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Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth

A.D. 30

With a kiss, Judas betrays Jesus to the soldiers in this Baroque painting by Caravaggio.
With a kiss, Judas betrays Jesus to the soldiers in this Baroque painting by Caravaggio.
Image of painting copyright Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, New York/Bridgeman Art Library

The events of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection are at the very core of the Christian faith. For Christians, this self-sacrifice holds the promise of eternal salvation.

Jesus' life is recorded primarily in the New Testament Gospels of the Bible—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—though the events surrounding his Crucifixion are also discussed in the letters of Paul the Apostle.

These sources say that in the final days of his life, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to observe the Jewish Passover holiday. He entered the city on the back of a donkey and was greeted with acclaim by small crowds, as the story goes.

According to accounts in the Gospels, Jesus soon caused a stir by prophesying the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and decrying the religion-based commerce thriving within. Soon after, the Gospels agree that he convened one of history's most celebrated meals by gathering his disciples in an upper room for what became known as the Last Supper.

The Synoptic Gospels (of Mark, Matthew, and Luke) say that this feast occurred on Passover. The Gospel of John disagrees on the date. Nonetheless, the Gospels agree that Jesus blessed both bread and wine for this feast and told his disciples that these were his body and his blood of the Covenant. This act initiated the sacrament of the Christian Eucharist. During this meal Jesus revealed to his disciples that one of them would betray him.

The disciple Judas Iscariot became that betrayer, according to Christian tradition.

After supper Judas led a band of armed men to arrest Jesus as he prayed in a garden on the Mount of Olives, identifying him with a kiss.

The scriptures say that Jesus was taken to Caiaphas. The Jewish high priest and his counselors recommended to Pontius Pilate, the local Roman governor, that Jesus be crucified. Jesus was charged with blasphemy, condemned for portraying himself as the messiah, and for his inflammatory deeds and words at the Temple. Pilate may have viewed Jesus as a potentially dangerous troublemaker with a growing following. The scriptures do not agree on the governor's ultimate degree of guilt or innocence. But he did order Jesus' execution, which took place on a cross atop the hill of Calvary, according to the Bible.

Exactly what happened after Jesus' painful death isn't definitively known. Some scriptures relate that several women visited his tomb and found it empty—save for an angel who informed them of Jesus' resurrection. Matthew, Luke, Acts, and other books of the Bible also describe meetings between a risen Jesus and numerous believers.

Despite differences in the tale's telling, the Christian faith sprang from the fateful events of that week and the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.

The twelve disciples (Judas was replaced) spread the word of Jesus' life and death, and built the early foundations of one of the world's great religions. The fate of Judas the traitor is murky, but sources generally agree that he received his earthly comeuppance. The Gospel of Matthew records that he hung himself.