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Old 04-04-2001, 06:57 PM   #141
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by madmax2976:

Hmm. According to your original post that started this thread that is not what you were looking for.</font>
My apologies max. I thought my four conditions helped to make it clear that I was most interested in the first 300 years of Christian history.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Now I am unclear as to what theory you are looking for. What is it that you want a theory of prior to the 300 AD time period you specified? </font>
Why would the stories that the disciples and other Christians told within days of Jesus death take off like they did? Historically speaking this is unprecedented.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> On the other hand, if more than one independent source tells you basically the same thing, would it be more likely to be true in your opinion or not? If not, why not? Also, if the reported thing were embarrassing to the specific pharoah, yet it was told to us anyways, would you consider this to be more reliable? Again, if not, why not?

Well of course that will depend on the claim. If the various sources tell me the Pharoah had magical powers or did some fantastic deeds that I have no good reason to believe can truly occur, then it'll take much more evidence than somebody's say so for me to believe it.</font>
But how do you know that these things cannot occur? Aren't you really just making an assumption, then making the evidence either fit your beliefs, or worse, discarding the evidence that contradicts your beliefs?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Hundreds of people claimed to have seen Elvis Presley after he died. Thousands have claimed to have seen ghosts. Dozens have claimed to have seen Bigfoot and the Lock Ness monster. Many claim to be able to tell the future, talk with the dead, and read minds. Numerous people have claimed to know about their past lives before they were reincarnated. Indians even today claim to be able to interact with the spirit world and communicate with their dead ancestors… </font>
Yeah, I know. And the cool thing is, urban legends and the like have been around even back to the days of Jesus. Just look at all the messianic claims from the period? Yet they all died out (just like modern urban legends die out in a generation or so). This one not only stuck around, but took over the greatest and most cosmopolitan empire of the ancient world. You don't find that odd, or even interesting?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Well I could go on and on but I think you get the point. What is noticeable about all these things I mentioned is that they are all modern claims, attested to by far, far more people than any Christian claims and I still don't believe they are likely to be true.</font>
But your analogy doesn't really work. None of these stories has any staying power. Christianity did and still does.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There is lots of basis for believing people make things up, lie or are deluded.</font>
So why not just disbelieve everything then?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> First, is it necessary to know everything about an author in order to evaluate what he wrote?

Well I stated we know hardly anything and you leap to asking if we have to know "everything". I'm not sure why you did that.</font>
Well, how much is enough? Contrary to what you appear to believe, scholars do believe that we can know a great deal about the people that wrote the books of the Bible. After all, this is how we come to know almost every person that we never get to meet personally, right? We read what they write, listen to those that knew them, study evidence, ect.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Do you apply this standard to everything you read and learn? If so, how do you do this?

Well of course I pay attention to who wrote what I read, particularly when it comes to truth claims. Doesn't everyone pay attention to this? I could utilize information on the Holocaust from Aryan Nation organizations, but the inherent bias from the members of that group wouldn't make it a wise decision I don't think.</font>
How about this? What if a Jew from Germany (or wherever) was telling you in 1943 or 1944 that the Holocaust was going on, and you, being in the United States, had no means to confirm what he told you? What if the Germans had been lousy record keepers? Or that they had won the war? Would you deny it happened?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> What are the writers credentials?, do they have the expertise necessary to make a reliable assessment of the data?, do they have any biases that could possibly cloud their judgement or research?, what actually is the evidence? (Pictures? Ruins? Dating criteria? Hearsay? )</font>
How do you have ruins or pictures of ancient actions and words? Don't we have to rely on what people wrote? Can't we examine that evidence, and compare it against our own experiences?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Secondly, we know more about 1st Century Christianity than we know what to do with.

Err.. Is this supposed to be a meaningful evaluation? I highly doubt this is even remotely true. Historians and scholars are always looking for more/new information.</font>
What I meant here is that we have more evidence than we have been able to study to date. Remember that the science of textual criticism is still quite young, and new developements are taking place all the time. It really is very fascinating stuff, and yes, like most scientists, they always want more.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> We have multiple books from multiple sources all written within the lifetime of the first and second generation of believers, plus those that they taught.

