A new paper speculates that Jesus was crucified because his disciples carried swords.
In debating the meaning of Jesus’ arrest and death at Jerusalem, scholars have paid too little attention to normal Roman practices of dealing with persons found armed in public in Rome or other cities under their control. Moreover, the idea that only one or two of Jesus’ disciples were armed has been accepted uncritically in spite of the probability that more or all of them were armed.
I’ve been unable to connect to Newsweek’s account of the paper, but it seems that Bart Ehrman thinks there might be something to the idea, while others reject it as seriously flawed.
This would seem to be in the spirit of Reza Aslan’s idea that Jesus succeeded John the Baptist as the leader of a Jewish nationalist movement — and is yet another example of how little is actually known about the life of Jesus and what sort of man he was.
On one hand, for instance, we have the account of the disruption at the Temple, the violence accompanying his arrest, and the gratuitous humiliation of his mother and brothers:
Matthew 12:46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
These give a picture of someone you really don’t want living next door.
And then there is the distinctly non-Jewish, but very Socratic, Sermon on the Mount — admired by people as different as Thomas Jefferson and Friedrich Nietzsche — which has given rise to the eminently plausible idea that Jesus was merely a down-market demagogue and rabble-rouser upon whom the Greek authors of the gospels layered the ethical teachings they were acquainted with.
The take away? We don’t actually know who Jesus was, or what he taught.