Easter

Blog Post

He has risen!

 

When I study events, even sacred events, I examine the situation surrounding the event to provide a clearer view of what happened. The execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, occurred in a much larger context, so understanding that context is helpful. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is a well-written account of the context, but I did not specifically refer to it in this brief blog discussion. I think that the book is worth reading. Blog accounts, by their nature, are very short.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (last Sunday), as people flooded into the area for the coming Passover celebration, he sealed his fate because the members of the Sanhedrin (Jewish legislature) knew that his popularity threatened their position in what was then the Roman Province of Judea. Jesus had to go, and they couldn’t be seen as the ones who did it because of the politics of the time. So, they leaned on the Romans to do their dirty work for them.

There are implications that the Sanhedrin sent agents to kill Jesus before this, but he was unremarkable in appearance, surrounded by men who looked very much like him. The diligence of those who surrounded him provided him with a defense. It required Judas and a kiss to identify him for the auxiliary troops Governor Pilate had dispatched to bring him forward to examine alleged crimes against the Roman state.

Rome in Judea

The procurators and prefects of Rome chose to rule not directly but by proxy, appointing over the subject populace such functionaries of the Jews as could be counted upon to court the favor of the conquerors and to hold their people in check. They could also decide not to hold the people in check. This will become critical later in this discussion as the problem of Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus the Christ – is weighed in the political balance.

(Pressfeld) The Romans, as they had done with unbroken dominion in every quarter of the empire, remade the locals’ world in their own image. They constructed dams, erected aqueducts, rechanneled rivers, and dredged harbors. Roman engineers made fresh water flow to desert places from mountains hundreds of miles away. The conquerors planted strongholds and fortifications, erected seawalls, and carved out ports and anchorages.

Rome built roads. Not the two-rut tracks or caravan traces that had sufficed for centuries in this land, but stone-founded highways broad enough for two wagons to pass abreast. Roman engineers made crooked ways straight and precipitous tracks level. Grades and floodplains that had throttled trade for a thousand years were vanquished now by Roman science and shaped to accept the new throughways. When the army wasn’t fighting, it was building.

Before the Romans came, commerce in Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea was limited to what freight could be loaded onto a two-wheel oxcart or laded within a pair of panniers on the back of a camel or an ass—and to those goods that could be shipped without spoiling. Such perishables as fruits and vegetables and certain wines and oils could be taken to market only locally, lest they waste on the way. Then, the Romans built their roads. At once, the use of heavy freight wagons became practicable. Suddenly, one encountered these everywhere, not drawn as before across muck and mire at the dreary pace of oxen, but instead rolling in high form pulled by teams of mules or horses along the newly engineered thoroughfares. Vehicles with iron-rimmed wheels could make not five or six miles a day, as the old caravans, but fifteen and even twenty. Roman roads were, before all, military highways. Their first customers were the legions. Conquest and the suppression of unrest were these arteries’ reason for being.

An entire legion of fifty-four hundred men, including cavalry and baggage train, could march from Jerusalem to Jericho in less than a day and from Damascus to Gaza in little over a week. The Romans dug wells, not randomly across the wilderness (and a day’s trek apart) as the Bedouin and the Nabatean Arabs had done for centuries, but in a surveyor’s line, one every ten miles, to parallel the new highways. Roman engineers bridged dry riverbeds with spans of stone, making them passable even in the rainy months and rendering any rebel hideout vulnerable to the legions’ onslaught. The Romans built cisterns to capture the winter rains. They constructed forts with magazines of supplies, weapons, and armaments. They bound the land with strongholds and arteries of military transport as a jailer binds a prisoner with manacles and chains.

To her armies of foot and horse were appended battalions of clerks and functionaries. Roman auditors and magistrates brought order and organization to such affairs as the collection of taxes, the compilation of censuses, and the administration of justice that had previously resided in the hands of local princes, religious officials, and outright desperadoes and bandits. The Romans possessed might beyond measure. They held wealth, skill, and knowledge of science and the arts. But before all these, they owned order.