Yes, there are some writings that make claims. No doubt about that.</font>
You know that we don't have multiple books of anyone else from antiquity right?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The manuscript evidence for Christian writings has been called an embarrassment of riches for very good reason, since we have absolutely nothing like it from any other culture or ancient source.

Well assuming that's true for a moment, I'm not sure what it proves other than the devotion of the believers in preserving their documents. In those days it took considerable resources to be able to create and preserve documents as it was a very arduous task. This translates to money, power and just being literate.</font>
Actually this is another excellent point max. The Christians are often thought to have been the lowest of the lower classes, but a great many of them were very educated. They were also heavily persecuted, so why would these people risk everything they had (and apparently they had a lot) for a new religion, and refuse to give it up, even at the cost of their lives, wealth, families, reputation, and everything else?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> (Something that was not taken so much for granted as it is now.) </font>
Agreed. And this only makes Christianity look more unique.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It can also translate to just pure dumb luck in that the documents didn't get destroyed as many documents were.</font>
Perhaps. At the same time, we do know that a lot of what Paul wrote is lost to us, as is much of the originals of many of the early Fathers. Basically, papyrus is just not designed to have a long shelf life, so the fact that we have so much from 1st Century Christians really is pretty amazing.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Rejecting this evidence solely because it talks about the supernatural and miraculous is pretty naive from an historical studies perspective.

Hmm. So you conclude that its reasonable to accept claims of the supernatural based on textual evidence?</font>
Nope. That is not what I said. I suggest you reread this part.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Oh, and where exactly does the supernatural typically fit into a "historical studies perspective"? (Unless I'm misunderstanding what you mean.)</font>
The miraculous is not considered to be subject to historical studies, and must be accepted or rejected on the basis of one's personal beliefs. Like other sciences, textual criticism cannot make definitive claims about miracles.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Are you aware that we do not have any equivalent from the ancient world that shows such rapid and early mythological development?

In order to be "aware" of such a thing I would have to study a great many different beliefs and faiths. It would take a very long time, if its even possible.</font>
Very true, and the historians and scholars and scientists that work on such things almost unanimously agree that Christianity is unique on this front.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The Elvis mythology only took a few weeks or even days to come about. The legendary exploits of characters of the old American West sprung up within the very lifetimes of those individuals. </font>
Yeah, but the Elvis is still alive thing is gone now right? So this analogy, like I said before, doesn't really work. The same is true of tales from the old West.

Interestingly, Christianity was around 1800+ years before the wild West, and it is still around 100+ yeats later. Are you seeing my point now?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Mythological stories of Jesus in a tree, the Virgin Mary in a window, bleeding/weeping statues often develop in a matter of mere days.</font>
Yeah, and like the myths of the talking cross at the tomb (Gospel of Peter), and Jesus zapping people as a kid, these myths are usually debunked by the Church itself. Yet the claims for and belief in the big miracles of the Bible keep going. Once again, weird, no?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The modern version of mythologies are often coined as "urban legends". These are plentiful and many seem to spring up almost over night.</font>
Yep. And burn out just as fast.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In any case, is there some known principle that makes "rapid" mythological development more likely to be true than slow mythological development?</font>
Perhaps not. But we do know that it is unprecedented in history.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Historians of the ancient world (like A.N. Sherwin-White, and Michael Grant for example) tell us that the formation of all of Christian mythology within the first and second generation of believers is unprecedented. This does not automatically make it true, of course, but it does make it unique, and it is the explanation for this unique historical development that I am most interested in exploring.

Well I think others have effectively argued against any conclusive "uniqueness" for the development of Christianity and I'll let them continue on that point.</font>
Now this is interesting. Which experts are you referring to here?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I for one would be willing to assume the "uniqueness" of Christian development as I don't think it means much. I suspect the development of Islam and Hinduism are both unique with respect to Christianity.</font>
Islam used military conquest from the start, so yes, it is unique, and so far as I am aware, Hinduism makes no claims about actual people that lived at the time their sacred scriptures were written. Like most religions it appears to rely on stories that were written long (i.e. centuries) after the events themselves.

