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Re: Two burial stories

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  • Tobias Hägerland
    Joseph, In response to your post, ... does ... 34 ... that the ... of ... problem. ... that ... and ... better ... I, too, would be very happy indeed for any
    Message 1 of 27 , Sep 7, 2004
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      Joseph,

      In response to your post,



      > FIRST POINT: METHODOLOGY

      > The problem I see with the methodology you advocate here is that it
      does
      > not allow you to decide whether the events described in John 19:31-
      34
      > are historical or not.
      >
      > If I were to judge the tree from its fruit, I would have to say
      that the
      > various methods that have been advocated so far leave a lot to be
      > desired. None of the important questions related to the historicity
      > problem has been adequately resolved. On the contrary, I see a lot
      of
      > skepticism around me. Many seem to have given up on the historicity
      > question.
      >
      > This is why I am in favor of a more intelligent approach to the
      problem.
      > The tools we use in our research must be custom-made and constantly
      > improved, so as to be really useful. The methods we follow are our
      > tools. It makes no sense, in my view, to remain faithful to methods
      that
      > have produced sour fruit. In this regard, my aim is to invite you
      and
      > the resourceful members of this list to a common research for a
      better
      > method.

      I, too, would be very happy indeed for any improvements on the
      methodology in historical-Jesus research. I do believe, however, that
      such improvement is most likely to be expected from reflection that
      builds on the methods already in use, as these are the result of much
      scholarly work and have led to considerable progress within the
      discipline. I cannot agree that the existing methods have produced
      sour fruit. On the contrary. But just as you write, many questions
      remain unsolved. Now, being something of a pessimist by nature, I am
      not very hopeful that we will ever be able to tell whether the
      passage we are now discussing preserves historical information or
      not. I think we will have to cope with ignorance. But if you do have
      any concrete suggestions how to go beyond this, I will be just glad
      to read and ponder them.

      > SECOND POINT: FAITH
      >
      > I think that faith is a very precious thing. This is why I would not
      > allow my critical study of the gospel to make me contemptuous of
      those
      > who have remained faithful to the faith of their childhood. I do not
      > think, for example, that my mother was "simple-minded" just
      because
      she
      > was a devout Catholic. It is true that I have evolved in the way I
      deal
      > with the faith of my childhood. It is also true that I would
      encourage
      > people to become more mature in the way they understand their
      religion.
      > There is in the maturity process a negative dimension, which is
      critical
      > of certain things. But the negativity is not the final step. It has
      to
      > be followed by another step, which allows us to see and judge the
      > spiritual dimension in a less naïve way.
      >
      > In the seventeenth century, the Europeans saw in Galileo's view
      a
      threat
      > to their faith. We no longer make a similar connection today. In the
      > same way, if our faith is based on having an empty tomb, we will be
      > reluctant to admit that the stories of Joseph of Arimathea and of
      the
      > empty tomb are not historical. An admission of this nature requires
      a
      > revision of our understanding of our faith. But I do not think that
      such
      > a revision would be more catastrophic than the revision of the
      ancient
      > views relatively to the new knowledge Galileo has introduced.

      All right, but I cannot see what your recurring references to
      Galileo, childhood faith etc. have to do with my arguments in this
      thread. Psychologizing is not a very fruitful way of discussing
      scholarly matters, I think. (Besides, the religion I now profess and
      practice is not the one I was brought up with. But this I really find
      irrelevant to our discussion here.)

      So let me make an attempt to return to the scholarly argument we are
      having here. As I have already stated, I think it is uncertain
      whether Jn 19.31-37 preserves historical information (partially or in
      its entirety). But for the sake of the argument, let us suppose for a
      moment that at least 19.31 provides a historically accurate
      account of what happened. If that is so, in what way does 19.31
      conflict with 19.38-42?

      Jn 19.31 says: 'Now the Jews, since it was Sabbath Eve, in order that
      the bodies should not remain on the cross during the Sabbath - for
      the day of that Sabbath was great - asked Pilate that their legs
      should be broken and taken away.' (my transl.)

      The breaking of legs is depicted in 19.32, but the taking away of the
      corpses is not narrated. Instead, Jesus' corpse is 'taken away' by
      Joseph in 19.38 and subsequently prepared for burial and entombed.
      There is not the slightest hint that the Roman soldiers took away the
      corpse. The narrative flow of 19.31-42 appears to be without
      contradiction, so why posit two different sources?

