THE TRIAL OF JESUS The trial of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion was actually a series of perhaps half a dozen trials, across several locations in Jerusalem, some of which are captured in the tradition of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, a series of locations that pilgrims take through the streets of…

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MAUNDY THURSDAY Amid the bustle of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, Maundy Thursday is easy to overlook. Few calendars label it, and some churches don’t observe it at all, though it may be the oldest of the Holy Week observances. It’s worth asking why, and how, generations of Christians have revered this day. The…

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SANHEDRIN The Greek word sunedrion, translated “council” is referred to in the New Testament as “the Great Law-Court”, “the Court of Seventy-One”, and “the rulers and elders and scribes”. It was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews and reflected the local autonomy which the Greek and Roman powers granted the Jewish nation. Its origin…

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HEROD ANTIPAS Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great (whom we met in the Christmas story) and Malthake. After his father’s death in 4 B.C. he was made tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea in Trans-Jordan. Like his father, he was a lover of great and artistic architectural works, and built the beautiful Tiberias…

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PONTIUS PILATE His name provides two valuable clues to his background and ancestry. The family name, Pontius was that of a prominent clan among the Samnites, hill cousins of the Latin Romans. They had almost conquered Rome in several fierce wars. The Pontii were of noble blood, but when Rome finally absorbed the Samnites, their…

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HISTORICAL CLIMATE OF EASTER What was the historical climate surrounding the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth? This man born to die, not just in the normal sense, but in some special sense, entered Jerusalem amidst a torrent of political, social and economic turbulence. The events in Palestine at this time are…

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PALM SUNDAY The week we now call Holy Week, started with Palm Sunday. Why was this week so important that three of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) devote a full third of their contents to reporting this week, and The Fourth Gospel (John) dedicates its entire last half? Jerusalem, which had a normal…

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HISTORY OF EASTER The most joyous of Christian festivals, and one of the first celebrated by the Christians, commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. The English word “Easter” corresponding to the German “Oster“, reveals the association of many Easter customs with those of…

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