we see a cross on a church
or a chain,
it’s symbolic of torture and
Of one who
suffered as He knew He
finale would not be dust.
We may think of those who
had Him hung there,
placing a ring of thorns in
they would willingly take the blame
For putting Jesus Christ to an open shame.
Or, we may choose to recall in a happier way
the cross as a symbol for us today–
As a guide in our life, this barren tree,
To help bring each of us nearer to Thee.
The cross forms the sides of four squares it is true,
reminding us daily of what we should do:
Have faith, and repent, be baptized by water;
the Holy Ghost then guides son and daughter.
The cross, like an intersection along the highway,
represents, for mankind, his mortal pathway,
As we meet the upright and vertical joint,
we can join God’s pathway at that critical point.
So let us be willing to adjust our direction–
And work even harder to obtain this perfection;
But if we stumble as we bear our load,
He said He’d be with us on our road.
We can bear it, and share it, for so said He:
“Pick up your cross and come follow me.”
He set the example, and showed us the way,
Then atoned for our sins on that fateful day.
Let’s be glad for our burdens great and small;
Overcome and be strong and endure it all.
Be grateful we have a small cross to bear,
And that Christ, not us, had to suffer there.
Let us not from His saving truths depart
Or become like a Judas or Pilate at heart.
By our faith and our works, let us demonstrate
That we’ll follow Him before it’s too late.
It is very difficult to imagine why anyone would want to kill Jesus. Was He such a serious threat to those in ruling positions at the time? Did this Teacher from Galilee jeopardize their power and influence with the people? Why would anyone pay blood money for information leading to His death? And furthermore, why would one of Christ’s own apostles be willing to accept a few pieces of silver for assisting in His betrayal? Apparently even Joseph Smith was somewhat baffled by Judas’ actions, for he commented:
What nearer friend on earth, or in heaven, had Judas than the Savior? And his first object was to destroy Him. * * * Who is as holy as He was? Are they to be found? He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven–no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart. And yet one that ate with Him, who had often drunk of the same cup, was the first to lift up his heel against Him. (TPJS, p. 67)
Such questions as “who was really responsible for the crucifixion of Christ?” and “why was He crucified?” will be considered in this book, with perhaps some additional light shed on the subject. For centuries the Jews have been blamed for the deed, and even the Book of Mormon states that “there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.” (2 Nephi 10:3) But is it possible that a whole nation is under condemnation for the actions of “a few?” Weren’t many of the early Christians Jews themselves? Certainly a subject as important as this deserves a serious effort on our part to delve into and discover the historical truth.
 Chapter 1
WHO WAS JESUS?
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11)
In approaching the subject of this book, we should first learn more about Jesus Himself, and secondly, identify the people to whom He appeared and conversed. Christ spent his three-year ministry among a people called the Jews. Why did He come to them, and where did they originate?
The Jewish nation descended from Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, or, in other words, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. From this fact, we need to recognize that Jews are Israelites–which is confirmed by the Jewish historian, Josephus:
So the Jews prepared for the work; that is the name they were called by from the day that they came up from Babylon, which is taken from the tribe of Judah, which came first to these places, and thence both they and the country gained that appellation. * * *
Wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates `till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by number. (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 11, Chap. 5, pp. 7 & 2)
The tribe of Judah had been given a very great responsibility, as was stated in the fatherly blessing given to them by Jacob:
 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Gen. 49:10)
Thus, Judah was given the priestly authority to continue until Shiloh, or the Savior, would come. They were to honor and abide by the ordinances of the lesser Priesthood and also preserve the sacred scriptures. They expected the Messiah to come to them, but the word until indicated that they might lose “the sceptre” after He arrived. It was a two-fold and somewhat ominous prophecy.
The role of a prophet is not an easy one. They came to instruct and prophesy, but also to chastise, rebuke, and cry repentance. They strike out against sin among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. They direct their comments to both religious and political leaders, as well as to little children. But showing mankind the way to gain the Kingdom of God often proves offensive to many listeners, thus causing Christ to comment: “Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:24)
Such was the fate of Jesus. During His ministry, Christ was able to confound the wise, foretell the future, and deliver a most important message of salvation. Even at the age of 12, he was able to teach and amaze the learned Elders of Zion in their own temple.
Once, while reading a scripture from Isaiah about the coming of the promised Messiah, He said:
This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. *** And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (Luke 4:21, 28-29)
 Thus, it was obvious that there were serious conflicts between Jesus and the leaders of the Jewish nation, even at the beginning of His ministry.
Nearly 2000 years later, Joseph Smith warned of the disastrous effects that usually come from revealing the wicked purposes of the enemy:
Our lives have already become jeopardized by revealing the wicked and bloodthirsty purposes of our enemies; and for the future we must cease to do so. All we have said about them is truth, but it is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. When still a boy, He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person; and was subject to cold, to hunger and to death. (TPJS, p. 392)
But there were many Jews who realized who Jesus was and they followed Him (mostly the poor and the humble), and served Him with a zeal that should have been a witness to His identity and His message. They wrote down His words, served Him on missions, sacrificed every temporal thing for Him, and many even gave up their lives for Him. To His followers He became their God.
However, by others He was rejected. For example, the Pharisees accused him, saying: “He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” (Matt. 9:34)
 To learn who Jesus really was, we need to get the truth from His followers. The name of Jesus Christ rings with a sacredness to them, and it represents all that is good and holy. His appearance on earth signifies the beginning of our calendar time; it constitutes the most important part of the Bible; it is the foundation for one of the largest religions in the world; and it has become the central event of all history. More books have been written about Christ than any other person who ever lived, and His gospel has reached into every nation.
It is said that the Old Testament is a history of a nation, and the New Testament is the record of a man. The Old Testament sets the stage for the man, and the New Testament describes Him.
As a man, He lived a strange and difficult life, yet He possessed the kindest, most humble and sympathetic character of anyone who ever lived. His teachings were accepted as the wisest, simplest and most thoughtful set of rules ever conceived. He loved people and quickly forgave. In tender compassion, He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and made the lame walk. He was able to raise the dead, walk upon water, and change water to wine. He spoke to God as a father; He came to represent the Father, and He lived as the Father wanted Him to live.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable descriptions of the Savior is the following anonymous account:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to a college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred  miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that accompany greatness. He had no credential but Himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, … His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
Of course, the above information is based on traditional accounts from the accepted King James version of the Bible. Additional, though apocryphal, information calls into question the statements regarding his having a “peasant” mother, working in a carpenter shop until age 30, never having a family, never visiting a big city, never traveling more than 200 miles from his home, and being laid in a grave of a “friend.” However, the importance of His life should not be belittled in any case.
It is important for us to be able to make the statement with conviction, as did Peter, that “Thou are the Christ, the son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16)
Though innocent of crime, He died by one of the worst forms of death ever conceived by man. But why He died and who caused His death have been confusing to His followers. So let’s take a better look into the mystery of the death of our Savior.
 Chapter 2
CONFUSION OVER THE CRUCIFIXION
Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is; but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. (John 7:26-27)
In 1963 the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church took a vote on the question, “Who was responsible for the crucifixion of Christ.” After some consideration, they called for a vote and substantiated the fact that it was the Jews who were responsible for His death.
Then a year later, in 1964, for some peculiar reason, the subject was again brought up for a vote. This time the Ecumenical Council voted for the position that “all mankind” were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. Why did the opinion of the Roman Church reverse itself in one year? This verifies the fact that church doctrine is often changed due to manhandling and public pressure–even on such important issues as who is responsible for the death of Christ.
It has been stated that Christ’s crucifixion on the cross has become the most well-known event that ever took place. So claim the best Biblical scholars:
Cross — No word has become more universally known than this, because the history of the world since the death of Christ has been decisively shaped by that epoch-making event. The principle content of the  Christian religion is symbolized in this one word. (Intern’l Standard Bible Enc. 1:825)
There was no doubt that the method of crucifixion was a Roman custom, but the crucifixion of Christ had Jewish implications–such as offering Jesus a stupefying drink of wine mixed with myrrh (See Mark 15:23.); and the removal of the body on Friday evening. (See John 19:31 and Deut. 21:23.)
Our present generation has not only changed their views of who was responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, but now they have changed even the question from who to what. But by evading the obvious, it makes their reasoning all the more suspicious. A book has recently been published entitled What Crucified Christ? This completely changes the procedure of obtaining the facts, similar to a policeman who looks for what killed a person instead of who killed him.
As in any murder, the discovery of some important factors usually lead to the solution of the case, i.e., (1) the motive, (2) the weapon used, and (3) the benefactor of the death.
In this “murder mystery,” there was no smoking gun, nor imprisonment of the guilty party (or parties). But, nevertheless, it is not too late to learn, beyond a reasonable doubt, who the guilty culprit is. This is one of those cases where there is evidence to show the use of a “hit man.”
As is often the case, those people most responsible for a crime may not be found at the scene of the crime. They may not be arrested or even called into the courtroom for testimony. Many of the greatest crimes are perpetrated through conspiracy in secret behind closed doors. Even in this case of Christ’s murder, we will not be able to pin the responsibility of the crime on just one person, nor on one race of people, nor even one nation. But we will find out who planned His death,  who instigated the means for accomplishing it, and who ultimately used others to kill Him.
However, there are recent opinions and evaluations that do not categorize the crucifixion of Christ as a cold-blooded killing. Such views sound nice and convey a sort of charity for people. They claim that the governments and their times should be blamed rather than the guilty person or persons.
But the question remains, who is responsible for the crucifixion of Christ?
 Chapter 3
Two two-fold goal (reconciliation between mother and daughter religions) may perhaps be achieved if we shift our focus from the Question, “Who crucified Jesus?” to the question “What crucified Jesus?” (What Crucified Jesus? Ellis Rivkin, p. 5)
An interesting article celebrating Easter appeared in the religious section of the Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday, April 11, 1998. The title of the article was, “What Killed Christ?” It asked a simple question but cannot be answered in a simple manner. Superficially, Jesus was killed by several nails in his hands and feet. But this is not the simple answer people want to hear. Catholics, Protestants, and Jews have come up with a different kind of answer, such as the following articles describe:
 What Killed Christ?
Jewish scholar believes imperial system was to blame
BY PEG McENTEE
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
For nearly two millennia, Jews have been blamed for the death of Jesus, the charismatic Nazarene who became for Christianity Jesus Christ, the son of God, whose crucifixion and resurrection became the foundation of one of the world’s great religions.
But the imminent Jewish scholar Ellis Rivkin, in a reissue of his 1984 book What Crucified Jesus, contends that it was the Roman imperial system that ultimately was to blame for Jesus’ death.
Rivkin’s work draws heavily on the writings of Josephus, a Jewish general and historian who was born shortly after Jesus died and was a “keen participant in and observer of the tumult of the time.”
By using Josephus’ histories, as well as the Gospels, Rivkin draws a compelling portrait of a land occupied by the forces of Rome and seething with resentment and sometimes open–and deadly–rebellion.
The Romans viewed Judaism as a “mosaic,” as Rivkin puts it, of divergent theologies which, “though indistinguishable from one another, were nonetheless of a single design.” But for the Romans, the most important thing was that the mosaic flashed the reassuring message, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17).
That calculated largesse failed, however, when Jesus–alone of all the false prophets and charismatics that came before him–somehow so entranced his followers that they were able to believe that even death would not separate them; that he would live again, and so would they.
A natural leader, capable of perfect empathy with the poor, the degraded, the outcast, the sinner. A leader with all the commanding characteristics of the great prophets: Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha. A “charismatic of charismatics.” Rivkin writes, who so frightened Rome that he had to die.
Caiaphas, a Jewish high priest who served Pontius Pilate, and his council convinced Pilate that such a man would undermine Roman authority. Pilate made short shrift of the case, deeming it a welcome display of Caesar’s might.
“It was not the Jewish people who crucified Jesus and it was not the Roman people. It was the imperial system, a system that victimized the Jews, victimized the Romans, and victimized the Spirit of God,” Rivkin concludes.
In light of Good Friday and Easter, The Salt Lake Tribune asked two Salt Lake City clerics, Bishop George H. Niederauer of the Utah Roman Catholic Diocese and the Rev. Greg Harbaugh of Zion Lutheran Church, to offer their thoughts on Rivkin’s findings.
 Catholic Response
BISHOP GEORGE H. NIEDERAUER
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City
Ellis Rivkin does a service to Christians and non-Christians alike when he shifts the question from “Who” to “What Crucified Christ?” He moves his readers away from ancient recriminations and bigotry, and focuses them instead on Jesus of Nazareth’s historical background.
Rivkin makes the point that, in Roman-occupied Palestine, a popular religious teacher with no political agenda could still arouse suspicions among the rulers. If a man gathered a crowd around him and proclaimed the coming of a kingdom, he might already have set out on the path to crucifixion.
And that’s how Rivkin sees the historical Jesus: a “charismatic of charismatics,” a man of exceptional personal and spiritual powers, in the tradition of John the Baptizer. In volatile first-century Palestine, it was inevitable that Jesus would be crucified: “the culprit is not the Jews but the Roman imperial system.”
Hence, Rivkin claims, “the Gospels confirm that no institution of Judaism had anything to do with the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.” I can’t agree. In fact, I don’t have to agree with Rivkin in order to avoid anti-Semitism. As a Christian believer and as a student of history, I am convinced that what crucified Jesus Christ was human sinfulness which all men and women, and all human institutions, participate.
Words like “sin” and “sinfulness” sometimes put off contemporary readers. But virtually everyone admits that moral evil exists, in social structures and individual behavior alike. Those who believe in God call it sin, an offense against his love and his call for us to love.
Like Jesus, his faithful followers have taught and preached against sin in ways which prompted political rulers to persecute them. In our own century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposed Nazi tyranny and paid for it with his life. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed racial discrimination and was assassinated. Dorothy Day denounced the mind-set of nuclear war and went to jail.
The Christian gospel has political implications, as well as economic, social, moral and spiritual ones. When Jesus Christ claimed to be the light of the world, he didn’t mean certain limited areas thereof. He taught his followers to see everyone and everything in the light of his teaching and example.
For comfort and convenience, some people urge Christian leaders to limit their teachings to safe,  general topics and church issues. But in the 19th century, some Christians denounced human slavery because of their religious faith. In this century, some Christians defend the sacredness of human life against euthanasia, abortion and capital punishment, again because of their faith.
Rivkin is correct about the politically charged atmosphere in the time of Jesus. But for the Christian, witness to the message of the gospel will usually involve politically charged implications, whether they concern the homeless, the hungry, immigrants or the victims of domestic violence.
In his play, “A Man For All Seasons,” Robert Bolt portrays Sir Thomas More, a Christian who lost his life for taking a moral stand against his king. In the play there is a character, the Common Man, who plays several smaller parts and speaks directly to the audience. After Sir Thomas’s execution, the Common Man turns to the audience and says: “I’m breathing. Are you breathing too? It’s nice, isn’t it! It isn’t difficult to keep alive, friends–just don’t make trouble–or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that’s expected.”
Jesus Christ wanted to make the kind of saving trouble that was not expected more than he wanted to keep on breathing. That’s why his Father raised him from the dead. Jesus expects as much of us, his followers. That’s why we hope to share in his Easter, now and forever.
Pastor Responds to Crucifixion Theory
THE REV. GREGORY P. HARBAUGH
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Holy Week is a time of deep awe and reverence for Christians. Oftentimes, our observances coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover, which this year falls on Holy Saturday.
Approaching the history of Jewish-Christian relations in the light of any claims regarding the crucifixion of Jesus faces high levels of sensitivity and is thus fraught with peril. Ellis Rivkin has done a great service in bringing the historical perspective to bear for the contemporary reader.
Any such perspective, including my own, will be offered through the lens of nearly 2,000 years of subsequent history, much of it tragic with regard to this bicameral People of God. I write as a Lutheran Christian painfully aware of those parts of our legacy that have been used and misused to the detriment and suffering of our Jewish sisters and brothers.
As I look back through the years with Rivkin, I too ask not so much who, but “what crucified Jesus?” I concur with his basic conclusion, that it was the Roman imperial system, not the system of Judaism, that was at fault.
But I do so with a different twist. Judaism in the first century, for all the reasons delineated in Rivkin’s book, was very much part of the Roman imperial system. My quarrel  with Rivkin is his cartesian efforts to separate religion and politics in a time when such a division was not tenable, and his use of Josephus, a man with far too much on his conscience and far too potent an agenda. Clearly he worked to establish Pharisaic as the only viable leadership for Judaism after the tragedy of 70 A.D.
He was, after all, a Roman collaborator under Vespasius and the Flavian emperors, even taking the surname Flavius. His own amalgamation of Hellenistic and Semitic views may or may not be reflective on his own time, let alone the time of Jesus, especially his understanding of immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body, which stand as polar opposites in biblical literature. For better or worse, the materials in the Gospels is closer to the time of Christ and is practically the only source for information about the Jerusalem situation prior to 70 A.D., when the Temple, administrative offices and all records were destroyed by the Romans.
Nevertheless, the questions remain. Who and what crucified Jesus? In the Gospel of Luke, a centurion at the crucifixion is portrayed as declaring, “surely the man is innocent [or righteous].” In the years after Jesus’ time, as Rivkin points out, this is not an “innocent” man, however righteous. His teaching, healing, exorcisms, challenges to authority and his charismatic authority put Jesus directly in the line of fire of an already explosive situation. Crucifixion was inevitable and was declared necessary by civil and religious law in deepest collusion.
Who killed Jesus are the powers that be. What crucified him was simply the need of those with power and wealth to protect the status quo, the imperial cult and culture.
Some things do not change much. Death squads in central America, government-sponsored assassins, religious groups that want to maintain their status and perquisites, secret back-room deals cut by the powerful, will continue to the detriment of the poor, homeless, aged, sick and young.
The message of the Gospel of John is that the Word of God, now wholly identifiable with Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, continues to live and breathe in and under history because Jesus lives.
That he is Jesus the thirty-something, itinerant, charismatic Jewish dissident. etc., is what makes this “good.” That he is risen after being crucified under the full weight of the law is what makes it “news.”
Our history suggests that Jews and Christians know enough about such painful history to join together on behalf of the oppressed and needy rather than stand apart. Perhaps our Lord is working through scholars like Rivkin and others to provide the groundwork for such reconciliation.
The Spirit is blowing. May the whole people of God experience Exodus and resurrection from the demands of imperial power. What a marvelous body that would be.
 Chapter 4
RESPONSE TO THE EASTER MESSAGES
It is tragic indeed that the birth pangs of Christianity were occasioned by an event in which Jews were directly implicated. (Ellis Rivkin, “What Crucified Christ?” p. 3)
As previously mentioned, in 1964 the Roman Pope decreed that “all of us” are guilty of the death of Christ. This was one of the first times in the “nearly two millennia” that guilt was shifted from the Jews to someone or something else.
Then even more recently, the Jewish scholar, Ellis Rivkin, tells us that the issue is not who but what killed Jesus, and he put the blame on the “imperial system.” But systems do not function independently all by themselves–people direct them. All governments, like machinery, are designed, built, and operated by human beings, including the Roman or Jewish system of government.
