Why was such extraordinary anger and hostility directed toward Yahushua the messiah by the religious leaders? What caused this hostility, resulting in the messiah’s death sentence?
Could there be another reason for Yahushua to be unlawfully murdered?
Could that “reason” have a direct connection with Yahushua using the sacred name Yahweh?
If you’re interested in finding out the truth of the matter, please continue reading on as we investigate the facts.
Nowhere is there a greater testimony given about the messiah and his use of the sacred name than the fact that he was falsely tried and then executed because he used it.
The desire on the part of the religious leaders of Judaea to kill Yahushua is generally misunderstood by present-day Christian theologians as a resentment toward his claim to be the messiah.
Many Claimed to be the Messiah
In reality, there had been many who claimed to be the messiah both before and after Yahushua. Still, none of these received anything approaching the animosity focused upon Yahushua.
None of the other self-proclaimed messiahs were executed because of their claim. Indeed, the religious leaders of Judaea were looking for a messiah. They would have immediately attached themselves to anyone who would have been strong enough to stand up and help them throw off the hated Roman yoke of oppression.
Bar Gioras, for example, came to power riding the crest of a wave of messianic enthusiasm which had swept the Jews in 69 C.E.
The Bar Kochba revolt of 132-135 C.E. against Rome is another example. Its leader, Simeon bar Kochba, was actually supported as the messiah by Akiba, one of the popular and important rabbis of Judaea at that time.
The religious leaders of Judaea hated Yahushua because, as the Pharisees argued, “the world had gone after him (John 12:19).” That is, the people were throwing their support behind the doctrines taught by Yahushua and were turning against the authority of the rabbis.
Even worse, Yahushua was not educated by any of the established Jewish sects. When Yahushua taught in the synagogues and the Temple, for example, the Jews supporting the rabbis argued, “How does this one know letters, not having learned? (John 7:15)”
“From where does this man gain this wisdom and powerful abilities? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mariam (Mary), and his brothers Jacob and Jose and Simon and Judah? And are not his sisters all with us? From where, then, are all these things?” And they were offended by him. (Matthew 13:54-57; Mark 6:3)
That is, the scribes or rabbinical teachers could only guess the meanings of various scriptural passages, whereas Yahushua spoke as one who knew exactly what they meant.
Religious Leaders Were Jealous
During the latter part of Yahushua’s ministry, “Yahushua walked in Galilee because the Judaeans were seeking to kill him (John 7:1).” Afterward, Yahushua was delivered up to death by the chief priests because they were φθόνον (phthonon), i.e., “envious or jealous” of him (Mark 15:10).
The jealousy and hatred against Yahushua stemmed from the preference of the Jewish religious leaders to follow the oral traditions of their fathers (later embodied in the Talmud). These traditions were passed down by rote and sponsored by the rabbis and scribes.
Their traditions had become so important in their minds that it was considered a greater virtue to observe the laws based upon their traditions than it was to follow the Torah. We read in the Mishnah, for example:
Greater stringency applies to (the observer of) the words of the Scribes than to (the observance of) the words of the (written) Torah. If a man said, “There is no obligation to wear phylacteries,” so that he transgresses the word of the Torah, he is not culpable; (but if he said), “There should be in them five partitions,” so that he adds to the words of the Scribes, he is culpable. (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 11:3)
Herbert Danby, in his translation of the Mishnah, explains it this way:
The Mishnah, in other words, maintains that authority of those rules, customs, and interpretations which had accumulated around the Jewish system of life and religion was equal to the authority of the Written Law itself, even though they found no place in the Written Law. This, again, is but an assertion (known also in other religious and legal systems) that side by side with a written code there exists a living tradition with power to interpret the written code, to add to it, and even at times to modify it or ignore it as might be needful in changed circumstances, and to do this authoritatively. Inevitably the inference follows that the living tradition (the Oral Law) is more important than the Written Law, since the “tradition of the elders,” besides claiming an authority and continuity equal to that of the Written Law, claims also to be its authentic and living interpretation and its essential complement. (Danby, Mishnah, p. xvii.)
C. L. Feinberg similarly comments that the scribes—who belonged mainly to the party of the Pharisees, but as a body were distinct from them and were synonymous with lawyers—“claimed this oral law was more important than the written law.” Further, these scribes “expected of their pupils a reverence beyond that given to parents (Mishnah, Aboth iv. 12).”
Yahushua, contrary to the religious leaders, strictly followed the Torah (Old Testament laws) (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 16:14-18). The messiah, in effect, challenged the very authority of the religious leaders to even hold their posts.
He described the religious leaders as “serpents, a generation of vipers,” “those who murdered the prophets,” holding them to be “hypocrites” full of “hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 12:24-34, 21:33-46; John 8:3-13, etc.).”
