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Re: Jesus as a threat

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  • 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 1 of 14 , Aug 1, 1998
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      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 2 of 14 , Aug 2, 1998
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        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 3 of 14 , Aug 4, 1998
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          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 4 of 14 , Aug 9, 1998
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            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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