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Old 03-28-2001, 09:18 PM   #51
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Hmm… talk about rising from the dead. Haven’t seen any action on this thread in almost 2 months. Considering the time of year, it is probably a great idea that we look at it again however, and Earl has obliged us by wanting to take the historicity of the empty tomb tradition on again.

Let’s go through the key points quickly.

1) Was Tiberius an anti-Semite?

Well, we don’t really know here, and while Earl’s post speculates on the matter, there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other.

2) Would Tiberius have cared (or more importantly, objected) if Pilate let Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus in a tomb?

This is a much more important question, and again, Earl does not really address it, except through some conjecture and speculation. At best he says that Tiberius “may” have been an anti-Semite, and Philo’s letter “may not” have ever existed. Even granting that Tiberius might have been an anti-Semite, and the letter from Philo was a complete fabrication, this still does not tell us that Pilate would not have allowed a member of the Sanhedrin to bury Jesus in a tomb. So, as we can see, this is not much on which to build an argument against the Gospel accounts.

If we need any further proof on the matter, the excavation of a crucified man shows that the rule was not enforced in Jerusalem (even before Sejanus’ fall from power).

“…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…”
(Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2[New York, 1994] , pg. 1210)


3) Was Philo a reliable historian?

Probably not really, and this is why I do not rely upon his writings in my own arguments on questions like this. I’ll let SWLurker take this on if he wishes. I will note that in the 50+ pages Brown devotes to the question of the historicity of the burial tradition in the Gospels, Philo and Tiberius receive only a passing mention, never serving as central to any of his arguments.

4) Did Josephus record that Jewish law required even the crucified to be buried?

Yes. And Earl does not address this question, so for now he appears to be conceding the point.

5) Was the account given in the Gospel of Mark consistent with what we know about minimum burial practices (without mythological or apologetic embellishments) for the dead (including those who die dishonourably)?

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, 1963], pg. 274).


The answer here is obviously an unqualified yes (see my post of February 1), and Earl does not dispute it in his latest post.

6) Was Joseph of Arimathea an historical figure?

“...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)....
(R. Brown, DM2, pg. 1239)


This question is central to the entire discussion, and again, Earl fails to address it at all. If Joseph was historical, then the tomb certainly was historical.

In conclusion, while Earl has addressed, in great detail, the questions regarding Tiberius and Philo, both are, at best, secondary to the much more important arguments for the historicity of the empty tomb tradition. Further, the arguments Earl does present are purely speculative, and do not establish even enough to determine with certainty that Tiberius was an anti-Semite like Sejanus, nor that he would have objected to Jesus being buried, nor that the letter from Philo was not historical. The evidence we do have about Roman respect for burying the dead (especially in Jerusalem) points to burial being expected, and at least not unusual. So even by Earl’s minimalist standard, he has contributed nothing really interesting to the question of whether or not Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

Until the much weightier arguments offered by R. Brown and others are addressed (like Josephus’ writings about Jewish burial practices, the historicity of Joseph of Arimathea, Jewish burial laws themselves, the lack of apologetic or mythological development in GMark, the existence of the pre-Gospel burial narrative, ect.), the weight of the evidence and the arguments remains overwhelmingly in favour of the empty tomb being, in the words of Raymond Brown, “historically certain”.

Peace,

Nomad

<A HREF="http://www.bible.org/docs/theology/christ/hisjesus.htm" TARGET=_blank>The Historical Veracity
of the Resurrection Narratives</A>
 
Old 03-28-2001, 10:13 PM   #52
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Nomad,

First of all, I note that you didn't address a single point made in my last post. Second, I had no intention of rehashing every point already made in this thread with my last post. I only wanted to address Secweb's argument which I hadn't well addressed earlier. I stand by the arguments I already made and saw no reason to repeat them. So the fact that I didn't address in my last post every point made in this thread does not mean that I grant your points. You call my last post "speculative," but that's quite insufficient. My point was to show that Secweb's scenario regarding Sejanus and Tiberius is itself speculative and full of holes. I certainly stand by my analysis on that point, and you certainly have not refuted my last post. By showing that Philo used a moral framework in his "historical" work, the rug is pulled out from under Secweb's claim that Pilate changed his attitude towards the Jews because of a letter written by Tiberius reported in Philo.

Regarding whether Tiberius was anti-Semitic or whether the anti-Semitism came only from Sejanus, from my readings on the subject I've been unable to find any consensus. We simply don't know.

Now regarding your second point, as far as we know most crucified people were not allowed to be buried in a cozy new tomb. Deprivation of a proper burial was the culmination of crucifixion. Those buried after crucifixion were the exceptions not the rule, and thus there would have been a presumption against allowing Jesus to be buried, unless a good reason were given to allow such a thing. The gospels offer no reason whatsoever for this burial. Joseph simply goes up to Pilate and asks for the burial as if crucified criminals found guilty of sedition were normally given proper burial in rich men's tombs with spices and so forth.

The finding of one buried crucified skeleton hardly counts as evidence against the presumption that would have existed in the minds of ancient Romans of a lack of burial of crucified criminals.

Regarding your third point, since I was replying to Secweblurker and not Raymond Brown, my concentration on the former's points which I had left largely unanswered is hardly surprising.

Regarding your fourth point, you have misrepresented me. I certainly did address Josephus' comment on burial. I even provided the part of the passage you conveniently left out. 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). Burial in a brand new empty tomb near a garden, complete with spices and a shroud is hardly burial "in an ignominious and obscure fashion." See my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post in this thread. The question is not whether the Jews had this custom, but whether the Romans would have given a damn relative to a traitor to Rome.

Regarding your fifth point, are you talking about the minimum burial practices of the Jews or the Romans? Last time I checked the Romans were at the helm of Jesus' execution, and their minimum burial practice was to drop the body in a common grave filled with lime to let the body decompose. The fact that the Romans used the most brutal method of execution ever devised, crucifixion, by itself counts as reasonable doubt against the Romans showing deference to the Jews' customs with regard to a Jew CONVICTED of sedition. Sure Romans were pragmatic and let the cultures they ruled run themselves by their own religious customs. But this tolerance wouldn't necessarily have applied to a convicted individual whom the Romans obviously cared so little about that they crucified him.

Regarding legendary development of the burial story, Brown does not represent any scholarly consensus on this particular issue. Many more scholars see all sorts of legendary development in Mark's burial account. The figure of the noble and courageous Joseph of Arimathea going right up to Pilate to ask for the body is itself a legendary development. I'll quote again from my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post:

"As for "legendary development," how about the way Joseph's tomb and the burial get better and better from Mark to John, with the "young man" becoming first one angel and then two; an earthquake; the addition of Nicodemus; the growth of the amount of spices for Jesus' body; the addition to the setting of Joseph's tomb that it was placed in a "garden" and was brand new; the bribing of the guards conspiracy story in Matthew; the "Passover custom" of freeing a prisoner; the tearing of the Temple curtain; the darkness over the whole land; and all the resurrection appearances themselves which were absent in Mark?"

Granted, the last few points aren't about the burial as such, but they do form a legendary setting for the whole event.

Regarding your sixth point, you have misrepresented me completely. Of course I've addressed the question of whether Joseph was historical. Granted, not in my last post, but the purpose of my last post wasn't to readdress every point made in this thread. Once again from my Jan 31 post:

"In addition, the character of Joseph of Arimathea is highly suspicious, because he undergoes a makeover in Matthew's and Luke's editing of Mark. Mark was faced with a contradictory task in that Joseph had to be important enough to be able to go straight up to Pilate and request the body of a condemned traitor, but righteous enough to have wanted to bury Jesus in the first place. Mark handles this as best he can: Joseph was a "prominent member of the council" and thus influential enough to have his request granted by Pilate, and he was "waiting for the kingdom of God" and thus, presumably, on Jesus' side. Unfortunately, Mark's effort was inconsistent in calling Joseph a member of the council and yet stating that the entire council sought to condemn Jesus and voted to turn him over to Pilate for execution (Mark 14:53, 55, 64; 15:1). Matthew and Luke saw the problem and changed Joseph's character to solve it. Matthew removes the reference to Joseph as a "prominent member of the council" and makes him merely a rich man and a disciple of Jesus, clarifying Mark's obscure statement that Joseph was merely "waiting for the kingdom of God" (Matt.27:57). Luke makes the switch in the other direction. Joseph is still a member of the council, but he's no longer an actual disciple of Jesus. Instead Joseph is merely a "good and righteous man." Luke clarifies the inconsistency directly by stating that Joseph "had not consented to their [the council's] decision and action" (23:50, 51). John as usual goes nuts and talks about a conspiracy. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus in fear of the Jews (19:38).

See also the argument I offered in my January 31, 2001 10:09 PM post in this thread. I'll requote the argument at length for convenience's sake:

"Why would Mark say Joseph was a member of the council when he had just stated that the whole council condemned Jesus? Perhaps because Mark never said Joseph was "waiting for the kingdom of God" prior to the council's sentencing of Jesus. This point relates to Brown's strongest argument for the burial's historicity, which is the question as to why Mark would have picked a member of the council as demonstrating righteous behaviour, given the anti-Semitism in Christian circles at Mark's time. Again, I grant that this is the strongest argument for historicity, and indeed it may well be sufficient….

"In any case, the flaw in this argument, in my view and that of the Jesus Seminar, is that this is an example of back-handed apologetics on Mark's part. Mark wanted to make a friend of Jesus' enemies after the damage had been done. This is precisely what Mark does elsewhere at 15:39 where he states that a Roman centurion "who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died…said 'Surely this man was the Son of God!'" Matthew does the same thing in his story of the faithful centurion whose unlikely faith Jesus praises (8:5-13). Another example of this is in the Gospel of Peter where a Roman guard at the tomb is converted outright to Jesus' side. The trick in Joseph's case is whether the meaning of "who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God" implies that Joseph had been waiting so for a long time. Perhaps Mark's point was that Joseph felt guilty after the sentencing, which he did indeed go along with as Mark specified, and subsequently converted to Jesus' side, or began to "wait" for the kingdom and to act in a righteous manner by seeing to Jesus' burial. The Greek for "waiting" is "prosdechomai," which can mean "looking," as in Luke 2:38 and Acts 23:21. In these cases there is no implication that those looking forward to something had to be doing so for a long time.

"So perhaps Mark wasn't contradicting himself after all. He was simply engaging in a common form of apologetics in which the apologist turns her enemies into friends to prove the power of her message. Jesus was so obviously innocent and righteous, Mark wanted to say, that even one of the council members who condemned him subsequently converted and finally did the right thing by burying Jesus. Joseph then becomes a tragic figure: he reversed his own grave error (catch the pun?), but alas all too late. Matthew and Luke, however, didn't get Mark's point here, and thought he had indeed simply made an error. Thus they edited Joseph's character to clear up the perceived inconsistency.

"These points I just made counter two of Brown's points in favour of the burial's historicity, including what seems the strongest one. Brown says, first, that Mark would not have made Joseph a council member if he was resorting to fiction because he wouldn't have contradicted himself so blatantly in saying that the whole council found Jesus guilty. To this I say Mark wasn't contradicting himself at all, (although he wasn't overly clear about his teaching on this point). Joseph had indeed found Jesus guilty but then repented and did the right thing.

"And Brown says, second, that Mark wouldn't have made Joseph a Jew because of the Christian anti-Semitism at Mark's time. To this I say Mark's making Joseph a Jew was indeed a form of anti-Semitism, since according to my hypothesis Mark's goal was a cynical one in which he meant to transform Jesus' enemies, the Jewish authorities which he did indeed demonize by making them guilty of Jesus' death, into potential friends. Not only were the Jewish leaders guilty of condemning Jesus, but one of them even went so far as to ACKNOWLEDGE this guilt and take care of Jesus' body at his own expense. Mark's point, then, would have been that the Jews of his time should do the same."



[This message has been edited by Earl (edited March 28, 2001).]
 
Old 03-28-2001, 11:12 PM   #53
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Earl:

First of all, I note that you didn't address a single point made in my last post.</font>
Your attack was on SWLurker's points, and not my own, so I was not going to argue them. I will let SW defend himself.

