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Old 04-05-2001, 06:09 PM   #61
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The following three-part reply to SecWebLurker (SWL) will be my last in this thread on the historicity of Jesus' burial. I give him (or her?) the last word after this.

(Note to SWL: I've posted this three-part reply in Nomad's thread "What Happened?" as well, so you can post your reply in that thread also.)

****

Part 1 of 3

On the burden of proof issue Secweblurker (SWL) said, "if you want to argue that Jesus' burial has historical inaccuracies or probably didn't occur, the burden of proof will be your's."

I take this as false. Lack of belief in something is the default position given lack of sufficient evidence to establish the probability of the thing. You are asking me to prove that something did NOT happen. That's not how the burden of proof works. The burden of proof is always on the person who offers a positive account. The exponent of the traditional account of Jesus' burial has the burden to prove that the burial took place as described in the NT (or Mark). Absent the sufficiency of this evidence, disbelief in the traditional account is automatically justified, even in the simultaneous absence of evidence as to an alternative account of the burial. So if you were to fail to show that Jesus was probably buried as Mark suggests, I would be justified in believing that Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests, even if I were to fail to offer an alternative account of what happened to Jesus' body. My position, then, would be agnosticism as to what exactly did happen to Jesus' body, but justified doubt as to the Markan account given the traditionalist's failure to support this account. I do not have the burden to prove that Jesus was not buried. Rather, you have the burden to prove that Jesus was buried. If you cannot do this, disbelief in Jesus' burial is justified by default. That's why the ambiguities and deficiencies in the evidence support skepticism (non-adherence to traditional Christianity) rather than traditional Christianity.

SWL seems to be confusing denial of the Markan account, which is a negative claim amounting to "Jesus was not buried as Mark describes," and the offering of an alternative account to Mark, which would be a positive claim amounting to "Jesus was in fact left to rot on the cross." Another way of stating this confusion is to point out the difference between using, on the one hand, alternative accounts to Mark by way of attacking the traditionalist's case, in which case the point would be to show that the alternative accounts are at least as probable, and attempting, on the other hand, to make an independent, positive alternative account, in which case the burden of proof would indeed be on the skeptic. To clarify my position, I do not claim to be able to show what probably did happen to Jesus' body. The evidence is simply too poor. But I do believe the evidence is lacking in support of the Markan account. Since the traditionalist cannot establish her case as probable, since, that is, the traditionalist fails in her burden of proof, lack of belief in the Markan account is justified. So far I have no burden of proof. All I have to do is explore the traditionalist's own case and show that this case is insufficient to establish probability. Were I then to step up to the plate and contend that Jesus' body was probably disposed of in such and such a way, the burden of proof would be passed on to me. I have indeed talked about Roman expectations regarding crucifixion, but not to establish the probability of an alternative account to Mark; rahter, I intended merely to attack the traditional account from a purely negative view point, the belief that Jesus was not buried according to Mark.

SWL also says "skepticism is not necessarilly a default position and 'agnosticism' in the sense of "I don't know" is not necessarilly skepticism but the refusal to take any position. If it is skepticism, then it must be equally skeptical towards the position which doubts the account."

I'll clarify my use of the terms. By "skepticism" I mean specifically the default lack of acceptance of the Markan account given the traditionalist's failure to make her case. In this sense, "skepticism" or the denial of the Markan account is indeed the default position given the traditionalist's failure in meeting her burden of proof and establishing the Markan account as probable. By "agnosticism" I mean specifically the lack of any positive belief as to what happened to Jesus' body, this lack being consistent with disbelief in the Markan account. Indeed, agnosticism in this sense necessitates disbelief in any particular account. If the evidence is poor, no account can be established as probable. If I don't know what happened to Jesus' body, logically I can't accept that Jesus was probably buried as described in Mark.

Regarding my point that "the fact that Mark's account sounds plausible, given Brown's reading, doesn't preclude the possibility that Mark invented the details precisely to make the story believable" SWL says "Hahaha...of course it doesn't. But we can say that about any report so its meaningless." But of course my point doesn't apply to "any report." It applies only to any single report deficient in the initial plausibility department and for which there is not the slightest bit of independent confirmation by other sources. I take John's Passion narrative to be based on Mark. In that case, Mark is the ONLY independent source on Joseph of Arimethea. (Paul says only that Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. He doesn't give the slightest detail concerning the burial, and moreover he says he got his "gospel" not from any man-made tradition but from a vision of God.)

****

Regarding Roman expectations of burial, SWL says "Your whole case for Pilate's negativity hinges on equally biased sources written for the express purpose of making Pilate look bad. We've successfully exposed all three of our sources on Pilate as initially biased, and written for a purpose so we are left without any indices at all as to his character. We just "don't know"."

Well, this isn't the case. Even if we were to lack reliable evidence regarding Pilate's character in particular--and I don't admit this--we are hardly lacking in evidence as to ancient Rome in general on anti-Judaism and crucifixion. We know that the Roman government was in general brutal towards its enemies. This is why, for instance, they used crucifixion in the first place. Moreover, we know that just a few decades after Jesus' death the Jews revolted against Rome. Clearly the Jews were not happy about being occupied by the Romans. The Romans showed no mercy and completely demolished Jerusalem and the Temple, showing little respect for Jewish customs, to say the least.

As Britannica says (www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=108150&tocid=35196#35196.toc):

"The procurators of Judaea, being of equestrian (knightly) rank and often of Oriental Greek stock, were more anti-Semitic than the governors of Syria, who were of the higher senatorial order. The last procurators in particular were indifferent to Jewish religious sensibilities; and various patriotic groups, to whom nationalism was an integral part of their religion, succeeded in polarizing the Jewish population and bringing on an extremely bloody war with Rome in 66-70. The climax of the war was the destruction of the Temple in 70, though, according to Josephus, the Roman general (and later emperor) Titus sought to spare it. The war was not ended, however, until 73, when the Sicarii at Masada committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans."

These are some of the elementary background facts regarding Rome's relationship to the Hellenistic Jews, and they don't speak well to the NT's whitewashing of the Roman responsibility for Jesus' death.

Even though all the ancient writers were biased in one way or another, that hardly means we can't trust anything they said. My case against Philo was very specific. Nowhere did I say we can't trust anything Philo said. Moreover such bare incidents as the parading of the Roman images in the Temple, as recounted by Josephus, can be regarded as historical. I know of no scholar who denies the bare historicity of Josephus' stories on Pilate. The crucial difference is between the bare incident and the writer's spin on the incident. There's also a vast difference between an event described by only one author, and an event described by multiple authors. We have multiple sources on Pilate's brutality and anti-Jewishness. We have only Mark on Pilate's pro-Jewishness and mercy (I take John as partly dependent on Mark). The letter from Tiberius about the Jews is told only by Philo. There's also a major difference between Philo and, say, Josephus. Josephus was primarily an historian, whereas Philo was primarily a theologian. Also, Philo was biased simply in favour of the Jews, whereas Josephus had ties both to Jews and the Romans. We have reason to suspect that Philo made up the content of at least one official letter because his account contradicts Josephus's. (See www.dabar.org/Atomic/menu/office/desk/Publication/Philo_on_Pilate.pdf : "Philo needed such a letter at this point in his story. Whether the historical Agrippa wrote one is unknown, but the present version is certainly Philo's own composition. Josephus, although generally fascinated with Agrippa, Caligula, and the image episode knows of no such letter and places Agrippa's appeal in the context of a banquet (AJ 18.289-297, see War 2.203). In Philo's version, however, this letter resolves the image conflict, as Gaius is temporarily persuaded to abandon his plan. It further condemns any Roman violation of the Temple.") We also know from multiple sources that Tiberius became deranged and paranoid after discovering Sejanus' plot. We don't know where the anti-Judaism in Roman policy came from, solely from Sejanus or from both Sejanus and Tiberius? Therefore we can't know a priori that Tiberius would automatically have reversed anti-Jewish policies.

Moreover, I don't need to argue that Philo invented Tiberius' letter from nothing. Rather, I can simply claim that Philo exaggerated the pro-Jewishness of the letter, so that we can't know for sure whether Tiberius literally reversed Rome's harsh treatment of the Jews, that is, whether Philo accurately represented the contents of the letter. Philo's use of a pro-Jewish Tiberius at this point is in keeping with his moral framework. Philo believed everyone should respect the Jews, including Roman emperors. He exaggerated the saintliness or anti-Semitism of some emperors (such as Tiberius or Gaius) to use them as teaching devices for other emperors (such as Claudius). I'm not aware of an historian who doesn't acknowledge the moral framework behind Philo's "histories." In general, scholars treat Josephus as the better historian. In any case, Philo hardly describes Pilate as merciful towards the Jews. Philo describes Pilate in particular as "naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness," and refers to his conduct as procurator in terms of "briberies, insults, robberies, outrages and wanton injuries, executions without trial constantly repeated, ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty" (Legatio ad Gaium 301,302). So even if anti-Jewish policies were reversed by Tiberius and Pilate was instructed to honour Jewish customs, he would still have been faced with a hard decision, a conflict of interests.

Moreover, according to Philo--as I said in my last post--Tiberius' letter doesn't even resolve the conflict between Roman penal measures (such as leaving the crucified bodies on the cross) and honouring Jewish customs (by burying the bodies). In Philo's words, Tiberius "charged his procurators in every place to which they were appointed to speak comfortably to the members of our nation in the different cities, assuring them that the penal measures did not extend to all but only to the guilty, who were few, and to disturb none of the established customs but even to regard them as a trust committed to their care, the people as naturally peaceable, and the institutions as an influence promoting orderly conduct." So if Jesus was found guilty the Roman penal measures would still have applied to him. If one of the Roman penal measures was to leave the body on the cross, as even Raymond Brown grants, Tiberius' letter wouldn't by itself resolve the conflict of interests for Pilate.

****

I'm now going to go through the major arguments from my last post, and address what I take to be SWL's main replies to each. One of my arguments as to Brown's interpretation of Mark's burial account is that many of Brown's points are consistent with the account being fabricated in the interests of verisimilitude rather than historicity. Brown argues that Joseph was a pious Sanhedrin member who buried Jesus according to Jewish law. Even if this were granted Mark may have used such a character for reasons of maintaining a coherent plot, supporting other elements of his narrative, and issuing a back-handed apologetic and a rewrite of troubling history, making friends of Jesus' enemies.

For example, I pointed out that Roman law didn't provide for burial of crucified bodies. SWL replied that Romans often threw crucified victims into common graves. But this doesn't address the point. The point is that Romans were not forced to do this by law, and thus Christians in Mark's time could not have been comforted with such a custom of making mass burial pits for crucified victims. There are at least two possibilities given Brown's interpretation of Joseph as a pious council member rather than a disciple of Jesus: Brown's and Crossan's. Brown argues that Mark made Joseph a council member because a council member REALLY DID bury Jesus according to Jewish law. Crossan argues that whether Mark made Joseph a friend or foe of Jesus, he did this to reassure Christians that Jesus MUST have been buried according to Jewish law, the only way Jesus could necessarily have been buried. Romans did not necessarily bury crucified bodies. Sometimes they left them on the cross to rot. We know this from various sources. Why go through the trouble of nailing someone to a cross only to remove the body right away?

For example, Tacitus tells us that suicide was preferable to crucifixion because Roman instituted "modes of dying were rendered popular by fear of the executioner and by the fact that a man legally condemned forfeited his estate and was debarred from burial" (Annals 6.29). And as Joe Zias writes on crucifixion (http://www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/crucifixion.html ), "As a deterrent in the ancient world, many of its victims were crucified where the criminal event took place as was the case with thieves or along the cities' busiest thoroughfares. The situation can perhaps best be summed up by Quintilian who wrote that, "whenever we crucify the guilty, the most, crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect" [Quintilian (AD 35-95) Decl 274].

"As one of the main objectives of this cruel method of execution was its deterrent value, Roman authorities also devised various means whereby the victim could remain on the cross for days in public before eventually expiring. Thus the manner in which the victims were crucified was not fixed by law but appears dependent on the number of individuals involved, the sadistic ingenuity of those carrying out the execution and the time needed for this spectacle to have its maximum deterrent effect.

"Giving the victim a proper burial following death on the cross, during the Roman period was rare and in most cases simply not permitted in order to continue the humiliation. Thus the victim was in many cases simply thrown on the garbage dump of the city or left on the cross as food for wild beasts and birds of prey."

SWL contends that Mark did not have to resort to a Jew to secure Jesus' burial. Mark could, for example, have had Pilate convert to Christianity and bury the body himself. Once again, such a story could not have served to reassure Mark's readers that Jesus was necessarily buried since, after all, there would have been no necessity that Pilate be converted. Not everyone Jesus came into contact with converted to Christianity. On the contrary, this would have strained credibility since Pilate was a well known figure.

Having said this, Mark does indeed whitewash as much as he can both the Roman and the Jewish responsibility for Jesus' death. Mark makes Pilate a Jesus sympathizer and thus practically a Christian. It's just that Pilate's conversion wouldn't have served as a necessary reason for Jesus' burial. Mark also makes Joseph a Jesus sympathizer. Mark's characterization of Joseph is ambiguous and quite possibly deliberately so. If "waiting for the kingdom of God" means that Joseph approved of the "kingdom of God" as preached by Jesus, then Joseph was a follower of Jesus and had to exercise courage in approaching Pilate based on his hope that his Christianity would be secret. In that case, Mark's transformation of Jesus' enemies is hearty indeed. But even under Brown's interpretation of Joseph there is room for this sort of transformation. As Brown explains Mark's ambiguous characterization of Joseph, there would have been a "great likelihood that after the resurrection Joseph did become a Christian and that is why his name was remembered in all the Gospel accounts. Knowing that but also that Joseph was not a disciple before the burial, Mark deliberately described him in language appropriate both for a law-observant Jew and for a (future) disciple of Jesus" (1223-4). So even if Mark meant for Joseph to be considered only a pious Jew at the time of the burial, Mark's ambiguous description of Joseph left room for Joseph's imminent conversion, and thus we have an account of Joseph consistent with deeply revisionist history.

(By the way, Brown's point here about Mark's ambiguous description of Joseph allowing for Joseph's future conversion addresses SWL's statement that "If Mark's going for backhanded apologetics he might as well go the whole 9 and have Joseph become a full-on disciple. Wasn't, uh, that your original theory, Earl? Seems to be getting more nuanced...")

SWL contends also that Pilate could have given the body directly to Jesus' followers. As Brown says, such an account (as in Matthew and Luke) strains credibility because of the Roman attitude towards those convicted of sedition. Romans did not want traitors to be imitated; on the contrary, the whole point of crucifixion was to show no mercy to traitors and to deter imitation (1208, 1217).

SWL also says Mark could have had Pilate "turn up his nose at the Jews who cruelly made him kill him in the first place." That's exactly what Mark does do. The reason Pilate asks the crowd if it wanted to have Jesus released, according to Mark, was because Pilate knew "it was out of envy that the chief priests handed Jesus over to him" (15:10).

So it appears to me that given Brown's interpretation of Joseph as a pious Jew rather than a follower of Jesus, Mark could just as likely have used this character for reasons other than attention to historicity. Specifically, the necessity of Jesus' burial, and thus the strongest answer to the Christian fear according to Roman expectations that Jesus wasn't buried, would have hinged on obedience to Jewish law (Deut.21:22). This was the strongest possible argument for the early Christians as to why Jesus must have been buried. And since Pilate was not a Jew, Mark figured, somewhere along the line a Jew must have requested the body. The more pious and authoritative the Jew, the more likely Jesus was buried.



[This message has been edited by Earl (edited April 06, 2001).]
 
Old 04-05-2001, 06:10 PM   #62
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Part 2 of 3

Now there are deep problems with Brown's account. (Besides the following, see the long quotation from George W. Shea's criticism of Brown at the end of Part 3 below.) Let's assume that Pilate allowed Jesus to be buried according to Jewish law, in order to avoid a riot among the Jews. Pilate must then have made a habit of doing this; that is, Pilate must have acted in this way on principle. In that case, Pilate would already have known about Jewish law on burial, and thus there would have been no need for Joseph of Arimathea. If Pilate was as respectful towards Judaism as the traditionalist would have us believe, the Romans themselves would have saw to Jesus' burial in obedience to Pilate's principle. This is exactly what we find in the Gospel of Peter, so this point was hardly unknown to the early Christians. In addition this would have saved the Jews from ritual impurity by touching the corpse, whereas Mark explicitly has Joseph the council member take the body down (15:46). So why does Mark have the character of Joseph at all? In my view, it's precisely because the traditional account of Jesus' burial was fabricated by Mark. Pilate really wasn't respectful towards Jewish customs, and he really didn't make a habit of permitting burial of crucified bodies at the very moment of their death, without any further period of humiliation and deterrence. Therefore Mark has to spell out how the burial could have occurred. Both Pilate and Mark's readers have to be reminded of Jewish law, as it were.

To this SWL replies simply that perhaps Joseph really did represent the whole council, or perhaps the whole council really did approach Pilate, so there's no problem. But this is a problem because it's not what Mark says. If Joseph was just voicing something the whole council would have said and thus what Pilate would already have known from past experience, why does Mark specifically have a council member "courageously" approach Pilate and ask for the body? Why didn't the Romans bury Jesus themselves to save the Jews from ritual impurity? It appears to me that Mark uses Joseph as a tool to comfort his Christian readers, to explain to them why Jesus must have been buried, as opposed to giving plain history, which would have involved the assumption that Pilate would already have known about Jewish law and had acted on it, as in the Gospel of Peter. This implausibility in Mark tells against Brown's interpretation of Joseph's historicity. If Jesus was buried according to Jewish law to avoid a riot with the Jews, there would have been no need for a Joseph of Arimathea.

Given Joseph, however, Mark's readers would have been reassured that Deut.21:22 was followed to the letter by no one less than a respected member of the Jewish council. Joseph's strict Judaism does nothing less than guarantee that Jesus was buried, since the matter wouldn't have been left to the Romans. This point counters Brown's argument that Mark would not have given a Jew the honour of burying Jesus if a Jew hadn't actually done so. Far from being an embarrassment to the Christians Joseph's very Judaism would have added enormously to their comfort that Jesus was NECESSARILY buried according to strict adherence to Jewish law by a pious council member. That's why Mark would have wanted to make Joseph a council member, an expert on Jewish law, to guarantee Jesus' burial.

Nevertheless, regarding my question "And who would have been concerned with keeping Jewish law but a pious Jew?" SWL replies, "A pious Jew who was not on the Sanhedrin, a remorseful Pilate wanting to honor the man he had just been forced to unjustly condemn by those evil Jews, an influential gentile who had seen Jesus preach, been a secret disciple, been healed by Jesus, or etc. and bribed Pilate for the body so that Jesus could be buried with his ancestors. Its not just Jewish law that wants the body down. Its people in general."

As I already said, Pilate may indeed have felt remorse, but Mark's readers would have had no reason necessarily to expect that Pilate felt this way and thus buried Jesus. Likewise, Mark's readers could not have expected necessarily that a gentile convert to Christianity would been able to secure Jesus' burial or even that there would have been such a convert. Jesus' message appealed to the poor not the influential, because of Jesus' transvaluation of ethics. Mark's readers would have counted on Jesus' followers being poor, marginalized and quite uninfluential with Pilate. And the issue is not who might have "wanted" Jesus buried, but who could have guaranteed the burial. Answer: a judge and expert on Jewish law, a council member who applies Deut.21:22. Contrary to SWL, "people in general" did not want crucified bodies taken down for burial. Law abiding Romans approved of the public display of the corpses to deter crime. And the crowd of brainwashed Jews who at the trial allegedly shouted for Jesus to be crucified would not likely have rushed to have Jesus immediately taken down from the cross, demonstrating their piousness after all. A council member would have been much more likely to be rigorous and objective about adherence to the law, and influential in having the law applied.

Another problem for Brown is this: If Joseph wasn't yet a follower of Jesus, why did he ask only for Jesus' body and not those of the other two crucified individuals? Brown's response is to say that Mark lost interest in the two thieves and simply narrowed the story to Jesus (1216 n. 28). And yet Brown claims that Joseph showed "boldness" or "courage" in asking Pilate for the body because Joseph didn't want to be confused for a Jesus sympathizer. To save himself Joseph could have relied on the fact that he had been among the members who condemned Jesus (1217). But clearly if Joseph had asked as well for the thieves' bodies this would have prevented any mistake that Joseph was a Jesus sympathizer, since his mere adherence to the law would have been plain. Thus if Brown's account of Joseph is correct we could have expected Mark to mention Joseph's request for all three bodies. But there's an obvious reason why Mark wouldn't have wanted to mention this, and it has nothing to do with attention to historicity. To avoid the objection to the resurrection, that the disciples mistook Jesus' body for someone else, Jesus had to be buried in isolation. For just this reason Luke emphasizes that Jesus was put in a tomb in which "no one had yet been laid" (23:53).

Furthermore, what on Earth would a pious council member have been doing hovering around Golgotha on Passover, waiting to see if Jesus would die quickly so that immediately Jesus' body could be removed and buried before it was too late and the sun went down? To my mind, that is highly implausible. On Passover a pious council member would surely have been celebrating the holiday. Even a pious Jew couldn't have been everywhere and solved every problem. Yet Mark makes Joseph out to be a super-Jew who voluntarily upset his celebration of Passover to make sure that IF Jesus--who he had earlier condemned, according to Mark, quite illegally on phony charges--died early he would be given a proper burial. For all Joseph knew Jesus might have lived on into the night so that his services wouldn't have been required. Why wouldn't Joseph and the rest of the council simply inform Pilate at the trial that naturally Jesus would have to be buried in accordance with Jewish law? Why wait to the last minute as Passover approached?

This is one of the many implausible points about Mark's account. Burton Mack lists a number of others. "The list of improbable features is quite long and includes such things as the trial by night, which would have been illegal; the basis for the charge of blasphemy, which is very unclear if not completely trumped up; the failure of the witnesses to agree, which would have called for a mistrial; the right of the Sanhedrin to charge with death, a sanction that they probably did not have at the time; the insinuation of the crucifixion taking place on Passover, which would have been an outrage; Jesus' anticipation of his death as a covenant sacrifice, which might be all right for a bacchic god but hardly for the historical Jesus; the disciples falling asleep in the midst of it all; Pilate's having Jesus executed as the 'king of the Jews' without a good reason to consider him so; the high priests (in the plural!) joining in the mocking; and so on. The better approach is to recognize the whole story as Mark's fiction, written forty years after Jesus' time in the wake of the Roman-Jewish war…not a single one of the principle players was still around to say it wasn't so" ("Who Wrote the New Testament?" 158).

This leads to another point I made, about the contradiction between having a council member--regarded by Pilate as merely "jealous" of Jesus--illegally and strangely set Jesus up for execution at night, on Passover, for no good reason, and then turn around as some sort of super-Jew, according to Brown, and fly to Golgotha to have Jesus buried at the instant he had died. That seems to me highly ahistorical. Mark, rather, used the Jewish council as so much modeling clay, twisting and molding them as it suited his narrative, one minute demonizing them, the next whitewashing them.

In reply to this point SWL said (I apologize for his obnoxious tone), "Oh, you just don't stop do you!? Hahahah...This is GARBAGE, Earl. If you keep posting like this, this thread is going to breed maggots! Burial of the dead was not some spiritual interpretation of Deuteronomy, it as a universally recognized obligation of every Jew in first century Palestine! Where do you come up with this stuff? Besides the fact that you obviously don't have a great understanding of the situation regarding burial in general, you continue to misunderstand what constitutes dishonorable burial."

SWL appears to assert that there was no spiritual basis to Deut.21:22. Let SWL argue, then, with Joseph Hertz, the former Chief Rabbi of England: "'It is a slight to the King, because man is made in the Divine image' (Rashi); and the dignity of humanity must be respected even in a criminal. Death, Judaism teaches, atones his sin; therefore, his body shall, at the earliest moment, receive the same reverent treatment that is due to any other deceased" (Commentary on Pentateuch, 842). The reason burial was universally recognized by Jews is because of the Jewish belief in the dignity of all people. But a Jew could feel this oneness to greater or lesser degrees. In particular, Mark presents the Jewish Council as a group of criminals who want to illegally execute a spiritual leader for no good reason. That doesn't sound to me like "pious" Jews who would have been interested in interrupting their Passover celebration, out of some newfound respect for human life, to bury Jesus.

SWL also says "It doesn't matter if Joe of A. is the most evil guy in the world. There's nothing necessitating that he even conspired or voted against Jesus, nor is that even the point. The point is that any Jew, especially a member of the Jewish authority, is not going to want to defile the land with a body that will have to remain exposed all through the sabbath, during a time of the year when the population in Jerusalem has swelled to over a million, and where purity is of particular importance."

Well, SWL is disagreeing with Raymond Brown on whether Mark implies that Joseph had participated in Jesus' condemnation. Mark says repeatedly that "all" the council members were present to condemn Jesus (14:53, 55, 64; 15:1, 3, 11). Since Joseph was allegedly a council member, and since Mark goes out of his way to say the "whole" council condemned Jesus, Joseph must have condemned Jesus. Simple logic. And Brown counts on Joseph having condemned Jesus to explain why Mark says Joseph boldly approached Pilate to ask for the body. Joseph would have counted on his earlier condemnation of Jesus to save him from being suspected as a Jesus sympathizer, in which case Pilate could have granted him the body. SWL contends in an earlier post, if I'm not mistaken, that Mark may have simply been exaggerating when he said the "whole" council condemned Jesus. But Mark used this phrase a number of times so exaggeration is unlikely, and as Brown says the repeated use of this expression "creates a mindset among readers about the Sanhedrin opposition to Jesus" (1214). Moreover, what evidence does SWL offer to show Mark was using hyperbole, besides a desire to avoid a contradiction in the bible? Are we permitted to pick and choose when an author uses hyperbole? Perhaps Mark's claim that Jesus was the Son of God was also hyperbole.

And pious Jews would indeed have wanted to keep the Sabbath holy. Unfortunately Mark makes the Jewish Council members out to be a bunch of thugs, so the piety of ordinary Jews wouldn't automatically have applied to these Jews after Mark was through with his revisionist history. And why would Jesus have had to hang on the tree "all through the Sabbath"? Why couldn't the Romans have taken him down without prompting from one of the criminal Jewish leaders, who disrespected the spirit of Jewish law to such an extent that he and the whole council conducted an illegal trial at night and on Passover, with conflicting witnesses and a vague charge of blasphemy, all out of "envy" for Jesus?

