The Execution of Jesus and Anti-Judaism

En Hakkore

Well-known member
Before I left for my Christmas sabbatical there were a number of comments to the effect that Jews killed Jesus appearing in a certain thread and I’ve returned to find these unfortunate assertions continuing there. Support for these accusations has been drawn from the New Testament, as if its four gospels provide incontrovertible proof of this ‘fact’. Not only do such readings of sacred Christian texts rely on naïve historical method, but they paradoxically transmit while denying the anti-Jewish sentiments within these books that have generated legacies of violence against Jews down through the centuries. The purpose of this thread is to raise awareness of these interrelated problems and to discuss them.

I. The Execution of Jesus the Jew and Historical Method
“The one thing we know for sure about the historical Jesus is that he died, and that he died in the most gruesome, cruel and shameful of ways – on a Roman cross” (Bond 152). The specifics of that ignoble death cannot be stitched together through an uncritical reading and summary of the four canonical gospels. These books (among others) are historical sources that must be subjected to the same critical scrutiny as any other source from antiquity (Powell 4-5). The conclusion of historians who apply this method is that Jesus was a Jew (Bond 80) executed by the Romans “as a political agitator with some kind of messianic pretensions” (ibid 162). As for the accounts in the New Testament, they are not unbiased or dispassionate narratives, but stories “shaped by later Christian apologetic concerns” (Fredriksen 255).

II. Mark and the Opposition of Priestly Authorities
Mark, the first of the New Testament gospels to be composed, was written by an outsider to Judaism and for non-Jews (Tomson 104-5). Before any involvement of Romans is narrated, the author claims a number of groups plotted to kill Jesus: Pharisees and Herodians (3:6), chief priests and scribes (11:18; 14:1) – it is the latter pairing, together with elders (14:43, 53; 15:1), who are the ones to seize Jesus and turn him over to Pilate in the narrative. The chief priests are said to have stirred up the crowd to demand the release of a seditious murderer named Barabbas (15:7, 11) and it is this same crowd that clamors for Jesus’ crucifixion (15:12-14). Chief priests, joined again by scribes, mock Jesus as he hangs on the cross (15:31) and these priestly authorities were the most likely opponents of the historical Jesus (Sloyan 34). Mark implicates both priestly and Roman authorities in Jesus’ death (ibid 53), the latter specified as the executioners (15:16-24). The manipulated crowd is less culpable, but potential anti-Jewish readings of the gospel (Levine 83) were realized in subsequent compositions.

III. Matthew, Pharisees and Condemnation of the People
Matthew used Mark as one of his sources (Tomson 106) and his editorial changes are informative. While Mark’s “parable” of the wicked tenants refers allegorically to the trio of chief priests, scribes and elders (11:27; 12:1-12), Matthew revises this to the chief priests and Pharisees (21:33-46). This same pair appears together after the burial in Matthew’s unique addition about soldiers sent to guard the tomb (27:62). Not only are the Pharisees now subtly implicated in Jesus’ death, but the crowds – influenced by both chief priests and elders (27:20) – become “all the people” who, in response to Pilate’s claim and gesture to absolve himself, transfer any guilt for the shedding of innocent blood on themselves and their children (27:24-25); this implies they do not think he is innocent of wrongdoing and have nothing to fear, which is a point often overlooked (Sloyan 64). Insofar as the author presents Jesus as innocent, however, the curse is implicitly enacted when the Romans crucify him (27:26-35) and then “fulfilled” in the destruction of Jerusalem some forty years later (Levine 92). This “blood guilt” verse has nonetheless been interpreted by many Christians as perpetually binding and “has caused more Jewish suffering than any other in the Christian Testament” (ibid 91).

IV. John and “Jews” as Murderers of Jesus
The fourth gospel in canonical order represents a further development of the trajectory detected between II and III above. Despite its distinctive features, its author seems aware of earlier gospel narratives (Tomson 108) and Matthew’s unlikely coalition between chief priests and Pharisees is reinforced in John (7:32, 45; 11:47, 57; 18:3); these two groups, alone or together, now blur (Reinhartz 220) into the amorphous “Jews” (7:32>35; 8:13>22; 9:13>18; 9:40>10:19; 19:6>7). In place of a nameless crowd, John narrates the “Jews” as the ones who demand Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion (18:38-40; 19:12-15). Earlier, the Johannine Jesus referred to the devil as the father of these “Jews” and that they wish to carry out his murderous desires (8:31-44). Indeed, the “Jews” themselves are the implicit agents of crucifying Jesus (19:16-18) and the involvement of soldiers (presumably Roman) in the deed is an afterthought of the narrator (19:23). The author, through the voice of Jesus, indicts the “Jews” of a greater sin than Pilate committed (19:11). In terms of the New Testament gospels, John alone reflects an irrevocable break between Jews and Christians (Tomson 110) and its anti-Jewish rhetoric (Reinhartz 225) is arguably the most overt.

V. Luke and Early Christian Anti-Judaism
I take the position that Luke knows not only Mark (Tomson 111) but Matthew and John, as well (Franklin; Shellard; cf. 1:1); he attempts, with little success, to defuse the anti-Judaism in his sources. Luke’s position on Judaism is, generally speaking, a positive one. He begins with stories of Jewish piety (chs 1-2) and his treatment of Pharisees is less antagonistic than that of his predecessors (Tomson 112); the only role they play in a plot to kill Jesus is to warn him of it (13:31). The consistent culprits across the pertinent references (19:47; 20:19; 22:2, 52, 66; 23:1, 4, 10, 13; 24:20) are the chief priests, though they are joined by rulers and the people at the critical point in the proceedings when Jesus’ crucifixion is demanded (23:13, 21, 23). They are collectively the implied agents of the crucifixion (23:24-26, 33) with soldiers (presumably Roman) introduced only among those mocking Jesus (23:35-36). Luke, however, includes Jesus’ petition for the forgiveness of his (Jewish) executioners because they have acted out of ignorance (23:34; cf. Acts 3:17). Later Christians were not so congenial and, wishing the Jews as a whole to remain under condemnation, excised this plea of forgiveness from the cross in the process of copying the text of Luke (Ehrman 111-13).

VI. Conclusion
In sections II through V above I have examined the four New Testament gospels for their portrayals of Jesus’ execution, looking for what their respective authors asserted about Jewish involvement. All were unanimous that there was some, but they disagreed in terms of the extent and the implications. That the temple aristocracy played some role emerges as a reliable datum to supplement the historical claim in section I that Jesus was executed by the Romans (Sloyan 107). Analysis revealed a development (Tomson 102) of increased Jewish involvement from primarily the chief priests (Mark) to the Pharisees (Matthew and John) to all the people present in Jerusalem for Passover (John and Luke). While Matthew saw the people’s fault as symbolic and divine judgment executed on them and their children at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, their guilt is open-ended in John; Luke counters with clemency, but the trajectory of Matthew and John continued unabated and its legacy has been a tragic and bloody one. The New Testament gospels do not present a uniform perspective on the subject (Tomson 103) and thus to read these texts as presenting a harmonious and straightforward “history” is methodologically flawed.

While I do not think a majority of Christians today either read the New Testament gospels as anti-Jewish documents or consciously espouse anti-Jewish sentiments, it is clear from the other thread that a general denial of these aspects of the texts enables their subtle transmission and expressions across generations with the ever-present potential of erupting into violence. The problem of anti-Judaism thus persists (Levine 98) and only by acknowledging and confronting the problem will it be possible to solve it and avoid continuing violence.

