A Perjurer Is Not Pure

J.H.H. Weiler makes a mighty effort, in First Things, to argue that both Jesus and the Jewish leaders whom He faced in His culture-defining trial were innocent, within the boundaries that God had set for each. The core of Weiler’s argument derives from Deuteronomy 13:1-5, which foretells of a prophet who, acting on God’s behalf, tests the people in an attempt to lead them astray. Writes Weiler:

… what if a prophet were to step outside the law and appeal to the authority on which that law is predicated? The people are told in Deuteronomy that they are not to add or subtract from the commandments of God. But surely a prophet, adding or subtracting with the authenticating authority of signs and wonders from God, can be followed?
Not so, according to the text. The prophet may perform unmistakable signs and wonders that replicate the signs authenticating Moses as a prophet. But if that prophet were to insist on a breach with the Mosaic law, then he should be taken as a divine test — the real meaning of which is that the prophet is sent by God to test the love, loyalty, and fidelity of the people to God’s revealed word to Moses at Sinai.

The problem with Weiler’s proposition that Jesus authentically came to spread “an attractive and tantalizing message” and, as an joint act of God, to “put the Children of Israel to a new Abrahamic test” is that it necessarily makes a liar of Jesus. In Matthew 5, He asserts that he has not come “to abolish the law or the prophets,” and that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”
Since Weiler teaches his thesis as a course at New York University’s School of Law, he might make the legalistic argument that Jesus, in fact, did not change the law for the Chosen People to whom it applied, but he thereby requires of the Messiah a tricky double-meaning in much of what He said that could not help but trip up His followers, even in the total absence of sin. He furthermore discounts efforts to convert Jews, which the closest disciples took up immediately upon imbibing the Holy Spirit.
No doubt, liberal theologians would find a tantalizing possibility in God’s offering ethnically specific instructions. As we’ve explored before, however, liberal theologians succeed in nothing so efficiently as the evaporation of theology… and adherents.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David P
David P
11 years ago

I tried to read the article but it was behind a subscriber wall. But your description of it as well as the controversies it tackles was quite interesting. It appears from your post that Mr. Weiler takes it as given that Jesus was in fact urging a breach with Mosaic law. I think a fair reading of the teachings of Jesus would conclude that He was denouncing Pharasaic law to the extent that it added to, subtracted from or otherwise changed Mosaic law. Jesus was in fact calling his people to return to a more authentic relationship with God and a truer understanding of His law. Jesus also identified himself as a fulfilment of the law. He affirmed the validity of the Mosaic law and demonstrated how it pointed to Him. Finally I think there is definitely a case to be made that the law, as it applies to the Jews, remains intact. In fact, since the earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews, they simply assumed that a gentile could not become a follower of Jesus without first converting to Judaism, with all the cutting and the bleeding that goes along with that. It wasn’t until the first Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 that the early church leaders decided that gentiles need not convert to Judaism as a condition of their salvation. I think it’s helpful to note that scholars have divided the law of the Old Testament into three categories. There is the moral law, to which every person is subject; the ceremonial law, which forms part of the covenant between God and the Jews; and the civil law, which was intended to govern Israel during the time when God ruled the nation through the judges, before Israel decided that it wanted a human king like all its… Read more »

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Thanks, David. It is refreshing to read a post that contributes to the conversation here, for a change.

David P
David P
11 years ago

BobN,
You only say that because you’ve been bought and paid for by the racist, homophobic, corporate Haliburton conspiracy.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Where did that come from? Are you David S masquerading as David P?

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Jesus was a poor peasant from a poor village who challenged the religious hierarchy and thereby the local ruling class.
It is generally acknowledged that Rome was tolerant of local customs as long as taxes were collected and order was maintained. Under Rome, the local hierarchy was given first opportunity to preserve order. Caiaphas, who was a Roman appointed high priest and chairman of the high court (The Sanhedrin), had Jesus arrested.

John 18: “So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.”