SWL says "Pilate could've granted the body because he realized that Jesus had been put to death unjustly." If Pilate had realized Jesus was innocent of the charges, he wouldn't have had Jesus crucified in the first place, risking the martyrdom of an innocent man. Pilate would have had to balance pleasing the crowd of Jews who screamed for Jesus' execution (where O where were the Jews who had applauded Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem [Mark 11:8-10]?) with his own alleged moral sense of Jesus' innocence and his interest not to create a future problem by martyring an innocent Jewish leader.

****

By the way, on this issue of when Passover occurred, see http://www.friktech.com/rel/passover.htm . Jesus was indeed executed on the first day of Passover at EXACTLY the moment when the Jews slaughtered their Pascal lambs. For Jews the day began at sundown, a crucial point. According to Ex.12:4-10, the lamb was slaughtered at the end of Nisan 14, between 3 PM and sundown, and eaten the following evening just at Nisan 15. Jesus prepared the lamb and ate it on the same evening. Regarding this problem, Frank Daniels says that the point at which Jesus had the lamb slaughtered "was the evening which began Nisan 14, and NOT the afternoon which ended Nisan 14," in other words, one day too early. Jesus' "lamb had already been slaughtered (on the afternoon of the 13th). Now, on the evening of the 14th, they were going to prepare and eat the lamb--one day earlier than normal. The accounts give no reason, but it may have been simply that Jesus wanted to eat the feast one more time before he was crucified (Lk 22:15)….

"Mark also indicates that the Passover lamb was killed during the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (14:12), affirming the Exodus 12 account. It was this evening during which Jesus ate his dinner one day early. Mark further mentions that Jesus died on the Day of Preparation (15:42)….

"The trial of Jesus lasted less than one day, from some time in the middle of the night of Nisan 14 until he was placed on the cross around noon of Nisan 14….

"Because of an error in transmission, the text of Mark currently indicates that Jesus was crucified at about the third hour (15:25). While this could be a contradiction, it is probable that the Greek letter digamma, which had fallen into disuse and was about to be discontinued altogether, was mistaken for the common letter gamma. Thus, an early scribe mistook F for G and copied "third" instead of "sixth" at that location. The other accounts all indicate Jesus taking the cross at around noon (the sixth hour). All four [gospel] accounts clearly agree at his death at around the ninth hour, the time when the Passover lambs would be slain."

I trust the importance of this last point is crystal clear, which I'll return to in a moment. Daniels' interest is in harmonization of the gospels and defending inerrancy, but he's left to admit that the gospels give no reason as to why Jesus celebrated Passover one day early. To summarize--the details are somewhat confusing--the Passover lamb was supposed to be slaughtered at the end of the day before the Passover meal, the afternoon of 14 Nisan, and eaten that evening, the beginning of 15 Nisan. (The confusing point is that according to the Jewish calendar the day began at sundown.) And here's the all-important point: Jesus died, according to Mark 15:33-34, 42, at the very moment when the Jews slaughtered their Pascal lambs, the ninth hour or 3 PM Nisan 14! To repeat Daniels' point: "All four accounts clearly agree at his death at around the ninth hour, the time when the Passover lambs would be slain." Mark could not possibly have made the symbolism any clearer. Indeed, the symbolism was evidently so important to Mark that he was forced to have Jesus celebrate Passover one day early.

Now regarding the Passover symbolism, although the details I pointed out (the cross as the world's door post, Satan as the angel of death) might not have been in Mark's mind (I took these details from Spong's "Liberating the Gospels," 96), clearly the early Christians regarded Jesus as the new sacrificial Passover lamb. Indeed, the contrary view, that Jesus' death was not regarded by the early Christians in terms of the Passover lamb's sacrifice--if that is what SWL asserts--is quite untenable. The Lord's Supper itself in Paul's letters and the gospel narratives involved a redefinition of the Passover meal in Christian terms. In John 1:29, Acts 8:32,1 Pe.1:19, 1 Cor.5:7, and Rev.5:6 Jesus is identified explicitly as the paschal lamb. The views that the cross is a new entrance into heaven, the doorway for Gentiles, and that Christians are saved through the shedding of Jesus' blood are articulated repeatedly by Paul. The fact that Jesus died at the very moment when Ex.12:4 commands the Jews to slaughter the lamb, and that Jesus was in fact regarded as the new Passover lamb as early as Paul's letters, makes me very suspicious of the timing of Jesus' death in Mark. True enough, by an astonishing coincidence or divine manipulation of time Jesus, the new sacrificial lamb, could possibly have died at the very moment when the Jews' Pascal lambs were actually slaughtered. Then again, Mark could just as easily have said he died at this point to reinforce the symbolism. The coincidence is far too great for me. Either God manipulated everything so that Jesus would die at just this time, to alert us to Christianity's replacement of Jewish symbolism, or else Mark fabricated the timing for the sake of making the same point. The latter explanation I take to be simpler, given scientific naturalism.

In any case, I didn't say this symbolism was the only reason for Jesus' early death in Mark. Jesus had to die before sundown so that Deut.21:22 could even remotely have applied. To this, SWL says oddly "That applies to a corpse, Earl." Precisely. If Jesus had not become a corpse prior to sundown, but continued to live after that time, not only would Deut.21:22 not have applied, since the law states that the curse is due to the ritual impurity emanating from an unclean corpse hanging on a tree, not a living person hanging on a tree in the process of dying. There would, too, have been nobody present to apply this law and remove Jesus' body until morning at the earliest, since once the sun went down life in the ancient world stopped. In that case, there would have been no reason to apply Deut.21:22 until the following evening, after Jesus had hung on the cross for an entire day. Deut.21:22 mentions sundown because after this point no one would be present to guard the body and wild animals could get at it, causing gross deformation and excessive impurity. The Jews took the timing of sunset literally. As Rabbi Joseph Hertz says in his commentary on the Pentateuch, "The hanging was delayed till near sunset, so that the body might without delay be taken down for burial" (842).



[This message has been edited by Earl (edited April 06, 2001).]
 
Old 04-05-2001, 06:13 PM   #63
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Part 3 of 3

One of my other arguments was that Mark required a burial scene to fill the gap between the crucifixion and his peculiar resurrection scene including the lack of any appearance of the risen Jesus, and the women's failure to anoint Jesus and to trust that Jesus was alive. To this SWL says "This is also meaningless and can be said about any section in any chronological sequence. "The reason Mark needs a crucifixion is so he can fill the gap between the Jews condemning Jesus and Jesus dying. What really happened is that Jesus got stoned like Stephen.""

This misses the point completely. How would a crucifixion scene have connected logically with Jesus' condemnation by Jews? And the crucifixion scene doesn't come between Jesus' condemnation and his death; rather, the crucifixion scene IS the scene of his death. Moreover, the crucifixion scene is the center-point of the gospel and is quite elaborate. My point is about the filling of a gap with a dashed off mini story, such as Jesus' burial by Joseph, which fills up no more than Mark 15:42-47. By contrast the crucifixion spans the trial, the beating and the death, and involves details of all kinds, including prophecy fulfillment. It's far more likely that a very short segment in a story is fabricated than an extensive, detailed, and central segment.

In addition, I have an extra reason why the burial scene was fabricated, namely the peculiarity of Mark's resurrection scene, with the absence of an appearance of the risen Jesus and the women's failure. Obviously Mark implies that the women would eventually see the risen Jesus, but that misses the point. My point was not that the women were permanently deprived of seeing the risen Jesus, but that naturally enough due to their lack of faith Jesus had "gone ahead of them." That is, Jesus had still to lead the way, even after death, because his followers' faith was weak. The point is that to pay for their failure the women are left with only an empty tomb, an angel who has to point them in the right direction, and a risen Jesus whom they missed and who is still "ahead of them" in more ways than one.

On the matter of the women's failure, Crossan points out the contrast Mark sets up between the three women's failure to anoint Jesus at the tomb, and the unnamed woman's spectacular faith in Jesus' imminent death (Mark 14:3-9), who therefore anoints Jesus with expensive material ("Who Killed Jesus?" 184-5). Unlike the unnamed woman who demonstrated exemplary faith, the three women were too late and stingy with their faith. Given that Mark wanted to tie up the contrast, end the gospel on the note of the disciples' failure, with the peculiar lack of any resurrection appearances, Mark had to place the three women in the position of acting on the assumption that Jesus was dead only to be divinely corrected. The three women's lack of faith is continued in their response to the angel's joyous declaration that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. According to Mark, "trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid" (16:8). Thus Mark ends his gospel on the women's resounding lack of faith and disobedience. Whereas the angel specifically told the women to tell the disciples the good news, Mark goes out of his way to mention that the women "told no one." That looks to me as though Mark's point was that the women had failed Jesus in the sense of having weak faith. Their fear overtook them, just as the disciples' fear was a constant burden to Jesus, according to Mark.

After Jesus' death, the central point of the gospel which wouldn't likely have been fundamentally fabricated, where else could the three women have acted on their false assumption but at Jesus' tomb? The common grave possibility was ruled out by the need to counter the objection that Jesus' body was mistaken for someone else, that Jesus hadn't been raised and that the women couldn't discern Jesus' mutilated body from a pile of others. Jesus couldn't have been resurrected straight from the cross, since that would have led to the "Passover Plot" objection that Jesus had helpers remove him from the cross before he was dead and that he was never truly resurrected. If Jesus had been left on the cross, there could also have been the objection that Jesus had been misidentified. The longer Jesus remained on the cross, the more chance Jesus would have been disfigured by wild animals (birds plucking at Jesus' face, and yes, SWL, even animals or bystanders for sport knocking the crown of thorns off his head).

In reply to my point that Mark would not have wanted to describe Jesus' decomposition by having Jesus left on the cross to rot or thrown into a common grave or garbage pile and be devoured by animals and roasted by the sun, as opposed to putting Jesus in a nice cool and isolated grave where Mark could simply forget about Jesus until his resurrection time, SWL says that a decomposing Jesus is "not much worse than a bloody whipped pierced cursed Jesus stuck on a cross with a crown of thorns on. But Mark really doesn't have to conjur up any such images and burial in a tomb doesn't really put a stop to decomposition anyway." SWL also says "Three days in a tomb in Jerusalem and Jesus is not decomposing? Highly doubtful. Makes us wonder why Mark went with the whole 'third day' motif. Could've had Jesus up and ready to go the next day. No problem with the decomposition there. Oh, and same goes for Jesus left on the cross or put in the common grave. Jesus could've risen that NIGHT."

The notion that God was whipped into submission would indeed have been absurd to a Jew, but excessive and blatant decomposition would have been not just tasteless but illogical. As the Jews for Judaism site says (http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/j4j-2000/index.html ): "If his [Jesus'] body functioned exactly in a human way, this would nullify any claim to divinity. It would be impossible for any part of God, even if incarnate, to decompose in any way and still be considered God. By definition, not mystery, the everlasting, one God, in whole or in part, does not die, disintegrate, or decompose: "For I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6)." We shed skin every day, but a dead and decomposing body left to the elements, the harsh Middle Eastern sun, and the mercy of wild animals would have been absolutely disgusting to both Jews and the early Christians--far worse than having Jesus undergo a beating. At least in an isolated and sealed cave Jesus would have been protected from the sun, the wild animals, and tampering or theft of the body. Mark doesn't specify that the tomb was brand new, but he leaves open this possibility since he doesn't mention anyone else being buried in the tomb. Luke catches the general idea and fights off the objection with the detail that no one had yet been laid in the tomb. Matthew counteracts another objection (that Jesus' followers stole the body) with his story of the bribing of the guards at the tomb.

As to why Mark mentioned "three days," certain numbers were highly symbolic for ancient cultures. "Three" represented in Hebrew numerology divine completeness, an encapsulation of time (past, present and future) and space (length, width, height). We should be suspicious of the emphasis on such numbers in the bible. "Forty," for example, just meant a long time, not exactly forty years. So Mark could very easily have meant Jesus' "three" days in the tomb to be symbolic. Just given Mark, we have no idea how long Jesus was literally in the tomb.

At any rate, these are additional considerations as to why Mark would have fabricated the burial story as he did. The main reason is the one given in Part 1 above, that deprivation of burial was a most horrible thought for Jews, and that the only way to guarantee Jesus' burial was the postulation of adherence to Jewish law by someone who would certainly have applied the law, who would have known that law the best, and could have influenced Pilate, a respected member of the Jewish council.

****

Regarding the unlikelihood of the oral transmission of the details of Joseph's interaction with Pilate, SWL says "Its not at all obvious that none of those details would not be preserved. So this is not a "problem" at all. Its another fantastic objection from Earl, drawn from the realm of infinite possibility and presented as an argument for improbability." So what is SWL's theory of memory? It seems to me clear that for a piece of information to survive oral transmission over a period of decades the information must be pithy, and even then we can expect distortion. Has SWL ever played the game "broken telephone"? Far from being memorable Joseph's conversation with Pilate is awkward, with Pilate showing surprise that Jesus was already dead and having to perform a bureaucratic check to see if this was so. It seems more likely that Mark had to invent such details on the spot to flesh out his story than that they were passed on orally without distortion over a period of decades.

SWL also says "Not in any way whatsover does the plausibility of someone like Pilate being concerned about leaving a body exposed against Jewish law in such a situation seem imiplausible, nor is it in any way implausible that Joe of A. would ask for the body from Pilate. We don't really EVEN see any particular *concern* on the part of Pilate though, so I'm not sure what you're talking about. He just grants the request. That shows more of a lack of concern with what happens to the body. And the shortness of the duration is insignificant. Who cares if it is fabricated?"

Yet the point is not that the Romans in general wouldn't have been at all interested in following Jewish law, but that Pilate wouldn't likely have been directly involved in releasing Jesus' body for burial. Wouldn't Pilate have left the matter up to the Roman guards at the cross? Mark even has one of the centurions at the cross declare, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (15:39). (Luke notes the implausibility and softens the statement to "Surely this was a righteous man [23:47], although Matthew is happy with Mark's declaration [Matt.27:54].) Well, what was this noble pagan waiting for? Get the body down and give it a proper burial, you saintly Centurion! But no, a Jewish council member has to approach no less an authority than Pilate, the procurator of Judea. This sounds to me like more back-handed apologetic: Mark would have had an interest in making Jesus' life grander than it was, involving more important figures and taking on more political significance than it actually had. That's a simple literary technique. And the implausibility is not in Pilate's reaction to Joseph but in Joseph having to approach Pilate in the first place, especially when Mark has one of the centurion guards virtually convert to Christianity. To my mind, the entire scenario is wildly improbable.

In response to my point that if Jesus died so early because he was unhealthy and physically weak, Pilate should not have been so surprised by Jesus' early death since Pilate saw Jesus' physical condition at the trial, SWL says "Pilate isn't a physician, Earl. And this is irrelevant, as the entire issue of Jesus dying early could be fictitious. He might have had his legs broken and died quickly thereafter without surprising Pilate, and that affects not one thing regarding the burial." Pilate may not have been a physician but he must have had plenty of experience with crucifixion, including how long people last in that sorry state and why. This is just another blow to the plausibility of the details of Mark's burial account. Pilate must have already seen thousands of people crucified. He should have been an expert on the matter, so his surprise as to Jesus' early death, assuming Jesus' legs were not broken, is suspect. Now as to whether Jesus' legs were broken, that's not told anywhere in the NT, so SWL is the one here guilty of speculation without evidence. On the contrary, John19:32-36 says specifically that Jesus' legs were not broken, in fulfillment of prophecy.

****

Regarding whether Jesus was given an honourable or a dishonourable burial, it's not clear to me that the honourable aspect of burial for Jews consisted merely of the presence of family and chanting some prayers. Mark goes so far as to say Joseph's tomb was "cut out of the rock" as opposed to being a natural cave. Such a tomb would have been on the expensive and jealously guarded side. The Oxford Companion to the bible notes that "In later periods tombs were cut from the rock…Criminals were buried under a pile of rocks" (96). Joseph would have regarded Jesus as a criminal, so why didn't he just thrown some rocks over Jesus and be done with it? The Jesus Seminar believes, as summarized by Funk, that the rock-hewn tomb described by Mark would have been "reserved for nobility" ("The Acts of Jesus" 160). So at the very least there is scholarly disagreement on this point.

To prove this point much further, here (from www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/FR91103.TXT ) is a long quotation from George W. Shea's critical article on Brown's interpretation of Mark's burial account as involving dishonour. Shea works from one of Brown's articles rather than "The Death of the Messiah," but most of his points apply to the two volume work as well. Shea's conclusion is that "it is certain that friends buried Jesus,90 most notably, Joseph of Arimathea. Mark, it is true, does not term Joseph a disciple of the Lord. But his burial account, along with 16:1-5, indicates beyond all doubt that the Sanhedrist was an adherent of Jesus, and buried him honorably, in his own family tomb." I note, by the way, that as a skeptic I'm happy either way on this question of the nobility of Jesus' tomb. Brown's account is criticized by inerrantists who are interested in harmonizing the gospel accounts of Joseph and the burial. Since Matt and John make Joseph a disciple of Jesus, and John makes Jesus' burial clearly honourable, inerrantists need to explain Luke and especially Mark. If Brown is right, the inerrancy doctrine is dead. If Brown is wrong and Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, we're left with much less of a reason to consider the burial plausible and historical. Here, then, is the criticism by Shea, the ordained Catholic scholar, who quotes widely from other scholars who disagree with Brown (see the footnotes at the linked site):

We move on now with Brown as he seeks (242-243) to determine the kind of burial given Jesus _ honorable or dishonorable? Inexplicably, in this task he completely ignores the import of the Greek word used by Mark for the cloth Joseph bought to shroud the body of Jesus (v. 46): <sindon>. It regularly means a fine (finely woven) fabric, most often linen, but sometimes cotton.37 Brown does not advert to the fine quality of the shroud;38 in fact his article does not even mention <sindon>.

Although not the most expensive,39 nevertheless such material was costly. From the fact that the "young man" of Mk 14:51 was clad in a <sindon> commentators conclude he was from a well-to-do family.40 Certainly it was not the grade of material a non-adherent would buy for the dishonorable burial of an executed malefactor.

Therefore Mark's <sindon> signals, and according to J. Blinzler41 was meant to signal, the dignity of the burial. W. Lane asserts that Mark's detail about the wrapping of Jesus' body in fine linen indicates he was given an honorable burial.42 D. Daube makes the point that when Joseph is said to have bought a linen cloth, therefore not using just any cloth that was to hand, this was to eliminate any suggestion of shame marking the burial.43 The significance of the linen bought for Jesus' burial mounts, if at the time of Jesus executed criminals were buried "in ragged, torn, old, dirty winding sheets."44 Be that as it may, the <sindon> of Mk 15:46 thoroughly refutes Brown's dictum (242) that nothing in Mark's burial account suggests an honorable burial for Jesus.

But does not Mark's Greek word for "wrapped" (<eneilesen>, v. 46) hint at a dishonorable burial, as Brown imagines? He terms the verb "pedestrian," and opines that the substitution of a different verb in Matthew and Luke represents the first step in the (alleged) upgrading of the burial to an honorable one (242-243). C. S. Mann, however, observes that Mark's verb has a wide range of meanings, including the quite neutral sense of "to wrap."45 One may, therefore, and in view of Mark's <sindon>, one must rule out Brown's "pedestrian" sense of the verb.

What of other amenities regarded as requisite for an honorable burial _ washing and anointing of the corpse? Mark makes no mention of these, and Brown argues from this that they were really and deliberately omitted, in keeping with an ignominious burial (242).

Many others likewise believe washing and anointing were omitted, but simply because there was not enough time. Blinzler, however, maintained (in the paper read in Rome) that these services were rendered but Mark did not need to report these customary practices: it is their omission that he would have mentioned.46

But, even if these amenities did not take place, must their omission necessarily spell dishonor to Jesus? After all, in the experience of the Jewish people there must have been countless situations wherein amenities were omitted, not willfully, but of necessity (e.g., as in war).47

Various reasons may be advanced to explain why Joseph (and his assistants), although anxious to do so, may have been unable to provide these services for Jesus. Lack of time is often proposed as a reason. That aside, there is Paul Gaechter's suggestion that ointments could not be obtained from the shops, because the throngs of Passover pilgrims had bought up all the supplies.48 Gaechter added that this would help account for the large quantity of scented substances brought by Nicodemus (Jn 19:39): he wished to compensate in this way for the absence of ointments.

If one thinks it unlikely that the ointments were sold out, Gaechter's basic idea could still be retained: ointments required preparation from sundry ingredients (mixing and cooking were involved49) and the supply of ready-to-use ointments had been bought up, but not the raw materials. These, however, were useless to Jesus' buriers, because time and the facilities for preparing the ingredients were lacking.

Since the tomb was in a garden (Jn 19:41), cared for by a gardener (see Jn 20:15), water must have been available, from a spring, stream, or brooklet.50 Was the body of Jesus washed? Yes, if with Blinzler (above) one holds Mark did not think it necessary to report the customary amenities. Others deny a washing, usually on the grounds of a supposedly hasty burial.

W. Bulst, S.J., formerly of the latter opinion, subsequently offered a different reason for the omission: a custom, based on the age-old Jewish respect for blood as the seat of life, of not washing a bloodied corpse before burial.51 The same reason could apply, one may assume, to the omission of an anointing.

In sum, the body of Jesus may or may not have been washed and anointed, but even if these offices were omitted, unproved is Brown's claim that this would indicate a dishonorable burial.

So much for the modalities of the interment. The next topic to be discussed is the burial place _ was that honorable? Of course, the Sanhedrist's own tomb would have been an honorable burial place. But Brown denies (243) that the body of Jesus was put there: Jesus' burial place was near Golgotha, but a wealthy Sanhedrist would not have had his family tomb in such a locality, i.e., in the immediate vicinity of a place of public execution.

To his contention Brown himself had supplied the beginning of a reply in his commentary on John: "We are not certain that Golgotha was an habitual place of execution."52 Indeed, it has been said that it was the custom of the time not to have a fixed place of execution.53

So it may be that Joseph had obtained the property before Golgotha became an execution site; appropriate here is Blinzler's remark that we do not know when or under what circumstances Joseph acquired the property.54 Also noteworthy here is an earlier remark of Brown, that "the area may have been a prestigious place for burial."55 Finally, Joseph, being now removed from Arimathea, and getting along in years (a high-ranking senator!) had need of a family burial tomb in the environs of Jerusalem, but a suitable one could have been hard to come by,56 so he may have had to settle for the area near Golgotha, even if the latter was an execution site. Blinzler added a further thought on the matter _ the tomb met the Jewish requirement that a human habitation be at least fifty yards away from a place of execution (he was viewing the garden as a place of human habitation).57

To return now to Brown's scenario, Jesus' body was, he insists, consigned to a place meant for the burial of executed Jewish criminals, a cavity chiseled out of the wall of the execution hill (243).

How well does this contention square with what we can learn from Mark (15:45; 16:3-5) about the burial place of Jesus? Hewn out of rock (v. 46), the Markan tomb was cut into a hillside. This issues from the fact that, of the women coming to the sepulchre on Easter, it is said that "looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back."58 "Looking up" is the usual sense of the Greek verb used here (<anablepsasai> ), and there is no good reason to understand it otherwise.59

Thus the Markan burial site was not a grave dug into an open, flat area of earth, but rather a cavity in a rocky hillside; and, indeed, a man-made cavity, "hewn out of the rock" (15:46).

Within it, as can be gathered from Mk 16:5, was a stone bench or shelf, formed by cutting back the wall. The tomb interior was roomy enough for the presence of Joseph and an assistant, as they laid the body of Jesus on the shelf, and for the three women on Easter (16:1.5) and for the "presence" of the "young man" of Mk 16:5.

After the burial the tomb was made secure by a stone (15:45), a very large one (16:4), which was rolled against the entry.

Whether there was an anteroom to the burial chamber cannot be ascertained from Mark. Even so, the Markan tomb has emerged for us as one wrought by considerable labor, of the sort that belonged to people of high station.60

Hence the Markan tomb, contrary to Brown, cannot have been a place intended for the burial of an executed criminal: it is incompatible with the Jewish attitude, mentioned by Brown (242) that such a person should be buried shamefully.

Nor does Mark's tomb correspond in any other way to what is commonly held about the place officially appointed for interring executed Jewish criminals.61

By all accounts, this burying place was located far outside the city; but Mark's tomb was near the city.62

Moreover, the criminal's grave was dug out of the soil, whereas Mark's tomb was hewn out of rock.63

And, instead of being called a tomb (<mnemeion>, Mark's term, v. 46), the burial site for executed criminals was referred to as a "place," or, more graphically, as a "pit," or "trench," or "ditch."64

Finally, whereas, being on a hill near Jerusalem, Mark's grave was located on high ground, while the burial place for criminals was down in the boggy lowland of a valley, in order that the corpses interred there might decompose the more quickly in the humid atmosphere.65

Obviously, therefore, Brown's vision of an executed criminal's grave, which he takes the Markan burial place to be, is completely at odds with what is commonly held about the officially appointed grave for executed Jewish malefactors.

Further, as was seen above, the tomb of Jesus' burial had a shelf or bench, formed by cutting back the wall.66 Surely, such a refinement, honorific as well as entailing some expense, would not be a feature of an executed felon's grave, even if this were a cave.

That Mark did not understand Jesus' burial place to be one for a criminal may also be argued from his designation of it as a <mnemeion> (15:46b; 16:2). This word signifies "a token of remembrance," "a commemorative monument," that is, something to perpetuate the memory of the deceased.67 Hence, when that term is used, a permanent, not temporary, burial is meant.

It follows that <mnemeion> would not be used for a criminal's grave (which the Markan tomb would be by Brown's reckoning), since such a resting place was only temporary. For, after decomposition of the flesh, kin and/or friends could remove the bones to the family burial place, a fact noted by Brown (237). Hence authorities regularly argue that the term <mnemeion>, of itself alone, rules out any idea that Mark thought of Jesus' burial place as that for an executed malefactor.68

If not an officially owned piece of real estate, to whom, then, did the tomb belong? That it was someone's property, not an unclaimed area waiting to be taken over by the first claimant, follows from the fact that the tomb was (at least) partially man-made, "hewn out of rock," with a shelf, and represented therefore an outlay for labor.

