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Re: [XTalk] Historical vs. Legendary Characters (was Dating of GMark)

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    I wrote regarding Avigad s report on ossuaries of Cyrenian Jews, one named ... to ... Simon. Reciprocal greetings, Richard: Of course you know I can t. But
    Message 1 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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      I wrote regarding Avigad's report on ossuaries of Cyrenian Jews, one named
      Alexander ben Shim'on in the environs of Jerusalem:

      > >So the evidence of the ossuaries in no way
      > >documents the actual existence of "these individuals" -- i.e., those
      > >mentioned in Mark's text.

      Richard Anderson replied in part:

      > Yes
      > you can name other individuals with the name Alexander but can you point
      to
      > another Alexander in the Cyrenian Jewish community who was the son of
      Simon.

      Reciprocal greetings, Richard:

      Of course you know I can't. But then again can you or anyone else produce a
      census of all Cyrenian Jews in the first c. CE? If not, how can one
      determine with any degree of certainty that the Alexander b. Shim'on
      mentioned in Mark 15:21 is none other than the person of the same name whose
      bones have been discovered in Jerusalem? That identification presupposes
      that the implicit original audience of Mark was centered in or at least
      familiar with residents of Jerusalem -- a thesis that, as I indicated, would
      support my view of an original Judean provenance for the composition of
      Mark. But if one favors some other locus for Mark's intended audience
      (whether a patristic tradition of Rome or Alexandria or some other modern
      proposal, such as Ted Weeden's suggestion of Caesarea Philippi) then
      identification of the Alexander mentioned by Mark with the one buried in
      Jerusalem becomes more problematic. For what historical evidence can one
      produce to support a hypothesis that a community of Xns in Rome or elsewhere
      outside Palestine would have been familiar enough with a north-African Jew
      who was buried in Jerusalem for Mark to mention him in a parenthetical aside
      while narrating a story that involved his father?

      My point is twofold:

      (1) If the name Alexander b. Shim'on was as unique as Pontius Pilatus among
      Roman governors or Yosef Kayafa among Jewish priests, then one could safely
      assume that the archaeological relics referred to none other than the
      figures so named in Xn literature. Otherwise historical caution is advisable
      given the human mind's natural proclivity to confuse persons & things of the
      same name. Eusebius had to correct Irenaeus who had confused two Johns
      mentioned by Papias & had therefore drawn the erroneous historical
      conclusion that Papias was himself a disciple of the beloved disciple.
      Popular Xn tradition regularly confuses gospel stories about women named
      Mary. Even people with rather distinctive names can be erroneously linked in
      a modern researcher's mind. Since going on-line I can't begin to count the
      number of people who have contacted me claiming to be kin because they know
      of a relative named Mahlon H. Smith (which was also the name of my father &
      grandfather as well as a great-great-uncle). But on further examination
      only three proposed family ties have proven to be valid.

      To make a positive historical identification of references in unrelated
      sources to persons with the same relatively common names one needs more
      information about these persons than is provided by extant sources (Mark &
      the ossuaries). Certainly the identification of both as Cyrenians narrows
      the field. And the fact that Alexander b.Shim'on's ossuary was found near
      Jerusalem -- the city which Mark claims Simon father of Alexander entered
      "from the countryside" makes such an identification seem plausible. But I
      have had to disappoint too many people who thought they had located a
      long-lost cousin because we bore the same name to draw any historical
      conclusion from our two references to a Alexander b. Shim'on other than that
      these *might* be the same individual, pending the discovery of other
      evidence.

      (2) My 2nd point concerned your conclusion:

      > I think it is fair to say that these individuals are not legendary
      > characters but real historical figures who inscribed ossuaries provide
      > documentary evidence.

      The distinction between history & legend is a fine line since both report
      events that are alleged to have happened. Legends are generally told about
      people who really existed. They simply distort the historical facts by
      reporting something that never actually happened as described (e.g., GW &
      the cherry tree). I have heard several stories about my own parents &
      grandparents (whom I can attest actually existed) that on further
      examination did not prove to be historically reliable. Thus, I tend to agree
      with Michael Turton that the ossuary of Alexander b. Shim'on is no more
      evidence that "these individuals are not legendary characters but real
      historical figures" than the discovery of the tomb of a Roman soldier from
      Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera is evidence that Jewish claims
      that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera involved a "real
      historical figure." For what distinguishes history from legend is the not
      the existence of a person so-named but the factuality of the event
      reported.

      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/
    • Bob Schacht
      ... [Emphasis added] I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don t *want* the two Alexanders to be the same person. To equate the evidence for
      Message 2 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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        At 03:03 AM 12/3/01 -0500, Mahlon Smith wrote:
        >... Thus, I tend to agree
        >with Michael Turton that the ossuary of Alexander b. Shim'on is
        > *no more*
        >evidence that "these individuals are not legendary characters but real
        >historical figures" than the discovery of the tomb of a Roman soldier from
        >Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera is evidence that Jewish claims
        >that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera involved a "real
        >historical figure." For what distinguishes history from legend is the not
        >the existence of a person so-named but the factuality of the event
        >reported.

