Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jesus Christ Caiaphas Sacred Oath of Testimony

From the Upper Room to the Empty Tomb
William Evans, Ph.D., D.D.
Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1934
Chapter 5: The Trial of Jesus
2. The Ecclesiastical Trial—Before Annas, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin

Pages 165-169

Christ Before Caiaphas by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)
Source: Wikipedia Link to Image
image edited by Mary Katherine May
The Sacred Oath of Testimony
Author William Evans explains two reasons for the death of Jesus according to the purposes of Rome and the Jewish authorities and not the same as the real purpose according to God which of course at the time they would not have known.

The following small excerpt from Evan's book will perhaps be an insight into the real events leading up to the the empty tomb not realized or thought of before as it wasn't for me.  

The question Caiaphas asked of Jesus was framed in a way to require or necessitate a response other than silence.  It was the defining moment from which there was no escaping death.

The committed Christian, in order to be named as committed, has already had one such moment, which is not the same as knowing you are a Christian.  It is the moment that has led from a worldly or sinful life to death on the cross with Jesus Christ and then on to a life of resurrection and light.  

Christians now as ever before, however, are coming to another defining moment. This moment, if it comes, is each for each of us accompanied with a sacred oath of testimony in the same manner as Jesus faced before Caiaphas.  What would my answer be? What would your answer be?  That is something to think about.

Excerpt from The Upper Room to the Empty Tomb
“The Christ,” “the Messiah” of the Jews, was related not only to the spiritual blessings that would come on the people of God when He came; He also was to be, at least in the mind and calculation of the people (although certainly not according to the true interpretation of their Scriptures), a ruler, a king, a military commander who would deliver His people from the galling yoke of the oppressor.  Here then was a conception of the Messianic office that would be of keenest interest in Rome.  It was this aspect of the case that interested Pilate: “Art thou a king then?”  The thing which perhaps more than aught else moved Pilate to give up Jesus to the Jews for His crucifixion was the saying of leaders of the Jews: “If thou let this man go thou art not Caesar’s friend; whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”  “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat down (or set him down) in the judgment seat…and saith unto the Jews, Behold your King…Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king, but Caesar.” (John 19:14-16)

The cunning of the high priest, therefore, was shown in his illegal attempt to wring from Jesus the confession that He was the “Messiah,” “the Christ,” for by so doing His doom would be sealed and made sure by both Jewish and Roman authorities—by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate.  Here was both a religious and political crime punishable with death.

But to exact a confession from the accused in order that he might condemn himself was a violation of Jewish law which clearly said: “Our law condemns no one to death on his own confession”….”It is a fundamental principle with us that no one can damage himself by what he says in judgment.”  That this was teaching of the Mishna, the controlling Jewish law, the high priest well knew.  But what was law to him and the Sanhedrin seeing they were determined to put Jesus to death?  There was nothing else for them to do, if they were to accomplish their nefarious purpose, but to ignore their own laws of justice and human rights.  Caiaphas will cowardly resort to a most holy custom; he will have recourse to the “Sacred Oath of the Testimony.”

When Caiaphas had asked Jesus whether or not He had anything to say in reply to the things which were being testified against Him, “Jesus held His peace;” He made no reply; and, in spite of all his persuasion, Caiaphas could not make Jesus speak; He continued to remain silent.  It was then that the high priest determined to resort to one of the most holy customs of the Jews, one which Jesus, being a true and holy Jew, would not dare disobey.  He would apply to Jesus “The Sacred Oath of Testimony” under which a true Jew dared not remain silent.  The Mishna says: “If one shall say, I adjure you by the Almighty, by Sabaoth, by the Gracious and Merciful, by the Longsuffering, by the Compassionate, or by any of the divine titles, behold they are bound to answer.”  It is clear, then, in the face of this sacred oath, that no pious Jew would dare to remain silent, for silence under such circumstances was practically an unforgiveable offense.  Jesus, therefore, could not remain any longer silent; as a true and pious Jew He must answer this question of the high priest.

