Saturday, August 25, 2018


If you were watching a detective show on TV and you saw one detective repeatedly messing up the crime scene, you would be screaming at the TV to get that detective out of there. But make that same detective a historical Jesus scholar and we have a totally different reaction. Historical Jesus scholars contaminate the scenes in the New Testament with their ideology so that no one will see what the evidence says. Instead of screaming at them, we want them to remain on the scene and continue to obscure the evidence.

On the TV show, along comes another detective who sees what’s going on and fights to get that first detective removed from the scene. He is the detective the audience will root for. But in real life, in the case of historical Jesus studies, there is no hero cop who comes along to keep the crime scene sacred and uncontaminated. And if he did come around, he would immediately be dismissed. We are all still rooting for the detectives who are introducing bias into the investigation.

Why do we root for the good cops over the bad cops on TV? Because correctly solving the crime matters. We want the real guilty party caught and prosecuted. We think it is an injustice to punish the innocent for something they never did. We get itchy under our skin if we see that this is about to happen. But we don’t think that way in historical studies. We want traditional views about history upheld. We just assume that scholars would never commit an injustice and if they did, we would rather not know it.

I have brought up TV detective shows many times before. There is no other place, in either fiction or real life, where you will find such pure dedication to truthseeking. The writers of these shows understand scientific method better than anyone on the planet. I only wish some of them—how about at least one?—would use their wisdom and apply it to history.

The first rule of good historical study should be: Do not contaminate the scene; report the evidence accurately; don’t let even a little bit of ideology color the way we look at the evidence. Here are some examples:

Scholars constantly talk about Jewish leaders putting Jesus on trial or subjecting him to some kind of judicial procedure. But the Gospels do not say that. They never use the word trial when describing the meeting between Jesus and Jewish leaders. All scholarly talk of a trial or procedure is a scholarly bias which they have injected into the evidence. An informal meeting would be a more correct description of what is going on. The evidence should be described in such a way (that is, in an accurate way) as to keep our minds open.

Again, we are repeatedly told that in Mark and Matthew, Jewish leaders find Jesus guilty of some infraction of Jewish law. But the Gospels don’t say that. All they say is that Jesus was found deserving of death. Period. Deserving death under Jewish law or Roman law? The Gospels do not say. Under which law is simply omitted. If scholars want to say the Gospel authors meant Jewish law, that is their interpretation (and a bad one it is), but it is not a piece of evidence in the Gospels. The scholarly approach is aimed at shutting down any consideration of the possibility that Roman law was meant. They do not want anyone to see what the uncontaminated Gospel evidence looks like.

It should be well-known by now that the Gospels do not use the Greek word for betray, prodidomi, to describe Judas’s deed, but a neutral word, paradidomi, which has no connotation of betrayal. But an overwhelming majority of scholars still talk as if a betrayal by Judas was a fact in the Gospels, when it is really an interpretation (a bad one) of evidence in the Gospels.

Some scholars may argue that betray is a secondary meaning of paradidomi, which seems highly doubtful, but even if they are right, they would have to justify why a secondary meaning should be used to translate that word when there are no concrete details backing up that translation. There is no clear motive given for the alleged betrayal, and no conflict between Judas and Jesus or his fellow disciples. We just assume these things. All the evidence in connection with Judas (with possibly only one exception) is ambiguous. Why is there only ambiguous evidence? Scholars do not want this evidence correctly reported, so they pretend that the betrayal is not an interpretation of the evidence, but a piece of evidence itself. This is as bad as contaminating the DNA evidence at a murder scene, but no one wants to see that.

That is just a handful of examples. So once again, I appeal to any writers of detective shows who may happen upon this lonely blog, to consider looking into this. If true scientific acumen were applied to historical Jesus studies, what grand things we might discover. What other interpretation might better explain the Gospel evidence than the one that is currently imposed on the evidence?

© 2018 Leon Zitzer

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