180. Jesus And The Historians. Part two
We were discussing whether Jesus had a trial before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
Aslan thinks that the gospel writers and Paul were trying to absolve the Roman Governor for crucifixion by putting all the blame on the Temple Authorities, and by doing so were trying to please the Romans. Jews had risen in revolt against Romans and had been crushed. The Temple had been destroyed in 70 A.D. Jews had scattered in Roman Empire and were trying to live peacefully with other nations (mostly in Roman Empire) and that is why they were trying to absolve the Roman Governor .
It is surprising that Aslan does not quote an impartial writer, who had no axe to grind one way or the other. In the Antiquities of the Jews, Jewish historian Josephus, stated (Ant 18.3.3):
“. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day...”.
Did the author present any evidence that the trial never took place? In other words did he find any writing or tablet saying that Jesus was never tried before the Roman Governor?
Thus the author violated the basic principle of research by rejecting all the four gospels and the letter of Paul, despite the fact that Mark was in Rome, Mathew in Damascus, Luke in Antioch, John in Ephesus, and Paul in Rome or Macedonia. They were also separated in time.
Aslan goes one step further. He contends that the trial before Caiaphas also did not take place (page 157). He furnishes a variety of minor reasons, but no evidence. To him, ‘the most troublesome aspect’ was the verdict; Jesus was not stoned to death. All the scenes must have been concocted by the gospel writers.
The back cover of the book has an excerpt by Judith Shulevitz. It characterizes Jesus as a ‘ A violent revolutionary,’‘ A fanatical ideologue’, ‘Odd and scary’
I wonder if the author approved such language.
Aslan rejects the arguments regarding the peaceful nature of his message. He furnishes 5 arguments to support his contention that Jesus envisaged that the aims of his revolution could not be achieved without violence.
- He showed violent behavior in the Temple and instructed his disciples to buy swords (Luke 22:36-38).
- Jesus was promising Kingdom of God ( heaven), on earth
- He meant peaceful behavior only towards Jews and not Romans
- First century Palestine was seething with revolution
- Jesus was crucified for sedition
Let us examine what the Synoptic Gospels, Josephus (a Jewish historian), and Tacitus (a Roman historian) have to say about this violent revolutionary.
- There is zero evidence that Jesus was a violent revolutionary. He was a revolutionary alright but not a violent one. His revolution was not directed against the Romans but against the base nature of human beings. He wanted to reform us. He wanted us to love our fellow humans, even our enemies. He was an idealist, with an unachievable message, because he advocated selflessness, whereas self interest is the basis of all human and animal voluntary behavior. Let me quote his famous message:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:38-44 )
"all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword".( Mathew 26:52)
Where is the evidence of violence? The author himself concedes as much. He writes that there was no evidence that Jesus himself openly advocated violent actions.( page 120)
Jesus was a human being. At least on three occasions he was overcome with emotions like all of us. Once in the Temple when he saw the deceit and the loot and overturned the tables of the money changers; second time in Mount of Olives before his arrest; and lastly just before his death, when he famously exclaimed, “ My God, my God, why have You forsaken me.” He was overcome with mercy on several other occasions.
The first two episodes are taken as evidence that Jesus was not a nonviolent person. May be he was not a pacifist, maybe he justified resistance against an enemy, but that is a far cry from advocating rebellion. Look at his life. Did he raise armies? Did his followers kill a single Roman soldier?
His distress before his arrest is heart wrenching, “33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[a] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” ( Mark 14:33-36).
So what, if overcome with grief, he told his disciples to arm themselves with swords in their future journeys, so that they avoid what was going to happen to him in a short while. It is worth noting, that as the author mentions on page 124, Jesus knew his fate. He mentioned it to his disciples many times that he was soon going to be arrested, tortured, and killed. ( Mathew 16:21,17-22-23, 20:18-19; Mark 8:31, 9:31,10:33; Luke 9:22, 44, 18:32-33)”
To be continued