      One might object that the 'natural' continuation of 19.31-37, if we
      did not have 19.38-42, would be the disposal of Jesus' corpse by the
      soldiers - just as we may interpret the silence on the other corpses
      to mean that they were taken away by the soldiers and thrown like
      waste. Certainly that would be the expected course of events! But
      that is implied already in Mark's story, where Joseph also has to go
      and ask Pilate for Jesus' corpse (Mk 15.43). This means that Mark,
      like John, realized that the soldier would have disposed of the
      corpse had not this member of the council intervened. So what
      information does John convey to us that is not already there in Mark?
      None, I think, unless we can somehow establish with a certainty going
      beyond pure guess that John builds on a tradition that did not know
      of the Joseph episode.

      So, once again, it all comes down to a question of method. How do we
      distinguish different traditions behind a given passage? Is it
      legitimate to posit, say, three or four sources or traditions in Jn
      19.31-37 simply because one could imagine such a scenario? May we
      reconstruct a pre-Gospel tradition that had the soldiers breaking
      Jesus' legs also (which could in fact explain why he died so
      rapidly), but which was then obscured by the Johannine notion that
      the bones of Jesus the Paschal Lamb must not be broken? Or is it
      legitimate, by contrast, to demand from the one who proposes any of
      these theories that he or she points to the inconsistencies in the
      actual text, in order to come up with some evidence for his/her claim?

      I would welcome further discussion on these questions of method.

      /Tobias Hägerland
    • Joseph Codsi
      Bill Bullin wrote on September 7
      Message 2 of 27 , Sep 8, 2004
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        Bill Bullin wrote on September 7

        <[.] Although I am inclined to follow the view that John 19:31 is
        primitive, it does not necessarily follow that the Romans buried Jesus.
        This
        is where I introduce Acts.>

        Hi Bill,

        I can accept your version. But then I will ask you to please tell me how
        the "Jews" are likely to have buried the three corpses. Would they have
        used a common grave for the three of them, or would they have buried
        them in separate graves? Would they have dug graves in the earth or used
        tombs that were hewn out of the rock? Wouldn't you eliminate this last
        scenario as unlikely, since it would have been an honor to be buried in
        such a tomb? Assuming that they used separate graves and that Jesus'
        grave was identified as his, is it likely that the women would have gone
        back to the grave on the third day with the intention of digging Jesus'
        body out of the dirt in order to perform the proper burial rituals?

        I can see the women going to the grave in order to mourn Jesus, not in
        order to perform a new burial ritual involving the embalmment of the
        body. In this case, the account of GJohn would be the only one to fit in
        the scenario you suggest.

        Mark's account does not seem believable if Jesus had been buried in an
        ordinary grave dug in the soil. It requires that the burial at the hand
        of Joseph of Arimathea be temporary, and allowed for the proper rituals
        to be performed after the Sabbath. In this case, only a tomb hewn out of
        the rock would fit the requirement (cf. Mark 15:46). Thus Jesus would
        have been placed in a morgue-like place, waiting for the proper rituals
        to be performed as soon as possible.

        Do you think the Markan scenario can be maintained if we were to replace
        the burial by Joseph of Arimathea with a burial by the "Jews"?

        2 - I will move now to another question. I wrote, speaking of the author
        of GJohn:

        >I repeat, the evangelist could not have reproduced side by side two
        >burial stories that contradicted one another.

        You answered: "Agreed. But apparently Luke did!"

        Let's discuss the case of Luke. I have read GLuke and the Acts many
        times without ever noticing the contradiction that exists between the
        two burial accounts (Luke 23:50-56 and Acts 13:29). You are the one who
        discovered it. This shows that a contradiction is not perceived when we
        are not looking for it. So I think it is possible that Luke did not see
        the contradiction you are speaking of. Had he seen it, he would have
        altered his sources in order to remove the contradiction, as he has done
        in many other cases. It is relatively easy to document this point by
        comparing GLuke to GMark.

