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Re: [XTalk] Cross Gospels, crucifixions, resurrections

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  • Antonio Jerez
    ... this ... This ... I agree with you that Paul doesn t explicitely mention an empty tomb , but his recieved kerygma states that Jesus was BURIED. This does
    Message 1 of 18 , Feb 3, 2002
      Bill Arnal wrote:

      > 1) Paul, writing very shortly after the supposed events in question does
      > NOT, in trying to justify his belief in Jesus' resurrection to the
      > Corinthians, cite an empty tomb. He refers instead to what seem to be
      > visionary-type experiences. However suspicious I think we should be of
      this
      > account, it nonetheless suggests that belief in the resurrection pre-dated
      > accounts of the supposed evidence for this event, i.e., the empty tomb.
      This
      > latter is not the historical bedrock from which the subsequent fantasies
      > developed -- in this case, the fantasies generated the story, as "proof."

      I agree with you that Paul doesn't explicitely mention an "empty tomb", but
      his recieved kerygma states that Jesus was BURIED. This does not seem to
      support
      speculations about his corpse rotting on a cross. I also think that Paul's
      phariseic beliefs about resurrection did not include the idea that a rotting
      corpse,
      eaten by dogs and then followed by visions of Jesus could be seen as proof
      of the
      resurrection of the End Times. As far as I can glean from Paul's letters he
      believed in the
      quite common belief at that time of a bodily resurrection, meaning that at
      the End Time
      God would transform an earthly body into a "spiritual" body = an eternal
      nonfleshly
      body. I have difficulty seeing how he could have became so exalted if Jesus
      body had been
      widely known to have been eaten by dogs and then only followed by simple
      visionary
      experiences. This would hardly be taken as proof of the resurrection of the
      End Time. t
      would have been a simple ghost story, and the ancients were quite accuainted
      with ghosts
      without claiming that the End Time had arrived when seeing one.

      I would also like to add the "evidence" from Matthew 28:11-15. This appears
      to be
      a reminicence (although shrouded in Matthean form) of the Jewish
      counterclaims to
      the empty tomb. Why counterclaim in this way if it could easily be shown
      that the
      false Messiah had been rotting on a cross? If Crossan is right I think we
      should have
      expected ridicule of the Christians and their "rotting" Messiah in later
      jewish litterature.
      We find ridicule of another kind but not this.


      > 2) Q and Thomas (I know, Antonio -- we share completely different
      > perspectives on these texts; but I'm gonna talk about them anyway), on the
      > other hand, show, I think, that belief in the resurrection may POST-DATE
      the
      > inception of the Christian movement. That is to say, the absence of any
      > sense of the resurrection from these texts shows that there was a
      motivation
      > to preserve the memory of Jesus and even to ascribe high status and
      > supernatural significance to him ("son of man," "the Living One") quite
      > apart from any belief in a unique and historically fix-able resurrection
      > event. This suggests to me at least the possibility that the resurrection
      > belief emerged as a rationalization, a retrospective claim to divine
      > vindication, AFTER a deceased Jesus had already acquired some measure of
      > authority or significance among his post-mortem followers.

      You are quite right that arguments based on a hypothetical Q and Thomas
      won´t cut much ground with me. I not think there existed any Christian
      grouping
      at the beginning who didn't believe or found it necessary to believe in the
      resurrection
      of their leader. The later gnostics and christians influenced by Platonism
      could discard
      this, but not Paul and other jewish-christians.

      > 3) Most importantly, this is not a procedure that we apply to anyone else!
      > We all know that Elvis has been raised from the dead, and is appearing to
      > just about as many people as Jesus did. Do we try to explain this in terms
      > of an empty tomb, or some other event that "must have" elicited such a
      > belief? No, of course not. Indeed, it seems to me that there is NO logical
      > connection at all between "the historical Elvis" and the semi-divine
      > resurrected entity that keeps healing people, cropping up at 7-11's, and
      > consorting with space aliens. An example more contemporary with Jesus
      > himself -- the apotheosis of Julius Caesar. No one (I hope!) explains this
      > in terms of Julius' friends going to his tomb and finding his body
      >missing!

      I don't understand the logic of the Elvis example. As far as I know nobody
      has claimed that Elvis body has dissappeared from his tomb in Memphis. And
      if
      evidence is needed we are fortunately in a postion to check out the claims.
      I think
      the Jewish authorities in the first century would have been in a similar
      position to
      check out claims that Jesus had disappeared from a tomb while in reality
      rotting on
      a cross. We don't find any counterclaims like that in Jewish litterature,
      and in this
      instance I think the silence is telling.
      The Ceasar example is also unfortunate. As far as I know the romans knew
      pretty
      well that his body was cremated in the traditional fashion. In this case
      there wasn't much
      of a body to look for. And since the romans did not believe in bodily
      resurrection like the
      Jews there wasn't any need for an intact body to have an apotheosis.

      I must admit that it feels a bit akward for a historian with a secular
      outlook to defend
      the empty tomb tradition, but I always try to go where the evidence leads
      me. I do recall
      that once in a time a professed atheist like Stevan Davies (what has
      happened to him?)
      also defended the empty tomb tradition on the old Crosstalk against Mahlon
      and a few
      others. It is a strange world.

