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Old 02-01-2001, 11:16 AM   #41
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EARL: I have time for a very quick note.

For Bede: I was aware of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which is why I said there was no veneration of ANY tomb, as opposed to THE tomb. With all the veneration of tombs at the time, someone would likely have claimed to have received in a vision the knowledge that some particular location was where angels descended and Jesus miraculously rose from the dead.

You say Paul was not engaged in evidential apologetics. On the contrary, right in 1 Cor. 15 his goal is to show that resurrection in general is possible, because his readers apparently doubted this. He argues that since Jesus was resurrected, obviously other resurrections are possible. The empty tomb argument would hardly have been out of place here.

For Secweblurker: Who is Peter Kirby?

Check the Greek on "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor.15:3-4). "Kata" can mean "as we learn from" as, for example, in Rom.10:2: "their zeal is not based on [kata] knowledge" doesn't mean that their zeal is not "in fulfillment" of knowledge. Rather their zeal is not informed by knowledge, as Paul says his gospel was informed by the Scriptures. Or take 2 Cor.4:13, "It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With [kata] that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak." Paul is not talking here about a fulfillment of scripture. Rather he's suggesting that his followers learn from the verse he quoted (Psalms 116:10), as Paul learned from the scripture in developing his gospel. See also Rom.11:28, 1 Cor.3:8; 7:40; 9:8; 15:32, and other similar verses. Notice that Paul nowhere discusses the idea that his gospel fulfilled any particular prophecy.
Old 02-01-2001, 04:26 PM   #42
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EARL: I have time for a very quick note.

For Bede: I was aware of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which is why I said there was no veneration of ANY tomb, as opposed to THE tomb. With all the veneration of tombs at the time, someone would likely have claimed to have received in a vision the knowledge that some particular location was where angels descended and Jesus miraculously rose from the dead.

SecWebLurker: This I see as, firstly, just ridiculously ad hoc and, secondly, self-refuting. How do you know what people did and didn't claim to have learned, regarding the facts about Jesus' earthly life in visions? You know this simply because Paul claims he learned a few spiritual lessons directly from God? Let's see the thorough analysis of the evidence of these visions and the nature of the information revealed in them, to Paul as well as other early Christians, that leads you to the above conclusion.

Surely you don't believe the early Christians had authentic visions, so you're saying its likely that someone would have just lied about a vision of the location of the tomb, or had some random non-veridical non-divine hallucinatory vision, and then made a falsifiable claim to know the true location? What's the next step? Go find it and venerate! But surely no one could pick a randomly occupied tomb or empty tomb of the rich, declare that Jesus had been laid in there, and just set up shop and start venerating. It wouldn't take much investigation to expose such a scam. Perhaps you can get your conspiratorial gears grinding and think of a reason for a rich guy to donate a tomb to such a plot, or devise one himself. I think the motive is going to be way too hard to establish here. Too much of a risk.

Furthermore, if your vision hypothesis is correct, then when Mark was circulating, if there was no tomb to venerate up until that time, wouldn't we expect to see some hints at conflict over the actual location of the tomb, or some hint OF the actual location? Over-imaginative Christians would be popping up all over the place having visions of the true location of the tomb, would they not? Mark comes along and speaks of the allegedly TRUE tomb in his Gospel. If Mark's not telling a previously established and unanimously accepted tradition, he's going to do some arguing for his account over the others, or against a previously existing tradition that Jesus was dishonorably buried or not buried at all, and definitely give some more evidence for his "true" tomb - like a location or more witnesses. He doesn't. He's also going to need a real tomb or an explanation for what happened to it. Where's he going to get a tomb? He's not going to wander upon one and claim it. And no rich Jew or early Christian is going to take the risk ESPECIALLY at the time he's writing that Gospel, and hook him up. Will he say that it was just destroyed? Probably not if there's competition amongst traditions. That'd be too weak and convenient to gain acceptance over them. Either there was no tradition of an empty tomb prior to Mark's Gospel or there was. If its a different tradition, we should see signs of conflict with it in Mark and the others. If the previous tradition is that Jesus was NOT put in an empty tomb, but that he was buried dishonorably or not at all, we should see conflict, mention of the location of the tomb, apostles put at the scene of the empty tomb in the Gospels accounts at least by the time of Matthew, competing burial traditions, etc.

Mark's, and indeed all the Gospel's silence on the actual location also serves to argue against veneration of an empty-tomb being extremely important to early Christians. If they're silent because there was no tomb to point to, because its a myth, or becaise the tomb was destroyed, and all these early Christians are dying to venerate Jesus empty tomb that they speak of, we should see more explanation concerning its fate.

And besides, I already pointed out the problem with the whole argument. Even decades after 70 AD, after the alleged MYTH of the empty tomb has been circulated, we've still got no solid evidence of veneration of any tombs. This is puzzling if the veneration of the empty tomb would allegedly be so important that visions of its location would be conjured up as you say. So your argument is self-refuting. Either:

1. We shouldn't expect evidence of veneration because the tomb was destroyed like Bede says and that's that.

2. there is actually good evidence for early tomb veneration (I haven't seen any).

3. We shouldn't expect evidence of EMPTY-tomb veneration because there's no precedent for that, there's nothing in an empty tomb, etc. etc.

4. We SHOULD expect empty tomb veneration and it argues against there being an empty tomb that we don't know of any. The tomb wasn't venerated because it was a late legendary invention-there never was any tomb.

But with 4., like you say, these early Christians, prone to spin out legends, would play pin the resurrection on the empty tomb, especially after Mark circulated with no specified location and really started the early Christians tomb-venerating engines. Then we should see some evidence in the late first century of empty-tomb veneration. We don't though.

So to the extent that you argue 4. - that we ought to see empty-tomb veneration - you undercut your own argument.

I'd say 1. is most probable, then 3., then 2. 4. isn't even a player.

E: You say Paul was not engaged in evidential apologetics. On the contrary, right in 1 Cor. 15 his goal is to show that resurrection in general is possible, because his readers apparently doubted this. He argues that since Jesus was resurrected, obviously other resurrections are possible. The empty tomb argument would hardly have been out of place here.

SecWebLurker: Paul is arguing FROM Jesus resurrection TO their resurrection. He's not arguing FOR Jesus' resurrection. They have the belief in Jesus' resurrection in common. And Paul is giving this commonly accepted belief AS evidence of their resurrection. There is no need whatsoever for him to mention the empty tomb. Besides that, Paul didn't witness the empty tomb, why draw attention to that? And even if he did, merely witnessing the empty tomb didn't quite confer the status of apostle upon one did it? Nope.

For Secweblurker: Who is Peter Kirby?

SecWebLurker: You don't know?

E: Check the Greek on "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor.15:3-4). "Kata" can mean "as we learn from" as, for example, in Rom.10:2: "their zeal is not based on [kata] knowledge" doesn't mean that their zeal is not "in fulfillment" of knowledge.