Again, this does not make it true. Just unique.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Likewise the development of African tribal beliefs, native American Indian beliefs, and Australian Aborigine beliefs are unique from each other and from Christianity as well. </font>
Same story here. These religions began based on stories about the long dead. Christianity started based on claims about a guy 3 days dead, and in the city in which he was killed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I guess I just not sure what uniqueness gives you since history is full of unique happenings.</font>
Well, everything is unique, but the unique and extraordinary are special, I am sure you will agree. And explaining the origins of the Christian faith has been the greatest puzzle of all time.

[quuote]My first question would be to ask why you put so much import on 2000 year old testimonial evidence? Its not like you can cross examine these people or anything.

And as you know, we can't cross examine anyone about just about everything in history. Yet we claim to know quite a lot about it.

At the same time, if what was written 2000 years ago was true then, does it stop being true today?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> So you have some writings from some believers that claimed some fantastic things. Is this supposed to be meaningful? </font>
It is when we remember that people have been treating these documents as being meaningful for 2000 years. I think we ought to respect the opinions of people, even if they are dead, don't you?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> We have nothing like this from anywhere else about anything even remotely like the life of a single man.

Well again this would seem to at least prove the devotion, power and wealth of the believers. </font>
I agree.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think its more interesting how scant the extra-biblical testimony is regarding these fantastic events that supposedly took place. ( Oh and I am aware of the typical list of writers that are brought forth to counter this, but I am also aware of just how little they actually have to say.)</font>
You are aware that we have almost nothing original from the 1st Century about anything except Christianity, Judaism and a few other (mostly powerful) people I hope. Like I said, papyrus doesn't last very long, and people just didn't seem to think things were worth preserving after awhile (again except the books of the Bible and assorted Jewish texts). Maybe this is how we know which were the hits, and which were the duds of the ancient world.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The crucifixion of Jesus alone is considered to be the best attested event in the ancient world (no less than 5 sources from four different people written within 20-70 years of the events).

Well if a whole 5 people said it happened then it MUST be true…. (sorry but I couldn't resist the sarcasm there… my bad)</font>
Yeah. On the other hand, how many contemporary writings do we have on the assassination of Julius Caesar? Or the death of Cleopatra? Pick an ancient event, and ask how much testimony we have on it from the period in question.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I could grant you the assumption that you actually have 5 independent sources but I'm not sure what that'll do for you. I'm kind of puzzled by your lack of skepticism in the face of extraordinary claims.</font>
Well, this is another story, but outside of the scope of the thread. I don't think anyone should believe the Bible until they have personally had an experience of God. Lacking that critical piece of evidence, the extraordinary claims should be rejected, or at least treated with scepticism.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Just how many people have to make a claim, (an extremely fantastic claim), in order for you to believe its true?</font>
I only believe an extraordinary claim if it matches my own experiences. The fact that so many others right back the days immediately following Jesus death have had the same experience helps to validate my own experience, but at the end of the day, I am forced to rely on my experiences, then I can test them against the experiencial claims made by others.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...I'm sure you'd find at least 5 people to attest to their experiences with Allah or the Buddhist spiritual realm. There are lots of Indians who will attest to having experiences with their ancient ancestor spirits. </font>
I will not belittle the exeriences of God claimed by these people. That would be pretty foolish and arrogant on my part.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But on the other hand, what evidence do you have that these 5 sources used truly independent sources or were independent sources themselves?</font>
This is a very complex question that falls outside the scope of the thread. The methodology of the science of textual criticism is very reliable however. It can best be compared to paleotology to help those outside of the field to understand how it works.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> As I said, very little is known about who actually wrote these documents, when they wrote, etc. And it seems to me that your assertion flies in the face of modern scholarship that puts Mark as the first gospel writing and that Mathew and Luke copied from Mark.</font>
Both Matthew and Luke are known to have used other sources besides Mark (hence the theories about Q, M and L). Historians treat these documents as they would any other ancient texts, and it is my hope that even sceptics on the Secular Web could do the same.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> John was written later and could easily have been based on the growing myths surrounding Jesus. </font>
Actually, scholars are beginning to see John as being written about the same time as the Synoptics. In any event, even if this proves to be true, I suspect that few sceptics will change their mind about it. That is why I consider the questions about dating the Gospels to be spurious.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I know we tend to not think of this as very impressive, but by any standards, it is pretty amazing when we consider that we have nothing like it about anyone prior to the invention of the press in the 1500's (and later than that actually. Newspapers really only came about in the 18th and 19th Centuries).

