The Real News of the Month

February 2005
Volume 12, Number 2

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> Here We Go Again
  -> Publisher's Note: A Tribute to Sam Francis
  -> The Moving Picture (an electronic Exclusive)
  -> The Real Historical Jesus
Nuggets (plus electronic Exclusives)
List of Columns Reprinted in This Issue


Here We Go Again
(page 1)

{{ Material dropped or changed solely for reasons of 
space appears in double curly brackets. }}

     A few days before President Bush's second term 
began, Seymour Hersh of THE NEW YORKER delivered another 
of his bombshell reports: that U.S. and Israeli commandos 
have been undertaking covert operations in Iran, 
presumably to lay the groundwork for preemptive strikes 
against Iran's suspected nuclear program.

     The administration issued a weak denial, saying the 
story contained "inaccuracies." No doubt. When you have 
to ferret out facts a secretive government doesn't want 
known, you're bound to get some details wrong. The real 
question is whether the story as a whole is true.

     According to Hersh's sources, Bush and his people 
construe his reelection as a popular endorsement of his 
wartime leadership and a mandate for more of same, 
including a widening of the war -- if necessary, by 
covert means and without consulting Congress. Though 
polls indicate waning public support for the war in Iraq, 
an issue that helped John Kerry in the election (though 
not quite enough to give him a victory), Bush apparently 
thinks he's popular enough to expand the war on his own 
without paying a severe political penalty. He's being 
encouraged to think so by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, 
Paul Wolfowitz, and other hawks around him. Some 
observers surmised that he would learn lessons from the 
difficulty of occupying Iraq and dismiss the 
neoconservative advisors who had counseled him in his 
first term. But if Hersh is right, Bush may be about to 
give these people the "World War IV" they have pushed 
for: a campaign of "regime change" across the Middle 
East, disabling or even toppling all Muslim governments 
hostile to the state of Israel.

     Such audacity hardly seems possible. Yet Hersh's 
record as a reporter is one of the most distinguished, 
most recently with his revelations of the tortures in the 
Abu Ghraib prison. And the Bush administration has an 
equally consistent record of deceit, evading the law, 
seeking pretexts for military action, and sheer 
hare-brained goals, untempered by prudent foresight about 
adverse results.

     At home, Americans have had second thoughts about 
the Iraq war, and even loyal congressional Republicans 
would hesitate to back a huge escalation in the region. 
And if Bush doesn't have the public as well as his own 
party solidly behind him, the Democrats won't roll over 
again. Quiet qualms would become roaring opposition.

     Militarily, Iran would be a far tougher target than 
Iraq. It's much bigger, stronger, and by all accounts 
more united against foreign threats than Iraq; moreover, 
it has had plenty of time to prepare for an American 

{{ In the print edition, the paragraph beginning 
"Militarily," came before the one beginning "At home" -- 
ed. note }}

     {{ Hersh reports that Rumsfeld will become even more 
prominent in Bush's second term than in the first. It's 
hard to believe that after the mishaps and embarrassments 
of the last two years -- which have led even Republicans 
to demand his dismissal -- he can feel flushed with 
success; but maybe he thinks a blitzkrieg against Iran, a 
quick aerial campaign against its nuclear facilities 
(like the 1981 Israeli strikes in Iraq) without an 
occupation, will do the job. }}

     And then what? What if the United States does manage 
to cripple Iran militarily? Worldwide opposition to, and 
hatred of, the United States will be enormously 
intensified. The long-term results are incalculable, but 
surely China and Russia would take steps to meet, or even 
prevent, any future American threat. It's a cliche to say 
that the world is a "dangerous place." But the Bush 
administration seems bent on making it even more 
dangerous than it already is.

Publisher's Note
A Tribute to Sam Francis
(page 2)

     What can I say in a few words of a friend of nearly 
30 years who was abruptly taken away from us at the still 
energetic age of 57? My dear friend -- a loyal compatriot 
of SOBRAN'S -- columnist and author Dr. Samuel T. Francis 
died suddenly on February 15.

     We met in Washington, D.C., while we were both 
working on Capitol Hill. Sam was the terrorism expert for 
the Heritage Foundation while completing his doctorate in 
modern history from the University of North Carolina 
(Chapel Hill). From there he went to work as legislative 
assistant for national security affairs for Senator 
John P. East (R-N.C.).

