To Stephen Carlson, Bob Schacht et al:
Stephen, you have responded to my March 22 post ("Temple Act not Jerusalem
Entry Caused Jesus' Death"), and raised in your response some questions
about my use of James C. Scott's description of dominant-subordinate
cultures, and the power relationship between dominants and subordinates in
those cultures, as a basis for my challenging Paula Fredriksen's thesis
regarding the cause for Jesus' crucifixion by Pilate. Bob, your own
problematic issues with my challenge to Fredriksen's thesis.
Because of the length of the essay required to response to the issues you
raise, Stephen, as well as you, Bob, I am dividing my response into two
essays, in themselves lengthy. In this first essay, I set forth what I
consider was Jesus' hidden transcript (using Scott's term), its
counter-ideological intent and its public transcript focus, something
Fredriksen fails to do. She refers to the content and tenor of Jesus'
message of the kingdom of God, which Pilate and Caiaphas, she posits, knew,
but she never identifies what the content or tenor of Jesus' message which
Pilate and Caiaphas are suppose to have known.
Before describing Jesus' hidden transcript. I begin this essay with a
prolegomena in which I provide essential background information on
dominant-subordinate cultures, the power relationship between dominants and
subordinates and the relationship of the subordinates' hidden transcript to
the dominants' public transcript.
I. Prolegomena to Jesus' Hidden Transcript and Its Counter-ideological
In his book, _Domination and the Arts of Resistance_, James C. Scott makes
the following key points about the dominants' public transcript in a
dominant-subordinate culture and the subordinates' alternative means to
respond to the dominants' transcripts.
A. "The theatrical imperatives that normally prevail in situations of
domination," Scott observes, "produce a public transcript in close
conformity with how the dominant group would wish things to appear. . . .
The result is that the public transcript - barring a crisis - is
systematically skewed in the direction of the libretto, the discourse,
represented by the dominant. In ideological terms the public transcript will
typically, by its accommodationist tone, provide convincing evidence for the
hegemony of dominant values, for the hegemony of dominant discourse" (4).
B. Subordinates, according to Scott, have three different means by which to
respond to their dominants' public transcript, its material exploitation and
its oppressive dehumanization.
(1) "The safest and most public form of political discourse [for the
subordinates to engage in vis-a-vis the elites' public discourse] is that
which takes as its basis the flattering self-image of elites. Owing to the
rhetorical concessions that this self-image contains, it offers a
surprisingly large arena for political conflict that appeals to these
concessions and makes use of the room for interpretation within any
ideology" (18). Thus, "[i]n the short run, it is in the interest of the
subordinate to produce a more or less credible performance, speaking the
lines and making the gestures he knows are expected of him" (4).
(2) Another means for subordinates to respond on stage, where the public
transcript of the dominants is the script to be performed, is "a politics of
disguise and anonymity that takes place in public view but is disguised to
have a double meaning or to shield identity of the actors. Rumors, gossip,
folktales, jokes, songs rituals, codes, and euphemism - a good part of the
folk culture of subordinate groups - fits this description" (18).
(3) The third alternative means subordinates have to respond to the
dominants' public transcript is "a . . . sharply contrasting form of
political discourse," namely, "that of the hidden transcript itself. Here,
offstage, where subordinates may gather outside the intimidating gaze of
power, a sharply dissonant political culture is possible" (18). Since
subordinates cannot express their opposition to the public transcript
without great risk to their very being, '[t]he hidden transcript is, for
this reason, the privileged site for nonhegemonic, contrapuntal, dissident,
subversive discourse" (25).
"The goal [then] of . . . subordinate groups, as they conduct their
ideological and material resistance, is precisely to escape detection" (87).
"In ordinary circumstances subordinates have a vested interest in avoiding
any *explicit* display of insubordination." Subordinates typically pursue
"precisely those forms of resistance that avoid any open confrontation with
the structures of authority being resisted. Thus the peasantry, in the
interest of safety and success, has historically preferred to disguise its
resistance" (86: emphasis: TJW).
II. Jesus' Hidden Transcript and Its Counter-ideological Intent and Focus
Scott declares (14) that "the hidden transcript [of subordinates in a
dominant-subordinate culture] is specific to a given social site and to a
particular set of actors." That means, therefore, as I understand Scott,
that the counter ideology of subordinates' hidden transcript is always
directed against the particular ideology of the dominant public transcript
of specific dominants in a specific social setting. Thus, Jesus, as a
landless peasant and TEKNON, was a subordinate in the context of two
dominant-subordinate cultures of Palestine, the Roman imperial culture,
whose authority and power-wielder in Palestine was the Roman governor,
Pilate, and the Judean Temple culture, whose authority and power-wielder was
the high priest, Caiaphas.
