The Arrest and Interrogation of Rabbi Yehoshua in the Palace of the High Priest
Looking at the Death of Yehoshua (Jesus) from the Perspective of First Century Judaism
By Robert Mock M.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
April (Passover) 2007
As the disciples left the Essene Quarter in secret, they traveled eastward and down the slopes Mount Zion. Here they walked along a paved walkway, today called today the Maccabean Path that traversed to the side of the palatial residence of the high priest, and looked to the doormen that guarded the gate to the outer court. The Rabbi turned to his disciples and said:
First Century “Maccabean Footpath” going down the slopes of Mount Zion past the Palace of Ananus the Elder into the Kidron Valley – Photo by Robert Mock
Mark 14:27 – “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
Simon bar Jonah quickly and assuredly piped up:
Mark 14:29 – “‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’”
Looking back toward the walls surrounding the mikvah baths of the high priests, Peter and the murmuring disciples headed down the slopes of Zion on the Maccabean footpath into the Kidron Valley below, protesting, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
There they crossed over the Kidron Brook and up the slopes of the Mount called Olives. The Passover moon was full and shining with all its glory. The surrounding hills and valleys dotted with pilgrim tents were now hushed with silence. There on the eastern side of the mount, Yehoshua and His disciples headed towards the fruitful garden district on Mount of Olives. With the moon as their guide, they passed by the tall spiraling cypress groves, that surrounded the gardens of the rich, nodding in pious reverence for this special evening.
Soon they neared the village of Geshemonim (Gethsemane). Yehoshua turned and with slowing footsteps, as if entering sacred ground, led them into a narrow path leading to the garden of the olive oil wine pressers called the Garden of Gat Shemen. With cypresses overshadowing a garden of olive trees, it was here many nights they had rested together under the starry heavens. Somehow tonight, their Master was strangely quiet as though a great sorrow was being cast upon His countenance.
The Garden of Gethsemane where Rabbi Yehoshua was Arrested – Photo by Robert Mock
Throughout the months, He appeared to bask in the majesty of His Father’s presence. Now it appeared that the glory of His Father’s presence was being withdrawn. They noticed a sadness and sorrow that they dared not penetrate. As they sought for a place for their Master to rest, they could sense His countenance was weighed down with a great burden. He staggered on, beyond where they were lay. With the nod of his head, He beckoned the three closest confidants, Peter, James, and John to come further with Him to a secluded corner. With expectations, they knew not what would transpire in the hours ahead.
The Pathway Yehoshua and His Three Entrusted Disciples entered into the Garden of Aguish and Prayer where Yehoshua poured out His Heart to His Father in heaven – Photo by Robert Mock
Did not these three disciples witness the glorious transfiguration of their Master when He received the heavenly delegation from His Father in heaven. Did He not commune with the greatest of the prophets, Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) and the revered lawgiver at Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Holy Master or Teacher)? Did they not listen to the voice of the Father in affirmation for His Son? Now Yehoshua asked them only one request,
Mark 14:34 – “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
With the shadows of the moonlight dancing with the reflections of the leaves of the majestic olive trees, He struggled further ahead and collapsed upon the green grassy carpet below. The shadows of the night began to close in around Him. The weight of the sins of His people and all those of the entire world began to bear down upon Him. There in the agony of the garden, in His own selected spot, He poured out His soul in anguish. As Yehoshua confronted the protecting force of His Father withdrawing back into heaven, He now came face to face with satanic evil.
Dominus Flevit Chapel Overlooking the Temple Mount at the reputed Site of the Rock where Jesus Wept – Photo by Robert Mock
Was this not His mission, to break the bondage of the prison of sin that HaSatan (Satan) and the forces of darkness had surrounded mankind on earth and separated them from their Heavenly Father? Was He not an alien in this world of darkness, where the last flicker of light was burning in the hearts of minds of the remnant of His chosen people, the Jews. Yes, because He was the Sefirot, the Image of His Father, the Master Creator of the Universe and the prism of God’s glory.
This was not a battle for Jewish nationalism. This was a battle for the entire planet. This was the battle for the entire universe. Satan was pacing this planet like a “roaring” overlord and now the control of this planet was being contested by the very “Son of the Father in heaven”, Adam Kadman, the archetypical heavenly Adam, who was the “Image of the Father” that was transferred in the creation vortex to the earthling red man, “Adam”.
The Site of the Spring Grass and Flowers that Yehshua Clutched in Agony in the Garden of Prayer – Photo by Robert Mock
For months, Yehoshua was been in intercession for His people. Now He was longing for someone to intercede for Him. He did not fear His divinity, where He was “The Vine” (de-vine) in His Father’s vineyard. He did fear for His humanity, that He could not handle the agony of the pain, suffering, and torture that would soon be His to bear. He feared more as He perceived the love and agony of His Father in heaven slowly withdrawing away from His presence.
In the wilderness, He was the conqueror against the temptations of HaSatan. Now, He would have to meet Satan again for the final contest. Three years were in preparation for this moment of time. If Yehoshua would succeed in fulfilling His mission played out for one and a half millenniums in the spring yearly dramatic acts in the festivals of the Hebrews, the power of Satan would be broken. If He could conquer the final test, the path of guela (redemption) would begin as the kingdom of Satan would start to crumble to its final demise. It would take two thousand years, for Satan’s kingdom to finally unravel, but the pathway for the ultimate destruction of all the forces of darkness would be assured.
