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The Trial of Jesus







author of
'success among nations," "foundations of modern






Copyright, 1905, hy
DoDD, Mead and Company

Published, April, 1905


In August last I happened to hear, almost immediately
after its publication, of the present work on the trial of
Jesus. Ever anxious to learn what Italian thinkers have to
say in all matters of human interest, I hastened to acquire
the book, and read it with avidity. It has long been my
conviction that in the history of Jesus is indicated and re-
vealed the history of all humanity. The history of The
Man is the history of man. No age, no single historian can
tell the last word of this unique story. Each generation
wants its own Life of Jesus ; for in each generation new, or
partially new, human forces are shaping new phenomena
of goodness and wickedness, of greatness and misery.
Whatever new or formally new features may rise on the
moral horizon of humanity, we may always be sure that it
is within the Sphere of that Sun that for close on sixty gen-
erations has been the centre of our ethical and religious
system. The depths and endless vistas in the Life of Je-
sus are such as to necessitate a study of His time from the
most varied standpoints.

Unfortunately for a true comprehension of Jesus as a
purely historical phenomenon, let alone as the religious
Fact and Impulse, the study of the New Testament has
in the last seventy to eighty years fallen into the hands of
the so-called "higher critics," in whose criticism there is
nothing high, and in whose heights there is nothing crit-
ical. They are philologians ; and that alone condemns
them as historians generally, and places them absolutely


out of court as historians of Christianity. The philologian,
whose means and habits of research are taken from the
study of languages, is and must be naturally averse to a be-
lief in personality. Languages, indeed, have not been pro-
duced by single personalities; and no one syntactic con-
struction, such as the ahlativus ahsolutus, or any other lin-
guistic institution of Latin or Greek or Hebrew, can be
traced back to the influence of a single great personality.
In Christianity, on the other hand, everything emanates
from and comes back to one central Personality. Reduce
or obliterate that Personality, and you have reduced or
obliterated the whole of Christianity.

This is not the place to show that all ancient polities of
the classical type are necessarily based and grafted upon
an initial and final Personality. To the sober student of
History and Religion there can be no doubt whatever that
while, for instance, the existence of the Spartan state or
the Hebrew state may be considered only as an historic
necessity, the existence of Lycurgus and Moses are facts of
psychological necessity. In the case of Christianity this
irresistible psychological inference from present Chris-
tianity to its Founder, that is, to the surpassing Personality
of Jesus, becomes almost a logical necessity. If we should
lose every scrap of written or monumental evidence from
the first century of our era, just as we have lost all contem-
porary evidence of Lycurgus or Moses, the very fact of
Christianity as existing to-day ought to suffice to prove the
existence of a Founder endowed with a unique and alto-
gether extraordinary personality.

All these manifest truths, proved by the most sceptical
and " objective " study of the past, are contemptuously ig-
nored by the pedants who have so long imposed upon peo-
ple who affect to be stunned by a display of learned foot-
notes in a dozen old languages. It is now high time to


proclaim that " higher criticism," whether applied to Greek
and Latin classics or to the Old and New Testament, has
proved an amazing blunder. Nor can that be othen\àse.
When institutions the very heart, the very essence of which
consists of Personality, are studied, analysed, and criticised
by people who by their professional training have long
incapacitated themselves for any mental attitude enabling
us to appreciate adequately the nature and effect of Per-
sonality, the result can be notliing short of absolute failure.
If Bentley had essayed to write a history of Greek art, he
would have covered liimself with ridicule. So have the
too numerous German, Dutch, French, and English schol-
ars who, with an appearance of systematic precision, have
invaded every syllable of the New Testament, and who,
after driving out from each dwelling-place of the text what-
ever spiritual or human element there is in it, solemnly de-
clare that the New Testament is a mere story-book, Christ
a myth, and Christianity a fraud.

