4980Two burial stories
- Sep 3, 2004Thank 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 Browns 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
Crossans discussion of the question. I dont have access to his books
either. A copy of one or two relevant passages will be appreciated.
DISCUSSING THE INFORMATION
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 Browns 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
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.
HOW TO PROCEED?
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"
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 lets give Jack the time he needs,
should he be prepared to help us in this way with our collective
WE SHALL OVERCOME, PROVIDED WE HASTEN SLOWLY.
P.O. Box 116-2088
Telephone (961) 1 423 145
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