        [Emphasis added]

        I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don't *want* the
        two Alexanders to be the same person. To equate the evidence for Cyrenian
        Alexander b. Shim'on in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem as Alexander b.
        Shim'on in Mark whose father is reported by Mark in Jerusalem with the
        evidence from the tomb *in Germany*, if I remember correctly, of a Roman
        soldier from Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera as the same as the
        Pantera (not Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera) mentioned in some Mishnaic
        tracts dating hundreds of years later than Mark shows a very skewed set of
        balanced scales, I'm afraid. The Markan text, and the Jewish ossuary, are
        more clearly marked in date, place, and names of individuals than the later
        Mishnaic text, which can only be construed to be about Jesus by making a
        series of glosses on the text, and a remote German grave bearing only one
        of the same names of the alleged person involved.

        I don't think the Jewish ossuary data "proves" the historicity of the
        Alexander b. Shim'on of the Markan text; but I consider the evidence much
        better than the Pantera canard.

        Bob

        Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
        Northern Arizona University
        Flagstaff, AZ


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Mark Goodacre
        ... I think you may be being a little harsh on Mahlon here, Bob. On balance, we can t say much more than that this could be the character referred to by
        Message 3 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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          On 3 Dec 2001 at 7:55, Bob Schacht wrote:

          > I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don't *want*
          > the two Alexanders to be the same person. To equate the evidence for
          > Cyrenian Alexander b. Shim'on in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem as
          > Alexander b. Shim'on in Mark whose father is reported by Mark in
          > Jerusalem with the evidence from the tomb *in Germany*, if I remember
          > correctly, of a Roman soldier from Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes
          > Pantera as the same as the Pantera (not Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera)
          > mentioned in some Mishnaic tracts dating hundreds of years later than
          > Mark shows a very skewed set of balanced scales, I'm afraid.

          I think you may be being a little harsh on Mahlon here, Bob. On
          balance, we can't say much more than that this could be the character
          referred to by Mark. It's quite interesting and certainly worth our
          attention, but I don't know that we can go much further than that.
          The Panthera tradition isn't anything like as late as you suggest.
          The earliest reference is in Origen (3rd C.) and he is clearly
          referring to Celsus's tradition on this (mid-late 2nd C.), within
          100 years of the publication of the Gospels (see Contra Celsum,
          1.32).

          Thankyou very much, by the way, for the helpful feedback on my SBL
          paper, and to others -- especially Ken Olson -- who have provided
          similarly useful feedback. More anon.

          Mark
          -----------------------------
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
          University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
          Birmingham B15 2TT UK

          http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
          http://NTGateway.com
        • Mahlon H. Smith
          ... of a branch of a temporary agency. Forgiveness unnecessary since this is an open list which encourages all subscribers to post. I for one am grateful for
          Message 4 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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            RConte wrote:

            > Kindly forgive me, I'm not a church historian by any means, but a manager
            of a branch of > a temporary agency.

            Forgiveness unnecessary since this is an open list which encourages all
            subscribers to post. I for one am grateful for your lucid summary of
            Finegan's analysis of the Avigad report (I must confess it's been years
            since I read his *Archaeology of the NT* & had forgotten this entry). The
            only thing for which you need to beg forgiveness of list members is your
            failure to properly identify your name, since it is the policy of this list
            to request all who post to provide such info, at least manually if not in an
            automatic electronic e-mail "signature."

            After reviewing the evidence Finegan concluded:

            > "It is surely *a real possibility* that this unostentatious tomb was the
            last resting place of > the bones of at least two members of the family of
            this very Simon. That the members of > the family became Jewish Christians
            is also a likelyhood, for Mark's reference to
            > Alexander and Rufus suggests that they were well known in Christian
            circles."

            Finegan is a cautious historian. As anyone who read the post that I composed
            last night before I received yours can attest, I independently reached the
            same conclusion regarding the historical *possibility* that the people named
            on the ossuaries are those mentioned in Mark. To go beyond this admission of
            possibility, however, is to put aside all historical circumspection
            regarding the nature of the evidence & engage in a leap of faith akin to
            claiming the Shroud of Turin as evidence of HJ's burial.

            To risk appearing picky, however, I would disagree with Finegan's choice of
            words in claiming that "the members of the family [of Simon of Cyrene]
            became Jewish Christians is also a likelyhood (sp?)." In my lexicon
            "likelihood" refers to "the state of being probable" [Random House
            Unabridged p. 830]. And one can never reach a "probable" conclusion on the
            basis of only a *possible* correlation of two pieces of information. To
            reason in that direction is to engage in sloppy logic & uncritical
            historiography.

            You opine:

            > But why the reference in G of Mark and not the other Gospels? According to
            one theory, > Mark wrote to Roman Christians. Mark describes Simon as the
            father of Alexander and > Rufus, perhaps because this was the Rufus known to
            the Roman Christians, Ro 16:13 for > whom he more especially wrote.

            Here you have entered the world of unverifiable speculation. In fishing for
            more historical info this theory makes historically uncautious correlations
            of disparate pieces of data.

            (1) The thesis thaat Mark wrote to Roman Xns is a patristic tradition that
            has been challenged by many recent scholars, including Ted Weeden & yours
            truly in an extended email debate regarding the Provenance of Mark that is
            still accessible in the archives of this list.

            (2) The identification of the Rufus b. Simon mentioned in Mark 15:21 with
            the Rufus whose unnamed *mother* -- not father -- Paul (or "Tertius"?)
            claims to know in Rom 16:13 is an example of the same type of confused
            reasoning that identifies Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene. Not only does
            it make an unfounded assumption that there was only one possible person with
            this name known to early Xn authors throughout the Mediterranean world, it
            invites speculation about the life itinerary of such an individual for which
            there is no direct textual or archaelogical evidence.

            This type of untestable correlation of bits of disparate data is the stuff
            that hagiographic legends are made of. It has no place in modern critical
            historiography.

