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Who were The Money Changers?
Oral Tradition of the Gospels

Who Killed Jesus of Nazareth?

In 63 B.C., the Romans conquered Judea and made it a province of the Roman Empire. The Romans set up a puppet government with Roman collaborators (Herod, Herod Antipas, Annas, Caiaphas). This puppet government had the responsibility of collecting taxes and stopping any rebellion against Roman rule. The Roman collaborators attained great wealth at the expense of their fellow Jews.
It is estimated that between hundreds of thousands to over one million Jews were killed during this Roman occupation. The forests of Judea were laid bare because of these crucifixions. Jesus of Nazareth was one of the Jewish victims of this Roman Holocaust.

The Roman governor Valerius Gratus appointed Caiaphas as the Jewish High-Priest in Jerusalem.
In A.D. 26, Gratus' successor, Pontius Pilate, retained Caiaphas as the High-Priest.
Caiaphas was chairman of the high court (Sanhedrin).

In A.D. 6, the Romans took direct control of Judea. The Jews viewed this direct control of Judea through military governors (Prefects, Procurators) a violation of their religious law (Deuteronomy 17:15). Jews had to be ruled by a Jew and not by any foreigner. The Roman regime was brutal and autocratic. The Jews rebelled. The Romans crucified 3,000 Jews.

Who arrested Jesus?

Matthew 26:47,50 - "And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people . . And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him."
Mark 14:43 - "And immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders."
Luke 22:47 - "While He was still speaking, behold, a multitude came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him."
John 18:12 - "So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him,"

The Gospels are a work of faith not history.
According to the Gospels:
After Jesus of Nazareth was arrested, Caiaphas organized a hearing and declared him guilty of blasphemy and condemned him to death. According to the Gospels, Caiaphas had no legal authority to execute anyone (John 18:31)
(Actually the Sanhedrin did have the authority to put Jesus to death by stoning. It was not blasphemy to claim to be a messiah, a man. If Jesus proclaimed himself a messiah god, then it would have been blasphemy.)
Therefore the High-Priest handed him over to the Roman authorities (Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor), who found him guilty of treason (i.e., claiming to be the King of the Jews).
The title "Son of God" was given to the Kings of the Jews.
The Romans viewed Jesus as a pretender to the throne of Judea.
Roman prefects demanded that the High-Priests arrest and turn over Jews seen as agitators or subversive persons.
Jews resented the close relationship that the High-Priests maintained with Roman authorities
and suspected them of taking bribes or practicing other forms of corruption.
During the Jewish rebellion (in A.D. 66), while Jerusalem was surrounded by the Roman army, Roman collaborators were executed by the Zealots.
Caiaphas feared that the Romans would destroy Judea if there was a rebellion.
John 11:50 "consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
The execution of Jesus of Nazareth would save Judea and its people. (in A.D. 66, a rebellion started, which led to the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70)
Pilate was concerned with crowd control.
Pilate knew that messianic claims led to civil unrest
Crucifixion was the form of execution for violators of Roman law.
Stoning was the form of execution for violators of Jewish law.

The first gospel was written over forty years after the death of Jesus.
The New Testament gospels are not eye-witness accounts of the death of Jesus.

Christian Gospels portray Pilate as "innocent".
[Philo (Ad Gaium, 38) describes him as inflexible, merciless, and obstinate. Pontius Pilate was an exceptionally cruel and corrupt man. Pontius Pilate routinely crucified Jews without benefit of trial. He was so brutal that the Romans withdrew him (in A.D. 36) in disgrace to Rome because of his excesses.]

The Romans were absolved, the Jews were blamed.
Many historians attribute these accounts of the trial of Jesus to efforts by early Christians to make their message more palatable to Roman audiences.
Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus of Nazareth to crucifixion.
The Romans and their Roman collaborators (Caiaphas, who the Romans appointed as High-Priest) killed Jesus of Nazareth not the Jewish People.
Many historical experts and Biblical scholars have expressed doubt that Jesus ever appeared before Jewish or Roman leaders before his execution.

During World War II, The Nazis invaded France. They installed a puppet government in Vichy.
The Vichy Government was responsible for numerous atrocities.
When the Allies recaptured France, the members of the Vichy Government were tried and executed.
The French people were not held responsible for the atrocities of the Vichy Government.
However, for 2,000 years the Jewish people have been held responsible for the acts of a puppet government installed by the Romans.

Who is a Messiah?

The Jewish idea of a Messiah was of a God-sent earthly savior or deliverer, a warrior king who would save the Jews from their enemies. The word "messiah" means the Anointed One (anointed is mashiha in Hebrew). The Greek word for Messiah is Christ or Christos. The anointment of ancient Jewish kings expressly made them Sons of God. Son of God was the Hebrew description of a leader, a king or a priest. The messiah was not a god or an aspect of God, but was entirely human.