Naturally, Rivkin, a Jew himself, would tend to steer around the issue that “for nearly two millennia, Jews have been blamed for the death of Jesus.” We cannot blame him because it is natural for one to defend his own religion, race and politics. And certainly it is not correct to say that all Jews were guilty of the deed. Among the first “Christians” were Jews, and they had held great responsibilities until the time of Christ, as indicated in the great patriarchal blessing pronounced upon them by their forefather, Jacob.
 So, in our search for accuracy, we need to go back to some semblance of historical records that contain events happening about the time of Jesus. Rivkin went to the general historian, Josephus, for most of his information. However, Josephus gave us only one reference to Christ in all of his historical work:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works–a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 18, Chap. 3, paragraph 3)
Fortunately, we can grasp a much better understanding of events from the scriptures written by disciples who were there, than we can from Josephus who was not there, even though three of the four Gospels were written years after the fact (all but John’s). It is interesting to note, concerning the death of Christ, that Josephus had only one reference to Him; and, on the other hand, the Apostle John had only one reference to the Romans.
However, we are indebted to Flavius Josephus (37-95 AD) for shedding much light on the history of the Jews and Romans at this time. He was a military leader defending the Jews in the province of Galilee and became a prisoner of the Romans, at which time he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army. Subsequently, he lived in Rome  where he wrote The History of the Jewish War and The Antiquities of the Jews.
Rivkin wrote that Jesus so frightened Rome that He had to die. The fact is that Rome had built an empire so strong that it controlled nearly all the world for almost 1000 years. They had the largest and best equipped and best trained army. They were not afraid of any single man nor his religion. In fact, they did not consider any religion to be a threat to their glorious empire. They had a host of gods of their own and even set up an altar for “the unknown god,” as they didn’t want to offend any god by overlooking him.
The man Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey with His followers throwing flowers before him, does not depict the type of enemy that would frighten the Roman army.
(picture of Jesus riding the donkey)
 Jesus never committed any crime against the Romans, and they even admitted that. Once he paid a tax that He didn’t rightfully owe, but Peter had said he would do so, so it was paid. (See Matt. 17:24-27.) On another occasion He said to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” (Matt. 22:21) He thus avoided a rebellion.
In his responding Easter article, Bishop Niederauer said that, “Rivkin does a service to Christians and non-Christians alike when he shifts the question from who to what crucified Christ?” We would like to know why? Was it the Nazi government at fault for World War II or the Nazi leaders who ran the government? Should a police officer write out a ticket to an automobile for speeding and recklessness instead of the driver? We can’t blame a car for what a driver does with it; nor can we blame governments for what people do with them.
Governments can be good or bad, depending on who runs them. It is the people, not the government, that determine how that political system will function. As Brigham Young once explained:
The government of heaven, if wickedly administered, would become one of the worst governments upon the face of the earth. No matter how good a government is, unless it is administered by righteous men, an evil government will be made of it. (JD 10:177)
Conversely, a bad government can be turned into a good one if good people take it over. The good Bishop Niederauer correctly stated that “moral evil exists in social structures and individual behavior alike;” and again, “what crucified Jesus Christ was human sinfulness.” Therefore, more correctly, the question about the responsibility of Christ’s crucifixion should be centered on who did it, not what.
 Bishop Niederauer properly stated that the facts of this issue can be spoken of without “anti-Semitism.” We are looking at an event that occurred in history, and we don’t need to change history to avoid anti-Semitism. Facts are sometimes difficult to bear, but they remain facts whether we like them or not. We shouldn’t change history because of the outcome of something that happened many years before. We study the facts of history either to avoid or repeat the results of some prior event. If some friends were driving their car across the country and were robbed by a gang of German hoodlums, we shouldn’t record the event by saying they came by train and had an uneventful trip–just to avoid “anti-Germanism.”
The most amazingly inaccurate statement in Rivkin’s book was that “the Gospels confirm that no institution of Judaism had anything to do with the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.” It seems inconceivable how a scholar could completely overlook all of those implications recorded by the Apostle John. How could he overlook the whole book? Bishop Niederauer couldn’t agree with his statement either. Pastor Harbaugh stated:
Our history suggests that Jews and Christians know enough about such painful history to join together on behalf of the oppressed and needy rather than stand apart. Perhaps our Lord is working through scholars like Rivkin and others to provide the groundwork for such reconciliation. (S.L. Tribune, April 11, 1998)
That’s a beautiful concept, but too often we endeavor to change history to make these compromises. In the case of scholars like Rivkin who have changed the question from who to what, it is not too different from changing history itself. We don’t need to re-write history, or avoid it, to patch up differences. A false history is worse than no history.
 As we previously stated, we cannot blame a Jewish historian for attempting to reverse the popular belief that the Jews were to blame for the crucifixion of Christ. But now we have the Catholic and Protestant clergy also beginning to change their previous opinions and views about the crucifixion. Indeed they are guilty of trying to change history as well.
(picture of Roman soldiers)
Were Roman soldiers the real killers of Christ,
or were they just carrying out orders?
 We are familiar with the compassionate statement of Jesus at His crucifixion: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) which is found in the King James translation of the Bible. However, in the Inspired Translation by Joseph Smith, a small insert clarifies what He meant:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (meaning the soldiers who crucified him), and they parted his raiment and cast lots. (Luke 23:35)
In other words, the Roman soldiers did not know nor recognize Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer of the world; They were just doing their job as any executioner was expected to do. However, the Jewish leaders knew who He was, and they could not be forgiven for what they did–the shedding of innocent blood!
 Chapter 5
And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him. (Luke 23:13-14)
This chapter deals with a rare manuscript written by Pilate, the Roman Governor over Judea. In his Bible handbook, Henry Halley gives an excellent overview of the relationship between Pilate and Jesus:
Pilate was Roman governor of Judea, 26-37 AD. He assumed office about the time that Jesus began his public ministry. His official residence was at Caesarea. He came to Jerusalem at time of Feasts to keep order. He was merciless, cruel, noted for his habitual brutality. Like the Roman emperors of his day, he rather enjoyed the spectacle of the torture and death of a man. At one time he had mingled the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices. (Lk 13:1)
One of the strangest pictures in history is the impression that Jesus made on this hard-hearted Roman governor. Whether Jesus was erect and handsome, as one tradition has it, or stoop-shouldered and ugly, as another tradition has it, there must have been something about his countenance and bearing so divine, so commanding, that although he was dressed in the robes of mock royalty, with the crown of thorns  on his head, and the blood streaming down his face, Pilate could not keep his eyes off him.
Pilate’s effort to get out of crucifying Jesus is a pitiful story. He did not want to do it. He appealed from the Jewish rulers to Herod. Then from Herod back to the rulers. Then from the rulers to the multitudes. Then when the multitudes turned against Jesus, Pilate tried to appeal to their pity, by having Jesus scourged, in hope that they would be satisfied with partial punishment, and not require him to go all the way to crucifixion. Failing in that, he did not finally make up his mind to crucify Jesus till the Jews threatened to report him to Caesar. Not till it began to look as if it might cost him his position as governor of Judea did he at last give his consent to the death of Jesus.
Pilate is said to have committed suicide.
Pilate’s wife, Procula, tradition says, became a Christian. (Bible Handbook, Henry Halley, p. 414)
Rivkin’s book is written from a Jewish point of view with numerous quotes from Jewish records. Although there is nothing wrong with using those records, it has a tendency to steer us off the main track upon which this quest was started.
Other records have been discovered which have also given us a better insight to what happened in those turbulent days. A couple of these records were found and printed by the Reverend W. D. Mahan. How he found these records is in itself a very interesting story. He wrote:
Some time in the year 1856, while living in De Witt, Missouri, a gentleman by the name of H.C. Whydaman became snow-bound and stopped at my house several days. He was a native of Germany, and one of the most learned men I had ever met. I found him to be freely communicative. During his stay, he told me that he had spent five years in the city of Rome, and most of the time in the Vatican, where he saw a library containing five hundred and sixty thousand volumes. He told me that he had seen and read the records of  Tiberius Caesar, and in what was called the Acta Pilati–that is, the acts of Pilate–he had seen an account of the apprehension, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth; but said it did not add much to the commonly accepted teachings of Christianity. He told me he thought a transcript could be secured. After Mr. Whydaman’s departure, I meditated upon what he had told me of those records, and thought that if a transcript could be obtained, it would be very interesting, even if it did not add much to the present teachings of Christianity.
Rev. Mahan wrote to H. C. Whydaman, who soon answered back:
Rev. W. D. Mahan March 2, 1857
Dear Sir: It is with the kindest regards I remembered your hospitality while with you in America. Be assured, anything I can do for you will afford me great pleasure. I have written to Father Freelinhusen, a monk of great learning, at Rome, who is the chief guardian of the Vatican. I have made the request in my own name, as I do not think they would be willing for such a document to go into the hands of the public. When he answers, I will write you again.
I am your most obedient servant,
- C. Whydaman
Nov. 27, 1857
Rev. W. D. Mahan
Dear Sir: Father Freelinhusen has answered my letter in regard to the transcript you want. He informs me that the writing is so fine, and being in the Latin language, as I told you, and the parchments so old and dirty, he will be obliged to use a glass to the most of it. He can only give it in the Latin, as he does not understand the English. He says he will do it for thirty-five darics, which will be in American coin sixty-two dollars and forty-four cents. If you will forward the amount, I  will have the document forwarded to my brother-in-law, C. C. Vantberger. He will translate it for a trifle.
I am yours, in tender regards,
- C. Whydaman
Mahan put a great deal of sacrifice, money and time into the exploration of ancient records, especially those connected with the life and death of Christ. When he was got ahold of the Report of Pilate, he experienced a new enthusiasm to do research on these ancient records. He wrote:
Upon getting hold of this report of Pilate, I commenced to investigate this subject, and after many years of trial and the expenditure of considerable money, I found that there were many of such records still preserved at the Vatican in Rome and at Constantinople, that had been carried there by the Emperor of Rome about the middle of the third century. I therefore procured the necessary assistance, and on September 21, 1883, I set sail for those foreign lands to make the investigation in person.
Believing that no event of such importance to the world as the death of Jesus of Nazareth could have transpired without some record being made of it by his enemies in their courts, legislations, and histories, I commenced investigating the subject. (The Archko Volume, p. 13)
Rev. Mahan read accounts that Pope Gregory IX had burned all of the old and ancient manuscripts, but he thought that odd because the Catholics have been very avid supporters of anything pertaining to Christ.
Then he read accounts of how the Jews had burned most of those ancient records when they could find them. That didn’t make much sense either because he knew they would want to have verification of what really happened.
 Then Mahan discovered that some monks had forged many records in the early years of Christianity, but this wouldn’t be any reason to destroy them. He said:
A difficulty I met in consulting scholars on this subject was the claim that the Roman monks had forged many manuscripts regarding Jesus Christ, in the middle ages. Now they may have forged some things to sustain their peculiar views and doctrines, something to sustain their Church; but there is nothing in this book to sustain Catholicism, and if every word of it was forgotten, it would add nothing to that Church more than to any other Church. (The Archko Volume, p. 17)
We do know that many important things in the Bible were changed through the years by translators and copyists. They thought they were improving the manuscript while some were deliberately misdirecting the truth. From the Book of Mormon we have this witness:
And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the gentiles, thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
And after these plain and precious things were taken away, it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest–because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God–because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (I Nephi 13:24-29)
The manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible were compiled in the second century, but they were never translated until 607 AD by Bishop Adhelm under the direction of King Alfred. The whole history of the Bible and related manuscripts could fill several books. It seems to be the hand of Providence that they survived as well as they did without more changes and deletions than there were–although there were plenty of those. Mahan said that, “A man will have a higher appreciation of the Catholic Church, where he sees her enthroned in the hearts of this great church, and I shall ever have a different feeling toward them from what I have had.” (p. 47) He realized that they had over a half-million old manuscripts. It is no wonder that they said they found the Piloti document by accident.
Rev. Mahan received the translation of the Acts of Pilate, after which he spent many years and much money to verify it  and search out other documents of similar nature. He gathered money and translators and went to Rome and Constantinople to look for other documents.
Rev. Mahan discovered that Valleus Paterculus, a Roman historian, was 19 years old when Jesus was born. He apparently was a friend of Caesar, and for 16 years had commanded in Caesar’s army. He returned to Rome in the year 31 AD and finished a work called “Historia Romania.” Valleus said that while he was in Judea, he met a man called Jesus who was known to have cured people of their illnesses. He also said that the Jews were divided in their opinion of Him, the poorer class accepting Him, but the richer class calling Him an Egyptian necromancer; but nevertheless, they were afraid of Him.
This document was found in the Vatican in Rome, and Valleus was the historian who recorded Pilate’s Report to Caesar. Included here is the translation of this Report:
“To Tiberius Caesar, Emperor of Rome
“Noble Sovereign, Greeting: The events of the last few days in my province have been of such a character that I will give the details in full as they occurred, as I should not be surprised if, in the course of time, they may change the destiny of our nation, for it seems of late that all the gods have ceased to be propitious. I am almost ready to say, Cursed be the day that I succeeded Vallerius Flaceus in the government of Judea; for since then my life has been one of continual uneasiness and distress.
“On my arrival at Jerusalem I took possession of the praetorium, and ordered a splendid feast to be prepared, to which I invited the tetrarch of Galilee, with the high priest and his officers. At the appointed hour no guests appeared. This I  considered an insult offered to my dignity, and to the whole government which I represent. A few days after, the high priest deigned to pay me a visit. His deportment was grave and deceitful. He pretended that his religion forbade him and his attendants to sit at the table of the Romans, and eat and offer libations with them, but this was only a sanctimonious seeming, for his very countenance betrayed his hypocrisy. Although I thought it expedient to accept his excuse, from that moment I was convinced that the conquered had declared themselves the enemy of the conquerors; and I would warn the Romans to beware of the high priests of this country. They would betray their own mother to gain office and a luxurious living. It seems to me that, of conquered cities, Jerusalem is the most difficult to govern. So turbulent are the people that I live in momentary dread of an insurrection. I have not soldiers sufficient to suppress it. I had only one centurion and a hundred men at my command. I requested a reinforcement from the prefect of Syria, who informed me that he had scarcely troops sufficient to defend his own province. An insatiate thirst for conquest to extend our empire beyond the means of defending it, I fear, will be the cause of the final overthrow of our whole government. I lived secluded from the masses, for I did not know what those priests might influence the rabble to do; yet I endeavored to ascertain, as far as I could, the mind and standing of the people.
“Among the various rumors that came to my ears, there was one in particular that attracted my attention. A young man, it was said, had appeared in Galilee preaching with a noble unction a new law in the name of the God that had sent him. At first I was apprehensive that his design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as friend of the Romans than of the Jews. * * *
“On entering the praetorium I found Manlius, who related to me the words Jesus had pronounced at Siloe. Never  have I read in the works of the philosophers anything that can compare to the maxims of Jesus. One of the rebellious Jews, so numerous in Jerusalem, having asked Jesus if it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, he replied: `Render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and unto God the things that are God’s.’
“It was on account of the wisdom of his sayings that I granted so much liberty to the Nazarene; for it was in my power to have had him arrested, and exiled to Pontus; but that would have been contrary to the justice which has always characterized the Roman government in all its dealings with men; this man was neither seditious nor rebellious; I extended to him my protection, unknown perhaps to himself. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and address the people, and to choose disciples, unrestrained by any praetorian mandate. * * *
“This unlimited freedom granted to Jesus provoked the Jews–not the poor, but the rich and powerful. It is true, Jesus was severe on the latter, and this was a political reason, in my opinion, for not restraining the liberty of the Nazarene. `Scribes and Pharisees,’ he would say to them, `you are a race of vipers; you resemble painted sepulchres; you appear well unto men, but you have death within you.’ At other times he would sneer at the alms of the rich and proud, telling them that the mite of the poor was more precious in the sight of God. Complaints were daily made at the praetorium against the insolence of Jesus.
“I was even informed that some misfortune would befall him; that it would not be the first time that Jerusalem had stoned those who called themselves prophets; an appeal would be made to Caesar. However, my conduct was approved by the Senate, and I was promised a reinforcement after the termination of the Parthian war.
” * * * Previously to this, Herod called on me at the praetorium, and, on rising to take leave, after some trifling  conversation, asked me what was my opinion concerning the Nazarene. I replied that Jesus appeared to me to be one of those great philosophers that great nations sometimes produced; that his doctrines were by no means sacrilegious, and that the intentions of Rome were to leave him to that freedom of speech which was justified by his actions. Herod smiled maliciously, and, saluting me with ironical respect, departed.
“The great feast of the Jews was approaching, and the intention was to avail themselves of the popular exultation which always manifests itself at the solemnities of a passover. The city was overflowing with a tumultuous populace, clamoring for the death of the Nazarene. My emissaries informed me that the treasure of the temple had been employed in bribing the people. The danger was pressing. A Roman centurion had been insulted. I wrote to the prefect of Syria for a hundred foot-soldiers and as many cavalry. He declined. * * *
“Three powerful parties had combined together at that time against Jesus: First, the Herodians and the Sadducees, whose seditious conduct seemed to have proceeded from double motives: they hated the Nazarene and were impatient of the Roman yoke. They never forgave me for having entered the holy city with banners that bore the image of the Roman emperor; and although in this instance I had committed a fatal error, yet the sacrilege did not appear less heinous in their eyes. Another grievance also rankled in their bosoms. I had proposed to employ a part of the treasure of the temple in erecting edifices for public use. My proposal was scorned. The Pharisees were the avowed enemies of Jesus. They cared not for the government. They bore with bitterness the severe reprimands which the Nazarene for three years had been continually giving them wherever he went. Timid and too weak to act by themselves, they had embraced the quarrels of the Herodians and the Sadducees. Besides these three parties, I had to contend against the reckless and profligate populace,  always ready to join a sedition, and to profit by the disorder and confusion that resulted therefrom. * * *
“Jesus was dragged before the High Priest and condemned to death. It was then that the High Priest, Caiaphas, performed a divisory act of submission. He sent his prisoner to me to confirm his condemnation and secure his execution. I answered him that, as Jesus was a Galilean, the affair came under Herod’s jurisdiction, and ordered him to be sent thither. The wily tetrarch professed humility, and, protesting his deference to the lieutenant of Caesar, he committed the fate of the man to my hands. Soon my palace assumed the aspect of a besieged citadel. Every moment increased the number of the malcontents. Jerusalem was inundated with crowds from the mountains of Nazareth. All Judea appeared to be pouring into the city. * * *
“By this time the marble stair groaned under the weight of the multitude. The Nazarene was brought back to me. I proceeded to the halls of justice, followed by my guard, and asked the people in a severe tone what they demanded.
“`The death of the Nazarene,’ was the reply.
“`For what crime?’
“`He has blasphemed; he has prophesied the ruin of the temple; he calls himself the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of the Jews.’ * * *
“`Roman justice,’ said I, `punishes not such offenses with death.’
“`Crucify him! Crucify him!’ cried the relentless rabble. The vociferations of the infuriated mob shook the palace to its foundations.
