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Re: Jesus as a threat

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  • joe baxter
    Mahlon wrote: That s part of what I ve been striving to unravel: how some ... Don t you elsewhere answer your question, Mahlon? You quote Schweitzer for the
    Message 1 of 14 , Jul 27, 1998
      Mahlon wrote:

      That's part of what I've been striving to unravel: how some
      >Jews (& Romans) could have perceived Jesus as a threat, while others who
      >thought he was "the Messiah" almost immediately opened their circle to
      >recruit non-Jews.

      Don't you elsewhere answer your question, Mahlon? You quote Schweitzer for
      the point that the times might not make sense to us. Look what Herod did to
      the sages? Would such a time ever make sense?

      Thus Jesus said of his times: "Since the time of John the Baptist, men have
      tried to take heaven by storm." Who can imagine such a time, in our times?

      Perhaps we can look to the holy wars which still take place in India,
      Afghanistan, and the Mid-east?

      How could Herod have considered the sages a threat? That same blindness
      could have perceived Jesus as a threat.

      Joe Baxter
    • Mahlon H. Smith
      ... What I said, Joe, was whether a message or idea makes sense to us is not a criterion for whether Jesus could have said it. Whether it would have made sense
      Message 2 of 14 , Jul 27, 1998
        I wrote:
        >
        > That's part of what I've been striving to unravel: how some
        > Jews (& Romans) could have perceived Jesus as a threat, while others who
        > thought he was "the Messiah" almost immediately opened their circle to
        > recruit non-Jews.

        Joe Baxter commented:
        >
        > Don't you elsewhere answer your question, Mahlon? You quote Schweitzer for
        > the point that the times might not make sense to us. Look what Herod did to
        > the sages? Would such a time ever make sense?

        What I said, Joe, was whether a message or idea makes sense to us is not
        a criterion for whether Jesus could have said it. Whether it would have
        made sense to his contemporaries is what counts. The historian's job is
        to try to make sense out of the times he is studying. Whether one is
        successful or not is another matter.

        The point of my programmic question was not to express bewilderment but
        to indicate the range of factors that need to be taken into account in
        explaining Christian origins. The traditional explanations may account
        for some but not all of these factors.

        The gospels claim that Jesus was crucified as King of the Jews over
        Pontius Pilate's objections because the Jewish priests & mob demanded it
        does not make very good historical sense at all. The alternative
        scenario that Jesus was some type of standard Jewish hero does not
        account for the bad blood between his followers & Jewish religious
        authorities of all parties. If one views Jesus as a messianic pretender
        (with Reimarus or Brandon), or an apocalyptic prophet (like Weiss &
        Schweitzer), or a rabbinic sage (like Klausner & Chilton), one has to
        account for the fact that (a) Jewish tradition does not portray him as
        such & (b) the early Christian church very soon demonstrated that key
        elements central to those Jewish paradigms were not essential to its
        vision.

        My point is essentially that to describe the real HJ one has to take
        seriously the claims of all the sources that *he* was the major catalyst
        in the social explosion that that transformed a Jewish sect into a
        missionary movement that was open to gentiles.

        As to your suggestion that Herod's execution of "the sages" makes no
        sense, as a historian I'd have to differ, even though as a Christian
        theologian I'd tend to agree with you. I take it you are referring to
        Herod the Great's execution of the pair of Jerusalem sages, Judah b.
        Serafai & Mattayahu b. Margoloth, who instigated their students' raid
        on the temple in 4 BCE (Ant. 17.149-165). Against the background of
        Jewish values & history the stripping of the Roman eagle from the temple
        made perfect sense to Jews. Against Herod's own long & largely
        successful history of quelling revolts by brutal execution of those who
        dared to challenge his authority, Herod's order to execute those who
        inspired this minor uprising also made perfectly good sense (at least to
        the Herodian party). He thought the best way to maintain the civic peace
        was to demonstrate zero tolerance for those who disturbed it. The fact
        that Herod also removed the high priest from his office is a pretty
        clear sign that this was not just a minor challenge to Herodian power by
        a few overzealous Jewish students. The fact that he further ordered the
        chief Jewish elders from all over Palestine to his palace at Jericho &
        ordered their execution upon his death may be just a sign of Herod's
        vengeful paranoia (which is how Josephus tells it). But then again, it
        may also be an indication that Herod had good reason to believe that
        Jewish opposition to his projects was pervasive & he wanted to send a
        clear political message to any who might take his death as opportunity
        to revolt.

        The real political blunder that precipitated the revolt was Herod
        Archelaus' decision to dispatch Roman cavalry into the temple the
        following Passover to silence those who we protesting his father's
        execution of the sages without a proper Jewish trial & calling on him to
        punish those who had executed the sages. Had Archelaus at least
        conducted a public hearing, an uprising could have been averted. But it
        made more sense to him to try to imitate his father by instilling fear
        in the hearts of any who would challenge him. Instead the resultant
        slaughter of 3000 Passover pilgrims became the spark that so outraged
        Jews that there was a general uprising as soon as Archelaus left for
        Rome to inherit his father's office.

        The execution of Jesus by the Roman governor at Passover 34 years later
        provides a nice analogy to this event. Pilate was trying to prevent a
        potential uprising by warning Jewish pilgrims of what would happen to
        anyone who argued that the BASILEIA (kingdom) belonged to anyone but
        Tiberius Caesar Augustus. Since there was no reported subsequent
        uprising his tactic apparently succeeded, at least on the surface. But
        when it came to the attention of Roman authorities that Jesus' followers
        were proclaiming him as "Lord" (rather than the emperor), the iron fist
        of Roman "justice" sought to intimidate anyone who might persuaded to
        accept this "delusion" (as Roman officials called it) through further
        arrests & executions.

        >
        > Thus Jesus said of his times: "Since the time of John the Baptist, men have
        > tried to take heaven by storm."

        Well that's not quite what he said. In fact, it is hard to determine
        exactly what HJ did say in this regard, since the versions in Matt 11 &
        Luke 16 differ so much that it is not easy to reconstruct their common
        source. Jesus was recalled as claiming that after JB people entered the
        BASILEIA with "force." The verb BIAZW is related to BIOS, the Greek word
        for the life force that runs through every living thing. The range of
        usage of this word goes from demonstrations of vim & vigor to outbursts
        of violent power. In other words, J claimed that after JB, the KofG was
        associated with energetic commoners. "Heaven" is merely Matt's
        circumlocution for avoiding the name of God. The kingdom of heaven HJ
        was talking about was right here on earth. (Even by force you can't
        enter something that is not present). Matt interprets this in the
        negative sense as an era in which law & order have broken down &
        violence is disrupting everything. But Luke interprets it in a positive
        sense: as an order in which everyone has direct access to the office of
        the King. Acc. to Luke the BASILEIA has been democratized &
        universalized. And I suspect that this is closer to the message of HJ
        than Matt's version, though I wouldn't be surprised to hear Steve D.
        argue the opposite.

        > Who can imagine such a time, in our times?

        I can, easily! The 1960s, which as I recall represent to some an era of
        liberation preparing the way for social equality for all & to others a
        major collapse in the rule of law that we have yet to fully recover
        from. Perhaps it was a bit of both, as was the era that Jesus saw
        himself on the threshold of. In both cases the old order did change, for
        better or worse.

        >
        > How could Herod have considered the sages a threat?