My purpose was to show that you have failed completely (and still have in this post as well) to reply to the arguments presented for the historicity of the burial of Jesus.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Regarding whether Tiberius was anti-Semitic or whether the anti-Semitism came only from Sejanus, from my readings on the subject I've been unable to find any consensus. We simply don't know.</font>
Agreed. But to base any arguments around the assumption that Tiberius "might" have been anti-Semitic is problematic at best. Since that appeared to be the key focus of your last post, I was left wondering why you even bothered to bring the issue up. The key points in support of the burial tradition remain unrefuted.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Now regarding your second point, as far as we know most crucified people were not allowed to be buried in a cozy new tomb.</font>
Actually, you do not know this, especially with regard to practices in the first half of the 1st Century in Palestine. Given the political climate in Judaea, and the powerful evidence that Jewish customs were respected in times of peace, especially in Jerusalem, and in particular during religious festivals like the Passover, we can safely argue that Pilote had no interest in making waves by denying burial to criminals.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Deprivation of a proper burial was the culmination of crucifixion. Those buried after crucifixion were the exceptions not the rule, and thus there would have been a presumption against allowing Jesus to be buried, unless a good reason were given to allow such a thing.</font>
The request by a member of the Jewish High Council gives Pilote more than enough reason to grant this request. Remember, Jesus was not receiving an honourable burial in the Marcan Gospel, just a burial in a tomb. Given Jewish law, this is what we would expect.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The gospels offer no reason whatsoever for this burial. Joseph simply goes up to Pilate and asks for the burial as if crucified criminals found guilty of sedition were normally given proper burial in rich men's tombs with spices and so forth.</font>
Mark has no spices, only wrapped in a cloth, and buried. Given that even Judas was given such a basic burial, as was the blasphemous couple in Acts, Jews do appear to be pretty sensative to granting a burial for everyone, albeit, not necessarily an honourable one.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The finding of one buried crucified skeleton hardly counts as evidence against the presumption that would have existed in the minds of ancient Romans of a lack of burial of crucified criminals.</font>
Don't lean too heavily on arguments from silence Earl. The fact of the matter is that the man found was known to have been crucified only because the stake was still lodged in his feet. What we do know is that he was crucified about the same time as was Jesus, and in the same place (Jerusalem), and he was buried in a tomb. Given that we have very few skeletons from the period, and even fewer records of how many people were crucified during this period (remember that Josephus reports NO crucufixions in 1st Century Palestine prior to the Jewish revolt of 66-70. In other words, given peace and tranquility, the presumption must be one where local Jewish customs were respected, as was the norm under the Roman emperors in peacetime.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Regarding your third point, since I was replying to Secweblurker and not Raymond Brown, my concentration on the former's points which I had left largely unanswered is hardly surprising.</font>
Of course, but the fact that you have never offered a single reply to any of the arguments presented by anyone after February 1 (except SW on this very narrow point) does not argue well for your position. I don't really expect you to ever change your mind Earl, but if you will not reply to counter aruments, and those arguments specifically refute those that you raised previously, it is reasonable to consider the argument pretty much settled.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Regarding your fourth point, you have misrepresented me. I certainly did address Josephus' comment on burial. I even provided the part of the passage you conveniently left out. 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). Burial in a brand new empty tomb near a garden, complete with spices and a shroud is hardly burial "in an ignominious and obscure fashion." </font>
Three points:

1) Jesus was not convicted of blaspheme, so Josephus' rule does not apply here.
2) There is nothing honourable about the burial of Jesus given in Mark. He was not laid in a family tomb, his friends and relatives were not permitted to mourn him (in fact, Mark goes out of his way to tell us that the women were silent, as was expected in a dishonourable burial).
3) Even granting the possibility that subsequent Gospel writers may have embellished the burial account, Mark did not, and that is the central point. In Mark, Jesus is not given an honourable burial, but rather, the bare minimum that would have been expected for a Jew.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> See my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post in this thread. The question is not whether the Jews had this custom, but whether the Romans would have given a damn relative to a traitor to Rome.</font>
Given that Pilote executed Jesus only because the Sanhedrin requested it, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that he would have given to the body over to a member of that same group after the execution had been carried out.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Regarding your fifth point, are you talking about the minimum burial practices of the Jews or the Romans? Last time I checked the Romans were at the helm of Jesus' execution, and their minimum burial practice was to drop the body in a common grave filled with lime to let the body decompose.</font>
You have no evidence that this was the case in Judaea and especially Jerusalem in peacetime. The evidence we do have (from the excavation of the criminal's grave) tells us the opposite was the case, and the crucified were buried at this time, and in this place.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The fact that the Romans used the most brutal method of execution ever devised, crucifixion, by itself counts as reasonable doubt against the Romans showing deference to the Jews' customs with regard to a Jew CONVICTED of sedition.</font>
Not at all. In the case of Josephus, we even have examples of the Romans taking such convicts down from the cross even before they died, and giving orders that all effort be made to keep them alive.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Sure Romans were pragmatic and let the cultures they ruled run themselves by their own religious customs. But this tolerance wouldn't necessarily have applied to a convicted individual whom the Romans obviously cared so little about that they crucified him.</font>
Of course the Romans would not have cared one way or the other, and that is why it is reasonable to assume that Pilote would have deferred to a member of the Sanhedrin in this matter.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Regarding legendary development of the burial story, Brown does not represent any scholarly consensus on this particular issue.</font>
I did not quote Brown, I quoted Bulttmann, a much more liberal scholar than was Raymond Brown.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Many more scholars see all sorts of legendary development in Mark's burial account. The figure of the noble and courageous Joseph of Arimathea going right up to Pilate to ask for the body is itself a legendary development.</font>
Hardly. Who else but the Sanhedrin Council itself was going to insure that Jewish Law was carried out in Jerusalem during the Passover?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I'll quote again from my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post:

"As for "legendary development," how about the way Joseph's tomb and the burial get better and better from Mark to John...</font>
Let's confine ourselve to Mark please. If Mark and the pre-Gospel traditions have no embellishments, then they are much more likely to be historical. The possibility that a story may be later embellished in no way detracts from the historicity of the original story.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Regarding your sixth point, you have misrepresented me completely. Of course I've addressed the question of whether Joseph was historical. Granted, not in my last post, but the purpose of my last post wasn't to readdress every point made in this thread. Once again from my Jan 31 post:

"In addition, the character of Joseph of Arimathea is highly suspicious, because he undergoes a makeover in Matthew's and Luke's editing of Mark.</font>
Once again we are confining ourselves to how Joseph is portrayed in Mark, not Matt or Luke. Real people do undergo historical, theological and mythological developement you know. That does not make them nonhistorical in the first place.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Mark was faced with a contradictory task in that Joseph had to be important enough to be able to go straight up to Pilate and request the body of a condemned traitor, but righteous enough to have wanted to bury Jesus in the first place.</font>
There is nothing suspicious about a member of the Sanhedrin wanting to make sure that Jewish Laws and customs were followed on such an important matter. This is the point you have failed to address at all Earl.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Mark handles this as best he can: Joseph was a "prominent member of the council" and thus influential enough to have his request granted by Pilate, and he was "waiting for the kingdom of God" and thus, presumably, on Jesus' side.</font>
Many Jews were waiting for the kingdom of God. The Qumran scrolls tell us this much, and the Qumran community was very Jewish, and certainly not Christian.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Unfortunately, Mark's effort was inconsistent in calling Joseph a member of the council and yet stating that the entire council sought to condemn Jesus and voted to turn him over to Pilate for execution (Mark 14:53, 55, 64; 15:1).</font>
Why would the vote to condemn Jesus preclude the need to have Jesus buried? The Law is the Law to the Jews, especially the High Council that existed to make certain that these laws were enforced.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Matthew and Luke saw the problem and changed Joseph's character to solve it. Matthew removes the reference to Joseph as a "prominent member of the council" and makes him merely a rich man and a disciple of Jesus, clarifying Mark's obscure statement that Joseph was merely "waiting for the kingdom of God" (Matt.27:57). Luke makes the switch in the other direction. Joseph is still a member of the council, but he's no longer an actual disciple of Jesus. Instead Joseph is merely a "good and righteous man." Luke clarifies the inconsistency directly by stating that Joseph "had not consented to their [the council's] decision and action" (23:50, 51). John as usual goes nuts and talks about a conspiracy. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus in fear of the Jews (19:38).</font>
The fact that none of these authors could remove Joseph from the story completely argues powerfully for his historicity Earl. If they did embellish his character, it was only because they knew that they could not remove him from the story completely (since he was too well known to the communities, and his identy was accepted as historically true).

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">{Snip}

"These points I just made counter two of Brown's points in favour of the burial's historicity, including what seems the strongest one. Brown says, first, that Mark would not have made Joseph a council member if he was resorting to fiction because he wouldn't have contradicted himself so blatantly in saying that the whole council found Jesus guilty. To this I say Mark wasn't contradicting himself at all, (although he wasn't overly clear about his teaching on this point). Joseph had indeed found Jesus guilty but then repented and did the right thing.</font>
Repentance is not necessary to explain Joseph's actions Earl. He was keeping the Law. That was the job of the Council, above all else. He may well have voted to condemn Jesus, he may even have repented after the fact. None of this matters however, as the reason for the burial is based entirely on Jewish Law.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">{Snip remaining mind reading and motive reading efforts by Earl}</font>
If you are interested in replying to the arguments and evidence presented, please do so, but I would appreciate it if you offered actually evidence to support your claims please.

Thank you, and good night.

Nomad

 
Old 03-29-2001, 04:37 AM   #54
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What We Don't Know.

E: 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.

Sec: We'll see.

E: 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.

Sec: C'mon Earl, Pilate is going to try and spite Tiberius after Sejanus' execution?! Bah. All these other "I don't knows" can be applied anywhere. We don't know that victims of execution in Judaea were not normally buried. We don't know that Pilate wasn't a friendly guy who thought Jesus was a cool dude. The overall residual effect of everything I wrote is that it undercuts your attempt to say Pilate was not sensitive to local Jewish sensibilities just by raising the mere possibility of the relevance of post-Sejanus issues, which several historians see as shedding light on the difference betw. Pilate as portrayed in the Gospels and Philo/Josephus.

E: 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."

Sec: That last line is correct. My sources say Tiberius got a particularly bad rap from just about everyone who wrote of him. So basically, we don't know about that either.

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

Sec: Eh, but we don't know.

Another source (http://myron.sjsu.edu/romeweb/EMPCONT/e034.htm ) 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."

Sec: But Pilate wasn't scared. He left Jesus unburied just to avenge the death of Sejanus! And we just don't know about the 'paranoia' part. He may have been justified. And the fact that he was so disliked for what may or may not have been justified skews just about everything written about him thereafter. So we just don't know about any of this.

E: 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),

Sec: Of course, no one is saying Tiberius would get mad about merely leaving Jesus unburied, but that Pilate would fear the riot that might ensue had he defiled the land during the most important Jewish holiday, with HUGE crowds and high tensions due to the fact that "everyone is thinking about exodus & redemption from foreign powers" (let's not forget that Archaleus [later deposed after being tattled on by Jews!] and his massacre caused a huge Jewish revolt on this very day in 4 BC), when Pilate was specifically IN Jerusalem for the festival, as opposed to his usual residence in Caesarea Maritima, for the very purpose of making sure there was no trouble at all! As Sanders writes: "In Judaea, the high priest and the prefect had to be vigilant to prevent the outbreak of violence, especially when enormous crowds gathered for the festivals."(The Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 32)

But I'm not even going to try to convince you of probability of burial. I think there's enough info. in the previous posts for lurkers to make their own informed decisions.

E: 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.

Sec: Who's talking about reversing negative policies? Its not at all clear that there was such a negative policy concerning Jews, ever. The evidence suggests the opposite.

E: 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.

Sec: Its not really even the anti-Semetism that matters, but mistreatment and inability to manage the local people specifically. But I'm fine with "We don't know". If we "don't know" anything about the situation, then we certainly can't make claims about what Pilate would have done. Arguments for or against the burial will have to be made on other grounds.

E: See, for example, http://cweb.middlebury.edu/bulgakov/EcolePilate.html :

"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).