SecWebLurker: Oh c'mon, man. What scholars interpret the passage this way? Name em... Checking Strong's, I don't see "as we learn from" as a definition though you might be able to squeeze it in some verses. I see plenty of places where it doesn't work, but there is no need to even waste time on that argument. "Based on", "According to", "through" etc. do the job just fine. Paul is talking about a tradition, something handed down to him. He received it. He just accepted what he thinks is someone ELSE'S subjective interpretation of the Old Testament saying Jesus died and was buried? No way. He got the info. from people who knew these things when he went up to Jerusalem, as a majority of the Jesus Seminar, Ludemann, Wedderburn, etc. agree. Regardless, even if we say that your interpretation is possible, which I'm not at all sure that it is, it makes not one bit of difference. Its merely consistent with your view. It doesn't argue for it, over and against that of traditionalists because it is equally interpreted and explained on their hypothesis. Indeed in Acts 13:23, we see "according to" in reference to the prophecy of the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled. In Romans 9:9 we see it used in reference to a promise made by God being fulfilled. In most other places we just get a general sense of it meaning "in line with" or "in agreement with". Something is said to be generally in line with or agreement with "...the election of God","...the will of God","...the flesh","...the spirit","...their nature","...God's dispensation","...God's glorious power", etc. etc.

E: Rather their zeal is not informed by knowledge, as Paul says his gospel was informed by the Scriptures.

SecWebLurker: You need to define exactly what Paul's "gospel" is and is not, and provide support for it. I can't make anything of statements like this until you do.

E: Or take 2 Cor.4:13, "It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With [kata] that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak." Paul is not talking here about a fulfillment of scripture.

SecWebLurker: He doesn't have to be. The word is used in a ton of different ways throughout the NT, many of which are not at all compatible with your "as we learn by" interpretation either.

E: Notice that Paul nowhere discusses the idea that his gospel fulfilled any particular prophecy.

SecWebLurker: I don't notice this. Indeed I see him doing it right in 1 Corinthians 15. What exactly is his "gospel" though?

[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited February 02, 2001).]
Old 02-01-2001, 10:57 PM   #43
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In this post, I am going to stay focused on the key question of the thread, was Jesus buried in a tomb, and see why it is generally accepted in scholarly circles (as represented by Brown, Blomberg, Bultmann, Lane Fox, Chilton, Grant and countless others) that the simple answer to this question is a very unqualified yes. In outlining the argument for the burial, I will be drawing on the collective wisdom of a number of scholars, and their specific arguments for the historicity of the tomb. So let’s get started.

Let’s begin with the earliest known written recording of the burial itself:

Mark 15:46-47 And having brought a linen cloth, having taken him down, with the linen cloth he (Joseph of Arimathea) tied up and put him away in a burial place that was hewn out of rock; and rolled over a stone against the door of the tomb. But Mary Magdeline and Mary of Joses were observing where he was placed.

Mark (believed to have been written about 66-70AD) is generally believed to be drawing from an earlier burial tradition that dates as early as 36AD, roughly 3-5 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. I will cover this off in more detail later in the post.

In his seminal work, ”The Death of the Messiah”, (Doubleday, 1994), Raymond E. Brown treats this part of the Passion Narrative in chapters 46 through 48, pages 1205 to 1313. Clearly it is not possible in a single post to cover off such a mammoth amount of material, but it is my hope that I will cover off Brown’s principle reasons for believing in the historicity of the tomb to the point that he concludes that ” ”That Jesus was buried is historically certain. That Jewish sensitivity would have wanted this done before the oncoming Sabbath (which may also have been a feast day) is also certain, and our records give us no reason to think that this sensitivity was not honored. That this burial was done by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable…
(DM2, pg. 1240).

As this post develops I will draw heavily on Brown, but also on additional sources to test the strength of the arguments he puts forward to support these conclusions. Contrary to the assertion that Brown bases his argument first and foremost on the anti-Semitism of the early Christians, the actual supports that Brown uses, in order of importance, are the known sensitivity of the Roman authorities to Jewish religious practices and sensibilities, the lack of mythological embellishment found in Mark’s story, the historicity of Joseph of Arimathea, and the pre-Gospel burial tradition.

Jewish Burial Practices

Without question, the near fanatical devotion of the Jews to burying their dead plays a central role in explaining the general acceptance of the historicity of the burial of Jesus. I have covered off many of these reasons in my original post on this thread, but would like to summarize them again quickly.

From Scripture:

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “If there shall be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree; but you shall bury him the same day, for cursed of God is the one hanged.”

See Joshua’s treatment of the King of Ai in Joshua 8:29 for an example of following this strict law, and also the burial of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:6, 10. Josephus confirms that this is the norm.

“The Jews were so careful about funeral rites that even those who are crucified because they were found guilty are taken down and buried before sunset.”
Jewish War 4.5.2; #317

For the Jews, even the most despicable of criminals were to be buried. Note please (as Brown does) that in the latter case the description of the burial of Ananias and Sapphira is not noble, or anything more than properly basic, and that in Mark’s account of Jesus’ own burial, it is nothing more than properly basic. Thus, even Josephus’ comment found in Antiquities 4. 202 that “He that blasphemeth God, let him be stoned; and let him hang upon a tree all that day, and then let him be buried in an ignominious and obscure manner.”. So even working on the assumption that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy against God, he would be buried. And do not forget, Jesus was not convicted (even by the Sanhedrin) of blasphemy, so this burial would remain a bare minimum expected by observant Jews!

So would the Romans have respected Jewish practices and sensibilities on this question?

”Under the terms of Augustus’s settlement the Roman governors of Judaea had instructions to make allowance for the people’s religious susceptibilities. At Jerusalem the High Priest, assisted by his council, the Sanhedrin, exercised the usual powers of local self-government and an unfettered religious jurisdiction…
These disputes (between Greeks and Jews) usually arose out of attempts by the Greek elements (in Judaea) to deny the Jews the special privileges which had been granted to them by the Hellenistic kings, and confirmed by (Julius) Caesar (p. 274) and Augustus.”
A History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine, M. Cary and H.H. Scullard, (The MacMillan Press, 1979), pg. 367-8.

I have already covered off in depth the rules under which Rome operated regarding the disposal of bodies. In times of peace and general civility, it was deemed wise to not go out of one’s way to offend the provincials, especially as regards the Jews. The extent to which local Roman officials went to abide by Augustus’s rules on tolerating Jewish customs is demonstrated very clearly in 40AD (less than 10 years after Jesus was killed, and still 26 years before open rebellion takes place in Judaea).

