2017-05-01

A Case for the “Easter” Appearances of Jesus BEFORE the Crucifixion

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by Neil Godfrey

There is an inconsistency in a fundamental argument, or assumption, rather, among critical scholars of Christian origins that has long been bugging me.

The principle was set down by David Friedrich Strauss in the nineteenth century,

when we find details in the life of Jesus evidently sketched after the pattern of these prophecies and prototypes, we cannot but suspect that they are rather mythical than historical. (Life of Jesus, Critically Examined, p. 89)

Now that maxim is frequently and sensibly deployed by critical scholars. It is the reason that Burton Mack  (no doubt there are others, too) denies the historicity of Jesus charging into the Temple and expelling the “traders” there.

It is a fictional theme derived from the scriptural citations. (Mack, Myth of Innocence, p. 292)

Many scholars, however, need the “Temple disturbance” to be historical in order to explain why Jesus was eventually arrested so many jettison the principle to make the narrative work as history. (Paula Fredriksen points out the flaw in their argument.)

David Chumney (whose book, Jesus Eclipsed, I have just completed, and which has many excellent points along with a few unfortunate flaws) makes the point loud and clear:

  • Matthew 8:16-17 (& 11:4-5) tell us that Jesus healed sicknesses in fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:4 (Unfortunately once again the Strauss’s criterion is put aside by most scholars who require Jesus to have been a healer in order to explain his “historical following”.)
  • The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is acknowledged by more scholars (e.g. E.P. Sanders, Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, David Catchpole) to be a fiction created out of scriptures such as Psalm 118:25-26 and Zechariah 9:9.
  • The magi following the star (Matthew 2:1-12) is based on Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 60:3, 5-6.
  • Herod’s massacre of the infants (Matthew 2:16-18) is crafted from Exodus 1:15-22 and Jeremiah 31:15.
  • The angel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth (to be) (Luke 1:8-20) is woven from Genesis 18:9-15.
  • Mary’s prayer, the “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55) comes from 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Robert Price draws attention to many more: the infant Jesus’ escape into Egypt; Jesus baptism; the 40 days in the wilderness and testing by Satan; the call of the disciples; the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and her response; Jesus healing of the paralytic; healing the withered hand; the appointing of the twelve disciples; the instructions given to them on how to go out and preach; Jesus calming the storm; the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac; the raising of Jairus’s daughter; Jesus’ family rejecting him; the execution of John the Baptist; the miraculous feedings of thousands; the walking on the sea; Jesus calling the people to listen to him; Jesus healing the daughter of the woman in the region of Tyre and Sidon; the transfiguration; the rivalry among the disciples for the most prestigious position; the story of the exorcist who did not follow Jesus; . . . . .

And the list could probably be just as long if we itemized each of the “prophesied” details in the Passion narrative. (See Price, “Jesus at the Vanishing Point” in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.)

John Shelby Spong concedes that pretty much everything in the gospels is fiction based a creative reworking of Jewish Scriptures. All except for virtually only one detail: the execution, the martyrdom, of Jesus.

That Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” as the Creed affirms, is historically the most stable datum we have concerning Jesus . . . (Joel B. Green, “The Death of Jesus” in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, p. 2383)

. . . not that there is the slightest doubt about the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion under Pontius Pilate . . . (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, p. 375)

There is no doubt both that he was crucified and that after his death he was believed to have been restored to life. (John Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes. p. 236)

Yet it is the crucifixion of Jesus that is the MOST chock-full of Old Testament Scriptural allusions and citations. 

For Paul, that the death of Jesus was “according to the scriptures” is of primary importance:

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3)

Even David Chumney who addresses Strauss’s criterion for questioning historicity as one of his major themes (perhaps the major theme), succumbs:

Sources agree that this same Jesus was crucified under the authority of Pontius Pilate . . . so there is good reason to consider these details probable as well. (David Chumney, Jesus Eclipsed, Kindle loc ca 2600)

No, no, no. Chumney argues emphatically that there are only two “secure” pieces of evidence that assure us Jesus was historical and one of these is Galatians 1:19 where Paul says he met “the brother of the Lord”. Paul nowhere, nowhere, ties the crucifixion of Jesus with “the authority of Pontius Pilate”. The only other “secure” piece of evidence is Josephus. I submit that Josephus, if we take some portion of the passage about Jesus as really by Josephus, is relying upon what he has heard either directly or indirectly from Christians at least two generations after the time of Pilate and tells us nothing more than what they believed.

