Sacred Scapegoat

deconstructing_jesusIn the sixth chapter of Robert Price’s Deconstructing Jesus, he focuses on the work of René Girard. The foundation of Girard’s theory is that there is literary theme of a crowd or mob grabbing an individual and slaying him. Later reflection leads the crowd to feel relief that their sin was released upon the dead individual.

I do not want to focus on Girard’s theories. I am not an expert on his thought and Price admits that Girard did not apply this theory to Jesus. I would rather talk about what Price says.

One of the things that Price does is to take a theory and apply it to the Gospels, even if the biblical evidence contradicts the theory. Price simply has to say that we can imagine how in the original form of the story, it likely was compatible with the theory and that later Christians must have changed it even if we have no evidence for it.

Price goes on to talk about what he calls mimetic twins to Jesus, who he identifies as particularly Judas and Peter. It is one thing to do that, but Price goes too far. Looking at the New Testament, he suggests that all references to Judas go back to the same character. So Judas the Zealot and Judas the brother of Jesus are the same as Judas Iscariot.

He does the same thing with Peter. All references to any Simon, go back to Simon Peter. He sees Simon the Leper, in whose house Jesus was anointed, as being Simon Peter. Price goes farther than this, he sees the references to Caiaphas the high priest at the trial as being Peter, using his Aramaic name Cephas.

There is no reason to do any of this. Take a look at Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and his work on looking at first century Jewish names. There was a very small variety of names to choose from. Combining figures with the same name is neither good history nor good literary criticism.

Price concludes by arguing that the original version of the story had the disciples killing Jesus and not the Jewish authorities or the Romans. Is there evidence for this in the text? No. Price speculates that this must have been the original form of the story because then it fits in his Girardian reading.

That is not the way to do New Testament scholarship.

Jesus Myth




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