Why Was Jesus Killed? Shimon Gibson’s Take
by James Tabor
Shimon Gibson has recently posted a summary of his own take on the controversial question historians have wrestled with for the past 150 years–why was Jesus killed? It is of course taken from his book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence (HarperOne, 2009), which I reviewed last month. You can find it posted on the Web site BibleInterp.com. Once one goes beyond the merely theological perspective, namely that God gave his son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, so his death was predestined and inevitable, a host of questions emerge. To what degree were the Romans involved? Did the Jewish establishment uniformly condemn Jesus to die, or only a small segment thereof? Was he popular with the people? In what ways was he perceived to be a threat to those who wished to do him in?
Gibson argues his own thesis that Jesus was a threat to the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, not for reasons connected with any sort of messianic claims, with their potential seditious political overtones that might lead to insurrection, but because his healing activities among the huge crowds at Passover might foment social unrest. His argument is fascinating and worth considering. Since this question is absolutely central to my own take on Jesus as messianic claimant to the Davidic throne, as presented in The Jesus Dynasty, I anticipate that my dialog and differences with Gibson will be most instructive for readers, and even more so for students and colleagues who join us this summer on our Mt Zion dig. I expect we will have some really lively discussions, both in formal and informal sessions.
Speaking of which, Egon Lass, veteran archaeologist and colleague, will be joining us at Mt Zion this summer for the entire dig season (June 14-July 10). This is wonderful news for students and staff alike since Egon is one of the most experienced archaeologists in the field, and having him work with us will certainly add significantly to our work. As it happens, Egon has just posted his own review of Gibson’s book at Helium.com. So it looks like we will have lots to discuss, with diverse viewpoints, as we gather in Jerusalem this summer, right over the ground where the events took place. We still have room for volunteers to join us, so if any of you are considering the idea there is still time. You will find all details at digmountzion.com.