Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The silence of Jesus on trial - a matter of truth

The Gospels describe that Jesus refuses to say anything at various points in his 'trial' with Pilate, Herod and the Jewish elders; and this puzzles and annoys the authorities.

The silence of Jesus when confronted with his accusers is also something that many later people have found confusing - perhaps especially given that in other parts of the Gospels Jesus is shown to be a brilliant rhetorician and arguer.

Did Jesus, perhaps, 'refuse to defend himself' - was he 'courting martyrdom', or was it something else?

(And when Jesus was not being silent, he often refused to answer his accusers; either by responding to a question with another question - or by saying something 'irrelevant' to the question.)

My feeling is that the silence of Jesus was necessary because of the falsehood of the bureaucratic and legal process to which he was subjected.

The 'trial' made so many false assumptions - was indeed structured on the basis of selective and biased assumptions that were nonetheless being regarded as the only things that matter. Merely to participate in the, by saying anything at all, was therefore implicitly to endorse a lie.

Since Jesus was without sin, he could not lie; therefore he could not answer.


We have likely experienced for ourselves an exactly analogous phenomenon in modern societies; because false assumptions are deeply-woven into mainstream public discourse - woven into bureaucratic processes, legalism or media discourse.

We find ourselves - and often - in situations where the assumptions are false and the procedures do not allow for truth. For example when you are required to answer yes or no to a tendentious question, to place a tick or cross in a box, to provide a unit of fact which is intrinsically embedded in a falsifying context or meaning...

The procedure is evil: the procedure is a lie - to participate in the procedure is to endorse the lie.


Modern public life is therefore a set of trick questions and traps; and all possible answers lead straight back into the trap.

In such situations, the aim is to force us (each, individually, without exceptions) to become complicit in the process - to force us to participate in The Lie.

No honest answer is possible, because all honest answers must challenge the assumptions behind the question - honest answers are not accepted as data.

In such situations the only honest answer may be silence.