The reaction is setting in. People learning from real
scholars, such as Mr. Kenyon, of the British Museum, how
inept and pointless have been most of the admired philo-
logical tours de force of the great "emendators" of Greek
and Roman classics, are prepared to assume that the amaz-
ing "higher critics," who, with solemn divining-rods, have
torn the Pentateuch and other parts of the Bible into shreds
belonging to different " sources," are not a whit better than
their colleagues. Higher criticism has done harm, but,
forsooth, not to the Bible, but to the critics themselves.
Whatever sciolists and pedants may say in their numerous
journals and periodicals, it remains certain that higher
critics have not contributed anything essential towards a
true historical construction of the greatest figure of His-

A new and deep comprehension of the Great Phenom-


enon is required. The cravings of the mass of humanity
are still unsatisfied. They want a new life, and they feel
that it will flow principally from a new consideration of
the life of Him who has vitalised and spiritualised the great
institutions of the past. This new life of Jesus, in its total-
ity, can as yet not be written. Mountains of prejudices
and erudite sandhills have to be removed first. Mean-
while, we must be grateful to any one who has, at the cost
of much disinterested study, drawn at least one aspect of
that unique Life in the spirit of true research and genuine
enthusiasm for his subject.

Such a book is the present. Signor Rosadi has ap-
proached liis problem — apparently a purely legal one —
with a warmth of sympathy, with a breadth of philosophi-
cal view, with a purity of religious sentiment that have
rendered his book not only a noteworthy contribution to
the history of Jesus, but a stimulating and (we say it un-
hesitatingly) an edifying work in the best sense of the word.
It is to be hoped that few people whose Christianity is not
a mere formula to them will leave this book unread. It is
one of those great preliminary studies that may, in the end,
enable us to see in its entirety the immense force of Good-
ness and Greatness embodied in Him whose name is con-
stantly on our lips, and whom we yet know so little.

Emil Reich.
London, November 15, 1904.




The Great Injustice of the Trial of Jesus — Long Impunity of
the Accused — His Times — The Prophets — The Sects of
Palestine: the Pharisees; the Sadducees; the Essenes;
the Therapeutics — The Rabbis and the other Zealots of
Israel — Popular Agitation against Heresy, the Tribute,
and Taxation, the Inobservance of the Law — ^The Good
News of Jesus — A Complete Social Revolution — Cause
of His Impunity 1


The Voice in the Desert — The Precursor of Jesus — The Axe
to the Root of the Tree — The Messiad which crossed
from the Desert into Civilisation — Civil Status of Jesus —
His Country — His Parents — His Precocious Childhood —
The Family Trade— The Meeting with St. John the Bap-
tist — Beginning of the PubHc Life of Jesus . . .12


The Doctrine of Jesus from the Economic Point of View —
The Hebrew Tenure of Property — Wealth Incompat-
ible with the Kingdom of God — The Attacks and Para-
bles of Jesus — The Conclusions of His Doctrine — New
Definition of the Meaning of Life — Substitution of the
Christian for the Pagan Idea of Society — Neither Nega-


tion nor Distribution of Wealth, but its Administration
by Owners for the Benefit of All — Christianity and So-
cialism — The Language of the Fathers of the Church
and the Language of Jesus — The Thoughts and Lan-
guage of Jesus in regard to the state of opinion and of
legislation concerning wealth — Jesus does not violate in-
stitutions and laws, but raises feehngs at variance with
them — The Rich come to hate Him . . . .23


The Religious Doctrine of Jesus — His Vehemence against
the Desecrators of the Temple — High Emoluments of the
Priests and Levites — The Interests of the Priesthood
bound up with those of the Nation — The Idea of the
Theocratic Constitution — The Covenant and the Mosaic
Law — The Sanctuary in Jerusalem the Centre of the
National Forces — Christ's Attitude neither Theocratic
nor Nationalist — The Fulfilment of the Law of Moses —
His Resolute Opposition to the Officialism Predominant
in Public Worship— At the Well of Sichem— The Fanat-
ics join the Rich in their Hatred of Jesus . . . . 42


The Political Doctrine of Jesus — His Indifference to Estab-
lished Institutions — The Law founded on Force, but the
Moral Law of Jesus confided to the Liberty of the Soul —
Neither Conflict nor Adhesion between Divine and Hu-
man Authority — Tribute to Caesar — The Individualism
of Jesus representing the Integrity of Manhood as against
the Claims of Citizenship — Renunciation of the Law and
Indifference to Institutions do not conflict with True Jus-
tice or the Combative Element in Life, nor with Labour
or the Progress of Civilisation — All the Less Reason was
there that any such Conflict should exist in Ancient Pales-
tine — Jesus did not compete for Political Power . . 52




