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The most popular, religious and non-historical, reason why Jesus was crucified is to atone for humanity's sin. (If I search in google, most sites would show this theory).

What is the secular historical reason for Christ to be put to trial?

Several parties said that Jesus was crucified because of a series of different reasons. Such as:

  • people actually wanted him to be a king, by screaming Hosanna to him. That would change political structures at that time and hence motivate status quo to kill him.
  • He claimed to be God. So the religious leaders wanted to kill him for blasphemy, but Pilate, who saw this as a mere religious difference, do not find anything worthy of capital punishments and hence wanted to set Jesus free.
  • the religious leaders were jealous of his influence.
  • he punched and kicked things around in the temple. Would that be plausible?
  • Or maybe there are other reasons.

closed as off-topic by Samuel Russell, Mark C. Wallace, LateralFractal, knut, Pieter Geerkens Oct 13 '13 at 2:03

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    Crucifixion was the standard death sentence for non-citizens. He was (if at all) crucified because he was sentenced to death and was not a citizen. Further than that we only have the biblical record which has been interpreted in many different ways by many different people depending on what they wanted to read in it (from "he upset the Romans" to "the greedy evil Jews wanted to kill the messiah before he exposed them for how bad they were"). – jwenting Oct 9 '13 at 5:46
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    fair enough. No criminal record at all? Officially, Jesus' crime is "being the king of the jew". That's what's put on top of his cross. – user4951 Oct 9 '13 at 5:54
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    @JimThio No, that's what the bible says, which is not in any way "officially". It is in fact highly unlikely that this is the actual cause, as it would be blasphemy to claim that you were some sort of Messiah, and that would be a Jewish religious crime, and in that case he would have been stoned, not crucified. – Lennart Regebro Oct 9 '13 at 7:13
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    @LennartRegebro Out of sheer laziness -- I should be able to look this up -- do you happen to know when was the last recorded instance of someone being stoned to death -- or another form of capital punishment -- in a Jewish community anywhere? – Eugene Seidel Oct 9 '13 at 7:46
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    @EugeneSeidel Not a clue! But medieval jewish writings make is clear that it is to be used only extremely rarely, but that does indicate that it was still being used then, if only occasionally. – Lennart Regebro Oct 9 '13 at 7:54
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We don't know the secular historical crime that Yeshua ben Yosef was executed for. The reason we don't know this is that there are no such records from Roman times. All we have are texts written a lot later, by people who was not there and never met this Yeshua, and was only told about it.

In fact, most texts that we have are written by people, who got all their information from Paul of Tarsus, who was not there and never met Yeshua ben Yosef himself. As such, the information we have is at best third-hand. In addition to this, it's generally written with specific aims in mind.

As such, one of the text claims that Pontios Pilatos said "I find no fault in this man" with regards to Yeshua. But do we know that for sure? No, this is likely to be a part of an effort of the Romans who wrote the texts to blame the Jews for the Crucifixion, and putting less blame on the Romans, in an effort to make the religion more palatable to Romans.

But it was a crucifixion which was a roman punishment, and one especially used for lower classes. The Jewish bible does not prescribe crucifixion as a punishment at all. If Yeshua's crime had been a Jewish religious affair, he would rather have been stoned (or possibly strangulated, if he was deemed to prophesy).

As such, there are simply no reliable sources on this, and therefore we do not know the reason he was executed. Any discussion about it is therefore not much than at best educated speculation.

Many of the crimes that would have been punishable by execution would have been incompatible with the Jewish faith anyway. Tradition has it that three men was crucified that day, and that the other two were thieves. If Yeshua ben Yosef was executed for crimes like this his followers would have kept quiet about it and in that case they would have made up an acceptable reason. But yet again, we don't know if the story of these two thieves is true, it may very well also have been made up. It's very convenient from a religious standpoint, as one of the thieves is regretful and the other not, as this forms a good basis for a moral story, which is how it's used in the bible.

A probably more likely, and for his followers, acceptable, reason would be if he was executed for sedition or revolting against the Roman rule. This is also compatible with him being a religious leader, as the Jewish religious leadership was in power with the support of the Roman rulers. As such it is possible that if he was deemed to try to overthrow the Jewish religious leadership, he might have been sentenced as trying to overthrow the Roman power in Jerusalem, and that would definitely have been punishable by crucifixion, even for a high-standing citizen.

Again, if this was the case, the later Roman authors of the biblical texts would have kept quiet about that, as they had no interest in portraying their religion as opposed to Roman rule. As such this is a quite popular theory, but again it's just speculation.

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    +1 for Yeshua! But what happens with "A probably more likely, and for his followers, acceptable, reason would be if he was executed for sedition or revolting against the Roman rule". Doesn't that conflict with the idea that Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. – nilon Oct 15 '16 at 4:35
  • That can be interpreted as conflicting, yes. The statement is however likely created by the later roman authors and falsely attributed. – Lennart Regebro Oct 22 '16 at 19:11
  • I don't know if this would help, but Aelius Sejanus, who was a patron of Pontius Pilate, fell from power in AD 31. This would have made Pilate less likely to want to offend the Jews from then until he was removed. He then would have allowed the Jews to have Jesus crucified even though he didn't find any fault in Jesus. – A Child of God Apr 19 '17 at 14:28
  • @AChildofGod I want to make 100% clear, if my answer above wasn't already, that the Jews did not crucify the man you call Jesus. It's rather that they accused him of trying to overthrow the Jewish-roman government. A group of powerful Jews (like for example the religious leadership) may also have asked the government, maybe even Pilatos directly, to have the man you call Jesus executed, and Pilatos may have done so to keep these powerful group happy. But this is an active act, not a passive one, as you imply. – Lennart Regebro Apr 22 '17 at 11:00
  • @AChildofGod "I find no fault in this man" is beyond any reasonable doubt a false quote, because if Pilatos said that, he would also almost have to let Yeshua ben Yosef go free. The New Testament is a moral tale, based on a true story, as it says in the movies. But it is not a historical one. – Lennart Regebro Apr 22 '17 at 11:03
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We can be fairly certian the crucifiction itself happened. It is one of only two events found in all four Gospels. Also, from the point of view of Biblical authors, it would be a very inconvienent event to invent.

We also know why the Romans (and the Greeks before them) generally crucified people. It was not a punishment for ordinary everyday crime. It provided a slow excruciating death, as well as a very public and graphic show of the executed person. It was used an instrument of terror, typically on people who had defied the authority of the rulers, but sometimes just for particularly heinous crimes (again, in the view of the rulers). The Romans generally reserved this punishment only for slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state. Victims were generally set up on busy throuroughfares, where the general public could not help but see them and get the point.

So, again we don't know. However, two of those possibilities seem less likely than the third. So based on the historical record that we do know, it seems most likely that the Romans felt that Jesus' activities represented a direct challenge to their rule.

Now I know a lot of the Gospels we have today take pains to blame the Jews, not the Romans. But you have to realise that the Gospels we have today were laid down by people living under this same Roman system. One can't say for sure the early Christians "modified" things to alleviate political heat for themselves, but all the pressure would certianly have been to do so.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – T.E.D. Oct 15 '16 at 18:45
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    I don't know if this would help, but Aelius Sejanus, who was a patron of Pontius Pilate, fell from power in AD 31. This would have made Pilate less likely to want to offend the Jews from then until he was removed. He then would have allowed the Jews to have Jesus crucified even though he didn't find any fault in Jesus. – A Child of God Apr 19 '17 at 14:28

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