Kind regards,
Jonathan

PS - Works cited to follow due to character limitation...
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
PS - Works cited to follow due to character limitation...
Works Cited:
Bond, Helen K. The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed. T&T Clark, 2012.
Ehrman, Bart D. “The Text of the Gospels at the End of the Second Century” in Codex Bezae: Studies from the Lunel Colloquium, June 1994, ed. D.C. Parker and C.-B. Amphoux. New Testament Tools and Studies 22. E.J. Brill, 1996.
Franklin, Eric. Luke: Interpreter of Paul, Critic of Matthew. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 92. Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.
Fredriksen, Paula. Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews. Vintage Books, 1999.
Levine, Amy-Jill. “Matthew, Mark, and Luke: Good News or Bad?” in Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust, ed. Paula Fredriksen and Adele Reinhartz. WJK Press, 2002.
Powell, Mark Allan. Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Second Edition. WJK Press, 2013.
Reinhartz, Adele. “’Jews’ and Jews in the Fourth Gospel” in Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel, ed. R. Bieringer et al. WJK Press, 2001.
Shellard, Barbara. New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 215. Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.
Sloyan, Gerard S. Jesus on Trial: A Study of the Gospels. Second Edition. Fortress Press, 2006.
Tomson, Peter J. Presumed Guilty: How the Jews Were Blamed for the Death of Jesus. Fortress Press, 2005.
 

rakovsky

Active member
What exactly do you mean by the term "Anti-Judaism" in your title: Antagonism to Jews as an ethnicity (ie. Anti-Semitism), Antagonism to their community broadly, Antagonism to the Jewish religion of Moses and the full range of his successors (what some have called Judeo-Christianity), or antagonism to the rabbinical community in particular? Anti-Judaism only refers to the latter two categories. To go through those 4 categories:
  1. Christianity is not anti-Semitic in an ethnic sense because the apostles were Jews, as were most of the Church/Christian/Nazarene community in its early phases.
  2. I want to try to give a good answer regarding the second category. It was common for 1st-2nd century writers, both Jewish and gentile, like the Biblical authors, Josephus, Roman authors, etc. to portray kind of a broad, somewhat vaguely-delineated sense that in the 1st century AD there was a Jewish community much like there was a Greek community or a Persian community. And this broad community's somewhat official leadership in some general sense at least at one point apparently rejected Christianity more than it accepted it. For instance, in the Biblical story, Herod and the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus at His trial. And even if you consider Jesus' trial by them to be fictional, there is also the Council of Jamnia's rejection of "heretics" that was directed against Jewish Christians.
  3. Christianity is not basically antagonistic to the Jewish religion in the general sense as is called the Judeo-Christian heritage.
  4. But the rabbinical leadership as a collective or majority institutionally rejected Christianity in the 1st century. Certainly you can find numerous rabbis over the centuries who have accepted Christianity, but the rabbinical establishment mostly rejected it in an official sense.
 

rakovsky

Active member
I. The Execution of Jesus the Jew and Historical Method
“The one thing we know for sure about the historical Jesus is that he died, and that he died in the most gruesome, cruel and shameful of ways – on a Roman cross” (Bond 152). The specifics of that ignoble death cannot be stitched together through an uncritical reading and summary of the four canonical gospels. These books (among others) are historical sources that must be subjected to the same critical scrutiny as any other source from antiquity (Powell 4-5). The conclusion of historians who apply this method is that Jesus was a Jew (Bond 80) executed by the Romans “as a political agitator with some kind of messianic pretensions” (ibid 162). As for the accounts in the New Testament, they are not unbiased or dispassionate narratives, but stories “shaped by later Christian apologetic concerns” (Fredriksen 255).
More directly, in your OP you are getting into at least two topics:
  • 1. What responsibility did the religious Jewish leadership have in Jesus' killing? (It looks like they were responsible in part.)
  • 2. What responsibility would the Jewish community have in Jesus' killing as a result? (My preferred answer is that they were not responsible because I don't like the concept of collective responsibility.)

For Question 1, you are questioning the reliability of the Gospels as historical documents. We also have other Christian writings from the period that portray the leaders as responsible. We also have Josephus, who wrote about Jesus that, "... when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. " Commonly scholars think that Josephus did not write his passage on Jesus as we find it, but I think that Josephus did author it. I can get into why if needed. Then there is also the Talmud, which talks about Yeshu ha Notzri's trial and suspension to death. I think that Yeshu ha Notzri refers to "Yeshua/Jesus the Nazarene." (Sanhedrin 43a–b) But I am aware that there are those who argue that the Talmud does not talk about Jesus of Nazareth. Other than explicit writings on the topic, we can also look at circumstantial evidence, like the religious leaders' attitude or treatment of other Christians at the time such as Stephen and Jesus' brother James.

I think that there are those today who want to try to make the case that the religious leaders did not advocate that Jesus be killed because those modern people either see Jesus as sympathetic or they sympathize with the religious leaders or relate to them. Plus, they are living in a time and culture when brutally killing people for heresy is considered pretty bad and they themselves don't like such punishment. I would ask those people, "If you could time travel back to the 1st century and you watched and heard those Sanhedrin leaders discussing amongst themselves that they wanted Jesus to get killed for heresy, and you heard them speak to Pilate against Jesus as a rebel, etc. so that their responsibility was obvious to you, what stance what you be promoting?"

In the case of the Spanish Inquisition, Western scholars who are faced with the incontrovertible fact that the Spanish Inquisition did happen, and they are also living in a time and culture that rejects killing and torturing people for heresy like the Spanish Inquisition did. And some of these scholars seem to direct their commentary on this tragedy by trying to downplay it. Probably they tend to be Catholic (but not solely) and prefer to avoid emphasizing how bad it was. I think that those scholars may be right that the Inquisition was more limited than we imagine. BNut I also don't agree with the thrust of trying to diminish it. I dislike the answer of addressing historical cruelties by saying, "Oh well, we have to remember how bad those times were," or "That was how people did things back then," as if the cruelty is lessened or excused by it being more common then than it is today.

For Question 2, the basic issue is really whether we can say that a community is collectively responsible for what its leadership and a faction of its people perform. Personally, I really dislike this way of thinking. Do we want to say that "the Americans" committed War Crimes in Vietnam or invaded Iraq in 2003? It sounds very broad and simplistic, even though sometimes people talk that way in common speech. I also don't think that the NT emphasizes collective hatred to the community, one being the positive statements that the NT emphasizes and repeats about the Jewish community (Paul gives a list of blessings, like how the prophets came to them), as well as its teaching that we should not hate even our enemies. Fundamentally, the NT wants salvation for Israel, not condemnation.