Propaganda and Associations — No one a Prophet in his own
Country — At Nazareth, Capernaum, and Gennesaret —
The Twelve Apostles — Men and Women following Him
— ^The Familiarity and Benignity of Jesus at Popular Fes-
tivals — Hypocrites scandalised — Originality and Charm
of His Words — His Style — His Invectives against Hypoc-
risy, Instrument of Fraud and Disunion — Authoritative
Admirers — First Councils adverse to Impunity — The
Amours of Antipater and Herodias hasten the Death of
the Baptist — The Tetrarch wishes to see Jesus . . 63


First Mission of the Apostles — The Master shows the Disci-
ples the Perils of Public Life— Period of Vague and Cir-
cumspect Propaganda — A Deputation of Scribes and
Pharisees comes from Jerusalem to question Jesus — A
Query regarding Inobservance of Form — The Reply of
Jesus against Pedants and Hypocrites — Another Mission
of Seventy Disciples — Jesus after a Long Journey braves
the Hostility of Jerusalem — The Absolution of the Adul-
teress — Significance of this Absolution in View of the
Mosaic and Roman Law — Opinion regarding Jesus at
Jerusalem — Refuge in John the Baptist's Country . . 78


A Message from Bethany — The House of Lazarus, Martha,
and Mary — The Fame of the Resurrection of Lazarus —
The Elders and Priests of Jerusalem convene the Sanhe-
drin — The Statutory Necessity that some one should die
for the People — It is decided that Jesus shall die — Juridi-
cal Consequences of this Anticipatory Decision — The
Fame of other Miracles as tending to render Jesus ame-



nable to the Provisions of the Penal Law — The Capital
Charge of working Miracles on the Sabbath — Other
Warnings of Danger — The Supper at Bethany — Judas
Iscariot and his Treachery as treated by Tradition —
Jesus at the Epilogue of His Mission — His Joyous Entry
into Jerusalem — Political and Juridical Value of the
Fact — Last Conflicts in the Temple — ^The Last Supper . 92


The Arrest — Judas guides the Band sent to apprehend Jesus
— ^The Kiss of Betrayal — The Beginning of an Attempt
at Armed Resistance — Another Meeting of the Sanhedrin
preceding the Arrest — Juridical Significance of this Meet-
ing — ^The Order and Form of the Arrest — Provocative
Agents — The Use of Spies under the Mosaic Law — The
Roman Authority and Military Force have nothing to do
with the Arrest — Incompetence of the Jewish Authority
to take this Step — Jesus before Annas — Formal Arrest
Unjustifiable — Intrigues and Interference of the Ex-High
Priest — The Nepotism of the Sacerdotal Family — The
High Priest Joseph Caiaphas 112


The Political Constitution of Syria in Regard to Roman Law
— ^The Conquest of Syria by Pompey — ^The reign of
Herod the Great, and the Territorial Division made Be-
tween Archelaus, Philip, and Herod Antipater — The
Principality of Archelaus withdrawn from the Latter and
transferred to the Governor before the Trial of Jesus —
Consequences of the Roman Conquest in Financial and
Police Matters, and in the Department of Justice — Colo-
nies, Municipalities, and Provinces — The Ofiice of Gov-
ernor, and of the Procurators officiating as Vice-Gov-
emors — The Jurisdiction of Vice-Governors in Cases


involving Capital Punishment — The General Opinion re-
garding the Jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin refuted — Why
the Judgment of the Sanhedrin was an Abuse of Power
— The Action of Justice in Inverse Ratio to the progress
of Humanity — Why Judges Untrammelled by the Spirit
and Interests of Conservatism would not have condemned
Jesus — Class Justice and Political Offences — The San-
hedrin usurped Roman Jurisdiction in Order to defend
Class Interests and Beliefs — Why the Vice-Govemor, left
Free in his Jurisdiction, should have collected the Proofs,
and conducted the Whole Trial himself — The Arrest of
the Person charged was also a Matter within his Juris-
diction 131


The Convening of the Sanhedrin — The Hour of the Meeting
— Prohibition of the Mosaic Law against Procedure in
Capital Cases at Night — Divergence in the Synoptic Gos-
pels — The Exegetic Observations of D. F. Strauss — The
Gospel Narrative of the Trial of Jesus before the Sanhe-
drin — It is concluded from it that all the Proceedings
before the Sanhedrin in this Matter were Nocturnal —
Significance of this Irregularity in View of the Rigorous
Observance of Legal Forms by the Hebrews — How the
Trial terminated with another Irregularity, inasmuch as
the Sentence could not Legally be pronounced on the
Same Day as that on which the Trial closed . . .152


