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4973Two burial stories

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  • Joseph Codsi
    Sep 2, 2004
      I wish to make a few comments related to Tony Costa’s post of Wednesday,
      September 01, 2004 9:04 PM

      Thank you, Tony, for quoting Raymond Brown.

      He says that some scholars spoke of two burials, one by the Jews and one
      by Joseph of Arimathea. It seems to me that those who speak of a burial
      by the Jews misread the fourth gospel. GJohn does not say that the Jews
      requested the body of Jesus in order to bury it. It simply says that
      they asked Pilate to have the bodies removed on account of the Sabbath.
      Nothing is said about who removed the bodies and who buried them. But
      since the Roman soldiers came under the command of the Centurion and
      broke the legs of the two others in order to hasten their death, I find
      it logical to assume that they did remove the bodies and bury them later

      According to the scenario I am following here, the women who had been
      observing the crucifixion scene were there when the soldiers came and
      broke the legs of the two others. But they (the women) had to leave soon
      after, because the sun was about to set and the Sabbath about to begin.
      They remained without news of what happened in their absence. So the
      first thing they do on the first day of the following week is go back to
      the crucifixion site. The women acted, in this case, as news reporters
      in relation to the men. What they reported had nothing to do with a
      resurrection. They reported that “They have taken the Lord […] and we do
      not know where they have put him” (John 20:2).

      This news report can be read in two different ways according to the
      burial story one follows. If we follow the second story (burial by
      Joseph of Arimathea), then the removal of the body can only be “from the
      tomb” and the “they” (the authors of the removal) would refer to unknown
      people. But if we follow the first story (burial by the soldiers), then
      the removal of the body can only be “from the cross”, and the “they”
      would refer to the Roman authorities acting through the soldiers.

      * * *

      I will stop here to allow the readers the time needed to get used to my
      new ideas and to digest them slowly. At the same time I will take this
      opportunity to address the new generation of gospel scholars.

      It is, to be sure, important to know what your predecessors have said
      before you. But please don’t let this erudition sterilize your mind and
      make you incapable of thinking on your own. In the world of scholarly
      research every disciple must become a master capable of distancing his
      or her teachers. Your work is not to repeat what was said before you.
      You must produce new knowledge. In order to do so, you must be capable
      of criticizing your predecessors and of throwing a new look at a few
      important texts of the gospels. Good scholars are those who would not be
      afraid of letting the texts guide them and take them where they would
      not normally go (cf. what Jesus tells Peter in John 21:18). In this
      respect, we must avoid two excesses: the first one is to put in the
      texts what is not in them, and the second one is to remain blind to what
      is in the texts. Don’t be afraid of taking chances. “Qui ne risque rien
      ne gagne rien” (In order to have a chance to win in any gambling game,
      one must bet.)

      Some might find it inappropriate to quote Karl Marx in a gospel
      discussion. But I will go ahead and quote a saying of his, because I
      find it perceptive. I found the quote in a book written in French. So
      here is the French version with an English translation.

      « La tradition de toutes les générations mortes pèse d’un poids très
      lourd sur le cerveau des vivants. » (18 Brummaire)

      « The tradition of all the dead generations weighs very heavily on the
      brain of the living. »

      In relation to the burial of Jesus, two thousand years of Christian
      tradition have not seen in GJohn the trace of an older burial story.
      Should we give priority to tradition or to the text itself?


      Joseph Codsi
      P.O. Box 116-2088
      Beirut, Lebanon
      Telephone (961) 1 423 145

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