In agony, he clutched the cold dew forming on the flowers and the grass in the garden. The chill of the night began to pierce His own bones as He clung to the ground. It appeared that He feared to be taken further away from the Presence of His Father. Here He felt in all its agony the price that would have to be paid for the salvation of even one soul. With the cry of anguish, He cried out:
The Garden of Gat Shemem where Yehoshua Prayed with the Temple Mount Beyond – Photo by Robert Mock
Mark 14:36 – “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
As the darkness overshadowed Yehoshua, the magnitude and malignancy of sin almost overwhelmed Him. The temptation as He was starving in the wilderness was nothing compared to the temptation to abandon the plan of salvation that had been instituted in the Council in heaven before the foundation of the creation of this planet.
How easy it would have been to abandon this passage “through the valley of the shadow of death” and let the human race bear alone the consequences of their own sin and guilt. The gulf was so great that not even the greatest of the tzaddiks (righteous) of the sages of Judah could penetrate the cloak of evil of satanic oppression. Here was divine intervention working in perfect harmony and coordination between Father and Son. Here was the “Angel before the Presence of the Almighty One”, on the verge of breaking the bondage of satanic oppression in order to bring the salvation of His heavenly Father through His Sefirot (Image); first to His “chosen ones”, then to the “lost ones” and finally to the rest of the goyim (gentiles) of the nations. The sin and the curse of Adam’s original sin, along with their forefather’s sins being placed upon their sons, and sons, and sons, all bore down upon Yehoshua as He knelt in agony on the frigid dampness of the new blades of the spring grass at Gethsemane.
Dominus Flevit Chapel Apse Window, overlooking the Temple Mount, on the Site reputed to be the Rock where Jesus Wept at the Garden of Gat Shemen – Photo by Robert Mock
On the western slopes of the Mount of Olives are today, the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane and the site of the rock outcropping where Jesus wept. The apse window, in the famed teardrop chapel, called the Dominus Flevit Chapel (“The Lord Wept”) is the reputed site where Yehoshua wept in agony. Today, this is one of the most photogenic sights in Jerusalem; looking out from the apse window overlooking the Temple Mount. Built by the Italian architect, Antonio Barluzzi in 1955, it was erected over the 7th century chapel in which part of the original apse was preserved in the new chapel. The mosaic flooring on the outside of the chapel was preserved in-site from a 5th century monastery.
Nearby is the intact tomb site, now famous for its ossuaries in the documentary about the “Tomb of Talpot”. It was featured in the Discover Channel expose on February 2007, about the purported “Tomb of Jesus and Miriamne” that was discovered in March 1980.
Across the street is the “Church of All Nations” which also purports to be build over the rock where Jesus prayed in His night of agony. The 4th century basilica that was built on this site was destroyed in 747 CE in an earthquake. The Christian Catholic Crusaders rebuilt a new basilica, this time aligned over three rock outcroppings representing the three different prayers of supplication by Yehoshua in the Garden. Erected in 1170 CE, it later fell in disuse in the Islamic era about 1345 CE.
First Century Tombs at Gat Shemen – Photo by Robert Mock
It was not until the 20th century that the present church was built by the architectural design of the same Italian Antonio Barluzzi, who later constructed the Domineus Flevit Chapel. The Church of All Nations was constructed in 1924 with the financial support of twelve nations featured on its twelve domes with the coat of arms from each nation. In the very center of the nave is found the rock outcropping of the Byzantine Church that is enclosed in a wrought-iron crown-of-thorns.
On the center mosaic in the apse, is the representation of the agony of Christ. The side murals represent the arrest and traitorous kiss of Judas. On the mural over the frontal pediment are the gold-gilded depictions of the agony of the Master. To the south of the church in the courtyard area are ancient olive trees of unknown antiquity.
For the disciples, the evening, after the Supper on the Upper Terrace of the Home, was expected to be a non-event. The Passover for the Hillel disciples, according to Hillel’s ancient interpretations of the Torah commands for the Passover festival was now over. Most of the disciples of Hillel were now closely affiliated with the oppositional sect of the Essenes, with the disciples of the former Av Beis Din (“Father of the Court”) of the Sanhedrin (30-20CE), Menahem the Essene.
The Church of all Nations at the Site of the Garden of Gethsemane – Photo by Robert Mock
Yet, the vast majority of the Jews were preparing for the Passover Seder meal with the Korban lamb to be held according to “sunrise reckoning” of the Sadducee’s Temple calendar, twenty four hours later.
Yet, to please the large number of pilgrims from the Babylonian Diaspora and the Roman Empire, the Pharisee disciples of Shammai the Elder, held also a Double Passover, that is a third Passover Seder according to the “sunset reckoning”, another twenty four hour after that on the evening after the 15th of Nisan, or the eve of the 16th day.
While Jerusalem was awaiting another celebration of the springtime Pesach festival, Yehoshua was in midst of a cosmic battle with HaSatan himself. To Yehoshua, the cosmic balance in the warring battles between the forces of light and the forces of darkness would make the unfolding hours ahead seal the fate of not only the inhabitants on this planet earth but all the created hosts of the universe. It would also affect the spiritual realms of the heavens from the mighty archangels; Raziel, Zaphkiel, Zadkeil, to Michael, the “Crown Messiah of the Tiferet in the Sefirot of the World of the Divine.