Only Rome could pass the death sentence. This is why Jesus was handed over to Roman authorities. The story to me is quite clear, Jesus, an innocent man, was legally tried, legally (but unjustly) convicted and legally (but unjustly) sentenced to death. The proceedings followed the letter of the law and required church and state collusion. It was an old story at the time, and has been repeated to our own day, a poor person who speaks truth to entranced authority ends up dead.
Rest of your soul and bones delibery MLK.
OldTimeLefty

David P
David P
11 years ago

BobN,
That was just my hamhanded attempt at satire. Or maybe I’m just uncomfortable with a thread on this site that doesn’t include a lot of non sequiturs and ad hominem attacks.

David P
David P
11 years ago

OTL,
Of course you’re right about the context of Jesus’ trial and execution. As a history buff I’ve always found that aspect of the Passion fascinating. I don’t know that you can speak of church and state collusion in an era when the idea of separating them was inconceivable. After all, the Roman emperor was considered to be a god and the object of worship throughout the empire.
One area where Jesus’ trial departed from legal norms was in the sentence. Under Roman law scourging and crucifixion were alternative sentences not to be imposed for the same crime.
But the ultimate reason for Jesus’ execution is that it was ordained by God as propitiation for the sins of the world. If Jesus were not who He is, no one would ever have heard of Him and he would be just one of anonymous thousands unjustly ground up by the Roman Empire.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Bob P You said, “I don’t know that you can speak of church and state collusion in an era when the idea of separating them was inconceivable.” I say, “Rome, like all pagan states made room for all religions within the empire. Check your history – it is only the monotheistic religions that fight religious wars. Jews were permitted to worship as they pleased. Like all Roman subjects, some Jews were offered Roman citizenship and some were not. Separation of powers between the Secular and religious was certainly a fact of life in the Roman Empire.” You say, “After all, the Roman emperor was considered to be a god and the object of worship throughout the empire.” I say, “Few emperors claimed to be Gods while living, with the few exceptions being emperors who were widely regarded at the time to be insane (such as Caligula). If Rome had insisted that Augustus was god and tried to make the Jews worship him, there would have been a massive revolt such as began in the year 66 CE and ended at Masada in 73 CE. And the phrase, “a god”, must be understood to mean just that, i.e., one of many. In any event it is undeniable that the effort to kill Jesus began with the religious authorities of the day and Roman power finished him off at the request of the local religious authorities. That is the inescapable point!” You say, “One area where Jesus’ trial departed from legal norms was in the sentence. Under Roman law scourging and crucifixion were alternative sentences not to be imposed for the same crime.” I ask, “Where did you get this? I have never seen that scourging and crucifixion were alternate sentences. I can’t find it in John or Matthew.” You say, “But… Read more »

David P
David P
11 years ago

OTL,
Rome was indeed tolerant towards other religions within its empire. In fact it often appropriated local deities and made room for them within its own pantheon. At the same time, state and religion were inextricably linked as they were in virtually every state throughout history until the enlightenment.
I honestly can’t remember where I read the bit about scourging and crucifixion. It wasn’t in any of the gospels which, after all, were never intended to be exhaustive studies of Roman criminal law.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

David P
No proof of assertion means assertion should be ignored. So I guess you are rescinding your scourging/crucifixion comment and agreeing that Jesus’ trial did not depart from legal norms.
I agree that the gospels were never intended to be studies of Roman law, never said so, never thought so. I was pointing out that you have the burden of proof since you asserted the proposition.
Meanwhile, I stick with my statement that “In any event it is undeniable that the effort to kill Jesus began with the religious authorities of the day and Roman power finished him off at the request of the local religious authorities. That is the inescapable point!”
OldTimeLefty

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

OTL-what you freely assert I can freely deny.
I’ve been waiting to turn that back on you,but to be honest I can’t even follow this argument.LOLLOLLOLLOL.

OldTimeLefty
OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

joe,
You just said that you don’t know what you are talking about in this thread.
I agree.
OldTimeLefty

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.