Friday, December 31, 2010

Craig A. Evans reviews Robert Price

I have had quite a few search hits recently looking for a review of the work of Robert M. Price (i.e. Jesus did not exist guy) by Craig A. Evans. Evans provides a paragraph long review of Price's The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man in the IBR's Bulletin of Biblical Research 14/2 Spring, 2004 which is available in pdf, word and html. I believe Evans also discusses Price in Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels although I have not read it.

More detailed reviews of Price are available. A wide array of good historical Jesus scholars including John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D.G. Dunn and Darrell Bock reviewed his hypothesis that it is unlikely that Jesus existed in The Historical Jesus: Five Views (well worth $16 if you are interested in historical Jesus studies!).  Tony Costa has also reviewed Price's Jesus is Dead for the Review of Biblical Literature and it is available here. Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy discuss Price and a range of surrounding areas of scholarship with regard to a minimalistic view of the historical Jesus in Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jesus Outside the New Testament

My last post with an essay on Jesus outside the NT does not seem to go to the feed or whatever it is called. Anyway, here is the link.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jesus outside of the New Testament

Copy/pasted below is an old essay of mine on Jesus in historical sources outside of the New Testament - I cover the common non-Christian sources as well as as go with Thomas and P.Egerton 2. I cannot remember what I wrote so some of my views may have changed.[I tried editing it and ended up redacting it into something terrible.]

Jesus of Nazareth is mentioned in a number of Christian and non-Christian documents found outside of the New Testament. The critical study of these sources in terms of  origin,and date are important in determining their value as historical sources for the life of Jesus. This study will confine itself to sources that: have a high probability of having their origins in the first century and or are later sources that may preserve independent or authentic Jesus traditions. Sources such as Slavonic Josephus[1] and Sepher Toledot Yeshua which are widely seen as having no value for serious historical Jesus research have been omitted.

Non-Christian Sources
            Minimal Value
Pliny the Younger was a Roman official sent to govern the province of Bithynia circia 110.[2] In a correspondence to Emperor Trajan Pliny makes reference to early Christians and their worship of Jesus. (Epistle book 10, letter 96) Jesus is referred to as  “Christus”  and the text  reflects the ethical teaching of Jesus such as to “abstain from theft, robbery, adultery…”.[3] Pliny notes the Christian practice of coming together to “partake of a meal, but an ordinary and innocent meal.” This meal appears to be an allusion to the early Christian practice of the last supper that is multiply and independently attested to in the canonical gospels and 1 Corinthians.[4] Pliny’s investigation into the practices of Christians may have corrected a misunderstanding of the symbolism of wine and blood and other allegations against the Christians.[5]
Although reflecting Jesus traditions, the letter tells us more about early Christians of Bithynia.  The Christology of Messiaship is important as  Christ acts as a sufficient identification of Jesus.[6] Similarly, a high Christology is evident in the practice of singing hymns to “Christ as if to a god” which may have precedent among the Pauline churches.[7] Pliny informs us that his information is obtained through interviews, often forced, with Christians such as “the slave women, whom they call deaconesses.” On the question of reliability, there appear to be no reasons to doubt the textual authenticity of the reference.[8] In conclusion, Pliny’s letter tells nothing new about the historical Jesus, although alluding to early Christian practices, Christological models and his ethical teachings which are also developed within the canonical corpus.[9]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Bibliobloggers Really Drive

An investigation by yours truly has uncovered the truth behind the mundane answers of some bibliobloggers to Mark Stevens what's your ride?

Nick Norelli

 Twitter has me believe Joel lives on the road

Jim West

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

"If scholars believed Jesus existed, why are Jesus books in the mythology section of the library?"

- anon internet scholar

Saturday, November 13, 2010

More Conspiracy as History

The pre-existent Mandaean spirit of Augustine, Nicea 325 (per Murdock)
Via James McGrath, Muertos’s Blog has a post  Herding Cats: How And Why Conspiracy Theorists Are Wrong About Experts and Academicians where he examines the phenomenon of conspiracy theorists masquerading as experts. He touches on the work of my personal favourite conspiracy theorist on Christians origins,  Acharya S/D.M Murdock.

On a personal note, I really do wonder how Murdock deals with the fact that she is knowingly selling a book containing fatal errors. I have previously reviewed some of her book focusing on historical errors and her response was to brand it "irrelevant opinion" and made up "crap." More recently I addressed this matter of "opinion" in Conspiracy as History? where I  demonstrated numerous historical impossibilities from a single sentence of her book.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Larry Hurtado reviews McGrath, "The Only True God"

For those interested in the question of early Christology and Jesus devotion, Larry Hurtado has reviewed The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context by fellow biblioblogger James F. McGrath. The review can be found on the essays, etc page of Hurtado's blog here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ehrman's Forthcoming Book

Bart Ehrman has a forthcoming volume provocatively titled Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.I would assume the subject matter of the book is the issue of attribution and pseudepigraphy in the New Testament corpus (in addition to repeating his discussions on non-canonical texts, early Christian diversity and textual variants as he seems to do in all his popular books.)  And yes, you are right, Ehrman has already touched the topic in some detail in Jesus Interrupted (chapter four).

