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History of Rosh Hashana

September 21, 2006 /


Rosh HaShana designates the beginning of the Jewish new year. “Rosh” is Hebrew for “head” and Rosh HaShana refers to the head of the year on the 1st day of Tishri, the seventh month. Judaism has a solar/lunar calendar system, in which the lunar reckoning predominates. The first in the cycle of months is Nissan (which has nothing to do with the automobile manufacturer), the month in which Passover occurs. However, solar years are reckoned to begin at Rosh HaShana. The new year is heralded with the blowing of the “shofar” or ram’s horn by the “baal t’kiah” (meaning master of the shofar-blast). Some scholars have suggested (perhaps “speculated” would be a better word) that the Jews marked the beginning of the year at this time subsequent to the period of their Babylonian Captivity, in following with the Babylonian custom. It also marks the day on which God is said to begin examining the record of each person’s actions during the preceding year; Jews are called upon to take an “accounting of the soul” with the aim of correcting defects in one’s behavior — the ultimate goal is to help “repair the universe.” The audit is considered to end on Yom Kippur, on the 10th day of Tishri, which we will examine next time.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

Ignorance Abroad

September 15, 2006 /

Welcome to Ignorance Abroad

…with apologies to Mark Twain

Herein I share my adventures in cultural ignorance and education the hard way. You’ll find some differences that are fascinating and intriguing, humorous, or irritating — the last two need not be mutually exclusive.

What prompted me to create this series of articles?


History of Patriot Day: 9-11-2001

September 11, 2006 /


With the following words and many others, President George W. Bush designated September 11 to be regarded as Patriot Day, or America Remembers:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

On this first observance of Patriot Day, we remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will not forget the events of that terrible morning nor will we forget how Americans responded in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania — with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope. We will always remember our collective obligation to ensure that justice is done, that freedom prevails, and that the principles upon which our Nation was founded endure.

The President inaugurated this observance on September 4, 2002 and repeated it the next year, following a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 along with the US Congress, intending that it be firmly planted into the consciousness of the American people, and each year recalled to our memory “that more than 3,000 innocent people lost their lives when a calm September morning was shattered by terrorists driven by hatred and destruction.”

As the fifth anniversary of this event occurs, what most people call September 11th or just 9-11, I am reminded of the article I wrote in the wake of it, and the one I wrote a year following. Should we remember these kind of events, recalling history? The words of the Oxford don C.S. Lewis are particularly relevant.

Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

– from “Learning in War-Time” (The Weight of Glory)

Lest we forget

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

History of Labor Day

September 3, 2006 /


Labor Day is the day we celebrate the process our mothers went through in order to deliver us at birth. Sorry, wrong holiday. Labor Day is the day we celebrate the achievements of the American labor movement. While it is still disputed whether the holiday was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire, the leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist — observances of the holiday go back over a century.

The first Labor Day celebration was September 5, 1882 in New York City and was organized by the Central Labor Union. The legislature of New York first deliberated a bill to establish a regular holiday, but Oregon was the first to pass it on February 21, 1887. It was first proposed as "a street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations."

But it was on June 28, 1894 that Congress made the first Monday in September an official Labor Day holiday. In 1909 the Sunday preceding was designated as Labor Sunday, dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at Red Rocks in Denver

July 18, 2006 /
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The show called “An Evening with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” Freedom Of Speech ’06 was one of three sold-out events at the Denver Red Rocks open-air amphitheatre. Their first tour since 2002 started in July in Philadelphia. Their 2000 reunion tour was their first since 1974.

Living With War, Neil Young’s new, highly political, and stridently anti-Bush album was featured prominently (and seemingly entirely) during the first part of the show, including a 3-letter LWW logo over film clips from Iraq that was intended to look like the CNN logo. Some were tributes to veterans but others called for the impeachment of the President, which encouraged the inebriated behind me to chime in on the chant. Initially, it seemed that the set was an indulgence to Young, but there’s more to it. Most of the big hits got pushed to the end of the second set of the show and past the 11 pm bedtime of not a few attendees who left early. Young’s new album was a late addition to the show, as the concert had long been planned before the release of his new work. Graham Nash is quoted as saying,

“We wanted to provide a balance, too. We didn’t wanna just be there as four raving madmen against this administration,” he says. “People come to see us because they fell in love to CSNY music. We didn’t want to make it just about how (screwed up) things appear to be in certain respects.”

