<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Saturday, October 27, 2018

GIVE US EVIDENCE, NOT NAMES 


I don’t think there is any historical field which uses terminology as much as historical Jesus studies. And most of these terms come from Christian theology, making it all the more odd that this field considers itself to be engaged in objective historical analysis. These names were invented at a time when Christian theology was extremely hostile to Judaism. The continued use of these terms means this hostility continues in historical study.

These names include Passion week (which primarily points to Jesus’s suffering at the hands of Jewish leaders; Passion was not only the title of Mel Gibson’s film, it also served as the title of a scholarly book), the antitheses of Matthew 5, the cleansing of the Temple or the symbolic act of destruction of the Temple, the fickleness of the crowd (when a Jewish crowd supposedly picked Barabbas over Jesus to go free), the trial of Jesus (that is a mighty big assumption, that it was a trial), and the subversive or offensive Jesus.

What all these names have in common is that Jews and Judaism do not come out looking very good. Jewish culture is put in a negative light by making it function as an antagonist for Jesus. Not only do these terms misrepresent the culture, they do not fairly represent the evidence in the Gospels. True objectivity becomes harder when the evidence is colored in a biased way. In fact, the naming serves as a kind of mock evidence, so that scholars can avoid looking at the real evidence in the Gospels.

Scholars will claim that each of these names is intended as a kind of shorthand reference to an event or series of events or sayings, but since these terms stamp a certain view on the evidence, it is disingenuous to claim that terminology is merely a reference. I don’t use terminology at all in my work, but it would be easy to introduce names that are much more faithful to history.

The cleansing, or symbolic act of destruction, of the Temple should really be called the defense of the Temple because that is precisely what Jesus is doing. Though the Gospels never tell us exactly what Jesus was upset about, it is most likely that he felt the vendors and moneychangers were too close to the Temple and too loud, upsetting the proper decorum, or maybe he thought they were charging too much for their services. (Examples of the same kind of criticism can be found in rabbinic literature.) Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus always speaks highly of the Temple and will send a leper he just cured to make a sacrifice at the Temple. Of course he would do that. One of the functions of the Temple was to act as a public health service, making sure that people who had been cured by healers like Jesus were clean. There was a clear division of duties between healers and priestly public health officials. There was absolutely no antagonism between Jesus and the Temple. Even a prediction of destruction was a sign of love. Jewish prophets made their predictions so that the potential catastrophe befalling a beloved institution could be avoided. The Gospel evidence of Jesus’s support for and veneration of the Temple is exactly what one would expect.

The so-called antitheses would be better called the elucidations. Scholars portray Jesus in Matthew 5 as defying Jewish teaching and offering his own superior ideas. That is a complete misrepresentation of history. The Torah was the Jewish Constitution. The Pharisees and rabbis encouraged debate over its meaning. Jesus is not defying anything. He is engaged in Jewish constitutional interpretations. The rabbis frequently expressed themselves this way. They would announce an older teaching and then use “and I say” or “but I say” to introduce what they thought was a better view of the meaning of the Constitution. Jesus is doing the same thing. He is elucidating the Constitution. I believe almost all of his interpretations in Matthew 5 can also be found in the Talmud.

The names that scholars have chosen to use in their work do not reveal any historical truths. They are used to obscure rather than reveal the actual evidence. If they reveal anything at all, it is scholarly biases, but they tell us nothing about the historical, Jewish Jesus or historical Jewish culture.

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Saturday, August 25, 2018

MY RECURRING APPEAL 


If you were watching a detective show on TV and you saw one detective repeatedly messing up the crime scene, you would be screaming at the TV to get that detective out of there. But make that same detective a historical Jesus scholar and we have a totally different reaction. Historical Jesus scholars contaminate the scenes in the New Testament with their ideology so that no one will see what the evidence says. Instead of screaming at them, we want them to remain on the scene and continue to obscure the evidence.

On the TV show, along comes another detective who sees what’s going on and fights to get that first detective removed from the scene. He is the detective the audience will root for. But in real life, in the case of historical Jesus studies, there is no hero cop who comes along to keep the crime scene sacred and uncontaminated. And if he did come around, he would immediately be dismissed. We are all still rooting for the detectives who are introducing bias into the investigation.

