The news of Passover Week, 1,976 years ago

Cal Beverly's picture

[Editor’s note: A version of this column originally appeared in The Citizen in 1998.]

What if the mainstream media had been around approximately 1,976 years ago, this week after Passover? Return with me to sample today’s media coverage back then, courtesy of the Jerusalem Constitution and CNN (Centurion News Network) ...


By Cynthia Simple, Staff Writer

Despite followers’ claims of a miraculous resurrection of their discredited leader, Jerusalem today returned to normalcy after a tumultuous weekend that included a stormy execution day punctuated by two minor earthquakes on Friday and Sunday that rattled the city and did minor damage to the Temple veil.

Three men — two convicted robbers and a political protestor — died Friday from lethal crucifixion at the traditional execution site, a hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha.

Both Temple and Roman authorities anticipated no more public outbursts of the kind that began one week ago with a noisy political protest parade that included palm fronds laid before a donkey and ended with an otherwise quiet Sabbath.

In between, officers kept a close watch over mercurial crowds who began the week by proclaiming a carpenter’s apprentice from Nazareth as their new-found “king,” and ended with nearly the same crowds led by Temple officials, including the High Priest, demanding his execution.

Jesus, son of the late Joseph, a rural carpenter, died Friday at 3 p.m. after a crucifixion lasting six hours, with only his mother, Mary, and a few diehard followers, mostly women, looking on, authorities said.

Other accounts of “large multitudes” attending the execution and mourning his death could not be independently confirmed. Temple authorities denied there were any widespread demonstrations of grief for Jesus, whom Temple officials considered a revolutionary and “blasphemer.”

They noted that among his followers was the notorious Simon the Zealot, a well-known political opponent of the Roman administration.

In the final controversial act of that day, the Nazarene was buried in a nearby tomb before sundown by Joseph, no relation, a wealthy businessman from Arimathea, who is also a member of the Jerusalem Council.

Joseph was unavailable for comment. No public ceremonies were held.

The core group of his loose band of followers, known as “disciples,” were unaccounted for, authorities said, having scattered shortly after his arrest last week near Gethsemane.

His fledgling political movement seems to have died with Jesus, said sources close to Roman Gov. Pontius Pilate.

Roman authorities were quick to point out that Pilate, who conducted the final hearing on the Galilean’s crimes, was “disappointed that a peaceful solution could not be found to the trouble stirred up by Jesus and his rebels.”

“I asked them (the crowds) what harm had he really done, but they were adamant,” Pilate said. “I washed my hands of this man’s fate.”

Sources close to the governor indicated that in sanctioning the execution he was trying to “be sensitive” to the demands of King Herod, the titular ruler of the province, and the religious leaders of the province’s largest city.

For their part, Temple sources said they wanted no repercussions from Imperial Rome in response to the three-year campaign of Jesus to establish what he called “the kingdom of God.”

By midweek following the crucifixion, the capital city had settled back into its everyday routines, with the marketplaces filled with buyers and traders and the religious ceremonies at the Temple continuing as usual.

Roman authorities declined comment on a report that Temple officials asked for and got a guard placed around the tomb of the fallen “Messiah.”

Authorities discounted as “hysterical fabrications” stories from some Jerusalem residents about sightings of deceased relatives who allegedly appeared shortly after the execution and burial.

They also dismissed unconfirmed reports of the dead revolutionary’s body being missing from “an empty tomb” early Sunday morning.

Temple officials declined press requests for a visit to the prisoner’s burial site, citing their desire to maintain order and prevent emotional demonstrations of the sort that preceded the would-be “king’s” death.

One official, who wished to remain anonymous, ridiculed the claims made by Jesus before his death. “So he saved others, did he? He couldn’t even save himself. He even said he was going to destroy this Temple and then rebuild it in three days. Well, this King of Israel couldn’t even come down from the cross to show his powers to us so that we might believe.”

His followers were unavailable for comment. Authorities said they had reports the disciples had returned to their rural villages to resume their former occupations.


JUDY: And, finally, in a footnote to a busy week in the Judean capital, a former carpenter who challenged both the religious power of Temple officials and the very rule of Rome over the world ended up nailed to a cross outside the city that followers said would be the site of his eternal palace.

His name, for the record, was Jesus, and his death, like so many Zealots before him, proved ultimately to be pointless.

His misled followers must be wondering now how they could have invested so much faith in a man who ended his life hanging naked between two thieves.

In a widely noted show of nonpartisan political cooperation, both King Herod and Gov. Pilate agreed that for the sake of Israel’s security and the Pax Romana, such a threat to law and order could not be tolerated.

He was buried in an unmarked tomb, away from the view of the world that he sought to rule.

I’ll say his name one more time — Jesus of Nazareth — for it’s likely the last time anyone will ever hear it again.


Fast-forward to Easter 2009: That was then; this is now. Do they get it yet?

login to post comments | Cal Beverly's blog