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I know that from God the Father's perspective, Christ had to die for the sins of the elect.

However, from a secular perspective, why was Christ crucified?

I know that the Jews were unhappy with Christ claiming to be God -- but secularly, that only makes him insane, not worthy of the death penalty.

There was the time that he over turned a bunch of tables in the temple; but that too seems like a misdemeanor / felony, not death by crucifixion.

Given that he was crucified with "King of the Jews" was the reason that he was guilty of "trying to overthrow Rome" ?

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The ruling Jews were religious not secular. What makes you think "secularly" had much if any bearing? –  Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 14:14
@Caleb I think Matthew's point is that the crucifixion was carried out by the Romans. He is asking for the reason why they would carry it out - under which specific law did Jesus break. It's not often that the Romans would just kill someone because the majority of people didn't like this specific person. We are taught that Pilate wanted to not have a riot. However, under what secular law / reason did Pilate execute Jesus? I'm pretty confident that the answer is not biblical. –  user1054 Aug 14 '12 at 14:32
@Matthew7.7 Please revise your question per your comments below to get relevant answers. –  user1054 Aug 14 '12 at 14:53

2 Answers 2

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I'm assuming you mean the "political" or "social" reasons Jesus was killed as opposed to the theological significance or motivation of his death.

Recall that the Judean state had been in tumult since the Maccabean period. The expectation of many Jews for a political "Messiah" (i.e. someone "anointed" to reclaim the throne of David) was at odds with the imperial power of Rome. When Jesus proclaimed the inbreaking of the "kingdom of God/Heaven" he was making a political statement over and against the "kingdom of Rome." This is why the disciples ask Jesus:

Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" - Acts 1:6

They were expecting Jesus to destroy the Romans and reestablish the Davidic kingship. This is also why it was so confusing for the disciples that Jesus would be killed—especially after, for example, the triumphal entry, which imitated (or mocked, depending on who you ask) a General returning to his city from a victorious campaign. The Qumran community had basically the same Messianic understanding, except they expected two messiahs, one a political leader, and the other a priestly figure. The two Jewish revolts after Jesus also provide nice examples. The first, Rome crushed in 70 CE with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and in 74 CE at Masada. The second, in 132-135 CE ended with the death of Simon bar Kokhba, the rebel leader.

As such, Jesus was arrested and killed essentially for for sedition--the Jewish leaders who were collaborating with Rome wished to keep the peace, and the best way to do that was to silence dissenting voices. The whole "claiming to be God" bit was really more of an excuse (or anyway, according to my understanding of the text).

I would also caution placing too much blame on "the Jews," that is, "the Jewish people," since the Jewish leadership was a very small and powerful group of elites. Parts of the NT (particularly GJohn) border on anti-Semitic at times, but we should be sure to consider the historical sitz of such writings and understand that it likely is a reflection of tension between Jewish and Christian groups in the late 1st/early 2nd centuries, and not necessarily perfectly historically accurate.

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I was with you right up until you make the claim that parts of the NT are not necessarily historically accurate. I agree with the point you are trying to make about blaming the Jews, but not for that reason! I would suggest your answer is valuable, and would be more broadly appreciated if left off before the last sentence. –  Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 19:52
John is a lot easier to understand when you read "the Jews" as "the Jewish leaders", not "the Jewish people." –  Mason Wheeler Aug 14 '12 at 21:32

It was the chief priests and pharisees that wanted Jesus arrested. Matthew 26:47 :

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people

"that only makes him insane, not worthy of the death penalty"

Torah, Leveticus 24:16 makes it clear that blasphemy carries a death sentence (although via stoning). More likely, though, he was simply seen as a rebel and a risk, potentially a flash-point for a more visible and popular uprising. That would be plenty of reason for the religious and political leaders to see... economy in a prompt but final action.

I don't know about a secular reason, but: perhaps a political reason that Pilate may have acquiesced to the demands of the Jewish priests; supposedly there is evidence to support some previous hoo-hah involving a row between Pilate and the locals relating to some pagan shields - Pilate refused to remove them, the locals complained to the emperor, the emperor expressed his anger at Pilate's approach. This could lead us to suspect that maybe Pilate didn't want a re-run that could put his position (and likely: life) in jeopardy, so was willing to yield a bit to the locals. Especially if it looked like a riot was likely otherwise.

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@Matthew7.7 I think you're over-complicating the legal system of the time; I'm not a historian, but I rather suspect I've already covered that. Essentially, "because we say so". John 19:7 is probably the closest the Bible gets to any official reason: "The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”". That, however, is not a "secular" reason - but is perhaps a political reason. –  Marc Gravell Aug 14 '12 at 10:20
@Matthew7.7 the Romans, perhaps sensibly, were fairly (not entirely) sensitive towards local politics - oppressive tactics tending to incite the crowds, etc. –  Marc Gravell Aug 14 '12 at 10:23
I think I misunderstood your original response. Is the following correct: the Jews' official reason for killing Christ was "blasphemy for calling himself God." The Jews lacked the power to crucify Christ; so they twisted Pilates arm via some political means. –  user1694 Aug 14 '12 at 10:30
@DanAndrews, I'm not even sure what "a secular reason" means. But the spirit of the question is asking why, from the Roman government's perspective, was Jesus crucified. This answers that nicely, and a political reason satisfies the question. –  Eric Aug 14 '12 at 14:19
@DanAndrews: I think this answer correctly points out that it wasn't a "secular" reason at all, it was in fact a religious law that was trespassed and, with some political finagling, enforced. The question is not asking for a "secular perspective", it is asking for something that our culture might have but for which there was no equivalent in the structures of the day. –  Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 14:20

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