      Best wishes

      Antonio Jerez
      Goteborg, Sweden
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Bill, Welcome back from lurker status! :-) I started this response before the Super Bowl, but was unable to finish it until afterwards. ... Guilty as
      Message 2 of 18 , Feb 3, 2002
        At 10:01 AM 2/3/2002 -0600, you wrote:

        >Hi everyone:
        >
        >I've been following this Cross Gospel discussion from the sidelines,

        Bill,
        Welcome back from lurker status! :-)
        I started this response before the Super Bowl, but was unable to finish it
        until afterwards.

        > and have found myself agreeing in particular with Ted comments about
        > Mark's lack
        >of historical interest in and knowledge of the crucifixion.
        >
        >Antonio's recent comment on the resurrection (i.e., that Christianity as we
        >know it is only explicable in terms of an empty tomb or some other index
        >that would suggest a resurrection to Jesus' followers), though, struck me as
        >worthy of comment. This strikes me as of a piece with the approach of most
        >people on this list, and most scholars of the historical Jesus, namely,
        >assuming that there must be some logical linkage between the historical
        >person Jesus and the movement that arose in his name. Or to put it
        >differently, early Christianity is a direct extrapolation from SOMETHING,
        >some je ne sais quoi, about Jesus; and early Christian reflection on Jesus
        >as having died and been raised by God reflects SOMETHING about events prior
        >to these conceptualizations themselves.

        Guilty as charged. The problem I have, with my feeble imagination, is
        conceiving of a world-wide movement lasting 2000 years based on a scam
        (which seems to be what you're suggesting). I remember having a go-around
        with Willi Braun on this issue in the early days of CrossTalk. And as David
        Hindley observed today,
        >But I do have to wonder, why pick a crucified man to serve as a symbol,
        >unless there was some sort of
        >connection to him.

        In other words, why pick as the basis for your scam someone who had been
        thoroughly discredited and humiliated?
        If Christianity was NOT based on something about Jesus, then it seems to me
        that we've really done is to transfer the genius of Jesus to the genius of
        some subsequent myth-maker who then becomes the "real" prophet for the new
        religion. Perhaps you have Paul in mind? So that Christians are really
        nothing more than Paulians with the wrong name? Or, since you're coming
        from a Religious Studies paradigm, perhaps your real question is, what is
        it about the human temperament that Paul (or whomever your candidate is for
        the "real" founder of Christianity) was able to tap into so effectively as
        to be able to create the longest-running scam in human history? But perhaps
        I misunderstand you.

        >These quite intuitive assumptions strike me as problematic, especially as
        >they apply to the resurrection, for a number of reasons:
        >
        >1) Paul, writing very shortly after the supposed events in question does
        >NOT, in trying to justify his belief in Jesus' resurrection to the
        >Corinthians, cite an empty tomb. He refers instead to what seem to be
        >visionary-type experiences. However suspicious I think we should be of this
        >account, it nonetheless suggests that belief in the resurrection pre-dated
        >accounts of the supposed evidence for this event, i.e., the empty tomb. This
        >latter is not the historical bedrock from which the subsequent fantasies
        >developed -- in this case, the fantasies generated the story, as "proof."

        Well, we do have RSV 1 Thessalonians 4:14:
        >For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through
        >Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

        and RSV Romans 6:4
        >We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ
        >was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in
        >newness of life.

        and RSV Colossians 2:12:
        > and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised
        > with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

        and RSV 1 Corinthians 15:4:
        >that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with
        >the scriptures,

        which is about as close to the Gospel accounts as one might expect to find
        in Paul.

        Since for Paul, the important point was the resurrection, an empty tomb was
        secondary, or perhaps implicit-- an unnecessary detail.
        Besides, you are arguing from silence (no explicit reference to a tomb),
        which is a somewhat risky line of reasoning.


        >2) Q and Thomas ... on the
        >other hand, show, I think, that belief in the resurrection may POST-DATE the
        >inception of the Christian movement. That is to say, the absence of any
        >sense of the resurrection from these texts shows that there was a motivation
        >to preserve the memory of Jesus and even to ascribe high status and
        >supernatural significance to him ("son of man," "the Living One") quite
        >apart from any belief in a unique and historically fix-able resurrection
        >event.

        But doesn't this raise the genre question? Q and especially Thomas both
        focus on Sayings of Jesus, so that we would not expect to find narrative
        about resurrection there. This is old ground, covered many times before.

        >This suggests to me at least the possibility that the resurrection
        >belief emerged as a rationalization, a retrospective claim to divine
        >vindication, AFTER a deceased Jesus had already acquired some measure of
        >authority or significance among his post-mortem followers.

        And how might that have happened? How could a discredited and humiliated
        Jesus acquire some measure of authority or significance after being
        crucified, and having his corpse shredded by scavengers? What am I missing
        here?


        >3) Most importantly, this is not a procedure that we apply to anyone else!
        >We all know that Elvis has been raised from the dead, and is appearing to
        >just about as many people as Jesus did. Do we try to explain this in terms
        >of an empty tomb, or some other event that "must have" elicited such a
        >belief? No, of course not.

