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THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM § 1. Absence of Political Background from the Gospels § 2. Political References and the Poverty of Their Content § 3. Evidences of the Interest of Jesus in the National Life § 4. Occasions and Forms of the Political Forecast made by Jesus § 5. Absence from the Records of an Adequate Basis for Jesus' Forecast § 6. An Exhibit of the Critical Events within the Lifetime of Jesus § 7. General Significance of These Events for Jesus § 8. Special Significance of the Rise of the Zealot Movement § 9. Attitude of Jesus toward the Zealot Movement $10. Pharisaism and Sadduceeism in Relation to the Zealot Movement $11. The Messianic Ideals of Jesus in Relation to Those of Zealotism



To the men who produced the Synoptic Gospels apparently it did not seem important to sketch the political background. They were not influenced by a purpose to make the acts and words of Jesus more vivid and vital by a portrayal of the events and movements of his day. Luke, it is true, avows his purpose to trace “the course of all things accurately from the first;" but we soon discover that he meant not much more than that he would do this for the events themselves, not for their origins, the external determinative influences, or their place in the larger movements of the contemporary life. This historical sense of Luke does, indeed, lead him now and then to supply for his * narrative certain brief settings which have a larger outlook; but these are chronological and have scant interpretative value.? So long as we are dependent upon Luke and his fellow Synoptists these are mere names and dates; only when outside sources yield the substance do they become suggestive of throbbing and tumultuous life. For the authors of our three gospels it was enough that Jesus stand in contrast with Pharisees and scribes when he, by his acts or words, places himself there; they are satisfied with such an exhibit of the influence of these powerful leaders in Jewish life as is called forth by the simple record of Jesus' relations with them. When a Roman tetrarch or procurator is brought into direct relations with Jesus, he forms a part of the history; but it did not become a concern of the evangelist to set forth in an adequate way the trend of Roman rule in Palestine, and its far-reaching effect upon Jewish political and religious life, its effect upon the policy of Jesus himself, and upon many phases of the attitude of the leaders among his people toward Jesus. It satisfies the evangelist that he has recorded what Jesus has to say of his people's present position and of their future; he assumes a knowledge of those forces of the past which have made them what they are; he does not have an interest in sketching those political and religious

a Luke 1:5; 2:1, 2; 3:1, 2.

1 Luke 1:3.

tendencies of the present which, to the mind of Jesus, contain a sure prophecy of the near future.


By Luke the promise of the birth of John the Baptist, by Matthew the time of the birth of Jesus the Christ, are set within the reign of Herod the king,' and Matthew tells of an act of Herod, growing out of the report of that birth, which gives such a shock to the sensibilities’ as to make the act seem incredible. But we are not told of that fierce lust for power and that consuming jealousy to which members of Herod's own family, and even his most passionately loved wife, fell a prey, of dark deeds beside which the slaying of the infants seems to become, as it really is, a comparatively trivial incident in a mad career

of crime. Luke tells of an "enrolment made when Quirinius was + governor of Syria"3 with the simple purpose to show why a Nazarene

went to Bethlehem; he does not record that the enrolment actually X made under Quirinius was the occasion of a revolt by the Jews of a

nature so serious that its effects lasted till Jerusalem was destroyed. Matthew records that at the visit of the Magi not only was Herod stirred to activity, but “all Jerusalem with him” was "troubled;"4 he does not indicate that this “trouble" was based in the concern of the Jerusalem leaders to check indications of popular movements—a concern which later played a considerable part in determining the

history of Jesus. Following this, Matthew shows the relation between + the movements of the husband of Mary and the rule of Archelaus, and

hints at an unfavorable attitude of this son of Herod;5 but one would not therefrom infer for Archelaus a short ten years of high-handed and barbarous rule ending in banishment to Gaul, and leading to that radical change of form in the Roman administration of Judea which was to persist, with one brief intermission, till Titus took Jerusalem, and which had in it the seeds of fatal discord. Luke exhibits with fulness the distribution of power in Palestine at the time of the appearance of John the Baptist, but in such a way as suggests order and peace, and is not calculated to give knowledge of the frequently

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changed testaments of Herod the Great, the family quarrels, and the deputations to the Emperor which preceded this settlement. Mark knows of the imprisonment of John, and gives a reason for it;' but the reason is grounded in morals, not politics; it fails to take account of the larger outlook that determines the policy of rulers:

Now, when many others came to crowd about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best by putting him to death to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Machaerus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death."

We are given a hint of a party called “the Herodians;"3 but are x left to construct from facts gained outside the gospels some satisfactory theory of their probable views and influence. It is recorded that among the Twelve there was one “Simon, which was called the Zealot;"4 there is no suggestion of those tenets of his sect which proved the most powerful factors in leading the people to that political attitude which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. Decapolis is mentioned;5 but not so as to distinguish it from the rest of Palestine in such a way as to make a war between the Jews of Perea and the people of Philadelphia natural and intelligible. Luke makes record of “Galilaeans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices;”, the reason for this act, and the political and historical significance of it, and consequently even its relation to the policy of Jesus, we are left to conjecture. Herod the tetrarch's reported attitude toward Jesus comes to us through the lips of Pharisees; here, because we have the reply of Jesus and are not dependent upon the historical sense of the evangelist, illumination is shed. The record of one of the snare questions put to Jesus makes it evident that the issue of relations to Rome is a living one, a debatable one, at Jerusalem;. but the vast chasm between opinions there, and the intensity of conviction that

1 Mark 6:17, 18.
> Josephus, Antiquities, xviii, 5, 82.
3 Mark 3:6; 12:13.
4 Luke 6:15.
5 Mark 5:20.

6 Antiquities, xx, 1, $1.
7 Luke 13:1.
8 Luke 13:31, 32.
e Mark 12:13-17.

* marked the adherents of the anti-Roman party is not even dimly

suggested here or elsewhere. We are told of a Roman centurion at the cross of Jesus;' we have no hint of the Roman soldiers, so odious to the true Jews, who at that very hour were standing guard, fully armed and alert, in the temple porticoes, to suppress any riot which might occur, and whose presence there, at a later time, led to a tumult in which no fewer than twenty thousand perished.? We can understand how any hint of sedition will awaken a ruler to action, and so are able to appreciate the policy of the Jerusalem leaders in giving to their charge against Jesus before Pilate the form they did; but neither from the report of the trial nor elsewhere in the Synoptics do we get any adequate conception of the plague which the messianic hope of the Jews proved to be to their Roman rulers. And even when direct and individual reference is made to “a notable prisoner," "lying bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder,"4 it does not call before the mind, as it ought for any true perspective, a long series of revolts, of lesser or greater magnitude, lying within the bounds of the life of Jesus.


Any review of the political references in the Synoptic Gospels, and any just emphasis, by contrast, upon the poverty of their social, political, or historical content, will serve to make clear not only the indifference of the evangelists to any large framework or setting of a vital kind, but also their unconcern for those general religious and political tendencies which surrounded Jesus. And in so far as their record of Jesus' words is regarded as fairly complete, or at least representative, this impression of unconcern for these tendencies passes over from the reporters to him who is reported. But against any such sweeping inference of indifference on Jesus' part to the trend of the movements of his day there stands the notable and highly significant fact that he gave expression, on several distinct occasions, to a definite religious and political forecast, which apparently he grounded in the conditions prevalent in his own time. He saw that,

i Mark 15:39.
· Antiquities, xx, 5, $3.

3 Luke 23:2, 5, 14.
4 Mark 15:7

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