”In 40 a sudden reversal of Augustus’s policy of religious tolerance on the part of Caligula, who ordered the Jews to set up his statue in the Temple at Jerusalem, all but caused a general rebellion in Palestine. Forewarned of the trouble that would ensue by the governor of Syria, P. Petronius, and by M. Iulius Agrippa (‘Herod Agrippa’), a grandson of Herod the Great and a favourite at the Roman court, Caligula relented…”
(Ibid. pg. 367)

Pilote was a bit of a clod, when it came to his actions, and he was indeed relieved of his duties as governor in 36AD for general incompetence, but note that the people he offended were Samaritans, not Jews, and in spite of Josephus’ inflammatory post hoc attacks on Pilate reported in Jewish War 18, Brown notes that we have no portrayals of Pilote as being unusually cruel, or prone to breaking Augustus’s general instructions visa vi the Jews and their religious practices (see Section 31B, pgs. 695-8). Raiding the Temple’s coffers was one thing (especially considering the views most Jewish population as a whole had of the Sanhedrin as co-operators with the Romans). Letting a body rot on a cross, or not be buried in an acceptable fashion is quite another. Even Pilote would have understood this, and the fact that the ONLY obviously crucified body we have EVER found in a tomb was found outside of Jerusalem actually proves this point that the Jews were different. As an aside, the only reason we KNOW that this body was that of a crucified person was because the spike was still left lodged in the skeleton’s foot, having been bent, and therefore making it impossible to remove. Most crucified criminals were merely tied to the cross, leaving no tell tale signs of crucifixion for archeologists to prove conclusively how they died. Interestingly, Brown does tell us that this man was given a relatively honourable burial.

”…the bones of the crucified Yehohanan ben hgqul, found in a 1st-cent. burial place at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in 1968 were in an ossuary adjacent to the ossuary of Simon the builder of the Temple…”
(DM2, pg. 1210)

Finally, how would Jews treat the burial of a criminal by Gentiles (i.e. the Romans)?

”We find this issue raised in TalBab (Babylonian Talmud) Sanderdrin 47a-47b when Abaye complains, “Would you compare those who are slain by a [Gentile] government to those who are executed by the Beth Din? The former, since their death is not in accordance with [Jewish] law, obtain forgiveness; but the latter, whose death is justly merited, are not [thereby] forgiven.” Such a distinction had to be made much ealier, or there could have been no tradition of an honorable burial for the Maccabean martyrs. Thus we cannot discount the possibility of an honorable first burial of one crucified by the Romans.”
(Ibid. pg. 1210)

The lack of Mythological embellishments in Mark

”The only burial preliminary reported by Mark is that Joseph “tied up” Jesus’ body in the linen material, i.e. the absolute minimum one could do for the dead… (all that would be expected) if Joseph was not a disciple and felt no obligation to care for the crucified criminal beyond burying him.”
(DM2 pg. 1246)

Brown goes on to remind us that the “honourable” part of the burial, the anointing, in Mark, takes place earlier in Bethany, when Mary anoints Jesus with the perfume.

”The anointing at Bethany (Mark 14:8) before the passion was the only item to an honorable burial that the marcan Jesus is said to have received; and Mark’s audience would have been expected to remember it since “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of here.”
(Ibid. pg. 1246).

And as to the simple nature of the tomb itself:

“Mark reports that the burial place was hewn out of the rock, a practice attested in Isa 22:16 and frequent in NT times, with quarries often serving as apt sites for such tunneling.”
(Ibid. pg. 1247)

Further evidence that Mark is not embellishing his story (but merely reporting the facts as he knew them) is found in how he presents the women:

”Notice that Mark does not have them involved in the burial, or lamenting as women of the time were wont to do, or even expressing sympathy…”
(Ibid. pg. 1251)

Nor should we forget the words of R. Bultmann (quoted by Brown on page 1241, note 86)

” ”This is an historical account which creates no impression of being a legend apart from the women who appear again as witnesses in v. 47, and vs. 44-45 which Matthew and Luke in all probability did not have in their Mark.”
R. Bultmann, “History of the Synoptic Tradition”, (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pg. 274.

Summing up, Brown tells us:

“The Marcan description of the finale of the burial by Joseph is laconic; Joseph took down the body, tied it up in linen cloth, and put it away in a burial place hewn out of rock… John’s account… nevertheless, if one confines oneself to what Johan attributes to Joseph alone in 19:38b… the finale of the burial activities runs like this: Joseph came and took away the body; he (they) bound it with cloths; he (they) placed it in a nearby garden tomb… [T]he non-italicised portion (the embellishments offered by John) of the summary shows how close John is to Mark… mark and John have incorporated this tradition in quite different vocabulary. This difference not only helps to establish that John did not copy from Mark, but also suggests that the common tradition was shaped in the Semitic-speaking stage of the preGospel formation… This perception of early origin, although not itself proving historicity, contribute to my judgement at the end of the ANALYSIS of 46 that “there is nothing in the basic preGospel account of Jesus’ burial that could not plausibly be deemed historical.”
(Ibid. pg. 1271-72)

The historicity of Joseph of Arimathea

I have already addressed this point in my previous posts. To quote Brown again:

...I suggested that "a respected council member who was also himself awaiting the kingdom of God" meant that Joseph was a religiously pious Sanhedrist who, despite the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, felt an obligation under the Law to bury this crucified criminal before sunset. That Mark created such an identification is most unlikely since it runs counter to his hostile generalizations casting blame on all the members of the Sanhedrin for the injustice of sentencing Jesus to death (Mark 14:55,64; 15:1)....
Ibid, pg. 1239

This statement is, of course, only the conclusion offered by Brown after an exhaustive treatment of Joseph’s role in all four Gospels, plus the Gospel of Peter.

In addition to the unlikelyhood that Mark would use a member of the Sanhedrin if such a person did not actually exist and do what he is reported to have done in the Gospels, we have also seen that in Mark’s Gospel, there is no mythological embellishment of Joseph or his character. Since it is reasonable to place Joseph of Arimathea in the preGospel tradition (based on the separate accounts of Mark and John), the chances that he is an historical figure is increased. Finally, the fact that Arimathea is both obscure, and contains no conceivable apologetic value (like fulfilling OT prophesy for example), we can assume that the town is also historical. It certainly adds to the weight of evidence that Mark was not engaging in mythological embellishment of Joseph.

The preGospel Tradition

I have already covered this topic off in some detail above. Brown covers this question off in much greater detail in pages 1272-9. His conclusions based on looking at how the Gospels present the burial offer the following conclusions about what was probably in the preGospel account:

1) There is no way to determine if it was Joseph (or his helpers), or the Roman soldiers that would have removed Jesus from the cross for burial. Either is acceptable.
2) The tomb was probably hewn from rock, and near to Golgotha
3) Joseph or his helpers rolled the stone in front of the tomb
4) Joseph was known to be a member of the Sanhedrin, and would have been identified as being from Arimathea
5) We cannot know with certainty who else may have been with Joseph at the tomb, although it is reasonable to believe that he had some help (although not necessarily Nicodemus), and the presence of the women may well be a back formation from the resurrection story.

