Sunday, January 29, 2017


I have brought this up a million times. Two million and one would not be overdoing it, as far as I am concerned. Why are we so afraid of applying rational thinking to controversial subjects and yet we fantasize all the time about doing it through our favorite TV crime fighters? No one understands scientific thinking better than the writers of TV crime dramas. But I often wonder how they feel about using reason in real life subjects. Would they be as dedicated to seeking truth when they feel the hostility of the entire academic world breathing down their necks?

I was once telling a friend about one of my favorite TV detectives, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, on The Closer. I was describing her fierce commitment to solving murders, sometimes in the face of opposition from her superiors or from politically important people. He snorted and said to me that in real life, a person like that would be fired so fast, they would not last a week on the job. I agreed but added that it’s still fun to pretend that such a person could exist. He did not think so. Fantasy like that just makes the real world more painful.

I find myself wondering more and more how writers of these TV shows would react to a real search for truth in any subject that prompts academics to crush anyone who disagrees with their ideological positions, and worse yet, who dares to expose their ideology as entirely unfounded on any evidence. Would they think this daring application of reason is cool, or would they kowtow to the academics and agree this person must be silenced?

I honestly don’t know the answer to my question. I only know that it is extremely difficult to get anyone to pay attention to the evidence in the Gospels concerning any part of the story of Jesus’s death. It ought to be exciting to realize that, with only one possible exception, all the evidence about Judas is ambiguous. By ambiguous, I mean something precise: A piece of evidence is ambiguous if it is equally consistent with two opposed, or nearly opposed, hypotheses. Almost everything in connection with Judas is like that (which I demonstrate in the first chapter of True Jew). His suicide, assuming it really happened, could be explained by his shame over his betraying Jesus, but it could also be explained by shame over being falsely accused of betrayal. The Gospels are simply not specific enough. The saying “It were better for that man if he had not been born” can also be interpreted both ways. Actually, I am not so sure it would be used by ancient Jews about a man who had done something bad. It would more likely be used about someone who had something bad happen to him (like a false accusation of betrayal). But if the saying could be interpreted either way, then at best, it is an ambiguous saying.

It is like that with just about every detail of Judas’s story. Why so much ambiguity? Deputy Chief Johnson would feel the tiny hairs on her arm rising. She would sense something was up. The more ambiguous evidence we have, the more reason to doubt the traditional explanation. She would seek to find out what really explains all this ambiguity. She would quickly realize that the betrayal is not a rational explanation for this. Her chief would rail at her that she must not mess with the story of Judas, but she would bulldoze her way ahead, and she would get all her assistant detectives excited about it as well. They would solve the case and everyone would have to accept the fact that an injustice has now been finally exposed.

But in real life, this would never happen. She would be fired. Or if she was a professor at a university, she might not be fired, but she would find that her papers are no longer published and her presence no longer welcome at conferences. And how would the TV writers, and directors and the actor, who created her, feel about this? Would they stand by her? Or would they slink away? I wish I knew.

© 2017 Leon Zitzer

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