HT: Tim Henderson//Earliest Christianity

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Invisible Tentacles of the Catholic Church

Earlier this year Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation debated ancient historian Dr Chris Forbes on the historicity of Jesus. Within this debate, Barker found it necessary to appeal to a conspiracy theory regarding fraud by early Christians to invent a Jesus figure.

I thought the plot stopped there but apparently it is much deeper than any of us could have known. The Daily Show and Jason Jones investigates the conspiracy of the United States Post Office, Mother Teresa, the Catholic Church and Dan Barker. It is amazing and well worth watching.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Problem of Evil Explained (Video)

This is a 3 minute extract from The Invention of Lying (2009) highlighting the question of the problem of evil in no uncertain terms. Be warned - it contains explicit language and blasphemy against "the man in the sky".
On a relevant note, I am reading Problem Of Evil: Selected Readings Ed. Michael L. Peterson in addition to everything on history and the Gospel of John.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Modern Art on Campus

I can related to and appreciate pretty and meaningful art. In fact, on occasion I am known to even appreciate nice looking modern art. But not all art is equal. There is a whole popular category of poor excuses for art. Yes, I make value judgements about art. Just because you personally find this black blotch or bleeding shape meaningful doesn't mean it is anything but an ugly piece of junk to me.

A number of universities in NSW enjoy spending excessive amounts of cash they do not have on ridiculous pieces of art. At Macquarie University many would say the work exclusively falls into the second category, with features such as these:
This is one of the better pieces on campus. While no one is quite sure what it is, suggestions including "knotted whale intestines" have been put forward to explain the phenomenon.
The pink building wasn't enough - what we really needed were...those things.

This piece is officially known as "Mangroves." And no, the picture is not deceiving, it is just some metal pipes stuck on a wall with a bit of paint.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Epistolary Conversations: Opening the letter of Classical and Late Antiquity (Symposium)

Epistolary Conversations: Opening the letter of Classical and Late Antiquity
symposium of historians, papyrologists and linguists for a day of discussing these and other issues shaping our understanding of the ancient letter. 

Speakers include: Professor Pauline Allen, Dr Malcolm Choat, Dr Geoffrey Dunn, Dr Trevor Evans, Assoc. Prof. Andrew Gillett, Dr Stephen Lake and Dr Bronwen Neil.

Date: Monday 15 November 2010. 9.30am to 5.30pm

Venue:  Macquarie University Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Building W6A, Floor 3, Western End.

All welcome. There is no charge for attendance, but please RSVP for catering purposes.
Enquiries and RSVP to:

Long version.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Daily Wisdom

In addition to being an excellent collection of Manichaean documentary and literary documents, Corpus Fontium Manichaeorum (Brepols, 2006) also makes a sturdy bench for writing up birthday cards while on the move.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone on 3

0/10 Bibliobloggers Share My Music Taste

*Statistics may not be based on any data (like that is the first time).

The most common sorts of songs on my playlist would best be described using the terms "Euro" or "dance"/"Electro"/"Trance". The origins of this love, nay, lust, are debatable. It may be my European side, it may be my hyper persona or it may be a consequence of my simple non-existence as a present figure. But origins aside, a selection of my music (which, surely, are on par with Jim West's  total depravity) include:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Myth of Ancient Greece

The Onion has an amazing piece on the myth of ancient Greece:
WASHINGTON—A group of leading historians held a press conference Monday at the National Geographic Society to announce they had "entirely fabricated" ancient Greece, a culture long thought to be the intellectual basis of Western civilization.

The group acknowledged that the idea of a sophisticated, flourishing society existing in Greece more than two millennia ago was a complete fiction created by a team of some two dozen historians, anthropologists, and classicists who worked nonstop between 1971 and 1974 to forge "Greek" documents and artifacts.
And to say I thought it was only Jesus, Nazareth and the Dead Sea Scrolls that were the result of mythmaking.

Ht: Exploring Our Matrix: Mythicism Vindicated

Monday, October 4, 2010

Identifcation in the Libelli

In the ancient world I would imagine identifying people in formal documentation to be a very difficult task. There was no photo identification, specific addresses and after the Edict of Caracalla many couldn't resist taking the nomen Aurelius. An example of identifying individuals in the ancient world can be found in the various surviving papyri libelli. The libelli (sing. libellus) were petitions issued in the time of Decius (250), certifying an individual's loyalty to pagan religion. At its core, it involved an attested certification that the individual had offered sacrifice to the gods.

P. Wisc. 2.87 (SB 3.6826)

To those appointed in Narmouthis to oversee the sacrifices. From Aurelius Aunes son of Silvanus of the village of Narmouthis. I have always been constant in sacrificing to the gods, and now too, in your presence, I have offered sacrifice in accordance with the orders, and I have poured a libtation, and I have eaten of the sacrificial offerings. I ask you to certify this below. May you proper. I, Aunes, aged about 19 with a scar on my right elbow.
I, Aurelius Sarapodorus, have certified.
I, Aurelius Patos, have certified.
I, Aurelius ...mon, have certified.
I, Aurelius [Sera?]pion, have certified.
I, Aurelius...onius, have certified.
I, Aurelius Itonin, have certified.
The year one of the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius Pius Felix Augustus. Pauni 10.