Sec: Every scholar I have read refers to Sejanus as anti-Jewish, but perhaps they're too uncritical/trusting of Philo. Its really not significant ultimately.

E:
"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."

Sec: Exactly, we can't assume that its not accurate just because the account serves a purpose. But let's just say "I dont'know". Since Josephus' rhetoric is aimed at explaining to "the non-Jewish public that misgovernment by certain governors added fuel to a smoldering fire" and "his portrait of Pilate is little short of a murder of character", and since the NT is biased Christian propaganda, we're left with no sources on Pilate that are reliable, and then no argument at all to the effect that Pilate didn't respect Jewish sensibilities.
Pilate could have driven an ice-cream truck around Jerusalem during the Passover and passed out free bomb-pops to the crowd.

E: See also the article, "How to Read Philo?" at http://www.hivolda.no/asf/kkf/philo/howtoreadphilo.html :

"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.

Sec: Right, most history is biased, written from a certain point of view and told for a specific purpose. Philo's account of Tiberius/Pilate serves his purpose so its suspect. We're left with nothing.


****

Some of these points are granted even by Gary DeLashmutt, who makes Secweblurker's case against the skeptical one at http://www.xenos.org/essays/sejanus.htm :

"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.

Sec: All missing the point that Pilate would most likely be watching his step as concerns mistreatment of Jews after his mentor Sejanus' death, had such a letter been written. But we don't really know.

E: 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.

Sec: Right. We know that anyone with a bias to start with, and a purpose for writing history, most likely has a tendancy to freely invent official documents.

E: 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 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,

Sec: Where does the letter say that? Isn't that in the writings of Tacitus much later? And we have no reason at all to believe the edict against burial for crucified criminals applied to the Jews, good reason to believe it didn't from Josephus and physical evidence, no reason to apply it to the Passover situation even if we did have solid evidence that non-burial was the norm, no reason to apply it to the request by Joe of A. even if non-burial ON Passover was the norm since we have evidence of requests for crucified victims being granted to influential people, and don't forget (!), Pilate might think Jesus is a cool dude or, like you suggested, be mad at Tiberius for killing Sejanus and disobey his orders on purpose! We just don't know....

E: 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.

Sec: If there was a letter written to Roman governors of the provinces, I'm sure Pilate heard of it. But "we just don't know" suits me fine. We can't make arguments to the effect that Pilate would've disregarded Jewish custom as regards burial, like you were attempting, because "we just don't know."

E: Thus there are plenty of holes in Secweblurker's account, making it not automatically more reasonable than the skeptical one.

Sec: You did some good on-line research, but my whole Sejanus-scenario still serves to undercut your attempt to render the burial improbable by arguing that Pilate would have disregarded the Jewish customs.

E: At the very least whether Jesus was buried remains an open question.

Sec: I wouldn't dispute that. If I had a rock-solid historical argument for Jesus' burial, that just about everyone accepted, I'd still say it remained open to question. Its 2000 year-old history, not physics.

That was a good post though, Earl. It gives me a lot to look into.

SecWebLurker

[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited March 29, 2001).]
 
Old 03-29-2001, 05:38 AM   #55
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E: My point was to show that Secweb's scenario regarding Sejanus and Tiberius is itself speculative and full of holes. I certainly stand by my analysis on that point, and you certainly have not refuted my last post. By showing that Philo used a moral framework in his "historical" work, the rug is pulled out from under Secweb's claim that Pilate changed his attitude towards the Jews because of a letter written by Tiberius reported in Philo.

Sec: But really, by demonstrating the mere possibility of the circumstances I laid out for Pilate, the rug is pulled out from under your initial claim concerning Pilate's regard for Jewish custom.

E: Now regarding your second point, as far as we know most crucified people were not allowed to be buried in a cozy new tomb.

Sec: But do we know that this was the case for Jews? Not at all. And even if we did, would this historical generalization override the fact that we know there were exceptions and render an exception in Jesus' case implausible? Not at all.

E: Deprivation of a proper burial was the culmination of crucifixion. Those buried after crucifixion were the exceptions not the rule,

Sec: In Judaea? We just don't know.

E: and thus there would have been a presumption against allowing Jesus to be buried, unless a good reason were given to allow such a thing.

Sec: You haven't established this presumption.

E: The gospels offer no reason whatsoever for this burial. Joseph simply goes up to Pilate and asks for the burial as if crucified criminals found guilty of sedition were normally given proper burial in rich men's tombs with spices and so forth.

Sec: No, they don't do so "as if...", Joseph is specifically said to be afraid, and you seem to be ignoring my earlier post on the difference between honorable and dishonorable burial.

E: The finding of one buried crucified skeleton hardly counts as evidence against the presumption that would have existed in the minds of ancient Romans of a lack of burial of crucified criminals.

Sec: Would this have existed in the minds of Romans in Judaea? We don't know.

E:
Regarding your fourth point, you have misrepresented me. I certainly did address Josephus' comment on burial. I even provided the part of the passage you conveniently left out. 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).

Sec: And I responded to all this. Virtually no scholars believe Jesus was formally accused of blasphemy. Many deny that the Gospels portray a formal trial at all. There's nothing that necessitates that Joe of A. would've agree with the charge of blasphemy. Dishonorable burial does not necessarilly preclude burial in a previously unoccupied tomb w/o mourning, etc. etc.

E: Burial in a brand new empty tomb near a garden, complete with spices and a shroud is hardly burial "in an ignominious and obscure fashion."

Sec: Mark doesn't say anything about a garden or spices and its entirely plausible that those are just legendary elements so there's no reason to throw the baby out with the spicy bathwater, but given McCane's work on first century Jewish funerary customs, even if we accept the spices and location, this could still be regarded as dishonorable burial. So there's no problem here at all from the Joe quote, and it still serves to support the argument that Jewish crucifixion victims were at least buried.

E: See my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post in this thread. The question is not whether the Jews had this custom, but whether the Romans would have given a damn relative to a traitor to Rome.

Sec: Then the question becomes: What did Pilate really think of Jesus? Was he considered a threat considering the fact that none of his followers were rounded up? Was the Sanhedrin just using him to do his dirty work and did he know about it, so that even allowing Jesus body for burial might be something he would be prone to do?

E: Regarding your fifth point, are you talking about the minimum burial practices of the Jews or the Romans? Last time I checked the Romans were at the helm of Jesus' execution, and their minimum burial practice was to drop the body in a common grave filled with lime to let the body decompose. The fact that the Romans used the most brutal method of execution ever devised, crucifixion, by itself counts as reasonable doubt against the Romans showing deference to the Jews' customs with regard to a Jew CONVICTED of sedition.

Sec: Not at all, unless you can provide evidence that this applied to the Jews, and even then, we know there were exceptions.

E: Sure Romans were pragmatic and let the cultures they ruled run themselves by their own religious customs. But this tolerance wouldn't necessarily have applied to a convicted individual whom the Romans obviously cared so little about that they crucified him.

Sec: At the instigation of the Jews according to the Gospels.

E: Regarding legendary development of the burial story, Brown does not represent any scholarly consensus on this particular issue. Many more scholars see all sorts of legendary development in Mark's burial account. The figure of the noble and courageous Joseph of Arimathea going right up to Pilate to ask for the body is itself a legendary development. I'll quote again from my January 31, 2001 01:28 PM post:

"As for "legendary development," how about the way Joseph's tomb and the burial get better and better from Mark to John, with the "young man" becoming first one angel and then two; an earthquake; the addition of Nicodemus; the growth of the amount of spices for Jesus' body; the addition to the setting of Joseph's tomb that it was placed in a "garden" and was brand new; the bribing of the guards conspiracy story in Matthew; the "Passover custom" of freeing a prisoner; the tearing of the Temple curtain; the darkness over the whole land; and all the resurrection appearances themselves which were absent in Mark?"

Sec: None of this argues that there is anything legendary in Mark. The rest is really irrelevant.

E: Granted, the last few points aren't about the burial as such, but they do form a legendary setting for the whole event.

Sec: That's not how it works. If there's legendary embellishment later, that in no way necessitates some linear development extending backwards to before Mark. There's nothing obviously legendary about Mark's burial account. If you assume that Luke and Matt are relying on Mark and just redacting then there's no reason to even consider them on the burial.

E: Regarding your sixth point, you have misrepresented me completely. Of course I've addressed the question of whether Joseph was historical. Granted, not in my last post, but the purpose of my last post wasn't to readdress every point made in this thread. Once again from my Jan 31 post:

"In addition, the character of Joseph of Arimathea is highly suspicious, because he undergoes a makeover in Matthew's and Luke's editing of Mark.

Sec: Which says nothing against Mark's account, and in fact, says more towards its authenticity. The later accounts show that a Sanhedrin member doing the right thing was dissimilar to Christian portrayal of Jewish authority, and hence, its odd that Mark would fabricate a guy like Joe of A.

E: Mark was faced with a contradictory task in that Joseph had to be important enough to be able to go straight up to Pilate and request the body of a condemned traitor, but righteous enough to have wanted to bury Jesus in the first place.

Sec: Er, where's the contradiction between being important and righteous?

E: Mark handles this as best he can: Joseph was a "prominent member of the council" and thus influential enough to have his request granted by Pilate, and he was "waiting for the kingdom of God" and thus, presumably, on Jesus' side.

Sec: Actually Mark could have just as easilly portrayed Joe of A. as a mere pious Sanhedrinist sent to just make sure the body was buried before the Passover. Mark didn't need him to be a disciple at all, and most scholars, who accept Joe of A. as historical, think he was just that - a pious Torah-observant Jew.

E: Unfortunately, Mark's effort was inconsistent in calling Joseph a member of the council and yet stating that the entire council sought to condemn Jesus and voted to turn him over to Pilate for execution (Mark 14:53, 55, 64; 15:1).

Sec: Firstly, there's no inconsistency here at all given the standard scholarly scenario mentioned above. Secondly, plenty of scholars don't even think it was a formal trial, there's no mention of a formal vote where everyone including Joe of A. votes, there's no need for Mark's comments concerning the "whole Sanhedrin" to be construed as anything but hyperbole meant to emphasize the fact that Jesus' has been thoroughly abandoned and given up. Mark has a tendancy to universalize like this having people come from "all" cities to be taught by Jesus, and from "every quarter" to be healed.

E:Matthew and Luke saw the problem and changed Joseph's character to solve it. Matthew removes the reference to Joseph as a "prominent member of the council"

Sec: Right.

E: and makes him merely a rich man and a disciple of Jesus

Sec: Eh, I don't know about "merely". Ommitting a detail does not entail that what is left is all that person is. But I concede the embarassment.

E: clarifying Mark's obscure statement that Joseph was merely "waiting for the kingdom of God" (Matt.27:57). Luke makes the switch in the other direction. Joseph is still a member of the council, but he's no longer an actual disciple of Jesus.

Sec: Uh, Luke is not switching anything. He's working from Mark where there's no explicit statement to the effect that Joe is an "actual disciple".

E: Instead Joseph is merely a "good and righteous man."

Sec: The language is reminiscent of web-pages on Bible contradictions. There's nothing really extra here. Its natural for Luke to see someone who Mark descibes as "waiting for the kingdom of God" and burying their Lord as a righteous man.

E: Luke clarifies the inconsistency directly by stating that Joseph "had not consented to their [the council's] decision and action" (23:50, 51).

Sec: Right.

E: John as usual goes nuts and talks about a conspiracy. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus in fear of the Jews (19:38).

Sec: This is just silly. Matt says he's a disciple. John says he's a disciple but qualifies that he's secretive about it. Nothing conspiratorial about that at all. Its common sense. If Joe of A. was a supporter of Jesus, he certainly wouldn't want the rest of the Sanhedrin and the High Priest to know about it.

E: See also the argument I offered in my January 31, 2001 10:09 PM post in this thread. I'll requote the argument at length for convenience's sake:

"Why would Mark say Joseph was a member of the council when he had just stated that the whole council condemned Jesus?

Sec: Because he's just talking about the general decision made by the council, not giving a tally on votes in a formal trial.