        So long,
        Joseph

        ================
        Joseph Codsi
        P.O. Box 116-2088
        Beirut, Lebanon
        Telephone (961) 1 423 145
        joseph5@...
      • Richard H. Anderson
        ... There is a detailed discussion in Jewish ossuaries: reburial and rebirth. Secondary burials in their ancient Near Eastern setting. [By] Eric M. Meyers
        Message 3 of 27 , Sep 8, 2004
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          >But then I will ask you to please tell me how
          >the "Jews" are likely to have buried the three corpses. Would they have
          >used a common grave for the three of them, or would they have buried
          >them in separate graves? Would they have dug graves in the earth or used
          >tombs that were hewn out of the rock?

          There is a detailed discussion in
          Jewish ossuaries: reburial and rebirth. Secondary burials in their ancient
          Near Eastern setting. [By] Eric M. Meyers (Rome, Biblical institute press,
          1971).

          The bodies were placed in tombs hewn out of rock and one year later the
          bones were placed either in an ossuary if the family was wealthy or on a
          shelf with other bones. However we do not know if the these practices
          extended to all burials. We do know there is a relationship between family
          wealth and burial practices.

          Richard H. Anderson
        • Joseph Codsi
          To Richard H. Anderson Thank you, Richard, for the information you have given me on Jewish burial practices. You made the following remark:
          Message 4 of 27 , Sep 9, 2004
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            To Richard H. Anderson

            Thank you, Richard, for the information you have given me on Jewish
            burial practices.

            You made the following remark:

            < We do know there is a relationship between family wealth and burial
            practices >

            Is it not logical to assume that the use of "tombs hewn out of rock" was
            associated with wealth? Was there a welfare system according to which
            poor people had temporary access to publicly-owned tombs, where they
            would put their dead for one year or so and then remove the bones and
            place them somewhere else?

            Are not the documents you have spoken of related to the burial ways of
            the rich?

            Are we sure that ordinary people did not just bury their dead in the
            ground without ever recovering the bones after one year?

            You have, it seems, anticipated my question and answered it when you
            said: "we do not know if these practices extended to all burials."

            Let's consider now the case of Jesus and of his death companions. If we
            assume that they were buried according to Jewish rituals, is it likely
            that they would have been put in "tombs hewn out of rock", with the idea
            that their families would claim their bones after a year or so?

            All this boils down to the following question: "How did the
            first-century Jews treat the corpses of criminals?"

            I would welcome anything that could help with the answer to this
            question.

            Peace,
            Joseph

            ================
            Joseph Codsi
            P.O. Box 116-2088
            Beirut, Lebanon
            Telephone (961) 1 423 145
            joseph5@...


            -----Original Message-----
            From: Richard H. Anderson [mailto:randerson58@...]
            Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 2:50 PM
            To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: RE: [John_Lit] Two burial stories

            >But then I will ask you to please tell me how
            >the "Jews" are likely to have buried the three corpses. Would they have
            >used a common grave for the three of them, or would they have buried
            >them in separate graves? Would they have dug graves in the earth or
            used
            >tombs that were hewn out of the rock?

            There is a detailed discussion in
            Jewish ossuaries: reburial and rebirth. Secondary burials in their
            ancient
            Near Eastern setting. [By] Eric M. Meyers (Rome, Biblical institute
            press,
            1971).

            The bodies were placed in tombs hewn out of rock and one year later the
            bones were placed either in an ossuary if the family was wealthy or on a
            shelf with other bones. However we do not know if the these practices
            extended to all burials. We do know there is a relationship between
            family
            wealth and burial practices.

            Richard H. Anderson







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          • Joseph Codsi
            To Bill Bullin Hi Bill, Can one get addicted to gospel research as to drugs or alcohol? I know it is always exciting to discover a new thing or to be on a
            Message 5 of 27 , Sep 10, 2004
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              To Bill Bullin

              Hi Bill,

              Can one get addicted to gospel research as to drugs or alcohol? I know
              it is always exciting to discover a new thing or to be on a promising
              track.

              I feel the time has come to move on to the next step and discuss the
              quest of Mary of Magdala as GJohn narrates it. But first let me sum up
              what we have accomplished so far. I reproduce here something that was
              not addressed to you in a specific way.

