King of the Jews
“What is Truth” by Nicholas Gai. Jesus before Pilate. Pilate is depicted looking Roman and Jesus looking like a Jewish peasant or revolutionary. But John says that the soldiers cast lots over Jesus’ clothes and that his “coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” It is hard today to imagine soldiers casting lots over scruffy rags and it is even harder to imagine my version of Mary/Mariamne III riding into Jerusalem beside her son being acclaimed as a King of the Jews and appearing before Pilate to make his case dressed as anything less than a prince of the realm.

After riding into the city as a king invoking David—but with levels upon levels of meaning…perhaps also as the King to Come “with all things in his power”—and though in practical terms that would have required a miracle– that might allow room for the return of a king who was a descendant of the Hasmonean Queen….the House of King and High Priest together who had defied the rule that only a descendant of David could be king for about 100 years…but lost the kingdom after a long war to Herod and his Roman legions in 37 B.C.

After Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king, it seems that things quiet back down, perhaps checking out the lay of things, though it is said that he goes into the Temple in the mornings to teach and at night returns to Bethany…another few ordinary days. Then one morning…

…they came to Jerusalem and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught them saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves… (Mark 11:15-17)

All four gospels say this happened and John says it happened twice. But they all say that after the huge disruption in the temple, Jesus calmly went back into the porticos and taught and when even was come, he went out of the city. 

Now, this seems a bit odd. Especially at Passover, Pilate is in the city and his soldiers ring the walls of the Temple watching for just this sort of thing that could spark a full-out riot…So…trying to put all the gospel accounts together, I can see only one way it might have happened…from a daughter of the queen perspective.

I think the cleansing—meant to be reminiscent of Hanukah, Judas Maccabee’s cleansing of the Temple in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes—happened at the spring Passover the year before—as John suggests. Passover floats around March/April like Easter does—It could really only have happened at the Passover feast because of the thousands of pilgrims, many of whom came south from Galilee like Jesus and his disciples/bodyguards who could be roused to action at a moment’s notice. There must have been a near riot with the moneychangers with Jesus being allowed to escape…or he planned it so well that he did escape…so as not to bring the whole city and Temple down…being said prince with Hasmonean and Herodian blood. Remembering that Herod begged the Roman legions about to storm Jerusalem when he defeated the last Hasmonean king, please, don’t destroy everything and leave me king of a desert.

Something happened, though, because the next thing John says is that at the very next feast day following that Passover, again on the next Day of Atonement when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on that day only and is expected to reappear with a prophecy for the nation, as Zacharias did, and as the High Priest Caiaphas now does.

“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. And…Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them…(T)hat it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And he spake this not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation (!)(John 11:48-51)

Plan “A”

The next feast when Jews were expected to come to Jerusalem was the Feast of Tabernacles, traditionally a week long feast beginning five days after the Day of Atonement. This is what John says next…

After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry (Judaea), because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea…Then Jesus said unto them, “My time is not yet come…Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet…for my time in not yet full come.” When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, he also went up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. (John 7)

Jesus may have taught briefly in the Temple but was mostly concerned with why everybody hated him …Why go ye about to kill me? He knows why…He knew how he had set the stage by “cleansing the Temple.” How he attacked the High Priests bailiwick. I think the plans he made next secretly were to set the stage to get him before Pilate at the next Passover so he could get sent to Rome to present his bloodline and his claim to the throne before Caesar. He knew it would not be easy and it was going to be dangerous. He knew that Caiaphas and the priests were waiting for him…to kill him.

So, what does he do next? The next year, just before Passover, he went to Bethany and, my theory, consummated his marriage alliance with Mary of Bethany, was anointed by his mother “in the day of his espousal” and symbolic coronation, and then made arrangements for a place to stay in the city and contacted his rich followers such as Nicodemus and political followers like Joseph of Arimathea to stand by and then rode into town as a king with his people and his body-guards/disciples around him…openly wanting the crowds to know he was there. His time had come. Entering with Lazarus/Eleazar, a former High Priest of the House of Boethus at his side would have been a direct threat to the House of Ananus of which Caiaphas was the current High Priest. If Jesus was allowed to rule, he would name Lazarus as the new High Priest…in Caiaphas’ place.