I maintain that Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God, and all the content of
Jesus' teaching which interpreted and elucidated the meaning and
actualization of that vision, was Jesus' hidden transcript, a religious
ideology formulated against the ideology of the public transcript of
dominants, who exercised power and control over Judean and Galilean
subordinates. Then which of the two cultures that exercised control over
subordinates in first-century Palestine was Jesus' hidden transcript
specifically formulated against, the Roman imperial culture or the Judean
Temple? Or was his hidden transcript directed against both?
In perusing the Jesus Seminar's data base of sayings of Jesus (authentic
["red" or "pink"] or inauthentic ["gray" or "black"]: see Robert W. Funk,
Roy W. Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, _Five Gospels_, 549-553) and the data
base of specific acts of Jesus (again, authentic or inauthentic: see Robert
W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar, _The Acts of Jesus_, 556-569), I can find
nothing in either data base that indicates that Jesus' kingdom-of-God
ideology was formulated against the ideology of the public transcript of
Roman imperial rule. At best, from what I can ascertain from these data
bases is that Jesus took at an ambivalent, almost value-neutral position
toward Roman rule and domination. The only saying attributed to Jesus in
which he specifically mentions the oppressiveness of Roman imperial rule is
his saying about paying taxes to the emperor. When shown a coin with Caesar's
image, and questioned about payment of taxes to Caesar, Jesus replied,
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that
are God's" (Mk. 12:16f.7/GThom 100; cf. Mt. 22:21; Lk. 20:25).
In that dictum, Jesus does *not* challenge Caesar's right to tax
subordinates. In the one other saying of Jesus in which he addresses the
issue of Roman rule, and specifically its commandeering of service from
subordinates (see Hans Dieter Betz, _The Sermon on the Mount_, 291), Jesus
counsels, "[i]f any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two" (Mt.
5:41). At one level both of these sayings could suggest that Jesus resigned
himself to the inescapable reality of Roman imperial culture, at least until
the advent of the kingdom of God. With respect to specific acts of Jesus, I
can find none that are explicitly directed against the public transcript of
Roman imperial rule. Thus, I can only conclude, based upon the available
evidence, that the public transcript of Roman imperial culture was not the
focus of Jesus' hidden transcript.
However, when it comes to the Judean Temple cult, it is a different matter.
There is strong and repeated indication that Jesus' ideology of the kingdom
of God was fashioned specifically to oppose the ideology of the Judean
Temple cult and its material exploitation and dehumanizing oppression of
Judean and Galilean subordinates. As Richard Rohrbaugh puts it ("The Social
Location of the Markan Audience," _INT_, XLVII. 392): "Very few peasants [in
that dominant-subordinate culture] could have observed the Great Tradition
[the public transcript of the Judean Temple cult] even if they had wanted
to. They came in constant contact with bodily secretions, dead animals, and
unwashed foods. They could not always have afforded to keep Sabbaths and
holy days: In dry-land farming with marginal or uneven rainfall, each day
that passed between the first rains and plowing reduced the final yields.
Nor could they always have afforded the prescribed sacrifices or guaranteed
the cleanliness of meal companions."
There are numerous indications that Jesus was adamantly opposed to the
Judean Temple cult, its Holiness Code with its onerous purity regulations
and laws, its cultic authorities and its stringent application of Torah, in
specific instances. Jesus consistently questions the legal strictures,
challenges the prescriptions and countermands, even repudiates, the
proscriptions of what constitutes much of the Judean Temple cult's public
transcript. Against the Judean cult's Holiness Code, Jesus ate with sinners
(including non-observants of the Judean cult, social outcasts, and
disreputable persons) and tax collectors (Mk. 2:15f.) and associated with
lepers; and, as a healing technique, Jesus even touched lepers (Mk. 1:40f.),
who were considered to be among the most unclean in Judean society (cf. Lev.
13:2-14:57; and see Bruce J. Malina, _The New Testament World, 3rd ed.,
167). In effect Jesus made himself unclean and unholy by doing so (see
Malina, _ New Testament World_,173-177). As Rohrbaugh puts it ("The Social
Location," 392): "The historical Jesus may have been seen as unholy and
unwashed by the religious elite, and his behavior may have seen iconoclastic
or even perverse."
Iconoclastically, I submit, Jesus in his hidden transcript fashioned a
counter ideology against the Temple cult's public transcript, - a hidden
transcript which Jesus taught and proclaimed parabolically and
aphoristically to other subordinates who were not only materially exploited
and socially marginalized by the Temple cult authorities, but also, and most
important, had been robbed of their human dignity and self-worth by cultic
authorities via the authorities public transcript founded on the ideology of
the Holiness Code and strict observance of Torah.