              * * *

              That Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea is known to our four
              canonical gospels, and is considered by most commentators as a sure
              historical fact. This tradition is the only one that is known to Mark,
              and consequently to Matthew and Luke. In the fourth gospel, however, we
              find traces of an older tradition, which seems to have been replaced by
              the newer one. Because the newer tradition ended up enjoying universal
              recognition, it has become the official one, so to speak, and the older
              tradition would have been completely forgotten, had it not been for
              GJohn’s interest in two incidental events associated with it: the fact
              that Jesus’ legs were not broken and his side was pierced. The author of
              GJohn did not realize that the special story to which he had access was
              in fact part of an older account of the removal of the three crucified
              corpses out of public sight.

              The older tradition speaks of an official Jewish delegation to Pilate,
              who asked him to have the legs of the crucified men broken so as to
              hasten their death and allow for a removal of their bodies out of public
              sight. The reason for this special request was the fact that the Sabbath
              which was about to begin at sunset was a particularly solemn occasion.
              It is implied in the story that Pilate acceded to the request, since we
              see the soldiers come and break the legs of the two others who had been
              crucified with Jesus. But because they found Jesus already dead, they
              did not bread his legs. Instead one of the soldiers pierced his side
              with a spear.

              At this point the narration stops and the evangelist digresses into a
              theological consideration related to the accomplishment of the
              scriptures. We do not know what happened next, namely who removed the
              corpses from the crosses and what was done with them. All we can do is
              say what seems logical to us or what fits best the scenario as it is
              reported in GJohn.

              Strictly speaking, the Jewish leadership did not request the bodies so
              as to bury them according to their ways. They were interested in having
              the corpses removed out of sight, because this would have been
              particularly shocking to Jewish sensitivity on a solemn feast day. It
              is, therefore, logical to assume that the Roman soldiers were the ones
              who have executed the request. They proceeded to the breaking of the
              legs. Then they waited for the two others to die, at which point they
              removed the three bodies and disposed of them so that they were out of
              public sight. The best way to do that is to bury them in a common ditch
              and at an unknown place in order to prevent any family gatherings at
              their grave. Most likely the soldiers had to wait long enough to make
              sure the two other men were dead. The sun had already set and all the
              onlookers had left on account of the Sabbath. So there were no witnesses
              to the soldiers’ action. The women, namely, could not have seen them
              remove the bodies from the crosses, let alone observe where they had
              buried them.

              It is clear that a scenario of this nature would have soon become
              unacceptable to the early church. The newer tradition was then adopted
              as the official one.

              This is how I have reconstructed the older tradition. But then Bill
              Bullin discovered another tradition in Acts 13:29, in which Paul speaks
              of a burial by the Jews. So now we have two older traditions and things
              have become more complicated.

              The third tradition is somewhere in between the two traditions that are
              found in GJohn. To the extent it speaks of Jesus’ burial without any
              mention of the two others who had been crucified with him, it is closer
              to the final and official version (burial by Joseph of Arimathea). On
              the other hand, because Joseph of Arimathea is, in the original version
              of the official tradition (found in Mark) a member of the Jewish
              leadership, Paul’s account in Acts can be an earlier form of the
              official tradition, in which Joseph of Arimathea is not yet singled out
              as the main actor.

              I would reconstruct the evolution of the tradition as follows:

              FIRST STEP
              Jesus was buried by the roman soldiers together with the two others who
              had been crucified with him in a common grave, the location of which
              remained unknown.

              SECOND STEP
              Jesus’ case is considered alone. The two others are now out of the
              picture. He was buried by the Jewish leadership. The kerygma does not
              mention the two others. It is centered on the Easter revelation and on
              the person of Jesus, who died, was buried and raised from among the dead
              on the third day.

              THIRD STEP
              Joseph of Arimathea, acting on his own but in a dual capacity of council
              member and someone expecting the kingdom of God (which was the central
              topic of Jesus’ discourse) takes care of placing the body of Jesus in a
              tomb hewn out of the rock and closing its entrance. The women were
              there, observing what was going on. The Markan tradition was adopted by
              all the other evangelists, but was manipulated by each one in a
              particular way. This tradition was particularly well-designed for the
              subsequent discovery of the empty tomb by the female disciple(s).

              Tobias Hägerland believes the story of Joseph Arimathea to be authentic.
              He considers what I said about the older tradition as shaky. He wants
              more convincing arguments. He reminds me of Thomas, who would not
              believe Jesus had appeared to the other disciples until he had seen him
              with his own eyes. I respect Tobias position and I will try to give him
              the hard facts he wants.