“There was but one who appeared to be calm in the midst of the vast multitude; it was the Nazarene. After many fruitless attempts to protect him from the fury of his merciless persecutors, I adopted a measure which at the moment appeared to me to be the only one that could save his life. I proposed, as it was their custom to deliver a prisoner on such  occasions, to release Jesus and let him go free, that he might be the scapegoat, as they called it; but they said Jesus must be crucified. I then spoke to them of the inconsistency of their course as being incompatible with their laws, showing that no criminal judge could pass sentence on a criminal unless he had fasted one whole day; and that the sentence must have the consent of the Sanhedrim, and the signature of the president of that court; that no criminal could be executed on the same day his sentence was fixed, and the next day, on the day of his execution, the Sanhedrim was required to review the whole proceeding; also, according to their law, a man was stationed at the door of the court with a flag, and another a short way off on horseback to cry the name of the criminal and his crime, and the names of his witnesses, and to know if anyone could testify in his favor; and the prisoner on his way to execution had the right to turn back three times, and to plead any new thing in his favor. I urged all these pleas, hoping they might awe them into subjection; but they still cried, `Crucify him! Crucify him!’
“I then ordered Jesus to be scourged, hoping this might satisfy them; but it only increased their fury. I then called for a basin, and washed my hands in the presence of the clamorous multitude, thus testifying that in my judgment Jesus of Nazareth had done nothing deserving of death; but in vain. It was his life these wretches thirsted for.
“Often in our civil commotions have I witnessed the furious anger of the multitude, but nothing could be compared to what I witnessed on this occasion. It might have been truly said that all the phantoms of the infernal regions had assembled at Jerusalem. The crowd appeared not to walk, but to be borne off and whirled as a vortex, rolling along in living waves from the portals of the praetorium even unto Mount Zion, with howling screams, shrieks, and vociferations such as were never heard in the seditions of the Pannonia, or in the tumults of the forum.
 ” * * * My guards had joined the cavalry, and the centurion, with a display of power, was endeavoring to keep order. I was left alone, and my breaking heart admonished me that what was passing at that moment appertained rather to the history of the gods than that of men. A loud clamor was heard proceeding from Golgotha, which, borne on the winds, seemed to announce an agony such as was never heard by mortal ears. Dark clouds lowered over the pinnacle of the temple, and setting over the city covered it as with a veil. So dreadful were the signs that men saw both in the heavens and on the earth that Dionysius the Aeropagite is reported to have exclaimed, `Either the author of nature is suffering or the universe is falling apart.’
“Whilst these appalling scenes of nature were transpiring, there was a dreadful earthquake in lower Egypt, which filled everybody with fear, and scared the superstitious Jews almost to death. It is said, Balthasar, an aged and learned Jew of Antioch, was found dead after the excitement was over. Whether he died from alarm or grief is not known. He was a strong friend of the Nazarene. * * *
“Near the first hour of the night I threw my mantle around me, and went down into the city toward the gates of Golgotha. The sacrifice was consummated. The crowd was returning home, still agitated, it is true, but gloomy, taciturn, and desperate. What they had witnessed had stricken them with terror and remorse. I also saw my little Roman cohort pass by mournfully, the standard-bearer having veiled his eagle in token of grief; and I overheard some of the Jewish soldiers murmuring strange words which I did not understand. Others were recounting miracles very like those which have so often smitten the Romans by the will of the gods. Sometimes groups of men and women would halt, then, looking back toward Mount Calvary, would remain motionless in expectation of witnessing some new prodigy.
 “I returned to the praetorium, sad and pensive. On ascending the stairs, the steps of which were still stained with the blood of the Nazarene, I perceived an old man in a suppliant posture, and behind him several Romans in tears. ***
“Now, noble Sovereign, this is as near the facts in the case as I can arrive at, and I have taken pains to make the statement very full, so that you may judge of my conduct upon the whole, as I hear that Antipater has said many hard things of me in this matter. With the promise of faithfulness and good wishes to my noble Sovereign,
“I am your most obedient servant,
(The Archko Volume, Rev. W. D. Mahan, pp. 128-147)
In concluding the chapter, let’s review some of the salient points brought out in this report:
- The High Priest who came to Pilate was deceitful.
- Pilate would warn the Romans to beware of the High Priests.
- “They would betray their own mother to gain office and a luxurious living.”
- Jesus spoke as a friend of the Romans rather than of the Jews.
- To arrest Jesus, Pilate said, would have been contrary to the justice which has always characterized the Roman government.
- Jesus was not rebellious or seditious.
- He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and address the people.
- He was at liberty to choose disciples, unrestrained by any praetorian mandate.
- This freedom provoked the rich and powerful Jews.
- Pilate told Herod that he considered Jesus more of a philosopher and that His doctrines were not sacrilegious.
- Temple money had been used to bribe people against Jesus.
- Three powerful parties combined against Jesus: Sadducees, Herodians, and Pharisees.
- Pharisees were avowed enemies of Jesus.
- Pilate reminded the Jews that they were breaking their own laws.
- He pled with them, but they still cried, “Crucify him!”
- He had witnessed furious anger of multitudes, but nothing compared to what he witnessed on this occasion.
- It could have been said that all the phantoms of the infernal regions had assembled at Jerusalem.
Such is the Roman version of what took place and who instigated the crucifixion of Christ.
 Chapter 6
CAIAPHAS’ REPORT TO THE SANHEDRIN
I am told that there was never seen such a concourse of people assembled at Jerusalem as at the cross. (Caiaphas, The Archko Volume, p. 105)
Now, from the other side of the fence, comes the Jewish point of view of what occurred. This information is taken from an ancient record of recent discovery. It is a report by Caiaphas to the Sanhedrin concerning the execution of Jesus and was copied from manuscripts found in Constantinople, October 16, 1883. These were made by the exploratory work of Rev. W. D. Mahan and translated by two scholars, Dr. McIntosh and Dr. Twyman of the Antiquarian Lodge, Genoa, Italy. This manuscript was originally written at the Jerusalem Sanhedrin by Eliezer Hyran.
Since the report is quite extensive, only a major part of it is reprinted here, but it is sufficient to help us visualize more about that fateful day.
 Report of Caiaphas to the Sanhedrin
Concerning the Execution of Jesus
(Records of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, by Eliezer Hyran, B.
- Taken in Constantinople, October 16, 1883)
“Caiaphas, Priest of the Most High God, to the Masters of Israel, greeting: In obedience to your demands for a reason for my action in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, and in defense of my conduct, I beg leave to submit the following for your consideration: I would assure you that it was not on account of personal malice, envy, or hate, that existed in my own nature, nor for the want of a willingness upon my part to conform to the Jewish law in its strictest sense. I had but very little personal knowledge of the Nazarene. The most I knew of this man was from outside sources. Nor was it because he claimed to be King of the Jews, nor because he said he was the Son of God–I would that he were–nor because he prophesied or ignored the holy temple. No, nor all of these combined. There is a cause, and a more weighty matter, back of all these things that controlled my action in the matter. Therefore, I hope you will investigate strictly on legal principles the reasons that I may give.
” * * * He [God] said that once every year we should roast a kid or lamb, and eat it with unleavened bread, and this should be the sign that we would trust in Him in all times of danger. Now Jesus teaches that common bread and wine are to be used instead thereof–a thing unheard of. And not only so, something that is altogether repugnant to God, and something that fosters drunkenness, and is well qualified to excite men’s passions. And oh, ye Masters of Israel, but think once. Jesus calls himself the Son of God; claims to have been born of almah (the Hebrew word for virgin); that he and his Father are one–they are equal. These things will establish the following conclusions: If he is right, his Father is false. If they were one, then their teachings would be one; and if his teachings are  true, God’s must be wrong, or there are not those perfections in Him that we learn in pronouncing His holy name. By tolerating the teachings of Jesus, we say to the Romans that all of our former teachings are false; that the Hebrew’s God is not to be trusted; that He is weak, wanting in forethought; that He is vacillating and not to be trusted, much less to be honored and obeyed. Thus the world will lose confidence in our God, and confidence in us as a religious people. This is impregnating the whole atmosphere with moral pollution. It does not only cut off, but blocks the way of all Jews from heaven; and not only this, it excludes our hope in the salvation of our forefathers, who have obeyed God in His ordinances, believed in His promises, and shouted in the triumphs of a holy life for fourteen hundred years.
“He entirely ignores God’s holy temple–the house God had built by our forefathers under His own supervision, where He promised to dwell with His children, to hear their prayers, and to be pleased with their sacrifices. This temple is the bond of the Jews. Here all men can come and be blessed. It is the earthly home of the souls of men–the place where men may hide from the storms of sin and persecution. This temple is where the foolish may learn wisdom, the place where the naked soul can be clothed, and where the hungry may be fed. This is the grandest gift of our Father. Jesus completely ignores this temple; says the priests have made it a den of thieves; and sets up a sneer, and even scoffs at its sacred ordinances, and with a sort of selfish triumph says it shall be destroyed; and from his manner of saying it, I have no doubt he would be glad to see it quickly done. But what would be the condition of our people if this temple was removed? What would be the use of the priesthood if the temple was destroyed? Where would we find an answer by Urim and Thummim? How would the soul of man be purified, if the holy Bathkole, the Euroch of God, should depart? There in that sacred temple of God he has been burning to the consuming of sin and the purifying of the heart  since our return from bondage in Babylon. My argument is, if this temple is destroyed, or even forsaken by the Jews, we as a nation are utterly ruined. We might as well put our necks under the feet of idolatry and give up all hope.
“* * * Now, having all these commands and teachings from the very lips of God himself before my eyes, and being held responsible for the soundness of our doctrine and the proper inculcation of the same among the people of the Jews, what was I to do? Could I stand as the priest of the Most High God, and see your blessed religion perverted by an impostor? Could I stand and see the holy temple of our God deserted and forsaken? Could I stand and see all the holy ordinances, which had been appointed by our God for securing salvation to Israel, perverted by an impostor? * * *
“. . . who could give no authority only the one who sent him to baptize, and he could not tell who he was, nor whence he came? Hence you see the responsible position that I as the high priest of God and of the Jewish Church occupied. According to our laws I was made responsible, and stood between my God and my people, to protect them in doctrine and government. I refer you to the capitulation made by the Sanhedrim and Agustus Caesar, in the holy Tosephta of the Talmuds. We submitted to taxation by the Romans, and the Romans are to protect our holy religion from foreign foes, in order that the holy temple or any of its sacred ordinances should never be molested, nor the holy city, Jerusalem, be polluted by Roman idolatry. Now the insinuating plan adopted by Jesus was well qualified to deceive the common people. It had already led many to forsake the temple, and hold her ordinances in derision, as well as to neglect the teachings of the priest or to pay the tithes for their supplies. He had already inculcated into the Jewish mind his pernicious ways of being saved to that extent that the Jewish cause was almost lost. There are two reasons for this: First, the people to whom he preached were an ignorant set, and knew but very little about  doctrine of any kind. They are a restless sort of men, who are always finding fault and wanting something new, and never associate with the more enlightened part of the community in order to learn.
“Another reason of his having many followers is, his doctrines are congenial to unsanctified flesh. They are so suited to human nature that they require no sacrifices; they need not go to the temple to worship God; they need not fast, and they can when and where they please; they need pay no tithes to keep up the temple or the priesthood, but every man can be his own priest and worship God as he chooses. All this is so compatible with human nature that, although he has not been preaching over three years, he has more followers today than Abraham has, and they have become perfectly hostile towards the Jews that are faithful to their God; and, if it had not been for the Roman soldiers on the day of his execution, we would have had one of the bloodiest insurrections ever known to the Jewish commonwealth.
“I am told that there was never seen such a concourse of people assembled at Jerusalem as at the cross. One of my guards informs me that there were several hundred thousand, and, although there were two others crucified at the same time, Jesus was the great centre of attraction. They would call out, `Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? What is his crime?’ Some of his friends would cry out, `Nothing; he is being executed because he was a friend to the poor.’ `Take him down! Take him down,’ they would cry out, and the soldiers would have to use their spears to keep them back. But when he yielded up the ghost, he proved to all that he was hypostatical (that is, a human body), and the lodi curios had come from the iclandic covenant, and his trinitatis unitas was all a sham, for how could this unpronounced name suffer to be captured by men, or die, unless he is the one that is to die for the many? And if so, I was only accomplishing God’s holy purposes, which exonerates me from guilt.
 “But it seems to me a necessity that he should be removed. That this may be evident to your minds, I ask you to contrast our present condition with the past. Jesus of Nazareth spent two years in Egypt under the instruction of Rabbi Joshua, and learned the art of thaumaturgy to perfection, as has never been taught in any of the schools of necromancy among the heathen. If the healing miracles of Jesus are true, as they must be (for they are so acknowledged by his foes as well as his friends), he must have learned it from Horus and Serapis, as practiced by those heathen priests. He came back to Palestine as a physician, and was by nature an enthusiast as well as a Hebrew patriarch, and when John’s preaching excited idealistic minds, Jesus also went to that teacher, and was inspired by him to inculcate and promulgate his doctrines. Notwithstanding his youth and inexperience, Jesus started out as a public orator and teacher with the doctrines of John, and in that capacity referred exclusively to his authority, as every public teacher in these days has to be ordained by some acknowledged authority. As long as John was at large, Jesus in the capacity of an itinerant teacher and physician roused the people of Galilee to metanoia (repentance of sin), to bring about a restoration of the kingdom of heaven. He met with the same opposition that John did from those who would not admit that they were more sinful than their progenitors were, or that asceticism was the proper means for the restoration of the kingdom of heaven. * * * The cures which he performed appeared miraculous to his followers, but most ridiculous to the intelligent Jews and the men of sober and reflective minds.
“Jesus embraced the humanitarian doctrine of the Hillelites, presenting conspicuously the cosmopolitan spirit of Judaism, and he did it almost in the words of Hillel, who had taught it before. Their faith and doctrine being alike, it was not hard for him to create excitement, or to find plenty of followers. In addition to all this, he taught a system of low morals, and so void of all ritualistic ideas that it was easy for  him to get any number of followers. He taught the people that there was but one living and true God, but he taught them that he was that God, and that his father was merged into himself, and could not manifest himself only through him, which theory would confute itself if they would only stop to reflect, for as he was hypostatical or corporeal, his assistance was cut off from all that was not immediately in his presence, which is altogether incompatible with the faith of the Jews. Right in the face of this doctrine, he would teach that there was a special providence, as well as a general providence, as if there could be a general providence without a God that could be present in all places at all times, as we learn in pronouncing His name.
“He taught that the dead will rise and live again in a future state of happiness or misery according as they have lived here. Therefore he taught future rewards and punishments; but he being present, how could he reward in the future? He taught the revelation and the prophets, but contradicted all they teach. He taught the election of Israel by the Almighty, but ignored all the doctrines of Israel. He taught the eternity of God’s laws, and promises in the super-importance of the humanitarian over the ritual laws and doctrines, but I do not think he wished to abolish the latter, or even the traditional laws, but merely to supersede them by a higher life. The natural result of all this was that he disregarded the laws of Levitical cleanness, which were considered so important by the Shammaites and Essenes, and also by the Hillelites. This is the point where division commenced, and the breach grew wider and wider until an insurrection must have been the result.
“He so far cut himself loose from the Jews that he ate with unclean sinners, publicans, and lepers, and permitted harlots to touch him, while his disciples went so far as to eat their meals without washing themselves. Furthermore, he looked upon the whole of the Levitical institutions, temples, sacrifices, and priesthood included, as no longer necessary and not worth the life of the animal. This was certainly the opinion  of the Hillelites. Jesus, it seems, found in this Hillelite school a party furnished to hand, ready to take up with his heresy (and a large party they are, almost sufficient to divide the whole Jewish commonwealth). They taught the repentance of sin, the practice of benevolence and charity, the education of the young, and good-will toward mankind, as possessing much more moral worth than all the Levitical cleanness, or compliance with the whole moral law given to us by our God to govern us. His preaching was of the parabolical style. He would rely on a text of scripture, for he seemed to hold the scriptures in high veneration, so his preaching was on the midrash style of the scribes–a maxim expressed in the style of Solon or of Sirach’s son. His great object was to come as near the Jewish theology as possible so as to destroy the Jews’ entirely, and establish his own. Hence he resorted to the allegorical method of the Egyptian Hebrews, uttering many good and wise sayings, which were not new to the learned, but which were taken from the common wisdom of the country, which was known by all who were acquainted with the literature of the rabbis. But they were new to his class of hearers, who were not accustomed to listen to the wise.
“He had no education, comparatively speaking. He was full of nervous excitement, all of which went to inspire his hearers with enthusiasm. He took but little care of his health or person; cared not for his own relatives. He traveled mostly on foot in the company of his disciples and some suspicious women, and lived on the charity of his friends. He seemed to take no notice of the political affairs of his country; would as soon be governed by one nation as another. In fact, it seemed if he had any preference it was for the Romans. It seems that he became so infatuated that he really thought he was the head of the kingdom of heaven.
“This manner of preaching, along with his presumption, aroused his enemies to a powerful pitch, and it was all I could do to keep the zealots from mobbing him in the temple. They  had no confidence in a doctrine that set the Jewish laws at naught, and mocked the priesthood of God. * * *
“This policy was most powerfully attacked by the officiating priest, by the Shammaites and Zealots, and, in fact, the whole Jewish nation was becoming aroused to a war heat. The reprimands of Jesus were so severe against the rich and highly educated that they had turned against him, and brought all the power they had, both of their wealth and talent, so that I saw that a bloody insurrection was brewing fast. The public mind of the Jews was becoming more and more divided and corrupt; heretical doctrines were being diffused all over the land; the temple was forsaken and the holy sacraments neglected; the people were dividing into sects, and these breaches were like a rent in a garment–tearing wider apart continually. As it seemed to me, the whole of the Jewish theocracy was about to be blown away as a bubble on a breaker. * * *
“Now, the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth had brought all these things upon us. When Herod Antipas captured John, it quieted matters in Galilee, so that they had peace until Jesus started it up afresh. I had issued orders to Jesus to desist from preaching, unless he taught as the Jews taught. He sent me the impertinent word that his doctrine was not of this world, but had reference to the world to come; when he was all the time doing all he could to destroy the peace and harmony of this world.
“Now, according to our law in the Saphra, by Jose B. Talmud, it devolves on me to see that the people have sound doctrine taught them. Hence it is my duty to examine all the midrashim, or sermons, of all the preaching priests, and if anyone teach the people wrongly, or if his conduct is not in correspondence with his profession, to cause him to desist; or if any disregard the holy laws of ablution, or in any way defile himself, or if he shall be guilty of misconduct in any way, either in manner of life or doctrine, to adjudge such an one, and  pronounce sentence for his crime upon him. This I did upon Jesus of Nazareth, to save the church from heresy, and to save the cause of the Jewish commonwealth from final ruin. But understand that I did not act rashly nor illegally, as I am accused. I only passed sentence under the protest and order of the whole court belonging to the high priest, containing twelve members, or elders, and priests. Thus you will see it was not my voluntary act, but was a legal one and in accordance with law.
“After I examined Jesus on the various charges, he said in the presence of all the court that each and all of them were true. I then reasoned with him, and asked him, if the court of the high priest would forgive him of these charges, would he desist from these things in all time to come. He answered most emphatically and positively he would not. Under these circumstances I was compelled, according to our law, to sentence him to die; for if he continued to promulgate his pernicious heresies, the Jews, as a nation, must perish with their religion. And, as you find in the Toseppta, that the nation has always the right of self-preservation, and as we had conceded the right to the Romans of executing our criminal laws, it became my painful duty to send him to Pontius Pilate, with the following charges:
“He has abrogated the ordinance given by God to Moses of the pascal supper, wherein we should roast a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread; but Jesus has introduced a custom altogether different–without any authority. He has introduced common bread and wine, which are not only forbidden, but are well qualified to excite men’s passions and make them forget God rather than to remember and trust Him, this feast having been introduced that we should remember to trust Him in the hours of trouble. When asked why he did this, all he would say was: `Hitherto I work, and my Father works.’