            You conclude:

            > I find the evidence compelling that these bones are of the family
            mentioned in G of Mark, > and hence his mention of them is similar to citing
            a reference to a famous person, a Jew > from Cyrene in Jerusalem in the
            first century, and provides an anchor for the reader.
            > Clearly these osuarries, even if they are as claimed, do not prove the
            passage in G of > Mark is authentic, but in the absence of evidence to
            the contrary, they weigh heavily in > that direction.

            Everyone is free to believe what they want. But please forgive this
            professional historian for suggesting that I don't regard this body of
            evidence as "compelling" enough to "weigh heavily" in the direction of the
            historical reliability of the Mark 15:21 for reasons I outlined in my
            previous post. But thanks for venturing your line of reasoning anyway. It
            helped me clarify mine. Please don't let this retort deter you from
            venturing your honest opinion in the future.

            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/
          • Bob Schacht
            ... Perhaps so; Mahlon is usually right, and I respect his scholarship greatly. But what I was reacting to was his bald assertion that ... Shim on is ... I
            Message 5 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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              At 04:45 PM 12/3/01 +0000, you wrote:
              >On 3 Dec 2001 at 7:55, Bob Schacht wrote:
              >
              > > I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don't *want*
              > > the two Alexanders to be the same person. To equate the evidence for
              > > Cyrenian Alexander b. Shim'on in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem as
              > > Alexander b. Shim'on in Mark whose father is reported by Mark in
              > > Jerusalem with the evidence from the tomb *in Germany*, if I remember
              > > correctly, of a Roman soldier from Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes
              > > Pantera as the same as the Pantera (not Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera)
              > > mentioned in some Mishnaic tracts dating hundreds of years later than
              > > Mark shows a very skewed set of balanced scales, I'm afraid.
              >
              >I think you may be being a little harsh on Mahlon here, Bob.

              Perhaps so; Mahlon is usually right, and I respect his scholarship greatly.
              But what I was reacting to was his bald assertion that
              >I tend to agree with Michael Turton that the ossuary of Alexander b.
              Shim'on is
              > *no more*
              >evidence that "these individuals are not legendary characters but real
              >historical figures" than the discovery of the tomb of a Roman soldier from
              >Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera is evidence that Jewish claims
              >that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera involved a "real
              >historical figure."

              I added emphasis to his words "no more." Both cases involve burial data
              compared with textual data.


              > On balance, we can't say much more than that this could be the character
              >referred to by Mark. It's quite interesting and certainly worth our
              >attention, but I don't know that we can go much further than that.
              >The Panthera tradition isn't anything like as late as you suggest.
              >The earliest reference is in Origen (3rd C.) and he is clearly
              >referring to Celsus's tradition on this (mid-late 2nd C.), within
              >100 years of the publication of the Gospels (see Contra Celsum,
              >1.32).

              I argue that the evidence is stronger for Alexander b. Shim'on than for
              Pantera based on these data:
              1. Mark is 100 years earlier than the Pantera tradition. 35 years after the
              events depicted is better than 135 years later.
              2. Alexander b. Shim'on is identified by the confluence of two names, not
              just one as with Pantera.
              3. If I remember correctly, Pantera in the Pantera tradition is not
              *explicitly* identified as the father of Jesus, and requires several
              assumptions to make the connection. But perhaps I am remembering the
              Mishnaic versions and not Contra Celsus
              4. The location of the Jewish ossuary is located much closer to the events
              described than the connection of Pantera with Sidon on a grave in Europe.
              5. The Pantera tradition is clearly polemical rather than historical in
              nature. On the other hand, the mention of Alexander b. Shim'on by Mark
              plays only a minor role in the story, which indicates to me that the
              motivation for inventing the Pantera tradition is stronger than the
              motivation for inventing a tradition about Alexander b. Shim'on.

              Again, I don't think this constitutes "proof", but it is, to me, better
              evidence than the Pantera tradition. So again, to equate the strength of
              the evidence in these two cases is, to me, just bizarre.

              But in any case my apologies to Mahlon if my response was too tart.


              >Thankyou very much, by the way, for the helpful feedback on my SBL
              >paper, and to others -- especially Ken Olson -- who have provided
              >similarly useful feedback. More anon.
              >
              >Mark


              Good! Don't let this drop. I look forward to your replies in this regard.
              Thanks,
              Bob


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Mark Goodacre
              ... Surely not! Mahlon s only sometimes right : ) Looking at your email again, I see what you mean; and you make some good points. The evidence for the
              Message 6 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                On 3 Dec 2001 at 12:05, Bob Schacht wrote:

                > Perhaps so; Mahlon is usually right,

                Surely not! Mahlon's only sometimes right : )

                Looking at your email again, I see what you mean; and you make some
                good points. The evidence for the correlation between Alexander b.
                Simon in the ossuaries & Mark 15 is stronger than it is between
                Pantera & Pantera's gravestone. I think you went into hyperbole,
                though, with the hundreds of years gap.

                > 3. If I
                > remember correctly, Pantera in the Pantera tradition is not
                > *explicitly* identified as the father of Jesus, and requires several
                > assumptions to make the connection. But perhaps I am remembering the
                > Mishnaic versions and not Contra Celsus

                It's explicit in Contra Celsum. I copy this from the on-line CCEL
                Ante-Nicene fathers collection:

                > But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the
                > mother of Jesus, and saying that "when she was pregnant she was turned
                > out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as
                > having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain
                > soldier named Panthera; "and let us see whether those who have blindly
                > concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera,
                > and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to
                > overturn His miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost: for they could
                > have falsified the history in a different manner, on account of its
                > extremely miraculous character, and not have admitted, as it were
                > against their will, that Jesus was born of no ordinary human > marriage. (Contra Celsum I.32).

