REL 015 The English Bible
Class Notes for Week #11, 1-3 April 2003
By Jacob Canales and Robin Bose
A. Pontius Pilate -- Roman governor (prefect) in Judea (and Jerusalem)
from 26-36 CE
B. Roman Historian Tacitus (ca 120 CE) mentions Pilate as governor
when Jesus was executed:
- Caesarea -- found a reused inscription that names Pontius Pilate as prefect.
- The later designation was "procurator" (see Luke-Acts).
- He was a governor for a fairly long time (11 years) but gets recalled to
Rome for messing up by the Emperor Tiberius who dies on Pilate's way back.
- Fire in Rome in 64, Nero was out of town. Could have been ordered by Nero
but he blames the fire
on Christians, followers of this person executed under Pilate.
- Nero blamed and imprisoned Christians
- Set them on fire in his gardens
- Quo Vadis tradition -- "where are you going?"
Peter was escaping from Rome during the persecution along with other Christians
and saw Jesus entering the city. Peter asked Jesus this question (quo vadis?
-- and/or perhaps Jesus asked Peter!) and Peter went back to be martyred,
following Jesus example.
C. Pliny the Younger (112-113 ce) also mentions "Christians":
- Appointed to governorship of Bithynia in what is now northwestern part of
- Christians accused of doing things against the Roman Empire (e.g. secret meetings),
so Pliny writes to the Emperor (Trajan) for instructions.
- Pliny was personally acquainted with Tacitus, which might be a factor in these
D. [tangent] Pliny the Elder (was the younger's uncle)
- The elder helped people evacuate after the eruption of volcano Vesuvius
in 79 CE (see Pompeii, Herculaneum ruins)
- The younger wrote about the death of his uncle in the rescue operations.
- Pliny the Elder wrote a comprehensive natural history that survives -- deals
with animals, flora and fauna, geography, including Palestine, etc. (mentions
the "Essenes" in Dead Sea area who don't marry or propagate; people
just flee to them in troubled times).
E. Josephus -- single most important source for knowing ancient Judaism
up to this period..
F. Author of Gospel of Luke is aware of "world history" (unlike
the other gospels) and special details:
1. People usually don't believe that he wrote everything said about Jesus in
his Antiquities (book 18).
2. He also mentions John the baptizer, and James/Jacob the brother of Jesus.
G. Judaism in Palestine according to Josephus -- the "philosophies":
- Birth stories with shepherds and a Roman census (from Caesar Augustus).
- Jesus is circumcised, brought to Jerusalem Temple and revered there as an
- Jesus' "Bar-Mitzvah" -- around 12 years old again in Jerusalem,
speaking with learned people there.
- Jesus was dunked in Jordan by John the Baptist during reign of Tiberius
- Sadducees -- are the most different because they don't believe in messiah
- Pharisees -- closest to Jesus and Paul, and to what develops into "classical/orthodox
- Essenes -- similar to Pharisees, but very critical of the Jerusalem priesthood
(run by the wrong family?)
- Zealots ("the fourth philosophy" for Josephus) -- political activists,
related to "sicarii" dagger carrying terrorists who fought for theocracy
(rule by God).
H. Roman general Pompey brought Roman power into the Tigris-Euphrates
River area around 63 BCE:.
- Intervened in Judean affairs as Hasmonean rule broke down.
- From Pompey and Caesar to Brutus to Mark Antony to Octavian Augustus
I. Herod the Great (died 4 BCE) and his family were influential Jews
- designated by Augustus as ethnic king. "King of the Jews"
- Jesus is actually born prior to Herod's death in 4 BCE. A 5th century monk
messed up the Christian calendar.
- Archelaus (Matt 2.22), son of Herod -- controversial successor, important
people of Judea petitioned for a Roman ruler (prefect) rather than this ethnic
--- 3 April 2003 --
The Lord's Prayer (aka "the Our Father")
- Debts vs. trespasses vs. sins vs. transgressions
- found in two different settings in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
- In Matthew it was given in the Sermon on the Mount.
- In Luke it was given as a response to a request concerning John the baptizer's
Influence of Jewish scriptures on Jesus traditions:
- Matthew's string of "fulfilment" passages
- Jesus entering Jerusalem in Matthew on two animals, on an ass and the foal
of a she-ass (misinterpretation of Hebrew poetic parallelism?)
- Some of the details of Jesus' death could have arisen from supposed "prophecies"
in Psalms and Isaiah.
The resurrection of Jesus and its aftermath:
- Matthew and Mark -- Jesus is going to Galilee where he will see his disciples.
- Luke -- all Jesus' appearances are in the Jerusalem area (not in Galilee)
-- Emmaus is a short distance from Jerusalem (Jesus appears mysteriously to
two of his followers who are unnamed).
- (The unnamed beloved disciple in the 4th Gospel is usually thought to be
Early Christians were accused of being atheists by Greco-Roman critics,
since the Christians did not worship the customary gods of that culture.
- Story of Jesus spread because of people like Paul.
- Others claiming to be Messiah were not unknown in that world.
Sunday School Jesus (quick sketch):
//end of notes to week #11//
- Catholic -- Mary is miraculously born; "immaculate conception"
refers to her birth without original sin.
- In Luke, Mary is "blessed" to give birth to Jesus (virgin), in
connection with John the baptizer's birth
- Luke also reports on shepherds coming to see the newborn, circumcision and
reception at the Temple
- In Matthew, "magi" (astrologers) came from the east (3 gifts,
not necessarily 3 magi)
- Also in Matthew, all children 2 and under were killed by Herod's command,
Jesus & folks go to Egypt
- Luke has Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple at 12, discoursing with the Jewish
- Then at around 30 (Luke) he was baptized by John the baptizer.