Even if I were to agree that this is "impressive" (I don't) I'm not sure where this gets us. Why would any of the things your saying make the claims within these writings true or even likely to be true? </font>
I am not asking you to believe they are true max. I am asking you tell me how you know they lied, or built legends and myths. This is a very different question.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It seems like your saying that, if you have "enough" people make a claim, no matter how fantastic that claim may be, its more likely to be true. (Argumentum ad populum?) I don't believe history or experience will support such a position.</font>
Very true. At the same time, multiple claims that support personal experiences are generally accepted as being true, especially by scientists.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> We have nothing like the evidence for these other mythologies that we have for Christianity. No one wrote about the lives of people they actually knew, and certainly if they did, we have very little evidence of it. Even after Christianity started, if we look at the written evidence for other cultures and myths, we have almost no manuscripts of real worth testifying to specific events, especially specific events about the life of a single individual that lived in the ancient past, and who never held any social position of any importance in his lifetime.

It seems that this would be an argument from ignorance. The factors that allows us to have Christian documents and not so many documents from other mythologies (assuming this is true as I don't know that its true) are probably quite varied.</font>
I agree. Wouldn't you like to know why this is the case though? The general lack of interest in history (especially amongst sceptics at least on this thread) is quite puzzling. I find these questions fascinating, and hope to inspire at least some interest in the subject. It strikes me as intellectually lazy to just accept that nothing special has ever happened, and then stop asking questions.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Just because more writings from other mythologies were not fortunate enough to have survived does not mean those mythologies are less true than the Christian mythology.</font>
Agreed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Today I can get first-hand testimony of a great many fantasitic things that have no relation to the Christian faith or the Christian God. I wouldn't even have to rely on old writings. I consider that kind of evidence far superior to any you could present, but that doesn't mean I would consider those claims as being true.</font>
So nothing I could present would be interesting to you? I find it sad that you are closed to new possibilities and evidence.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for the Christian writers being actual eye-witnesses or independent "attestation" to certain events (however you wish to word it), you have yet to prove this assertion. I have not seen good reason to view these writings as anything more than myths and legends of an ancient people.</font>
What do you know about this subject right now? Have you read about the subject? That is what I am hoping to get people to do here. You do not have to believe a single thing I say, but I would hope that you will at least research the topic, and ask questions.

Thank you again max.

Nomad

 
Old 04-04-2001, 10:38 PM   #142
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Koyaanisqatsi,

In the future, could you please try to be a bit more trite with your usage of bombastic rhetoric and the word fuck? I'm trying to kill all my respect for you as an informed adult.

Thanks
 
Old 04-05-2001, 12:06 AM   #143
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Why would the stories that the disciples and other Christians told within days of Jesus death take off like they did? Historically speaking this is unprecedented.

1. First, such things are obviously not unprecendented. The stories I mentioned of the Virgin Mary sitings and the image of Jesus in a tree created a stir virtually overnight. The Elvis sightings came about mere weeks after his death. Indian examples of talking with long dead ancestors or meeting with their respective spirit quides are typically accepted on the spot. The American old west characters became legends often in just a few short years. Mohammed was able to influence a very great region within his own lifetime, as was Guatama Buddha. Sabatai Sevy became a legend to many during his lifetime. The Bermuda Triangle gained legendary status in just a relatively few years.

2. You have yet to support that any such thing actually occured. There is no evidence that anything "took off" within days of Jesus' death. You have yet to provide data to support what "took off" even means. Do you have any census figures? Christian enrollment data? Exactly how much did it "take off" and what do you use to support whatever it is that this means?

But how do you know that these things cannot occur? Aren't you really just making an assumption, then making the evidence either fit your beliefs, or worse, discarding the evidence that contradicts your beliefs?

Ah, but I don't know that such things can't occur and never said that I did. I have said that I have no reason to believe they can occur. There is no evidence that such things can happen so it is impossible for me to "discard" such evidence. If you have some evidence that people can be born of virgins or rise from the dead I would be interested in examining it. I hope it consists of more than just claims. Claims are a dime a dozen, perhaps even cheaper.