Yahushua warned his disciples to beware “of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” and ridiculed these religious leaders as being self-serving men who were blind to the real intent and purpose of Scriptures (Matt. 5:20, 15:12-20, 16:1-12, 22:14-26, etc.).
It is revealing that the rabbinical memory of Yahushua concludes that he was one “who mocks at the words of the wise (i.e., rabbis and scribes).” (B. Talmud Gittin, 57a)
Yahushua’s complaint against the religious leaders and their followers was that they did not keep Yahweh’s laws. For instance, when Yahushua was debating with some of the Jews in the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles, he chastised them, stating:
Has not Moses given you the Torah, and not one of you practices the Torah? Why (then) do you seek to kill me? (John 7:19)
Traditions of the Elders
An example of the conflict between the oral laws of the Jews and the teaching of Yahushua comes with the story of the time when the scribes and Pharisees inquired of Yahushua as to the failure of his followers to wash their hands before eating. They asked, “Why do your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders?”
Why do you transgress the commandment of Yahweh on account of your tradition? For Yahweh commanded, saying, “Honour your father and mother”; and, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, by death let him be finished.” But you say, “Whoever shall say to (his) father or mother, ‘Whatever from me that you might be profited is a sacrifice (to eloahim)’ ”; and in no way honours his father or his mother. And you have made void the commandment of Yahweh on account of your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying, “this people draws near to me with their mouth, and with their lips honour me; but their heart is far from me; and their respect of me is taught by the commandments of men.” (Quoting Isaiah 29:13) (Mattthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-9.)
Yet, in their own minds, these Jewish leaders had justified altering the commandments of Scriptures. As the Mishnah comments, at times, it was permitted to break the Law: “They have made void your Law because it was a time to work for יהוה (B. Talmud, Berakoth, 9).”
Herbert Danby, in his translation of the Mishnah, footnotes this passage, stating:
In times of emergency it may be right to set aside or amend the commandments of God enjoined in his Law: the Law may best be served by breaking it. (Danby, Mishnah, p. 10, n. 13)
In the eyes of the rabbis and scribes, to protect the sacred name, they must break the commandments of the Torah, which instruct all men to know and use it. Yahushua disagreed.
Adding insult to injury, thousands of Jews were beginning to believe in Yahushua’s approach to the Scriptures—a man who was not trained by any of the formal religious institutions.
At one point, the chief priests criticized their officers for not arresting Yahushua after they had heard him speak. The officers defended their actions by stating, “Never has a man spoken like this man.”
The priests were infuriated that the officers would believe Yahushua over the religious leaders.
They immediately challenged these men saying, “Have you also been deceived? Have any one of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees? (John 7:46-48)”
Yahushua Was a Threat to the Rabbis
The clergy convinced themselves that they had no alternative. Yahushua was a threat to the rabbis and their form of Judaism. Variations within the ranks were allowed, but a direct challenge to the authority of the sanctioned religion of the Jews was the highest form of heresy.
They had to rid themselves of this threat. As a direct result of their jealousy, the religious leaders sought to kill Yahushua.
Later rabbinical literature defended their condemnation of Yahushua—a man who healed the sick and performed other great signs while he taught a doctrine opposed to the teachings of the rabbis—on the grounds that he was deserving of his fate because he had “practiced magic and led astray and deceived Israel (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin, 107b, and see 43a).”
Jewish Legal Reasons for the Death Penalty
The rabbis had only two legal reasons to justify their murderous intent.
Yet, they could not argue that he broke the Sabbath as pronounced in the Torah. In fact, Yahushua was able to defend his deeds as scriptural on a number of occasions (Matt. 12:1-12; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-9; John 5:5-47).
They could only claim that Yahushua was breaking the Sabbath restrictions established by the “traditions of their fathers,” traditions that were later to be called the Talmudic regulations.
The earlier forced Hellenization policy of Epiphanes had constantly profaned the Sabbath, sentencing to death anyone who kept it. As they had overreacted because of the abuses against the sacred name, the Jewish religious leaders also went about creating laws that went far beyond the purpose and intent of the original scriptural commands about the Sabbath.
Evidence of any wrongdoing with regard to Yahushua breaking the Sabbath was terribly weak. The worst thing that could be attributed to him was healing the sick and partaking of a meal out of the field on that day (Matt. 12:1-13; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 6:1-11; John 5:1-46). Therefore, the issue was not even brought up at Yahushua’s trial.
There was only one other reason left to the jealous religious leaders for them to condemn Yahushua to death.
• This second reason was their interpretation of “blasphemy” concerning the sacred name Yahweh.
Be sure to stay tuned for the next episode, Messiah Convicted of Blasphemy where we will address the details of Yahushua’s trial.
Also, be sure to check out the The Sacred Name Yahweh by Qadesh La Yahweh Press.