The Eastern Gate on the Temple Mount seen from the Olive Garden to the South of the Church of All Nations – Photo by Robert Mock
Was it not the Archangel Samael, who once stood on the right hand of the Father, enthroned over the four mighty Cherubim, who went to war with the Almighty One of Israel? Was not Samael, the rebel archangel, whose rebellion collapsed the Sefirot of Creation that the Almighty One has been repairing and redeeming ever since? Did not this archangel become the “angel of Esau” that fought their Patriarch Yacov (Jacob) in the midnight struggle as he awaited meeting his brother, Esau and has now become the “angel of Edom (Rome)”?
“Sin” was not an earthling affair. It was a rebellion that started in the heavens next to the throne of God. It was not a war of this solar system but had already taken down a third of the angelic forces in the spiritual dominions. Yet, it was on this planet earth, on the one piece of terrestrial soil that HaShem (God of Israel) called His own, Jerusalem, that the Ein Sof, the Unseen God of the Universes, sent His Son to confront HaSatan and the spiritual forces of evil and darkness.
The Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane – Photo by Robert Mock
The prophetic voice of the Essenes had been predicting this conflict for almost two centuries. The master of the true Kabbalah, Menahem the Essene was the esteemed Hillel the Great’s Av Beis Din (“Father of the Court”) in the Sanhedrin between 30 and 20 BCE. He and 70 of his disciples and 70 of the disciples of Hillel the Great fled to the wilderness and Damascus. Their voices and apocalyptic messianic visions had been marginalize until the “Voice of One crying in the Wilderness” brought the inter-dimensional struggle for the soul of man back to the center stage of Jewish consciousness in 26 CE.
For a second time, Yehoshua struggled back to the place where He asked His disciples to pray with Him. “He came and found them sleeping.” Had they spent their night in supplication and prayer, the forces of fear may not have swept them away in the next few hours. In the paralysis of their fear, they comprehended little of what is meant to be watchful in prayer in order to withstand temptation. Now He called out to Simon bar Jonah:
Mark 14:37-38 (parts) – “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The Largest of the Ancient Oak Trees in the Garden of Gat Shemen (Gethsemane) – Photo by Robert Mock
This is a reminder to the chosen remnant of the “saints” that will go through the final tribulations at the time of the end, when a new age of spiritual reality will emerge. The struggle of the Master stands in stark contrast when compared to the temptation of spiritual slumber of the disciples. It leaves us a reminder of His warning earlier to them, “All of you will be offended because of Me this very night.” Yet, without reproof, He returned back to His place of agony and prayer.
The great loneliness of the Son, knowing that His Father was withdrawing back into the heavens, was a source of great agony to the point that “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” In the silence the olive trees witnessed that the final moment had come to decide the destiny of the whole world. The fate of all humanity hung upon Yehoshua’s decision in the garden. Yet, with trembling hands, clutching the ground, He resigned Himself to His Father in heaven,
Matthew 26:42 – “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me, except I drink it, Your will be done.”
The Eastern Gate seen from the Garden of Gethsemane – Islamic cemetery blocking the Entrance – Photo by Robert Mock
Three times, Yehoshua confronted His Father, begging to be relieved of the impending frontal assault by the satanic forces now in control of the high priests in Jerusalem. Caiphas and Ananus, their temple leaders, sought to protect their economic nest of corruption. Three times the angelic forces listened with baited breath for the decision of their Commander of the heavenly forces.
The Garden of Prayer at Gat Shemen
– Photo by Robert Mock
The pathway to the accursed execution tree began with the footsteps of Judas. A zealot and a Zionist to his innermost core, Judas loved Israel and longed for the messiah to bring Israel’s redemption to pass. It was this longing and passion that led to his ignoble deeds and tortuous end. It also highlighted the political bribery that sealed the fate of the House of Ananus. It initiated a tragic series of extra-legal actions by the high priest that lay transparent the hatred of this wicked and corrupt ruling aristocratic family, the House of Ananus the Elder, for this young Rabbi Yehoshua HaNotzri (Jesus the Nazarene).
It was a moonlit night, twenty four hours till full moon. There an armed military guarded escorted entourage, composed of the chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees, sought the death of Yehoshua. This select group made their way with lighted torches to the garden on the mount. There was no need for a betraying kiss or a pointed finger to identify Jesus. He forestalled His traitor by calmly walking to meet the guards asking if it was He that they sought.
John 18:3 – “Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are your seeking?”
Lest we forget, Yehoshua was no doubt the most publicly recognized Jew in Jerusalem. The Galilean pilgrims were His passionate followers. The Judeans were yearning for a messiah. With the messianic seeds of the Essenes planted in the minds of the Jewish peasants as the Essenes lived within their midst, the populous was ripe for the greatest messianic uprising in Jewish history. Judas the Zealot was desiring to be on the forefront of this emotional passion, if not to be the one to initiate this messianic revolt of freedom for God’s chosen people.
There is no doubt that the security officers of the high priest already knew who Yehoshua was. He had been preaching, teaching and healing for three days prior in the temple courtyard to the point that He was taking the attention away from the Passover ceremonial festivities. Yehoshua also so impressed the security officers to the point that they refused to arrest Him and take Him to the Shammaite Pharisees.
