Let’s review the episodes of Holy Week that during these days we will see on the streets of all of Spain. First, Jesus arrives on the back of a donkey to Jerusalem on what is known as Palm Sunday; Jesus weeps for Jerusalem and his destiny; purification of the Temple with the famous confrontation with the merchants; clash of Jesus with the Jewish authorities; anointing in the village of Bethany; Easter preparation, last supper; episode on the Mount of Olives where Jesus is arrested after the betrayal of Judas; Jesus before the Jewish Sanhedrin; delivery to Pilate, Roman “trial” with the episode of Baarrabás and “Ecce Homo”; road to Golgotha and crucifixion. In this list, some speeches by Jesus and the acts of other characters have been left out, such as the denials of Peter or the acts of Judas that would take place in parallel. It seems more than doubtful that all these passages happened in less than a week. Some of the main researchers of primitive Christianity maintain that the events narrated each Holy Week took place over several months.
One of the references for the study of the historical figure of Jesus, Antonio Piñero, professor of Greek Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid, specialized in language and literature of primitive Christianity, is convinced that the events narrated in the Gospels are about a literary understanding of events that actually happened during about six months.
The historian explains in some of his works how citizen jesus that an unknown author, prior to Mark (first of the gospels written) he compressed all these events into a literary-theological production that adhered to the classic rule of unity of action, time, and place. Piñero gives the Homeric Iliad as a similar example of literary understanding.
Who was Jesus?
In the first place it is convenient to make a brief review of the figure of Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels. Most specialized historians affirm the existence of Jesus, understood as a craftsman or mason who lived in Judea during the first century AD. c. He was a fervent Jew, a scholar of the scriptures who preached and managed to gather a group of followers, announcing the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God, and who was sentenced to death in Jerusalem under the government of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. It is important to emphasize that Jesus was born, lived and died as a Jew and at no time did he intend to create a new religion.
Another important element that should be remembered is that he did not leave anything written, there is no archaeological trace of his existence and the texts that we have that tell us about his life were written decades after his death and by people who did not know him. We must start from the fact that the Gospels are texts of religious propaganda and therefore we must treat them with great caution. These texts were composed between 40 and 80 years after the death of Jesus: Mark, around AD 70-71; Matthew, between AD 80 and 85; Luke, between AD 95 and 100; and John, between AD 100 and 110
According to the Gospels, Jesus traveled with his disciples to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After a series of preachings and actions, he is arrested and sentenced to death by the Roman authorities as a seditious man against the laws of the Empire, which is why crucifixion was used. Possibly, the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest political-religious authority in Judaism, and at this time the only purely Jewish institution left in the territory, instigated the Romans to punish them, but the ultimate culprits were the Roman authorities.
A week or several months?
After this brief historical approximation, we can take some passages to explain why it is estimated that it took several months. In the first place, with the scene that begins the processions, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, known as Palm Sunday. By repeating it and seeing it represented for centuries, we have naturalized a scene that is frankly strange: an unknown man rides a donkey into the holy city of the Jews and people begin to worship him with palms. As in many passages in the Gospels, some of the acts and sayings are “copies” or references to Old Testament passages to strengthen the idea that Jesus was the messiah announced in the Scriptures. The list of similarities between sayings, events and details of the passion week of Jesus with other biblical texts is immense and goes beyond the limits of this text. In this specific case, Jesus wanted to make a triumphal entry or the gospels later recreated it by simulating a prophecy of Zechariah that talks about the future king of Israel. But what were so many people doing with palms?
Historians such as Piñero or Javier Alonso (The last week of Jesus) have framed this scene in the Feast of Tabernacles, a pilgrimage festival in which the Jews went to Jerusalem with palms to be blessed. Therefore, Jesún would not have entered the capital during the pilgrimage of the Passover but in the pilgrimage of the Feast of Tabernacles during the month of September.
The historians who defend this theory also rely on another of the passages that follows the entrance, the curse of the fig tree. According to this episode, which happened the day after entering Jerusalem, Jesus looks for something to eat among the leaves of a fig tree but, finding nothing, he curses the plant. There are two options, or Jesus did not know that the time of the Jewish Passover (March-April) is not the time for figs, something that seems very unlikely; or that the scene happened at the time when the tree bears its fruit, that is, between August and September, which would fit with the Feast of Tabernacles. Finally, according to these historians, the order of some passages in the Gospel of John would also extend the time frame of the events that are commemorated during these days.
‘The books of the Old Testament. Translation and comment’, Antonio Piñero. Editorial Trotta
‘Citizen Jesus’, Antonio Piñero. Adaliz editions.
‘The invention of Jesus of Nazareth. History, fiction, historiography’, Fernando Bermejo Rubio. XXI century
‘The last week of Jesus’, Javier Alonso. publishing alliance