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Cold Case

Not this Cold Case. Even colder.

This Sunday, 24 July 2011, at 8:30pm, Bryan Bruce will try to find out who killed Jesus, in a television documentary to be screened on New Zealand’s TV1. The documentary is one in an ongoing series in which Bruce examines old unsolved murders, and attempts to solve them … but with the twist that, here, the cadaver is 2000 years old. The documentary is based on his book Jesus: The Cold Case (Random House, 2010), which attempts to find out who arranged for the death of Jesus and why.

According to the official website, jesusthecoldcase.tv, the television documentary will feature interviews with (theologians) Lloyd Geering and John Shelby Spong, (biblical scholars) Geza Vermes, John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and Helen Bond, (anthropologists) Joe Zias and Israel Hershkovitz, and (archaeologist) Shimon Gibson. While Vermes is a good choice, and Crossan is not bad, the list of biblical scholars demonstrates Bruce’s lack of knowledge of the field, his reliance on other people’s scholarship, and lack of first-hand knowledge of scholarship. Where are the current and most recent experts on the issue: Maurice Casey? Dale Allison? Roger Aus? They are nowhere to be seen, although they are obvious choices for anybody reasonably informed on current scholarship. Instead, the documentary’s choice of theologians and biblical scholars has the look of being about a quarter century out of date – twice that in the case of Lloyd Geering.

Here’s a trailer:

Here’s an interview with Bryan Bruce and some Catholic bishop on 2 April 2011:

If you’re interested in why Jesus was killed, treat the tv programme as a lightweight tease. Bruce’s book covers a lot of the issues, so the doco will probably provide a reasonable introduction to the problem, but with some unreliable parts thrown in. But if you really want to work out why Jesus was killed and who was responsible, try one of these books:

Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth (Continuum, 2010)

Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (Fortress Press, 1998)

(and comprehensively) Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah,Volumes 1 and 2 (Doubleday, 1999)