The owner can have been none other than Joseph of Arimathea. He, a member of the Sanhedrin, a leading one at that, and a zealous observer of the law, would never have usurped another's property,69 least of all another's burial place.70

To return to Brown, he sees another argument for his view in the fact that, of the women who were present at the burial, Mk 15:47 says only that "they saw where the body was laid." Brown believes this shows a lack of cooperation between Joseph and the women, which is intelligible only if Joseph was not a follower of Jesus (243-244).

Brown appears to have forgotten that in those days Jewish women were not supposed to talk with men in public, not even with their husbands, and, most definitely, not with strangers.71 Joseph was a stranger to the women, both in the Brown scenario and in the usual understanding of Mark: he was from Judea, they from Galilee. Also to be considered is the segregation of the sexes then required at funerals.72

To forestall a further objection from Mk 15:43, it is enough to note that lamentation ceased when the burial was over.73



[This message has been edited by Earl (edited April 06, 2001).]
 
Old 04-07-2001, 01:34 AM   #64
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Here is part I. of my point-by-point response to Earl's latest series of posts.

E: On the burden of proof issue Secweblurker (SWL) said, "if you want to argue that Jesus' burial has historical inaccuracies or probably didn't occur, the burden of proof will be your's."

I take this as false. Lack of belief in something is the default position given lack of sufficient evidence to establish the probability of the thing.

Sec: We're off to a bad start. Obviously Earl didn't read what he responded to. Look at it again. I didn't say you had to shoulder the burden of proof for a failure to BELIEVE the burial account, I said you had to shoulder the burden of proof in order to claim that it "has historical inaccuracies or probably didn't occur". And that is exactly right. If you make ANY claim about the probability OR improbability of an account, then the burden of proof is on you to support that claim. The only stance that does not shoulder the burden of proof is an agnostic "I don't know" stance. As Ellis states:

"According to E. Bernheim's classic text on historical method the historian has the two-fold task of testing the genuineness and demonstrating the nongenuineness of his sources. [14]"[E. Earle Ellis, "The Synoptic Gospels and History" in B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 52-53.]
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14. E. Bernheim, Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1903; repr. New York: B. Franklin, 1960) 332

E: You are asking me to prove that something did NOT happen.

Sec: No, I'm telling you that if you make any positive claims about the likelihood or lake thereof concerning an allegedly historical event, then the burden of proof is on you to support that claim. Its quite obvious.

E: That's not how the burden of proof works. The burden of proof is always on the person who offers a positive account.

Sec: You mean a positive claim.

E: The exponent of the traditional account of Jesus' burial has the burden to prove that the burial took place as described in the NT (or Mark). Absent the sufficiency of this evidence, disbelief in the traditional account is automatically justified, even in the simultaneous absence of evidence as to an alternative account of the burial.

Sec: And disbelief in the unproven contention that the traditional account is improbable is also automatically justified. So we are left with exactly what I said - agnosticism…"I don't know". "I don't know" if its improbable. "I don't know" if its probable. "I don't know" either way.

E: So if you were to fail to show that Jesus was probably buried as Mark suggests, I would be justified in believing that Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests, even if I were to fail to offer an alternative account of what happened to Jesus' body.

Sec: No, you wouldn't be justified in taking any position at all on the matter. You would be justified in remaining agnostic.

E: My position, then, would be agnosticism as to what exactly did happen to Jesus' body, but justified doubt as to the Markan account given the traditionalist's failure to support this account.

Sec: The doubt is not justified, IF YOU MEAN to equate doubt with the stance that an event is improbable (as opposed to just equating doubt with the general tendency to question), UNLESS there are good reasons justifying that doubt. To give an example, there is currently zero evidence for a purely naturalistic origin of life. To doubt that life originated naturalistically (in the sense that the event is seen as improbable), simply because there is no good evidence is not justified. In the absence of any evidence AGAINST a naturalistic origin of life, one would not be able to assess the probability of its having occurred, and hence, "I don't know", not "I doubt" (in terms of probability), is the position to take.

E: I do not have the burden to prove that Jesus was not buried.

Sec: Yes you DO, Earl, IF you claim that it is improbable that Jesus was buried (which, of course, you have).

E: Rather, you have the burden to prove that Jesus was buried.

Sec: Depending on my claim. I've tried to subsequently revise my claims in the context of our convo., taking the agnostic stance, after having realized how prone you are to wild speculation and how impossible it would be to shoulder the burden of proof in a discussion with you. I take up the 'burden of proof' once again in this post though.

E: If you cannot do this, disbelief in Jesus' burial is justified by default. That's why the ambiguities and deficiencies in the evidence support skepticism (non-adherence to traditional Christianity) rather than traditional Christianity.

Sec: The problem is that we're not being precise regarding the terms 'doubt' and 'disbelief'. Earl is drawing from common usage in Atheist/Christian debate. He wants to equate disbelief in the burial account to doubt about its accuracy. I suppose this is predicated on the general principle that it is reasonable to doubt that for which there is no good evidence. I'm fine with that. But what Earl keeps forgetting to mention is that if there is also no good evidence for the improbability/inaccuracy of the burial account, then we must equally doubt that the burial account is improbable/inaccurate. Doubt if it simply means 'lack of belief' is justified if someone has not presented evidence for an event, AND doubt in the improbability of an event is justified if someone does not present evidence for its improbability. All of this confusion could be avoided if Earl just took the honest position that without evidence either way, we are just left with an "I don't know" stance as concerns alleged probability or improbability, and that is all. Instead, Earl wants the extra bonus of saying "skepticism of the burial account is justified". If this just means that 'questioning the burial account is justified', well then, so what? That's quite trivial. But since he equates skepticism/doubt with improbability, he can smuggle in the improbability of the burial account as the DEFAULT position. This just won't work. On the agnostic position, he can't have that skepticism without skepticism of that very skepticism, and skepticism of that…and so on. "I don't know" is clearly the only way to avoid this infinite regress.

E: SWL seems to be confusing denial of the Markan account, which is a negative claim amounting to "Jesus was not buried as Mark describes," and the offering of an alternative account to Mark, which would be a positive claim amounting to "Jesus was in fact left to rot on the cross." Another way of stating this confusion is to point out the difference between using, on the one hand, alternative accounts to Mark by way of attacking the traditionalist's case, in which case the point would be to show that the alternative accounts are at least as probable, and attempting, on the other hand, to make an independent, positive alternative account, in which case the burden of proof would indeed be on the skeptic. To clarify my position, I do not claim to be able to show what probably did happen to Jesus' body. The evidence is simply too poor. But I do believe the evidence is lacking in support of the Markan account. Since the traditionalist cannot establish her case as probable, since, that is, the traditionalist fails in her burden of proof, lack of belief in the Markan account is justified.

Sec: And equally, lack of disbelief in the Markan account is justified, since we just don't know. Game over yet?

E: So far I have no burden of proof.

Sec: When you claim something is improbable, you imply that you have assessed the probability of an event and found it wanting. It is an evidential claim. It requires argument, hence, shouldering of the burden of proof. As long as you aren't claiming that the Markan burial account is improbable, you have no burden of proof.

E: All I have to do is explore the traditionalist's own case and show that this case is insufficient to establish probability. Were I then to step up to the plate and contend that Jesus' body was probably disposed of in such and such a way, the burden of proof would be passed on to me. I have indeed talked about Roman expectations regarding crucifixion, but not to establish the probability of an alternative account to Mark; rahter, I intended merely to attack the traditional account from a purely negative view point, the belief that Jesus was not buried according to Mark.

Sec: Hence, you are attempting to shoulder the burden of proof in demonstrating the improbability of the Markan account.

E: SWL also says "skepticism is not necessarilly a default position and 'agnosticism' in the sense of "I don't know" is not necessarilly skepticism but the refusal to take any position. If it is skepticism, then it must be equally skeptical towards the position which doubts the account."

I'll clarify my use of the terms. By "skepticism" I mean specifically the default lack of acceptance of the Markan account given the traditionalist's failure to make her case.

Sec: Then, in such an instance, you would have to lack acceptance of the position that the Markan account is improbable or inaccurate.

E: In this sense, "skepticism" or the denial of the Markan account is indeed the default position given the traditionalist's failure in meeting her burden of proof and establishing the Markan account as probable. By "agnosticism" I mean specifically the lack of any positive belief as to what happened to Jesus' body, this lack being consistent with disbelief in the Markan account.

Sec: And consistent with disbelief in the improbability/inaccuracy of the Markan account.

E: Indeed, agnosticism in this sense necessitates disbelief in any particular account. If the evidence is poor, no account can be established as probable. If I don't know what happened to Jesus' body, logically I can't accept that Jesus was probably buried as described in Mark.

Sec: And we also can't establish improbability.

E: Regarding my point that "the fact that Mark's account sounds plausible, given Brown's reading, doesn't preclude the possibility that Mark invented the details precisely to make the story believable" SWL says "Hahaha...of course it doesn't. But we can say that about any report so its meaningless." But of course my point doesn't apply to "any report." It applies only to any single report deficient in the initial plausibility department and for which there is not the slightest bit of independent confirmation by other sources.

Sec:

1. the bare fact of the burial is independently attested in Paul
2. Most history isn't reported independently in other sources.
3. Your assertion that the account sounds plausible because its fiction is just meaningless. You can say that about any singular account of any event in history.

E: I take John's Passion narrative to be based on Mark. In that case, Mark is the ONLY independent source on Joseph of Arimethea. (Paul says only that Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. He doesn't give the slightest detail concerning the burial, and moreover he says he got his "gospel" not from any man-made tradition but from a vision of God.)

Sec: We've already seen refutation of Earl's bunk about Paul's 'gospel' several times over. Virtually all scholars recognize that the formula in 1 Cor. 15 is something Paul has received and is passing on, as he says right in the passage. Even a majority of the Jesus Seminar agree to this, and agree that it comes from within a decade of Jesus' death, making it part of the earliest strata. And Earl has actually argued that the very burial of Jesus is improbable so the independent attestation of Paul DOES count against him.

E: Regarding Roman expectations of burial, SWL says "Your whole case for Pilate's negativity hinges on equally biased sources written for the express purpose of making Pilate look bad. We've successfully exposed all three of our sources on Pilate as initially biased, and written for a purpose so we are left without any indices at all as to his character. We just "don't know"."

Well, this isn't the case. Even if we were to lack reliable evidence regarding Pilate's character in particular--and I don't admit this--we are hardly lacking in evidence as to ancient Rome in general on anti-Judaism and crucifixion.

Sec: But evidence of anti-Judaism says nothing towards the Romans specifically disregarding Jewish religious customs in a way that is sure to bring about a climate they don't want. As Nomad has written, "if we want to see just how sensitive the Romans really were to the sensibilities of the Jews, consider the example of the Roman general who took the astonishing step of personally going to Rome in 41AD to convince the very mad Emperor Caligula not to put his statue inside the Temple in Jerusalem for fear of mass rioting in Palestine (the general was successful, and Caligula relented)."

As far as crucifixion goes, we've been over this again and again. Earl has failed to show that nonburial of crucified victims in Judea was the norm. He cites Tacitus on Tiberius having outlawed burial for those executed, but as Brown writes, "The law…was juxta ordinem, i.e., customary law in Rome for dealing with Roman citizens. Decisions in the provinces dealing with non-citizens were most often extra ordinem, so that such a matter as the disposition of crucified bodies would have been left to the local magistrate."[DTM, p. 1208] So if Earl wants to demonstrate that nonburial of crucifixion in JUDEA was the norm, he has to shoulder the burden of proof and present evidence that this was the case, against the evidence to the contrary, such as the fact that Josephus reports that Jews did take crucified bodies down for burial, and the fact that the only anthropological evidence we have concerning a crucified person comes from inside a tomb where he was given a proper burial. Even if Earl were to do this, he would still have accomplished nothing, because we know there WERE exceptions to the rule, and the situation with Joe of A. was most definitely a special set of circumstances.

E: We know that the Roman government was in general brutal towards its enemies. This is why, for instance, they used crucifixion in the first place. Moreover, we know that just a few decades after Jesus' death the Jews revolted against Rome. Clearly the Jews were not happy about being occupied by the Romans. The Romans showed no mercy and completely demolished Jerusalem and the Temple, showing little respect for Jewish customs, to say the least.

Sec: This is beyond irrelevant. Of course in WAR-TIME Romans did not respect Jewish custom. But at the time of Jesus, Jews were NOT in open revolt against Rome, as McCane writes, "in fact, the situation was peaceful enough that events in and around Jerusalem were not always under the direct control of the Roman prefect. Pilate did not reside in Jerusalem, but at Caesarea on the coast in a palace built by Herod the Great, and he came to Jerusalem only on special occasions, such as Passover. A small Roman force was stationed in the city in the fortress Antonia, but the routine day-to-day government of Jerusalem was largely in Jewish hands, specifically the High Priest and the council, who were accountable to Pilate for the maintenance of public order. Pilate himself was accountable to the legate of Syria, and it was in the interest of all concerned to avoid disruption of the status quo… Pilate was a bureaucrat trying to keep the wheels of government running smoothly." All the more reason for Pilate not to leave a body exposed and defile the land on a major festival, when a large uprising would be almost impossible to suppress quickly, in opposition to the Jewish religious leadership who are specifically in charge of purity. McCane continues:
" Roman prefects like Pilate, in fact, often allowed crucifixion victims to be buried. Cicero, for example, mentions a governor in Sicily who released bodies to family members in return for a fee (In Verrem 2.5.45), and Philo writes that on the eve of Roman holidays in Egypt, crucified bodies were taken down and given to their families, "because it was thought well to give them burial and allow them ordinary rites". "[A] request by a Jewish leader for the body of Jesus would not have been out of place, either, since Roman prefects--including at least one that we know if in first-century Jerusalem--did allow the burial of crucifixion victims. In the case of Jesus, such an allowance was likely, since Jesus was not caught up in a mass crucifixion, and his death did not come at a time of revolt against Rome. The Jewish leaders of Jesus' day generally cooperated with Pilate in preserving public order in Jerusalem, and the occasion of Jesus' death was a Jewish religious holiday…[S]omeone like Joseph of Arimathea could have reasonably expected that Pilate would grant his request for the body of Jesus. (In Flaccum 10.83-84)."[Byron R. McCane, "Where No One Had Yet Been Laid: The Shame of Jesus' Burial" in B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 431-452.]

Craig A. Evans concludes: " In peacetime Jewish crucifixion victims were normally buried (though almost never with the iron spikes), just as Josephus himself says. Jesus was crucified by Romans, with the consent of (indeed, at the insistence of) the ruling priests. Rome was not at war with Israel. On the contrary, Roman and Jewish authorities were working together. Under such circumstances we should expect that crucifixion victims would normally, if not always, be taken down and buried. To leave the body of Jesus hanging on the cross, or to have thrown it into a ditch where it may be mauled by dogs, would have been highly offensive to Jews, whether they were sympathizers of Jesus or not, especially so during the Passover season. Indeed, to leave the bodies of Jesus and the other two men hanging on the cross for several days at that time of year would have been dangerously provocative."[Craig A. Evans, Robert Guelich. (2001) "Word Biblical Commentary: on Mark 8:27-16:20 : Mark 8:27-16:20" (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 34, Part B)]

E: As Britannica says (www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=108150&tocid=35196#35196.toc):
"The procurators of Judaea, being of equestrian (knightly) rank and often of Oriental Greek stock, were more anti-Semitic than the governors of Syria, who were of the higher senatorial order. The last procurators in particular were indifferent to Jewish religious sensibilities; and various patriotic groups, to whom nationalism was an integral part of their religion, succeeded in polarizing the Jewish population and bringing on an extremely bloody war with Rome in 66-70. The climax of the war was the destruction of the Temple in 70, though, according to Josephus, the Roman general (and later emperor) Titus sought to spare it. The war was not ended, however, until 73, when the Sicarii at Masada committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans."

Sec: None of which was in view in the time of Jesus.

E: These are some of the elementary background facts regarding Rome's relationship to the Hellenistic Jews, and they don't speak well to the NT's whitewashing of the Roman responsibility for Jesus' death.

Sec: Its not at all clear that the NT whitewashes Roman responsibility. Portraying Pilate as putting to death a man who he sees as innocent, at the mere prompting of a crowd, is IMO not portraying Pilate in a favorable light.

E: Even though all the ancient writers were biased in one way or another, that hardly means we can't trust anything they said. My case against Philo was very specific. Nowhere did I say we can't trust anything Philo said. Moreover such bare incidents as the parading of the Roman images in the Temple, as recounted by Josephus, can be regarded as historical. I know of no scholar who denies the bare historicity of Josephus' stories on Pilate.

Sec: I don't doubt it either. But by using your criteria (the writer has a bias, and an agenda), we must eliminate it. We know Josephus is biased, we know Josephus is fabricating when he says Pilate sought to 'destroy the law', and we know Josephus is trying to make Pilate look like a terror for a very specific purpose. But if we take the event as historical, it still tells us nothing towards Pilate's disregard for Jewish custom, as I've explained in a previous post. If anything it shows the type of unrest such a disregard for Jewish custom would cause, and hence favors the unlikelihood of Pilate doing so again, especially during Passover.

E: The crucial difference is between the bare incident and the writer's spin on the incident. There's also a vast difference between an event described by only one author, and an event described by multiple authors. We have multiple sources on Pilate's brutality and anti-Jewishness.

Sec: 3 sources that disagree with each other, and that are all extremely biased and written for a purpose.

E: We have only Mark on Pilate's pro-Jewishness and mercy (I take John as partly dependent on Mark).

Sec: I don’t, for the trial scene. They are extremely different.

E: The letter from Tiberius about the Jews is told only by Philo. There's also a major difference between Philo and, say, Josephus. Josephus was primarily an historian, whereas Philo was primarily a theologian. Also, Philo was biased simply in favour of the Jews, whereas Josephus had ties both to Jews and the Romans.

Sec: And in this instance, Josephus is specifically using Pilate as a model of clumsy Roman government. He's assassinating his character in order to make an example out of him.

E: <snip quote we've already seen regarding Philo's purpose. Josephus has a purpose as well>

Moreover, I don't need to argue that Philo invented Tiberius' letter from nothing. Rather, I can simply claim that Philo exaggerated the pro-Jewishness of the letter, so that we can't know for sure whether Tiberius literally reversed Rome's harsh treatment of the Jews, that is, whether Philo accurately represented the contents of the letter. Philo's use of a pro-Jewish Tiberius at this point is in keeping with his moral framework. Philo believed everyone should respect the Jews, including Roman emperors. He exaggerated the saintliness or anti-Semitism of some emperors (such as Tiberius or Gaius) to use them as teaching devices for other emperors (such as Claudius).

Sec: We can say the same for Josephus using Pilate as a teaching device.

E: I'm not aware of an historian who doesn't acknowledge the moral framework behind Philo's "histories."

Sec: Nor am I aware of a scholar who doesn't acknowledge an extreme bias, and tendency to fabricate in Josephus' works. "Josephus…can invent, exaggerate, over-emphasize, distort, suppress, simplify, or, occasionally, tell the truth. Often we cannot determine where one practice ends and another begins."[Shaye J. D. Cohen, "Josephus in Galilee and Rome", p. 181.]

E: In general, scholars treat Josephus as the better historian. In any case, Philo hardly describes Pilate as merciful towards the Jews. Philo describes Pilate in particular as "naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness," and refers to his conduct as procurator in terms of "briberies, insults, robberies, outrages and wanton injuries, executions without trial constantly repeated, ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty" (Legatio ad Gaium 301,302).

Sec: All the more then we should expect Philo to bitterly complain against Pilate's routinely leaving crucified bodies unburied and defiling the land, if this were the case, as he did against Flaccus, Roman governor of Egypt, for doing this very thing (To Flaccus 10 §83).

E: So even if anti-Jewish policies were reversed by Tiberius and Pilate was instructed to honour Jewish customs, he would still have been faced with a hard decision, a conflict of interests.

Sec: Firstly, you haven't shown even the slightest hint of evidence towards Pilate disregarding Jewish custom with that polemical quote from Philo which basically says he's a bad guy. And secondly, its not at all clear that if indeed this were the case, it would be a 'hard decision' at all. Pilate was a pragmatist. Especially after Sejanus' death, he'd be quite unlikely to disregard Tiberius' wishes.

E: Moreover, according to Philo--as I said in my last post--Tiberius' letter doesn't even resolve the conflict between Roman penal measures (such as leaving the crucified bodies on the cross) and honouring Jewish customs (by burying the bodies). In Philo's words, Tiberius "charged his procurators in every place to which they were appointed to speak comfortably to the members of our nation in the different cities, assuring them that the penal measures did not extend to all but only to the guilty, who were few, and to disturb none of the established customs but even to regard them as a trust committed to their care, the people as naturally peaceable, and the institutions as an influence promoting orderly conduct." So if Jesus was found guilty the Roman penal measures would still have applied to him. If one of the Roman penal measures was to leave the body on the cross, as even Raymond Brown grants, Tiberius' letter wouldn't by itself resolve the conflict of interests for Pilate.

Sec: But if Roman policy on nonburial of crucified victims didn't extend to Judea, as there is no evidence that it did and much against, then Pilate would be all the less likely to deal with Jews clumsily as regards their religious laws, in light of the letter and the death of Sejanus.

E: I'm now going to go through the major arguments from my last post, and address what I take to be SWL's main replies to each. One of my arguments as to Brown's interpretation of Mark's burial account is that many of Brown's points are consistent with the account being fabricated in the interests of verisimilitude rather than historicity. Brown argues that Joseph was a pious Sanhedrin member who buried Jesus according to Jewish law. Even if this were granted Mark may have used such a character for reasons of maintaining a coherent plot, supporting other elements of his narrative, and issuing a back-handed apologetic and a rewrite of troubling history, making friends of Jesus' enemies.

Sec: The point about Mark fabricating aiming at verisimilitude is just meaningless as that can be said about any singular historical report. Any report MAY have been fabricated. "May have" doesn't equal "probably was". As far as Earl's consistent parroting of the Jesus Seminar's 'back-handed apologetic' claim, I've rebutted it SEVERAL times over and Earl continues to repeat it without interacting with my comments. Let's take the Jesus Seminar's claim:

"The Seminar concluded that Joseph was a Markan invention: after all, Mark describes him as "a respected member of the Council"--the Council that had just condemned Jesus--and as someone who was looking for the kingdom's arrival (v.43). That is backhanded Christian apologetic: Jesus' opponents are refashioned into friends and supporters after the damage has been done."[The Acts of Jesus, p. 159]

Ryan Renn notes: " If Mark's mention of Joseph's membership in the Sanhedrin was apologetic, it was not very successful in its aim. Both Matthew and John omit that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, which supports the idea that Joseph's status was dissimilar to the interests of the Christian writers, while making the Jesus Seminar's inversion of this theory look all the less attractive." [http://members.nbci.com/ragu1997/burial.htm]

Furthermore, is Joe of A. really instantaneously fashioned into a friend and a supporter by MARK? Nothing to this effect is made explicit in Mark. If it were Mark's intention that Joe of A. had a conversion of heart, it should be a lot more obvious. Earl has written in the past:

" Thus Joseph was indeed one of the evil council members who had plotted against Jesus, but he had a change of heart. Mark's lesson, then, would have been that all Jews should have a change of heart and do what they can to respect Jesus, even the Jews."

and:

"Mark wanted to make a friend of Jesus' enemies after the damage had been done. This is precisely what Mark does elsewhere at 15:39 where he states that a Roman centurion "who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died…said 'Surely this man was the Son of God!'" Matthew does the same thing in his story of the faithful centurion whose unlikely faith Jesus praises (8:5-13)."

I have responded: "But the problem is we don't see any such declarations on the part of Joe of A. at all, so I consider improbable that that is Mark's intention. The very fact that Mark has the centurion being so explicit works against this being the aim with Joe of A. He would have made it much clearer."

And what is the PURPOSE of having Joe of A. made into a friend anyway, when early Christians show every inclination to cast the Jewish authority in a bad light? It doesn't really make any sense at all. These obviously aren't conversion stories either in the case of the centurion or Joe of A. As Gundry writes, "Mark's stopping short of portraying the centurion and now Joseph as Jesus' disciples, or as becoming so, forestalls an interpretation of the centurion as a prototype of Gentile Christians and of Joseph as a prototype of Jewish Christians…"(Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross, p. 985)

Earl's contention that Mark just wants the Jews to "respect Jesus" is absurd. Is Mark so naïve that he thinks the story of a Sanhedrin member observing Torah and burying an exposed body on Passover is going to inspire respect for a shamefully crucified Messianic pretender who claimed to have the authority of God Himself and who led and who's memory continues to lead people astray? Hardly.

E: For example, I pointed out that Roman law didn't provide for burial of crucified bodies. SWL
replied that Romans often threw crucified victims into common graves. But this doesn't address the point. The point is that Romans were not forced to do this by law, and thus Christians in Mark's time could not have been comforted with such a custom of making mass burial pits for crucified victims.

Sec: This is just more of Earl's 'tales I win, heads you lose'. Situation looks plausible because a Jew would be expected to do so according to Jewish law, oh, well then…Mark did it to comfort later Christians.
E: There are at least two possibilities given Brown's interpretation of Joseph as a pious council member rather than a disciple of Jesus: Brown's and Crossan's. Brown argues that Mark made Joseph a council member because a council member REALLY DID bury Jesus according to Jewish law. Crossan argues that whether Mark made Joseph a friend or foe of Jesus, he did this to reassure Christians that Jesus MUST have been buried according to Jewish law, the only way Jesus could necessarily have been buried.

Sec: This just won't work for Earl. If it is so 'necessary' that a Jew come along and bury Jesus, then denial of this is irrational on Earl's part. If it be said that Mark selects Joe because for a Jew to bury Jesus is a lot more 'necessary' than it is for a Roman, this is irrelevant, because its not at all necessary that a Jew come along and do so in the first place. If Mark simply sets it up this way because its historically likely, then there's no real objection to the account on historical grounds other than Earl's last-ditch 'heads I win, tails you lose' non-sequitur about fabricated historical plausibility.

E: Romans did not necessarily bury crucified bodies. Sometimes they left them on the cross to rot. We know this from various sources. Why go through the trouble of nailing someone to a cross only to remove the body right away?

Sec: Since we know that people were crucified and there bodies were taken down for burial after they had died, this objection is really insignificant. Why did they do it in those cases? Besides, according to the Gospel accounts, it was the Jews who wanted Jesus crucified. And OBVIOUSLY Jews wouldn't want His body left exposed.

