Most Issues are NOT Black and White

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

I just finished visiting and posting the comment below on another blog( where a Mr. Potter was making some typical revisionist history comments about Jesus and the New Testament. This was my post.

I do not have time to address every point of disagreement, but I must simply make a few points:

1. Mr. Potter makes numerous points as if fact, but which have no solid historical documentation. For example,

...contrary to the extant versions of the story they allowed to survive, the historical Jesus was a political and military activist, and the Romans killed him for it.

While there is plenty of room to question the New Testament documents, there is no credible historical data to support this statement.

One can refer to scholars like Elaine Pagels and John Crossan all day, but unless others like NT Wright are also consulted/cited, you fail to take into account a balanced presentation. “The Gnostic Gospels” was, in my opinion, the least scholarly work Pagels has ever authored. In that text she bases many of her key arguments on unproven presupposition and, unfortunately, on emotion. While she has written some excellent scholarly pieces, this was not one of them.

2. I find it interesting that Mr. Potter refers to NT writings as influenced by Rome. While he is correct that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts were not heavily influenced by the Roman culture I am curious to know what he means. I will try to visit his site for more understanding.

3. My apologies if I missed something on this page, but Jesus was not killed for being a military threat (with what army?), or for claiming to be Messiah (Mr. Potter was correct on this point), but for speaking against the Temple worship of his day. Because of the stir he was making, the Jewish leadership was concerned when he talked about the Temple not being important. He disturbed the economic flow that surrounded the Temple - he was threatening their livelihood.

Even though it was a ridiculous notion, the Jewish leadership was afraid that he might muster enough following, especially among the Zealots, to lead an uprising that would bring the Romans down upon them. This happened in 70AD, but Jesus had no intention of doing this - at least not in the mode that the Zealots wanted. He was probably more inclined see things in the same way as the War Scrolls point (contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls), but not exactly that either. If you would like to read more about this subject from another perspective that is somewhat radical, yet quite different from those Mr. Potter points to, I would suggest “The Challenge of Jesus,” by NT Wright.

This issue, like most, is not all black and white - it is full of grey. The problem with most discussions in our day is that people only read/hear one side of the argument whether it be NBC or FoxNews, or like in this issue, the right or the left. Mr. Potter is citing those on the left side only and those scholars do the same thing those on the right do - they cite only the sources that agree with their view. I like NT Wright because he gets attacked from BOTH sides which tells me he is working harder to find the grey, which usually means a more objective approach.

Al Baker

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