Jesus: The Cold Case – New Doco on Who Killed Jesus

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,, 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 Instead, the documentary’s choice of theologians and biblical scholars has the look of being about a quarter century out of date – twice that in the case of Lloyd Geering.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)


Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Television

13 responses to “Jesus: The Cold Case – New Doco on Who Killed Jesus

  1. First of all neither Joe Zias nor Israel Hershkovitz are archaeologists, they are physical anthropologists working in archaeology. Secondly, the photo appearing in Professor Hershkovita’s hand was an attempt to show the public what the common man in the time of Jesus may have looked link. The BBC sold it to CNN who complained that the man ‘looked like a NY cab driver and asked for a makeover. I then Googled the artist who did the makeover and found that he made the man look like himself.


    • Tyrone Slothrop

      Thank you for pointing out your distinction of Joe Zias and Israel Hershkovitz as anthropologists, and I have altered the post to reflect the distinction.

      As for the story about the reconstruction of Jesus’ appearance, that is really funny. Would you share the artist’s name, so I can have a look?


  2. Max

    What I love is the first words out of his mouth….”It was a long journey mike… it began a year ago…” classic! The Bishop must have been sitting their thinking.. year it began 50 years ago for me..

    Oh and then Paul not knowing about the last supper… WTF?… Paul is pretty much the only reason we DO know about the last supper.


  3. Rev Tony Buglass

    “…but with the twist that, here, the cadaver is 2000 years old.”

    Actually, I thought the whole point is that we don’t have a cadaver.


  4. Pingback: Jesus: The Cold Case on TVNZ tonight: A couple of interviews with Bryan Bruce | Remnant of Giants

  5. (posted on another thread before I saw this one) Watching the show now. Bryan assumes anything said by skeptics is factual. He states (without support) the skeptic thesis and then progresses with those as fact for making further arguments. For instance, the gospels were written by other than the purported authors. He provides no support for that, just states it, then says “since we know they did not write them and were not written for decades later, we know this section was invented” Many examples of this in the first half hour. The “fact” that the gospels were written decades later means they have no credibility. But the theories of writers in the 1800s to present are assumed (without support) to be correct. Bottom line: this is utter non-academic nonsense, but is amusing to listen to all the nonsensical assertions.


  6. William

    For me it was a great insight on how myths become truth. Also how tragically stories of love are infiltrated by hate, and have the ripple effect in reality through the actions of history – ‘Who killed Jesus?’ and the finger points to the Jew because ‘The Bible Tells Me So’
    The doco is correct – the Romans did the deed, and the Roman Empire resurrected as America, still retaining many of the label the roman empire used before its natural fall.
    It is a fine balancing act – how to quell the populace, those most accepting to belief in myth, especially myth which saves them from their lowly positions and promises eventually that their earthly oppressors will be punished…so control the myth and direct the mob down the path that supports the agenda of the Elect.
    Direct their rage toward each other – and assign blame to those who obviously see through the myths surrounding Jesus (whilst their own myths they uphold as truth) and sit back in the comfort of the high and mighty and watch the stupid buggers slaughter each other in the name of their gods and their version of love.
    Tweak the script as necessary…silence those who are contrary with their evidence, and continue to hate in the name of love.
    The thing which probably dis empowers the words attributed to Jesus – those which are simply, close to the heart and require nothing more of less than a change in behavior – those words which need no interpretation at all really – those words loose their trans-formative power simply because they are contained with that book called The Bible. Taken on their own, they are all that is necessary to remind the individual of what being human is really about.


  7. Billy

    I think the show does present both sides. At the very least it encourages to perhaps do a little more digging and research on your own.


  8. Les

    This documentary was a sad case of nothing on many fronts. It relied heavily on theologians with flawed ideas, it completely discounted the spiritual influence of God in any given situation and ended with a wrong statement. It was indeed the Jews who killed Jesus, even comfessed by their own mouths, but God in His grace has said to love them (the Jews) and their enemies will incur His wrath. If only a born again, spirit filled Christian was interviewed!


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