E: For example, Tacitus tells us that suicide was preferable to crucifixion because Roman instituted "modes of dying were rendered popular by fear of the executioner and by the fact that a man legally condemned forfeited his estate and was debarred from burial" (Annals 6.29). And as Joe Zias writes on crucifixion (http://www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/crucifixion.html ), "As a deterrent in the ancient world, many of its victims were crucified where the criminal event took place as was the case with thieves or along the cities' busiest thoroughfares. The situation can perhaps best be summed up by Quintilian who wrote that, "whenever we crucify the guilty, the most, crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect" [Quintilian (AD 35-95) Decl 274].

Sec: Right, I'm fully aware that denial of burial was part of the horror of crucifixion under the Romans, and this says nothing towards this being applied in Judea for the reasons I have given. I've contacted Joe Zias btw, and he accepts the burial and the empty tomb accounts.

E: SWL contends that Mark did not have to resort to a Jew to secure Jesus' burial. Mark could, for example, have had Pilate convert to Christianity and bury the body himself. Once again, such a story could not have served to reassure Mark's readers that Jesus was necessarily buried since, after all, there would have been no necessity that Pilate be converted. Not everyone Jesus came into contact with converted to Christianity. On the contrary, this would have strained credibility since Pilate was a well known figure

Sec: As I said above, there would've been no necessity for Joe of A. to even come along, or become a friend of Jesus as your 'backhanded apologetics' theory supposes. But I actually didn't propose a fabrication-theory where Pilate converts. My theory of Pilate being 'enamored with Jesus' Son of Godness' is just about a general impression made upon Pilate as concerns Jesus' charisma. Here's what I wrote:

"If he was fabricating he could've created any amount of scenarios - Pilate gives the body up to the women because its a Jewish holiday (de ja vu?), Centurion takes Jesus down from the cross and has a real conversion experience and rather than burying the body in the common grave as he was just about to do, he hands it over to the women, and they make for a proper burial in a family tomb with mourning and all (the real concept of "honorable" burial in Judaism). Or Mark could've just had Pilate give the body to the women. Hey, we hear skeptics tell us all the time how the Gospels misrepresent Pilate. Philo can forge letters of Tiberius a mere 15 years or so after the fact, Mark can certainly portray Pilate as enamored by Jesus' Son of Godness and have him hand the body over. He can even have him turn up his nose at the Jews who cruelly made him kill him in the first place. This would work great towards Mark's purposes of buttering up to the Roman readers and providing a prototype of gentile converts. Or how about "And behold, two angels of the Lord appeared and Pilate was sore amazed. The Roman centurion fell to the ground and worshipped at their feet. A voice from heaven spoke 'This is my beloved Son, you will not leave him on the cross for the birds. I don't care what John Crossan says. Give him to the women for honorable burial.'"
As far as Pilate being a public figure, if Mark's fabricating a generation after the event, it really doesn't matter at all.

E: Having said this, Mark does indeed whitewash as much as he can both the Roman and the Jewish responsibility for Jesus' death. Mark makes Pilate a Jesus sympathizer and thus practically a Christian.

Sec: Hahaa! Right, a Roman who kills an innocent Messiah at the prompting of the crowd. Model Christian there.

E: It's just that Pilate's conversion wouldn't have served as a necessary reason for Jesus' burial.

Sec: Oh really? Pilate converting to Christianity (not that I even mentioned this) wouldn't serve as a good motive to have him give over Jesus' body? Maybe not in the Twilight Zone.

E: Mark also makes Joseph a Jesus sympathizer. Mark's characterization of Joseph is ambiguous and quite possibly deliberately so. If "waiting for the kingdom of God" means that Joseph approved of the "kingdom of God" as preached by Jesus, then Joseph was a follower of Jesus and had to exercise courage in approaching Pilate based on his hope that his Christianity would be secret.

Sec: And this whitewashes Jewish responsibility for Jesus' death how exactly?

E: In that case, Mark's transformation of Jesus' enemies is hearty indeed.

Sec: All of this assumes there's any 'transformation' at all going on here, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. The evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Mark shows no remorse on the part of Joseph, no sign of a miraculous change or conversion or anything we would expect were this scenario his intention.

E: But even under Brown's interpretation of Joseph there is room for this sort of transformation. As Brown explains Mark's ambiguous characterization of Joseph, there would have been a "great likelihood that after the resurrection Joseph did become a Christian and that is why his name was remembered in all the Gospel accounts. Knowing that but also that Joseph was not a disciple before the burial, Mark deliberately described him in language appropriate both for a law-observant Jew and for a (future) disciple of Jesus" (1223-4). So even if Mark meant for Joseph to be considered only a pious Jew at the time of the burial, Mark's ambiguous description of Joseph left room for Joseph's imminent conversion, and thus we have an account of Joseph consistent with deeply revisionist history.

Sec: I don't see how Brown's speculation is at all relevant. It certainly doesn’t make the Jews any less responsible for Jesus' death.

E: (By the way, Brown's point here about Mark's ambiguous description of Joseph allowing for Joseph's future conversion addresses SWL statement that "If Mark's going for backhanded apologetics he might as well go the whole 9 and have Joseph become a full-on disciple. Wasn't, uh, that your original theory, Earl? Seems to be getting more nuanced...")

Sec: No, it doesn't answer my point at all. How does Mark being ambiguous about Joseph answer my objection that if Mark wants to portray Joe of A. as having a change of heart or conversionary experience, he's not going to be ambiguous about it? Mark being ambiguous about Joseph could just as well be from the fact that he DOESN'T want to portray any Jewish authorities in a good light.

E: SWL contends also that Pilate could have given the body directly to Jesus' followers. As Brown says, such an account (as in Matthew and Luke) strains credibility because of the Roman attitude towards those convicted of sedition. Romans did not want traitors to be imitated; on the contrary, the whole point of crucifixion was to show no mercy to traitors and to deter imitation (1208, 1217).

Sec: This assumes that Pilate saw Jesus as guilty of what he had been charged with, or as a threat at all - which is questionable in light of the fact that His disciples were not hunted down. And who's to say that Pilate would have made such a connection between handing Jesus' body over to the women, and later imitation of Jesus by his followers. The crucifixion itself would have been enough to deter imitation.

E: SWL also says Mark could have had Pilate "turn up his nose at the Jews who cruelly made him kill him in the first place." That's exactly what Mark does do. The reason Pilate asks the crowd if it wanted to have Jesus released, according to Mark, was because Pilate knew "it was out of envy that the chief priests handed Jesus over to him" (15:10).

Sec: I was speaking specifically in reference of the burial and my scenario stands, bolstered further by its coherence with the trial. If Mark was trying to fabricate, having Pilate give the body over to the women precisely because he does NOT find Jesus guilty, and to spite the evil Jews, would work great towards his alleged purposes.

E: So it appears to me that given Brown's interpretation of Joseph as a pious Jew rather than a follower of Jesus, Mark could just as likely have used this character for reasons other than attention to historicity.

Sec: Any burial scenario anyone puts forth can be said to have ulterior motives. Try and give an alternate historical burial scenario and I'll list ulterior motives that Mark could have for using it. The point is that you haven't shown that this is the case with Joe of A. and I've given several fabrication-alternatives that work equally well and even better considering that they don't bestow such an honor on a Jewish Sanhedrinist and further emphasize such things as the goodness of the Romans in the whole event, which you yourself concede Mark is trying to do anyway. Your argument for the necessity of burial by Joe of A. in the case of Markan fabrication fails.

E: Specifically, the necessity of Jesus' burial, and thus the strongest answer to the Christian fear according to Roman expectations that Jesus wasn't buried, would have hinged on obedience to Jewish law (Deut.21:22).

Sec: And it could be that very Jewish law that Pilate is allowing burial in observance of (not that he's a Jew but that he recognizes their customs), that the women receive the body in observance of, etc. But a divine intervention or a merciful Pilate would work equally well.

E: This was the strongest possible argument for the early Christians as to why Jesus must have been buried. And since Pilate was not a Jew, Mark figured, somewhere along the line a Jew must have requested the body. The more pious and authoritative the Jew, the more likely Jesus was buried.

Sec: Note that this is just "heads I win, tails you lose" again. But actually, the more Jewish and pious according to popular Jewish belief, the less likely burial in a tomb would be. Better, for Mark's purposes, to either be explicit about Joe of A's secret discipleship, have Pilate or the Centurion give the body over to the women and then he can bestow a FULL honorable burial upon Jesus with public mourning, an ancestral tomb, and all, or he could've had Joe of A. bury the body in the common grave as a mere pious Jew REALLY would have done, and then had the women or men come retrieve the body and bestow full honors upon it.

E: Now there are deep problems with Brown's account. (Besides the following, see the long quotation from George W. Shea's criticism of Brown at the end of Part 3 below.) Let's assume that Pilate allowed Jesus to be buried according to Jewish law, in order to avoid a riot among the Jews. Pilate must then have made a habit of doing this; that is, Pilate must have acted in this way on principle. In that case, Pilate would already have known about Jewish law on burial, and thus there would have been no need for Joseph of Arimathea.

Sec: Firstly, Pilate doing this doesn't necessarilly mean it’s a habit. It could of course be a pragmatism concerning the Passover when a riot would be hard to put down. Even if this were the case, Joe of A. could himself be coming from the Sanhedrin just to make absolutely sure the body is buried because of the risk on Passover. Or Joe of A. could be a sympathizer who specifically WANTS the body for some reason. I consider the 3rd option most likely with Shea.

E: If Pilate was as respectful towards Judaism as the traditionalist would have us believe, the Romans themselves would have saw to Jesus' burial in obedience to Pilate's principle. This is exactly what we find in the Gospel of Peter, so this point was hardly unknown to the early Christians. In addition this would have saved the Jews from ritual impurity by touching the corpse, whereas Mark explicitly has Joseph the council member take the body down (15:46).

Sec: Hence, I go with option 3 as most likely. I don't accept Brown's scenario.

E: So why does Mark have the character of Joseph at all? In my view, it's precisely because the traditional account of Jesus' burial was fabricated by Mark.

Sec: In my view, and that of Brown, Shea, Evans, etc. its because Joe of A. actually buried Jesus.

E: Pilate really wasn't respectful towards Jewish customs, and he really didn't make a habit of permitting burial of crucified bodies at the very moment of their death, without any further period of humiliation and deterrence.

Sec: Neither of which you've presented the slightest bit of evidence towards.

E: To this SWL replies simply that perhaps Joseph really did represent the whole council, or perhaps the whole council really did approach Pilate, so there's no problem.

Sec: Actually I don't ever say the whole council approaches Pilate.

E: But this is a problem because it's not what Mark says.

Sec: Since when are you concerned with a correlation between what actually happened and what Mark actually says though?

E: If Joseph was just voicing something the whole council would have said and thus what Pilate would already have known from past experience, why does Mark specifically have a council member "courageously" approach Pilate and ask for the body? Why didn't the Romans bury Jesus themselves to save the Jews from ritual impurity?

Sec: Well you see, Brown isn't really that concerned with sticking to Mark's script. But I suppose that he could respond that Joseph is just being sent by the council to make the burial secure given the volatile circumstances. Or Brown could say Joe of A. is afraid because the practice of burial of crucified criminals is NOT normal. I forget off-hand if that's what he argues. Like I said, I don't buy Brown's scenario anyway, and Joseph being a secret disciple/sympathizer explains his fearfully approaching Pilate.

E: It appears to me that Mark uses Joseph as a tool to comfort his Christian readers, to explain to them why Jesus must have been buried, as opposed to giving plain history, which would have involved the assumption that Pilate would already have known about Jewish law and had acted on it, as in the Gospel of Peter.

Sec: Joseph as a sympathizer faces no such objection, and anyway, the Gospel of Peter contains no such assumption. It has Herod telling Pilate of the requirements of the law, not Pilate presupposing it.

E: This implausibility in Mark tells against Brown's interpretation of Joseph's historicity. If Jesus was buried according to Jewish law to avoid a riot with the Jews, there would have been no need for a Joseph of Arimathea.

Sec: I'm in agreement with you here. There would have been no need on Brown's scenario. That's not to say Joe of A. definitely wouldn't have been there ensuring burial. This could be the case particularly because the Sanhedrin had little experience with giving people over for crucifixion.

E: Given Joseph, however, Mark's readers would have been reassured that Deut.21:22 was followed to the letter by no one less than a respected member of the Jewish council. Joseph's strict Judaism does nothing less than guarantee that Jesus was buried, since the matter wouldn't have been left to the Romans. This point counters Brown's argument that Mark would not have given a Jew the honour of burying Jesus if a Jew hadn't actually done so. Far from being an embarrassment to the Christians Joseph's very Judaism would have added enormously to their comfort that Jesus was NECESSARILY buried according to strict adherence to Jewish law by a pious council member.

Sec: Actually this has nothing to do with Brown's argument, which contends that Joe of A. wouldn't have been made a member of the Sanhedrin - not just a Jew.

E: That's why Mark would have wanted to make Joseph a council member, an expert on Jewish law, to guarantee Jesus' burial.

Sec: Aahahahah! Not at all. You don't need an EXPERT on Jewish law to recognize the need to bury a body. This was just part of Jewish life. It was demanded of every Jew. Josephus is outraged at the fact that those who murdered the High Priests did not bury the bodies! And a member of the Jewish authority who had just collectively sentenced Jesus, the 'fulfillment of the law' to death would NOT be a great reassurance to Mark's readers as far as expertise in matters of the law go.

E: Nevertheless, regarding my question "And who would have been concerned with keeping Jewish law but a pious Jew?" SWL replies, "A pious Jew who was not on the Sanhedrin, a remorseful Pilate wanting to honor the man he had just been forced to unjustly condemn by those evil Jews, an influential gentile who had seen Jesus preach, been a secret disciple, been healed by Jesus, or etc. and bribed Pilate for the body so that Jesus could be buried with his ancestors. Its not just Jewish law that wants the body down. Its people in general."

As I already said, Pilate may indeed have felt remorse, but Mark's readers would have had no reason necessarily to expect that Pilate felt this way and thus buried Jesus.

Sec: It follows naturally that if Pilate feels remorse, and was manipulated by the evil Jews, he would be likely to give the body over to Jesus' family/friends.

E: Likewise, Mark's readers could not have expected necessarily that a gentile convert to Christianity would been able to secure Jesus' burial or even that there would have been such a convert.

Sec: So? They wouldn't -necessarilly- have expected that a Jew would come upon the scene and request for Jesus' body either.

E: Jesus' message appealed to the poor not the influential, because of Jesus' transvaluation of ethics. Mark's readers would have counted on Jesus' followers being poor, marginalized and quite uninfluential with Pilate.

Sec: Oh, Jesus has no contact with the rich? He can make Joe of A. a rich convert of Jesus (note the type of tomb) on your scenario, but he can't have a rich gentile convert? Not one? LOL. Besides, one need not be all THAT rich to bribe Pilate. Jesus' disciples themselves are seen as from families that are pretty well-off by many scholars. See: http://www.bib-arch.org/brj99/fish.html

E: And the issue is not who might have "wanted" Jesus buried, but who could have guaranteed the burial. Answer: a judge and expert on Jewish law,

Sec: Expert on Jewish law has nothing to do with it. There's no expertise required. It’s the obligation of every Jew to see to it that a body is buried. And as far as the authority to guarantee it, if Pilate doesn't want it buried, he doesn't have to give it up. Odds are that he wants the body buried in order to avoid the disturbance leaving it unburied will cause though. And if Pilate is going to allow the body to be buried, since Romans don't have any distinction between honorable and dishonorable burial - there's just burial or no burial - its not at all obvious that Pilate would care who he gives it over to once he decides to give it over. Its just less work for him and his guards.

E: a council member who applies Deut.21:22. Contrary to SWL, "people in general" did not want crucified bodies taken down for burial.

Sec: ANY and EVERY Jew in general did. And people (i.e., non-Jews) in general who are ASSOCIATED with the person crucified - relatives, friends, disciples etc.

E: Law abiding Romans approved of the public display of the corpses to deter crime. And the crowd of brainwashed Jews who at the trial allegedly shouted for Jesus to be crucified would not likely have rushed to have Jesus immediately taken down from the cross, demonstrating their piousness after all.

Sec: They DEFINITELY would have wanted Jesus buried so as not to defile the land with His cursed corpse during Passover.

E: A council member would have been much more likely to be rigorous and objective about adherence to the law,

Sec: This is not necessarilly true at all. Certainly Jesus' relatives/friends would be more concerned with his body than anyone.

E:…and influential in having the law applied.

Sec: I don't think influence is even an issue here. It’s a matter of Pilate's practicality.

E: Another problem for Brown is this: If Joseph wasn't yet a follower of Jesus, why did he ask only for Jesus' body and not those of the other two crucified individuals? Brown's response is to say that Mark lost interest in the two thieves and simply narrowed the story to Jesus (1216 n. 28). And yet Brown claims that Joseph showed "boldness" or "courage" in asking Pilate for the body because Joseph didn't want to be confused for a Jesus sympathizer. To save himself Joseph could have relied on the fact that he had been among the members who condemned Jesus (1217). But clearly if Joseph had asked as well for the thieves' bodies this would have prevented any mistake that Joseph was a Jesus sympathizer, since his mere adherence to the law would have been plain. Thus if Brown's account of Joseph is correct we could have expected Mark to mention Joseph's request for all three bodies.

Sec: But none of this speculation so typical of Earl really rules out Joe of A. still being afraid in asking Pilate for the body (not that I agree with Brown's scenario).

E: But there's an obvious reason why Mark wouldn't have wanted to mention this, and it has nothing to do with attention to historicity. To avoid the objection to the resurrection, that the disciples mistook Jesus' body for someone else, Jesus had to be buried in isolation. For just this reason Luke emphasizes that Jesus was put in a tomb in which "no one had yet been laid" (23:53).

Sec: But uh…Mark doesn't. If he's so worried about this, he should've.

E: Furthermore, what on Earth would a pious council member have been doing hovering around Golgotha on Passover, waiting to see if Jesus would die quickly so that immediately Jesus' body could be removed and buried before it was too late and the sun went down? To my mind, that is highly implausible. On Passover a pious council member would surely have been celebrating the holiday. Even a pious Jew couldn't have been everywhere and solved every problem. Yet Mark makes Joseph out to be a super-Jew who voluntarily upset his celebration of Passover to make sure that IF Jesus--who he had earlier condemned, according to Mark, quite illegally on phony charges--died early he would be given a proper burial. For all Joseph knew Jesus might have lived on into the night so that his services wouldn't have been required. Why wouldn't Joseph and the rest of the council simply inform Pilate at the trial that naturally Jesus would have to be buried in accordance with Jewish law? Why wait to the last minute as Passover approached?

Sec: Of course, the hypothesis that Joe of A. is a sympathizer isn't vulnerable to any of this. That Joe contracts ritual uncleanness on the Passover supports that hypothesis. But let it be noted that Earl's unfunny comments about Mark making Joe of A. out to be a "super-Jew" merely because he goes to request Jesus' body are extremely uncalled for. Notice the rhetoric - Joe the "super-Jew" is "hovering around" "everywhere" "solving every problem". He's flying through the air via the propeller on his yarmulke w/a big "J of A" emblem on his chest, rescuing crucified victims everywhere…Right Earl…enough. He put off his feast to ensure a burial, without which there would've been trouble. That's all Brown's scenario requires. If Earl knows anything about Jewish law, he knows that Joe can steal eat the Passover. I agree that Pilate would have been more likely to take care of it himself, had Joe of A. not been a sympathizer and secured the body at his own personal expense, but Brown could always argue that Joe was just sent by the Sanhedrin to ensure dishonorable burial according to Jewish custom - which is what he does argue in his Catholic Biblical Quarterly article.

E: This is one of the many implausible points about Mark's account. Burton Mack lists a number of others. "The list of improbable features is quite long and includes such things as the trial by night, which would have been illegal; the basis for the charge of blasphemy, which is very unclear if not completely trumped up; the failure of the witnesses to agree, which would have called for a mistrial; the right of the Sanhedrin to charge with death, a sanction that they probably did not have at the time; the insinuation of the crucifixion taking place on Passover, which would have been an outrage; Jesus' anticipation of his death as a covenant sacrifice, which might be all right for a bacchic god but hardly for the historical Jesus; the disciples falling asleep in the midst of it all; Pilate's having Jesus executed as the 'king of the Jews' without a good reason to consider him so; the high priests (in the plural!) joining in the mocking; and so on. The better approach is to recognize the whole story as Mark's fiction, written forty years after Jesus' time in the wake of the Roman-Jewish war…not a single one of the principle players was still around to say it wasn't so" ("Who Wrote the New Testament?" 158).

Sec: Funny stuff. 70% of this is just pure nonsense. 100% of it has nothing to do with the burial so we'll just ignore it all. Mack needs to read a real scholar.

E: This leads to another point I made, about the contradiction between having a council member--regarded by Pilate as merely "jealous" of Jesus--illegally and strangely set Jesus up for execution at night, on Passover, for no good reason, and then turn around as some sort of super-Jew, according to Brown, and fly to Golgotha to have Jesus buried at the instant he had died.

Sec: There goes that Super-Jew…flying through the air again! Hahahhahah! You keep calling Joe of A. Super-Jew and I'm going to start calling you E. Earl Fudge. Regarding your point, Pilate isn't said to regard Joe of A. specifically as 'jealous', nor is it said that Joe of A. specifically took part in condemning Jesus. See Shea on this as I'm sure you already have. And see my several comments on it.

E: That seems to me highly ahistorical. Mark, rather, used the Jewish council as so much modeling clay, twisting and molding them as it suited his narrative, one minute demonizing them, the next whitewashing them.

Sec: Of course it seems ahistorical after you twist and mold Mark to make it look that way.

E: In reply to this point SWL said (I apologize for his obnoxious tone), "Oh, you just don't stop do you!? Hahahah...This is GARBAGE, Earl. If you keep posting like this, this thread is going to breed maggots! Burial of the dead was not some spiritual interpretation of Deuteronomy, it as a universally recognized obligation of every Jew in first century Palestine! Where do you come up with this stuff? Besides the fact that you obviously don't have a great understanding of the situation regarding burial in general, you continue to misunderstand what constitutes dishonorable burial."

SWL appears to assert that there was no spiritual basis to Deut.21:22. Let SWL argue, then, with Joseph Hertz, the former Chief Rabbi of England: "'It is a slight to the King, because man is made in the Divine image' (Rashi); and the dignity of humanity must be respected even in a criminal. Death, Judaism teaches, atones his sin; therefore, his body shall, at the earliest moment, receive the same reverent treatment that is due to any other deceased" (Commentary on Pentateuch, 842). The reason burial was universally recognized by Jews is because of the Jewish belief in the dignity of all people. But a Jew could feel this oneness to greater or lesser degrees. In particular, Mark presents the Jewish Council as a group of criminals who want to illegally execute a spiritual leader for no good reason.

Sec: More garbage. Did I assert there was "no spiritual basis" (whatever that means!) to Deut. 21:22? Not at all. There's a spiritual basis to it insofar as God having decreed it makes it spiritual. But it doesn't require any deeper "spiritual understanding" on the part of any Jew as Earl implies. Its simply a command of God that is a requirement of all Jews. As far as Earl's quotation of the former Chief Rabbi of England, whoopty-doo…What does that have to do with first century Jewish understanding of the basis for the act of burial? Nothing. People were buried, including criminals, so as not to defile the land as was commanded by God in the Torah. It was just a general religious obligation - regardless of spiritual interpretations of the reason for the law 100s or 1000s of years later.

E: This law against letting a criminal rot on a tree is based on a spiritual understanding that everyone should be treated with respect as beings created in God's image.

Sec: No, it isn't. Don't confuse later spiritual interpretations of the meaning of the law with the actual basis for following the law and the reason for creating the law. The Rabbis in the Talmud, much earlier than the sources you give, actually give a different spiritual interpretation - they see burial as necessary because it is a type of imitation of God, who Himself buries the dead (Deut. xxxiv. 6). This isn't at all relevant to the practice in the first century either though.

E: That doesn't sound to me like "pious" Jews who would have been interested in interrupting their Passover celebration, out of some newfound respect for human life, to bury Jesus.

Sec: Pure bunk. They never even heard of the concept in your silly quotation.

E: SWL also says "It doesn't matter if Joe of A. is the most evil guy in the world. There's nothing necessitating that he even conspired or voted against Jesus, nor is that even the point. The point is that any Jew, especially a member of the Jewish authority, is not going to want to defile the land with a body that will have to remain exposed all through the sabbath, during a time of the year when the population in Jerusalem has swelled to over a million, and where purity is of particular importance."

Well, SWL is disagreeing with Raymond Brown on whether Mark implies that Joseph had participated in Jesus' condemnation.

Sec: So what? Indeed I am.

E: Mark says repeatedly that "all" the council members were present to condemn Jesus (14:53, 55, 64; 15:1, 3, 11).

Sec: Let's trim Earl's customary exaggeration down a bit. Mark 14:53 just says they 'all' came together. 15: 3 and 15:11 say nothing about "all" the council members. 15:1 just says they reached a decision which is compatible with just a general agreement. We're left with two verses that indicate that Mark thinks "all" condemned Jesus 14:64 and 14:55. 14: 55 says the whole Sanhedrin solicited testimony against Jesus but could not find any. Are we to assume that every single member of the Sanhedrin actively solicited this testimony and that Mark has access to this information? You are free to. I see no reason to. As Sanders notes, the disciples "...were not privy to the membership list; if people hurried into the high priest's house at night, there was no one to identify them and tick their names off."[Jesus and Judaism, p. 299] 14: 64 says they all "concurred" with the guilty verdict. In light of the fact that no actual voting process is mentioned, it could just as well be a general agreement with the High Priest's spontaneous/dramatic tearing of his garments as Sanders argues. I take these verses as instances of hyperbole on Mark's part because it is in line with his tendancies to exaggerate for emphasis - in this case the emphasis is on "representative collectivity" as Brown writes (p. 633). Disagreeing with Brown, I still see his statements as in line with my view. Mark's "usage has the effect of making clear that the agents who condemned Jesus were not acting as individual groups but as the representative Jewish governing body, and that as a collectivity they gave him over to Jesus. " (p. 633) Mark is making a literary effort to portray Jesus "against a biblical background of the just one standing alone (except for God's help) against all adversaries." (p. 633). All of this is consistent with use of hyperbole to create this effect. Mark uses hyperbole in this manner "all" the time:

Mark 1: 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mark 1: 32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

Mark 1: 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door.