The most revolutionary reordering brought by Rome was neither hewn from stone nor enforced by the sword. It was this: Mail—the daily post. Before the Romans came, the Israelite in Bethlehem or the Syrian in Palmyra lived out his days dissevered from, and in fact in ignorance of, the wider world. His universe ended at the town gate or the communal well. Could he trade? Study? Venture abroad? How, when he could know no more of the world than he could see from his doorstep or make plans for the morrow no farther than the distance he could tramp today? Rome brought the mail, and the mail brought the world.

At once, one knew even the meanest and most impoverished rustic of the region, not only of Athens and Alexandria, but could send forth missives to such places and, miraculously, hear back from them. The vintner could market his produce beyond the sea, the artisan and the smith purvey their wares wherever Roman roads and couriers could reach. Rome’s motives, of course, were entirely self-interested. The conquerors believed their highways and waterways and the trade and postal communications that sped along them would bind their subject peoples in such shackles of order and dependence upon their overlords as would render these submissive, compliant, and incapable of rebellion.

As with any world-altering innovation, unintended and unforeseen consequences soon ascended to the fore. The mail itself, it transpired (or, more accurately, the practicability of the empire-wide transmission of new and seditious ideas), would produce the gravest threat to imperial hegemony in Judea and the East and across the entire compass of Roman dominion. And this peril would proceed neither from hosts nor armies but from the pen of a single man—Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle—who, to compound the irony, had been among the foremost practitioners of Roman tyranny and oppression.

The Land

Let’s look at the political divisions at the time, even though the stone has been rolled back. We’ll get there. The context of the political execution of Jesus Christ is often overlooked.

Judea was the Greek and Roman designation for the land of Judah. After the Roman conquest in 63 B.C., the word was used to denote most of the area now viewed as the “holy land” minus Galilee and Samaria. Jerusalem is in Judea. This was the last part to fall into captivity and the first to be reclaimed. The strict religious Jews, including the Pharisees and Sadducees, lived there.

Samaria was a land of poor Jews (Tribe of Judah), Samaritans (remnants of the Northern Ten Tribes, who had been wiped out before Jerusalem fell in 600 BC), and a blend of other Abrahamic peoples and Gentiles.

Galilee contained a more moderate working-class population, many of whom were involved in the construction project at Sephoris (Herod’s castle) during the time of Jesus. It’s opined that Jesus worked there while living in Nazareth before his ministry. The evidence is circumstantial but compelling at the same time. It’s where everyone in the building trades at Nazareth worked then. The Judeans considered Galileans second-class Jews. Most of Christ’s ministry was in Galilee. All His disciples were Galileans (with the possible exception of Judas).

Perea existed in the Transjordan area and wasn’t directly mentioned by name in the New Testament (except in a variant reading of Luke 6:17). However, the district is referred to several times (e.g. Matthew 19:1) as the land beyond the Jordan. At the time of Jesus Christ’s public ministry, it was occupied by Jews and ruled by Herod Antipas. Geographically, it was connected to both Galilee and Judea. Because it adjoined both these regions, one could pass from Judea to Galilee and bypass the territory of the Samaritans.

Decapolis (word means: ‘ten cities’) was a league of ten cities founded by the Greeks. Its territory stretched south of the Sea of Galilee and mainly to the east of Jordan. Inhabitants from Decapolis joined the great crowds that followed Jesus (Matthew 4:25). The presence of the swine in this area suggests that the population was primarily Gentile. The cities were not on good speaking terms with proper Jews.

Rome didn’t have legions in Judea during Jesus’ ministry. The closest were in Egypt and Syria. The Romans had roads and could move troops quickly (discussed above), but they weren’t in Judea. The Roman garrison in Judea consisted of six auxiliary cohorts (five infantry and one cavalry) recruited from Samaritans by Herod the Great and organized in imitation of Roman units. These were incorporated into the army of Rome in 6 AD. We only know the names of two of these units: Cohors I Sebastenorum and Ala I Sebastenorum. A cohort was a standard tactical military unit of a Roman legion. Although the standard size changed with time and situation, it was generally composed of 480 soldiers. As a rule, auxiliaries were not armed or trained to the level expected of legionnaires. Each unit would have been commanded by an equestrian or a former legionary centurion. The Acts of the Apostles mentions a centurion of an Italian cohort, which is otherwise unattested.