You can find places in the Tanakh that speak of nations collectively, like "The Sin of (nation X)". I don't really like this collective way of talking, one reason being that there are plenty of people who don't agree with what the majority of a nation wants. Conversely, you could have a nation declare war on another nation when only a minority of its population wanted it to declare war. In any case, the times that it shows up in the NT an extension of the way that the Tanakh speaks. For example, Jesus complains that Jerusalem rejected its prophets. He is using a collective manner of speaking that is in line with the way the Tanakh sometimes spoke. Isaiah 59 was even more explicit and specific than that, saying that every one of the Israelites was sinful. With Jesus' brother James, who was particularly in the Jewish religious tradition relative to the disciples, at one point in his epistle he says that everyone is sinful.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
What exactly do you mean by the term "Anti-Judaism" in your title
By "anti-Judaism" I mean opposition to Jewish religious beliefs and practices and, by extension, the adherents of the religion itself. Among your four possibilities it is thus closest to the third (bolded emphasis mine):

Antagonism to Jews as an ethnicity (ie. Anti-Semitism), Antagonism to their community broadly, Antagonism to the Jewish religion of Moses and the full range of his successors (what some have called Judeo-Christianity), or antagonism to the rabbinical community in particular? Anti-Judaism only refers to the latter two categories.
I will thus engage your short rebuttal to this definition only.

Christianity is not basically antagonistic to the Jewish religion in the general sense as is called the Judeo-Christian heritage.
The concept of a Judeo-Christian heritage is a modern one. The term first appeared in an 1831 article by Ferdinand Christian Baur, though the ideas behind it were in circulation since the Renaissance and its scholars' renewed interest in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish roots of Christianity (Emmanuel Nathan and Anya Topolski, "The Myth of a Judeo-Christian Tradition: Introducing a European Perspective" in Is There a Judeo-Christian Tradition? A European Perspective, ed. Nathan and Topolski, De Gruyter, 2016, 3-5, 8). To bring the concept directly into dialogue with the New Testament gospels (the focus of my thread opener) is thus anachronistic. In addition, your appeal to 'Christianity' assumes a homogeneity of belief and/or practices that has never existed in its nearly two-thousand-year history.

Given the definition I have provided above, I would invite you to refocus your rebuttal (if indeed you wish to continue it) on the documents and period (late first to early second centuries) in question. I appreciate your engagement with my post and look forward to continuing our discussion. It may take me some time to get back to your other post (hopefully no more than a couple of days) as I have already committed to posting this weekend a critique of the recently-published LSV translation elsewhere on the forum.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
More directly, in your OP you are getting into at least two topics:
  • 1. What responsibility did the religious Jewish leadership have in Jesus' killing? (It looks like they were responsible in part.)
  • 2. What responsibility would the Jewish community have in Jesus' killing as a result? (My preferred answer is that they were not responsible because I don't like the concept of collective responsibility.)

For Question 1, you are questioning the reliability of the Gospels as historical documents.
I'll interject here to clarify since there is a tendency toward polarized thinking on these forums (and generally in the world). Questioning the reliability of the New Testament gospels as historical documents does not equate to thinking them useless as such, only that they need to be evaluated using the same standards as any other source and not considered a priori to offer unmediated access to 'truth' on the matter.

We also have other Christian writings from the period that portray the leaders as responsible.
I make reference to the Gospel of Peter in the other thread where the Jews are explicitly the ones who crucify Jesus (vss 1, 4-10, 23) with reference shortly thereafter to the trio of Jews, elders and priests (vs 25). This fits the pattern, as I argue elsewhere, of the New Testament authors attributing more and more responsibility to the Jewish people as a whole, continuing its trajectory by absolving Rome altogether and pinning the execution order onto Herod (vs 2)... the role of his judges (vs 1) is unclear as the text is not fully extant and begins in mid-sentence (Ehrman and Pleše 373). If you would like to cite specific other examples, we can examine them...

We also have Josephus, who wrote about Jesus that, "... when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. "
I critique this translation of Whiston here (that was originally supposed to be part of my response to you except that Josephus got paraded out in the other thread and I felt posting it there this morning was warranted). Yes, it implicates the principal men (and not the people generally) in bringing an accusation against Jesus to Pilate, who in turn is persuaded by their demonstration and condemns him to the cross. This comports well with the historical reconstruction I provided in my thread opener based on a critical analysis of the canonical gospels alone.

Commonly scholars think that Josephus did not write his passage on Jesus as we find it, but I think that Josephus did author it. I can get into why if needed.
Do you mean to say Josephus penned the passage of Jewish Antiquities in question (18.63-64) in its entirety? If so, please do "get into why" you think so --- I take the position that several clauses have been interpolated by a later Christian scribe (or scribes) and would happy to defend that position. Here is Feldman's translation (sourced from Bond 40) that I provided in the other thread with the authentic core in bold and the interpolations in italics.

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

Then there is also the Talmud, which talks about Yeshu ha Notzri's trial and suspension to death. I think that Yeshu ha Notzri refers to "Yeshua/Jesus the Nazarene." (Sanhedrin 43a–b) But I am aware that there are those who argue that the Talmud does not talk about Jesus of Nazareth.
I'm not among them, I view it as a genuine reference to Jesus... it is a relatively late source (compared to the New Testament gospels) interacting with and assuming a tradition of Jewish culpability in executing Jesus, defending this on the basis of the Torah (specifically Deut 13:1-11; 21:22-23) in terms of the charges (sorcery and leading Israel into idolatry), method of execution (stoning) and postmortem display of the corpse (hanging). It also implicitly counters a charge of illegality in the rushed trial by the Sanhedrin as described in the Christian traditions by referring to a herald who announced the sentence forty days in advance of the execution to allow time for witnesses to speak on Jesus' behalf, of which none were found. In terms of historical reconstruction, there is little here of value... it is important, however, for understanding the counter-arguments offered by Jews to Christians circulating their own traditions of Jewish culpability in Jesus' death (Schäfer 63-74).

Other than explicit writings on the topic, we can also look at circumstantial evidence, like the religious leaders' attitude or treatment of other Christians at the time such as Stephen and Jesus' brother James.
The stoning of James as referenced in Josephus (Ant. 20.197-203) indicts the Sadducean priest Ananus for exploiting the lack of a procurator immediately following the death of Festus and the arrival of Albinus several months later in Judea (Painter 133-41). This also accords well with the historical reconstruction of Jesus' death wherein those who transfer him to the prefect for trial and execution are members of the priestly aristocracy, who were Sadducees (Hanson and Oakman 166). As for the stoning of Stephen recounted in Acts (6:8-7:60), your reason for invoking this as an example is problematic insofar as a number of people aside from leaders are narrated as being involved: members of a certain synagogue attended by Diaspora Jews are his opponents (6:9) and they stir up not only elders and scribes against Stephen but the 'people' as well (6:12). These are the ones who drag him before the council and are the likely referents of who drag him from the council and stone him, among whom are the false witnesses they procured (7:57-58). Perhaps you could clarify how you feel this contributes positively to the idea that Jewish leaders (not the people) were responsible (along with Rome) for Jesus' death.

I think that there are those today who want to try to make the case that the religious leaders did not advocate that Jesus be killed because those modern people either see Jesus as sympathetic or they sympathize with the religious leaders or relate to them. Plus, they are living in a time and culture when brutally killing people for heresy is considered pretty bad and they themselves don't like such punishment.
I'm not sure who these people you are referring to are, but what you describe is a bias-motivated argument that is irrelevant to historical reconstruction. I also happen to think that tying or nailing someone to a cross until he asphyxiates or suffers hypovolemic shock is a brutal response to any alleged crime, particularly one so asinine as 'heresy', but that ethical stance has nothing to do with arriving at a historically-sound judgment on who was responsible for doing this to Jesus.

I dislike the answer of addressing historical cruelties by saying, "Oh well, we have to remember how bad those times were," or "That was how people did things back then," as if the cruelty is lessened or excused by it being more common then than it is today.
On this point we are agreed and, I think, that members of the priestly aristocracy (alone among the Jews) played some role in the execution of Jesus.