Concluding Comments

As a final comment, Brown also speaks at length about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (see pgs. 1279-83), and draws the conclusion that the early Christians DID know where the tomb was, and probably did venerate it in some fashion, although this clearly ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Brown relies on the idea that James, the brother of Jesus would have had a familial interest in preserving the tomb, or even taking it over from Joseph of Arimathea. [I]”In that period he (James) might well have had a family interest in the tomb, an interest that could have been a living tradition among the relatives of Jesus who are supposed to have been prominent in Palestinian Christianity into the 2d cent. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.6.3-4).” (Ibid. pg. 1281).

“Because I do think that Christians remembered the tomb in which Jesus was buried, I tend to favor factuality over verisimilitude in explaining the origin of these details (about the tomb).”
(Ibid. pg. 1273).

While I have not studied the question of the Holy Sepulchre in any detail, I do include it since Brown and others do give it some weight. For me, however, the evidence of the attitudes of the Jews to burial, the probable historicity of Joseph of Arimathea, the noticeable non-embellishment of the Marcan account of the burial, and the existence of a preGospel tradition all weigh heavily in my agreement with Brown and the great majority of Christian and secular scholars that Jesus was definitely buried in a tomb.


Old 02-02-2001, 05:19 AM   #44
Posts: n/a

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SecWebLurker:
Ah, EARL (aka Peter Kirby) defending his new argument against the empty tomb ;-)

E: Regarding the burden of proof issue, one piece of hard evidence that has been overlooked is that there was no veneration of any tomb until the fourth century when Constantine wanted to know where Jesus was buried. That's highly unusual if Jesus was miraculously resurrected from a private tomb in a garden known to Jesus' followers.
Meta =&gt; That's not ture. The tomb was venerated since the first century.,35079,00.html Dec. 6, 1999, vol 154 no. 23
Jesus of Nazerath by Rynolds Price

"Modern studies have confirmed the good possibility that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem covers the site of his execution and burial."

ONe of the studies he is speaking of is documented by Galyaah Cornfeld in Archaeology of The Bible by an archaeologist named Carbo, in 1968 which proved conculsively that the Church of the Holy Sep. was the original tomb site. Before the fourth century it was profaned by the Romans (probably early second century) when they put up a statue of Jupiter. That helped to mark the site. Chrsitians were venerating it in the first century.

Now that may not be conclusive proof. They could have just gone out and picked a place at random and said it was the tomb. But why would they do that in the first century? In the middle ages it would be understandable since tourists and pilgrams were flocking to the secene but not in the first century.

Christians in Jerusalem were able to show Contatantine the site and he built a basilica on it in the 4th century.
Old 02-02-2001, 05:35 AM   #45
Posts: n/a

I also want to make a pont about the resurrection victim found by archaeologists. Earl uses this example to make a couple of points, but there are some facts he left out.

1) He was burreid in a family tomb of the type in a cave like that usually pictured as Jesus' tomb.

2) Burried with his family

3) His name was on the tomb

So this was not a comman mass grave where his body was throwen for dogs to eat. this proves that they did bury crucifiction victims in an honorable way.

4) it was between 7AD and 60 AD so it pretty much counts as some evidence for the time of Christ

Here is a link to documentation on this point

Now the argument that we should find tons of crucifiction victims burried and this is the only one, proving that most of them were tossed aside and eatten by dogs. Dogs would not eat all of them, and at times as many as 50,000 were crucified. So we should find these common graves with tons of reamins. WE haven't. This is the only crucifiction victim we have found, and he's burried in a family tomb!

The reason we dont'find more is really because such a small percentage of the over all population was actually crucified. We just haven't found them.
Old 02-02-2001, 05:39 AM   #46
Posts: n/a

I also want to make a pont about the resurrection victim found by archaeologists. Earl uses this example to make a couple of points, but there are some facts he left out.

1) He was burreid in a family tomb of the type in a cave like that usually pictured as Jesus' tomb.

2) Burried with his family

3) His name was on the tomb

So this was not a comman mass grave where his body was throwen for dogs to eat. this proves that they did bury crucifiction victims in an honorable way.

4) it was between 7AD and 60 AD so it pretty much counts as some evidence for the time of Christ

Here is a link to documentation on this point

Now the argument that we should find tons of crucifiction victims burried and this is the only one, proving that most of them were tossed aside and eatten by dogs. Dogs would not eat all of them, and at times as many as 50,000 were crucified. So we should find these common graves with tons of reamins. WE haven't. This is the only crucifiction victim we have found, and he's burried in a family tomb!

The reason we dont'find more is really because such a small percentage of the over all population was actually crucified. We just haven't found them.
Old 02-02-2001, 12:28 PM   #47
Posts: n/a

Meta: it was between 7AD and 60 AD so it pretty much counts as some evidence for the time of Christ

SecWebLurker. Right, and some even date his crucifixion to the late 20s, which could very well be in the time of Pilate.

[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited February 03, 2001).]
Old 02-03-2001, 07:03 AM   #48
Posts: n/a

EARL: "Remaining sensitive to local sensibilities"? Like by crucifying a relatively peaceful Jewish preacher such as Jesus in the first place?

SecWebLurker: This is greezy. It was the Jews who PROMPTED the extermination of Jesus. Crucifying Jesus is not insensitive to local sensibilities AT ALL.

Earl: You're faced with a contradiction, since you must grant that the Romans were brutal enough to use crucifixion as one of their methods of execution, but you want to say the Romans were "sensitive" enough to grant a merciful burial. That's a contradiction on its face.

SecWebLurker: Now its just the fact that Romans crucify people in general that is insensitive to local sensibilities? Nuh-uh, we know from the Temple Scroll at Qumran that the Jews themselves employed crucifixion before the time of Herod the great. Anyway, its not apparently insensitive to THESE local's sensibilities as they are the ones who turned Jesus over to be crucified.

Earl: Furthermore, any unusual mercy or brutality shown would have depended on the particular Roman official not any abstract Roman policy. In this case we have Pilate, and what do we know about him? Was he particularly sensitive to Jewish laws? No!