     After Senator East's death, Sam was hired by the 
WASHINGTON TIMES in 1986, first as an editorial writer 
and resident staff columnist, and later as deputy editor 
of the editorial page. I had the honor of accompanying 
him to a banquet of the American Society of Newspaper 
Editors, where he received -- two years in a row -- the 
Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing in 1989 
and 1990. He stayed at the TIMES for nine years until he 
was abruptly fired for speaking (on his own time) at an 
American Renaissance Conference. The comments in his 
speech were not at issue. The newspaper objected to his 
appearance at the gathering.

     Sam had been a syndicated columnist for the Tribune 
Media Syndicate for many years. When his contract was not 
renewed, he was carried for a short time by my Griffin 
Internet Syndicate until he landed a contract with 
Creators Syndicate, which also offers the column of his 
close friend, Pat Buchanan. Sam was an advisor to 
Buchanan during his presidential bids and greatly 
influenced his thinking and policies.

     Sam wrote several books, including POWER AND 

     Brilliant and very witty, Sam could have me laughing 
in no time by a clever turn of a phrase. He had just 
signed on as an advisor and resident scholar of our new 
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. In addition Griffin 
Communications was slated to arrange promotion for the 
new book he just finished editing, RACE AND THE AMERICAN 
FUTURE (Washington Summit Publishers, 2005).

     SOBRAN'S was privileged to have Sam present his talk 
"Unpatriotic Neoconservatives" at our annual anniversary 
event on December 4, 2004. An audio tape of the event is 
available and the video is in production.

     As our hope is in the saving power of Our Lord, we 
pray for the eternal rest of our good friend, Sam 

                               Sincerely yours in Christ,

                                             Fran Griffin

"A nation, or even a planet, that recognizes no god other 
than its belly will quickly start wallowing in the 
ignorance, crime, corruption, and avarice that today 
afflicts the United States, and it will find itself 
unable to free itself of them."
                                           -- Sam Francis
                              "This Land Ain't Your Land"

[A longer version of this tribute, together with 
photographs from the 2004 SOBRAN'S Charter Subscribers' 
Dinner, comments from SOBRAN'S readers, and links to 
other tributes can be found on the SOBRAN'S website at]

The Moving Picture
(Exclusive to electronic media)

{{ Emphasis is indicated by the presence of "equals" 
signs around the emphasized words. }}

     President Bush's second inaugural speech was one 
more exercise in banal loftiness, full of the standard 
urgent utopianism of presidential oratory. Our mission is 
now to end tyranny everywhere because our own liberty 
depends on universal liberty, and so on and so forth. If 
that sounds like neocon boilerplate, well, Charles 
Krauthammer reportedly chipped in some advice. By now I 
suppose it would sound paradoxical, if not perverse, for 
a president to suggest that our own liberty may depend on 
tightly controlling our own government.

*          *          *

     Still, White House officials rushed to assure the 
press that the speech didn't mean a new departure in 
foreign policy, just a clarification of the values 
currently guiding the United States around the world. 
Pro-U.S. tyrants can rest easy.

*          *          *

     At the same time, Condoleezza Rice was confiirmed as 
Bush's new secretary of state with only perfunctory 
Democratic criticism of her role as war propagandist 
(though the 13 nay votes she got were the most against 
any nominee to the post since 1825). Doubling the boss's 
Axis of Evil, she named six countries as remaining 
"outposts of tyranny" -- Iran and North Korea are joined 
by Burma, Cuba, Belarus, and Zimbabwe -- requiring U.S. 
pressure, if not yet preemptive war and regime change.

*          *          *

     After Seymour Hersh reported that U.S. commandos are 
conducting secret missions in Iran, the Ziomaniacal NEW 
YORK POST -- which has always held Hersh a lying pinko 
un-American enemy of Israel -- ran a column by Rael Jean 
Isaac blasting him on two counts: On the one hand, he 
"endangers the lives of American commandos on these 
missions" (it doesn't seem to matter whether such illegal 
missions endanger the rest of us); on the other hand, 
Hersh has a long record of "shoddy reporting" and is not 
to be believed. In Hersh's defense, then, it would seem 
likely, from what Mrs. Isaac says, that he's only risking 
the lives of =imaginary= American commandos.