(to be continued in a second post due to character limit)
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
For Question 2, the basic issue is really whether we can say that a community is collectively responsible for what its leadership and a faction of its people perform. Personally, I really dislike this way of thinking. Do we want to say that "the Americans" committed War Crimes in Vietnam or invaded Iraq in 2003? It sounds very broad and simplistic, even though sometimes people talk that way in common speech. I also don't think that the NT emphasizes collective hatred to the community, one being the positive statements that the NT emphasizes and repeats about the Jewish community (Paul gives a list of blessings, like how the prophets came to them), as well as its teaching that we should not hate even our enemies. Fundamentally, the NT wants salvation for Israel, not condemnation.
The New Testament authors do not speak with one voice on the subject as I demonstrated in my thread opener... there also appears to be a shift in Luke's approach to the Jews by the time he gets around to writing Acts. He is still amiable enough toward the Pharisees, but narrates quite a number of mob scenes, most of which involve ambiguous groups of Jews (the one responsible for the stoning of Stephen referred to above, for example). John, as I noted in my thread opener, represents the perspective of one for whom there has been an irrevocable break between Jews and Christians. He is the most overt in his anti-Judaism and refers to Jews having devilish paternity (8:44), a passage quoted by Julius Streicher, publisher of the infamous anti-Semitic rag Der Stürmer, in his defense at Nuremberg (Bieringer et al. 14). I focused in my thread opener on the execution of Jesus itself, but there are other aspects of the Passion narratives to consider, such as the alleged betrayal by a disciple who just happens to be named Judas (the Hellenized form of Judah) --- John has Jesus outright call him a devil (6:70) and later claims he stole from the common purse (12:6), which combined derogatory characterization turns up in any number of contemporary anti-Semitic slurs (Ehrman 42).

While I can appreciate that the New Testament gospels may function for you as sacred text and the idea they contain insidious rhetoric such as this may be a difficult pill to swallow, it is important not to let feelings or bias impede the acceptance of what is plainly there and what has given rise to centuries of violence against Jews. As I note at the beginning of this post in the context of historical reconstruction, the gospels can still function as holy writ for you, but as read with a more sophisticated lens that identifies and repudiates those sections that violate the ethic of love at the center of Jesus' teaching.

Kind regards,
Jonathan


Works Cited:

Bieringer, Reimund et al. "Wrestling with Johannine Anti-Judaism: A Hermeneutical Framework for the Analysis of the Current Debate" in Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel, ed. R. Bieringer et al. WJK Press, 2001.
Bond, Helen K. The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed. T&T Clark, 2012.
Ehrman, Bart D. The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Ehrman, Bart D. and Zlatko Pleše. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Hanson, K.C. and Douglas E. Oakman. Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Second Edition. Fortress Press, 2008.
Painter, John. Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Fortress Press, 1999.
Schäfer, Peter. Jesus in the Talmud. Princeton University Press, 2007.
 

rakovsky

Active member
En Hakkore,
You asked why I thought that Josephus wrote the whole Testimonium.
First, I think that Josephus was a sympathizer with Christians based on his biographical profile, such as being a Galilean who thought God had destined Rome to destroy the Temple and who advocated peace with Rome. Then there is his patronage by the likely Christian Epaphroditus, Josephus' occasional seeming cryptic references to the NT story, and his sympathetic discussion on St. James later in the Antiquities.

Scholars today tend to think that the testimonium was a later Christian interpolation, so I don't really feel like arguing the point. But I think that the scholars are mistaken probably. The basic reason it seems that the scholars reject it is because they think that Josephus was not a Christian. And this seems to come from the idea that a respected historian that pagan Rome accepted would not be a Christian as Rome recopied and promoted his writings. But I don't agree with that explanation because Josephus could have not been very over about his Christianity and so the Romans could have allowed his writings to be recalled. Because what they valued in it was not his support of Roman religion but his acceptance of Roman power. Further, the church writer Origen made a comment in passing that Josephus was speaking positively about Christianity despite, according to Origen, Josephus being a Jew and not a Christian. However Origen was writing over a hundred years after the time of Josephus. So I think that he could have been mistaken in thinking that Josephus was not a Christian due to Josephus being Jewish. In the time when Josephus was growing up and writing, the division lines between being loyal to Judaism and accepting Jesus's Messiahship was not so clear as it became later.

Two literary reasons why I think that Josephus wrote The Passage and wrote it in the way that we have found it are that first, the story fits into the structure of the context of the surrounding chapters of the Antiquities. Ancient writers like Josephus structured their writings using a literary form called chiasm. I'm not sure why they did this like whether they just thought that it was good form or if it was because it served to preserve the events in the memory of the author and the readers. In any case the story of Jesus fits in that part of the chapters in terms of this literary form. The following sections after the story of Jesus discuss the story of Paulina and then the story of fulvia and those two stories cryptically allude to the story of Jesus and the story of Paul based on the elements of the stories.

Furthermore, the structure of the testimonium internally follows the structure of major elements of Luke 24. So whoever was writing the testimonium was writing it in accordance with Luke 24. As a result, the testimonium is an internally coherent Passage, rather than being something that contains elements that were put together piecemeal as a result of disparate interpolations.
 

rakovsky

Active member
As for the stoning of Stephen recounted in Acts (6:8-7:60), your reason for invoking this as an example is problematic insofar as a number of people aside from leaders are narrated as being involved: ...
Perhaps you could clarify how you feel this contributes positively to the idea that Jewish leaders (not the people) were responsible (along with Rome) for Jesus' death.
It's one episode serving as evidence of Jewish community leaders persecuting Christians. If they were repressing his followers, it suggests that they would have been inclined to persecute Him as well.
 

Open Heart

Well-known member
It's one episode serving as evidence of Jewish community leaders persecuting Christians. If they were repressing his followers, it suggests that they would have been inclined to persecute Him as well.
You know I have never understood this. Christians drag out this single instance of a Jewish mob stoning of a Christian as some sort of evidence of dire Jewish persecution of Christians, and completely ignore the steady harassment, torture, and mass killings of Jews down throughout the last 2000 years of Jews by Christians. This on top of the record in their own book of Acts that Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin said to leave the Christians alone.
 

rakovsky

Active member
You know I have never understood this. Christians drag out this single instance of a Jewish mob stoning of a Christian as some sort of evidence of dire Jewish persecution of Christians, and completely ignore the steady harassment, torture, and mass killings of Jews down throughout the last 2000 years of Jews by Christians.
Open Heart,
If you read my posts in the thread, you will see where I complained about people who downplay the Inquisition.

The point of mentioning Stephen wasn't to diminish persecution of Jews, but rather as case showing that anti-Christian persecution was going on in the 1st century, which suggests that the phenomenon of religious persecution probably applied to Jesus' persecution as well.

While Gamaliel said not to kill the disciples in that instance in Acts, they were still flogged in that instance by the Sanhedrin. So it is still a case of religious persecution even though that time it was not fatal. If the Sanhedrin was flogging Jesus' followers, it shows their attitude or MO when considering how they would have treated the disciples' leader, Jesus.

Acts 5 says:
And to him (Gamaliel) they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
En Hakkore,
You asked why I thought that Josephus wrote the whole Testimonium.
First, I think that Josephus was a sympathizer with Christians based on his biographical profile, such as being a Galilean who thought God had destined Rome to destroy the Temple and who advocated peace with Rome. Then there is his patronage by the likely Christian Epaphroditus, Josephus' occasional seeming cryptic references to the NT story, and his sympathetic discussion on St. James later in the Antiquities.

