Response to the Lost Tomb of Jesus/Program 3

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2007
Why would Judas turn away from Jesus? Did Judas really betray Jesus or was he shocked by what happened?



On Sunday, March 4, 2007, a television special entitled The Lost Tomb of Jesus aired nationwide on the Discovery Channel. Those who produced the special argued that ten small bone boxes, called ossuaries, that were discovered in 1980 in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot supposedly held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family members. This assumption was based on the six names found in the tomb, including: Jesus, son of Joseph, who supposedly refers to Jesus of Nazareth; Maria, supposedly Jesus’ mother Mary; Matya, or Matthew, although not a family member of Jesus, supposedly a relative of Mary; Mariamne e Mara which supposedly refers to Mary Magdalene who supposedly was married to Jesus; Yehuda or Judas, son of Jesus, who, although not mentioned in the New Testament, is supposedly the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene; and Yose who supposedly refers to one of Jesus’ brothers, Joses.

The assertion that the odds are 600 to one that the Talpiot tomb is the tomb of Jesus rests on the assumptions that the people named in this tomb are the family members of Jesus. But scholars say there is a problem with attributing any of these names to Jesus’ family. First, the name Jesus is far from certain. Some scholars think it is a totally different name. If the first name is not Yeshua or Jesus, then this whole new radical theory collapses. Second, there is no indication that the Mary mentioned is Jesus’ mother. Third, Matthew is not part of Jesus family. Fourth, there is no evidence that Mariamene e Mara refers to Mary Magdalene. Fifth, there is no mention in the New Testament that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else. Six, there’s no mention in the New Testament that Jesus had a son. Seventh, if you were Jesus of Nazareth, would you really name your son Judas? Eighth, Yose should be vocalized Josah, who then could not be Jesus’ brother mentioned in Mark 6:3, and Mark 15:40. Ninth, the so-called James ossuary, which was assumed to have come from the Talpiot tomb, was photographed and in circulation in the 1970s, before the Talpiot tomb was ever discovered.

But there is even more evidence that shows the Talpiot tomb is not the real tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. To share that evidence with us, our guest today is Dr. Darrell Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is one of the leading New Testament scholars in the world and was asked by Ted Koppel to be one of the guest scholars to critique the Discovery Channel special after it aired. We invite you to join us today on the John Ankerberg Show and learn why the family tomb of Jesus is a story full of major holes, false assumptions and false facts.

Ankerberg: The Lost Tomb of Jesus which the Discovery Channel put out is what we have been talking about. And we gave the reasons why the assumptions in that radical theory about Jesus were not correct. And now we’ve got a new one that’s out already just a few weeks after The Lost Tomb of Jesus. This one is called The Gospel According to Judas. Darrell, you’ve already done an interview with Francis Maloney, the Catholic theologian, and you talked about the contents of this book. First of all, this is a plausible theory of why Judas turned away from Jesus, but it distorts a lot of the historical facts that are given in the New Testament. Let’s talk about what this story is first of all.
Bock: Well, this story is a novel. It’s written by a pseudonym, Benjamin Iscariot, who really is Jeffrey Archer, a very famous British author, by the way, who has sold millions of books. And he asked Francis Maloney to come in and kind of be his theological consultant. And this is a take of how Judas saw the life of Jesus, and why he betrayed him, and what happened. And it’s a mix of biblical citations and illusions where Archer, in particular, is spinning off his ideas about what he thinks is going on with real Christianity, alongside this theory of Judas. And the problem with the book is that all of the basic theory about why Judas betrayed Jesus is probably pretty close to right: that Judas probably expected a militaristic Messiah who would defeat Rome. And he ends up being disappointed with the thrust of Jesus’ ministry, and so he betrays Him. There are several points in the book where there are problems with the way in which the biblical material is presenting this story. And Archer goes off on his own and does his own thing.
Ankerberg: In other words, at first in this story Judas believes in Jesus, that He is the Messiah, okay? And he is all enthused about that. But then as he realizes Jesus is in danger from the Roman government as well as the Jewish authorities because of some of the things he is teaching, he wants to supposedly save Jesus life, okay. And a scribe from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Sanhedrin, comes and says, “I’ll help you. I’ll help you get Jesus out of town, okay? And he will be safe.” And Judas, in this story, believes him.
