Understanding Local Autonomy in Judaea Between 6 and 66 Ce

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This book describes, analyzes and interprets the extent of local Jewish autonomy in Judaea during the period 6 to 66 CE. It is the book’s purpose to illustrate and clarify whether the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem in this period had the authority to pass sentence in capital cases and to execute such sentences. The background and context of this investigation is the trial of Jesus, but the issue at stake is of general historical interest as well.


“ ... Within the literary evidence, two pieces are fundamentally important: Josephus’ account in Antiquities 20.202 of an incident as Albinus arrived in Judea to take up the governorship, and John’s statement in John 18:31 that the Jewish authorities were not allowed to put anyone to death. This latter unambiguous but almost parenthetic statement has been the fulcrum of numerous debates over the situation obtaining at the time of the trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the best known instance of capital punishment during this period. Indeed, the issue has been a divisive factor in relations between Jews and Christians over the period from the writing of the New Testament until today. The author has carefully mined the relevant literary evidence to establish as accurately as possible whether Jewish authorities did or did not have authority to carry out capital sentences flowing from Jewish legal requirements during the period 6 – 66 CE ... He reviews not only all the known cases of capital punishment in Judea but the attitudes of the two most important witnesses to Jewish law, life and customs, Philo and Josephus ...” – (from the Foreword) Professor Peter Richardson, University of Toronto

“ ... The subject of this book is well-chosen because of its importance for the study of the trial of Jesus. Therefore, it is very helpful to have this problem of the authority of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem in relation to the Roman governor analyzed to the bottom by means of a thorough examination of all relevant sources. This study is prepared thoroughly, and it is carefully written in a clear and polished language ...” – Professor Per Viggo Bilde, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. “It was not proper for Ananus to convene a judicial panel without his concurrence.”
3. Does literary evidence support the interpretation of Ant. 20.202 as the introduction of a restriction on the freedom of a Judaean high priest to convene a court independently of Roman authority?
4. “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”
5. Does literary evidence support the contention that Judaean officials were able to enforce the death penalty independently of Roman authority from 6 – 66 CE, contrary to the claim made in John 18:31?
6. “They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.”
7. Can the transfer of Jesus to Pilate by the Jewish Leaders be adequately justified as a theologically necessary aspect of messianism in the early development of the Christian tradition?
8. Conclusion

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