Saturday 28 November 2015

Mythmaker: A Political Execution

(This is the sixth part of a review of Hyam Maccoby's 1986 book Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.)

One of the key questions Maccoby poses is whether Jesus was crucified for his religious teachings (blasphemy) or as a political troublemaker and liability to the Roman administration and their Sadducee bedfellows. Chapter five briefly addresses this issue, and as usual Maccoby is taking no prisoners.
... the desperate attempts of the Gospels to show that Jesus was in some way a rebel against Jewish religion are utterly implausible...
So if Jesus was a Pharisee, what kind of Pharisee was he? Surely one with a progressive perspective?
... it does not even appear that Jesus did belong to the Hillelite, or more liberal wing of the Pharisees, for his strict view on divorce seems much more in accordance with the views of the House of Shammai... Jesus may well have belonged to the Hasidim, who, indeed, of all the Pharisees show the strongest similarity in type to Jesus...
In which case the trial accounts have been edited to cast blame at a safe distance from the Roman authorities.
The reason for Jesus' crucifixion, then, was simply that he was a rebel against Rome. He was not framed on a political charge by the Jews; rather it was the Jews who were framed by the Gospels, whose concern was to shift the blame for the crucifixion from the Romans (and their Jewish henchmen, the High Priest and his entourage) to the Jews and their religion.
It goes without saying that, for Maccoby, the Jesus of history was a very different character to the Jesus of the Gospel writers.


  1. All this would not be a problem if Jesus had used a secretary like Jeremiah.
    Lack of early documentation is really hurting Christianity of late as defections
    avalanche and world per capita involvement is at record lows!
    Just as we have more people than ever that need to be "Saved"! (from what?) (that's where Paul comes in)

  2. "All this would not be a problem if Jesus had used a secretary like Jeremiah"

    I guess God didn't think of that when he inspired the scriptures to be written.

    Or maybe he was just testing our faith so he could separate the wheat from the chaff. Accepting scriptural assertions without evidence or proof seems to be a BIG requirement for having faith and being saved.

  3. The only conclusion one can reasonably come to if anything that Hyam Maccoby says is true is that Paul never knew Jesus and had no legitimate knowledge about him, but wrote the basis for all Christianity, upon which the New Testament was written. Therefore, the entire New Testament would have to be myth, would it not? There is nothing in the epistles of Paul which could be construed as any sort of reality.

    Does this not mean that the only thing we have left of Christianity is ashes through which we can rake?

  4. Skeptic, faith is BY DEFINITION, the acceptance of knowledge, understanding, and ideology "WITHOUT evidence or proof". For skeptics(!) a notarized videotape of Jesus Christ rising from the dead and moving the stone away from the tomb by Himself.....would not be enough. Nothing can ever satisfy skeptics.

    But, faith comes from God, and only from God. Therefore, those who do not have it, can never get it without asking. And asking requires humility, something that is in ever-decreasing supply, both on this planet and on this website......

  5. Larry, if anything I guess you should pity me. I spent 45 years of my life asking God to give me faith. He chose not too.

    Perhaps I wasn't humble enough. Am I to be blamed for that? If there is a way a person can make himself more humble I don't know what it is. I tried to be humble and I prayed for faith and humility.

    There was a time I thought I was called and chosen. Apparently not.

  6. Skeptic, your sincere post deserves a response. First, I do not pity you, nor should I. Secondly, your "lack of faith" (and humility), IF it is an accurate assessment on your part, is not necessarily something you should be "blamed for". And, I am not sure that anyone can make themselves "more humble".

    I do not know you personally, nor am I qualified to comment about your personal spiritual journey, but I will make the observation that you are not alone. Many people feel as you do. You ARE living proof that no one can make themselves believe, even if they want to. However, your journey is not over, and things may change. In fact, the only guarantee we have in this life, is that things will indeed change. God may have decided to teach you patience first.

  7. Larry, except for the last sentence (which is speculative), your answer was insightful, accurate and compassionate. Thank you for that.