This libellus makes the point. We have the common familial references, the village, we have a heap of Aureliuses and we have Decius' super long name. What I like is the reference to the "scar on my right elbow" as identification. In P.Lips. 2.152 the sacrifice is certified by "Aurelios Serenus, about 60 years old with a scar on his left leg"; Aurelius Diogenes "aged 72 years, with a scar on his right eyebrow" was certified in W. Chr. 124. I wonder how we today would like to be identified by our scars?

An interesting identification is that of "Aurelia Demos, fatherless, daughter of Helen and wife of Aurelius Irenaeus."(P.Ryld. 1.12.) Hath the virgin conceived?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I hope this is a joke

Jim West reports the terrible news that actor George Clooney is officially a fool. Wire Service Canada writes:
In a film written and directed by Clooney, he claims that the Roman Catholic Church and the figurehead of Jesus were knowing inventions of the Roman government in the first century B.C.E., part of a hoax designed to produce a passive, orderly society.
 While the theory itself is ridiculous and unfounded, this statement by the journalist wins the prize:
While there is much historical evidence to support Clooney’s claims, his motives for revealing such potentially explosive secrets are being called into question.
Where is this historical evidence? I ask this having read every major source on the late Roman Republic and early Christian history.

On further investigation, I am suspecting it is made up. The individual who submitted the article to Newswire has repeated the same rubbish history minus references to Clooney here and here. She appears to be a conspiracy theorist at best although fellow crazies theorists  call her "an independant information-sciences researcher."

Ridiculous 10:10 Ads

This is simply ridiculous. Killing off kids in ads because they don't join in with the 10:10 campaign?

In related news

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ben Witherington Videos

While Professor Ben Witherington III was downunder a few months back, he was interviewed by the guys at the Centre for Public Christianity. Two videos have been shared so far and I believe there are a few more to come.

Jesus and Wisdom from CPX on Vimeo.

If you have problems watching them on Vimeo they are also available on Youtube.

Interview with Dunn

John Byron over at The Biblical World has shared an interview with James D.G. Dunn.

September Rankings

For all those interested, the September Biblioblog rankings are up. My lack of blogging has dropped me from around 25-26 to 40. I didn't deserve to be that high anyway ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unlocking Romans

While I was browsing through Koorong Bookstore I saw a copy of Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God by J.R. Daniel Kirk. I had a quick look through it and was quite impressed.  I then turned to the backcover and noticed it was $55. I quickly visited on my Blackberry and saw it was only $26. I really wasn't surprised to see Koorong literally twice the price. I then put the book down with a frown.

Later on I wandered into the Markdowns section of the store and saw a group of Unlocking Romans for $20 each. I quickly grabbed a copy. While I have barely broken into it, I am still impressed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Post Round up

While I have been absent the amazing posts by fellow bibliobloggers continue to roll out. Some of the noteworthy that I am finally catching up on include a lot of chatter about Dale Allison's new Jesus book Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. Tim over at Earliest Christianity has shared some previews and Dr James McGrath has shared a detailed and favourable review of his advanced copy.

Mike Bird has shared a clever protest against the Papal visit to the UK and earlier this month talked the Gospel of Thomas with Paul Foster. The Bulletin for the Study of Religion has been overrun by bibliobloggers. Joel asks if conservative readings of the New Testament are circular, responding in the negative. And J.R. Daniel Kirk investigated the origin of the rumour that Mary M was a prostitute.

Early Christology was discussed with some recent reviews of Dunn's Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? via here, here and with Scot McKnight here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hotmail is Complete Junk (+ my new fish pics)

It is. I feel like an ancient species continuing to use my hotmail account. I can live with the useless interface and extra screens before they actually let you check your email - but the fact that at least once a week I have no access to my email for a few hours is ridiculous. I would give it the flick but I really need the email account - I get many emails a day, many forwarded from other accounts, etc. I would simply forward this to a new one (does hotmail even let you do that?) but if I fail to log in often, like my other account, they will just close it and delete all 30000+ emails.

If you have any useful options please do pass them on.

I intentionally meant this post to be about my new fish but hotmail would not open meaning I could not access the photos I emailed from my phone.

*save as draft here*
The big news? I bought a fish today. A very attractive mostly-blue-but-with-some red-through-the-blue-Siamese Fighting fish. I will fix up a proper home for him tomorrow. (The photos really fail to capture the beauty of this fish.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Paul, the Theatre and Popular Culture (Lecture)

For History Week, Professor Larry Welborn will be delivering a free public lecture on Paul, the theatre and popular culture.