        Well, I don't see any Church of the Resurrected Elvis, either. Besides,
        most of what you're referring to is not that Elvis died and rose again, but
        sightings based on the idea that Elvis never really died in the first place
        (despite the Coroner's report).

        >.... An example more contemporary with Jesus
        >himself -- the apotheosis of Julius Caesar. No one (I hope!) explains this
        >in terms of Julius' friends going to his tomb and finding his body missing!
        >Instead, those people who bother with the question at all suggest social
        >and/or political and/or propagandistic motives for these claims. Quite
        >rightly. Why not do so with Jesus?

        The claims may have been made, but I don't notice that they were received
        with much credibility. What is it with the claims about Jesus that made
        them so much more credible than the claims about Caesar?

        >I'm not really talking about this specific example just to get in Antonio's
        >face (I prefer to agree with him, whenever possible).

        Oh common, Bill; I can't imagine you backing away from a good debate. In
        fact, I rather thought that you relished the idea! ;-)

        >I raise it because it
        >strikes me as a good illustration of the fundamental problem with most of
        >the discourse, not only on this list, but about HJ in general, i.e., the
        >assumption that we are dealing here with a more or less logical unfolding of
        >conclusions from events, i.e., that the ancient Christians are sort-of
        >passively letting things happen to them and then formulating (theological,
        >etc.) conclusions from that.

        One need not depend on that word "passively." They could have been rather
        actively involved-- if they really had something to work with. But if they
        didn't really have anything to work with, my feeble imagination cannot
        grasp why their efforts succeeded so spectacularly.

        > This observation may be applied to anything
        >under discussion here. Were there hundreds of witnesses to Jesus'
        >crucifixion? Well, maybe, but who cares? Presumably when G Mark started
        >appearing on the best seller racks, these witnesses weren't running up to
        >Caesarea Philippi (or wherever Mark wrote) to complain that he got the facts
        >wrong. I would suggest that our obsession with continuity, facticity, and
        >logical connections is just that -- OUR obsession.

        Do we have here a counter-obsession with minimizing the importance of Jesus
        by belittling every single possible element of significance in his life? I
        thought that the purpose of History, or Religious Studies, was to find
        rational connections and explanations based on historical evidence. Are you
        suggesting that we ought to be more comfortable with discontinuity,
        fantasy, and illogical connections as the basis of our understanding early
        Christianity? If so, I can understand that, from your perspective, you
        would welcome a portrait of early Christians as irrational innovators
        unconcerned with facts, but must we follow suit?


        >By the way, what I regard as the absolute BEST statement on the HJ in recent
        >years has just come out, namely, Burton Mack's piece, "The Historical Jesus
        >Hoopla," in his recent _The Christian Myth_ (Continuum, 2001). NT scholars
        >should be FORCED to read this essay, at gunpoint if necessary.

        Dang. I've been avoiding Mack for YEARS. Do I really have to? :-)

        Bob



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Gordon Raynal
        ... Bob, Just a short reply about this.... and hopefully not to overly repeat myself... but why frame the language like this? (as in scam and thoroughly
        Message 3 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
          >
          >Guilty as charged. The problem I have, with my feeble imagination, is
          >conceiving of a world-wide movement lasting 2000 years based on a scam
          >(which seems to be what you're suggesting). I remember having a go-around
          >with Willi Braun on this issue in the early days of CrossTalk. And as David
          >Hindley observed today,
          >>But I do have to wonder, why pick a crucified man to serve as a symbol,
          >>unless there was some sort of
          >>connection to him.
          >
          >In other words, why pick as the basis for your scam someone who had been
          >thoroughly discredited and humiliated?

          Bob,

          Just a short reply about this.... and hopefully not to overly repeat
          myself... but why frame the language like this? (as in "scam" and
          "thoroughly discredited and humiliated")? To go in reverse order... was
          Jesus discredited among those who heard him and agreed? ...those who shared
          in the reconciliation work? ...those who, in whatever sense, "were healed?"
          ...those who took up the challenge and became missionaries and/ or those
          homebodies who made for "new communion" or those literate folk who began to
          pour over the Hebrew Scriptures? Again... I take it that among folks of an
          ancient and STRONG faith system (i.e. the Hebraic faith)... with a LONG
          tradition of relatively minor folks making LASTING impressions (think Amos,
          for example)... that someone like Jesus among those who were positively
          challenged or affected would precisely hold on to a movement that was
          bringing serious moral refreshment, if you will. Thus his death, far from
          being simply a negative would bode for Scriptural reflection and
          strengthening the movement. And isn't that exactly what we've got? I note
          when I read I Cor. 15... that Paul talks about Cross and Resurrection in
          terms of "according to Scripture." And so to the other point... why the
          language of "scam" around the development of the kerygma. The produce of it
          is clearly rooted in careful, thoughtful and imaginative reflection on the
          Hebrew Scriptures. I think that Crossan's point is exactly right... and I'd
          say it this way... the whole motive for doing this wasn't either cross or
          resurrection, but something historically shared and experience in a movement
          that made a REAL difference in Galilee and then outward. There... in a life
          and in lives... in a movement and the human effort to expand and expound...
          is the source of moving in the directions various communities did. And what
          the text finds show is that there were SEVERAL sorts of paths taken to
          expand and expound.