        Easy again. There can be no more powerful demonstration of independence
        from an empire or government than to tear down the symbol that
        represents it. In the case of Rome, the eagle. That's why flag burnings
        outrage so many American patriots & why those who want to spark defiance
        to government policies still resort to that tactic.

        > That same blindness
        > could have perceived Jesus as a threat.

        I think that Pilate was perhaps in a better position to judge what was a
        real threat to Roman imperial control of Jewish territory than we. To
        claim that HJ was totally innocent of provoking Jews to envision some
        power other than the emperor's as in control of their destiny is to
        trivialize his message of the KofG & to rob his death of any heroic
        meaning. Then he might just as well have been run over by a Mack truck.
        If HJ's death was not in some way the result of defiance of the
        totalitarian claims of the Roman emperor, then he was not fit to be made
        the model for Christian martyrs who did just that.

        That is why I maintain that HJ was a *real* social revolutionary, not a
        mere power-grabber, & hence a real threat to any system of totalitarian
        power, political or religious.

        Shalom!


        Mahlon

        --

        *********************

        Mahlon H. Smith,
        Associate Professor
        Department of Religion
        Rutgers University
        New Brunswick NJ

        http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
      • joe baxter
        ... Quite true. ... pilgrims by Herod]. Pilate was trying to prevent a potential uprising by warning Jewish pilgrims of what would happen to anyone who argued
        Message 3 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
          Mahlon commented:

          >My point is essentially that to describe the real HJ one has to take
          >seriously the claims of all the sources that *he* was the major catalyst
          >in the social explosion that that transformed a Jewish sect into a
          >missionary movement that was open to gentiles.

          Quite true.

          >The execution of Jesus by the Roman governor at Passover 34 years later
          >provides a nice analogy to this event [the massacre of 3000 passover
          pilgrims by Herod]. Pilate was trying to prevent a potential uprising by
          warning Jewish pilgrims of what would happen to anyone who argued that the
          BASILEIA (kingdom) belonged to anyone but
          >Tiberius Caesar Augustus.

          The comparison with Herod's act seems appropriate. Herod's actions have also
          been historically recorded. By contrast, your interpretation of Pilate's
          actions is highly speculative. There is no evidence of a potential
          uprising, unless you are talking about Jesus' actions with the
          moneychangers, etc. Pretty scant evidence. Your thought that Pilate was
          concerned that anyone might think that the kingdom belonged to anyone but
          Caesar suggests very abstract thinking by Pilate. Such abstract thinking
          usually doesn't translate into brutality.

          Your speculative train of thought, moreover, is not really consistent with
          Pilate's message on the cross. He mockingly refers to Jesus as "King of the
          Jews." This is far less abstract. If anything is to be read into this beyond
          mockery, it would be read as setting an example: this is what happens when
          someone other than an authorized patron asserts his kingship. Thus the issue
          of the patron Jewish nation is suggested, as opposed to a kingdom of God. No
          concern with the embodiment of the abstraction of a kingdom of God is
          evident. Indeed, if anything, the abstract discourse seems muddled. Though
          Jesus makes no claim of Jewish kingship, some are apparently interpreting
          him this way. Thus mockery makes a much sense as anything.


          > The kingdom of heaven HJ was talking about was right here on earth.

          Yes , that is true, of course, but:

          1. To bring it about would the change come from inside?

          2. What was Jesus' attitude toward the world, i.e., psycho-physical reality?
          How did he recommend that change be brought about in the world?

          3. Would you agree that Jesus drew a distinction between being "here on
          earth" and being "of this world"?



          > [His time can be compared to]The 1960s, which as I recall represent to
          some an era of
          >liberation preparing the way for social equality for all & to others a
          >major collapse in the rule of law that we have yet to fully recover
          >from. Perhaps it was a bit of both, as was the era that Jesus saw
          >himself on the threshold of.

          Is the social equality you are referring to political and/or socially
          rooted, or do the roots come from above? For example, from the point of view
          of HJ, are we all equal because we are all children of God, and thus the
          world is trumped?

          > To
          >claim that HJ was totally innocent of provoking Jews to envision some
          >power other than the emperor's as in control of their destiny is to
          >trivialize his message of the KofG & to rob his death of any heroic
          >meaning. Then he might just as well have been run over by a Mack truck.
          >If HJ's death was not in some way the result of defiance of the
          >totalitarian claims of the Roman emperor, then he was not fit to be made
          >the model for Christian martyrs who did just that.

          He certainly was provocative. Like Daniel, he might well have counseled that
          an emperor only has such power as God permits. Or he may have gone beyond
          that view and suggested that the world is trumped by the kingdom of God. But
          I don't feel any need to make his death heroic. Indeed, that view suggests
          too much attachment to the appearance of the world, a view at odds with the
          Sermon on the Mount.

          If I may suggest, Mahlon, because you reject the resurrection, you find it
          necessary to make his death heroic. Hmmm.

          With your view that HJ's death must be the result of defiance of
          totalitarianism, are you inserting your own eighteenth, nineteenth,
          twentieth century historical romance into Caesar's time? Do I hear a tilt
          from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle?

          As for those martyrs, do you seriously believe they found inspiration in
          death rather than life?

          >
          >That is why I maintain that HJ was a *real* social revolutionary, not a
          >mere power-grabber, & hence a real threat to any system of totalitarian
          >power, political or religious.

          Are you suggesting here that he was, say, like Mahatma Ghandi?


          Joe Baxter
        • Lewis Reich
          ... Mark 15:7 reports that at the time of the trial and crucifixion the Romans were holding certain men who had been involved in insurrection. The killing of
          Message 4 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
            On 30 Jul 98, at 1:10, joe baxter wrote:

            > There is no evidence of a potential uprising, unless you are
            > talking about Jesus' actions with the moneychangers, etc.

            Mark 15:7 reports that at the time of the trial and crucifixion the Romans
            were holding certain men who had been involved in insurrection. The killing
            of certain Galileans "whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" was
            reported to Jesus (Luke 13:1-3). And of course, there are the *lestai*
            ("brigands") who are crucified along with Jesus. Doesn't all this suggest a
            potential uprising?

            Lewis Reich
            LBR@...
          • joe baxter
            ... Barabas [Mark 15] and the lestai are not examples of Jewish pilgrims causing a threat. The lestai, moreover, are common criminals. Crime always exists. As
            Message 5 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
              At 06:38 AM 7/30/98 -0400, Lewis wrote:
              >On 30 Jul 98, at 1:10, joe baxter wrote:
              >
              >> There is no evidence of a potential uprising, unless you are
              >> talking about Jesus' actions with the moneychangers, etc.
              >
              >Mark 15:7 reports that at the time of the trial and crucifixion the Romans
              >were holding certain men who had been involved in insurrection. The killing
              >of certain Galileans "whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" was
              >reported to Jesus (Luke 13:1-3). And of course, there are the *lestai*
              >("brigands") who are crucified along with Jesus. Doesn't all this suggest a
              >potential uprising?
              >


              Barabas [Mark 15] and the lestai are not examples of Jewish pilgrims causing
              a threat. The lestai, moreover, are common criminals. Crime always exists.
              As for Barabas, he was released. This suggests, if anything, that pilate was
              not concerned about a potential uprising.