Mark 1: 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All seek for thee.

Mark 5: 20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all [men] did marvel.

Mark 6: 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.

Mark 11:18 And the scribes and chief priests heard [it], and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine

Mark 11: 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all [men] counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

Mark 13:3 And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Mark 13: 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Earl presents an article by Shea below to argue against Brown's account. Concerning the view that Mark is using hyperbole in the trial scene, Shea writes:

"Assuredly, no follower of Jesus would have voted for his death. But that Joseph did thus vote is far from certain, since the texts in question readily admit of other interpretations, compatible with the usual view of Mark. For one, Joseph was not present at the proceedings against Jesus.[15] Or else the phrase "the whole Sanhedrin" _ and the "all" of Mk 14:64 _ are instances of the hyperboles found frequently in Mark, and in other Gospels, as well as elsewhere in Jewish literature.[16] Unlike Brown's understanding of Mark, neither interpretation puts the evangelist in conflict with Jn 19:38 (Joseph a disciple [John's terminology differs from Mark's]), or with Mt 27:57 (Joseph a disciple; or, attached to Jesus). And both do justice to John's assertion that some authorities (i.e., Sanhedrists) were pro-Jesus. As to the statement of Luke 23:51 that Joseph had not consented to the Sanhedrin's purpose and deed, it can, of course, signify that Joseph did not attend the Council session, or that he was present and voted "no," or else abstained."[ http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/FR91103.TXT]
----------------------------
15. John P. Kealy, C.S.Sp., "Luke's Gospel Today" (Denville, N.J.: Dimension Books, 1979), 443.
16. On hyperbole in Jewish usage, see the note to Josephus, Wars, 2.19.1, in W. Whiston, , (new ed., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1987), 630. See Mk 1:5.27.32.33.45; 5:28; 6:33.5; etc. Relevant here are remarks in Werner E. Kilber, ed., (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) by J. B. Donohue, 65, note 15, and by K. E. Dewey, 97 with note 4.

Shea notes that both works by Donohue and Dewey in fn. 16. "speak of Mark's tendency to 'universalize' scenes. Mk 14:53b is a text cited."

Despite Shea's weak attempts to render the suggestion improbable w/his irrelevant reference to a need for Joseph to have "clout" with Pilate, there is also the possibility that Mark intends to imply that Joe of A. is on a different council. As Crossan notes, "…Joseph is described not as a member of the synedrion-council but as a member of the boule-council, as if there were two councils in charge of Jerusalem, a civil council and a religious council, with Joseph a member of the former body (bouleutes) but not in the latter one at all (synedrion)….Those divergent terms indicating the council--bouleutes and synedrion--make it impossible to know whether Joseph was among the judges of Jesus, and that is precisely their Markan purpose."("The Birth of Christiantiy", p. 554)

E: Since Joseph was allegedly a council member, and since Mark goes out of his way to say the "whole" council condemned Jesus, Joseph must have condemned Jesus. Simple logic.

Sec: No, simplistic over-literal reading.

E: And Brown counts on Joseph having condemned Jesus to explain why Mark says Joseph boldly approached Pilate to ask for the body. Joseph would have counted on his earlier condemnation of Jesus to save him from being suspected as a Jesus sympathizer, in which case Pilate could have granted him the body.
Sec: Which is not at all necessary. Joe's fear is better explained if he did not vote for Jesus.

E: SWL contends in an earlier post, if I'm not mistaken, that Mark may have simply been exaggerating when he said the "whole" council condemned Jesus. But Mark used this phrase a number of times so exaggeration is unlikely,

Sec: He used it twice in reference to finding Jesus guilty. And this is consistent with my views.

E: and as Brown says the repeated use of this expression "creates a mindset among readers about the Sanhedrin opposition to Jesus" (1214).

Sec: That's exactly right. And that is what I agree that Mark is indeed trying to do. Jesus has been utterly and entirely abandoned/betrayed by all in his Passion.

E: Moreover, what evidence does SWL offer to show Mark was using hyperbole, besides a desire to avoid a contradiction in the bible? Are we permitted to pick and choose when an author uses hyperbole? Perhaps Mark's claim that Jesus was the Son of God was also hyperbole.

Sec: See my discussion above. As far as a Bible contradiction goes, that's not even an issue. If there is the possibility of harmonization, there's no contradiction. Statements are in contradiction when they CANNOT be reconciled.
 
Old 04-07-2001, 01:39 AM   #65
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E: And pious Jews would indeed have wanted to keep the Sabbath holy. Unfortunately Mark makes the Jewish Council members out to be a bunch of thugs, so the piety of ordinary Jews wouldn't automatically have applied to these Jews after Mark was through with his revisionist history.

Sec: The only revisionist here is E. Earl Fudge, on-line researcher. Mark does not portray the Council as a bunch of thugs. The worst part of their portrayal is that they seek to take him by stealth. But it was actually considered ok to set up one considered a 'seducer' of the people according to Jewish custom as elucidated in the Tosephtha Sanhedrin 7.11: "For all who are guilty of the punishment of death (as named) by law, one may not set traps, except for the seducer." Furthermore, its not really a matter of Jewish piety, it’s a matter of authority - the common people didn't respect money or power but lineage and understanding of/adherence to Torah. For Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to sleep on purity regulations would have been extremely dangerous as they were under enough suspicion as regards lineage as it was. Its also just a matter of practicality. The main concern of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem is keeping the peace during Passover, and leaving a body unburied to defile the land with 1 million people in Jerusalem is indeed very dangerous.

E: And why would Jesus have had to hang on the tree "all through the Sabbath"? Why couldn't the Romans have taken him down without prompting from one of the criminal Jewish leaders, who disrespected the spirit of Jewish law to such an extent that he and the whole council conducted an illegal trial at night and on Passover, with conflicting witnesses and a vague charge of blasphemy, all out of "envy" for Jesus?

Sec: See above, and actually, plenty of scholars would say that Mark isn't even portraying a trial. But, where's the law in the Torah that they broke in having the trial? As far as hanging all through the Sabbath, sure a Roman COULD have taken the body down, but the land is defiled when it hangs past sundown.

E: SWL says "Pilate could've granted the body because he realized that Jesus had been put to death unjustly." If Pilate had realized Jesus was innocent of the charges, he wouldn't have had Jesus crucified in the first place, risking the martyrdom of an innocent man.

Sec: Wrong. There's no RISK of Jesus becoming a martyr in Pilate's eyes when all the PEOPLE before Pilate including the Jewish leadership want him dead. Pilate would have executed Jesus just to keep the people under control if he thought that's what they wanted, and if he trusted the Jewish authorities that Jesus was at least stirring up trouble amongst them, even if he didn't think Jesus had done anything particularly wrong. It’s a matter of practicality.

E: Pilate would have had to balance pleasing the crowd of Jews who screamed for Jesus' execution (where O where were the Jews who had applauded Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem [Mark 11:8-10]?) with his own alleged moral sense of Jesus' innocence and his interest not to create a future problem by martyring an innocent Jewish leader.

Sec: Those at his triumphal entry were his followers and they fled. See above on 'martyrdom'.

E: <snip whole unnecessary web-page quote about Jesus being crucified about the time of the Passover lambs being slaughtered>

I trust the importance of this last point is crystal clear, which I'll return to in a moment. Daniels' interest is in harmonization of the gospels and defending inerrancy, but he's left to admit that the gospels give no reason as to why Jesus celebrated Passover one day early. To summarize--the details are somewhat confusing--the Passover lamb was supposed to be slaughtered at the end of the day before Passover, the afternoon of 14 Nisan, and eaten that evening, the beginning of 15 Nisan. (The confusing point is that according to the Jewish calendar the day began at sundown.) And here's the all-important point: Jesus died, according to Mark 15:33-34, 42, at the very moment when the Jews slaughtered their Pascal lambs, the ninth hour or 3 PM Nisan 14! To repeat Daniels' point: "All four accounts clearly agree at his death at around the ninth hour, the time when the Passover lambs would be slain." Mark could not possibly have made the symbolism any clearer. Indeed, the symbolism was evidently so important to Mark that he was forced to have Jesus celebrate Passover one day early.

Sec: Mark doesn't make the symbolism clear at all, IMO. He simply reports the time of the death of Jesus. I certainly don't see this as an innocent coincidence. Indeed I see it truly as historical AND truly symbolic of Jesus as the Passover. But Mark doesn't make this association at all. If this was his intent, surely he would've had made it explicit by simply mentioning it. This would certainly help for any non-Jew reading the account, as they wouldn't have a clue as to when or what the Passover slaughter was.

E: Now regarding the Passover symbolism, although the details I pointed out (the cross as the world's door post, Satan as the angel of death) might not have been in Mark's mind (I took these details from Spong's "Liberating the Gospels," 96),

Sec: All the more reason to laugh at them.

E: clearly the early Christians regarded Jesus as the new sacrificial Passover lamb. Indeed, the contrary view, that Jesus' death was not regarded by the early Christians in terms of the Passover lamb's sacrifice--if that is what SWL asserts--is quite untenable.

Sec: Never did I assert any such thing. I merely stated that we see no such association made in Mark. Assuming that the mere mentioning of the date is THE association begs the question of whether or not Mark is fabricating that date for theological reasons. Since it isn't clear at all from anything else that he's working with this motif, I don't see any reason to assume he's fabricated it. He doesn't draw anything from it. Furthermore, Mark is independent of Paul, which is the only other earlier place we have the Passover symbolism.

E: The Lord's Supper itself in Paul's letters and the gospel narratives involved a redefinition of the Passover meal in Christian terms.

Sec: Not in Mark and Paul is irrelevant.

E: In John 1:29, Acts 8:32,1 Pe.1:19, 1 Cor.5:7, and Rev.5:6 Jesus is identified explicitly as the paschal lamb.

Sec: Mark wouldn't be aware of 1 Cor. and the rest are later than Mark.

E: The views that the cross is a new entrance into heaven, the doorway for Gentiles, and that Christians are saved through the shedding of Jesus' blood are articulated repeatedly by Paul. The fact that Jesus died at the very moment when Ex.12:4 commands the Jews to slaughter the lamb, and that Jesus was in fact regarded as the new Passover lamb as early as Paul's letters, makes me very suspicious of the timing of Jesus' death in Mark. True enough, by an astonishing coincidence or divine manipulation of time Jesus, the new sacrificial lamb, could possibly have died at the very moment when the Jews' Pascal lambs were actually slaughtered. Then again, Mark could just as easily have said he died at this point to reinforce the symbolism. The coincidence is far too great for me. Either God manipulated everything so that Jesus would die at just this time, to alert us to Christianity's replacement of Jewish symbolism, or else Mark fabricated the timing for the sake of making the same point. The latter explanation I take to be simpler, given scientific naturalism.

Sec: But of course, we can't give you scientific naturalism because its not a default position or metaphysically neutral or inherently more probable than theism. I agree that the timing of the death of Jesus is not coincidental. And I agree that Jesus in many ways typifies the Passover. But of course, my views flow equally from my presuppositions. And rather than argue over those presuppositions, we can just agree to disagree here. My point was that Mark shows no signs of fabricating the date for theological reasons. And if the exact time is seen as fabricated on YOUR view, it doesn't follow from your view that the actual day is, and actually, according to Pesch there is an early Jewish custom that seducers SHOULD be executed "precisely on a pilgrims' feast day in Jerusalem, in order to frighten the people"[Pesch, Rudolf. The Trial of Jesus Continues. Allison Park: Pickwick Publications, 1996. p. 32], so even on your arbitrary assumption of 'scientific naturalism', it is perfectly plausible that the day is correct, but the exact time has been fabricated to correlate with the Passover sacrifice. And this is fine for the purposes of the relevance of the feast to the burial.

E: In any case, I didn't say this symbolism was the only reason for Jesus' early death in Mark. Jesus had to die before sundown so that Deut.21:22 could even remotely have applied. To this, SWL says oddly "That applies to a corpse, Earl." Precisely. If Jesus had not become a corpse prior to sundown, but continued to live after that time, not only would Deut.21:22 not have applied, since the law states that the curse is due to the ritual impurity emanating from an unclean corpse hanging on a tree, not a living person hanging on a tree in the process of dying. There would, too, have been nobody present to apply this law and remove Jesus' body until morning at the earliest, since once the sun went down life in the ancient world stopped.

Sec: Oh really? Petronius, in the first century, tells a story about a soldier who was assigned to guard some crosses for three nights in order to prevent burial. The soldier loses one of the bodies one night to the parents of the victim while his attention is diverted by a fling with a widow. (Petronius, Satyricon 111). Indeed, if Jesus' body was left on the cross, surely his friends/family would try to attain the body, regardless of whether or not it was mutilated. Just the bones ALONE would have been valuable enough for them to bury as that is all that secondary burial consisted of anyway. The point though is that Jesus' death would have been made secure BY the Romans PRIOR to sundown IN LIGHT of Jewish law concerning leaving a body on the cross past sundown.

E: In that case, there would have been no reason to apply Deut.21:22 until the following evening, after Jesus had hung on the cross for an entire day.

Sec: Unless of course, Jesus died in the middle of the night - a risk which would probably not be taken in Judea - hence the practice of breaking the legs to speed up the dying process - evidenced in the Gospel of John and the remains of Yehohannan.

E: Deut.21:22 mentions sundown because after this point no one would be present to guard the body and wild animals could get at it, causing gross deformation and excessive impurity.

Sec: Actually, you're out of your mind. Deut.21:22 wasn't even written with crucifixion in mind so guards have nothing to do with it. Wild animals aren't an issue either. Its about a CURSE on the LAND that ensues from leaving the corpse exposed, NOT worries concerning mutilated bodies.

E: One of my other arguments was that Mark required a burial scene to fill the gap between the crucifixion and his peculiar resurrection including the lack of any appearance of the risen Jesus, and the women's failure to anoint Jesus and to trust that Jesus was alive. To this SWL says "This is also meaningless and can be said about any section in any chronological sequence. "The reason Mark needs a crucifixion is so he can fill the gap between the Jews condemning Jesus and Jesus dying. What really happened is that Jesus got stoned like Stephen.""

This misses the point completely. How would a crucifixion scene have connected logically with Jesus' condemnation by Jews?
Sec: I'm not sure what is going on here Earl, but to answer your question directly: Very easily especially if the charge were blasphemy. At Qumran in the Temple Scroll, this is already being seen as an adequate punishment for Jews by Jews in this case.

E: And the crucifixion scene doesn't come between Jesus' condemnation and his death; rather, the crucifixion scene IS the scene of his death.

Sec: Wow, so make it 'between Jesus' condemnation and his burial'.

E: Moreover, the crucifixion scene is the center-point of the gospel and is quite elaborate. My point is about the filling of a gap with a dashed off mini story, such as Jesus' burial by Joseph, which fills up no more than Mark 15:42-47. By contrast the crucifixion spans the trial, the beating and the death, and involves details of all kinds, including prophecy fulfillment. It's far more likely that a very short segment in a story is fabricated than an extensive, detailed, and central segment.

Sec: Ahahahah! This coming from a person who will momentarily fallaciously argue that anything extensive and elaborate is not likely to be preserved accurate through oral tradition, which only preserves "pithy sayings". And usually the skeptics are arguing that is most likely fabricated WHEN it contains prophecy fulfillment! Pick a team, Earl.

E: In addition, I have an extra reason why the burial scene was fabricated, namely the peculiarity of Mark's resurrection scene, with the absence of an appearance of the risen Jesus and the women's failure. Obviously Mark implies that the women would eventually see the risen Jesus, but that misses the point. My point was not that the women were permanently deprived of seeing the risen Jesus, but that naturally enough due to their lack of faith Jesus had "gone ahead of them." That is, Jesus had still to lead the way, even after death, because his followers' faith was weak. The point is that to make for their failure the women are left with only an empty tomb, an angel who has to point them in the right direction, and a risen Jesus whom they missed and who is still "ahead of them" in more ways than one.

Sec: And this is what folks? You guessed it. Garbage. There is no sign of failure on the part of the women in coming to the tomb, in any way whatsoever. The angel doesn't indicate it. Nothing in the text indicates it.

E: On the matter of the women's failure, Crossan points out the contrast Mark sets up between the three women's failure to anoint Jesus at the tomb, and the unnamed woman's spectacular faith in Jesus' imminent death (Mark 14:3-9), who therefore anoints Jesus with expensive material ("Who Killed Jesus?" 184-5). Unlike the unnamed woman who demonstrated exemplary faith, the three women were too late and stingy with their faith.

Sec: Not only does this assume that the woman's intention is to anoint Jesus for burial, rather than that just being Jesus' prophetic foresight interpreting her action, but it also assumes that the women are at fault for not KNOWING of this event, which they obviously don't! Now WHY on earth would that be the case? Why would they be at fault for not knowing that Jesus had already been anointed? They wouldn't. Do we see them as present and unbelieving in any of Jesus' passion predictions in Mark? I don't think so, Earl. Crossan's argument is bunk. So Gundry:

"The women cannot be faulted for having failed to believe the predictions that he would rise. They had never heard those predictions, and neither here nor in 14:3-9 has Mark hinted at their knowing the remark of Jesus that the pouring of perfume on his head had amounted to an anticipatory preparation of his body for burial. Besides, differences in diction and substance make doubtful that Mark wished his audience to draw any sort of comparison between 14:3-9 and 16:1-8….At no point does Mark signal that he is comparing the women's intention unfavourably with the woman's act.[Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross, p. 998]

E: Given that Mark wanted to tie up the contrast, end the gospel on the note of the disciples' failure, with the peculiar lack of any resurrection appearances, Mark had to place the three women in the position of acting on the assumption that Jesus was dead only to be divinely corrected.

Sec: The angel appearing and telling the women that Jesus is risen has nothing to do with a corrective of any failure.

E: The three women's lack of faith is continued in their response to the angel's joyous declaration that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. According to Mark, "trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid" (16:8). Thus Mark ends his gospel on the women's resounding lack of faith and disobedience. Whereas the angel specifically told the women to tell the disciples the good news, Mark goes out of his way to mention that the women "told no one." That looks to me as though Mark's point was that the women had failed Jesus in the sense of having weak faith. Their fear overtook them, just as the disciples' fear was a constant burden to Jesus, according to Mark.

Sec: And of course, any number of scholars will argue that the motif of fear/silence is what Mark sees as the appropriate response to the divine, and the women's silence is only meant to be temporary as clearly Mark intends for Jesus' predictions of His appearances in Galilee to be fulfilled, and they are entrusted with the task of telling them.

E: After Jesus' death, the central point of the gospel which wouldn't likely have been fundamentally fabricated, where else could the three women have acted on their false assumption but at Jesus' tomb?

Sec: Since nothing in the VISIT to the tomb even HINTS at failure on the part of the women, this is irrelevant. I already rebutted this in my last post but we see it going on and on and on and on and getting loooonger and loooooonger. Where have we seen this before folks? Maybe 6 posts from now, were this to continue, Earl MIGHT snip out a -tiny- portion of my response and poke at it a bit.

E: The common grave possibility was ruled out by the need to counter the objection that Jesus' body was mistaken for someone else, that Jesus hadn't been raised and that the women couldn't discern Jesus' mutilated body from a pile of others.

Sec: Nice try. Mark could've just failed to report the other 2 crucifixions. Jesus body wouldn't be mistaken at all…It’s the only one just buried in the common grave with the flesh still on it underneath the freshly dug dirt!

E: Jesus couldn't have been resurrected straight from the cross, since that would have led to the "Passover Plot" objection that Jesus had helpers remove him from the cross before he was dead and that he was never truly resurrected.

Sec: Which a poke in the side with a spear would help clear up. And obviously burial in a tomb doesn't do away with Passover Plot theories too well either does it?

E: If Jesus had been left on the cross, there could also have been the objection that Jesus had been misidentified. The longer Jesus remained on the cross, the more chance Jesus would have been disfigured by wild animals (birds plucking at Jesus' face, and yes, SWL, even animals or bystanders for sport knocking the crown of thorns off his head).

Sec: See above on Mark not reporting the other crucifixions alongside him. Knocking the crown of thorns off his head? Hahhaha!

E: In reply to my point that Mark would not have wanted to describe Jesus' decomposition by having Jesus left on the cross to rot or thrown into a common grave or garbage pile and be devoured and roasted by the sun, as opposed putting Jesus in a nice cool and isolated grave where Mark could simply forget about Jesus until his resurrection time, SWL says that a decomposing Jesus is "not much worse than a bloody whipped pierced cursed Jesus stuck on a cross with a crown of thorns on. But Mark really doesn't have to conjur up any such images and burial in a tomb doesn't really put a stop to decomposition anyway." SWL also says "Three days in a tomb in Jerusalem and Jesus is not decomposing? Highly doubtful. Makes us wonder why Mark went with the whole 'third day' motif. Could've had Jesus up and ready to go the next day. No problem with the decomposition there. Oh, and same goes for Jesus left on the cross or put in the common grave. Jesus could've risen that NIGHT."

The notion that God was whipped into submission would indeed have been absurd to a Jew, but excessive and blatant decomposition would have been not just tasteless but illogical. As the Jews for Judaism site says (http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/j4j-2000/index.html ): "If his [Jesus'] body functioned exactly in a human way, this would nullify any claim to divinity. It would be impossible for any part of God, even if incarnate, to decompose in any way and still be considered God. By definition, not mystery, the everlasting, one God, in whole or in part, does not die, disintegrate, or decompose: "For I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6)."

Sec: That's a nice irrelevant quote there, Earl. Did you think about how relevant it was before you posted it? That serves only to confirm what you quote me as saying. A dead Messiah/God is already a no-no to the average Jew. A short while longer on a cross matters not.

E: We shed skin every day, but a dead and decomposing body left to the elements, the harsh Middle Eastern sun, and the mercy of wild animals would have been absolutely disgusting to both Jews and the early Christians--far worse than having Jesus undergo a beating.

Sec: Yeah, Jesus getting a tan for a few hours post-death is MUCH worse than Jesus back being ripped open to the bone with bone-tipped whips.

E: As to why Mark mentioned "three days," certain numbers were highly symbolic for ancient cultures. "Three" represented in Hebrew numerology divine completeness, an encapsulation of time (past, present and future) and space (length, width, height). We should be suspicious of the emphasis on such numbers in the bible. "Forty," for example, just meant a long time, not exactly forty years. So Mark could very easily have meant Jesus' "three" days in the tomb to be symbolic. Just given Mark, we have no idea how long Jesus was literally in the tomb.

Sec: This is beside the point. If Mark is so worried about the body decomposing, to hell with the symbolic numbers.

E: At any rate, these are additional considerations as to why Mark would have fabricated the burial story as he did. The main reason is the one given in Part 1 above, that deprivation of burial was a most horrible thought for Jews, and that the only way to guarantee Jesus' burial was the postulation of adherence to Jewish law by someone who would certainly have applied the law, who would have known that law the best, and could have influenced Pilate, a respected member of the Jewish council.

Sec: But as I have shown, this is still no guarantee of burial, and I can offer scenarios that are even better suited to Mark's purposes.

E: Regarding the unlikelihood of the oral transmission of the details of Joseph's interaction with Pilate, SWL says "Its not at all obvious that none of those details would not be preserved. So this is not a "problem" at all. Its another fantastic objection from Earl, drawn from the realm of infinite possibility and presented as an argument for improbability." So what is SWL's theory of memory? It seems to me clear that for a piece of information to survive oral transmission over a period of decades the information must be pithy, and even then we can expect distortion. Has SWL ever played the game "broken telephone"? Far from being memorable Joseph's conversation with Pilate is awkward, with Pilate showing surprise that Jesus was already dead and having to perform a bureaucratic check to see if this was so. It seems more likely that Mark had to invent such details on the spot to flesh out his story than that they were passed on orally without distortion over a period of decades.

Sec: Firstly, the process wasn't necessarilly solely oral: "Under the influence of R. Bultmann and M. Dibelius the classical form criticism raised many doubts about the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels, but it was shaped by a number of literary and historical assumptions which themselves are increasingly seen to have a doubtful historical basis. It assumed, first of all, that the Gospel traditions were transmitted for decades exclusively in oral form and began to be fixed in writing only when the early Christian anticipation of a soon end of the world faded. This theory foundered with the discovery in 1947 of the library of the Qumran sect, a group contemporaneous with the ministry of Jesus and the early church which combined intense expectation of the End with prolific writing. Qumran shows that such expectations did not inhibit writing but actually were a spur to it. Also, the widespread literacy in first-century Palestinian Judaism [18], together with the different language backgrounds of Jesus' followers--some Greek, some Aramaic, some bilingual--would have facilitated the rapid written formulations and transmission of at least some of Jesus' teaching.[19]"[E. Earle Ellis, "The Synoptic Gospels and History" B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998)p. 53-54]
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18. Cf. Josephus, Against Apion 2.25 § 204: The Law "orders that (children) should be taught to read…"; cf. idem, Ant. 12.4.9 209; Philo, Embassy to Gaius 115, 210, Further, see R. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (WUNT 2.7; Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1981; 4th ed., 1998) 112-15.
19. Jesus had hearers and doubtless some converts from Syria (Matt 4:25), the Decapolis (Matt 4:25; Mark 3:8; 5:20; 7:31), Tyre and Sidon (Mark 3:8; 7:24, 31; Matt 15:21).

Secondly, your ridiculously anachronistic example of the game of telephone doesn't work at all because oral tradition wasn't uncontrolled (try actually looking at data on oral cultures rather than Crossan and the Jesus Seminar's irrelevancies). So Ellis:

"Secondly, the early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, [22] the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditioned 'teaching'. [23] In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples.[24] In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal.[25] (p. 53-55)
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22. O. Cullmann, "The Tradition," in Cullmann, The Early Church (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956) 55-99; B. Gerhardsson The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); H. Riesenfeld The Gospel Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970) 1-29; Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer.
23. Rom 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:3; Phil 4:9; Col 2:6-7; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim 3:14; Titus 1:9; 2 John 9-10; Jude 3: Rev 2:13, 24. Cf. Abot 1:1; Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 65-68…
24. John 19:35; 21:24-25; cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:1-10; 21:7, 21-23. Cf. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) 298-311…
25. On parallels with other rabbis and their disciples and other Jewish usage cf. Mark 2:18 = Luke 5:33; K.H. Rengstorf TDNT 1 (1964) 412-43;…TDNT 4 (1967) 431-55.