*          *          *

     In a recent column, Bill Buckley writes, "What needs 
to be said about oil is that it is worth fighting for; 
you must be willing to die for oil." James G. Bruen Jr. 
of CULTURE WARS magazine retorts, "Was a thirst for oil 
sufficient justification for the Japanese attack on Pearl 

*          *          *

     Johnny Carson's death at 79 drew forth a flood of 
excessive praise, reminding us that he had been awarded 
the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Nothing against 
Carson, a durable entertainer in a fickle business, but 
when you stop to think of it, this country gives out an 
awful lot of honors.

The Real Historical Jesus
(pages 3-6)

{{ Emphasis is indicated by the presence of "equals" 
signs around the emphasized words. }}

     Since the Enlightenment, Christianity has been 
bedeviled by the idea of "the historical Jesus" -- a 
purely human figure stripped of the divine and 
supernatural qualities imputed to him by the Gospels, 
St. Paul, and the early Church. In its popular form, it 
appears in the common notion that Christ's "teachings" 
are all very well, even morally edifying, but his 
"miracles" are mere fables that can be safely dismissed. 
And of course a Jesus who is merely human, not divine, 
can't demand anything of us or require us to accept him.

     This has a superficial appeal to the modern mind, 
which seeks purely natural explanations for everything 
and regards man as self-sufficient. But as we reflect on 
it, a huge and fatal difficulty presents itself: The 
Jesus we meet in the Gospels can't be reduced to ordinary 
human dimensions. This is what all the skeptics, 
scholarly and otherwise, fail to see.

     The "Higher Criticism" that developed two centuries 
ago with German scholars has sought to discover a real 
Jesus behind the Gospel accounts. Charlotte Allen has 
told the story of the development of this school of 
thought in her recent book, THE HUMAN CHRIST: THE SEARCH 
FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS (The Free Press). The leading 
names in the great period of the Higher Criticism were 
mostly German: Reimarus, Strauss, Schleiermacher, 
Troeltsch, Dibelius, Harnack, and Bultmann.

     Not all of them had subversive intent. Some had a 
real residue of piety for Jesus and hoped to salvage a 
core of fact acceptable to Christianity's "cultured 
despisers" in an age of science and reason. But even 
these assumed that most of the Gospels' assertions about 
Jesus would have to be discarded. This method has come to 
be known as "demythologization." By now, skepticism has 
become a precondition of academic biblical scholarship. 
No self-respecting scholar today wants to be mistaken for 
a gullible believer!

     As time passed, speculation about Jesus had its way. 
He was variously portrayed as a mystic, social reformer, 
megalomaniac, religious enthusiast, political activist, 
Essene ascetic, liberal, proto-Marxist agitator, utopian 
dreamer, feminist, and homosexual. As long as his 
divinity was denied, no surmise was too wild to find an 
audience (and a publisher). He could be freely modernized 
-- or, as one might say, remythologized. We are in the 
age of the gullible unbeliever.

     Once the Reformation shattered the unity of Western 
Christendom, all this was bound to happen. The early 
Protestants hoped to substitute the authority of the 
Bible for the authority of the visible Church, but the 
many problems of interpreting the Bible prevented any new 
and stable orthodoxy from emerging, until the authority 
of the Bible itself came into question. Thomas Jefferson, 
late in his life, produced a sort of Deist New Testament 
by editing out all supernatural events and claims, 
leaving only a skeletal "morality," which he called the 
authentic message of Jesus (no longer Christ).

     One of the earliest debunkers was an Englishman, 
Thomas Chubb (1679-1747). Chubb was a glovemaker and 
popular writer, not a scholar, whose aim was to reduce 
Christianity to something conformable to "reason and 
natural religion," the shibboleths of his age. He knew 
neither Hebrew nor Greek and did nothing in the way of 
biblical research. Yet, as Miss Allen notes, he created 
what would be the "template" for future scholars of the 
historical Jesus: "The 'historical' Jesus is =almost 
always= a version of Chubb's: a nonsupernatural ethical 
teacher born in Nazareth -- not of a virgin -- who 
offended the reigning religious authorities in Jerusalem 
and found himself in political trouble. Mark's is =almost 
always= the first Gospel. Paul of Tarsus is =almost 
always= the real founder of Christianity."

