the Jews, for which the earlier evangelists appear to have possessed no traditions and which are reported in John alone, cannot prima facie be regarded as authentic, but must be taken as tendentious accretions by the author of John, whose Gospel, it will be remembered, was written for Romans and non-Jews when Christianity and Judaism had finally parted ways. 


THERE  IT  IS:  "IN  JOHN  ALONE,  CANNOT  PRIMA  FACIE  BE  REGARDED  AS  AUTHENTIC"  -  COHN  DOES  NOT  BELIEVE  EVERY  WORD  OF  THE  GOSPELS  WAS  INSPIRED  AND  GOD  BREATHED  -  Keith Hunt


He begins with the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, his own people (1:11), and places the episode of the cleansing of the temple almost at the start of his story (2:13-17): his intent was to keep the picture of Jesus as an active rebel against the authorities, and the reasons for Jewish rancor and persecution, in the mind of the reader as an ever-recurring theme. The report of the Jews' resolve to kill him for his Sabbath sins is followed at once, in the words of the Reverend James Parkes, by 


one of the long and unsympathetic denunciations of the Jews which mark the Gospel, and which contain words which accurately reflect the situation at the time when they were written, but which would seem strange in one of the earlier Gospels. . . . From this moment onwards every time that Jesus is made to speak to the Jews, He appears deliberately to mystify and antagonize them. He does not attempt to win them, for He knows His own, and treats the rest with hostility and unconcealed dislike. The Jews themselves are represented as perpetually plotting to kill Him, and afraid to do so, because of His moral power. Even when Jesus addresses those Jews "which had believed on Him," He says of them that they are of their "father the devil" (8,44). In the middle of His ministry the Jews decide to expel from the Synagogue any who believe in Him (9,22), so that people are afraid to speak openly of Him (7,13). All this is redolent of the atmosphere which must have existed at the end of the century, when, indeed, confession of Christianity meant expulsion from the Synagogue, and exposure to the unknown dangers of Roman persecution.44


SO  THE  GOSPEL  OF  JOHN  WAS WRITTEN  AT  THE  END  OF  THE  CENTURY  ACCORDING  TO  PARKES,  AND  JOHN  WROTE  IT  ALL  IN  THE  CONTEXT  OF  WHAT  WAS  HAPPENING  IN  THE  "ATMOSPHERE  WHICH  MUST  HAVE  EXISTED  AT  THE  END  OF  THE  CENTURY, WHEN,  INDEED,  CONFESSION  OF  CHRISTIANITY  MEANT  EXPULSION  FROM  THE  SYNAGOGUE,  AND  EXPOSURE  TO  THE  UNKNOWN  DANGERS  OF  ROMAN  PERSECUTION."  JOHN'S  GOSPEL  WAS  ALL  FABRICATED  WITHIN  A  PRESENT  END  OF  THE  CENTURY  DISLIKE,  EVEN  HATRED  BETWEEN  JEWS  AND  CHRISTIANS;  SO  JOHN  DELIBERATELY  WRITES  ABOUT  THE  LIFE  OF  CHRIST,  WITH  THE  JEWS [JEWISH  LEADERS]  PROGRESSIVELY  HATING  JESUS  MORE  AND  MORE.  BEING  UNLIKE  THE  SYNOPTIC  GOSPELS,  JOHN  HAD  A  CLEAR  MOTIVE  IN  MIND  -  HAVE  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  HATING  JESUS,  AS  JEWISH  LEADERS  WERE  HATING  CHRISTIANS  AT  THE  END  OF  THE  CENTURY  -  Keith Hunt


But it has no real bearing on the relations as they may have existed, or actually did exist, between Jesus and the Jews or the Jewish authorities of his day.