If we take Paul’s words literally we might even wonder if Jesus was crucified in Galatia:

Foolish Galatians, who has cunningly deceived you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth as crucified? (Galatians 3:1)

Paul gives us no details of when, where, by whom Jesus was crucified — unless we take 1 Corinthians 2:8 in its immediate sense as referring to demonic powers.

If any event in the story of Jesus can be attributed to a creative reinterpretation of Scriptures it is the crucifixion of Jesus:

Early Christians read Psalm 22, Psalm 69, and other psalms of lamentation, probably Isaiah 53, as accounts of the passion of Jesus before there existed any written passion story. (Nils A. Dahl, “The Crucified Messiah and the Endangered Promises” in Jesus the Christ: The Historical Origins of Christological Doctrine, — cited in Chumney)

As Chumney correctly observes:

Throughout the passion narrative, events unfold “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Consider, for example, the events between Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, events that ostensibly occurred behind closed doors. How does Mark know that “the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death” (14:55)? He infers their intent from Scripture: “The sinner watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death” (Psa 36:32, NETS). How does Mark know that “some stood up and gave false testimony against [Jesus]” (14:57)? He finds confirmation of such perjury in Scripture: “[F]alse witnesses have risen against me” (Psa 27:12). . . . . In each instance [Jesus’ silence; Jesus being flogged, struck, spat upon] Mark’s account is derived not from the testimony of eyewitnesses but from the testimony of Scripture. Therefore, such information is not historically credible. 

Chumney cites Barnabas Lindars as pointing out that

“every detail of the tradition has its counterpart in prophecy.”

 

If Paul is our earliest witness to the belief in “Christ crucified” we know that for Paul and his churches Christ crucified was a theological fact. It was a saving event. It was not a news report but the climax of a spiritual battle between God and Satan.

Only much later were the gospels written. It is only decades after Paul’s letters that the first narratives of the crucifixion of Jesus were written and all their details were fleshed out from Scriptures.

So we come to the question.

If the crucifixion of Jesus is first and foremost a theological event and secondly if it is a pastiche of reinterpreted Scriptures, then is it not likely, given David Strauss’s maxim, that we should

suspect [it is] rather mythical than historical?

But if we follow such a reasonable conclusion then we cannot help but ask why it was “invented”.

What was there “at the beginning”? In 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 we read a list of appearances of the spirit Christ to various disciples. Whether we take this as a genuinely Pauline passage or a later insertion, these verses do speak of authoritative status for certain individuals being based upon having seen the heavenly Jesus. Paul does speak of having visions of heavenly realms elsewhere, too.

Christianity would not be the first religion to have started with key persons claiming to have experienced visions and hearing voices. If they believed that the figure they were seeing and hearing was actually a “son of man” figure, or “the heavenly man or christ” figure (we know from the Book of Enoch that some Jews believed the “son of man” was a heavenly figure), they no doubt attempted to fill out the meaning through meditations on the Scriptures. Focusing on certain Scriptures was also part of the technique of those of the period who sought visionary experiences.

Paul speaks of revelations “now” being disclosed, mysteries that had long been hidden were “now” being revealed. Why “now”?

Some visionaries saw an all-conquering heavenly Christ figure as the Book of Revelation testifies. Apparently the Christ figure had been slain before the heavenly altar as a sacrifice. Or at least the precious infant was snatched up to heaven at birth to avoid the designs of Satan.

Paul appears to have had disputes with other apostles who preached a “different Christ”, and perhaps the visionaries behind the Book of Revelation were among those — as P.L. Couchoud suggested.

The Ascension of Isaiah informs us that some believed a time had come when the “Beloved” (an epithet elsewhere for the first-born who was sacrificed by his father — see Levenson) was sent to the lower realms of creation to die and return to glory again.

We don’t know what, exactly, were the details of such visions. Paul said he was forbidden to tell all that he saw.

But it does make sense of the data — the nature of the passion narratives, the crucifixion details especially — if we hypothesise that belief in a crucified messiah followed visionary experiences of the heavenly Christ figure. It is also a conclusion that allows us to apply Strauss’s criterion consistently:

when we find details in the life of Jesus evidently sketched after the pattern of these prophecies and prototypes, we cannot but suspect that they are rather mythical than historical.