In this respect, they failed. Those who came to listen to classic CSN&Y were hijacked with a “solo” album they hadn’t come to hear.

The new Young songs were written about current events that were clearly topical, including Living With War and Families. “Strange weather we’re having,” Young observed after noting how the band’s tour buses ran on bio-diesel. He didn’t mention that these were half a dozen luxury buses parked down the mountain with pop-outs like fifth-wheelers, including one tricked out with chopped classic 40s cars as their skylights.

Let’s look at the concert chronologically. The walk up to the venue was greeted, in an unusual way for Red Rocks, by numerous booths, including environmental and political issues like Progressive Democrats for America (and the other Democrats are…?)

The show started late due to heavy winds. A significant thunderstorm was passing over the Denver area through Red Rocks was spared the heavy rain and hail during the event. However, the dark grey glowering sky with repeated lightning over Denver was far more impressive than the feeble on-stage light show.

The first thing you were struck with was how old the band looked. David Crosby, the first spotlighted looked like a long-haired version of the actor Wilford Brimley. This is a band that has been performing publicly since Woodstock, though one wondered how many in the audience knew that. One particular hyper-active 20-something in front of me shared with her neighbors that her mother had seen them at Woodstock in 1969.

Almost immediately the air smelled of dope… and onions from the bratwurst. It was a veritable reefer-o-rama, I had not smelled that much burning herb since I saw the Grateful Dead in the late 70s.

Their early song, “Carry On” was marred by bad microphone work that left out the melody track. A real shame. This was followed by “Wooden Ships” and “(It Appears To Be) A Long Time.”

This was followed by “Military Madness Is Killing My Country (No More War)” and “After the War Is Done.” This was not just the recycling of old Vietnam anti-war protest songs, though they were mining the same vein. Nevertheless, the “Power to the People” flame did not ignite.

Did I mention they looked old? They’re all in their early to mid-60s. Neil Young wore a hat for the show, and the jumbotron showed a face that made the Rolling Stones look young. By the time that Young got to “Living With War In My Heart,” you felt that there were too many Neil Young songs during the evening. The song “The Restless Consumer” with its repeated rant of “Don’t Need No More Lies” made it seem like a Country Joe and the Fish political pep rally in Berkeley.

The “We the People” preamble to the Constitution was visible on the stage, which was flanked by a curtain of horizontal red and white stripes. Just so you know, this was tour is called the “Freedom of Speech” tour. Young called out to the crowd “Muchas gracias” as they went into the song “Immigration Man.”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, formerly with The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Hollies remind one of fabulous harmonies. And while they didn’t measure up to studio perfection, they showed that they could still do it. In a flood of Baby Boomer revival tours, there are so many who can’t. Paul Simon is reaching for the high notes, the group Chicago just can’t any longer.

They took a break at 8:40 to return “with some of our acoustic stuff” but the break lasted over 35 minutes as the stage crew fumbled with faulty sets. Nevertheless, the second half was rewarding. They started with “Helplessly Hoping” as they sang

…they are one person, they are two alone, they are three together, they are four each other…

proving that they could do the great harmonizing that still works.

Graham Nash took to the keyboard for “Our House” that caused most of the crowd to sing along. This is my favorite song of theirs and took me back to college days sitting in the courtyard of my university residence hall on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But it was Neil Young’s keyboard and lead for “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” that got the rest of the audience on their feet.

However, the crowd was unrestrained as Crosby began the guitar introduction to “Guinevere.” Nash’s vocal pairing was haunting.

Nash then introduced the next song by saying “You people in Boulder and Red Rocks have it over everyone else. You’re closer to the Milky Way than anyone!” …which led into them singing “The Milky Way Tonight.” Stephen Stills and Neil Young then played “Treetop Flyer,” a favorite with this crowd.

By 11 pm, they still hadn’t played their favorites though. They’d overstayed their welcome with some concertgoers who were beginning to leave before they played “Teach Your Children” following the shout from the stage “Teachers should be paid three times what they’re paid now.” Next was “Southern Cross” nicely done, followed by a Jimi Hendrix-style “Star-Spangled Banner” which could only introduce “Woodstock”.

