The events surrounding the ~30CE trial and execution in Roman-dominated Palestine of the man Y’shua (or Yehoshua—both names transliterate to Joshua), generally referred to as Jesus Christ, are considered well known by perhaps half or more of the population of this planet. The only sources of this supposed knowledge are the four Gospels named Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Unfortunately, all these accounts were compiled, written, and edited some two generations—at the earliest—after the events they portray (and after the Jewish uprising of 67-70 had been crushed by Vespasian and Titus) by people none of whom claim to have personally known that man, nor to have witnessed any of the events described, nor to have heard any of the words they quote as stated by “Jesus,” nor to cite any testimony of actual or supposed witnesses of these events. Moreover, though the languages of the indigenous people involved were Aramaic and Hebrew, the Gospels are written in koiné Greek before their translation into contemporary languages. For the historian, therefore, these are (at best*) fourth-hand sources (original accounts—later retold among various persons—later recounted to the Gospel Writers—and then put, with unknown correspondence to their original form, into Greek).
The Gospels, thus have absolutely no presumptive value as history. But neither are they pure fiction despite the patent absurdity of the whole Christian theology built upon them and their obviously falsified passages (especially the blood-libel of Jewish Deicide) designed to justify the inherently antisemitic nature of that Christian theology. The existence of the man Jesus is explicitly stated by the authoritative ancient historian Josephus. Archaeological excavations in and around Jerusalem have unearthed direct physical evidence for details of the gospel accounts, including the ossuaries (bone-boxes) containing the remnants of “Jesus” and his intimate family. Moreover, it has been established by biblical scholars over centuries that the gospels themselves were compiled from at least three different sources and that there were many other noncanonical “gospels” (compilations of sayings said to have been said by “Jesus”) of which the best-known is the so-called Gospel of Thomas. Therefore we are entitled as historians to believe that the Gospels, despite their total unreliability as a whole, do contain some information that is accurate and must, since they are our only real source, be used as the indispensable element for any historical reconstruction.
My basic approach is what is called “*tendenz kritik*.” Because the texts are the only available source for an account of real historical events, their *general* outline of those events is to be taken as a roughly factual account of those events. Because they are permeated by ideological bias, such bias must always be taken into account and ruthlessly corrected or ejected to remove that bias. In the present case this bias is, of course, clearly expressed over millennia in the Pauline Christian doctrines. Likewise, any words attributed to Jesus must undergo the same critique. The actual words are often presented within a broader Pauline Christian verbal context. Only what is sufficiently concise or strikingly memorable to have been passed down over decades to the eventual compilers should be granted presumptive validity. *Nothing* theological can ever be taken as historical. Only arguably accurate material facts can underly any historical reconstruction.
The Pilate Papers is my attempt at a version of such a speculative reconstruction. In it I do what (as far as I know) has not yet been tried by anyone—to present these events from an Imperial Roman point of view. It consists of reports to the Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, from his supposed Roman secret-police official signing himself as M. Secundus, as transmitted to the office of Tiberius’s not-yet-purged Praetorian Prefect Aelius Sejanus with comments from Pilate himself.
Shane Mage’s dissertation was on Marx’s theory of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (Columbia U. 1963). Shane taught economics and philosophy at Brooklyn Polytechnic U and Grand Valley State U. He was senior editor for social sciences at Collier’s Encyclopedia through 1994. Among Shane’s publications are a pamphlet “Velikovsky and his Critics;” articles on “Plato and the Catastrophist Tradition” and “Jeroboam and the Israelite Revolution” in KRONOS magazine; articles “Communism” and “Economic History of the USSR” in Collier’s Encyclopedia; and (unpublished still) “The Pilate Papers,” an essay presenting a “Roman” view of the gospel story. At present he is working on a novel (“The Seducation of a Femtaur—a Bead Game”) set in the present and near future with a philosophical theme and elements of science fiction and magical realism.
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for a PDF of The Pilate Papers