Craig Evans on the Judaism of Jesus and Why He Died and Who Killed Him

Here, well known New Testament scholar Craig Evans speak about the Jewish background of Jesus and why he died and who he killed him:

Jesus, Judaism, and the Jewish People

The evidence as a whole shows that Jesus was deeply rooted in Israel’s ancient, biblical heritage. Jesus accepted all the major tenets of the Jewish faith. These tenets include the unity and sovereignty of God, the value and sanctity of the Temple of Jerusalem, the authority of the Jewish Scriptures, the election of the people of Israel, and the hope of Israel’s redemption. Jesus, moreover, observed many of the practices associated with Jewish piety in his day: alms, prayer, and fasting (Matt 6:1–18). Jesus fasted in the wilderness during his period of temptation (Mark 1:12–13); he prayed and taught his disciples to pray (Matt 6:7–15; Luke 11:1–13; 22:39–46); he and his disciples gave alms, and he taught others to do likewise (Luke 11:41; 12:33; John 13:29). Jesus presupposed the validity of the Temple, the sacrifices, and Israel’s holy days (Matt 5:23–24; Mark 14:14). He read and quoted from the Jewish Scriptures and clearly regarded them as authoritative (Luke 4:16–22; 10:25–28; Mark 10:19; 12:24–34).

Why Did Jesus Die and Who Killed Him?

Jesus of Nazareth did not die because he quarreled with Pharisees over matters of legal interpretation. He did not die because he taught love, mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus did not die because he associated with “sinners.” He did not die because he was a good man. Jesus died because he threatened the political establishment with the prospect of undesired change. His contemporaries foresaw the very real possibility of a serious riot, perhaps even a full-scale rebellion. The ruling priests took action against Jesus because they feared his preaching and his prophetic criticism of the ruling priesthood might lead to insurrection. If this happened, the ruling priests could be deposed by the Roman governor. An insurrection could lead to a very costly civil war, which is in fact what happened three decades later, in 66–70 CE. Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Samaria and Judea, agreed that the charges against Jesus were serious. He, like the ruling priests, was committed to avoiding insurrection and so had Jesus put to death by crucifixion, with a placard identifying Jesus as “the King… feared him and called for his death. Only a few thousand Jews, who happened to be in Jerusalem for the annual Passover feast, were even aware of Jesus and his condemnation. The Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for the death of Jesus. From a theological perspective, Jesus’ death was the will of God and accomplished God’s redemptive purposes. Theologically speaking, all of humanity-Jew and gentile alike-was responsible for the death of Jesus.- Craig Evans, A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, Kindle Location, 3580 to 3615 of 6946.

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