                You don't mean "Mishnaic versions" either -- the Mishnah has no
                reference at all to Jesus. But otherwise, I appreciate your points.
                Correction humbly accepted.

                Cheers
                Mark
                -----------------------------
                Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
                Birmingham B15 2TT UK

                http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                http://NTGateway.com
              • Mahlon H. Smith
                ... I m afraid you re wrong there, Bob. As I ve already indicated in two posts I would be very happy to be able to use Avigad s ossuaries as proof that the
                Message 7 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                  Bob Schacht wrote:

                  > I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don't *want* the
                  > two Alexanders to be the same person.

                  I'm afraid you're wrong there, Bob. As I've already indicated in two posts I
                  would be very happy to be able to use Avigad's ossuaries as proof that the
                  Alexander b. Shim'on mentioned in Mark 15:21 was a resident of Jerusalem or
                  its environs. For that would add weight to my argument that GMark was
                  originally addressed to a Judeo-Xn audience in that region. But I don't
                  draw that conclusion because I'm sure that Ted Weeden & other critically
                  trained scholars who dispute my hypothesis of a Judean provenance for Mark
                  would not let me get away with it. And rightly so, since there is no
                  rhetorical DNA in our evidence to exclude the possibility that the Alexander
                  referred to by Mark (plausibly a person known to Mark's audience) is someone
                  other than the Alexander whose bones were found in the Jerusalem ossuary.
                  Mark after all never claims that Alexander or his father lived or was buried
                  near Jerusalem.

                  I don't know any scientific investigator familiar with modern forensic
                  research who *qua scientist* would have any problem with my cautious
                  assessment of the nature of the evidence in this case, any more than s/he
                  would with my reservations about identifying the Shroud of Turin as HJ's
                  burial garment. The only "bias" involved in such judgments is historical
                  circumspection & caution against leaping to conclusions that the evidence
                  does not warrant. Such caution is no less objective than the hesitancy of
                  the FBI or the NASB to conclude that the recent anthrax scare or the crash
                  of AA 587 were the handiwork of the al-Qaeda network. As much as
                  investigators may want to establish such a historical connection, they bend
                  over backwards not to jump to historical conclusions that the extant
                  evidence simply does not support.

                  Accurate historical reconstruction does not depend on what individual
                  reporters or researchers may or may not "want" to find. For the Quest of HJ
                  is not variation on the Quest of the Holy Grail. It is rather more akin to
                  restoration of an art work that has been obscured by centuries of pious
                  speculation & half-truths proposed in good faith by people who really
                  *wanted* to believe in the historical veracity of the gospel reports without
                  pausing to make a clear-headed assessment of the character of the evidence.

                  You wrote:

                  > I don't think the Jewish ossuary data "proves" the historicity of the
                  > Alexander b. Shim'on of the Markan text; but I consider the evidence much
                  > better than the Pantera canard.

                  The only reason I mentioned the Pantera tombstone in Bingerbruck is that
                  Michael Turton had already introduced it into this thread & I said I
                  "tended" to agree with him. You may dismiss the Pantera tradition as a
                  "canard" & in that I *tend* to agree with you. But I disagree with your
                  assessment that the inscription on the ossuary discovered by Avigad is "much
                  better evidence" that the Alexander b. Shim'on referred to by Mark was a
                  real person than the Bingerbruck tombstone is evidence that Pantera was a
                  real person. In both cases one has an ancient burial relic on the one hand &
                  a singly attested incident -- in the one case involving Jesus' birth in the
                  other involving his death -- reported by a writer who can hardly be
                  characterized as a neutral observer of these events. Would I be wrong to
                  conclude that your judgment that historicity of the Markan report is a "much
                  better" case than the anti-Xn rumor about reported by Celsus reveals your
                  own canonical "bias" or desire to believe the historical veracity of gospel
                  writers? Or can you produce some cogent argument that the Alexander in
                  Avigad's ossuary was none other than the person alluded to in Mark 15:21? If
                  the latter I'm willing to listen.

                  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/
                • Mahlon H. Smith
                  ... Nor is Mahlon under any illusion to the contrary. Fifteen years of having my arguments voted down by the majority of my colleagues in the JS has kept me
                  Message 8 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                    Mark Goodacre wrote:

                    > I think you may be being a little harsh on Mahlon here, Bob. On
                    > balance, we can't say much more than that this *could be* the character
                    > referred to by Mark.

                    to which Bob Schacht replied:

                    > Perhaps so; Mahlon is usually right,

                    and Mark retorted:

                    > Surely not! Mahlon's only sometimes right : )

                    Nor is Mahlon under any illusion to the contrary. Fifteen years of having my
                    arguments voted down by the majority of my colleagues in the JS has kept me
                    from getting a swollen head (unfortunately I cannot say the same for my
                    waist). At any rate thanks to both for your votes of confidence in my
                    arguments.

                    At risk of prolonging this thread ad nauseum, however, I am curious as to
                    why you both seem to think that there is a "stronger correlation" between
                    the Avigad ossuaries & Mark 15:21 than the Bingerbruck tombstone & Celsus'
                    report of the Pantera rumor. Is it dating? Or geography? Or the patronym? Or
                    what? Anyone care to elucidate?