Yeah, I know. And the cool thing is, urban legends and the like have been around even back to the days of Jesus. Just look at all the messianic claims from the period? Yet they all died out (just like modern urban legends die out in a generation or so). This one not only stuck around, but took over the greatest and most cosmopolitan empire of the ancient world. You don't find that odd, or even interesting?

Interesting? Sure. Miraculous? Nope. The "taking over" of the most "cosmopolitan empire" has been explained in this thread several times. There is evidence to show how and why this happened. Constantine's conversion and state-sponsored favoritism towards Christianity are well documented. Its relationship to the Kings and kingdoms over the proceeding centuries is well documented as well.

Islam has also "stuck around" and currently numbers around 1 billion. Hinduism is believed to have stuck around longer than Christianity and Islam combined and is still practiced by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

But your analogy doesn't really work. None of these stories has any staying power. Christianity did and still does.

Is longevity a sign that particular claims must be true? If so, Christianity and Islam loose and Hinduism or more likely Zorastrianism win. I would like to know why "staying power" = truth (or more likely to be truth).

So why not just disbelieve everything then?

As it would hardly affect my life one iota this is possibility. However I see nothing wrong with accepting historical claims as true providing there is good evidence to do so, provided the claims are known to be possible, provided the claims are not based on mere assertion. Certain claims have more evidence than other claims. The farther back in history one goes the more difficult it becomes to support claims. And there is very little in history that I would be so assured of as to rest my life on it, so at least some amount of skepticism should be kept in reserve. After all, new evidence could arise tomorrow.

madmax: Well I stated we know hardly anything and you leap to asking if we have to know "everything". I'm not sure why you did that.

Well, how much is enough? Contrary to what you appear to believe, scholars do believe that we can know a great deal about the people that wrote the books of the Bible. After all, this is how we come to know almost every person that we never get to meet personally, right? We read what they write, listen to those that knew them, study evidence, ect.


Scholars may believe a great many things that I do not believe. I am more concerned with why they believe it than the fact that they do. And of course there are others who claim the opposite of what you have said - that virtually nothing is known of these people. Yet others have presented argument that these individuals were not who they are typically thought to be. I guess it all depends on which authority one wishes to appeal to. The evidence is so sparse in this area that it can hardly be stated as decisive in any normal manner of speaking.

How about this? What if a Jew from Germany (or wherever) was telling you in 1943 or 1944 that the Holocaust was going on, and you, being in the United States, had no means to confirm what he told you? What if the Germans had been lousy record keepers? Or that they had won the war? Would you deny it happened?

So if there was a complete lack of evidence to support a claim would I believe it? Possibly. I would have to evaluate the character of the person making the claim. Perhaps question him to some degree. Given that such acts are known to be possible this wouldn't be a terribly big stretch. Another equally important question would be how much I believed the report and what I was willing to do about it, if anything. For me, confirmation would be critical before taking any serioius risks or actions. It would be foolhardy to proceed otherwise.

I have a more applicable scenario. Suppose you meet an old friend one day and invite him to a party your having at your house. The night of the party comes around and the friend is nowhere to be found. He arrives an hour late. He tells you that he had a flat tire and that is why he was late. Like most of us you would probably accept this explanation and go on with the party. But suppose he tells you he was accosted by aliens on the way over. They beamed him into their ship and performed medical experiments on him and then returned him to his car. Would you readily believe your old friend just as you would for the flat tire or would you require more tangible evidence?

How do you have ruins or pictures of ancient actions and words? Don't we have to rely on what people wrote? Can't we examine that evidence, and compare it against our own experiences?

Sure, I can compare it against what I know to be possible. I don't know that its possible for a Pharoah to actually have a curse placed on his tomb or for him to be favored by the God Isis. If your willing to accept claims as being truthful merely on peoples claims, no matter how fantastic those claims may be, I think you'll soon find yourself in a very precarious position. (Assuming you are consistent that is) For instance the writer Seutonius tells us that Vespacian used the power of the God Sarapis to heal people and that there were witnesses to this event that had no reason to lie. Do you believe this event? If not why not? The moabite stone tells us how the God Chemosh help the Moabs to victory in battle. Do you believe this? If not, why not?