Wednesday 8 September 2010
Theatre 1, Building Y3A
Macquarie University
Free entry

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was immersed in the culture of the Greco-Roman cities where he preached. His letters draw metaphors from the stadium, the voting assembly, and the military barracks.
Paul's most fascinating metaphors are drawn from the theatre, the principle venue of public life in the first century. In his correspondence with Corinth, Paul portrays himself as a 'fool' in the mime. This lecture will combine texts with archaeological artifacts to illuminate Paul's portrait of himself as 'the fool of Christ'.

Laurence L. Welborn is Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Fordham University in New York City. Welborn received his education at Yale, Tubingen, Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago.,_the_theatre_and_popular_culture

Thursday, August 26, 2010


An ATM running Windows XP
Usually when I get very busy and have no time to blog I begin to blog...rapidly. Oddly enough, I have been quite busy the past few weeks and have not been posting! I am sure this is a terrible state of affairs for the world. Some updates:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Election Night is Over...

...but no election winner has been called to form government.At the closing of the night, the two major parties are essentially equal. Labor has won 70 seats, the Liberal/National Coalition has won 71. Five seats are yet to be called, 76 are needed to form government. The remaining of won seats are 1 Green and 3 independents. The first indigenous Australian member was elected to parliament as a member of the Libs.

What to do?

In the upper house it seems to be the major parties, the Greens (substantially, might I add) and possibly a single Family First senator.

On the lighter side, I made the entire panel on the Channel 9 coverage of the election laugh when they read my twitter update on live national TV.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pay $50 for your chance to possibly win $1000!

Last year I had nothing nice to say about the 2010 Mythicist Prize. The competition involves writing the best essay in support of the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as a historical figure. How supporting a pre-selected conclusion in exchange for cash passes as honest scholarship is something I do not comprehend.

This year the Mythicists’ Forum is mixing it up with a new competition! Prove that Jesus did exist! The competition rules are quite...interesting to say the least.

If your essay and $50 cheque made out to Rene Salm convinces four mythicists actively engaged in anti-Christian polemics that Jesus existed you may win $1000. Of course, they explicitly state that there is no guarantee that the prize will be awarded. I guess it is a win win situation...if you're Rene Salm.

HT here and here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tagging Mithras

Facebook has a new feature where it finds faces on your photos automatically and harasses you by requesting you tag the face it has located. It is creepy to say the least. This is the photo it found and asked I tag:
Mithras slaying the bull, British Museum, London

Sadly after our falling out Mithras and I are no longer facebook friends

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Conspiracy as History?

At the end of last year I reviewed the book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story ever sold by author Acharya S/D.M. Murdock. While I have only completed the review for the first six chapters, I believe the point has been made that the book is not a work of history. A historian must be conversant with historical method, the ancient evidence and scholarly discussions. Sadly, Ms Murdock fails on all three points.
I discovered that my review was recently shared with Murdock by one of her fans. Her response:
This person's opinion is irrelevant...They just make up whatever crap comes their way - whatever it takes to shore up the faith.
When legitimate historical issues are dismissed in such a way it is not hard to understand why her attempt at history has turned out so bad. In order to push a conspiracy theory it is essential that the theorist view the evidence as irrelevant or as it was so tactfully put by Murdock, "crap". While the historian adjusts their theory in light of careful consideration of the evidence, the conspiracy theorist picks and chooses the evidence to confirm their preconceived conspiracy theory. This is evident throughout the work, whether it be simply dismissing historical sources as forgeries (e.g. Tacitus) or by being oblivious to their very existence (e.g. numerous sources on persecution of Christians, early NT manuscripts and patristic citations, etc.)

An example I raised in the review has to do with Murdock on Augustine of Hippo. Without any attached citation Murdock writes:
Furthermore, the great “Christian” saint Augustine was originally a Mandaean, i.e., a Gnostic, until after the Council of Nicea, when he was “converted,” i.e., promised a prominent place in the newly formed Catholic Church, such that he then excoriated his former sect. (60)
Every point is  factually wrong. Augustine was never a Mandaean. Prior to his conversion to Christianity he was a Manichaean. There is no confusion about this in the primary historical sources- Confessions is filled with discussions and his experience with Manichaesim. Then there is the chronological impossibility of the claim. Augustine was born in AD 354 and converted to Christianity ~387. The council of Nicaea was AD 325. A yet to be born Augustine negotiating a prominent leadership position at the Council of Nicea is a hard picture to swallow. But this is what conspiracy theories masquerading as history demands of the reader.

The pre-existent Mandaean spirit of Augustine, Nicea 325
When her theories are chronologically plausible they often lack explanatory power. In the sentence immediately preceding the above on Augustine, Murdock writes that Ireaneus was actually a gnostic as there was apparently a zodiac on the floor of the church at Lyons. The problem is that Irenaeus is famous for Against the Heresies, a work defending orthodoxy against heresies including gnosticism. How does Murdock reconcile this difficulty? She just ignores it. A few pages later she writes that,  " Irenaeus's time, around 170, the Gnostics were still so powerful that Irenaeus felt compelled to spend a great deal of effort refuting them, even though he himself was Gnostic." (68) What are we to make of this?