I can only assume they saved “Love The One You’re With” for the encore. But I didn’t wait for it.

The local newspaper story appears here.

Bill Petro

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History of the 4th of July: Thomas Jefferson

June 30, 2006 /


Perhaps no one person is more associated with the 4th of July in American History than Thomas Jefferson, probably because he penned the immortal Declaration of Independence.

As my friend Clay Jenkinson says in his book Thomas Jefferson: Man of Light, “The Third President is the Muse of American life, the chief articulator of our national value system and our national self-identity. Jefferson was a man of almost unbelievable achievement: statesman, man of letters, architect, scientist, book collector, political strategist, and utopian visionary. But he is also a man of paradox: liberty-loving slaveholder, Indian-loving relocationist, publicly frugal and privately bankrupt, a constitutional conservative who bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803.” Even by 1782, as an admiring French visitor observed, Jefferson, “without having quitted his own country,” had become “an American who … is a musician, draftsman, astronomer, natural philosopher, jurist and a statesman.” He knew about crop rotation, Renaissance architecture, could dance a jig, play the fiddle, or tie an artery.

Though friends in their youth, disagreements separated Thomas Jefferson and our second President John Adams in later years. They were eventually reconciled toward their twilight years and though they never saw each other again after Adams left the White House to be replaced by Jefferson, in the last 14 years of their lives they exchanged 156 letters, some of them quite warm. This correspondence is generally regarded as the intellectual capstone to the achievements of the revolutionary generation and the most impressive correspondence between prominent statesmen.

They both died on the same day, July 4th, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, two of the last three signers. At the age of 91 John Adams collapsed in his favorite reading chair and died that afternoon, his last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” But Jefferson would have said “wrong, as usual.” In his last days his health had failed and he passed in and out of consciousness. On the 4th of July, 1826 just a few hours before Adams died — in his home in Monticello, Virginia — surrounded by his daughter and some special slaves, shortly after noon, at the age of 83, Thomas Jefferson died. His last words were, “Is it the 4th?”

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

History of Independence Day

June 29, 2006 /


Independence Day, or the Fourth of July is the adoption by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the severance of the allegiance of the American colonies to Great Britain. It is the greatest secular holiday of the United States, observed in all the states, territories and dependencies.

Although it is assumed that the Continental Congress unanimously signed the document on the 4th of July, in fact not all delegates were present and there were no signers at all. Here is what really happened.

The congressional delegate from Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, introduced in the Continental Congress, on June 7, 1776, a resolution “that…body declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from allegiance to or dependence on the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain…” On June 10 a committee of five, headed by Thomas Jefferson (the actual writer), was appointed to prepare a declaration suitable to the occasion in the event that the Virginia resolution was adopted. Jefferson’s version was revised by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams before it went to the Congress where they did some editing of their own.

Congress approved the resolution July 2; the declaration composed by Jefferson and amended by his committee was adopted July 4. That evening John Hancock ordered Philadelphia printer John Dunlap to print 200 broadside copies of the agreed upon Declaration that was signed by him as President and Charles Thomson as Secretary. These were distributed to members of the Congress and distributed to the 13 colonies and elsewhere. The Declaration was read in the yard of the state house July 8. New York did not even vote on it until July 9. The signing was even more gradual, and it is somewhat misleading to speak of the “fifty-six original signers of the Declaration of Independence”.

By August 6, most of those whose names are on the document had signed, but at least six signatures were attached later. One signer, Thomas McKean did not attach his name until 1781! Some of those who signed were not even in Congress when the Declaration was adopted, and some who voted for it in Congress never did get around to signing it. Robert R. Livingston was one of the committee of five; he helped to frame it; he voted for it; and he never signed it.

The first anniversary of the declaration was observed only in Philadelphia, Pa., by the adjournment of Congress, a ceremonial dinner, bonfires, the ringing of bells and fireworks. In 1788, after the requisite number of states had adopted the constitution, Philadelphia celebrated July 4 by elaborate festivities, including a grand procession.