          To conclude... just consider... in the 1960's who would have thought that
          Malcolm X would show up as a celebrated figure in American Civil Rights
          history? MLK, Jr. was under the FBI eye of Hoover. What of Malcolm with his
          fiery rhetoric? But 3 decades later Malcolm made it on a U.S. Postage stamp!
          Lots can happen in three decades. And back to HJ... 3 decades is a LOT of
          time to read TANAK and think about producing an effect kerygma.

          Gordon Raynal
          Inman, SC
        • William Arnal
          ... Good point. But just to clarify, this is really not what I was arguing about. I don t know whether Jesus was buried (I assume in a pauper s grave) or eaten
          Message 4 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
            Antonio Jerez wrote:

            >I agree with you that Paul doesn't explicitely mention an "empty >tomb",
            >but
            >his
            >recieved kerygma states that Jesus was BURIED. This does not seem to
            > >support
            >speculations about his corpse rotting on a cross.

            Good point. But just to clarify, this is really not what I was arguing
            about. I don't know whether Jesus was buried (I assume in a pauper's grave)
            or eaten by dogs, or left to rot, or whatever. What I'm saying is, specific
            knowledge of an empty tomb does not seem to be at the core of the earliest
            references to the resurrection (cf. further Mahlon's comments). I further
            note that Paul's assertion here that Jesus was buried is theologically
            important to him, since he strongly associates burial with baptism. Thus it
            does not mean, or at least NEED not mean, that Paul has specific knowledge
            of a burial -- just that he takes it for granted.

            >also think that Paul's
            >phariseic
            >beliefs about resurrection did not include the idea that a rotting >orpse,
            >eaten by dogs

            Possibly not, but again, all I'm suggesting is lack of specific knowledge.
            Well, and also that, in consequence, the empty tomb story is a late
            fabrication, and thus CANNOT be the source of the doctrine of the
            resurrection. I'm inclined to look elsewhere.

            I'd also note that in many instances it's hard to account IN ANY FASHION for
            Paul's beliefs as we know them in line with his Pharisaic background. That
            Pharisaic background, indeed, seems to be what made Paul so initially
            hostile to Christians. And once Paul has his change of mind, just about the
            entirety of his Pharisaic background goes out the window. So *I* would be
            inclined to say that we should look for ideas in earliest Christianity that
            would have absolutely FAILED to convince a Pharisee of anything, rather than
            views that would have been likely to do so.

            Once again, and for the record, I'm NOT arguing that Jesus' corpse was
            consumed by dogs. What I'm suggesting is that we have no secure knowledge
            about the disposition of Jesus' body, and cannot trace belief in his
            resurrection to an empty tomb. That's all.

            For what it's worth, the question of dogs and such can probably only be
            resolved in terms of likelihoods -- i.e., how likely it is that a
            crucifixion victim in Judea would be left on the cross to rot, and/or what
            would normally be done with such a body. And here I think (though I won't
            claim any expertise on the issue) the evidence seems to cut both ways. On
            the one hand, I seem to recall literary sources (Josephus?? someone else?)
            claiming that Jews had dispensation to remove such bodies; and on the other
            hand, the archaeological evidence for crucifixion victims is SO scarce that
            burial seems unlikely.

            Bill
            ___________________________
            William Arnal
            Department of Religion
            University of Manitoba

            "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
            -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg



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          • William Arnal
            ... Gordon Raynal s already answered this, really. I am not suggesting a scam, and I think that s an unhelpful way of putting things. It is, in fact, a
            Message 5 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
              Bob Schacht wrote:

              >Guilty as charged. The problem I have, with my feeble imagination, is
              >conceiving of a world-wide movement lasting 2000 years based on a scam
              >(which seems to be what you're suggesting). I remember having a go-

              Gordon Raynal's already answered this, really. I am not suggesting a "scam,"
              and I think that's an unhelpful way of putting things. It is, in fact, a
              denigration of human creativity to say or imply that fantasy and imagination
              cannot generate important movements, while raw "facts" can and must do so.
              The view I'm taking is that the ancient Christians were not much concerned
              with raw facticity, and that they creatively embellished the portrait of the
              person they regarded as their "founder" in order to highlight the specific
              significance he had for them. This is hardly a new claim.

              >In other words, why pick as the basis for your scam someone who had >been
              >thoroughly discredited and humiliated?

              This only follows (and with objections, again, to "scam" noted in passing)
              if Jesus' original significance to his followers was of a sort that
              martyrdom WOULD in fact discredit and humiliate. There is no real reason to
              assume this, though. Were the early Christian martyrs discredited and
              humiliated by their deaths? Were the Maccabean martyrs? Was Martin Luther
              King?

              >If Christianity was NOT based on something about Jesus, then it seems >to
              >me
              >that we've really done is to transfer the genius of Jesus to the >genius of
              >some subsequent myth-maker who then becomes the "real" prophet for the >new
              >religion.

