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Rewriting history as Jews want it
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

For almost two millennia it has been history’s unvarnished verdict that Jews were responsible for the alleged crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As universally accepted, it were the Jews who bribed Judas, a disciple of Christ to betray him to the Romans who, in turn, crucified him. Judas, the betrayer, double-crossed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver given to him as bribe by the Jews who hated Jesus and never accepted him as a messenger of God. Scores of historical accounts, chronicled through ages and centuries, vouched to the veracity of this.

The Holy Qur'an also clearly refers to this complicity between the Jews and disciples of Jesus when it says : ‘And (they, the conspirators) plotted and planned, And Allah too planned, And the best of planners is Allah ( Ale-Imran; 54)

However, with the Jews now ominously dominating the worlds of academia and journalism in the west, particularly and more robustly in North America, this historical truth pointing the finger of guilt at the Jews for the debacle of Jesus, is being increasingly and stridently challenged and reversed. The Roman Catholic Church has already been morally bamboozled and browbeaten to clear the Jews of culpability for the fate meted out to Jesus at the hands of the Romans, and all blame for Jesus’s crucifixion is solely being laid at the door of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Pro-Consul of Palestine. But a more concerted campaign has well been in evidence in the academic world for the last two decades to rewrite history of that era when Jesus was stalking this earth and preaching his gospel of truth and belief in Allah. An effort that runs like a common thread through these new researches and findings is to absolve Judas of any wrongdoing and reinterpret the charge of betrayal of Jesus against him.

The new ‘scholarly ‘debate surrounding the events that led to Judas’treacherous betrayal of Jesus are being given a new spin and interpretation. The question being posed now is to whether Judas really deserved the reputation he did acquire over the centuries, or was it a case of a deliberate character-assassination? Raymond Brown, a renowned Roman Catholic scholar came out with a two-volume anthology in 1994 questioning the whole premise of the historical tirade against Judas and enunciated a provocative ‘defence’of Judas by positing the question : ‘Is there anyone in all history who has been so hideously slandered or exploited with grossly exaggerated Semitic features and his love for money stereotyped?

The obvious intent is not merely to whitewash Judas’guilt but also paint him as a moral figure who couldn’t have been tempted into ‘selling out’Jesus for whatever amount of silver he is said to have bargained for. This ostensibly academic exercise is not all that innocuous. Quite the contrary, it is a very clever move to absolve the Jews of their sin of conspiracy against Jesus. Try and grasp the real motive behind this academic facade now being erected around the character of Judas. It casts doubt on the whole hypothesis of a conspiracy hatched by the Jews with Judas as its central figure, or the hit man, using a modern parlance. Judas was too loyal and committed to Jesus to even think of conspiring against him; his moral fibre was too strong to be frayed by temptation or lust for money. So, if he couldn’t be bought, then there could be no conspiracy. Hence, the two-millennia old charge of Jews being responsible for the tragic denouement of Jesus falls to pieces.

Another school of researchers and scholars is delving into the semantics of the accounts in various Gospels which place the blame at Judas’door for giving away Jesus to the Romans. They are saying that the various accounts in the early Gospels are not only confusing but have been ‘misinterpreted’. William Klassen, a former New Testament research professor at the University of Toronto, published a ground-breaking study in 1996 by the title, Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? In which he claims that Judas was, in fact, commanded by Jesus to hand him over to the Romans and it was not a fault of poor Judas that he carried out his master’s command! Klassen takes a clever recourse to semantics by arguing that the original Greek verb, paradidomi, should be translated as ‘to hand over’and not as ‘to betray’. This gives an entirely new twist to the character of Judas and lifts him from the dungeon of contempt as a ‘betrayer’to the elevated pedestal of a loyal disciple chosen and commanded to execute the ‘divine will’. In other words, what is now being attempted with scholarly flourish is to portray Jesus himself as a man with a death-wish who wanted to surrender himself to his tormentors. As such, neither Judas nor the Jews could be held responsible for what ultimately befell him.