John 7:30, 32, 40-49 – “Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come…The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him…So there was a division among the people because of Him.
The Garden of Gat Shemen, where Yehoshua was Arrested – Photo by Robert Mock
Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!” then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd does not know the law is accursed.’”
The entourage of Shammaite Pharisees, scribes, and scholars of Jewish legal justice were continuously keeping Him under the spotlight of theological transparency. The divine Pesach Lamb was being inspected for His halakhic purity as He lived out His life in Torah living theology.
Yet no arrest could be made unless a Jewish civilian was there to make the identity to allow them to bring the accused in for investigation. For the privilege of having His name cursed for all eternity, Judas the Sicarii and Zealot betrayed his Master for thirty pieces of silver.
Against all public opinion, the Roman Germanicus Guard whose headquarters was in Alexandria, Egypt but were barracked in the Antonia Tower under the command of the Procurator Pontius Pilate, did not make the arrest of Yehoshua. The arrest was executed only by the temple private security force hired and under the orders of the High Priest Joseph Caiphas and the ruling ex-high priest and Patriarch of the House of Ananus, Ananus the Elder. The arrest was illegal under both Jewish Torah and Roman law.
Neither the high priest nor the Sanhedrin had the power to arrest any Jewish citizen. The legal power of arrest could only with the order of the Roman Provincial Council in Judea under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Procurator. It is interesting that Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Roman Provincial Council and had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival all the way from the shores of the Mendip tin mines in Cornwall, Britain. He knew not of the arrest of his nephew.
Looking Down upon the Hinnom Valley from the Gardens of the Palace of the High Priest along the “Maccabean Pathway”. Probable route that Yehoshua was taken to the Palace of the High Priest Ananus and Caiphas – Photo by Robert Mock
Any arrest of a Jewish inhabitant could only be by the Roman Germanicus Guard, and issued only on the authority of the Roman governor responding to a recognized complaint. The gospel narrative was succinct.
John 18:12-13 – “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”
Also contrary to public belief, Yehoshua, though bound, was not bound up in heavy chains and dragged to the courtyard of Ananus’ palatial dwelling. As the gospel testimony affirms, Yehoshua quietly walked between the temple guards for they feared to lay their hands on Him.
Through the darkness of the night, they headed from the garden and down into the Kidron Valley. Then they walked up the same Maccabean path and stairway to the palatial residence of the High Priest, the same pathway, Yehoshua and His followers traveled a few hours earlier.
Luke 22:52 – “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.’”
Climbing up the Maccabean Pathway to the Palace of the High Priest – Photo by Robert Mock
Against Roman law, no arrest, nor trial, could be made in the middle of the night. Neither could any Roman hearings or trials be made after sunset. Not even under emergency circumstances could a “trial for life” be initiated after dark. Such a trial was within the exclusive domain of the Roman Provincial Court.
Mishnah Sanhedrin 4.1 – “In noncapital cases they hold trial during the daytime and the verdict may be reached during the night; in capital cases they hold the trial during the daytime and the verdict must also be reached during the daytime. In noncapital cases the verdict, whether of acquittal or of conviction, may be reached the same day; in capital cases a verdict of acquittal may be reached on the same day, but a verdict of conviction not until the following day.
Yet it was Ananus the Elder, the former High Priest of Israel, who began the first proceedings of this extra-ordinary breach of judicial process in the middle of the evening near midnight. Here was an act of deliberately flaunting Roman law. There appears to be no attempt to establish the innocence of Rabbi Yehoshua or to pursue an acquittal of the charges against Him. Within the guarded compound of the high priest, there is every evidence that they assembled a selected group of chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees, who were in one accord with the desires of the reigning high priests, Caiphas and Ananus. It was their intent to establish a legal case against this Rabbi Yehoshua, so that they could stone or hang Him according to Torah Law.
Mark 14:55-56 – “Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.
Looking from the Palace of Caiphas and Ananus the Elder on Mount Zion towards the Mount of Olives (background left) and the Mount of Offense (foreground right) – Photo by Robert Mock
As the 14th day of Nisan began to break over the western slopes of the Hills of Moab east of Jerusalem, Yehoshua was taken to the Council of Hewn Stones. This is where the Great Sanhedrin met in an emergency setting, near the high priest’s temple residence. Here Caiphas was staying in ritual purity for the preparation of the Passover lambs to be eaten in the Passover Seders by the Jewish pilgrims on Wednesday afternoon, according to the traditions of the Sadducee’s Temple calendar.
A day later on Thursday afternoon of the 15th of Nisan, according to the “Double Passover” traditions of the Jews arriving from Galilee and the Babylonian Diaspora, a second official Pharisee Passover Seder was approved. Wednesday night, Thursday night, and Friday night, Yehoshua lay in the tomb. Thursday, Friday, and the Seventh-day Shabbat, Yehoshua also rested in the tomb. For three days and three nights, Yehoshua awaited the arrival of His glorious re-appearance.