“And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it that these witness against thee?  But Jesus held His peace.  And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus said unto him, Thou hast said; nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.  Then the high priest rent his clothes, (and, this in direct disobedience to the divine command that the high priest should ‘not rend his clothes,’ Lev. 10:6) saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses: behold now ye have heard his blasphemy, What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” (Matt. 26:62-66)

To this question, “Art thou the Christ?” administered under the “Sacred Oath of Testimony,” Jesus answered in the affirmative: “I am;” “Thou hast said;” “Ye say that I am.”  (Mark 14:62; Matt. 26:64; Luke 22:70)  Being compelled, under oath, to say, what was truth, that He was the Messiah, His answer was as simple as possible, “Thou sayest.”  Let us not think for a moment that Jesus, by these simply expressed affirmations, is seeking to evade the issue by giving an ambiguous answer to the question of the high priest.  He is not.  The answer is, according to Jewish custom and under such circumstances as these, a most positive and an affirmative answer.  It certainly was so regarded by the high priest and those who were present in the courtroom.  There was certainly no doubt in their minds as to the meaning of Jesus’ answer.  This was no word of an overwrought enthusiast, a deluded person.  It was absolute, definite, positive and affirmative to them, being of such a nature as to constitute “blasphemy.” (Matt. 26:65)  According to Jewish law and custom, courtesy, under these circumstances, forbade a direction “Yes” or “No” to a question of such grave or sad import.

It is quite true that the interpretation which the high priest put upon the title “the Christ” was quite different from that which the Scriptures give it, and Jesus Himself put upon it, nevertheless there was nothing else for Jesus to do but to acknowledge that He was “the Christ” foretold in the Jewish Scriptures.  According to the true interpretation of the office and function of the Messiah, His work was to be characterized by accomplishing the spiritual redemption and deliverance of God’s people.  The high priest, in common with the Jewish nation as a whole, had misunderstood and misinterpreted the Messianic function and referred it to a material, physical and political deliverance from all temporal enemies (see Acts 1:6; cf. Luke 17:20, 21)—and it was such a definition that lay back in the mind of the scheming high priest.  But Jesus, of course, was not responsible for this false conception of the Messianic office, and could not, on that account, deny that He was the true Messiah, the Christ of God.

But this admission of Jesus as to His being “the Christ” satisfied the high priest because, on the one hand, it constituted blasphemy, and such a claim, in the judgment of the Sanhedrin, was a crime punishable by death; while, on the other hand, the thought that Caesar’s throne was threatened by a Jewish Messiah would be sufficient to constitute treason which was a crime punishable by death by Rome, for Rome looked for trouble in connection with the advent of the Jewish Messiah, and had already had one or two very serious political clashes with men professing to be the Christ, the Messiah; (Acts 5:36, 37; 21:38; 8:9) so Rome would be taking no more risks in that direction.

Jesus, therefore, by His own confession, had condemned Himself religiously and politically.  And this was exactly what the scheming Caiaphas wished for.  The Sanhedrin would quickly take care of the crime of blasphemy and sentence Jesus to death for it.  Rome would not be slow in taking cognizance of any, even seeming, attack upon its control of the Jewish nation.  As long as Jesus was content to remain as a mere local preacher among the people of Palestine Rome would not need to bother about Him, but let Him make claim to be the Messiah, who, according to Jewish belief, is destined to mount the throne of David—well, that was an entirely different matter; then Rome was interested and seriously so.

Before the Sanhedrin Jesus was condemned because they said He claimed to be the Son of God; before Pilate because they said He claimed to be the King of the Jews; so we should understand that the crucifixion was the crucifixion of one who claimed to be God’s Son in a manner which was equivalent to equality with God.  Nor was it necessarily called blasphemy because the Messiah said He was the Son of God (the Jews expected that), but because Jesus made the claim in an exclusive way.  He had said, “that God was his own Father, thus making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:17, 18 R.V.)  Indeed the death on the cross can be understood only as we see these two things.

This blog post by Mary Katherine May of

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