Friday, April 14, 2006

The Show Trial of Good Friday

"Jesus was never tried to determine his innocence or guilt... In a show trial, the guilt of the person being 'tried' has already been determined. There is no effort to weigh evidence, nor is there a defense of the offender. Show trials are conducted under the firm control of the state; there is no independent judiciary. The procedure does not conform to laws but follows the expedient will of power elites. Some ad hoc body of accusers stands in place of a jury, and its members belong to the same ruling class as the accusers. A show trial is not a legal process but a political process whose purpose is the public degradation and humiliation of an enemy of the state before his foreordained conclusion." (William Herzog, Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God, pp 240-241)


Blogger Bilbo Bloggins said...

Also helpful for background on the trial narratives are Malina's writings on the trial as a "status degradation ritual", which Herzog may or may not be dependent on here. Such a ritual, especially culminating in crucifixion, would seem to be the most potent means for the "elite" to quickly and publically reverse the acquired honor-rating of someone like Jesus. We can begin to see a more socially and historically plausible backdrop for some of the seemingly excessive cruelty/violence of the narratives. And it also sheds light on what is commonly thought to be an implausibly fickle crowd. Especially if Jesus' actions were percieved to have a messianic connotation by the masses, its not hard at all to see why they might instantly reverse their opinions, had the authorities he was expected to have authority over, stripped him of all honor. This, indeed, is the purpose and inevitable effect of such rituals. We do act in a similar manner even in the modern west - only in a less immediately violent manner - in public discourse, politics, the media, etc.


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