Death of Jesus

Temple complex in Jerusalem built by King Herod
Temple complex in Jerusalem built by King Herod which Jesus visited and was rumored as wanting to destroy.

Jesus Rumored as Wanting to Destroy the Temple

(July 9, 2022) This is all we can say with certainty about the events surrounding Jesus' death:​

  1. On a visit to Jerusalem a rumor spread that he wanted to destroy the temple causing civil unrest
  2. He was crucified on order of the Romans around 32 CE.
  3. His followers found his tomb empty and did not know what to make of it.
  4. On Pentecost a rumor spread that he had risen from the dead in a sign that the end times were beginning. Many who believed showed signs of spiritual excitement such as speaking in tongues.

The validity number of the following quote from Jesus is 1.93 making it authentic:

 This temple needs to be destroyed​
Validity = Mark (0.39) + Mark (0.39) + Mark (0.39) + Luke (0.3) + John (0.23) + Thomas (0.23) = 1.93 plus Jesus attacked the temple vendors

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Jesus would have objected to the Jewish temple because it was contrary to his teachings about improving one's inner self and social fabric. Sacrificing innocent animals to pay for violations of often arbitrary religious rules and thinking that made a person right with God was self-delusional. What is worse is that the temple officials were making lots of money off of fooling the people in this way. Consequently, he seems to have said something about the temple eventually being destroyed. This was reported in Mark 13 below and given an apocalyptic twist:​

(Mark 13:1-2, NIV) As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down. ” (copied in Matthew 24:1-2 and Luke 21:5-6)
Mark 11:15-16, NIV) On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. (copied in Matthew 21:12-17 and Luke 19:45-48 with an independent attestation in John 2:13-16)

The destruction of the temple in 70 CE by the Romans after a 5 month siege was seen as a fulfillment of this Jesus prophecy and it gave a boost to the apocalyptic wing of the Jesus movement. It seems to be what motivated the author of Mark to write his gospel.

These anti-temple statements and action against the money changers seems to have started the rumor that Jesus was seeking to destroy the temple.  This rumor would have created much opposition to him  and was likely a significant factor in his arrest by the Romans and in his betrayal by one of his own disciples (Judas).

The payment amount to Judas of 30 pieces of silver is symbolic and comes from the “broken covenant” passage in the Old Testament book of Zechariah 11:8-12. In this passage the shepherd (as a reference to God) is claimed by the prophet Zechariah to have broken his covenant with Israel because of Israel's disobedience. Zechariah is then paid 30 pieces of silver to keep quiet and go away but instead he throws that money at the potter of the temple to indicate that God rejected their attempt to silence him.  ​

Other Source Texts for the Rumor:

Mark (70 CE) 

(Mark 14:57-59, NIV)[copied in Matthew 26:61] 57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “ We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
(Mark 15:29, NIV, Jesus on the cross)[copied in Matthew 27:40) 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,

 ​Luke-Acts (80 CE)

(Acts 6:12-14) 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin (in Jerusalem). 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”​

John (90 CE)

(John 2:18-22) 18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “ Destroy this temple , and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

 ​Thomas (90 CE)

(Thomas 71) Jesus said, " I will destroy [this] house , and no one will be able to build it [...]."

Jesus was Crucified in Jerusalem around 32 CE

(July 9, 2022) Two separate lines of evidence support Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem:

  1. It is mentioned in Paul's letter to the Galatians 2:20, in Acts 2:36 and the whole passion narrative of Mark chapters 15 and 16.
  2. The valid but false “Take up your Cross” teaching which goes back to near the time of Jesus

Paul says the following about the crucifixion in his letter to the Galatians in the context of stating that belief in Jesus as the messiah is superior to following Jewish law:

(Galatians 2:19-20 NIV) For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Acts says the following in the context of trying to convince the non-Christian Jews that Jesus was the messiah:

(Acts 2:36 NIV) “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

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The best date for the death of Jesus seems to be 32 CE. Arriving at this date begins with the observation that all four gospel sources and Josephus agree that Jesus was crucified during the rule of Pontius Pilate which occurred between 26 to 36 CE.

(Josephus, Antiquities, Book 18, chapter 3, paragraph 3 with possible Christian additions eliminated) Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonderful works. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

According to Luke 3:21 Jesus began his ministry shortly after he was baptized by John the Baptist and John the Baptist began his activity during the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

(Luke 3:1-3, NIV) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

All the rulers mentioned in this passage are confirmed to have overlapping reigns by other historical records suggesting Luke is a reliable source in this instance (see the entries in the Anchor Bible Dictionary): 

  1. Herod Antipas ruled from 4 BCE to 39 CE
  2. Philip ruled from 4 BCE to 33 or 34 CE
  3. Caiaphas was high priest from 18 to 36 CE

