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[XTalk] Re: Anomianism

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  • Davies
    ... Mahlon wrote ... This is just what I had in mind when I wrote that social politics rather than sheer objective disinterested science has led to the
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 31, 2000
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      >Steve wrote [on the Ides of Dec '99]:

      > > The simple answer is that every single story of Jesus' death
      > > asserts that Jewish parties believed Jesus had transgressed
      > > Jewish law and that those parties delivered him up to be killed.

      Mahlon wrote
      > This sweeping generalization misrepresents the literary evidence. If
      > innocent Jews hadn't been made to bear the brunt of this type of Xn
      > misrepresentation of the degree of Jewish responsibility for the death
      > of J, I could let this statement pass. But unfortunately it is just such
      > imprecise rhetoric that has fed more than 19 centuries of self-rightous
      > Gentile bigotry. So I feel obliged to challenge virtually every element:

      This is just what I had in mind when I wrote that "social politics"
      rather than sheer objective disinterested science
      has led to the present general refusal to accept that Jesus was
      delivered up by Jewish parties to be killed.
      It is what is called "the fallacy
      of the appeal to the consequences of belief." If we believe that
      there was Jewish responsibiliy for the death of J, then innocent
      Jews will be made to bear the brunt of self-righteous Gentile bigotry.
      Accordingly we must not conclude that there was Jewish responsibiliy
      for the death of J. Now, perhaps I am mistaken about this, but what
      led me to the belief I hold was exactly the sort of rhetoric that
      Mahlon employs here. If you choose to think that Mahlon is motivated
      by disinterested objectivity alone, the material quoted above will
      allow you to see how one might, however mistakenly, suspect
      otherwise.

      > a. "every single story" -- exaggeration. While not strictly a "story"
      > the earliest account identifying IOUDAIOI as those responsible for
      > killing J (1 Thess 2:14-15) does not claim J was executed on charges of
      > violating "Jewish law." Rather "the Jews" are here censored for
      > hindering a mission of the EKKLHSIAI TOU QEOU in Judea towards Gentiles.
      > If J was charged & executed of some offense other than this it is not
      > specified.

      I really do not understand this at all, especially since, as you
      concede, the pasage isn't a story. The passage in question does
      not appear to be one that challenges translators; it does identify
      IOUDAIOI as those responsible for killing J. If the point is that
      it does not declare forthrightly that Jesus was executed for
      violating Jewish law, what the
      argument from silence is that follows from that fact I don't know.

      Frankly it seems virtually tautlogical to assume that if
      legal authority decided to have somebody killed it is because legal
      authority believed that person to have broken the law. John 18:30:
      "If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over."
      I'm sure exceptions
      exist but one should not assume an exception rather than a rule.
      For example, I am not persuaded despite the testimony of the
      Evangelists,
      that Pontius Pilate found Jesus innocent of breaking any law
      but had him killed anyhow. Nor do I find
      it reasonable to think that Jewish authority knew Jesus to have lived
      in accordance with the law but decided to have him executed anyhow.
      I think exactly the same way in regard to Paul's persecution of
      Christians; they were found to be breaking the law.

      > b. "Jewish parties" -- imprecise generalization. Which Jewish parties?
      > It depends upon which part of which gospel one reads. 4G has a leading
      > Judean Pharisee (Nicodemus) recognize J as a "teacher come from God" (Jn
      > 3:2) & defend him against the officers of the chief priests precisely
      > because he had not been officially found guilty of violating *any*
      > Jewish law (Jn 7:50-51).

      Yes, this is an imprecise generalization. I'm not sure what would
      consitute a precise generalization.

      If our texts indicate that some priests and some teachers of
      the law were eager to have Jesus killed it would be most reasonable
      to assume that some of both types were involved.
      To ask for much more precision than this is asking the impossible.

      > c. "those parties delivered him up to be killed" -- simply untrue. 4G
      > clearly separates the Pharisees alleged charges of sabbath violation &
      > blasphemy from the rationale for J being handed over to the Romans. In
      > fact, the reason Caiaphas gives for J's arrest & execution is his
      > admitted popularity with the Jewish masses (Jn 11:47-50). To avoid Roman
      > force being used to crush a pro-Jesus mass demonstration by Jews in the
      > temple, the high priest persuades the Sanhedrin to have J arrested &
      > handed over to the Romans as a dangerous demagogue. In context the later
      > claim that J violated Jewish law (Jn 19:7) is not the real pretext for
      > J's execution (which in all of the gospels is the identification of J as
      > "king of the Jews") but a rhetorical ploy by the chief priests to
      > prevent Pilate from releasing a popular hero whom *Jews* (including the
      > Pharisee Nicodemus) viewed as a performer of prophetic signs from God
      > (Jn 2:23).