A. Jesus' Parabolic Attack on the Temple Cult's Public Transcript
In his attack upon the cult's purity ideology, Jesus told five parables in
which the unclean or unholy is cast in a positive rather than negative
light, as the unclean were characteristically depicted by the Judean cult.
In Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32), it is the unclean
son - who in his debauchery engages in profligate living and ends up as the
feeder of pigs - who stands in positive contrast to the "squeaky clean"
older son. In Jesus' Parable of the Great Banquet it is the cultically
delineated unclean riffraff of the streets and byways who end up seated at
the banquet table of the kingdom (Lk. 14:16-24). In Jesus' Parable of the
Leaven (Mt. 13:33; Lk. 13:21; GTh. 96), it is leaven that is featured as a
positive symbol for the kingdom in contrast to the negative, corrupting way
in which it is viewed in the public transcript of the Temple cult.
In his parable about a Samaritan, Jesus told a story in which a Samaritan
(Lk. 10:30-35), viewed by the Temple cult as racially, inherently and
permanently unclean, responds to dire human need in contrast to a priest and
Levite, the holiest in the Temple cult's hierarchal stratification of
holiness (see Malina, 173f.), who choose to observe Torah's dictates with
respect to preserving their ritual purity (see Lev. 21:1ff) against the risk
of contaminating themselves by going to the assistance of a man left
"half-dead" by the attack of robbers (Lk. 10:30). In framing the story in
the way he did, Jesus lifted up the cultically disreputable and disdained
Samaritan as a model of compassion and denigrated the Torah-observant and
Torah-restrained priest and Levite.
In Jesus' Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Lk. 18:9-14), the
conventional cultic expectations are reversed by the story's conclusion. The
unclean, unholy tax collector, cultically consigned to outside of the Temple
holiness map (so: Brandon. B. Scott, _Hear Then the Parable_, 96), is
included within the kingdom of God. Moreover, as Brandon Scott observes,
(97), "[t]his parable subverts the metaphorical structure that sees the
kingdom of God as temple. Given this metaphorical system, things associated
with the temple are holy and in the kingdom, and things not associated with
the temple are unholy and outside the kingdom. In the parable the holy is
outside the kingdom and the unholy is inside the kingdom." Thus, in this
parabolic story the cultically righteous and holy Pharisee ends up outside
the map of the kingdom (Scott, 97).
B. Jesus' Aphoristic Attack upon the Temple Cult Public Transcript
Aphoristically, Jesus attacked and subverted the Temple cult's purity rules
and regulations by cryptically dismissing and countermanding them,
particularly with respect to four fundamental identity-defining indicators
of Judean cultic practice. The Judean cultic indicators I have in mind are
the four that Jonathan Reed (_Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus_, and John
Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed, _Excavating Jesus_) reports
archaeologists have uncovered in Judea and Galilee. They are (1) plastered
stepped pools or *miqwaoth* used for ritual cleansing via immersion, (2)
chalk (limestone) vessels - including basins, bowls and cups - which were
deemed impervious to contamination, and, thus, used to hold and preserve
liquids in their purity, (3) ossuaries used for secondary burial in loculi
tombs, and (4) bone profiles indicating the lack of pork in the diet (see
Reed, _ Archaeology_, 44, cf. 45-50, 53, 177, 217).
As I have suggested, there is strong evidence that Jesus aphoristically
dismissed or repudiated the cultic ritual observance related to all four of
these identity indicators of Judean cultic practice. With respect to the
Judean ethnic identity marker indicating absence of pork in the diet, Jesus
clearly rebelled against the cult's kosher diet, with its emphatic
proscription against eating pork. Jesus in the formulation of his hidden
transcript declared that one is not defiled by what one eats. He assured his
disciples that "[w]hat goes into your mouth will not defile you" (GThom.
14:5// Mk. 7:14). Not only that, Jesus, in effect, instructed his disciples
to disregard any dietary restrictions when they were the guests of others
during their itinerant ministry, namely: "If you go into any region and walk
about in the countryside, when people take you in, *eat what they serve
you*" (GThom. 14:4; translation: Jesus Seminar's _Five Gospels_).