Okay, but later on in this story what happens is that when Jesus does come to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin has already made a decision, “We need to spread the word that one of His disciples, one of Jesus’ disciples betrayed Him. And we will use Judas to do that.” And so they come, they use Judas to find Jesus; but then Judas is surprised to find out that they take Jesus away, try Him; bring Him to Pilate, try Him; and He is crucified. So then Judas goes off and becomes one of the Essenes, goes down to Qumran and parks it there.
So that’s the storyline. The plausibility is that, yeah, Judas might have thought Jesus was the Messiah and he expected Jesus to conquer. He didn’t like this servant Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, and so on, and therefore he rejected Jesus. But still, the story says he still loved Him anyway and tried to rescue Him.
Now, let’s talk about some of the facts that are, you say are playing fast and loose with historical facts. One spot Archer will use these, Maloney will back him, in the sense, will use these facts, and then they turn away from other facts. Why are they turning away from other facts when they use them in the first place?
Bock: Well, I think what you are seeing as kind of a common thread between all of these things that we are talking about, is an attempt to get Jesus to be a more natural figure; a less supernatural figure; a less unique figure. So anything that impinges on Jesus’ uniqueness tends to be doubted. So Jesus, you know, there really isn’t a virgin birth; what we have is a story very much like what we have in the Greco-Roman world. Or Jesus doesn’t really walk on water because Jesus doesn’t perform nature miracles. Those are the kinds of things that are happening fairly regularly.
Don’t think about Jesus as a God, think about Him as a prophet or a great teacher. He is a wonderful ethicist, He is a wonderful prophet, but don’t make Him unique. He is not at the center of the program of God. The only centrality that He has in the program of God is that He helps us understand God better.
So all of these takes that we are getting, where people are filling in blanks – because that is really what they are doing – if you take away the biblical account and you just deal with the pieces that you like and then you fill in the blanks accordingly to your world view predilections, than what you are going to do is you are going to reduce Christianity to Jesusanity. You are no longer going to talk about the unique Christ, the anointed one who is at the center of the program of God. You are going to talk about Jesus of Nazareth who is a great religious figure and who the culture is going to respect. Because the culture does respect Jesus; but they don’t embrace Him as the unique Jesus that the Bible is putting forward.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s talk about these things specifically. What would you say to those that say, “Yeah Christianity just copied the Nativity story from the Greco-Roman stories of gods having sex with human beings and the fact is you had this child.” Okay?
Bock: Well, I often read, when I do the nativity part of the story in my classes, an account of Plutarch about how Alexander the Great was born. And the picture is of a snake slithering over – I am trying to do this delicately – slithering over Alexander’s mother. There is lightning bolts, etcetera, and lo and behold nine months later we get Alexander the Great. And I basically say to the class, look at what this story does and how it tells the story. And look at what we get in the Bible where we just get an announcement and that’s it. There is contrast in the way the story is told. The Greco-Roman background is helpful to the extent that it tells us that people are used to thinking about the possibility of a divine child. They help us in that regard. But they don’t help us with the historical details of the uniqueness of how God went about, if you will, taking on human flesh.
Ankerberg: Yeah, N. T. Wright, bishop of Durham in England, former Oxford Scholar and former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey. We had him on the program and he says look, the Greco-Roman mystery religions, they were called pagan religions. The reason they were called pagan is because the Jewish people rejected them. And the reason that Matthew and Luke put these in was not because they wanted to put these in, but they had these facts that they had to put in because it really happened.
Bock: Yes, and it’s a polemic against the Greco-Roman worldview to be able to say, “Look, this isn’t one of many divine men who you are used to. This is the person.” And again my point here is that what we are seeing in the biblical accounts is the presentation of a unique Jesus who is at the center of the program of God, in the midst of a world that has many kinds of religious figures, but none of them is particularly central or unique.
Ankerberg: Alright, in this novel you will find little Bible verses along the way. And it’s really fun for a Bible study if you actually look up the verses and see how the story is actually interpreting those verses. For example: Judas’ son keeps saying that his father told him that John the Baptist, he looked at Jesus and he says follow that man, He is a man of God, or He’s a prophet of God, okay? You look up the verses and what John said, “Certainly this is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” [John 1:29] which is a little different.