Do you believe in any fantastic/supernatural claims for spirits or deities other than those attributed to Christianity and the Christian God? ( I know this is off topic but I am just curious )

You know that we don't have multiple books of anyone else from antiquity right?

Assuming you are correct, what does this mean? Does multiple books = truth?

Actually this is another excellent point max. The Christians are often thought to have been the lowest of the lower classes, but a great many of them were very educated. They were also heavily persecuted, so why would these people risk everything they had (and apparently they had a lot) for a new religion, and refuse to give it up, even at the cost of their lives, wealth, families, reputation, and everything else?

Why does a man sit on the ground and lite himself on fire in protest? Why do/did Indian boys submit themselves to great hardship in the desert to prove they were men? Why would men cut off a portion of their penises to please a deity? Why do women agree to cover themselves in uncomfortable clothes from head to toe in the seering heat of the day? Why did some young people decide to kill themselves so they could catch a ride on a comet? Why did a group of people hold up in a compound believing their leader to be in touch with God, face down the civil authorities, only to die for their beliefs?

People do some crazy things, no doubt about it. Does inexplicable/odd/strange behaviour = truth?

The miraculous is not considered to be subject to historical studies, and must be accepted or rejected on the basis of one's personal beliefs. Like other sciences, textual criticism cannot make definitive claims about miracles.

Well I agree with that, but since miracles are at the very heart of Christian claims, why do you present these threads that don't address them? If you could provide evidence that miracles actually occur these discussions wouldn't be necessary.

Very true, and the historians and scholars and scientists that work on such things almost unanimously agree that Christianity is unique on this front.

Unique on which front? Does uniqueness = truth?

Yeah, but the Elvis is still alive thing is gone now right? So this analogy, like I said before, doesn't really work. The same is true of tales from the old West.

So longevity = truth? This seems terribly biased. Prior to Christianity, the Greek Gods, Babylonian Gods and Summerian Gods endured for a vey long time. Zorastrutha is believed to be the oldest recorded deity. Perhaps they were true until Christianity started up and gained its supposed witnesses.
Interestingly, Christianity was around 1800+ years before the wild West, and it is still around 100+ yeats later. Are you seeing my point now?

Er yeah. Longevity of belief = truth. Strange, but your entitled to believe that I suppose.

Yeah, and like the myths of the talking cross at the tomb (Gospel of Peter), and Jesus zapping people as a kid, these myths are usually debunked by the Church itself. Yet the claims for and belief in the big miracles of the Bible keep going. Once again, weird, no?

They "keep going" in the minds of believers who believe them. Whats so weird about that? I find it weird that most Christians are inconsistent in regarding the miracle claims of other deities and faiths. Hindus believe in the miracle of reincarnation which is much older than Christianity.

Well I think others have effectively argued against any conclusive "uniqueness" for the development of Christianity and I'll let them continue on that point.

I was referring to others in this thread like those that pointed out the history of the Doaists in China.

And as you know, we can't cross examine anyone about just about everything in history. Yet we claim to know quite a lot about it.

Hopefully with some wise skepticism and not to fanatical a degree unwarranted by the evidence.

It is when we remember that people have been treating these documents as being meaningful for 2000 years. I think we ought to respect the opinions of people, even if they are dead, don't you?

There are levels of respect. I can respect their traditions and beliefs just fine. If by respect you mean agree with those beliefs that'll be a much different matter. To a degree, I respect all faiths, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Jew, or even Voodoo.

Yeah. On the other hand, how many contemporary writings do we have on the assassination of Julius Caesar? Or the death of Cleopatra? Pick an ancient event, and ask how much testimony we have on it from the period in question.

Just how much "testimony" do you think is necessary to believe a man was born of a virgin and rose from the dead? On the one hand you seem to agree that miraculous events cannot be proven in history and on the other you seem to continually attempt to interpret the evidence so that it does just that.

Well, this is another story, but outside of the scope of the thread. I don't think anyone should believe the Bible until they have personally had an experience of God. Lacking that critical piece of evidence, the extraordinary claims should be rejected, or at least treated with scepticism.

