Tag Archives: Jesus’ Crucifixion

“Demons Crucified Jesus ON EARTH” – according to ancient sources and modern analysis

If you still think that to say that “rulers of this age” (demons) crucified Jesus means that they crucified him in one of the heavens you have missed my recent post,  What they used to say about Paul’s “rulers of this age” who crucified the “lord of glory”. More easily forgivable, you have also missed or forgotten a series by Roger Parvus back in 2013, in particular A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 7: The Source of Simon/Paul’s Gospel.

In the first of those posts I quote from the Gospel of Nicodemus (also known as the Acts of Pilate) the crystal clear belief that the head demon was responsible for crucifying Jesus on earth.

Roger Parvus presents the argument that Paul believed Jesus descended to earth where he was crucified by the demonic forces. Parvus’s argument draws upon an analysis of the Ascension of Isaiah to support his case.

While it is certainly not impossible that demons who are busy fighting each other in the lower heavens could also crucify a Jesus who had descended from upper heavens for that purpose, I personally favour Roger Parvus’s view. Jesus descended to earth for a short time for the sole purpose of being crucified, descending into hell, being resurrected and returning to his original place in heaven.

 

Who Crucified Jesus – Men or Demons? Continuing Miller’s Study of 1 Cor 2:6-8

Previous posts in this series:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age [ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου], who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age [ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου] understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. — 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NIV)
  1. Are the “Rulers of the Age” in 1 Cor. 2:6-8 Human or Spiritual? – the sea change
  2. Who Killed Christ? Human rulers and/or angelic rulers. Addressing 1 Cor 2:6-8.

Each heading represents an argument Gene Miller addresses.

In 1 Cor 2:6-8 Pau’s “rulers” (archai) is a pesonalization of the spiritual powers “elemental spirits/principles” (stoicheia tou kosmou) in Col 2:20

Miller responds: Paul would be unlikely to use an ambiguous term (archai) that could mean either human or demonic authorities to indicate “elemental spirits”.

Comment: Such an assertion needs to be accompanied by a justification.

In Rom 13:1-7 Paul considers the Roman authorities to be “a providential and beneficent power” so he would not in 1 Cor 2:6-8 accuse them of being ignorant and crucifying Jesus. 

Miller responds: Paul’s view of Roman authorities is irrelevant since he believed it was the Jewish authorities who were responsible for crucifying Jesus. In support Miller cites Acts 13:27-29 and 1 Thes 2:14-15.

Comment: The author of Acts elsewhere portrays a view of Paul that is in stark contrast to the Paul of the letters. That author known as Luke appears to have been creating a Paul more suited to the “orthodoxy” of his day. The passage in 1 Thessalonians 2 is of very doubtful authenticity according to a number of scholars so cannot be relied upon as a sound basis for an argument.

I Cor 2:6 says the “rulers of this age” have a certain kind of wisdom, implying in a sense that they are more than human.

Miller responds: In this context, Paul has been speaking only of human wisdom. Ergo, the rulers of this age have a human wisdom and are therefore human. Compare 1:19, 20 where Paul speaks of the wise person, the scribe or teacher, the philosopher of this world. read more »

Who Killed Christ? Human rulers and/or angelic rulers. Addressing 1 Cor 2:6-8.

Angelic rulers

I continue my recent post, Are the “Rulers of the Age” in 1 Cor. 2:6-8 Human or Spiritual? – the sea change: this post begins to address  Gene Miller’s argument that when Paul wrote that the “rulers of the age” crucified “the Lord of Glory” he meant human, worldly authorities, viz. Pilate, crucified Jesus. Miller’s article, “Archontōn tou aiōnos toutou—A New Look at 1 Corinthians 2:6–8,” JBL 91 (1972) 522–28, was published in 1972. Why bother with a 46 year old article? In the previous post we saw indications of its continuing relevance in major commentaries. In 2001 Chris Forbes of the Department of Ancient History (not a theologian!) described Miller’s article as presenting a

particularly forceful case . . . [arguing] that (at least for this verse) the view common since Cullmann that both human rulers and their angelic/demonic counterparts are intended “needs finally to be laid to rest”. (Forbes, p. 68)

We start with Miller’s translation of 1 Cor 2:6-8

Yet we speak of wisdom among the mature, not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are being brought to an end; on the contrary, we speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God decreed before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew. For, if they had known (it), they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:6-8).