Scholars today tend to think that the testimonium was a later Christian interpolation, so I don't really feel like arguing the point. But I think that the scholars are mistaken probably. The basic reason it seems that the scholars reject it is because they think that Josephus was not a Christian. And this seems to come from the idea that a respected historian that pagan Rome accepted would not be a Christian as Rome recopied and promoted his writings. But I don't agree with that explanation because Josephus could have not been very over about his Christianity and so the Romans could have allowed his writings to be recalled. Because what they valued in it was not his support of Roman religion but his acceptance of Roman power. Further, the church writer Origen made a comment in passing that Josephus was speaking positively about Christianity despite, according to Origen, Josephus being a Jew and not a Christian. However Origen was writing over a hundred years after the time of Josephus. So I think that he could have been mistaken in thinking that Josephus was not a Christian due to Josephus being Jewish. In the time when Josephus was growing up and writing, the division lines between being loyal to Judaism and accepting Jesus's Messiahship was not so clear as it became later.

Two literary reasons why I think that Josephus wrote The Passage and wrote it in the way that we have found it are that first, the story fits into the structure of the context of the surrounding chapters of the Antiquities. Ancient writers like Josephus structured their writings using a literary form called chiasm. I'm not sure why they did this like whether they just thought that it was good form or if it was because it served to preserve the events in the memory of the author and the readers. In any case the story of Jesus fits in that part of the chapters in terms of this literary form. The following sections after the story of Jesus discuss the story of Paulina and then the story of fulvia and those two stories cryptically allude to the story of Jesus and the story of Paul based on the elements of the stories.

Furthermore, the structure of the testimonium internally follows the structure of major elements of Luke 24. So whoever was writing the testimonium was writing it in accordance with Luke 24. As a result, the testimonium is an internally coherent Passage, rather than being something that contains elements that were put together piecemeal as a result of disparate interpolations.
Before proceeding any further I would need you to clarify your position as it regards Josephus. You first claim that he "was a sympathizer with Christians" but later on you make several references challenging the widely-held belief that he was "not a Christian", which implies you think he was a Christian and not simply a Jewish sympathizer with Christians. I would also need to know your level of proficiency in Greek in order to follow along in a demonstration of the reasons for concluding the sections I flagged earlier are, indeed, interpolations. Please let me know on these two issues and we can go from there...

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

rakovsky

Active member
Before proceeding any further I would need you to clarify your position as it regards Josephus. You first claim that he "was a sympathizer with Christians" but later on you make several references challenging the widely-held belief that he was "not a Christian", which implies you think he was a Christian and not simply a Jewish sympathizer with Christians. I would also need to know your level of proficiency in Greek in order to follow along in a demonstration of the reasons for concluding the sections I flagged earlier are, indeed, interpolations. Please let me know on these two issues and we can go from there...

Kind regards,
Jonathan
I think that Josephus was most likely a Nazarene/Messianic Jew/Torah-Observant Christian because of the Testimonium and other factors. If he was not a Christian, then he still likely sympathized with Christians, as his passage on James' stoning suggests. Certainly a person can be both a Christian and a sympathizer with Christians.

I don't read Greek, but the basic reasons for and against Josephus being Greek don't depend on technical Greek linguistic issues.

Some current scholars consider Josephus to have written the Testimonium. One of them (I forget her name) noted that all Greek and Latin manuscript copies have it in the same form, except that the Greek copies say that Jesus was the Christ, whereas the Latin ones say that He was called the Christ. I guess that the latter form is used in Latin because Latin was the Roman empire's language and on one hand Christianity was not legal and on the other hand he or his Latin pagan translators would be addressing this problem by making him look non-comittal to Christianity, as if he was "just writing history" "objectively," even tough in substance he was reiterating Christian Messianic beliefs.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
I think that Josephus was most likely a Nazarene/Messianic Jew/Torah-Observant Christian because of the Testimonium and other factors. If he was not a Christian, then he still likely sympathized with Christians, as his passage on James' stoning suggests. Certainly a person can be both a Christian and a sympathizer with Christians.
No, one who sympathizes with a group is implicitly not a member of the group. That Josephus could be either or in your reconstruction does not bode well for it and I admit to have been rather shocked by the proposition when I first read it... if I've ever encountered the idea of Josephus being a Christian before, it obviously made no impression worth remembering or considering and I'm afraid I still feel that way. That you believe this because of the disputed text is circular reasoning and a foundation of sand. What "other factors" you have in mind presumably come from your earlier post and I find those no more convincing. Do you have an academic source for this suggestion of yours that I could engage?

I don't read Greek, but the basic reasons for and against Josephus being Greek don't depend on technical Greek linguistic issues.
Did you mean to write 'Christian' where you've got 'Greek' in the portion I bolded? In any case, the underlying Greek is certainly relevant in making a sound judgment on the extent of the authenticity of the text in question. If the portions I've flagged are interpolations, what might one expect to find in comparing them to the surrounding clauses, to the Antiquities as a whole and to the conjectured source of those additions? Do you suspect I would raise the issue if the evidence expected by the interpolation hypothesis was lacking?

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

rakovsky

Active member
No, one who sympathizes with a group is implicitly not a member of the group. That Josephus could be either or in your reconstruction does not bode well for it
I suggest being more open minded in how you evaluate that kind of thing. Let's say that you are a court inquisitor in imperial Japan and you are trying to figure out if someone is a secret Christian. You discover that they have writings where they write sympathetically about a Christian's martyrdom. You can conclude from this that they probably sympathize with Christians and are probably either a Christian or a "Christian sympathizer".

In Josephus' case, his sympathetic portrayal of James' martyrdom serves as circumstantial evidence that he sympathized with Christians like James or that he was one himself.
Do you have an academic source for this suggestion of yours that I could engage?
William Whiston was Josephus' translator and considered Josephus a Christian, but Whiston was a 18th century writer.

Joseph Atwill wrote a book called "Caesar's Messiah" where he pulled together so many close correlations between elements and themes of Josephus' writings that he tried to suggest that Josephus wrote the NT stories. I don't agree with Atwill's conclusion, and few scholars do. But I do believe that Atwill has found real, deliberate correlations, to the point where Josephus was probably incorporating NT elements into his writings.

Alice Whealey in her book Josephus on Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Late Antiquity to Modern Times argues that Josephus wrote the Testimonium. Her take on it is that he was not writing it as Christian. Her idea is that he was writing abrasively, like when he called the Christians a "tribe." While I think she brings good arguments that the Testimonium was Josephus', I don't agree with her conclusion that he wasn't Christian. For instance, Wikipedia notes:
Claudia Setzer holds that while "tribe is an odd way to describe Christians," it does not necessarily have negative connotations.[79] Setzer argues for the existence of an authentic kernel because "the style and vocabulary are Josephan" and specific parts (e.g. the use of "wise man") are not what one would expect from a Christian forger.[79] Setzer argues that the Testimonium indicates that Josephus had heard of Jesus and the basic elements surrounding his death, and that he saw Jesus as primarily a miracle worker.[79] Van Voorst also states that calling Christians a "tribe" would have been very out of character for a Christian scribe, while Josephus has used it to refer both to Jewish and Christian groups.
Wikipedia summarizes modern scholars' opposing views on the Testimonium's legitimacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

Did you mean to write 'Christian' where you've got 'Greek' in the portion I bolded?
Yes, I made a typo.