Why do we root for the good cops over the bad cops on TV? Because correctly solving the crime matters. We want the real guilty party caught and prosecuted. We think it is an injustice to punish the innocent for something they never did. We get itchy under our skin if we see that this is about to happen. But we don’t think that way in historical studies. We want traditional views about history upheld. We just assume that scholars would never commit an injustice and if they did, we would rather not know it.

I have brought up TV detective shows many times before. There is no other place, in either fiction or real life, where you will find such pure dedication to truthseeking. The writers of these shows understand scientific method better than anyone on the planet. I only wish some of them—how about at least one?—would use their wisdom and apply it to history.

The first rule of good historical study should be: Do not contaminate the scene; report the evidence accurately; don’t let even a little bit of ideology color the way we look at the evidence. Here are some examples:

Scholars constantly talk about Jewish leaders putting Jesus on trial or subjecting him to some kind of judicial procedure. But the Gospels do not say that. They never use the word trial when describing the meeting between Jesus and Jewish leaders. All scholarly talk of a trial or procedure is a scholarly bias which they have injected into the evidence. An informal meeting would be a more correct description of what is going on. The evidence should be described in such a way (that is, in an accurate way) as to keep our minds open.

Again, we are repeatedly told that in Mark and Matthew, Jewish leaders find Jesus guilty of some infraction of Jewish law. But the Gospels don’t say that. All they say is that Jesus was found deserving of death. Period. Deserving death under Jewish law or Roman law? The Gospels do not say. Under which law is simply omitted. If scholars want to say the Gospel authors meant Jewish law, that is their interpretation (and a bad one it is), but it is not a piece of evidence in the Gospels. The scholarly approach is aimed at shutting down any consideration of the possibility that Roman law was meant. They do not want anyone to see what the uncontaminated Gospel evidence looks like.

It should be well-known by now that the Gospels do not use the Greek word for betray, prodidomi, to describe Judas’s deed, but a neutral word, paradidomi, which has no connotation of betrayal. But an overwhelming majority of scholars still talk as if a betrayal by Judas was a fact in the Gospels, when it is really an interpretation (a bad one) of evidence in the Gospels.

Some scholars may argue that betray is a secondary meaning of paradidomi, which seems highly doubtful, but even if they are right, they would have to justify why a secondary meaning should be used to translate that word when there are no concrete details backing up that translation. There is no clear motive given for the alleged betrayal, and no conflict between Judas and Jesus or his fellow disciples. We just assume these things. All the evidence in connection with Judas (with possibly only one exception) is ambiguous. Why is there only ambiguous evidence? Scholars do not want this evidence correctly reported, so they pretend that the betrayal is not an interpretation of the evidence, but a piece of evidence itself. This is as bad as contaminating the DNA evidence at a murder scene, but no one wants to see that.

That is just a handful of examples. So once again, I appeal to any writers of detective shows who may happen upon this lonely blog, to consider looking into this. If true scientific acumen were applied to historical Jesus studies, what grand things we might discover. What other interpretation might better explain the Gospel evidence than the one that is currently imposed on the evidence?

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Sunday, July 29, 2018

ENDLESS FRUSTRATION 


When we are in trouble, we look for rational solutions. When life (our own or another’s) is in danger, we need to look at all the possibilities for escape because if we leave anything out, that might just be the thing that will save us. We simply cannot afford to be irrational and remain stuck with only one way of looking at the mess we’re in.

That’s one of the things that impressed me about the recent successful effort to save those soccer boys and their coach from the cave in which they were trapped in Thailand. They considered everything. Nothing was off the table. I was surprised at first that they thought about waiting a couple of months until the rainy season was over. That seemed farfetched. It’s too risky. Then I realized that it is the way the rational mind works. Only by looking at all the possibilities could they compare and contrast and figure out which approach would have the best chance of success. They could not afford to be prejudiced against any possible solution. That kind of shutdown of the mind is not helpful.

If we want to find the best answers (those most likely to be true or to actually work), we have to have a mind that is open to everything. Nothing can be ruled out in advance.