 

 

37 Comments

  • R Pence
    2017-05-01 13:02:57 UTC - 13:02 | Permalink

    Another great post.

    It makes me think that in an ironic sort of way that the gospels were, in fact, history. The difference, of course, between their idea of history and ours comes down to the criteria for knowing whether something happened. Today, we have a certain set of ideas about what counts as evidence and what does not. When it comes to an event, we accept video, eyewitness testimony, and all sorts of peripheral evidence. When the twin towers came down on 9/11, for example, it was felt on seismographs. This data serves as evidence for the event.

    At the same time, we have no trouble today that a coded message stands for a ‘real’ message. If you give a coded message to a cryptographer, he doesn’t worry about trying to trace that code to an ‘event’, namely its composition. Rather, his interest is restricted to the contents of the message itself – transforming one set of symbols into another.

    Now, if you simply accept that the Scriptures contain coded information; that they can be decoded to obtain information about historical events, and accept this as wholeheartedly as we accept a video recording of an event to be a reasonable source of information – then the gospels become history. Or more precisely, they become in some measure attempts at relating history.

    In this sense, the secular apologists like Ehrman might be right: there may indeed be a discernible human intention behind the gospels to relate ‘history’.

    • Jay Raskin
      2017-05-01 16:17:35 UTC - 16:17 | Permalink

      Perhaps, we can decode history from the Christ story in the way that we can decode history from the signifier “Superman.” But wouldn’t that be the history of certain corporations that own and control the copyright to the image and word “Superman” collecting money by telling certain creative stories about the character with occassional reference to historical events. For example in “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen” #79 (1964), there is a story with references to the contemporary singing group the Beatles called “the Red-Headed Beatle of 1000 BC.” (see this website for a description of the story — http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2013/05/30/187276981/my-favorite-superman-story-when-jimmy-olsen-created-beatlemania) What can this tell us about the Beatles in 1964? Only that they were popular and the corporate creators of that comic book Superman comic book thought they could entice some fans of the Beatles into buying their comic book by creating a fictional connection between the fictional character and the historical Singing Group. Do we want to say that Jimmy Olsen was a Beatle as a result of this story or that anybody believed he was a Beatle in 1964, and Jimmy Olsen was a part of history in 1964?
      So what does this tell us about the gospel writers making up their stories about their fictional hero Jesus. Perhaps, there were popular rebel leaders who were crucified and the writers wanted to create a connection between them and their hero to sell their cult/culture to the masses.

      • R Pence
        2017-05-02 10:42:31 UTC - 10:42 | Permalink

        This strikes me as begging the question. My point was not that the gospels are historical because here and there they contain accurate historical information. Rather, my point was that with the relative lack of access to reliable historical information in antiquity (from today’s point of view), the gospel writers may well have consulted the Hebrew scriptures for ‘historical’ information about Jesus in the same way that we might consult a videotape.

      • Bob Jase
        2017-05-02 12:43:49 UTC - 12:43 | Permalink

        And JFK must have been a trustworthy honest inspirational POTUS as Superman trusted him with his secret identity (Action Comics 309), volunteered to lead his physical fitness program (Superman 170), invited him to his wedding (Lois Lane 25) and introduced his cousin Supergirl to him (Action Comics 285).

  • Paxton Marshall
    2017-05-01 14:11:43 UTC - 14:11 | Permalink

    Thanks Neil. That’s a very compelling analysis, well made. Whether the gospels narrate the teachings of a real person, or are fabricated to conform to scripture, they express a radical defense of the poor against the exploitation of the rich. This has sustained the movements through centuries of cooption by the rich and powerful. This social justice ethic also has roots in Jewish scripture, but is presented not as the fulfillment of prophecy, but as confirmation that the teachings of Amos and the other social justice prophets are the prophets standards for human behavior, that society has turned its back upon. Supernatural claims were a dime a dozen in Jesus’ time. The social justice demands of the Jesus people were voices in the wilderness of Roman ( and their Jewish minions) oppression.

    • Jay Raskin
      2017-05-01 15:42:17 UTC - 15:42 | Permalink

      Interesting point Marshall. But couldn’t one show rather that the gospels represent a radical defense of the exploitation of the rich against the poor. The Roman elites might torture and kill you, but rejoice, for you’ll have the last laugh by living in heaven with an even more wealthy daddy God his rich son Jesus.

