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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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]
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
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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 9 of 14 , Dec 3, 2001
                    • 0 Attachment
                      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 10 of 14 , Dec 4, 2001
                      • 0 Attachment
                        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 11 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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