              No! Again, I don't think this sort of reasoning would apply to many other
              historical phenomena, so why apply it here? "Christianity" is the function
              of centuries of incremental development. Some figures in this development
              are prominent, some less so, but the end result is the "accomplishment" of
              no single person. Who INVENTED Judaism? I'd suggest, no one. So also with
              Christianity.

              >[various texts cited and snipped]
              >which is about as close to the Gospel accounts as one might expect to >find
              >in Paul.

              And it's not very close at all, is it? Which is just the point. Paul invokes
              as "proof" of the resurrection the witnesses of individuals who supposedly
              saw the risen Jesus, and not the concrete evidence of an empty tomb. This is
              not an argument from silence, by the way, it's an argument ABOUT silence --
              i.e., Paul does not confirm the empty tomb accounts, and taken on its own,
              the Pauline message understands the "proof" of the resurrection in more or
              less visionary terms. In my response to Antonio, by the way, I suggested
              that the claim Paul makes in 1 Cor that Jesus was buried does not reflect
              specific knowledge.

              >Since for Paul, the important point was the resurrection, an empty >tomb
              >was
              >secondary, or perhaps implicit-- an unnecessary detail.
              >Besides, you are arguing from silence (no explicit reference to a >tomb),
              >which is a somewhat risky line of reasoning.

              Of course it's even more risky to use the argument against the argument from
              silence to argue that silence about something actually indicates it was
              there!

              >But doesn't this raise the genre question? Q and especially Thomas both
              >focus on Sayings of Jesus, so that we would not expect to find >narrative
              >about resurrection there. This is old ground, covered many times >before.

              I would have thought so (i.e, that this was old ground), but evidently a
              reminder is in order. I know of almost no one (no one springs to mind) who
              regards the absence of a resurrection NARRATIVE in Q or Thomas to be in any
              way significant. To focus on this issue is a classic case of erecting a
              straw man and knocking it down. The problem with Q and Thomas is that they
              both have integral theologies of Jesus' significance ("christologies," if
              the term is conceived loosely) that do not appeal to or logically require a
              focus on the crucifixion or resurrection. To argue that they somehow assumed
              these things anyway is special pleading, and a far worse argument from
              silence (i.e., that absence of reference to phenomenon "x" indicates that
              phenomenon "x" IS present!) than any I've ever made. Sayings gospels are
              indeed capable of communicating theology, even if they aren't inetersted in
              providing narrative.

              >The claims may have been made, but I don't notice that they were >received
              >with much credibility. What is it with the claims about Jesus that made
              >them so much more credible than the claims about Caesar?

              This is a most remarkable assertion! Why on earth would anyone claim that
              Julius' apotheosis was less widely credited than that of Jesus???? If
              anything, the opposite is manifestly true.

              >didn't really have anything to work with, my feeble imagination cannot
              >grasp why their efforts succeeded so spectacularly.

              The subsequent success strikes me as a function of other factors from a
              later date. Coming up with an explanation of those factors is precisely what
              needs to be done, it seems to me.

              >Do we have here a counter-obsession with minimizing the importance of
              > >Jesus
              >by belittling every single possible element of significance in his >life? I

              Not at all. I am suggesting that since this obsession with facticity is a
              modern one (or at least, its form is modern), we can't assume that the
              earliest Christians felt the same way, or would have needed to conceptualize
              Jesus' importance strictly in terms of historical events. Paul certainly
              doesn't feel the need to do so. Does HE "minimize the importance of Jesus"
              or "belittle" his life?

              >thought that the purpose of History, or Religious Studies, was to find
              >rational connections and explanations based on historical evidence.

              Yes, in a way, but the rational connections need not be in the minds of the
              participants. The connnections that are rational and plausible explanations
              to US may be sociological, or some such thing, and would have meant little
              to the people whose behavior they endeavour to explain. Or to put it
              differently, to come up with a rational explanation for an event is not the
              same thing as assuming (without evidence) that the actors in that event were
              operating in terms of a rationality identical to our own. One can explain,
              or try to explain facism, for instance, without needing to posit that facism
              is a rational ideology.

              >would welcome a portrait of early Christians as irrational innovators
              >unconcerned with facts, but must we follow suit?

              I think they are RATIONAL innovators, and that their concern for facts, such
              as it is, is not identical to our own. What it seems to me you're doing,
              Bob, is calling every rationality different from your own, "irrational."

              Bill
              ___________________________
              William Arnal
              Department of Religion
              University of Manitoba

              "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
              -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg


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            • beefnboots
              ... Well, I d say that that is one thing you could wonder, but I wonder what import the crucified or hung man had in the cultures of the ancient Near East and,
              Message 6 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
                --- In crosstalk2@y..., "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@c...> wrote:

                > According to the linguists, history is as much
                > interpretation as presentation of facts. If the Christian
                > gospels are making use of Jesus as a symbolic vehicle to
                > present their own (current) understanding of the world, I am
                > perfectly willing to accept that they sincerely believed
                > that the actual history of Jesus and his followers *must*
                > have conformed to their own viewpoint. In short, the
                > historical events are reinterpreted and the story reshaped.
                > There can be a logical progression of historical
                > development, or a syncretistic adaptation of ideas or
                > symbols. But I do have to wonder, why pick a crucified man
                > to serve as a symbol, unless there was some sort of
                > connection to him.