SecWebLurker: You don't understand the political situation, and that's why Chilton's point went over your head. The fact that Pilate is known for being insensitive to Jewish sensibilities in the past is the strongest reason why he WOULD be sensitive to them now. How's that you say? Pilate is in a pickle at the time of Jesus' death. Pilate got his position through his mentor Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, and de facto ruler of Rome while Tiberius was on the island of Capri. Now, Sejanus was known for his witch hunts, bullying of judges with bribes and threats, quick execution of innocent men, and his anti-Semetism (Flaccum 1:1; Legatio ad Gaium 160.). In AD 31, writing from Capri, Emperor Tiberius "trenchantly criticized Sejanus' use of the legal system to make life miserable for anyone who opposed him in Rome...Speculation grew in Rome that Sejanus' days were numbered."(Chilton 2000, p. 205) Sure enough, in October, in the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, Sejanus recieves an imperial letter from Tiberius accusing him of treason. Pilate's main man is circled by men with drawn swords, bound and marched into the dungeon, his subjects smash his statues, the Senate is ordered to strangle him by the end of the day and the crowd tears his body to pieces. His uncle, son, many of his friends and collaborators were all killed. As were his two young kids - the girl gang-raped by soldiers before being killed (wife committed suicide). These Roman emperors sure can be tempermental can't they? Tiberius then writes to the governers of the provinces ordering that they "speak comfortably to the members of our nation in the different disturb none of our established customs but even to regard them as a trust committed to their care..." Regarding this letter, Barnett writes, "To no provincial governor would these words have been more appropriate than to the Prefect of Judaea, home of the Jewish people, even if we had no information about his actions. But we do. Josephus' descriptions of Pilate's behaviour and Philo's verdict on Pilate, noted above, indicate the singular appropriateness of Tiberius' letter to his Prefect in Judaea, Pontius Pilate."(2000, p. 146-147)

Chilton writes that, after Sejanus' death, "...the Senate would no doubt try to reverse Sejanus' practices and introduce a kinder and gentler approach to imperial policy. Pilate was known to be a hard-liner in his dealings with Jews, in keeping with Sejanus' attitudes. He was afraid of his association with Sejanus and his policies could lose him more than his position unless he could win the favor of his Jewish subjects." He wanted to "show Rome that he controlled Judea without deliberately antagonizing local leaders as he had in the past."(2000, p. 240-241)

While Pilate has a record of clumsy/harsh dealings with the Jews like Sejanus, almost inspiring a revolution on arrival (!), Tiberius, now having regained control of his empire, who Pilate needs to secure favor with, is quite the opposite. Philo extols Tiberius for his dealings with the Jews. Barnett writes: "Tiberius, like Augustus his predecessor, had been well-disposed to the Jews. But now it had come to his attention that his Jewish subjects in Italy and the provinces had suffered oppression at the hands of the governors...Pilate was now accountable to a new master, the pro-Semetic emperor Tiberius, who had banned further harassment of Jews. This will explain Pilate's speedy removal of the shields upon the petition of the Herodian princes. This he would not have done during the years of Sejanus' tenure."(2000,p. 146-7)

But doesn't Pilate even attempting to set up the gilded votive shields bearing Tiberius' name (not his image) in Herod's former palace show that he is still likely to mess with the Jews? Not at all. Its just one more learning experience for Pilate that will do away with this tendancy. It shows that he's extremely vulnerable to the complaints of the Jews now, and that when he angers them in the slightest in a clumsy attempt to express his loyalty to Tiberius, he learned fast that this was NOT the way to do it. As Barnett states, "Pilate was at that time significantly vulnerable to political blackmail."(2000, p. 143) This would be one more incident making disregard for Jewish law in the future less likely to occur.

Concerning this situation, H.W. Hoehner writes that prominent Jews appealed to Pilate to lose the shields, but when he refused, they quickly "wrote to Emperor Tiberius. Upon recieving the letter, Tiberius was enraged and immediately replied, ordering Pilate to remove the shields from Jerusalem and place them in the temple of Augustus at Caesarea...Unlike the pervious instance of the standards prominent Jews and Herod's sons were able now to write directly to Tiberius, an event made possible by Sejanus' execution...Tiberius was now trying to reverse Sejanus's anti-Semetic policies and hence gave a quick response to the Jew's request. But why would Pilate have done such a thing when he had already been defeated in the incident of the standards? It seems that with the removal of his mentor Sejanus, whose anti-Semetic policies he had followed, Pilate wanted to dissociate himself from Sejanus and ingratiate himself with Tiberius. Consequently, he brought into Jerusalem shileds that had no image but bore the name of the emperor. But the plan backfired and Tiberius was sorely displeased."(H.W. Hoehner, "Pontius Pilate", Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels", 1992, p. 616)

Based on the above, it would be wrong to conclude that Pilate is not interested in Jewish sensibilities in the post-Sejanus era. And IMO it would be highly unlikely that Pilate would again consciously violate any of the peculiar sacred laws of the Jews.

EARL: Josephus tells how Pilate brought Roman images into Jerusalem against Jewish customs. What was Pilate's purpose in doing this? In Josephus' own words, "Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, IN ORDER TO ABOLISH THE JEWISH LAWS" (Jewish War 18:55, my emphasis).

SecWebLurker: Firstly, I think you mean "Antinquities". Better check that one again. Secondly, what's the historical context here? Pilate does this:

1. with no experience almost immediately on his arrival in Palestine in AD 26 and...

2. NOT coincidentally, while his buddy, the seemingly invincible anti-Semetic Sejanus, new prefect of the nine-thousand soldier Praetorian Guard, is at the height of his power!

But as we've seen, he's in a MUCH different situation after Sejanus' death.

Not to mention that Joe is exaggerating here.

"Important as Josephus' accounts are, however, they can only be used with a certain amount of caution. Apologetic and rhetorical motives have shaped each narrative to a large extent, particularly his desire to impress on other nations the futility of revolt against Rome, his attempt to stress the antiquity of Judaism, and his endeavour (in the Antiquities) to put some of the blame for the Jewish revolt on the Roman governors of Judaea. Josephus accuses Pilate of deliberately bringing standards containing offensive effigies of Caesar into Jerusalem by night. The Antiquities account goes so far as to accuse Pilate of deliberately wanting to subvert Jewish practices.

"Josephus has clearly allowed his rhetorical concerns to influence this story, particularly the description of Pilate's deliberate provocation and the people's unflinching devotion to their ancestral religion. Yet it may be possible to piece together something of the historical event behind the narrative.

Due to its position at the beginning of the accounts in both the War and the Antiquities, most scholars assume that this incident took place early on in Pilate's term of office, perhaps as early as winter 26 CE. A squadron could not be separated from its standards; if new standards were brought into Jerusalem that meant that an entirely new squadron was being stationed in Jerusalem, one which had not been used in the city previously. As a military prefect, Pilate's interest would have been in the troops themselves and their strategic positioning; the particular emblems on their standards would not have been particularly important. As a new governor, Pilate may not even have realised that this particular cohort would cause offence in Jerusalem because of its standards. Or, if he had been warned, it might have seemed absurd to him that troops which could be deployed in Caesarea could not be moved to Jerusalem. The account gives the impression of a new governor anxious to take no nonsense from the people he is to govern. The fact that he was willing to reconsider the position and did eventually change the troops shows a certain amount of prudence and concern to avoid unnecessary hostilities."[]

Earl: Josephus also tells how Pilate seized money from the Temple funds to build an aqueduct, causing a stir (Antiquities 18. 60-62).

