A few of you may recognize the following video from the 1973 movie/musical “Jesus Christ Superstar“.
The movie is about the relationship between Judas and Jesus in the last few weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion. The song in particular talks about the Jewish high priest’s debate with the other priests about how to best deal with Jesus. Their argument essentially boils down to these quotes:
Listen to that howling mob of blockheads in the street
A trick or two with lepers, and the whole town’s on its feet…
That man is in town right now to whip up some support
A rabble rousing mission that I think we must abort
He is dangerous
It is further reasoned that,
We dare not leave Him to His own devices
His half-witted fans will get out of control…
I see blood and destruction
Our elimination because of one man
We must crush Him completely…
This Jesus must die
Now obviously these quotes aren’t perfect arguments for induction and would probably make Socrates shake his head, but they still capture the idea that logic, whether its sound or not, is used all the time. Now let me examine exactly what has been said.
The first “argument” consists of the priests premises that since Jesus is very capable of gathering followers (A) and (assumed, though not said) anyone with a large group of followers not with the Jews is dangerous (if A then B) to them, Jesus is dangerous (B). The first premise is reliable since the Priests are watching Jesus’ influence grow before their very eyes as well as the second as it has been observed time and time again that an individual not under your control who has a large base of support threatens the current power structure this argument is not only valid, but it is also to a high degree, truthful and therefore sound.
A later premise states that if Jesus was left to His own devices then his followers would become uncontrollable (if A then B) although this statement has much more speculation to it and is therefore less truthful. It is implied that if the Christians were to get out of control, blood and destruction would ensue as they clashed with the Romans and Jews (if B then C) and that this would cause the elimination of the Jewish Priests (if C then D). The Priests don’t want to be eliminated (not D), therefore Jesus must not be left to his own devices (not C, not B, not A). They see that either Jesus is crushed or he is left to his own devices (E or A) therefore they want to achieve E. In order to not be destroyed the priests must crush Jesus, and in order for Jesus to be crushed, the priests reason that Jesus must die.
- and thus, a religion was born
Note that there is much assumption here, and no truthful syllogisms to back up the Priests’ conclusions therefore their conclusions are not sound because not only is it not certain that A will lead to B will lead to C will lead to D (it is not a valid argument) but the truth of the original premise that if Jesus is left to his own devices his followers will become uncontrollable is very questionable, therefore, this second argument is not sound.