      The Jewish Party in this instance is chief priests, if
      you say so, and they say: 19:7 "We have a law, and according to
      that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."
      And this is, of course, in accord with John 5:18
      "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him;
      not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even
      calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."
      If this is evidence AGAINST the proposition "Jewish parties believed
      Jesus had transgressed Jewish law and that those parties delivered
      him up to be killed" I fail to see how.

      > d. While the synoptic Jewish trial scene -- which is historically
      > dubious for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with "our own
      > social politics" as Steve alleges -- may *seem* to justify Steve's
      > description of "every single story of Jesus' death" it does not. For
      > the synoptics do not blame any specific "Jewish party" or combination of
      > them as implicated in J's arrest & execution. Rather the synoptics
      > blame "the chief priests, [elders] & scribes" of Jerusalem -- i.e.,
      > temple bureaucracy -- for J's death (Mark 14:1,10,43,53; 15:1,11 par).

      It would seem that d) above is evidence that supports my position
      which is, of course, that Jewish parties (and we are not in a
      position to specify exactly which parts of which parties) are
      implicated.
      I refer
      you also to Mark 10:33 where Jesus says ""We are going up to Jerusalem,
      and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and
      teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand
      him over to the Gentiles...." Surely this is Mark's opinion on
      the subject and not that the temple bureaucracy alone was responsible.

      > Moreover, they insist that they could only find *false* witnesses whose
      > testimony did not agree regarding any charge that J could have been
      > condemned for under Jewish law (Mark 14:56-59 par). Mark 14:64 par is
      > not intended by any synoptist as evidence that J actually committed
      > blasphemy but to convince Xn readers that the Jerusalem authorities
      > sentenced J without due cause. For there is nothing in what J said that
      > any ancient Jew would have considered blasphemous.

      Mark and John thought claims to be "son of god" or "son of the
      blessed one" were blasphmous. I'm not sure where that would leave
      your sentence above. Mk and Jn weren't Jews seems to be the logical
      consequence. Or are you assuming that since Jesus is in fact the
      son of god any claim to that status would be true and hence
      not blasphemous?

      > Ergo, Steve's claim that the gospels are unanimous in portraying "Jewish
      > parties" as delivering J to be killed because they believed he had
      > "transgressed Jewish law" is an erroneous impression based on shoddy
      > scholarship as anyone who has digested Crossan's *Who killed Jesus?*
      > should see.

      So what do such sentences as Mk 10:33, Mt 20:17 indicate? Jesus
      was NOT thought to have transgressed Jewish law but, instead he was
      handed over by the chief priests and teachers of the law to be executed
      because.... what? Their evil natures? The will of God? Presumably
      because, as Mark indicates, Jesus did not act in accordance with
      the law.

      What Crossan thinks led to Jesus' execution via the workings
      of "highest Jewish ... authorities" is that he caused serious
      trouble in the temple, WKJ 212. One assumes that causing serious trouble
      in the temple would be transgression against Jewish Law. After
      all, according to Crossan, Mark's Jesus "symbolically destroys the
      Temple by atttacking its fiscal, sacrificial , and cultic
      necessities," (WKJ 63). Crossan concludes that Jesus made "an attack
      on the Temple's very existence. ... That sacred edifice represented
      in one central place all that his vision and program had
      fought against...." (WKJ 64-65). The Temple, in the eyes of
      the Jewish parties known here as highest Jewish authorities, was
      an institution required by Jewish law.

      > Steve further asked:
      >
      > > Why is it incredible that Jesus and Pharisees were mortal
      > > enemies (despite the weight of evidence saying they were?)
      >
      > Again this is at best an over-exaggerated mischaracterization of the
      > literary evidence. True Mark claims that *Galilean* Pharisees sought to
      > "ruin" [APOLLYMI] J (Mk 3:6). But there are other ways to ruin a person
      > than by killing him (e.g., entrapment in a publicly embarrassing
      > position such as the tax question in Mark 12:13-17).

      There's some problem, surely, in thinking that Mark distinguishes
      Galilean pharisees from any other teachers of the law. If
      Mark distinguishes between teachers of law and Pharisees at all I'd
      Be surprised to learn of it, much less Pharisees from one place and
      Pharisees from another place.

      As of Mk 2:7 Jesus is thought to blaspheme, then to
      break the law 2:24 and they plot against him by 3:6 and eventually
      he is delivered up. Mark 8:31, 10:33 show hostility
      then they arrange to have him killed Mark 14:1. If we assume
      that this is Mark's view of things, surely Mark 3:6 must be read
      accordingly and not so as to indicate a simple intention to
      embarrass..