SecWebLurker: This wasn't anything new and he didn't necessarily have bad intentions. As your pals Hanson and Oakman say, "Several Roman prefects, including Pilate (Jos. Ant. 18.60) and Florus (War 2.293), usurped funds from the temple. The imperial prefects were auditors or overseers for the system."["Palestine in the Time of Jesus", p. 152]

&lt;snip all the stuff on Pilate's brutality that no one is denying&gt;

EARL: Granted, Philo had reason to exaggerate Pilate's offenses, to contrast him with Tiberius whom he favoured. But Philo's account is much closer to Josephus' than the gospels. The historical Pilate is somewhere between Philo and Josephus, and far from the gospels.

SecWebLurker: In the Gospels we get the post-31 AD Pilate under different political pressures.

EARL: So the Jewish customs were hardly automatically relevant to the question of whether Jesus was buried.

SecWebLurker: They are really the most relevant factor.

EARL: But I wonder why, Nomad, you didn't quote Antiquities 4.202 in full. Perhaps because there Josephus says "He that blasphemeth God, let him be stoned; and let him hang upon a tree all that day, and then let him be buried IN AN IGNOMINIOUS AND OBSCURE MANNER" (my emphasis).

SecWebLurker: Yeah, he doesn't say "It MUST not be in a tomb but in a shallow common grave" though. To Jews, being buried in an ignominious manner is being buried without your relatives. Byron R. McCane is an expert on Jewish burial in the first century. He writes:

"the Jewish rituals of death did not end with the burial. A week of intense grieving, called shiv'ah ("seven") followed, during which family members stayed at home and received the condolences of friends. (Mary and Martha were in this period of grief for Lazarus when Jesus arrived at their home.)

Then came a month of less intense mourning, called shloshim ("thirty"), during which family members still did not leave town, cut their hair, or attend social gatherings. After shloshim, most aspects of normal life resumed, but the immediate family of the deceased continued to mourn for one year. Then they would return to the tomb for a private ceremony known as "the gathering of the bones." In this secondary burial, the bones of the deceased were collected into a small stone container, called an ossuary.

Finally, the rites of mourning were over and the relatives could return to normal life.


Different burial customs awaited those who had been condemned by order of a Jewish court. Burial in disgrace was well-known from earlier periods in Israel's history. The bodies of some prophets and kings, for example, suffered ignominious treatment after their deaths.

In Jesus' day, shameful burial meant two things: (1) a condemned criminal could not be placed in the family tomb until secondary burial, and (2) a condemned criminal could not be mourned in public. The family was not to observe either shiv'ah or shloshim. On the contrary, they were expected to agree with the verdict of the court.

It is striking that the burial of Jesus conforms to both these Jewish customs of dishonorable burial. In each Gospel story, Jesus was neither buried in a family tomb, nor did anyone observe the rituals of mourning for him. Even when the women came to the tomb, they came only to "see the tomb" or to anoint the body.

Furthermore, Matthew, Luke, and John each explicitly described Jesus' tomb as one "where no one had yet been laid."

Jesus' humiliation, then, did not end with his crucifixion. Even after he died, Jesus' body was treated as an object of shame - he was buried in disgrace like a condemned Jewish criminal."[]

Even Crossan grants that Jesus may have been thrown into a common grave, so nothing Josephus says here contradicts the view that the gospel account of Jesus' burial is deeply flawed.

SecWebLurker: More importantly, nothing supports the contention that it is deeply flawed.

EARL: Burial in a brand new rich man's tomb in a garden with lavish spices and so forth is hardly the same as burial "in an ignominious and obscure manner."

SecWebLurker: If only you knew what an ignominious burial was to Jews. :-) It doesn't mean throwing someone in the dirt and leaving them there. In fact, even in the instance of them being tossed in a common grave for criminals, there was still a tradition to dig them up and rebury them. The only crucified victim we find from that era is found where? In what?

EARL: We know for a fact that the gospels tell an outright falsehood in stating that the Romans had a custom of offering to let the crowd spare a condemned criminal. (The gospel authors may not have known this was false.)

SecWebLurker: We don't know anything of the sort. Glenn Miller addresses this:

"It would be accurate to say 'we HAVE NO RECORD of a custom of releasing prisoners on a Palestinian holiday...'.

"However, it is not out of line with what we know about the political climate of the day. We know, for example, that political prisoners (like Barabbas) WERE released for various reasons (Jos. Antiq. XX, ix.3; Livy, V.13; cf. Deismann, "Light from the Ancient East", p 267), that Roman officials seem to have granted mass amnesty at some other regular feasts (outside of Palestine) and to have occasionally acquitted prisoners in responses to crowds (BBC, p. 309).

"Plus, this 'custom' (and its exercise on Barabbas) is one of the few gospel events referred to in an independent manner by Luke, Mark-Matthew, and John (judging by the presence/absence of details/structures in the narrative), as well as the early reference in Act 3:14 as part of the sermon of Peter . Their individual accounts argue for independent streams of information, suggesting a stronger basis in history (since they all WITNESS TO the 'basics' of the event).

"There is, in light of the data, no reason to make such an absolute statement as 'there was never...'."[]

EARL: Another relevant fact is that of all the thousands of people crucified by the Romans, only one crucified skeleton has been found. What happened to all the others if burial in private tombs was commonplace?

SecWebLurker: This isn't a "relevant fact". Evans addresses it in his discussion of Crossan:

"[Crossan] admits that the bodies of crucifixion victims were sometimes taken down and buried, even on the day in which execution took place. He also acknowledges that the discovery of the ossuary of Yehohanan, who had been crucified and in whose right ankle bone the iron spike was still present (see Comment on 15:24), offers dramatic evidence of the complete and proper burial of a crucifixion victim. But the discovery thus far of only one crucifixion victim to have been buried decently demonstrates, reasons Crossan, the rarity of such burial. The majority of those crucified were never buried, their bodies
being left to hang on the cross for animals and birds of carrion to feast upon. Crossan reasons, therefore, that it is probable that Jesus suffered the same fate. (See Crossan's comment in Who Killed Jesus?, 188: "I keep
thinking of all those other thousands of Jews crucified around Jerusalem in that terrible first century from among whom we have found only one skeleton and one nail.")

"But Crossan's interpretation of the evidence is not convincing and his dependence on the Gospel of Peter is problematic in its own right. Those Jewish persons, in Israel, left unburried almost always were victims during a time of war, when Rome had no regard for Jewish customs or sensibilities. This happened following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BCE, when it was necessary for Varus, the Roman legate of Syria, to move against uprisings in Judea, where he crucified two thousand (Josephus, Ant. 17.10.10 §295). It happened again, during the first great revolt of 66-70 CE. Thousands of Jews were crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem (Josephus, J.W. 5.11.1 §450). Under such circumstances it is not at all surprising that the crucifixion victims were left hanging on their crosses to rot in the sun and to be picked apart by animals.

