Re: [John_Lit] BD 20:2-10
----- Original Message -----
From: "Thomas (Tom) Butler" <butlerfam5@...>
Sent: Friday, January 19, 2001 6:59 PM
Subject: Re: [John_Lit] BD 20:2-10
> Dear Frank McCoy and other JL listers,
> I shall forward this response through our list manager, since I do not
want to interrupt the process he has outlined for discussion of SBL papers.
However, I do want to reply to Frank's post on 12-31. I will trust that
this comment will be made available to the list when the timing is
> As we were considering what can be learned from 20: 2-10 re: the BD, Frank
offered a very interesting article showing a material connection between 11:
38-44 and J.H. Breasted's description of the resurrection of Osiris, thus
suggesting that the value of the connection between 20: 2-10 and 11: 38-44
can best be seen via the connection between 11: 38-44 and the ancient myth
of Osiris, namely by concluding that the BD is the brother of Jesus: James
> I have no expertise re: the ancient myth, and therefore do not feel
qualified to dialog on that particular point. I would like to point out,
however, that the material connection between the empty tomb of Jesus and
the story of the resurrection of Lazarus has significance within the
narrative world of the FG, without regard to any connection to the ancient
myth of the resurrection of Osiris.
> I would like to focus the attention of our group on this internal material
connection, since I believe that it points to a different conclusion, namely
that the BD is someone who under- stands the importance of the semeia listed
in both stories: the head, the hands and the feet.
> Specifically, consider 11: 44 in which the resurrected Lazarus emerges
from the tomb with "his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his
face wrapped in a cloth" (NRSV) and 20: 5-8 in which Peter sees the cloths
that have bound the body of Jesus, including "the cloth that had been on
Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by
itself," and seems to make no conclusion based upon what he has seen, while
the BD enters the empty tomb and sees the same set of signs, "and he saw and
Dear Tom Butler and Other JL Listers:
I do not see where the head, the hands and the feet play an important
role in 20:5-8. Rather, in 20:5-8, the emphasis is solely on the soudarion
that had been on the head of Jesus. Indeed, neither the hands nor the
feet of Jesus are even mentioned.
Also, one of the advantages of the hypothesis that there are allusions to
the Osiris myth in 11:38-44 and 20:2-8 is that it can explain why: (1) in
11:44, it is emphasised that Lazarus had special protection for his head,
hands, and feet and why: (2) in 20:5-8, it is emphasised that the soudarion
was "rolled up in a place by itself."
In Tutankhamen, Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt notes (p. 165), this
Pharaoh (aka King Tut) was interred with "all the Osirian rites". That is
to say, he had been buried in the same fashion that, it was believed,
Osiris had been buried. This relates to shortly before (p. 164), where
Desroches-Noblecourt states, "Too many oils were lavished on Tutankhamen,
burning away nearly all of the tissues and attacking the bones. Only the
parts protected by gold were preserved: the face covered by the mask and the
hands and feet guarded by finger stalls." Here, we learn, extra special
care had been taken to protect the head, hands, and feet of Tutankhamen.
Since he had been buried in the same fashion that, it was believed, Osiris
had been buried, this means that, it was understood, Osiris had been
buried with extra special care taken to protect his head, hands. and feet.
What this means is that the stress, in 11:44, that Lazarus had special
protection for his head, hands, and feet could very well be a literary means
of alerting the intended readers that he is being likened to Osiris. If so,
then this is one more piece of evidence that, in 11:38-44, Lazarus is being
likened to Osiris.
In 20:5-8, why is it emphasised that the soudarion for Jesus was
"rolled up"? Well, if Jesus is being likened to Osiris in 20:2-8, then, as
the head of Osiris had been protected by a mask, the meaning of this is that
the soudarion of Jesus had been, in effect, a mask which had preserved the
outline of his head even after he or someone else took it off and placed it
apart from the other burial clothes. Compare Raymond Brown who, in The
Gospel According to John (p. 987), states, "However, John may simply mean
that the soudarion was rolled up in an oval loop, i.e., the shape it had
when it was around the head of the corpse."
One final point: While it is correct to
speak of "the ancient myth of the resurrection of Osiris", this should not
delude us into thinking that it was unknown in the first century CE.
Rather, at that time, the Isis-Osiris mystery religion was very popular in
the Roman Empire and might even have been the leading religion. Hence,
knowledge about its key divinities and its key doctrines was widespread in
the Roman Empire, especially among those who were literate. Note that
Josephus, immediately after his passage on Jesus (unfortunately, only
preserved as altered by an early Christian), relates a story of how a man,
at a temple of Isis in Rome, seduced a woman by claiming to be Anubis.
What is significant is that Josephus does not tell his intended readers
anything about Isis or Anubis. Hence, he understood, they already were
knowledgeable concerning these two major dieties in the Isis-Osiris mystery
religion. The bottom line: the author of John likely knew about the
Isis-Osiris mystery religion, including its myth of the resurrection of
Oisiris, and, probably, so did most of the intended readers.
Maplewood, MN 55109