The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Among them sat that day in judgment Joazar, and his brother Eleazar, sons of Simon Boethus of Alexandria. Their sister, the second Mariamne, was the belle of Jerusalem, and Herod was so struck with her graces that he married her, and named his royal father-in-law, this Simon, the high priest. Simon was looked on as a free thinker, believing neither in God nor the devil. His sons were of the same infidel belief. When nominated high-priests, they became famous for their violence and crimes. They brought such a curse on the whole family with their crimes and their display of wealth, forced from the people by oppression and avarice, that the people in the streets used to cry out to them when passing : "Woe to your fine feathers, ye family of Kanthera."
There attended the council and voted for the death of Christ, Ismael, Ben Phabi, the handsomest man of his day, the "fop" of Jerusalem. He was wealthy. He dressed in the height of the fashion of his time. He frequented the clubs, and became famous for the boxing science of his serving men, the greed and unscrupulousness of his bailiffs, who seized the property of widow and orphan. He promoted his relatives or supported them in idleness. His outer tunic cost not less than hundred minae ($9.000). (See Derenbourg, p. 234.) We suppose it was decked with gold lace and most costly jewels, an oriental custom which has survived to our day.
There sat in judgment on the Son of God, Gamaliel son of the celebrated Rabban Simeon, whose grandfather was the great and gentle Hillel. This Gamaliel became the future teacher of St. Paul, and infused into him all the ideas of the strict Pharisee. When the Angel delivered the Apostles from prison, and when the Jews were determined to put them to death, this Gamaliel rose up : "a doctor of the law respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little," (Acts. v. 34.) and he made a speech to the assembled people. His sermon saved the life of the apostles Peter and Paul that day. It was an act worthy of the grandson of the great Hillel, so celebrated in Hebrew history.
There attended Gamaliel II., who in his school days had sat at the feet of his grandfather with the young man Saul who later became St. Paul. He had busied himself with Greek literature against the continual opposition of the Pharisees, who would read only Hebrew writings. He held continual discussions with the Sadducee priesthood, upholding against them the immortality of the human soul, and the resurrection of the dead. The Talmud gives these disputes, (Edersheim, Life of Christ, Vol. I., 315, etc.) He became the most learned man among the Jews, and he is known as a patriarch. What discussions he had with the Pharisees and the Essenes regarding predestination, free will, total depravity, the existence of God, the future life, etc., is not our intention now to discuss, but to only hint at, to show that they disturbed the religious world at the time of Christ.
Eleazar Ben Hyrcanus,"Hyrcanus' son," married to the sister of Gamaliel II., was perhaps the greatest of the Rabbis of that time. His lectures were so celebrated, that the Rabbi Joshua used to kiss the stone on which he sat, when speaking to his crowded audience, saying, " This stone is like Mount Sinai, and he who sat on it like the ark." When Eleazar was asked for a sign from God to prove his teachings, Jewish writers say that at his bidding a locust tree moved a hundred feet, brooks flowed backward, the walls of the Academy where he taught leaned forward, threatening to fall, only stopped at the request of another Rabbi, and the water from the cave of Pamias turned to blood. (Sanh. 98. a.)
When they still questioned his teachings he exclaimed : If the law is as I teach, let it be proved from heaven, when a voice from the sky, the Bath Qol, replied," What have you to do with Rabbi Eleazar, for the Halakhah is as he teaches. (Baba. Mez. 59.) His questions and answers regarding the sheep and the shepherd relating to Christ's discourse on the Good Shepherd of John x, shows that he had heard the Saviour's words. We have nothing to add to the spurious miracles claimed in Hebrew writings for these teachers, who that Monday condemned to death, and the Friday following demanded the execution of Christ.
Simeon, another of Hillel's grandsons, was there. He was an important official of the Temple looking after the animals and gifts brought for sacrifice. The Court of the Gentiles was filled with traders, hucksters, money changers and men of all kinds of traffic, and this Simeon was the chief in charge of those who examined the animals and offerings to see they had no blemish. The people, if they wished, could buy them from the four shops on the Mount of Olives belonging Amas, or in the Temple. (The Yoma, 66, b., lines 18 to 84 from top) When brought, a regularly appointed examiner, called Mumcheh, "approved," examined the animal, and gave the offerer one of four counterfoils, which he handed to the priests, certifying that the offering had been properly examined. But the worshiper had to pay about five cents for this.
The prices of things varied, and once the cost of a pair of pigeons went up to about three dollars and a half. The priests added up their accounts each evening, and divided the profits among themselves. The extortion practised on the poor people was frightful. This Simeon grew rich on this traffic. But we must give him credit for lowering the price of pigeons that day to about ten cents each.
Rabbi Joshua was the son of Gamla. He introduced the custom of forcing every Jewish child to attend school after the age of six. (Jer Taan IV. 8) But he was like the rest, filled with pride, ambition and avarice. His wife, Martha, was wealthy, and just before the Roman invasion with money she purchased for him the office of high priest. (Yebam 61 a, Yoma 18 a.) But he did not remain long in the office, and Matthias, the son of Theophilos succeeded him. Under his pontificate Titus captured the city.
These were the wretches, who that Monday, after the beautiful Temple services had ended, gathered in the Hall of the Sanhedrin, and passed the sentence of death on Christ, who at that moment was teaching the people in the Court of the Gentiles, and healing all sickness and diseases. We will not stop to say a word of condemnation on them. The whole world holds them in execration. Even the Jewish writers say that it was a time of the deepest corruption. Josephus is very severe on them, not even sparing the high priests. One contemporary with them, called Abba Saul, composed a satirical song on their degradation, and in the Talmud it runs as follows.
"Woe to the family of Boethos,
Woe, because they smite with rods.
Woe to the family of Hanan, (This was Annas of the Gospels.)
Woe, because they hiss like vipers,
Woe to the family of Kantaros, (Or Contheras "The Quarrelsome.")
Woe, because of their slanderous pens,
Woe to the family of Ismael ben Phabi,
Woe, because of the weight of their fists,'
They themselves are high priests.
Their sons are the treasurers,
Their sons-in-law are keepers of the Temple,
Their servants smite the people with their rods." (Talmud, Pesachim, 57 a.)
The degradation, corruption and venality of the high priests and officers of the Temple were famous. They were all members of the sect of the Sadducees, infidels at heart. The sons of Zadoc for ages had been famous in Jewry for the traffic and profits on the offerings. The high-priesthood, and every office in the Temple of the Lord of Hosts were practically sold at auction, and the man with the most money got it. Joshua, called in Greek Jason, Onias' brother, offered king Antiochus Epiphanes three hundred and sixty silver talents for the nomination, the money to be paid down, with the promise of eighty talents from other revenues, besides one hundred and fifty talents for the permission to open a gymnasium in Jerusalem. But Menelaus offered three hundred more and got the position. (See Ant. Jud. XII., 5, 1.) For the frequent purchase of the priesthood the reader is referred to the Mishna. (Yebamoth VI., 4)