THERE  IT  IS  ALSO:  GOSPEL  OF  JOHN  HAD  NO  REAL  TRUTH  ON  THE  ACTUAL  TRUE  RELATIONS  THAT  EXISTED  BETWEEN  JESUS,  AND  THE  JEWS  OR  THE  JEWISH  AUTHORITIES  OF  HIS  DAY  -  Keith Hunt


Still there is, even in the Gospel According to John, at least one Pharisee in splendid isolation, "named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews," who would come to Jesus, albeit only "by night," address him as Rabbi, and confess that "we know that thou art a teacher come from God" (3:1-2).


Two incidents, reported only in John, are often cited to prove Jewish enmity against Jesus: they are incidents of stoning, when that animus took violent form. When they heard him say in the temple—of all places—that he had been before Abraham, the Jews "took up stones to cast at him" (8:59); and again, when he proclaimed that he and God, his father, were one, "the Jews took up stones again to stone him" (10:31). Jesus is said to have asked for which of his good deeds he was being so ill used, and they replied: "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (10:33). 


Had either of these stonings really happened, some tradition concerning them must have been accessible to the earlier evangelists, who are most unlikely to have shelved it. But aside from their inconsistency with the popular affection for Jesus, to which not only the Synoptic Gospels testify but even the Gospel of John itself (12:12), the reports also contradict the Johannine version that when Jesus had spoken and taught in the temple, "no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come" (7:30; 8:20). How then can it be that, though his hour was not yet come and no man would lay hands on him, the Jews stoned him? If his hour was not yet come, why did they seek to take him, and he had to escape out of their hands (10:39) ? The words "for his hour was not yet come" carry a double meaning. On the one hand, they prepare the ground for what will happen when the hour comes: then, it appears, the Jews will be free from all inhibitions and give full play to their murderous aggressions. On the other, there is a hint of the predestination of Jesus' fate, as if it were not the hostility and contumaciousness of the Jews which determined the event, but solely the will of God, who appointed His own time and chose His own instruments.


THE  LATTER  IS  VERY  TRUE,  BUT  COHN  OBVIOUSLY  DOES  NOT  THINK  SO.  AGAIN  HE  MAKES  OUT  THE  GOSPEL  OF  JOHN  SHOULD  BE  LOOKED  UPON  IN  NOT  THE  BEST  LIGHT,  A  MADE  UP  ATTEMPT  TO  HAVE  THE  JEWS  OR  JEWISH  LEADERS  HATING  JESUS,  AS  JEWISH  LEADERS  HATED  CHRISTIANS  AT  THE  END  OF  THE  FIRST  CENTURY  -  IT  CERTAINLY  WAS  NOT  AN  INSPIRED  GOSPEL  AS  FAR  AS  COHN  IS  CONCERNED  -  Keith Hunt


This consciousness of "fulfillment" of a fate predestined is present in the Synoptic Gospels as well. Jesus taught his disciples, and said unto them, "The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; but after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day" (Mark 9:31). The "men" who will kill him are soon more specifically pilloried as the "chief priests and scribes," into whose hands he will be delivered and who will "condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles" (Mark 10:33). Luke has it that Jesus said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day" (9:22). The version in Matthew is that "he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (16:21); and, later on: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him; and the third day he shall rise again" (20:18-19). 


THERE  IT  IS  IN  THE  GOSPELS  AS  CLEAR  AS  DAY;  BUT  HAIM  COHN  DOES  NOT  BELIEVE  IN  THE  GOSPELS  BEING  GOD  BREATHED  AND  INSPIRED  -  Keith  Hunt


The twofold purport of this prophecy, in its different versions, is again clearly discernible: first, the predestination of the future happenings, and their predetermined culmination, or ultimate purpose, in the resurrection; and, second, the prophetic designation of chief priests, elders, and scribes as the instruments chosen for the killing which must precede the resurrection. 


