Why Did So Many Devout Jews Violate Moses’ Law in Regards to Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, and Burial?

Image result for image of jews with swords arresting jesus
Armed Jews coming to arrest Jesus on the holy day of Passover

“When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

–Nehemiah 10:31

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: These are the appointed festivals of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations, my appointed festivals.  Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements.

These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight,[a] there shall be a passover offering to the Lordand on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. For seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall not work at your occupations.

–Leviticus 23

According to the Law of Moses, no work was to be done on the Sabbath (the seventh day of every week:  Saturday) nor on holy days (Yom Tov).  Two of those holy days are the 14th and the 15th of Nissan.  According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus was crucified and buried on the 15th of Nissan, a Friday, one day prior to a Saturday Sabbath.  Here is the problem:  Jews were to observe the same restrictions on the 15th of Nissan (Friday that year) as they would observe the following day, the 16th of Nissan, a Saturday Sabbath!  Why were so many devout Jews violating Moses’ law in the three Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ trial, execution, and burial?

Here is a list of the violators:

–The chief priests and a great multitude of Jews:  they show up to Jesus’ arrest with swords and staves (Mt. 26:47)

–The high priest:  he tears his clothes (Mt. 26:65)

–The chief priest:  a fire was lit in his house (Lk. 22:55)

–The high priest:  a trial takes place in the high priest’s palace (Mt. 26:56-64)

–Simon the Cyrenian:  he came in from the fields (Mk. 15:21)

–Joseph of Arimathea:  he purchased burial linen (Mk. 15:46)

–the women followers of Jesus:  they prepared spice and ointments (Lk. 23:56)

Yet…Christians tells us that first century Jews were very, very strict about observing Moses Law, in particular, not defiling a sabbath.  “No first century Jew would have moved Jesus’ body on the Sabbath.  The skeptics’ claim that the cause of the Empty Tomb was that someone had moved the body of Jesus is absolutely implausible!”

Really???

If we believe the Gospels, first century Jews were committing all kinds of violations of Moses’ law on holy days consecrated to God.

These stories are not historically reliable, my friends!  Are we really to believe that so many devout Jews were violating the Law?

 

 

 

 

 

End of post.

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9 thoughts on “Why Did So Many Devout Jews Violate Moses’ Law in Regards to Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, and Burial?

  1. Here’s a few comments about when it’s permissible to break Sabbath laws (each separate paragraph is from a different article):

    Hymini 17] and Tchumin [2]
    The work of the police to maintain normal peaceful life of citizens by patrolling and attending cases of conflict is considered to stand within the category of life saving duties that can override Shabbat laws.

    In Judaism, the principle of Pikuach nefesh describes how Sabbath prohibitions on work can be broken to save lives.

    The laws of Shabbat and the Jewish holidays may be suspended for the purposes of pikuach nefesh. The earliest known example of this took place in 167 BCE, when Mattathias and the Hasmoneans declared that it was permitted for their followers to fight on the Sabbath day to defend themselves from attack.

    It is permissible for one whose profession it is to save lives (such as a physician, nurse, or emergency medical technician) to work on Shabbat in order to save lives.

    ======== my comments below ==========

    The Big Question: Could Jesus’ arrest and all subsequent and related events leading to his crucifixion have been seen as something that could be “rationalized away” as being something that could “save lives”?

    Ehrman says – in apparent agreement with Sanders – ” I do think the Temple incident led to Jesus’ arrest and eventual death; but it was not a capital offense to overturn tables in the Temple. It is why the Jewish authorities were eager to have him removed (in part because his apocalyptic preaching was directed agains them, and in part because such preaching at such an incendiary time could well lead to serious unrest.) I’m with Sanders on this.”

    NOTE: ” such preaching at such an incendiary time could well lead to serious unrest”

    Thus, in order to prevent violence, the Jewish leadership was free to “break” sabbath laws (or applicable sabbath-principle laws at convocations).

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    1. If true, that excuses the high priests of breaking the Sabbath to arrest Jesus. But why the need to conduct a trial on the Sabbath? Why not put Jesus in custody until Sunday morning, then start the trial? That would be the smart thing to do. Why provoke a near riot in front of Pilate???

      If we believe the Synoptic Gospels, the Jews spent most of the 15th of Nissan, a holy day, schlepping all over Jerusalem! If we believe John, the Jews did the same thing on the 14th of Nissan, again, a holy day.

      And your exception does not account for the behavior of the other Jews in the list above which violated a holy day to buy linen, work in the fields, or prepare spices.

      There are just too many Jews defying a Jewish holy day! So which is more likely to be true: These stories of so many Jews violating the Law of Moses on a holy day are historically accurate, or, they are the literary inventions of non-Jewish authors who did not know that Jews could not do these things on the 14th or the 15th of Nissan???

