Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harmonizing the death of Judas

“A particularly fascinating illustration of the need to explore creative harmonization possibilities before concluding for irreconcilable differences comes from historians Barbara Allen and William Montell. In their book on methodology for conducting local historical research, Allen and Montell investigated two different accounts of the 1881 lynching of two young men–Frank and Jack McDonald (‘the McDonald boys’)–in Menominee, Michigan. One account claimed that the boys were hung from a railroad crossing, while the other claimed they were strung up on a pine tree. The accounts seemed hopelessly contradictory until Allen and Montell discovered old photographs that showed the bodies hanging at different times from both places. As macabre as it is, the McDonald boys apparently had first been hung up from a railroad crossing, then taken down, dragged to a pine tree, and hoisted up again. Sometimes reality is stranger–and more gruesome–than fiction,” P. Eddy & G. Boyd, The Jesus Legend (Baker 2007), 424.

“This particular episode is all the more interesting because it bears a certain resemblance to the apparently conflicting accounts of Judas’s death…Were it not for discovered photographs, historians who treated the differing traditions of the boys’ tragic hanging as skeptically as many New Testament critics treat the Gospels would be insisting that at least one of the accounts must be wrong. In fact, however, both were accurate,” ibid. 224-25.

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