Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Remember When . . . Caesar Appointed the King?

First off, a reminder to one and all that you can enter for a chance to win a signed copy of A Stray Drop of Blood by commenting on Patty Wysong's blog between now and December 6. Today she has an interview up, which was tons of fun. Hop over and read it!

I thought for today's Remember When I'd dive into the political of our Biblical days. When rereading Stray Drop, I noted a few places where I mentioned Israel's lack of a king at that time. Since I was in "question everything" mode, I figured I'd better look that up--there was, after all, that Herod dude.

I found that technically speaking, I was right. Though Herod the Great (who ruled when Christ was born) had been given the title of King over all of Israel by Caesar, things changed with his death. And it was his own fault, too! He couldn't decide which of his sons he wanted to take his place, so he divided the kingdom into three parts, called the eldest king, and gave the others lesser titles. This all had to be approved by Caesar, though, and he said, "Er, no. You can divide the kingdom, but no on gets to be king." So they all got "arch" designations--tetrarch was Herod Antipas's title. By the time Jesus is tried and crucified, Israel was down to two of Herod the Great's sons, the other having been declared mentally unstable.

So the Herod we hear about during Jesus' trial was the ruler of Galilee, the province Jesus was from, though not the one he had been in when he committed the "crimes" he was tried for. For that, he was in the realm of Pilate, who had been appointed as prefect of Judea when the third son went cuckoo-bananas. In Stray Drop I refer to Pilate as the governor, as the Gospels do, mainly to avoid confusion--one of my main characters is a military prefect over the Tenth Legion, and I didn't want to use "prefect" for two very different characters and positions.

I enjoyed pointing out the irony of the sign Pilate hangs above Jesus: This is Jesus, King of the Jews. It had been a long time since Israel had had a king from their own ranks, one appointed by the prophet of God instead of Rome. Romans would have seen the claim as a joke, something mocking. Israelites would have seen it as a slap in the face.

We have the advantage of recognizing the truth in the mockery. That was Jesus--King of Us All.

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