Everyone agrees that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, right? Maybe. But even if that’s true, widespread agreement on a claim does not make it true. Human beings are neither infallible nor omniscient, and all too often people accept what they’ve been told uncritically and believe what they’ve been told is true without actually looking into the relevant facts. After all, that’s more and more what public schooling seems designed to do. Some things never do change.
But the inclination to exploit this gaping human defect is not reserved to the public sector. It’s been going on for millennia and can be seen in action today in Sunday schools across the world as well. The belief that Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem under Pilate and at the instigation of chief priests, comes to us pre-packaged in a set of narratives whose authors are nowhere around to answer questions. So to examine the stories we have at our disposal, we’re left to our own devices. Thus it’s instructive to compare what those narratives say against each other and explore the context in which we find them, not least with regard to the writings that came before those narratives.