Saturday, August 15, 2009


Whether it's the Crossan historical Jesus or the Borg historical Jesus or the EP Sanders historical Jesus, they all have one thing in common: Not only are they not very Jewish, they are rather anti-Jewish. Crossan expresses this in the strongest way. His Jesus is "lethally against" his contemporary Judaism and seeks the "absolute destruction" of the Temple system and all it stands for. These are Crossan's words.

Sanders is milder in his choice of vocabulary, but not much. There is no debate about this. No debate about the historical Jesus. They are all agreed this is the right way to describe him. "Fundamental conflict" is the way Sanders characterizes Jesus' relationship to Judaism and other Jews. They all employ adjectives like offensive, subversive, dangerous, or threatenting to say the same thing.

They may also take a moment to say something nice about Judaism — as if to say, oh by the way, we don't mean to encourage prejudice against Judaism — but when they are talking about the historical Jesus, they never say anything good about the religion he was raised in. With respect to all their arguments about the historical Jesus, they always present Jewish culture in the worst possible light — ritualistic, rigid, conventional, paranoid about threats to the power of Jewish leaders, and utterly subservient to Rome. Despite the occasional aside to say something good about Judaism, you will never walk away from their books with a positive impression of Jewish society (a point I have made over and over in my work). It is all relentlessly negative to make Jesus look better.

Historically, this is distinctly odd. There is a lot about 1st century Judaism these writers have left out — like the fight for justice, due process, and peace; the belief that love of peace is what makes you Jewish; the atmosphere of open debate in which you were required to give reasons for your opinions; and the belief that God continued to reveal himself in the Constitution/Torah and, most importantly, that everyone had access to this revelation and could debate about it.

This is a lot of vital information about Judaism that scholars have willfully jettisoned. Small wonder. They cannot acknowledge these things because they would then be forced to present their anti-Jewish Jesus as anti-due process, anti-justice, anti-revelation, etc. Nobody wants that. So these things have to be conveniently erased. And, of course, none of them want to present a pro-Jewish Jesus. We all know how absurd that would be.

What such writers give us is a deficient and hollow historical Judaism and a deficient and hollow historical Jesus. None of it bears any relation to historical reality. Will the real historical Jesus stand up, the real pro-Jewish Jesus? Not in the world of fictional scholarship.

Leon Zitzer

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