“He has abrogated the priesthood, and set the temple at naught, which is the very life’s blood of the Jewish faith. Were  it not that God our Father has given us these holy ordinances, we would not be so tenacious of them. We know they are the pillars upon which the Jewish theocracy is built, and that we cannot live without them. Although Jesus of Nazareth has been abjured time and again to stop teaching these ways of death, he has as often declared he would not; therefore it devolves on me as the proper and the only officer to pronounce sentence upon him.
“These charges were written by my scribe, and sent with the officers to Pilate for his consent. Of course, I did not expect him to execute him as he did, but it seems that the mob was so great that Pilate never received them. I expected Pilate to send Jesus back to me, so that I could send him to you for your approval; and if so, then I would proceed to try him with Urim and Thummin, with the regular lacktees on guard, as our law requires; but it seems that Pilate thirsted for his blood. Like all guilty tyrants, he was afraid of his own shadow, and wished to destroy everything that threatened his power.
“With these reasons for my actions, I submit the case which I am sure will be considered favorably by my Masters of Israel.” (Archko Volume, pp. 97-116.
From the above report, we can glean the following important statements:
- Caiaphas’ complaints centered on the disrespect Jesus had for those who were running the temple.
- Jesus had said the priests have made the temple a den of thieves.
- Jesus prophesied of the destruction of the temple.
- Caiaphas was afraid the Jewish nation would be ruined.
- Jesus had given John the Baptist recognition of authority.
- Caiaphas was concerned about collecting enough tithing.
- The people that accepted Jesus were from among the poorer classes.
- Again Caiaphas mentions tithing.
- Jesus met with the same kind of opposition that John did.
- Jesus taught higher laws than the traditional ones.
- He seemed to take no particular notice of the political affairs of the government.
- He seemed to have a preference for the Roman government over the Jewish.
- The reprimands of Jesus were so severe against the rich and highly educated that they had turned against him.
- The public mind was becoming more and more divided.
- Caiaphas passed sentence under the protest and order of the whole court belonging to the high priest, containing twelve members, or elders, and priests.
It is strange that Caiaphas did not accuse Jesus of breaking the laws of the land, fighting the Roman government, or opposing the Roman rulers. The charges he made against Jesus were the breaking or ignoring of Jewish religious rules.
 Chapter 7
THE TESTIMONY OF FOUR WITNESSES:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. (John 3:11)
Although, out of these four men, only John was an actual witness of Christ’s crucifixion, Matthew, Mark, and Luke were witnesses of the actions of those who accused Him and were responsible for His death–either before or after the event.
The series of appearances and trials for Jesus were peculiarly confusing because of the twisting and turning of events between Jewish and Roman leaders. To help clarify the sequence, let’s first read a synopsis of events from Henry Halley’s Bible Handbook:
The Trial of Jesus
“Told in Matt. 26:57 – 27:31; Mark 14:53 – 15:20; Luke 22:54 – 23:25; John 18:12 – 19:16. There were two trials: before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate the Roman governor. Judea was subject to Rome. The Sanhedrin could not execute a death sentence without the Roman governor’s consent. There were three stages in each trial, six in all.
 “1. Before Annas (John 18:12-24). About midnight. Caiaphas was high priest; but his father-in-law, Annas, who had been deposed 16 AD, still retained the influence of the office. The family had grown immensely wealthy through the trading booths in the Temple. On the High Priest of the Hebrew nation rests primary responsibility for the death of Jesus.
“2. Before the Sanhedrin, in the house of Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57; Mark 14:53; Luke 22:54; John 18:24). Between midnight and daybreak. This was the main Jewish trial. They condemned him on the charge of blasphemy, from his own acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. (Mark 14:61-62) Then, while waiting for daylight, they mocked him. This was when Peter denied him. This session, being in the night, was, by their own law, illegal.
“3. At daylight, the Sanhedrin officially ratified its midnight decision (Matt. 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71), to give it the appearance of legality. The charge was “blasphemy.” But with Pilate that would have little weight. So, for him, they concocted the charge of sedition against the Roman government. Their real reason was their envy of Jesus’ popularity (Matt. 27:18).
“4. Before Pilate (Matt. 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38), shortly after daylight. Jesus made no reply to their accusations. Then Pilate took him within the palace, for a private interview, which further satisfied him of Jesus’ innocence. Learning that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent him to Herod, who had jurisdiction over Galilee (Matt. 27:11-25).
“5. Before Herod (Luke 23:6-12). This was the Herod who had killed John the Baptist, and whose father had murdered the children of Bethlehem. Jesus refused to answer  any of his questions. Herod mocked Jesus, and sent him back to Pilate.
“6. Before Pilate again (Matt. 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39 – 19:16). Pilate attempted to go over the head of the rulers to the people. But the packed court chose Barabbas. Then Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged, hoping that would satisfy the multitude. His wife sends word of her dream. Pilate is amazed at the calm majesty of Jesus under the crown of thorns. But there are rumblings of a rising riot, and threats to report to Caesar, and Pilate gives sentence.” (Bible Handbook Henry Halley, p. 440)
In a court of law, both then and now, among requirements for judgments against a criminal is to provide witnesses and to hear their testimonies. Let us now consider the testimony of four witnesses who personally knew Jesus and who testified to what they saw and heard–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:
Matthew was a Jew and his original name was Levi; the name Matthew was probably adopted as his new apostolic name. His home was at Capernaum. His business was the collection of dues and customs from persons for goods crossing the Sea of Galilee or passing along the great Damascus Road which ran along the shore between Bethsaida, Julis and Capernaum. He appears to be a man of wealth. Christ called him from his work to be His disciple. He became the author of the Gospel of Matthew, which was written at least 20 years later. There is a legend that he died a martyr in Ethiopia. (Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, pp. 387-88)
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the  same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. (Matt. 21:42-46)
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. (Matt. 26:1-5)
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,
And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of  man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matt. 26:59-68)
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. (Matt. 27:1-6)
Mark was one of the evangelists and the probable author of the Gospel bearing his name. His Jewish name was John (See Acts 12:12.), and he was a cousin of Barnabas of Cyprus, the great friend of St. Paul. Mark had an intimate acquaintance with the Apostle Peter, for St. Peter calls him (Marcus) his son. (See 1 Pet. 5:13.) We first hear of Mark when he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their return from Jerusalem to Antioch, 45 AD. “We find him at Paul’s side during that apostle’s first imprisonment at Rome, 61-63 AD. Ecclesiastical  tradition affirms that St. Mark visited Egypt, founded the church of Alexandria, and died by martyrdom.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 380)
After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. (Mark 14:1-2)
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him. * * *
And immediately, while he [Jesus] yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.
And as soon as he was come, he goeth straight-way to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. (Mark 14: 10-11, 43-46)
And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, 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. But neither so did their witness agree together.
 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands. (Mark 14:53-65)
And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. and Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.
* * * But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.
And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him.
Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. (Mark 15:1-3, 9-15)
Again quoting from Smith’s Bible Dictionary, we find that Luke–
— was born at Antioch in Syria, and was taught the science of medicine. The well known tradition that Luke was also a painter, and of no mean skill, rests on the authority of late writers. He was not a Jew. He joined St. Paul at Troas, and shared his journey into Macedonia. With the Apostle he passed through Miletus, Tyre and Caesarea to Jerusalem. He probably died a martyr, between 75 AD and 100 AD He wrote the Gospel that bears his name, and also the book of Acts. (p. 366)
So pertaining to the accountability for Christ’s crucifixion, we read from the Gospel of Luke:
Woe unto you! [talking to the scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers] for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. (Luke 11:47-51)
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered  and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. (Luke 22:48-54)
And, [after the crucifixion] behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three-score furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. (Luke 24:13-20)
John was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee, and of Salome, and brother of James, also an apostle. Peter and James and John come with the innermost circle of their Lord’s friends, but to John belongs the distinction of being the disciple whom Jesus loved. The three are with our Lord when none else are,  in the chamber of death, in the glory of the transfiguration when he forewarns them of the destruction of the holy city, in the agony of Gethsemane. When the betrayal is accomplished, Peter and John follow afar off. The personal acquaintance which existed between John and Caiaphas enables him to gain access to the council chamber, and he follows Jesus thence, even to the praetorium of the Roman procurator. Thence he follows to the place of crucifixion. Later, on the Sea of Galilee, John is the first to recognize in the dim form seen in the morning twilight the presence of his risen Lord; Peter the first to plunge into the water and swim toward the shore where he stood calling to them. The last words of John’s Gospel reveal to us the deep affection which united the two friends. Tradition goes on to relate that in the persecution under Domitian, he [John] is taken to Rome, and there, by his boldness, though not by death, gains the crown of martyrdom. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 315)
John’s account of the crucifixion, and events leading up to it, is perhaps the most complete of the four gospels:
Afterward Jesus findeth him [whom he had healed on the Sabbath] in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (John 5:14-19)
 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. (John 6:66-71; 7:1)
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he [Jesus] also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. * * *
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? * * *
The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. * * *
So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? (John 7:10-13; 7:25-26; 7:32, 43-38)
I know that ye [“Jews which believed on him”] are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that  which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. * * *
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:37-49; 8:56-59)
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others  said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? * * *
I and my father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. * * *
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. (John 10:19-21, 30-33, 37-40)
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. * * *
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in  the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him. * * *
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. (John 11:43-48; 53-57; 12:9-11)
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. (John 16:2-4)
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. * * *
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. (John 18:3-5; 10-13)
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may  know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (John 19:4-6)
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. (John 19:14-16)
It is interesting to note that throughout the above passages from the four gospels, the following names have been repeated over and over as those being responsible for the death of Christ: chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, all the council, Pilate, captains of the temple, rulers and officers, and Jews (at least a segment of the Jews).
In summary, then, these four important testimonies include the following incriminating statements:
- It was a segment of the Jews who persecuted Jesus and sought to slay Him.
- Judas betrayed Jesus to the Jews, not to the Romans.
- People at that time hesitated to speak favorably of Jesus for fear of the Jews.
- It was the Pharisees and the chief priests who sent officers to capture Him.
- The Jews took up stones to kill Him.
- The chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees all tried to devise secret plans “to put Him to death.”
- Jesus told His followers that they, too, would be killed by the Jews.
- The chief priests cried from the streets to “crucify Him.”
- Pilate found no fault in Jesus, but still delivered Him to the chief priests to be crucified.
- The chief priests and Pharisees were afraid they would lose their “place and nation” if they didn’t kill Jesus.
 Chapter 8
TWO ADDITIONAL WITNESSES:
Stephen and Paul
Witness: as the most direct mode of acquiring knowledge of an event is by seeing it, “witness” has acquired the sense of a person who is present at and observes a transaction. (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 1231)
Neither did Stephen and Paul actually witness Christ’s crucifixion, but they did personally witness the hatred and bitterness of some of those who were responsible for it. Their testimony should be recognized because of both their position and their integrity.
Stephen was one of seven men selected to assist the Twelve Apostles. They were determined to be “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” (Acts 6:3) And “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (6:8)
Stephen became involved in a dispute between members of the Greek “Hellenists” and the “Hebrews” of the Palestinian Jewish Christians. He proposed that the Jews should consider the teachings and ordinances of Christ more important than many of the existing temple rituals, and said that the Mosaic law was being fulfilled. But the higher principles and practices of Christ created more opposition than agreement.
 Some of these foreign-born Jews, brought up in centers of Greek culture, felt themselves to be superior to the Jews of the homeland. But they met their match in Stephen. Unable to withstand him in argument, they hired false witnesses, and brought him before the council.
He was before the same council that had crucified Jesus, and that had just recently attempted to stop the Apostles speaking in the name of Jesus. Stephen’s address before the council was mainly a recital of Old Testament history, climaxing in the stinging rebuke for their murder of Jesus. As he spoke, his face shone as the face of an angel. (See Acts 6:15.) They rushed upon him like wild beasts. As the stones began to fly, he looked steadfastly up into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, as if Heaven were reaching its hand across the border to welcome him home. (Bible Handbook, Halley, p. 520)
This was a terrible time of persecution against the Christians. The leader of this adversity was a man named Saul, who stood by holding the coat of Stephen as they stoned him to death. This was an act which Saul later referred to as “a thorn in his side,” and he remembered it with sadness the rest of his life. Stephen himself had a very short mission in life, cut off early by martyrdom; but strangely enough, it turned out to be the spearhead for the work of Saul–or Paul the Apostle.
Our first acquaintance with Paul (Saul) was during his persecution of the Christians, in which activity he was very dedicated and valiant. He was trying to blot out the name of Jesus when he was “smitten” on the road to Damascus, where he was going to get the names of some more Christians. After this experience he became as faithful to Christianity as he had been against it. However, at first he had a difficult time converting people to Christianity as they didn’t want to believe  him, and neither did the Christians. They thought he was just trying to get inside to get more names.
Paul was an active missionary from 32 AD to 67 AD. Imagine doing missionary work for 35 years! His labors accomplished more than all the other Apostles combined, but he paid a terrible price. He was persecuted, beaten, mobbed, stoned, chased out of cities, imprisoned, and finally beheaded in Rome. Whatever they thought of him, he was dedicated to a future vision of Christianity–something beyond tradition and custom. He was the one man who, more than any other, established Christianity in the main centers of the known world.
He [Paul] must have had a constitution like iron. Not long afterward, the executioner’s ax released Paul’s soul from his worn and broken body to be borne away by flights of angels to the bosom of his beloved Lord. We imagine his welcome home to heaven surpassed any triumphal procession he had ever witnessed in Rome to returning conquerors. Our guess is that when he got to heaven, his very first act, after a rendezvous with the Lord, was to hunt up Stephen to beg his forgiveness. (Bible Handbook, Halley, p. 535 or 587)
The following passages from the Acts of the Apostles provide further evidence against those responsible for the crucifixion of Christ:
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses,  and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law. (Acts 6:9-13)
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…. (Acts 7:51-58)
Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is [the] very Christ.
And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:19-25)
 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: . . . (Acts 10:39)
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. * * *
But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. (Acts 13:38-45, 50)
And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together [Paul and Barnabas] into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. (Acts 14:1-2)
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that  Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. (Acts 18:4-6)
Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. (Acts 21:26-31)
Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. * * *
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you tomorrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. (Acts 22:29-30; 23:1-5, 10-15)
Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.
 So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me. And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen three-score and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night. * * * This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. (Acts 23:19-23, 27)
And when he [Festus] had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well know. (Acts 25:6-10)
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I [Paul] was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. (Acts 26:19-21)
And Paul told the Thessalonians–
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus:  for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men. (I Thes. 2:14-15)
Thus, in these passages the Jews received most of the blame for the death of Christ, as the following summary will make very clear:
- It was those in the Jewish synagogue that disputed with Stephen and stirred up the scribes, the elders, and the people.
- They set up false witnesses.
- Their forefathers persecuted the prophets.
- Stephen said they were betrayers and murdered Jesus.
- They stoned Stephen, which was a Jewish custom, not Roman.
- Saul brought Christians to the chief priests (not to the Romans) and got permission from them to bring in more.
- The Jews took counsel to kill Paul.
- The Jews raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of the coasts.
- Paul shook his raiment against the Jews and said, “Your blood be upon your own heads.”
- Some of the Jews bound themselves under a curse not to eat until they had killed Paul.
- The Jews made false accusations against Paul.
- Paul told Agrippa that the Jews had caught him in the temple and had tried to kill him.
- Paul said the Jews “killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us.”
 Chapter 9
THE BOOK OF MORMON ALSO TESTIFIES
Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together, the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. (2 Nephi 29:8)
In addition to the New Testament, there are other available statements and records that contribute to the testimony of what happened leading up to the crucifixion of Christ. This chapter will deal with those from the Book of Mormon.
The Prophet Zenos
For thus spake the prophet [Zenos]: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.
 And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.
And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.
Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers. (1 Nephi 19:11-15)
Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.
And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind–and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.
And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there  should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews. (2 Nephi 25:15-18)
Yea, and ye need not any longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews, nor any of the remnant of the house of Israel; for behold, the Lord remembereth his covenant unto them, and he will do unto them according to that which he hath sworn. (3 Nephi 29:8)
Jacob (Nephi’s brother)
And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.
Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourge him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.
And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold, the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted. * * *
And behold, according to the words of the prophet, the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover them; wherefore, he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the destruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him; and none will he destroy that believe in him. And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence,  and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 6:8-10, 14-15)
Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ–for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name–should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him–for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations, they would repent, and know that he be their God.
But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.
Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations. (2 Nephi 10:3-6)
The 4th Nephi
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word. (4 Nephi 1:31)
Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment seat. (Mormon 7:5-6)
 The highlights of these quotes from the Book of Mormon are listed as:
- The Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus.
- Those at Jerusalem shall crucify the God of Israel.
- The Jews shall be hated and scattered by all nations, among all nations.
- There is none other nation [than the Jews] that would crucify their God.
- Because of their priestcrafts and iniquities, the Jews would crucify Jesus.
- For a second time the Lord will restore the Jews.
- There is only one Messiah who would be rejected by the Jews. 8.Jesus Christ was slain by the Jews.
Interestingly enough, the Romans were not even mentioned in these references.
 Chapter 10
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE COURTS AND THE CRUCIFIXION
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (John 19:5-6)
(picture of Jesus before Pilate)
 In our effort to further understand this issue, let us examine the story more closely.
After appearing before Annas and then Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Jesus was led to the judgment hall of Pontius Pilate. The governor sensed that Jesus was not a criminal when the Jews declared, “We found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar. . . .” The charge of blasphemy was the only crime worthy of death under the Jewish law; now the crime had to be contorted to another charge for death under the Roman law. Their charge against Jesus was now sedition, a political offense.
Pilate took Jesus inside the palace, and after questioning Him, Pilate returned to the Jews saying, “I find in him no fault at all.” Jesus was acquitted! The mob was furious and their mania had been foiled. With their thirst for blood unquenched and their plans frustrated, they now hurled their madness against Pilate saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: Whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar.” The Jews despised the Roman rule more than any other; now, however, they were befriending it in order to convict Jesus. Pilate became worried.
There was friction between Herod and Pilate; so to flatter Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time, Pilate directed them to take Jesus to him. This would rid himself of the responsibility of judgment on such frail evidence, and at the same time help to amend their personal enmities.
Herod’s father had been a murderer of men and women and the babies of Bethlehem. Now one of his sons (Herod) had the blood of John the Baptist upon his hands as a result of granting a request after a seductive dance.
 Herod was eager for an audience with Jesus, but was surprised when Jesus “opened not his mouth.” Actually Herod was out of order to pass judgment on either of the charges: Roman sedition or Jewish blasphemy. He stammered in confusion and reminded Jesus that his hands possessed the power to free or condemn Him. He commanded Jesus to bear witness by word or deed that He was Christ, the Son of God. His silence spoke eloquence. He was able to withstand the insults, derision, and abuse without retaliation. His self-control was testimonial when compared to the howls of the priests who were clamoring for His death. They saw in Him power and influence, to which they were unaccustomed–and for this they were envious. The silence of Jesus left Herod with the responsibility of judgment.