                Well, I'd say that that is one thing you could wonder, but I wonder
                what import the crucified or hung man had in the cultures of the
                ancient Near East and, particularly, of the extent and nature of
                martyrology amongst the Jews. I would guess that those who shaped
                and reshaped the doctrine which has come to be Christianity did so
                with the symbolism they had at hand and utilized that to re-form a
                symbolic message to their own ends. Incrementally. Repeatedly.


                >
                > I agree with you that the interesting questions relate to
                > "the proximate, i.e., socio-political, causes (and immediate
                > effects) of ancient Christian doctrines, and not the
                > character of the events they appear to refer to."
                > Personally, I think that the Christian gospels are apologies
                > cast in the form of biographies, designed to answer charges
                > by opponents that the gospel authors considered too well
                > established to deny. That implies that there had been some
                > development in the movement, in that valid criticisms of its
                > early stages had to be "explained" (away) by those who held
                > later developments of the tradition. "Our founder was not
                > what you say he was (a bastard, a rebel, a magician) but he
                > was actually something perfectly acceptable/tolerable (a
                > divine man, a cynic-like philosopher, a healer)."
                >
                > Respectfully,
                >
                > Dave Hindley
                > Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                Possible...

                Kelly Wellington
                Portland, Oregon
              • Steve Black
                ... I write... It seems to me that where we posit the genius of early xnty will be the determining factor in our historical reconstructions. It seems to me
                Message 7 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
                  >Bob Schacht wrote:
                  >
                  >>If Christianity was NOT based on something about Jesus, then it seems >to
                  >>me
                  >>that we've really done is to transfer the genius of Jesus to the >genius of
                  >>some subsequent myth-maker who then becomes the "real" prophet for the >new
                  >>religion.



                  >Bill Replied
                  >No! Again, I don't think this sort of reasoning would apply to many other
                  >historical phenomena, so why apply it here? "Christianity" is the function
                  >of centuries of incremental development. Some figures in this development
                  >are prominent, some less so, but the end result is the "accomplishment" of
                  >no single person. Who INVENTED Judaism? I'd suggest, no one. So also with
                  >Christianity.

                  I write...
                  It seems to me that where we posit the "genius" of early xnty will be
                  the determining factor in our historical reconstructions. It seems to
                  me that the early church is *a* place for this genius to be seen.
                  This I say because it is the texts of the early church that we
                  actually have (in contrast to the reconstructed authentic words of
                  Jesus - which we only "have" via modern scholarship), and the results
                  of those texts was xnty itself. The problem is in tracing behind
                  these texts to see how much genius just might be laid at the door of
                  the HJ. Because this move will always more conjectural, it ought
                  always to be stated more tentatively.

                  It seems to me to be a weakness of some reconstructions is the
                  assumption that all truly "profound" sayings are automatically traced
                  back to the HJ. The assumption is that no one in the early church was
                  capable of "relevant" thought. The same might be said about the
                  criteria of dissimilarity. This assumes that Jesus was the only
                  person that was able to think "outside the box", as it were. Given
                  (what I believe to be) the presence of "genius" within the early
                  church itself, this assumption seems unfounded.
                  --

                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Gordon Raynal
                  ... Steve, Thanks for making this point in this discussion. When I read the extant materials I m struck by the genius (of various sorts)... the creativity...
                  Message 8 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
                    >It seems to me to be a weakness of some reconstructions is the
                    >assumption that all truly "profound" sayings are automatically traced
                    >back to the HJ. The assumption is that no one in the early church was
                    >capable of "relevant" thought. The same might be said about the
                    >criteria of dissimilarity. This assumes that Jesus was the only
                    >person that was able to think "outside the box", as it were. Given
                    >(what I believe to be) the presence of "genius" within the early
                    >church itself, this assumption seems unfounded.

                    Steve,

                    Thanks for making this point in this discussion. When I read the extant
                    materials I'm struck by the genius (of various sorts)... the creativity...
                    the links made to TANAK, ancient mythic formulas, socio-political-economic
                    realities, etc.... of "a host of voices." Just by way of analogy... the
                    Southern Christian Leadership Conference was made up of a number of smart
                    and talented leaders beside MLK, Jr., not to mention a lot of saavy folks in
                    all sorts of places around. I agree with you... many scholars seem so to
                    focus on HJ so as to miss that these folks across several generations had a
                    lot of genius among them. Historically those who pose whatever "high
                    shooting star" kind of approach, whether it be "some event" or whether it be
                    HJ himself, or Paul miss the genius and miss the cooperative human endeavor
                    from one generation to another.