Two cohorts were based in Jerusalem, one at the Antonia fortress and the other at the old palace, with another at Caesaria. This is significant because it put Gov. Pilate in a difficult position.  Outside of a personal bodyguard of legionnaires, he didn’t have much muscle to call on if the Sanhedrin made life miserable for him. He could have sent for troops, but it would have shown weakness on his part.

The Hebrews at the time of Jesus were multitudinous. At the Passover season, the city hosted no fewer than a million celebrants, half the Jewish population not only of Judea but also of Syria, Egypt, Crete, Cyprus, and the cities of the eastern Aegean. The pressure on Pilate, the Roman governor, was immense. He had roughly 1,500 marginal troops who might or might not mutiny if pressed at the Antonia Fortress to keep Rome’s peace among a million celebrants.

The Popularity of Jesus

By the Passover, when he was executed, Jesus Christ was immensely popular throughout the Roman Province (the abovementioned areas). We know this from the New Testament and the writings of Flavius Josephus and Pliny the Younger. The chronological order for the later documentation begins with Pliny writing around 111 AD, then Tacitus writing in the Annals around 115/116 AD. Then Suetonius wrote in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars around 122 AD. Jesus was both popular, and his teachings were well known. Paul wrote many letters, not only those documented in the New Testament (sorry, but he did). We don’t have them all at hand. There were also contemporary writings after the execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ that discuss the impact of his teachings. They’re not part of the canon of scripture, but Josephus, Pliny, and others referred to them as part of their historical research at the time.

Hebrew Politics

We have the Sanhedrin, with some of their members defecting to Jesus, including Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus by name. Who knows how many others? The doctrine of Jesus Christ did not violate Roman Law, as we learn from Governor Pilate’s interview with him. By all rights, the Romans had no jurisdiction over him. The demarcation between Roman jurisdiction and that of the Jews (Sanhedrin) was very clearly marked.  Caesar Tiberius granted the Hebrews special jurisdiction within the Roman sphere of influence, putting Pilate in an awkward position. Their demand that the Romans execute him was one that he reluctantly granted. (The Ethiopian Church believes that Pilate became a Christian and venerates him as both a martyr and a saint, a belief historically shared by the Coptic Church, with a feast day on 19 or 25 June, respectively. Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, named for Pontius Pilate, also marked where he lived later as a Christian and was buried. The same claim is made for Monte Vettore in Italy)

The two men crucified on either side of Jesus were executed for crimes against the Roman State. History does not record the crimes they might have committed. Still, to be executed by Rome, they had to be committed against a Roman citizen – the murder of a Roman, theft from a Roman, piracy, rebellion of a Roman slave against their master, sedition against Rome itself, etc. Crucifixion was only applied to slaves and non-Romans. When Jesus Christ addressed the man being crucified next to him, he addressed a non-Roman who may or may not have been falsely accused of crimes against Rome.

Roman citizens were exempt from that sort of punishment. Paul, for example, a Roman citizen, could only have been judged in Rome for alleged crimes. He explains this in detail in the New Testament. Offenses committed against Jews by Jews or Gentiles in Judea were handled by the Sanhedrin, which held tribunals and passed judgment on local matters.

Thus, to keep peace with Jewish leaders at the time who had a million of their people present during Passover, the Romans agreed to treat Jesus Christ as an enemy of the Roman State even though Pilate acknowledged publically that he was not.

Death on a cross in a public execution made it clear to all that Jesus Christ died. It wasn’t a shadowy death that could have been faked or a private event. Because it took place at Passover, many tens of thousands attested to his literal death. When they lowered him from the cross, a spear wound in his side, it was clear to all present that he died a physical death. He had been lifted up and had been executed.

When he was resurrected on the third day, it was also clear to those who witnessed that he was alive again.