Trial of Jesus

From 4 B.C. to A.D. 135, several Jews (including Jesus) claimed to be the "Messiah". The announcement of each new "Messiah" was accompanied by an armed struggle against the Romans. Each of the Messiahs was executed (crucified) by Roman authorities without a trial. The Romans used instant punishment with immediate crucifixion as a public warning and deterrent against the Messiahs' inspiration for a Jewish revolt against Roman rule. Philo wrote that Pilate's tenure was associated with "briberies, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injustices, constantly repeated executions without trial, and ceaseless and grievous cruelty." Claiming to be the "Messiah" was a capital offence.
John 18:12 - "So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him," A Roman cohort consisted of 500 to 600 soldiers. (600 soldiers would be needed to capture a freedom fighter, not a pacifist prophet.) Who led this cohort? They would not have been led by a Jew (not even the High Priest). The Roman cohort was led by a Roman commander. This Roman commander was either ordered by Pilate to arrest Jesus, or had standing orders to arrest and crucify any potential political rebel. Once Jesus was captured, the Romans would have followed their normal procedure of immediate crucifixion without trial. Passover celebrated the Jewish Exodus, the leaving of Egyptian oppression and the arrival in the Promised Land. Romans feared Jews celebrating their former freedom in a time of Roman oppression could incite Jewish nationalism and threaten Roman power.

The construct of a trial by the Jewish High Priest and the Jewish mobs screaming for the execution of Jesus, (These were the same Jews who celebrated Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on Sunday. These were the same Jews who thronged the streets waving palm branches to welcome Him. They shouted "Hosanna" and laid their cloaks and palm branches from the nearby trees in His path.) served as means to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus and make the conversion of pagan Romans to Christianity more palatable. All four Gospel stories were edited to make Jewish authorities, not Roman authorities, primarily responsible for the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

History is written by the Victors

In A.D. 303, the pagan emperor Diocletian ordered the destruction of all Christian writings.
In A.D. 324 Constantine became the ruler of the entire Roman Empire.
The pagan emperor Constantine wanted to unify the rival Christian factions in the Roman Empire for political reasons.
In A.D. 325, he convened the Council of Nicea.
The followers of Paul gained control of the council.
They ordered great changes:

Jesus of Nazareth was declared divine. Jesus was now a god, not a mortal prophet.
Only four of the gospels were chosen as the official gospels of the Church.
New versions of the gospels had to be written. They were edited to make the Romans less culpable and the Jews more culpable for the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Over three hundred other gospels were ordered to be destroyed
(including all Gospels written in Hebrew).
An edict was issued stating that anyone found in possession of
an unauthorized gospel would be put to death.
The Council of Nicea changed the birthday of Jesus from January 6th to December 25th (Natalis Invictus) to match the birthday of Sun-God Sol Invictus (Mithras), and shifted the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
This assimilation of aspects of the pagan Roman religion made Christianity more palatable to the Roman masses.

The Romans felt great animosity toward the Jews because of their constant rebellions against Roman rule.
Blaming the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews, unified the Roman pagans and the Christians.

Below is a letter from the emperor Constantine to all those not present at the Council of Nicea.
The anti-Jewish comments have been underlined.

From the Letter of the Emperor to all those not present at the Council.

(Found in Eusebius, Vita Const., Lib. iii., 18-20.)

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom, we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour's Passion to the present day [according to the day of the week]. We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way; our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right, they who, after the death of the Saviour, have no longer been led by reason but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question; for, in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are most certainly blinded by error? for to celebrate the passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible. But even if this were not so, it would still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people [the Jews]. Besides, consider well, that in such an important matter, and on a subject of such great solemnity, there ought not to be any division. Our Saviour has left us only one festal day of our redemption, that is to say, of his holy passion, and he desired [to establish] only one Catholic Church. Think, then, how unseemly it is, that on the same day some should be fasting whilst others are seated at a banquet; and that after Easter, some should be rejoicing at feasts, whilst others are still observing a strict fast. For this reason, a Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and everyone, I hope, will agree upon this point. As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord; and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South, and of the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable, it has appeared good to all; and I have been guarantee for your consent, that you would accept it with joy, as it is followed at Rome, in Africa, in all Italy, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, in all Achaia, and in the dioceses of Asia, of Pontus, and Cilicia. You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews. To sum up in few words: By the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day, and it is not seemly that in so holy a thing there should be any division. As this is the state of the case, accept joyfully the divine favour, and this truly divine command; for all which takes place in assemblies of the bishops ought to be regarded as proceeding from the will of God. Make known to your brethren what has been decreed, keep this most holy day according to the prescribed mode; we can thus celebrate this holy Easter day at the same time, if it is granted me, as I desire, to unite myself with you; we can rejoice together, seeing that the divine power has made use of our instrumentality for destroying the evil designs of the devil, and thus causing faith, peace, and unity to flourish amongst us. May God graciously protect you, my beloved brethren.