     The reduction of Jesus has come full circle from 
these humble beginnings. Some of today's prominent 
Jesus-debunkers have no more scholarly credentials than 
Chubb. The Jesus Seminar claims to separate Jesus' 
original sayings from those later ascribed to him by the 
Church (the original ones being those most congenial to 
the twenty-first century, as determined by vote of 
Seminar members). At the low end of the scale we find Dan 
Brown, whose novel THE DA VINCI CODE has sold in the 
millions, convincing myriad readers that the Vatican has 
for millennia concealed the real facts about Jesus 
(including his marriage to Mary Magdalene). Brown insists 
that his novel is based on thorough research, a claim to 
be measured against his assertion that the Catholic 
Church "murdered" Copernicus. (Any children's 
encyclopedia could have saved him from that howler.)

     More important, all these versions of the Historical 
Jesus lack the vitality of the Gospels' Jesus. The 
explanations leave too many loose ends unexplained. We 
never feel that anything has been gained by them; the 
Historical Jesus is always a smaller and less satisfying 
figure than the Gospels' Jesus, and not only, or even 
chiefly, because he can't walk on water. He's almost a 
nobody, not even a rounded character. We may also wonder 
why, if the Historical Jesus never claimed to be the Son 
of God, the early Church would have been so imaginative 
and audacious as to have him speaking of the Holy Spirit 
as well as of the Father.

     There is something radically wrong with the very 
conception of a "historical" Jesus (defined a priori as 
merely human). It's both evasive and naive. Indeed 
separating Jesus' moral teachings from his supernatural 
claims and deeds has proved more complicated than the 
early Higher Critics expected. Many of his recorded 
teachings have had to be sacrificed along with the 
miracles, until hardly anything is left.

     As C.S. Lewis puts it in MERE CHRISTIANITY, the 
Jesus of the Gospels combines the deepest moral and 
psychological insight with the most extraordinary 
assertions of his own authority any man has ever made. If 
he is not what he says he is, he is either "a madman or 
something worse." Lewis rejects as "patronising nonsense" 
the notion that he was merely "a great human teacher": 
"He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

     Jesus' teachings aren't just uplifting homilies 
about social justice. One of his most central teachings 
is that he has a special intimacy with God and speaks 
with God's authority. "I and the Father are one." "No man 
comes to the Father except through me." "Whoever has seen 
me has seen the Father." When he told the paralytic, 
"Your sins are forgiven," the Pharisees immediately 
accused him of blasphemy, since "only God can forgive 

     In fact, as Frank Sheed writes in TO KNOW CHRIST 
JESUS (recently republished by Ignatius Press), Jesus' 
enemies, in contrast to the Higher Critics, didn't deny 
his miracles, which they ascribed to diabolical power; it 
was precisely his teachings they violently rejected! The 
Gospels are quite clear on this. No skeptical reading of 
them can plausibly argue that the "real" Jesus taught 
innocuously and that the Gospel authors superadded 
accounts of miracles after his death to create the 
impression of divine power. One might as well argue (as 
only a few extreme skeptics do) that Jesus never existed 
at all, and that the Gospels are entirely fictional.

     Sheed is far from the first to point out that four 
amateur writers couldn't have invented the most original 
character in all the world's literature. Not even a 
Shakespeare could have imagined Jesus, as he imagined 
such marvelous figures as Hamlet and Cleopatra. Jesus' 
words have a power no other human words have ever had. 
They ring with wisdom, authority, and mystery. They have 
the stamp of a definite personality, totally unlike any 
other ever known.

