Was there actually any scriptural basis for the extreme hatred of Yahushua by these religious leaders resulting in their wanting Yahushua dead?
To those religious leaders who were eventually responsible for Yahushua’s conviction and death sentence, the messiah had this to say:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Are there any facts to indicate that Yahushua did in fact commit the scriptural crime of “blasphemy” thereby justifying his execution?
If you’re interesting in finding the answers you might want to continue reading as we proceed with our investigation.
To understand the events of Yahushua’s trial and the justification of the Jewish leaders for sentencing him to death, we must recall that the religious leaders of Judaea had made it illegal for anyone outside the high priest and certain chosen ones (who kept it a secret) to utter the sacred name—and then only in the Temple.
The Mishnah, which gives us the Talmudic laws of the Jews as they existed in the early first century C.E. when the Temple stood, states that a person convicted of blasphemy was sentenced to death by stoning (B. Sanh. 6:4, 7:1,4), their law being based upon the command in Leviticus 24:16. (How this stoning relates to Yahushua’s death will be demonstrated as we proceed.)
But no mere act of blasphemy was deserving of the death sentence. The Mishnah goes on to tell us:
“The blasphemer” is not culpable unless he exactly pronounces the (sacred) name. (B. Sanhedrin 7:5)
These Jewish Talmudic laws—born out of Jewish traditions (the traditions of the elders or fathers), laws based upon rabbinical interpretations which are not to be confused with the laws of the Torah—must be understood in order that we might fully understand the messiah’s trial, for Yahushua was convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy.
The procedure used in a trial of blasphemy, according to the Mishnah, went as follows:
Rabbi Joshua ben Karha says: On every day (of the trial) they examined the witnesses with a substituted name, (such as) “May Jose smite Jose.” When sentence was to be given they did not declare him guilty of death (on the grounds of the evidence given) with the substituted name, but they sent out all of the people and asked the chief among the witnesses and said to him, “Say exactly what you heard,” and he says it; and the judges stand up on their feet and rend their garments, and they may not mend them again. And the second witness says, “I also heard the like,” and the third says, “I also heard the like.” (B. Sanhedrin 7:5)
At the messiah’s trial this procedure was followed. The judges at first sought “false evidence against Yahushua, so that they might put him to death (Matt. 26:59-60; Mark 14:55-56).” Yet, since the trial was hastily put together, they were unsuccessful.
Though “many false witnesses had come forward,” none could provide the kind of testimony needed to justify the death sentence.
The Temple of Yahweh
Finally, we are told, “two false witnesses came forward” who claimed that Yahushua had said, “I am able to destroy the Temple of Yahweh, and in three days to build it (Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:57-58).” At first the testimony required a substituted name in repeating the statement; but later, in private, the witness had to reveal the actual name used.
The phrase “the Temple of Θεοῦ (theou, deity),” which is found in those Greek texts that remain to us, is clearly a substitute for “the Temple of Yahweh.”
We know this for the following reasons:
• First, in some of the direct quotes from the Old Testament found in the New Testament, Θεοῦ (Θεος, etc.) was used as a substitute for the sacred name. For example see Matt. 4:4 and Luke 4:4, both citing Deut. 8:3; Rom. 14:11, citing Isa. 45:23-24. “Theos” is also found in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament beginning in the second century C.E., as a substitute for Yahweh. Prior to the second century C.E. the Septuagint texts retained the sacred name.
• Second, because the judges were attempting to convict Yahushua of blasphemy, which could only result in the death penalty if the sacred name was actually used.
• Third, the expression, “Temple of Yahweh,” is often found as a common name for the Temple in the Old Testament. For examples see 1Sam. 1:9, 3:3; 2 Kings 11:10, 23:4, 24:13; 2Chron. 26:16, 29:16; Ezra 3:6, 10; Jer. 7:4, 24:1; Ezek. 8:16; Hag. 2:15; Zech. 6:13-15.