Jesus once called Herod an “Old Fox,” and it may well be that the “Old Fox” was wise enough not to become involved. He therefore sent Jesus and the throng back to Pilate.
To convey the charge of political sedition and to mock such assertions, they platted a crown of thorns upon the head of Jesus. Blood streamed down His face, and then in contempt they put upon Him a purple robe and marched Him back to Pilate.
Pilate was exasperated to see the mob returning. He called the chief priests and rulers together to make a final decision in the matter.
Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I having examined him before you, found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him; No, nor yet Herod; for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him and release him. (Luke 23:14-16)
 The mob was furious. All of their efforts and thirst for the blood of Christ was about to be abolished. Pilate began to fear their pressures; so to appease their wrath, he sought for a compromise. It was customary during the Passover season to release one of the prisoners. He offered them Barabbas, the murderer, or Christ. Surely, he thought, they would release Jesus; but instead they demanded the release of Barabbas. Pilate was amazed and then queried, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” They answered, “Let Him be crucified,” to which Pilate retorted, “Why, what evil hath he done?” They could not answer the question. All they could say was, “Let Him be crucified!” The howls of mobs have always been heard against the true prophets of God.
Pilate was perplexed and wavered with indecision. God gave him an answer by speaking to his wife. Claudia Procula had been warned of the impending disaster and wrote to her husband, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.”
Pilate called for a bowl of water and washed his hands before them saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see ye to it.” However, he then turned and spoke those fateful words: “Take ye and crucify him.” Rather than risk the loss of his political position, Pilate gave in to the desires of the mob. But those fears which he sought to appease became a reality, and later he still lost his office and title.
Many years previously, before Caesar was murdered, his wife Calpurnia had a dream and had warned Caesar of the fate that might befall him. Pilate was also reminded of this incident when his own wife, Claudia Procula, also had a dream of warning and sent it to him. God warned the gentile Romans, but He could not get through to the hard-hearted, cold-blooded Jews who wanted Jesus dead.
 It seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong: false witnesses, lack of evidence, judges failing to administer justice, and an angry mob having more influence on the final decision than the courts.
In the entire series of trials for Christ, the Chief Priests, the governor, and the Sanhedrin had little evidence to use against Him; so they “sought for false witness against Jesus to put Him to death.” In our own society today, among the worst criminals are those who buy off people who perjure themselves to get protection. In the case of Christ, the wicked paid for false testimony in order to condemn the innocent! But even so, their testimony was so false, contradictory, and unbelievable, even the prejudiced judges couldn’t accept their story.
In a tract called “Sanhedrin,” it states that Jesus had been excommunicated by Joshua Ben Perachiah. Naturally they would have cast him out of their synagogue first and then branded him with the title of “Apostate” to encourage others not to listen or associate with Him–otherwise, they too would be excommunicated. When asking questions of the parents of a boy who had been healed, they replied:
Ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:21-22)
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. (John 12:42)
Jesus had warned these believers before by saying, “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.” (Matt. 10:17) If  they threatened to excommunicate His followers for believing Jesus, they certainly would have done the same to Him.
They not only wanted to excommunicate Him, they wanted Him dead. When Jesus healed a man’s hand in the synagogue, “. . . the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” (Matt. 12:14)
Both the Jews and the Romans had their particular and cruel forms of execution. It was quite common for the Romans to use crucifixion, but we know little about Jewish forms of execution. However, The Archko Volume records their method of stoning:
When an accused person was brought before this court of the high priests, they held a preliminary trial, in order, if possible, to force a plea. If they could not, the accused was sentenced and then sent to the Roman authority, or governor, for his approval. The accused was then remanded to the high priest, and from him to the Sanhedrim, with the charges written out and the names of the witnesses by which they had been proved. If they approved the decision of the high priest, the prisoner was sent back to the high priest for his final trial. This court of twelve men was required by the Jewish law to fast and pray one whole day before the trial commenced; they were then required to bring the urim and thummim out of the holy place where they were kept, and to place them before the high priest. The high priest was closely veiled, so that no one could see him, thus representing God doing his work. Then there was what was called the lactees, consisting of two men, one of whom stood at the door of the court with a red flag in his hand, and the other sat on a white horse some distance on the road that led to the place of execution. Each of these men continually cried the name of the criminal, his crime, and who were the witnesses, and called upon any person who knew anything in his favor to come forward and testify. After the  testimony was taken, the eleven men cast lots or voted, and their decision was shown to the high priest. As he was too holy to act by himself, but only as the mouth-piece of God, he went up to a basin or a ewer, as it is called by them, and washed his hands in token of the innocence of the court, thus testifying that the criminal’s own action had brought condemnation on himself. As soon as the soldiers saw this, they took the man to the place of execution, and there stoned him till he was dead. Not one of them was allowed to speak, not even to whisper, while the execution was going on. Nothing was heard but the pelting of stones and the shrieks of the criminal. To my mind this would be a most awful mode of death, and one that would be likely to deter others from committing crime. (The Archko Volume, pp. 54-55)
This Jewish form of death by stoning was indeed cruel, but the Roman execution by crucifixion was the worst of all. It was described in detail by Farrar:
Then He was stripped of His clothes, and then followed the most awful moment of all. He was laid down upon the implement of torture. His arms were stretched along the cross-beams; and at the centre of the open palms, the point of a huge iron nail was placed, which, by the blow of a mallet, was driven home into the wood. Then through either foot separately, or possibly through both together as they were placed one over the other, another huge nail tore its way through the quivering flesh. Whether the sufferer was also bound to the cross we do not know; but, to prevent the hands and feet being torn away by the weight of the body, which could not “rest upon nothing but four great wounds,” there was, about the centre of the cross, a wooden projection strong enough to support, at least in part, a human body which soon became a weight of agony. * * * And then the accursed tree–with its living human burden hanging upon it in helpless agony, and suffering fresh tortures as every movement irritated the fresh  rents in hands and feet–was slowly heaved up by strong arms, and the end of it fixed firmly in a hole dug deep in the ground for that purpose. The feet were but a little raised above the earth. The victim was in full reach of every hand that might choose to strike, in close proximity to every gesture of insult and hatred. He might hang for hours to be abused, insulted, even tortured by the ever-moving multitude who, with that desire to see what is horrible which always characterizes the coarsest hearts, had thronged to gaze upon a sight which should rather have made them weep tears of blood.
And there, in tortures which grew ever more insupportable, ever more maddening as time flowed on, the unhappy victims might linger in pain so cruelly intolerable, that often they were driven to entreat and implore the spectators, or the executioners, for dear pity’s sake, to put an end to anguish too awful for man to bear–conscious to the last, and often, with tears of abject misery, beseeching from their enemies the priceless boon of death.
For indeed a death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly–dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds–all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries–especially of the head–became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself–of death, the awful unknown enemy , at whose approach  man usually shudders most–bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.
Such was the death to which Christ was doomed. (The Life of Christ, Farrar, pp. 695, 697-698)
As mortals we can never know the full intensity of the suffering Christ bore for us. “He is the Lord, and we are His servants; He is Master of the world, and we are contemptible mortals: yet he suffered!” wrote John Huss, the Reformer. We cannot comprehend what He suffered in both mortal and spiritual pain, unless we refuse to repent:
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit. . . .” (D & C 19:16-18)
Mortals may never completely understand the atonement of Jesus Christ. The price He paid on the cross involved mortals and immortals, heaven and earth. His crucifixion represents a doctrine upon which Christianity has its foundation. So shouldn’t we try to better understand this great and loving sacrifice for mankind?
At the foot of the cross stood many women who were crying for Him as they witnessed His suffering. He spoke to them: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” (Luke 23:28) But these words provided little comfort for them who had such deep and affectionate feelings for their Lord. Peter was so distraught he didn’t even know what he was saying. John was the only apostle to remain at the scene. Christ felt alone and cold as He suffered the worst of all possible tortures.
 And from another sphere, others were witnessing this terrible scene–all the hosts of heaven! They comprehended the significance of this event more completely than any mortals. They, too, wept–with perhaps an even greater sorrow.
And what about His Father in Heaven, who also was present and knew more than anyone else what His Son was going through. He must have suffered tremendous pain of His own as He witnessed the suffering of His most “beloved son” in whom He was well pleased. He had feelings, and He too could weep.
But the Father had to allow the crucifixion to take place, as He knew His Son must descend below all things so that He could rise above them all. He was experiencing a sacrifice of His own. Both the Father and the Son endured unspeakable heartbreak on the mount of Calvary.
Jesus suffered not only tremendous physical pain, but also experienced a spiritual suffering. Right at the last, God withdrew His Spirit from Him! In all the tribulations, trials and sorrows that Jesus suffered throughout His life, He was able to endure them because the Father was with Him. The Holy Spirit was His strength and comfort. But now, at this dreadful moment, it left Him! He experienced a spiritual pain that was even beyond the pain of the flesh. All the powers of the evil one descended upon Him as though to crush His spirit and make Him say or do something wrong. Satan gathered his legions from all the regions of hell for this major contest with Jesus. He wanted Him to make just one slip, commit one sin that would break His bond with heaven. This new and terrible terror was such a shock and surprise that Jesus did not understand it. Why had the Father deserted Him? Suddenly He felt totally deserted. The devil and his hosts combined to crush both His body and His spirit. It was so terrible that blood  oozed from every pore. It was so intense that He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Then in the midst of this dark and painful despair, the Father spoke to His Son, and said that now He would be able to understand the grief and agony that He had just saved all mankind from. By shedding His blood, He had become their salvation. Thus His offering was accepted, the sacrifice was finished, and His mission was complete. The Lamb of God had made the perfect atonement for all mankind. With His last breath, Christ whispered, “It is finished.”
But as He was dying upon that cross, his enemies were not dancing, nor singing, nor cheering. Rather they were experiencing a strange tension in the air. Maybe they sensed that some terrible thing was about to happen–and it did! Upon His death, all the combined powers of hell that had been concentrated upon the mortal body of Jesus, were released. The devil cast his intense rage all over the earth.
When he [Jesus] gave up the ghost, the solid rocks were riven, the foundations of the earth trembled, earthquakes shook the continents and rent the isles of the sea, a deep darkness overspread the sky, the mighty waters overflowed their accustomed bounds, huge mountains sank and valleys rose, the handiwork of feeble men was overthrown, their cities were engulfed or consumed by the vivid shafts of lightning, and all material things were convulsed with the throes of seeming dissolution. Thus was brought to pass that which was spoken by the prophet Zenos: “the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God to exclaim, The God of nature suffers.” (I Nephi 19:12) And it is recorded, that so confessed the Centurion, and they that were with him watching the body of Jesus. For when they witnessed the earthquake, and the other  things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.” * * *
Thus, such was the torturing pressure of this intense, this indescribable agony, that it burst forth abroad beyond the confines of His body, convulsed all nature and spread throughout all space. (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement, pp. 151-152)
Matthew also briefly told about this destruction:
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. (Matt. 27:50-51)
Mark also mentioned the earthquake, and Luke explained:
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. (Luke 23:44-45)
These events were recorded in many historical works, as mentioned by Jim Bishop:
The darkness, which was like looking through extra-strong sun glasses, seems to have pervaded the world at this hour. Phlegon wrote that in the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, there was a great darkness over Europe, surpassing anything that had ever been seen. At mid-day, he said, the stars could be seen. At the same time an earthquake caused much damage in Nicaea. Turtullian said later that he found in the records of Rome a notation of worldwide darkness which the statesmen of the Empire could not explain. Apparently the people of Jerusalem were accustomed to sudden changes in the weather, or there would have been a very wide sense of alarm or wonder at this time. (The Day Christ Died, Jim Bishop, p. 327)
 This worldwide catastrophe was described in more detail in the Book of Mormon:
And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. And there were exceeding sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.
And the city of Zarahemla did take fire. And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned. And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.
And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward. But behold there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceeding great quaking of the whole earth;
And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough. And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the building thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.
And there were some cities which remained; but the damage thereof was exceeding great, and there were many of them who were slain. And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away.
And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were  broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.
And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease–for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours–and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.
And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness; And there could be no light, because of the darkness. (3 Nephi 8:5-21)
When this author was in the missionfield, I read this to one of the chief geologists for the Standard Oil Company, after which he said, “whoever wrote that had to have been there and witnessed it.” Then he explained all of these events–even the darkness they could “feel.” He said, “We never understood them until about the turn of the century when an earthquake occurred and a volcano erupted. The vapor of darkness that could be felt was the soot or ash created by rock crushing against rock while a mountain was raised or leveled. Tremendous friction and heat resulted in hot dust and ash being thrown up into the atmosphere. It was so dense that it was tangible and could be felt by rubbing your fingers together, and it caused a thick darkness in the sky.” I thought this was interesting because this atheist was in reality confirming the truthfullness of that part of the Book of Mormon, because Joseph Smith had never actually experienced such events.
Returning to the trials of Christ, they were not trials of justice, but rather a mob bent on killing an innocent Man. This was the setting for one of the most notorious mock trials ever conducted. Although thousands and thousands of  criminals have been released because of some technicality, Christ’s was a trial where nothing was in proper order, such as:
- The arrest was made at night.
- Examination by Annas and Caiaphas was at night.
- The hearing was before a “sole judge.”
- No prosecutors or formal indictment existed.
- Public discussion was not permitted.
- The Sanhedrin (either all or part) convened at night.
- Proceedings of the Sanhedrin were before the morning sacrifice.
- Proceedings were conducted on the eve of the Passover.
- They were conducted and concluded within one day.
- The decision was founded upon uncorroborated confession.
- This self confession was without witnesses to corroborate.
- Jesus was without a legal defense.
- Condemnation was pronounced in a place forbidden by law.
- The High Priest rent his clothes.
- Balloting was irregular.
- Enemies were not to occupy the Sanhedrin Council.
- A man with enmity could not be judge.
- Merits of defense were not considered.
- Abuse and torture of Christ took place before conviction.
- There was no solid evidence of crime.
Jesus stood before His legal opponents innocent of any crime. Those who condemned him were, in reality, the guilty ones. However, justice has a way of balancing the scales–and this was soon to be the case.
 Chapter 11
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Luke 13:34)
The Jewish conspirators were not satisfied with just the death of Jesus; they persecuted His followers and even imprisoned and killed them. For years God’s patience had been constrained until He used the Romans in 70 AD to bring retaliation against the Jews.
Jerusalem had become a den of thieves, full of corruption and murder. Wickedness and dishonesty increased among Jewish citizens and leaders alike until conditions reversed and Romans became the aggressor. Not only had the Spirit of the Lord left them, but also common sense, kindness and fairness. The Romans, who themselves were known for their crimes and viciousness, now had rivals among the Jews, and they could no longer tolerate such uprising troublemakers. It would now become one evil force against another. The claims of treason and sedition that the Jews had hurled at Christ were now the very crimes of which they were accused.
The Romans knew that such a rebellious people must be controlled. Thus the Roman soldiers (under the leadership of  Titus) surrounded the city and everything was ready for their attack. Suddenly the general withdrew his forces for no known reason. However, this action was a sign–the fulfillment of a prophecy by Jesus:
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. (Luke 21:20-21)
Shortly thereafter, a mass exodus of Christians left Jerusalem because they knew what was coming, leaving the city and its inhabitants to their fate. It was the time of the “Feast of Tabernacles” causing a great influx of Jews to come to Jerusalem for the celebration. Because of that, the Christians made their escape unnoticed and unmolested, and went to the city of Pella beyond Jordan.
The Romans retreated because news had reached them of the death of Caesar, and they awaited orders from the new leader. He put General Titus in command and gave them orders to attack. Once again Jerusalem was surrounded. However, it was not an instantaneous attack that caused the suffering at first–it was starvation. Titus knew their provisions were low, so he just let them starve to encourage them to surrender. But instead it just spurned the Jews on to more anger and hatred. Some would sneak out at night to get food and would be captured, tortured and then crucified before the eyes of other Jews. Such was the fate of hundreds of Jews. Then the worst came.
Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm. He determined, however, that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded. After he had retired to his tent at night,  the Jews, sallying from the temple, attacked the soldiers without. In the struggle, a firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedar-lined chambers about the holy house were in a blaze. Titus rushed to the place, followed by his generals and legionaires, and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames. His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple, and then with their swords they slaughtered in great numbers those who had found shelter there. Blood flowed down the temple steps like water. Thousands upon thousands of Jews perished. * * *
A soldier, unperceived, thrust a lighted torch between the hinges of the door: the whole building was in flames in an instant. The blinding smoke and fire forced the officers to retreat, and the noble edifice was left to its fate.
It was an appalling spectacle to the Roman–what was it to the Jew? The whole summit of the hill which commanded the city, blazed like a volcano. One after another the buildings fell in, with a tremendous crash, and were swallowed up in the fiery abyss. The roofs of cedar were like sheets of flame; the gilded pinnacles shone like spikes of red light; the gate towers sent up tall columns of flame and smoke. * * *
The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaires had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination. * * *
After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their  foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was “plowed like a field.” In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror’s triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.
The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. (The Great Controversy, Ellen White, pp. 36-38)
(picture of temple)
Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem
(Taken from Jewish Enc., 12:90)
 Today, there is not much left of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, but immediately after it was destroyed, the Romans built a great arch in Rome to commemorate Titus and his victory over the Jews. It is still standing today.
(picture of Arch of Titus)
The Jewish Encyclopedia describes this important arch:
Arch of Titus: A triumphal arch erected at Rome in honor of the emperor Titus and in celebration of his victory over the Jews. It rises on the prominent part of the Via Sacra, about 20 yards above the Tiber. One of its faces fronts the Colosseum; the other, the Forum. Under the pontificate of Pius VII, the arch was restored in its lateral portions, which had become injured by time.
Three bas-reliefs adorn the passage of the arcade. One, on the Colosseum side, shows Titus, crowned by Victory, standing upright in a cart drawn by four horses and conducted by a female personifying the city of Rome. The second represents Roman soldiers without weapons, crowned with laurels, and carrying the spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem. * * * The third bas-relief, under the vault, exhibits Titus sitting on an eagle, as he appears on the medals struck to consecrate his apotheosis. * * *
A tradition, which still prevails in Rome, says that formerly no Jew ever passed under this arch, and that, in order to go from the Colosseum to the Capitol, the inhabitants of the thetto opened a way between the arch and the Palatine. (Jewish Enc., 12:164)
The first temple of the Lord mentioned in recorded history is probably the portable tabernacle commissioned by Moses.
The next was the temple built by Solomon who stood on a bronze scaffold and dedicated it about the year 1004 B.C. (2 Chron. 6) However, five years after Solomon died, it was raided, ransacked and corrupted. After several centuries, it was in a terrible and decaying condition and was finally looted and sacked by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. Another temple was begun when refugees from the Nebuchadnezzar raid returned to rebuild the first one in 537 B.C. It lasted for nearly 500 years.
Next was Herod’s temple. It was begun in 19 B.C. and was all but finished in ten years. This is the one that Christ came to and the one the Romans destroyed in 70 A.D.
