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Re: [WSW] Quick Query on Empty Tomb

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: Synoptic; GPG In Response To: Dan Lusthaus (on WSW) On: Empty Tomb From: Bruce DAN: Moses dies east of the Jordan, before the people entered the
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 14, 2008
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      To: WSW
      Cc: Synoptic; GPG
      In Response To: Dan Lusthaus (on WSW)
      On: Empty Tomb
      From: Bruce

      DAN: Moses dies east of the Jordan, before the people entered the promised
      land -- and he was buried in a cave. No ascension.

      BRUCE: Josephus Antiquities 4/8:48, 325-326. Josephus was born in Jerusalem,
      but also knew Galilee well, and commanded Galilean troops in the Jewish War
      against Rome. I think it may be hasty to assume that Jesus the Galilean, and
      perhaps more relevantly his early Galilean followers, knew no more of
      Judaism and its variants, including its revolution-related legendary
      developments, than is included in our canonical OT.

      [320-326] "When Moses had spoken thus at the end of his life, and had
      foretold what would befall to every one of their tribes afterward, with the
      addition of a blessing to them, the multitude fell into tears, insomuch that
      even the women, by beating their breasts, made manifest the deep concern
      they had when he was about to die. The children also lamented still more, as
      not able to contain their grief; and thereby declared, that even at their
      age they were sensible of his virtue and mighty deeds; and truly there
      seemed to be a strife betwixt the young and the old who should most grieve
      for him. The old grieved because they knew what a careful protector they
      were to be deprived of, and so lamented their future state; but the young
      grieved, not only for that, but also because it so happened that they were
      to be left by him before they had well tasted of his virtue. Now one may
      make a guess at the excess of this sorrow and lamentation of the multitude,
      from what happened to the legislator himself; for although he was always
      persuaded that he ought not to be cast down at the approach of death, since
      the undergoing it was agreeable to the will of God and the law of nature,
      yet what the people did so overbore him, that he wept himself. Now as he
      went thence to the place where he was to vanish out of their sight, they all
      followed after him weeping; but Moses beckoned with his hand to those that
      were remote from him, and bade them stay behind in quiet, while he exhorted
      those that were near to him that they would not render his departure so
      lamentable. Whereupon they thought they ought to grant him that favor, to
      let him depart according as he himself desired; so they restrained
      themselves, though weeping still towards one another. All those who
      accompanied him were the senate, and Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua
      their commander. Now as soon as they were come to the mountain called
      Abarim, (which is a very high mountain, situate over against Jericho, and
      one that affords, to such as are upon it, a prospect of the greatest part of
      the excellent land of Canaan), he dismissed the senate; and as he was going
      to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud
      stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley,
      although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of
      fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary
      virtue, he went to God."

      Bruce

      [E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst]
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: WSW Cc: GPG, Synoptic In Response To: Dan Lusthaus On: Ascension of Moses From: Bruce DAN: There is a rather extensive body of post-exilic, extra-canonical
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 15, 2008
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        To: WSW
        Cc: GPG, Synoptic
        In Response To: Dan Lusthaus
        On: Ascension of Moses
        From: Bruce

        DAN: There is a rather extensive body of post-exilic, extra-canonical and
        rabbinic literature that contains a wealth of legendary (aggadic) material.
        You seem to be quoting one of those passages dubiously attributed to
        Josephus -- rather surprising given your fastidiousness about interpolations
        and stratifications in other literature.

        BRUCE: The extracanonical growth of the Moses legend is exactly the subject
        under discussion; it doesn't turn solely on Josephus. As for textual
        problems in Josephus, one or both of his references to Jesus have long been
        suspected to be later Christianizing interpolations; my own sense of it is
        that the suspicions on the whole are well founded (though there are still
        some defenders). I haven't heard of similar doubts about his treatment of
        Moses. Reference always welcome.

        DAN: The prevailing myth concerning Moses' tomb is that he (or God) keeps it
        hidden, so that anyone searching for it cannot find it. If you spy it from a
        distance, once you get there, it appears to be somewhere else. Even Freud
        devoted some attention to that myth.

        http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=irp.017.0205a

        BRUCE: Freud is interested in general terms; he is also concerned to
        restructure religion as a delusion, and explain it on the same terms as he
        explains other delusions. That sort of analysis is outside of history; it
        invokes universal forces. I am not sure that this is the way to go at the
        historical question: What myth existed at what time?

        DAN: See Deut. 34:6.

        BRUCE: Glad to. "[5] So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land
        of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, [6] and he buried him in the
        valley, in the land of Moab opposite Bethpeor, but no man knows the place of
        his burial to this day."

        It is the last clause that either leaves the door open to later myth, or
        acknowledges alternative versions in contemporary myth. In Josephus we had:

        "although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of
        fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary
        virtue, he went to God."

        This too seems to recognize an ambiguity about the physical end of Moses:
        Scripture (precisely Deuteronomy) and legend (one version of which has Moses
        "going to God." I am not interested in which of these options might have
        been true of the Historic Moses, but rather in the existence of a Legendary
        Moses in the 1st century.

        DAN: Also

        http://tinyurl.com/4bvsya

        BRUCE: Thanks for the reference [Brian M Britt, Rewriting Moses]; I hadn't
        come across it. Nor had I come across the 8th century Palaea Historica,
        cited by Britt, which mentions the dispute over the body of Moses between
        God and Satan. As Britt notes, a version of that conflict also occurs in
        Jude 9, which puts us back in the 1st century. The reference in Jude 9,
        namely,

        "But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about
        the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgement upon
        him, but said, The Lord rebuke you."

        It seems to have been understood, in the legend here referred to by the
        author of Jude, that Moses's spirit was in Heaven; the point of dispute was
        about what would become of his body. This text is identified by some
        commentators as "a Jewish apocalypse called the Assumption of Moses"
        (Moffatt 1928, following Origen) or "The Ascension of Moses" (Barnett 1957)
        or "The Testament of Moses" (Watson 1998); the text has been reconstructed
        by Charles 1897 (not seen). It apparently featured a dispute over honorable
        vs dishonorable burial; this is another way the tradition was divided in the
        1st century. The interesting thing about the author of Jude is that he does
        not take a position on Moses (that question belonged to a much earlier
        stratum of Christian belief, and, I suspect, was meaningless at "Jude's"
        much later period), but rather refers to this story obliquely, in order to
        compare the audacious heretics of his own day with Satan, who in the story
        presumed to argue with the Archangel Michael. What it documents, it seems to
        me, is that the question of the end of Moses was live for Judaism at the end
        of the 1c. I think that helps the general picture.

        Moses was a father figure, a constitutive figure, for the nation of Israel.
        He is just the kind of person, or persona, who would tend to be exalted in a
        legendary way by an Israel under foreign domination. The evidence, such as
        it is, tends to show that just this sort of legendary development, perhaps
        already implied in Deuteronomy, was in full flower in the 1st century (and
        seemingly later as well, as Britt points out).

        Where does Mark fit into all of this? That is the question of relevance for
        the study of early Christian beliefs. As I read the (stratified) evidence of
        Mark, the Assumption Christians, who seem to have been one of the very
        earliest modes of Christian belief, felt that their theory of Jesus was
        paralleled not only by the canonically sound precedent of Elijah (who, NB,
        is mentioned first in Mk 9:4, a point which puzzles the commentators), but
        also by the less canonical but still current precedent of Moses. "And there
        appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus."

        The traces of this belief have been overlaid by later text, written in
        support of later beliefs, chiefly the eventually victorious Resurrection
        Christianity. Victory doesn't interest me, as such; only the historical
        sequence.

        Bruce

        [E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst]
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