                    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/
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Thanks; I stand (or sit) corrected! :-) ... The Pantera tradition in the Mishnah does not explicitly mention Jesus, but for at least a century the
                    Message 9 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                      At 08:21 PM 12/3/01 +0000, you wrote:
                      >On 3 Dec 2001 at 12:05, Bob Schacht wrote:
                      >
                      >...
                      > > 3. If I
                      > > remember correctly, Pantera in the Pantera tradition is not
                      > > *explicitly* identified as the father of Jesus, and requires several
                      > > assumptions to make the connection. But perhaps I am remembering the
                      > > Mishnaic versions and not Contra Celsus
                      >
                      >It's explicit in Contra Celsum. I copy this from the on-line CCEL
                      >Ante-Nicene fathers collection:... (Contra Celsum I.32).

                      Thanks; I stand (or sit) corrected! :-)


                      >You don't mean "Mishnaic versions" either -- the Mishnah has no
                      >reference at all to Jesus. ...

                      The Pantera tradition in the Mishnah does not explicitly mention Jesus, but
                      for at least a century the connection has been made with such passages as
                      b. Shabbath 104b (cf. b. Sanhedrin 67a), and analyzed by Travers Hereford
                      in Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (1903), pp. 35-41. Contra Celsus is a
                      better source.

                      Bob


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Bob Schacht
                      ... In my remarks to Mark Goodacre, I wrote [with slight emendations] ... My third point is removed by Mark Goodacre s quote from Contra Celsus ... Please keep
                      Message 10 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                        At 04:11 PM 12/3/01 -0500, Mahlon wrote:
                        >...At risk of prolonging this thread ad nauseum, however, I am curious as
                        >to why you both seem to think that there is a "stronger correlation"
                        >between the Avigad ossuaries & Mark 15:21 than the Bingerbruck tombstone &
                        >Celsus' report of the Pantera rumor. Is it dating? Or geography? Or the
                        >patronym? Or what? Anyone care to elucidate?

                        In my remarks to Mark Goodacre, I wrote [with slight emendations]
                        >I argue that the evidence is stronger for Alexander b. Shim'on than for
                        >Pantera based on these data:
                        >1. Mark is 100 years earlier than the Pantera tradition. 35 years after the
                        >events depicted is better than 135 years later.
                        >2. Alexander b. Shim'on is identified by the confluence of two names, not
                        >just one as with Pantera.

                        My third point is removed by Mark Goodacre's quote from Contra Celsus

                        >4. The location of the Jewish ossuary is located much closer to the events
                        >described than the connection of Pantera with Sidon on a grave in
                        >[Bingerbruck].
                        >5. The Pantera tradition is clearly polemical rather than historical in
                        >nature. On the other hand, the mention of Alexander b. Shim'on by Mark
                        >plays only a minor role in the story, which indicates to me that the
                        >motivation for inventing the Pantera tradition is stronger than the
                        >motivation for inventing a tradition about Alexander b. Shim'on.

                        Please keep in mind, Mahlon, that I am not saying that these things prove
                        that Alexander b. Shim'on in Mark is historical, as I have stated for about
                        the third time now. My reaction to your post was motivated mainly by your
                        claim that the evidence is *no better than* that for the Pantera tradition,
                        and that was what I was objecting to.

                        Bob


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Mahlon H. Smith
                        Apologies to Bob Schacht. I responded to Mark G s post before reading yours in which you spelled out your reasons for considering the two references to
                        Message 11 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                          Apologies to Bob Schacht. I responded to Mark G's post before reading yours
                          in which you spelled out your reasons for considering the two references to
                          Alexander to be a "stronger" correlation, thereby anticipating my request
                          for clarification. If you'll pardon a nit-picker's comments, here's an
                          off-the-top of my head dissection of your carefully compiled case favoring
                          the canonical report.

                          You wrote:

                          > I argue that the evidence is stronger for Alexander b. Shim'on than for
                          > Pantera based on these data:
                          > 1. Mark is 100 years earlier than the Pantera tradition. 35 years after
                          the
                          > events depicted is better than 135 years later.

                          That assumes of course that the Pantera tradition originated with Celsus.
                          But Origen at least did not think that he invented this rumor. How can one
                          be sure exactly when & where rumors about HJ's illegitimate paternity
                          originated? One can hardly expect earlier Xn writers to have reported this.
                          The only reason Origen reports it is that he committed himself to a
                          refutation of a text written by Celsus. We simply do not have any other
                          Jewish or anti-Xn literature that pretends to be well-informed about Jesus
                          earlier than Celsus. Had any such document been written Orthodox
                          ecclesiastical censors in the Constantinian era would certainly have
                          suppressed it as they did Celsus' volume.

                          Conversely, Mark's relatively closer historical proximity to the "event" he
                          reports only makes his witness stronger *if* one assumes that that event
                          actually happened & was not just a Markan fiction (as Ted Weeden supposes)
                          or an unfounded rumor that he uncritically echoed. But the strength of
                          Mark's testimony in this matter is no stronger than his testimony in
                          reporting other "events" -- such as the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus -- to which
                          he was not an eye-witness. And few contemporary critics would consider
                          Markan testimony in such matters much closer than 2nd or 3rd hand hearsay.
                          Given the speed with which unfounded rumors develop, I wouldn't be inclined
                          to conclude that a gap of 35 years made Mark's report any stronger than that
                          of Celsus.

