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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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