Death of Jesus and the Brandon theory
By Brian Maregedze
Question: Critically analyse the Brandon theory on the causes of the death of Jesus.
This paper seeks to analyze Brandon thesis on the cause of the death of Jesus and assess the responses of other scholars. S.G.Brandon was a Jewish scholar who came up with various biblical texts that allude to be the causes of Jesus death.T he views of Brandon outlined that Jesus death was based on political reasons. T his essay will analyze the factors presumed by Brandon which to Jesus death as; the affinity between Jesus movement and the Zealot movement, Jesus teachings about the kingdom of God, taxation, Jews attempt to crown Jesus as the king, the triumphant entry, cleansing of the temple and the armed disciples of Jesus. Nonetheless, Brandon thesis did not go without criticism mainly from D.R Catchpole and other factors from B. Macaulay.
Jesus movement is presumed to be linked to Zealots of his day which may be the cause of his death. Brandon thesis purports that the affinity between Jesus movement and the Zealot movement had a violent impact that depicts political reasons that led to the death of Jesus. According to Brandon (1967:295), Jesus was killed by the Romans for sedition and insurrection. This implies that Jesus was a political rebel. For instance, among his disciples, some were from the sect of Zealots such as Simon the Zealot, sons of Zebedee referred to as ‘sons of thunder’ Judas Iscariot- which means a dagger and Peter who was a fiery fellow with a lot of zeal (Luke 6;12 -16]. In support of the above, Martins (1969) notes that ‘Romans killed Jesus because he led a politically dangerous movement with zealot tendencies.’ It follows that the Zealot movement was anti-Roman and ready to create a theocracy.
In Zimbabwe, there arose a man called Pastor Evan Mawarire. He claimed to be representing the people of Zimbabwe to demonstrate against the then Robert Mugabe led government. The government itself saw him not as a defender of the vulnerable but a revolutionary leader. To them, he sought to overthrow the ruling party and surely the government reacted quickly (Hove and Chenzi 2017). This is the same scenario with Jesus, the Roman government had no option but to thwart his moves. However, Catchpole (1971) rebutted Brandon’s theory that Jesus was affiliated to the zealot movement. He is of the view that at that time the movement was only religious and not violent or political. The movement only became political around AD 60. Therefore, to say Jesus movement was also hated by the Roman government for being politically dangerous which accounted to the death of Jesus is outweighed by the fact that Jesus was a man of peace and his motives were purely religious.
The teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of God and the payment of tax to Ceasar are presumed by Brandon to be the cause of his death. Brandon argues that the aspect of the’ kingdom of God ‘was a political threat to the ruling Romans. Thus, the Sanhedrin saw in Jesus a popular and dangerous teacher who influences the common people of the land (John 11:47-54). In the same vein, Brandon (1967:68) argues that when Jesus taught about ‘giving Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar’ (Mark 12:13-17). On this issue of payment of tax, Brandon argues that in the original version Jesus had said everything belonged to God thus forbidding Jews to pay tax to the Roman government. In addition, Jesus had said that ‘do not think l have come to bring peace, but a sword'(Mathew 10;34). Given such teachings, Brandon argues that they were politically dangerous and hence, leading to Jesus’ death. However, Catchpole argues that what is known about Jesus sayings on the issue of tax to Ceasar is what is in the bible for Brandon to say that Jesus said something else is being speculative.
Jews attempt to crown Jesus as king proves him to be a political leader which led to his death. Brandon argues that if Jesus was not a political leader why people thought of crowning him (John 6;15). This implies that Jesus died and was crucified as a political leader as Romans would inflict. The other reason for Jesus’ conviction was formulated in political terms, ‘he claimed to be king of Jews’ (Mathew 27:11). This implies that Jesus’ death had political allusions which led to his execution. However, Catchpole argues that Jesus flatly refused this kingship a sign that he was not a politician. If Jesus was a politician he would have grabbed that opportunity.
The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is argued to be coup d’état and the cleansing of the temple was provocative and it led to his death. Brandon (1970:108) argued that the crowds by singing ‘Hosanna Hosanna’ which means save us now had implications of portraying Jesus as a hero. In addition, for Brandon to enter Jerusalem riding on a Messianic animal claims of his followers being ‘crown king of the Jews ‘’ was a proclamation of rebellion. In support of the above, Mkono (1996:30) argued that Jesus by cleansing the Jerusalem temple made a direct public challenge to the authorities of both Jews and Romans. Thus Jesus attacked people doing legal business at the temple to sell animals for sacrifice to the Diasporas. Therefore, Jesus was viewed as a political revolutionary and that led to his death. However, Catchpole is of the view that the triumphant entry was purely religious and not political that is why Jesus was riding on a humble animal. After all, Jesus did not go to a Roman garrison but went to the temple and his anger was holy anger. Hence, to consider the triumphant entry was a political event is to miss the point.
Brandon alludes that Jesus urged his disciples to be armed which made the Romans to identify him as a revolutionary. The sword in (Luke 22:36) ‘…if you do not have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’ By implication, this was in preparation for the big battle. The above urge also explains why Peter had a sharp sword at the time of Jesus arrest. Therefore, the armed conviction Jesus made on his disciples made him a political revolt that led to his death. However, Catchpole argued that Jesus was a man of peace and his motives were purely religious.
Macaulay (1938:76) argues that there are other factors that make Jesus death inevitable. These factors are the will of God the Father, Jesus will and the will of man. He is of the view of that the facts of Brandon fall on the category of the will of man. It follows that Brandon did not explain the other two wills led to Jesus death. For Macaulay, Jesus died of his own will which implies that Jesus voluntarily died on the cross so that on his resurrection people would repent and it happened (Ephesians 5:2).
In addition, Mark highlighted that Jesus died to a ransom to many. On another note, Jesus death was out of God’s own will and it was unavoidable. Macaulay argues that God sent his own son to die for our sins which shows the love of God. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed ‘’…Father not my will but your will be done” (Luke 22:42). This implies that Jesus death was to fulfil the Fathers’ will and it was unavoidable. Therefore, Brandon’s supposition that Jesus death was due to political reasons is refuted.
Finally, Brandon’s supposition considered that Jesus death was based on political reasons. Considering the affinity between Jesus movement and the Zealot movement, Jesus teachings about the kingdom of God, taxation, the attempt to crown Jesus as King, the triumphant entry and cleansing of the temple. Nonetheless, Brandon thesis did not go without criticism especially from Catchpole whose critic is fair and warranted though liberation theologians think that Brandon is right. Macaulay is of the view that Jesus death is coined on three factors which are the will of God. Jesus’ own will and the will of man, hence the death was inevitable.
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