E: Perhaps because Mark never said Joseph was "waiting for the kingdom of God" prior to the council's sentencing of Jesus. This point relates to Brown's strongest argument for the burial's historicity, which is the question as to why Mark would have picked a member of the council as demonstrating righteous behaviour, given the anti-Semitism in Christian circles at Mark's time. Again, I grant that this is the strongest argument for historicity, and indeed it may well be sufficient….

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

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

Another example of this is in the Gospel of Peter where a Roman guard at the tomb is converted outright to Jesus' side. The trick in Joseph's case is whether the meaning of "who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God" implies that Joseph had been waiting so for a long time. Perhaps Mark's point was that Joseph felt guilty after the sentencing, which he did indeed go along with as Mark specified,

Sec: Mark never specifies this, or that there was even a formal trial where people voted.

E: and subsequently converted to Jesus' side, or began to "wait" for the kingdom and to act in a righteous manner by seeing to Jesus' burial. The Greek for "waiting" is "prosdechomai," which can mean "looking," as in Luke 2:38 and Acts 23:21. In these cases there is no implication that those looking forward to something had to be doing so for a long time.

Sec: All of which we could grant without finding that argument plausible.

E: "So perhaps Mark wasn't contradicting himself after all. He was simply engaging in a common form of apologetics in which the apologist turns her enemies into friends to prove the power of her message. Jesus was so obviously innocent and righteous, Mark wanted to say, that even one of the council members who condemned him subsequently converted and finally did the right thing by burying Jesus. Joseph then becomes a tragic figure: he reversed his own grave error (catch the pun?), but alas all too late. Matthew and Luke, however, didn't get Mark's point here, and thought he had indeed simply made an error. Thus they edited Joseph's character to clear up the perceived inconsistency.

Sec: Its a creative theory. I don't see anything in Mark that indicates that that is his intention though.

E: "These points I just made counter two of Brown's points in favour of the burial's historicity, including what seems the strongest one. Brown says, first, that Mark would not have made Joseph a council member if he was resorting to fiction because he wouldn't have contradicted himself so blatantly in saying that the whole council found Jesus guilty. To this I say Mark wasn't contradicting himself at all, (although he wasn't overly clear about his teaching on this point). Joseph had indeed found Jesus guilty but then repented and did the right thing.

"And Brown says, second, that Mark wouldn't have made Joseph a Jew because of the Christian anti-Semitism at Mark's time. To this I say Mark's making Joseph a Jew was indeed a form of anti-Semitism, since according to my hypothesis Mark's goal was a cynical one in which he meant to transform Jesus' enemies, the Jewish authorities which he did indeed demonize by making them guilty of Jesus' death, into potential friends. Not only were the Jewish leaders guilty of condemning Jesus, but one of them even went so far as to ACKNOWLEDGE this guilt and take care of Jesus' body at his own expense.

Sec: The embarassment here, having one of the Jewish authorities do the right thing according to the Torah and bury Jesus, with all his disciples having abandoned Him just doesn't square well with the idea of fabrication IMO - especially given the emphasis on the importance of burial in Judaism.

SecWebLurker


 
Old 03-29-2001, 07:55 PM   #56
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Secweblurker,

I'll reply to your last posts point by point if you wish, but I don't see the reason for doing so. If you grant that the facts are vague enough to allow for belief either way, I'm afraid skepticism comes out on top because of the way the burden of proof works. You have the burden to prove that Jesus was buried, to demonstrate that the NT account is at least the most probable one. Otherwise in the absence of a compelling alternative explanation, agnosticism becomes most prudent by default. Merely giving one possible way the burial could have happened (with a change in Roman policy after Sejanus' death) at most shows that Mark's account is plausible not that it's probable or historical. If you can't show that Tiberius probably wrote the letter, that Pilate probably received it in time, and that he followed it, your account is at most just one possibility, whereas it's your burden to show probability. Your whole case to undermine the negative sources on Pilate hinges on the letter mentioned in Philo that Tiberius allegedly wrote. I gave what I consider reasonable doubt regarding the existence of that letter. Can you name one credible historian that takes Philo's "histories" at face value? Naturally, I've never gone for the conclusion that Jesus could not possibly have been buried or that the letter can't possibly have been written. Your sarcasm notwithstanding, you seem genuinely to acknowledge how shaky modern history of ancient times is. What you don't seem to grant is that given the burden of proof on the Christian to demonstrate the historicity of the burial, vagueness of the facts adds to skepticism not Christian tradition. If agnosticism is justified regarding Tiberius' letter, you are left without one of your reasons to make the burial probable.

Regarding the issue of Pilate not wanting to make the mob angry on Passover, it's true that the Romans would have been on alert during Passover, as Sanders says. But would breaking the rule of Deut.21:23 have been likely to cause a riot? If Pilate was worried about causing a riot, why wouldn't he have delayed the crucifixion until after Passover? After all, the crucifixion of a Jewish holy man by itself would have been more likely to cause a riot. That way, Pilate could have kept the peace and still followed Roman penal principles by fulfilling the execution in a gruesome presentation to the public of Jesus' decomposing body. Surely Pilate would have known in advance from past experience that Passover was problematic for Jewish-Roman relations, so if he feared a riot why didn't he put off the crucifixion for several days? What was the hurry on his side? Why did Jesus have to be arrested just before Passover? Executing a Jewish holy man wasn't exactly contrary to Jewish law in the same way as was leaving a body to rot on a tree, but the latter was only a technicality whereas the former would have been much more unacceptable to Jews in general, unless we buy the anti-Semitic element in the gospels and the whitewashing of Roman responsibility, something many scholars don't do. Even were the rumour to have gotten around that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Jews could very easily have rioted on that basis alone were Jesus executed on Passover of all times. The NT account here makes Pilate out to be totally incompetent regarding Jewish-Roman relations, so there is little basis for saying Pilate would have been concerned not to leave the body on the cross and break Deut.21:22 out of fear of a Jewish riot. Evidently he wasn't informed or concerned about the possibility of a riot.

But do we even know that Jesus was crucified on Passover? Passover could have been used by the early Christians as a setting for its clearly symbolic value alone. Given that the Romans went on alert at Passover, it's more likely the crucifixion didn't occur on Passover, that Mark used Passover as a narrative device, and that Pilate would have had much less reason to worry about a riot over breaking the Deut.21:22 for the sake of a proper punishment of sedition. The application of the Passover symbolism to Jesus' execution, the staining of his blood on the cross, the world's door posts, for all our protection from the angel of death, or Satan, is too obvious to go into.

Even if John hadn't read Mark, the link between Jesus' death and the paschal lamb was appreciated very early on, showing up as it does in 1 Cor.5:7; 11:23-26. Paul says he "received" the Lord's supper ritual "from the Lord" rather than from oral tradition. If the Lord's Supper tradition had been well known through oral transmission, why wouldn't Paul have prefaced his meal procedure instead with something like "All of Jesus' disciples remember Jesus telling this, that the Lord Jesus…"? Instead Paul uses the term "paralambano," a verb which means both "instruction" and "direct revelation from a god." Paul uses this term in both senses in Gal.1:11-12 where he says he "received," or was instructed in, the gospel from no man, but rather "received" it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul's gospel, his central teachings, came to him, he says, through personal revelation. Since he uses the same term in 1 Cor.11:23, we should take Paul to be saying that he received the Lord's Supper procedure through private revelation not man-made tradition or memory of an historical event. Paul's point is to chastise the Corinthians for the lack of seriousness with which they take the Lord's Supper ritual. Therefore he emphasizes that he learned of the ritual not from mere word of mouth but straight from the Lord, implying that the ritual should be taken seriously on that basis.
 
Old 03-29-2001, 07:57 PM   #57
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NOMAD: Of course, but the fact that you have never offered a single reply to any of the arguments presented by anyone after February 1 (except SW on this very narrow point) does not argue well for your position. I don't really expect you to ever change your mind Earl, but if you will not reply to counter aruments, and those arguments specifically refute those that you raised previously, it is reasonable to consider the argument pretty much settled.

EARL: Well, this is a misrepresentation of the facts. If you look at the posts after my last one on Feb 1, there were four directed to me. One of them was Metacrock's very short one on the crucified skeleton. Another was Secweb's, a major argument of which was the Sejanus matter that I've now answered. The other two were by yourself, Nomad, and Secweb. And I have replied to Brown's argument which forms the backbone of your own, so that makes about one and a half posts that I haven't replied to at all, both by Secweb.

How have I replied to Brown's argument? With the argument that you continue to label "speculation" and "mind reading." But I'll reformulate my reply. Brown offers a possible way to take Mark's account of Joseph as historical. Joseph wasn't a follower of Jesus but just a pious member of the council, and thus wanted to bury Jesus out of adherence to Jewish law, period. The rest is legendary development. I certainly don't regard this scenario as impossible or even highly improbable. What I do contend is that we have very little reason to choose this scenario over the one I and the Jesus Seminar give, that Mark uses Joseph as a piece of back-handed apologetic to offer a plausible way for Jesus to have been buried (something required by his resurrection account), and to offer a hoped for, more encouraging picture of Jesus' end than was probable.

One point that must be made is that all of Brown's arguments (and Secweblurker's, for that matter) about the plausibility of Joseph's character, given Brown's reading, show only that Mark's account is possible not probable or historical. The details could just as easily have been added by Mark for verisimilitude. Let's say Mark had no knowledge of any burial. If he had wanted to create a burial scene, he would had to have figured out a plausible way for this to be written. Roman law didn't provide for any burial of crucified victims, so he would had to have turned to Jewish law to govern the matter. (It wouldn't have been plausible to have anyone illegally steal the body off the cross, due to the Roman presence.) And who would have been concerned with keeping Jewish law but a pious Jew? Mark slapped a name and place of birth on the fellow, and poof: the burial story is born. Mark simply went for verisimilitude regarding the details. Thus the fact that Joseph doesn't give Jesus an honourable burial is explained by Mark's interest in creating a believable story. That's why Mark doesn't say the tomb belonged to Joseph. Joseph had no personal tie to Jesus, and thus wouldn't have given him his own tomb, such as Brown argues. But 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.

The reason Mark needed a burial scene purely for the sake of making his plot coherent was to fill the gap between two key parts of his narrative, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mark's account of the resurrection is, of course, unusual since there are no appearances of Jesus. The key to understanding Mark's resurrection account is that it's based around the final failed attempt of the disciples to serve Jesus in a long series of such failures. Again and again in Mark the disciples fail Jesus. See, for example, 4:35-41; 6:47-52; 7:17-19; 8:33; 14:3-9; 14:37-42; 14:66-72. Mark evidently wanted to tell of the final failure, and that explains why he has no resurrection appearances. The disciples fail to catch Jesus in time. Mark ends on this failure, the absence of Jesus and the promise of a future vision.

So how could the disciples have failed Jesus after Jesus had died? Answer: by believing Jesus was still dead and acting on that assumption only to discover that Jesus was alive, thus proving that the disciples failed again to understand spiritual truth, that Jesus is eternal. So how could the disciples have acted on the assumption that Jesus was dead only to be divinely corrected? For the failure to work, and Mark's moral lesson to be drawn, the disciples would had to have carried a false expectation and acted on it. They would had to have believed that Jesus was still dead and performed some action on that basis. The clearest way to have acted on their false assumption would have been to attempt to verify that Jesus was still dead.

Now there are four ways this could have been done, assuming there was no historical burial and that Mark inserted the burial story at least to fill out the plot. First, the disciples could have gone to see Jesus rot on the cross and be eaten by wild animals. But this would have caused numerous textual problems. First, there would have been witnesses to Jesus' resurrection if Jesus had been left on the cross. Jesus would have been resurrected in plain view of the guards and any bystanders. Also, Jesus might already have been eaten by wild animals so that he wouldn't have been recognizable, and thus the disciples couldn't have tried to verify their failure by recognizing Jesus as dead. The other possibility is that the disciples could have gone to see Jesus in the lime pit, but the same textual problems would have resulted. The third possibility is that the disciples might not have done anything, and an angel or some divine messenger could have appeared from nowhere and said, "You just missed Jesus. Go to Galilee and you'll see him as he told you." But in this case, of course, although the disciples would have had a missed opportunity, there would have been a much less dramatic failure on their part. Their failure would have been not to go to Galilee in time, rather than going out of their way to prove that Jesus was still dead.