The Constitution of the Sanhedrin — Historical Lacunes and
Conjectures — The Biblical Judges — The King and the
Elders and Judges — The Institutions of David and Je-
hoshaphat — Mention in Deuteronomy of a Supreme Mag-
istracy at Jerusalem — Necessity of consulting the Talmud


for determining the Hebraic Judicial Organisation — Tri-
bunals of Three Grades — The Capital Jurisdiction of the
Grand Sanhedrin and its Particular Attributions — The
Nasi, the Scribes, the Shoterim — Suppression of the
Greater Privileges of the Sanhedrin in the Time of Jesus . 162


The Minutes of the Audience of the Sanhedrin — The Pagan
Sources upon the Life and Trial of Jesus — Critical Con-
clusions regarding the Form and Contents of the Gospels
— The Gospel Texts upon the Trial before the Sanhedrin
— The Two Charges brought against Jesus : Sedition and
Blasphemy — How the Sanhedrin proceeded by Elimina-
tion, abandoning the First Charge in Default of Proof and
taking the Second from the Confession of the Accused —
Why the Confession did not dispense the Judges from ex-
amining Witnesses — Why the Confession would not in
Itself constitute an Indictable Offence . . . .169


Wherein the two Charges are examined with Reference to
their Contents — It is shown that the Charge of Sedition
was False and that of Blasphemy Unjust — Confutation of
the Thesis of Renan that it was the First and not the Sec-
ond Charge which caused the Condemnation before the
Sanhedrin — How Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messiah
— Moral and Historical Conception of the Messiah — How
the Messiah was understood and awaited by the Contem-
poraries of Jesus in Various Manners — How the Judges
of the Sanhedrin neglected their Duty in not raising the
Problem of Messianic Identity with regard to their Pris-
oner — Contemporary Judaism and Christianity success-
ively prove that this Problem ought not to have been set
on one side by a Foregone Conclusion — The Sanhedrin
conducted a Conspiracy, not a Trial . . . .184




In which it is shown that the Sentence ascribed to the Sanhe-
drin was not a Judicial Sentence — How in the Alleged Sen-
tence there is no Indication of the Kind of Punishment —
How not one of the Evangelists treats of a Real Sentence
— Exposition of the Mosaic Penal System in order to de-
duce what would have been the Punishment applicable to
Jesus — The Various Forms of Capital Punishment:
Hanging, Stoning, Burning, Decapitation — Preventive
Imprisonment — Fine and Flagellation — The Crimes Pun-
ishable with Death — How for the Crime of Blasphemy
stoning was decreed — It is concluded that had Jesus
been condemned by the Sanhedrin He would have been
stoned 200


Lucius Pontius Pilate — His Spanish Origin — At the Court of
Tiberius — How his Shameful Marriage caused his Nom-
ination as Procurator of Judsea — His wife Claudia joins
him in his Province — The Tenacious and Vehement
Character of Pilate contrasted with that Imagined by
Tradition — His Violent Treatment and Provocation of
the Jews — End of his Official Career caused by his final
Deeds of Violence — An Allusion of Dante . . .215


In which it is shown that the Reputed Judges of Jesus acted
as Prosecutors before Pilate — Scruples of Levitic Con-
tamination close the Gate of the Prsetorium to them —
Better Determination of the Day upon which these Oc-
currences took place — Pilate's Tribune — How an Accu-
sation but not a Condemnation upon the Part of the Jews
is spoken of — How the Charge of Blasphemy was not
Maintained, but the Already Abandoned Charge of Se-



dition was once more pressed — ^The Examination of Je-
sus before Pilate — How Pilate concluded that he found
no Crime in Him 230


From Pilate to Herod — From Herod to Pilate — How the Te-
trarch could not have had Jurisdiction over Jesus, al-
though a Galilean — Herod questions the Prisoner, who
does not answer — Meaning of His Silence — How the
Scribes and Priests repeated the Charges before Herod
— Jesus is sent back to Pilate in a White Garment — The
Second Expedient of a Simple Chastisement — Its Failure,
and the Recourse of the Governor to a Third Expedient . 242


The pardoning of Barabbas — What we know about him — It
is denied that this Pardon was founded on Mosaic Law —
Its Foundation is looked for in Roman Law — The Vari-
ous Extinctions of the Penal Sanction : Expiation, Death,
Pardon, Indulgence, Public and Private Rescission — It
is shown how Pilate could have only set Barabbas Free
by Virtue of a Private Rescission — The Liberation of
Barabbas should have taken place in Consequence of a
Demand from the Prosecutors, and not at the Pleasure of
the Judge 250