              As for those Galileans, there is no evidence of how many there were (2 or
              3?), what they did, or when they did it, or whether it was an isolated act,
              or part of something larger. Jesus' comments re them suggests no affinity to
              them. Indeed, he suggests that what happened to them was because they did
              not repent. Doesn't sound like pilgrims. Pretty scant evidence,

              There is also no suggestion that any of the above individuals had any
              connection to Jesus or his followers. If anything the opposite is suggested.

              Joe Baxter
            • Lewis Reich
              ... How do we know that Barabbas and the lesta are not not examples of pilgrims causing a threat? And can the fact that an insurrection is mentioned that
              Message 6 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
                On 30 Jul 98, at 6:49, joe baxter wrote:

                > At 06:38 AM 7/30/98 -0400, Lewis wrote:]

                > >Mark 15:7 reports that at the time of the trial and crucifixion the Romans
                > >were holding certain men who had been involved in insurrection. The killing
                > >of certain Galileans "whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" was
                > >reported to Jesus (Luke 13:1-3). And of course, there are the *lestai*
                > >("brigands") who are crucified along with Jesus. Doesn't all this suggest a
                > >potential uprising?

                > Barabas [Mark 15] and the lestai are not examples of Jewish pilgrims causing
                > a threat. The lestai, moreover, are common criminals.

                How do we know that Barabbas and the lesta are not not examples of pilgrims
                causing a threat? And can the fact that an insurrection is mentioned that
                coincided with Jesus' arrest be mere coincidence? Hardly seems likely. (I'm
                not contending that Jesus was necessarily involved in that disturbance,
                whatever it was. Even if he wasn't, the disturbance he created in the Temple,
                even if unrelated to the one mentioned by Mark, would have been enough to
                draw the attention of the authorities, especially if it occurred at the same time
                as another disturbance, giving the impression of a coordinated movement.

                Why should we think that the lestai are "common criminals"? Why not note
                that the word is the same that Josephus uses to describe the Zealots? Seems
                more likely that the Zealot bands operated as what were later called
                "brigands". Horsely is, I think very convincing on this, as is Brandon. Think of
                Robin Hood - to the Sheriff of Nottingham he may fave been no more than a
                common criminal, but that hardly captures the picture. And if the lestai were
                common criminals, why were thy crucified? And why were they crucified with
                Jesus?

                > Crime always exists. As for Barabas, he was released. This
                > suggests, if anything, that pilate was not concerned about a
                > potential uprising.

                If you regard the Barabbas story as historical. It seems pretty thin to me.
                Since it's been dealt with extensively and seems peripheral here, I won't
                address it for the moment. Anybody else out there think that the Barabbas
                story is historical?

                > As for those Galileans, there is no evidence of how many there were (2 or
                > 3?), what they did, or when they did it, or whether it was an isolated act,
                > or part of something larger.

                It must have been fairly substantial, otherwise why mention it? And the point
                is not how large it was, but that there was some violent disturbance.

                > Jesus' comments re them suggests no affinity to them. Indeed, he
                > suggests that what happened to them was because they did not
                > repent.

                Well I would hardly expect the authors of the gospels to suggest that Jesus
                *was* directly involved with them. That they go to the trouble of having Jesus
                dissociate himself from them would suggest to me rather the opposite.

                > Doesn't sound like pilgrims.

                Why doesn't it sound like pilgrims?

                > Pretty scant evidence,

                It seems to me, on the contrary, that the mention of an insurrection
                coninciding with Jesus arrest by narrators who are making every effort to
                portray him as no threat to Rome or the established political order is quite
                substantial evidence that something was going on.

                > There is also no suggestion that any of the above individuals had any
                > connection to Jesus or his followers. If anything the opposite is suggested.

                Well, I would hardly think that the authors of the gospels would be eager to
                call attention to any connection with Jesus that did exist. Naturally, they
                would be at pains to suggest the opposite.

                What is noteworthy is the clear evidence that there was some violent
                disturbance in Jerusalem, amounting to some kind of uprising, at the same
                time that Jesus was making his demonstration at the Temple.

                Lewis Reich
                LBR@...
              • Mahlon H. Smith
                ... Mahlon butts in: Probably not. As Lewis & I have argued before the term *lestai* had very precise connotation of insurrectionist bandits in both Josephus &
                Message 7 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
                  > >On 30 Jul 98, at 1:10, joe baxter wrote:
                  > >
                  > >> There is no evidence of a potential uprising, unless you are
                  > >> talking about Jesus' actions with the moneychangers, etc.

                  Lewis Reich replied:
                  > >
                  > >Mark 15:7 reports that at the time of the trial and crucifixion the Romans
                  > >were holding certain men who had been involved in insurrection. The killing
                  > >of certain Galileans "whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" was
                  > >reported to Jesus (Luke 13:1-3). And of course, there are the *lestai*
                  > >("brigands") who are crucified along with Jesus. Doesn't all this suggest a
                  > >potential uprising?
                  > >
                  >
                  Joe Baxter rebutted:

                  > Barabas [Mark 15] and the lestai are not examples of Jewish pilgrims causing
                  > a threat. The lestai, moreover, are common criminals.

                  Mahlon butts in:

                  Probably not. As Lewis & I have argued before the term *lestai* had very
                  precise connotation of insurrectionist bandits in both Josephus &
                  rabbinic lit. The fact that these *lestai* were crucified is proof that
                  they were not "common criminals" since such types were not crucified.
                  Crucifixion historically was a torture Romans reserved for those who
                  challenged the authority of Rome.

                  > Crime always exists.

                  Granted. And other crimes were punishable by lash, imprisonment, etc.

                  > As for Barabas, he was released.

                  Again, probably not. IF Barabbas was not a total fiction, & IF he was a
                  murderer arrested in "the insurrection" as the synoptics insists then
                  there is absolutely no historical reason to believe either that Pilate
                  would have released him on the eve of Passover or that the (Sadducean)
                  priests would have called for his release. The account of J's trial
                  before Pilate is one of the most blatant pieces of propaganda in the NT,
                  designed to convince Roman readers that J's crucifixion was the idea of
                  Jews rather than the Roman military.

                  > This suggests, if anything, that pilate was
                  > not concerned about a potential uprising.

                  Read Josephus *Antiquities* 18.55-88!
                  >

                  >
                  > There is also no suggestion that any of the above individuals had any
                  > connection to Jesus or his followers. If anything the opposite is suggested.
                  >
                  Of course. The gospel writers want to do everything they can to
                  distinguish Jesus from Jewish bandits. But just because the gospels deny
                  it or don't report it doesn't mean there was no link between HJ & those
                  who were crucified with him. After all the gospels agree he was
                  crucified in between them. So the Romans clearly did not distinguish his
                  "crime" -- (i.e., sedition) -- from theirs. When I allow my mind to
                  wonder, I sometimes think Judas Iscariot might have been one of them, IF
                  he is not a total fiction as Spong suggests.

                  Shalom!


                  Mahlon

                  --

                  *********************

                  Mahlon H. Smith,
                  Associate Professor
                  Department of Religion
                  Rutgers University
                  New Brunswick NJ

                  http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                • Mahlon H. Smith
                  ... Rather, Josephus does not report an uprising. But then he is not in the habit of reporting potential events, only major disturbances. The gospels don t
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jul 30, 1998
                    joe baxter wrote:

                    >
                    > Herod's actions have also
                    > been historically recorded. By contrast, your interpretation of Pilate's
                    > actions is highly speculative. There is no evidence of a potential
                    > uprising, unless you are talking about Jesus' actions with the
                    > moneychangers, etc.

