The Judas Brief
A critical Investigation into the arrest and trials of Jesus and the role of the Jews
By Gary Greenberg
(This book has previously been published as The Judas Brief: Who Really Killed Jesus?)
Inside the Book
Read Chapter One
Jews in the Dock; Pilate in the Choir
Judas didn’t betray Jesus. He tried to save his beloved teacher’s life
In this first full-scale historically-based challenge to the Gospels’ accusation that at least some Jewish authorities sought to have Jesus killed, Greenberg presents a detailed examination of the four Gospel accounts of the Passion and places the accusations in historical context. He argues that the four stories are highly inconsistent with each other, full of historical errors, and show clear signs that the authors deliberately altered their sources in order to falsely present a demonic image of the Jews. The Gospel accounts, he says, are at complete odds with the historical truth about what happened.
Greenberg’s careful examination of the Gospel evidence and other historical sources leads him to a different conclusion about what really happened on that fateful day. He argues that just before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem there had been an insurrection against Rome under the leadership of a revolutionary leader named Barabbas. The Romans were on full military alert and prepared to crush any additional showing of anti-Roman protest or popular support for leaders not sanctioned by Rome. Into this explosive situation came Jesus, hailed by many as the King of Israel. The Romans prepared for a violent assault in a densely crowded city and the Jewish priests feared many innocent people would die in the ensuing panic.
The Jewish leaders promised Pilate that they would prevent any anti-Roman protests. They then opened up negotiations with Jesus, who was represented by his highly trusted disciple, Judas, and a deal was reached. Jesus would guarantee that his followers would remain peaceful by serving as a hostage in the house of the Jewish High Priest Annas until after the holidays. After the holidays, if his followers kept their word, Jesus was to be released and allowed to return to Galilee, outside of Pilate’s jurisdiction.
But when Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, Jesus’ home community, learned of this arrangement, he pressured Pilate to break his word and kill Jesus. If Pilate didn’t go along, Herod threatened to bring treason charges against the Governor. Pilate backed off and ordered Jesus crucified after a mock trial in which he taunted the followers of Jesus and tried to extract a confession by vicious flogging. Despite the torture, Jesus remained silent.
The Judas Brief is a spirited defense of first-century Jewish people and leaders by way of a historical reassessment of the NT Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus. Although the book’s title centers on Judas, the recasting of his role in the passion drama, as Greenberg (re)constructs it, is only a minor element of a larger project of historical retrieval. . . . a keen eye for the ways religious and political motives have shaped the story of Jesus’ arrest and execution, and acceptance of certain historical elements of canonical accounts. . .Greenberg presses important historical questions and rightly insists on fresh consideration of the evidence, particularly in view of centuries of Christian hostility toward Jewish people and religion that found inspiration in the Gospel accounts of the passion. Catholic Biblical Quarterly
This well-documented work. . .presents some interesting history and is clearly written. . .Recommended for seminary and religion collections. LJXpress (Online supplement to Library Journal)
“’A fascinating read posing deep questions about some of the basic concepts of Jesus and his mission.’” Journey Online
“”The book is very accessible in terms of the manner in which it reads and is well-argued, reflecting a revisionary examination of the ancient literature. It deals head-on with many of the problems that have troubled scholars for years, including the difficult and inconsistent stories of Judas Iscariot, the involvement of Jewish authorities in Jesus’ death, and the increasing tendency of the gospel authors to find ways to exonerate Pilate. April DeConick, The Forbidden Gospels Blog
The Judas Brief challenges the fundamental Gospel concept that at least some leading Jews played a key role in having Jesus executed. Gary Greenberg provides a detailed examination of all Gospel accounts of hostile interaction between Jesus and the Jews, with special attention to the Jewish and Roman trials of Jesus. Shofar
This study is a judicious investigation seeking to shed light on some dark corners of the crucifixion narratives in early Christian sources. The Judas Brief should be required reading for both Christians and Jews, as both communities have much to gain from reflecting on this crucial topic. Robert R. Stieglitz Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations Rutgers University
Some astonishing revelations from The Judas Brief
- Pre-Gospel Christians did not believe that Judas betrayed Jesus.
- Pontius Pilate’s contemporaries described him as a cruel corrupt murderer who tolerated no disagreement from Jewish leaders and brutally suppressed any protest against his rulings.
- The chief Jewish priests had no political leverage over Pilate and little political support from the Jewish population.
- The only major Jewish leader who felt threatened by Jesus was Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed ruler of Galilee, who previously beheaded John the Baptist for speaking out against Herod’s wickedness.
- The Gospel of John radically differs from and contradicts the other three Gospels regarding the events leading up to the arrest of Jesus.
Table of Contents
NOTES ON TERMINOLOGY AND CITATIONS
1. Jews in the Dock; Pilate in the Choir
2. The Gospels: Fact, Fiction, or Speculation?
3. Early Non-Gospel Passion Accounts
4. Religious Outlaws in Roman Israel
5. Pilate Outside of the Gospels
6. Was Pilate That Bad?
7. What Do We Really Know about Judas?
8. Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Priests
9. Jesus in Jerusalem
10. The Arrest
11. The Jewish Proceedings
12. The Roman Proceedings: A Gospel Overview
13. The Roman Proceedings: A Critical Review
14. What Really Happened?