And the other option, the one Mark used, is the empty tomb. The isolation of the tomb allowed Jesus to disappear without any witnesses, thus allowing for the gospel's ending of failure with the promise of future success and understanding for the disciples. The tomb's emptiness represents not the success of a witness or verification of the resurrected body, but the disciples' failure to arrive in time. The disciples go to rub spices on Jesus' dead body, thus acting on the false assumption that Jesus was still dead. But when they arrive at the tomb they find it empty: an angel descends and tells them they're too late. They're not in the place Jesus told them to be, in Galilee. They've failed to understand spiritual truth yet again. But not to worry. They should have faith and go to Galilee where they will find him just as he promised. Given that Mark wanted to have this ending to make a moral and spiritual point, and of course given that he needed the crucifixion scene, he HAD to have a burial to connect them.

But there are other reasons for the burial scene besides historicity. As I said, were Mark to tell that Jesus had been thrown into a common grave or left on the crucifixion to rot and be eaten by wild animals, the resurrection account would have gone much less smoothly. There could have been witnesses, first of all, which would have undermined Mark's decision to end the gospel on the failure precisely of anyone to see the risen Jesus, to have understood Jesus enough to have trusted him and gone to the right place. The resurrection had to take place in isolation and solitude. And of course, the image of a decomposing Jesus would have been utterly disheartening to Mark's readers. Given the Roman presumption against burial, there would still have been the hope that Jesus had been buried according to Jewish law. Thus Mark creates Joseph of Arimathea, adding the Jewish details for verisimilitude to seal the point that the Jewish law had been followed. Christians can trust at least--even if they can't know for certain given the time lapse and the Roman presumption against burial--that God would not have let Jesus decompose. Indeed, given Jesus' divinity it would have been absolutely ludicrous and blasphemous to think that Jesus could have decomposed. God is the essence of life; He cannot decompose. Since Jesus was divine he could not have been left in a common grave or on the cross to face the elements and wild animals.

There is also the element of back-handed apologetics found in the lesson to be drawn from Joseph's good deed. Whereas the Jewish leaders were evil in plotting against Jesus to have him killed, at least one of them was pious enough to show concern for Jesus, and likewise, Mark would have said, Jews in Mark's time should show compassion for Christians if only out of authentic Judaism rather than a conversion to Christianity. Now that's the weakest form of back-handed apologetics, but it's consistent with Brown's account. The stronger form follows if Joseph was a follower of Jesus and wanted to bury Jesus for personal reasons. In that case, Mark makes a much stronger friend out of his enemy, indeed the conversion of a council member to Christianity.

****

Brown does offer a reason to believe not only that Joseph's behaviour is plausible and thus that the burial account is possible, but that Joseph is based on an historical character. Brown thinks Jewish law would in fact have overridden any other consideration, and that some pious Jew would actually have insisted on Jesus' burial in accordance with Deut.21:22-23. But there are some problems with this. First, if the motivation for burying Jesus was to follow Jewish law, the whole council would have been in favour of it, not just one member. Is Joseph merely symbolic of the whole council? Brown considers some plural declarations in the NT that "they," the Jews, had taken Jesus down and buried him. Brown thinks these are just false memories. There was only one pious Jew who wanted to follow the law (1219). Brown wants to draw this conclusion to keep the overall accuracy level of Mark's burial tradition high. But this is awkward. If following this law mattered enough that one of the very members who had plotted to have Jesus executed wanted to give Jesus the benefit of burial, surely this law would had to have been important enough to have occurred to more than one of the council members. To seal the deal wouldn't it have been prudent for the whole council to insist on the matter? Did Joseph in fact speak for the whole council?

This leads to a related problem: if it were normal procedure especially on Passover for the Romans to release for burial crucified persons out of respect for Jewish law, why would Pilate have had to wait for a pious Jew to approach him on the matter? Why wouldn't the Romans themselves have automatically taken care of the burial, as the Gospel of Peter in fact relates that they did? The fact that Mark has a pious Jew "boldly" ask Pilate for the body by itself seems to indicate a presumption against the normalcy of this procedure, or the paramount importance of Deut.21:22 to everyone, including Pilate who Mark says automatically released the body.

But given the importance of the Jewish law to the Romans regarding burial, there's another explanation for why someone would have had to confront Pilate and ask for the body. The key here is Pilate's surprise that Jesus was already dead. Jesus died very quickly so the Roman officials who would have been responsible for burying the body, such as Pilate, hadn't yet discovered that Jesus had died. Jesus' early death was surprising. So why did Jesus die so early? One answer has to do merely with Mark's Passover symbolism. Mark was eager to marry the Passion narrative's conclusion with the end of the Passover feast. Therefore Jesus had to die quickly to catch the end of Passover. For matters of symbolism Mark wouldn't have wanted the Passion narrative to spill over to the Sabbath, the beginning of the fast. Indeed Mark keeps his Passion narrative on a tight schedule, carefully noting the time at several evenly spread points, including Jesus' death.

In addition, for Deut.21:22 technically to have applied Jesus would had to have died before sundown. If we grant, therefore, Brown's point about the importance of Jewish law as the reason for automatic burial, once again Mark would have had, for reasons purely of making a coherent narrative, a requirement for the Joseph-Pilate confrontation. The Romans would normally have taken care of burial out of deference to Jewish law, and they wouldn't have had to be asked for the release of the body. They wouldn't have left the matter to chance, because keeping the peace and precluding the possibility of a riot would have been paramount for them as practical governors. But Mark HAS to have someone confront Pilate because Pilate couldn't yet have known that Jesus had died, and Jesus had died so soon to complete Mark's Passover symbolism and to have Deut.21:22 apply in the first place. My point, then, is that there appear to be reasons for Mark's request for the burial other than merely an interest in historical accuracy on Mark's part.

There is another problem. The basis of Deut.21:22 is elementary respect for criminals as God's creatures. This law against letting a criminal rot on a tree is based on a spiritual understanding that everyone should be treated with respect as beings created in God's image. It's hard, therefore, to picture one of the people who had plotted to have Jesus murdered on the basis of a ludicrous charge of blasphemy still holding this spiritual perspective and swallowing his pride to ask Pilate to treat Jesus' body with respect, contradicting his earlier jealous disregard for Jesus' welfare. Indeed, Mark says not that Joseph followed the law in a mechanical, heartless fashion, but that Joseph "was waiting for the kingdom of God." So even if a pious Jew could have wanted to have Jesus buried, Mark's portrayal of the Jewish leaders is hardly of pious, spiritual individuals who can be described as waiting for God's kingdom, a Christian rather than a Jewish term.

Another objection is that even if the Jews wanted Jesus buried in accordance with Jewish law, the whole matter would have been entirely up to Pilate, and it's quite uncertain how likely Pilate would have been to defer to Jewish law over following through with the harsh logic of crucifixion for the sake of making an example of Jesus. There are arguments on both sides of this crucial issue, and I've dealt with the Sejanus-Tiberius-Philo argument in my second last post. Pilate could have had reasons to hand Jesus over: he wouldn't have wanted to stir up unnecessary trouble with the Jewish leaders or a mob; he might have felt mercy for Jesus' family or Jesus himself (since according to Mark Pilate didn't think Jesus was guilty of anything worthy of crucifixion). But there are counter-arguments to all these points. By crucifying Jesus the damage was already done with regard to making a martyr of Jesus and stirring up trouble for Jesus' followers. Regarding the Jewish leaders, it would have been practical of Pilate to strike a compromise. After all, according to Mark, Pilate had gone ahead and granted an unnecessary execution for the sake of the Jewish leaders' jealousy and pettiness (15:10), so the least the Jewish leaders could do in return would have been to let Roman penal principles run their course and forget about burial, now that the damage was done. Pilate had already pleased the Jewish leaders, and now it would have been time to please Rome, by maintaining the image of Rome as utterly intolerant of traitors.

The evidence we have regarding Pilate's character is contradictory between the gospels, Josephus and other sources. We simply don't know exactly how merciful, brutal, or anti-Semitic he was. A case can be made on either side. So the fact remains that on this crucial point we don't know that Pilate would have granted any request to have Jesus buried. It had nothing to do with abstract Roman principles; the matter would have been left entirely in the hands of the local Governor, in this case Pilate. This is why the Sejanus-Tiberius-Philo argument is important for the traditionalist, but as I showed in my earlier post at the very least the claim that Tiberius wrote a letter to change Pilate's behaviour is not overly probable.

Another problem with Brown's account centers around his optimism regarding the likelihood of the transmission of such details as the confrontation of Pilate and Joseph and their conversation. It's not at all obvious that these details would have been preserved in oral transmission, that someone named "Joseph from Arimathea," a council member, asked Pilate for the body, that Pilate was then surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead and had to learn from the centurion that this was so. These details can very easily be fictitious plot fillers. Brown simply goes through them one by one and shows that they're not egregiously implausible (1221-2). The plausibility in particular of Pilate himself being concerned with the disposal of crucified bodies or being amazed by the short period of Jesus' duration on the cross do seem rather hard to take, though. Brown says that Jesus' short survival on the cross was unusual, but he grants that Pilate would have been an expert on these matters. As Brown notes, the length of survival on the cross would have depended on the physical condition of the person. Yet Pilate had already gotten a good look at Jesus' physical condition during the trial, so his surprise is not so easy to explain. In any case, plausibility shouldn't be confused with probability. Any halfway decent writer can write a plausible but fictional scene. What is the probability that these details survived oral transmission over a period of decades?

A couple of other matters:

How could a Christian like Mark have given such a noble task to a Jew, given the hostile relationship between Jews and Christians in Mark's time? Doesn't that argue for Joseph's historicity? It would, I think, if Mark had lavished praise on Joseph or made him a clear hero. It's hard to see how a Christian could emphasize the super-righteousness of a Jew given the hostile relationship between Jews and Christians at Mark's time. But Mark doesn't emphasize Joseph's heroism at all, as Brown notes. Joseph simply comes in, fulfils his obligation to Jewish law, thereby providing the burial scene required by Mark's narrative (the middle territory between the necessary crucifixion and resurrection), and disappears. The most Mark says about Joseph is that he "was waiting for the Kingdom of God," and that he summoned "courage," or went "boldly" to go see Pilate. But these can be explained in Brown's terms, but to show plausibility without probability. "Waiting for the Kingdom of God" needn't have meant righteous in the special Christian sense, but just a relatively pious Jew. A Council member would incidentally have feared being mistaken as a sympathizer with Jesus, and the reason Joseph was confident enough to approach Pilate was because he was saved by the fact that he had been one of those who had condemned Jesus and therefore couldn't be suspected as a Christian (1217). Once again, this plausibility doesn't equal historicity. It only means that Brown's account is consistent with historicity. It's also consistent with fiction aiming at verisimilitude.

Although Jesus' followers had abandoned Jesus' body and disappeared whereas Joseph did not, that still doesn't make Joseph particularly heroic, since as one of the council members who had executed Jesus he had nothing to fear whereas Jesus' followers certainly did, and Mark used the failure of the disciples throughout his narrative for didactic purposes. He certainly wasn't troubled by the disciples' failures, but on the contrary turned them into a broad theme in his narrative. Furthermore, Jesus' women followers apparently did not abandon Jesus, and because they went to put spices on Jesus' body they stand as more righteous than Joseph who was just going by the letter of the law with no special regard for Jesus, as Brown argues. Brown's arguments for plausibility don't demonstrate probability, given the possibility that Mark added plausibility for verisimilitude.

Why would Mark have said that "all" the council members condemned Jesus, thus needlessly harming the believability of his account? One possibility is that Mark simply slipped up and exaggerated in saying that the whole council condemned him. But the other possibility is that Mark was engaging in back-handed apologetics, making one of the evil council members convert if not all the way to Christianity at least to a spiritual appreciation of the "kingdom of God," a sort of halfway house between Judaism and Christianity. Thus Joseph was indeed one of the evil council members who had plotted against Jesus, but he had a change of heart. Mark's lesson, then, would have been that all Jews should have a change of heart and do what they can to respect Jesus, even the Jews.


[This message has been edited by Earl (edited March 29, 2001).]
 
