Below is Dr. William Lane Craig’s follow up to his interview on Ben Shapiro’s podcast:
NOTE ON THE BEN SHAPIRO INTERVIEW
I’m grateful to Ben Shapiro for inviting me to appear on his program and for his excellent interview. Prior to going on the show, I prepared a brief on his view that Jesus was a political revolutionary who got himself crucified. As it turned out, the issue never came up, and the brief, like most of them I prepare, remained unused. But I share it here with you in case this issue ever comes up in your conversations.
Jesus as a Violent Revolutionary
This view was suggested by SGF Brandon back in the 1960s but has been virtually universally rejected by scholars. Why?
1. It would require us to regard as inauthentic all of Jesus’ moral teachings concerning non-violence, turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, etc.
John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 3, pp. 566-67:
“Jesus’ inclusive outreach to all of Israel in the end time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his rejection of retaliation, and his exhortation to love even one’s enemies lay at the opposite end of the Palestinian-Jewish spectrum from violence-prone zealotry.”
2. Roman authorities never regarded Jesus or his followers as enemies.
When Messianic pretenders or prophets arose, the Roman authorities acted pre-emptively, decisively, and ruthlessly to destroy them. For example,
A.D. 36 a Samaritan prophet led people up Mt. Gerizim. Pilate immediately sent cavalry and infantry to attack them and destroy them.
A.D. 45 a man named Theudas led people to the Jordan River to part the waters. Fadus sent cavalry in a surprise attack and killed and captured many.
A.D. 50s a prophet called the Egyptian led followers to the Mt. of Olives to watch the walls of Jerusalem fall. Felix sent Roman troops to slaughter all of them.
But Roman troops were never sent to attack the followers of Jesus, either during his lifetime or after his death.
3. During Jesus’ ministry Palestine was at relative peace.
All of the above examples occurred after Jesus’ death. During Jesus’ lifetime Palestine was basically at peace.
John Meier: “the fatal flaw of this approach is its presupposition that there was one or more organized and armed groups of Jewish revolutionaries active in Palestine c.a. A.D. 28-30. . . . But, as far as the historical record permits us to judge, there were no organized, armed groups of Jewish revolutionaries active during Jesus’ public ministry.”
So obviously Jesus did not lead such a group.
4. The evidence is that Jesus rejected being the Messiah in a militaristic sense.
I agree that Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah, but not in the military sense of a warrior-king.
James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, p. 653: Jesus ignored or refused or rejected the dominant current understanding of the Messiah as a royal and military power like Herod the Great.
Jesus ran contrary to the chief priests’ and the people’s expectations. Mk 15.31-2: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”