                    Rather, Josephus does not report an uprising. But then he is not in the
                    habit of reporting potential events, only major disturbances. The
                    gospels don't directly report an uprising either. But Mark has this
                    cryptic description of Barabbas as "one who was held with the
                    insurrectionists (*stasiastwn*) who had committed murder in the uprising
                    (*stasis*)" (15:7). Mark at least seems to assume there was some
                    uprising & expects his original readers to understand which. Luke 23:19
                    further specifies that the uprising was "in the city" (i.e., Jerusalem).
                    So I wouldn't exactly say that there is "no evidence" of an uprising.


                    > Your thought that Pilate was
                    > concerned that anyone might think that the kingdom belonged to anyone but
                    > Caesar suggests very abstract thinking by Pilate.

                    Not so. In the Roman order Caesar alone was designated *Basileus* (=
                    king, chief) & he alone could bestow that title on someone else (e.g.,
                    Herod, Archelaus). The Greek word usually translated "kingdom"
                    (Basileia) was the legal term for the office & range authority of any
                    "king." Herod & Archelaus were given the title "king of the Jews" by the
                    Roman emperor. So the title on J's cross involved the legal charge of
                    usurping the royal office that Romans claimed they alone had the right
                    to bestow.

                    Josephus reports that after Herod's the Great's death in 4 BCE, several
                    Jewish commoners claimed the same title but were rounded up & executed
                    by the Romans (Ant 17.271-285): "So Judea was filled with bandits
                    (*lestai*) and they collected around any champion who presented himself
                    as king (*basileus*)." The fact that Jesus was executed as a *basileus*
                    between two *lestai* is pretty clear evidence that he was regarded by
                    the Romans as a political threat. There was nothing abstract at all
                    about this. On the contrary, all Pilate had to do was hear that a Jew
                    who was talking about some "kingdom" had caused a disturbance in the
                    temple in the period before Passover (which is Jewish independence day)
                    & his troops would have scoured the area to find him & execute him as a
                    warning to pilgrims not to cause any further disturbance.

                    >
                    > Your speculative train of thought, moreover, is not really consistent with
                    > Pilate's message on the cross. He mockingly refers to Jesus as "King of the
                    > Jews." This is far less abstract. If anything is to be read into this beyond
                    > mockery, it would be read as setting an example: this is what happens when
                    > someone other than an authorized patron asserts his kingship.

                    That is precisely what I said. You simply mistook the abstractness of my
                    rhetoric for a literal description of Pilate's mental processes.

                    > Thus the issue
                    > of the patron Jewish nation is suggested, as opposed to a kingdom of God. No
                    > concern with the embodiment of the abstraction of a kingdom of God is
                    > evident. Indeed, if anything, the abstract discourse seems muddled. Though
                    > Jesus makes no claim of Jewish kingship, some are apparently interpreting
                    > him this way. Thus mockery makes a much sense as anything.

                    HJ's talk about the KofG was not at all abstract: it was done in very
                    graphic concrete images. And some of the graphic images J used were
                    about divided kingdoms falling, burglars overpowering strong men, fire,
                    sword, conflict, etc. It is later Christians who maintained that such
                    images were only metaphors for abstract theological ideas. But such
                    abstraction are not ascribed to J. So some who heard HJ could easily
                    have mistaken him for an insurrectionist.

                    Moreover, your contrast between the KofG & the political aspirations of
                    Jews is a bit anachronistic. For Jews before & around HJ generally did
                    not make that distinction. Rather, fervant Jews had long proclaimed God
                    as the only king, implying resistence to the totalitarian claims of any
                    human emperor. Pilate knew well these connotations & sought to silence
                    the one who was planting such seeds in the mind of fellow Jews, some of
                    whom were ostensibly preparing to promote him as their new champion in
                    restoring the kingdom that God had given to Israel.

                    >
                    > 3. Would you agree that Jesus drew a distinction between being "here on
                    > earth" and being "of this world"?

                    Nope. That distinction is unique to GJohn. But I would agree that HJ had
                    a quite different view of this world than most people, a view that set
                    ordinary soical hierarchies & values on their heads.

                    > Is the social equality you are referring to political and/or socially
                    > rooted, or do the roots come from above? For example, from the point of view
                    > of HJ, are we all equal because we are all children of God, and thus the
                    > world is trumped?

                    Yup. But the trump is played now in this world rather than in some
                    heaven by & by. Thus it has both theological & socio-political
                    dimensions. I do not that HJ would have been happy about followers
                    promoting rank & social distinctions within his fellowship.
                    >

                    I wrote:

                    > > To
                    > >claim that HJ was totally innocent of provoking Jews to envision some
                    > >power other than the emperor's as in control of their destiny is to
                    > >trivialize his message of the KofG & to rob his death of any heroic
                    > >meaning. Then he might just as well have been run over by a Mack truck.
                    > >If HJ's death was not in some way the result of defiance of the
                    > >totalitarian claims of the Roman emperor, then he was not fit to be made
                    > >the model for Christian martyrs who did just that.

                    Joe replied:
                    >
                    > He certainly was provocative. Like Daniel, he might well have counseled that
                    > an emperor only has such power as God permits.

                    Now there is speculation for you! Paul says that in Rom 13. But where in
                    the gospels outside of the tribute logion do find J endorsing the Roman
                    imperium?


                    > Or he may have gone beyond
                    > that view and suggested that the world is trumped by the kingdom of God.

                    Not "may have," he did.

                    > But
                    > I don't feel any need to make his death heroic.

                    You have only three options. J's death was either heroic, or tragic or
                    justified.

                    1. It would be justified IF he was promoting violent insurrection. I
                    don't think he meant to do that even if sometimes he said things that
                    gave this impression.

                    2. It would be tragic IF he did not do or say anything to question Roman
                    authority. But IF Jesus told Jews to submit to Rome & pay their taxes
                    then it is highly doubtful that any Roman governor would have crucified
                    him as a royal pretender.

                    3. HJ's death was heroic because like Martin L. KIng he risked his own
                    life to convince the poor & oppressed that they had the support of a
                    power that was greater than any institution or tyrant.

                    > Indeed, that view suggests
                    > too much attachment to the appearance of the world, a view at odds with the
                    > Sermon on the Mount.

                    Much of the S on Mt is probably Matt rather than HJ. The elements that
                    are probably genuine suggest freedom from worldly cares. But where is
                    attachment to the "appearance of the world" an issue in S on Mt?

                    >
                    > If I may suggest, Mahlon, because you reject the resurrection, you find it
                    > necessary to make his death heroic. Hmmm.

                    I forgive you, because you don't know what you're saying. I have never
                    rejected the resurrection of Jesus, even though I have spent much of my
                    life trying to correct popular misimpressions that resurrection meant
                    resuscitation of a corpse. On the contrary, acc. to Paul (1 Cor 15) the
                    resurrection of J is the triumph of his spirit (not his flesh) over the
                    terror of death or any other power in the universe (Rom 8). It is the
                    resurrection that confirms J's death as heroic. Because it shows he
                    wasn't defeated by the imperial cross. Instead he inspired other
                    commoners to face any force that threatened them with confidence &
                    dignity. To view HJ's resurrection as an escape from this world created
                    by God is to be a gnostic, whether one realizes it or not.
                    >
                    > With your view that HJ's death must be the result of defiance of
                    > totalitarianism, are you inserting your own eighteenth, nineteenth,
                    > twentieth century historical romance into Caesar's time?