     Replying to Freudian critics who have tried to 
portray Jesus as hysterical or otherwise abnormal, the 
French historian Henri Daniel-Rops, in JESUS AND HIS 
TIMES (now, alas, out of print), observes "the perfect 
balance of his character," its wholeness and integration. 
He is consistent, yet unpredictable; he can be serene, 
tender, tearful, piteous, stern, indignant, even furious, 
as the moment warrants, but he is always "master of the 
event." And he is marvelously quick-witted: When his 
enemies try to trap him, he is never at a loss but, on 
the contrary, always has an unexpected and decisive 
answer. Jesus' words, Daniel-Rops remarks, have "the 
unmistakable accents of a man who has only to speak to be 
obeyed." He has, supremely, the gift of reaching people's 
hearts in earthy language. He sizes people up, judges 
their motives, and says exactly what they need to hear, 
with a complete lack of the self-absorption and confusion 
that usually impede human communication. He combines 
spiritual authority with the keenest alertness to the 
situation and the person he is facing at the moment. He 
can win a disciple with the slightest personal attention 
-- as when he astounds Nathanael with the simple words, 
"I saw you under the fig tree." Only Nathanael knows what 
this refers to; but it's enough for him. He believes.

     It's striking how many of Jesus' sayings are quick 
responses to his immediate circumstances. The Gospels 
constantly show him in lively interaction with others. He 
is always ready, never remote. It's easy to overlook his 
sheer sociability, shown in his preference for humble and 
even disreputable companions. We shouldn't forget that 
such people accepted his company too, as they would 
hardly have done if his manner had been aloof, priggish, 
or pontificating. Evidently the holy Son of God wasn't 

     On the other hand, even knowing his imminent ordeal, 
he yields nothing when he faces Pontius Pilate. He speaks 
with all his poise and authority -- still "master of the 
event" -- when any other man would be cringing and 
begging for his life, or at least struggling to keep his 
dignity. He speaks to the mighty power of the Roman 
Empire with the same totally unawed self-possession with 
which he addresses the Samaritan woman.

     My personal experience as a writer has given me a 
special respect for Jesus' eloquence. I'm flattered when 
people quote anything I've written even a year after I 
write it. Imagine speaking words, many of them off the 
cuff, that are quoted, even in translation, for thousands 
of years -- and not merely because they are memorably 
phrased, but because they penetrate the depths of our 
consciences. Great as Shakespeare is, his words don't 
have this kind of sovereignty over our inner lives; we 
don't measure our very souls against them.

     We can go further than Sheed. The belief that the 
Evangelists could have created Jesus, giving him words of 
such authority, assumes that they were trying to imagine 
a perfect man. That is, they began with a conception of a 
man like Jesus and then filled out their portraits with 
details of what they thought such a man would say and do.

     This idea has a fatal flaw: Jesus himself gave his 
disciples a new, and shocking, conception of what it 
meant to be perfect, one that could never have occurred 
to them until they had known him. If the greatest 
pre-Christian writers had tried to imagine an ideal man, 
the result would have been nothing at all like Jesus. 
Homer might have created a hero like the "godlike" 
Achilles, or Hector, or Odysseus; Virgil an Aeneas. 
Aristotle might have set forth his haughty, prudent, 
honor-loving "great-souled man." These are all admirable, 
as far as they go; but they all go in the same direction, 
away from the example of Christ. They obviously deserve 
an earthly glory that would be impossible if they were to 
meet Jesus' crushing fate on Calvary -- the very fate his 
followers eventually learned to see as the fulfillment of 
a kind of glory utterly different from any they were 
aware of.

     Plato would have offered a Socrates, the closest 
pagan analogy to Jesus. Socrates is wise, virtuous, and 
courageous even unto death; but the analogy is still 
feeble. He claims no divine nature, works no wonders, and 
doesn't baffle his disciples with enigmatic sayings, such 
as that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He 
is permitted a dignified death.

     Not only would these authors have failed to imagine 
Jesus; judging him by the outlines of his life, they 
would have regarded him as anything but ideal -- a poor 
man of low social status who preached loving your enemies 
and who died the horrible and ignominious death of a 
common criminal, after being spat on by a mob. Ideal? 
Nonsense! Absurd! The Greek and Roman poets and 
philosophers would have found his story not admirable but 
simply repulsive.

     Socrates also dies courageously, but his death is 
decorous. It merely ends his life; it doesn't fulfill it. 
There is nothing timely about it, in contrast to Christ's 
death in Jerusalem, where not only Christ's life but the 
long history of Israel is finally concentrated in one 

     The crucifix gives only the faintest impression of 
what crucifixion was really like. The early Church 
regarded crucifixion as too hideous and degrading to be 
represented; only long after the practice had been 
abolished was its image adopted, more symbolically than 
realistically. In Christian art the cross is so tall as 
to appear almost to exalt the victim; in reality it was a 
small stake whose crossbeam rested on it in the shape of 
a T, while the victim writhed, impaled and suffocating, 
in indescribable agonies. If Jesus hadn't risen from 
death, his scattered followers would probably have 
preferred to forget the whole thing.