But in historical research, especially in controversial areas, there is no sense of danger if we latch on to an irrational answer. Historical problems are simply not urgent. It was imperative that those soccer boys be saved. It is not a matter of life and death if we promote the wrong answer to how Jesus ended up on a Roman cross. We can live with irrational answers. We do it all the time.

Nobody really cares if an ancient person like Judas is falsely accused of being a traitor. Academics are more content if we promote the same old ideas over and over. What scholar opens his mind to all the possibilities? Nobody wants that because it could, and likely would, lead to a rational answer. Certain possibilities must be outlawed forever. It is considered more important to uphold traditional ideas.

Everyone knows that the meeting of Jewish leaders with Jesus does not fit what we know of Jewish trials of that time. Wouldn’t that suggest that one possibility is that there was no Jewish trial of Jesus? Instead of saying let’s consider this, what scholars do is try to spin softer versions of the traditional story (which is very different from the actual Gospel stories with all their interesting details). They try to make it out to have been a softer version of a trial, so now they want to call it a hearing. But the issue is whether a hostile judicial procedure of Jesus was held. It does not matter what other label (trial, hearing) you pin on it. The fact remains that the Gospel details do not support this. Why not at least consider the possibility that there was no Jewish judicial procedure of any kind? Why not consider the possibility that Jewish leaders held an informal meeting to help Jesus and figure out a way to prevent his Roman execution?

Looking at these possibilities would contribute to finding a rational answer. But that is exactly what most historical Jesus scholars do not want. Nobody is trapped in a cave here. The waters are not rising. Imminent danger of death is not what we are faced with, so we can afford to be as irrational as we want and insist on answers that do not respond to the actual evidence we have from the Gospels.

The same goes for Judas. The Gospel stories do not give us the details we would expect in a story of betrayal. There is no clear motive, there is no conflict between Jesus and Judas, there is not even the use of the Greek word that means ‘to betray’. Could one not conclude from all this that there was no betrayal? Why not experiment with that possibility? Why not consider that maybe Judas was helping Jesus out in some way? Why can't that be put on the table? Because that would be the rational thing to do and that is the last thing historical Jesus scholars want. I have said it many times before and will say it again: The scholarly motto is the less we see, the more we know.

The irony of all this is that proving historical Jesus scholarship is an irrational field is not only not helpful, it just causes scholars to dig their heels in deeper. The irrational is exactly what we want, so go ahead and prove it to your heart’s content, the real point is that nothing is ever going to change, which is just how we want it. (Someone recently wrote that in America, you are permitted to search for the truth as long as nothing changes.) I could entitle everything I have written on the historical Jesus, all these posts and my two books, Endless Frustration. Historical research will never be a life and death issue for anyone. We can easily afford the irrational approach which is to automatically shut down certain possible answers, and no one will suffer for it. Or so we convince ourselves.

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

STENDAHL’S PAUL 


Krister Stendahl was a bishop in Sweden and also spent time in America, at one point being a dean at the Harvard Divinity School. In 1976, he published a short collection of essays on Paul, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles. The title essay is based on lectures given from 1963 to 1964.

His interpretation of Paul tends to be overly generous. Stendahl was looking for inspiration for his own admirable beliefs and he found it in Paul. He always sees Paul as humble, never arrogant, embracing pluralism and diversity, never the triumphalism of one way of thinking. He makes Paul out to be a staunch opponent of triumphalism. I wish that were true, but I don’t see Paul that way. Paul has his moments where he can appear humble and weak, but he could also boast of having the only proper way to understand Christ. He portrays himself as the underdog, but he is clearly seeking power.

Stendahl has good points to make. One of the best is when he notes that while Christianity was developing stereotypes of Jews, Paul related to his real, fellow Jews, not the stereotypes. He understood how much his fellow Jews loved Torah. That was a problem for Paul who wanted to replace Torah with the Messiah. I also think Paul knew that Jewish leaders had nothing to do with the death of Jesus; he did nothing to spread that false tale, but that's a long story which I justify in my two books (more succinctly in True Jew).

