Easter Myth #1: The gospel accounts of Yeshua’s trial are broadly in agreement

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians haven’t studied the scripture in detail and aren’t aware of their inconsistencies. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #1:  The gospel accounts of Yeshua’s trial are broadly consistent with each other

No they’re not! The gospels differ significantly over the events surrounding Yeshua’s trial.

  • In the First Gospel, Mark, they took him to Caiaphas, the high priest’s, house where the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing council , had assembled. The Jewish leaders gave false and conflicting testimony; Yeshua remained silent. Then Caiaphas asked him if he was the Messiah. Previously he had refused to claim the title, but this time he answered, ‘I am.’ ‘Blasphemy!’ exclaimed the Jewish leaders, ‘The punishment is death.’ [1] But the Jewish authorities had no power to execute a prisoner, only the Romans could do that, so Yeshua was sent to the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate.

Pilate is said to be unconvinced; blasphemy was not his concern. The Jewish leaders then accused Yeshua of claiming to be a king; this could be seen as sedition, a capital offence under Roman law. He half-heartedly caved in, had him flogged and then sent for crucifixion – normally reserved for bandits, slaves and non-Romans guilty of disloyalty to the Emperor.

  • In ‘Luke’s’ Gospel, and only ‘Luke’s’, he was also sent to Herod Antipas, the puppet ruler of Galilee, who questioned him but took no action. Herod returned him to Pilate.
  • ‘Matthew’s Gospel added a further dramatic gesture – Pilate washed his hands to signify that he was innocent of Yeshua’s blood.
  • And typically the Fourth Gospel, John, added several lengthy passages of dialogue at all stages of the proceedings.

Moreover, the gospels claim that Pilate was in the habit of releasing one prisoner every Passover festival and appealed to the crowd to nominate Yeshua. But they would not, preferring to plead for a common thief, Barabbas, instead. As for Yeshua, they screamed at Pilate to crucify him.

This is also curious. There is no reference to this custom outside the gospels so we must conclude there was none. And a Roman Governor had absolute discretion. The Pilate of history had a fearsome reputation and would never have allowed the crowd to choose.

So why do the authors of the Second and Fourth Gospels portray ‘the Jews’ as pleading for Yeshua’s death?

After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion they had every reason to absolve Pilate of his responsibilities. ‘Matthew’s’ Gospel even has the Jewish crowd yelling in unison, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’[2] which has often been cited as one of the causes of centuries of antisemitism.

Incidentally, to condemn Yeshua for sedition would have been a major miscarriage of justice since there is no evidence in any of the gospels that Yeshua had political or military aspirations, only religious ones.

©David Lawrence Preston, 1.3.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

[1] Mark 14:53 – 15:15

[2] Matthew 27:25

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