A new book can be something we pick up for many reasons. The Crucifixion of the King of Glory by Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, PhD grabbed my attention when I heard her being interviewed on a podcast by Eric Metaxas. The story we know from the Gospels in the New Testament became richer as I heard her share the historical and religious context of that powerful story. As I heard her in the interview, I was thirsty to hear more, and the book was soon in my hands to begin to deepen and enrich the story I knew so well but without so many fascinating details.
To understand why all the Jewish people did not accept Jesus as the Messiah prophets had said they were to expect, the author takes us into the world as it existed in the scenes the Bible gives us only a sampling of.
So many books have been written about this event and its impact, why did this author choose to write another. Her response and credentials in the introduction help us know the answer:
“This book offers a unique perspective on the final week of Christ’s life. This perspective is based on my academic background and my Orthodox Christian approach, which is steeped in the mind of the early Church. I hold six degrees, one in law and five in theology, including New Testament, the history of biblical interpretation, early Christianity, and patristics.”
She gives us a glimpse into what that includes a few lines later:
“My comments are grounded in research on ancient society, attitudes, customs, practices, medicine, botany, numismatics, law, and the history of the first-century Jewish, Roman, and Christian cultures, as well as Orthodox Traditions and the writings of the Father of the Church, which are important witnesses to the early understanding of the Gospels.“
The book is divided into three parts. The first part (The Stage is Set) looks at Jesus as the Rabbi who taught with authority, the building of the Temple and its significance as well as the three primary catalysts that set the stage for the escalation of conflict and the trap set by the Jewish priests to eliminate Jesus from the power structure they held and feared He would upend.
The author gives historical details and background for each catalyst that brought us to the cross: the raising of Lazarus, the entry into Jerusalem, and the cleansing of the Temple.
The second part (The King on Trial) begins with the betrayal of Christ and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then the arrest and the trials (both Jewish and Roman) where we learn more about Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, and all those who sat in judgment and the difference of each one in their authority and perspective.
The third part of the book (The Cross) looks at the stigma of crucifixion in those days as well as its spectacle, who was eligible to be put to death in this manner and who was not, where the horror of this manner of death developed, and what those who faced it endured.
This third part of the book looks at how each of the Gospels gives us a different view of those last hours, the significance of Christ’s last words and more. The author also looks at the lesson the cross has for us in the modern world where we find ourselves.
“The cross is the wisdom of God; it defies, overturns, and confounds human judgment and expectation. The cross requires us to submit, to renounce our impoverished human logic, because it is in this that we are tempted to put our trust and hope. The cross invites us to surrender to something that confounds us: true glory and eternal life through self-sacrifice, love, and humility. The cross forces us to concede that to seek recognition or to promote ourselves through our human power, personality, achievement, or intellect is ultimately a futile effort that will pass away like dust.”Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, PhD
This book is a treasure trove to consider if you want to know more about this historic pivotal moment in history and spiritual life. I am tempted to share some of the fascinating details I discovered in this book but I resisted so you can discover them for yourself.