              Jack Kilmon recognizes in GJohn the existence of two colliding
              traditions, but is careful to suggest any explanation.

              Bill Bullin is not afraid of taking chances. His discovery of an earlier
              form of the official tradition, namely in the kerygmatic pronouncements
              of Paul, made of him an active researcher. He is in favor of a proper
              burial by the Jews rather than by the Roman soldiers. I respect his
              views. But I invite him to continue the quest by moving onto another
              text. Sometimes it helps to widen the picture in order to acquire a
              better feel for the texts at hand.

              I will end this summary with a special thank you to all those who have
              participated in the discussion. If you do not agree with the biased way
              in which I have summed up the discussion, please feel free to interject
              your remarks. I will start a new thread. I will call it “Mary’s quest”.
              I am alluding to Mary of Magdala looking for the missing body of Jesus.

              * * *

              BACK TO YOU, BILL.

              You spoke of the Johannine theme of secret discipleship. Had GJohn been
              the only one to mention Joseph of Arimathea, I would have been tempted
              to say that we are dealing here with a fictive disciple and perhaps a
              fictive person altogether. I don’t know what to say about the Nicodemus
              of chapter 3. But his presence at the burial scene is more a pious
              fiction than an historical fact. It seems to me that the presence of
              Nicodemus at the burial scene is very odd.

              I think that, in what pertains to the story of Joseph of Arimathea,
              GJohn follows GMark, but transforms it. He did not like the idea that
              Joseph was a prominent member of the council. He must have felt that
              this was not true. So he makes him a secret disciple and a friend of
              Nicodemus, who was a member of the council. This made Joseph a member of
              the council by proxy. GJohn disagrees with GMark on another important
              point. For him the burial of Jesus was not temporary but final. Jesus
              was embalmed before being put in the tomb and there was no need for the
              women to go back, retrieve the body and embalm it before burying it
              again. This correction is important. If the women go back to the tomb
              after the Sabbath, it must have been to mourn Jesus, not to anoint his
              body. In other words, GJohn corrects a big mistake found in GMark. The
              women could not have wanted to anoint the body of Jesus. GJohn is not
              afraid of contradicting GMark. He even goes overboard to the point of
              suppressing a collective action by the women. For him, Mary of Magdala
              acted alone on the first day of the week.

              So long,
              Joseph

              ================
              Joseph Codsi
              P.O. Box 116-2088
              Beirut, Lebanon
              Telephone (961) 1 423 145
              joseph5@...



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Joseph Codsi
              Leonard Maluf wrote on September 10, 2004:
              Message 6 of 27 , Sep 11, 2004
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                Leonard Maluf wrote on September 10, 2004:

                <In case you are curious about where Mark got that tradition, he got it
                from the Gospel of Matthew, which pre-existed his own, and where the
                tradition clearly belongs from a literary point of view. The Joseph who
                buried Jesus at the end balances the Joseph who foster-fathered him
                through hard times at the beginning.>

                I do not agree with you that Mark got his information from the Gospel of
                Matthew. But you are entitled to your opinion.

                I find it important, however, when one is engaging in a scholarly
                discussion as is the case with our exchanges, to distinguish between
                facts and poetry.

                The parallelism you see between the two Josephs is quite interesting. I
                might use it next time I give a spiritual talk to a group of pious
                ladies engaged in a novena to Saint Francis. But I would be very
                reluctant to elevate this pious thought to the rank of revealed truth.

                Please think about this.

                Peace,
                Joseph

                ================
                Joseph Codsi
                P.O. Box 116-2088
                Beirut, Lebanon
                Telephone (961) 1 423 145
                joseph5@...



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Joseph Codsi
                Ramsey Michaels wrote: Aren t the pious ladies engaged in a novena to Saint Francis entitled to revealed truth ? At least there actually are two Josephs
                Message 7 of 27 , Sep 12, 2004
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                  Ramsey Michaels wrote:

                  Aren't the "pious ladies engaged in a novena to Saint Francis" entitled
                  to
                  "revealed truth"?