In any case, thinking about Paul leads Stendahl to offer this reminiscence (p. 37):

“When I preach to people in the New England area, where there is a substantial Jewish community, and I say to my Christian hosts that Paul would at best call them honorary Jews—for that is what a Gentile Christian is, according to Paul (Rom. 11:17ff.)—this does not meet with universal approval, to say the least. When I tell Gentile Christians who live in a good and affluent suburb that only by adoption are they honorary Jews, they are startled. And when I claim that Romans 9-11 deals with our relations and attitudes to the Jewish businessman who has moved in next door, they simply find me odd and unspiritual.”

I understand why Stendahl would pick Paul as a point for reconciliation between Jew and Christian, but it’s an odd choice. While many Jews can find a likeable rabbi in Jesus, they have nothing but revulsion for Paul. They blame Paul for all the antisemitism in the generations that followed. It is not hard to find Jews who have a high opinion of Jesus for his very Jewish teachings, but it is impossible to find any Jews who have something good to say about Paul. Just mentioning his name to a Jew is like saying “Niagara Falls” in the old comedy skit from Abbott and Costello. It provokes a wild, crazy anger.

And Paul is not the magnificent teacher of love and diversity that Stendahl makes him out to be and therefore cannot really serve to reconcile anyone. The twelve tribes of Israel could be used as a metaphor for diversity, but Paul prefers the oneness of Jesus Christ. Paul has a tendency to give with one hand and take back with the other. In Romans 11, he tells his gentile audience that God has not rejected the Jews, but then he goes back on that by declaring that some Jews have been lost and this is great because it has given gentiles a chance to be saved. He tells the new gentile converts not to boast of their superiority to Jews, but also tells them that God has lopped off some of the Jews because of their unbelief. In Romans 7, he can praise Torah and disparage it for not being sufficient.

I like the idealism that Stendahl stands for and I like the way he reads Paul, purely as a noble, idiosyncratic way of making Paul out to be better than he was. But his reading of Paul is not true. The arrogant parts of Paul come through too strongly, and yet it is wrong to blame Paul for the antisemitism that came after him. It’s interesting that Paul could spot the beginning of such antisemitism in his lifetime and speak out against it in Romans. The problem is that he did so only in a halfhearted way. Proving his “truth” about the necessity of believing in the Messiah was more important to him than making peace between Jews and new gentile converts.

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

THE REAL CONTEXT 


Scholars have several avenues by which they maintain the traditional story of how Jesus met his hand. That story may say a Roman governor executed him, but the emphasis is always put on the Jewish priests manipulating and pressuring him to do it. A Jesus surrounded by Jewish enemies is the scholarly framework; they have to do a lot of rewriting of history to make this stick. Crucial to their scheme is a misrepresentation of ancient Jewish culture—that means they have to give a false account of the historical behavior of Jewish leaders. Almost nothing they say comports with what Josephus has to say about them.

Anyone who has read Josephus carefully will know that he portrays these leaders as weak and not taking enough, or even any, action to put down trouble. He blames the Jewish rebels first and foremost for the debacle of going to war against Rome, but in the second place, he blames the Jewish priests and other leaders for failing to take action against these rebels. Scholars love to tell us that Jewish authorities cooperated with Rome in suppressing Jewish upstarts, but that’s not what Josephus says.

The picture that emerges from his writings is that Jewish leaders avoided taking any action against Jewish troublemakers. In one instance, they refuse to turn over some protesters to the Roman procurator who demanded their arrest; they make an excuse that they are unable to identify them. In another case, a high priest is deposed because he did nothing. What he was probably expected to do was to beg and plead with a mob to desist from their riots; there is no record of their taking any action stronger than that. But doing nothing to suppress Jewish mischief is their usual mode of operation; one could say it is their only mode.

Josephus hated the rebels for bringing disaster on the Jewish nation. If there had been even one case of Jewish leaders taking strong action to quell disturbances, Josephus would love to have reported it. That is exactly what Josephus hoped they would do. He probably would have commented that it was too bad they did not do this kind of thing more often. But the truth is he never reported anything like this. The golden rule of the priests was to stay out of it. Jewish priests conniving with a Roman governor to get rid of Jesus is unlike anything Josephus ever said about them.