Miller opens with two passages that scholars have used to argue that “rulers of this age” refers to supernatural powers.

[Héring] cites especially Col 2:15, where the hostile powers over whom Christ triumphs in the cross are called archas kai exousias, and Rom 8:38, where archai is used to describe one of the forces which might be thought to separate men from the “love of God.”

Let’s look at those two passages:

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Col 2:15 NASB)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities [=archai], nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers , nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38f NASB)

Miller responds to these verses as follows:

It is immediately apparent that in neither case is there any certainty that the reference is to supernatural or spiritual powers. This is particularly true of the passage in Romans; in fact, the context of the passage seems to favor the opposite conclusion. Paul mentions specifically “angels” (angeloi) and “powers” (dynameis); the archai, then, might reasonably be supposed to be human authorities. This interpretation would certainly be consistent with the situation of the church in the first century. (p. 522)

So we see that Miller presents no argument to justify interpretations that contradict what was the virtual consensus in 1972; rather, he simply asserts that “there is no certainty” that spiritual powers are meant. I would have thought that the passage in Colossians that speaks of Jesus having disarmed the rulers could not possibly be saying that Roman rulers were suddenly disarmed by the death and resurrection of Christ.

But Miller wants us to look “particularly” at Romans 8:38 because, he asserts, the context actually suggests that Paul means human rulers. After all, Paul mentioned angels and powers in the same sentence and since these obviously refer to heavenly beings it surely is “more likely” that he must mean human rulers when he speaks of “principalities/archai” in between those two — so Miller asserts. The only way I can follow Miller’s reasoning here is that he begins with the assumption that Paul must surely have been talking about Pilate, full stop.

As we saw above, Miller’s essay has been cited as a persuasive argument so presumably a good number of scholars are inclined to view such an assertion sympathetically. read more »

When Jesus went out with a loud voice . . . .

Shouts and silences are prominent sound images throughout both the non-canonical and canonical gospels and apocalypses. Sometimes the authors seem to be deliberately pairing them to emphasize their associated contrasting occasions. The most memorable instances of this in the canonical gospels are the silences of Jesus before his accusers and tormenters and the loud shout/s he utters on the cross. In Matthew is a well-known passage drawing on Isaiah to suggest a similar contrast:

He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. (Matthew 12:19-20)

This lends itself to neat bit of eisegesis that Jesus’ shout from the cross was a cry of judgment and/or victory.

Probably the most obvious noncanonical text with this particular paradox to come to mind is “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” where the Saviour proclaims he/she is both silence and manifold voice and one who cries out (thunder?). I can’t help but wonder so many of the narrative paradoxes we find in the Gospel of Mark also being found epigrams in some gnostic-type literature such as The Thunder, Perfect Mind.

A common exercise is to treat the gospels as divinely inspired ciphers that require a reader to find matching patterns between their different texts, and by means of these jig-saw matches mentally constructing an entirely new story not found in any of the texts. This is sometimes called “letting the bible interpret the bible”, or even, “not interpreting the bible, but letting the bible speak for itself”. It is also called “reading the bible with the guidance of the spirit of God.”

One example of this approach is to take two passages from Mark and Luke using them to create a third unlike any found in either Mark or Luke.

