62.  The Sanhedrin would never have acted in such an illegal manner!

     Oh, right. And government always stays inside the lines of the constitution. And cops don't go bad, husbands don't beat their wives, clergy don't molest children, and judges always run honest courtrooms.
     Christians have remarked on the highly irregular procedures recorded in the gospels for centuries. But we assert their historical accuracy nevertheless.   Those charging Yeshua were afraid of a riot if they conducted the trial in the normal, public manner.

                                                                                 (BF)

     That was the idea--to get it over with quickly, before an insurrection started, with Jerusalem filled with pilgrims for the Passover, and national feelings for freedom at a high pitch--just the time for a 'messiah' to arrive. Ergo, snuff the movement out quickly, so that it is over with before anyone knows the difference. What sort of reaction the public--the real public, which had welcomed Yeshua into the city only a week before--do you think would have resulted if they had delayed and held lengthy open daylight trials, with, perhaps, another kind of mob waiting outdoors?

                                                                             (RP)

     Consider a hypothetical modern parallel example:  a popular leader arises in an occupied country, say, a Lech Walesa in Poland. He grows so popular that everyone fears an anti-Russian, anti-communist revolt will break out. But, with memories of Hungary and 1956 in their minds, the leaders of the Church (who are the real representatives and custodians of Polish national feelings) decide that it would be best for Poland to be rid of Walesa. However, they lack the power to do this. So they go to the civil government. But the government is afraid things will go bad, anyway, and that will get them in trouble with Moscow. They finally assent, but only                                                                                                                              if the Church leaders take responsibility for everything. If there is any popular reaction, it must be directed at them.
     The execution proceeds apace. The Church leaders say, 'We had to do it to save Poland'. The government announces loudly, 'WE had nothing to do with it'. And Walesa is remembered ever after as a great martyr who sacrificed his life for Poland.
     Politicians being now, as then, what they are, what is so improbable and ludicrous about this?

                                                                               (RP)

63.  But weren't the gospel accounts written long after the events?  So of course they are inaccurate!

     So?  The Torah was written long after many of the events depicted in it, too (especially the events in Genesis). Is it inaccurate?

                                                                                (BF)

     Actually, the documents detailing how the Sanhedrin was run were put down on paper long after the gospels. The Mishnah was probably put into written form at least a century (and probably a century and a half) later.  Don't you think something might have become  'idealized' by then? Just as our own constitution might, in a similar instance,  be remembered as it was  written--but not as it was always practiced? (Remember Watergate?)

                                                          (RP)

64.  Anyway, there's no contemporary evidence that Yeshua even existed!

     And there's no  evidence for the Exodus, either. Nobody has ever found the chariots of Pharaoh, no one has ever found a piece of manna, and so on. .  .

                                                                             (BF)

65.  Don't the gospels try and whitewash Pilate?

     The gospels don't paint a pretty picture of Pilate.  He hates the Jews, so he is suspicious of them and reluctant to agree to their demands. He 'washes his hands' of the affair as if to refuse. But in the end he sees no reason not to kill this one Jew. He does take the occasion to make a political statement: an insult to the Jews who demand this man's death. The crime board nailed to the cross proclaims him 'King of the Jews'.

                                                                                  (BF)

     So why don't they go even further?  Pilate vacilates. He has Yeshua scourged. Why not delete this? Why show the Roman soldiers mocking Yeshua?  Why have any criticism of Pilate at all? Why not have him, like Albinus, be enraged and angry? Praising Roman justice? A few sentences like this here and there could have been inserted to that effect. Why not? If, as is claimed, they were making the whole thing up anyway?

                                                                                  (RP)

66.  Don't the gospels assume the Jewish leaders had the power to threaten Pilate? This is untrue; Pilate hated the Jews, and would never have let himself be threatened by them!

    Elsewhere in his career Pilate attempted to display images of the Emperor inside Jerusalem. One attempt was quelled by a massive protest on the part of the people (See Josephus, 'Antiquities', XVIII, 3.1) . Another attempt was stopped when a delegation visited Pilate.. As Philo records (in 'Letter to Caius'):

    "Pilate, who was of a stubborn and cruel nature, obstinately refused; and  then they (the delegates) shouted, 'Don't cause a revolt! Don't cause a war! Don't break the peace! Insulting our traditions doesn't bring honor to the Emperor. Don't use Tiberius as a reason for insulting our nation! He doesn't want any of our traditions violated. If you claim that he does, then show us a letter or message or something from him, so that we can stop bothering you and appeal to him directly with a delegation.'  This last remark frustrated Pilate most of all, because he was afraid that if they really  id send a delegation, then they would end up making charges against the rest of his rule also--making careful note of his bribes, his insults, the random injuries, his frequent executions of prisoners without trial, and his limitless barbarities. But because he was so vindictive and spiteful, he could not decide what to do. He didn't want to seem to be trying to please the delegates; but at the same time he was afraid to remove [the shields]. . . But he also knew what Tiberius' policy had always been in such matters. When the delegates saw that Pilate was regretting what he had done [by bringing the shields with the Emperor's portrait to Jerusalem]--though he did not wish to show it--they wrote letters to Tiberius, making out their case as strongly as they could. And how Tiberius cursed, and what threats he used against Pilate once he had finished reading them. It's possible to tell his reaction from what he did next--because he didn't even wait until the next morning to answer them, but he wrote immediately to Pilate, upbraiding and reproaching him repeatedly for his brazeness and ordering him to remove the shields immediately."