                    Gordon Raynal
                    Inman, SC
                  • Stephen C. Carlson
                    ... Assuming that we re still discussing the empty tomb, rather than theology in general, I m a little confused as to how documents that are little more than a
                    Message 9 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
                      At 11:47 AM 2/4/02 -0600, William Arnal wrote:
                      >Bob Schacht wrote:
                      >>But doesn't this raise the genre question? Q and especially Thomas both
                      >>focus on Sayings of Jesus, so that we would not expect to find >narrative
                      >>about resurrection there. This is old ground, covered many times >before.
                      >
                      >I would have thought so (i.e, that this was old ground), but evidently a
                      >reminder is in order. I know of almost no one (no one springs to mind) who
                      >regards the absence of a resurrection NARRATIVE in Q or Thomas to be in any
                      >way significant. To focus on this issue is a classic case of erecting a
                      >straw man and knocking it down. The problem with Q and Thomas is that they
                      >both have integral theologies of Jesus' significance ("christologies," if
                      >the term is conceived loosely) that do not appeal to or logically require a
                      >focus on the crucifixion or resurrection. To argue that they somehow assumed
                      >these things anyway is special pleading, and a far worse argument from
                      >silence (i.e., that absence of reference to phenomenon "x" indicates that
                      >phenomenon "x" IS present!) than any I've ever made. Sayings gospels are
                      >indeed capable of communicating theology, even if they aren't inetersted in
                      >providing narrative.

                      Assuming that we're still discussing the empty tomb, rather
                      than theology in general, I'm a little confused as to how
                      documents that are little more than a collection of Jesus's
                      sayings are supposed to communicate the alleged fact of the
                      empty tomb.

                      Something like: "Jesus said, 'On the third day, my tomb
                      will be empty.'"??? Not even the author of Mark, who
                      knows of (or created) the empty tomb put that detail
                      on the lips of Jesus, esp. in the passion predictions
                      of 8:31, 9:39-32 and 10:33-34.

                      Q's and Thomas's silence on the empty tomb is just not
                      worth the papyrus it is written 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
                    • William Arnal
                      ... Actually, the context for what I said was a general discussion of the place of the doctrine of the resurrection in the development of ancient Christian
                      Message 10 of 18 , Feb 5, 2002
                        Stephen Carlson wrote:

                        >Assuming that we're still discussing the empty tomb, rather
                        >than theology in general, I'm a little confused as to how
                        >documents that are little more than a collection of Jesus's
                        >sayings are supposed to communicate the alleged fact of the
                        >empty tomb.

                        Actually, the context for what I said was a general discussion of the place
                        of the doctrine of the resurrection in the development of ancient Christian
                        thought. I cited Q and Thomas as evidence that such a view did not develop
                        right away (or at least, was not shared by everyone), and Bob replied that
                        the genre of these works forbade the conclusion that they had no significant
                        theological interest in the resurrection. I was simply saying, no, they
                        don't forbid such a conclusion, even though of course they DO forbid drawing
                        any inferences from the fact that they lack resurrection (and not empty
                        tomb; not what we were talking about here!) NARRATIVES.

                        >Q's and Thomas's silence on the empty tomb is just not
                        >worth the papyrus it is written on.

                        Maybe, maybe not. But it was their silence (or supposed silence) on the
                        resurrection that Bob and I were talking about.

                        Bill
                        ___________________________
                        William Arnal
                        Department of Religion
                        University of Manitoba

                        "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
                        -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg



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                      • Stephen C. Carlson
                        ... Looking back at the discussion, it appears that I and possibly Bob missed your segue from the empty tomb to theologizing about the resurrection. I would
                        Message 11 of 18 , Feb 5, 2002
                          At 03:42 PM 2/5/02 -0600, William Arnal wrote:
                          >Stephen Carlson wrote:
                          >>Assuming that we're still discussing the empty tomb, rather
                          >>than theology in general, I'm a little confused as to how
                          >>documents that are little more than a collection of Jesus's
                          >>sayings are supposed to communicate the alleged fact of the
                          >>empty tomb.
                          >
                          >Actually, the context for what I said was a general discussion of the place
                          >of the doctrine of the resurrection in the development of ancient Christian
                          >thought. I cited Q and Thomas as evidence that such a view did not develop
                          >right away (or at least, was not shared by everyone), and Bob replied that
                          >the genre of these works forbade the conclusion that they had no significant
                          >theological interest in the resurrection. I was simply saying, no, they
                          >don't forbid such a conclusion, even though of course they DO forbid drawing
                          >any inferences from the fact that they lack resurrection (and not empty
                          >tomb; not what we were talking about here!) NARRATIVES.

                          Looking back at the discussion, it appears that I and possibly
                          Bob missed your segue from the empty tomb to theologizing
                          about the resurrection. I would agree with you to the extent
                          that Q and Thomas demonstrate that the authors of these texts
                          thought about Jesus in very different terms than Paul. It is
                          not clear, however, whether their theologizing about Jesus is
                          complementary of, ignorant of, or in opposition to Pauline
                          christology. Those possibilities need to be explored in more
                          detail, but I would agree that the following statement of
                          yours is not inherently implausible:

                          >This suggests to me at least the possibility that the resurrection
                          >belief emerged as a rationalization, a retrospective claim to divine
                          >vindication, AFTER a deceased Jesus had already acquired some measure of
                          >authority or significance among his post-mortem followers.