As for oral tradition only preserving "pithy" sayings, I'll reproduce here Wright's critique of the Seminar's claims (probably where your views stem from) in ["Five Gospels but No Gospel" B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998)]:

"The third driving principle behind a great many of the Seminar's decisions can be stated quite baldly. It is assumed that only isolated sayings of Jesus circulated in the earliest post-Easter period. Unless a saying can be conceived as having enough intrinsic interest and, as it were, staying power to survive being passed on by word of mouth, all by itself and without any context, we can assume that it cannot be original to Jesus. Words of Jesus which fail this test, and which occur within more extended narratives, are simply part of the storyteller's art, or of the evangelist's theology. This is, at its heart, an assumption about the nature of early Christianity…Examples of this principle in operation could be picked from almost anywhere in the book's 500 and more pages.

"The basis for these judgements is found in the extended discussion of oral memory and tradition in the introduction (pp. 25-29). It is impossible, without quoting the entire section and discussing it line by line, to show the extent of the misunderstandings it reveals. Though the authors regularly refer to oral cultures, the only actual examples they give come from a very non-oral culture, that of their own modern Western world."[63] (p. 110-112)
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63. "We" rephrase jokes and witticisms, such as those of Oscar Wilde (Funk and Hoover [eds.], The Five Gospels, 27); "we know" that oral memory "retains little else" other than sayings and anecdotes that are short, provocative, and memorable (p. 28); "recent experiments with memory" have reached various conclusions about the capacity of memory, emphasizing that, though people remember the gist of what was said, they do not recall the exact phrases. All of these examples are 100% irrelevant when we are considering a genuinely oral culture, such as still exists in certain parts of the world, not least among peasant communities in the Middle East. On the whole topic, see K. E. Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels," Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1991) 34-54.

"Referring to what Thucydides says about making up speeches to suit the occasion (p. 27) is not to the point; the speeches in question tend to be longer by far than any of Jesus' reported discourses, even the Sermon on the Mount and the Johannine 'farewell discourses.' In any case, Thucydides was a man of learning and letters, and to that extent less representative of a genuinely oral culture.

"The theory that sayings, aphorisms, memorable oneliners, and sometimes parables are the things that survive, whereas stories about Jesus, with his words embedded within them, do not, is clearly promulgated with one eye on the results. 'It is highly probable', we are told --this, recall, at the introductory level, before we have examined a single saying!--that the earliest layer of the Gospel tradition was made up almost entirely of single aphorisms and parables that circulated by word of mouth, without narrative context--precisely as that tradition is recorded in 'Q' and Thomas. [p. 28]

"With the evidence thus well and truly cooked in advance, it is not surprising that the portrait of Jesus-the-quizzical-sage 'emerges' from the subsequent discussion. It could not help doing so. The theory about what sort of material survives in oral tradition, I suggest, was designed to produce exactly this result.

"Against this whole line of thought we must set the serious study of genuinely oral traditions that has gone on in various quarters recently. [65] (p. 112-113)
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65. For example, see H. Wansbrough (ed.), Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (JSNTSup 64; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), referring to a large amount of earlier work; Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition," 34-54. The following discussion depends on these and similar studies, and builds on Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 418-43; and idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, 133-37.

"Communities that live in an oral culture tend to be story-telling communities. They sit around in long evenings telling and listening to stories--the same stories, over and over again. Such stories, especially when they are involved with memorable happenings that have determined in some way the existence and life of the particular group in question, acquire a fairly fixed form, down to precise phraseology (in narrative as well as in recorded speech), extremely early in their life--often within a day or so of the original incident taking place. They retain that form, and phraseology, as long as they are told. Each village and community has its recognized storytellers, the accredited bearers of its traditions; but the whole community knows the stories by heart, and if the teller varies them even slightly they will let him know in no uncertain terms. This matters quite a lot in cultures where, to this day, the desire to avoid 'shame' is a powerful motivation.

"Such cultures do also repeat, and hence transmit, proverbs, and pithy sayings. Indeed, they tend to know far more proverbs than the orally starved modern Western world. But the circulation of such individual sayings is only the tip of the iceberg; the rest is narrative, narrative with embedded dialogue, heard, repeated again and again within minutes, hours and days of the original incident, and fixed in memories the like of which few in the modern Western world can imagine. The storyteller in such a culture has no license to invent or adapt at will. The less important the story, the more the entire community, in a process that is informal but very effective, will keep a close watch on the precise form and wording with which the story is told.

"And the stories about Jesus were nothing if not important. Even the Jesus Seminar admits that Jesus was an itinerant wonder-worker. Very well. Supposing a woman in a village is suddenly healed after a lengthy illness. Even today, even in a non-oral culture, the story of such an event would quickly spread among friends, neighbors and relatives, acquiring a fixed form within the first two or three retellings and retaining it, other things being equal, thereafter. In a culture where storytelling was and is an art-form, a memorable event such as this, especially if it were also seen as a sign that Israel's God was now at last at work to do what he had always promised, would be told at once in specific ways, told so as to be not just a celebration of a healing but also a celebration of the Kingdom of God. Events and stories of this order are community-forming, and the stories which form communities do not get freely or loosely adapted. One does not disturb the foundations of the house in which one is living.

"What about detached aphorisms, then? Clearly, a memorable saying is a memorable saying, and could circulate independently. But what about sayings which sometimes have a context and sometimes not? I suggest that the following hypothesis is far more likely than that proposed by the Seminar. [66] It was only later, when the communities had been scattered through external circumstances (such as sundry persecutions, and the disastrous Jewish War of 66-70), that individual memorable sayings, which might very well have enjoyed a flourishing earlier life within various narrative settings, would become detached from those settings and become chreiai, isolated pithy sayings with minimal narrative context, such as we find (of course) in Thomas, and also to some extent in Luke. It is heavily ironic that the reason often given for supposing Luke's versions of 'Q' sayings are more chreia-like, while Matthew's are more embedded in Jewish, and often in narrative, contexts. Unless one had been fairly well brainwashed by the idea that Jesus-traditions consisted originally of non-Jewish, detached sayings, and only in the second generation acquired a Jewish setting, complete with scriptural overtones and so forth, the most natural historical hypothesis here would have been this: that Jesus' earliest hearers, being Jews, eager for their God to act in their present circumstances, would have told stories about Jesus in a thoroughly Jewish way, with scriptural echoes both deliberate and accidental. Then, later on, the church which was leaving the tight storytelling communities, and going out into the wider Hellenistic world, would find it easier to detach sayings from their original narrative context and present them, like the sayings of wise teachers in the Greco-Roman world, as isolated nuggets of wisdom." (p. 113-115)
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66. Sometimes the absence of narrative context in the Thomas collection is remarked on (e.g. Funk and Hoover [eds.], The Five Gospels, 122) as though this were of great significance--which it clearly is not, since Thomas never has any such contexts. Waving Thomas around (e.g. p. 102), as though its detached sayings somehow prove that the saying first circulated independently and only subsequently acquired its synoptic context, constitutes an empty celebration of a circular argument.

"The Jesus' Seminar's view of oral tradition is thus based, not on the most likely historical hypothesis, but on the same view of the distinctive Jesus that we have seen to dominate their whole picture. Jesus would not have quoted Scripture; [67] he did not share, or address, the aspirations of his contemporary Jews; he did not even follow the line taken by his 'precursor and mentor'. Nothing much memorable ever happened to him, or if it did we do not know about it. He was not involved in incidents which made a deep impression on the onlookers, causing them to go at once and tell what they had seen over and over again, with the anecdote quickly fixing itself into a pattern, and the words of Jesus, including incidental words, becoming part of that regularly repeated story. He never spoke about himself (the more one thinks about this suggestion, the more absurd it becomes); his conversation consisted only of subversive, teasing aphorisms. He must, in short, have been a very peculiar human being (as one Fellow of the Seminar pointed out to me, a Jesus who always and only uttered pithy aphorisms would start to look like some of the less credible cinematic Jesuses). Such a person would in fact be quite maddening. More importantly, as a historian I find it incredible that such a Jesus cold have been a significant historical figure. It is not at all clear why people would have followed him, died for him, loved him, invented rich and powerful stories about him, and (within an almost incredibly short time, and within a context of continuing Jewish monotheism) worshipped him." (p. 115-116)
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67. For example, Funk and Hoover (eds.), The Five Gospels, 174, where the reference to Micah in Matt 10:34-36 is given as a reason for inauthenticity. Compare p. 201, where we are told that 'scholars believe that most, perhaps all, quotations from scripture attributed to Jesus are secondary accretions." This is quite breathtaking, both in its ignoring of serious and well-known scholarly traditions in which Jesus is seen as a major expositor of Scripture, and in the extraordinary nonJewishness of the portrait which emerges.

E: SWL also says "Not in any way whatsover does the plausibility of someone like Pilate being concerned about leaving a body exposed against Jewish law in such a situation seem imiplausible, nor is it in any way implausible that Joe of A. would ask for the body from Pilate. We don't really EVEN see any particular *concern* on the part of Pilate though, so I'm not sure what you're talking about. He just grants the request. That shows more of a lack of concern with what happens to the body. And the shortness of the duration is insignificant. Who cares if it is fabricated?"

Yet the point is not that the Romans in general wouldn't have been at all interested in following Jewish law, but that Pilate wouldn't likely have been directly involved in releasing Jesus' body for burial. Wouldn't Pilate have left the matter up to the Roman guards at the cross?

Sec: Are you asking me? Who knows? Even if he had, this doesn’t rule out Joe of A. getting the permission from the body from him. Earl just keeps moving those goal posts.

E: Mark even has one of the centurions at the cross declare, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (15:39). (Luke notes the implausibility and softens the statement to "Surely this was a righteous man [23:47], although Matthew is happy with Mark's declaration [Matt.27:54].)

Sec: Who cares, Earl?

E: Well, what was this noble pagan waiting for? Get the body down and give it a proper burial, you saintly Centurion! But no, a Jewish council member has to approach no less an authority than Pilate, the procurator of Judea. This sounds to me like more back-handed apologetic:

Sec: "back-handed apologetic" "only pithy sayings are preserved orally" etc. etc. Polly want a cracker?

E: Mark would have had an interest in making Jesus' life grander than it was, involving more important figures and taking on more political significance than it actually had. That's a simple literary technique.

Sec: Pathetic. Here's a hint - Joe of A. is already involved by virtue of his being on the Sanhedrin PRIOR to the burial.

E: And the implausibility is not in Pilate's reaction to Joseph but in Joseph having to approach Pilate in the first place, especially when Mark has one of the centurion guards virtually convert to Christianity. To my mind, the entire scenario is wildly improbable.

Sec: Mark never says, nor does anyone else, that Joseph HAD to approach Pilate. Just saying something is improbable, especially when that statement is based upon a faulty understanding of the passage at hand, amounts to nothing. You haven't demonstrated one single improbability in the burial account. The centurion could well be a fabrication (even though you certainly haven't argued for this, nor can you) and this would affect the burial scenario, especially that with Joe of A. as a sympathizer, not one bit.

E: In response to my point that if Jesus died so early because he was unhealthy and physically weak, Pilate should not have been so surprised by Jesus' early death since Pilate saw Jesus' physical condition at the trial, SWL says "Pilate isn't a physician, Earl. And this is irrelevant, as the entire issue of Jesus dying early could be fictitious. He might have had his legs broken and died quickly thereafter without surprising Pilate, and that affects not one thing regarding the burial." Pilate may not have been a physician but he must have had plenty of experience with crucifixion, including how long people last in that sorry state and why.

Sec: More speculation. We don't know how much experience Pilate had with crucifixion. We don't even have a clue. And even if we did this says nothing towards his ability in assessing such matters or consistency of the victim's reaction to crucifixion.

E: This is just another blow to the plausibility of the details of Mark's burial account.

Sec: Not even the slightest.

E: Pilate must have already seen thousands of people crucified.

Sec: Where do you get your data E. Earl Fudge?!

E: He should have been an expert on the matter, so his surprise as to Jesus' early death, assuming Jesus' legs were not broken, is suspect. Now as to whether Jesus' legs were broken, that's not told anywhere in the NT, so SWL is the one here guilty of speculation without evidence. On the contrary, John19:32-36 says specifically that Jesus' legs were not broken, in fulfillment of prophecy.

Sec: But since I'm bringing up an equally plausible scenario for early death, for the purposes of argument, I don't need to stick to the Markan account at all, Earl. We know it was common practice to break the legs to speed up crucifixion, an early death and burial would be seen as desirable during Passover, and if we take your Passover typology seriously and note John's citing of Jesus' legs being left unbroken as fulfillment of prophecy, this is all the more reason to doubt the account according to your own standards. If Mark has fabricated the circumstances of the early death (though I don't see any evidence that he has), then we have no reason at all to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as an early death was probable anyway under different circumstances.

E: Regarding whether Jesus was given an honourable or a dishonourable burial, it's not clear to me that the honourable aspect of burial for Jews consisted merely of the presence of family and chanting some prayers. Mark goes so far as to say Joseph's tomb was "cut out of the rock" as opposed to being a natural cave. Such a tomb would have been on the expensive and jealously guarded side. The Oxford Companion to the bible notes that "In later periods tombs were cut from the rock…Criminals were buried under a pile of rocks" (96). Joseph would have regarded Jesus as a criminal, so why didn't he just thrown some rocks over Jesus and be done with it? The Jesus Seminar believes, as summarized by Funk, that the rock-hewn tomb described by Mark would have been "reserved for nobility" ("The Acts of Jesus" 160). So at the very least there is scholarly disagreement on this point.

Sec: Either you're misusing the Oxford Companion to the Bible or it is just plain wrong. The burying under rocks is much earlier and not evidenced at all in the first century. Joseph would not necessarilly have regarded Jesus as a criminal at all. And the Seminar's statement can be accepted in full while still noting that Jesus' burial was dishonorable according to first century Jewish funerary custom.

<snip your unnecessary spam from the Shea article which I've already read and you could've just linked to>

Shea is not an expert on first-century burial, and Brown rebuts this specific article by Shea on the alleged honorable nature of the burial in "The Death of the Messiah" (I do think Shea makes some other points Brown passes over, but not regarding the status of the burial). Byron R. McCane IS an expert on first century Jewish funerary customs though. Let's take a look at some relevant portions from his work on Jesus' burial [Byron R. McCane, "Where No One Had Yet Been Laid: The Shame of Jesus' Burial" (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 431-452.]:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Jewish burial practices in the days of Jesus are well-known: hundreds of tombs have been excavated, and many texts--from Josephus, the Mishnah, and the tractate Semahot--explicitly discuss the care of the dead. Indeed, archaeological and literary evidence presents a remarkably complete picture, and the following portrait of a typical Jewish funeral is based on the combined witness of texts and tombs.
The Jews of Early Roman Palestine had a long tradition of prompt burial of the dead. Most funerals took place as soon as possible after death, and almost always on the same day. As soon as death occurred, preparations began: the eyes of the deceased were closed, the corpse was washed with perfumes and ointments, its bodily orifices were stopped, and strips of cloth were wrapped tightly around the body--binding the jaw closed, holding the hand to the sides, and tying the feet together. Thus prepared, the corpse was placed on a bier or in a coffin and carried out of town in a procession to the family tomb, usually a small rock-cut cave entered through a narrow opening that could be covered with a stone. Upon arriving at the tomb, eulogies were spoken and the corpse was placed inside, either in a niche or on a shelf, along with items of jewelry or other personal effects of the deceased. Expressions of condolence continued as the procession returned to the family home, and friends and relatives dispersed. The funeral was thus conducted without delay, and in most cases the body had been interred by sunset on the day of death.
This preference for promptness was only heightened in the case of crucifixion victims, for the Torah specifically commanded that those who had been "hung on a tree" should be buried at sunset. Deuteronomy 21:22-33 reads: "if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day." Victims of execution could be left hanging in public view, then, but only for a short period of time. In the book of Joshua, the king of Ai is killed, hanged, and then buried at sunset (Josh 8:29), as are the five kings who oppose the Israelites (Josh 10:27). The apocryphal book of Tobit tells of a hero who risked life and limb to bury execution victims at sunset of the day of death (Tob 1:16; 2:4), and Jewish writings from first-century Palestine confirm the ongoing vitality of this ancient cultural norm. The Temple Scroll from Qumran, for example, quotes Deut 21:22-33, and Josephus says that the Jews in Jerusalem were "so careful about funeral rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion were taken down and buried before sunset" (J. W. 4.5.2 317). These norms continued to have currency long after the time of Jesus: m. Sanh. 6:4 quotes Deut 21:22-23 verbatim and notes that Jews did not customarily leave bodies of executed criminals hanging past sunset on the day of death. Jews in Palestine, in other words, had long regarded prompt burial as the normal and decent way to treat the dead. The Jewish leaders in first-century Jerusalem would have thought of it as only natural and right to take Jesus' body down from the cross at sunset.
They would not have thought it natural and right, however, to bury Jesus like most other Jews. For there was also a long-standing Jewish tradition that some bodies ought to be buried differently from others. Some Jews were buried in shame and dishonor, because they were guilty of crimes which made them undeserving of a decent burial. The evidence for the practice of dishonorable burial begins in the Hebrew Bible. In 1 Kgs 13:21-22, for example, a prophet who disobeys the command of the LORD is denounced and told, "Your body shall not go into the tomb of your fathers." Later, in Jer 22:18-19 it is the king himself (in this case, Jehoiakim, son of Josiah) who is so threatened: "They shall not lament for him…With the burial of an ass shall he be buried, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem." Granted, these texts evince only the beginnings of an outline of dishonorable burial by suggesting that there might be offenders who would not be buried in their family tombs, and that there might be deaths for which Israel would not mourn; but this early evidence is reinforced in later periods. Josephus, for example, records a version of the biblical story of Achan (Joshua 7) and his account ends with the statement that Achan was "straightway put to death and at nightfall was given the ignominious…burial proper to the condemned" (Ant. 5.1.14 44). Josephus does not specify what "ignominious burial" was--apparently he can safely assume that his readers will know and understand. The Mishnah is much more specific. m. Sanh. 6:6 says that criminals condemned by a Jewish court were not interred "in the burial place of their fathers," but in a separate places kept by the court specifically for that purpose. Rites of mourning were not observed for these criminals, either. Family members were supposed to keep their grieving to themselves:

The kinsmen came and greeted the judges and the witnesses as if to say, "We have nothing against you in our hearts, for you have judged the judgement of truth." And they used not to make open lamentation, but they went mourning, for mourning has its place in the heart (m. Sanh. 6:6).

Talmudic texts likewise argue that mourning should not be observed for those condemned by a Jewish court (Sem. 2.6). Even though these sources do not always spell out in full the exact details of dishonorable burial, certain elements do recur, and enough for us to reach at least one conclusion. From the Hebrew Bible through the rabbinic literature, dishonorable Jewish burial meant two things: burial away from the family tomb, and burial without rites of mourning.
Before proceeding any further, there is a point to be noted here about burial practices--not just Jewish burial practices, but burial practices in general. The point is this: they change very slowly. For centuries on end Israelites and Jews had been burying their dead promptly, and burying their dishonored dead in shame, and these customs did not change much over time. Burial practices are in fact among the most traditional and conservative aspects of human cultures, and they are especially so in unsecularized societies. When a society is still embedded in religion--i.e. when religious beliefs still serve as the foundation for social institutions and customs--burial practices function as ritual vehicles for social and cultural cohesion in the face of death. As such, they change very slowly. It is important to note the significance of this fact for the burial of Jesus. [15] Traditions of prompt burial, and of dishonorable burial, would have exerted a powerful influence on the Jewish leaders of first-century Jerusalem. These customs had been handed down for generations and were invested with the aura of sacred authority. The Jewish leaders were devoutly religious. To imagine that they could have disregarded these traditions, out of indifference or inconvenience, is to misunderstand burial customs in a fundamental way. Worse yet, it is to project post-modern secularized ways of thinking back into an era where they do not belong.
The element of shame in Jewish dishonorable burial is most vividly evident in the specific differences between burial in shame and burial with honor. Honorable burial emphasized precisely what shameful burial left out: the family tomb, and mourning. Burial by family groups in subterranean chambers was the consistent pattern, not just among Israelites and Jews but throughout the ancient near east. The practice of secondary burial (i.e. the reburial of bones after the flesh of the body has decayed) was especially prevalent, going back as far as the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000-1500 BCE), when circular underground chambers were used and the bones of family members were typically gathered into a pile on one side of the tomb. Similar practices persisted through the Late Bronze Age (c. 1500-1200 BCE). Later, during Iron Age II (esp. c. 800-700 BCE), benches were carved around the walls of the burial chamber, about waist-high. Bodies were laid on these benches, and when decomposition of the flesh was complete, the bones were moved into repositories beneath the benches. Over time, these repositories came to hold the bones of family members long dead, so that the bones of the deceased rested with those of the forebears. The recurrent biblical idiom, "to be gathered to one's people/fathers" (Gen. 25:8 etc.), vividly depicts this ancient Israelite burial practice. It also gives voice to the Israelite preference for burial in a family tomb.
Secondary burial in family tombs was still being practiced at the time of Jesus. True, the "bench" tomb had been replaced by the "loculus" tomb, in which bodies were placed not on benches but in loculus niches (i.e. deep narrow slots carved into the wall of the tomb). Repositories had also been replaced by "ossuaries" (i.e. limestone boxes), but the basic ancient pattern still held true: bones of family members were reburied together in the underground tombs. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that secondary burial in loculus tombs was by far the dominant burial practice among first-century Jews in and around Jerusalem, and inscriptions show that most of these tombs were used by family groups. In the "Goliath" tomb from Jericho, inscriptions enabled the excavators to reconstruct three generations of the family tree. The famous "Caiaphas" tomb demonstrates that the family of the High Priest followed these customs: in that loculus tomb there were 16 ossuaries, one of which was inscribed with the name "Joseph Caiaphas." Secondary burial is discussed at length in the Mishnah and Talmudim, and the tractate Semahot is almost entirely devoted to the topic. Here too there is a strong emphasis on ties of kinship and family: Semahot 12.9, for example, holds a son responsible for the reburial of his father's bones. Archaeological corroboration of the rabbinic sources is found in the second and third-century catacombs at Beth She'arim, where secondary burial is frequent and where inscriptions show that individual burial chambers were purchased and used by family groups.
The element of mourning which was included in honorable burial also emphasized ties of kinship and family, and here too the traditions reach far back into Israelite history. Jacob was said to have rent his garments and put on sackcloth after being told that Joseph had died (Gen 37:34), Bathsheba first "made lamentation for her husband" before becoming David's wife (2 Sam 11:26-27). Sometimes a specific length of time is mentioned: the people of Israel mourn the death of Aaron for thirty days (Num. 20:29), and Job sits with his comforters for seven days and seven nights (Job 2:12-13). References to the length of time spent in mourning also appear in Jewish literature from the first century, as for example when Josephus writes that Archelaus "kept seven days of mourning for his father" (J. W. 2.1.1 1), and Mary and Martha are said to have been mourning their brother Lazarus for four days before Jesus arrives (John 11:17-19). The rabbinic literature supplies details of a more highly developed ritual. Here the period of mourning unfolds in two stages: first a seven-day period of intense grieving…, when family members "stay away from work, sitting at home upon low couches, heads covered, receiving the condolences of relatives and friends." and then a thirty-day period of less severe mourning…, during which family members still did not leave town, cut their hair, or attend social gatherings. The rabbinic literature strongly emphasizes family ties: the longest period of mourning--an entire year--is said to occur when a son mourns for his parents (Sem. 9.15).
These customs of honorable burial expose an important feature of the Jewish culture of Roman Palestine. When they tended to their dead in this way, Jews were doing more than simply disposing of a body and dealing with their grief; they were also making a symbolic statement about their most basic cultural norms and values. Anthropologists have found that death rituals typically feature symbolic representations of the most cherished values in a culture, because "the issue of death throws into relief the most important cultural values by which people live their lives and evaluate their experiences." For Jews, one of those values was the importance of belonging to an extended family group. The foundational narrative for Jewish culture was a story about a man whose descendents were to be more numerous than the stars in the sky, and respect for the family was enshrined in the moral charter of Judaism: "honor your father and mother." Jews in Jesus' day typically lived in extended family groups, and routinely identified themselves in legal documents, inscriptions, and literature as "X, son (or daughter) of Y." At life's end, they thought it best to be buried with their nearest kin. To be buried away from the family tomb--by design, not by fate--was to be cast adrift from these cultural patterns, and dislodged from a place in the family. To be unmourned by one's nearest relatives was to be effaced from the cultural landscape. It was worse than unfortunate; it was a shame.
How does all of this affect the burial of Jesus? To begin, it is certain that the Jewish leaders did not want the body of Jesus left hanging on the cross. Instead they wanted it to be taken down and buried before sunset on the day of his death. They would not have placed the body in a family tomb, nor would they have felt any obligation to mourn, but failure to bury Jesus would have been an offense against everything decent and good. At the season of Passover such sensibilities would only have been heightened. Thus it is to be expected that someone from the council approached Pilate about the body of Jesus. It is not necessary to assume that most, or even many, of the council members were involved in the events which led to Jesus' death…It is only necessary to recognize that at least a few of them were involved in the proceedings against Jesus, and that they were devout Jews. In that situation, Jewish religious cultural norms would have prompted them to see that Jesus was buried in shame at sunset on the day of his death.
Setting the burial texts against the background of early Jewish and Christian polemics, Crossan asserts that the Gospels tell us absolutely nothing reliable about the fate of Jesus' body: "The burial stories are hope and hyperbole expanded into apologetics and polemics." [28] Certainly there are elements in the burial narratives which express Christian hope--Nicodemus, for one--and there are elements which obviously derive from Christian apologetics--the guard at the tomb, for another. Be that as it may, Who Killed Jesus? still reads like an exercise in throwing the baby out with the bath water. Even if everything in all the burial narratives has been constructed entirely from Christian theology and apologetics, these texts could still be instructive. It is precisely by looking closely at the ways in which Christian theology has shaped these stories--what has been changed, what has been emphasized, and (most especially) what has been presupposed and even tacitly admitted--that we can turn up a revealing clue about the historical circumstances of Jesus' burial.
…[O]ne characteristic of the burial narratives stands out as strikingly significant: the canonical Gospels depict Jesus' burial as shameful. Even though they take obvious steps to dignify the burial of Jesus, these documents still depict a burial which a Jew in Roman Palestine would have recognized as dishonorable. For in every Gospel up to the Gospel of Peter, Jesus is not buried in a family tomb, and he is not mourned. This fact is both surprising and revealing. It is surprising because it shows that even with all their embellishments and improvements, there was a limit beyond which the early stages of the tradition would not go…The story is steadily improved upon, but the two defining marks of shame continue and persist: no family tomb, and no mourning. A detail added by Matthew, Luke, and John is particularly revealing in this regard. The tomb of Jesus, they all say, is new, "where not one had yet been laid" (Matt 27:60; Luke 23:3; John 19:43). Many scholars have noted that this description lends dignity to Jesus' burial, because it clearly differentiates his resting place from a criminals' burial place like the ones mentioned in the Mishnah. But as both David Daube and Josef Blinzler have pointed out, a new tomb would still be a shameful place of interment. In fact a new tomb, never before used by sinner or saint, would be the only culturally acceptable alternative to a criminal's burial place, for it would be the only other way to preserve the boundary of shame which separated Jesus from his people.
Rites of mourning are absent from these narratives as well. When Jesus dies, no one sits…[grieving]…: a few women merely note the location of the tomb, and later visit it after the Sabbath. They go there, however, not to mourn, but merely to anoint the body or "to see the tomb." The omission of mourning from the canonical Gospels is significant because in other contexts in all four of these Gospels have clear depictions of the initial stages of mourning for the dead. Resuscitation stories like the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:21-43 par.), for example, or the Lazarus narrative (John 11:1-44) include explicit depictions of typical Jewish rituals of mourning. Indeed, in each of these stories the portrayal of mourning actually serves to heighten the narrative impact of the miracle by establishing that the unfortunate victim is truly dead, beyond all human help. Clearly these writers knew how to depict mourning for the dead and were willing to do so when it would advance the point of their story. What a shame that they did not put any such depictions in their stories of Jesus' burial.
Contradictions against Jewish practices of dishonorable burial first appear in the Gospel of Peter, which both places Jesus in a family tomb and depicts specific acts of mourning. According to GPet. 6.22, for example, Joseph of Arimathea washes the body of Jesus, wraps it in linen and places it in "his own tomb"--nothing about newness here--which was called "Joseph's Garden." Later, women come to the tomb with the stated intention of performing the customary rites of mourning for the dead (…Gpet. 12.52). True, the Jews are said to have prevented such mourning on the day of Jesus' crucifixion, but the women resolutely intend to do so after the Sabbath (…GPet. 12.53). They determine not to confine their grieving to the privacy of their own hearts: they will do "what ought to be done" (…Gpet. 12.54). With these depictions the tradition of Jesus' burial has turned a corner, crossing the boundaries of Jewish custom and making the burial of Jesus honorable…Not until the Gospel of Peter were these stories embellished to the point that they denied what an earlier generation of Christians had tacitly admitted: Jesus had been buried in shame.
This analysis is consistent with a fact which can all too easily get lost in the confusing shuffle of the burial narratives: the people who first told this story were Jews from first-century Palestine. The earliest layers of the Gospel tradition originated in first-century Palestine--certainly Matthew and possibly also Mark and John were written there--and as such these early stories of Jesus' burial were necessarily shaped by the burial practices of that place and time, customs which belonged to the contemporary social system and the prevailing cultural landscape. The earliest Christians lived and died by these customs, most of the time rather unreflectively, and their narratives inevitably presupposed them…On the other hand, an ideological explanation will be more plausible to some: perhaps women did mourn the death of Jesus, but male Gospel writers, suspicious of what might happen if women began meeting in groups, expunged them from the written record. Frankly, all sorts of possibilities suggest themselves, none of which played any role at all in first-century Palestine. In that place and time, the answer was not so complicated. A story about the honorable burial of a criminal condemned by Jewish authorities was simply not plausible. Everyone knew it did not work that way.
Certainly the early Christians in Palestine who first told the story of Jesus' burial knew it, for when it came to matters of death and burial, they appear to have been ordinary typical Jews. Their narratives clearly display a thorough familiarity with most of the Jewish burial practices of first-century Palestine. They knew, for example, that bodies were customarily promptly on the day of death, after being washed with ointment and wrapped in linen. They knew that the dead were customarily buried in underground tombs, and that they were mourned by their nearest relatives. And by the subtle ways in which they dignified the burial of Jesus without crossing the boundaries of Jewish custom, the texts show that the earliest Christians also knew that condemned criminals were not buried with their families and were not mourned. It is reasonable to conclude, in other words, that the early Christians in Palestine buried their dead no differently from other Jews in that place and time…Indeed, the evidence from Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources all coheres around a single conclusion: Jesus was buried in shame. Someone from the Council approached Pilate about the body and put it in an underground tomb reserved for Jewish criminals.
The evidence has shown that even though Roman authorities like Pilate might sometimes have left crucifixion victims hanging, they often allowed bodies to be buried. Such allowances, in fact, were all the more likely during a religious holiday, or when the crucifixion was not part of a mass operation to suppress an open and armed revolt, or when the request for the body came from a person who was cooperative with Rome…Finally, the
evidence has also shown that the early followers of Jesus described his burial in terms which were dishonorable. They dignified it as much as possible but did not deny its shame.</font>
McCane's conclusion is that "it is possible to reach a very high degree of historical confidence about the burial of Jesus." (p. 431)

