“Last Days of Jesus” gives a new theory on the politics of the Crucifixion

The documentary “Last Days of Jesus”, from Blink Films (114 minutes, apparently an Australian produce, no director named) aired on PBS last night and will air numerous more times until Easter.

The film advances an interesting theory about the political struggle that led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The documentary style is one of narration with actors.  A UNC religion professor gave a lot of commentary.

It starts by tracing the boyhood of Jesus, and showing the remains a of a stone house in Nazareth that suggest that Joseph and Mary were economically better off than generally believed.  Jesus developed the skill to become a building contractor.

But as a young man he was always are of his mission, and as in the Bible, his personal epiphany came from meeting John the Baptist.

When Jesus was a teen, a political struggle in Rome developed that would have a bearing on how his own life would end.  This had to do with the rise of a young man and soldier with Shakespearian ambitions, Lucius Aelius Sejanus.  Apparently he arranged the poisoning of political rivals and became the top confidant of Tiberius, who even wanted to build a city in his name on the Dead Sea.  When he became deputy emperor, he became somewhat friendly with the Jewish establishment in the Holy Lands because he wanted stability. But a few months before Jesus’s Passion, he was summoned by the Roman Senate, expecting a “promotion” but instead was imprisoned and executed for the murders.

The Sadducees, as a conservative sect of Judaism at the time, emphasized the written law of God and were somewhat unpopular with the people in the various towns around Jerusalem.   The Pharisees, often reviled I Sunday school as wanting to be heard “for their much speaking” were actually somewhat populist in some sense.  (I mention the Pharisees at the opening of the last story in my “Do Ask. Do Tell III” book, that is, “The Ocelot the Way He Is”;  I’ll take this up soon on my DADT Notes blog.)

In the meantime, Herod had wanted to become viewed as “King of the Jews”.  He liked working with Sejanus.  After the execution of Sejanus (the political scandal somehow remind me of the 2016 elections) perturbed the political climate in such a way that Herod and Pilate were affected, as well as the relationships among the various religious groups.  Herod had even supported the idea of a separate religious “kind” (that is, “two kings”).  That also upset the political situation of Judas, among the disciples, in particular.

The film supposes that “Palm Sunday” really happened in the fall, and that Pilate took some time before deciding to jail Jesus, who would not be crucified for several months.  The political story of Judas many vary somewhat from previous accounts (like the 2006 NatGeo film “The Gospel of Judas”). It may even bear on the plot ironies surrounding a short film called “Judas Kiss” embedded in the controversial 2011 gay science fiction film by that name (the lead character Danny (Richard Harmon and then Charlie David), a filmmaker, is presented as having a Christ-like charisma but yet is troubled by a certain paradox).

The film notes that writers in the first centuries may have avoided mentioning Sejanus out of fear and self-censorship, so his narrative did not make it into the New Testament.  Sounds familiar?  Like Trump’s battle with journalists?

PBS program link.

PBS DVD sales link.

Modern view of Nazareth, wiki.

(Posted: Wednesday, April5, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT)

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