Re: [XTalk] Ancient narratives of crucifixion
- Thanks for the helpful replies to this so far. Hengel is on my
reading list, and also in the library rather than my desk, so I'll
dig that out next week. No, Stephen, I'm not a big fan of the Cross
Gospel. Like Jeffrey, I wondered if there might be account of
Spartacus's crucifixion -- great minds think alike (not least in my
case because I am all to inclined to think in terms of films and the
scene with Kirk Douglas at the end of Spartacus is partularly
memorable to me). But looking at the sources, it is not clear to me
that Spartacus was crucified. Appian (Civil Wars I.116-20) reports
that Spartacus's body was not even found; Plutarch (Life of Crassus
8-11) has him dying in battle; likewise Florus (Epitome 2.8); Livy
(Periochae 97) has him killed with 60,000 others. In one respect,
the Spartacus story reinforces something very unusual about the
Gospels -- the extraordinary nature of having a crucified hero at
the heart of your narrative. Would not an honourable death have
been something like Florus reports for Spartacus, "Spartacus himself
fell, as became a general, fighting most bravely in the front
rank". Likewise, he is depicted in several of those sources as
dying fighting with his army. Jesus, on the other hand, dies
abandoned and alone, his followers having fled. Now there are only
some women watching from afar off. It is this utterly abject,
lonely, shameful death, characterised by an eery silence, which
provides the invitation to Mark to scripturalize the tradition, and
thus to construct the first narrative of crucifixion by subverting
the readers' expectations, to say that here, where you would least
expect it, honour, glory and vindication are found. (That, at
least, is a summary of the kind of thesis I am working with).
Jeffrey, I have also been struck by the quotation from Cicero, for
whom crucifixion is clearly a matter so horrifying that the Roman
citizen should remove his thoughts, eyes and ears.
Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
Dept of Theology
University of Birmingham
Elmfield House, Selly Oak tel.+44 121 414 7512
Birmingham B29 6LQ UK fax: +44 121 415 8376
- Peter Kirby asked on Monday, September 13, 2004 5:20 AM
<When you say Christian logic, is this equivalent to "the study of
Please excuse the ambiguity of my expression. Thank you for taking the
time to ask for a clarification.
I do not recall how the thread "Ancient narratives of crucifixion"
turned into a discussion of the way psychologists have studied the birth
of Christianity. But it seems to me that, the publication of _When
Prophecy Fails_ did not remain an isolated event as far as
pshychological research in the field of religion is concerned.
I have read this book long time ago. I do not have access to it now. But
as far as I recall, it was centered on the study of a very specific case
and had nothing to do with the study of the "Christian phenomenon". (I
use this expression as Teilhard de Chardin uses the expression: "human
phenomenon". The appearance of man). The book shows the psychological
consequences of faith and commitment. When the prediction of a specific
event does not materialize at the specified time and in the specified
form, the logical conclusion should be that the prediction was wrong.
But faith and commitment do not easily accept error and failure. So the
stronger they are, the stronger the refusal to admit error and defeat.
No attempt is made in this book to extrapolate what concerns the birth
and death of a short-lived sect into what pertains to the birth of
Christianity. This sort of extrapolation seems to have been attempted
Unfortunately the knowledge I have of these extrapolations is limited to
what transpired in our XTalk exchanges. I felt the need to go back to
square one and study what has been attempted in the psychological field
on this point.
It appeared to me that the psychologists have been working alone on a
difficult question, the study of which requires not only a certain
familiarity with religious questions, but also an in-depth understanding
of the Christian faith. By this I mean not only, as you put it
correctly, "the study of Christianity", but also a feel for the problems
with which we are entangled in the field of gospel scholarship. In the
same way as we are faced with serious difficulties, so also the
psychologists. Whence my idea: instead of working independently of one
another, we would gain to work together.
So I go back today to this simple proposition. Instead of criticizing
what the psychologists have done so far, as Wright does in his book (and
I am not saying that his criticism is not well-founded), I think that an
intelligent collaboration between us can be useful. I am still waiting
for someone else to second this proposition.
I know that the mere fact of getting together and exchanging ideas will
not be enough to entirely change the picture on both sides of the
divide. In order for a real breakthrough to become possible, we must
adopt a totally new approach to the Christian phenomenon. This is
perhaps what makes the listers suspicious and not knowing what to think.
You cannot judge the new approach I am advocating without knowing it.
I admit, on the other hand, that rejection is what I fear. My
proposition is likely to look preposterous to many of you. I fear to be
treated as Paul was treated when he mentioned the word "resurrection" in
his speech to the Athenians. So I am working on a "captatio
benevolientiae" before I dare speak openly. If nobody is really
interested to hear what I have to say, it makes no sense to say it. But
I am counting on a curious mind to start a new thread.
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