The Money Changers
The book of Exodus [30: 13] commands every adult male Jew to contribute exactly one half Shekel each year to the Temple. No foreign or Roman money could be accepted to pay for this Temple Tax. It was necessary to exchange foreign money for the half shekel before it could be contributed to the Temple.
On the first day of the final month of the year, called Adar, announcements would inform the people that the annual collection of half-shekel coins was about to commence. This announcement would give the people one month to contribute before the moneys would be expended from the Temple treasury, on the first day of Nissan, the first month of the new year. Only money collected in the previous Adar could be used to pay for sacrifices for the new (next) year.
The half shekel (given annually by every Jewish male over the age of twenty women and children were not required to pay the tax, however their money was accepted if they offered it.) contributions were pooled to purchase the congregational sacrifices offered every day of the year (sacrificial slaughter of animals). Starting from the first day of the month of Nissan (the name of a Jewish month that followed Adar), only sacrifices purchased with the new yearly contributions could be offered for that year.
The rich were not allowed to give more, and the poor could not give less. A half-shekel was an insufficient sum of money to pay for even one sacrifice. However by pooling the money of all the congregations, the Temple was able to conduct sacrificial rituals and ceremonies throughout the year.
There were two ways in which the money was collected. On the 15th of Adar, Temple messengers would arrive in the towns of ancient Israel, to collect donations and change different types of currencies. Only the holy shekel could be used to pay the tax. This is the way Jesus paid the temple tax [Matt. 17:24-27].
The second way.
On the fifteenth of Adar, the money-changers set up their tables in Jerusalem for the purpose of exchanging foreign moneys for the coin, the Shekel, in which the tax was payable. Jews of the diaspora, Jewish pilgrims who lived outside of ancient Israel and in the Roman, Empire would bring their congregation's collection to pay the Temple Tax. Two drachmas would buy one half Shekel. The Jews of the diaspora who lived under Roman rule enjoyed special privileges (freedom to practice their religion) and the protection of the Roman empire.( These special privileges had been secured by Herod.) They viewed the repeated Jewish rebellions against Roman rule a threat to their protected status. They supported the collaboration of the High-Priest with the Roman authorities.
The money changers were performing a required religious service. The Gospels turned this into a blueprint for future anti-Semitic attacks.

Did Jesus of Nazareth attack the money changers?
The Gospels [Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45, John 2:14-15] claim that Jesus of Nazareth attacked the money changers.
The attack on the vendors at the Temple was viewed as "forbidding to give tribute to Caesar (Rome)" [Luke 23:2]. Jesus was charged with sedition.
Jesus of Nazareth's attack on the money changers and/or the Roman appointed High-Priest would have been an act of rebellion that merited crucifixion.

Oral Tradition of the Gospels
Bart D. Ehrman in Jesus, Interrupted brilliantly explains the impact of oral tradition on the Gospels.
Below is a summary.

Early followers of Jesus would tell each other stories about Jesus. Each time a story was retold there would be minor alterations. Jesus followers would also tell these stories to people who were not members of the Jesus Movement in the hope that would they join the Jesus Movement. These new members of the Jesus Movement would retell the stories they had heard. When they retold the stories, they would tell them from their own perspective adding or eliminating elements of the stories.
Jewish members of the Jesus Movement, who had been expelled from their local synagogue, would add anti-Jewish elements to the Jesus stories.
When the writers of the Gospels started to write these stories down, they had to translate the stories from Aramaic to Greek. This resulted in even greater alterations. The Greek writers interpreted the Jesus stories from their background of Greek Mythology. Over the years, scribes would copy and recopy the Gospels. The scribes would add and remove elements to make the stories support their own community's needs. New interpretations, errors and misspellings had their own consequences.
This is how a Jewish preacher in the year A.D. 30 was declared divine in A.D. 325.


The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Reza Aslan
          Kindle Edition           Nook Book           iBooks Edition

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) Bart D. Ehrman

The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History Michael Baigent

A History of the Jews Paul M. Johnson

The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity Hyam Maccoby

Jesus the Pharisee Hyam Maccoby

Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History David Klinghoffer

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Bart D. Ehrman


Money Changers Jewish Virtual Library

AskWhy! on Origins of Christianity in the Essenes - Christianity Revealed

The Romans in Israel

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. XIV

Jewish persecution: 70 to 1200 CE

Who Really Killed Jesus? by Tim Callahan

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