The Arrest, Trial, and Execution of Jesus of Nazareth


Course Code:
LAW 681R
Law Mandatory P/R/F


Patterned on a seminar taught by Professor Joseph Weiler at NYU Law School, this discussion seminar will study the most famous criminal case in the history of the world: the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. In five two-hour sessions at Professor McConnell's home, we will cover (1) Jesus's arrest in the the Garden of Gethsemane, (2) his trial before Jewish authorities, (3) his trial before Roman authorities, and (4) his execution, with (5) one session left for general considerations. (We will not delve into the reports of his resurrection.) We will focus on the nature of the charges against Jesus, the legal procedures employed, the evidence and the defense, the relation between imperial and local authorities, the relation between religious and secular law, the ethical roles of the individuals involved, and the mode of execution. Our primary text will be Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah (Yale University Press 2004), a scholarly two-volume study drawing on all the extant historical sources. Among the questions we are likely to discuss are: Was the trial fair by the standards of the day? Was Jesus guilty of any of the charges? What were the authorities – and particularly Pilate – trying to accomplish? What was the role of the mob? Was Roman law a constraining influence, or the opposite? What was Jesus's own perspective on the proceedings? How reliable and/or plausible are the sources? Although this subject is of religious and spiritual concern to some, including (in all likelihood) some students taking the seminar, the seminar will not consider the material in a religious way, but instead as a legal event. The instructor hopes that the class will be religiously diverse, and especially encourages non-Christian students to enroll. Discussion will, of course, be conducted in a way that is comfortable for persons of all shades of belief and disbelief. Begin in Winter Quarter and run through Spring Quarter. Class meeting dates: To be determined by instructor. Elements use in grading: Class attendance at all sessions and class participation. Discussions in Ethical and Professional Values Courses Ranking Form: To apply for this course, 2L, 3L and Advanced Degree students must complete and submit a Ranking Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students and then see Consent of Instructor Forms). See Ranking Form for instructions and submission deadline.

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