The other thing is that at Jesus’ trial with the Sanhedrin, he says, well, he was standing on the outside with Peter there where Peter denied Christ three times, and they were getting snippets of information but nothing really important. You wrote a whole post-doctoral paper on this thing of what was actually said when the Sanhedrin, when Caiaphas asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ (that’s the messiah), are you the Blessed One, [are you] the Son of God?” And Jesus said, “I am.” [Mark 14:61-62] And He also says, “I am” in the sense, “I am the Messiah and I am also the Son of God.” But that “I am” is interesting as well, as well as the fact is then He went on to say He was the Son of Man. Talk about that that is kind of brushed over here.
Bock: Well, my own take on it is that the Sanhedrin is basically asking Him if He is the Messiah, because they want to take a political charge to Pilate. They may even understand Son of the Living God that way. But Jesus’ answer says, “Yes, and I’ll tell you some more.” And this is not something you expect. And the other parallels say, “It is as you say” [Matt. 26:64] which is a way of saying, “Yes, but not quite in the sense that you are asking me.” So Jesus reply is, “You will see the Son of man coming on the clouds… seated at the right hand.” [Mark 14:62] Luke has a little shorter version that simply mentions the Son of Man at the right hand. [Luke 22:69]
But the point here is, the Son of Man rides the clouds. It’s a human figure riding clouds. In the Bible the only figures that ride clouds are deity. So Jesus says, “Yes, I am the Messiah and even more than that, I am the one who God is going to vindicate and take to God’s right hand.” In other words, “You may think I am on trial here and I am the defender, but one day you are going to sit in my court.” Now the Jewish leadership was not pleased to hear this message. And they turned it into a political charge and took Jesus to Pilate as a result.
So the idea that nothing important came out of this meeting is, it couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, what came out of this meeting is precisely the testimony that ended up getting Jesus crucified. And there is one more point about that that is important. The person who supplies this testimony that takes Jesus to the cross is Jesus Himself. In other words, in Mark we have the scene where they are trying to collect witnesses to take the temple charge alongside who Jesus is to Pilate, and they are having trouble putting together a coherent story. So Jesus actually supplies the testimony that takes Him to the cross. There is no fifth amendment apparently in Rome. And so that’s how committed He was to dying for us and for bearing our sins. He supplies the testimony that brings His own death.
Ankerberg: Alright we are going to take a break and when we come right back we are going to talk more about The Gospel According to Judas, this fictional story. And we are going to talk some more about how it plays fast and loose with the historical facts; namely, did Judas really betray Jesus or was he shocked when the Sanhedrin betrayed Judas? We will talk about that when we come right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we are back. And we are talking about The Gospel According to Judas, a novel that has just come out by Jeffrey Archer and by Francis Maloney, a Catholic theologian; and Reading Judas by Elaine Pagels at Princeton and Karen King at Harvard. And here we have new takes on the historical Jesus.
And our guest today is one of the people that shows up on all of the networks when these kinds of things hit the news. And that’s Dr. Darrell Bock, who is Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary.
You appeared in Ted Koppel’s critique of The Lost Tomb of Jesus. I remember one night coming home and turned on ABC and saw Diane Sawyer sitting with Mel Gibson on The Passion of the Christ, and lo and behold, there you are sitting as one of the expert scholars on that. And then after a while, I mean, you are on CNN; you are on NBC; you are on ABC; you are on FOX; you are on all of them. And you are doing a host of radio interviews on this stuff.
Now, one of the things, you just had a discussion on a radio program with Francis Maloney on the background of this book. And the question we want to come to right now, this book said Judas thought he was saving Jesus with the help of the Sanhedrin and they turned the tables on him and surprised him and they actually pinned this thing on Judas. He was innocent of this. Did Jesus really, was He really betrayed by Judas or was Judas shocked?
Bock: I think he was really betrayed by Judas. There was no duping going on of anybody here. I think Judas was severely disappointed in Jesus in terms of his expectation. We know as we read the gospel of John in particular that at certain points, certain people who followed Jesus became disappointed with His message, because they wanted the physical conquering of Rome. And Judas probably wanted this as well. And when he realized that that was not how Jesus was going to do it, and then he begins to ask, “Well, how are you going to conquer Rome without an army?” That isn’t happening. He wasn’t interested in the more spiritual side of this message. And so I think he betrayed Him quite consciously. I think he realized after he did it that he had made a huge mistake. After all, the creation kind of talked when Jesus was crucified. And that led to his suicide; his ignominious death, and that’s the end of the Judas story. There is no Judas in Qumran or anywhere else.
