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<  Discussion  ~  Questions about the Passion

PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:06 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 5 Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:56 pm
For this year's Palm Sunday we read the account of the Passion from the Gospel of Matthew. I had a few questions so I figured I'd post them here.

1) In Matthew, the two men who were crucified with Jesus joined the crowd in taunting him (Matthew 27:44)

In Luke, only one of the men taunts Jesus. The other rebukes the first and ask Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:39-42)

How do we reconcile these two accounts?

2) How much blame can we ascribe to Pontius Pilate? We say in the Nicene Creed that Jesus "was crucified under Pontius Pilate" However, it seems to me from the Passion account that Pilate's involvement was fairly passive. He delivers Jesus over to be crucified, but he is not the one who is seeking Jesus' death. He even goes so far as to wash his hands clean.

Also, Jesus' death and resurrection were necessary to fulfill God's plan. Does that fact in any way absolve Pilate or anyone else (scribes, Pharisees, priests, the crowd, etc.) who participated in Jesus' crucifixion?

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 4:22 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
There is no need to reconcile these two accounts, any more than there is a need to reconcile the many other differences in accounts of the same event in different places in scripture. These are two separate stories told by two different authors to two different audiences for two different reasons. Neither is a historical or journalistic account that claims (or needs) historical accuracy. Each evangelist took the basic facts about Jesus (he was born, lived in Galilee, went about preaching, healed, and was condemned to death, and rose from the dead) and various stories and sayings and used those to address a particular community with a particular crisis. By used in the previous sentence, I mean rearranged, amplified, simplified, or modified.
Matthew is consoling a primarily Jewish community who have recently been barred from worshiping in their usual synagogues. He consoles them by preaching that Jesus is the new Moses, and they have the new covenant. So everything that Moses did, Matthew has Jesus do: he was to be killed as an infant, he came out of Egypt, he gave the new law (the beatitudes) on a mountain (Sermon on the Mount). Luke addresses a community with quite a different background and crisis and so he has none of those Moses similarities (it is the Sermon on the Plain in Luke). John relies on the symbolism of Jesus as the Paschal sacrifice so he puts the crucifixion on the day before Passover since that is when the lamb is slaughtered; the other 3 place it on the first day of Passover.
As author Meghan McKenna likes to say: everything in the Bible is true; some of it happened.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 4:30 pm Reply with quote
Posts: 92 Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:29 pm
This is an excellent question as it leads into the even more difficult but important question of how we understand the statement that the death of Jesus and his resurrection bring salvation to us.

Not every theologian would agree with the statement that "Jesus' death and resurrection were necessary to fulfill God's plan". I would recommend The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred by James Williams. This book expounds on the writings of Rene Girard on the meaning of the Crucifixion and violence in the Scriptures. A much shorter treatment, found at, ends in the perfect response to your question:
The most ironic twist of the knife is to blame the Jews or the Romans for this murder of God, some one else, at some other time. That dirty act of scapegoating is simply fatal, the password to hell, because it commits against the Christ the very crime he dies to expiate. The only true response is, “It is I! And I will never do such a thing again, so help me God!”


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