Monday, June 23, 2008


As Bob Dylan once sang, I guess it must be up to me. Somebody's got to do it. It is not a pleasant thing to accuse an academic discipline of committing fraud. Nobody could enjoy this. I certainly do not. But it has to be done. Because it is the truth. Because the evidence is there to prove it. Because it is wrong and historical Jesus studies will be stymied forever if we do not face it. And because academic fraud has repercussions that go beyond the particular discipline.

It is simply wrong to tell lies about history and about what is contained in ancient texts like the Gospels and the writings of Josephus. It is wrong to rewrite them to make them say things they never said. Historical Jesus studies has had this coming for a long time. Scholars keep looking for new ways to subvert rational, objective, historical study in order to re-assert their theological beliefs about Jesus or their worldview. That worldview is chiefly "Jesus surrounded by Jewish enemies". It never ends, despite the fact that so much evidence contradicts it. It has been my experience that slow progress is impossible. Scholars will have none of it. So somebody has to stand up and tell the whole truth.

This came out of writing a new preface for my book "The Ghost in the Gospels" (links at right). To my surprise, the focus became scholarly fraud. It is long enough now to be a short book (perhaps about 100 pages). I thought I would put up here a summary of the conclusions I have come to. I have identified 11 major ways that scholars are committing fraud. I list them below. Their objective is to prevent the historical, Jewish Jesus from ever showing his face, to suppress an understanding of his Jewish culture, and to keep repeating the myth of Jewish responsibility for Jesus' death. This new book will go into much more detail to support these charges, but here is my 11 point summary:

1) misrepresenting that the Gospels literally say Judas betrayed Jesus and Jewish leaders put him on trial, when the truth is these are interpretations of the Gospels or theories, but most definitely not stated facts or data;

2) attempting to prove what is a theory by offering additional theories or speculation rather than providing the necessary evidentiary argument;

3) portraying Jesus as alone and isolated by disappearing his fellow Jews who were his soul mates on spiritual matters;

4) making endless assertions about the nature of ancient Jewish identity (e.g., Temple, rituals, purity) while disappearing the voices of ancient Jews who give their own testimony about Jewish identity (e.g., spirituality, justice, peace);

5) disappearing evidence favorable to Jews because (in Raymond Brown’s formulation) it is not helpful in convicting Jews of complicity in Jesus' death (evidence such as Paul saying there was no Jewish death penalty and Josephus relating that Jewish leaders once refused to turn over some Jews to a Roman procurator);

6) giving staged readings of the Gospels to make us see things that are not there (such as Jesus launching a major attack on the existence of the Temple or its inner sanctum);

7) importing Christian theology into Josephus (i.e., making him say that Jewish leaders cooperated with Rome in the arrest and prosecution of Jews, when he says no such thing);

8) relentlessly encouraging only one possibility for reading the Gospels, even though that one way results in many contradictions, and ignoring other possibilities, even when someone (such as Haim Cohn or William Klassen) offers a credible suggestion, and failing to discuss the evidentiary basis for this other possibility;

9) the penchant for using theological terminology in the study of history (such as the antitheses of Matthew 5, the Passion, the cleansing of the Temple, etc.);

10) blaming the ancients for suppressing history and replacing it with faith or myth, thus deflecting blame from scholars for doing this very thing; and

11) failing to even attempt a full investigation of what makes Jesus so Jewish, while claiming that they now take Jesus’ Jewishness very seriously and regard him as thoroughly Jewish.

The study of the historical Jesus is never going to become a legitimate field until these problems are acknowledged and corrected. I realize that most people will want these serious errors to continue because the whole point is to prevent rational study which no one wants with respect to the historical Jesus. So I'm fighting a losing battle. I'll grant that. But somebody has to do it.

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