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JRP vs. Bishop Spong vs. Judas Iscariot: Round Five (2 of 4)

Part 1 of this Round can be found here. (With links tracing back to previous Rounds.)


The concept being promoted by Bishop Spong for his fifth piece of evidence for suspicion of Judas Iscariot being a fictional character, is that "Judas" was too common a name among Jewish men in Jesus’ day, and therefore is too convenient to be used as the name of the traitor. Or, as he prefers to put it instead: it’s too convenient that the traitor is named after the whole Jewish nation. (The way a vast number of other Jewish men were named in that time. But he never bothers bringing that up.)

His theory therefore is that Iscariot was created by Christians, starting around the time of GosMark’s composition (i.e. after the fall of Jerusalem), in order to bring orthodox Judaism into contempt in the minds of Jewish Christians; and then, from GosMark through Matt, Luke, Acts and John, the authors progressively develop Iscariot into an ever-more-sinister character, for the purpose of assassinating…

JRP vs. Bishop Spong vs. Judas Iscariot: Round Five (1 of 4)

Please see here for Round Four material (and links tracing all the way back to Round One).


Absolutely nothing in the preceding four appeals to suspicious innuendo (or “easily identifiable, documentable facts” as Bishop Spong prefers to call them) could be even distantly supposable as amounting to some kind of “rise of anti-Semitism”. (As if anti-Semitism wasn’t around before canonical Christianity but Christians somehow invented it. And as if anti-Semitism, a racial prejudice typically connected in modern days to a secular theory of evolution, is supposed to be the same as anti-Judaism, a religious prejudice. And as if anti-Judaism wasn’t around before canonical Christianity either, but Christians somehow invented it. Etc.)

By the power of deduction, then, one could reasonably (and, as it happens, correctly) expect: if it wasn’t in the first four points it’ll be in this one.


“My fifth and final source of suspicion is the name of the traitor itself.”

Well, at least he gets some credit for …

JRP vs. Bishop Spong vs. Judas Iscariot: Round Four

Please see here for Round Three material (and links tracing all the way back to Round One).


We’re now down three out of five pieces of speculative innuendo (or as Bishop Spong calls them, “easily identifiable, documentable facts”); we’re at the next to last one now.

“The fourth reason for my suspicion is that the story of the act of betrayal is set very dramatically at midnight.”

And there’s number four.


I’ll try to make it better by quoting the full extent of his argument on this point.

“It is just too neat a detail to have what the gospel writers believed was the darkest deed in human history occur at the darkest moment of the night. That looks more like a liturgical drama than it does a fact of history.”

That’s it. The end.


Apparently he thinks we won’t remember (or maybe he himself doesn’t remember) what he himself stated, not three minutes ago (when he was desperately trying to make GosLuke details look like legendary accretion): that the Sanhedrin could have followed Jesus back to home…

JRP vs. Bishop Spong vs. Judas Iscariot: Round Three (4 of 4)

I ended Part 3 of this Round with the conclusion: "When the only clear development in a proposed series of accretion, across three (not even four) sets of the data, is something this minor, legendary accretion theory as a primary explanation for the material is toast."

So why does Bishop Spong think otherwise?

Briefly put: he focuses pretty simply on some (not all) apparent things, without really going into the details, and without considering alternate hypotheses.

His case, as might be expected, looks 'strongest' (in a simplistically uncritical fashion) when moving 'from' GosMark 'to' GosMatt, simply because there's obviously more 'stuff' in GosMatt. He lists the data in these two texts well enough (though still not quite as extensively as I did in Part 2), but he doesn't bother to talk about differences in any detail (as I did). If any reader, unfamiliar with the material, happens to wonder just how presenting Iscariot in a pitiably sym…

Dutch Radical Criticism Part IIIb: Paul and Acts

In the previous post I began my critical review of Hermann Detering's Falsified Paul, in which he argues for the inauthenticity of the entire NT Pauline corpus. He begins the book with an examination of our sources for the historical Paul, the letters written in his name and the book of Acts, trying to argue that they are both highly suspect. Instead we have so far found his reasons for skepticism themselves highly suspect. In this post we will continue to examine his reasons for rejecting the book of Acts as historically reliable, even though the burden of proof has shifted in light of the fact that he has not given good reason to doubt that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul (see the previous post).

Detering begins with Paul's claim in Acts that he received his religious training from Rabbi Gamaliel I, one of the most respected Jewish scholars of the 1st half of the 1st Century CE. He notes that "The Jewish-rabbinic tinge that one notices in many passages in the …

Dutch Radical Criticism Part IIIa: Paul and Acts

Just over a year ago I started a series to critique the Dutch Radical (DR) interpretation of the Pauline corpus. In the first post I laid out a brief summary of the arguments of that school, which I won't reproduce here. In the second I looked at Albert Schweitzer's critique of DR from over a century ago, written when DR scholars were still very much the focus of scholarly attention. Even though Schweitzer praised them for their spirit of honest investigation he still found their arguments less than convincing. In the meantime I have not been idle, and in fact have been expanding my knowledge of Pauline scholarship in order to deal with DR as thoroughly as possible. Now, at the prompting of a skeptical blogger who was wondering where the rest of my critique was, I'm continuing the series.

In this post I'd like to start looking at the most sophisticated contemporary DR interpretation, put forward by Hermann Detering in his book, Falsified Paul: Early Christianity in Twil…

JRP vs. Bishop Spong vs. Judas Iscariot: Round Three (3 of 4)

In Part 2 of this Round, I looked at the Iscariot data found in GosMark and then in GosMatt, with an eye toward assessing whether the differences in GosMatt could clearly be identified as only legendary development. Aside from the difficulties inherent in identifying legendary development vs. increased historical detail without a clear historical exemplar for comparison (and aside from noting that such a theory is totally dependent on GosMatt having been composed after GosMark), there are portions of the text which might, or might not, be the result of legendary embellishment. However, the larger and more detailed the portions, the less proper it is to infer a process of legendary development per se (in lieu of clear developmental links between the two data points, which we certainly don't have in this case.) Ironically, the portion most impressive to the casual and (paradoxically) uncritical observer--the extended anecdote involving the 30 pieces of silver--is least likely to be …