                    Hardly. Jewish heros have defied totalitarianism for more than a
                    millennium before HJ. And the fact that some Jews considered him to be
                    the Messiah is a clear indication that HJ was a real Jewish hero.

                    > Do I hear a tilt
                    > from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle?

                    You'll need to be clearer for me to catch your point.

                    >
                    > As for those martyrs, do you seriously believe they found inspiration in
                    > death rather than life?
                    >
                    No. But because they believed they had the spirit of the Son who
                    triumphed over death they did not fear it. And once people are no longer
                    afraid to die, there's nothing any tyrant can do to control them. The
                    tyrant can crush their bodies but not their spirit. It can be documented
                    historically that a heroic martyr is more dangerous in death than in
                    life.

                    I wrote:

                    > >
                    > >That is why I maintain that HJ was a *real* social revolutionary, not a
                    > >mere power-grabber, & hence a real threat to any system of totalitarian
                    > >power, political or religious.
                    >

                    Joe asked:

                    > Are you suggesting here that he was, say, like Mahatma Ghandi?
                    >

                    Rather that Gandhi & M.L.King & Francis of Assisi, etc. were something
                    like him. Without the story of Jesus' social revolution it is highly
                    doubtful that they would have been inspired to lead theirs.

                    Shalom!


                    Mahlon

                    ----

                    "A Little Leaven: Jesus in Dialectical Perspective"

                    http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/leaven.html

                    --

                    *********************

                    Mahlon H. Smith,
                    Associate Professor
                    Department of Religion
                    Rutgers University
                    New Brunswick NJ

                    http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                  • Tom Simms
                    ... [... snip ... noted ... essentially my views too...] ... [... snip ... noted ...] Like you, I don t take the resurrection as resuscitution of a corpse.
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jul 31, 1998
                      On Fri, 31 Jul 1998 01:32:06 -0400, mahlonh.smith@... writes:
                      >joe baxter wrote:

                      [... snip ... noted ... essentially my views too...]

                      >> If I may suggest, Mahlon, because you reject the resurrection, you find it
                      >> necessary to make his death heroic. Hmmm.
                      >
                      >I forgive you, because you don't know what you're saying. I have never
                      >rejected the resurrection of Jesus, even though I have spent much of my
                      >life trying to correct popular misimpressions that resurrection meant
                      >resuscitation of a corpse. On the contrary, acc. to Paul (1 Cor 15) the
                      >resurrection of J is the triumph of his spirit (not his flesh) over the
                      >terror of death or any other power in the universe (Rom 8). It is the
                      >resurrection that confirms J's death as heroic. Because it shows he
                      >wasn't defeated by the imperial cross. Instead he inspired other
                      >commoners to face any force that threatened them with confidence &
                      >dignity. To view HJ's resurrection as an escape from this world created
                      >by God is to be a gnostic, whether one realizes it or not.

                      [... snip ... noted ...]

                      Like you, I don't take the resurrection as resuscitution of a
                      corpse. However, I don't accept that something outside of natural
                      processes took place. I would be most curious to see what you
                      think actually happened, Mahlon.

                      The longer an interval between an event and its written description
                      the greater the tendency to create fabulosities. Even when we have
                      clear as crystal, years late, of President Kennedy's assassination,
                      the fabulosioties continue. The wider the range of witnesses
                      ultimately the narrower the variation of views.

                      Had we pools of witnesses all aware of what the others knew, we'd
                      not have four gospels and Paul's epsitles and the counter epistles.
                      However, we have a number of reports of his appearances but we have
                      only one group seeing Jesus' last appearance, a singularity that
                      led to the fabulosity of the Ascension.

                      The various reports of Jesus' post-crucifixion appearnaces argue
                      for their reaslity, particularly the Galilean location of some, for
                      the Galilean supporters all fled while His Jerusalem supporters did
                      not, indeed, they importuned Pilate for the body.

                      However, the Acension account influences and reinforced the views
                      of Jesus such as you, Mahlon, I and Gandhi, _inter alia_, accept.

                      Now, Mahlon, just what DO you think happened in the tomb?

                      >> Are you suggesting here that he was, say, like Mahatma Ghandi?
                      >>
                      >Rather that Gandhi & M.L.King & Francis of Assisi, etc. were something
                      >like him. Without the story of Jesus' social revolution it is highly
                      >doubtful that they would have been inspired to lead theirs.

                      Let me quote this excerpt from the end of my chapter `In Search of
                      the Historical Jesus' where I quote Gandhi:

                      `"To me he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.
                      To his believers he was God's only begotten son. Could the fact I
                      do or do not accept this belief have any more or less influence in
                      my life? Is all the grandeur of his teaching and his doctrine to
                      be forbidden to me? I cannot believe so...My interpretation...is
                      that in Jesus' own life is the key to his nearness to God; that he
                      expressed, as no other could, the spirit and will of God. It is in
                      that sense that I see and recognize him as the son of God."
                      This view does not contradict the plain meaning of scripture.
                      Neither does it contradict the decisions of the early Ecumenical
                      Councils of the Church.'


                      >Shalom!
                      >
                      >
                      >Mahlon

                      Ciao

                      Tom Simms
                    • joe baxter
                      ... Good rejoinder, Mahlon. For my penance I will read Josephus more closely. Still, since you question the credibility of the Barabbas story, the entire story
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jul 31, 1998
                        At 03:11 PM 7/30/98 -0400, you wrote:
                        >> >On 30 Jul 98, at 1:10, I wrote:
                        >> >
                        >> >> There is no evidence of a potential uprising, unless you are
                        >> >> talking about Jesus' actions with the moneychangers, etc.

                        >> Barabas [Mark 15] and the lestai are not examples of Jewish pilgrims causing
                        >> a threat. The lestai, moreover, are common criminals.
                        >
                        >Mahlon butted in:
                        >
                        >Probably not. As Lewis & I have argued before the term *lestai* had very
                        >precise connotation of insurrectionist bandits in both Josephus &
                        >rabbinic lit. The fact that these *lestai* were crucified is proof that
                        >they were not "common criminals" since such types were not crucified.
                        >Crucifixion historically was a torture Romans reserved for those who
                        >challenged the authority of Rome.

                        Good rejoinder, Mahlon. For my penance I will read Josephus more closely.

                        Still, since you question the credibility of the Barabbas story, the entire
                        story should be questioned. If it is at least half false, it is an
                        unreliable source and should not form the basis for any solid scholarship.
                        For proof of a potential uprising, that leaves you with the fact that Yeshu
                        was crucified with those who were *possibly* insurrectionaries on either
                        side of him, unless you want to add to it the fact that a few Galileans may
                        have been killed for similar crimes some unknown amount of time earlier. At
                        best you put forth a reasonable possibility. Not enough to go to the jury,
                        but enough, as you say, to make you wonder.

                        Still, there are lots of other possibilities out there. The fact that there
                        was bad blood between the Jews and the Christians, and that the Jewish role
                        was maximized while Pilate's role was minimized, does not preclude the
                        possibility that the Sanhedrin, or some members of it, conspired in Yeshu's
                        death. Look what they did to James when the situation permitted.

