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4980Two burial stories

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  • Joseph Codsi
    Sep 3, 2004
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      Thank you, Bill Bulin, Jack Kilmon, Tobias Hägerland and Tony Costa for
      your contributions. I believe in team work. It can be a very good way of
      stimulating our thought and helping resolve certain questions.

      Thanks to the new technology, we have become able to communicate all
      over the globe and work together on difficult and delicate questions. It
      took a great deal of ingenuity and perseverance to reach the advanced
      stages of technology. In comparison, the problems we are faced with
      today in gospel research are likely to be relatively simple. But
      problems are always difficult before they are solved. They become simple

      Let us go back to our problem. We have not resolved it yet, so it is
      still a difficult one. But our collective work has started producing
      some fruit. I find this encouraging.


      The first thing we have started doing spontaneously is exchange some
      information. Thus I learned from Tobias that Raymond E. Brown has
      discussed our question in his book _The Death of the Messiah_, and that
      he would not reject the historicity of what is reported in John 19:31-34
      (“It is perfectly credible that 'the Jews' would have wished the corpses
      to be removed before the great Sabbath. It is also possible that a
      soldier could have verified Jesus' death by piercing his side.”)

      I have no access to Brown’s book. So I would be grateful to Tobias if he
      could scan the relevant passages, OCR them and Email them to me off
      list. I will make a similar request to Jack Kilmon concerning Dom
      Crossan’s discussion of the question. I don’t have access to his books
      either. A copy of one or two relevant passages will be appreciated.


      I will now engage Tobias on an important point. First, there is no
      reason to apologize for quoting Raymond E. Brown. On the contrary, I
      thank him for it. However, I cannot help but notice that Tobias deviates
      from Brown’s views, when he states “However, in scholarly discussion, I
      think one should refrain from building theories on passages like this,
      the historicity of which remains very uncertain.”

      This statement can be construed to be questioning the historicity of the
      dual event (Jesus’ bones were not broken and his side was pierced) in
      which GJohn sees an accomplishment of the scriptures. So I see here an
      indirect answer to my original question: “Is the entire episode (John
      19:31-37) an invention of the evangelist?”

      It is no simple thing to overcome our unconscious prejudices. When we
      have been taught from our childhood that Jesus was buried at the hand of
      Joseph of Arimathea, we tend to take this as a sure truth. As a
      consequence, we dismiss as uncertain any evidence to the contrary, even
      when the said evidence comes from the gospel itself.

      Someone like Crossan has freed himself from the dogmas of his youth. He
      has no problem challenging the traditional view on this matter. Brown
      seems to be, as far as I can tell from the second-hand information I
      have about him, somewhere in between Crossan and Tobias. If he was to
      admit the historicity of the Jews’ request to have the bodies removed,
      he finds himself at odds with the incontrovertible truth that Jesus was
      buried by Joseph of Arimathea. Simply put, he does not know how to
      reconcile the two stories. As a consequence, his judgment on the matter
      remains suspended.

      I think Bill Bulin faces a similar difficulty and joins Tobias in his
      uncertainty. The theological nature of the scriptures’ fulfillment can
      be extended, in his view, to the entire episode. But if we consider the
      Jews’ request to have the bodies removed as a theological not an
      historical event, we run into a severe problem, simply because then the
      entire distinction between “theological” and “historical” becomes
      meaningless. Anything can be theological and anything can be historical
      as well. This is why I think it is important to maintain the difference
      between “theological” and historical”, and to show in the case at hand
      that the Jews’ request is indeed historical. What is theological is the
      johannine view of the scriptures accomplishment.

      The distinction between “theological” and historical” is philosophical
      in nature. It is based on a specific understanding of the way the
      religious mind works as it interjects its theological views on
      historical events. Theology is an interpretation of history, and most
      particularly of the historical events that are proper to the Christian
      faith. So, whether we like it or not, the gospel scholar is always
      affected by his or her unconscious philosophical prejudices.

      These questions seem difficult. But here again what is difficult becomes
      easy once we understand it. I will not engage in abstract philosophical
      questions. It is enough to acknowledge that the recognition of the
      historicity of the Jews’ request poses a serious problem in as much as
      it is incompatible with the story of Joseph Arimathea. I recognize the
      difficulty. But at this stage, it is premature to discuss it. I will
      discuss it in due time, that is to say after the historicity of the
      first story has been established.


      We do not know what to think of a piece of evidence that is proper to
      GJohn. According to Jack Kilmon, this is not a unique occurrence in the
      fourth gospel. There are similar cases, which indicate that the author
      of the fourth gospel had access to information, unknown to Mark, and
      most probably going back to very early sources. (“I have long promoted
      the concept of an earlier Aramaic "proto-John" that was the framework,
      in Greek translation, around which the author of Canonical John weaved
      his larger tapestry. I am bold enough to contend that "proto-John"
      pre-dated GMark.”)

      Let us ask Jack to identify for us a few other examples, which can
      foster his theory. We need a few examples in order to asses the
      reliability of the so-called “proto-John”. A work of this nature is
      likely to require some time. So let’s give Jack the time he needs,
      should he be prepared to help us in this way with our collective



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

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