How Barabbas was preferred to Jesus — The Message of the
Wife of Pilate — Her Prophetic Dream — Pilate insists on
the Alternative : Christ or Barabbas ? — How the Mock-
ing Spirit of the Governor makes Jest of the King to be
crucified, and the Servile Character of the Jews who in-



voked the Friendship of the Emperor — The Unanimous
Cry of "Crucify Him" — How not even an Echo was
heard of the late Hosannas— The Reason of this is found
in the Disappointment of the People that looked for a
Miracle — How the Identical Popular Phenomenon was
renewed at Florence with regard to Fra Savonarola — The
Phenomenon regarded from the Positive Point of View
of Collective Suggestion, and from that of the Disorderly
Crowd 266


Pilate washes his Hands — Meaning of this Judicial Usage —
The Crowd insists Anew — The Last Stand of the Gover-
nor — Ecce Homo — Jesus handed over to the Priest — This
Handing-Over was the sole Form of Condemnation —
The Responsibility for the Death of Jesus falls upon the
Governor — The Roman Soldiers come at this Point upon
the Scene for the First Time — The Scourging from a Ju-
dicial Point of View — ^The Prisoner travestied — The
Crown of Thorns — The Order of Procedure in Roman
Trials — Jesus' Trial does not correspond to any Normal
Form of Proceeding : It was a Political Murder . . 282


The Cross — The Procession towards Calvary — How the
Three Prisoners carried the Implements of their own
Punishment — Simon of Cyrene — The Two Thieves — The
Women who followed Jesus and His Mother — Golgotha
— ^The Cross as a Penalty of Roman and not of Mosaic
Law — The Superscription of the Offence written above
the Cross — Crucifixion of Jesus — The Beverage — How
the Garments of the Executed passed by Right of Law
to the Executioners — The breaking of the Bones of the
Crucified Prisoners — The Last Words of Jesus — His
Death 299


C|)e Crtal ot Jesus


The Great Injustice of the Trial of Jesus — Long Impunity of the
Accused — His Times — The Prophets — ^The Sects of Palestine:
the Pharisees; the Sadducees; the Essenes; the Therapeu-
tics — The Rabbis and the other Zealots of Israel — Popular
Agitation against Heresy, the Tribute, and Taxation, the
Inobservance of the Law — The Good News of Jesus — ^A
Complete Social Revolution — Cause of his Impunity.

In the year of Rome 783, a carpenter of Nazareth was
arrested at Gethsemane, tried at Jerusalem, and put to
death on Golgotha as guilty of sedition.

Grasping priests denounced Him, false witnesses ac-
cused Him, judges of bad faith condemned Him; a
friend betrayed Him; no one defended Him; He was
dragged with every kind of contumely and violence
to the malefactor's cross, where He spoke the last words
of tinith and brotherhood among men. It was one of
the greatest and the most memorable acts of injustice.

For centuries it will afford to thinkers and believers
subject for meditation, as the human and divine prob-
lem; people of every race and every faith will demand
vengeance for it ; the prisoner of Gethsemane will be for
ever unified with God, and the very cross of His infamy
will become the purest and the highest symbol of hope
and revolution.



He whom thej condemned was innocent: blameless
in His manners, simple in His ways, inaccessible in his
aspirations. He preached one great law of love and
solidarity for the government of the world; He loved
the poor and humble and made brethren of the sinful and
unhappy ; He shunned pomp and power, and declared to
those who besought Him for worldly advantage that
His kingdom was not of this world. Yet He paid the
tribute due to Caesar and was a good citizen.^ But He
had frequently spoken against the hypocrisy of the
Pharisees, which manifested itself in every social con-
vention; sometimes He assailed public worship and the
law as leading to nothing but contradiction and false-
hood ; and He had cried still louder " Woe to the rich,"
while announcing to the poor a speedy betterment of
their condition. He had counted the tears and the ini-
quity of the earth, and promised as compensation and as
a contrast the happiness and the justice of heaven. This
propaganda of ideas and designs was bound to be dis-
tasteful, as it was, to the greater part of the Hebrew
people, interested in the welfare and power of the nation,
and could only transgress, as it was intended to trans-

Online LibraryGiovanni RosadiThe trial of Jesus → online text (page 1 of 27)