Sunday, March 25, 2007


One of the big problems in any scientific field is assuming something is a fact when it isn't a fact at all. It's certainly a big problem in New Testament studies. By facts, I simply mean the data. I don't mean that it is all necessarily true. The facts or data are one thing. The interpretation of the data, or our theories about the data, are another thing. The two should not be confused, but often something that is really an interpretation is taken as a fact, a datum, a piece of hard evidence.

That's what happened to the Jewish trial of Jesus and Judas' betrayal. Nowhere do the Gospels say that Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial or that Judas betrayed him. These are actually interpretations of the Gospels, but everyone — and I mean literally everyone — has always taken them to be facts stated in the Gospels. They have taken on the status of false facts. When you appraoch them as interpretations or theories or hypotheses, it is much easier to handle them in a rational way.

When scholars assume them to be facts, the arguments are about whether they are authentic history or fiction. And what ensues seems to be a discusssion about the evidence, but it isn't really about the evidence. After all, you don't have to prove a fact or datum. A piece of evidence is simply a piece of evidence. Everyone assumes it is must be true to some extent. No matter how many other pieces of evidence contradict these two pieces, scholars simply shrug their shoulders and say "Oh well, we do have this evidence and so we will continue to believe there is something to it."

But when you realize that the "trial" and the "betrayal" are not facts but interpretations, it puts us in a whole different mentality. The first question is "Okay, what is the evidence for these interpretations?" That's when it becomes apparent that so little supports them and so very, very much contradicts them. We can't just say "Well, this is evidence we are stuck with." We are most definitely not stuck with this evidence because it is not evidence.

The proper next scientific question is "If this interpretation does not explain the evidence, is there another interpretation that will explain all this evidence?" In 200 years of academic study of the New Testament, no one has ever asked this question about the "trial" and the "betrayal"!! (There are two partial exceptions to this: Haim Cohn on the "trial" and William Klassen on Judas. Both are discussed in my book.) It is the central question in my book. But I find it extremely shocking that, in a field which makes claims to historical or scientific scholarship, no one has ever asked the essential scientific question. It's a sign of how prejudiced this field is. Everyone just assumes that Jesus was surrounded by Jewish enemies. That's why no one is willing to see that the so-called facts of a Jewish trial and a Jewish betrayal are not facts at all.

My book asks and answers this most important. It is the only book that does so. The picture of the book at right is a link to where it can be ordered and where you can read the first chapter.

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