Thursday, December 28, 2017


With all the scandals that have been happening recently, there is one comment that stands out in my mind. It was made a few weeks ago by a woman being interviewed on WNYC radio. She said that men in power (or one could say anyone in power, male or female) are usually lacking in self-awareness and the more power they have, the less self-aware they are. That is very true. It is perhaps the chief way that power corrupts. Power is bent on achieving a result, often an unjust result, and it cannot allow anything or anyone to get in its way—which very much includes self-awareness as the main obstacle to getting what they want.

This is certainly true in academia as well. Academics do not like to admit this, but they are people in power. Their words inform public opinion. Yes, even the ivory tower is not as aloof from the general public as we think. When I have engaged people in conversation about the historical Jesus (which does not happen often), one of the first things they tell me is that there is too much confusion in the evidence and too much disagreement among scholars, so that we will probably never know what happened 2,000 years ago. But that is a scholarly idea and it is precisely what most scholars want the public to believe: The historical Jesus is forever unknowable. Scholars have been pushing this idea for almost 200 years now and it has had the desired effect.

In their comment on John 18:24, the editors of The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) declare, “which, if any of the Gospel trial accounts is historical, is not possible to determine” (their punctuation). That is a self-serving statement. Most scholars would probably agree with their comment, but they all know very well that this does not promote general skepticism, nor do they intend it to promote such skepticism. In fact, it rather promotes or reinforces the traditional theological interpretation of Jesus’s death which puts Jewish leaders at the forefront of a conspiracy to kill him. They know that by denying any possibility of discovering the truth, they are leaving the traditional explanation in full force. Their supposed skeptical approach is meant to uphold tradition by default.

The scholars of power have no self-awareness of their biased reading of the Gospels. That’s what power does. That is what it is intended to do. Even without knowing the full historical truth, it is possible to demonstrate beyond any reasonable historical doubt that a Jewish hostile procedure against Jesus did not occur. The bulk of the evidence, which I go over in excruciating detail in both my books, contradicts that. There is no rational case to be made for the allegation that Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus. Way too much evidence goes against that idea.

But to see that evidence—to really see it and take a good hard look at it—requires some self-awareness on the part of scholars to see their own biases. That is the hard part. Analyzing the evidence is relatively easy. Getting scholars to face their biased approach is the impossible task.

© 2017 Leon Zitzer

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