In March of this year we were treated to yet another edition of information media’s relentless infatuation with reinterpreting and redefining the Bible with its insufferable post-modern spin. The Discovery Channel’s Who Framed Jesus? was released just in time to throw a wet blanket on anyone who might actually believe the Bible’s account of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Paraded before us was the predictable mixed bag of scholars and pseudo-scholars, who, in the fashion typical of those who have rejected the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, offered their mush-minded opinions of what must have “really” been the cause of Jesus’ supposed “framing.” Forgive my dripping disdain for such academic arrogance.
The irony of using the word “discovery” with such meandering nonsense makes us wonder how any true conclusions can be drawn from any ancient documents. As if our conclusions could be somehow arrived at by some sort of scholarly free-for-all, group-think process. But such is the reality once we reject the Bible as an inspired and inerrant document, given to us as the very oracles of God. Mind you, I am not minimizing the importance of research and the healthy process of uncovering facts and information that elucidate the text of Scripture. But human reason, fallen and autonomous reason, unaided by the Holy Spirit, and confident of its own ability to discover truth, will always end up in this place of judging Scripture and not being judged by it. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). These scholars would do well to heed those words.
The primary thrust of this two-hour spectacle of skepticism was an effort to zero in on who might have framed Jesus. The speculation that was offered up as potential history served as a kind of structure for the program…a “top ten” list of possible villains, as it were:
• disgruntled religious leaders in Jerusalem,
• Caiaphas as head of the priestly dynasty,
• the Pharisees,
• the Romans,
• the Sadducees,
• disgruntled disciples,
• Herod Antipas,
• and the coup de grace…Jesus Himself.
The Scripture, of course, clearly answers this question, even though our friends at Discovery Channel found it necessary to pick apart the uniformity of the biblical account with the “assured doubts” of an esteemed team of skeptics. Some of the cast included: Bart D. Erhman, PhD. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Paula Fredriksen, PhD. Boston University; Obery M. Hendricks, PhD. New York Theological Seminary; James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary (these first four scholars were all trained at Princeton University…so we are not surprised at the prejudiced approach they take to Scripture); Yisca Harani, a Tel Aviv-based historian of Christian pilgrimage; and a few others. Dr. Craig A. Evans was a notable and refreshing exception, and was a voice crying in the wilderness amongst this cast of skeptics. Such an unnecessary and ineffectual approach was properly mocked by conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg in a creative piece in National Review Online, posted on March 15, 2010. Under the framework of tweeting on Twitter, we read: “I'm pretty much speechless. I was unaware the case was open. That said, good luck getting the Procurator of Judæa to prosecute. Guy's got a serious conflict of interest.”
Based on my knowledge of cable tv, I hypothesize the new suspects are:
4. Midgets or dwarfs (TLC only)
7. A bridezilla
8. Flava Flav or Bret Michaels
9. The Real Housewives of Galilee
10. Some shirtless guy on Cops.1
I’m glad I’m not the only one who found much of this long-winded discussion quite pointless. However, the implications of such rampant skepticism contained in programs like this are actually quite important, as they are a part of an unending process of biblical criticism that harms the faith of those who are not well grounded. I personally received numerous questions from those who saw it - especially from those who are young in the faith - and they were confused by what they saw and heard.
The program asserted that the Bible was wrong in numerous ways, but I’d like to dissect two of those efforts here. First, it has become a favorite approach of liberals and skeptics to simply declare that someone, some place, or some thing did not exist, even though it is clearly spoken of in the Bible. In this academically reckless TV special there were numerous examples of this. In order to dismiss Judas as the betrayer (or framer, to use the program’s term), it is postulated that not only was the account of the 30 pieces of silver used as bribe money fictitious, but that Judas himself was created by the gospel writers for their purpose. James Charlesworth of Princeton University asserted that the character Judas was so contrived that he may not have been real…instead he may have been used as a literary device. Later it is suggested that the accounts of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple either didn’t occur at all, or else the gospel writers embellished the accounts. By placing the writing of all the gospels after the destruction of the Temple, certain scholars suggest that the moneychangers were made up by the gospel writers to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. When it comes to the trial of Jesus, Erhman says that when you place the gospel accounts together it is jumble of confusion2…and Charlesworth blatantly states that the trial never took place. Over and over again these scholars simply play fast and loose with the biblical text, guided only by their skeptical presuppositions and their personal opinions of what they think happened. Anchored to a foundation of sand, these academics ironically sound like the very jumble of confusion they accuse portions of the Bible to be.
A second way in which the skeptics in Who Framed Jesus? play with the text and meaning of Scripture is to play the role of what I like to call “literary shrinks,” claiming to know what the psychological intentions of the writers were behind their actual words. The effect of such literary psychoanalysis makes the gospel writers appear as liars, controlled only by ambition, politics, and their own distorted and narrow view of Jesus and their culture, making the New Testament a concoction of propaganda and misinformation.
A couple of examples of this will suffice. The program’s narrator was careful to point out that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had to make a conscious choice in their writings between support for the Jews or support for the Romans…indicating that one of their primary motives in writing was political. Such analysis only reveals the bias of the shrinks, and says nothing about the text of the New Testament. The one very clear pulse that comes through the text of the New Testament, and especially through the gospels, is that Jesus Christ came to die and rise again to transform the hearts of mankind and NOT to establish a political movement. It was not to be an earthly kingdom, but a kingdom of the heart. This reality courses through the pages of the New Testament, and one only needs to be reminded of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:21, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Another example of this same sort of this sort of psychological analysis is seen in the way these various liberal scholars attempt to explain the gospel writers’ view of Pontius Pilate. Instead of seeing how the Holy Spirit provides us with a tapestry of views or perspectives from the individual gospel writers, they instead read into the text all sorts of political and personal biases so that each writer progressively softens their views of Pilate…and so that John (as the last gospel writer) ends up making him a lackey with little or no culpability in the death of Jesus.
Such analyses are based on a belief that God did not inspire the writing of Scripture and that these scholars are capable of an unbiased process of reasoning that will bring us to a clearer understanding “of what really happened.” That is a joke. The one very clear impression one gets from such distorted analytical processes is that we are left with absolutely no understanding of anything in the text, since any and every word, sentence, and idea is left to the whims and opinions of the “experts” in the hallowed halls of liberal theological academia, some 1900 years after the fact.
Who framed Jesus? There indeed are many individuals and groups that conspired to have Jesus arrested, leading to His scourging and death. But the Scripture is CLEAR…Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and his act of betrayal became the greatest betrayal in all of history.
God declared that He has spoken in Scripture. You either come to the Bible believing that God inscripturated His word or He did not. If you believe autonomous Human Reason over the Divine Revelation of Scripture, you will be left confused and will never be able to come to the knowledge of the truth. By becoming the Bible’s judges they become white-washed tombs full of dead men's bones, since they cloak themselves with Pharisaic authority in the name of science and reason.
May God grant us all repentance for our unbelieving hearts, and may we be brought to a healthy and proper submission to Jesus Christ and to the Word of God inspired.
1. Jonah Goldberg: "Who Framed Jesus?" National Review Online, posted March 15, 2010. http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YWFhNDMxOWQzYzkxNjUxN2ZlNjYyMmFlMjFkNzJmYTc=
(accessed May 14, 2010)
2. For a refutation of the so-called "jumble of confusion," see: Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007). And: Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's Publishing, 2006).