I have called the story of Jewish leaders working to do Jesus in, with a little help from Rome, the traditional story. I did not call it the Gospel story, and that is for good reason. The Gospels do not support this story as much as people think they do, and as much as scholars strive to make it appear they do. The Gospels may seem to slant the story in this direction, but they also give a lot of information to contradict it. The traditional story grew as the years went by from a very few details, while ignoring plenty more, but the Gospel authors cannot be held responsible for this. They preserved many good details of what actually happened. It is not their fault if scholars have done their best to undermine them.

Scholars maintain a story that goes against much of the evidence in the New Testament (not only in the Gospels, but portions of Acts and Paul’s letters have to be taken into account). In their view, evidence is irrelevant, while the ideology of Jesus persecuted by Jewish leaders must be maintained at all costs.

Some of the evidence I am talking about is well-known. In Mark and Matthew, the meeting of Jewish leaders with Jesus does not match what a Jewish trial would have been like. This could not have been a trial or any sort of Jewish judicial procedure. Scholars treat it as if it were a lynching, though they are careful not to call it that. They will not consider the other logical possibility: it was an informal meeting intended to help Jesus and save him from a Roman execution.

The later Gospel authors, Luke and John, make it even less like a Jewish trial. They report no Jewish death penalty against Jesus. If any Gospel author should have reported what is in effect a lynching of Jesus, John would have been the one to present it this way. But John’s version is the least like a lynching of any of the four Gospels. And there is more.

In Acts, Paul says there was no Jewish death penalty. Even Mark and Matthew do not say there was a death penalty according to Jewish law. They don’t say according to whose law. It could have been according to Rome. They are silent on this.

What we constantly ignore is that we are so used to reading the traditional story into the Gospels that we forget that this story is not in the Gospels, it is rather an interpretation of  the Gospels. We are so used to seeing things in the Gospels, like declaring Jesus deserving of death under Jewish law, that we have become incapable of seeing that these things are not actually in the Gospels. We have substituted a very anti-Jewish story for the real Gospel details. Scholars lost interest a long time ago in what the Gospels literally say.

Also in Acts, the priests make what appears to be a complaint that they have been wrongly accused of complicity in the death of Jesus. If you maintain an ideological view of Jesus being done in by his own leaders, these details (from all four Gospels and Acts) are impossible to explain. But if you understand the real Jewish, historical context, as reported by Josephus—namely, that Jewish leaders would never help Rome arrest and execute a fellow Jew—then these details make a lot of sense.

There is much more (both from the New Testament and Josephus) to substantiate that what really happened was that Jewish leaders were holding an informal meeting in an attempt to save Jesus from Rome’s clutches. That’s what my books are for. But the search for truth has to begin with the truth about the Jewish history of that time, and frankly, that search also has to include why scholars are so biased about this and refuse to look at any evidence, or any interpretation of the evidence, that would exonerate Jewish leaders. How can such scholarship be called a fair hearing?

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Thursday, March 22, 2018

WHAT IS THE STARTING POINT? 


If I were writing a new book on the historical, Jewish Jesus—I am not, but if I were—the first sentence would be this: The main objective of my work is to overturn the confirmation bias that is prevalent in historical Jesus studies—not to prove how Jesus really died, but simply to expose the bias that stands in the way of seeing it. I would then go on to explain that I know how painful it is for people, especially scholars, to hear this. No one wants to learn that their field is deeply infected with prejudice. No one wants to see the evidence that demonstrates they have been employing bias to rewrite history and make ideology more important than the evidence.

The ideology I am talking about is that Jesus was surrounded by Jewish enemies who were responsible for his death at Roman hands. German scholar Wolfgang Stegemann has called it the fundamental construct of scholars. The evidence in the Gospels and the evidence in the historical Jewish context do not support it, but scholars still insist there can be no other point of view. Bias convicts ancient Jews, not the evidence.

Without confronting this bias, how do you make any progress at all? Ancient Jewish leaders and Judas have been prosecuted and convicted, in the death of Jesus, by the most unfair means. Who will have a favorable reaction on hearing that or even have some mild curiosity to hear more about it? No one. And if no one wants to hear it, where do you go from there?

Just look at what happens in our time when a defendant has been wrongly convicted of some heinous crime. Look at what happens when it is demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that an injustice has been committed. How many prosecutors welcome learning this? How many make the effort to begin a process leading to release? And if a court forces the release, how many prosecutors apologize afterwards? How many resist with all their might the demonstration that there was a wrongful conviction? How many allow an exoneration of the prisoner to take place? There are a few cases where prosecutors have expressed a conscience about this, and perhaps such self-examination is slowly growing, but it is still exceptionally rare.

