IF TABLOID newspapers had existed during the first century, Jesus would have been constantly in the headlines – His name was unequivocally linked with scandal.
That’s the opinion of Dr David Instone-Brewer, a Cambridge Research Fellow who has spent much of the last two years delving into the life of Jesus.
The author of The Jesus Scandals, which is published on February 17 said: “I could never have envisaged that I’d end up exploring the seamy side of Jesus’ life – or even that there was a seamy side to Jesus’ life. But that’s what I found in the historical records.
Instone-Brewer says he never expected to uncover Jesus’ seamy side
“Scandals are a good place to start when looking at the life of Jesus, because when both friends and enemies say bad things about someone, we are getting close to the truth.”
Instone-Brewer says he has based his conclusions on reliable historical documents, many of which are only now being properly understood in the light of new historical discoveries made in the last few decades.
He says these documents are invaluable to scholars today. They provide insights into Jesus’ life and teaching that have been obscured by the centuries and tell us what his contemporaries really thought.
There are accusations against Jesus of alcoholism, fraud, public disorder, sorcery, and breaking all kinds of religious taboos.
His peers regarded him as a bastard (in the legal sense), something that explains his highly unusual and disreputable status as unmarried.
Instone-Brewer examines the attempts to put a good ‘spin’ on all this by the Gospel writers who claimed that Jesus’ sorcery and his disputed parentage could be explained as miracles.
He also investigates scandals about Jesus’ followers – some of whom were ex-prostitutes – though he dismisses the idea that this included Mary Magdalene, saying instead, that she was certifiably mad.
And he argues that many early followers didn’t believe that Jesus had risen physically, and were reluctant to mention any of his ‘miracles’.
Instone-Brewer writes about his discovery of the wording of the charge sheet used at Jesus’ trial.
The Cambridge academic explains how the words of the original charge sheet can be recovered by removing layers of later comments and explanations which have obscured the text over the centuries.
He also explains how Jesus disparaged many of the intricate ceremonial rules at the heart of Jewish religious devotion.
The Jesus he uncovers is abrasive and potentially violent, even threatening child abusers with a Mafia-style concrete necklace.
The Jesus Scandals – Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (and Still Shocks Today) by Dr David Instone-Brewer is published by Monarch Books and costs £7.99. It is available in all good bookshops and online retailers.