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Re: Census obsession

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  • Ian Hutchesson
    ... There were after all many more dramatic events that had just passed in Jewish history: you know, three year siege of the whole country, destruction of
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 30, 1998
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      At 20.30 30/12/98 +0100, you wrote:
      >I wrote:
      >
      >
      >>>We know from Josephus and Acts that around the time of Jesus' birth a census
      >>>caused a revolt led by Judas the Galilean. .... So a census did tend to upset
      >>>orthodox Jews, particularly in Galilee. Yet Jesus' family is portrayed as
      >>>willingly complying with a different(?) census held at about the same
      >>>time--or perhaps a few years before.
      >
      >Ian:
      >
      >>As the census is a necessary part of the mechanism in GLuke -- you've got to
      >>get the family from Nazareth to Bethlehem somehow (though the GMatt version
      >>didn't have this problem, starting the family off in Bethlehem) --, it would
      >>be difficult to get any deeper significance from the census. If GLuke is an
      >>apologetic to a non-Palestinian audience (well, isn't it?), then it would
      >>probably not matter much that there was a relatively obscure numbering of
      >>the Jewish population as ascribed to David.
      >
      >Yet Judas the Galilean was fired up enough about this relatively obscure
      >numbering to start a revolt against Rome in 6 A.D. If all we had was the
      >reference from Samuel II, I'd agree with you; but we have Judas from Galilee
      >starting a rebellion to protest a Roman census.

      The following is what you didn't quote from my previous post:
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      There were after all many more dramatic events that had just passed in
      Jewish history: you know, three year siege of the whole country, destruction
      of Jerusalem and its temple, enormous death toll and huge glut on the
      slavery market. GLuke was put together after all that. I'd stick to the
      census as the Lucan motive for going to Bethlehem.
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      >And we have Jesus' parents,
      >also from Galilee, happily participating in one within the same decade or
      >so.

      I'm shocked at the persistant literalism here, given that the birth
      narrative is an additive whose historical value is even less than other
      parts of the gospel. To explain: at least one of the birth narratives is
      simply not based on fact, but then, given the probable date of writing of
      the birth narratives, there was little way for a writer to know anything
      tangible of the early life of Jesus. It is quite probable therefore that
      neither birth narrative has any basis of fact. To argue then using the birth
      narratives as having a historical significance seems extremely hopeful.

      >Ian:
      >>...I'd stick to the census as the Lucan motive for going to Bethlehem.
      >>
      >>(Incidentally, the absurd problem of dating the census -- and whether there
      >>were in fact two (!) -- only arises when people want to be literalist and
      >>reconcile the Lucan version with the contrary birth narrative in GMatt.
      >>Given the non-realistic nature of both accounts one wonders: "why bother?")
      >>
      >Let's not toss the baby out with the bathwater. It seems to me that the
      >Lucan motive is really quite unconvincing.

      We are not trying to deal with realism, just coherent motivation. So whether
      you're convinced or not seems to have little weight. There is so much that
      is unconvincing in the gospel accounts that doesn't cause problems to anyone
      else, eg all the Pharisees are hypocrits, that Peter has such a short
      memory, that people having seen the miracles can remain unaffected, etc, etc.

      >Who's ever heard of families
      >having to track for hundreds of kilometers just to be counted in their
      >ancestral towns? The point of a census was surely to count the taxpayers
      >wherever they were currently living. Given the Galilean resistance to
      >censuses, as witnessed by the revolt of Judas, it may be that it was to
      >*avoid* participation in the census that Jesus' parents left Galilee for
      >Egypt.

      We're going on with the mix-and-match literalism a bit much here. The
      Egyptian trip was Matthean. I thought you were following the Lucan version.

      >This admittedly speculative reconciliation of Luke and Matthew would
      >make both accounts more plausible.

      Naaa. That's just wishful thinking. They really have so little in common,
      the only reason I can see why one would want to reconcile them would be a
      closet-inerrantist's uneasy conscience. Why not just go back and look at
      what they really have in common -- surprisingly little: it's just that we've
      always had the harmonised version shoved down our throats, so you read one
      and fill in the spaces with the other.

      >In support of this idea are also
      >indications of Jesus' association with the temple of Onias in Heliopolis,
      >which I am currently exploring.

      What association of Jesus with the Jewish temple at On? I would think that
      most Jews boycotted the On temple, given the centralisation of the cultus
      under the Hasmoneans.

      >This temple was not only responsible for
      >launching messianic and anti-Roman Sibylline oracles, as Leon Herrmann has
      >shown,

      I know of nothing in the Sibylline Oracles that could be necessarily
      connected to the rogue Jewish temple at On, though oracles #3 & #5 are
      related to Egypt.

      >but I suspect was also behind the entire Melchizedek theology meant
      >to discredit the Jerusalem temple hierarchy.

