It is an interesting question to ponder why exactly Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.

For Aslan the answer is simple. Jesus was crucified because he was a political revolutionary. There can be no other explanation, no other crime of which Jesus might have been guilty.

Within a few years after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, an entire crop of landless peasants found themselves stripped of their porperty with no way to feed themselves stripped of their property with no way to feed themselves or their framilies. Many of these peasants immigrated to the cities to find work. But in Galilee, a handful of displaced farmers and landowners exchanged their plows for swords and began fighting back against those they deemed responsible for their woes…. To the faithful, these peasant gangs were nothing less than the physical embodiment of the anger and suffering of the poor. They were heroes: symbols of righteous zeal against Roman aggression, dispensers of divine justice to the traiterous Jews. The Romans had a different word for them. They called them lestai. Bandits. 18

This word lestai is extremely important for Aslan. His entire argument for the reason Jesus was executed rests on this one word. He says,

“Bandit” was the generic term for any rebel or insurrectionist who rose up against Romeor its Jewish collaborators. 18

Crucifixion Aslan argues

was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, banditry. 155 (empahsis added)

If Aslan had included the Jewish Encyclopedia in his extensive research for his book, he might have discovered that the ancient world distributed the punishment of crucifixion for a variety of crimes.

Originally only slaves were crucified; hence “death on the cross” and “supplicium servile” were used indiscriminately (Tacitus, “Historia,” iv. 3, 11). Later, provincial freedmen of obscure station (“humiles”) were added to the class liable to this sentence. Roman citizens were exempt under all circumstances (Cicero, “Verr.” i. 7; iii. 2, 24, 26; iv. 10 et seq.). The following crimes entailed this penalty: piracy, highway robbery, assassination, forgery, false testimony, mutiny, high treason, rebellion (see Pauly-Wissowa, “Real-Encyc.” s.v. “Crux”; Josephus, “B. J.” v. 11, § 1). Soldiers that deserted to the enemy and slaves who denounced their masters (“delatio domini”)were also punished by death on the cross.

But in the world according to Aslan there is only one crime that merited crucifixion and so Jesus

was executed by the Roman state for the crime of sedition.

This piece information is essential to Aslan because

Everything else about the last days of Jesus of Nazareth must be interpreted through this singular, stubborn fact. 156

The word lestai appears only 15 times in the New Testament. Of these 15 uses 12 appear in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death. The other three uses of this word in the New Testament have no political overtones at all. In Luke 10:30 a traveller is said to fall among lestes. The traveller was stripped, beaten and left to die, the victim of robbers. In John 10:1 Jesus speaks of the one who does

not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a lestes.

It would be a peculiar stretch here to translate lestes as political insurrectionist.

And then Paul uses the term in 2 Corinthians 11:26 where he speaks of himself as being “in peril of lestes.” Paul who had no power in the political arena of his day was certainly not threatened by political revolutionaries.

Words can have more than one meaning.  Aslan’s “stubborn fact” is in reality a questionable interpretation and how own imagining. But Aslan is happy to imagine as he does with colourful embellishment when he portrays the final moments of Jesus’ life with a little gratuitous detail of his own:

Thus, on a bald hill covered in crosses, beset by the moans of agony from hundreds of dying criminals, as a murder of crows circled eagerly over his head waiting for him to breathe his last, the messiah kowns as Jesus of Nazareth would have met the same ignominious end as every other messiah who came before or after him. 159 (emphasis added)

The grounds for Aslan dreaming up “hundreds of dying criminals” littering the landscape of Golgotha on the day Jesus’ crucifixion calls for some explanation. But none is forthcoming. Perhaps Aslan’s charge against John the Gospel writer who he accuses of “obviously exaggerating” (78) when he suggests that a “cohort of soldiers” came to arrest Jesus, points back at the author of Zealot as much as it tells us anything about the Gospel writer.