Maybe D.M. Murdock should take her own words seriously: "They just make up whatever crap comes their way - whatever it takes to shore up the faith."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Australian Big Cats

The Australian version of the Bigfoot is probably the phenomenon of big cat sightings. Whenever news is slow a junior journalist goes on a brief search for the mysterious black panther roaming Australian bushland. The Daily Telegraph was the culprit today with this piece.

For those who have nothing better to do on a Saturday, this video (part 1 of 8) investigates the phenomenon with cheesy effects:

Evaluating the Cynic Thesis Bibliography

The bibliography I shared on Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity appears to be popular. Here follows a bibliography for evaluating the so-called Cynic Jesus thesis. I have earlier shared some critical thoughts on the idea here.

  • Aune, David E. “Jesus and Cynics in First Century Palestine: Some Critical Considerations”, in Hillel and Jesus. Eds. J.H Charlesworth et al. (Fortress Press, 1997)
  • Barnett, Paul. Finding the Historical Christ (Eerdmans, 2009)
  • Bauckham, Richard, “Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John,” New Testament Studies 53, no. 1 (2007), 17-36.
  • Bird, Michael F. Are You the One who Is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. (Baker Academic, 2009)
  • __________. “The Formation of the Gospels in the Setting of Early Christianity: the Jesus Tradition as Corporate Memory,” Westminster Theological Journal 67.1 (2005): 113-94.
  • Casey, Maurice. An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
  • Dale C. Allison, “Eschatology” in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospel. Ed. Joel B. Green et al. (Invervarsity Press, 1992).
  • DeConick, April D. Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and Its Growth. (2006, Volume 286 of Library of New Testament studies. Early Christianity in context .T & T Clark library of biblical studies)
  • Downing, F.G. Christ and the Cynics: Jesus and other Radical Preachers in First-Century Tradition (Sheffield, 1988).
  • _________. Cynics and Christian Origins (Edinburgh, 1992).
  • Dunn, James D.G., Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making Volume 1), (Eerdmans, 2003).
  • Eddy, Paul R. “Jesus as Diogenes? Reflections on the Cynic Thesis”, Journal of Biblical Literature. 115, 1996.
  • Evans, Craig A. “The Misplaced Jesus: Interpreting Jesus in a Judaic Context” in B. Chilton, C.A. Evans and J. Neusner, The Missing Jesus: Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament. (Brill Academic, 2002)
  • __________. “Context, Family and Formation” in Cambridge Companion to Jesus. ed. Markus Bockmuehl. (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Gerhardsson, Birger. The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition. (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.)
  • G.F. Hawthorne, "Prophets" in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospels ed. Joel B. Green (InterVarsity Press, 1992)
  • Hock, R.F. “Cynicism”, Anchor Bible Dictionary. Ed. David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, 1992)
  • Horsley, Richard A. “Jesus: Itinerant Cynic or Israelite Prophet?”, in Images of Jesus Today ed. J.H. Charlesworth et al. (Trinity Press, 1994)
  • Kirk, A, The Composition of the Sayings Source: Genre, Synchrony and Wisdom Redaction in Q (NovTSup 91; Brill, 1998)
  • Mack, Burton L. A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins. (Fortress Press, 1988.)
  • __________.The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. (HarperCollins, 1993)
  • Marshall, I. Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. (Regent College Publishing, 2004)
  • McKnight, Scot, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory. (Baylor University Press, 2005)
  • __________. “Jesus and Prophetic Actions”, Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) 197-232.
  • __________. A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. (Eerdmans, 1999)
  • Stanton, Graham. “Message and Miracles” in Cambridge Companion to Jesus. ed. Markus Bockmuehl. (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Kloppenborg, John. The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections. (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Fortress Press, 1987.)
  • Vaage, Leif E. Galilean Upstarts: Jesus’ First Followers According to Q. (Trinity Press International, 1992).
  • Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000), Jesus outside the New Testament: an introduction to the ancient evidence. (Eerdmans, 2000)
  • Webb, Robert L., "Jesus' Baptism: Its Historicity and Implications, " Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) 261-309.
  • Witherington, Ben. Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom. (Fortress Press, 2000) [General thesis and especially chapter three that engages the cynic question]
  • ________. The Christology of Jesus. (Fortress Press, 1990)
  • ________. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. (InterVarsity Press, 2007)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blogger Statistics

Recently blogger has provided a function for viewing a variety of statistics related to blog hits. For me it has added a whole new dimension to the blog. I can see what posts are being read, where people are coming from, who is referring them to me, and what people are searching to make their way here.

