Wednesday, March 15, 2006


There are many ways of stating the first principle of science. The above is just one. It was the last blog that reminded me of this. I there quoted an author named Tony who did what most Gospel scholars do. He followed the exact opposite of scientific procedure and began with knowledge (e.g., "we know Judas was a traitor") and then in effect rewrote the Gospel of Mark in one particular place to make it fit the supposed knowledge.

"We already know" is not the beginning of wisdom, not scientific wisdom at any rate. Science, like art, begins in ignorance. You cannot possibly know that Judas was a traitor or that Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial -- i.e., if you are a scientist, you cannot know this. Another way of stating science's first principle is this: We know nothing until the evidence tells us something. So regarding Judas or ancient Jewish leaders, we know nothing and then we ask, "Well, what does the evidence add up to?"

I said science is like art because both are after the same thing: To see the evidence with fresh eyes. When actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was asked by Charlie Rose how he went about finding the character of Truman Capote, he answered that he began with "I don't know" and added, "I don't know how the hell I'm going to do this at all ... Really, really be as naive as possible and as ignorant as possible because then you keep yourself as wide open as possible for anything that could be of help ...".

Hoffman got it right. Keep yourself wide open to see the evidence. "Knowledge" gets in the way of seeing the facts.

Gospel scholars get it wrong. They have replaced seeing and the seeking of wisdom with presumed "knowledge". Even Elaine Pagels, whom I also quoted on the last blog as making a good point on that radio show, has fallen into the same trap in her writings. Although her last book "Beyond Belief" (2003) is not about Judas or the Gospels per se, she does refer to Judas six times and each time she calls his act a betrayal without ever telling her readers there might be considerable doubt about this. She never once notes that it is well established that "betray" is a mistranslation of the word Mark uses to describe Judas' act and that the other Gospels use the same neutral word. She never once notes that Mark lacks every single feature of a story of treachery. Instead, her casual references to this betrayal automatically make us think that this is a bit of knowledge we all possess, when the truth is that it is an interpretation of the Gospels -- and a questionable one at that.

There is nothing rational or scientific about Gospel scholarship as it is currently practiced. It cannot even pay careful attention to the evidence. We are going to have rediscover our ignorance if this study is ever to find a sound footing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I would hope that is a rhetorical question. The trouble is that scholars do it all the time, so they certainly act as if their PhDs entitled them to do this. They particularly do it to "prove" that Jesus was surrounded by Jewish enemies. I discuss enough examples of this in my book. But it's always a shock to encounter yet another of seemingly endless examples of this.

This time I heard it LIVE! ON THE RADIO! Last Saturday, Feb. 25, on WABC talk radio (770AM in NYC). I don't regularly listen to this station, but my friend Susan called me last week to tell me they were talking about the upcoming publication of the Gospel of Judas (and the May release of the movie "The DaVinci Code"). I don't know the name of the show or the host. There were two guest authors: Elaine Pagels and someone the host called Tony (sorry about not remembering his full name).

Pagels made the correct point that Mark's Gospel gives no motive for Judas' alleged betrayal. (One can add that Mark gives no features of a story of betrayal, including the fact that he never uses the Greek word for "betray" but a neutral word instead. Sad to say, neither guest mentioned William Klassen's great book "Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?" [1996]. I have promoted Klassen's book a lot on the Internet and am happy to do so again. And one should remember that all the Gospels in the storytelling parts of their story use this neutral word. It's not just Mark.)

This Tony disagreed. He believed that Mark does supply a possible motive. He referred to the woman who poured oil over Jesus' head and those who complained that this was a waste of money (Mk 14:3-9). What he did not tell the audience is that Mark does not mention Judas here. He just says some made this complaint and names no one.

I suspect that Tony is very aware of this, but he felt justified to supply an insinuation against Judas where Mark does not. If Judas really did have such a conflict with Jesus, it would have been very easy for Mark to say so. That John says so (Jn 12:1-8) cannot be imputed to Mark. That would be conflating the Gospels which ought to be a no-no in honest scholarship. The fact remains that Mark does not give Judas a motive; he utterly fails to do so, where he could easily have done it, and fails to relate a single thing that unequivocally points in the direction of treachery.

The rational question is: Why would Mark relate this story in this peculiar way? It is a question that no scholar ever asks. But I ask it and answer it in my book. It is a very simple answer and it is quite clear that Judas was not a traitor.

It is shame that scholars feel such a desperate need to rewrite everything in the Gospels concerning Jesus' death so that they can implicate Jewish leaders and Judas in it. This is not historical scholarship. This is a witch trial. The only valid scientific approach is to look clearly at all the evidence we have and ask what is the most rational explanation for this evidence. To erase evidence and invent evidence to "prove" a preconceived idea is an awful thing to do. What a shame that no one will stand up and complain about this scholarly deception. Is the world still so fearful of a Jewish Jesus and the Jewish story the Gospels tell?

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