In Tents # 22 Jesus and Pilate Part 8 The Midrash

As stated in part 7, while I was preparing my original AML paper I came across Robert Rees’s “The Midrashic Imagination in the Book of Mormon” (Dialogue 44:3, Fall 2011). Rees describes Midrash as imaginative engagement with scripture, and after reading the article I noticed a couple of General Conference speakers using midrash, and mentioned it to my Gospel Doctrine class. I related midrash to Nephi’s “we did liken all scripture unto ourselves,” and noted our Latter-day prophets following in the ancient tradition of prophets and scriptural students.

In the recent conference Jeffrey R. Holland offered an extended midrash on Peter’s “I go afishing,” though he introduced it as a “non-scriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange.”  I found Elder Holland’s midrash enlightening in going beyond the sense of shell-shock I hear in Peter’s words, and suggesting what Peter is thinking to prompt his words, and I suspect his introduction is less apology and more a way of denoting the midrash as his personal commentary rather than a revelation. Neal A. Maxwell did the same thing in the forward to Of One Heart, where he departs from literary tradition and emphasizes that the letters in his volume are a rhetorical device.

In contrast, recall Hawthorne’s invitation to walk down the street to the historical society and see the cloth with the scarlet letter on it for yourself, or the Redactor’s comment in Steven Peck’s The Scholar of Moab that he has deposited the records he redacted in the Utah State University library special collections.

While part of the fun, this literary tradition won’t do for leaders of a church whose founding prophet claimed to have found ancient records, and declared one set of records “the keystone of our religion.”

Rees’s article gave me an idea of how to proceed on something I’ve wanted to do for years, since I read Reynold’s Price’s Three Gospels in 1998. It is an update of the translation of Mark he published in A Palpable God, paired with a translation of John, with extended essays on each. The third gospel? Price mentions that he taught a class at Duke on gospel as a literary genre, and the semester project was to write a gospel of your own. I’ve been wondering how to approach the same project, and think I’ve found some approach in thinking through the whole question of Jesus and the Pharisees and Jesus and Pilate.

Here’s an excerpt, but first a word from our sponsor, Matthew 27:22: “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.” I’ve always found this mildly confusing. “Jesus which is called . . .” is the construction you use when trying to distinguish one Jesus from another. But who’s the other Jesus?

Verse 17 has a similar construction: “Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?”

The Jewish Annotated New Testament uses a variant reading that probably wasn’t available to the King James translators: “Whom do you want me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”


Pilate stood on the balcony. “It is your custom to ask me to release a prisoner at this feast. So who shall it be, Yeshua Bar-abbas–The son of The Father, or Yeshua you call ha maschiach?”

“Yeshua ha maschiach,” his disciples chanted.”Crucify,” the soldiers shouted to match the pauses, “Crucify Yeshua.”

“You want me to crucify your king, O Jews?”

“We have no king but Caesar,” the soldiers chanted. “Take up the chant,” he told the high priests. The soldiers moved closer to them.

“Bar-abbas it is, otherwise there might be an uproar among the people,” Pilate said to the crowd. To the soldiers he said, “Crucify them together, and choose a third. You know what these Jews say about two or three witnesses.”

Pilate took up the basin. “I am clean of the blood of this innocent man. See you to it.”

“Let his blood be upon us and our children,” the soldiers answered with their formula for claiming credit.

“Perhaps if I flog him that will pacify the crowd? Will that pacify you, O Jews?”

“Crucify! Crucify!” the centurions chanted

Two deigned to bloody their hands holding him up.

“Behold the man,” Pilate said, then corrected himself, “Your man. Hail the king of the Jews.”

A hail of ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ came back.

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One Response to In Tents # 22 Jesus and Pilate Part 8 The Midrash

  1. Harlow Clark says:

    It didn’t feel quite done at “Let his blood . . .” so five paragraphs graciously offered themselves to me, and I accepted their offer.

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