Those who have sent the most users here are:
  • James McGrath from Exploring Our Matrix. Dr McGrath is Associate Professor of Religion and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University. He blogs on a wide range of issues from NT studies to creationism. Often you will find a funny cartoon or a point you just don't want to accept.
  • Nick Norelli over at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. If you are after a book review or run down on quasi blood sports he is the guy to see. Despite his wishes, I am still using this sub par blogger platform.
  • Chuck over at A 'Goula Blogger. While I don't always know what Chuck means by his comments, he once bought me some very useful books and he is a gold mine for commentary notes.
  • Most recently a lot of hits came from the NT Blog  aka "Mark Goodacre's academic blog. It focuses on issues of interest on the New Testament and Christian Origins." Goodacre is Associate Professor of New Testament in the Religion Department at Duke University and a name associated with "that guy who doesn't think Q existed."
  • Then there is Life's Crosses by Aloysius Ong. If this new feature did not exist I would not have had a clue about Ong's blog or his reference to my infamous diagram on orthodoxy and heresy from a RCC perspective.
So if you aren't already following these people, do check them out.

Most people who come to my blog through google seem to be interested in Jewish burial traditions, Geza Vermes, Gunnar Samuellsson, Walter Bauer and everything Orthodoxy and Heresy related, Kruger and Kostenberger's work The Heresy of Orthodoxy and the historicity of Jesus.

The most logical search term came through today:

why would john the baptist's remains be in bulgaria?
The short answer is most likely "they wouldn't be."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

John the Baptist's Remains found in Bulgaria???

Marc Cortez has the most professional insight:
So, in breaking news, archeologists have discovered a really old box that may or may not have something to do with John the Baptist and that contains bones which may very well not have belonged to John in the first place. When you say it like that, though, it’s not as exciting.
CNN report here
On occasion pre-Constantine papyri can be quite profound. This late third century Greek magical papyri is not one of them - unless you are Dias, son of Sophia and suffering from a fever.

Master angels
and good, rid
Dias, whom
Sophia bore, 
of the fever
gripping him,
on this
present day,
this very hour,
now, now quick-
ly, quickly.

Suppl. Mag 1.11

Cynic Jesus - rantish

In light of some feedback I have revisited my article A Historical Critique of the Cynic Jesus (working title) which is a critical engagement with the works of F.G. Downing, Burton Mack, and to a lesser extent Leif E. Vaage and John Dominic Crossan. The draft at this time is quite sizeable yet there is just so much more that needs to be said. The real purpose of this update is some reflections on the process since it began in January. Many people have had to deal with my real life rants regarding my frustration at the thesis (hi Rob and Nic!) - from abuse of redaction criticism to simply bad analogies. I tried to blame Americans, but Dr McGrath assured me that not all of them are to blame. I could not get over the myth making of Mack and even ranted about the irony of liberal scholars being too believing at the most inappropriate times.  At the end of May Dr Michael Barber was reading whatever I was reading and word-for-word (in terms of quotes) noted the The Uncritical Use of Redaction Criticism, including the warnings those drawing on Kloppenborg's stratification of Q managed to forget. To repeat them here:
 “to say that the wisdom components were formative for Q and that the prophetic judgment oracles and apophthegms describing Jesus' conflict with "this generation" are secondary is not to imply anything about the ultimate tradition-historical provenance of any of the sayings. It is indeed possible, indeed probable, that some of the materials from the secondary compositional phase are dominical or at least very old, and that some of the formative elements are, from the standpoint of authenticity or tradition-history, relatively young. Tradition-history is not convertible with literary history, and it is the latter which we are treating here.”
Most recently I made light of this sort of thinking in my satirical International Project for Q discovers Non-Apocalyptic Qumran Community (featured in July's Biblical studies blog carnival hosted by Dr Jim West).

But things changed...the cynic thesis stopped sounding so ridiculous. Could it be that:

  • “As remembered by the Jesus people, Jesus was much more like the Cynic-teacher than either a Christ-savior or a messiah with a program for the reformation of second-temple Jewish society and religion.” (Burton Mack)
  • “the wealth of at least apparent ‘parallels’ between the Jesus tradition and popular Cynicism suggest that some kind of Cynic influence may well have been accepted by Jesus of Nazareth himself.”  (F.G. Downing)

Interview with Simon Gathercole on G.Thomas and G.Judas

Over at Justin Taylor's blog is a short interview  by Andy Naselli with Simon J. Gathercole on the Gospel of Judas and Gospel of Thomas. (ht) It touches on the missing gospels fad touched on in my even shorter interview with Darrell Bock. Naselli has also asked a few questions of T.D. Alexander on biblical theology. While on the topic of Gospel Coalition blogs, shouldn't the latest Themelios be out by now?

Friday, July 30, 2010

I got a Blackberry this week as a form of protest against the new iPhone that was released here yesterday. Okay, not really as a protest. It is an excellent phone that allows me to write this post from it without any hassles. Regarding my blog the best benefit will be excellent quality phone pictures.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things possibly worth clicking...

On a more personal note, it has come to my attention that I have not updated my currently reading list over there -> in a long time. Other than that it seems all is well in the world (except at Exploring our Matrix where you still cannot comment.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Fourth Quest? John and History

Paul Anderson has an article over at The Bible and Interpretation
In that sense, the John, Jesus and History Project—as well as my own work on the Fourth Gospel and the quest for Jesus—is driven by the judgment that the first three quests for Jesus have overlooked an extremely important resource: the Gospel of John as an independent Jesus tradition, which, though highly theological, also has its own worthy claims to historicity.
Anderson challenges standard authenticity criteria as being synoptic centred and goes on to  make a number of proposals to take John seriously.