                  At least there actually are "two Josephs" in Matthew, which is more than
                  we
                  can say for "two burials" in John. So which is "fact" and which is
                  "poetry"?

                  + + +

                  Ramsey,

                  Gospel scholarship does not asses the gospel as "revealed truth". This
                  is a question of faith not a question of scholarship.

                  What is OK in the context of a novena is not OK in the context of a
                  scholarly discussion.

                  Peace,
                  Joseph

                  ================
                  Joseph Codsi
                  P.O. Box 116-2088
                  Beirut, Lebanon
                  Telephone (961) 1 423 145
                  joseph5@...



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Joseph Codsi
                  Ramsey Michaels wrote on September 12: Joseph,   To me as a Protestant, revealed truth is in the text of the Gospels, not in my subjective faith about it.
                  Message 8 of 27 , Sep 13, 2004
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                    Ramsey Michaels wrote on September 12:

                    Joseph,
                     
                    To me as a Protestant, "revealed truth" is in the text of the Gospels,
                    not
                    in my subjective "faith" about it. If that is the case, Gospel
                    scholarship
                    obviously has a bearing on it, even if it does not by itself define it.
                    I
                    suspect many Catholics feel that way as well, and isn't that why Gospel
                    scholarship is so controversial?
                     
                    Even on your own terms, your previous comment made it sound as if the
                    faith
                    of the Novena ladies did not quite rise to the level of the "revealed
                    truth"
                    which we professionals discover in our scholarly discussions.  It
                    sounded a
                    little patronizing, which I'm sure was not your intent. Can't we benefit
                    from their faith and they from the fruits of our scholarship?

                    + + +

                    Dear Ramsey,

                    In my first answer to your question I avoided being personal. But my
                    impersonal answer did not satisfy you. I welcome the new way in which
                    you have asked your question. I see in it an invitation to be more
                    personal.

                    Let me begin with the following statement:

                    "It sounded a little patronizing, which I'm sure was not your intent."

                    I think you are right. There is here an implied criticism of the "novena
                    ladies", not because they are ladies, but because they are at a
                    spiritual level I have left behind me. A simple analogy will help
                    explain this point.

                    We all go through stages in life: from infancy to childhood,
                    adolescence, young adulthood, more mature adulthood and so on to old
                    age. What an adult knows, a child ignores. What is moral for an adult
                    can be seen as immoral for a teenager. It is not because we become more
                    mature that we despise all the children, who by definition are less
                    mature. I would not go preaching to children: "Repent. Grow mature
                    overnight!"

                    We are conditioned by our biological development, which is mostly beyond
                    our control. It is not moral to be old and immoral to be young. What
                    would be abnormal is for someone to reach an advanced age and remain
                    relatively underdeveloped. But this would not engage the moral
                    responsibility of the individual.

                    Our spiritual development follows a similar evolution. Instead of
                    depending on our biological growth, it is depending on our sociological
                    conditioning. The spiritual world in which we live has the tendency to
                    overwhelm us and impose on us its own traditional definitions of
                    spiritual maturity. As a result, we stop evolving and growing in certain
                    specific areas. The "novena ladies" of my example are in this situation.
                    Their intention is perfect and their fervor genuine. They find in a
                    novena, in lighting a candle or in the recitation of the rosary the
                    nourishment they need. I could have spoken instead of a saintly local
                    monk who has been recently canonized by Rome. His faith and piety would
                    be very similar to the faith and piety of my "novena ladies". (In this
                    part of the world, there are religious devotions that are for ladies.
                    Novenas fall in this category. I do not set the socio-religious rules.)

                    Would I be contemptuous of a saintly man or pious ladies? Certainly not,
                    simply because I was once like them, with the exception of sainthood, I
                    assume. Besides, my own mother was one of them. Many of the people who
                    are dear to me are like that. It is much harder for them to understand
                    my views than for me to understand theirs. So I feel it is up to me to
                    adjust to them and to blend with the crowd when a baby is baptized, a
                    young couple is married, or an old person is buried. Paul said he was a
                    Jew with the Jews and a gentile with the gentiles. I do the same thing,
                    when I adjust to different forms of spirituality.