      Is this after the Hasmoneans instituted the Melchizedek propaganda to
      strengthen their own control of the temple and the state? The logic seems
      clear: insert a figure early in the religious tradition who has precedence
      over the later figures -- he does not belong to the older tradition, just as
      the Hasmoneans were not Zadokites, but superseded them.

      >If all goes well, I'll submit
      >some of these findings a.k.a. speculations for your enlightened and much
      >appreciated critique next year.

      Melchizedek speculation is still popular, I see. (-:


      Ian
    • INTERPRES
      In several previous messages I wrote about the revolt of Judas the Galilean at the time of the Quirinus census, contrasting it with the Lucan portrayal ...
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 31, 1998
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        In several previous messages I wrote about the revolt of Judas the Galilean
        at the time of the Quirinus census, contrasting it with the Lucan portrayal
        of Jesus' Galilean family participating in the same census:
        >
        >>And we have Jesus' parents,
        >>also from Galilee, happily participating in one within the same decade or
        >>so.


        Ian responded:

        >I'm shocked at the persistant literalism here, given that the birth
        >narrative is an additive whose historical value is even less than other
        >parts of the gospel. To explain: at least one of the birth narratives is
        >simply not based on fact, but then, given the probable date of writing of
        >the birth narratives, there was little way for a writer to know anything
        >tangible of the early life of Jesus. It is quite probable therefore that
        >neither birth narrative has any basis of fact. To argue then using the
        birth
        >narratives as having a historical significance seems extremely hopeful.


        You've completely missed my point, Ian. Far from taking a literalist
        position, I argued that Luke may have made been contrasting the census
        obedience of Jesus' family with the census revolt of Judas the Galilean--for
        the benefit of his readership. This does not require any knowledge by the
        author of GLuke of the real circumstances of Jesus' birth. Given the
        presumed time of the composition of Gluke and Acts (60s AD in my opinion)
        the presumed obedience of Jesus' family to a Roman edict that other Jews,
        particularly Galilean Jews, violently rejected might have been thought
        helpful by the author of GLuke and Acts in the interest of making Jesus a
        respectable figure in Roman eyes.

        I'll respond to the rest of your remarks separately

        Regards,

        Jan
      • INTERPRES
        I wrote:. ... Galilean--for ... The rebellion of Judas the Galilean marked the beginning of the troubles in Galilee and in Judea generally. This agitation was
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 2, 1999
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          I wrote:.

          >>Far from taking a literalist
          >>position, I argued that Luke may have made been contrasting the census
          >>obedience of Jesus' family with the census revolt of Judas the
          Galilean--for
          >>the benefit of his readership.
          >
          >If you're not being literalist here, Jan, the argument has no value at all
          >as far as I can see. You are trying to create some complex motivation for
          >using the census that ignores the obvious reason for its use found in the
          >text and that has no pointers for such a "hidden" significance. In short,
          >this seems your speculation and not derived in any way from the text.
          >

          The rebellion of Judas the Galilean marked the beginning of the troubles in
          Galilee and in Judea generally. This agitation was specifically anti-Roman;
          the fuse that ignited it was the census of Quirinus. Since Jesus' parents
          were residents of Galilee and Jesus was born, in the GLuke version, at the
          time of the census/rebellion, it is reasonable to suppose that the author of
          GLuke wanted to remove any suspicion that Jesus' family had any sympathies
          with the rebels. The best way to accomplish that would be to portray them as
          obediently participating in the census. That's not a hidden significance in
          my opinion, but an overt one. As to the census serving as the vehicle to
          bring Jesus' family to Bethlehem, I would say that it is a poor vehicle
          indeed. Firstly, the requirement to be counted in one's ancestral town seems
          illogical if the census is to be of use for purposes of tax collection.
          Secondly, does Luke really need the census to bring the family to Bethlehem?
          He could have had them visit the Temple at Passover and stop over to see
          relatives in Bethlehem, for instance. The more likely reason that he chose
          the census to bring them to Bethlehem is so he could flash their credentials
          as obedient subjects of Augustus.
          >
          I wrote:
          >>...the presumed obedience of Jesus' family to a Roman edict that other
          Jews,
          >>particularly Galilean Jews, violently rejected might have been thought
          >>helpful by the author of GLuke and Acts in the interest of making Jesus a
          >>respectable figure in Roman eyes.


          Ian:
          >(That the parents are represented as good citizens -- in Roman terms -- may
          >be conscious: I don't know, but it's reasonable.)
          >
          Chances are that it was. After all, had the author of GLuke merely stated
          that Jesus' parents were loyal subjects of the Empire, it would not have
          been nearly as effective as portraying them as demonstrating their loyalty
          in a practical way. And let us keep in mind that, in the face Judas'
          rebellion, the loyalty of any Galilean at the time of the Quirinus census
          was suspect.

          Regards,

          Jan
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