James McGrath (in his new look blog) has taken up the issue in some detail here

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered

  Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered edited by Gary Habermas and Robert Stewart was released at the beginning of this month. I believe the title makes the point of the book. Contributors include Markus Bockmuhel, Scot McKnight, Samuel Byrskog, Craig Blomberg, Ben Witherington , Craig A. Evans and more. Many of the essays focus on Dunn's proposals on oral transmission, although they also include the birth narratives, implications of textual criticism and the resurrection.

Robert H. Stein on the Empty Tomb

As far as I am aware, "Was the tomb really empty?" by Robert H. Stein appears in three places. (1) Journal of the Evangelical Theologicla Society, 20, 1977, pp.23-29, (2) Themelios 5.1 (September 1979): 8-12. and (3) The Historical Jesus: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (Vol. III Jesus' Mission, Death and Resurrection) ed. Craig A. Evans, 324-331. For the sake of simplicity, I will follow the numbering of the Themelios publication as it is freely available online here.

For Stein, the resurrection is fundamental to historical and contemporary Christian faith. For "Evangelical apologetics" there are four features to support the "historicity, the 'facticity', of the resurrection." (10) There are the resurrection appearances, the  existence of the Christian church, "the existential experience of the risen Christ in the heart of the believer" and, finally, the witness to the empty tomb. It should be noted that Stein sees the resurrection appearances as the primary witness to the resurrection, as the narratives themselves testify that the empty tomb need not necessitate resurrection.(Luke 24:21-24, Jn. 20:13)

The purpose of the article is dealing with the final point in light of claims that the empty tomb was secondary in explaining the resurrection appearances. He has in mind Rudolf Bultmann who wrote, "The Story of the empty tomb is completely secondary.... The story is an apologetic legend as Mark 16: 8... clearly shows. Paul knows nothing about the empty tomb." (The History of the Synoptic Tradition. p. 290.)

Stein has a number of reasons that "support the fact that the Christian tradition of the empty tomb is very early and that the tomb in which the body of Jesus was placed was indeed empty."(11)

  1. The story of the empty tomb is in three gospel sources - Mark, M and John. The variance in these accounts arise suggest independent traditions.
  2. "Semitisms and Semitic customs" in the narratives indicate early Palestinian origin (Mark 16:2, Matthew 28:2-5, Luke 24:5.)
  3. "Jewish belief in the resurrection necessitated an empty tomb" therefore in Jerusalem, especially among Pharasaic and Christina Jews, requires an empty tomb.
  4. The early church would be unlikely to create women as the first witnesses to the empty tomb as their testimony "since women were invalid witnesses according to Jewish principles of evidence." A created story would probably have male disciples as the primary witnesses.
  5. The Jewish polemic confirms the empty tomb "indicates that the account of the empty tomb had from the very beginning an important place in the early Church's proclamation of the resurrection." (12)
  6. The firm tradition regarding Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43-46; Matt. 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-53; Jn. 19:38-42) has a number of implications. (1) Joseph was not a prominent Christian personality so an unlikely invention and (2) the tomb would have been identifiable.
  7.  The tradition of the empty tomb on the first day of the week is probably the event that shifted Christian religious observance from Saturday to Sunday
  8. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 speaks of Jesus being "buried", the empty tomb is implied in the resurrection. As a Pharisee, Paul knew physical resurrection that necessitates the empty tomb.
  9. There are also a few linguistic arguments provided.
Stein makes an interesting proposal for Paul's silence on the empty tomb:
It may be that the lack of a specific reference to the empty tomb by Paul stems from an apologetic motive rather than from ignorance. When it came to the resurrection appearances, the apostle could argue on equal terms with the other disciples. He, too, had seen the Lord! He could not, however, say the same about the empty tomb. Perhaps this is the reason why he does not refer to it specifically in his letters. (12)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Geza Vermes, "Six Theories to Explain the Resurrection of Jesus"

For many years scholars waited for Geza Vermes' contribution to the resurrection of Jesus, and he came around in 2008 with The Resurrection. First of all, at only $6 it is recommended for those interested in the resurrection narratives, beliefs and the historical background (more so than a historical hypothesis on the resurrection).

Vermes contends that neither the empty tomb or resurrection appearances satisfy the "minimum requirements of a legal or scientific inquiry. The only alternative historians are left with in their effort to make some sense of the Resurrection is to fall back on speculation..."(141) This speculation requires the dismissal of "two extreme" theories - (1) the "blind faith of the fundamentalist"  who accept the bodily resurrection and (2) the "unbelievers" who "treat the whole Resurrection story as the figment of early Christian imagination." (141) So what are the alternatives between this spectrum? 