It was on the palace of Ananus the Elder that the proceedings began for a “trial for life”. It was initiated by the ex-officio high priest of Israel. The initial interrogator was the most potent enemy of Y Yehoshua, the Patriarch of the feared and often accursed high priest family, Ananus the Elder. This family came under the specific condemnation over thirty years later by the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. He investigated the last years of the Jewish people before the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 CE. Concerning Ananus the Elder, Josephus wrote:
The Bottom of the Isolation Pit where it is believed Yehoshua was Incarcerated beneath the Palace of Ananus the Elder and the High Priest Joseph Caiphas in Jerusalem – Photo by Robert Mock
Flavius Josephus – “Now, as soon as Albinus was come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all his endeavors and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by destroying many of the sicarii; but as for the high priest Ananias, he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money: he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus and of the high priest (Jesus/Yeshua), by making them presents; he also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people, and went to the threshing floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without any one being able to prohibit them; so that (some of the) priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food.” (Josephus, Antiquities, XX,ix,2)
During the initial interrogation, the High Priest Joseph Caiphas was not in the vicinity of the family residence. This may have served to give him plausible denial and not make him culpable with the Romans later. Yet, according to the Torah Law, Caiphas was to have been meditating in his temple residence, bringing his thoughts in harmony with the Almighty One of Israel. In the hours before the Pesach lamb was to have been sacrificed, the high priest was making desperate moves to save his power and authority from this one minor rabbi that sought to return the Temple of Herod, Inc. back into a “House of Prayer”.
Matthew 21:13 – “And He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
As archeology would later reveal, the residence of the High Priest was a palatial palace with many numerous mikvah baths, pools, and fountains. It was also a fortified residence with its own security guard including a prison with holding cells for prisoners and iron racks to bind and hold Yehoshua for beatings and punishment.
Included in this interrogation center was an isolation cell as secure and severe as the feared Mamertine Prison (Tullianum) in Rome where enemies of Rome such as Jugurtha and Vercingetorix were strangled or as political prisoners were executed by being thrown off the Tarpeian Rock. This prison was described by the Roman author Sallust around 40 BCE as “about twelve feet deep, closed all round by strong walls and a stone vault. Its aspect is repugnant and fearsome from its neglect, darkness, and stench.”
The Hole in the Ceiling where Yehoshua was Lowered into the Isolation Pit in the Basement of the Palace of Caiphas and Ananus the Elder – Photo by Robert Mock
One may get the impression that the Jewish people were a powerful people in the Roman society. Composing 10% of the population in all the Roman Empire, the wealth of the empire of Rome came from the super rich Jews such as the Roman mining Decurio from Britain called Joseph of Arimathea and the wealthy grain magnate called Nicodemus. That they both had residences in Jerusalem and Judea gives thought that the Jewish influence in Roman economic life was as prominent in Roman society as it is today in Greco-Roman influenced societies of America and Europe.
The Jewish religion was a religion of great antiquity and respected by the Roman government of Augustus Caesar. Though the Jews were subject to the Roman government, the land of Judea was also Rome’s breadbasket. The land was fertile with rich farmlands and large forests in the days of Yehoshua. The Roman government usually treated its subjects with benign neglect after they had been truly pacified and willing to work as subjects of Rome. Yet, the Jews were different. Though use to living under the foreign governments of Babylon and Persia, the Jews under Rome was sociological mix bred with fire and brimstone. It was known that the Roman hatred of the Jew grew out of the virulent hatred of the Jewish zealots to Rome. It was Hillel the Great who recognized this effect.
Yet, the moderating attitude of the disciples of the Great Hillel was no longer felt within the temple culture in Jerusalem. The disciples of Shammai, the brooding isolationists that hated all gentiles were in control of the Pharisee educational system and great fences were being set up around temple Judaism of Jesus’ day.
It was not the minute parsing of Torah regulations that cast such a devastating effect on Jewish society, but the pall of corruption within the temple priesthood cult. The corruption was so great that the Sons of Ananus and the Sons of Boethus were virtually hated in Jewish peasant society. Their servants and slaves were like mad dogs in abusing the people.
It was not just the savagery of the servants of the high priest that brought this distain but the desecration of the Sanctuary and the graft and thievery in the Bazaars of Ananus alongside the temple that flamed the fury of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. It was popular curse of the peasants and working class that left this Talmudic testimony of the popular sentiment of distain for the high priests families that controlled the sacrificial system of the Temple of Herod.
Talmud, Pesahim 57
“What a plague is the family of Simon Boethus; cursed be their lances!
What a plague is the family of Ananos; cursed be their hissing of vipers!
What a plague is the family of Cantharus; cursed be their pens!
What a plague is the family of Ismael ben Phabi; cursed be their fists!
They are high priests themselves, their sons are treasurers,
their sons-in-law are commanders, and their servants strike people with staves.”
Looking from the Road heading down the Mount of Olives towards Gethsemane over the Jewish cemetery, the Kidron Valley (center) towards the Mount of Zion and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu at the site of the Palace of Ananus the Elder and Caiphas, the high priests (see blue roofed building) – Photo by Robert Mock
To fulfill the commands of the Torah, soon only the very elite could afford the exorbant prices for the ashes of the red heifer that were required for ritual purity and proper Torah observance. The rude poverty of the masses with filth and hunger and unwashed fringes on their garments were only a symptom of how low the respect for the Torah had become as Yehoshua walked among the throngs of the poor and the disenfranchised of Jewish society.
