2014. március 2., vasárnap

Trial of Jesus Christ

   Trial of Jesus Christ
I chose the trial of Jesus Christ as the first entry of my blog; Greatest Trials of World History. I hope that I manage to give an easily perceivable but detailed picture about the trial.
The following blog post is not my research but a processing of the literature connected to the topic. My main resource (along with the Internet) has been a curriculum of the Law Studies of “Pázmány Péter Tudományegyetem”. I read the curriculum, interpreted it and took notes. Moreover Sári Páls’ book called “Bűnvádi Eljárások az Újszövetségben” has also been a notable help for me. I would like to note that according to plenty of researchers, Jesus is only a mythical figure, so the following analysis is hypothetical.
Historical bearings
The story of Jesus Christ is widely known. It is less well-known about his life is why the Jewish and the Roman court brought him to a legal trial.  Around 27, 28 AD Jesus began to present himself a prophet, and he was considered as a prophet. The Jewish religious leaders saw him as a huge threat. Waiting for the Messiah received a political orientation and it could have resulted in a military interference from the Roman Empire. The Romans feared the Jews (who were considered as the most rebellious tribe within the Empire). The high priests wished to avoid the Roman punishment which could have brought on Judea because of the performances of Jesus.
The Jewish people wished for the Messiah because of several reasons:  one was the desire to secede from the Roman Empire while the other reason was gaining independence for Israel. While these thoughts have been gathering in their minds, Jesus spread the following message: “Love your enemies”. This idea was contrary to the Jewish goals.
Jesus had never exhorted the people for a rebellion; moreover, anti-violence had been his main teaching.  He had been called as the “Lord of Saturday”, who did not respect the laws of Moses. Although the lack of respect was not true, according to several resources Jesus only cured people on Saturdays.
The prelacy tried to humiliate Jesus in front of his followers because they wanted to stop the spread of Jesus’s doctrines and the increase of his fame and popularity. Once they publicly asked him whether the people should or should not pay tax for Rome. If Jesus had answered with “No” then he would have been denounced with the charge of rebellion, while if he had answered with “Yes” then he would have been rejected by the public. Despite all these, Jesus answered with the following sentence; "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."  
Later an adulterous woman was brought in front of him. The public asked whether the woman should be stoned or not. If Jesus had said yes then he would have rebelled against Rome (because Roman laws took away death penalty from the Jews). If he had said no, then he would have harmed the laws of Moses. Jesus told the public the following sentence: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Finally the Jewish prelacy prepared a show trial against Jesus.
Jesus had been charged with rebellion and blasphemy. (blasphemy= “the action of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things”)
Researchers had been debating for a long time the role of the Jewish council leaded by Caiaphas. Some of them think that it was a court of law, while others believe that it was only an organization which conducted the investigation. I strongly believe that it was the latter. Why?
The council arrested Jesus and held his interrogation. Later they delivered him to the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.
Many historians and literary scholars believe that this delivery occurred because the Jewish council could not sentence Jesus to the death penalty (because of the Roman laws). 
The chronology of the trial
1.       Tuesday, April 4: Last Supper, capture, interrogation by Caiaphas and Annas( Jewish high priest)
2.       Wednesday, April 5: First trial
3.       Thursday, April 6: Assembly, judgement: Interrogation by Pilate, Interrogation by Herod Antipas, back to Pilate
4.       Friday, April 7: In front of Pilate, Judgement, 3 PM-> crucifixion.

Jesus in front of Annas:
-          Annas (7-14 AD) high priest with a successful career. “Head of the Jewish Community” thus he is considered the leader of the conspiracy against Jesus.
He wished to interrogate Jesus about his teachings and his apostles in order to gather new charges against him. Jesus’s answer irritated Annas so he sent him to Caiaphas. Jesus exercised his right to remain silent– he refused to answer.
“I have spoken openly to the world… Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them”. Jesus- New international Version John 18.
The trial of the assembly