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that (Jesus) was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead (would raise to power from a long exile–irony). But the chief priests, consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death. (John 12: 9-10)

(As we will see in a later chapter, Simon son of Boethus, father of Eleazar/Lazarus…my theory… will become High Priest again a bit later so this is not totally off the wall.)

After two days was the feast of the Passover…and the chief priest 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)

Ace in the Hole

I think that the reason that Jesus had been allowed to leave the city even after his “cleansing of the Temple” and was allowed to come and go calmly in the week before the following Passover was exactly what the big fear of confronting him would have been…those thousands of pilgrims, some have said a million, ringing the rooftops in the city and the hillsides where Jesus went each night. I tend to think of Jesus’ camp as isolated but the area must have been full of pilgrims and was why the police had to be led to his particular camp.  A major rebellion was not out of the question. Jesus planned, I think, to allow himself to be arrested peacefully by Pilate as his show of good faith…All those Galileans, including his own hot-headed disciples who had vowed to die for him, were his ace in the hole. He had to show that the Galileans were at his command…that he had more to offer than a bloodline.

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come…He riseth from supper and…went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron where was a garden which he entered with his disciples. And Judas[1] also…knew the place; for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither…(John 13-1)

Jesus allowed himself to be captured peacefully…I think he expected the Roman soldiers but probably not the High Priest’s Temple police coming for him…Judas’ doing or not. I think he hoped that he would go directly to Pilate, not to Ananus’ palace to be tried by the priests…who he knew would seek to kill him.

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 the chief priests and all the council sought for witnesses 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, who bare false witness against him, saying, We heard he overthrew the merchants and money changers tables and was heard to say; Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…(John 2:19)

So far, all the offenses they quote…were against the Temple, not Rome.

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 (witnesses have) against thee? (Mark 14, Matthew 26, 27)

And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 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 (an anointed King to Come)…(Luke 23)[2]

Jesus King of the Jews vs. Pilate

Josephus tells a horror story about Pilate’s first official act when he arrived in Palestine as the new Roman governor. He arrived in 26 A.D. coincidentally, the same year that Jesus turned 30 years of age and began his mission and immediately set the tone of what his tenure would bode for the nation:

By now Pilate removed the army from Caesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there…So he introduced Caesar’s effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the form procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns…Pilate was the first who brought these images to Jerusalem, and set them up there…in the night-time; but as soon as (the people) knew it, they came in multitudes to Caesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days, that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests…on the sixtieth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them round, and threatened… immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their deaths very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Caesarea.  Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.III.1

Pilate must have been furious because the next time there was a problem—he took money from the Temple treasury to pay for a new aqueduct in the city—he retaliated by having his soldiers wear civilian clothes and mingle among the throngs. When he gave the sign, the soldiers beat the people to death with clubs. Wars of the Jews II: IX, 4, Antiquities XVIII. III. 3[3]

This is the man that Jesus knew he had to face when he entered Jerusalem that last time to make his claim to the throne. His mother and his “brethren” were all pushing him to make his move…but the timing could not have been worse. It took him three years to ride into Jerusalem for good or ill.

I think it is possible that a family member or Nicodemus and/or Joseph of Arimathea or my favorite, Mariamne III, went to Pilate’s wife with a petition to ask her husband not to interfere with Jesus’ claim…that he had a legitimate case to make…to just send him to Caesar to be heard…money probably changed hands. And Pilate’s wife did speak to him…

Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. (Matthew 27:19) [4]

And Pilate does try to “have nothing to do” with Jesus when Caiaphas brings him to him: What accusation bring ye against this man?

He knew that the son of Mariamne III was making a bloodline claim and should be sent to Caesar (my theory). Kingdom and king decisions were up to Rome. If he doesn’t do it, Pilate knows he could be removed. On the other hand, Caiaphas and Annas are threatening that they will complain to Caesar against him if he does not put Jesus to death. Money probably changed hands. So, what is the first question Pilate asks him?

…Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

All four gospels report that the question Pilate asked Jesus was not the accusations the priests made against him about destroying the Temple, but was he a king, and all four gospels state that Jesus answered…yes.

