Friday, June 19, 2015

182. Jesus and the Historians. Part four



Josephus, the Jewish historian, ( see blog 180) is very thorough and truthful about such persons. I quote:


Judas, a Gaulonite, (1) of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, (2) a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them,……… there were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left,) and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies' fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together; for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us.


But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. ………. (Antiquities of the Jews; 18:1:1; 18:1; 6)

If Jesus was a rebellious Jew, why did Josephus not mention him as such? What he said about Jesus, I have already quoted in blog 180.( 18:3:3). Tacitus the Roman historian wrote about Christus (Jesus Christ), the following:

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.( Annals 15;44 )

He also did not mention him as a violent revolutionary!

Jesus was clear about the role of state and religion. The story of taxes to Caesar is mentioned in Gospels. ( Mark 12;13-16; Mathew 22:15-21; Luke 20:20-25). Let me quote:

……Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

(Mathew 22:15-21)

This is the clearest example of Jesus stating that the citizens should not interfere with the functions of Roman government. The obligations which were due to God were separate. Religion was a personal affair. To give different interpretation to this episode, which Aslan does, is a classic case of not accepting the obvious, an accusation he throws at other scholars on page 239.

Why is the author trying to recast Jesus’ character, from a man of peace to a revolutionary? While, as a matter of fact, he states on page 120, that whether Jesus himself believed the zealot doctrine is not known. But he seems to have embraced it completely.

He makes two astonishing statements. On page 155 he states that all one needs to know about Jesus of Nazareth is present in one fact: that he was crucified by Rome. That is all that is required. Who he was and what he was, and why he was crucified is evident in that fact!

On page xx he declares that the historical Jesus who he uncovered made him a more committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than he ever was of Jesus Christ! This mote thinks that he did not gain anything but lost a lot.

He does not realize the implications of what he is saying. Jesus of Nazareth which he uncovered would have been nothing but a minor Jewish revolutionary who was crucified; like others such as Hezekiah the bandit, Simon of Peraea, Judas the Galilean and many more.

Jesus Christ of gospels is an entirely different person. His message of love and peace; his noble, unflinching, painful death; his awe-inspiring miracles; and his repeated appearances after his death, are the features which the author has simply ignored.

By his meticulous hard work the author has produced a thought provoking book. I wish, at the end of the book, he had stated what he now believed about Jesus.


  1. Zealot___The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Published by Random House, 2013


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