Old 03-30-2001, 06:07 AM   #58
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E: I'll reply to your last posts point by point if you wish, but I don't see the reason for doing so.

Sec: You can reply however you wish Earl. That's up to you.

E: If you grant that the facts are vague enough to allow for belief either way, I'm afraid skepticism comes out on top because of the way the burden of proof works. You have the burden to prove that Jesus was buried, to demonstrate that the NT account is at least the most probable one.

Sec: No, I really don't. Not unless I'm claiming you should believe that Jesus was buried. But I'm not doing that. I've already come to the conclusion that there is no "convincing" you of Jesus' burial. As regards our convo. on the burial, I'll henceforth take the "I don't know" position. On the other hand, 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 haven't seen you present anything that supports that, but If you feel you have something, feel free to.

E: Otherwise in the absence of a compelling alternative explanation, agnosticism becomes most prudent by default.

Sec: Actually, 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.

E: Merely giving one possible way the burial could have happened (with a change in Roman policy after Sejanus' death) at most shows that Mark's account is plausible not that it's probable or historical. If you can't show that Tiberius probably wrote the letter, that Pilate probably received it in time, and that he followed it, your account is at most just one possibility, whereas it's your burden to show probability.

Sec: You seem to have missed the point that I stated several times over in my last 2 responses to you. I specifically said that my argument concerning Sejanus merely serves to undercut your attempt to claim that Pilate would've disregarded Jewish sensibilities. Since its possible that he would be very unlikely to do that given the scenario I put forth, and we have no objective ground from which to assess the probabilities, we are left with "I don't know".

E: Your whole case to undermine the negative sources on Pilate hinges on the letter mentioned in Philo that Tiberius allegedly wrote.

Sec: 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".

E: I gave what I consider reasonable doubt regarding the existence of that letter. Can you name one credible historian that takes Philo's "histories" at face value?

Sec: I could name several more historians who take the specific passage in Philo that I was referring to, as evidence for the argument I made. But there's no need. We've already seen the argument laid out entirely in the words of historians, and we've seen disagreement from historians as well. The argument stands merely as a possibility that serves to undercut your initial claim concerning what we allegedly "know" about Pilate.

E: Naturally, I've never gone for the conclusion that Jesus could not possibly have been buried or that the letter can't possibly have been written. Your sarcasm notwithstanding, you seem genuinely to acknowledge how shaky modern history of ancient times is.

Sec: I wouldn't use the term "shaky". History isn't about conclusive proof and its impossible to eliminate the subjective factors involved, but its the same for most human endeavors. History isn't physics so I take any historical hypothesis I hold to very tentatively and never rule out the possibility that it could be in error.

E: What you don't seem to grant is that given the burden of proof on the Christian to demonstrate the historicity of the burial, vagueness of the facts adds to skepticism not Christian tradition.

Sec: Christians don't have any alleged burden of proof unless they are trying to convince you of something. I'm currently not making any such effort. And again, maintaining that we 'don't know' shouldn't be referred to as being 'skeptical' of Christian tradition but simply 'not knowing' about it.

E: Regarding the issue of Pilate not wanting to make the mob angry on Passover, it's true that the Romans would have been on alert during Passover, as Sanders says. But would breaking the rule of Deut.21:23 have been likely to cause a riot?

Sec: The risk was definitely there as it would have been seen as defiling the land. As New Testament scholar Craig A. Evans has written to me in private correspondence: "I find the arguments against the burial
tradition as very weak, flying in the face of Jewish practice and probability. To leave a body unburied just outside the walls of Jerusalem (in peacetime, of course) was unthinkable. That in itself would have
started a riot. A very heavy burden of proof rests on those who wish to say that contrary to all expectation, religious sensitivities (not for Jesus but for the Jewish people in general and for the ruling priests in
particular, who are the guardians of purity, especially in and around Jerusalem), and the actual data we have, Jesus' body was left unburied or was thrown in a pit subject to the predations of animals. Skepticism in
this area (as seen in older German works or in the more recent faddish stuff produced by the Jesus Seminar) is simply not in tune with Jewish culture in this period of time.

E: If Pilate was worried about causing a riot, why wouldn't he have delayed the crucifixion until after Passover?

Sec: Obviously because crucifixion was not a violation of Jewish law, was practiced by the Jews themselves, and most obviously because the main people who know the most about and are in charge of purity in and around Jerusalem are the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate.

E: After all, the crucifixion of a Jewish holy man by itself would have been more likely to cause a riot.

Sec: I've already addressed this in earlier posts. Jesus wasn't seen as a "Jewish Holy Man" by the High Priest, the majority of those in the Sanhedrin who handed him over, or apparently the mob involved in the trial. His immediate disciples had fled, and Pilate would have no reason to think that Jesus was considered a "Jewish Holy Man" abroad.

E: That way, Pilate could have kept the peace and still followed Roman penal principles by fulfilling the execution in a gruesome presentation to the public of Jesus' decomposing body.

Sec: Given that the Jewish authorities handed Jesus over for getting the people riled up as a messianic pretender, Pilate would've seen executing him as the best way to keep the peace, especially if as the Gospels portray the scenario, he is being egged on by the Jews.

E: Surely Pilate would have known in advance from past experience that Passover was problematic for Jewish-Roman relations, so if he feared a riot why didn't he put off the crucifixion for several days? What was the hurry on his side? Why did Jesus have to be arrested just before Passover?

Sec: Er, obviously so he didn't attract even more of a mob and get them riled up DURING the festival, when tensions are high. This would be especially the case if his actions were thought to have messianic connotations.

E: Executing a Jewish holy man wasn't exactly contrary to Jewish law in the same way as was leaving a body to rot on a tree,

Sec: "Executing a Jewish holy man" has nothing to do with this conversation.

E: but the latter was only a technicality

Sec: Right...that ol' Jewish law...pfffttt..only a technicality...Who cares about defiling the land during a major festival or any time for that matter? Certainly not Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.

E: Even were the rumour to have gotten around that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Jews could very easily have rioted on that basis alone were Jesus executed on Passover of all times.

Sec: What would the reason be for them rioting again? I forgot...

E: The NT account here makes Pilate out to be totally incompetent regarding Jewish-Roman relations, so there is little basis for saying Pilate would have been concerned not to leave the body on the cross and break Deut.21:22 out of fear of a Jewish riot.

Sec: No, I don't think the NT makes Pilate out to be any such thing. If anything it looks like Pilate is being manipulated a bit, being forced to do their dirty work, and he's probably not that happy about it. But regardless of our speculations, we just "don't know".

E: Evidently he wasn't informed or concerned about the possibility of a riot.

Sec: Hahahahhahah! Yeah!

E: But do we even know that Jesus was crucified on Passover? Passover could have been used by the early Christians as a setting for its clearly symbolic value alone.

Sec: Hell, do we even know anything? You could be dreaming right now, or be a brain in a vat being fed sensory data. We all could've been created 5 minutes ago fully equippted with a detailed memory of the past. We really have no way of knowing...

E: Given that the Romans went on alert at Passover, it's more likely the crucifixion didn't occur on Passover, that Mark used Passover as a narrative device,

Sec: Did Mark have Jesus crucified specifically on the day of the Passover feast?

E: and that Pilate would have had much less reason to worry about a riot over breaking the Deut.21:22 for the sake of a proper punishment of sedition.

Sec: Its not even necessary to believe that Pilate thought Jesus was guilty.

E: The application of the Passover symbolism to Jesus' execution, the staining of his blood on the cross,

Sec: Hahaha...right. Its all there in Mark 15:48-50 "And they looked at the cross with blood smeared all over it. This was done to fulfill the prophecy 'And ye shall smear blood on your doorposts so that I will pass over you.'"

E: the world's door posts,

Sec: Uh-huh, right in the next verse: "So they immediately ran out into the streets of Jerusalem and starting smearing Jesus' blood on the doorposts of all who lived therein."

E: for all our protection from the angel of death, or Satan, is too obvious to go into.

Sec: Right. Because we know the angel of death is referred to as "Satan" in the Exodus narrative. And we know that the paschal lamb was considered a sacrifice for sins. And let's not forget that Jesus was crowned with thorns. We all know that lambs have horns. And if any of this is seen as a bit vague, well then, just take a look at Paul's theology. He considers Christ the Passover, so we are justified in assuming that Mark fabricated the crucifixion date in line with this motif.

&lt;snip rest of the stuff about Paul that has absolutely nothing to do with the burial&gt;

SecWebLurker




[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited April 03, 2001).]
 
Old 03-30-2001, 09:26 AM   #59
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Earl Serves Up another Enormous Plate of Fudge from the Easy-bake Oven

E: What I do contend is that we have very little reason to choose this scenario over the one I and the Jesus Seminar give, that Mark uses Joseph as a piece of back-handed apologetic to offer a plausible way for Jesus to have been buried (something required by his resurrection account), and to offer a hoped for, more encouraging picture of Jesus' end than was probable.

Sec: And of course, I've answered this. There's not even a hint of this in the passage.

E: One point that must be made is that all of Brown's arguments (and Secweblurker's, for that matter) about the plausibility of Joseph's character, given Brown's reading, show only that Mark's account is possible not probable or historical. The details could just as easily have been added by Mark for verisimilitude. Let's say Mark had no knowledge of any burial. If he had wanted to create a burial scene, he would had to have figured out a plausible way for this to be written. Roman law didn't provide for any burial of crucified victims, so he would had to have turned to Jewish law to govern the matter.

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

E: (It wouldn't have been plausible to have anyone illegally steal the body off the cross, due to the Roman presence.)

Sec: Who says? Mark could've had Pilate et al. leave the scene "seeing that Jesus was dead and that all had fled." The women come back and get the body down while the guard is asleep, drunk, blinded by a great light from heaven, whatever....

E: And who would have been concerned with keeping Jewish law but a pious Jew?

Sec: 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.

E: Mark slapped a name and place of birth on the fellow, and poof: the burial story is born.

Sec: But first he said "mecca lekka hi, mekka hiney ho!"

E: Mark simply went for verisimilitude regarding the details.

Sec: Yup, that's why you're disagreeing with the verisimilitude of the passage.

E: Thus the fact that Joseph doesn't give Jesus an honourable burial is explained by Mark's interest in creating a believable story. That's why Mark doesn't say the tomb belonged to Joseph. Joseph had no personal tie to Jesus, and thus wouldn't have given him his own tomb, such as Brown argues.

Sec: Yeah, that explains why he has Joseph single out Jesus' body.

E: But 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.

Sec: Hahaha...of course it doesn't. But we can say that about any report so its meaningless.

E: The reason Mark needed a burial scene purely for the sake of making his plot coherent was to fill the gap between two key parts of his narrative, the crucifixion and the resurrection.

Sec: 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."

E: Mark's account of the resurrection is, of course, unusual since there are no appearances of Jesus. The key to understanding Mark's resurrection account is that it's based around the final failed attempt of the disciples to serve Jesus in a long series of such failures. Again and again in Mark the disciples fail Jesus. See, for example, 4:35-41; 6:47-52; 7:17-19; 8:33; 14:3-9; 14:37-42; 14:66-72. Mark evidently wanted to tell of the final failure, and that explains why he has no resurrection appearances. The disciples fail to catch Jesus in time. Mark ends on this failure, the absence of Jesus and the promise of a future vision.

Sec: Agree on the motif of the failure of the disciples. Failed to catch Jesus in time? In time for what? Resurrection appearances? Not at all. Its quite obvious that Mark implies that the disciples indeed see the resurrected Jesus, and that Mark would be circulated in an environment that had already heard about Jesus having appeared to the disciples.

E: So how could the disciples have failed Jesus after Jesus had died? Answer: by believing Jesus was still dead and acting on that assumption only to discover that Jesus was alive, thus proving that the disciples failed again to understand spiritual truth, that Jesus is eternal. So how could the disciples have acted on the assumption that Jesus was dead only to be divinely corrected? For the failure to work, and Mark's moral lesson to be drawn, the disciples would had to have carried a false expectation and acted on it. They would had to have believed that Jesus was still dead and performed some action on that basis. The clearest way to have acted on their false assumption would have been to attempt to verify that Jesus was still dead.