Boston, Mass., first observed the day in 1783, and thereafter this celebration replaced that of the Boston Massacre, March 5. The custom spread to other cities and states, where the day was marked by parades, patriotic oratory, military displays and fireworks. In present time, games and athletic contests, picnics, patriotic programs and pageants, and community fireworks of pyrotechnic expertise are characteristic of the 4th of July.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

History of Memorial Day

May 25, 2006 /


The city of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, an American village on the National Historic Register, claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, as does some 24 other towns in America. But Boalsburg’s claim goes back to a practice at the end of the Civil War. It does have an local museum, and a history that stretches back over two centuries. It’s claim is supported by pointing out, on a large sign near the center of town that:

The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves was begun here in October, 1864, by Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Myers.

Named for David Boal who settled here in 1798. Village laid out in 1808. Boalsburg Tavern built in 1819. Post Office established 1820. First church erected 1827. Home community of three United States ambassadors.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

Movie Review: Mission Impossible:III

May 4, 2006 /
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Mission Impossible 3Mission: Impossible: III

I was privileged to see a private sneak preview of the third installment of the Mission Impossible franchise and what is arguably the first blockbuster popcorn movie of the summer of 2006.

Let me say from the onset that it starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. It’s non-stop action from beginning to end. It’s like watching 2 episodes in a row of the TV show 24. Total adrenalin rush. It has “video game” written all over it.

The female lead and love of super-agent Ethan Hunt’s life is Julia, played by Michelle Monaghan, with a preternatural resemblance to Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise’s real-life fiancée. Ms. Monaghan has been seen in the films North Country, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (ironically, the title of a song in the James Bond movie Thunderball), and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Speaking of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, in a scene in the first act of M:i:III, new recruit Lindsey, played by Keri Russell, and Ethan engage in “synchronized shooting” like that seen in the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie.

There were a number of other “tributes” as well. We see Ethan and Lindsey repelling on a cable like in Batman (the latest installment of which Katie Holmes was in, but that’s another subject.) The HQ role of Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, reminds one of James Bond’s Q, though the more eccentric one from the non-canonical Sean Connery 007 outing Never Say Never Again.

There is skyscraper-to-skyscraper swinging, a la Spider-man. Indeed there are a number of great stunts, though it is at times difficult to believe that Tom Cruise did all of his own as claimed.

We can say that this time his hair is normal for a change. In the first installment, it was unusually short, it what many called “a bad hair day.” In the second it was quite long. In this one, it’s just right.

While this movie is back to the ensemble cast, unlike M:i-2 which was more of a “mano-a-mano” film, in this movie Ethan is not just one of the agents, as he was when he started in the first Mission: Impossible movie. Rather, he’s the leader of a group that seem more like his chorus.

Ving Rhames is a welcome return as Luther Stickell. Didn’t we see him play essentially the same role for Sean Connery in the 1999 movie Entrapment?

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Declan the transportation expert. We don’t usually hear his natural Irish accent, but it’s evident here, and much better than the Irish accent that came and went when Tom Cruise tried it in the movie Far and Away. It’s interesting to see him play a good guy, as we’ve usually seen him do somewhat unpleasant characters earlier, as in The Magnificent Ambersons and Vanity Fair.

The Asian beauty Zhen is played by Maggie Q and has played in few English-speaking movies, though she’s a star of Hong Kong films.

Laurence Fishburne plays head of operations Brassel, though less iconic than he was in The Matrix.

The villain, and international weapons dealer is Owen Davian, played by recent Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s great to see how good he is at being bad. Quite coldblooded.

There is the usual intrigue, assumed and mistaken identities, and split-second timing we’ve come to expect of Mission: Impossible. And we’ve got the strains of the original theme music for the TV show written by Lalo Schifrin, including the military drums as the mission begins.

There were four units with filming going on all over the world, including the US, Berlin, Shanghai and Rome. Most of the Roman filming was in and around the Vatican, including Declan’s unlikely parking in the middle of the piazza of St. Peter’s.

The action is fabulous, and there’s lots of eye candy – from beautiful locations to beautiful women to beautiful cars. The gadgets are improbable but flashy. Nokia got listed in the credits (for some cool phones.) But Cisco was listed too!

The previous M:I movie came out in 2000, before the TV show 24 became a hit. There are many similarities to it in the new M:i:III movie, from hand-held camera action to the “speak or die” ultimatums. Yet somehow, this movie does not hook the viewer on a visceral level like 24. Kiefer Sutherland brings an angst to his role of Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer that Cruise does not for his character. Rather he brings intensity, passion and fear. This is not as engaging, the audience does not care for his character like they do for Jack.

