Was Jesus’ persecution extraordinary?

Dr. Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University (Nova Scotia, Canada).  Dr. Evans believes that Jesus’ punishment at the hands of the Roman soldiers who mockingly ridiculed him as a “king of the Jews” was actually nothing out of the ordinary.  In his opinion, in those days, political insurrectionist whose aim was to usurp the power of its territorial rules were routinely tried and convicted in court by regional governors, such as Pilate.  Jesus was only one of many rebels across the expanse of the Empire who was found guilty of this type of crime against the State.

If anyone was found guilty of causing political insurrection and unrest, they would be handed over to the Roman soldiers who would in turn have their way with them. In a display of homage and jest, they would poke fun at them, dawn upon them a purple robe, construct them a crown of thorns, bow down to them, and hail them as a king of the Jews. Well, if this treatment of Jesus as a political insurrectionist was merely routine for Roman soldiers, then why do we pay so much attention to his punishment and crucifixion on the cross, especially during this time of Easter? Are we putting too much emphasis on Jesus’ suffering?

Dr. Evan’s most recent works include: Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened (By Craig A. Evans and N.T. Wright. Louisville: WKJ Press, 2009). Mark 1:1-8:26 (WBC volume 34a; Nashville: Thomas Nelson) is in preparation.

One thought on “Was Jesus’ persecution extraordinary?

  1. Yes, much of the misguided emphasis placed on the suffering of Jesus Christ is a function of the notion of penal substitutionary theory of atonement,and it reading of Paul and the Gospel passion narratives.

    This is not where the Gospels or Paul put the emphasis. Paul makes much of the “shame” of the cross, the sociocultural significance of the cross as a theological reality (with sociopolitical implications in the Roman Imperial context).There is no emphasis on the brutality of what is described in your post, unlike a lot of our reflection,a la Mel Gibson’s movie.

    Although it can rightly stated that Paul does speak of a substitutionary view of the atonement, it’s not according to assuaging the “wrath of God.” For the first millennium of the Church,what most Protestants view as the reason Jesus died and its theological interpretation was not what Christians believed. The cross was about a “divine exchange” so that humans could be forgiven, healed and renewed by God in the power of the Holy Spirit. What Craig Evans talks about helps in putting this in context historically.


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