From: Dr William Harwood (author of Mythology's Last Gods)
"Jesus had died horribly, persecuted by a blind state and an ignorant, bloodthirsty rabble."
INACCURATE. Jesus was executed by the Romans (not the Jews, which you seem to imply) for the same reason Robert Emmet was executed by the English: for publicly fighting for independence from an oppressive tyranny.
From: Greg Bear
I don't see any substantial disagreement between the quoted sentence and the history. Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin (membership approved by the Romans), then bound over to Pilate, who acquitted him. Jesus was tried again and returned to Pilate. Pilate sentenced him to death, as a potential rebel against Rome. The Romans in some readings were the only authorized executioners; they represented what today we would call the state. The mob (a bloodthirsty rabble) chose one of their own, Barabbas, over Jesus. Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers.
The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus out of the way because of blasphemy; Pilate wanted the Jews to acknowledge Roman authority. It's a complicated tale, but your retelling is a little too simple. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead. The Romans did the deed. Jews were later persecuted for allegedly killing Christ; Romans and their heirs and ancestors, including the Catholic church, were not.
I'm happy to be corrected if any of these statements are inaccurate. I highly recommend the two-volume Anchor/Doubleday THE EXECUTION OF JESUS as a reference.
From: Dr William Harwood
Mr Bear. I appreciate your courtesy in responding. However, your response is almost totally inaccurate, since it is based on the assumption that the Christian gospels are reasonably accurate. You surely do not believe THAT?
Jesus was never tried by the Sanhedrin for any Jewish offence (which admittedly he did commit). That was the gospel author's invention to convince Vespasian that Jesus was not an enemy of Rome -- and therefore neither were the Christians. He was assuredly not acquitted by Pilatus. The passage in Mark is comparable to Simon Legree asking,"Are you the niggers' king?" Uncle Tom answering, "Did you figure that out all by yourself or did someone have to tell you?" and Legree concluding "I find no fault with this man."
The only listing I could find for THE EXECUTION OF JESUS was a 1970 book published by Scribner. No competent (i.e., not theological) book about Jesus that I consulted lists any such book in its bibligraphy. The most accurate reconstruction of what really happened is MYTHOLOGY'S LAST GODS. The in-press updated version, retitled GOD, JESUS AND THE BIBLE, (World Audience) contains added material, but after 17 years no statements in the 1992 book have had to be corrected on the basis of new information. I would be happy to send it to you as a PDF file if you email a mailing or email address to the address given with this message. I can only assure you that such information will not be abused or passed on.
My local library carries about a dozen of your books, of which I have read a handful and intend to read the rest.
From: Greg Bear
Apologies: the Anchor volume is called "The Death of the Messiah." Of course the narrative we're both working from is suspect in many ways, but the four gospels are about the only reference material we have, and they seem to fit many of the historical details of the times. I don't find it particularly unconvincing that the conservative and Roman-dominated Sanhedrin of the day would not like Jesus or his message. After all, he kicked some ass with the moneychangers.
Reconstructions and revisions are often fascinating; I'm particularly fond of Robert Graves's KING JESUS--cranky but very enjoyable.
Good luck with your books!
From: Dr William Harwood
We agree that any reconstruction of the life of Jesus must be based primarily on the Christian gospels. Moderate believers (and I suspect that you are one, but respect your right to deem it none of my business) start from the assumption that the gospel authors were fallible but basically honest reporters who wrote what they believed had actually happened or must have happened. A large minority of competent scholars, a term that does not include theologians,think there was never a Jesus of history onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted. The majority see the gospels as propaganda that utilized factual information where it supported their thesis but invented freely when the facts were inconvenient. Obvious examples are Jesus' (nonexistent) trial before the Sanhedrin, and the libel of Judas's betrayal, invented to dissociate Jesus from the Zealots known to have been his lieutenants, by showing that Judas the Sicarius was "really" Jesus' enemy. The Sanhedrin indeed wanted Jesus out of the way, and tried to scare him into leaving Jerusalem before he started a war of independence that they knew the Jews could not win.
Martin Larson saw Jesus' assault on the moneychangers as a declaration of independence by disrupting the scheduled sacrifice on behalf of the Emperor Tiberias. Robert Eisler hypothesized that Barabbas was arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was actually trying to stop Jesus from declaring independence. Few scholars see Barabbas as a real person. Absolutely no biblical scholar takes Robert Graves' fantasy, King Jesus, seriously. The novel about Jesus that probably comes closest to reality is UNCLE YESHU, MESSIAH.
It would be interesting to know how frequently folks were executed in that region in that time, for what range of transgressions or vendettas.
I guess the clarity of this history was already hazy well before Christianity revved up its Trinity kick. But once the trinity kicks in, when Jesus is not only the son of God but also God, or something, there's no point in worrying about who to blame for Jesus' execution: it was all something he manipulated them into doing. whoever "they" are. because he is already going to revive, go fishing, then fly up into heaven. heaven is most frequently depicted as real estate that some people deserve, and the people they don't like do not deserve.
From: Greg Bear
Jesus has some second thoughts in the Garden of Gethsemane, which make for fascinating speculation. Even he was not completely informed of the outcome.
that part doesn't play into the whole trinity idea jesus' memory got trumped up into later. I suspect if Jesus really was some kind of prophet or messiah, he was one of many, and most of the stuff he did was already forgotten by the time folks made him into a celebrity.
It doesn't really matter which political or ethnic group is to blame for his execution, because those groups no longer exist in any real way. We aren't guilty for what our ancestors did 150 years ago, let alone 2000 years ago.
Jesus did several times, according to the gospels, make claims to the idea of the trinity. "If you see me, you see the Father." "I and the Father are one" and John 14:16-17, John 16: 5-15. Also the Pharisees hated Jesus as well and were the ones that delivered him to the Sanhedrin