                          > 2. Alexander b. Shim'on is identified by the confluence of two names, not
                          > just one as with Pantera.

                          But as I have already argued Alexander & Shim'on were both common Jewish
                          names. So the number of Jews who may have been known as Alexander b. Shim'on
                          cannot be restricted to a single individual. Pantera, on the other hand, is
                          a rare name not attested anywhere in ancient literature outside the rumor of
                          Jesus' paternity. That is why the discovery of the Bingerbruck tombstone in
                          1859 caused such a stir. The fact that it was a 1st c. artifact that
                          identified Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera as an archer from Sidon who had
                          served 40 years in a Roman legion provided details has led a long line of
                          scholars over the past 140 years to entertain the notion that the rumor
                          about Jesus' illegitimate paternity *may* not have been a complete
                          fabrication after all [see *Jesus & His World* by J.J. Rousseau & Rami Arav,
                          pp. 223f]. Since neither Mark nor the Jerusalem ossuary gives any
                          information about Alexander than his common Jewish patronym & his region of
                          origin, it is debatable whether the correlation between these references is
                          any "stronger" than the instances of reference to a Roman soldier with the
                          uncommon name of Pantera.

                          > 3. If I remember correctly, Pantera in the Pantera tradition is not
                          > *explicitly* identified as the father of Jesus, and requires several
                          > assumptions to make the connection. But perhaps I am remembering the
                          > Mishnaic versions and not Contra Celsus.

                          As I recall Celsus did not name of the Roman soldier who was rumored to be
                          Jesus' illegitimate father -- or at least Origen did not report a name
                          (unfortunately my copy of Origen's Contra Celsum is in my office at school).
                          The rumor is not mentioned in the Mishna which is not surprising since that
                          collection of rabbinic lore is largely legal in nature & contains few
                          aggadic tales. Rabbinic stories in Talmud, Tosefta etc. that identify a "ben
                          Pantera" or "ben Pandira" as the illegitimate offspring of a Roman soldier
                          do not explicitly mention the name of Jesus [if they had Xn censors would
                          certainly have burned these books]. But other rabbinic tales explicity
                          identify this ben Pandira as Jesus (Yeshua). Cf. Tosefta Hullin 2.22-23 in
                          my *Into His Own* URL
                          http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/jesus.html#snakebite
                          Few scholars would suggest that Celsus' reference to Jesus' paternity & the
                          ben Pantera/Pandira of rabbinic lore are unrelated rumors. The fact that we
                          have to piece together the Pantera rumor from several sources is
                          attributable to a well-documented history of Xns destroying works that
                          contradicted Orthodox doctrine.

                          At any rate we have far wider literary evidence of the currency of a rumor
                          that Jesus was son of a Roman soldier than we have of the name of an
                          *Alexander* b. Shim'on. For even Matt & Luke fail to echo Mark on that
                          detail.

                          > 4. The location of the Jewish ossuary is located much closer to the events
                          > described than the connection of Pantera with Sidon on a grave in Europe.

                          I fail to follow your logic here. Though Tiberius Pantera's grave is in
                          Europe -- due to his 40 years of service in the Roman military -- he is
                          described as a native of Sidon, a Lebanese city that is about 70 miles from
                          Nazareth & therefore a lot closer to HJ's probable place of origin than any
                          Judean city. It is the relative proximity of the place of Tiberius Pantera's
                          origin to HJ's hometown that is relevant to the tombstone's role in
                          supporting the legend, not the fact that he happened to die in Europe.

                          Mark 7:31 even reports Jesus taking an unexplained detour "through Sidon"
                          situated 25 mis. due north of Tyre (the site of his encounter with the
                          Syro-Phoenician woman) on his way to the Sea of Galilee (which lies 25 miles
                          southeast of Tyre). So even Mark does not regard some association of Jesus
                          with Sidon extraordinary. (Remember it is Mark who identifies Jesus only as
                          "son of Mary" & never reports the name of his human father).

                          As for the location of the Jewish ossuary containing the bones of Alexander
                          b. Shim'on: that attests only this Alexander's probable residence near
                          Jerusalem -- something Mark fails to mention, if in fact these Alexanders
                          are to be regarded as the same person. Note that Avigad did not claim to
                          recover the remains of Alexander's father Shim'on in that ossuary. So this
                          Jerusalem burial relic presents no concrete evidence that the father Simon
                          ever himself visited much less lived in Jerusalem. Note also that the
                          inscription of the ossuary claims that *Alexander* was himself from Cyrene.
                          So it is quite conceivable that this Alexander's father never left his
                          homeland. Thus the ossuary's location outside Jerusalem presents absolutely
                          no concrete evidence to support the historicity of the only *event* that
                          Mark credits to a member of this family (i.e. the Roman enlistment of Simon
                          of Cyrene to carry Jesus cross as he was approaching the city).

                          > 5. The Pantera tradition is clearly polemical rather than historical in
                          > nature. On the other hand, the mention of Alexander b. Shim'on by Mark
                          > plays only a minor role in the story, which indicates to me that the
                          > motivation for inventing the Pantera tradition is stronger than the
                          > motivation for inventing a tradition about Alexander b. Shim'on.