      > Moreover, there is
      > nothing in the synoptics that justifies implicating these northern
      > Pharisees in Mark 3 in the decision to execute J in Jerusalem. What *is*
      > incredible is Mark's assertion that Pharisees of any stripe conspired
      > with "Herodians" to ruin J. Whoever these Herodians were [allies of
      > Antipas?], historical Pharisees were not likely to have become their
      > allies. For Antipas' father had brutally executed 2 leading interpreters
      > of the Torah & their disciples in Jerusalem [4 BCE; Josephus,
      > Antiquities 17.149-157] & Antipas had likewise executed another partisan
      > of the Torah: JB. While some in both camps might have wanted HJ out of
      > the way, Mark's claim that they joined forces against him strains the
      > political imagination -- as does Matt's claim that Pharisees & Sadducees
      > ganged up against J or John's claim that Pharisees joined Caiaphas in
      > seeking to arrest J. Bruce Chilton has made a pretty good case that
      > Pharisees found Caiaphas' importation of animal merchants into the
      > temple complex to be a source of desecration. And not only Josephus but
      > rabbinic tradition attests to Pharisaic laments over the brutality of
      > the ruling Sadducees including the house of Hanan, represented by Yosef
      > b. Kayyafa. See my *Into His Own* 65-66. URL:
      >
      > http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/pharisee.html#Sadducees

      I am entirely lost as to what position you are holding or even what
      position you are attacking. My "Jewish parties" which you attacked
      as an "imprecise generalization" seems to be appropriate. We do
      not know precisely which segements of which parties did what but the
      NT evidence indicates that Jewish parties delivered Jesus up to
      be killed. If your point is that there were distinctions between
      Jewish parties, I can't disagree. But I note that in the paragraph
      quoted above you have not the slightest hesitation in speaking of
      Pharisees and Saducees and Herodians as though these are monolithic
      groups. Could one not say, for example, that "some" Pharisees
      found common cause with "some" Herodians? Perhaps "some" Pharisees
      were not so obsessed with Caiaphas' importations that they could
      not join with him on other matters. Etc.

      > Despite their
      > differences all these scholars grant that SOME of the details of the
      > gospel accounts of J's arrest & execution are reliable. The ones that
      > are rejected as unreliable are questioned for good historical reasons
      > (e.g., lack of a reliable eye-witness, inconsistent reporting,
      > implausible scenario, conflict with other historical evidence, obvious
      > Xn apologetic propaganda). So it is patently false to characterize
      > criticism of Xn rhetoric that portrays "Jewish parties" without
      > discrimation as responsible for J's death.

      I suppose so. Crossan, for his part, concludes that "he was
      executed in Jerusalem through a conjunction of the highest Jewish
      and Roman authorities," (WKJ 212). You will know whether he
      means Saducees and/or Priests and/or Priestly Scribes or
      just two of these or only one and which element of that party
      Crossan specifically has in mind. I don't know. I have read
      the WKJ book, but his prose overwhelms me and sometimes is so
      bizarre that I trust him not at all (e.g. Crossan's exegesis of
      mark 5:22-43 WKJ 101). But as it stands
      here, why "highest Jewish ... authority" is so much more
      specific than "Jewish parties" as to be laudable puzzles me. [My
      difficulties in reading Crossan are not news to crosstalk].

      As far as I can tell you would agree with my statement if I added
      "some members of" to it. Then it would read
      > > The simple answer is that every single story of Jesus' death
      > > asserts that "some members of" Jewish parties believed Jesus had
      > > transgressed Jewish law and that those parties delivered him up
      > > to be killed.

      I agree, of course, that it is not the case that all of the Pharisees
      conspired to kill Jesus nor all of the Priests, etc. I suppose it is
      possible you are arguing that those members of Jewish parties who
      delivered up Jesus to be killed did NOT think he had transgressed
      any laws, but it seems altogether more reasonable to think that they
      did believe he had transgresed laws... Jewish laws, to be specific.

      I really don't think much of the notion that we should replace the
      NT's view of Pilate as consciously deciding to excecute Jesus
      whom Pilate knew to be innocent of any illegality with a new view
      of Jewish authorities consciously deciding to execute Jesus
      whom they knew to be innocent of any illegality.

      So I'd conclude that Jewish parties, so called because
      we have no certainty exactly which elements of which parties were
      involved, believed Jesus had transgressed Jewish law and
      they delivered him up to be killed for, if he had not in
      their opinion transgressed that law they would not, one assumes,
      have delivered him up to be killed.

      Steve
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