"Even outside of Israel, Jewish sensibilities were normally respected. This is why Philo bitterly complains of Flaccus, Roman governor of Egypt. His conduct was exceptional in not allowing the bodies of crucifixion victims to be taken down and be buried on the eve of a holiday: "I have known cases when on the eve of a holiday
of this kind, people who have been crucified have been taken down and their bodies delivered to their kinsfolk, because it was thought well to give them burial and allow them the ordinary rites . . . But Flaccus gave no orders to take down those who had died on the cross" (To Flaccus 10 §83).
Years later, and returning to Israel, Josephus expresses outrage that the rebels who murdered two former High Priests did not have the decency to bury them: "They actually went so far in their impiety as to cast out the corpses without burial, although the Jews are careful about funeral rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset" (J.W. 4.5.2 §317). The desire to take down the dead before sunset stems from Deut 21:22-23 (". . . you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance") and is attested in other Jewish texts (e.g. Tob 1:17-18; 2:3-8; Josephus, J.W. 3.8.5 §377-378; 4.6.1 §360-361).

"Crossan's inference regarding the singularity of the discovery of the crucified Jew-crucified in the late 20's CE, and therefore quite possibly under the authority of the prefect Pontius Pilate-is inappropriate. The discovery of a crucifixion victim with an iron spike still imbedded in his ankle is indeed exceptional, not because almost no crucifixion victims in
peacetime were buried, but because the spikes were always removed. The only reason that the spike remained in the ankle of Yehohanan was because its tip had been bent back, thus making extraction impossible. The bones of Yehohanan actually prove the opposite of want Crossan wants to argue: In peacetime Jewish crucifixion victims were normally buried (though almost
never with the iron spikes), just as Josephus himself says. Jesus was crucified by Romans, with the consent of (indeed, at the insistence of) the ruling priests. Rome was not at war with Israel. On the contrary, Roman and Jewish authorities were working together. Under such circumstances we should expect that crucifixion victims would normally, if not always, be taken down and buried. To leave the body of Jesus hanging on
the cross, or to have thrown it into a ditch where it may be mauled by dogs, would have been highly offensive to Jews, whether they were sympathisers of Jesus or not, especially so during the Passover season.
Indeed, to leave the bodies of Jesus and the other two men hanging on the cross for several days at that time of year would have been dangerously provocative. (For an expert discussion of this issue, which supports the
position taken here, see B. R. McCane, "'Where No One Had Yet Been Laid.'")
Finally, for some twenty years Crossan has maintained that "those who knew the site [where Jesus was buried] did not care and those who cared did not know the site" (J. D. Crossan, "Empty Tomb and Absent Lord," 152; idem, Historical Jesus, 394). This dogmatic syllogism presumes too much and in fact flies in the face of human behavior. Given the great importance the Jewish people placed on burial, as well as the devotion Jesus' followers had for their friend and teacher, it is difficult to believe that "those who cared" about Jesus were unable to find out where he had been buried.
Moreover, the tradition that women observed the burial first-hand and subsequently visited the tomb smacks of authenticity. Dismissal of this tradition is hard to understand and to justify. Inauthentic legend surely would enhance the eyewitness testimony by including male disciples,
probably Peter himself. But, contrary to expectation, this is just what we do not find in the Gospels. The Gospels' restraint at this crucial point creates a strong presumption in favor of the authenticity of the tradition and shifts a heavy burden upon those who insist that the creation of a story that features women as the sole friendly witnesses of the place of burial and the discovery of the empty tomb the following Sunday morning is inauthentic and somehow serves a positive, theological purpose in the early Christianity community."[Craig A. Evans, Robert Guelich. (2001) "Word Biblical Commentary: on Mark 8:27-16:20 : Mark 8:27-16:20" (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 34, Part B)]


[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited February 03, 2001).]
Old 03-19-2001, 09:54 PM   #49
Posts: n/a

Just bringing this thread back to the top of the page because of its relevance to our other recent discussions and threads.

As for nat, I'll have to wait to respond to your last post until tomorrow. My threads on the Existence of God board are being seriously neglected.

Good night.

Old 03-28-2001, 06:45 PM   #50
Posts: n/a

Secweblurker and others in this thread have claimed that my view, that Jesus was not buried and that Joseph of Arimathea is a fictional character, is speculative and full of holes, and that therefore the traditional Christian view that the burial is historical is more reasonable. But in fact the traditional view is full of holes.

We don't know that Tiberius himself was not as anti-Semitic as Sejanus. We don't know that Tiberius wrote a letter reversing Sejanus' anti-Semitic policies. But even if the letter was written, we don't know when it was written. Even if we knew when it was written, we don't know whether or when Pilate received it. Even if we knew this, we don't know whether or when Pilate would have carried out the order, given Tiberius' isolation on the Island of Capri and his obsessive preoccupation with Roman challenges to his throne. Perhaps Pilate would have figured that Tiberius would never find out if some obscure Jewish teacher, such as Jesus, wasn't given burial, and perhaps Pilate would not have wanted to carry out Tiberius' reversal of Sejanus' policy, to spite Tiberius given that Sejanus helped establish Pilate's position. We don't know that Pilate was directly involved in Jesus' trial or even if there was a trial. We don't know when Jesus was executed, and thus that the letter was even received in time to apply it to Jesus' case.

What we do know from multiple ancient Roman sources is that Tiberius became much more rather than less paranoid after he discovered Sejanus's betrayal. He had trusted Sejanus after all, and yet Sejanus had had a hand in killing Tiberius' son, Drusus, so that he could eventually take over as emperor. Tiberius's last 10 years as emperor are those of a twisted, perverted, paranoid madman. He executed not only Sejanus but his friends and family, and carried out many more executions of those he suspected of treachery.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that "Tiberius spent his last years in constantly increasing seclusion, misanthropy, and cruelty on the Island of Capri, where it is said he abandoned himself to debauchery." The CE adds: "However, these reports are at least coloured by prejudice and have not been satisfactorily proved."

Britannica states "In his last years he [Tiberius] became a tyrannical recluse, inflicting a reign of terror against the major personages of Rome."

Another source ( ) states: "Tiberius became increasingly paranoid about plots against his life in later years. He had many powerful men tried and convicted in the Senate for treason. These were exiled, ordered to commit suicide, or executed. The senators had become so fearful of these trials that hardly anybody mourned the death of Tiberius of old age in A.D. 37."

So while Roman officials might have been on their toes to please Tiberius (crucifying an obscure Jewish leader without burial would hardly have been noticed by the isolated Tiberius), it's not at all clear that Tiberius would have been sane enough or even would have wanted to reverse any negative policies towards the Jews. He had become more paranoid not less regarding any threat to his power. Since we don't know for certain that the anti-Semitic policies were wholly driven by Sejanus rather than Tiberius himself, we don't know if Tiberius would have been kinder to the Jews after Sejanus' death.