In yet a different way, Jesus aphoristically controverted the need for and
the Judean cultic requirement of secondary burial. In his article, "'Let the
Dead Bury Their Own Dead': Secondary Burial and Matt 8:21-22," _HTR_, 83:1
(1990) 31-43, Byron R. McCane makes a convincing case for the basis of Jesus'
retort to the man requesting that he be able to bury his father before
becoming a disciple. Jesus responds to the man's importuning with the now
famous rejoinder, "Let the dead bury their own dead." McCane proposes that
what the man was asking of Jesus was not for time to bury his father who had
just died. Had that been the case, i.e., the man's father had just died, he
would not have been there engaging in an exchange with Jesus on
discipleship. For, since the burial of the deceased was expected to take
place on the day of death, the man would have been home attending to the
burial of his father. Rather, what the man was requesting of Jesus was to
delay his commitment to discipleship until he had completed the Judean
obligatory, secondary burial of the bones of his deceased father a year
after the initial burial following his father's death - that is, a second
burial in an ossuary. In Jesus' time, one of the obligatory responsibilities
of a son was to rebury his father's bones "as the final act in a long and
strictly prescribed ritual of mourning" (McCane, 37). McCane notes that in
rabbinic literature such secondary burial was an important event for an
observant Jewish family (36f.).
Thus, viewed from the obligation of a son to rebury the bones of his father
in an ossuary, the exchange between the man and Jesus makes eminent sense.
The man was asking to delay his discipleship until he had completed the
ossuary burial of his father's bones. Such a delay could have been almost a
year in duration. Understood from this cultic context, Jesus' rejoinder is
obviously intended to challenge the man's attempt to put off his decision
for the kingdom by dismissing his excuse for doing so. The import of Jesus'
penetrating quip to the man was directed to the dead within the tomb,
namely, those already secondarily buried in their ossuaries should take care
of the secondary, ossuary burial of his father. Thus, not only is Jesus'
response in effect a directive to the man to dishonor his father, thereby
controverting the fifth commandment (so McCane, 40-41; and see below), but,
I submit, it was a stinging attack upon the Judean practice of secondary
burial in ossuaries, an attack which is one more indication of Jesus'
rejection of the Judean Temple establishment's public transcript.
The evidence that Jesus also dissented from and disregarded the purity
requirements of the Judean cult represented in the other two archaeological
indicators to which Reed points is also suggested in Jesus' dismissal of
ritual purity washing. Consider the following passage from Mark: "Now when
the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered
around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled
hands, that is, without washing them . . . . So the Pharisees and the
scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the
tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" (7:1-2, 5). In this
instance, as the Jesus Seminar proposes (_Five Gospels_, 66), "the disciples
are criticized for '*unJudean behavior*' (emphasis: mine), of behaving like
pagans." Now, if Jesus and his disciples were unJudean in their failure to
follow the purity code and wash their hands before eating, is it likely that
Jesus would have been more Judean in his behavior with respect to the
observance of other ritual purity washing, such as the use of *miqwaoth*?
Contra Reed (_Archaeology_, 57), I strongly doubt it.
Similarly, with respect to the use of stone vessels, per purity
requirements, I submit that Jesus did not consider such purity
fastidiousness necessary either. For on one occasion he delivered this
aphoristic critique of purity: "Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Don't
you understand that the one who made the inside is also the one who made the
outside" (GThom. 89:1-2: translation: _Five Gospels_). The Jesus Seminar
(_Five Gospels_, 521) posits that "[t]he aphorism [GTh. 89] . . . appears to
have been a criticism [by Jesus] of the ritual washing of vessels such as
cups," a ritual practice mandated by Lev. 11:29-34 (cf. Jesus Seminar, _Acts
of Jesus_, 95). Again, if Jesus was not ritually fastidious about washing
the outside of a cup for the sake of purity and in observance of the mandate
of Torah - as the Pharisees apparently were in their attention to the proper
cleaning of cups, pots and kettles (Mk. 7:4) - would he have paid much
attention to the need to use chalk or limestone vessels - considered by the
Mishnah, as Reed reports (_Archaeology_, 44), to be "impervious to ritual
impurity" - for the purpose of ensuring purity and guarding against the
possibility of defilement? Again, contra Reed (57), I doubt it.
C. Jesus Versus Strict Application of Torah Commandments
But opposition to the Judean purity codes and practice was not the only way
in which Jesus rebelled against the oppressive Judean cultic hegemony
imposed via its public transcript upon his native Galilee. Jesus also
subverted portions of the very heart of the Torah, the Ten Commandments. He
controverted the commandment to honor father and mother by (1) stipulating
that if one did not hate father and mother, i.e, render parental obligations
as secondary to commitment to the kingdom of God, one could not be his
disciple (Lk. 14:26), and (2) telling, as noted above, a potential disciple
to follow him and disregard his filial responsibility to bury his father
("Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead"). In his own case, Jesus
seemingly disregards strict observance of the fifth commandment by appearing
to minimize, even dismiss, honoring his own mother, if not disassociating
himself from her. When informed on one occasion that "his brother and mother
are standing outside" (GThom. 99:1), Jesus declares that "[t]hose who do
want my Father wants are my brothers and my mother" (GThom. 99:2;
translation: _Five Gospels_; and see Mk. 3:31-35).
