[HJMatMeth] prophecy historicized
- Dear Dr. Crossan,
My inquiry relates to one of your special contributions to historical Jesus study, an amplification of a principle which you refer to as ³prophecy historicized.²
As a hypothesis, it makes sense--that stories about Jesus should be shaped to conform to (or ³fulfill²) scriptures that were regarded (or could be regarded) as messianic in nature.
However, given the number of hypotheses that have fallen into disappointing disfavor during past Jesus research, I am hesitant to embrace an appealing argument unless it can be supported by historical evidence. In the matter of ³prophecy historicized,² the only historical example that comes to my mind is that of Josephus, and it would seem to oppose reliance on this hypothesis.
Josephus¹ enjoyment of patronage from Vespasian is affirmed by the very existence of Josephus¹ writings. The report that this patronage arose from Josephus¹ prediction that Vespasian would become emperor has the quality of legend, except that it is told so convincingly (Wars, III, 399-408; Life, 414-423) and it explains the extensive favors bestowed upon Josephus (land, books, liberation of some friends, Roman citizenship, lodging in the former palace, and a pension), favors that made his writings possible. As far as I am aware, the veracity of this account is not seriously disputed. However, the story is remarkably similar to that of Josephus¹ name-source, Joseph bar Jacob, in his rise from prisoner to favored one with the Egyptian king (Gen. 40-41).
For me, the similarity between the stories of Joseph and Josephus urges us to be cautious in assuming that like similarities between reported incidences in the Gospels and passages in the Hebrew Bible are best regarded as ³prophecies historicized.²
Is this caution warrented? Are there historical data that lend support to the ³prophecy historicized² hypothesis?
Dr. John Temple Bristow, pastor, Murray Hills Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Beaverton, OR, author of What Paul Really Said about Women (Harper, 88) and What the Bible Really Says about Love, Marriage, and Family (Chalice, 93), adjunct professor in masters degree program, Northwest Christian College, Eugene, OR.