Ankerberg: Yeah, also one of the things that the book brings up that a lot of the critical scholars bring up is you have two accounts of how Judas died. And Francis Maloney in the footnotes here says they both can’t be true. You were just in Israel thinking about this. What did you conclude?
Bock: Well, there are two ways you can respond to this. The traditional Christian response is to say that the account is that he hung himself (Matthew), and that he basically rotted on the rope and he eventually burst open when the decomposition got so far that he died. And if you go to Aceldama – I’ve got pictures – if you go to Aceldama, you can see this cliff-like shape to the region that if someone, you know, casts themselves off on a rope and hung themselves over the edge, that would be precisely what would happen. That’s one explanation.
There is another possible explanation, and that is that he committed suicide, and Luke had described this in very literary terms, and that is his body burst open, which is just a literary way of saying he died an ignominious death; he died a judgment of God. And then you don’t need to put those two stories together in quite the way I just described. But they are making the same point. Either one of those scenarios could be true.
Ankerberg: Next point is that Jesus didn’t really do the nature miracles. He didn’t turn water into wine. He did not do some of the other things. What do you make of that, where they accept that Jesus did the healings, He cast out demons; critical scholars accept that, but it seems that Francis Maloney said that He didn’t do this walking on the water and He didn’t change water into wine.
Bock: There is a class of miracles that basically many scholars struggle with and that’s what’s called the nature miracles. So this is the water to wine, Jesus walking on the water; the idea that Jesus calmed the storm. Those kind of images where Jesus is in control of nature. Now what is interesting is that the biblical text tells us that these miracles in particular really made an impression on the disciples. It seems to me you can’t have this both ways and kind of half and half it. “Well, we will accept these miracles, the healings okay, yeah; He healed the blind, He made the lame walk, that kind of thing. Okay, we will take that”; but then we wall off creation. If God is working through this figure and this is a unique figure, if God can create, God can work with nature. So in that sense it seems to me it is a package deal.
Ankerberg: It’s also interesting that Judas did not believe in the literal physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And it kind of gives that slant to the whole story that maybe we shouldn’t believe that either. But talk to that.
Bock: Well, the resurrection obviously is one of the most important elements of the Christian faith. And it is the hub around which the entire theology of Jesus is built. I tell my students that the resurrection is important, not just because it says we will live one day and we will all face God, that we are creatures of the creator; but it is also important because it tells us where Jesus is as a result of the resurrection. All the creeds talk about Jesus being at the right hand of God. In other words, Jesus is the mediator of God’s salvation and He works in conjunction with and is paired to God the Father in such a way that they work as an inseparable unit. In fact, one of the burdens of the gospel of John is to basically equate the work of the Father and the Son and show how integrated into a unity they are. The resurrection helps to demonstrate this. So the idea that there is no physical resurrection is a fundamental assault on basic Christian teaching that stands at the core of what Christianity is.
Ankerberg: The other big one that is always mentioned, I heard the Today Show interview with Archer and Francis Maloney, and the big one was Jesus was not betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver, okay? And Francis Maloney basically says, “I go along with that: that was written into the story.”
Bock: Yeah, my understanding, at least based on my interview that I did with him on the radio, is that he accepts the possibility that Judas may have been given some money, but that we don’t know how this could be 30 pieces of silver. It’s kind of this half full approach. And I’m arguing, well, if you are going to fill up the glass halfway, let’s go ahead and fill it up all the way. If there’s no reason in my mind, simply because Matthew is the only one who tells us that it is 30 pieces of silver, to suggest that we don’t know the amount that he was paid. This would have been, if I can put it in kind of more neutral terms, this would have been a finder’s fee. This would have been a way of saying thank you to Judas for helping us out, and a courtesy by the leadership for this aid that Judas has given them. Very, very plausible it seems to me. And so in that sense I don’t think it’s unusual. The claim is that because this parallels what’s going on in Scripture, that it really is Scripture creating history. And I just think it’s the other way around. It’s history that caused them to go to the Scripture and to see that God had actually done something that was actually repetition of something He claimed He would do earlier.

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