In any case, the underlying Greek is certainly relevant in making a sound judgment on the extent of the authenticity of the text in question. If the portions I've flagged are interpolations, what might one expect to find in comparing them to the surrounding clauses, to the Antiquities as a whole and to the conjectured source of those additions?
Nothing comes to mind when thinking of what linguistic features that one would expect if it was an interpolation. If it was an interpolation, then some linguistic features unique to Late Greek (eg. from the 4th century onward) could show up in it, but it's not necessarily the case. An interpolater could just use features of ancient Greek. So I don't have an expectation that a 4th century writer would include unique Late Greek elements in an interpolation.

Do you suspect I would raise the issue if the evidence expected by the interpolation hypothesis was lacking?
I guess that you wouldn't raise linguistic arguments if there was no evidence for the interpolation hypothesis. I guess that you would just dismiss the interpolation hypothesis as being totally baseless.

For purposes of this thread on Jesus' execution, the relevance of Testimonium's authenticity is that it serves as evidence that the principle religious leaders encouraged Pilate to punish Jesus. Otherwise, it doesn't matter if Whealey and some other scholars are correct that Josephus intended to write critically of Christians in that passage.

I know that most scholars don't believe that Josephus wrote the full Testimonium like I believe that he did. Most scholars IIRC think that he just wrote some watered-down version of it like what the Arabic version has. The kind of reason that they think that Josephus wrote at least something is that he wrote about John the Baptist and James, and in his passage on James he just shortly mentions Jesus, then it's natural that he would have written something longer about Jesus separately.

At best, I could list the main Pro and Con reasons for thinking that Josephus was and was not either a Christian or a "Christian sympathizer". But that would be better on a separate thread. And anyway, you say that you remain unconvinced by what I wrote, so I don't see it as very productive to make a separate thread on it anyway. So I suggest trying to refocus on other issues besides Josephus' Testimonium in the thread. It's basically a "losing argument" in terms of whether I would persuade you to my POV on its full authenticity. And anyway it's only one argument. I think that it deserves mention as one argument, but there is enough evidence outside of it that the religious leaders tried to get Rome to punish Jesus.

Jesus was going around calling the pharisees and sadduccees "vipers", breaking Torah, probably holding himself out as Messiah, if not cryptically alluding to Himself being God. At one point in Jesus' trial, Matthew 26 relates:
63. But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “I charge You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
64. “You have said it yourself,” Jesus answered. “But I say to all of you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65. At this, the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
66. What do you think?” “He deserves to die,” they answered.
It's natural based on what we know about first century rabbinical institutions that they would want to take adverse measures if Jesus was violating Torah, condemning them verbally, disrupting the Temple courtyard sales) physically like with driving out the animals or overturning the tables. He disrupted the Temple courtyard physically on more than one occasion.

Obviously, I am not justifying the Temple clergy trying to get Pilate to punish Jesus, but my point is that considering the context and factors, it's realistic and likely that they did, unfortunately.
 
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En Hakkore

Well-known member
I suggest being more open minded in how you evaluate that kind of thing. Let's say that you are a court inquisitor in imperial Japan and you are trying to figure out if someone is a secret Christian. You discover that they have writings where they write sympathetically about a Christian's martyrdom. You can conclude from this that they probably sympathize with Christians and are probably either a Christian or a "Christian sympathizer".

In Josephus' case, his sympathetic portrayal of James' martyrdom serves as circumstantial evidence that he sympathized with Christians like James or that he was one himself.
In other words, he is either a Christian or a sympathizer with them (according to your reading), not both, which was what the first of my previous comments was countering because you explicitly asserted he could be both. What followed was pointing out the corollary problem that you can't seem to make your mind up as to which he was... on which I will briefly expound because your suggestion that he would have to keep his alleged Christian beliefs a secret assumes a faulty reconstruction of imperial policy toward Christians of the late first century. It has long been assumed that from the time of Nero onward, Christians were persecuted by Rome, but this idea has been abandoned by scholars who now recognize that such persecutions were few and isolated.

William Whiston was Josephus' translator and considered Josephus a Christian, but Whiston was a 18th century writer.
I have no use whatsoever for Whiston or his musings and his translation is outdated and problematic in a number of places, one of which I noted in the passage under consideration. People use it because it is old and in the public domain... no serious student of Josephus now would dare appeal to it, but rather to a modern translation such as that of Feldman.

Joseph Atwill wrote a book called "Caesar's Messiah" where he pulled together so many close correlations between elements and themes of Josephus' writings that he tried to suggest that Josephus wrote the NT stories. I don't agree with Atwill's conclusion, and few scholars do. But I do believe that Atwill has found real, deliberate correlations, to the point where Josephus was probably incorporating NT elements into his writings.
Never heard of it... and after reading briefly about it, I can understand why. Pure conspiracy drivel.

Alice Whealey in her book Josephus on Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Late Antiquity to Modern Times argues that Josephus wrote the Testimonium. Her take on it is that he was not writing it as Christian. Her idea is that he was writing abrasively, like when he called the Christians a "tribe." While I think she brings good arguments that the Testimonium was Josephus', I don't agree with her conclusion that he wasn't Christian.
Whealey's book is at least a scholarly publication and should be given its due consideration. As you point out, however, she doesn't agree with you that Josephus was a Christian (nor am I aware of any serious scholar who does). Her contribution concerns only the issue of the degree to which the Testimonium Flavianum is authentic and there are far more and better scholarly arguments for the interpolation hypothesis.

Nothing comes to mind when thinking of what linguistic features that one would expect if it was an interpolation. If it was an interpolation, then some linguistic features unique to Late Greek (eg. from the 4th century onward) could show up in it, but it's not necessarily the case. An interpolater could just use features of ancient Greek. So I don't have an expectation that a 4th century writer would include unique Late Greek elements in an interpolation.
Interpolators are rarely so immersed in the writing they are tampering with to notice how their own syntax and vocabulary differs from the source and, if the interpolation has its own source (as in this case [ie. the New Testament writings]), the differences between those. The expectation is therefore to find such differences of syntax and vocabulary in the disputed sections... which indeed we find in this case. If you do not have proficiency in Greek, however, you will not be able to evaluate the data... know, however, that such evidence exists at the level of the Greek and there is a reason why the vast majority of scholars embrace the interpolation hypothesis.

For purposes of this thread on Jesus' execution, the relevance of Testimonium's authenticity is that it serves as evidence that the principle religious leaders encouraged Pilate to punish Jesus.
Your use of the word 'encouraged' reflects Whiston's mistranslation at this point. Here is the pertinent clause from Feldman's translation with the clause in question underlined:

When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him.

The religious leaders (ie. the temple aristocracy) bring an accusation against Jesus to Pilate whose response is to have him crucified. It may be prudent to agree on this and move on. I have no interest in entertaining the idea that Josephus was a Christian as I place it into the same category of baseless theories as the non-existence of Jesus... I don't waste my time with such things. And since you do not have the necessary skills to evaluate the evidence I would bring to demonstrate the clauses flagged as interpolations are indeed secondary additions, there is no point in pursuing that either.

