The trial of Jesus. Was Christ condemned to death by the Jews, as tradition held for so long, or was he really executed by the Romans as a political offender? ….
The effect of the Jewish War in 66 A.D. upon the infant Christian church was profound. The community, which had been directed and controlled from Jerusalem, where the original community of apostles and disciples had been established, simply disappeared as a result of the conflict. The consequent situation was dangerous and perplexing for Christians elsewhere; they faced the very real danger of being regarded by the Roman government as “fellow travelers” with Jewish nationalism. At no place was this danger greater than in Rome itself, the capital of the empire that had been so sorely tried by the Jewish revolt. It was for the Chrsitian community in Rome that the Gospel of Mark was originally written.
The fact of the Roman origin of the Markan Gospel is of supreme significance for determining the date of its composition. The question that now faces us, in the light of the preceding considerations, is when, during the period A.D. 65-75, would the need have arisen among the Christians of Rome for a written record of the career of Jesus, seeing that this need had never been felt before? The evidence points to one answer: the need arose out of of the situation caused by the Jewish war against Rome.
The a priori probability that this was so finds remarkable confirmation when we examine the Gospel itself. But first we must notice another fact of great importance in this connection. In the year 71 the emperor Vespasian, together with his sons Titus and Domitian, celebrated a splendid triumph in Rome to commemorate their victory over rebel Judaea. The occasion was one of great significance for both the Roman people and the new imperial dynasty of the Flavii. Since the death of Nero in 68, the Roman state had suffered a series of disasters. It had been plunged into civil war shortly after the jews had revolted. The Jewish War itself had begun with the crushing defeat of a Roman army by the rebels.
The consequences were likely to have been felt afar, for Judaea occupied an important place in the Roman strategical position in theNear East; the country lay athwart the main routes connecting Egypt with Syria. Also, there was a large Jewish population in Mesopotamia likely to make common cause with their Judaean brethren against Rome, a situation that the Parthians in turn, could have exploited to invade the Roman provinces. The Romans, had, accordingly, been badly frightened by the Jewish War, and they were profoundly grateful to Vespasian who had both put an end to the civil war and crushed the Jewish rebels.
Their success in the Jewish War was important to Vespasian and his sons, for they were founding a new imperial dynasty. It would obviously be to their advantage to make the most of their victory by impressing the people of Rome with their achievements. Coins were issued, and through the streets of Rome on the day concerned, according to Josephus Flavius, the victorious legionaries paraded, with the trophies of their victory and multitudes of Jewish captives. The treasures of the Temple were borne in the triumphal procession, the great Menorah, or seven branched candelabra, the altar of shewbread, the silver trumpets, and the purple curtains that had veiled the Holy of Holies… ( to be continued)