Final take: the movie is a bit formulaic. By that I don’t mean to say that it’s derivative of other spy movies, though it is, but rather I mean that they include the most successful elements of highly popular movies, mix them together in a winning formula, put it in a blender, set it on “cacophonous,” press all the right buttons, and out comes a movie that is sure to be a hit. It will please most of the movie-going public, though it’s a rollercoaster ride with little in the way of modulation or variety.

But for my money, I’d give it a B. Jack Bauer needn’t worry about his job at CTU.

  • You’ll like it if: mindless, senseless action with lots of gadgets is what you crave
  • You won’t like it if: you are looking for plot sense, depth, plausibility, logic or character development


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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History of Cinco de Mayo

May 3, 2006 /


Cinco de Mayo is frequently regarded as the Mexican equivalent of the United States 4th of July. This is incorrect. In actuality, it is the equivalent of the 5th of May. Nevertheless, a number of important things have occurred in Mexican history on the 5th of May, indeed, on a number of different May 5ths throughout the years. One of these is the commemoration of the last Beer Bust held at Sun Microsystems. But this is relatively insignificant historically. Of greater importance is the battle of Cinco de Mayo that occurred in 1862.

Juarez, who had been Zapotec Indian minister of Justice in Juan Alvarez’ cabinet in the 1850’s, entered Mexico City on January 11, 1861 and promptly expelled the Spanish minister, the papal legate, and members of the episcopate. Additionally, he took steps to enforce the decrees of 1859 disestablishing and disendowing the church. He could not have known at this time that almost a century later, “antidisestablishmentarianism” would become the longest word in the English dictionary. Although Juarez was recognized by the United States and had received both moral and military aid from the US, there were over $80,000,000 in debts at that time to Europe alone. The Mexican Congress in July 17, 1861 decreed the suspension for 2 years of interest payments on the external national debt, and 3 months later a convention occurred between Great Britain, France, and Spain calling for joint intervention in Mexico.

As European forces advanced, and particularly the French troops, their advance was checked at Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

History of May Day

April 27, 2006 /


May Day is many things to many people. Etymologically, it is the international call for help. It is a corruption of the French imperative “M’aidez” meaning “Help me!” As a holiday it is claimed by many. It is known in the pagan world as “Beltane,” a fertility celebration, one of the four high holidays in the pagan calendar, Samhain on October 31 is another. Beltane is the day of fire commemorating Bel, the Celtic sun god. The early Anglo-Saxons began their celebration on the eve before, feasting the end of winter and the first planting. It was a time of revelry — note the song from Camelot “It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May” — with the selection of a May Queen and the ribbons of the Maypole. But this day’s celebration of the revival of vegetation goes back to the Roman practice of visiting the grotto of Egena. The people of ancient Rome honored Flora, the goddess of flowers and springtime.

In 1886 it was co-opted as an international workers day to celebrate the 8-hour workday movement, following national strikes in the US and Canada. Later, the French declared May 1 the International Working Men’s Association holiday in 1889. Some countries consider May Day a bank holiday. This “Labor Day” is on one of the non-holy days in the calendar.

Occasionally, May 1st also marks the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. This day of non-sectarian prayer is observed on different days, but goes back to 1775 when the first day of prayer was declared when the Continental Congress “designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation.” President Lincoln’s proclaimed a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May.

A pagan festival, a labor day, or a day of prayer. May Day is many things to many people.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

History of the Players

April 16, 2006 /


You may be asking yourself, “Self,” you ask, “where are they now?” and well you might ask. What happened to our players AFTER the events in the Easter story?


You may remember that I had said Antipas’ taking to wife his brother’s wife Herodias led to his ruin. Actually it led to his death. Her ambition pushed him where he would not have otherwise gone. Antipas’ nephew, and Herodias’ brother, Herod Agrippa (who we meet in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the early persecutors of the new church) had spent and borrowed much money while he was in Palestine. He lived much of his time in Rome and was a close friend of the future emperor Gaius (Caligula). While riding in a chariot with Caligula, he commented that he could not wait until the then emperor Tiberius was no longer Caesar so that Caligula might have his rightful place. A loyal slave overhearing this relayed it to Tiberius who had Agrippa thrown into prison.