SecWebLurker
 
Old 04-09-2001, 02:35 PM   #66
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I'm going to address four issues from SWL's last post, and that will end this thread for me. After this, I give Nomad and SWL the last word. There's more than enough material in this debate for readers to make a judgment on the issue.

****

Part 1 of 2.

The burden of proof issue.

The default position on any subject you like is agnosticism, or the admission of ignorance. This ignorance can be due to at least two causes: unfamiliarity with the evidence or the poor nature or nonexistence of the evidence itself. This is the position an inquirer always starts with. So when faced with the question of the historicity of Jesus' burial, there are two directions to go that each require an equal burial of proof. The inquirer can either affirm that the burial is historical or else affirm that the burial is not historical, which implies that something else happened to Jesus' body. Either way there is a burden of proof. However, there is a third option that does NOT require a burden of proof: the inquirer can confess ignorance and ask the exponent on one or either side of the burial issue to present her case. This is exactly the position taken by a juror in the legal system. The juror requires the prosecution and the defense to present their case to see if their claims are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now imagine that in a trial there's only the prosecution and the juror. The prosecution presents her case, say, regarding an alleged murderer's guilt, and the juror picks it apart to see if it's reasonable. In that case, the juror doesn't yet take up a final position on whether the accused is guilty, but attacks the prosecution's case to see if it withstands scrutiny. The juror can then find the case to have been made beyond a reasonable doubt or else faulty and not beyond this level of doubt. In the latter case, the juror says "Not guilty," yet this conclusion isn't offered in an absolute sense; rather, it's offered relative to the case made by the prosecution. The juror is free to confess ignorance as to whether the accused did or did not commit the crime, but is still legally bound to render a "Not guilty" verdict due to the prosecution's failure to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The juror has reasonable doubt relative to the prosecution's case, but this doubt could evaporate in a new trial with a more competent attorney in charge. An example of this is the O.J. Simpson trial. Simpson was probably guilty, and the jurors may or may not have had lingering suspicions as to Simpson's guilt. In absolute terms, the jurors were free to confess ignorance as to whether Simpson committed the murders, but given their own analysis of the evidence put before them yielding a negative conclusion, they were bound to find Simpson innocent. They need not have believed that Simpson is in fact innocent, and were free to withhold final judgment as to who killed the two individuals. Their judgment in the trial concerned the evidence put before them by the attorneys, not absolute Truth obtained from some God-like perspective.

And that's the strategy I think the skeptic can employ. I confess ignorance as to whether Jesus was buried. I then examine the traditionalist's case, in this case Nomad's and SWL's, to see if it withstands scrutiny. I employ objections aimed not towards getting at the truth independently of the traditionalist's case, but solely in determining whether the traditionalist's case holds water. If I find the evidence as put forward by the traditionalist lacking, if I still have reasonable doubt, I can conclude that Jesus was not buried relative to the traditionalist's case as examined by myself. I'm free still to proclaim agnosticism as to what "absolutely" or "certainly" happened to Jesus' body. My ultimate position on Jesus' burial remains ignorance, but my position regarding the traditionalist's case is denial of her claim. I deny that Nomad or SWL makes the case for the historicity of Jesus' burial beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore render a "Not buried" verdict.

I take my points about verisimilitude (such as Mark using Joseph, the Sanhedrin member, as a way of guaranteeing Jesus' burial according to Jewish law, and reassuring Mark's readers) and implausibility as reasonable doubts regarding the case for the historicity of Jesus' burial made by Nomad and SWL. The historicity of Jesus' birth is obviously much more important to the traditional Christian than the skeptic. For two thousand years Christians have claimed that Jesus was executed, buried and resurrected. That's been the central Christian claim. Therefore the traditional Christian naturally acts as the attorney, as it were, and the skeptic as the juror or examiner of the Christian's case. So long as reasonable doubt is found, so long as enough holes are poked in the Christian's case, the skeptic is free to render a "Not buried" verdict.

****

The issue of "all" and "whole" as exaggeration in Mark 14:53, 55, 64; 15:1.

First, SWL says "Let's trim Earl's customary exaggeration down a bit. Mark 14:53 just says they 'all' came together. 15: 3 and 15:11 say nothing about "all" the council members. 15:1 just says they reached a decision which is compatible with just a general agreement. We're left with two verses that indicate that Mark thinks "all" condemned Jesus 14:64 and 14:55."

Yet 14:53 is important because it sets the stage for what follows. There is no indication that any of the council members left during the proceedings, and since Mark says at the outset that all the members came together, the most natural interpretation is that the council remained whole throughout the trial. 14:55 says the "whole Sanhedrin was looking for evidence against him," which must mean that 14:53 includes a reference to the whole Sanhedrin as having come together.

SWL's reading of 15:3 and 15:11 is hardly the most natural. Once again, Mark sets the stage at the outset in 15:1 by saying that the "whole Sanhedrin" reached a decision. He then says "they" bound Jesus and led him to Pilate. Once again, there is no indication that any of the council members left or dissented. The natural interpretation is that Mark is still talking about the whole council, which must therefore have been present throughout Pilate's questioning. When just a few verses later Mark says "The chief priests accused him of many things" there is no indication that any of the council members left or dissented. On the contrary, Mark gives every indication that all the council members were of a like mind throughout the trial. The same is true for 15:11. Mark had already said quite explicitly that "the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin was looking for evidence against him." Thus they were acting together in trying to find Jesus guilty and have him punished. By stirring up the crowd, the chief priests were trying to get Jesus punished rather than have him let go. There is no indication that the council members, which Mark implies in 15:1 were all present, dissented or wanted to dissent. As Brown says, Mark's story gives the reader the clear impression that the entire Sanhedrin and ruling Jewish body acted together to condemn Jesus.

Moreover, the chief priests WERE members of the Sanhedrin. As the Catholic Encyclopedia states (under the topic "Sanhedrin"), "The New-Testament writers seem to divide the [Sanhedrin] members into three classes: the chief priests, the scribes, and the ancients; but it might be wrong to regard these three classes as forming a regular hierarchy, for in the New Testament itself the word "ancients", or the phrase "the ancients of the people", is quite frequently equivalent to "members of the Sanhedrin", just as is in Josephus the word bouleutaí "members of the council.""

So Joseph, who Mark calls a "prominent member of the council," may very well have been a chief priest. When, therefore, Mark says in 15:3 and 11 that the "chief priests" accused Jesus and stirred up the crowd, he was talking about council members which could have included Joseph. The question is whether Joseph was a scribe or a priest. The chief priests were more prominent than the scribes, so by calling Joseph a "prominent" council member, he seems to have been saying that Joseph was a chief priest. In any case, Mark indicates that the whole Sanhedrin, both the scribes and the priests were present during Pilate's questioning, so that as a chief priest Joseph would directly have accused Jesus and stirred up the crowd, or else as a scribe Joseph would have been present and would not have dissented, as earlier he as part of the "whole Sanhedrin," both the scribes and the chief priests, had looked for evidence against Jesus.

We can make a point to similar to Brown's claim that Matt specified that Joseph's shroud was "clean" because he found Mark's description of the shroud insufficient. Luke clearly notices the contradiction in Mark and specifies that Joseph "had not consented to their decision and action." This can only mean that the natural reading of Mark by itself would have been that Joseph had indeed consented and was included in Mark's reference to the "whole Sanhedrin." Otherwise, why would Luke have corrected the account?



SWL argues that Mark has a penchant for exaggeration, and lists a number of times when Mark talks about whole groups of people. Unfortunately, each and every one of these examples is irrelevant.

Mark 1:5, "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him."

This is a genuine exaggeration, but it is clearly such only because the number of people mentioned in the statement amount to thousands upon thousands of people. Clearly, no one was in a position to know whether each and every person in such a wide radius went out to see Jesus, because of the sheer number of people involved.

But the number of people in the Sanhedrin was exactly 71, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states: "According to the testimony of the Mishna (Sanh., i, 6; Shebuoth, ii, 2), confirmed by a remark of Josephus ("Bell. Jud.", II, xx, 5), the Sanhedrin consisted of seventy-one members, president included." Not only is this a much smaller number, but the reader's expectation would have been that Mark had used more care in talking about a unanimous judgment on the Sanhedrin's part, because given the finite and relatively small number of council members, each "yes" or "no" vote would have counted, and a unanimous decision is itself important, whereas it would have been irrelevant whether there were a number of the Judeans who did not go out to see Jesus, given the huge number that did. In the case of a judgment in a trial exact numbers count, but in the case of a mob exact numbers do not count. Therefore the reader could expect exaggeration in a report of the size of a mob, but not in a report of the unanimity of an official council's decision.

Marl 1:32, "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed."

This verse may or may not be an exaggeration. The verse implies only that the sick and demon-possessed were brought out of a specific town, and perhaps in this area indeed every single sick and demon-possessed person was brought out to Jesus. There is no need to consider this necessarily an exaggeration, since we don't know how populous was the town.

Mark 1:33, "The whole town gathered at the door."

Once again, this need not have been an exaggeration depending on the size of the town's population. If it was a small town, perhaps every single person in the area did go to Jesus. We're not talking New York city here. But if the town was rather large, then the verse would have been an exaggeration, in which case once again Mark was talking about a mob of people regarding which exaggeration would be expected and irrelevant to Mark's point.

Mark 1:35-37, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'"

This is another genuine exaggeration but it's rendered quite harmless in this less absolutist translation (the NIV rather than the KJV), and with the presence of the context of 1:35. "Everyone" clearly implies everyone in the house left by Jesus, a small number of people, not everyone in the world or some such obvious exaggeration. SWL's translation says "All seek for thee." The NIV's translation is "Everyone is looking for you," a common expression referring to everyone in a select group.

Mark 5:20, "So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed."

This verse is not necessarily an exaggeration, since it implies only that all the people TOLD in the Decapolis were amazed, not that everyone in the Decapolis (Ten Cities) was amazed. The verse says only that the demon-possessed man "began to tell in the Decapolis" what Jesus had done, and that all of THESE people told of the healing were amazed. This need not have been an exaggeration on Mark's part.

Mark 6:33, "But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of him."

This verse need not have been an exaggeration, since it implies only that many people left from all the towns in the area not the whole world. Of these towns "many people" left. No exaggeration. In the trial scene, however, there is only one group involved, the Sanhedrin, and within this group Mark says all the council members were in agreement. But once again, if Mark was exaggerating regarding the number of towns involved, this wouldn't have mattered since Mark was speaking about such a large group of people. So long as many people came from a number of towns, the addition or subtraction of a few towns would have made no difference to Mark's point, whereas a unanimous decision in a trial is very different from a split decision. The exact number of agreeing judges matters, whereas the exact number of people in a mob does not.

Mark 11:18, "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they heard him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."

Again the exaggeration disappears with the less absolutist translation. SWL's translation says "all the people," leaving the matter more abstract. There is nothing necessarily hyperbolic in talking about everyone in a certain crowd of people, depending on how many people were in the group, which the context doesn't specify.

Mark 11:32, "They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet."

This verse speaks of "people in general," the meaning of the expression "everyone says X." Mark wasn't talking literally about everyone on the face of the Earth, but everyone in a particular group, namely those who knew of John. Broken down into clearer language and taking the context into consideration, 11:32 would read "They feared the people, for everyone who knew John--a very large number of people--believed he was really a prophet." So this verse need not have been an exaggeration.

Mark 13:13 (not 13:3, as SWL says), "All men will hate you because of me…."

This is another example of an exaggeration that is dissimilar to the one in question, the trial scene. In 13:13 Jesus is talking about an indefinite number of people. In the trial scene he's talking about a definite and relatively small number of people, the 71 members of the Jewish council. Moreover, 13:13 is put in the form of an aphorism. Under these circumstances, exaggeration is expected regarding 13:13 but not the trial scene.

Mark 13:23, "So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."

Once again, the exaggeration disappears without the absolutist, poetic translation SWL uses, the KJV. Mark is once again clearly talking about everything within a group not everything in an unlimited sense, as if Jesus spoke of frogs, bricks, black holes, electricity, and so on. If we were to break down 13:23 into less aphoristic and more exact phrasing, the verse would read "I have told you everything you need to know," or "Of matters regarding your salvation I've told you everything." "All things" is a poetic absolutism, whereas "everything" is a common, if somewhat lazy, expression meaning "everything within a select group." So once again, the context and the translation remove the exaggeration.

So much for SWL's examples. To repeat the main point, in many cases the terms "whole," "all," or "everyone" refer by implication, even if they don't do so explicitly due to a rather informal style, to a number of things within a particular category or group. In the case of Mark's trial narrative he mentions the group itself, the Sanhedrin. It's reasonable to believe that the broader and more indefinite the category an author is talking about, such as a barely related mob of people, the more likely the author is exaggerating referring to some aspect about the "whole" group or "everyone" in the group. In the case of the Sanhedrin, however, the group is official, strongly related by occupation, and of a definite, relatively small number, 71 very important individuals. The council members were not some indefinite mob, and a unanimous decision is important in itself so that a dissenting number of judges would be significant. Yet Mark gives no indication that there was any dissent in the Sanhedrin's actions and decisions.

****

The illegality, and therefore implausibility, of Jesus' trial and therefore burial.

Regarding my quotation of Burton Mack's short list of Markan implausibilities, SWL says "Funny stuff. 70% of this is just pure nonsense. 100% of it has nothing to do with the burial so we'll just ignore it all. Mack needs to read a real scholar." Well, the trial's illegality is indeed very relevant to the burial because of my point that Joseph, one of the council members who conducted the trial, was allegedly both pious enough to have followed Deut.21:22 and given Jesus a burial, and yet criminal enough to have participated in a grossly illegal trial of Jesus, a blatant contradiction. So I'll confine myself to backing up the point about the trial's illegality, and thus Joseph's criminality and the implausibility of his readiness to follow Deut.21:22 out of respect for Jesus and an interest in giving him his legal and moral due, the spiritual basis of the Jewish law on burial of criminals.

Here is a long quotation from Walter Chandler, who supports his case for the trial's illegality with liberal references to the mishnah and a number of scholars (found at http://www.ida.net/users/rdk/ces/Lesson26/lesson26.html ):

In The Trial of Jesus from a Lawyer's Standpoint by Walter M. Chandler, he gives 12 reasons why the trial of Jesus was illegal. Here is his list:

"Point 1: The Arrest of Jesus was illegal, since it was effected by night, and through the treachery of Judas, an accomplice, both of which features were expressly forbidden in the Jewish law of that day.

"Point 2: The private examination of Jesus before Annas or Caiaphas was illegal; for (1) it was made by night; (2) the hearing of any cause by a 'sole judge' was expressly forbidden; (3) as quoted from Salvador, 'A principle perpetually reproduced in the Hebrew scriptures relates to the two conditions of publicity and liberty.'

"Point 3: The indictment against Jesus was, in form, illegal. 'The entire criminal procedure of the Mosaic code rests upon four rules: certainty in the indictment; publicity in the discussion; full freedom granted to the accused; and assurance against all dangers or errors of testimony' -- Salvador, p. 365. 'The Sanhedrin did not and could not originate charges; it only investigated those brought before it.' -- Edersheim, vol. 1, p. 309. 'The evidence of the leading witnesses constituted the charge. There was no other charge; no more formal indictment. Until they spoke and spoke in the public assembly, the prisoner was scarcely an accused man.' -- Innes, p. 41. 'The only prosecutors known to Talmudic criminal jurisprudence are the witnesses to the crime. Their duty is to bring the matter to the cognizance of the court, and to bear witness against the criminal. In capital cases they are the legal executioners also. Of an official accuser or prosecutor there is nowhere any trace in the laws of the ancient Hebrews.' -- Mendelsohn, p. 110.

"Point 4: 'The proceedings of the Sanhedrin against Jesus were illegal because they were conducted at night. 'Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night.' -- Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:1. 'Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during daytime only, by the Lesser Sanhedrins from the close of the morning service till noon, and by the Great Sanhedrin till evening.' -- Mendelsohn, p. 112.

"Point 5: The proceedings of the Sanhedrin against Jesus were illegal because the court convened before the offering of the morning sacrifice. 'The Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice.' -- Talmud, Jer. San. 1:19. 'No session of the court could take place before the offering of the morning sacrifice.' -- MM. Lemann, p. 109. 'Since the morning sacrifice was offered at the dawn of day, it was hardly possible for the Sanhedrin to assemble until the hour after that time.' -- Mishna, Tamid, ch. 3.

"Point 6: The proceedings against Jesus were illegal because they were conducted on the day preceding a Jewish Sabbath; also on the first day of unleavened bread and the eve of the Passover. 'They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath nor on that of any festival.' -- Mishna, San. 4:1. 'No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold sessions on the Sabbath or any of the seven Biblical holidays. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be commenced on Friday or the day previous to any holiday, because it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than over night, or to continue them on the Sabbath or holiday.' -- Rabbi Wise, 'Martyrdom of Jesus,' p. 67.

"Point 7: The trial of Jesus was illegal because it was concluded within one day. 'A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began. But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it cannot be concluded before the following day.' -- Mishna, San. 4:1.

"Point 8: The sentence of condemnation pronounced against Jesus by the Sanhedrin was illegal because it was founded upon His uncorroborated confession. 'We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make confession of guilt before a legally constituted tribunal, such confession is not to be used against him unless properly attested by two other witnesses.' -- Maimonides, 4:2. 'Not only is self-condemnation never extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but no attempt is ever made to lead him on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a voluntary confession on his part is not admitted in evidence, and therefore not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of witnesses minutely corroborate his self-accusation.' -- Mendelsohn,
p. 133.

"Point 9: The condemnation of Jesus was illegal because the verdict of the Sanhedrin was unanimous. 'A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial has the effect of an acquittal.' -- Mendelsohn, p. 141. 'If none of the judges defend the culprit, i. e., all pronounce him guilty, having no defender in the court, the verdict of guilty was invalid and the sentence of death could not be executed.' -- Rabbi Wise, 'Martyrdom of Jesus,' p. 74.

"Point 10: The proceedings against Jesus were illegal in that: (1) The sentence of condemnation was pronounced in a place forbidden by law; (2) The high priest rent his clothes; (3) The balloting was irregular. 'After leaving the hall Gazith no sentence of death can be passed upon any one soever.' -- Talmud, Bab. 'Of Idolatry' 1:8. 'A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place.' -- Maimonides, 14. See further Levit. 21:10; compare 10:6. 'Let the judges each in his turn absolve or condemn.' -- Mishna, San. 15:5. 'The members of the Sanhedrin were seated in the form of a semicircle, at the extremity of which a secretary was placed, whose business it was to record the votes. One of these secretaries recorded the votes in favor of the accused, the other those against him.' -- Mishna, San. 4:3. 'In ordinary cases the judges voted according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital case the reverse order was followed.' -- Benny, p. 73.

"Point 11: The members of the Great Sanhedrin were legally disqualified to try Jesus. 'Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or of the accuser.' -- Mendelsohn, p. 108. 'Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among the judges.' -- Benny, p. 37.

"Point 12: The condemnation of Jesus was illegal because the merits of the defense were not considered. 'Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently.' Deut. 13:14. 'The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience.' -- Mishna, San. 4:5. 'The primary object of the Hebrew judicial system was to render the conviction of an innocent person impossible. All the ingenuity of the Jewish legists was directed to the attainment of this end.' -- Benny, p. 56." (Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus from a Lawyer's Standpoint, Vol. 1, The Hebrew Trial, quoted, Talmage, pp. 645-648.)



See also http://www.shroud.com/bucklin2.htm .
 
Old 04-09-2001, 02:38 PM   #67
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Part 2 of 2.

The issue of an honourable Jewish burial involving mourning and a family burial ground.

As SWL quoted, Byron R. McCane says "The earliest Christians lived and died by these customs, most of the time rather unreflectively, and their narratives inevitably presupposed them…And by the subtle ways in which they dignified the burial of Jesus without crossing the boundaries of Jewish custom, the texts show that the earliest Christians also knew that condemned criminals were not buried with their families and were not mourned."

But there's an obvious problem with this. The gospel writers and their readers may have been shaped by Judaism but they also went beyond Judaism to form their own religion. More specifically, Jesus was thought to have overturned man-made Jewish customs and laws, and to have descended primarily from a heavenly family rather than a human one. The fact that Jesus did not receive a burial in his family plot with mourning by his friends and family can be explained in terms of Jesus' progressive deification in the gospels. Already in Mark we have Jesus saying to those telling him that his family wanted to speak with him, "'Who are my mother and my brothers?'…Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother'" (3:32-35). And when some people question where Jesus got his power, since he was just the son of human parents, Jesus says to them "'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith" (6:2-5). And in Matt.10:34-37, Jesus says that he came to render trivial ordinary human associations, even those binding together human families, and to replace these with focus on a new family, that of all of us as children of God. This tradition that Jesus was not ordinarily associated with his human family was emphasized dramatically in Matthew with the story of Jesus' virgin birth. Here Jesus is said literally not even to have been fathered by a human parent. And in Q (Matthew and Luke) Jesus says to someone who wants before following Jesus to bury his father, "Let the dead bury the dead" (Matt.8:22, Luke 9:60).