YES  THAT  IS  WHAT  THEY  CLEARLY  STATE  -  Keith Hunt


Even if Jesus did make these prophecies, which in the circumstances as we have retraced them is highly improbable,45 


COHN  DOES  NOT  BELIEVE  IN  THE  GOSPELS  AS  INSPIRED  BY  GOD;  AS  100  PERCENT  CORRECT  -  Keith Hunt


at any rate they cannot serve as proof of what actually took place afterward, all the less so as their variants allow of several possibilities among which the chronicler of the eventual happenings could make his choice. But the very recording and repetition of the prophecies are likely, and are calculated, to mislead the reader, if only as a matter of faith and theology, into believing that what eventually happened was but a fulfillment of them; this being so, there was no further need, or, indeed, any justification, to inquire and find out whether what did happen was or was not consistent with them. In other words, as it had to be the Jews and not the Romans who, from the evangelists' point of view, must be blamed for the death of Jesus, his own prophecy that the Jewish chief priests, scribes, and elders would be the main and decisive actors in the tragedy would be well-nigh determinant evidence that, in fact, they were, and would anyhow be a most apt overture to a description of the events in which they would obligatorily be portrayed as such.


COHN  SOMEHOW  WANTS  YOU  TO  INVESTIGATE  THE  GOSPELS,  IF  TRUE  ANYWHERE,  OR  WHAT  IS  TRUE  AND  WHAT  IS  NOT  TRUE.  BY  NOT  BELIEVING  THEY  ARE  FULLY  INSPIRED,  YOU  CAN  KEEP  WHAT  YOU  LIKE  AND  TOSS  OUT  WHAT  YOU  DON'T  LIKE;  THIS  HE  DOES  IN  HIS  FOLLOWING  CHAPTERS,  AND  HAS  THE  JEWS  AND  JEWISH   LEADERS,  THE  "GOOD  GUYS"  WANTING  TO  REALLY  HELP  JESUS  STAY AWAY  FROM  THE  TRUELY  "EVIL  ONES"  -  THE  ROMANS  -  Keith Hunt


It is not without interest that in these prophecies Jesus is said to have refrained from mentioning the Pharisees, as if his archenemies, the veritable incarnation of evil, would have no hand in his death. It has, indeed, been contended that, the Pharisees not being expressly named, it was only Sadducean chief priests and elders who condemned Jesus.46 But we have seen that "chief priests, scribes, and elders" is a description wide enough to comprise, at the lowest, a very strong Pharisaic minority, and the sounder opinion seems to be that in the prophecies, as elsewhere in the Gospel texts, the terms "Pharisees" and "scribes" are used somewhat indifferently.47


THAT  IS  TRUE;  THE  PHARISEES  PLAYED  A  HUGE  PART  IN  THE  KILLING  OF  JESUS  -  Keith Hunt


The Pharisees, however, appear to form part not only of the "chief priests, scribes, and elders" who are depicted as the persecutors of Jesus, but also of the masses described as his lovers and admirers. Jesus, as we have seen, gathered multitudes around him, many more than had followed John the Baptist. King Herod, who had ordered that John the Baptist be killed (Matt. 14:10), feared that Jesus, with his vast congregation, was "John the Baptist risen from the dead" (14:2), and therefore sought to lay hands on him, too. According to Matthew, Jesus departed "by ship into a desert place" (14:13) on hearing of Herod's design; and according to Luke, it was, amazingly enough, "certain of the Pharisees" who came and said to him, "Get thee out and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee" (13:31). This seems to show that some Pharisees, so far from seeking to destroy Jesus (Matt. 12:14; Mark 3:6), sought to save him. 


FOR  SURE  NOT  ALL  PHARISEES  RESENTED  AND  FINALLY  HATED  JESUS,  TO  WANT  HIM  DEAD  -  Keith Hunt


That we have here a glimpse, solitary though it be, into the true Pharisaic feeling about Jesus seems to be borne out by what Josephus tells us of Jewish reaction to the killing of John the Baptist:


