Monday, December 11, 2006

Sacred Money

Richard Anderson has posted about the two different terms Luke uses for "steward". He has followed a lead I'm on, that Luke may be alluding to Ezra in Jesus' parable of the dishonest steward. I have one further comment and one corresponding question, to which I myself hope to find an answer in the very near future.


In Josephus' retelling of the Ezra 7-10 story (Ant. 11.5.1ff.), he mentions that Ezra "presented the sacred money to the treasurers, who were of the family of the priests, of silver six hundred and fifty talents, vessels of silver one hundred talents, vessels of gold twenty talents, vessels of brass, that was more precious than gold". I searched Josephus' Antiquities for references to "sacred money". All of them have to do with the temple treasury (11.5.1-2; 14.4.4; 16.2.3 [twice]; 16.6.1-5 [seven times]; 17.10.2-3; and 18.3.2). There is no question who was in charge of "sacred money" in Josephus' work. If "sacred money" is a proper term, its referent is the temple's treasury.

Various other pertinent details regarding this money surfaced in my search. One, the sacred money was misused at times. On several occasions, that money was stolen by Roman soldiers (17.10.2-3) or other political figures and used for unsacred uses - in which cases the chief political figure (such as Herod Agrippa [16.6.4-5]) decreed that anyone stealing the "sacred money" is to be considered "sacreligious" and that the money be returned to the Jews in exact amount (16.6.5). Several complaints were made to those political figures in charge of the respective region (such as made by Nicolaus [16.2.3], complaining to Agrippa). Caesar Augustus himself once decreed that thieves be reprimanded: "If anyone be caught stealing their [Jews'] holy books, or their sacred money, whether it be out of the synagogue or public school, he shall be deemed a sacreligious person, and his goods shall be brought into the public treasury of the Romans" (16.6.2). Pilate was once guilty of such theivery (18.3.2).

This being true, a new question came to me:

If Caesar's decree was effective, as I assume it was, and since it was made before Pilate's thievery of the Jew's sacred money, used to build a water source for Jerusalem (18.3.2), then why wasn't Pilate reprimanded? I did notice that Pilate was summoned to Rome around this time (18.4.1-2). However, Josephus says it involved not the Jews, but the Samaritans whom Pilate had slain.

I was hoping that his summons to Rome was due to his stealing of the temple treasury to build his water source. Since I cannot confirm that, I connot understand why Pilate was not reprimanded for his using the sacred money for unsacred purposes. Even if it was a deal under the table between the priesthood and Pilate, the people would have sent a delegation to the Roman authorities, just as with Nicolaus (16.2.3) and the Samaritans (18.4.2). My thinking is that if Pilate's guilt can be demonstrated, then we can determine whether or not the priesthood was responsible for the money's disappearance (as Richard and I believe Jesus' parable of the unjust steward demonstrates). I realize a known historical instance is not required for Jesus' parable to be implicating the priesthood. I just think that the parable's correspondence to a real historical situation is extremely helpful in proving the case that the priests are those implicated in Jesus' parable.

copyright 2006

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