The resurrection of the Living Christ and preaching his Gospel after his execution did something nobody expected, aided by Roman infrastructure and the instruments that allowed Rome to rule. It turned Rome, the mightiest of pagan nations, into a Christian one in a few generations.

Happy Easter

 

 

Cold War satellite images reveal nearly 400 Roman forts

Declassified Cold War-era spy satellite images have led researchers to identify 396 previously unknown Roman forts in Syria and Iraq. The research suggests a vibrant network supporting trade and cultural exchange rather than a rigid border defense system.

The discovery builds upon the pioneering work of French Jesuit priest Father Antoine Poidebard, who, in the 1920s, conducted one of the world’s first aerial archaeological surveys, documenting 116 forts along what was believed to be the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. Casana’s team identified 396 forts scattered across the Syrian steppe, far exceeding Poidebard’s count. The newfound forts, distributed east-to-west and north-to-south, challenge the notion of a strict border and indicate a more fluid and interconnected Roman frontier…

Notes on The Tomb:

Roughly a thousand tombs dating to the time of Jesus Christ have been found in or near Jerusalem. There are three basic types: Arcosolium, Loculus, and Shaft. Only four of those tombs discovered have round stones. There is some question about the type of tomb owned and offered for Jesus’ burial.

Arcosolium, as the name implies, is a tomb with an arched chamber inside on which the body is placed. Most of these have several separate places to place human remains within the larger structure.

Loculus (Latin, “little place”), plural loculi, is an architectural compartment or niche that houses a body, such as a catacomb, hypogeum, mausoleum, or other place of entombment. In classical antiquity, the mouth of the loculus might be closed with a slab, plain, as in the Catacombs of Rome, or sculptural, as in the family tombs of ancient Palmyra.

Shaft Tomb:

A shaft leads to a burial place. In this case, the stone would be a capstone.

****

Parting Shots

 

Be Careful where you get your Chocolate Eggs…

 

(Bee) HEAVEN — In an announcement sure to have a significant impact on millions of lives before and after death, Heavenly sources confirmed that people who attend church two days per year can go to Heaven for two days per year.

“Sure, your two days of church attendance per year totally count,” explained Saint Peter. “They count for two days of Heaven per year, and the rest of the year, you get tortured by demons. It’s very fair.”

The system had reportedly been in place for centuries, ever since the dawn of the twice-per-year churchgoer. “They can spend the rest of their eternity in Hell sleeping in and watching football games or whatever,” said a Heavenly angel. “Though, I’m told the only games they get in Hell are when the Jets play the Browns.”

 

The Last Word

Pedo Joe proclaimed on Friday, calling on “all Americans to join us in lifting up the lives and voices of transgender people throughout our Nation on March 31, Easter.” Maybe his proximity to Barack and his man crush Big Mike, for so long has made him somehow immune to the fact that while their celebration of Sodomy worked well in the DC Swamp, doing it on Easter is a particularly odious abomination. In 2024, the March 31 designation overlaps with Easter, one of Christianity’s holiest celebrations. Trump’s campaign accused Biden, a Roman Catholic, of being insensitive to religion, and fellow Republicans piled on.

“We call on Joe Biden’s failing campaign and White House to issue an apology to the millions of Catholics and Christians across America who believe tomorrow is for one celebration only — the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary. She assailed what she called the Biden administration’s “years-long assault on the Christian faith.”

30 thoughts on “Easter

  1. An excellent essay on infrastructure and logistics. Opening up areas that had had been isolated and insulated from oversight heretofore would create as many problems as it would solve at least in the short term. Another well thought out and presented history lesson. Between your writing and the witty and articulate comments from people way smarter than this old farm boy, I would survive without it, but my life would be much diminished. Happy Easter to all. I’m working the long shift today so the younger ones can enjoy their family’s and celebrate each in their own way.

    1. Thanks to you and your colleagues and their service to the community to keep people safe and to aid people in their hour of need. Happy Easter.

