Re: [XTalk] The Jesus movement before the NT
- -----Original Message-----
From: Ronald Price
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 5:24 AM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] The Jesus movement before the NT
I had asked about the evidence for Jesus having two cousins called James.
Let's start with Ya'qub Bar Zebediy or "James the Greater"
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the
[mother] of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come
and anoint him.
John 19:25 writes it as ....Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his
mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the [wife] of Cleophas, and Mary
The parallel quotes identifies Salome as the wife of Zebedee and mother of
James and John and John calls her the sister of Jesus' mother. This makes
James and John Bar Zebedee cousins and makes more sense of the Zebedee
brothers' request of Jesus at Mt. 20:20
Your identification relies on the historicity of a part of John's gospel. I
date the original 'edition' of John as ca. 105 CE, and don't think it can be
relied upon when treated as an independent witness to the history of the
Jesus movement as it was 70 years earlier.
As far as Mk 16:1 is concerned, it should surely be interpreted in the light
of Mk 15:40, which also refers to "Mary the mother of James" then adds TOU
MIKROU. This qualification has caused much puzzlement among scholars. My
take is that Mark means "the lesser", a derogatory reference to James the
brother of Jesus. This would explain the similarity of the Mary, James and
Joses in Mk 15:40 with the Mary, James and Joses of Mk 6:3, together with
their identical mutual relationships.
It is so difficult, my friend, to place a debate with a knowledgeable
scholar in short snippets in an e-forum and do it justice. First let me
answer your rebuts and then we'll chat a bit about historiography in this
case. If you date 4G to 105 CE you are claiming p52 an autograph or 1st
generation copy. I place P52's paleographic mean at 117 CE. I claim, after
many years of work and study, canonical 4G was written in the latter rule of
Domitian (95ish CE) in Greek but using as a template (much as Matthew and
Luke used Mark) an early Aramaic narrative in translational Greek. This
"proto-John" is still embedded in the larger Greek opus. Proto-John
pre-dated Mark and as early as the 40's CE.
Ya'qub Bar Halfy ("James" the Lesser) was so called simply because he was
younger than Ya'qub,the "Greater/Elder" and even the Talmidda had to keep
their "Jameses" straight for Ya'qub Bar Yahosef. John Mark (if he was the
author) would never had "dissed" Ya'qub haTsaddiqa because he WAS Jesus'
brother as well as having been one of the more revered pious men of the
time, pretty much why he went unmolested for 30 years until a dipstick like
Ananus saw an opportunity when Festus died and Agrippa's back was turned and
it still got him fired and exiled.
Alphaeus/Clopas (Halfy)'s wife was also named Maryam. Both brothers, Joseph
and Alphaeus, married Marys and this "other Mary is mentioned throughout so
there is Mary the mother of James, the Lesser and Mary, the mother of James,
the Just (and Jesus). The awkward Greek syntax, particularly regarding
conjunctions, fades away on Aramaic reconstruction. I NEVER rely on the
Greek for a narrative or a saying of Jesus that was originally rendered, or
written, in Judean Aramaic. For the many reasons why, I recommend Casey,
Black and Fitzmyer....unless or until I get to the UK again and you can put
on the coffee and clear your schedule.
Now to my method. If we want to study Mark himself (whoever he was), the
only primary material we have is his Gospel in his words, written originally
in his Aramaic stilted Greek. We study his vocabulary, syntax, vocabulary,
style and content. That gets us as close to this author as we can get and
the stories related by the Patristics are all secondary sources. When we
study Paul of Tarsus, we come off a bit better because he enjoyed talking
about himself more than he talked about Jesus. His first language was Greek
and we can study his style.
Jesus and his Talmids, on the other hand, spoke Judean Aramaic. Even as a
child I refused to believe in Bronze Age myths, talking snakes, virginal
conceptions, men as gods, etc but was fascinated with Jesus of Nazareth on
the only level that I or any other HONEST person could relate....as a human.
That meant that I had to learn his language, the social and cultural
anthropology of his time and place and, since it was Roman occupied, the
same for these people who killed him and would later run the Church. Trying
to learn Judean Aramaic in the 50s was daunting. Everything was in German.
Fortunately, Johns Hopkins was nearby and a kindly professor in Semitics
there didn't mind spending some after hours time with a kid. I considered
this background essential...no, critical to understanding the Historical
Jesus, and still do. Aramaic is the ONLY way to get to near-primary source
material regarding Jesus. I consider arguments against this, which I often
get, as downright silly and often chauvinistic-based because some scholars
are trained in Hebrew and Greek only. They cover by claiming Jesus spoke
Hebrew, a language that had not been the "language of the land" for several
I discovered also that those who do profess the importance of Aramaic are in
the Syriac based Churches and claim Syriac was "Jesus' language" which it
definitely was not. Some claimed the Peshitta was the "original" New
Testament, equally silly.
Even in this forum, one of the most respected, for which I have the honor as
serving as a moderator, when I bring up the Aramaic card, when appropriate
to a discussion, I can sense the eyes rolling and often never receive a
So all I can do, Ron, is continue to beat the "follow the Aramaic" drum.
Fortunately, the material is available in English now. As a kid I had to
sneak off in the evenings to Baltimore Polytechnic for German classes just
so I could read about Aramaic. This is my way of letting you know that I am
not merely talking through my...uh....
- This topic ran for a while back in January.
I have just seen a review of a book on Philo
which gives particular attention to Philo's
use of some passages from the haftarot which, it is
argued, match part of a later cycle of such readings.
Naomi Cohen, Philo's Scriptures ... (Brill 2007) is
the book, and a very interesting and detailed review
of it by Tzvee Zahavy is in Review of Rabbinic
Judaism 15 (2012) 133-136.
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh
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