                        Huge numbers of people were dependent on the Temple for their livelihood.
                        If they willed it, Annas and Caiphas, or their subordinates, could have
                        gathered these masses quickly and stirred them. Pilate may have pronounced
                        sentence, but who brought the charges, and who were the witnesses?

                        Joe Baxter
                      • Lewis Reich
                        ... Who is the they here? There is no need to resort to conspiracy theories to explain Jesus conviction and crucifixion. At the very least, then Temple
                        Message 11 of 14 , Aug 1, 1998
                          On 31 Jul 98, at 23:58, joe baxter wrote:

                          > Still, there are lots of other possibilities out there. The fact that there
                          > was bad blood between the Jews and the Christians, and that the Jewish role
                          > was maximized while Pilate's role was minimized, does not preclude the
                          > possibility that the Sanhedrin, or some members of it, conspired in Yeshu's
                          > death. Look what they did to James when the situation permitted.

                          Who is the "they" here? There is no need to resort to conspiracy theories to
                          explain Jesus' conviction and crucifixion. At the very least, then Temple
                          aristocracy knew that they would have to account to the Romans for their
                          response to such a significant disturbance as the one Jesus caused. That alone
                          is sufficient to make sense of the role of the Jewish leaders.

                          "Bad blood" between Jews and Christians is not particularly relevant here.
                          What is relevant is that at the time the account was written (not long after
                          the First Jewish Revolt) Romans were likely to look somewhat askance at
                          followers of a Jewish leader who'd been crucified by their countrymen for
                          sedition. The gospel accounts are therefore at pains to reassure Romans by
                          contending that Jesus was not guilty of sedition. Why then was he crucified?
                          It was all a plot by those bad guys, the Jews, who had just rebelled.

                          > Huge numbers of people were dependent on the Temple for their livelihood.
                          > If they willed it, Annas and Caiphas, or their subordinates, could have
                          > gathered these masses quickly and stirred them.

                          Do we have any evidence at all for this?

                          >Pilate may have pronounced sentence, but who brought the charges, and
                          >who were the witnesses?

                          The gospel accounts are somewhat reticent and tendentious (for good reason,
                          it seems to me) on the matter of the witnesses. One imagines it would not
                          have been difficult to find people to testify about the Temple disturbance. The
                          Roman officers and troops of the Antonia could not have missed it entirely;
                          neither could the Temple police.

                          Lewis Reich
                          LBR@...
                        • joe baxter
                          ... Mahlon answered: Nope. That distinction is unique to GJohn. But I would agree that HJ had ... The distinction between the earth and the world is inherent
                          Message 12 of 14 , Aug 2, 1998
                            At 01:32 AM 7/31/98 I wrote:

                            >> 3. Would you agree that Jesus drew a distinction between being "here on
                            >> earth" and being "of this world"?

                            Mahlon answered:
                            Nope. That distinction is unique to GJohn. But I would agree that HJ had
                            >a quite different view of this world than most people, a view that set
                            >ordinary social hierarchies & values on their heads.

                            The distinction between the earth and the world is inherent in much of what
                            Yeshu said.

                            The earth, of course, is a physical place. But the world is a drama, and
                            also a point of view. Yes, as you put it, the trump is played out now in
                            this world rather than in some heaven by & by. [ This is what the Buddhists
                            call the bodhisattva path.] Yeshu called it the path of the son of man, or
                            if you prefer, the son of Adam.

                            Yes, you may say, as you do, that Yeshu turned the world on its head. But
                            this comes back to saying that the world is a false point of view. Thus
                            Yeshu says that the first shall be last, the hungry shall be filled, blessed
                            are you when men hate you for my sake, and woeful are the rich who have
                            received their consolation, etc.

                            Thomas is more explicit, as befits him on this subject.

                            "If you do not fast as regards the world, you will not find the Kingdom." 73

                            Orthodox Jews still practice this teaching, as do some Christians (and
                            Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims as well). Thus in certain Orthodox
                            neighborhoods, on the Sabbath, the people walk down the center of their
                            streets, stopping the world along with the automobile traffic.

                            By way of further example, the Gospel of Philip provides an ancient metaphor
                            of the "rat race":

                            "An ass which turns a millstone did a hundred miles walking. When it was
                            loosed it found that it was still at the same place. There are men who make
                            many journeys, but make no progress towards a destination. When evening
                            comes upon them, they see neither city, nor village, neither creation nor
                            nature, power nor angel. In vain have the wretched labored."

                            Thus, according to these Yeshuine and early Christian views, when the wheel
                            stops, when we fast from the world, we see what is really here on earth, and
                            have power and angel as well.

                            The latter view is also found in the synoptics. Yeshu taught that the KofG
                            is on earth, only we do not see it. We have a beam in our eye. Matt. 7:5.
                            Ignorance.

                            How according to Yeshu, is ignorance dispelled? Did he not teach his
                            disciples that the path of perfection was achieved by leaving the world
                            behind and following him? Is this not what Crossan calls the early Christian
                            path of "radical itinerancy?" Thus, when Yeshu sent his disciples out, he
                            told them to take nothing with them. This is fasting as regards the world.
                            He also told them to heal the sick and cast out demons. He told them too
                            that they could drink any deadly poison and pick up any snake. The power and
                            the angels. The son of man at the right hand of God, which is to say, a man
                            or woman who follows the path of perfection, Crossan's "radical itinerancy,"
                            the path referred to by the Buddhists as the bodhisattva path, shall have
                            the powers of God. Thus, just as you say, Mahlon, the trump is played out
                            here and now rather than in some heaven by & by.

                            >
                            >Mahlon wrote:
                            >
                            >> > To
                            >> >claim that HJ was totally innocent of provoking Jews to envision some
                            >> >power other than the emperor's as in control of their destiny is to
                            >> >trivialize his message of the KofG & to rob his death of any heroic
                            >> >meaning. Then he might just as well have been run over by a Mack truck.
                            >> >If HJ's death was not in some way the result of defiance of the
                            >> >totalitarian claims of the Roman emperor, then he was not fit to be made
                            >> >the model for Christian martyrs who did just that.


                            I said:
                            But I don't feel any need to make his death heroic.

                            Mahlon replied:
                            >
                            >You have only three options. J's death was either heroic, or tragic or
                            >justified.
                            >
                            >1. It would be justified IF he was promoting violent insurrection. I
                            >don't think he meant to do that even if sometimes he said things that
                            >gave this impression.
                            >
                            >2. It would be tragic IF he did not do or say anything to question Roman
                            >authority. But IF Jesus told Jews to submit to Rome & pay their taxes
                            >then it is highly doubtful that any Roman governor would have crucified
                            >him as a royal pretender.
                            >
                            >3. HJ's death was heroic because like Martin L. KIng he risked his own
                            >life to convince the poor & oppressed that they had the support of a
                            >power that was greater than any institution or tyrant.

                            Actually there are other options. It could also be senseless, as much
                            violence is.

                            You might say that a senseless death is somewhat akin to your tragic option.
                            But if he was truly resurrected, there is no tragedy in his death because he
                            has introduced something beyond death.

                            By pointing this out, I do not mean to suggest that his death may not also
                            have been heroic. Certainly there is evidence that he was willing to risk
                            his life for the poor and the oppressed. I am only saying that, as for
                            myself, I am not left with an empty feeling when I think of his death as
                            senseless, because for me his moral dimension was such that he was far
                            beyond the shores of death. Thus for me, the resurrection is an appropriate
                            mark of the man.

