Two Couples, Two Cities, Two Trials

Now about the two trials I mentioned., the ones in Chorazin and Bethsaida. Please remember these two trials were basically lost to history. There are details written down over here, some details are down there, there are a few details written over here, but it would seem that nobody ever told the whole story of these trials.

In many ways trials today are the same as trials were then. There was a judge, there was a prosecutor, and there were defendants.

And each of these groups kept its own kinds of records, just like today.

Now the prosecutor was a Jewish official, and his records ended up in the Talmud. Several of the actual documents he used in court were saved, and are still in the Talmud, all these years later.

Most people don’t know this, but there were actually four defendants in Chorazin and Berhsaida. We know this from Luke 17, those two couples that are described in verses 34 and 35: two men and two women.

Now this trial was a really big deal at the time. Think O.J. Simpson. Think Rodney King. Think Sacco and Vanzetti. The defendants had a lot of sympathizers. There were lots of issues in this trial: the tension between Jews and gentiles, sex, border disputes, collaborators, the works.

There were sting operations, there was eavesdropping, there were trials, there were controversial verdicts, and there were executions,

Hardly anyone liked the verdicts. The prosecution didn’t like the verdicts. The defendants didn’t like the verdicts. Only the Romans liked the verdicts, because the verdicts were fair, and they kept the peace between hostile factions.

Now contrary to popular ideas, Rome wasn’t just busy imposing its will on everybody. Rome was, however, busy keeping local groups from bullying one another, and imposing their will on neighboring tribes.

Every local tribe could run its own business and govern its own people, pretty much without interference, except they couldn’t impose the death penalty.

One tribe could not impose its laws on another tribe. The government of one tribe could not punish the members of another tribe. Otherwise there could be war. A big part of the famous Pax Romana was keeping tribes out of one another’s business.

Every tribe was allowed to govern its own people according to its own laws. When it came to conflicting social norms between different tribes, it was a matter of live and let live. Each tribe lived its own life, by its own rules.

The main thing Rome was interested in was maximizing its tax revenue. Gotta keep that gold and silver coming in. To do this Rome maintained the  peace and kept the roads safe between various regions. And almost more than anything else, they kept the peace between neighboring tribes.

As I said earlier, the one thing Rome prohibited the local governments from doing was executing capital crime. Rome and Rome’s surrogate rulers were the only entities that could impose the death penalty.

Philip the Tetrarch was one of these surrogate rulers. He was ethnically Jewish. Philips territory ran west to east in what we call Syria today, north of what we call Israel. He was one of the sons of Herod the Great. His brothers were Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus.

Regarding the two trials, one of the most important things about Philip’s territory is that it included Chorazin and Bethsaida, those two cities at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee.

Two couples, two cities, two trials. Two mysteries solved.

Mystery One: There is no evidence in Luke 17:34-35 to explain for the difference in treatment of the two couples.

Language-wise, there is very careful parallelism in the two verses, so much parallelism that the early editors of the material couldn’t do much to adapt it into a nice tidy parable, a nice tidy package. The only place the Luke 17 couplet found a real welcome, a real home, was in the notion of the rapture.

What was Luke 17:34-35 even about? Why was it in the form it was in? Was it better to be taken or to be left? What was the difference between the people in the first place?

Mystery Two: There are no details in Luke 10:13 about what happened in Chorazin and Bethsaida to account for such a strenuous condemnation.

This is one of the most severe condemnations anywhere in the gospels, but we are to believe that there is no explanation for it.

There is a significant clue, however. In the verse immediately before, Luke 10:12, there is a comparison to one of the more significant cities in the Hebrew bible.

“I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

That is the verse immediately preceding the condemnation of Chorazin and Bethsaida.

Is it possible that the disturbance in those two cities is related to what happened in Sodom?

Remember what we have in Luke 17: two men in one bed and two women grinding together. And remember what we have in Luke 10: references to two cities and a third: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Sodom.

Two couples, two cities, and two mysteries. And smack in the middle of both mysteries is language that points directly to same-sex relationships.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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2 Responses to Two Couples, Two Cities, Two Trials

  1. Lodewijk Langeweg says:

    St. Augustine against the death penalty:

    “There is, then, no reason why to eliminate the bad guys from this life, lest by trying to kill the bad, kill the good ones, since some of them can become good; or harm those good ones whom the presence of the wicked, in spite of themselves, can be profitable for them”
    ~17 Questions on Matthew by Augustine, Question 12, second paragraph.

    So the below is not about killing people:

    “In the Book of Josue, again, we have a figure of what has just been said — where we read that God commanded Josue, at the time that he had to enter into possession of the Promised Land, to destroy all things that were in the city of Jericho, in such wise as to leave therein nothing alive, man or woman, young or old, and to slay all the beasts, and to take naught, neither to covet aught, of all the spoils. This He said that we may understand how, if a man is to enter this Divine union, all that lives in his soul must die, both little and much, small and great, and that the soul must be without desire for all this, and detached from it, even as though it existed not for the soul, neither the soul for it. This Saint Paul teaches us clearly in his epistle ad Corinthios, saying: ‘This I say to you, brethren, that the time is short; it remains, and it behoves you, that they that have wives should be as if they had none; and they that weep for the things of this world, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not.’ This the Apostle says to us in order to teach us how complete must be the detachment of our soul from all things if it is to journey to God.”
    ~St. John of the Cross. Ascent to Mount Carmel, Book IV, Chapter XII


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I know I mentioned capital crimes and executions, but are you 1) making a comments the execution of two Jewish sexual transgressors, 2) making a general anti death penalty statement, or 3) using Augustine to make an exegetical comment?


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