New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 26: Matthew 26:47–27:26; Mark 14:43–72; Luke 22:47–71; John 18:1–27

Today’s readings cover the events of Gethsemane, Jesus being brought before Pilate and a Jewish council, and other such well known events of the last days of Jesus.

We’ll pick up in  Matthew 26:50- And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. (KJV)

Does Jesus mean it when he refers to Judas as “friend”? Is he making a point by using a term of address that contrasts with “brother,” the usual form of address between the disciples? Or is he perhaps being ironic? Could he be offering Judas an opportunity to repent?

Is Jesus really asking Judas why he has come?What is the point of Jesus’ question? Some translations take this as a statement, “Do what you have come for” rather than a question. Which way of reading what Jesus says makes more sense to you?  Why? – Faulconer, New Testament Made Harder


Pilate offers to release someone, including Barabbas. Little is known about him beyond what the NT tells us. However,

An interesting [manuscript] variant occurs in Matt 27:16–17, where he is called “Jesus Barabbas.” While extant manuscript evidence is weak, Origen implies that most manuscripts in his day (ca. A.D. 240) included the full name. Many scholars today accept the full name in Matthew as original and suggest that it was probably omitted by later scribes because of the repugnance of having Jesus Christ’s name being shared by Barabbas. It is not improbable for Barabbas to have the very common name Jesus. Matthew’s text reads more dramatically with two holders of the same name: “Which Jesus do you want; the son of Abba, or the self-styled Messiah.” There is some evidence that the full name “Jesus Barabbas” also originally appeared in Mark’s gospel.- “Barabbas (Person),” ABD

Breaking up Barabbas into its parts, this was Jesus Bar Abba, Jesus, son of the father. Pilate released Jesus son-of-the-father, and arrested Jesus the actual Son of the Father.


St. Peter's of Gallicantu "crowing rooster", the traditional location.
St. Peter’s of Gallicantu “crowing rooster”, the traditional location.

I heard a lecture this week from BYU Classics prof. Mike Pope, who presented some of his solid research on the background of rooster crowing. Surprisingly to us, there was a lot to be said, and his paper is under review in an academic journal. A very incomplete summary would include the ideas that roosters were taken as paragons of masculinity, as aggressive, fearless, and pugilistic. Soldiers might have a depiction of a rooster on their shield, for example. Cock-fighting was huge, culturally speaking. These gave rise to several axioms and aphorisms, e.g. about crowing before you win, as an unfit fighting cock might do.

“and a cock in a fight, when defeated in the struggle against an opponent, would not crow. Indeed his pride is broken, and he slinks away because of shame.” Ael. NA 4.29

How does this apply to our lesson today?
Note Peter’s bold and vehement declarations.

  • Mark 14:31/Mat 26:35- Peter “said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.'” (NRSV)
  • Luke 22:33- Peter “said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”(NRSV)
  • John 13:37- “Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (Jn. 13:37 NRS)

Each of this is followed by Jesus prophesying that Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows.

What happens?

When the fight comes, Peter defaults on his macho boasts, dissociates himself from Jesus three times, and crows no more, he slinks away in anonymous shame. “And he went out and wept bitterly.” (This is only half the story, but it must await publication.)

I’ve always found President Hinckley’s application of this moving.

What pathos there is in those words! Peter, affirming his loyalty, his determination, his resolution, said that he would never deny. But the fear of men came upon him and the weakness of his flesh overtook him, and under the pressure of accusation, his resolution crumbled. Then, recognizing his wrong and weakness, “he went out, and wept.”

As I have read this account my heart goes out to Peter. So many of us are so much like him. We pledge our loyalty; we affirm our determination to be of good courage; we declare, sometimes even publicly, that come what may we will do the right thing, that we will stand for the right cause, that we will be true to ourselves and to others.

Then the pressures begin to build. Sometimes these are social pressures. Sometimes they are personal appetites. Sometimes they are false ambitions. There is a weakening of the will. There is a softening of discipline. There is capitulation. And then there is remorse, self-accusation, and bitter tears of regret.- General Conference, 1979.


 

Looking NE from St. Peter's to the old city and Mt. of Olives
Looking NE from St. Peter’s to the old city and Mt. of Olives

Regarding Jesus’ trial, we need to be careful about the claims we make and how we read it. We have no contemporary records of the laws or customs governing such things, and people have usually gone to Talmudic records 200+ years later and read those back in to the NT, claiming it was illegal or irregular in several ways. While that is quite possible, it’s also not legitimate in terms of methodology or assumptions. Are todays laws and court procedures (whether civil or religious) identical to those 200 years ago? Certainly not. So, a grain of salt with any of those claims.

Jesus is taken to the temple authorities, whom Mark names as “the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes” (14: 53) and as “the chief priests and the whole council” (14: 55). What follows is often called “the Jewish trial of Jesus” before “the high priest” and “the whole council,” resulting in Jesus’s condemnation to death. As narrated in Mark and the other gospels, it has led most Christians throughout the centuries to assign primary responsibility for the death of Jesus to the highest-ranking members of the Jewish nation and thus, uncritically, to “the Jews.” The story of Jesus’s interrogation and condemnation by the high priest and his council has often become a text of terror for Jews in subsequent centuries. Thus we need to pause for some historical comments. Though our purpose is to exposit Mark’s story of Holy Week and not to reconstruct the history behind it, here it is important to do so and to emphasize:

  • Most likely, Mark (and other early Christians) did not know exactly what happened. The reason is that, according to Mark (and the other gospels), no follower of Jesus was present with him subsequent to his arrest (they had all fled). Though it is possible to imagine that somebody within the high priest’s circle later disclosed what happened, we cannot be at all certain of this. Thus the trial scene may represent a post-Easter Christian construction and not history remembered. We need to remember that this is the way Mark tells the story around the year 70. [Ben adds, other scholars date Mark earlier, but it is still at least a few decades after the events described.]
  • It is unclear whether we should think of Mark as presenting a formal “trial” or an informal but deadly “hearing.” “Trial” implies a legal procedure that follows the accepted rules of the time; “hearing” implies a para-legal or even extra-legal procedure. Moreover, the “council” referred to by Mark may not have been the Sanhedrin of later centuries, but a “privy council” consisting of the high priest and his circle of advisers.
  • The temple authorities did not represent the Jews. Rather than representing the Jewish people, they were, as local collaborators with imperial authority, the oppressors of the vast majority of the Jewish people. They did not represent the Jewish people any more than the collaborationist governments of Europe during World War II or during the time of the Soviet Union represented their people.

Borg and Crossan- The Last Week

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