                          Were it not for the coincidence of the discovery of the 1st c. tombstone of
                          a Roman soldier with the unusual name of Pantera I might be inclined to
                          agree with you (& Origen) that the rabbinic references to Jesus as ben
                          Pantera could easily be dismissed as a total fiction designed to discredit
                          Xn claims of Jesus' virgin birth. Since Jane Schaberg's study on the case
                          for the illegitimacy of Jesus, however, I have to admit the opposite is just
                          as likely to be the case: i.e., that Xn claims of Mary's virginity were a
                          "mask" designed to turn the disgrace of Jesus' illegitimacy to theological
                          advantage. Cf. par 21 URL

                          http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/illegit.html

                          As for Mark's reference to Alexander b. Shim'on, I would hardly characterize
                          this as a tradition, since Mark is the only gospel writer who ever mentioned
                          this Alexander. I agree that Mark's off-handed allusion to Alexander *seems*
                          to be ingenuous. But he might have introduced this historicizing aside to
                          give credence to the otherwise questionable claim that Roman soldiers
                          exempted Jesus whom they had scourged & were on the verge of crucifying from
                          the ordeal of lugging his own cross.

                          So IMHO it is a toss-up as to which link between grave relic & rumor
                          presents a "stronger correlation." As I read the evidence, neither case is
                          particularly strong. But if I had to bet I *might* join Jane Schaberg in
                          wagering that the ben Pantera tradition may have a better claim to a core of
                          historical truth than the synoptic report that Romans relieved HJ of the
                          burden of having to bear his own cross to the site of his execution. In that
                          case my vote would neutralize yours.

                          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: "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...>
                          To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Monday, December 03, 2001 3:05 PM
                          Subject: Re: [XTalk] Historical vs. Legendary Characters (was Dating of
                          GMark)


                          > At 04:45 PM 12/3/01 +0000, you wrote:
                          > >On 3 Dec 2001 at 7:55, Bob Schacht wrote:
                          > >
                          > > > I think your emphasis indicates your bias. Clearly, you don't *want*
                          > > > the two Alexanders to be the same person. To equate the evidence for
                          > > > Cyrenian Alexander b. Shim'on in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem as
                          > > > Alexander b. Shim'on in Mark whose father is reported by Mark in
                          > > > Jerusalem with the evidence from the tomb *in Germany*, if I remember
                          > > > correctly, of a Roman soldier from Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes
                          > > > Pantera as the same as the Pantera (not Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera)
                          > > > mentioned in some Mishnaic tracts dating hundreds of years later than
                          > > > Mark shows a very skewed set of balanced scales, I'm afraid.
                          > >
                          > >I think you may be being a little harsh on Mahlon here, Bob.
                          >
                          > Perhaps so; Mahlon is usually right, and I respect his scholarship
                          greatly.
                          > But what I was reacting to was his bald assertion that
                          > >I tend to agree with Michael Turton that the ossuary of Alexander b.
                          > Shim'on is
                          > > *no more*
                          > >evidence that "these individuals are not legendary characters but real
                          > >historical figures" than the discovery of the tomb of a Roman soldier
                          from
                          > >Sidon named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera is evidence that Jewish claims
                          > >that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier named Pantera involved a "real
                          > >historical figure."
                          >
                          > I added emphasis to his words "no more." Both cases involve burial data
                          > compared with textual data.
                          >
                          >
                          > > On balance, we can't say much more than that this could be the
                          character
                          > >referred to by Mark. It's quite interesting and certainly worth our
                          > >attention, but I don't know that we can go much further than that.
                          > >The Panthera tradition isn't anything like as late as you suggest.
                          > >The earliest reference is in Origen (3rd C.) and he is clearly
                          > >referring to Celsus's tradition on this (mid-late 2nd C.), within
                          > >100 years of the publication of the Gospels (see Contra Celsum,
                          > >1.32).
                          >
                          > I argue that the evidence is stronger for Alexander b. Shim'on than for
                          > Pantera based on these data:
                          > 1. Mark is 100 years earlier than the Pantera tradition. 35 years after
                          the
                          > events depicted is better than 135 years later.
                          > 2. Alexander b. Shim'on is identified by the confluence of two names, not
                          > just one as with Pantera.
                          > 3. If I remember correctly, Pantera in the Pantera tradition is not
                          > *explicitly* identified as the father of Jesus, and requires several
                          > assumptions to make the connection. But perhaps I am remembering the
                          > Mishnaic versions and not Contra Celsus
                          > 4. The location of the Jewish ossuary is located much closer to the events
                          > described than the connection of Pantera with Sidon on a grave in Europe.
                          > 5. The Pantera tradition is clearly polemical rather than historical in
                          > nature. On the other hand, the mention of Alexander b. Shim'on by Mark
                          > plays only a minor role in the story, which indicates to me that the
                          > motivation for inventing the Pantera tradition is stronger than the
                          > motivation for inventing a tradition about Alexander b. Shim'on.
                          >
                          > Again, I don't think this constitutes "proof", but it is, to me, better
                          > evidence than the Pantera tradition. So again, to equate the strength of
                          > the evidence in these two cases is, to me, just bizarre.
                          >
                          > But in any case my apologies to Mahlon if my response was too tart.
                          >
                          >
                          > >Thankyou very much, by the way, for the helpful feedback on my SBL
                          > >paper, and to others -- especially Ken Olson -- who have provided
                          > >similarly useful feedback. More anon.
                          > >
                          > >Mark
                          >
                          >
                          > Good! Don't let this drop. I look forward to your replies in this regard.
                          > Thanks,
                          > Bob
                          >
                          >
                          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          >
                          >
                          >
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                        • Mahlon H. Smith
                          ... Thanks Mark. Like Bob I sit corrected. Just goes to show how right you were in assuring Bob that I am not always right ;-) I m such a print scholar that I
                          Message 12 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
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                            Mark Goodacre wrote:

                            > It's explicit in Contra Celsum. I copy this from the on-line CCEL
                            > Ante-Nicene fathers collection:

                            Thanks Mark. Like Bob I sit corrected. Just goes to show how right you were
                            in assuring Bob that I am not always right ;-)

                            I'm such a print scholar that I have yet to learn always to check the
                            on-line classic texts that I know full well are just a click away.