It is even worse when we are dealing with the wrongful conviction of historical figures. People are horrified by the suggestion that hundreds of years of scholarship could have made a mistake. The tendency to dig in is even stronger than it is with current cases of wrongful conviction. It does not matter what evidence you bring to bear. A complete shut-down takes place.

It is easy to produce a smattering of evidence that tends to exonerate ancient Jewish leaders and Judas, but who wants to rethink any of this? There is actually a wide pattern of evidence, but even mentioning a small amount does not arouse anyone’s interest. I could recite evidence until I’m blue in the face, but up against bias, it means nothing. Just try convincing a modern-day prosecutor he or she has made a mistake and you will see what I mean.

The Gospels do not use the Greek word, prodidomi, that means betray to describe what Judas did; they use a neutral word, paradidomi, meaning to convey, with no connotation of betrayal. Mark’s Gospel tells Judas’s story with entirely ambiguous details, yet everyone sees only betrayal in the ambiguity. Nowhere do the Gospels say Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial. That word does not appear in any of their accounts. They don’t even say Jesus was condemned to death according to Jewish law, but that is what everyone imagines they say. “Death according to Roman law” is another possible interpretation, for Mark and Matthew, but no one ever considers it. In fact, Luke and John do not mention a death penalty at all, and in Acts, Paul says that Jewish leaders found in Jesus nothing worthy of death. Scholars just shrug their shoulders. They wait for a magic word to convince them.

The above clues are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg, but what does all this matter, when bias is telling you to ignore all these details? I am not saying there are contradictions in the Gospel texts to make us doubt the traditional story of Jesus’s death. I am saying the contradictions are not really contradictions at all and they tell us what really happened 2,000 years ago, if only we paid attention. I am saying that 1) the contradictions are only an appearance, 2) the contradictions are the result of the wrong lens through which scholars have looked at this, and 3) these contradictions would all disappear in the most sensible way, once we adopt a different lens of Jewish leaders trying to save Jesus from a Roman execution.

Figuring out how Jesus ended up on a Roman cross is the easy part. The hard thing is to face the human tendency to impose bias on the evidence. How the hell do you do that? Everyone wants some magical utterance to cure them of what bias has done. Give us a magic trick to prove to us you are right. But I have no magic.

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



Thursday, February 22, 2018

RACISM, AN ENDLESS SUBJECT 


[This month I am putting up the same post on both my blogs; one is on the historical Jesus and the other is on Darwin’s racism. The link to my Darwin blog is at right.]

Last month on both my blogs, I posted two different brief essays about racism. I realize it is possible to endlessly refine one’s points, with the goal being to get to the essence of racism. There are different angles one can take, so I’d like to do some summing up here. Consider the following a case of thinking in progress.

First, racism is an action system, not a belief system. Racists do not believe in inferiority, but they do believe people can be made to feel inferior. The point for racists is to take actions that will not only deprive a people of well-being but make them believe they deserve this. Statements like “They are inferior” are part of this action system. It is an action intended to make Others believe and feel they are inferior. Racists know very well that inferiority is a lie, but they still think they can make it come true.

Second, racism is filled with many lies, but the idea that racists believe Others are inferior is the primary lie. They don’t believe this at all. The truth that racists always wish to conceal is that their primary goal is to demoralize Others and then convince them they were born demoralized. The demoralization is actually the result of all the actions, including verbal pronouncements, that racists take.

Third, the essence of the demoralization is to make these people believe they are less than human, or to put it another way, to believe they are separate and disconnected from other human beings. Feeling all alone in the world will certainly induce depression. Racists play the game of divide and conquer better than anyone. They will frantically combat those who teach that we are all connected.

Fourth, racists may be good at spotting vulnerabilities in people and exploiting them, but their main job is to create vulnerability. It is just like child abuse: To take someone who was not born vulnerable and make them feel vulnerable. Racists like child abusers hate it when their intended victims discover God or anything (like elements of their own culture) that gives them strength.

