POLITICS, RELIGION, AND THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST JESUS — PART 1

English: Illustration in 1883 encyclopaedia of...

English: Illustration in 1883 encyclopaedia of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin council (from Greek synedrion, synhedrion) Русский: Иллюстрация в старинной энциклопедии заседание Синедриона (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the pages on this website is Citizenship by Pastor Tim Crater of Woodbridge Bible Church. In his article, Pastor Crater provides excellent and soundly biblical reasons why Christians should participate in the political process. Here I would like to do the same by appealing directly to the example of Christ Jesus, our savior.

As the four Gospels report, Jesus died by crucifixion as an enemy of the Roman Empire. Who executed him?

Pontius Pilate ordered Jesus’ execution. Pilate (see here and here too) served as procurator of Judea.

The administration of the fiscus or imperial treasury at Rome and of the finances in the imperial provinces, as well as the collection of fiscal revenues in the senatorial provinces, was in the hands of procurators. They occupied many positions which, on account of their intimate relationship with the person of the monarch, could be safely entrusted only to those whose limited prestige precluded inordinate ambition (Friedlaender, Sittengeschichte Roms 7th edition, Part I, 132-43). Finally, several provinces, where the conditions were unfavorable to the introduction of the ordinary administrative system and Roman public law, were governed as imperial domains by officials of the equestrian class as the emperor’s representatives. In Egypt the title prefect (praefectus) was employed permanently as the appellation of the viceroy, and while the same term may have been used originally to denote the governors of this class generally, when their military outweighed their civil functions, yet the designation procurator became at an early date the term of common usage to designate them (Hirschfeld, 382). (from here)

Essentially, Pilate made certain the people of Israel paid their taxes and otherwise behaved themselves as subjects of Rome. The Sanhedrin (see here and here too) took care of the more day-to-day matters in Judea.

In the time of Christ the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem enjoyed a very high measure of independence. It exercised not only civil jurisdiction, according to Jewish law, but also, in some degree, criminal. It had administrative authority and could order arrests by its own officers of justice (Matthew 26:47Mark 14:43Acts 4:3; Acts 5:17; 9:02; compare Sanhedrin 1 5). It was empowered to judge cases which did not involve capital punishment, which latter required the confirmation of the Roman procurator (John 18:31; compare the Jerusalem Sanhedrin 1 1; 7 2 (p. 24); Josephus, Ant, XX, ix, 1). But, as a rule, the procurator arranged his judgment in accordance with the demands of the Sanhedrin. (from here)

Because the Sanhedrin was a religious body, Rome allowed Judea to exist as a theocracy ruled by the Sanhedrin. Thus, when Jesus challenged the Jewish authorities, he simultaneously engaged in both a religious and a political dispute.

Why did the Sanhedrin want Jesus executed? Why did Pilate order Jesus crucified? In Part 2, we will consider what Jesus did that angered the Jewish authorities.

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