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8590Re: [XTalk] Dating of GMark

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    Dec 2, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      Richard Anderson wrote:

      > About 40 years ago N. Avigad wrote an article about a depository of
      > inscribed ossuaries found in the Kidron Valley in the Israel Exploration
      > Journal wherein he stated that the members of this family belonged to the
      > community of Cyrenian Jews known to have existed in Jerusalem. One of the
      > inscribed ossuaries stated Alexander, son of Simon and Avigad indicated
      that
      > J.T. Milik had proposed that the tomb in question belonged to the family
      of
      > the man who helped Jesus carry the cross.
      >
      > I think it is fair to say that these individuals are not legendary
      > characters but real historical figures who inscribed ossuaries provide
      > documentary evidence.

      Thanks for the notice, Richard. But I can accept your conclusion only with
      an important qualifier. The ossuaries reported by Avigad may be taken as
      evidence that *an* individual named Alexander ben Shim'on actually lived &
      was known among Cyrenian Jews in the vicinity of Jerusalem. I would not go
      so far as to call him a "real historical figure" since we know absolutely
      nothing about anything he himself said or did to influence subsequent
      history. As far as historical documentation is concerned all we have is one
      enigmatic reference in Mark 15:21 to a deed done by "Simon of Cyrene" who
      *may* have been the same person as the *father* of the Alexander whose
      bones were found in the Jerusalem ossuary. But Shim'on was not so uncommon a
      Jewish name that there was only one among the community of Cyrenian Jews.
      Nor was Alexander so rare a name among the Hellenized Jews of North
      Africa -- I think immediately of Philo's renegade nephew Tiberius
      Alexander -- that there could only have been one Alexander ben Shim'on among
      Cyrenian Jews. So it is still a leap of faith to identify the names on the
      ossuaries (which obviously belonged to real people) with those "individuals"
      who are alluded to by Mark. So the evidence of the ossuaries in no way
      documents the actual existence of "these individuals" -- i.e., those
      mentioned in Mark's text. Much less does it indicate that the Markan claim
      that a Simon of Cyrene was coopted to carry Jesus cross for him reflects an
      actual historical event rather than a legend fabricated by unfounded rumor
      or the pious imagination.

      Permit me to illustrate this point by reference to two other figures whom
      the gospels represent as having a far more significant role in the Passion
      narrative: Caiaphas & Pontius Pilate, both of whom are rightly identified as
      "historical" persons since (a) they are prominently mentioned not only in Xn
      but Jewish sources & (b) we have archaeological evidence of their existence
      & prominence (in the form of Yosef Kayafa's ossuary & the Pilate inscription
      at Caesarea). Here only the most dogmatic skeptic would deny that the
      persons reported by the gospels to have played a prominent role in the
      execution of Jesus were historical individuals. Yet that does not
      demonstrate that anything the gospels report about Caiaphas or Pilate was
      historically well-founded other than their official status. On the
      contrary, all the gospels demonstrate a primitive Xn penchant for reporting
      things about both men for which there is no identifiable Xn eye-witness &
      portraying Pilate as treating Jesus in a manner that is virtually impossible
      to reconcile with either Josephus' description of the man or the fact of
      Jesus' crucifixion. If the original author of the passion narrative could so
      freely fictionalize his account of figures who were so publicly notorious
      among Palestinian Jews & if these fictionalized caricatures could be so
      readily elaborated on by subsequent gospel writers. Why should one not think
      that the same sort of unhistorical imagination was at work in portraying the
      figures who play lesser roles in the PN (e.g., Simon of Cyrene & Joseph of
      Arimathea)?

      Thus, the most one can say with relative historical certainty is that the
      Alexander & Rufus mentioned *seem* to be individuals Mark expects his
      intended readers would have heard of. But how, where, etc. is all a matter
      of conjecture, since Mark does not even claim that the father Simon was a
      resident of the area around Jerusalem. *If* the Alexander referred to by
      Mark is the same individual whose bones were recovered in the Kidron valley,
      then we might be justified in concluding that Mark was originally drafted
      for an audience familiar with residents of the Jerusalem area (a conclusion
      which those who read my debate with Ted Weeden last year regarding the
      provenance of Mark might recall I tend to favor). But unfortunately, there
      is no way to demonstrate the historicity of Mark's off-handed association of
      this Alexander with the figure whom the PN credits with carrying Jesus'
      cross (a alleged deed that I find difficult to accept as historical for a
      variety of reasons). Thus, I would still contend that the Markan story of
      Simon of Cyrene is more legend than history.

      Shalom!

      Mahlon


      Mahlon H. Smith
      Department of Religion
      Rutgers University
      New Brunswick NJ 08901

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

      Synoptic Gospels Primer
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

      Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Richard Anderson" <randerson58@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2001 9:02 PM
      Subject: RE: [XTalk] Dating of GMark


      > Brian and Michael et al., greetings:
      >
      > Clearly he is telling us that Alexander >and Rufus fit into the mold of
      > >"legendary characters", yet he has no >evidence at all that they are
      > >legendary.
      >
      > About 40 years ago N. Avigad wrote an article about a depository of
      > inscribed ossuaries found in the Kidron Valley in the Israel Exploration
      > Journal wherein he stated that the members of this family belonged to the
      > community of Cyrenian Jews known to have existed in Jerusalem. One of the
      > inscribed ossuaries stated Alexander, son of Simon and Avigad indicated
      that
      > J.T. Milik had proposed that the tomb in question belonged to the family
      of
      > the man who helped Jesus carry the cross.
      >
      > I think it is fair to say that these individuals are not legendary
      > characters but real historical figures who inscribed ossuaries provide
      > documentary evidence.
      >
      > Richard H. Anderson
      > Wallingford PA
      > http://www.geocities.com/gospelofluke
      >
      > I am unfortunately a customer of Comcast with internet connection thur
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      in
      > advance if my service is disconnected and your reply to me is bounced.
      >
      >
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