                            I said:
                            >> If I may suggest, Mahlon, because you reject the resurrection, you find it
                            >> necessary to make his death heroic. Hmmm.

                            Mahlon replied:
                            >
                            >I forgive you, because you don't know what you're saying. I have never
                            >rejected the resurrection of Jesus, even though I have spent much of my
                            >life trying to correct popular misimpressions that resurrection meant
                            >resuscitation of a corpse. On the contrary, acc. to Paul (1 Cor 15) the
                            >resurrection of J is the triumph of his spirit (not his flesh) over the
                            >terror of death or any other power in the universe (Rom 8). It is the
                            >resurrection that confirms J's death as heroic. Because it shows he
                            >wasn't defeated by the imperial cross. Instead he inspired other
                            >commoners to face any force that threatened them with confidence &
                            >dignity.

                            Let me ask you Mahlon, if you could explain what you mean by resurrection of
                            the spirit, as opposed to resurrection of the flesh. Do you mean that he was
                            an immortal spirit and thus never died? And if that is all you mean, how is
                            that special? Do you not beleive that we all share this trait?

                            Or are you suggesting his resurrection occurs whenever one recognizes his
                            presence in others, in the faces of the poor and the oppressed, in a rock or
                            a tree, in your children, or your wife, or even in your enemies? Or when you
                            find him inside yourself?

                            If the above represents your view, I respect it, but it is somewhat unkind
                            to suggest that the traditional view is characterizable as resuscitaion of a
                            corpse. Let's face it. If something like the resurrection occured in more
                            than the spirit, the *how* of the event is totally mysterious. And we should
                            respect mystery.

                            Consider, for example, the fact that, according to some reports, those to
                            whom he appeared did not recognize him at first. The body seemed different.
                            These reports seem credible. If I was making up a resurrection story from
                            whole cloth I certainly wouldn't include such details since they tend to
                            impeach the veracity of the appearance. If these stories are true it could
                            mean that the body of the person who appeared was not a warmed over corpse.

                            Of course, it could also support the view that the experience was a vision.
                            But we are too far along in Physics nowadays to necessarily distinguish
                            vision from materiality. Indeed matter and energy are now seem as one and
                            the same thing.

                            I do not mean to belabor a discussion of whether the resurrection was
                            physical versus spiritual. You apparently accept as rock solid that Mary
                            Magdalen saw Yeshu after his death on the cross. Unless you have had that
                            experience yourself, why not leave the psycho-physical explanation to
                            mystery? Unless a person has had the experience himself, or herself, how
                            can the person so knowingly say it was a vision, or attribute it, as I
                            beleieve Jim West does, to "bad beans." If you can accept the Yeshuine and
                            early Christian view that when the wheel stops, when we fast from the world,
                            we see what is really here on earth, and have "power and angel" as well, you
                            should at least accept as possible that something remarkable may have occured.

                            Mahlon said:
                            To view HJ's resurrection as an escape from this world created
                            by God is to be a gnostic, whether one realizes it or not.

                            I don't follow you here, Mahlon. Who views HJ's resurrection as an escape
                            from this world created by God? What, Lector, is this "world created by God"
                            stuff? From my view, at least, man has created the world. If you are
                            referring to the earth, and believe in a God (since you have invoked his
                            name) as a power that exists, as opposed to a useless old man who created
                            the scene and left, I accept your view. But if we take your view one step
                            further, and add your other point that "the trump is played out now in this
                            world rather than in some heaven by & by," what do we say about a man or a
                            woman who is one with God? What kind of trump does that person have? Can
                            you accept the possibility that he might have a little bit of that power? Do
                            you accept the view that this is what is implied in the son of man (Adam)
                            philosophy?

                            As for your comment about Gnosticism, in addition to the fact that I don't
                            understand it, how does your comment add to the discussion. Is it supposed
                            to be bad to be gnostic? Given some of the weirdness of their later
                            scriptural output, I also view them somewhat at a distance. Still, some of
                            what they have produced concerning Yeshu is truly divine. For me at least,
                            this is a form of authenticity.

                            As for the Valentian gnostics at least, their view of the resurrection is
                            best exemplified in the Gospel of Philip. For them, the resurrection occurs
                            before death. Thus while you and I debate the physicality of the
                            resurrection of a man who lived 2000 years ago, the gnostics trump the
                            entire dispute, and take us into far more profound territory of rebirth,
                            right here, right now.
                            >
                            >Mahlon wrote:
                            >
                            >> >
                            >> >That is why I maintain that HJ was a *real* social revolutionary, not a
                            >> >mere power-grabber, & hence a real threat to any system of totalitarian
                            >> >power, political or religious.
                            >>
                            >
                            >Joe asked:
                            >
                            >> Are you suggesting here that he was, say, like Mahatma Gandhi?
                            >>
                            >Mahlon replied:
                            >Rather that Gandhi & M.L.King & Francis of Assisi, etc. were something
                            >like him. Without the story of Jesus' social revolution it is highly
                            >doubtful that they would have been inspired to lead theirs.

                            These are certainly inspirational figures. And I agree with you, there is a
                            Mars quality to HJ. Still, Gandhi, and, as far as I know, Martin Luther
                            King, were fairly pointedly focussed on social and political revolution. I
                            don't think they produced a lot of original religious thinking outside of
                            their social and political contributions to that field. Yeshu, in this
                            respect, is quite different. He was pointedly focussed on a non-political
                            inner revolution, and we have no recorded words encouraging resistance to
                            political authorities, except for his religious politics. To sugggest that
                            he held such an attitude, but the early church, for self-survival reasons,
                            never recorded them, is totally speculative. Indeed, if the early church was
                            concerned about the survival of its memebers, why wouldn't Yeshu have had
                            the same concerns, for pragmatic and compassionate reasons? Why would he
                            have incited his followers to engage in confrontational situations that
                            would have only resulted in their being crushed by Roman authorities? The
                            era was not like Gandhi's India or King's United States. Thus Yeshu's
                            "Render unto Caesar . . ." deftly avoids a confrontational posture. Being a
                            true egalitarian, he would have treated individual Roman soldiers in the
                            same way he treated his Jewish brethren.

                            In the same way, his teaching that the world is a false view, that one
                            should fast as regards the world, that one should "resist not evil,"
                            doesn't suggest a lot of interest in stirring up the drama. His one apparent
                            sore point was religious hypocrisy. That bothered him the most because
                            religious hypocrites stood directly in the doorway he sought to open. Thus
                            it is likely that these individuals felt most threatened by him.

                            Joe Baxter
                          • Lewis Reich
                            ... I m not sure I understand this. By his followers do you mean Jesus followers during his lifetime? If so, is it accurate to speak of bad blood between
                            Message 13 of 14 , Aug 4, 1998
                              On 27 Jul 98, at 15:09, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

                              > The alternative scenario that Jesus was some type of standard
                              > Jewish hero does not account for the bad blood between his
                              > followers & Jewish religious authorities of all parties.