Jesus also controverted the strict observance of the Sabbath commandment by
declaring that "the Sabbath was made for humans and not humans for the
Sabbath" (Mk. 2:27). Likewise, Jesus (see Mk. 2:16; and Jesus Seminar [_Acts
of Jesus_. 67; _Five Gospels_, 48]), contrary to observant Judeans
(including John the Baptist), apparently disregarded mandates of Torah (Lev.
16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Num. 29:7) and other scriptural directives to fast
(e.g. Ezra 8:21-23; Neb. 9:1; Zech. 8:19; and cf., John Muddiman, "Fast,
Fasting," in _ABD_, 2. 773f.).
D. Jesus versus the Judean Cultic Authorities
Not only did Jesus controvert the Judean cultic laws and practices but Jesus
also inveighed against the Judean cultic authorities. He denounced, via a
stinging caricature, the Judean establishment's zealous cultic proponents,
namely, the scribes and Pharisees. He castigated the scribes "who like to
parade around in long robes, and insist on being addressed properly in
marketplaces, and prefer important seats in the synagogues and the best
couches at banquets" (Mk. 12:38; translation: _Five Gospels_). He lambasted
the Pharisees for similar offensive flaunting of their cultic status (Lk.
11:43). He excoriated both Pharisees and scribes because "they have taken
the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered, and have
not allowed those who want to enter to do so" (GThom. 39:1-2; translation:
_Five Gospels_; and see Q 11:52).
Moreover, as a healer and exorcist (see Stevan Davies, _Jesus the Healer_),
Jesus seems to see his healings and exorcisms as an authoritative substitute
for the Torah-authoritating function and role of the priests. Consider in
this regard Jesus' metaphorical avowal that he casts out demons by "the
finger of God," and in so doing - and according to his hidden transcript -
the kingdom of God is made manifest in his exorcisms (Q11:20). Jonathan K.
Smith has made the case in his article, "Temple and the Magician," (in _God's
Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of Nils Alstrup Dahl_, ed. J.
Jervell, Wayne Meeks, 233-247) that as early as the second century BCE holy
men, who were magicians or miracle workers, presented themselves, and were
experienced by those who were drawn to them for healing, as embodying the
supernatural power of divinity which could transform debilitating life
situations. This embodiment of divine power stood in contrast and, as a
result, competed with the Temple, which was considered to be the seat of
divine presence, and its cultic rituals, performed by the priesthood, which
were considered the sole divinely-ordained mediating agency of healing.
Finally, in a provocative condemnation of the public transcript of the
Judean Temple cult, its cultic practices and its priestly establishment,
Jesus drove from the Temple its "vendors and shoppers" (see Jesus Seminar,
_Acts of Jesus_, 121f.). He likely coupled that provocative, demonstrative
act against the Judean public transcript with a chastising declaration
against the Temple cult (see John Dominic Crossan, _The Historical Jesus_,
355-359; and the Jesus Seminar, _Five Gospels_, 513).
The conclusion I draw from this review of Jesus' attitude and behavior
toward the Judean Temple cult, its cultic laws, regulations and practices,
and its authorities, is that, with respect to almost every aspect of Judean
cultic ideology, and its imposed hegemony on Galilee, Jesus dissented from
its public transcript and in his hidden transcript set himself in opposition
to the cult. And when Jesus went public with his hidden transcript in the
Temple at the fateful Passover, by his demonstrative act against the Temple
cult, he was immediately arrested and subsequently crucified.
To say that is not to suggest that Jesus had not made any trips to Jerusalem
before the fateful Passover. It is quite likely that Jesus made earlier
trips to Jerusalem were he observed at close hand the operation of the
Temple cult and its authorities. But, on those occasions, contra Fredriksen
and the Johannine schema of Jesus' appearances in Jerusalem, Jesus did not
reveal his hidden transcript "on stage" for the cultic authorities to become
aware of or to be confronted by, as John portrays Jesus' adversarial
encounters with "the Jews" during multiple feasts. Had Jesus gone "on stage"
with his hidden transcript in full awareness of the Temple authorities, as a
subordinate in a dominant-subordinate culture, as James Scott has
convincingly argued, Jesus would have been done away with by the Temple
dominants, in a similar fashion as he was done away with at his last
Passover appearance in Jerusalem.