What's the relevance of these passages? Jesus did not require to be buried in his family burial grounds because he was the Son of God rather than an ordinary human being. Jesus was unique, or at least very special: he had heavenly associations overshadowing human ones. As McCane says "When they tended to their dead in this way, Jews were doing more than simply disposing of a body and dealing with their grief; they were also making a symbolic statement about their most basic cultural norms and values." So since Jesus was part of a heavenly family besides a less important human one, instead of having humans who mostly failed and fled him mourn Jesus' death, emphasizing Jesus' human ties, "darkness came over the whole land," "the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:33, 38), "the earth shook and the rocks split," and "the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life" (Matt.27:51-52). These are surely signs of heavenly mourning over Jesus' death befitting a heavenly individual. It would have been inconsistent of the gospel authors to deify Jesus and then give him a burial honourable in merely human terms. Jesus had already said that he didn't receive this mere humanly valuable honour. After all, he was executed as a common criminal. Burial in any case is insignificant compared with the importance of preaching Jesus' message. The early Christians didn't want to go so far as to think Jesus wasn't buried at all, but at the same time they weren't concerned with whether Jesus received a perfectly honourable burial in human terms. Specifically they didn't care about Jesus' family's reaction to his death. Jesus had already cut them out of a close association with him. They had no biological claim over Jesus as his authority figures as would have been the case for ordinary Jews. Rather, Jesus had authority over everyone as the Son of God. Jesus' heavenly Father mourned him by producing spectacular signs at the point of Jesus' death.

Moreover, Mark handled the lack of mourning by Jesus' disciples with his moral message of these disciples' general failure of Jesus, represented best by Peter's threefold denial of Jesus. The disciples weren't around to mourn Jesus because they had fled for their lives, showing weak faith and giving Mark's readers a healthy moral lesson. To repeat, the fact that the gospel narratives steer clear from giving Jesus a burial complete with a family tomb and human mourning doesn't mean these authors acknowledged both the importance of these as attributes of an honourable burial plus the fact that Jesus didn't receive such a burial. Jesus may not have been buried in his family plot with human mourning, but the early Christians would have had special reasons for the absence of these things. Jesus was becoming more and more divine, so the gospel narratives were naturally ended not on a note of human mourning but of heavenly mourning, not on the note of Jesus' mere biological associations with a family he himself called not importantly his own, or with associations with disciples who, according to Mark, were notorious in failing Jesus with weak faith, but of Jesus' divine position as the Son of God and a burial as a mere irrelevant way-point, an isolated spot fit only for Jesus' evacuation through resurrection. Jesus need not have been buried in an important spot on earth, since Jesus' final resting place wasn't on Earth at all, according to the early Christians. Therefore we cannot conclude the gospels deprive Jesus of a burial in his family plot with mourning, that the gospel authors knew that Jesus did not receive such a burial. They simply would not have cared about these details given their lofty view of Jesus. For purely theological reasons, the gospel authors would have edited out such details.

 
Old 04-10-2001, 03:58 AM   #68
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E: There's more than enough material in this debate for readers to make a judgment on the issue.

Sec: I agree with Earl completely here. And I think both sides have done a decent job of presenting/arguing for their case.

E: The burden of proof issue.

The default position on any subject you like is agnosticism, or the admission of ignorance.

Sec: Here I'll have to disagree with Earl. I think there are certain fundamental unprovable axioms that have to be accepted in any system before any "truths" can be derived. For instance - the uniformity of nature in scientific enquiry, or the reliability of the human sensory apparatus as a means of arriving at "truth".

E: This ignorance can be due to at least two causes: unfamiliarity with the evidence or the poor nature or nonexistence of the evidence itself. This is the position an inquirer always starts with. So when faced with the question of the historicity of Jesus' burial, there are two directions to go that each require an equal burial of proof. The inquirer can either affirm that the burial is historical or else affirm that the burial is not historical, which implies that something else happened to Jesus' body. Either way there is a burden of proof.

Sec: Notice that Earl seems at first to have changed his position somewhat (as we'll soon see he has not - he has just misunderstood it). Earl's statement above is pretty much what I have been saying for a while now, but Earl has in the past written:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">"if you were to fail to show that Jesus was probably buried as Mark suggests, I would be justified in believing that Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests".</font>
The truth of the above statement from Earl depends on whether or not Earl feels that justification of beliefs is directly proportional to the evidence for those beliefs. If Earl wants to believe that "Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests", without any evidence that "Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests", then Earl is content to hold beliefs about the likelihood of actual events for which there is no specific evidence. I don't see anything inherently wrong with this view but it seems an odd stance for a "skeptic" to take. On the other hand, if Earl feels that beliefs about the actual event of Jesus' burial (or any other event for that matter) should only be held if there is indeed evidence supporting those beliefs, then a LACK of evidence for the Markan burial account does NOT justify the belief that "Jesus was not buried as Mark suggests".

E:

&lt;Snip unnecessary trial-analogy. All that needs to be said about agnosticism in an historical sense is that it means "I don't know about X". NOTE: The trial analogy is misleading in the sense that it smuggles in a confident negative conclusion of "NOT GUILTY" in the case of lack of evidence. For a claim of "NOT GUILTY" in any trial to be accurate though, there would have to be more than a general LACK of evidence FOR the guilt of the person. In a case where there is merely a LACK of convincing evidence (as opposed to a case where there is positive evidence that the defendant did NOT commit the crime), it is more accurate to say "There is insufficient evidence to support the accusations against the defendant, and therefore the Jury cannot currently find him guilty." Of course "NOT GUILTY" is much shorter and convenient - but simply not accurate in such instances. Hence the trial-analogy is inappropriate for a precise philosophical discussion such as this, which attempts to give an in-depth analysis of "the burden of proof".&gt;

E: And that's the strategy I think the skeptic can employ. I confess ignorance as to whether Jesus was buried. I then examine the traditionalist's case, in this case Nomad's and SWL's, to see if it withstands scrutiny. I employ objections aimed not towards getting at the truth independently of the traditionalist's case, but solely in determining whether the traditionalist's case holds water. If I find the evidence as put forward by the traditionalist lacking, if I still have reasonable doubt, I can conclude that Jesus was not buried relative to the traditionalist's case as examined by myself.

Sec: Only if Earl is content to draw conclusions based upon zero evidence can Earl, in the absence of evidence, conclude that "Jesus was not buried relative to the traditionalist's case". Otherwise, if Earl perhaps believes that beliefs are justified only by evidence, he would have to present negative evidence which counts AGAINST the traditional burial scenario, in order to move out of the agnostic position of "I don't know whether or not Jesus was buried relative to the traditionalist's case" and say "Jesus was not buried relative to the traditionalist's case."

E: I'm free still to proclaim agnosticism as to what "absolutely" or "certainly" happened to Jesus' body. My ultimate position on Jesus' burial remains ignorance, but my position regarding the traditionalist's case is denial of her claim.

Sec: Which, if you believe evidence is needed to justify beliefs, is not justified.

E: I deny that Nomad or SWL makes the case for the historicity of Jesus' burial beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore render a "Not buried" verdict.

Sec: Here we see what was probably the purpose of Earl's inappropriate (but almost clever) trial analogy. Earl wants to render a "Not buried" verdict perhaps for rhetorical effect alone. But as we've seen above, if such a verdict is delivered on mere absence of evidence alone, then it is inaccurate. Again (sorry about the redundancy): If Earl believes that beliefs must be justified by evidence, Earl MAY NOT draw the conclusion that Jesus was NOT buried according to the scenario Nomad and I have layed out, EVEN IF Earl feels that we have not made our case well enough for him to accept such a scenario. In such a case, at most Earl can say: "I deny that Nomad or SWL makes the case for the historicity of Jesus' burial beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore, I don't know whether or not Jesus was buried."

E: I take my points about verisimilitude (such as Mark using Joseph, the Sanhedrin member, as a way of guaranteeing Jesus' burial according to Jewish law, and reassuring Mark's readers) and implausibility as reasonable doubts regarding the case for the historicity of Jesus' burial made by Nomad and SWL.

Sec: But as we have seen throughout this long conversation, Earl's attempts to undercut the arguments for the burial are highly flawed for several reasons: 1) Earl's points about plausibility in Mark's account deriving from his consciously aiming for versimilitude are virtually worthless and serve merely as a back-door 'heads I win, tails you lose' position that anyone can take about any singularly reported historical instance 2) there is no historical guarantee that a Jew like Joseph would come along in the first place, and if there is, Earl is in trouble, as then the Markan burial account is indeed historically certain and our case is proveN 3) Mark could have created any amount of scenarios that guarantee Jesus' burial (specifically divine intervention).

&lt;snip Earl's repeat of the misleading/inaccurate verdict of "Not buried"&gt;

E: The issue of "all" and "whole" as exaggeration in Mark 14:53, 55, 64; 15:1.

First, SWL says "Let's trim Earl's customary exaggeration down a bit. Mark 14:53 just says they 'all' came together. 15: 3 and 15:11 say nothing about "all" the council members. 15:1 just says they reached a decision which is compatible with just a general agreement. We're left with two verses that indicate that Mark thinks "all" condemned Jesus 14:64 and 14:55."

Yet 14:53 is important because it sets the stage for what follows.

Sec: Of course, it sets the stage for the hyperbolic "The world vs. Jesus" scenario that Mark is portraying on my hypothesis as well so this is really a moot point.

E: There is no indication that any of the council members left during the proceedings, and since Mark says at the outset that all the members came together, the most natural interpretation is that the council remained whole throughout the trial.

Sec: That is actually a great point - members of the Sanhedrin could indeed have left during the trial. I certainly wasn't arguing that but that is indeed another possibility. It matters not that this is not mentioned by Mark. The relevant questions are whether or not Mark would have access to that information and whether or not that information would be included by Mark given my hypothesis of hyperbole being employed to portray Jesus as utterly abandoned to the fullest, and "against a biblical background of the just one standing alone (except for God's help) against" the "representative collectivity" of the Sanhedrin. I would say the answers to these two questions are NO. Earl himself concedes that one of Mark's MAIN motifs is the portrayal of the failure and flight of even Jesus' disciples, which obviously serves to heighten Jesus' utter abandonment. My conclusion concerning the hyperbole employed in the description of the trial flows naturally from this matrix.

E: 14:55 says the "whole Sanhedrin was looking for evidence against him," which must mean that 14:53 includes a reference to the whole Sanhedrin as having come together.

Sec: And if 14:55 is hyperbole as well, which it is on my hypothesis, this is also a moot point.

E: SWL's reading of 15:3 and 15:11 is hardly the most natural.

Sec: Earl's opinion is noted. I however think its quite natural given the limits of what Mark can know, given Mark's use of hyperbole for emphasis elsewhere and tendency to universalize, and given Mark's motif of the utter abandonment of Jesus. I see Earl's reading as overly and unnecessarilly literal.

E: Once again, Mark sets the stage at the outset in 15:1 by saying that the "whole Sanhedrin" reached a decision.

Sec: Which, given my hypothesis, is meaningless. But even on Earl's overly-literal reading, this offers little support. Any collective body of people can gather, solicit, and still reach a decision collectively, even though that decision is not unanimous.

E: He then says "they" bound Jesus and led him to Pilate. Once again, there is no indication that any of the council members left or dissented.

Sec: If we want to get really literal, I suppose over 70 people were needed to bind Jesus?

E: The natural interpretation is that Mark is still talking about the whole council, which must therefore have been present throughout Pilate's questioning. When just a few verses later Mark says "The chief priests accused him of many things" there is no indication that any of the council members left or dissented.

Sec: And on and on and on. There's no indication that each and every Sanhedrin member voted negatively against Jesus either. Earl's basically just restating his view for every verse. We already know his view and we know my own, so we're capable of looking at the verses through either lense ourselves.

&lt;snip what is basically a reiteration of Earl's view and Earl's unsupported assumption that Joe of A. was a "chief priest"&gt;

E: We can make a point to similar to Brown's claim that Matt specified that Joseph's shroud was "clean" because he found Mark's description of the shroud insufficient. Luke clearly notices the contradiction in Mark and specifies that Joseph "had not consented to their decision and action." This can only mean that the natural reading of Mark by itself would have been that Joseph had indeed consented and was included in Mark's reference to the "whole Sanhedrin."

Sec: This is false. It can simply mean that Luke is just paying more attention to detail and not employing the same motifs that Mark is (discussed above). The fact that you base this allegedly necessary inference upon what you (erroneously) percieve as Luke's corrective interpretation of Mark also betrays an inconsistency in your exegesis. Earlier you argued that Mark portrays Joe of A. experiencing a change of heart after having condemned Jesus, but you note that Luke and Matt. don't pick up on this. Is Luke's (IMO falsely) alleged redactional correction of Mark determinant of the 'natural meaning' of the Markan narrative here but not there?

E: Otherwise, why would Luke have corrected the account?

Sec: See above.

E: SWL argues that Mark has a penchant for exaggeration, and lists a number of times when Mark talks about whole groups of people. Unfortunately, each and every one of these examples is irrelevant.

Sec: Not at all.

Mark 1:5, "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him."

E: This is a genuine exaggeration, but it is clearly such only because the number of people mentioned in the statement amount to thousands upon thousands of people. Clearly, no one was in a position to know whether each and every person in such a wide radius went out to see Jesus, because of the sheer number of people involved.

Sec: This is an irrelevant objection. Mark is employing hyperbole to create an effect. That is the general tendency I claimed for Mark.

E: But the number of people in the Sanhedrin was exactly 71, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states: "According to the testimony of the Mishna (Sanh., i, 6; Shebuoth, ii, 2), confirmed by a remark of Josephus ("Bell. Jud.", II, xx, 5), the Sanhedrin consisted of seventy-one members, president included."

Sec: Firstly, the testimony of the Mishna concerning ANY matter at all related to the Sanhedrin is seen as anywhere from tentatively acceptable to utterly worthless by scholars across the board. But secondly, this really doesn't matter. Are we to suppose that Mark or his source sat there and counted "1, 2, 3,.....72" or that these 72 were the only ones present or that there was even a trial? All of these suppositions would be highly speculative.

E: Not only is this a much smaller number, but the reader's expectation would have been that Mark had used more care in talking about a unanimous judgment on the Sanhedrin's part, because given the finite and relatively small number of council members, each "yes" or "no" vote would have counted, and a unanimous decision is itself important, whereas it would have been irrelevant whether there were a number of the Judeans who did not go out to see Jesus, given the huge number that did.

Sec: There isn't any discussion of any formal vote in Mark at all so this is irrelevant.

E: In the case of a judgment in a trial exact numbers count, but in the case of a mob exact numbers do not count. Therefore the reader could expect exaggeration in a report of the size of a mob, but not in a report of the unanimity of an official council's decision.

Sec: Which makes it all the more curious that Mark doesn't mention any voting process or specific numbers but merely refers to the Sanhedrin as a single collective entity in EVERY instance.

Marl 1:32, "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed."

E: This verse may or may not be an exaggeration. The verse implies only that the sick and demon-possessed were brought out of a specific town, and perhaps in this area indeed every single sick and demon-possessed person was brought out to Jesus. There is no need to consider this necessarily an exaggeration, since we don't know how populous was the town.

Sec: Earl is really desperate here. Does Mark know who is and isn't in the entire town, REGARDLESS of how small it is? No.

Mark 1:33, "The whole town gathered at the door."

E: Once again, this need not have been an exaggeration depending on the size of the town's population. If it was a small town, perhaps every single person in the area did go to Jesus. We're not talking New York city here. But if the town was rather large, then the verse would have been an exaggeration, in which case once again Mark was talking about a mob of people regarding which exaggeration would be expected and irrelevant to Mark's point.

Sec: LOL, it MAY be an exaggeration?! Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I suppose you think Mark wants us to believe that Jesus performed a census. And yes, I agree with what you secondarily note - the verse IS an exaggeration - exactly my point.

Mark 1:35-37, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'"

E: This is another genuine exaggeration but it's rendered quite harmless in this less absolutist translation (the NIV rather than the KJV), and with the presence of the context of 1:35. "Everyone" clearly implies everyone in the house left by Jesus, a small number of people, not everyone in the world or some such obvious exaggeration. SWL's translation says "All seek for thee." The NIV's translation is "Everyone is looking for you," a common expression referring to everyone in a select group.

Sec: Pffft. It says NOTHING about a select group. It simply says 'everyone is looking for you'. Not even a hint of any limitation. And I highly doubt Mark expects his readers to think that ONLY those of the house he stayed at are looking for him the day after he had healed tons of people from all over the town.

Mark 5:20, "So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed."

E: This verse is not necessarily an exaggeration, since it implies only that all the people TOLD in the Decapolis were amazed, not that everyone in the Decapolis (Ten Cities) was amazed. The verse says only that the demon-possessed man "began to tell in the Decapolis" what Jesus had done, and that all of THESE people told of the healing were amazed. This need not have been an exaggeration on Mark's part.

Sec: I'd agree with Earl here that Mark isn't NECESSARILLY exaggerating, but still note that Mark saying "all" the people were amazed is most likely just a generalization about the response of the many people told of the miracle and is not necessarilly a description of each and every person's individual response. Therefore, it is still applicable to my hypothesis concerning the Sanhedrin.

Mark 6:33, "But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of him."

E: This verse need not have been an exaggeration, since it implies only that many people left from all the towns in the area not the whole world. Of these towns "many people" left. No exaggeration.

Sec: This is clearly another example of Mark exaggerating. No one tallied up all the towns that were represented. Mark's just saying a great multitude came and using hyperbole for emphasis. Its easy to take clear instances of hyperbole and say "Well, this could be literal because its logically possible" but that misses the point.

E: In the trial scene, however, there is only one group involved, the Sanhedrin, and within this group Mark says all the council members were in agreement.

Sec: This is irrelevant because we could arbitrarily homogenize or atomize any group according to various categories. Mark speaks of one group of humans/Judeans/Galileans/townspeople/etc. in the passages I cite as hyperbole.

E: But once again, if Mark was exaggerating regarding the number of towns involved, this wouldn't have mattered since Mark was speaking about such a large group of people.

Sec: This is also insignificant because hyperbole is employed to emphasize certain themes like Jesus' great power, renown, opposition, or utter abandonment - not because the referrant is "too large to count."

E: So long as many people came from a number of towns, the addition or subtraction of a few towns would have made no difference to Mark's point, whereas a unanimous decision in a trial is very different from a split decision. The exact number of agreeing judges matters, whereas the exact number of people in a mob does not.

Sec: And like I said, we get NO exact numbers, so this obviously isn't the case. We don't even hear of a vote.

Mark 11:18, "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they heard him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."

E: Again the exaggeration disappears with the less absolutist translation. SWL's translation says "all the people," leaving the matter more abstract. There is nothing necessarily hyperbolic in talking about everyone in a certain crowd of people, depending on how many people were in the group, which the context doesn't specify.

Sec: HAhahah...right...Because AFTER ALL, a mere "three is a crowd"! I think Earl is really grasping for straws here. And his complaints about the translation are also greazy IMO, but even if he supports them by actually giving the alternate translation that allegedly does away with the hyperbole, we've just moved the argument back another step to the issue of which translation is correct?

Mark 11:32, "They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet."

E: This verse speaks of "people in general," the meaning of the expression "everyone says X." Mark wasn't talking literally about everyone on the face of the Earth, but everyone in a particular group, namely those who knew of John. Broken down into clearer language and taking the context into consideration, 11:32 would read "They feared the people, for everyone who knew John--a very large number of people--believed he was really a prophet." So this verse need not have been an exaggeration.

Sec: Wooohooo! What translation is that? The EEFV (E. Earl Fudge Version)? That's exactly right that Mark isn't referring to specific individuals. He's referring to a large group of people by speaking universally of 'everyone' - quite consistent with my hypothesis.

Mark 13:13 (not 13:3, as SWL says), "All men will hate you because of me…."

E: This is another example of an exaggeration that is dissimilar to the one in question, the trial scene.

Sec: Irrelevant as any example I give from a non-trial scene in Mark will be dissimilar from a trial scene in Mark.

E: In 13:13 Jesus is talking about an indefinite number of people. In the trial scene he's talking about a definite and relatively small number of people, the 71 members of the Jewish council.

Sec: Unless of course, Mark too is exaggerating for emphasis, in which case you'd be wrong. Way to assume your interpretation is true in order to argue for your interpretation.

E: Moreover, 13:13 is put in the form of an aphorism. Under these circumstances, exaggeration is expected regarding 13:13 but not the trial scene.

Mark 13:23, "So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."

E: Once again, the exaggeration disappears without the absolutist, poetic translation SWL uses, the KJV.

Sec: Does it? RSV reads: "Mar 13:23 But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand."

E: Mark is once again clearly talking about everything within a group not everything in an unlimited sense, as if Jesus spoke of frogs, bricks, black holes, electricity, and so on.

Sec: Oh, I agree! Mark recods "all things" or "everything" but clearly does not mean "all things" or "everything".

E: If we were to break down 13:23 into less aphoristic and more exact phrasing, the verse would read "I have told you everything you need to know," or "Of matters regarding your salvation I've told you everything." "All things" is a poetic absolutism, whereas "everything" is a common, if somewhat lazy, expression meaning "everything within a select group." So once again, the context and the translation remove the exaggeration.

Sec: Once again we get the translation from the EEFV but since I don't have a copy I can't verify that that is actually what it says.

E: So much for SWL's examples.

Sec: ...which all support my contention that Mark uses hyperbole for emphasis often. As one link puts it: "These misunderstandings come from taking an overly literal approach to the Hebrew language of the New Testament instead of recognizing the context which is loaded with hyperbole. Some examples should suffice: In Mark 15:64--...and they all (emphasis mine) condemned him to be guilty of death...Is Mark trying to say that every member of the Sanhedren, including Nicodemus and Joseph voted to crucify Jesus? No! He’s making an hebraic hyperbolic statement to indicate that the vast majority of the Sanhedren voted this way. Some would say this is a contradiction. It isn’t, because the legitimate use of hyperbole exempts the text from being held to a hardline standard of accuracy. Paul testifies that he was chief among sinners. Is this literally true? Does that mean that his sins were greater than the likes of Nero? Of course not! Paul is using hyperbole, intentionally exaggerating his words to express a more important point. This usage in hebraic context is perfectly acceptable, and this does not give the Bible's critics any fuel for their fire when taken as hebraisms...They intentionally used hyperbole in many instances when writing about the Jews and the Pharisees, which we may not realize without further contextual study."[http://www.ivanlewis.com/History/shammai.html]


E: To repeat the main point, in many cases the terms "whole," "all," or "everyone" refer by implication, even if they don't do so explicitly due to a rather informal style, to a number of things within a particular category or group.

Sec: ...only in the EEFV. Seriously though, these verses are just obvious instances of Mark using hyperbole as I said.

&lt;snip Earl's characteristic unnecessary reiteration of his argument&gt;

&lt;and snip Earl's irrelevant arguments on the trial. If you're interested, you can see refutations of them at: http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_03_01.html&gt;

SecWebLurker


[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited April 10, 2001).]
 
Old 04-10-2001, 04:18 AM   #69
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Sec: This post by Earl was just a hoot. No need to take anything in it seriously.

E: The issue of an honourable Jewish burial involving mourning and a family burial ground.

As SWL quoted, Byron R. McCane says "The earliest Christians lived and died by these customs, most of the time rather unreflectively, and their narratives inevitably presupposed them…And by the subtle ways in which they dignified the burial of Jesus without crossing the boundaries of Jewish custom, the texts show that the earliest Christians also knew that condemned criminals were not buried with their families and were not mourned."

But there's an obvious problem with this. The gospel writers and their readers may have been shaped by Judaism but they also went beyond Judaism to form their own religion. More specifically, Jesus was thought to have overturned man-made Jewish customs and laws, and to have descended primarily from a heavenly family rather than a human one. The fact that Jesus did not receive a burial in his family plot with mourning by his friends and family can be explained in terms of Jesus' progressive deification in the gospels.

Sec: AAAhahahahhaha! This is too much!

E: Already in Mark we have Jesus saying to those telling him that his family wanted to speak with him, "'Who are my mother and my brothers?'…Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother'" (3:32-35).

Sec: Of course, even if this COMPLETELY irrelevant cite of Jesus' fictive kinship (rendered even more irrelevant because it is not something those who buried him would be taking into account!) were relevant, we could be as wacky as Earl and say "But Jesus wasn't buried with them either."

E: And when some people question where Jesus got his power, since he was just the son of human parents, Jesus says to them "'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith" (6:2-5).

Sec: Of course, this has nothing to do with anything. But if we were as silly as Earl we could say "Jesus dead ancestors weren't the ones disbelieving in him or denying him honour."

E: And in Matt.10:34-37, Jesus says that he came to render trivial ordinary human associations, even those binding together human families, and to replace these with focus on a new family, that of all of us as children of God. This tradition that Jesus was not ordinarily associated with his human family was emphasized dramatically in Matthew with the story of Jesus' virgin birth. Here Jesus is said literally not even to have been fathered by a human parent. And in Q (Matthew and Luke) Jesus says to someone who wants before following Jesus to bury his father, "Let the dead bury the dead" (Matt.8:22, Luke 9:60).

Sec: That's interpreted by most as referring to secondary burial. And as far as your comments on Jesus' advocation of a fictive kinship, they are 100% irrelevant as all the McCane stuff serves to show is that, given his elucidation of the dishonorable/honorable distinction, by JEWISH standards, Jesus was buried dishonorably, and hence, there would be no violation of any of the decrees for dishonorable burial of criminals. D'oh!

E: What's the relevance of these passages?

Sec: No relevance at all to my usage of McCane's work.

&lt;snip more irrelevancies&gt;

Let's take a look at something Earl wrote just for the sake of humor...

E: So since Jesus was part of a heavenly family besides a less important human one, instead of having humans who mostly failed and fled him mourn Jesus' death, emphasizing Jesus' human ties, "darkness came over the whole land," "the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:33, 38), "the earth shook and the rocks split," and "the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life" (Matt.27:51-52). These are surely signs of heavenly mourning over Jesus' death befitting a heavenly individual.

Sec: AHAHAHAHHA! Yeah! Uh, try apocalyptic, Earl. I can't believe you would post garbage like this.

Very disappointing...

&lt;snipped the tail off this oversized red herring&gt;

SecWebLurker
 
 

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