Then in our dispensation, during the “restoration of all things,” once again the Lord instructed that a temple be built. In 1831 He designated the “place for the city of Zion,” which was to be called “the New Jerusalem” and the gathering place  for the Saints (in Jackson County, Missouri). However, the Saints did not live up to their privileges and God’s expectations, the same as in ancient times, and they too were driven out of that land, and have lived in a scattered condition up to the present, with the temple still to be built in the future.
After nearly 2,000 years, in 1947 the Jews began to gather back to their temple site in Old Jerusalem. After nearly 170 years, the Saints are still anticipating the redemption of their New Jerusalem temple site.
Thus, in the final days of this earth, there will be two Jerusalems–the New and the Old. The house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) will gather to the New Jerusalem, and Judah will gather to the Old Jerusalem. The other tribes will gradually come to receive their blessings under Ephraim. The ten tribes were not a righteous, holy and faithful people, but have been a captive and scattered people since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. They will be among the last to be gathered.
 Chapter 12
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God. (Deut. 11:26-28)
It maybe asked why there are so few Jews who accept Christianity today? Among the reasons are that the children have a tendency to follow the traditions of their fathers, and also, harsh as it may seem, the sins of the fathers seem to fall upon their children through a curse for evil deeds they have committed. This has happened to (1) the children and descendants of Cain and Ham; (2) the Lamanites or Indians; and (3) the Jews.
- The Canaanites
Regarding the curse that Noah put upon his son, Joseph Smith stated:
Noah was a righteous man, and yet he drank wine and became intoxicated; the Lord did not forsake him in consequence thereof, for he retained all the power of his Priesthood, and when he was accused by Canaan, he cursed him by the Priesthood which he held, and the Lord had respect to his word, and the Priesthood which he held, notwithstanding he was drunk, and the curse remains upon the posterity of Canaan until the present day. (TPJS, pp. 193-94)
- The Lamanites
When people sin, they lose the spirit of the Lord and a spiritual darkness comes over them. No longer are they able to see things correctly as they once did. Those who go even further and sin against the gospel, fall into the worst form of spiritual darkness. Brigham Young explained this as regards the Lamanite:
Here are the Lamanites, another example. Their wickedness was not so great as those who slew the Son of God. Jesus revealed himself to them after he was slain, preached to them the gospel. But in the fourth generation the Priesthood was driven from their midst, and after that, the laws, ordinances, and power of the gospel ceased to be with them. Is their curse as great as that of those in Palestine? No, it is light, in comparison. They began to thirst for each other’s blood, and massacred each other, from generation to generation, until they sank into wickedness, and evil principles the most degrading, and have become loathsome and vile. Still, the curse will be removed from them before it will be removed from the children of Judah; and they will become “a white and delightsome people.”
Brother Ballantyne, and many of our brethren in distant lands write, “O, how we would rejoice to have the privilege of visiting our mountain home!” I would rather undertake to convert five thousand Lamanites, than to convert one of those poor miserable creatures whose father killed the Savior, and who say, “Amen to the deed,” to this day. (JD 2:143)
- The Jews
Brigham Young also talked about the curse placed upon the Jewish people:
Do you suppose they believe in Jesus Christ at Jerusalem? Can you make a Christian of a Jew? I tell  you, nay. If a Jew comes into this Church, and honestly professes to be a Saint, a follower of Christ, and if the blood of Judah is in his veins, he will apostatize. He may have been born and bred a Jew, have the face of a Jew, speak the language of the Jews, and have attended to all the ceremonies of the Jewish religion, and have openly professed to be a Jew all his days; but I will tell you a secret–there is not a particle of the blood of Judaism in him, if he has become a true Christian, a Saint of God; for if there is, he will most assuredly leave the Church of Christ, or that blood will be purged out of his veins. We have men among us who were Jews, and became converted from Judaism. For instance, here is Brother Neibaur; do I believe there is one particle of the blood of Judah in his veins? No, not so much as could be seen on the point of the finest cambric needle, through a microscope with a magnifying power of two millions. This is a secret that you will perhaps find out, in the coming day, to your satisfaction. The Lord knew how to preach to the Jews, and told them what the truth was. You may as well undertake to command the most degraded of these Indian tribes, and give them arms and accoutrements, and try to put them through the regular military exercise, as to preach to the Jews to make them believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jerusalem is not to be redeemed by the soft still voice of the preacher of the Gospel of peace. Why? Because they were once the blessed of the Lord, the chosen of the Lord, the promised seed. They were the people from among whom should spring the Messiah; and salvation could be found only through that tribe. The Messiah came through them, and they killed him; and they will be the last of all the seed of Abraham to have the privilege of receiving the New and Everlasting Covenant. You may hand out to them gold, you may feed and clothe them, but it is impossible to convert the Jews, until the Lord God Almighty does it. (JD 2:142)
 It has been truly said that the greater the sin, the greater the punishment. It is sad to realize that the Jews, as one of the tribes of Israel, had been chosen to such a high station and then fell to such a low level–resulting in a curse that has lasted for almost 2,000 years.
 Chapter 13
A CURSE ON THE JEWS
To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings, thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse: as it is this day. (Jer. 25:18)
As mentioned God has always brought blessings to those who serve Him and cursings upon those who fight against Him. Thus we can conclude that God would bring about an especially severe curse upon those who were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. He had already cursed others for less serious crimes
The financial bargain Judas made with the Jewish leaders was indeed a very tragic one. However, the bargain the Jewish leaders made with the Romans was about as bad. They chose Caesar as their king instead of Jesus the Messiah. They rejected the King of Kings for a black-hearted gentile who hated them and their religion. The Romans had found Jesus innocent of any crime, but the Jews charged Him with the worst of all capital crimes. It was a case in which the highest form of punishment was given through the lowest form of judgment. They chose to save Barabbas, a convicted felon, over Jesus, who was innocent of all crimes.
Picture the scene! Those who claimed the guardianship of the sacred records and the revelations of God turned their affections against the wisdom and truth of the real repre-sentative and likeness of God. The Romans, on the other hand, who had delighted in the destruction of their enemies, and were hardened in battle, looked upon Jesus and said they found “no fault in Him,” and refused to condemn Him to death. But the sanctimonious Jewish leaders wanted his blood. In their chants and demands for the blood of Christ, the Jews unknowingly purchased it with their own blood. But in one case, blood was shed as an atonement from sin, and in the other blood was shed as a punishment for sin.
Brigham Young reminded us that the Jews had set their own curse when many of them cried out before Pilate.
The Jews anciently said let His blood be upon us and upon our children, and God took them at their word. (JD 10:287)
When they accepted the blame for the Savior’s death, they brought upon themselves a judgment that would cost them centuries of grief, suffering and death. How many Jews would shed their blood for what their fathers did? If the Romans were guilty of the crucifixion of Christ, why did God inflict punishment on the Jews? No people on earth have endured such serious and lengthy persecution as have the Jews. If it were not for sinning against the greater light, then God is unfair in His punishments. From the crosses at Jerusalem to the smoking ovens in Germany, they have paid an awful price. Those Jewish leaders bought with blood money a spot in potters field, and at the same time they bought fields of blood all over the world for themselves and their children.
A sad commentary for a great race of people! It could have had a happy ending. What would have been the story at Jerusalem if they had welcomed their Messiah with the respect and love He deserved? The history of the Jews, and of the world, would have been drastically different!
 The reaction of many people toward Jesus was unbelievable. Some tried to trap him in His talk; they hired lawyers to prove Him guilty of some broken law; they called Him names; accused Him of being a devil and a blasphemer. They forced Him into seclusion; excommunicated Him from the church; paid for His betrayal; tried to stone Him or to throw Him off a cliff. Then they ultimately crucified Him.
During His life, Jesus made three significant prophecies concerning the destruction or scattering of (1) the temple, (2) the city of Jerusalem, and (3) the Jewish nation.
- The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matt. 24:1-2)
After Christ’s death, a great battle ensued between the Romans and the Jews. The Romans did to the Jews what the Jews had done to all their enemies–utter destruction. They were eager to destroy the temple because they had heard that the Jews kept great amounts of money hidden in the walls (which could have been true); so in their efforts to find these riches, Roman soldiers did not leave one stone upon another.
- The Destruction of the City of Jerusalem
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. (Luke 21:20)
This occurred in 70 AD, and resulted in the destruction of the beautiful city of Jerusalem. It still has not been rebuilt completely.
- The Scattering of the People of Jerusalem
For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
For they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:22-24)
This he spake, signifying of his death. And in this very hour he began to weep over Jerusalem, saying, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou who killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen her brood under her wings, and ye would not.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. And verily I say unto you, Ye shall not know me, until ye have received from the hand of the Lord a just recompense for all your sins; until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:34-36, Insp. Trans.)
Christ declared that the Jews would not know Him until the curse would be removed from them, which would be at His second coming. They must suffer that long until they had paid a “just recompense for all your sins.” Since He has not yet returned, they have not yet paid the full price for the sins of their fathers at Jerusalem.
Referring to this scattering and destruction of the Jews, compare the following two passages from Matthew–first from the King James version, and then the Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no,  nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. (Matt. 24:21-22)
* * *
For then, in those days, shall be great tribulations on the Jews, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; such as was not before sent upon Israel, of God, since the beginning of their kingdom until this time; no, nor ever shall be sent again upon Israel. All things which have befallen them, are only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon them; and except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved. (Matt. 24:18-19, Insp. Trans.)
If the death of Jesus had just been an accident or a mistake, it might have had a different outcome. But the Jewish leaders actually knew that Jesus had been sent of God and they killed Him anyway.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:1-2)
Nicodemus came from a body of Jewish rulers called the Sanhedrin that was composed of Pharisees and Saduccees, chief priests and elders. When he declared that “we know” Jesus had “come from God,” he was admitting that those leaders were aware that He had a close connection with God.
We know that Judas became a son of perdition for betraying Jesus. (See 3 Nephi 27:32.) Since the Jews knew Jesus had “innocent blood,” just as Judas knew, then what will be their fate? The crucifixion of Christ brought a curse upon everyone who had anything to do with it.
And now mark, for one moment, the revenges of history. Has not His blood been on them, and on their children? Has it not fallen most of all on those most nearly concerned in that deep tragedy? Before the dread sacrifice was consummated, Judas died in the horrors of a loathsome suicide. Caiaphas was deposed the year following. Herod died in infamy and exile. Stripped of his Procuratorship very shortly afterwards, on the very charges he had tried by a wicked concession to avoid, Pilate, wearied out with misfortunes, died in suicide and banishment, leaving behind him an execrated name. (The Life of Christ, Farrar, p. 684)
How often God has blessed and preserved His servants, but has brought judgment and curses upon those who forsake Him? Thus it was with those who rejected their Christ.
Even the transgressions of men may be turned to the accomplishment of high purposes. The sacrificial death of Christ was ordained from before the foundation of the world, yet Judas who betrayed, and the Jews who brought about the crucifixion of the Son of God, are nonetheless guilty of the awful crime. (The Articles of Faith, Talmage, p. 70)
The Jews crucified their Messiah, but ironically in this act, they caused the shedding of the sacrificial blood of the great atonement for all mankind. And through God’s mercy, that blood was also shed for them who made it flow. In the darkness of their deed, they opened the door of light that brought salvation to all men everywhere.
In the pages of Biblical history these prophecies are no longer imaginative, but have become reality. This just God has visited the sins of the fathers upon the children; but those judgments are not always to punish, but more often to purge. For suffering is often God’s way to purify and cleanse.
 The Jewish desire to “Let his blood be on us and on our children” was a terrible mistake. No words ever brought such a calamity upon a people or a nation. That was an invitation for curses and destructions. They asked for it and they got it. They deserved it and they received it.
Origen (185-253 AD), the celebrated scholar and head of the school at Alexandria, stated that the first name of Barabbas was also Jesus, which was not an uncommon name at the time. From the Jewish Encyclopedia it states that–
. . . “Abba” is used in the name “Barabbas” as a common noun, whereas “Abba” is found as a prae-nomen as early as tannaitic times (Yeb 15a). If “Abba” were merely a title of Barabbas’ father, his name could not have been simply “Son of Abba.” In fact, Origen reports that in several manuscripts of the Gospels he had seen the name given as “Jesus Barabbas” or “Jesus, son of Abba.” Accordingly, the first name was afterward omitted from the manuscripts of the gospels when the name of Jesus had become sacred. (The Jewish Enc. 2:513)
How ironic that the Jews exchanged one Jesus for another. Some records even indicate that Barabbas was implicated in the robberies with the two thieves who hung on the crosses by Jesus. So the Jews chose to save the wicked Jesus Barabbas and to condemn the innocent Jesus the Christ!
From their own scriptures, the Jews had been warned that they would receive God’s curse upon them if they did not keep His commands. One of those curses was to be smitten by their enemies and scattered among heathen nations:
The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. * * *
The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone [temporal things]. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee. (Deut. 28:25, 36-37)
Everyone knows the disastrous history and fate of the Jews following Christ’s crucifixion, while, on the other hand, the Roman Empire continued for many centuries.
To recap the punishments for their role in crucifying the Messiah, the Jews —
- lost their temple
- lost their Priesthood
- lost their genealogy
- lost their sacred city of Jerusalem
- lost their nation
- had no more prophets among them
- lost their spiritual gifts
- received no new scripture
- were persecuted, smitten, and scattered by their enemies
- lost the Kingdom of God and adopted the kingdom of the world.
The Jews claimed they had “no king but Caesar,” and so it was–there came a Caesar after Caesar who pillaged and plundered them until at last they rose up in a wild revolt against a Caesar whom they had claimed to be their king. They had forced the Romans to crucify their Christ, and by that same judgment many of them and their children were then crucified in the thousands–by the Romans. For miles the Jews hung on crosses until there was no more available wood to construct such implements of torture. The Romans then had to search for other methods of torment and death.
 Yielding to the temptation of sin invites a spirit of darkness to fall upon the sinner. No longer do they enjoy the spirit of light and discernment; no longer can they make wise choices because an evil influence continues to haunt and torment and lead them astray. Such was the fate of the Jews, as Wilford Woodruff clearly explained:
All that Jesus said concerning the Jews has had its fulfillment to the present day. This should be a strong testimony to the whole infidel world of the truth of Christ’s mission and divinity. Let them look at the Jewish nation and the state of the world, in fulfillment of the words of the Savior eighteen hundred years ago in Jerusalem. It is one of the strongest testimonies in the world of the fulfillment of revelation, the truth of the Bible and the mission of Jesus Christ. The Jews have fulfilled the words of Moses, the prophets and Jesus, up to the present day. They have been dispersed and trampled under the feet of the Gentile world now for eighteen hundred years. When Pontius Pilate wished to release Jesus Christ, saying that he found no fault in that just man, the high priests, scribes, Pharisees and other Jews present on that occasion cried, “Crucify him, and let his blood be upon us and upon our children.” Has it not followed them to this day, and been manifest in their dispersion, persecution and oppression through the whole Gentile world for eighteen hundred years? It has. (JD 15:277)
This shows the justice and mercy that God has for His people. When they sin, He punishes them. When the punishment is sufficient to pay for their sins, He welcomes them back into the fold. It is so with individuals; it is so with nations.
 Chapter 14
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVE?
Motive: The inducement, cause, or reason why a thing is done. (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 795)
Why did the Jewish Sadducees, Pharisees, high priests, scribes, and elders want Jesus killed? Their wrath was apparently caused by the serious charges that Jesus had made against them, which were that they–
“prayed to be seen of men”
“bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne”
“love uppermost rooms at feasts”
“love chief sears in synagogues”
“love to be called of men Rabbi”
“shut up the kingdom of heaven against men”
“devour widow’s houses”
“for pretense make long prayers”
“compass seas for a proselyte and make him twofold child of hell”
were “full of dead bones and all uncleanness”
were “full of hypocrisy and iniquity”
“swear by the temple”
were “fools and blind”
“omitted the weightier matters of the law”
“strain at a gnat and swallow a camel”
“within are full of extortion and excess”
were “children of them which killed the prophets”
were “serpents, a generation of vipers”
would crucify “prophets and wise men . . . and persecute them from city to city”
would be responsible for “all the righteous blood from righteous Able to Zacharias whom ye slew between the temple and the altar”
could not “escape the damnation of hell.”
All these statements of condemnation were directed to the Jews, not to the Romans.
Jesus often called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” which means they were not doing the things they claimed they did. He told His disciples, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matt. 23:3) To believe and profess is not faith, but acting upon such belief is. The Apostle James declared that “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?” “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 2:14; 1:8; 1:22)
These Jews claimed they were the children of “Abraham,” they sat in “Moses’ seat,” they were the leaders of the “chosen” people, they could do no wrong, and they claimed the right faith. However, they failed to exemplify the good works to accompany all their claims.
Though they claimed to be righteous, Jesus said of them:
Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. (Matt. 21:31-32)
 However, achieving the destruction of Jesus was not easy. Members of the Sanhedrin met to determine cause for condemnation. The priests were there–whose greed had been chastised by Jesus. The elders were there–who had been chided for their hypocrisy. The scribes were there–probably because Jesus had exposed their ignorance. The Pharisees were there–who had been accused of hypocrisy and iniquity. The Sadducees were there–who had been rebuked for their cruelty and were the most dangerous. But in spite of all their determination, they were frequently confronted by opposition, lack of evidence, and no reliable witnesses for their wicked cause.
These self-righteous men, who wanted to be looked up to by all the people, kept the minor portions of the law but neglected the weightier part. They could keep the Sabbath day, avoid eating anything disapproved, and make long prayers to be heard of their followers, but they lacked charity, kindness, and love for the people. Their love of money kept coming up throughout these investigations, as the following quotes will show:
The Jewish priests developed a most lucrative business changing Roman money into Jewish currency, earning, thereby, Christ’s condemnation of turning God’s house into a den of thieves. (All the Trades and Occupations of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, p. 145)
But again, it may be asked, Is there any reason beyond this bold infraction of their authority, this indignant repudiation of an arrangement which they had sanctioned, which would have stirred up the rage of these priestly families? Yes–for we may assume from the Talmud that it tended to wound their avarice, to interfere with their illicit and greedy gains. Avarice–the besetting sin of Judas–the besetting sin of the Jewish race–seems also to have been the  besetting sin of the family of Hanan. It was they who had founded the chanujoth–the famous four shops under the twin cedars of Olivet–in which were sold things legally pure, and which they had manipulated with such commercial cunning as artificially to raise the price of doves to a gold coin apiece, until the people were delivered from this gross imposition by the indignant interference of a grandson of Hillel. There is every reason to believe that the shops which had intruded even under the Temple porticos were not only sanctioned by their authority, but even managed for their profit. To interfere with these was to rob them of one important source of that wealth and worldly comfort to which they attached such extravagant importance. There was good reason why Hanan, the head representative of “the viper brood,” as a Talmudic writer calls them, should strain to the utmost his cruel prerogative of power to crush a Prophet whose actions tended to make him and his powerful family at once wholly contemptible and comparatively poor. (Life of Christ, Farrar, p. 642)
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. (Matt. 21:12)
Christ continued to make enemies because He shut down their schemes to get filthy lucre. When some people lose their money, they think they have a reason for serious vengeance–even murder.