• Fourth, and finally, the phrase “Temple of theou” found in the Greek of Matthew 26:61 is, in its counterpart of Mark 14:58, rendered only as “Temple.” The absence of “theou” in Mark’s version reflects the fact that the scribe translating that work into Greek side-stepped the issue of the sacred name by leaving it out, while the scribe translating Matthew’s manuscript decided instead to gloss it.
The claim of the two false witnesses, nevertheless, was flawed by inconsistencies “and thus, neither was their testimony alike (Mark 14:59).” Under scriptural law, at least two or three witnesses are required before a person could receive the death penalty and on this point the Jewish court was still bound (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6, 19:15).
Further, evidence shows that there were members among the elders and chief priests who defended Yahushua and his right to a fair trial (John 12:42-43). These men would not have allowed the questionable testimony against Yahushua to condemn him to death.
Seeing that their case against Yahushua had not succeeded, his adversaries now began to press him personally with an assortment of questions. Finally they gave Yahushua the one question he was willing to answer, the one he had been waiting for.
The Power of Yahweh
They asked, “Are you the messiah?” He responded, “I am.” Later he continued with a pronouncement that sealed his death sentence:
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of Yahweh. (Luke 22:69)
Once again, the Greek edition gives Θεοῦ instead of Yahweh.
El and eloah (eloahi, eloahim) are also terms commonly translated into Greek as “Θεοῦ.” Nevertheless, if Yahushua had originally said, “at the right hand of the power of eloahim (eloah, eloahi),” or “of el” (as it is given in Shem Tob’s Hebrew version of Matthew but noticeably absent in the Greek edition), no blasphemy worthy of death would have occurred.
With the rabbis’ interpretation of Leviticus, 24:16, the verse upon which the priests and elders were basing their case, the death sentence could only be administered if one “blasphemes the name of Yahweh (compare Lev. 24:16 with B. Sanh. 7:5).”
Yet, the best proof that “theos” in Luke 22:69 and “el” in Shem Tob’s edition of Matthew 26:64 are substitutes for the original word “Yahweh” is confirmed by what immediately transpired after Yahushua’s declaration:
And the high priest having rent his garments said, “What have we any more need of witnesses? You heard the BLASPHEMY: what to you appears (what do you think)? And they all condemned him to be deserving of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover up his face, and to buffet him, and to say to him, “Prophesy”; and the officers struck him with the palm of the hand. (Mark 14:63-65; Matt. 26:65-68; Luke 22:71)
The high priest “rent his garments” because this was the procedure required at a trial of blasphemy when the sacred name was actually uttered!
As the Mishnah reports, when a witness had to actually use the sacred name in the trial, “the judges stand up on their feet and rend their garments, and they may not mend them again (B. Sanh. 7:5).” In this case, the high priest, who sat as one of the judges, rent his garments because Yahushua had witnessed against himself.
The high priest then argued, “What have we any more need of witnesses?”
His statement shows that the testimony of the two false witnesses had been inconsistent and certain members of the court were unwilling to execute Yahushua on their statements alone. But now Yahushua had used the sacred name in front of the entire tribunal. All had become witnesses to the alleged crime.
In response to Yahushua’s words the high priest asked the rest of the court, “You have heard the blasphemy: what to you appears (or ‘what do you think’)?” Remember, according to the Jewish law of this period, the blasphemer was “not culpable” to receive the death sentence “unless he exactly pronounces the name.”
The verdict: Yahushua was “deserving of death.”
Even though “from among the rulers many believed in him (Yahushua),” these also acquiesced to this decision; for their attitude, as John points out, was formed out of fear of the Pharisees (the dominant religious party in Judaea), that if they opposed them they “might be thrown out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory of men more than the glory of Yahweh.” (John 12:42-43)
With a conviction in hand, the religious leaders were still faced with a dilemma. They had been forbidden under Roman law, the Jews now being under Roman domination, to execute anyone (see John 18:31).
Therefore, it was necessary to convince the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to carry out the sentence for them in the name of Rome. They told Pilate:
We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he makes himself the son of the deity. (John, 19:7)
In other words, the Jews were saying that he gives himself authority to use the sacred name which was strictly against Jewish religious law.