When Caligula finally did become emperor he released his friend and replaced his chain with a gift of one equal in size made of gold. He also made him a king of certain areas of Palestine. When Herodias learned that her undeserving brother had been made a king, she pushed her husband to go to Rome to appeal for the same boon. The tetrarch Antipas was mellowing with age and was unwilling. However, after much prodding from his wife, he began his journey. At the same time that he was appealing before Caligula, the emperor was reading a letter from Agrippa, accusing Antipas of treason against Rome, having entered into alliances with Sejanus, the Parthians (current enemies of Rome), and of gathering a large number of men and arms. When questioned about this army, Antipas admitted to having collected this militia. Caligula promptly confiscated all his property and exiled him for life to Gaul, though allowed Herodias, since she was the sister of his beloved Agrippa, to go free. To her credit, she accompanied her husband into exile, where he died shortly thereafter. He had ruled from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, longer than any tetrarch in Palestine, save Agrippa II, son of his enemy, Agrippa.


Three years after the affair with Jesus of Nazareth, in A.D. 36, after having served 10 years as military and political prefect of Judea, a revolt started in Samaria. An obscure pseudo-prophet with Messianic ambitions had promised the Samaritans that he would uncover some sacred temple utensils that Moses has supposedly buried on their sacred Mt. Gerizim. The multitude that gathered came armed with weapons and Pilate ordered his troops to block the ascent. It came to a pitched battle. Pilate, having won, executed the leaders of the uprising. The Samaritan Senate complained to Pilate’s superior, the proconsul of Syria, who ordered Pilate to return to Rome to answer the charges against him. However, the emperor Tiberius died before Pilate reached Rome. Whether he was tried by the emperor Caligula, we do not know. Nor do we know what ultimately happened to him. Perhaps he was banished to Gaul. Some medieval legends have his restless corpse, accompanied by squadrons of demons, disrupting localities of France and Switzerland, causing storms, earthquakes, and other havoc. The early church father Tertullian claimed that Pilate “was a Christian in his conscience”, and the Greek Orthodox church canonized his wife, while the Ethopian church even recognizes a St. Pilate and St. Procula’s Day on June 25. Saint or sinner, Pilate probably spent the rest of his days as a retired government official, a pensioned Roman magistrate emeritus, enjoying a less than sensational fate.


The Pharisees had two main schools of thought, those that followed the rabbi Hillel, who stressed moderation and a certain amount of compromise, and those who followed the stricter rabbi Shammai, who would allow no cooperation with the foreign overseers. The school of Shammai eventually found expression through the Zealots, who ultimately fomented the rebellion against the Romans in A.D. 66 leading to the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. It was the school of Hillel that was able to survive and modern Judaism traces its roots back to this school.

The Sadducees did not proselytize as did the Pharisees, and as they only drew their membership from the aristocracy and the high priesthood, their party did not survive the destruction of A.D. 70.

Joseph, called Caiaphas was high priest until A.D. 39, when he was deposed by the imperial legate of Syria, Vitellius, (who had removed Pilate). The emperor Caligula eventually became jealous of Vitellius’ success in the East had had him removed from office. It was only through much grovelling and servility before the emperor that his life was spared. Pilate would have been pleased.


Two historical facts remain; the tomb was empty, and the lives of the disciples were changed. It should be added immediately that an empty tomb does not prove a resurrection, although a resurrection would require an empty tomb. Its occupancy, indeed, would effectively disprove it. Nevertheless, the disciples claimed that Jesus raised from the dead and appeared to many. As they spread the good news (Greek: euaggelion “good report”, to the Latin “evangelion”, to the English “evangelical”) this brought them into conflict with the Sanhedrin who were amazed that these unlearned men had filled Jerusalem with their teaching. The faith spread to all points and in Antioch they were first called “Christians”. This comes from the Latin ‘christiani’, like the word ‘caesariani’ meaning slaves or members of the household of Caesar.

The faith eventually arrived in Rome and first came into disfavor under the emperor Nero. A number of persecutions under various later emperors as well did not destroy this faith but seemed to refine and purify it as its martyrs became witnesses (for the word martyr in Greek means witness). In the early part of the 4th century the Roman emperor Constantine, before a battle was impressed to fight under the sign of Christ, and was victorious. Later, he made Christianity the state religion. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

In part from Paul L. Maier’s In the Fullness of Time