Money seemed to be a problem throughout the Judaic kingdom. Jesus taught them to “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21) He taught them to forgive those who owed them money by such parables as the king who took an account of debts owed him and then forgave them (See Matt. 18:23-35); and the King who was given charity  when he was hungry and thirsty. (See Matt. 25:34-46) He encouraged them, if necessary, to be willing to exchange temporal things for the spiritual so they could receive a hundred fold in heaven. (See Matt. 19:29)
When Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, it could have been the silver Denarius of Tiberius, or the silver Tetradrachm. The value of one would have been a total of about $4.80 while the other would be about $25.00 in our money today. Judas got his money but then threw it away. This had to have been the worst financial exchange in the world’s history!
In the time of Christ, locally minted Jewish coins circulated along with those of the occupying Romans. The portrait of Augustus Caesar, emperor at the birth of Jesus (Lk. 2:1), dominates the obverse of the silver denarius and later the bronze sesterius, with inscriptions attesting to his divine status. The Roman Senate had bestowed divinity on Augustus, partly in recognition of his being the adopted son of Julius Caesar. The “coin” (Gk. denarion) used for tribute and requested by Jesus when the Pharisees asked him whether paying tribute to Caesar was lawful (Mat. 22:19 par.) would have been the silver denarius of the succeeding emperor, Tiberius (14-37). This coin displays a portrait of Tiberius on the obverse and a seated female figure on the reverse. (Intern’l Bible Dic. 4:309)
(Pictures of coins)
Silver denarius of Tiberius. Obverse: head of Tiberius with Latin inscription, “Tiberius Caesar son of the divine Augustus.” Reverse: Livia holding branch and scepter, Latin inscription, “high priest” (Trustees of the British Museum)
 When Judas had done his evil deed, the devil no longer needed him and thus forsook him. Then, as is usually the case with sinners, the crime is revealed to them in its stark reality and greatly illuminated in their conscience. Judas tried to repent by returning the money to the “chief priests and elders,” and said to them, “I have betrayed the innocent blood.” (Matt. 27:3-4) He admitted that Jesus was innocent, but the council said, “What is that to us?” In other words, they didn’t care if he were innocent or not. They took the 30 pieces of silver Judas threw at them and said, “It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.” (v. 6) They knew Jesus would have His blood shed even though the trial was not yet over.
Another ancient document came into the hands of scholars around the turn of the century, one which has been called “The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.” It was translated by R. H. Charles, D.D., a Fellow of Merton College and a Fellow of the British Academy in London. It was first published in 1917. Although the original authorship is uncertain, the date of its origin has become a little more definite. It has been concluded that “the book was originally written by a good Jew, neither Sadducean nor Pharisaic, who loved all that was best among his people.” (p. xix) Apparently it had portions written both before and after Christ.
The general content of the book is based upon the last words of Jacob to his 12 sons, and is followed by the last words, or blessings, of those sons to their sons. It is interesting to read Judah’s blessing and warning to his sons:
And now I command you, my children, not to love money, nor to gaze upon the beauty of women; because for the sake of money and beauty I was led astray to Bathshua the Canaanite. For I know that because of these two things shall my race fall into  wickedness. For even wise men among my sons shall they mar, and shall cause the kingdom of Judah to be diminished, which the Lord gave me because of my obedience to my father. For I never caused grief to Jacob, my father; for all things whatsoever he commanded I did.
And Isaac, the father of my father, blessed me to be king in Israel, and Jacob further blessed me in like manner. And I know that from me shall the kingdom be established.
And I know what evils ye will do in the last days. Beware, therefore, my children, of fornication and the love of money, and hearken to Judah your father. For these things withdraw you from the law of God, and blind the inclination of the soul, and teach arrogance, and suffer not a man to have compassion upon his neighbour. They rob his soul of all goodness, and oppress him with toils and troubles, and drive away sleep from him, and devour his flesh. And he hindereth the sacrifices of God; and he remembereth not the blessing of God. He hearkeneth not to a prophet when he speaketh, and resenteth the words of godliness. For he is a slave to two contrary passions, and cannot obey God, because they have blinded his soul, and he walked in the day as in the night.
My children, the love of money leadeth to idolatry; because, when led astray through money, men name as gods those who are not gods, and it causeth him who hath it to fall into madness. For the sake of money I lost my children, and had not my repentance, and my humiliation, and the prayers of my father been accepted, I should have died childless. But the God of my fathers had mercy on me, because I did it in ignorance. And the prince of deceit blinded me, and I was ignorant as a man and as flesh, being corrupted through sins; and I learnt my own weakness while thinking myself invincible. (The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, R. H. Charles, pp. 55-56)
The chief priests and Pharisees gathered–
. . . a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. * * * Then from that day forth they took counsel together to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews. . . . (John 11:47, 53-54)
It has been said that the Jews of that day were looking for a Messiah who would rescue them politically–not for one who would redeem them spiritually. Their “place and nation” seemed to be of more worth to them than their souls.
It did not necessarily mean that these Jews were righteous just because they dressed in the robes of the priesthood, held high offices in the church, went to the temple, showed great respect for leaders, and paid tithes. Neither does it mean that today.
(Picture of Jewish high priest.)
Jewish High Priest (from Calmet)
 The Jews could not execute anyone without Roman consent; therefore the death of Jesus had to be ordered and executed by the Romans. Death by crucifixion was a Roman tradition, whereas stoning to death was the law of the Hebrews.
If Jesus had been put to death by the Jewish rulers, even with governmental sanction, an insurrection among the people might have resulted, for there were many who believed on Him. The crafty hierarchs were determined to bring about His death under Roman condemnation. (Articles of Faith, Talmage, p. 633)
So the Jews trumped up charges that would necessitate the death penalty under Roman law.
And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. (Luke 23:2)
But the crimes of which the Jews accused Jesus in the Jewish courts were not the kinds of “crimes” that were of any real consequence to the Romans. They accused him of blasphemy, breaking the Sabbath day, claiming to be a Son of God, and other religious infractions. Such charges would have been dismissed in a Roman court before they were even presented in trial. So these Jewish leaders had to come up with some kind of political crime in order to satisfy the Romans. They decided to accuse him of treason and insurrection.
How ironic? These Jewish leaders were bringing Jesus to a Roman court saying he was against the Roman government, while they themselves hated the Romans and their government, and wanted them to be overthrown. They even anticipated a “Messiah” who would come and do it for them.  Now they accused Jesus because they claimed He might to just that!
Doesn’t it seem logical that if someone were going about healing the sick, the blind, and the lame, that it would be like having a good doctor in a sick community? Why would people in governing positions want to rid the community of such a wonderful healer?
Occasionally we read of husbands and wives who kill each other, and we wonder how a once loving marriage relationship could result in such a terrible disaster! Then we find out that they had an ulterior motive–perhaps money, an inheritance, infidelity, etc. Just walking away from the marriage would not fulfill their motive, so they resort to terrible and drastic means, such as murder.
Although it has been claimed that there is never a “perfect crime,” the most near perfect are those in which the victim is killed by someone else, i.e., a hired hit-man, so the guilty party can claim innocence. Similarly, the Jews wanted to use the Romans as “hit-men.” Romans were constantly killing people–in their wars, for convenience, and even for pleasure. So killing Jesus would be nothing to them if there was just some reason for it. Pilate was put in the position of finding such a reason for the Jews.
Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. (Matt. 27:22-23)
Pilate was asking for a reason or evidence, but the people could only demand that he crucify Jesus. They wanted the Roman governor to kill Him for them. Behind this little  scenario are exposed a hidden motive and a plot to have someone else kill for them–thus enabling the Jews to say they were not guilty of the deed. But what was the real motive?
When someone is intentionally killed in our society, it is, in all probability, either a justified punishment by the law or else it is murder? In the case of Jesus, we need to determine if He was guilty of the death punishment, or was there a conspiracy to commit murder? Simply said: was Jesus innocent or guilty?
Although the Jews turned Jesus over to the Roman courts, there is evidence that they were at least implicated in His death. The law that governed the death of a Hebrew reads as follows:
And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deut. 21:22-23)
The Jews had to take his body down from the cross before nightfall or their land would be defiled. This they arranged to have done, which meant they were implicated in his death. According to Zondervan:
The Jews had requested the hastening of His death because it appeared He would linger until the next day which was a sabbath and also the preparation for the Passover (Luke 23:54). Crucifixion was never practiced by the Jews; but because of their law (Deut. 21:23), the bodies of those crucified were not allowed to remain on the cross overnight. (Zondervan Enc. of the Bible 1:1041)
 The Jewish Encyclopedia mentions two evidences showing that the Jews had a part in Christ’s crucifixion because of their own laws:
The details given in the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus agree on the whole with the procedure in vogue under Roman law. Two modifications are worthy of note: (1) In order to make Him insensible to pain, a drink was given Him. This was in accordance with the humane Jewish provision. The beverage was a mixture of myrrh and wind, given `so that the delinquent might lose clear consciousness through the ensuing intoxication.’ (2) Contrary to the Roman practice of leaving the body on the cross, that of Jesus was removed and buried, the latter act in keeping with Jewish law and custom. These exceptions, however, exhaust the incidents in the crucifixion of Jesus that might point to a participation therein, and a regulation thereof by Jews or Jewish law. (The Jewish Enc. 4:373)
Paul the Apostle showed further insight into the reason why Jesus was crucified:
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: . . . (Gal. 3:13)
Jesus pled with the Jewish scribes and Pharisees to repent and believe in Him:
Then said Jesus to these Jews . . .
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.
Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of  myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (John 8:31, 40-46)
But telling the Jews the truth did not impress them. Jesus chided them for doing evil deeds. He bore testimony that He had received direction from God by revelation to do and say these things, but that meant nothing to them. His simple and blunt question, Why can’t you understand my speech–are you deaf? should have got their attention. He even called them children of the devil and said they were guilty of the same lusts as their father. Though He testified that He was telling them the truth, they remained unbelievers. Finally, in His last effort, He challenged them to convince Him of a sin. But they closed their ears and hearts and sought to kill him anyway, just as Jesus had prophesied:
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. (Matt. 20:18)
This was later fulfilled:
Then assembled together the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. (Matt. 26:3-4)
This last statement indicates a conspiracy to commit murder. The Jewish chief priests, scribes, and elders were  collaborators in a killing, which under law makes them guilty of murder, and they themselves should have been put to death. In essence, they filed a case against themselves which would eventually affect both innocent and guilty people–and even their whole nation.
Their motive for killing Jesus: so they would not lose their “place and nation.” Money, power, position, and other things of the world meant more to them than their own salvation. Therein was the central motive.
 Chapter 15
And the Lord said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Jer. 11:9)
The Jewish commonwealth was divided into districts, i.e., Galilee, Judea, etc. Each of them had their own courts, legislatures, and judges, and was presided over by a high priest, which explains why there were so many high priests spoken of in the New Testament. Each district was subdivided into smaller divisions, presided over by an officiating priest.
If the heads of government became corrupt, then the whole body politic could also follow–on down to the citizens. A conspiracy that worked its way into religious or political systems could soon corrupt the whole body and cause it to commit crimes in the name of justice and law.
On the other hand, an honest government could improve the lives of the governed; but sadly, this situation was very rare. A conspiracy that worked its way into a government could result in the destruction of a nation; and it was so with many nations, including the Jewish nation.
The crucifixion of Christ was not an accident, mistaken identity or a momentary outburst of a mob. The plot had been carefully planned, and the conspiracy was accomplished after a long series of gatherings behind closed doors.
 The entire Jewish nation did not come out in opposition against Jesus. Many Jews actually became Christians themselves, several of whom were persecuted and killed by their own people. It all started with just a small group of conspirators who secretly plotted to get rid of Christ. They tried to convince the rest of the people that He was a fraud, a false prophet, and that He had a devil and would destroy their temple and their nation. They agitated the people, created disruption and division, and then blamed Him. It was the same old plan that other corrupt conspirators had devised.
Who had the most to gain from Christ’s death? Who had the strongest motive? Who held the secret meetings to get rid of Jesus and questioned and entrapped Him? Who stood before the people making false charges against Him? Who hired the lawyers to charge Him with breaking the law? It was always the Jewish High Priests, Elders and Scribes, many of whom were members of the Sanhedrin and were chosen from among the Pharisees and Sadducees! Though Jesus spoke of and to them frequently, it was never in a complimentary manner, but rather as the source of his afflictions. So let’s consider the definitions of these terms:
Jesus Christ is the great High Priest, of whom all the others were pre-figures. * * * The office was usually a lifetime calling and, when rightly appointed, was by revelation from God, “as was Aaron.” * * * During the Maccabaean period the high priest was also political head of the nation. After this family was overthrown, high priests were inappropriately appointed and deposed at pleasure by Herod and the Romans alike. The office was filled by 28 different men between 37 B.C. and A.D. 68. Since the latter year the office has ceased to exist among the Jews, but they were in apostasy long before that time. * * *
The office was hereditary and came through the firstborn among the family of Aaron, Aaron himself being the first high priest of the Aaronic order. * * * The high priest was privileged to use the Urim and Thummim. (King James Bible, LDS prtg., 1979, pp. 702-703)
An official title among the Hebrews and the surrounding nations. * * * had reference to various offices. * * * The earliest notice of the elders acting in concert as a political body is at the time of the Exodus. They were representatives of the people, so much so that elders and people are occasionally used as equivalent terms. Their authority was undefined, and extended to all matters concerning the public weal.” (Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, p. 163)
In the days of the Hebrew monarchy this was the title of a court official, a secretary of state. After the captivity we find the title given to Ezra and to others who acted as teachers of the law. Scribes are frequently mentioned in the N.T., being sometimes called lawyers. It was their business to develop the law in detail and apply it to the circumstances of their time; hence grew up the oral or traditional law side by side with the written law. * * * They taught either in houses of instruction or in the temple courts, their pupils sitting on the ground. They formed an influential part in the supreme court of the Sanhedrin. Rabbi (my Master) was the title usually given them. As a rule they were Pharisees, though there were also Sadducean scribes. (King James Bible, LDS prtg., 1979, p. 770)
A religious party among the Jews. The name denotes separatists. They prided themselves on their strict observance of the law, and on the care with  which they avoided contact with things gentile. Their belief included the doctrine of immortality and resurrection of the body and the existence of angels and spirits. They upheld the authority of oral tradition as of equal value with the written law. The tendency of their teaching was to reduce religion to the observance of a multiplicity of ceremonial rules, and to encourage self-sufficiency and spiritual pride. They were a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people. (Ibid., p. 750)
A party or caste among the Jews. The name is probably derived from Zadok, the high priest in Solomon’s time. The party consisted of old high-priestly families who came to the front during the Maccabean war. They formed the Jewish aristocracy, and were powerful though quite small in numbers. In their treatment of religious questions they held to the letter of the Mosaic revelation and denied the authority of ancient tradition; they taught complete freedom of the will in moral action; they were opposed to the Pharisees as to the belief in angels and spirits; they refused also to accept the doctrine of immortality as a necessary part of the Jewish faith. It was through their influence that Greek culture spread in Israel. Their opposition to our Lord was the result of his action in cleansing the temple, which they regarded as an infringement of their rights. They opposed the work of the apostles because they preached the resurrection. (Ibid., p. 767)
Though Jesus did not comment on the Sanhedrin as a body itself, he did speak of its members. It is defined as–
The Jewish senate and the highest native court in both civil and ecclesiastical matters. Under the presidency of the high priest, it regulated the whole internal affairs of the Jewish nation. * * * It consisted  of 71 members and had an aristocratic character, being drawn from the three classes of chief priests, scribes, and elders. In the time of the Lord the Pharisees had the predominating influence upon it, but there were Sadducean elements. (Ibid., p. 769)
The power and jurisdiction of this council extended far beyond the walls of Jerusalem, or even the bounds of Palestine. Saul, who was once a member of this council, sought prisoners by power of this body, even to the regions of Damascus. (See Acts 9:1-2.)
When the Apostles were imprisoned, after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, this Sanhedrin Council was still active and continued to act upon the disciples of Christ. (See Acts 5:18-21.) The following scriptures will portray some of the negative actions and conspiracies taken by members of the Sanhedrin against Christ:
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus. (John 12:10-11)
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43) And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased. (Matt. 21:15)
And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him–Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matt. 21:23, 31)
Then went the Pharisees, and took council how they might entangle him in his talk. (Matt. 22:15)
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how 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. (Matt. 16:21)
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. (Matt. 26:59-60)
Then one of the Twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. (Matt. 26:14-15)
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matt. 27:3-4)
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. (John 18:3)
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (John 18:10)
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the High Priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. (Matt. 26:57)
Then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. (Matt. 26:65-66)
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. (John 18:12-13)
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. (Matt. 27:41-42)
Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me [Pilate]; what hast thou done?
If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. * * *
And when he [Pilate] had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. (John 18:35, 36, 38)
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying Crucify him, Crucify him; Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. * * *
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend. (John 19:6-7, 12)
Chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate saying, command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day. (Matt. 28:64)
And when they were assembled with the elders and had taken council, they gave large money unto the soldiers saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept–so they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying is  commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matt. 28:12-15)
Jesus exposed a corrupt and evil conspiracy of the Jewish leaders:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (Matt. 23:29-31)
The very people who had been opposed to the prophets had now become Jewish leaders. They wanted those high positions in order “to be seen of men” and to occupy “the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.” (Matt. 23:5, 6) They enjoyed being in charge of the temple and taking care of the temple money. Those who had fought against the true prophets had now become the false prophets.
Such secret conspiracies were also evident in the life of Joseph Smith. Less than a year after the Church was restored, the Lord revealed to the Prophet:
And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not. (D & C 38:13)
The fulfillment of this prophecy took several years, but when Joseph ran for U.S. president, extreme measures were taken to kill him. Almost all true prophets meet with similar persecution and even death because they expose these “vipers” and “hypocrites.”
 In our effort to determine the real guilty party (or parties) in the death of Jesus Christ, let’s re-evaluate the evidence, the testimony of the witnesses, and the history in relation to this “murder” case. The closing arguments could well be–
- It was not the “system” alone that caused the crucifixion of Christ, since their systems were run by people; they did not run themselves.
- It was not the Roman leaders who charged Jesus with treason, as they said they found no fault with him.
- It was not all the Jews that were trying to kill Jesus, as many Jews were Christians and suffered persecution and death as well.
- It was not even all the Jewish leaders that wanted to kill Jesus, because many of them believed in Him and His gospel as well.
- In the case of the crucifixion of Christ, it was not what killed him but who. No court or jury ever closed a murder case because they discovered what killed someone.
- There were only a certain few who were guilty of buying and bringing false evidence into the trial. It had been reported that the money used was from the temple funds.
- Since there was insufficient legal evidence to convict Jesus, certain individuals going beyond the limits of the law were actually responsible for the murder themselves.
- Both Roman and Jewish law was breached by certain individuals in order to get a conviction.
- Persecution against Jesus came from a certain pocket in the Jewish community who were responsible for false evidence, secret meetings, disobedience to the law, and inciting riots, threats and murder.
- This small group of people was responsible for stirring up masses of people against Jesus, for threatening the Romans if they did not kill Him, and also for threatening others who believed in or followed Jesus. Even associating with this “apostate” was grounds for excommunication.
- It was to this small group that Jesus directed his criticisms and condemnations.
- These people were the main ones to benefit from the death of Christ.