The political events allowed an excellent compromise. Under Jewish law one who was convicted of blasphemy or idolatry was not only punished by stoning to death but was also subject to being hung on a pole (tree).
Stoned and Hanged
Josephus, for example, referring to Leviticus 24:16, writes:
Let him that blasphemeth the deity be stoned, then hung for a day, and buried ignominiously and in obscurity. (Josephus, Antiquities 4:8:6)
The commandment that this penalty is based upon is found in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, which adds that the guilty one’s “body shall not remain all night on a tree, but surely you shall bury him the same day, for he that is hanged is a reproach to eloahim.”
The Mishnah shows that in the time of the messiah, “the Sages (rabbis) say: None is hanged save the blasphemer and the idolator (B. Sanh. 6:4).” Yahushua, being convicted of blasphemy, accordingly was hung on a pole by the Roman officials (though the rabbis in their own literature take full credit), a fact attested to both by the New Testament and in rabbinical literature.
The Mishnah law, based upon Deuteronomy 21:22-23, also makes reference to the fact that a blasphemer hung on a tree must not be left there overnight; a point verified in the history of the New Testament for the case of Yahushua (B. Sanh. 6:4; see John 19:31-42).
The Mishnah adds that the culprit’s corpse was hung on a pole “as the butchers do,” as if to say, “Why was this one hanged? Because he blessed the (sacred) name, and the name of heaven was found profaned (B. Sanh. 6:4).”
Interestingly, rabbinical literature claims that Yahushua was both stoned and then hanged (B. Sanh. 45b; J. Sanh. 7:16 (25c, d); B. Sanh. 43a, 67a), which fulfills the requirements of their law against blasphemy (under their Talmudic interpretation).
Accused of Magic
Though his stoning is not expressly mentioned in the New Testament, that some of Yahushua’s adversaries, who lined the road along which he carried his torture stake, threw stones at him would certainly be a contributing factor in why he was unable to continue on the road to Golgotha (see Luke 23:26).
The accusation of “magic” is insightful. The rabbis were not against “magic” per se. They often claimed the talent to perform magic themselves. As R. Travers Herford notes, “miracles, whether done by Jews or Christians, were ascribed to magic, and were not on that account despised.” (Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, 1966)
What outraged the rabbis was the fact that such magic, even when used by the rabbis, was accomplished by using the sacred name (see B. Sanh. 107b, n. 10, 17)!
Charge of Blasphemy
Yahushua himself testified that he performed great works of healing and other signs “in the name of my father (i.e. Yahweh) (John 10:25).” Yahushua had not been authorized by the clergy to use the sacred name. Therefore his magic was labeled as blasphemous.
When all the evidence is examined it is clear that Yahushua the messiah was wrongly convicted and murdered on the charge of “blasphemy” according to Jewish law. In contrast, according to Scriptures, using and proclaiming the sacred name Yahweh is commanded.
In keeping with Yahweh’s doctrine, Yahushua spoke the sacred name throughout his ministry. Indeed, Yahushua never sinned (2Cor. 5:21; 1Pet., 2:21-22), which means he never broke a scriptural law or commandment (1 John 3:4).
Therefore, despite the contrived laws of men, Yahushua followed the scriptural commandments to both know and use the sacred name. The religious leaders, on the other hand, were jealous and envious of Yahushua and despised him for breaking their rabbinical law which forbade any common man from speaking the sacred name.
Out of fear of the crowds following Yahushua, the religious leaders contained their plot to execute him until they could take him without a challenge from the general populace. Their intent was to punish Yahushua for breaking one of their own rabbinical laws.
The truth of the matter is that Yahushua’s intent was to live by the laws and commandments of Yahweh and to die for Yahweh’s namesake.
If any of you are still contemplating the importance of the sacred name Yahweh and whether or not Yahushua actually spoke and taught in this very name then it is highly suggested that you check out the The Sacred Name Yahweh by Qadesh La Yahweh Press.
Who was that masked man anyway?