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4991Two burial stories

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  • Joseph Codsi
    Sep 4, 2004
      Dear Tobias,

      Thank you for taking the time to clarify certain points.

      I do not think that photocopying, scanning or quoting a page from a
      library book violates the copyright laws. But this point, as important
      as it may be for a discussion group like ours, is off topic. I will not
      discuss it here.

      Besides, I no longer need a copy of Brown's text. You have made it clear
      that he thinks exactly like you, namely that he would consider my theory
      as "phantasy". But since my theory is based on John 19:31-34, I would
      have expected you to dismiss this johannine passage as being without any
      historical merit as well. The fact that you cannot bring yourself to
      take such a drastic step deserves an explanation.

      Please understand that I am not interested in criticizing you. I respect
      your reluctance to be critical of this johannine passage. My purpose is
      to initiate a deeper reflection on the problem with which we are faced.

      You mentioned that "Some of us have been taught from our childhood that
      the soldier pierced the side of (the historical?) Jesus but have no
      problem questioning the historicity of that passage." Does this mean as
      well that you would not have any problem questioning the historicity of
      the resurrection?

      Here lies precisely the problem of modern exegesis. It is easy to have a
      free discussion of trivial questions that are of no vital importance in
      relation to our religious convictions or cultural views. Do you know
      many theological school professors who would readily admit that the
      resurrection is nothing but a myth, in the sense that it did not affect
      in any way the dead body of Jesus?

      The fulfillment of the scripture: "They will look on the one whom they
      have pierced" seems to have had an importance in the eyes of the author
      of GJohn. The same question does not have much importance today. So we
      have no difficulty with a theory claiming it to be a non historical
      event. But, when I step in, and see in John 19:31-34 an historical
      incident which implies that Jesus was not buried by Joseph of Arimathea
      and that nobody among his disciples ever knew his final resting place, I
      am viewed as a dangerous terrorist. I cannot find fault with a reaction
      of this nature, because it is perfectly natural. Our self-defense
      mechanism forces us to protect ourselves from any dangerous intrusion
      that can affect our physical life or our spiritual wholeness. The
      self-defense mechanism is pre-rational. It controls us. We do not
      control it. It takes a radical revolution to reverse our convictions and
      open us to a new perception of the truth.

      The classical example of such a revolution is the case of Galileo. He
      claimed, contrarily to the universal belief, that it is not the sun that
      turns around the earth, but the earth around the sun. As long as he
      contradicted a deeply-rooted cultural truth, he was viewed as a
      dangerous terrorist. But with the passing of time our cultural views
      changed and we have rehabilitated Galileo.

      A similar revolution took place in relation to creation versus
      evolution. Today we have no problem considering the creation stories of
      the book of Genesis as creation Myths similar to what we find in other
      ancient cultures. Along the same line, the day will come when my theory
      concerning the burial of Jesus will become acceptable. But a change of
      this nature requires an important change in our theological views and in
      our understanding of the Christian event.

      As far as I can judge from my third-world planet, and on the basis of my
      very limited knowledge of what is being published today in the field of
      gospel scholarship, it seems to me that we are in a very shaky
      transitional situation. I have not read D.F. Strauss's massive _Das
      Leben Jesu_. I can only speak of it on the basis of what I have been
      told, namely that it shows "how history and theology ('myth') are
      closely interwoven in the Gospels and cannot always be easily
      separated". I recognize here a classical situation in which the mythical
      dimension of the Christian discourse is recognized, but without being
      taken seriously. We are willing to admit that historical facts are
      interwoven with non-historical facts in the gospels. But since we do not
      know how to tell which is which, we act as if everything was historical.
      We go back to our old traditional views. As a result, we consider as
      historical what is traditionally accepted and we dismiss as "phantasy"
      what is theologically unacceptable.

      It was mentioned in our exchanges that the story of Joseph of Arimathea
      is very well attested and that, with the exception of Crossan, all
      scholars consider it as highly historical. This is true. But this does
      not prove that this widely spread view is correct. Everybody believed
      that the sun turns around the earth until Galileo came and proved them
      all wrong. The same thing can happen in relation to the story of Joseph
      of Arimathea. But a revolution of this nature cannot take place just
      because a Joseph Codsi decided to change the course of history on the
      basis of a personal phantasy. My theory must be based on hard facts. The
      hard fact is John 19:31-34. I have not invented the story that is
      reported there. As far as I can tell from Tobias' report, Brown finds
      the story quite believable, but raises doubts about its historicity,
      because of "the problem that no one before GJohn mentioned these
      supposedly historical incidents."

      This form of speech implies that GJohn is the last gospel in date.
      Because its predecessors ignore the incident of the Jews' request to
      have the bodies removed out of sight, Brown justifies his dismissal of
      the incident. On the basis of such a logic, we should dismiss as
      unacceptable very large sections of GJohn which are unique to it. I do
      not think that I would be speculating if I said that Brown's refusal to
      admit the historicity of what is reported in John 19:31-34 is because he
      is afraid of the logical consequences of this admission, namely that the
      body of Jesus would have been taken off by the Roman soldiers, which is
      incompatible with the firmly established tradition of the burial at the
      hand of Joseph of Arimathea.

      I think all of us are faced with the same difficulty. Brown and Tobias
      are not alone. I also recognize that I have the obligation of dealing
      with the difficulty in a satisfactory manner. But I feel, at the same
      time, that, if we want to be honest with the evidence, we must take John
      19:31-34 seriously and give it the benefit of the doubt, that is to say,
      consider it as historical unless proven, later on, to be a fallacy.

      GJohn has very late and very early material. Jack Kilmon speaks of a
      proto-John that pre-dated GMark. He goes on to say: "I see John 19:34 as
      a seam from the protogospel after which verse 35 is a "cap" and verses
      36 and 37 were interpolations by the Greek author and 19:38 (the
      beginning of the empty tomb story) a separate tradition. This would
      tend to support the possibility that two traditions may be colliding at
      this point."

      So far, Jack is the only one to have been open to the possibility that
      two traditions may be colliding at this point. This is why I was hoping
      he would take the time to identify other items that go back to
      proto-John. I would not be surprised if some of those items collided
      with later traditions that have replaced older ones in the Christian
      discourse. The fact that the Christian memory of many historical facts
      has been altered and replaced with invented stories must be and can be
      documented. I suspect that the collective memory of the early church was
      altered, in its formative days, so as to eliminate many things that had
      become unacceptable to the Christian mind. In other words, history was
      changed in order to make it compatible with the new twists of the
      theological discourse.

      An example of this phenomenon is what happened to the story of Jesus'
      burial. His body was disposed of by the Roman soldiers, and his
      disciples never new where it was put. Later on the faith in the
      resurrection was challenged and the need to confirm it became important.
      Whence the need to have a tomb that was found empty. The story of Joseph
      of Arimathea was then invented.

      If we can identify other stories that have been altered in a similar
      fashion and for theological reasons, the case for my theory will be

      So long,

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

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