Herod had ordered John to be killed, although John was a noble-minded man who entreated the Jews to strive for perfection and admonished them to do justice to each other and piety to God and come to him to be baptized. . . . These beautiful speeches attracted great multitudes, and Herod was afraid that this man whose reputation seemed to be well established and whose advice everybody seemed to follow, might lead the people to rebellion; and he therefore thought it better to eliminate him before John would have the time to create a situation of real danger, lest he shall regret afterwards, when it would be too late, his failure to act in time. This suspicion prompted Herod to have John arrested and brought in chains to the fort of Machaerus and have him killed there. The Jews were firmly convinced that John's death was the cause of the defeat of Herod's army—this having been the punishment with which God in His wrath had visited the King.48


OF  COURSE,  LIKE  IN  ANY  SITUATION  OF  THE  SAME  KIND  IN  HISTORY,  NOT  ALL  OF  ONE  PARTY  ARE  GOING  TO  BE  OF  THE  SAME  MIND,  WHEN  IT  COMES  TO  GOD'S  WORD  AND  THEY  WHO  TEACH  AND  PREACH  IT.  SOME  FROM  ANY  PARTY  OF  LARGE  ENOUGH  SIGNIFICANCE,  WILL  SIDE  THEOLOGICALLY  WITH  THIS  MAN  OR  THAT  MAN.  INDEED  NOT  ALL  PHARISEES  REJECTED  CHRIST;  WHEN  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  CHURCH  GOT  UNDER  WAY  AFTER  PENTECOST  30  A.D.  A  LARGE  NUMBER  OF  JEWISH  LEADERS  CAME  INTO  THE  CHURCH,  AS  THE  BOOK  OF  ACTS  TELLS  US  -  Keith Hunt


There is no valid reason to assume that the general Jewish feeling about Jesus was any different: his speeches were no less, indeed, in-ferentially much more, beautiful than John's; his admonitions to justice and piety must have aroused the same echo in Jewish hearts; and the "multitudes" flocked to him and made no secret of their delight and reverence. As did the death of John the Baptist, so would a violent death of Jesus evoke God's wrath and punishment, entail the severest shock and bitterest grief. The truth is that the only quarter from which any present danger to Jesus threatened was Herod the Great King, and none but "Pharisees" warned him of it and sought to see him in safety.


THAT  WAS  ONE  SITUATION,  WITH  THE  PHARISEES  WHO  WERE  ON  HIS  SIDE;  BUT  MOST  OF  THE  PHARISEES  WERE  AS  JESUS  BLUNTY  SAID  IN  MATTEW  23;  THEY  WERE  EVENTUALLY,  WITH  OTHER  JEWISH  LEADERS,  OUT  TO  KILL  HIM,  AS  THE  GOSPELS  CLEARLY  STATE  -  Keith Hunt


There would soon be another dire peril darkening Jesus' life. His great popularity, his hold on the "multitudes," would be brought to the attention of the Romans. Was it, indeed, "chief priests, elders, and scribes," or the "Pharisees," or, in short, the Jewish leadership that would deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles? 


YES  IT  WAS,  BUT  COHN  WILL  NOT  SEE  IT,  AND  BRINGS  US  TO  SOME  FANCY  IDEAS  AS  TO  WHAT  THE  GOSPELS  REALLY  SAY [IF  YOU  THROW  OUT  CERTAIN  PASSAGES  AND  VERSES]  AS  TO  WHO  WANTED  JESUS  DEAD  -  Keith Hunt


We saw that there was no plausible reason why they should; and if they did, they would be quite untrue to the character which they had exemplified on the previous occasion when Jesus was in jeopardy, and by their general relations with the Romans. But let us see what did take place.


TAKING  THE  FACT  THAT  SOME  PHARISEES  WERE  ON  JESUS'  SIDE,  AND  DID  HELP  HIM  IN  ONE  RECORDED  SITUATION,  DOES  NOT  MEAN  YOU   PAINT  ALL  THE  PHARISEES  WITH  THAT  SAME  BRUSH;  BUT  HAIM  COHN  TRIES  VERY  HARD  AND  CLEVERLY  TO  DO  SUCH  A  PAINT  JOB,  AS  WE  SHALL  SEE  -  Keith Hunt


TO  BE  CONTINUED