The trial began on Wednesday morning in the house of Caiaphas, because the Talmud (encyclopaedia of the Jews) forbade the court to decide during the night in such cases (pecuniary claim, capital cases). Thus according to the Roman law, evening was not an adequate time to make a decision.  
The assembly (hebrew-sanhedrin, Greek- synedrion) had been the main religious and political council of the Jews. (supreme court). Head of this court: Caiaphas. 23 members needed to be present for decision-making. The method generally looked like this:
-          Arrangement:
o   in half-circle, the accused in the middle, behind him/her there were the witnesses and the candidates of the council. On the sides of the room the notaries were present.
-          Procession of the trial:
o   introduction of the charges
o   interrogation
o   assumption of the innocence of the accused
o   probation
§  interrogation of witnesses
§  charge: incriminating witnesses
§  defence: defensive witnesses
§  neither defendant nor charger
o   adjudication could have been implied only the day after the trial ( after one day of fast)
o   One extra vote was needed for the release of the accused. Two extra votes were needed for the condemnation of the accused.

The charges against Jesus were the following: “he is a false prophet and he distracts the people from the real religion.”
Finding evidences had been a hard job. The speeches of Jesus had been used in the process of proving. Once he told the following: Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  According to the assembly, this sentence had been a proof for Jesus being a fake prophet. Witnesses were needed in order to prove the sins of Jesus, so the council “paid for two witnesses”. (“Unnus testis, nullus testis” “One witness is no witness”)
The council was not satisfied with the confessions of the witnesses. “We heard him say, I will destroy  this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.”
No evidence had been found, so Caiaphas wanted to force Jesus to confess.
§  “ Are you the Messiah, son of God?”
§  Jesus answered (responsio mortifera) : “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Caiaphas tore his clothes to pieces and shouted; “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth” The members of the assembly, fanaticized by his voice, began shouting; “Jesus deserves to die”. They spat on Jesus, beat him, although the law prohibited the judges from hurting the convicted. Caiaphas reached his                                                                                                        goal, even though there was no proof of guilt because the Jewish law (in contrary of the Roman one) did not let anyone to be sentenced to death according to his or her own confession.
Both the Roman and Jewish law (beside plenty of other ancient laws) prescribed that if the judges could not reach a judgement on the day of the trial – they needed to hold a pause. (Roman law: compulsory break -> comperendinatio)
In conclusion it can be clearly stated that there was no evidence against Jesus (and they could not sentence him to death), so they needed to take him to the Roman prefect, Pilate.
Trial in front of Pilate
During this period of time, the procurator was the leader of those Roman provinces, which were freshly occupied. Pontius Pilate was the leader of Judea since 26 AD. He had a wide range of powers, including among others the military, the treasury and the jurisdiction system. He also judged in capital crimes.
When the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate’s palace, they did not enter because of their religion in order to preserve their purity. It seems to be obvious that they took Jesus to the prefect in order to have him punished.
The charges had changed from blasphemy to a more serious one: “Jesus incited people not to pay their taxes to the Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”
Pilate needed to sentence Jesus according to the Roman laws so charges that would sentence death upon Christ were needed.
Crime against majesty and federal state is a form of high treason (crimen maiestatis). It had been considered one of the greatest crimes. Penalty had been usually execution. The form of death varied according to the individual’s rank in society; crucifixion or execution by animals. Those who did not have Roman civil rights were usually crucified.
Although Pilate did not understand why the Jewish people gave him the case, if they hate Rome so much, yet he needed to investigate the case because of its seriousness.
According to the Roman criminal laws, the slaves and those who were not Roman citizens could be sentenced by magistrates without the interaction of grand jury. (cognitive trials)
1st century AD: Grand jury method had been abolished – Only cognitive trials are used. Magistrates held the trials. Thus assessors were present at the trials, without real significance. The principles of the trials were the following: verbal and public trial, right of defence, assumption of innocence, personal and objective evidences and their examinations.
The procedure held by Pilate was similar.
He communicated the charges to Jesus in the form of questions. “Are you the King of the Jews?” According to several authors and investigators dealing with the situation, the question was not definite, because the word “king” had several meanings; according to the Roman perceptions it carried political implications. Jesus reacted with the following sentence: “My kingdom is not of this world”.
Pilate considered Jesus to be a “dreaming philosopher”, and not a criminal.
The Jewish accusers outcried and they called Pilate an agitator – from Galilea to Judea- , so he sent Jesus to Herod (king of Antipas), because he wanted to get rid of the situation.
Trial in front of Herod
Herod wanted to meet Jesus and wished to see a miracle by him. Despite his wish, Jesus did not react to his request. Herod felt that the trial is starting to get bothersome for him because: If he had convicted Jesus then he would have felt the anger of the people (he was not popular already because of the execution of another prophet, John the Baptist - If he had not convicted him then he would have gained the anger of the high priests. He realized that there was only one solution: Sending Jesus back to Pilate. (with this step he did not have to take on all the responsibility).  
Herod bullied Jesus- made him put on a white dress. This could have meant that Jesus should be executed because of wearing royal bandages.
Other investigators believe that by making Jesus wear white clothes, Herod conveyed the message that he thought that the case was airy.
Second trial in front of Pilate

