Questions From Readers
● What did Jesus mean when he said that “it is not admissible for a prophet to be destroyed outside of Jerusalem”?—J. B., U.S.A.
Some time after Passover of 32 C.E. “Jesus Christ commenced showing his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.” (Matt. 16:21) He knew ahead of time that he was to be sentenced to death and killed in and around Jerusalem, not in Corinth, Rome, Samaria or any other city. He had been sent to the house of Israel, and he would die at the capital city of the Jews.—Matt. 15:24.
Later in that same Jewish lunar year Christ referred again to his approaching death at Jerusalem and said: “It is not admissible for a prophet to be destroyed outside of Jerusalem [or “away from Jerusalem,” RS]. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together . . . , but you people did not want it! Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”—Luke 13:33-35.
Even though Jerusalem could be called the “killer of the prophets,” in saying that it was not admissible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem, Jesus could not have meant that no Jewish prophet had ever been killed elsewhere. According to Josephus, John the Baptist was beheaded in Machaerus, on the Perean side of the Dead Sea. Evidently, the point that Jesus was making was that it was appropriate and to be expected that if the Jews were to kill a prophet, and especially the Messiah, it would be in Jerusalem.
One reason for this was that Jerusalem was the location of the seventy-one member Sanhedrin or high court. According to God’s law, a false prophet was to die. (Deut. 18:20) The Jewish Mishna explains: “He was not condemned to death either by the court that was in his own city or by the court that was in Jabneh, but he was brought up to the Great Court [Sanhedrin] that was in Jerusalem.” (Sanhedrin, sec. 11, par. 4) So, since the Sanhedrin met only at Jerusalem, and it was before this body that “false” prophets would be tried, condemned and killed, Jesus could make the comment he did, knowing that the Jewish religious leaders did not accept him as a true prophet of God.
Further, Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be brought just like a sheep to the slaughtering. (Isa. 53:7) John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Where, then, would be the appropriate place for Jesus to be sacrificed just like a lamb, like the Passover lamb? (1 Cor. 5:7) Would it not be in Jerusalem where the regular sacrifices were offered to God and where the Passover lamb was slaughtered? Yes, and this gives us another logical reason for Jesus to point to Jerusalem as the location of his death.
As things worked out, what Jesus said came true. He was taken before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and condemned. And it was there at Jerusalem, just beyond the city walls, that he died.