Within the ancient commands from their God were the rites for the purification of the entire population, not just the wealthy and the beautiful. As written in the Torah, anyone who touched a dead body was ritually unclean. They were required to cleanse themselves with the sprinkle of the water which contained even the micro-fragments of the ashes of the red heifer. Taken from the ritual sacrifice of that rare mutation of the red cow, only those that did not have more than two white hairs on their entire red hairy body at the age of two were proclaimed as pure and acceptable to the God of Israel. The ashes of red heifer were so priceless that they were a treasure more valuable than the most costly pearl of great price. The ashes of the red heifer were treasured as a temple heirloom throughout the generations. How purification came from such a ritual was a scientific mystery that even the great wisdom of Solomon could not understand. All Jews, regardless of wealth, were equal in the eyes of God and so they equally had access to this national treasure.
According to traditions, until the House of Ananus had virtual possession of the office of the high priest of Israel, the ashes of the red heifer were available to rich and poor alike. Soon these “ashes” like the office of the high priest went for the price of the highest bidder. Only the very elite, the wealthy, and the powerful were able to touch the dead and be cleansed of their impurity. The rest of the masses of people would be segregated and denied from access to their God. The poor mothers of Israel would have to remain unclean, not able to purify their bodies of the blood of their offspring by the purification sacrifice. Even the price of the doves, for the purification offering for the first born, were raised to such astronomical prices that many daughters of the Holy One would be left out, unclean.
Their cry against the Sadducean priests, carried down through the centuries in the verses in the Talmud, were only a vague echo of the intense passion and hatred of the people.
This impending trial of Jesus revealed two facts by the extra judicial acts of the House of Ananus against Yehoshua. It revealed the fear of the temple leadership to Yehoshua for they “feared the people” who were followers of Him.
The high priest was desperate to push this trial with the greatest speed because of Caiphas’ insecurity by the great popularity of the Nazarene with the Jewish pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem for the festivals from Galilee. It also suggested that Caiphas, the high priest, had some secret intelligence concerning the Roman procurator with prior intrigues and covert attacks against the Caesar of Rome that would prevent any retaliation by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate.
The Interior of the Church of St. Peter at Gallicantu – Photo by Robert Mock
To accomplish what did happen on that day of Passover were the acts of desperation, collusion, and conspiracy. It took all the forces of the families of the controlling elite to bring about the event that they hoped would topple the magnetic spell of Yehoshua in the land. It would be a conspiracy that would include many in the great aristocratic families of the Sadducean oligarchs of Judaism.
If we were disciples of Yehoshua in first century Judea, the city of Jerusalem would have looked much different. There on the southeastern slopes of Mount Zion are the archeological remains of one of the finest palatial residences in Jerusalem. Nestled in the heart of the wealthy and elite sector of Jerusalem, was the home of the wealthiest family in Jerusalem. Outside this residence was an austere nondescript exterior that was constructed by blocks of Jerusalem stone.
The Site of the Palace of the High Priests Ananus and his son0in-law Caiphas, now the Church of St. Peter at Gallicantu – Photo by Robert Mock
It was not one house but a series of homes, offices, courtyards, gardens, and an elaborate number of ritual mikvah baths. Along side was a sentry watchtower with a turreted tower. It actually was a fortified residence with its own special guard detachment with barracks with underground prisoner cells and interrogation chambers.
The palatial residence of the Sadducean high priestly family called the House of Ananus was the most powerful and feared family in Judea. The residence was connected to the temple complex by an overhead causeway, whose archeological remains can be seen today. This is where the powerful elite and the wealthy returned to their homes from the temple. It was also where the members of the Sanhedrin, officials of the high priest court, and the high priest family could traverse in safety to the temple and its courtyards without becoming in contact with the masses of people below.
Inside the palace was not just a residence but a hidden government within the temple aristocratic government. Inside the outer gate was an external courtyard paved in white marble and encircled about with official buildings in service to the High Priest; tax collectors, administration offices, and courtiers in service to the court of the House of Ananus.
Soon to arrive in this courtyard would be the two disciples of Rabbi Yehoshua; Simon bar Jonas, later called the Apostle Simon Peter, and Yohannes, later called the Apostle John. It was John whom the textual evidence suggests that he may have been a Levite who apparently had inside connections with the family of the high priest. Yet the evidence later may even suggest a more profound identity of the “other disciple” that Simon Peter followed.
“Peter Denies Christ” – Painting by Rembrandt van Rijn (1660) Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
John 18:15-16 – “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple (John). Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girt who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you? He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.”
The Floor where Jesus was Lowered into the Isolation Pit awaiting His Sanhedrin Trial – Photo by Robert Mock
So began the trilogy of denials that soon crucified the old Simon from Galilee and resurrected the new spiritual Peter within. Here is where the Apostle Peter began a new life as an international emissary for his Master Yehoshua.
When we dissect the testimony of the author of the Gospel of John, we begin to understand that Ananus was seeking or procuring witnesses during the initial accusation phase of the interrogations. The disciple, Simon Peter was brought into the residence of the high priest by “another disciple” that was known to the high priest. Simon Peter was soon released as an “unreliable” witness with the mixed testimonies that he rendered so had to wait the outcome of the interrogations in the outer porch or the “place of the blowing (beth chatser) along with the temple guards and servants of the high priest. Yet, the “other disciple”, Yohanan Eleazar, known to us as Lazarus, was a member of the Sanhedrin, yet apparently he was not to be a part of the criminal court, and was privileged to watch the entire trial proceedings as an inside observer. He later gave his testimony with these words:
John 21:24 – “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.”