Sec: I'll look at your scenario but from the start this is just the most utterly ridiculous speculation. Mark doesn't *need* anything to portray the disciples as having failed Jesus after the crucifixion. He simply doesn't *need* to portray them as having failed Jesus anymore than they have. And if he did, all he need do is have Jesus appear to the women after His death first, and have them report to the men, who disbelieve.

E: Now there are four ways this could have been done, assuming there was no historical burial and that Mark inserted the burial story at least to fill out the plot. First, the disciples could have gone to see Jesus rot on the cross and be eaten by wild animals. But this would have caused numerous textual problems.

Sec: I don't see how this would be failing Jesus. What's the point here?

E: First, there would have been witnesses to Jesus' resurrection if Jesus had been left on the cross. Jesus would have been resurrected in plain view of the guards and any bystanders.

Sec: So what?

E: Also, Jesus might already have been eaten by wild animals so that he wouldn't have been recognizable, and thus the disciples couldn't have tried to verify their failure by recognizing Jesus as dead.

Sec: Again, what's the failure here? And sure they could recognize him. He's the one wearing the crown of thorns. The silly speculation continues...

E: The other possibility is that the disciples could have gone to see Jesus in the lime pit, but the same textual problems would have resulted. The third possibility is that the disciples might not have done anything, and an angel or some divine messenger could have appeared from nowhere and said, "You just missed Jesus. Go to Galilee and you'll see him as he told you." But in this case, of course, although the disciples would have had a missed opportunity, there would have been a much less dramatic failure on their part. Their failure would have been not to go to Galilee in time, rather than going out of their way to prove that Jesus was still dead.

Sec: What are you talking about, Earl?

E: And the other option, the one Mark used, is the empty tomb. The isolation of the tomb allowed Jesus to disappear without any witnesses,

Sec: As would leaving him on the cross all night, throwing him in the common grave, etc.

E: thus allowing for the gospel's ending of failure with the promise of future success and understanding for the disciples. The tomb's emptiness represents not the success of a witness or verification of the resurrected body, but the disciples' failure to arrive in time.

Sec: No, it really doesn't. And there's nothing in Mark that indicates that. In fact, there's much that argues the opposite. Jesus' passion predictions say that He will 'go ahead of you into Galilee' on the third day, so if anything that's where they should've been, not patiently waiting at the tomb.

E: The disciples go to rub spices on Jesus' dead body, thus acting on the false assumption that Jesus was still dead. But when they arrive at the tomb they find it empty: an angel descends and tells them they're too late.

Sec: Uh-huh, they were 4 minutes late! They failed Jesus! They should've had their watches synchronized. Instead they kept asking that ditzy Mary Magdalane for the time and silly her - she forget to adjust for daylight-savings. HUGE failure. Jesus will be VERY disappointed. And consistent with this is that Mark does NOT have the MAIN disciples, namely the apostles, check the tomb and miss him as well. They were also told by Jesus: "Be at the tomb 9:00 sharp! Last one there's a rotten soul."

E: They're not in the place Jesus told them to be, in Galilee.

Sec: Oh but wait! You said Mark's point is that they MISSED Jesus. But why does the angel tell them to deliver a message to the disciples as if the appearances are yet to come! Last chance for them I suppose! LOL.

E: They've failed to understand spiritual truth yet again.

Sec: Yup, poor foolish women. We know that they were right alongside Jesus when he said he would appear before the APOSTLES in Galilee. Right in Mark it says: "And he turned to the women, shook his finger, and said unto them 'You be sure and get there too now!'".

E: But not to worry. They should have faith and go to Galilee where they will find him just as he promised. Given that Mark wanted to have this ending to make a moral and spiritual point, and of course given that he needed the crucifixion scene, he HAD to have a burial to connect them.

Sec: Not really. He could've just had an angel pop up in the women's homes while they were mourning Jesus and complaining about how he wasn't the Messiah they hoped for: "Snap out of it, girls! Weren't you paying attention when he shook his finger at you on the Mount? Put on your nicest dresses and meet Him in Galilee! You've already failed Him but He'll forgive you." Its fun to speculate.

E: But there are other reasons for the burial scene besides historicity. As I said, were Mark to tell that Jesus had been thrown into a common grave or left on the crucifixion to rot and be eaten by wild animals, the resurrection account would have gone much less smoothly.

Sec: I don't think so with the common grave scenario.

E: There could have been witnesses, first of all, which would have undermined Mark's decision to end the gospel on the failure precisely of anyone to see the risen Jesus,to have understood Jesus enough to have trusted him and gone to the right place.

Sec: Oh of course, we all know Jews hang out near the common grave of criminals during Passover week. On a serious note, this has to be the weakest thing I have ever heard. Could have been witnesses? Yeah, but all Mark has to do is say that there WEREN'T ANY! This whole scenario is just really really really bad, Earl. Mark certainly has NO intentions of saying the apostles never saw Jesus. And the whole "missed the bus" motif isn't found anywhere but in your own brain. If this were Mark's intention he could've had the angel chastise the women, had Jesus appear to the men and chastise them, etc. instead of leaving it up to EARL, on-line researcher, 2000 years later, to first put forth the hypothesis.

E: The resurrection had to take place in isolation and solitude.

Sec: You haven't given any good reason for this.

E: And of course, the image of a decomposing Jesus would have been utterly disheartening to Mark's readers.

Sec: 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.

E: Given the Roman presumption against burial,

Sec: Nope, can't give it to you because you haven't established it as the case for Jews.

E: there would still have been the hope that Jesus had been buried according to Jewish law.

Sec: Too bad its absent in Mark. No mourning, and no burial in an ancestral tomb.

E: Thus Mark creates Joseph of Arimathea, adding the Jewish details for verisimilitude to seal the point that the Jewish law had been followed.

Sec: See above, and the Jewish law wouldn't have been violated had Jesus been dumped in a common grave.

E: Christians can trust at least--even if they can't know for certain given the time lapse and the Roman presumption against burial--that God would not have let Jesus decompose.

Sec: Can they really? 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.

E: Indeed, given Jesus' divinity it would have been absolutely ludicrous and blasphemous to think that Jesus could have decomposed. God is the essence of life; He cannot decompose. Since Jesus was divine he could not have been left in a common grave or on the cross to face the elements and wild animals.

Sec: Bah, more speculation. Same thing could be said for Jesus being whipped and crucified and humiliated.

E: There is also the element of back-handed apologetics found in the lesson to be drawn from Joseph's good deed. Whereas the Jewish leaders were evil in plotting against Jesus to have him killed, at least one of them was pious enough to show concern for Jesus, and likewise, Mark would have said, Jews in Mark's time should show compassion for Christians if only out of authentic Judaism rather than a conversion to Christianity.

Sec: Which would have meant absolutely nothing. 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...

E: Now that's the weakest form of back-handed apologetics, but it's consistent with Brown's account.

Sec: There is an infinite amount of speculation we can do. Mere consistency means what exactly? Your speculation is particularly elastic though, Earl.

E: The stronger form follows if Joseph was a follower of Jesus and wanted to bury Jesus for personal reasons. In that case, Mark makes a much stronger friend out of his enemy, indeed the conversion of a council member to Christianity.

Sec: Which we should see every sign of in Mark if that is his intention and which I've already commented on in a previous post.

E: Brown thinks Jewish law would in fact have overridden any other consideration, and that some pious Jew would actually have insisted on Jesus' burial in accordance with Deut.21:22-23. But there are some problems with this. First, if the motivation for burying Jesus was to follow Jewish law, the whole council would have been in favour of it, not just one member.

Sec: So what? Do they all need to come down and do it? All 70 or so of them? Who's to say Joe of A. is not just sent by them to take care of it? No problem here.

E: Is Joseph merely symbolic of the whole council? Brown considers some plural declarations in the NT that "they," the Jews, had taken Jesus down and buried him. Brown thinks these are just false memories. There was only one pious Jew who wanted to follow the law (1219). Brown wants to draw this conclusion to keep the overall accuracy level of Mark's burial tradition high. But this is awkward. If following this law mattered enough that one of the very members who had plotted to have Jesus executed wanted to give Jesus the benefit of burial, surely this law would had to have been important enough to have occurred to more than one of the council members.

Sec: And there's nothing to say it didn't. So there's no problem.

E: To seal the deal wouldn't it have been prudent for the whole council to insist on the matter? Did Joseph in fact speak for the whole council?

Sec: Not if he's a sympathizer of Jesus, but if he isn't then perhaps he did.

E: This leads to a related problem: if it were normal procedure especially on Passover for the Romans to release for burial crucified persons out of respect for Jewish law, why would Pilate have had to wait for a pious Jew to approach him on the matter? Why wouldn't the Romans themselves have automatically taken care of the burial, as the Gospel of Peter in fact relates that they did?

Sec: No one said Pilate had to wait around. On Brown's scenario Joe could be just taking the extra precaution. No problem here either.

E: The fact that Mark has a pious Jew "boldly" ask Pilate for the body by itself seems to indicate a presumption against the normalcy of this procedure, or the paramount importance of Deut.21:22 to everyone, including Pilate who Mark says automatically released the body.

Sec: Or if Joe of A. is a sympathizer he's just afraid to arouse suspicion of insurrectionary sympathy on Pilate's part, or maybe even on the part of other Jews.

E: But given the importance of the Jewish law to the Romans regarding burial, there's another explanation for why someone would have had to confront Pilate and ask for the body. The key here is Pilate's surprise that Jesus was already dead. Jesus died very quickly so the Roman officials who would have been responsible for burying the body, such as Pilate, hadn't yet discovered that Jesus had died. Jesus' early death was surprising. So why did Jesus die so early? One answer has to do merely with Mark's Passover symbolism. Mark was eager to marry the Passion narrative's conclusion with the end of the Passover feast.

Sec: Actually, we don't know this at all. More speculation from Earl.

E: Therefore Jesus had to die quickly to catch the end of Passover. For matters of symbolism Mark wouldn't have wanted the Passion narrative to spill over to the Sabbath, the beginning of the fast. Indeed Mark keeps his Passion narrative on a tight schedule, carefully noting the time at several evenly spread points, including Jesus' death.

Sec: So what? He notes the time. That means he's on a tight schedule to meet the deadline for the Passover typology! Can't be late! Yeah, Mark noting the time in anticipation of the end of Passover is akin to a business man checking his watch throughout the day before the big meeting with the Boss, right? He's trying to develop an anticipation on the part of the reader who surely is aware of the Passover deadline given all those HUGE clues Mark's left in the narrative.

E: In addition, for Deut.21:22 technically to have applied Jesus would had to have died before sundown.

Sec: That applies to a corpse, Earl.

E: If we grant, therefore, Brown's point about the importance of Jewish law as the reason for automatic burial, once again Mark would have had, for reasons purely of making a coherent narrative, a requirement for the Joseph-Pilate confrontation. The Romans would normally have taken care of burial out of deference to Jewish law, and they wouldn't have had to be asked for the release of the body.

Sec: But still could have been.

E: They wouldn't have left the matter to chance, because keeping the peace and precluding the possibility of a riot would have been paramount for them as practical governors. But Mark HAS to have someone confront Pilate because Pilate couldn't yet have known that Jesus had died,

Sec: LOL, why not, Earl?

E: and Jesus had died so soon to complete Mark's Passover symbolism and to have Deut.21:22 apply in the first place.

Sec: None of which has any support anywhere in the actual narrative.

E: My point, then, is that there appear to be reasons for Mark's request for the burial other than merely an interest in historical accuracy on Mark's part.

Sec: You certainly haven't given any good ones.

E: There is another problem. The basis of Deut.21:22 is elementary respect for criminals as God's creatures. This law against letting a criminal rot on a tree is based on a spiritual understanding that everyone should be treated with respect as beings created in God's image. It's hard, therefore, to picture one of the people who had plotted to have Jesus murdered on the basis of a ludicrous charge of blasphemy still holding this spiritual perspective and swallowing his pride to ask Pilate to treat Jesus' body with respect, contradicting his earlier jealous disregard for Jesus' welfare.

Sec: 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. I've already discussed this.

E: Indeed, Mark says not that Joseph followed the law in a mechanical, heartless fashion, but that Joseph "was waiting for the kingdom of God." So even if a pious Jew could have wanted to have Jesus buried, Mark's portrayal of the Jewish leaders is hardly of pious, spiritual individuals who can be described as waiting for God's kingdom, a Christian rather than a Jewish term.