- Thus, from all the evidence and testimony, Christ’s death was a conspiracy. Public propaganda was brought against Jesus, and hired lawyers gathered evidence against Him. This group of Jewish leaders personally led the charge to accomplish the crucifixion of Christ.
Now let’s take a closer look at defending the Jewish people as a whole:
- Even among the chief rulers of the Jews there were those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
- Among the general public were many who became Christians, some of them even becoming Apostles, Seventies, and other officers of His Church and Kingdom.
- Many of the Jews saw miracles and accepted Jesus because of them, and some were even healed by Him.
- Many Jews accepted Jesus as the Christ, but did not openly admit it because of threats by certain leaders.
- Jesus actually labeled the wicked as coming from amongst the Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, high priests, and scribes.
- He rebuked them as the ones who served the devil, who killed the prophets and would kill His followers.
- These were the men who continued to persecute, excommunicate and kill the converted Jews.
- Christ foretold the fate that would befall the Jewish nation because so many of them were blinded by their leaders and followed them even though they were partially convinced that Jesus was led by God.
Similar atrocities that happened leading up to the crucifixion of Christ have occurred whenever mankind has been involved in conspiracy. Regarding these secret conspiracies, the Prophet Moroni stated: “It hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people. . . .” (Ether 8:20) Furthermore, he said they destroyed the Jaredite and Nephite nations; and if we were not careful, they would destroy the American nation. We have shown that they also destroyed the Jewish nation.
Conspirators are still “alive and well” and are working their mysterious plots and schemes to rule and reign. They may say they are Jews, and they may come from that lineage, but in reality they are no longer of the House of Israel. They are  of the “synagogue of Satan.” They plan murder; they plot out and instigate wars; and they create depressions and inflations. Because of their actions, they no longer have the right to claim to be Jews or Israelites.
It was these money changers that corrupted the temple with their “business” of making profit. God has forbidden these money systems, including usury.
Usury: A reward for the use of money. Unlawful interest. Usury is the reserving and taking, or contracting to reserve and take, either directly or by indirection, a greater sum for the use of money than the lawful interest. (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 1192)
Nevertheless, that corrupt money system will eventually fail, as the Lord told Joseph Smith:
And again, verily I say unto you, let all my servants in the land of Kirtland remember the Lord their God, and mine house also, to keep and preserve it holy, and to overthrow the moneychangers in mine own due time, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen. (D & C 117:16)
When a man like Judas turns betrayer, he betrays not only his religion, but also his people and his nation. As it was anciently, when people no longer serve the Lord, they serve another master, and similar curses result therefrom. When they no longer serve Israel, or their Lord, they no longer are the sons of God. They exchange one synagogue for another, one religion for another, and one God for another. Though they claim to be priests and elders, they actually become heathens and sinners. The rewards they would have received from the Master called Jesus they now qualify to receive from the master called Beelzebub.
 When Judas betrayed Jesus, he sinned against the light he once had. He knew Jesus was innocent and that He was the Messiah. But he sinned against his priesthood, betrayed his religion, and forsook his friends.
He was at first called an Apostle of God, but in his betrayal he became one of the apostles of the devil. Our master is the master we serve. We cannot claim one master and yet serve another.
Those Jewish leaders who knew that Jesus was the Christ and conspired for His crucifixion also sinned against their priesthood. Regardless of their high positions in the church, they began serving the same master that Judas did. They, too, would be known as the sons of Satan. They served the same master in life, and they will serve the same in death.
When these high priests, scribes and elders conspired against Jesus to put him to death, they exchanged their positions and their masters. Even though they held the same titles and even the same offices, their souls had been traded because of their deeds. The Lord said to the Apostle John:
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Rev. 2:9)
 Chapter 16
DESTINY OF THE JEWS
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isa 11:12)
Even though some of the Jews are responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in the history of the world, most of them will eventually be converted to accepting Christ. The worst of them will pay the necessary price, but the others who are still looking for their Messiah will find their proper place in history. Brigham Young stated:
By and by the Jews will be gathered to the land of their fathers, and the ten tribes, who wandered into the north, will be gathered home, and the blood of Ephraim, the second son of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, which is to be found in every kingdom and nation under heaven, will be gathered from among the Gentiles, . . . . (JD 12:38)
They will re-establish their temple, their city (Jerusalem), and their nation. Again quoting Brother Brigham:
Let me here say a word to the Jews. We do not want you to believe our doctrine. If any professing to be Jews should do so, it would prove that they are not Jews. A Jew cannot now believe in Jesus Christ. * * * The decree has gone forth from the Almighty that they cannot have the benefit of the atonement until  they gather to Jerusalem, for they said, let his blood be upon us and upon our children, consequently, they cannot believe in him until his second coming. We have a great desire for their welfare, and are looking for the time soon to come when they will gather to Jerusalem, build up the city and the land of Palestine, and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. When he comes again, he will not come as he did when the Jews rejected him; neither will he appear first at Jerusalem when he makes his second appearance on the earth; but he will appear first on the land where he commenced his work in the beginning, and planted the garden of Eden, and that was done in the land of America.
When the Savior visits Jerusalem, and the Jews look upon him, and see the wounds in his hands and in his side and in his feet, they will then know that they have persecuted and put to death the true Messiah, and then they will acknowledge him, but not till then. They have confounded his first and second coming, expecting his first coming to be as a mighty prince instead of as a servant. They will go back by and by to Jerusalem and own their Lord and Master. We have no feelings against them. I wish they were all gentlemen, men of heart and brain, and knew precisely how the Lord looks upon them. (JD 11:279)
Even Jesus is looking forward to the time when He can go back to Jerusalem and make a second appearance to the Jews. In latter-day revelation He said:
And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king. (D & C 45:51-53)
 Wilford Woodruff explained more about the gathering of the Jews and also the persecution they would experience before the Savior appears to them.
And they have to fulfill the words of the Lord still further. As I have been reading to you today, the Jews have got to gather to their own land in unbelief. They will go and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple. They will take their gold and silver from the nations and will gather to the Holy Land, and when they have done this and rebuilt their city, the Gentiles, in fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and other prophets, will go up against Jerusalem to battle and to take a spoil and a prey; and then, when they have taken one-half of Jerusalem captive and distressed the Jews for the last time on the earth, their Great Deliverer, Shiloh, will come. They do not believe in Jesus of Nazareth now, nor ever will until he comes and sets his foot on Mount Olivet and it cleaves in twain, one part going towards the east, and the other towards the west. Then, when they behold the wounds in his hands and in his feet, they will say, “Where did you get them?” And he will reply, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, your Shiloh, him whom you crucified.” Then, for the first time will the eyes of Judah be opened. They will remain in unbelief until that day. This is one of the events that will transpire in the latter day. (JD 15:278)
If the Jews of today take all their gold, silver, and precious things out of the gentile nations and “gather to the Holy Land,” it would cause a catastrophe. They would blame the Jews for their financial problems and would go to war against them. Blood would again be spilt in Jerusalem, but this time the gentiles would be at fault, and Shiloh would come to rescue His people.
 Chapter 17
FATE OF THE GENTILES
Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God. (I Nephi 14:6)
Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, committed a sin when he suggested selling his brother, Joseph, as a slave. However, the other ten sons wanted him dead. Because of this, the Lord showed more mercy toward Judah than he did to the other ten sons. As the favor was shown to Judah’s posterity, so the disfavor was shown to the descendants of the other “lost” tribes of Israel.
We know where the house of Judah is, but where is the rest of the house of Israel? The Jews were taken captive for a while, but they soon gathered back to Jerusalem. The other tribes were taken captive and gradually dispersed among the nations, and they will yet have to gather. The historian, Josephus, said they were still scattered in the “north countries,” and the Apostle James stated they were still in a scattered condition. (See James 1:1.)
The house of Judah will gather to the Old Jerusalem, and the house of Joseph will gather to the New Jerusalem. The other tribes will join in wherever they are welcome, but will receive their blessings from the hands of Ephraim.
 During the lifetime of Christ, both Judaism and Christianity were on trial. In that day the kings of Judah were battling against the kings of Christianity. But they who thought they were the victors, were really the losers.
The Christians were told to turn the other cheek; to expect to be driven, and anticipate even death because their killers would think they were doing God a service. Many would go through their Gethsemane and some would go to a Calvary, but they should “endure to the end.” Many others, however, would just go to “hell.”
It is not just the Jews who appear to be the unbelievers, for even the gentiles and most Christians are also guilty. They often turn their backs on the power that can save them. The curse upon the Jew may also fall upon the gentile. God is not mocked nor is He partial in His judgments.
The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour’s warning concerning Jerusalem. Come when it may, the day of God will come unawares to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in traffic, in money-making; when religious leaders are magnifying the world’s progress and enlightenment, and the people are lulled in a false security,–then, as the midnight thief steals within the unguarded dwelling, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, “and they shall not escape.” (The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White, p. 41)
The gentiles have not done much better than the unrighteous Jews in ancient times. They have not had respect for the righteous Jews, “the good figs,” but instead have branded them all. The Jews have suffered for their sins, and now the gentiles must suffer for theirs. Consider what the Lord said in the Book of Mormon:
But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travels, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people. (2 Nephi 29:4-5)
When we look into history, it is easy to see the mistakes the ancients have made. We see how they fell into worldly weakness and followed the ways of the wicked. But have our eyes been blinded as to our own weaknesses? Our fate may be just as bad.
In our modern era, we have reared castles for gambling and palaces for pleasure, and have spent billions for liquor and drugs. We have constructed high-rise buildings for banking, and everywhere is there evidence of love of money. We have fought against God’s law of marriage and have instituted and substituted brothels, prostitution, and adultery. We have scientifically prohibited the birth of children, committed abortions and designed the physical and chemical means to prevent pregnancy.
Many of the sins that befell the Jews have befallen the gentiles. But justice strikes against the guilty–no matter what their profession, creed, or race. That which was at first shall come again at the last. Where the seeds are the same, the tree cannot be different. The sword of justice can cut both ways.
 We have persecuted the Jews because they rejected the gospel and persecuted and killed Christ and His apostles, but our generation has not done much better. Consider the restoration of the gospel of Christ in our dispensation. What did the gentiles do with it? They persecuted the believers and killed the Saints. They even killed the Prophet Joseph who held the keys of this dispensation. They drove the early Saints from city to city and state to state and finally drove them into a wilderness that no one else wanted. That wasn’t enough so they sent out an army to destroy them. When that didn’t work, they passed unconstitutional, unjust and wicked laws with the help of politicians and lawyers, and imprisoned many of the Saints. The “chief priests” of Christianity rejoiced to see it all happen, and many of them took part in the deeds.
Yes, what ancient Herod did, our President Buchanan did similarly. The role of Pilate was played by President Van Buren, who could “do nothing” for the Saints though their cause was just. The lawyers who made false laws against the Christians were led by President Lincoln. The priests who cried “Crucify him,” were our Protestant and Catholic “Christians” who helped in the persecution and death of many Mormons. The ancient hypocritical and corrupt political leaders seem to have reappeared under the names of our modern political leaders. Representatives of the great conspirators behind the death of Jesus are here today–plotting, conspiring, robbing, and betraying the people and the nations.
Times have changed but the character of people has not. There were followers of Satan long ago and his followers exist today. The drama of life is still being played out; the actors are different, the scenery has changed, the script has been re-written, but the plot of good against evil remains the same.
 Chapter 18
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. (D & C 93:31)
Most people have thought that all the Jews were guilty of the death of Christ, but we have pointed out that many Jews were not involved in His crucifixion, and some were even believers in Jesus as the Christ. In fact, most of the early Christians were Jews. Thus, there were “good” Jews and “bad” Jews.
This is substantiated in the scriptures, i.e., Jeremiah. In a vision or dream the Lord showed Jeremiah two baskets and then asked him what he saw in those baskets. “I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.” (Jer. 24:3) The Lord then explained that those two baskets of figs represented the house of Judah.
For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the Lord, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:
And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.
And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers. (Jer. 24:6-10)
Thus we had good Jews and bad ones at the time of Christ. Unfortunately, the bad ones falsely led some of the good ones to participate in the crime. When people blindly follow their leaders, it results in their own downfall. It was a constant problem in Israel. At another time the Lord spoke to Jeremiah:
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of his covenant. (Jer. 11:1-3)
The curse seemed to be that they were trusting in their leaders rather than in their covenants with God, for He had previously said:
Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders. And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth. (Jer. 9:4-5)
And the Lord said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the  inhabitants of Jerusalem. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.
Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. (Jer. 11:9-12)
Later He again warned them by adding, “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jer. 17:5) It seemed to be the cry of the prophets, for Micah said, “Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide.” (Micah 7:5) Simply said, the Lord wanted the people to verify everything that was told them, regardless of who might say it.
It was the conspirators among the Jews that deceived the leaders of their people, and they in turn deceived the people. This created the downfall of the Jewish nation, and they all have suffered the consequence.
However, the story does have a happy ending for the people of Judah. They will return to Jerusalem and again rebuild their temple and receive their Messiah. When Orson Hyde joined the LDS Church in 1832, the Prophet Joseph told him that he was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, and that–
In due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the house of Israel; and by thy hand shall the Most High do a work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people. (CHC 2:45)
 Nearly ten years later Elder Hyde was given that mission. It was stated that, “In his travels he has suffered much, and has been exposed to toils and dangers, to hunger, pestilence and war.” (DHC 4:498) But he got the job done and dedicated that place for the gathering of the children of Judah.
Then in just a little over 100 years, the Jews began to gather back to their native land. “In 1848 Great Britain terminated the Palestine mandate and withdrew its troops. The Jews declared a new state of Israel.” (Amer. Peoples Enc. 10:504) Although there have still been hostile attacks between Jew and Arab forces, the Jewish people are returning to enjoy their land and heritage.
When the Lord restored the gospel in 1830, He did it to gather out the “elect” of Israel (See D & C 29:7-8.), which was the house of Joseph. However, in the process we have gathered many weeds, tares, and thistles; so there must be a house cleaning and setting in order. It is not only the Jewish race who has a judgment to settle, but we have our own evils, our own wicked priests and politicians, and our own deeds to pay for. It all comes down to individuals and their choices.
Of all the people in the world, the Americans should have the best understanding of the principles and freedoms given to them by their forefathers. But how many today would probably have fought for the British? How many would have persecuted and killed the Mormons? How many are going to suffer temporally and spiritually for blindly following their imperfect and unwise leaders?
Today we have our secret combinations and corrupt conspiracies just as they did anciently, but now they have even more power, greater wealth, and involve all nations of the earth.
 Professor Hugh Nibley (concurring with Moroni) stated that, “We are warned that such combinations, built up to get power and gain, will again be the overthrow and destruction of America if they are allowed to get the upper hand.” (Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 395) He pinpoints this rotten affliction by saying, “the societies themselves are the symptom, not the disease.” (Since Cumorah, p. 369)
For probably his best and most excellent analytical treatment of these combinations, Nibley wrote:
Secret combinations are formed to implement the ambitions of individuals, seeking power through gain and gain through power. Hence they produce and thrive in an atmosphere of conflict, within the groups and between them, assassination being, as the Book of Mormon makes very clear, the cornerstone of their dire economy. Local applications (police harassment) can be effective, but usually force the evil underground and make it harder than ever to deal with. Because these bodies are parasitic, however, they can be effectively starved out, as was demonstrated by Lachoneus and his general strike. Also because they are parasitic, in order to thrive or even survive; they must enjoy a measure of cooperation from a willing host. Reports on the Mafia and Costa Mostra agree that these societies cannot exist without the help of corrupt local officials and a complacent public; they receive financial aid from businessmen who would never be seen in a casino and yet will lend the owners money because their operations are “legal” and bring money into the community. So it was anciently: “Now the people of Akish were desirous of gain, even as Akish was desirous for power,” and so his “wicked and secret society . . . had corrupted the hearts of all the people.” (Ether 9:6, 11) (Since Cumorah, pp. 391-392)
The fall of the Judaic kingdom was instigated by the corrupt conspirators who were no better than their assistant, Judas Iscariot. Their secret combination was no different than  any other conspiracy that threatens a civilization. The threat is upon us again with a serious danger that our American republic will soon fall. We have been warned, but we have not heeded the warning. Moroni foresaw our times:
And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain–and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you, that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning. (Ether 9:22-25)
 There is a fine, but strong thread weaving itself throughout the nations of the earth. It is binding the tares of the world and preparing them for destruction. However, there is also another thread that is finer and stronger, made of silver and gold. It, too, is binding together; but it gathers the wheat–the elect.
And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived–verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver. (D & C 45:56-59)
In the drama of life we each have our part to play because most of the script had already been written. We follow it very closely as though we wrote it ourselves. In fact, we chose the script before we came here. Jesus chose His part, as well, and He followed it just as He should have.
Every great prophet, Abraham, Moses, Joseph Smith, and others were also assigned the time and place to be born and given a script to follow. They all have done very well. In mortality we receive what we deserve, what we qualified for, and were given a mission to do. Our gifts and talents came with us because we earned them before our arrival on earth. Although we did not choose to sin, our weaknesses for it came with us, but failure and sinning in life are still our choices.
God knew the course that Pharaoh would follow and what Judas would do. He knows basically what we will do, but  we can fail or we can rise above our weaknesses if we so choose. Though we may sin and err, Jesus gives us the chance to overcome and be healed. Our sins He bore on the cross; our punishment He atoned for by His blood. Should we not then learn all we can about this great sacrifice He made for us–and how it all came about.
We came to this earth to do our part for the Lord because He did so much for us. It is not an easy path to follow, nor is it a clear path. We stumble, we fall, but we can try again. We are not all an Abraham, a Moses, or a Joseph Smith; but we are required to do what we can. A honeybee may work all day to accomplish his small part in the drama of life. So should we fulfill our part and use our talents to play some instrument in the orchestration of life. When we do our part, collectively with others, it renders a beautiful, harmonious work for the Lord. Such blessings in this life, and in the next, we owe to our Lord and Savior. He paid the debt for our bondage and freed us from our sins. He gave us a great promise, and His promises never fail.
In the space of just three years He could accomplish only so much. But it was long enough for mankind to see who He was and why He had come to earth.
He walked and talked with the poor, with the ignorant, and especially the sick. He healed their bodies and erased the sorrows of their souls. For their broken bones or broken spirits, He gave them health, healing and hope. He taught the great mysteries of the world, but only a few would listen. Appearing in the tenderness and innocence of a child, He was rejected as the worst of mankind. In spite of all the good He did for others, few have ever thanked Him. He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, and raised the dead. He walked upon water, changed water to wine, and fed thousands from a  small quantity of food. He cast out devils and foretold the future. Yet He was rejected, even by His own.
He was mocked, spit upon, beaten and tormented by mobs that wanted Him dead. He did so much good, yet He had to suffer and live with so much bad. He was a King of kings, but was mocked with a purple robe and a crown of thorns. He was the beloved Son of our Father in Heaven, but was treated as the worst of all mankind. He restored men to life, but He himself experienced the worst form of death. He spoke to angels, but died with robbers and thieves. He knew but few pleasures in life and bore the worst of all pains. Yet that burden was not for Himself; it was for us. He took upon Him our sins, and they flowed from his veins onto the ground at Calvary. He did so much for us, yet we do so little in return. Yes, He died, as a consequence of a conspiracy designed by jealous Jewish leaders, but now He lives. He is not a person who is afar off; He is a God who is very, very near.