                              I'm not sure I understand this. By "his followers" do you mean Jesus' followers
                              during his lifetime? If so, is it accurate to speak of "bad blood between his
                              followers & Jewish religious authorities of all parties" as if Jesus were in fact
                              opposed to all Jewish parties? We have no evidence of any interactions with
                              the Essenes. Although Jesus ran afoul of the priestly aristocracy eventually, for
                              most of his ministry I don't think we see any conflict with Saduccees. As for
                              the Pharisees, it seems likely that Jesus was closer to them than to any other
                              party, if he was not a Pharisee himself, and that the historical reality preserved
                              in the gospel's polemics is more like intra-Pharisaic argumentation than
                              anything else.


                              > My point is essentially that to describe the real HJ one has to take
                              > seriously the claims of all the sources that *he* was the major catalyst
                              > in the social explosion that that transformed a Jewish sect into a
                              > missionary movement that was open to gentiles.

                              It seems to me that the major agency through which that catalyst operated was
                              Paul; and since Paul did not know the real HJ, this seems to me a major
                              decoupling of the the HJ from social explosion you refer to. I know you've
                              considered this, so could you tell me what I'm missing here?

                              Lewis
                            • Mahlon H. Smith
                              ... Sorry Lewis. My sweeping generalization needs clarification. I was thinking primarily about the tensions between Yeshu loyalists & fellow Jews *after* his
                              Message 14 of 14 , Aug 9, 1998
                                On 27 Jul 98, at 15:09, I wrote:
                                >
                                > The alternative scenario that Jesus was some type of standard
                                > Jewish hero does not account for the bad blood between his
                                > followers & Jewish religious authorities of all parties.

                                Lewis Reich commented:

                                > I'm not sure I understand this. By "his followers" do you mean Jesus' followers
                                > during his lifetime?

                                Sorry Lewis. My sweeping generalization needs clarification. I was
                                thinking primarily about the tensions between Yeshu loyalists & fellow
                                Jews *after* his crucifixion. My point was, however, that IF Jesus were
                                widely recognized by Jews as a model messianic or prophetic or even
                                rabbinic figure *before* his execution, it is historically implausible
                                that the subsequent polemical history between his fans & other Jews
                                could have arisen so soon *after* his death. Witness JB, who by all
                                accounts was widely respected by the Jewish people both before & after
                                his death, even an aristocratic priest like Josephus.

                                The gospel stories of tensions between Jesus' followers & other Jews
                                cannot all be dismissed as anachronistic retrojections. At the very
                                least the question about the irregularity of Jesus' disciples' failure
                                to fast *during* his lifetime (but not after) preserves an accurate echo
                                of a charge of HJ's abnormal tolerance of deviations from Jewish norms
                                that could only have arisen before his death. And in seed, at least, the
                                same can be said about the questions of irregularities with regard to
                                purity or sabbath halakha.

                                I would be the first to argue that the way in which the gospel writers
                                present these stories as provoking Pharisees to seek to eliminate Jesus
                                is a gross anachronism. In the Markan accounts, at least, the Pharisees
                                simply raise questions Jesus' tolerance of irregular observance. Most of
                                the polemic in these stories was generated from the Jesus camp. But the
                                Beelzebul controversy is pretty good evidence that this was not always
                                the case. So my reference to "bad blood" was simply a general allusion
                                to social tensions that probably began on a rather minor level in
                                isolated confrontations in HJ's lifetime that became magnified in the
                                wake of his death.

                                > If so, is it accurate to speak of "bad blood between his
                                > followers & Jewish religious authorities of all parties" as if Jesus were in fact
                                > opposed to all Jewish parties? We have no evidence of any interactions with
                                > the Essenes.

                                "All" is perhaps too global. But there is evidence of rivalry between
                                the baptist movement & the Jesus camp at very early date, which led all
                                the gospels to insist that JB admitted his successor was his superior.
                                Admittedly we have no direct evidence of interaction with "Essenes" in
                                Christian sources. But there is ample indirect evidence of Essene-like
                                thinking infiltrating Christian sources at a very early stage. But this
                                only magnifies the distinctiveness of Jesus' own views on social purity
                                issues. The Qumran covenanters referred to themselves "sons of Light."
                                So the punchline of the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:8) as a
                                direct slap at the rigorous standards of Essene social relations. And
                                I'm pretty sure that this verse is not a Lukan invention.

                                > Although Jesus ran afoul of the priestly aristocracy eventually, for
                                > most of his ministry I don't think we see any conflict with Saduccees.

                                This, I think, claims more than we can know historically. In the first
                                place, how long was HJ's "ministry"? The older I get the more I'm
                                convinced it could not have lasted more than a few months after the
                                execution of JB. The only evidence we have that it was longer is the
                                narrative in GJohn covering 3 Passovers. But if you accept the Johannine
                                chronology you also have to accept his contention that HJ was in
                                constant conflict with the temple priests from the beginning of his
                                public career. I'm not prepared to go this far. But I'm afraid evidence
                                that Jesus was ever a supporter of the Jerusalem priesthood is
                                historically questionable. I think Dom Crossan is essentially correct in
                                arguing that HJ's view that the KofG was directly accessible to peasants
                                & children indicates that he had no room for an aristocratic priesthood
                                in his theology.

                                > As for
                                > the Pharisees, it seems likely that Jesus was closer to them than to any other
                                > party, if he was not a Pharisee himself, and that the historical reality preserved
                                > in the gospel's polemics is more like intra-Pharisaic argumentation than
                                > anything else.

                                I would agree that there was probably much more direct contact between
                                HJ & Pharisees than other standard Jewish parties & that they probably
                                shared many of the same views. But I cannot find convincing evidence
                                that HJ was himself a Pharisee, though I spent years searching the
                                Talmud, Montefiore & other Jewish sources for points of general
                                agreement. It is true that many of the most heated arguments involve
                                those whom one is closest to. But that is precisely why such polemic is
                                aptly characterized as "bad blood." I still think that most of this
                                polemic is better traced to J's fans than to HJ himself. But it seems to
                                have been rooted in HJ's own deviations from rabbinic halakha. That is
                                why I remain skeptical of attempts by well-intentioned Chistian & Jewish
                                scholars to reconstruct Jesus as a standard Jewish hero. He was
                                definitely a hero to many Jews, but one whose deviations traditionalists
                                regarded as socially dangerous (not unlike Elvis in the 50s).

                                I wrote:


                                > My point is essentially that to describe the real HJ one has to take
                                > seriously the claims of all the sources that *he* was the major catalyst
                                > in the social explosion that that transformed a Jewish sect into a
                                > missionary movement that was open to gentiles.

                                Lewis replied:
                                >
                                > It seems to me that the major agency through which that catalyst operated was
                                > Paul; and since Paul did not know the real HJ, this seems to me a major
                                > decoupling of the the HJ from social explosion you refer to. I know you've
                                > considered this, so could you tell me what I'm missing here?

                                Here I'm in agreement with Yuri: that the liberal attempt to put all the
                                blame for the separation of Christianity from Judaism on Paul won't hold
                                up to historical scrutiny. In his own lifetime Paul's influence was not
                                so great that he can be credited with inventing the fundamentals of
                                Christianity or having persuaded those who were Christians before him to
                                take a tact that was not somehow a cogent extension of HJ's own
                                theological & social vision. I regard Paul as a bright intellect who saw
                                the logical consequences of principles that were there in HJ's message
                                from the beginning.

                                Shalom!


                                Mahlon

                                --

                                *********************

                                Mahlon H. Smith,
                                Associate Professor
                                Department of Religion
                                Rutgers University
                                New Brunswick NJ

                                http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
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