Sec: 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.

E: Another objection is that even if the Jews wanted Jesus buried in accordance with Jewish law, the whole matter would have been entirely up to Pilate, and it's quite uncertain how likely Pilate would have been to defer to Jewish law over following through with the harsh logic of crucifixion for the sake of making an example of Jesus.

Sec: We've been through this. We just "don't know". This lack of knowledge isn't evidence against the burial narrative.

E: There are arguments on both sides of this crucial issue, and I've dealt with the Sejanus-Tiberius-Philo argument in my second last post. Pilate could have had reasons to hand Jesus over: he wouldn't have wanted to stir up unnecessary trouble with the Jewish leaders or a mob; he might have felt mercy for Jesus' family or Jesus himself (since according to Mark Pilate didn't think Jesus was guilty of anything worthy of crucifixion). But there are counter-arguments to all these points.

Sec: You can make a counter-argument against any point.

E: By crucifying Jesus the damage was already done with regard to making a martyr of Jesus and stirring up trouble for Jesus' followers.

Sec: All insignificant to the Jewish population. Crucifying Jesus was 'damage-control' not 'damage'.

E: Regarding the Jewish leaders, it would have been practical of Pilate to strike a compromise. After all, according to Mark, Pilate had gone ahead and granted an unnecessary execution for the sake of the Jewish leaders' jealousy and pettiness (15:10), so the least the Jewish leaders could do in return would have been to let Roman penal principles run their course and forget about burial, now that the damage was done. Pilate had already pleased the Jewish leaders, and now it would have been time to please Rome, by maintaining the image of Rome as utterly intolerant of traitors.

Sec: Or, Pilate could've granted the body because he realized that Jesus had been put to death unjustly.

E: The evidence we have regarding Pilate's character is contradictory between the gospels, Josephus and other sources.

Sec: Not given the scenario I put forth with Sejanus.

E: We simply don't know exactly how merciful, brutal, or anti-Semitic he was. A case can be made on either side. So the fact remains that on this crucial point we don't know that Pilate would have granted any request to have Jesus buried.

Sec: Right, we don't know anything.

E: It had nothing to do with abstract Roman principles; the matter would have been left entirely in the hands of the local Governor, in this case Pilate. This is why the Sejanus-Tiberius-Philo argument is important for the traditionalist, but as I showed in my earlier post at the very least the claim that Tiberius wrote a letter to change Pilate's behaviour is not overly probable.

Sec: But still has great explanatory scope and undercuts your initial attempt to render the scenario improbable. Now you just can't say.

E: Another problem with Brown's account centers around his optimism regarding the likelihood of the transmission of such details as the confrontation of Pilate and Joseph and their conversation. It's not at all obvious that these details would have been preserved in oral transmission, that someone named "Joseph from Arimathea," a council member, asked Pilate for the body, that Pilate was then surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead and had to learn from the centurion that this was so.

Sec: 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.

E: These details can very easily be fictitious plot fillers. Brown simply goes through them one by one and shows that they're not egregiously implausible (1221-2). The plausibility in particular of Pilate himself being concerned with the disposal of crucified bodies or being amazed by the short period of Jesus' duration on the cross do seem rather hard to take, though.

Sec: 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?

E: Brown says that Jesus' short survival on the cross was unusual, but he grants that Pilate would have been an expert on these matters. As Brown notes, the length of survival on the cross would have depended on the physical condition of the person. Yet Pilate had already gotten a good look at Jesus' physical condition during the trial, so his surprise is not so easy to explain.

Sec: 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.

E: In any case, plausibility shouldn't be confused with probability.

Sec: Chant this 10 times before your next post.

E: Any halfway decent writer can write a plausible but fictional scene. What is the probability that these details survived oral transmission over a period of decades?

A couple of other matters:

How could a Christian like Mark have given such a noble task to a Jew, given the hostile relationship between Jews and Christians in Mark's time? Doesn't that argue for Joseph's historicity? It would, I think, if Mark had lavished praise on Joseph or made him a clear hero. It's hard to see how a Christian could emphasize the super-righteousness of a Jew given the hostile relationship between Jews and Christians at Mark's time. But Mark doesn't emphasize Joseph's heroism at all, as Brown notes.

Sec: No, he has him performing what is one of the most important tasks, according to the Torah and portrays him as a righteous man. That's enough to make it obvious that Mark is portraying him in a favorable light. If not he would've emphasized that this was a burial by Jesus' enemies.

E: Joseph simply comes in, fulfils his obligation to Jewish law, thereby providing the burial scene required by Mark's narrative (the middle territory between the necessary crucifixion and resurrection), and disappears. The most Mark says about Joseph is that he "was waiting for the Kingdom of God," and that he summoned "courage," or went "boldly" to go see Pilate. But these can be explained in Brown's terms, but to show plausibility without probability. "Waiting for the Kingdom of God" needn't have meant righteous in the special Christian sense, but just a relatively pious Jew.

Sec: Which is indeed portraying Joe in a favorable light, over and against the disciples who have abandoned their Lord.

E: Once again, this plausibility doesn't equal historicity. It only means that Brown's account is consistent with historicity. It's also consistent with fiction aiming at verisimilitude.

Sec: Which can be said about anything. This is a catch-all answer to any scenario a person just doesn't like.

E: Although Jesus' followers had abandoned Jesus' body and disappeared whereas Joseph did not, that still doesn't make Joseph particularly heroic, since as one of the council members who had executed Jesus he had nothing to fear whereas Jesus' followers certainly did,

Sec: Obviously Mark portrays him as having something to fear, and there's nothing in Mark that says Joe specifically voted for Jesus' death. Already addressed this as well.

E: and Mark used the failure of the disciples throughout his narrative for didactic purposes.

Sec: Or just because it was true, and Mark was telling the truth at the expense of portraying the Christian leadership in a good light.

E: He certainly wasn't troubled by the disciples' failures, but on the contrary turned them into a broad theme in his narrative.

Sec: Which, if it didn't stem from the tradition, would get some people really pissed wouldn't it?

E: Furthermore, Jesus' women followers apparently did not abandon Jesus, and because they went to put spices on Jesus' body they stand as more righteous than Joseph who was just going by the letter of the law with no special regard for Jesus, as Brown argues.

Sec: So what? Mark has them failing as well. They are told to go tell the disciples and they go and "tell no one".

E: Brown's arguments for plausibility don't demonstrate probability, given the possibility that Mark added plausibility for verisimilitude.

Sec: Nothing is ever going to demonstrate probability to someone who has an infinite bag of speculation to constantly reach into. So there's no point in even taking anything you say seriously. Its all just one big "I don't know" now. There's no use in discussing probability. You can't possibly show any improbabilities in the burial account now that I'm employing your tactics. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

E: Why would Mark have said that "all" the council members condemned Jesus, thus needlessly harming the believability of his account?

Sec: I already discussed this. Has Earl read it and slipped in the comment on it in response to Nomad as if he's considered it anew, or just ignored my post?

E: One possibility is that Mark simply slipped up and exaggerated in saying that the whole council condemned him.

Sec: See my post. Its not necessary that he slipped up at all. Its perfectly consistent with Mark's tendancies.

E: But the other possibility is that Mark was engaging in back-handed apologetics, making one of the evil council members convert if not all the way to Christianity at least to a spiritual appreciation of the "kingdom of God," a sort of halfway house between Judaism and Christianity.

Sec: See my response to this as well. Earl seems to like to reiterate the same old arguments, without interacting with my commentary on them, making them unnecessarily loooooooooonger and more time-consuming to respond to with each post.

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

Sec: Yup, that's Mark for you. He's a bright guy. He knows that even if Jews don't accept Jesus as the Messiah, they can still consider a Messianic pretender, who has been cursed by God, and who's disciples are leading Jews astray, a good guy.

SecWebLurker



[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited March 31, 2001).]
 
Old 03-31-2001, 09:21 AM   #60
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I'm sorry Earl, but your post is so full of wild speculations that I am left to wonder if you are even taking this subject seriously. Let's lay the historical account out one more time, and see why the burial tradition is the only plausible explanation for what happened with Jesus' body. In so doing, we do not have to make any appeals to any kind of supernatural speculations, and therefore can confine ourselves to the realm of perfectly naturalistic explanations.

First, was Jesus buried?

Of course he was. Not only did all of the Gospels agree on this point, but so does Paul (1 Corinthians 15:4), and all serious scholars (including the Jesus Seminar that you like to quote collectively as some kind of holy of holy authority) agree that Paul was passing on a tradition that was given to him extremely early, probably inside of 3 years of Jesus' death.

Second, was Joseph of Arimathea historical?

Again, of course he is. Outside of wild speculations to the contrary (made necessary solely because some wish to remain sceptical of the burial no matter what), this is not even a seriously disputed point.

"...the evangelists manifestly do (Grant's emphasis in original) include some unpalatable or even incomprehensible doings and sayings of Jesus, and incidents in his life. They include them because they were so indissolubly incorporated in the tradition that their elimination was impracticable; in other words, because they were genuine. Examples are: ...the friendliness of a member of that much-criticized class, the scribes; the Suffering Servant and the Son of Man teaching...; and his burial by a Jew, a member of the hated Sanhedrin, without the participation of any of his own disciples."
(M. Grant, Jesus, [London, 1977], pg. 203).


Quite simply, for serious historians like Brown, Grant, Griffith-Jones, Lane Fox, ect. it is ridiculous to consider Joseph of Arimathea to be a fabrication. The only people that remain sceptical on such a thing do so for theological reasons alone.

Next, was Pilate so clueless about Jewish sensibilities (especially during the Passover) that he would have not realized that leaving Jesus on the cross during the Sabbath would have caused a riot?

Here I can only think that Earl was getting carried away with his need to justify his scepticism of the whole burial thing. Pilate had already been rapped once by Tiberius for being insensitive to the Jews (26AD, nasty stuff about violating the Temple and what not). Further, a previous governor had been given the boot when his own incompetence caused rioting shortly after Herod the Great's death in 4BC. Even the insane Caligula had the sense not to rile up the natives unnecessarily (in 41AD). Judaea was an especially difficult province to run, the Sanhedrin was specifically set up to help the governor avoid various faus pas (like breaking Jewish burial laws).

Quite simply, we do not study history merely by seeing who can come up with the most or best theory to explain each and every event. If the people that lived at the time give us a workable and probable explanation, then we go with it unless someone offers extraordinary evidence as to why they original explanation could not have happened.

If we were to employ Earl's methods to the study of history, then we would have to admit that we don't really know anything at all about anything that happened in the past. Did Julius Caesar get murdered in the Senate? Maybe not. Maybe he slipped in the tub, cracked open his head and bled to death. A tragic ending was invented after the fact to add an element of pathos to his life, and to further the ambitions of Mark Antony against his enemies (especially Brutus and Crassus). How about Augustus being murdered by his wife Livia? I read that in Robert Graves I Claudius. It looked perfectly plausible to me. On the other hand, the speculation was made up out of whole cloth by Graves and has no supporting evidence at all.

For all of his words, Earl's post amounts to exactly the same thing. He offers us an elaborate theory, driven solely by the need to refute what is reported in Paul, Mark and the Gospels. He has no supporting evidence for his arguments (outside of the fact that he can make them), and constructs his elaborate fiction out of thin air. He has as many "might have beens", and "could be's", and "the possibility of's" in his theories than do the best of the conspiracy theory nuts on JFK's assination, Roswell, Area 52, and any other speculative venture we might care to examine. I'm sorry Earl, but I will have to ask you to do better than this, and actually offer some evidenciary support to give more than the air of plausibility to your theorizing.

Bottom line, just because he can think it up doesn't make it so, and Earl should know this. If he wants to refute the burial tradition, he needs to offer actual evidence that what is reported by Paul and Mark (especially) had to be made up. Otherwise, we might as well just admit that history is unknowable to us, and agree with Henry Ford Sr. that history really is bunk.

What you have offered may be good story telling Earl, but it is not good methodology when studying history.

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited March 31, 2001).]
 
 

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