Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Robert Price's responses to my questions about The Jesus Project

Robert Price has replied point-by-point to my questions about The Jesus Project. Check it out here. I'm not sure I'm much clearer, but I'm pleased to know that there are others "out there" who are asking similar questions.


John Shuck said...

CSER and the Jesus Project has really got to get its act together on-line. A web page that says updating? Come on folks, this is the internet!

Leon said...

I continue to be disappointed in the way that everybody thinks about this. For 200 years, all anybody has ever done is to create one theological Jesus after another — the ahistorical and anti-historical Jesus. Show me one scholar who thinks about the shared memories and stories between Jesus and his audience and I'll show you a scholar who is ignored by everyone else. Shunned might be closer to the truth.

The 3 fundamental rules of historical Jesus study as it has always been practiced have been:

1) Jesus must be divorced from his Jewish culture;

2) Jesus must be surrounded by Jewish enemies, some of whom play a principle role in his death; and

3) except for 1 and 2 above, Jesus must otherwise remain a mystery.

No evidence must ever be allowed into the discussion if it contradicts any of these rules.

I'm not surprised that the scholarly world has behaved like this for 200 years. What is truly shocking is that no one stands up to complain about this and totally reject it. Historical science is not a mystery and not esoteric. It is a simple procedure. Why is it so avoided when it comes to Jesus' story? Why do people talk constantly about science and spend so little time thinking about what it means to be a scientist? I feel like crying when I see how much power goes into preventing history from being studied in Jesus' case. Who will share my tears?

Leon Zitzer said...


1) I agree with you. The academics have NO ANSWER as to how Christianity as we know it, of whatever shade, could have come out of Judea.

2) I disagree with you. I believe there was a Jewish prophet, but his name wasn't Jesus. He was executed on the basis that he was a false prophet, so he had the priests as his enemies (a Jewish context, not Roman, Leon)

3) I agree with you. Jesus a mystery keeps academics in a job with a regular supply of students. Why should academics commit hari-kari? The academics are of course the 'peers' who would 'review' any conclusions that might be reached by the Jesus Project (if it ever gets off the ground). The only 'academics' the Project will attract are those who are prepared to be totally open (like looking for a needle in a haystack), or outsiders, who of course have not published anything that has been 'peer' reviewed and are therefore disqualified, according to the 'bona-fide academics'. Looks as though you are going to shed quite a few tears yet Leon.

Leon said...

At the risk of boring everyone, I'm going to list a few questions here. The study of history is not mysterious or esoteric or abstract. It is very concrete and should be asking concrete questions. If 10% or more of the scholars involved in the Jesus Project have asked half of the following questions in their previous work, I'll give you a billion-kazillion dollars. These are all questions for the 1st century.

1) What is the meaning of a high priest ripping his robes? Does Josephus give examples of this?

2) How many Mishnah trial rules find some confirmation in the NT?
(Hint: It's more than zero.)

3) What are the duties of a retired high priest (such as Annas who questions Jesus in John 18)?

4) What aspects of Jewish life did ritual uncleanliness affect? Which aspects were not affected?

5) What group was most burdened when riutal uncleanliness was involved? (Hint: It was not the common person.)

6) Did Jews, like other peoples, have sanitary rules separate and apart from rules of ritual cleanliness? If so, are any of these hygiene rules evident in the NT?

7) What does the Talmud say about the medicinal uses of spit? What does it say about figs and hunger?

I could go on and on with dozens of questions like these. Dozens! The great majority of scholars in so-called historical Jesus studies have absolutely no interest in any of these questions. They know literally next to nothing about 1st century Jewish history. And they are going to make some sort of judgment about the historicity of Jesus? Is this some kind of joke? Am I supposed to laugh or cry? Or throw up?

I can already tell you what the result of this project will be. It will decide that the ahistorical Jesus existed, but they will continue to call him the historical Jesus. And they will say that we can reach certain conclusions about this ahistorical Jesus — he was persecuted by Jewish leaders, he violated or challenged certain customs of his time, etc. And all this will be true of the ahistorical Jesus. But it won't be true of the genuine historical Jesus whom no one is interested in. And that's modern "scholarship" for you.

Leon Zitzer

Pastor Bob said...


There is working being done on Jesus in his Jewish environment. It just isn't being done by people recognized as historical Jesus scholars. James Charlesworth has written Jesus within Judaism. And there are others. They just don't get the press.