Professor Crossan wrote:
"prophecy historicized," John, was used originally for a very
specific purpose. Granted the historicity of the crucifixion, where did
all those detailed hour by hour, word by word, blow by blow, data come
from? I asked whether it came from history remembered and answered that
it came from prophecy historicized.
Thank you for responding to this question (and thanks to John Bristow for
asking it), because it was something I wanted to ask you about anyway.
What I really like about this section of your book (May I refer to it as
TBOC?) is that it poses here two alternative hypotheses, which you
name above, to explain different versions of a particular event. You then
proceed to summarize your argument against the first hypothesis, labelled
negative reasons for that conclusion were (1) that nobody outside the
Gospels ever mentioned any of them, (2) that everyone seemed very
dependent on Mark and went their dramatically separate ways when they ran
out of Mark at 16:8.
Before they go their separate ways, however, there are two important
pericopes found in all 4 canonical gospels plus the Gospel of Peter: the
Burial in the Tomb (Mark 15:42-47 and parallels, including Gospel of
Peter 6:1-4; 8:1-6), and the Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1-8 and parallels,
including Gospel of Peter 12:1-13:3). I know you doubt the historicity of
these passages, but they both must be from the first or second earliest
strata of texts. I will return to these pericopes below.
difficult to explain how Matthew and Luke (for most scholars) and John
(for some scholars) were so dependent on Mark¹s narrative if everyone
knew such a "history remembered" passion since the 30s.
Here, and in the book, your summary of evidence against the first
hypothesis certainly has merit.
You then summarize evidence for the second hypothesis, prophecy
reason was that the overall structure, the individual units, and the
particular texts of the passion narrative were all resonant in the
background with Old Testament models, narrative and texts. My conclusion
was, in that case, prophecy historicized was the best solution, not for
the brutal fact of crucifixion but for all its attendant
*All* of its attendant details? Including the Burial in a Tomb and the
Empty Tomb? It seems to me that, while this is a promising start for
supporting evidence for the second hypothesis, it is incomplete in
important respects. It is plausible, but not compelling (unless one
prefers explanations of this kind).
One problem is that you have to patch together a number of different Old
Testament sources-- I count six of them in TBOC p. 521. This is a rather
elaborate patchwork. It would be more compelling if the author was
historicizing one "prophecy" rather than six fragments from
here and there (and actually a seventh-- see below).
Another problem, as I read your summary in TBOC, was that this was an ad
hoc explanation, unique to this set of texts. Ad hoc explanations are, in
general, weaker than those that appeal to established literary
principles. Therefore I appreciate that in your response to this
question, that you now add another "instance" of similar use of
make, by the way, a similar argument for Matthew¹s birth story. I am sure
Jesus was actually born, but the details that Matthew gives are based on
the popular Mosaic birth-stories current in the first century. Each
case,however, where prophecy historicized is claimed, must be established
on its own merits. ...
It is this last sentence that I have difficulty with. If "prophecy
historicized" is a legitimate explanation, then it should be a
literary device the use of which is somewhat predictable. That is, it
might be the literary device of choice for particular authors, in
particular circumstances, in predictable ways, rather than each instance
being totally unique. Which of the evangelists do you credit with
initiating the use of this literary device?
Mark? Although I do not find this argument in TBOC, I do find in the Acts
of Jesus (AJ) p. 160 an appeal to Joshua 10:26-27 to explain the origin
of the Burial in a Tomb pericope. All versions of the Empty Tomb
passages, according to AJ 465, share these elements: it is the first day
of the week or the Lord's Day, Mary of Magdala is present, the stone has
been removed, the tomb is empty, and the women are given a message by an
angelic figure and leave. I have not found thus far any OT precedent to
explain the core elements of this pericope. Whence came this core story,
if it is not historical? Do you consider it to be a logical projection
from the Resurrection tradition (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)?
Matthew or Luke? Both Matthew and Luke have elaborate passion accounts.
If they did not get the idea of historicizing prophecy from Mark, on the
Q hypothesis they either came up with the same idea (i.e., to historicize
prophecy) independently, or else they got it from Q or some other common
source other than Mark. And since you name Matthew's birth story as
prophecy historicized, does the same apply to Luke's birth story? If so,
did he come up with the idea independently, or pick it up from Matthew or
Here is another important question: How do they know which prophecies to
historicize? Why do they choose to historicize certain prophecies
and not others? That is, what triggers the use of this literary device?
To ignore these triggers is to suggest that the historicizing appeared ex
nihilo, which makes no sense to me. Was the Empty Tomb story or the
Resurrection tradition the nucleus around which various prophecies could
If these questions can be answered, then we'd know how and under what
circumstances prophecies were historicized, and your explanation of the
passion narratives, the Matthean birth narrative, and similar texts would
be much more compelling.
To summarize with a focus on methodology, I find ad hoc explanations less
compelling than those based on established principles, and suggest that
whenever we can define and establish such principles, we have a firmer
basis for reconstruction and interpretation. Your suggestion regarding
"prophecy historicized" shows some promise in this regard, but
needs more work to advance from the "plausible" to the
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University