                    Even in a discussion group like ours, there is room for different
                    spiritualities. Leonard Maluf is entitled to his as you are entitled to
                    yours. But to the extent you wish to share in our discussions, you
                    cannot afford to remain under-developed in certain areas. I know I am
                    dealing here with a very delicate question. I do not want to sound
                    condescending or patronizing. My intention is to invite you to take a
                    step in the direction of greater human and spiritual maturity. I know
                    from the way you speak that you are "an Israelite in whom there is no
                    fallacy", so I trust the day will come when you will understand what I
                    am trying to explain to you today.

                    When you say that for you "revealed truth" is in the text of the
                    Gospels, you are seeing only one side of the coin. The other side sees
                    in the gospels a human discourse. It is very difficult to reconcile
                    those two statements. So let's deal first with what is easier, the
                    duality of the word. I am speaking here of the word as scripture and of
                    the Word as the Logos made man. In both cases, the word is 100% divine
                    and 100% human. This is what the Christian logic requires.

                    As gospel scholars, we study the gospels not as divine word, but as
                    human discourse. We leave it to theologians to study the gospels as
                    divine word. I know that this specialization is far from being
                    satisfactory to the religious mind, who insists on the inseparability of
                    the duality: divine-human. But unless we "separate what God has united",
                    no scholarship would be possible.

                    This has an immediate consequence on what we do. We deal with the
                    gospels as if we were not Christian believers. In other words, there is
                    room in our midst for unbelievers, whose contribution can be just as
                    valuable as anyone else's. We do not offer spiritual guidance to people
                    who wish to deepen their understanding of the Christian faith and
                    progress in the way they live it. We are not pastors. The evangelists,
                    however, were interested in conveying to their readers their
                    understanding of the Christian event. So there is in the gospels a
                    discourse that can be spiritual nourishment as well as confirmation of
                    the faith. But let us be realistic. It makes no sense to ask or expect
                    from gospel scholarship what it cannot give.

                    I will move now to a more critical approach.

                    It is pious to believe that the scripture and the gospels in particular
                    are a divine discourse, in which God's words are consigned. The problem
                    with this view is that we end up attributing to God all the
                    contradictions that are found in the gospels. This is a formidable
                    difficulty.

                    The need for the believers to understand their faith (fides quearens
                    intellctum) implies that there are difficult problems, which need to be
                    resolved. It is because there are serious problems that gospel
                    scholarship is needed.

                    So we have no choice but to raise questions. The great weakness of
                    modern scholarship has been its inability to produce new knowledge
                    related to the way the Christian faith was born. We have been circling
                    around the puzzle. But so far we have not discovered the key to its
                    solution.

                    CONCLUSION

                    As a believer, you are entitled to your faith. Your desire to seek in
                    the gospel a confirmation for your faith is legitimate. But do not
                    expect modern scholarship to help you in this regard. Scholarship
                    implies a more mature approach to the Christian faith. Because this
                    approach is in and of itself critical, it falls in the via negativa. In
                    relation to the via negativa, the faith of the Lenanese saint or of the
                    "novena ladies" or for that matter of the Muslim fundamentalist is too
                    immediate, too naïve, too simplistic. The need to go beyond it is
                    therefore felt by some of us. This creates serious tensions between us.
                    Our exchanges show what I am talking about.

                    Please understand that this is quite normal. Life is far from being a
                    routine in which everything remains the same. Every stage we go through
                    has its challenges. No spiritual initiation is ever final. The quest
                    takes different forms, because it is conducted on different levels. In a
                    world where everything is put into question, the faith of our childhood
                    can easily become inadequate. A new assessment becomes then necessary.

                    Clearly you feel the need to investigate certain questions. This means
                    that you are in movement. Every movement is continuity and
                    discontinuity. We tend to assign to continuity a positive sign and to
                    discontinuity a negative sign. This is ok. But we go wrong when we
                    associate the positive sign with morality and the negative sign with
                    immorality. The ancient made a similar mistake when they gave to right
                    and left moral connotations. A left-handed child is no longer considered
                    as possessed by the devil.

                    Without negativity there is no maturity. Sometimes I think my elders
                    were happy, because they could live their entire life without ever
                    having to rethink the faith of their childhood. Today life has become
                    more complicated.

                    So far there is a big gap between us. You think the gospel is the word
                    of God and I think it is a human discourse. I cannot bridge that gap for
                    you. You must do it yourself. But how can you do it if all you can see
                    is one side of the coin? The challenge for you is to start recognizing
                    the other side, even though this might seem to you as a negative, wrong
                    and morally reprehensible step.