      • Paxton Marshall
        2017-05-01 19:37:53 UTC - 19:37 | Permalink

        Jay, It’s true that many of the rewards and punishments promised by Jesus may be interpreted to refer to the afterlife. Some seem to refer to this life. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”. Either way, it seems a stretch to call his teachings a defense of the exploitation of the poor by the rich. In Luke, Jesus follows his assurances of rewards for the poor and weak with explicit promises of woe to their oppressors.

      • Bob Jase
        2017-05-02 12:51:31 UTC - 12:51 | Permalink

        Exchanging one powerful tyrant for another – not really an improvement.

  • Harrison Koehli
    2017-05-01 15:35:29 UTC - 15:35 | Permalink

    Thanks for the post. Does anyone know if someone has made a comprehensive list of the scripture passages next to the gospel passages, like what Neil did for the six examples from Chumney? Also, Neil, is that list of pericopes below Chumney’s from Price’s contribution to “Five Views”, or does he include them in another work?

    It would be great to have a table of NT citations in one column, scripture in another, and other classical sources in a third (e.g. based on Dennis MacDonald’s work, or probable use of Josephus, etc.), linked to online versions of the texts. Kind of like a super-expanded gospel synopsis. If it doesn’t exist, maybe I’ll start on one – one of these years!

    • Booker
      2017-05-01 16:42:41 UTC - 16:42 | Permalink

      Robert M. Price has done the leg work on this — http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm. R.G. Price also provides good cross comparisons of Gospel use of OT scripture in his writings — http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/gospel_mark.htm in particular, but also http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/fictional_jesus.htm.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-05-02 00:35:05 UTC - 00:35 | Permalink

      Yes, I consulted Price’s chapter in Five Views for the list.

      Readers may have noticed signs of growing weariness in the post: I started out with regular use of supporting citations but slackened off towards the end — getting weary, it was late, sleepy, nonetheless was determined to get the post up….

      So this morning I’ve made some amends with the addendum of linking to three earlier posts where I list approximately 160 connections between Mark 11-16 and OT Scriptures.

      • Booker
        2017-05-02 16:05:28 UTC - 16:05 | Permalink

        It was a real eye opener, after learning how dependent later Gospels are upon Mark, for me to see just how dependent Mark is upon earlier scripture. I think a good analogy might be The Force Awakens, where JJ Abrams recreates so many beats from the original Star Wars film to tell a new story for a new generation of fans, just as Mark recreates beats from Psalms, Kings, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. to tell a new story for his generation. There are so many layers of literary influence his gospel in sum appears to be nothing more than an impressive display of creative writing, and even more so when you examine the use of chiasms found throughout and how they’re used in the structure of the story.

        • Darth Ballz
          2017-05-02 17:38:12 UTC - 17:38 | Permalink

          The relationship Paul identifies in Galatians 3:13 between Christ’s crucifixion and Deuteronomy 21:22-23 is interesting because it is the one place in the typology argument where a mythicist might argue the New Testament crucifixion act itself is typology.

          That doesn’t help answering whether Paul started with memory of the historical Jesus being crucified and then shaped it according to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in Galatians 3:13, or if Paul is indicating in Galatians 3:13 that he discovered that the celestial Jesus was crucified by an allegorical reading of Deuteronomy 21:22-23?

          • Booker
            2017-05-02 18:22:41 UTC - 18:22 | Permalink

            That’s the ambiguity of Paul – if you’re reading through the lenses of the gospels then of course he’s referencing recent “history,” yet, if you back up just a bit in Galations to 1:12, he appears to say he learned everything through scripture and revelation. I do believe that Paul believed the revealed events to be historical, in the sense that he believed they really did happen (or at least claimed to), but I don’t think it’s clear when or where he believes they happened. The revealed events could have taken place recently or at some unknown point in time in the past, either on earth or in the heavens (that might not have even been worked out yet).

            • Darth Ballz
              2017-05-02 18:54:50 UTC - 18:54 | Permalink

              Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

              The only thing is, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark was doing a haggadic midrash on Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, is where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

              Then, as Dr. Robert Price says

              The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 7:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p. 362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

              As for other details, Crossan (p. 198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p. 168). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

              • Darth Ballz
                2017-05-02 19:30:55 UTC - 19:30 | Permalink

                The Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Koine Greek made before the Common Era, has ωρυξαν χειράς μου και πόδας (“they have dug my hands and feet”), which Christian commentators argue could be understood in the general sense as “pierced”.