I know that most scholars don't believe that Josephus wrote the full Testimonium like I believe that he did. Most scholars IIRC think that he just wrote some watered-down version of it like what the Arabic version has. The kind of reason that they think that Josephus wrote at least something is that he wrote about John the Baptist and James, and in his passage on James he just shortly mentions Jesus, then it's natural that he would have written something longer about Jesus separately.

At best, I could list the main Pro and Con reasons for thinking that Josephus was and was not either a Christian or a "Christian sympathizer". But that would be better on a separate thread. And anyway, you say that you remain unconvinced by what I wrote, so I don't see it as very productive to make a separate thread on it anyway. So I suggest trying to refocus on other issues besides Josephus' Testimonium in the thread. It's basically a "losing argument" in terms of whether I would persuade you to my POV on its full authenticity. And anyway it's only one argument. I think that it deserves mention as one argument, but there is enough evidence outside of it that the religious leaders tried to get Rome to punish Jesus.
Since we agree on the authenticity of the pertinent clause, we should use that as common ground to move forward into other more productive areas of discussion directly related to the thread opener (see below).

Jesus was going around calling the pharisees and sadduccees "vipers", breaking Torah, probably holding himself out as Messiah, if not cryptically alluding to Himself being God.
The only points of agreement between us would be that Jesus came into conflict with representatives of both Pharisees and Sadducees (without accepting the specific wording to which you allude) and that he may have understood himself to be the Messiah. I reject the ideas that breaking Torah was a part of his teaching or practice and that he either considered himself to be or claimed in any way to be divine.

It's natural based on what we know about first century rabbinical institutions that they would want to take adverse measures if Jesus was violating Torah, condemning them verbally, disrupting the Temple courtyard sales) physically like with driving out the animals or overturning the tables. He disrupted the Temple courtyard physically on more than one occasion.
The temple disruptions in John and the so-called Synoptic tradition are one and the same event and there is good reason to think it did happen (once) and precipitated his arrest and execution.

Obviously, I am not justifying the Temple clergy trying to get Pilate to punish Jesus, but my point is that considering the context and factors, it's realistic and likely that they did, unfortunately.
We seem to be agreement on two points: (1) that the temple aristocracy were responsible for handing Jesus over to Pilate for trial and (2) that torturing and killing someone for different religious beliefs and/or disrupting a holy precinct is unjustifiable and wrong.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

rakovsky

Active member
We seem to be agreement on two points: (1) that the temple aristocracy were responsible for handing Jesus over to Pilate for trial and (2) that torturing and killing someone for different religious beliefs and/or disrupting a holy precinct is unjustifiable and wrong.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
Thanks for replying.
I wasn't sure whether to mention it because I don't want to keep focusing on the Josephus testimonium issue but as for the interpolations syntax issue, the reason that I don't find it this positive is that in this case I think that Josephus was using a source text, Luke 24. So his syntax can reflect his Source material, Luke 24 and thereby use language or wording that he normally doesn't. The order and elements of the testimonium correspond to Luke 24 closely enough to suggest this as his source. As I recall, Scholars found in the testimonium both language or wording or style that is typical for Josephus and also that differs from his normal Style. To give you an analogy, if I write a history of the American Civil War and then I want to talk about Abraham Lincoln and I make a key section of my book based on his Gettysburg address or on some other key text, it's only natural that my wording in my book would include both elements of my own normal style as well as the style of someone else, in this case that of the Gettysburg Address.

To relate this back to Josephus, Scholars noticed that often Josephus uses other writings for his own book without citing his source. One example of this was in his discussion on the rebellion against Herod by Judas the Galilean within a few years of Quirinus' census. I believe that Josephus retells the story of Judas' revolt three times, but his narration is so ambiguous in identifying the leaders, and he never clearly identifies them with each other, so that it sounds as if he is talking about at least 2 to 3 different Galilean rebels. One explanation that scholars give for why Josephus wrote so confusingly in this manner on Judas the Galilean's revolt is that Josephus was using several separate, different source texts, rather than eg. writing a single account from memory or retelling this single event one time in his own words.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
Thanks for replying.
I wasn't sure whether to mention it because I don't want to keep focusing on the Josephus testimonium issue but as for the interpolations syntax issue, the reason that I don't find it this positive is that in this case I think that Josephus was using a source text, Luke 24. So his syntax can reflect his Source material, Luke 24 and thereby use language or wording that he normally doesn't. The order and elements of the testimonium correspond to Luke 24 closely enough to suggest this as his source.
The first problem for this hypothesis to overcome is why Josephus would use Luke only in patchwork fashion in the pertinent paragraph, coincidentally only in those places flagged as reflecting a pro-Christian bent. In terms of reconstruction, it is perhaps within the realm of possibility, but it can hardly be said to be probable and it is on the latter where historians of the text must anchor their theories. That these disputed clauses are interpolations from someone familiar with the New Testament accounts, Luke included, is a scenario with a much higher level of probability.

The second problem is good evidence for the reverse... namely that Luke is aware of and used Jewish Antiquities as a source, not the other way around. As I mention in the thread opener, Luke is arguably the last of the New Testament gospels written... its outlook and phraseology fit well the context of the early second century and its Christian literature. While a number of contact points could be established, by far the most compelling appears in Gamaliel's speech in Acts 5. In verses 36-37 there is reference to the revolts of Theudas and Judas:

For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.

The 'after him' (Greek: 'after this') at the transition between the verses is crucial... it presents an order in which Judas follows Theudas chronologically. Setting aside the problem of how Gamalilel can speak of a revolt that did not happen until after the death of Agrippa I (Acts 12:21-23; Ant. 19.343-352) and the appointment of Fadus to the position of procurator (Ant. 19.363), Luke's order is backwards since the revolt of Judas is associated with the census... that is, the one mentioned in his first volume (Luke 2:2). Luke's historical blunder is explained by his hasty reading of Josephus, who refers first to Fadus putting down Theudas' assembly at the Jordan (Ant. 20.97-99) and a few sentences later makes reference to the slaying of Judas' sons under Fadus' successors followed immediately by recollecting the revolt their father had orchestrated back in the days of the census (Ant. 20.102). The chronology is clear enough in a careful reading of Josephus -- Judas precedes Theudas by several decades -- but this topical arrangement was mistaken by Luke as a chronological one.

For an expanded discussion of the above and other examples of Luke's use of Josephus, consult chapter 5 (Acts among the Historians: Luke and Josephus) in Richard I. Pervo's book Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists (Polebridge Press: 2006, 149-99).

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 
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Manfred

Well-known member
Before I left for my Christmas sabbatical there were a number of comments to the effect that Jews killed Jesus appearing in a certain thread and I’ve returned to find these unfortunate assertions continuing there. Support for these accusations has been drawn from the New Testament, as if its four gospels provide incontrovertible proof of this ‘fact’. Not only do such readings of sacred Christian texts rely on naïve historical method, but they paradoxically transmit while denying the anti-Jewish sentiments within these books that have generated legacies of violence against Jews down through the centuries. The purpose of this thread is to raise awareness of these interrelated problems and to discuss them.

I. The Execution of Jesus the Jew and Historical Method
“The one thing we know for sure about the historical Jesus is that he died, and that he died in the most gruesome, cruel and shameful of ways – on a Roman cross” (Bond 152). The specifics of that ignoble death cannot be stitched together through an uncritical reading and summary of the four canonical gospels. These books (among others) are historical sources that must be subjected to the same critical scrutiny as any other source from antiquity (Powell 4-5). The conclusion of historians who apply this method is that Jesus was a Jew (Bond 80) executed by the Romans “as a political agitator with some kind of messianic pretensions” (ibid 162). As for the accounts in the New Testament, they are not unbiased or dispassionate narratives, but stories “shaped by later Christian apologetic concerns” (Fredriksen 255).