                    One last remark:

                    You speak of <the level of the "revealed truth" which we professionals
                    discover in our scholarly discussions>.

                    Do you mean to say that the more we disagree on important questions, the
                    closer we get to the "revealed truth"?

                    Luke could confirm with his gospel the teachings Theophilus had
                    received. Modern scholarship, on the other hand, does the exact
                    opposite. It questions every word of the gospel.

                    Peace,
                    Joseph

                    ================
                    Joseph Codsi
                    P.O. Box 116-2088
                    Beirut, Lebanon
                    Telephone (961) 1 423 145
                    joseph5@...
                  • John Lupia
                    ... I know I saw a copy in Beirut in a bookshop; I think it was Librarie Antoine in Hamra, downstairs (ask one of the staff), if it was upstairs it was in
                    Message 9 of 27 , Sep 16, 2004
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                      --- Joseph Codsi <joseph5@...> wrote:


                      > I have no access to Brown�s book. >





                      I know I saw a copy in Beirut in a bookshop; I think
                      it was Librarie Antoine in Hamra, downstairs (ask one
                      of the staff), if it was upstairs it was in French or
                      Arabic; or perhaps, it was in one of the three Malik
                      Bookstores. Ask at AUB or LAU they are likely to have
                      it in the library.

                      John N. Lupia
                      PO Box 113-5906
                      Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon
                      11032080

                      =====
                      John N. Lupia, III
                      Toms River New Jersey 08757 USA
                      Phone: (732) 505-5325
                      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/
                      God Bless America



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                    • RevMikeB
                      Message 10 of 27 , Jan 30, 2005
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                        <<<It is true that a large number of events were invented after the
                        death of Jesus in order to prove that he was, in his earthly life,
                        the Son of God of the Easter revelation. But the Jews' request to
                        have the bodies removed from public sight does not fall into this
                        category.>>>

                        Would it not be too much of a coincidence to think that John ch 2
                        with the water changing into wine could come from a signs source and
                        the piercing of the side with water and blood flowing out could be
                        from a completely different source (Passion Narrative?)? It is too
                        big of a coincidence to me to think that one or the other is not the
                        work of the Evangelist in some way. The same could be said
                        concerning the Evangelist's view in ch 9 of the Sabbath and its
                        connection with Ch 19:31-34, especially how Jesus' comments in the
                        former passage become fulfilled in the latter. (I explained this in
                        an earlier post.)

                        In fact, I think the Evangelist had a heavy hand in the
                        miracles/signs of ch 2, 9, and in 19:31-34. So I disagree with your
                        statement above concerning the historicity of the Jews' request of
                        the bodies.

                        Now if you said that the report of the broken legs of the two
                        criminals is accurate, I would agree with you. And as I said
                        earlier, 36-37 is likely the addition of the Redactor.

                        Concerning the historicity of John's portrayal of Jesus, I would
                        phrase it differently than "a large number of events were invented
                        after the death of Jesus in order to prove that he was, in his
                        earthly life, the Son of God of the Easter revelation." I would
                        rather say that the Evangelist believed the Resurrected Lord was in
                        him through the Advocate (14:16), and freely spoke on the Lord's
                        behalf. J Louis Martyn was right to suggest that there is a two
                        level drama in the Gospel, and that each actor "is actually a pair
                        of actors playing two parts simultaneously." The Evangelist, as did
                        Jesus, addressed real life problems. He witnessed that the
                        Resurrected Lord was still there for the Johannine community of
                        faith. I would be hesitant to say "a large number of events were
                        invented" without clarifying that the Johannine community was living
                        and experiences many of these events that are recorded. I think this
                        is a point that deserves attention, so the word "invent" doesn't do
                        justice in explaining his true intentions, in my humble opinion.

                        A large portion of the Fourth Gospel does resembles a court of law
                        and is apologetic concerning the identity of Jesus, the Son of Man.
                        That I will grant. And it does appear the Gospel went through a
                        couple of decades or more of adaptations to address changing life
                        circumstances of the community.

                        Peace,
                        RevMikeB
                        A Young Pastor of a Small Church
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