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Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism, and resentment.‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.

The small province had only been under direct Roman control for twenty years, and the prefect’s primary responsibility was to maintain law and order.Passover was particularly hazardous, with tens of thousands of pilgrims flocking to the holy city not only from Palestine but from all over the Jewish diaspora.Some, like Jesus, would have stayed with friends in the surrounding towns and villages.Typical of the times, he would have presided over affairs through face-to-face diplomacy, temporary liaisons, and by summoning meetings of relevant aristocrats.In the tense Passover season, the High Priest, just as much as the Roman prefect, wanted to see peace in Jerusalem.Their knowledge of local customs, diplomacy and (it was hoped) the respect they commanded amongst the ordinary people, were invaluable to the Roman governor.

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