                            BTW. For anyone else who is interested. The CCEL URL for Origen's citation
                            of Celsus' reference to Panthera is

                            http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-04/anf04-55.htm#P7657_1778987

                            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/
                          • Stephen C. Carlson
                            ... Given my participation in the aforementioned thread, I could not let this pass without comment. First, the view that Mark was written in Rome has much
                            Message 13 of 14 , Dec 4, 2001
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                              At 12:12 PM 12/3/2001 -0500, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
                              >(1) The thesis thaat Mark wrote to Roman Xns is a patristic tradition that
                              >has been challenged by many recent scholars, including Ted Weeden & yours
                              >truly in an extended email debate regarding the Provenance of Mark that is
                              >still accessible in the archives of this list.

                              Given my participation in the aforementioned thread, I could
                              not let this pass without comment. First, the view that Mark
                              was written in Rome has much more evidentiary support that
                              what is stated here. It is is not based only on various
                              patristic traditions (note plural) but also, as Hengel has
                              ably argued, on a congruence of internal criteria that all
                              independently point to a Roman provenance.

                              Second, even though it has become fashionable for some scholars
                              to dispute a Roman provenance for Mark, they are hardly in
                              agreement as to where Mark was written. You, Mahlon, have
                              called for Judea, Weeden has suggested Galilee, and Joel
                              Marcus has pooh-poohed both ideas calling for Syria instead.
                              A close examination of the positive reasons for the alternate
                              sites for Mark shows that much of the same evidence supports
                              Rome about as well.

                              For example, Marcus argues for Syria because it was "close enough
                              in contact with many traditions about Jesus", but given the Pax
                              Romana, so was the capital Rome, which already had a sizeable
                              church at the time of Paul's letter to the Romans. Marcus says
                              that Syria was "also a predominantly Gentile region and an area
                              of Pauline influence" -- so was Rome. The term "Syrophoenician"
                              is appropriate not just in Syria, but in Rome too. Finally,
                              Marcus argues that Syria fits with Mark's emphasis on persecution
                              due to massacres of Jews by Gantiles there, but Rome remains the
                              best attested place in the first century where Christians per se
                              were persecuted, in Nero's reign.

                              Furthermore, the arguments for an Eastern provenance have
                              not been able to factor out successfully the fact that the
                              plot of Mark takes place in Galilee and Judea. Just because
                              Mark's gospel states that there will be a resurrection appearance
                              in Galilee does not mean that Mark was written in Galilee.

                              If one is to view the evidence in favor of Rome as (overly)
                              skeptically as the challengers, applying the same standard
                              to the evidence asserted in favor an Eastern provenance
                              would result in absolutely nothing left to go on.

                              Stephen Carlson
                              --
                              Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                              Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                              "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
                            • RSBrenchley@aol.com
                              ... Jerome, ... Could Papias be writing partly from a desire to justify two divergent texts? Mark used Peter, so had an accurate source, but did not write the
                              Message 14 of 14 , Dec 16, 2001
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                                Stephen Carlson writes:

                                > In terms of substance, it is an overstatement to claim that Papias reported
                                > that "Mark records the preaching of Peter" and that Mark "preserves Peter's
                                > testimony" as if Mark were some sort of transcript of Peter's preaching.
                                > That
                                > is not how Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria understood the situation, and
                                > they -- unlike us -- had Papias's full statement in its context. Clement
                                > asserted that Peter did not endorse Mark's gospel. This is hardly the
                                > behavior of a person whose preaching and/or testimony was recorded.
                                > Irenaeus
                                > tells us that Mark's gospel was composed after Peter's "departure." Most
                                > likely, Irenaeus meant after Peter's death, but in any case Peter was not
                                > around when Mark composed his gospel, according to Irenaeus. In fact, the
                                > dictation theory does not appear in the tradition until the 5th-cen.
                                Jerome,
                                > who has shown no independent knowledge of Papias's remarks (in fact, Jerome
                                > denied having translated Papias into Latin). Thus, the idea that Papias,
                                > Clement, and even Irenaeus were operating under the presumption of Petrine
                                > inspiration is an anachronism.

                                Could Papias be writing partly from a desire to justify two divergent
                                texts? Mark used Peter, so had an accurate source, but did not write the
                                story down in order. He 'kept a single aim in view: not to omit anything of
                                what he heard, nor to state anything therein falsely'. As you say, that does
                                not preclude other sources.

                                Matthew, on the other hand, is presumed to be the Matthew named as 'one
                                of the Lord's disciples', and is therefore an eyewitness. So he's likely to
                                get the order right. On the other hand, he 'compiled the oracles in the
                                Hebrew language [or dialect], but everyone translated them as he was able'.
                                So we shouldn't be too surprised if the details are occasionally somewhat
                                inaccurate; this would be due to poor translation. Maybe the translator
                                wasn't very able.

                                So on this picture, we have a neat explanation of why these two Gospels
                                differ in so many details, which avoids impugning either of them.

                                Regards,

                                Robert Brenchley

                                RSBrenchley@...
                                Birmingham, UK.
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