     Thus, the threat of another appeal, or complaint to Rome, would likely  have been of serious concern to Pilate.

                                                                               (RP)

     There is also speculation that Pilate was appointed by Sejanus, who was, in effect, Tiberius' Premier, and an anti-semite to boot. When Sejanus fell (31 C.E.), his appointees would also have come under close scrutiny--thus, again, perhaps,  the ability of the priests to threaten Pilate with a report to Rome.

                                                                                (RP)
 

67.  But isn't the whole incident with Barabbas just a fiction? There's no evidence that Roman governors ever released prisoners at Passover!

     Josephus records a possibly similar incident. A group of Assasins kidnapped a scribe belonging to the retinue of the High Priest, and held him hostage. This happened JUST BEFORE THE FESTIVAL. They then informed the High Priest that they wanted him to persuade the governor to release ten of their number who were being held prisoner. The governor, Albinus, agrees, and the prisoners are released. (Josephus, 'Antiquities', XX 9.3).
      Of course, this doesn't necessarily indicate the existence of a regular custom during a festival, but it is possibly suggestive.
      Similarly, there is a mention in the Mishnah (Pes. 8.6) that a seder may be prepared for one 'whom they have promised to bring out of prison' , and  who presumably can't prepare one for  himself. Some scholars think this presupposes some kind of regular amnesty for Pesach.  So, while there isn't proof of a custom,  neither is it possible to assume that such a custom 'couldn't' have existed, or 'didn't' exist, or that the release of a prisoner by the Roman governor at a festival period was never practiced.
     And one may ask why, if there was no such custom, the writer of a gospel should mention it, since it would be easily disproven by any of those alive at the time who could have very  simply refuted it.

                                                                                (RP)
 

68.  What about, 'His blood be on us, and our children?'

     Just before this, Pilate washes his hands. This is apparently in imitation of the Jewish custom (Deut. 20:6-8), in which the elders of a city declare themselves innocent of a murder. After this, they pray, '. . . do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man'. The crowd, familiar with this, and knowing the usual response, and having been worked into a frenzy, simply shouts back, as a mob will, the reverse of this --in effect, 'yes, we are guilty; put his blood upon us!'.  They aren't in the least fear about this, and they do not consider Yeshua to be the messiah. (Compare, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'.)

                                                                                 (RP)

     The intent of the author of Matthew is to portray Yeshua as the lamb of Passover. When the Angel of Destruction saw the blood on the doorposts of the houses of the people of Israel, he passed over them. In this 'second' Passover, all the principals, from the High Priest on, play their expected roles. Yeshua dies exactly at the right moment during the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb in the Temple. And the people cried out, 'His blood be on (or over) us'; ie, the blood of the lamb of Passover be over us. This is the only possible intended meaning given the setting of the rest of the narrative. Again, ripped out of its Jewish context, the passage looses its meaning and can be (as it has been) misinterpreted by anyone to suit their own purposes. (But anti-semites should not be allowed to force their interpretation of scripture onto the rest of the world.)

                                                                                (RP)

69.  The actions of everyone in the story are too improbable to be believed!

     I, for one, find it extremely implausible that people behold the majesty and power of G-d in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire (hardly natural phenomena) and yet want to go back to Egypt. I find it extremely implausible that people witness to the descent of G-d upon Mt. Sinai with thunder and darkness and cloud; hear a voice from heaven speak to them--and in particular tell them 'You shall not make any graven images'--and then go off and make a graven image. G-d parts the waters and destroys the Egyptian army--yet the people have no confidence in the ability of G-d to deliver the promised land to them.  Yet all these things happened.

                                                                                (BF)

70.  You only accept these accounts because you have to; they are part of your religion, and it would collapse if you didn't.

     And you have to reject the account of the resurrection--because if the resurrection occurred (and it did), then Christianity is exactly what it claims to be.  You have to reject the clear interpretation of Isaiah 53, for the same reason. And you have to reject the account of the trial of Yeshua, because you cannot accept the idea that the Temple leaders would do something of this magnitude.
     Assume, for a moment, that the resurrection actually happened. Can your world-view accept this? The answer, of course, is 'No'--you cannot. Therefore, the resurrection must be false--not on the basis of history, but on the basis of what you feel you must believe.

                                                                              (BF)