            • Tige Gibson
              2017-05-02 19:07:20 UTC - 19:07 | Permalink

              Christians today or Paul then consider things happening in “outer space” to be real historical events. God is physically sitting on His Throne in outer space right now, among other things.

  • Darth Ballz
    2017-05-01 15:54:57 UTC - 15:54 | Permalink

    Even the timeline of the death/resurrection comes from scriptures. Concerning this, Matthew writes:

    40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39)

    The gospel writer clearly started with the Jonah passage, and invented the timeline of the death/resurrection of Jesus from it.

  • 2017-05-01 16:05:41 UTC - 16:05 | Permalink

    Can we be so sure that Paul existed or that the epistles came before the gospels? Justin Martyr mentions Marcion but not Paul. The epistles imply that almost all of Europe was converted by one man and that his letters were somehow collected from all the different churches just in time to be used for the Marcionite canon. Price makes a good case that all the letters are spurious.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-05-01 17:24:25 UTC - 17:24 | Permalink

      One may still reasonably assume that certain core material in the epistles is original. And, if with Detering we identify Paul as an idealization of Simon Magus, then the primacy of his christology stands.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-05-02 00:40:42 UTC - 00:40 | Permalink

      Thomas Brodie also suspects “Paul” was a literary figure rather than a personal author. The letters, he argues, were written by a “school”.

      Justin Martyr’s failure to mention Paul is not surprising given that Paul was the apostle of Marcion — and Justin did not like Marcion and avoided addressing his doctrines as far as we know. Rather, Justin proposes the alternative source of apostolic authority, the twelve apostles.

      There are some interesting arguments that the first gospel, Mark, was indebted to letters of Paul.

  • Tige Gibson
    2017-05-01 16:18:36 UTC - 16:18 | Permalink

    When I read Jefferson’s Bible, it was quite strange that people would suddenly start following Jesus for no reason after he did nothing. There really is no substance to the Gospels without the miracles. Even the conclusion doesn’t make any sense.

    • Giuseppe
      2017-05-01 17:02:47 UTC - 17:02 | Permalink

      I’m reading “Beginning of Gnostic Christianity” by Gordon Rylands. He says that a possible origin of the crucifixion myth may be the idea of a celestial suffering “Just” Christ in the Odes of Solomon interpreted according to what Plato wrote about the shameful death of the ideal “Just”.

      • Darth Ballz
        2017-05-01 17:35:32 UTC - 17:35 | Permalink

        Cardinal Ratzinger said:

        “According to Plato the truly just man must be misunderstood and persecuted in this world; indeed, Plato goes so far as to write ‘They will say that our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered, will have his eyes burned out, and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified.’ This passage, writer 400 years before Christ, is bound to always effect a Christian deeply”

        “Crucified” in Plato here can be more literally be translated as “impaled,” although crucifixion is a “kind” of impalement.

        • Darth Ballz
          2017-05-01 17:37:10 UTC - 17:37 | Permalink

          “written,” not “writer” sorry.

      • Tige Gibson
        2017-05-01 17:42:48 UTC - 17:42 | Permalink

        It’s actually possible that someone was wrongfully crucified as the basis for this myth, because people do react strongly to such injustices, but that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the Gospels. It fits well with Lying for Christ and stealing anything that works that the rest of Christianity is known for. I have no trouble believing Christianity started the exact same way as it continued to exist.

        • Darth Ballz
          2017-05-01 18:17:19 UTC - 18:17 | Permalink

          Some Christian theologians, beginning with Paul of Tarsus writing in Galatians 3:13, have interpreted an allusion to crucifixion in Deuteronomy 21:22-23. This reference is to being hanged from a tree, and may be associated with lynching or traditional hanging.

          However, Rabbinic law limited capital punishment to just 4 methods of execution: stoning, burning, strangulation, and decapitation, while the passage in Deuteronomy was interpreted as an obligation to hang the corpse on a tree as a form of deterrence. The fragmentary Aramaic Testament of Levi (DSS 4Q541) interprets in column 6: “God … (partially legible)-will set … right errors. … (partially legible)-He will judge … revealed sins. Investigate and seek and know how Jonah wept. Thus, you shall not destroy the weak by wasting away or by … (partially legible)-crucifixion … Let not the nail touch him.”

