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Re: [XTalk] Cross Gospels, crucifixions, resurrections

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  • 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 1 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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      >
      >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 2 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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        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 3 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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          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 4 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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            --- 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 5 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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              >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 6 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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                >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 7 of 18 , Feb 4, 2002
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                  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 8 of 18 , Feb 5, 2002
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                    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



                    _________________________________________________________________
                    Chat with friends online, try MSN Messenger: http://messenger.msn.com
                  • 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 9 of 18 , Feb 5, 2002
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                      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 10 of 18 , Feb 6, 2002
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                        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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