See, for example, :

"Pilate was helped to office by powerful patrons, perhaps even Tiberius himself or his powerful friend Sejanus (the common suggestion that this man encouraged Pilate to openly pursue anti-Jewish policies rests only on one tendentious passage in Philo's Legatio ad Gaium, §§ 159-160, and cannot be substantiated. See Hennig 160-179 who doubts Sejanus' anti-Jewishness).

Philo may very well have invented or revised Agrippa's letter regarding Pilate and the shields in the Jewish Temple incident recorded in Philo's "Legatio," an incident rather similar to Tiberius' alleged letter regarding the reversal of Sejanus' anti-Semitic policies. There is even a tie between Philo's account of Agrippa's letter and Philo's account of Tiberius. See , passages from which follow:

"Many researchers, however, have failed to recognize that Philo's "historical" material is heavily filtered through the conventions of philosophical moral rhetoric. In context, the pericope is part of an appeal letter from the Jewish King Agrippa I to Gaius concerning the installation of the Temple image (276-329). Agrippa's letter is lengthy and lacks normal epistolary or apologetic conventions. It is, in fact, a hortatory discourse on the way an ideal emperor would treat the Jews, encouraging Gaius to revise his policy.

"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….

"Hortatory epistles generally operated on the modeling principle: the reader was persuaded to pursue a particular course of action via confrontation with case studies. A person's behavior was presented to illustrate a particular virtue or vice, and positive or negative consequences were noted. Positive results would hopefully motivate the reader to pursue virtue. Models were judged more effective when more familiar, particularly friends and family members. This approach fits the narrative context of Agrippa's letter, as it was deemed necessary to indict a despot indirectly…..

"Pilate is also set in conflict with reliable characters. The first is Tiberius. Philo was sorely aware of the anti-Semitic policy which Tiberius allowed Sejanus to pursue, mentioning it specifically at Legatio 159-160 and Flaccus 1; nevertheless, the Tiberius of Agrippa's letter, and of Legatio generally, is the constant defender of Jewish rights. Upon receipt of the Jewish appeal, "although not being easily angry," Tiberius takes violent action, immediately demanding that the shields be removed….

"It seems likely that Legatio was written after 41 to morally instruct Claudius on the "virtuous ruler"'s conduct toward Jews.7 At this level Gaius himself becomes another bad example with a bad end. Claudius is motivated to shun the way of Gaius via the implicit threats that God will providentially defend the Jews and that the Jews will fight to defend God's law…..

"Legatio may be "history," but it is history in service of a rhetorical agenda."

See also the article, "How to Read Philo?" at :

"In the historical-apologetic works we encounter a different situation. As the name implies, Philo's apologetic concern is now more directly focussed on the concrete historical situation of the Jewish people in the past and in his own time. The rhetorical mode of presentation causes more serious interpretative difficulties here, for we are confronted with 'historical accounts' quite different to what we are used to. The best known example is Philo's fascinating depiction of the Therapeutae (in the De vita contemplativa). There is of course no direct exegesis in these writings. But the apologist at work is the same man who regards the wisdom of Moses as his nation's greatest drawcard. Every effort should be made to relate the contents of these works to exegetical themes elaborated in the main body of Philo's writings."

To summarize, Philo's historical work has an underlying moral message, the one tied to his exegetical work: in the conflict between those for the Jews and those against them everyone should take the former side, including the Roman emperors such as Claudius, and not act like Gaius. In this case, Philo sets up an exaggerated opposition between the pro-Jewish Tiberius and the anti-Jewish Pilate, and has Tiberius correct Pilate's anti-Jewishness. This is parallel to Philo's contrast between the anti-Jewish Sejanus and once again the hero of the Jewish people, Tiberius. Here Tiberius corrects Sejanus' anti-Semitic policies with a letter. We have no assurance, then, given this underlying moral framework to Philo's "histories" that Tiberius' letter was actually written or was as Philo described it.


Some of these points are granted even by Gary DeLashmutt, who makes Secweblurker's case against the skeptical one at :

"Philo claims that Sejanus was anti-semitic and planned to destroy the Jewish race completely. Though Tiberius was probably also anti-semitic, he realized after Sejanus was exposed that many of the charges brought against the Jews were fabricated by Sejanus, so in 32 CE he issued a decree throughout the Empire not to mistreat the Jews.

"It is likely that Pilate was simply carrying out Sejanus' anti-semitic policy. Philo does not actually say this; rather, this is inferred from what Philo says in the following passage."

So DeLashmutt admits that Tiberius may have been anti-Semitic himself, and that Philo simply makes a generalization rather than states when the letter was received or how well it was implemented. Philo appears to be the only independent source for this letter from Tiberius, and DeLashmutt quotes the relevant passage from Philo, which is as follows:

"Therefore everyone everywhere, even if he was not naturally well disposed toward the Jews, was afraid to engage in destroying any of our institutions, and indeed it was the same under Tiberius though matters in Italy became troublesome when Sejanus was organizing his onslaughts. For Tiberius knew the truth, he knew at once after Sejanus' death that the accusations made against the Jewish inhabitants of Rome were false slanders, invented by him because he wished to make away with the nation, knowing that it would take the sole or the principal part in opposing his unholy plots and actions, and would defend the emperor when in danger of becoming the victim of treachery. And he 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."

I've already noted above Philo's bias, so there is reason to doubt that there ever was such a letter from Tiberius. But even if we were to grant everything to DeLashmutt, look what Philo actually says. Roman officials were still allowed to carry out "penal measures" against the Jews so long as these Jews were determined to be guilty. Thus even if there was a letter, Pilate got it, saw fit to implement it, and did so in time for Jesus' trial, Pilate would still have had a conflict of interests. On the one hand, one of the "penal measures" permitted by Tiberius' letter was to forbid burial to crucified traitors, a gruesome Roman custom, and on the other hand there was the Jewish custom to permit burial. So Pilate would have had to make a choice, since the letter didn't specify that Jewish customs would have to override Roman ones. Pilate would have had to balance the new favour towards the Jews with elementary Roman principles, such as that a traitor to Rome would have to be dealt with harshly. So even if Pilate got the letter in time and wanted to implement it, we still don't know that this would have necessitated burial for Jesus. But to repeat, we don't even know the details of this letter, whether there was in fact a letter, whether or when Pilate received the letter, exactly when Jesus was executed, and if Pilate personally presided over Jesus' trial.

Thus there are plenty of holes in Secweblurker's account, making it not automatically more reasonable than the skeptical one. At the very least whether Jesus was buried remains an open question.

[This message has been edited by Earl (edited March 28, 2001).]

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