Tiberius Caesar was ruler of the Roman Empire after Augustus and he ruled from September of 14 CE to 37 CE so the 15th year of his reign would be 28 or 29 CE (depending whether the partial year is counted as year 1 or not counted at all). Most likely Jesus was baptized by John sometime during John’s first or second year making the start of his ministry near 30 or 31 CE. If one goes by the synoptic gospels Jesus preached between 1 and 2 years giving a date range for his crucifixion between 31 and 33 CE. So the year 32 CE seems a reasonable date for the crucifixion,


Whiston, W. (1987) The Works of Josephus. Hendrickson Publishers

The Body of Jesus is Temporarily Put into a Nearby Tomb and then Permanently Placed into a Pauper's Grave

(July 9, 2022) After Jesus died his body was put in a nearby tomb. The evidence for that is the Gospel of Mark dated to 70 CE. One Joseph of Arimathea of the Jewish religious council (Sanhedrin) was offended by the idea of a dead body hanging on the cross over the Passover Holiday. He knew of an empty family tomb nearby and sought to use it as a temporary storage place for the body. The story begins with this passage in Mark: 

(Mark 15:42-47, NIV) 42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Saturday Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

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The next stage of the story has the women coming back after the Passover Sabbath to properly prepare the body for burial only to find that the body was missing. The Gospel of Mark shows that the followers of Jesus did not initially know what to make of the empty tomb which is different from what is presented in the later gospels of Matthew and Luke which wanted to give a more apocalyptic spin to everything.​

As we shall see, an empty tomb or at least the claim that the tomb was empty is necessary to explain the rise of apocalyptic Christianity. It was the belief that Jesus had first risen in bodily form from the dead which gave people the power of the Spirit at Pentecost two months later. This convinced many that the apocalyptic end times were at hand because the dead rising was a sign.

Yet an easy non-miraculous explanation also exists for this. No head of an extended family would allow the body of a stranger to remain in the family tomb any longer than necessary. So as soon as Passover was over Joseph of Arimathea would have had some workmen remove the body and bury it in a pauper’s grave site. Thus the tomb was empty when the women came back to properly prepare Jesus’ body for permanent entombment. The women do not really seem surprised because they tell no one until later.

By the time Mark was written Christianity could not accept the women’s confusion surrounding the empty tomb. By then the apocalyptic oral tradition was already claiming that Jesus’ disciples already knew that Jesus was the messiah and that he had risen in bodily form although he could come back anytime in a spiritual body form because he had ascended to heaven after a brief stay on earth as a dead body. Therefore, this lack of recognition had to be explained away.​

The gospel of Mark does this at the end his tale by stating that the women were afraid so they did not tell anyone. The later gospels dispense with this fear explanation and replaced it with an encounter with the risen Jesus. In Matthew the women see him first but this female priority was not acceptable to the author of Luke so that source had some male disciples see Jesus first on the road to Emmaus. Still, all the gospels agree that the disciples did not see a risen Jesus in Jerusalem when the empty tomb was discovered. The rest of the story appears in Mark below:

(Mark 16:1-8, NIV) When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.  This is a typical example of a Jerusalem family tomb. Protestants like to think that this one is the actual tomb of Jesus although the traditional tomb beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has a better historical claim. Notice the channel in front  which held a large stone disk for blocking the door.

Context: Israelite Tombs and Power of Bones

(July 9, 2022) From the earliest times, the burial practices of the Israelites have centered on burials in family plots. This has been confirmed both by archeology and by Biblical references. The judges Gideon, Samson, and Asahel are reported to have been buried in their father’s tomb on family land (Judges 8:32, 16:31, 2 Samuel 2:32).​

 If a deceased had no family nearby he or she would have been buried and their burial place marked so that their family could later come and retrieve their bones. The bones seemed to represent the essence of the dead person. Moses took the bones of Joseph out of Egypt so he could be buried in Israel (Exodus 13:19). The bones of others who died in the Exodus are reported to have been carried and buried at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). King David retrieved the bones of the former king Saul and his son Jonathan from the Gibeonites and placed them in Saul’s family tomb at Kish (2 Samuel 21:13-14).​

The prophet Elisha’s bones reportedly brought a stranger’s body to life after the body was hastily thrown into Elisha’s tomb by a burial party in a hurry to escape some bandits (2 Kings 13:21). Yet bones could also defile an altar as happened when some were burned at the altar at Bethel by the Yahwist zealot king Josiah when he wanted to get rid of competitors to the Jerusalem temple (2 Kings 23:16-20). Ezekiel 37:4-14 has the prophecy about how God will form physical bodies out of bones at the end times. Finally we should not forget that the most powerful relics in medieval Christianity were the bones of saints, especially the bones of the apostles Peter and Paul which Rome claimed.​

The practice of placing bones into stone box-like ossuaries within the tombs began in Jerusalem around 30 to 20 BCE, perhaps as a way to keep using the family tomb for new bodies (Hachlili 1992). Around Jerusalem these family tombs were cut into the cliff faces surrounding the city.


Hachlili, R. (1992) Burials. In the Anchor Bible Dictionary , David Noel Freedman as editor-in-chief. Doubleday: New York