Sunday, February 04, 2007


Two posts below this, I commented that while no rational person would take seriously the statement that the devil made Judas Iscariot betray Jesus (as a couple of verses in Luke and John more or less state), it does deserve some thought. And if you do think about it, you realize that this statement speaks in favor of the historical Judas as an innocent person.

The reason the devil appears here is that they had no evidence against Judas. They could not tell us what conflict Judas had with Jesus or what else may have motivated him. The act was a mystery —hence only the devil could "explain" it. And that lack of evidence points in the direction that no such conflict or motive existed. In other words, the historical Judas did not betray the historical Jesus. Plenty of other information confirms that.

There is a failure in scholarship to think about any of this in a rational way. John 18:3,12, where he tells us that Roman soldiers were at Jesus' arrest, is another example. Most scholars accept this as historically valid, but they do not think about it in any deep way. They note that it runs against John's tendency to be hostile to Jews and so they accept it on this ground alone. But there are other reasons to consider this information reliable and scholars do not want to think about it.

The presence of Roman soldiers also fits the historical context. Since Jesus is executed by the Romans, it stands to reason they arrested him. Jews never acted as Rome's police force. So John 18:3,12 correctly tells us something we might have guessed at. This was a Roman event from beginning to end all the way. (I give several more reasons in my book, The Ghost in the Gospels, why John is most likely accurate about this.) Scholars do not like that conclusion so they avoid thinking about it altogether.

That's also why they do not like thinking about the historical Judas too much. They do not like to engage in any analysis that would exonerate Jews from involvement in Jesus' death. There is a shut down in all thinking that would lead to favorable results for Jews. At least Raymond Brown was more blunt and honest about this than most scholars when he said that any attempt to put the Jewish priests in a more favorable light should be ruled out of the discussion.

There is no better way to rule something out than to forbid all thinking about the evidence. So if we want to oppose what scholars do, then we are obligated to think —think, man, think.

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