Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Historical Jesus studies will never change until intelligent people outside the profession take a serious look into it. So this blog post is an appeal to writers like Sarah Vowell, Francine Prose, Rachel Donadio, and Laura Miller to pay attention to the way evidence and historical memories get suppressed when scholars lay claim to the historical Jesus and everything related to him.

Maybe I should just repeat their names on every blog until somebody looks up and asks, What's going on here? Sarah Vowell, Francine Prose, Rachel Donadio, Laura Miller. It will be like a litany.

Here are some quick examples of what I mean about suppressing memories and evidence:

1) The majority of scholars trivialize ancient Judaism as being about Temple, rituals, purity concerns (or some such assortment). They set these things up as a foil for Jesus to do battle against. The truth is that the most important aspect of 1st century Judaism was the Torah/Constitution and the Pharisees' fight for constitutional government. Jesus was a part of that, not opposed to it. He was in harmony with his fellow Jews. Scholars never tell you about this.

2) Josephus, the 1st century Jewish-Roman historian, gives an example of Jewish leaders refusing to cooperate with a Roman procurator who demanded that some Jewish men be turned over to him. Scholars erase this evidence because they do not want anything interfering with their false picture of Jewish leaders as quislings.

3) Too many scholars are still silent that the Greek word used by the Gospel writers to describe Judas' act, paradidomi, does not mean betray. It is neutral in meaning. The Gospels never use prodidomi, which does mean betray. Betray may or may not be a secondary meaning of paradidomi, but it is certainly not the primary meaning.

4) Accusations can never be used to prove the truth of an accusation. In all four Gospels, the Greek word for traitor, prodotes, is used only once at Luke 6:16. That proves the accusation came to be made. It is not evidence that it was true. It is irrelevant because it could have been the result of slander.

5) The same goes for the numerous accusations that Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus. They too could have been the result of slander. For both Judas and Jewish leaders, we need to see whether there is a pattern of evidence outside the accusation that would support it. In both cases, the answer is that there is not.

That's enough for the time being. I hope that Vowell, Prose, Donadio, and Miller will be intrigued. Evidence matters. Re-awakening memories matters. Rescuing silenced voices from the past matters.

Leon Zitzer

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