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  2. re: “But why the need to conduct a trial on the Sabbath? Why not put Jesus in custody until Sunday morning, then start the trial?”

    the Gospels themselves offer an answer for that one: “… for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”

    As to “too many Jews violating a Jewish holy day” goes, do you think the Six Day War just sort of came to a halt so the Jewish soldiers could have sabbath? Gary, these Jews – the ones directly involved in this story – were all operating under the direction of the Head Cheese of Judaism – the High Priest. If he said they were covered, they were covered. If what they were doing was deemed necessary in order to avoid the possibility of riots and bloodshed, then, it was all good. Even if it meant dealing with the “Jesus business” on the Passover, on a sabbath, whatever. That was their call – specifically, the High Priests call.

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    1. Your explanation covers the action of the Jews during the arrest, but does not explain why the women prepared spices. And I do not buy your explanation for not delaying the trial until after Passover and the Sabbath.

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      1. re: “Your explanation covers the action of the Jews during the arrest, but does not explain why the women prepared spices.”

        My explanation wasn’t intended to address “women with spices” at all. So, you are correct in this point It doesn’t explain the women and spices…

        re: “And I do not buy your explanation for not delaying the trial until after Passover and the Sabbath.”

        What I offered is not “my” explanation at all. I simply offered what Mark says. It’s OK with me if you don’t buy it.

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        1. According to Josephus, Jesus was executed by Pilate “at the Passover”, and “at the suggestion of the principle men among us”. So we know historically that Jesus’ execution was on the day of the Passover.

          Is this a Christian interpolation or the actual words of Josephus. Scholars can guess, but we will never no for sure because Christians either doctored or burned thousands of non-Christian historical documents which they believed threatened the viability of the Christian tale.

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          1. you’ve said a million times that you like to go with what the majority consensus is, and, the majority consensus is that these particular claims in Josephus are indeed authentic.

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    2. The notion that the entire Jewish leadership blatantly transgressed the Sabbath in such an overt manner refutes its historicity (cf. Lachs 1987, 437)

      The issue of concern for the author of Matthew was to create a fail-proof set of circumstances to prove that Jesus absolutely, without a doubt, had been resurrected from the tomb—to counter skeptics’ claims that the body was moved or that the disciples mistakenly identified the wrong tomb on Easter morning!

      This is apologetics, folks, not history.

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  3. re: “The notion that the entire Jewish leadership blatantly transgressed the Sabbath in such an overt manner refutes its historicity (cf. Lachs 1987, 437)”

    According to Josephus, Jesus was executed by Pilate “at the Passover”, and “at the suggestion of the principle men among us”. So we know historically that Jesus’ execution was on the day of the Passover.

    That leaves us to ask “when was this decision made, and when was Jesus arrested”? If there were no “emergency” status to the situation, then clearly there would have been no need to have executed Jesus on the Passover; it could have waited till the week of festival was over. But, evidently, there was something else driving the situation.

    Is it possible that a group of 71 (the Sanhedrin plus the High Priest) can “violate” the laws of Sabbath?

    I would offer this paragraph:
    1806 July 26, Napolean. Emperor of France, formed the Conference of Notables to deal with the relationship of the Jews and the French State, which was called a “Sanhedrin” although was unrelated to the Rambam’s teachings. It consisted of 112 deputies from all parts of the French empire. At the assembly, which was led by the financier Abraham Furtado and Rabbi Joseph David Sinzheim, the delegates were confronted with a questionnaire on polygamy, usury, loyalty, and intermarriage. Pleased with their answers, Napoleon decided to re-establish the Sanhedrin under his careful direction, with representatives from all congregations. Even though the assembly was to be held on the Sabbath (some claim this was a loyalty litmus test), they decided to attend and not risk the wrath of the Emperor.
    (sanhedrin.org)

    What we see (above) is that 116 Jewish leaders all decided to attend an assembly on the Sabbath, apparently to avoid risking “the wrath of the Emperor”.

    Rambam, Hilkhot Rozeaḥ 2:4, declares, “If the king of Israel wishes to kill them [the accused] in accordance with the law of the monarchy (be-din ha-malkhut) and perfection of the world, he has authority to do so; similarly, if the Bet Din sees fit to kill them as an emergency measure (be-hora-‘at sha’ah) if the times require such, they have authority [to act] in accordance with what they deem [proper].” (Bet Din is “house of judgement”, in this case, the Sanhedrin)

    Above, we see that if the Bet Din (whichever one is applicable) decides to execute someone as an emergency measure, they have the authority to do so “in accordance with what THEY deem proper”.

    From an “informal” page on converting to Orthodox Judaism: “Shabbat and Yom Tov Observance: You should be observing Shabbat to the best of your ability. Your beit din may require that you purposefully break Shabbat once each week.”

    Above, we see that a Bet Din (beit din) can actually require the breaking of sabbath rules on purpose.

    What you and Lachs fail to understand is that the Law is not as “rigid” as you’d like to think it is. And, it never has been. In particular, the sabbath-related laws are not as all as rigid as you think, and there could potentially be any number of situations in which it was permissable to break sabbath rules.

    In short, I disagree with what Lachs says, noting the above examples.

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