II. Mark and the Opposition of Priestly Authorities
Mark, the first of the New Testament gospels to be composed, was written by an outsider to Judaism and for non-Jews (Tomson 104-5). Before any involvement of Romans is narrated, the author claims a number of groups plotted to kill Jesus: Pharisees and Herodians (3:6), chief priests and scribes (11:18; 14:1) – it is the latter pairing, together with elders (14:43, 53; 15:1), who are the ones to seize Jesus and turn him over to Pilate in the narrative. The chief priests are said to have stirred up the crowd to demand the release of a seditious murderer named Barabbas (15:7, 11) and it is this same crowd that clamors for Jesus’ crucifixion (15:12-14). Chief priests, joined again by scribes, mock Jesus as he hangs on the cross (15:31) and these priestly authorities were the most likely opponents of the historical Jesus (Sloyan 34). Mark implicates both priestly and Roman authorities in Jesus’ death (ibid 53), the latter specified as the executioners (15:16-24). The manipulated crowd is less culpable, but potential anti-Jewish readings of the gospel (Levine 83) were realized in subsequent compositions.

III. Matthew, Pharisees and Condemnation of the People
Matthew used Mark as one of his sources (Tomson 106) and his editorial changes are informative. While Mark’s “parable” of the wicked tenants refers allegorically to the trio of chief priests, scribes and elders (11:27; 12:1-12), Matthew revises this to the chief priests and Pharisees (21:33-46). This same pair appears together after the burial in Matthew’s unique addition about soldiers sent to guard the tomb (27:62). Not only are the Pharisees now subtly implicated in Jesus’ death, but the crowds – influenced by both chief priests and elders (27:20) – become “all the people” who, in response to Pilate’s claim and gesture to absolve himself, transfer any guilt for the shedding of innocent blood on themselves and their children (27:24-25); this implies they do not think he is innocent of wrongdoing and have nothing to fear, which is a point often overlooked (Sloyan 64). Insofar as the author presents Jesus as innocent, however, the curse is implicitly enacted when the Romans crucify him (27:26-35) and then “fulfilled” in the destruction of Jerusalem some forty years later (Levine 92). This “blood guilt” verse has nonetheless been interpreted by many Christians as perpetually binding and “has caused more Jewish suffering than any other in the Christian Testament” (ibid 91).

IV. John and “Jews” as Murderers of Jesus
The fourth gospel in canonical order represents a further development of the trajectory detected between II and III above. Despite its distinctive features, its author seems aware of earlier gospel narratives (Tomson 108) and Matthew’s unlikely coalition between chief priests and Pharisees is reinforced in John (7:32, 45; 11:47, 57; 18:3); these two groups, alone or together, now blur (Reinhartz 220) into the amorphous “Jews” (7:32>35; 8:13>22; 9:13>18; 9:40>10:19; 19:6>7). In place of a nameless crowd, John narrates the “Jews” as the ones who demand Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion (18:38-40; 19:12-15). Earlier, the Johannine Jesus referred to the devil as the father of these “Jews” and that they wish to carry out his murderous desires (8:31-44). Indeed, the “Jews” themselves are the implicit agents of crucifying Jesus (19:16-18) and the involvement of soldiers (presumably Roman) in the deed is an afterthought of the narrator (19:23). The author, through the voice of Jesus, indicts the “Jews” of a greater sin than Pilate committed (19:11). In terms of the New Testament gospels, John alone reflects an irrevocable break between Jews and Christians (Tomson 110) and its anti-Jewish rhetoric (Reinhartz 225) is arguably the most overt.

V. Luke and Early Christian Anti-Judaism
I take the position that Luke knows not only Mark (Tomson 111) but Matthew and John, as well (Franklin; Shellard; cf. 1:1); he attempts, with little success, to defuse the anti-Judaism in his sources. Luke’s position on Judaism is, generally speaking, a positive one. He begins with stories of Jewish piety (chs 1-2) and his treatment of Pharisees is less antagonistic than that of his predecessors (Tomson 112); the only role they play in a plot to kill Jesus is to warn him of it (13:31). The consistent culprits across the pertinent references (19:47; 20:19; 22:2, 52, 66; 23:1, 4, 10, 13; 24:20) are the chief priests, though they are joined by rulers and the people at the critical point in the proceedings when Jesus’ crucifixion is demanded (23:13, 21, 23). They are collectively the implied agents of the crucifixion (23:24-26, 33) with soldiers (presumably Roman) introduced only among those mocking Jesus (23:35-36). Luke, however, includes Jesus’ petition for the forgiveness of his (Jewish) executioners because they have acted out of ignorance (23:34; cf. Acts 3:17). Later Christians were not so congenial and, wishing the Jews as a whole to remain under condemnation, excised this plea of forgiveness from the cross in the process of copying the text of Luke (Ehrman 111-13).

VI. Conclusion
In sections II through V above I have examined the four New Testament gospels for their portrayals of Jesus’ execution, looking for what their respective authors asserted about Jewish involvement. All were unanimous that there was some, but they disagreed in terms of the extent and the implications. That the temple aristocracy played some role emerges as a reliable datum to supplement the historical claim in section I that Jesus was executed by the Romans (Sloyan 107). Analysis revealed a development (Tomson 102) of increased Jewish involvement from primarily the chief priests (Mark) to the Pharisees (Matthew and John) to all the people present in Jerusalem for Passover (John and Luke). While Matthew saw the people’s fault as symbolic and divine judgment executed on them and their children at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, their guilt is open-ended in John; Luke counters with clemency, but the trajectory of Matthew and John continued unabated and its legacy has been a tragic and bloody one. The New Testament gospels do not present a uniform perspective on the subject (Tomson 103) and thus to read these texts as presenting a harmonious and straightforward “history” is methodologically flawed.

While I do not think a majority of Christians today either read the New Testament gospels as anti-Jewish documents or consciously espouse anti-Jewish sentiments, it is clear from the other thread that a general denial of these aspects of the texts enables their subtle transmission and expressions across generations with the ever-present potential of erupting into violence. The problem of anti-Judaism thus persists (Levine 98) and only by acknowledging and confronting the problem will it be possible to solve it and avoid continuing violence.

Kind regards,
Jonathan

PS - Works cited to follow due to character limitation...
As a Jewish person, how do you feel about Jesus and His ministry?

Do you believe as a Jewish man, he was inciting insurrection? What would your response be to a Jewish man, making himself equal with God and Jewish people starting to believe him?
When the Sanhedrin tried to trap Him about paying tax his reply was to Give to Caesar his due.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
As a Jewish person, how do you feel about Jesus and His ministry?

Do you believe as a Jewish man, he was inciting insurrection? What would your response be to a Jewish man, making himself equal with God and Jewish people starting to believe him?
When the Sanhedrin tried to trap Him about paying tax his reply was to Give to Caesar his due.
Hi Manfred... thanks for your engagement with my post. I'm working on another post in an unrelated thread, then heading for a few hours sleep and a day at work so I won't be able to get back to your post until late Friday. I didn't want you to think I was neglecting it... thanks for your patience.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 
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