Sunday, June 29, 2014
I think I have posted about this before, but it’s worth going over again. Charles Darwin got it absolutely right when he wrote, “False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”
It is exceptionally hard to overturn a false fact. We don’t examine the premises of a fact. If it’s fact, it doesn’t have premises (so we assume). How could you ever expose its falseness? Something that is taken to be a fact hangs around for a very long time for exactly that reason. We all assume it doesn’t have the very premises that prop it up. It is almost impossible to get anyone to look closely at a false fact. There is nothing to look at. It’s just a fact.
That is exactly why New Testament scholarship never changes. No one questions the false facts of Jewish leaders putting Jesus on trial and Judas betraying him. These are actually theories, not facts, but no one tells you that. The Gospels contain a pattern of facts, details, which may or may not support the theories. Trial and betrayal are interpretations of the clues in the Gospels. Are they good interpretations? Obviously not, otherwise they would be honestly presented as theories.
If these were good interpretations, scholars would present them as such and give a very convincing argument, based on the actual evidence in the Gospels. But scholars don’t do that because they know they don’t hold up as good interpretations. The only way they can put them over is by presenting them as facts, albeit false ones, and this way, no one will question them. No one will look hard at the real evidence which is that the Gospels never call the questioning of Jesus a trial and never use the Greek word for betray to describe Judas’ action.
I have a better theory (one theory resolving both problems) which I present in my two books. But even though I can establish that this theory is right because it is provable well beyond a reasonable doubt, I would never claim it is a fact. It is a good interpretation of the evidence we have, but that cannot convert it into a fact.
At an informal meeting, not a trial, Jewish leaders tried to save Jesus from a Roman execution by trying to ascertain exactly what the Romans thought he had done and what in fact he was actually doing in his preaching. That will resolve all the supposed contradictions and oddities in the Gospel accounts. But I would never claim this is now fact. It cannot be a fact anymore than the accusation of Jewish leaders interrogating Jesus at a hostile judicial procedure can be a fact. Neither informal meeting nor hostile trial is a stated bit of evidence in the Gospels. But one (my theory) explains all the evidence well and the other does not.
Scholars realized a long time ago that they don’t have to prove anything. All they have to do is falsely pass off their views as facts and proof is thereby easily avoided.
© 2014 L. Zitzer