Death’s Loud Voice: Mark

And Jesus cried [aphiemi: uttered/let go/departed (“went out”)] with a loud voice [phone-megas] and gave up the ghost. (Mark 15:37)

read more »

“They pierced my hands and my feet”: Psalm 22 as a non-prophecy of the crucifixion

It is an axiom among fundamentalists and even many mainstream conservative Christians that Psalm 22 contains an incontrovertible prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus, and that the key verse establishing this “fact” is the one that reads: “They pierced my hands and my feet” — Psalm 22:16

There is no doubt that two of the gospel authors took the first verse of this Psalm — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — and placed it in the mouth of Jesus on the cross. All four gospels used the 18th verse too, which says, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And one drew on the mocking: “All those who see me laugh me to scorn . . . saying, He trusted in the Lord, let him rescue him, let him deliver him, since he delights in him!” (22:7-8 )

All of these verses are found in the gospels as part of the crucifixion scene:

And when they crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots for them . . . . (Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35; Luke 23:34; John 19:24)

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “. . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matt 27:46)

Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said . . . . “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him, . . . .” (Matt. 27:41-43)

Is it not strange that the verse in that same Psalm that says “they pierced my hands and my feet” should not be used at all in any of the gospels? This verse, after all, is the one singular verse that would establish that it is speaking, at the very least metaphorically, of a crucifixion. Yet it is totally absent from the gospels. There is not even any narrative detail that makes special mention of nails going through the hands and feet of Jesus at the time he is being crucified. (The closest any gospel comes to this is at the time of the resurrection when Thomas refers to nail-prints in Jesus’ hands. But there is no whiff of allusion to the Psalm.)

The rest of Psalm 22

But one might as well ask, Is it not strange that the Psalm spoke of hands and feet being pierced (presumably a crucifixion image) at all? Such a verse does not sit well at all with the rest of the Psalm. The psalmist begins with a cry to God and a complaint that he has been uttering that cry for days and nights without an answer:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . . I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent. (22:1-2)

Jesus was not on the cross for days and nights, and the Gospel of Luke informs us that God certainly heard the prayer Jesus uttered the previous night. He sent an angel to help bolster his courage. Yet this Psalm opens with a cry that is the desperation felt from having no answer for, at the very least, a whole day and night.

This cannot be reconciled with the crucifixion scene of the gospels.

Then there is the verse that says the Psalmist was attached to God from the time of his birth.

From my mother’s womb you have been my God (22:10)

That surely must raise some eyebrows among those who believe that Jesus was, and knew he was, part of the Godhead from eternity. But it gets worse for those who assume this Psalm is depicting a man on a cross:

Be not far from me, for trouble is near . . . (22:11)

Um, yes. A person nailed to a wooden stake to die a slow agonizing death cries out, “I see trouble up ahead”?? Now that is an optimist. Always thinking that no matter how bad the present situation it could always be worse. “Please God, I can handle you deserting me at this moment, but I do hope you hurry up and come to help me when I’m in real trouble!”

Then there is that strange plea to be saved from the sword!

Deliver me from the sword . . . (22:20)

Always worth remembering to ask God to deliver you from a sword when he lets you experience the niggling inconvenience of being crucified.

So the broader context of the Psalm speaks against it being a foretelling of a crucifixion.

But there is metaphoric imagery throughout that also needs to be appreciated to understand it fully. Wild animal imagery dominates.

Many bulls have surrounded me;

Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.

They gape at me with their mouths,

As a raging and roaring lion.

For dogs have surrounded me

Deliver . . . my precious life from the power of the dog.

Save me from the lion’s mouth

And from the horns of the wild oxen!

It is not surprising therefore to find that the Hebrew Bible contains a passage with the same wild lion imagery that happens to be missing from a Greek text of this Psalm that was preserved and copied by a later generation of Christians:

Like a lion they are at my hands and my feet

In place of this Hebrew verse the Greek translation of this Psalm (which has been the work of Christian, not Hebrew, scribes) reads: “They pierced my hands and my feet”. “Pierce” has replaced “Like a lion”.

“like a lion” or “pierced”?