     Only his resurrection gives his crucifixion meaning. 
The Historical Jesus doesn't rise, except in 
hallucination. Why such a hallucination should be shared 
by all his disciples -- not a sane man among them? -- is 
never explained. Why the bitter persecutor Saul of Tarsus 
should suddenly (and belatedly) experience the same 
delusion we are also left to wonder; just as we are left 
to wonder why all the authors of the Epistles sound so 
matter-of-fact about having met Jesus alive after his 
death. (They don't sound like either frauds or 

     Even the most pious Jews couldn't imagine a Jesus. 
Their ideal might have been a super-Moses or a 
super-David, a great prophet or conqueror who would 
restore Israel to glory. But how far they were from 
imagining a Jesus is shown not only by their general 
rejection of him, but by his own faithful disciples' 
inability to recognize or comprehend what he was when 
they actually met him and lived in his presence! As a boy 
he mystified even his mother when he explained his 
lingering in the Temple.

     The Gospels' authors couldn't have made him up 
because, as they themselves tell us, they didn't 
understand him fully until after his death, resurrection, 
and ascent into heaven; until Pentecost, actually. He was 
anything but the realization of a preexisting ideal. Just 
the opposite.

     In crucial ways Jesus contradicted the ideals his 
disciples had actually held all their lives. And this is 
an essential part of the story they tell. Of his chosen 
Twelve, all but John had deserted him at the very climax 
of his mission. The story, as they tell it, does them 
little credit -- additional reason to doubt they 
falsified it. They could easily have shown themselves in 
a more favorable light, or at least omitted their 
shameful behavior.

     Even in his miracles Jesus falls short of both pagan 
and Hebrew models of heroism. His wonders are mostly 
"little" ones -- healings and exorcisms, nothing like 
spectacular physical feats of killing monsters or parting 
seas. If the Gospels were fictions, wouldn't they have 
given us something on a more epic scale than curing sick 
people? Imagine Hercules healing lepers! Any mythmaker 
would have outdone the Evangelists in mere scale; but 
Jesus' miracles are of a piece with his teachings about 
showing mercy to everyone, however humble. And instead of 
glorying in his deeds, he tells their subjects, "Your own 
faith has cured you," charging them to tell nobody.

     Jesus' teachings themselves are miraculous. Nothing 
like them had ever been heard before. If he hadn't come, 
nobody else would ever have thought of them. This is why 
they can't be prescinded from his deeds, as the skeptics 
try to do.

     After the climactic events in Jerusalem, everything 
fell into place -- the hints of the prophets, the infancy 
stories, St. Simeon's prediction that Jesus would be a 
"sign of contradiction," Jesus' own dark words. He was 
born of a virgin in Bethlehem, "despised and rejected by 
men," and, most astounding of all, "God with us." He 
changed our very conception of God. It would have been 
remarkably ingenious of his followers, after his death, 
to invent the Trinity.

     It can't be too strongly emphasized that Jesus' 
mission is =completed= by his crucifixion. If he were 
anything but what he was -- a social reformer, et cetera 
-- an untimely death would have been a mere unfortunate 
interruption of what he was trying to do, leaving his 
aspirations frustrated. But the opposite is true. 
Everything in his life has pointed to this moment. Every 
mysterious word he has spoken is illuminated by it.

     It's not as if he'd left plans unaccomplished or 
words unspoken. His death doesn't seem a tragic 
abridgement of a career still full of promise, like the 
death of Mozart at about the same age. Jesus had said and 
done everything he had to say and do. His hour had come, 
just as he himself had foretold. His life ended in what 
the pagans would have regarded as the mortifying accident 
of unjust execution, but he knew it was complete. And as 
Simeon had predicted, he went to his death a sign of 
contradiction, a sword piercing his mother's heart. From 
the manger to the cross, the Gospel story is too perfect, 
too coherent and consistent, too rich in unexpected 
meaning, for any merely human mind to have designed.

