Letter: Judas has been believed innocent for longer than we think

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The Independent Online
Your article on the re-evaluation of Judas ("Sealed With A Loving Kiss?", Review, 23 March) discussed issues which are important for a non-partisan history of Christianity. However, there is a problem with the idea that the material is particularly radical or even new.

The idea that the Gethsemane scene in the Gospels might be less than historically accurate has been around for some time and the basis for some of the earlier criticism is even more convincing than this new information. In Saint Mark by Dr DE Nineham (first published in 1963) we find on Gethsemane: "Opinions are sharply divided about the historical value of this section, and even as to whether it formed part of Mark's narrative source."

On the arrest of Jesus he writes: "It is only fair to say that the entire episode has been impugned by WC Bacon in a famous and important article in the Hibbert Journal (1920-21) on the grounds that Jesus and his movements were well known and the authorities could easily have discovered and apprehended him quietly without the expense of 'resort to the slippery aid of hired traitors' ".

May I add that the New Testament portrayal of Pontius Pilate is unbelievable. He was an outstanding thug, even by the thuggish standards of Rome. The idea of him being worried about a possible miscarriage of justice concerning a Jewish rebel stretches credulity.

David Pavett

Isleworth, Middlesex

Romsey, Hants

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