Fifth, there is a goal behind the primary goal of demoralization. Racists are not in this to play some kind of macabre game or conduct a vast social experiment as to how effective they can be in demoralizing Others and getting them to believe they are inferior and alone. The demoralization has a point to it. The ultimate goal is take everything from the Other. Once you demoralize a people, you can rob them blind. You can steal their land, their resources, their labor, and their memories and stories. Racists are thieves. In a sense, their only goal is larceny and they will do almost anything to conceal this.

Sixth, greed is behind all racism. Nobody is a racist just for the hell of it. They want something. They want everything. They want all the wealth and all the memories, but mainly all the wealth.

Seventh, since racism is an action system, not a belief system, this means that all true investigation into racism is also an action system. Gaining insights into racism is about undoing racism. If an insight does not contribute to defeating racism, then it is not a genuine insight. For example, exposing the larceny that is behind all racism is important because racists need to keep this a secret so that they can look more moral. They don’t mind being called ideological racists. That is a moral position as far as they are concerned. They are happy to be labeled racists. They love debates about inferiority and superiority because this just furthers their distorted view of the world. But to demonstrate that they are just stealing is what really scares them. They don’t want anyone to see how small they are.

Eighth, not all racists benefit equally from racism. Some get a lot more out of it than others. Somehow the big thieves make the smaller ones believe they have gotten more out of it than they really have. There is no honor among thieves.

Ninth, to combat racism it is absolutely vital not to do anything that favors their cause. Thus, racists, as I said, are very good at playing the game of divide and conquer. So it should be obvious that we must not do anything that plays into their hands. Promote connections, not disconnections. It is a big mistake for any victimized people to promote the idea that the racism practiced against them is totally unique. That just helps racists separate peoples. Each people does experience some unique injustices, but overall, they have more in common and that is what we should seek to understand. Don’t lose sight of the unique features but don’t exaggerate them either.

That is not quite a dozen points, but it will do for now. If anything, I would like to go in the other direction and reduce this number. I could refine our understanding of racism down to three important elements. Racism is 1) an action system, which is 2) intended to demoralize people (chiefly by getting them to believe they are inferior), so that 3) racists can rob them of everything. That is the entire scheme in a nutshell. And racists believe that their materialistic motives and ultimate goals must remain hidden. It is easier to steal if people don’t see what you are doing.

About Darwin, I will just add this. Darwin and many other scientists present themselves as out to discover what the world is like, through theory and experiments. They are out to gain knowledge. I think there might be a little bit of truth to this, but not as much as everyone thinks. Darwin and others were creating an action system. For example, “survival of the fittest” is not so much a description of the world as it is an action which is intended to fulfill itself. It is not an objective truth, it is rather an anthropomorphism framed to project European humans into nature. It is a point of view imposed on nature so that Europeans can declare themselves, through circular reasoning, the fittest and the winners—winners being a euphemism for “the biggest thieves.”

They were creating a system of “knowledge,” the aim of which was to reinforce imperialism. In a succinct way, in Chapter 8 of A Short but Full Book on Darwin’s Racism (available at all online vendors), I give a thorough discussion of how much implicit racism and blatant imperialism can be found in the pages of The Origin of Species. It’s true. Whether scholars want to see it or not is another story.

As for historical Jesus studies, my last post on the historical Jesus blog for January 2018 is about racism. By way of summary here, I will just say that there is not one book by a historical Jesus scholar which will leave you with an overwhelmingly positive impression of ancient Judaism. They all deprecate ancient Jewish culture in one way or another to make these Jews look inferior compared to Jesus. The best aspects of this culture are left out so that ancient Jews will look deficient and small-minded. Gone from scholarly books are Judaism’s dedication to constitutional government, fair treatment under the law, due process, and openness to gentiles. It is all gone and replaced by scholars with a trivialization of Judaism into excessive concern with rituals, purity, Temple sacrifice, and ethnic exclusivity. You will never read a book on the historical Jesus and feel good about ancient Judaism, unless it’s my book True Jew. And if you are Jewish, it is particularly disheartening to read the usual stuff about the historical Jesus, which is why most Jews avoid this subject altogether.

© 2018 Leon Zitzer



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?