Friday, July 9, 2010
The Trial of Jesus
Professor J.H.H. Weiler, a renowned scholar (NYU School of Law, is lucky to have him!!), taught last semester a seminar at NYU "The Trial of Jesus His reflexions of the seminar were published in "First Things" (June-July 2010 issue)and were delivered at the Erasmus Lecture on March 7, 2010 at Hunter College (see
Bellow some interesting observations of Professor Weiler:
For the last four years, I have been conducting, at New York University's School of Law, a seminar on the trial of Jesus. The Wall Street Journal inveighed against it as educational inanity: if not exactly corrupting the youth, then at least leading them astray and squandering their tuition dollars. Happily, the seminar has been oversubscribed since inception. Christians and Jews enroll in roughly their proportions at the law school, with the seminar split more or less evenly among the religiously committed, those committed to being nonreligious, and the generally uncommitted. For Jewish students, with few exceptions, the seminar marks the first time they have actually read the gospels; their knowledge of the trial's narrative derives from hearsay and Hollywood. They are surprised to discover how much of our general cultural idiom derives from the New Testament, and they are surprised, too--and somewhat troubled, in complex ways--by their unmediated encounter with the highly sympathetic Jesus narrative, just as they are shocked by the fierce anti-Jewishness of John. The newness of that encounter makes it hard for them to comprehend the equanimity with which the others in the seminar relate to it. They feel discomforted by the underlying cultural "you did it" sentiment.
For Catholic students, the seminar often marks the first time they have read the gospels systematically. They are mostly uninterested in the normative issues of who is responsible for the judicial death of Jesus, and they are genuinely surprised at how it dominates the rich trial literature. Nostra Aetate seems to have sunk in.
Protestants typically arrive with real command of the text, but they, in their turn, are surprised by the critical tradition that is so pervasive in scholarly analysis of the trial. Something like the mirror image of their Jewish classmates, they tend to hold a clear view of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus, although they feel guilty for holding that view.
Bellow Professor Weiler'd defense of the Crucifix before the European Court of Human Rights