How could that have happened? A Rabbi Singer on the Outreach Judaism site writes:

The word kaari, however, does not mean “pierced,” it means “like a lion.” The end of Psalm 22:17, therefore, properly reads “like a lion they are at my hands and my feet.” Had King David wished to write the word “pierced,” he would never use the Hebrew word kaari. Instead, he would have written either daqar or ratza, which are common Hebrew words in the Jewish scriptures. . . .

Bear in mind, this stunning mistranslation in the 22nd Psalm did not occur because Christian translators were unaware of the correct meaning of this Hebrew word. Clearly, this was not the case. The word kaari can be found in a number of other places in the Jewish scriptures. Yet predictably, the same Christian translators who rendered kaari as “pierced” in Psalm 22 correctly translated it “like a lion” in all other places in the Hebrew Bible where this word appears.

For example, the word kaari is also found in Isaiah 38:13. In the immediate context of this verse Hezekiah, the king of Judah, is singing a song for deliverance from his grave illness. In the midst of his supplication he exclaims in Hebrew. . . . . [Hebrew text missing here]

Notice that the last word in this phrase (moving from right to left) is the same Hebrew word kaari that appears in Psalm 22:17. In this Isaiah text, the King James Version correctly translates these words “I reckoned till morning that, as a lion . . . .” As I mentioned above, Psalm 22:17 is the only place in all of the Jewish scriptures that any Christian Bible translates kaari as “pierced.”

Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures

Among those who know a little of the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint such an explanation seems problematic. Did not the Jews themselves translate their Hebrew scriptures into Greek long before the Christian era? Yes they did, but according to legend gleaned from the letter of Aristeas and the preface of Josephus to his Antiquities, only the Torah, the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of Moses. Singer in the same article referenced above also cites the Talmud, Jerome and the 12th book of Antiquities.

The broader context of the setting of the Psalm as discussed above is strong evidence in support of this. A verse speaking of a literally crucified Psalmist simply would not make any sense in the context of the other verses.

The first appearance of “they pierced my hands and feet”

Christians first began to use this Greek translation after our gospels were written. Justin Martyr refers to this passage (they pierced my hands and feet) in his Dialogue of Trypho, paras 97 and 104. The Gospel of Peter likewise appears to know of it. At least it says explicitly narrates a scene where nails are being pulled from Jesus’ hands. (It is possible, of course, that this is taken from the allusion to the nail prints in the hands of Jesus in the Gospel of John — which also may have been written much later than the other gospels.) Whatever the case with this gospel, it is clear that the earliest indisputable knowledge of this Greek text of Psalm 22:16 is from the mid-second century with Justin Martyr.

It appears that some time between the time the canonical gospels were written and the time of Justin Martyr, this famous “prophetic” verse was introduced in a Greek translation of the Psalms by Christian scribes.

The women at the cross

It is sometimes said that the women followers of Jesus showed more resolution and loyalty than the male disciples of Jesus. One scene often pointed to as a demonstration of this claim is the women staying within range of Jesus on the cross while the other disciples had either betrayed him, fled for their lives or denied him.

There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses (widely understood to be Jesus’ mother – c.f. Mark 6:5), and Salome (Mark 15:40)

This claim that the women were in some way “more worthy” than their male counterparts, at least as it applies to the Gospel of Mark, misreads Mark’s narrative completely. The correct understanding of Mark’s sources here also has major implications for how we understand the most fundamental things about the gospel story itself. read more »

(revised) Spong on Jesus’ historicity: John the Baptist and the Crucifixion

Spong in his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious: Recovering the Divine at the Heart of the Human (2007), lists four reasons that he claims leave no doubt about the historicity of Jesus:

  1. No “person setting out to create a mythical character would [ever] suggest that he hailed from the village of Nazareth . . . in Galilee”
  2. Jesus “clearly began his life as a disciple of John the Baptist”
  3. He was executed
  4. “Paul was in touch with those who knew the Jesus of history”

An earlier post looked at #1, “the Nazareth Connection”. This post looks, much more briefly, at #2 and #3 together, because they both make the same fundamental error of logic. read more »