     "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will 
not pass away." His words continue to have their original 
power. Nothing in the last two millennia has made them 
outdated; nothing he said has been superseded.

     And to the skeptics he remains a sign of 
contradiction. Again, the Jesus Seminar, not content to 
leave his "teachings" intact, professes to distinguish 
the authentic words of Jesus from words later forged by 
his followers. As if his followers would have dared to 
put words in his mouth! As if they (or anyone else) could 
have fabricated words worthy of him, words convincing 
enough to fool the Christian world for 20 centuries! 
What's more, any such interpolations would have had to 
meet a well-nigh impossible condition: Apart from 
sounding like something Jesus might say, they would have 
had to contribute to the coherence of the whole story.

     If the pagan and Jewish writers couldn't imagine 
Jesus, neither, in a sense, have Christian writers. Even 
with the example of Jesus before them for imitation, the 
greatest geniuses of the Christian era have never been 
able to create a character who could speak with anything 
approaching the power of Jesus' words. Few have even 
tried. Milton's Christ, in PARADISE REGAINED, has all the 
eloquence of Milton and none of the eloquence of Christ.

     Scientific theories are often judged less by their 
truth or coherence than by their explanatory power. Do 
they seem to account for all the data? The various 
versions of the Historical Jesus explain less than the 
Jesus of the Gospels. In fact the very assumption of a 
Historical Jesus begs the real question. It denies the 
undeniably supernatural personality whose power we 
ourselves meet on every page of the New Testament. If 
Jesus himself isn't the source of those miraculous words, 
who is?


FURTHER READING: If the question of the "historical 
Jesus" interests you, you may enjoy Lee Strobel's CASE 
FOR CHRIST (publisher, $16.95, paper). Strobel is a 
former CHICAGO TRIBUNE investigative reporter who had the 
inspired idea of checking out the Gospels the way he used 
to check out news stories. His interviews with dozens of 
experts confirm that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hold 
up very well indeed from many angles. And this story has 
legs. (page 6)

BAD GUY: Alexander Hamilton is back in vogue, with 
several recent biographies and a big exhibition in New 
York hailing him as "the Man Who Made America." The term 
"fascist" is usually a mere term of abuse, but it fits 
Hamilton pretty well: He favored the concentration of 
power, wars of conquest, economic dirigisme, government 
crackdowns on the press, the use of Federal troops to 
collect taxes, and on and on. Jefferson called him "our 
Bonaparte." Reviewing his career, you wonder why Aaron 
Burr isn't on the $10 bill. (page 9)

VOX POPULI: The suspicion grows that we hold elections so 
that at least some of our rulers can avoid the danger of 
confirmation hearings. (page 11)

Exclusive to electronic media:

THE OTHER BUSH WAR: Europe has 87 prisoners per 100,000 
people; the United States, 685. This is chiefly a 
reflection of the first President Bush's War on Drugs, 
which has had the effect of criminalizing countless young 
men, chiefly blacks, most of whom are no threat to 
anyone. You don't have to be a slobbering liberal to find 
this tragic and outrageous. Prohibition, the War on 
Booze, required a constitutional amendment. The War on 
Drugs was launched by a mere executive order.

GETTING RELIGION: Since the November election, Democrats 
have been changing their stance on abortion. Hillary 
Clinton is just the latest to pull the long face about 
the "tragic" nature of the act, professing her "respect" 
for its opponents, and urging both sides to seek "common 
ground" (i.e., on Federally funded contraception, of 
course). She's taking a leaf from her husband, who used 
to say abortion should be "safe, legal, ... and rare." 
One wonders why the exercise of a constitutional right 
should be rare. Do we call the exercise of free speech 

QUERY: Isn't it time the Old World issued its own Monroe 
Doctrine, warning the Americas against butting into the 
affairs of its hemisphere? 

(pages 7-12)

* The Dark Lady, and Other Intellectuals 
(January 4, 2005)

* Magnifying the Enemy (January 6, 2005)

* Osama and Jack the Ripper (January 11, 2005)

* "What Will History Say?" (January 18, 2005)

* The Utopian Conservatives (January 25, 2005)

* Bush's Helpful Critics (February 1, 2005)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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