bible blog 1134

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Pope declares “No more war!”

Pope Francis yesteday

Pope Francis yesteday

Mark 14:53-65

New English Translation (NET)

Condemned by the Sanhedrin

53 Then they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests and elders and experts in the law came together. 54 And Peter had followed him from a distance, up to the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the guards and warming himself by the fire. 55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find anything. 56 Many gave false testimony against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 “I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What is your verdict?” They all condemned him as deserving death. 65 Then some began to spit on him, and to blindfold him, and to strike him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him and beat him.

Muslims and Christians protest against blasphemy trial of child with learning difficulties

Muslims and Christians protest against blasphemy trial of child with learning difficulties

Although scholars have questioned Mark’s account of what would have been an unconstitutional meeting of Israel’s religious court, the account itself presents a picture all too familiar to students of show trials under all systems of government. In all cases the verdict has been prepared before the evidence has been heard. The spectacle of incompetent liars giving cooked- up evidence against a dissident is also familiar. The allegation about destroying the temple may reflect a genuine utterance of Jesus. Mark takes it as an ironic prophecy of how Jesus’ death and resurrection will invalidate the Temple and establish a new house of God, which may be the church, the kingdom of God or Jesus’ risen body. Certainly the kingdom is the focus of Jesus’ quotation from Daniel chapter 7, according to which the Son of Man, who represents the “saints of he most high” will finally come to rule the world. 

It’s by no means clear why this is counted as blasphemy. Even if Jesus was applying it to himself, it would still only be a claim that he was part of the divine plan for the world. Indeed the claim to be the Messiah cannot be blasphemous either as the Jewish people expect that at some point this claim will be made by a human being and will be true. The original Greek holds out the possibility that Jesus words “I am” (ego eimi in Greek) were interpreted as claim to be the “I am”, that is, God. ” Probably almost any assertion by this prisoner would have  been heard as blasphemy.

The spitting and other forms of brutal mockery have been characterised as anti -Jewish slander by some scholars, but alas, they are only too  common  behaviour in religious courts of judgment throughout history and across religions. It remains true, nevertheless, that almost all the details of Jesus arrest, trial and crucifixion can be found in the Old Testament and especially in Isaiah 53.

“He did not hide his face from shame and spitting”

For Mark, Jesus is the Son of God, the true Messiah, the suffering servant of God,  the one who saves humanity from evil and death by his victorious battle against these powers in his ministry, his death and his resurrection. His way is for Mark the only true way: no cross, no crown. In this episode his calm courage shows up the shoddy hysteria of the court.

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