  2. Really wonderful LL…context matters to understanding. Yours helps in gaining the full picture. “Killing Jesus”, as with all O’Reilly and Dugard’s “Killing” books, the ones I’ve read anyway, was especially informative into a time most of us only know through churchgoing (even less for the “two a year” goers who will be watching the Jets play the Browns…heh). As for Biden and Crew, clear they have sold their souls for a few shekels…no surprise they are part of the “Give Us Barabbas!” rabble. God knows.
    ***
    Gathering midday at the neighboring ranch, a short “reminder” message by yours truly, then an abundance of hearty food and good conversation…might even be outside since the snow is holding off until later…the sun might make an appearance to also celebrate The Son. Happy Easter to all.

    1. Happy Easter to you, to DRMRSPAULM and to your friends gathered to remember His life, His example and His atonement for us.

  3. This needs to be in LL’s anthology. Thank you this, Mr. Lambert.

    Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Joseph Biden would have done well to have remembered that.

  4. It could be said that Jesus sealed his fate when he came to this planet. He knew what was going to happen from the start. Giving humanity a chance for redemption – this was an act of love that only God could do. The threat of death has been removed, and we can be free.

  5. Many thanks for this LL. It provides the kind of context a lot of us need to help understand the Bible itself.
    Happy Easter to all.

  6. The most outstanding example of why VM is the first thing I read in the morning. Mil gracias. Happy Easter.

  7. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Luke 24:5-6 (partial) Our Blessed Hope is Thee, Precious Lord! The evidence: a bloodied cross, an empty grave and our full hearts. What joy on this blessed day! Thank you for sharing the story and the hope. Maranatha!

  8. Religion is inextricably interwoven with politics.

    Pharaohs lived it.
    Christ was a victim of it.
    Constantine worked it.
    Popes played it.
    Crusaders knew it.
    Galileo fell afoul of it.
    Luther swam in it.
    “Heretics” died of it.

    1. Just guesswork on my part: it seems the church in Rome, before Rome fell, made a name for itself in acts of charity and piety. When Rome fell, how many people turned to Rome Christians for help. And then, how many political busybodies saw an opportunity to graft themselves into this new source of untapped political power. Too bad the Christians didn’t have/use a good vetting system to keep out the political grifters. Eventually you had wolves rising from later leaders.

  9. Happy Easter. Thank you for the detailed explanation.
    Jim S x2, but a bit moreso for me who wasn’t brought up with the New Testament.

  10. Happy Resurrection Day.
    Good analysis.
    We are often taught that all the Jews called for Jesus’s death when in all probability the only ones calling for his death were in Pilates courtyard, everyone else wondering what went wrong.
    Caiphad and Anna’s had a crime family thing and as you pointed out, Jesus threatened their Swamp.
    The Bible says Jesus came in the “fullness of time”.
    Pax Romana and Roman Roads had a lot to do with the dissemination of the Gospel, as you make clear.

      1. According to some I have read the “Give Us Barabbas” crowd were hand picked…sounds a lot like today’s Power Elite selecting unthinking minions to do their bidding.

  11. I think it’s actually Caiaphas with the extra “a”. Son in law of Annas.

    Caiaphas dumped the problem on Annas who decided to give the problem a political spin and dump it on the Roman’s…

    1. The problem of various messiahs who rose during the time period. John-the-Baptist – the beheaded – was another. Caiaphas as leader of the Sanhedrin had the weight of responsibility for dealing with them. Annas and others were operatives who carried out his directions. Open defections from the Sanhedrin to Jesus and possibly to John (who spent time with the Essenes) underscored internal problems that Caiaphas had on his hands. The public execution of Jesus Christ was intended to remove a stone from his shoe but of course it turned the stone into a boulder.

  12. Good summary of a lot research. I do have a gripe about your new format. There is no way to enlarge the type on my iPad and it is hard on my tired old eyes to read a long interesting post in the type you are using!

  13. LL, thank you for this marvelous exposition! Commentary like this and the Chosen series have made the Miracle Story vivid to many, including my wife and myself. Long may your tribe increase, r/

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