Mihály Munkácsy
When they brought Jesus back to Pilate it was late in the afternoon, and Pilate told that he did no longer deal with official cases so Jesus was locked in the prison of the high judge (pratetor). The trial continued the day after.
Pilate and Herod believed that Jesus was innocent so they wanted to make an exculpatory judgement. The high priests did not support this decision. Pilate wanted to make the gathered people decide. He offered amnesty for Jesus if the crowd supported him, but they did not want Jesus to be released. Why? There were people in the crowd (mostly merchants who were driven out from the temples) who were paid to talk against Jesus.  It is important to mention the power of crowd-suggestion (members of the crowd are usually influenced by the other members and so the individual’s will is lost). Pilate still wanted to save Jesus (he offered the flagellation of Jesus – he thought it would satisfy the bloodthirst of the crowd). He could have made this decision without judgement and trial because Jesus distracted the calmness of the city. Laws of Moses: the maximum number of flagellation could be 40, so the Jews in the temple only hit Jesus 39 times so that they would not exceed the laws. The Romans used three types of castigation; flogging (for smaller criminals), caning (for soldiers), flagellation (for slaves). Flagellation was also used on criminals before they were executed.
Process of the punishment within the Jewish community: If the charged individual could not stand the flagellation then they stopped. The Romans were much more cruel.   They used two instruments; flagellum= lead-balled lash or flagrum= iron chain. They expanded the sinner to a column to increase the pain. Deaths occurred as a consequence of the torturing even though it was not considered a way of administering death penalty.
The punishment of Jesus was performed by Roman soldiers who derided him; they dressed him and put a crown of thorns on his head.
Pilate presented the scourged man to the crowd;”Ecce Homo” (“Behold the man”)
 He hoped that the people would commiserate with Jesus, but he was wrong. The prefect failed and the high council wanted the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate considered him innocent and realized that the crowd wanted his death because of religious reasons. He asked Jesus again; “ Where are you from?” But he did not answer. (remaining silent is still one of the most important rights of the accused)
Why did Pilate stick that much to the innocence of Jesus? According to Josef Blinzler, a historian; “Pilate did not have humanitarian reasons, he only wanted to go against the high priests. He did not want to be their biddable puppet and he wanted a legal procedure”.
The high priests played out their final cards; If Pilate released Jesus then he would be charged with lese-majesty. He got scared about the possibility of being charged and because he knew Emperor Tiberius’s distrustful nature. He realized that he may lose his position or even his life.
Pilate got into a situation he wanted to avoid; he was in the hands of high priests. He could only choose between two paths; disgraceful retreat or the risk of his career. He decided to save his own life. He was sitting on the chair of the judges so he needed to decide. (place of judges: tribunal).
He revenged the victory of the Jews by deriding Jesus;” Look, here is your king!”  
After a final attempt to save Jesus, he declared the penalty of death on Jesus. “Ibis in crucem! – I consign you to the cross”
Personal opinion:
I chose the trial of Jesus as the first entry of my blog because his story is widely known and discussed. I believe that the trial was very interesting and I learned a lot while I analyzed it. I see the role of Pilate in a different way. Was he innocent? Was it really the pressure of the crowd that guided him to the lethal decision? Or did he also want the death of Jesus? I think we have no real answers for these questions. It was interesting to see how great influence did the crowd and the priests had on the trial. A criminal may appeal after the judgment is made and in the position of Jesus this could have been very important. Penalty of death is still used in the 21st century but in some countries it is prohibited. I strongly believe that the trial of Jesus had been conceptional because practically the judgement had been made way before the trial.

                                                                                                          Pivarnyik Krisztián