Other researches of this recent vintage are even more pronouncedly emphatic about the ‘unfairness’done to the Jews in being ‘wrongly’held culpable for the demise of Jesus. John Crossan, in his volume Who Killed Jesus? argues that the four Gospels—Mark, Matthews, Luke and John—betray an evolving pattern for shifting the blame for Jesus’death from the Romans to the Jews. He is critical that the ‘shift’was perpetrated by the gospel writers under the influence of the church in which ‘Judas incarnates the anti-Judaism of earliest Christianity.’John Shelby Spong, an Episcopal Bishop, strongly and vehemently argues in his book, Liberating the Gospels, that Judas was ‘the personification of the Jewish people’. He says that Judas is the Greek spelling of Judah (It is Yehuda in the Arabic language ) which, according to him, is the name of the Jewish nation. Defending the ‘innocence’of the Jews in the tragedy of Jesus, Spong claims that by holding the Jews guilty of the demise of Jesus, Judas embodied both Israel and the anti-Judaism of the early Christian church. He argues: ‘It is a tragedy of enormous dimensions that, by the time the story of Jesus’arrest and execution came to be written, Christians made Judas and the Jews, rather than Pontius Pilate and the Romans, the villains of their story.’

It is obvious that the thrust of these scholarly researches which have been appearing in the west at regular intervals is to create a cover of legitimacy for their ‘finding’that Jews were not only not guilty of leading Jesus to his fate but have been ‘wronged’over the centuries and unjustly persecuted. There is, however, not a word being said about the wrong being done, in this day and age of global information boom, to the Palestinians and the Arabs by the Jews. Who knows, if this ‘scholarly’trend continues and takes a firm hold over the world of academia in the west, that a few hundred years down the road this ilk of ‘enlightened’western scholars would not also whitewash Israel of any guilt vis-a-vis the Palestinians and the Arabs? As it is, some Jewish scholars, prompted by politicians, are already arguing that there has never been a Palestinian nation in history!

There is a lesson for us Muslims in this evolving pattern of new academics. It is certain that the retailoring and refitting being done to the known fabric of history to fit the ‘new’image of the Jews is not going to stop simply at that. How are we going to deal with it when the lengthening shadows creep down to our doorstep? Are we preparing to equip ourselves, in terms of penetrating scholarship, to tackle this challenge being mounted to our own sense of history as bequeathed to us by our Qur'anic and other sources of antiquity ? It is jarring and terribly disappointing that no Muslim historian or scholar has attempted a credible and creditable insight into the period when Jesus walked on this earth despite revealing references and insights provided to us by the Qur'an on the subject. Taking the incontrovertible evidence of the Holy Qur'an as our beacon , there is enough grist available to our historians and scholars to dismantle the Christian and Jewish facade of Jesus’ crucifixion. Regrettably, what to talk of a Muslim historian dabbling into a history of Christ when we are not even writing a credible history of our own religion and the Holy Prophet (pbuh). It were the Muslim historians of the golden period of Islam who taught the world the art of historiography.

It is unfortunate that we seem to have abdicated that title for good in favour of non-Muslim writers and historians. The world of Islam, which spawned historians and historiographers like Ibn Khaldun in the heyday of Islamic primacy of learnings, has not produced a world-class historian since the sack of Baghdad in 1258; the clock of learning, discovery and research seems to have stopped for us there for good. Is there any argument to the fact that in the last two centuries the most creditable histories of Islam and Islamic luminaries have been mostly written by western (orientalist) scholars and historians? There is a lot of food for thought for all of us in this subject of great historical significance. Neglect and indifference is no excuse. By the same token, we would not be entitled to cry foul when others, taking advantage of our indifference, wrong us and distort our history and its interpretation.

A footnote on the increasingly robust stranglehold of the Jews on western academic and cultural thought and manifestations may well be in order. Most of us have been familiar with the great bard and playwright William Shakespeare’s highly interesting and riveting play, the Merchant of Venice. However, one doesn’t hear of this great drama any longer in the west, and the play has not been staged anywhere for decades. The reason? it is considered anti-Semitic. The Jews have certainly come out of the ghettoes in the west but they are now consigning everything that doesn’t come up to the confines of their narrow interest, or taste, to a new model of academic ghettoes. They are herding scholarship to the darkness of the Middle Ages when everything that did not meet the approval of the church had to be consigned to oblivion.

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