Ah good. Then I am doing it right then. I treat extraordinary claims with lots of skepticism. When/if a God communicates with me in an unambigious manner then I'll no longer be an atheist. But I won't hold my breath... okay?

I only believe an extraordinary claim if it matches my own experiences. The fact that so many others right back the days immediately following Jesus death have had the same experience helps to validate my own experience, but at the end of the day, I am forced to rely on my experiences, then I can test them against the experiencial claims made by others.

Yeah but this would seem to automatically preclude experiential claims made for other deities, spirits and faiths. So I'm not sure what "testing" would be required. In the typical Christian worldview, all other deities, spirits, miracles, are false. (Or perhaps of the devil.)

I will not belittle the exeriences of God claimed by these people. That would be pretty foolish and arrogant on my part.

It would also be arrogant to assume that they are experiences of the same God you believe in.

Very true. At the same time, multiple claims that support personal experiences are generally accepted as being true, especially by scientists.

What scientists are these? Does this apply to any type of claim?

So nothing I could present would be interesting to you? I find it sad that you are closed to new possibilities and evidence.

I am quite open to evidence. Unfortunately we may very well disagree on what constitutes evidence and on how much evidence is needed to support certain types of claims. Like I said I could obtain first hand testimony of fantastic claims that far outweight anything you could present and I still would not be inclined to believe those claims. It simply takes more than people's say so for me to believe certain things. I am puzzled that others do not hold this view as well since it seems to be the most reasonable position to hold.

What do you know about this subject right now? Have you read about the subject? That is what I am hoping to get people to do here. You do not have to believe a single thing I say, but I would hope that you will at least research the topic, and ask questions.

Well I've read the works of C.S Lewis, Josh McDowell, William Craig, Norman Geisler, J.P Mooreland, Ben Witherington, Lee Strobel, Francis Shaeffer, and numerous essays and writings by others I don't remember off hand. And of course I tried to read the debates here on the web. There are also Christian apologetic sites I visit like those of Glen Miller and J.P Holding.

Thank you again max.

No problemo.

 
Old 04-05-2001, 12:29 PM   #144
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To Nomad's "This doesn't explain the success of Christianity...": it does.

To Nomad's "Really? How do you know this?": I know when I don't see religious 'claims' accepted in science.

To Nomad's "Like what exactly?": like age of the Earth, of the human race, etc..

To Nomad's "This is cool.": I am glad to oblige.
 
Old 04-05-2001, 06:24 PM   #145
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The following three-part reply to SecWebLurker (SWL) was just posted in the thread "Jesus Christ: Worth Burying in a Tomb?" the thread Nomad has cited at various points in this thread, and in which I've been having a debate with SWL and Nomad on the historicity of Jesus' burial. I'm posting this reply in this thread as well, because I think it contributes to the discussion at hand. If, however, the readers in this thread find this post distracting--it's very long--I'll delete it. If that's the case, see the other thread (at http://www.infidels.org/electronic/f.../000195-2.html ) for my latest (and final) reply on Jesus' burial.

****

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, 06:26 PM   #146
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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 have simply informed 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 feast, 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, 06:28 PM   #147
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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. These are the lessons at the end of Mark.

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): &lt;sindon&gt;. 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 &lt;sindon&gt;.

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 &lt;sindon&gt; 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 &lt;sindon&gt; 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 &lt;sindon&gt; 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" (&lt;eneilesen&gt;, 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 &lt;sindon&gt;, 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 (&lt;anablepsasai&gt; ), 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 (&lt;mnemeion&gt;, 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 &lt;mnemeion&gt; (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 &lt;mnemeion&gt; 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 &lt;mnemeion&gt;, 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 04-06-2001, 08:40 PM   #148
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Earl, "What happened?" to part 4?
 
Old 04-06-2001, 08:52 PM   #149
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Earl, I apologize for being unnecessarily sarcastic. I did it on an impulse, and I am wrong. Your discussion is very well researched, almost like a today's way of establishing facts in the judicial system. I say 'almost', because re-establishing facts of 2000 years ago, based on fragmented truth, is a challenge, I couldn't quite raise up to but I could learn from one who does it.
 
Old 04-06-2001, 09:05 PM   #150
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Have no fear, Ion. The next three parts are on the way!
 
 

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