Inside the outer court was the inner courtyard of the palace. Here in true oriental fashion was the private residence of Ananus the Elder plus the residence of each of his five sons plus his daughters and their families. It was one of these daughters whose husband, Joseph Caiphas, was the current reigning high priest of Israel. Nearby was a smaller court where the rooms for the specially selected private bodyguards for the entire House of Ananus were housed.
Whereas the outside of the palace was nondescript, the inside of the private residence was a paradise. In the inner court were the gardens of the High Priest where the air was a mixture of intoxicating scents and aromas of flowering trees and gardens surrounding swimming pools.
Nearby was a park laid out with the tall cypress, outlined with flowering oleanders of pinks, red, and yellows and the flowering ethrog (citron) trees that surrounded the pools of waters. Highlighted was a rose garden, the favorite flower of the Jerusalem aristocracy with brilliant cascading mounds with a million shades of color.
During the hot summer days when the hot parching winds blew in from the Dead Sea and the wilderness wadis to the east of Jerusalem, water became a luxury item. The populous of Jerusalem lined the troughs for the meager trickle of water coming down from the Gihon Spring to the pool of Siloah. The water skins carried by the water carriers to the more affluent were easily stolen by the parched residents desperate for nourishment during the days when the hot sandy air filled the sky.
In contrast, within the court of the high priest, fountains of bronzed lions spouting with dancing waters, were artistically placed within and surrounding the pools. Special lead pipes, whose lead and tin were mined by Jewish Saracens in the Cornwall region of Britain, took the water from the temple to the gardens of Ananus. They lay along side of pipes bringing the blood of the sacrifices of the lambs and oxen from the temple for fertilizer for the soil. The gardens, though ritually contaminated with the blood of the animals, bloomed with a rare richness and radiance rarely seen in any horticultural paradise. Surrounding the pools were nests for flocks of white turtledoves.
The Security Observation Deck looking down into the Isolation Pit where Yehoshua may have been Imprisoned – Photo by Robert Mock
Inside the home were marbled stairways leading to hallways of Corinthian columns with cedar beams supported by the capitals of these majestic columns. Surrounding the halls were tapestries and mosaics of fine wood, all engraved, embroidered, or interwoven with Jewish religious symbols. Beyond the hall of columns was the great reception hall, the de-facto throne of Jerusalem, for within this one residence resided three high priests, Ananus the Elder, his son Eleazar, and son-in-law, Caiphas, with their families. Within the same residence, the future high priests were being groomed; Jonathan, Theophilus, and the most articulate, brash and brilliant, Ananus the Younger.
The dining hall of the family overlooked one of the most beautiful vistas in the whole city. The temple of Herod to the northeast, in all its glory, rose like an eleven story building from the Kidron Valley. Across the ravine of the Kidron Valley rose the majestic Mount of Olives with a northern and the southern eminence, the later called the Mount of Offense. It was actually on the Mount of Offense that gave the best view of ancient Jerusalem, for it being directly east of the old city of David to the south of the Gihon Springs. It was this same mount that commanded an opposing central view from the dining terrace of this priestly family.
The Prisoner Cells below the Palace of Caiphas and Ananus the Elder – Photo by Robert Mock
Today this monumental residential palace of Ananus the Elder has been located and archeologically excavated. It was first mentioned in the historical texts by the Jewish Pilgrim from Bordeaux, who in 333 CE visited the city of Jerusalem and later wrote his memoirs. Here he recounted traveling from the Pool of Siloa over to Mount Zion where in route one would come across the house of Caiphas the High Priest.
Anonymous Pilgrim from Bordeaux – “Also as you come out of Jerusalem to go up Mount Sion, on the left hand, below in the valley, beside the wall, is a pool which is called Siloe and has four porticoes; and there is another large pool outside it. This spring runs for six days and nights, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, it does not run at all, either by day or by night.
On this side one goes up Sion, and sees where the house of Caiaphas the priest was, and there still stands a column against which Christ was beaten with rods. Within, however, inside the wall of Sion, is seen the place where was David's palace. Of seven synagogues which once were there, one alone remains; the rest are ploughed over and sown upon, as said Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 1:2.4-8; Micah 3:9-12).”
Over and around the archeological remains of rock cut dwellings, cellars, cisterns, prison houses, isolation chambers and stables is a remarkable basilica of contemporary and ancient lines, called the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. It was constructed by the French monastic order called the Assumptionists in 1933 to commemorate the site where the Apostle Peter denied Jesus three times.
Beneath the basilica are a series of ancient grottos which appear to be prisoner cells. These include iron bolt impressions in stone where a prisoner was bound with his hands above his head outstretched while beaten and tortured. In the center was a deep isolation chamber with a solitary hole above to lower the prisoner from the ceiling of the isolation pit with a rope hammock. This also included an observation window for guards to keep watch over their prisoner below.
Christian and Jewish Messianic followers of Yehoshua both attest that it is believed that here Yehoshua was kept in isolation after his arrest. It was also here that the interrogation by Ananus the Elder, the chief priests, scribes and Shammaite Pharisees, who sought His death, was conducted in the darkness of the hours after midnight.