                          There are other problems, however. Q is not extant, and the
                          extent of its content is much less known than that of Mark or
                          Thomas. The approach taken for Q's contents is quite
                          conservative (i.e. no passion narrative for Q even though
                          Luke appears to have access to another source), but this
                          conservatism comes at a cost -- it makes the argument from
                          Q's silence much more difficult to pull off, because the
                          fact of Q's silence is less supported.

                          Fortunately, Thomas is extant, so its lack of theologizing
                          in terms of the resurrection is more significant. However,
                          Thomas is difficult to date. If I recall correctly, you
                          favor a mid-first century date, I lean to an early second
                          century date, and Nick Perrin, whom I met over breakfast at
                          SBL, is working on a book showing that Thomas is dependent
                          on the Diatessaron (i.e. late second century). Therefore,
                          Thomas may not tell us very much about early Christianity.

                          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
                        • Jan Sammer
                          From: Antonio Jerez ... appears ... I agree with Antonio that in the intensely polemical atmosphere Jesus followers faced
                          Message 12 of 18 , Feb 6, 2002
                            From: "Antonio Jerez" <antonio.jerez@...>
                            >
                            > I would also like to add the "evidence" from Matthew 28:11-15. This
                            appears
                            > to be
                            > a reminicence (although shrouded in Matthean form) of the Jewish
                            > counterclaims to
                            > the empty tomb. Why counterclaim in this way if it could easily be shown
                            > that the
                            > false Messiah had been rotting on a cross? If Crossan is right I think we
                            > should have
                            > expected ridicule of the Christians and their "rotting" Messiah in later
                            > jewish litterature.
                            > We find ridicule of another kind but not this.
                            >
                            I agree with Antonio that in the intensely polemical atmosphere Jesus'
                            followers faced in the early days of their movement, their opponents would
                            have seized upon any information they may have had that Jesus had not
                            undergone a physical bodily resurrection -- *had any such information been
                            available*. As it is, the ridicule the Christians were subjected to seems
                            entirely to be dependent on the gospel accounts themselves, with little, if
                            any independent information from any other source. The virgin birth story is
                            ridiculed by making Jesus an illegitimate child. The empty tomb story is
                            ridiculed by accusations that the Christians stole the body. The Christians
                            countered (via Matthew) that this was impossible, since the tomb had been
                            placed under armed guard and (via GPeter) sealed with seven seals. But such
                            criticism does not evidence any independent knowledge of the facts, just the
                            contrary. To Antonio's question, "Why counterclaim in this way if it could
                            easily be shown that the false Messiah had been rotting on a cross?" the
                            most valid answer seems to be that it could not be so shown, not because the
                            critics knew that the body had in fact been buried, but because the critics
                            did not have access to *any* information of what had actually happened. In
                            this situation they took the Christian claims and tried to find flaws or
                            weak spots in the narrative.

                            The empty tomb story is a logical development from the Jewish / Christian
                            belief in bodily resurrection. In Christian dogma, the bodily resurrection
                            of Jesus hearkened the new age in which the resurrection of the dead is the
                            norm. As the writings of Paul make clear the resurrection of Jesus is the
                            main Christian hope, since all believers could expect to follow the example
                            of the one who had defeated death itself. The belief in bodily resurrection
                            is also the chief motive for the extreme piety traditionally displayed by
                            Jews with respect to the physical remains of their ancestors. That is also
                            why the statement ascribed to Jesus by the Matthew/Luke, "Let the dead bury
                            their own dead" would have been so shocking, particularly in response to
                            someone wishing to bury his own father. The only way it could have been
                            acceptable was if the age of bodily resurrection was so imminent that the
                            act of burial as such was no longer appropriate.

                            Jesus was supposed to have resurrected with a new, more glorious body, but
                            still a body transformed out of the old human body. The empty tomb is thus
                            implied by Christian belief from the first. However, as I have explained,
                            the centrality of the empty tomb as proof of the resurrection was an
                            incidental effect of the way that Mark chose to use his source. In Mark's
                            source the empty tomb was not the key evidence of resurrection it became for
                            Mark (even though for Mark the real proof are the Galilean appearances, to
                            which he merely alludes); the proof in Mark's source was the young man
                            standing by the tomb who talked to the women and who was in fact the
                            resurrected Jesus, whom they did not yet recognize as such. For dramatic
                            reasons the recognition of the true nature of the young man by the women
                            went through a series of steps, in which the women gradually came to the
                            realization that the vigorous young man standing in front of them was in
                            fact the resurrected Jesus with a glorious new body, in place of the
                            tortured body which they had seen laid in the tomb. For theological reasons
                            of his own, Mark chose not to reproduce the entire recognition scene, thus
                            leaving the identity of the young man unresolved. With his story of the
                            empty tomb Mark had opened up a gaping hole in the fabric of the Christian
                            narrative, which critics were quick to exploit and which other gospel
                            writers, who followed Mark, never succeeded in closing in a wholly
                            satisfactory way.

                            Jan Sammer
                            sammer@...
                            Prague, Czech Republic
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