          • Tige Gibson
            2017-05-01 20:42:00 UTC - 20:42 | Permalink

            In the case of an unjust execution the method would be irrelevant, but in the context of the Roman empire crucifixion was shameful, although Jews would have expected a Jew to have been crucified. Paul himself was beheaded because he was a Roman citizen. He should have known that Jesus’ body would have been left up for days for birds to pick at, not buried the same day as Jews would have it. There’s so much contrivance to come up with a realistic method of execution from which a person could rise from.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2017-05-02 00:58:20 UTC - 00:58 | Permalink

        Yes, there is so much more literature to cover than what I addressed in the post.

  • Darth Ballz
    2017-05-01 18:50:24 UTC - 18:50 | Permalink

    Paul, in Galatians 3:13, may be indicating that he discovered Christ’s crucifixion by allegorically reading Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

    “13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14) .”

    In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, it says if a man has committed a sin worthy of death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, 23 then his body must not remain all night on the tree, but you must bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God) so that your land may not be defiled, which the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

    Elsewhere, Paul says “3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3).” So Paul might have learned of Christ’s crucifixion by allegorically reading Deuteronomy 21:22-23

    And Isaiah 53 for may be responsible for Paul learning the atonement component of Christ’s death:

    “5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
    He was bruised for our iniquities;
    The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
    And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5).”

    Similarly, Mark might have found the explanation in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as to why the words from Psalm 22 needed to be spoken by Jesus: “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) = “He that is hanged is accursed of God, (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).”

    • Darth Ballz
      2017-05-02 02:41:01 UTC - 02:41 | Permalink

      Do any others have any thoughts if I may be right about Galatians’ identification of Deuteronomy being a possible source for the crucifixion?

      • Neil Godfrey
        2017-05-02 03:37:08 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

        Yes. See the next post about the 160 links between OT and Mark 11-16. Howard Clark Kee includes Deuteronomy among those — as seen in the third post linked there on the passion and resurrection.

        • Darth Ballz
          2017-05-02 14:39:21 UTC - 14:39 | Permalink

          @ Neil:

          The relevant post from your “160 links between OT and Mark 11-16” concerning Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says:

          “[43] Joseph of Arimathaea, and honourable counseller, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

          Deuteronomy 21:23 his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but ye shall by all means bury it in that day; for every one that is hanged on a tree is cursed of God; and ye shall by no means defile the land which the Lord thy God gives thee for an inheritance.”

          Neil: I would have added that Paul directly cites Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in Galatians 3:13 as a source for his understanding of Christ’s crucifixion, so Paul may have “discovered” that a celestial Jesus was crucified by an allegorical reading (or a scripture fulfillment reading) of Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

          • Darth Ballz
            2017-05-02 15:09:46 UTC - 15:09 | Permalink

            Galatians 3:13 also seems to anticipate the climax of Mark’s gospel within it. Galatians 3:13 says:

            “13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14) .”

            This is also symbolized in Mark with the tearing of the veil of the temple, indicating the reconciling of man with God, as well as the words of the centurion (“truly this man is the son of God”), reconciling Jew with Gentile.

  • James T.
    2017-05-02 06:59:03 UTC - 06:59 | Permalink

    The popular notion in churches today, that Jesus MUST have been crucified, and resurrected too, or else Christianity fails, has in the past decade or two, taken an interesting twist in meaning.

    The basic notion was presented in 1 Corin. 15:17. But note that there, the crucifixion and resurrection is not presented as 1) an historically proved certainty. But as 2) an emotional And 3) institutional necessity: this single point HAS to be defended. Or else all Christianity falls. Or else our faith is wrong, and in vain.

    In other words? It must be true … because we desperately NEED it to be true.

    But of course, the logic of emotional needs and wants, is very different from the logic of real history and facts.

    So when many quote Paul as insisting on the crucifixion and resurrection, they often overlook the real basis of Paul’s insistence. Which is not historical, really, at all.

  • Mark
    2017-05-03 15:24:06 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

    > It is only decades after Paul’s letters that the first narratives of the crucifixion of Jesus were written and all their details were fleshed out from Scriptures.

    The usual date for e.g. Romans is ~57; for Mark ~70. It is a historical fantasy that the content of Mark could be radically inconsistent with the common ground in the content of Paul’s preaching, the beliefs of the various Romans he is writing to, and the beliefs of the ‘holy ones’ in Judea he mentions. Anyone familiar with the afterlives of Jewish messianic movements would predict something like Mark’s bios from the content of Paul’s letters.

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