Probable Answer: As usual, it’s a little complicated. The Gospels give different accounts on this. Luke says the Jewish religious authorities did it. Mark and John indicate the Romans did it. Matthew says the Jewish Sanhedrin arrested him, but ultimately the Romans carried out the crucifixion. Most Biblical scholars today believe the Romans did it for political reasons, at least according to Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman.
- If the Romans did it, why did they care? The Romans did not care if Jesus was offending the Jewish religious authorities. And Jesus merely taught about love and forgiveness and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, right? Well, yes. And it’s that last thing that may have caused the problem. Pilate and the Roman authorities did not like anyone saying they were ‘king’ of anything. Rome was in charge, not the Jews. And word got out that Jesus was touting himself as King.
- But did Jesus say this publicly? No. That’s where things get more interesting. Jesus knew that saying things like that in public might not go over well. But he did talk to his disciples about it. And this might be yet another explanation of the Judas betrayal story — Judas may have reported to the Romans about a coming kingdom with Jesus in charge.
- Then why did Luke write that it was the Jewish religious authorities?Remember that each of the Gospel writers had an agenda when they took the pen 30-50 years after Jesus’ death. Luke was a Gentile writing to a Gentile audience during a time of great political unrest between the Jewish people and the Roman government. And if you are trying to market to a Gentile audience and not offend those in authority, you place the responsibility for the death of your spiritual leader on someone else. Luke spends a lot of ink constructing a story where Pilate and Herod (son of THE Herod) both wash their hands of the situation, leaving the blame to the Jewish authorities.
Next week: Does Leviticus condemn Golden-doodles?