Thou sayest it. (Mark 15:1-2, Matthew 27:11, Luke 23:3, John 18:37-38)

Would just saying that he was a “son of David” have gotten him an audience before Pilate and sent on to Rome? I don’t know. Herod Antipas felt he had to make a marriage alliance with Herodias before making a try for the kingdom and he was a proven Herodian…and as far from a Davidic heir as you could find. Rome always backed the Herodian/Hasmonean bloodline, as we have seen and will see, something Jesus had as a son of Mariamne III. Rome would have seen his Herodian blood as an asset. Davidic blood would have been an added bonus to rally Jewish followers but Rome saw Davidic pretenders as seditionists…one had even claimed to be a shepherd king like David.[5] Even Acts tells a few stories of would-be Messiahs or Kings to Come.[6] But Pilate searched for a way to keep his hands off Jesus who came peaceable when he could have incited a riot…and he thought he found one…at least according to Luke who made the issue being Galilean rather than a bloodline issue. He sent him to Herod (Antipas) who would have known where Jesus fit into the scheme of things…as he had known about John son of Elizabeth.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time…And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war…mocked him and arrayed him in a gorgeous (scarlet) robe and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves…. (Later at the cross) …the rulers also with them derided him saying…(L)et him save himself (…if he truly was the prophesied “King to Come with all things in his power.”) …And a superscription also was written over him in letters of greek and Latin and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Luke 23:7-38)

It didn’t work. “Herod” sent him back to Pilate…who then gave the order to satisfy the demands of the High Priest Caiaphas…and Herod Antipas and Herodias. Jesus was killed and life went on…but then suddenly in 36 A.D. both Pilate and Caiaphas were relieved of their positions at Passover by the Roman President of Syria…a good reason for thinking the death of Jesus was in 35-36 A.D. According to Josephus the Samaritan Senate brought the charge of murder against Pilate for his hunting down and brutally killing a Samaritan prophet and his followers. Josephus gave no reason for Caiaphas’ deposing, but Pilate was relieved of duty and sent back to Rome. Now read what Josephus says carefully, remembering that it is the “Samaritan” Senate who was accusing Pilate:

So Vitellius sent Marcellus…to take care of the affairs of Judea, and ordered Pilate to answer before the emperor to the accusations of the Jews…But Vitellius came into Judaea, and went up to Jerusalem; it was at the time of…Passover. Vitellius…released the inhabitants of Jerusalem from all the taxes upon the fruits that were bought and sold, and gave them leave to have the care of the high priest’s vestments (a source of contention)…and this he did as an act of kindness, to oblige the nation to him. Besides which he also deprived Joseph, who was called Caiaphas, of the high priesthood…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.IV.1-3

Vitellius made the trip himself to Jerusalem at Passover to appease the Jews; not the Samaritans. Could this be a veiled response to the unjust death of Jesus son of Mariamne III who was killed for claiming to be “King of the Jews?” (my theory)


[1] There is whole genre of writers who have tried to rehabilitate Judas for betraying Jesus…I would just call attention to the “son of Mary” list of names of Jesus’ brothers…James, Joses, and Juda, and Simon…Mark 6:3. Juda/Judas could have been a brother and therefore part of the plan…as could Simon…we know about James being “the brother of the Lord.”

[2] Mark 12:14-17 claims that Jesus said to Render unto Caesar…when asked about paying taxes and Luke says the same and adds to only collect what is due. Luke 3:11-16, Luke 20:19-26

[3] In the previous paragraph Antiquities XVIII.III.2 Josephus says this: …So (Pilate) habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments… Is this where the Sicarii got their idea of hidden knives and blending with crowds????

[4] Pilate’s wife was later named Procula and given a Roman pedigree. Pilate may have been given his position by Rome because of his marriage alliance with her. Oddly, both she and Pilate are later made saints…

[5] At this time it was that a certain shepherd ventured to set himself up for a king; he was called Athrongeus… Wars of the Jews II.IV.3

[6] Acts 5:36, for one, tells the story of Theudas who crowned himself and raised a following.. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered.

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