22 September 2017

Jesus died at Sukkot, not Pesach-Matzot

Jesus the Nazorean, aka Jesus Christ, aka Iesous Christos, aka Iesous Chrestos, aka Iesous Nazaraios, aka Isho Nasraya was not crucified at the time of Passover and the Feast of Matzot, or Unleavened Bread, but several months later in the year, at the time of Sukkot, or Tabernacles.  And what’s more, the evidence for this incontrovertible fact lies within the Gospel of Mark and its derivatives, with scattered indications even in the Gospel of John.

There are, by the way, evidences in the New Testament of at least four separate editions, if you will, of the Gospel of Mark at various stages of development.

Jesus was not a Jew, at least not to the native population of Palestine in the first century CE.  At the time, to a native resident of Palestine, the word “Jew” signified a person historically resident in and descendant of a long line of residents in the province of Judea.  Which is why the writers of the Gospel of John refer to Jesus’ opponents as “Jews”, seemingly not including him.  Jesus was a Galilean, and in the mileiu of Palestine Galileans were in held little better regard than the Samaritans.  So, we have Jews or Judeans, Galileans, and Samaritans; the other two ethnic subgroups in Palestine were the Idumeans and Pereans, both of higher status to Judeans than Galileans, with Samaritans held as pariahs by all other four groups.  For simplicity here, I’ll be using the word “Jews” for the all the different groups collectively and “Judeans” for the ethnic subgroup of Judea.

There were colonies of Jews and Samaritans throughout the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia; these were the Diaspora.  Gentiles, or Goyim, made no distinction between them, but in Palestine the Judeans held Jews of the Diaspora to be roughly on the level of Galileans.  Why these distinctions are important to the matter at hand will become clear. 

First and foremost, the central and most imporant festival of Palestinian Jews until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was Sukkot, while among the Diaspora Jews it was Passover and Matzot. 

Second, the two macrogroups, Palestinian Jews and Diaspora Jews, had different schema of messianic expectations.

The Jews of Palestine, with variations of course within the group, did not look for a single messiah, but in fact for four.  These were Elijah, the Messiah ben Joseph or Messiah ben Ephraim, the Messiah ben David or Messiah ben Judah, and The Righteous Priest or Messiah ben Levi.  The Essenes had their own version, looking for Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel. 

The masses in Palestine looked for these four messiahs to come at different times along their religious calendar.  Passover and Matzot were the time when they expected the return of Elijah the prophet.  Shavuot, or Pentecost, was when they expected the Messiah ben Joseph.  Sukkot was when they expected the Messiah ben David with the Righteous Priest beside him.

The gospels clearly portray Jesus as the Messiah ben David, even in the much later additions at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, who among Palestinian Jews was expected at Sukkot.  Strike one against the traditional timetable.

The palms carried by pilgrims in procession on what to traditionalists is the first Palm Sunday was and still are a feature of Sukkot not Passover-Matzot nor of any other occasion.  Likewise, though the entire group of Hallel psalms (113-118) is recited daily throughout all festivals, the singing of the two verses upon which the cries of the people on the so-called first Palm Sunday are based, Psalm 118:25-26, was unique to one of the rites of Sukkot.  That rite took place every day of the festival after the additional sacrifices for the festival that took place after the first of the ordinary daily sacrifices (there were two sets of these, one in morning and one in afternoon) when the priests and Levites led the congregation in circumabulation around the altar, waving their palms as they processed.

The blood and water which the gospels portray pouring out of our protagonist’s side when it is pierced with a spear represent another motif tying the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazorean to the messianic festival. 

As I said before, Sukkot was the big festival in Palestine, and for this festival if not for the other two major feasts, Jews made an effort to go up to Jerusalem for the duration.  Every day of Sukkot, participants in the festival would go home or to wherever they were lodging, sleep, and return at midnight for a party that lasted until dawn.  At dawn, Levites would lead a procession of the congregation to the Pool of Siloam south of the temple compound, with the congregation singing and waving their palms while the Levites played instruments.  When they returned with a pitcher of water, the officiating priest would take it and a pitcher of wine and pour them simultaneously over the altar.  Although water was poured over the altar every morning before the first sacrifices of the day, there was no such pomp and circumstance nor was wine poured over it except during Sukkot.

Finally, the festival of Sukkot is an eight-day festival, seven days for the festival of Sukkot itself and one more at the end called Shemini Atzeret, counted as a Sabbath, attached but separate, which matches the timeline of the week of the Passion as presented in the gospels, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday, much better.

The central importance of Sukkot vanished with and its festivities at the thorough destruction of the temple and its compound along with the city of Jerusalem after its surrender to the Roman armies in 70 CE at the end of the Great Jewish War.  To Diaspora Jews, and eventually to Palestinian Jews, as well as to Gentile converts to Judaism and later Christianity, for the one whose followers claimed as the Messiah ben David to have come to Jerusalem at the time of Sukkot rather than Passover would make no sense.  But the imagery of Palm Sunday was just too good to discard along with the rest of the story, so it was retained, out of place.

The destruction of the temple and its compound, by the way, was complete.  Not one stone was left standing, even of the compound wall surrounding the Temple Mount.  According to Josephus, who was there, the only structures to remain standing were the western wall of the city, on the other side of the city from the temple, and three towers of Herod’s former palace in the Upper City.  The wall identified by mystic Isaac Luria in the 15th century as the Western Wall of the Jewish temple compound was constructed not by Herod but by Hadrian, emperor of Rome, for the compound of the temples to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, when the city of Aelia was built atop the ruins of Jerusalem in the fourth decade of the 2nd century CE.

I would say “sorry to burst your bubble” but in fact, if I have, that would be a lie.  And since I actually enjoy having my own preconceived notions and ideas overturned if done convincingly with facts, I am at least consistent.

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