Mural of Jesus being Lowered in the Isolation Pit – Photo by Robert Mock
About six hours later, He was raised from the isolation pit and sent over to the Sanhedrin for trial the next morning. As the hours after midnight wore on, Rabbi Yehoshua was at the mercy of the hired servants and security detail hidden beneath the residence above of the high priest.
Luke 22:63-65 – “Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophecy! Who is the one who struck You? And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.”
Unable to extract any implicating testimony from Yehoshua nor able to find two recognizable witnesses with collaborating and converging testimony against Him, the prosecution case appeared to falter. The gospel testimonies suggest that Caiphas was not a part of the early midnight interrogation in the palatial residence. He was required to remain on the temple court in a purified state during the Passover celebration.
What is known is that Yehoshua was arrested without charge, taken for interrogation in a private residence, imprisoned, assaulted, and abused with torture in order to extract damaging evidence against Him. John the Beloved was the only disciple who had security access to the residence of Ananus the Elder. The Apostles John’s testimony, we find interesting:
John 18:19-24 – “The High Priest (Ananus the Elder) then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him,
Yehoshua HaNotzri - ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jew always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them, Indeed they know what I said.’
And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ Jesus answered him ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why do you strike Me?’”
The Inner Prison Courtyard Caves with Isolation Pit beneath the Palace of Caiphas and Ananus the Elder – Photo by Robert Mock
Somewhere after the midnight arrest, the temple guards with the temple elite who sought Yehoshua’s death, arrived in the House of Ananus to define the prosecutorial testimony against Yehoshua. He was arraigned and interned in the cells below where He was beaten with their hands and then cast into the isolation pit below. The word was sent out to the entire Sanhedrin at this time that an emergency meeting was to convene before the break of dawn.
Luke, the historian, carefully mentions the story of Simon bar Jonah (Peter) in the courtyard of the “high priest’s house”. What is not stated, is that this palatial residence was the family home of the entire House of Ananus on the southeastern ridge of the Mount called Zion. The evening was cold, not unlike the spring of 2007 where snow covered the city of Jerusalem up to the early part of April. The secret interrogation proceedings in the residence were not discussed in Luke’s history, except for the identity crisis of the “brave” Galilean bodyguard of Yehoshua, Simon Peter, who so valiantly fought in an armed struggle for Yehoshua, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He was now fearfully sitting around the outer courtyard fireplace when his identity was recognized three times by servants and accomplices of the high priest. With fear stricken eyes, he denied knowing his Master, three times. As the rooster crowed at the break of dawn, a new spiritual Peter arose from his moral execution to a new identity with his Lord.
It was John, the “disciple that was known to the high priest” (John 18:15) and could only give a first hand testimony of this evening, who wrote:
John 18:12-13 – “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiphas who was high priest that year.
Later, John documented that after Jesus was kept in the darkness of the night in the palace of the high priests, He was again transported to another location.
John 18:24 – “Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the high priest.”
We now know that the high priest was still at the temple, in preparation for the upcoming Pesach festival, or else He would have been ritually contaminated. In an impure state, he would have been unable to preside as the high priest at the slaying of the Pesach Lamb.
Israeli guide Depicting how Prisoner’s Hand were Strapped to Iron Rings in the Holes Above while they were Beaten and Tortured – Photo by Robert Mock
Luke and Matthew bring more details to the story, with the following historical details of the transportation not just to Caiphas, the high priest, but to the “Council”, or the Great Sanhedrin in the Chamber of Hewn Stones, for trial.
Luke 22:66 – “As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council …”
Matthew 27:1 – “When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death.”
It was here that the Great Sanhedrin sat in judgment in trial of this Galilean Rabbi called Yehoshua HaNotzri (Jesus the Nazarene). It was a remarkable event in judicial history that occurred that morning.
Go to Part Four – “The Trial of Yehoshua (Jesus) before the Sanhedrin”
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Index for “The Divine Mission to Bring the “Good News” to the Gentiles”
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Letter of Rabbi Jacob Emden concerning Jesus the Nazarene -
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Index for “The Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem”
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Index for “Spring Jewish Festivals – Passover and Pentecost”
“Looking at the Death of Yehoshua (Jesus) from the Perspective of First Century Judaism”
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“Catastrophes and the Time of the End”
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“Looking backwards to the Redemption during the Exodus – Looking forward to the Restoration by the Messiah”
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When does the First Month of Nissan (Aviv) Begin?
The Epic Drama on the Passion of The Christ
Message from BibleSearchers
BibleSearchers scans the world for information that has relevance on the time of the end. It is our prayer that this will allow the believers in the Almighty One of Israel to “watch and be ready”. Our readiness has nothing to do trying to halt the progression of evil on our planet earth. In our readiness, we seek to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah of Israel so that goodness and evil will be manifested in its fullest. Our preparation is a pathway of spiritual readiness for a world of peace. Our defender is the Lord of hosts. The time of the end suggests that the Eternal One of Israel’s intent is to close out this chapter of earth’s history so that the perpetrators of evil, those that seek power, greed and control, will be eliminated from this planet earth. The wars of the heavens are being played out on this planet earth and humans will live through it to testify of the might, power, justice and the love of the God of Israel. In a world of corruption and disinformation, we cannot always know what the historical truth is and who is promoting evil or mis-information. We cannot guarantee our sources but we will always seek to portray trends that can be validated in the Torah and the testimony of the prophets of the Old and the New Testament.
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