1. The Body was Removed by Someone Unconnected with Jesus
The emptiness of the tomb was genuine, but there are a number of reasons aside from Mark 16:6. The swift nature of the burial in a tomb "obviously prepared for someone else" is explained  that someone - possibly the gardener (Jn 20:15) - "took the first opportunity to move the body of Jesus to another available tomb." (142) It was this innocent transfer of the body that later developed into the "legend of the Resurrection." (143) Vermes notes that this is itself problematic - those who organised the  burial were well known and could have explained this.

2. The Body of Jesus was Stolen by His Disciples
Those familiar with the narrative in Matthew will recognise this hypothesis as a current polemic against the empty tomb tradition (Matt 28:15). Vermes points out that this theory "presupposes that a fraudulent prophecy concerning Jesus' rising from the dead was widely known among Palestinian Jews." (143) Evidently, this is a "later Jewish gossip" circulating the time the evangelist was writing and its value for the Resurrection is "next to nil".

3. The Empty Tomb was not the Tomb of Jesus
Drawing on the fact that the witness of women was not very convincing, the disciples who investigated the report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:11) may have suspected the women had "gone to the wrong tomb." The disciples may have simply been mistaken, and the resurrection appearances that soon followed "rendered such an inquiry [as to the location of the tomb] superfluous." (144)

4. Buried Alive, Jesus Later Left the Tomb
This is self-explanatory, and is elaborately forwarded by Barbara Thiering. Josephus' Life 420 evidences crucifixion victims surviving. The theory is that Jesus was on the cross for such a short time that he was not dead when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body. John's mention of the spear in the side was an apologetic to dispel these sort of doubts. (John 19:34) However, I would argue that John's mention, if invention, would have more to do with suffering servant styled prophecy fulfilled. Vermes sees this as implausible - a "semiconscious Jesus crept out of the tomb in the darkness of night..." (145)

5. The Migrant Jesus
A belief evident in contemporary Ahmadiyya Islam which believes Jesus was revived and eventually died in Kashmir, India. Others such as Thiering believe that Jesus wandered off to Rome where he died. Vermes concludes "In the absence of real ancient evidence, these modern musings need not retain us."(146) By real evidence, he is of course referring to Thiering's discovery by using "Pesher" to find whatever she wants in whatever document. For a brief review of pesher see my earlier post.

6. Do the appearances suggest spiritual, not bodily, resurrection?
Visions of the risen Jesus are abundant in the Christian sources (with a notable exception being the shorter ending of Mark.) These visions are separated into 4 categories:
  1. "In Matthew no concrete details are given" 
  2. John/Luke - unknown man such as the gardener and travel are later recognised as Jesus
  3. Luke/John - "a spirit mysteriously enters the apostles' residence despite the locked doors"
  4. "The ghost later becomes a stranger with flesh and bones, who says he is Jesus and invited the apostles to touch him, and eat with him." (146)
As the evangelists do not mention appearances to people outside the circle of his close followers Vermes takes these to imply that the Resurrection was not meant to be an extension of public ministry. In essence, the "Resurrection becomes a purely spiritual concept without requiring any accompanying physical reality." (147) The idea of spiritual resurrection accounts for the visions, but the Jewish bond of body and spirit spurred the empty tomb and physicality of the body in John and Luke. In appealing to the mystic tradition, Vermes contends that this view is no different from crosscultural experiences. [I didn't explain this option best although in my defence neither does Vermes.]

Vermes really does come to something quite unsatisfying - "All in all, none of the six suggested theories stands up to stringent scrutiny." (148)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Burial of Jesus and Jewish burial traditions - C.A Evans "Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus", JSHJ

In 2005, Volume 3(2) of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus was dedicated to engaging the resurrection with an emphasis on the treatment by N.T. Wright in Resurrection of the Son of God. The articles are well worth the read and they cover a wide perspective of views. This post contains my notes on Craig A. Evans' article "Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus" from the aforementioned volume.

The burial of Jesus, in light of Jewish tradition, is almost certain for at least two reasons: (1) strong Jewish concerns that the dead—righteous or unrighteous—be properly buried; and (2) desire to avoid defilement of the land. Jewish writers from late antiquity, such as Philo and Josephus, indicate that Roman officials permitted executed Jews to be buried before nightfall. Only in times of rebellion— when Roman authorities did not honour Jewish sensitivities—were bodies not taken down from crosses or gibbets and given proper burial. It is highly improbable, therefore, that the bodies of Jesus and the other two men crucified with him would have been left unburied overnight, on the eve of a major Jewish holiday, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Scholarly discussion of the resurrection of Jesus should reckon with the likelihood that Jesus was buried in an identifiable tomb, a tomb that may well have been known to have been found empty.

Evans' concern is that scholars do not always sufficiently address the Jewish practices of death and burial in treatments of the resurrection. For example, Crossan's suggestion that, in line with Roman practices, Jesus was not given a customary Jewish burial. If Jesus was not properly buried, the stories of the empty tomb are simply theology and apologetics.

The Necessity of Burial in Jewish Thinking
  • In the Mediteranean world at the time, burial of the dead was a "sacred duty". For Jewish culture, this is well attested to in scripture (Gen 23:4-19, 50:4-14, 50:22-26 Joshua 24:32 1 Sam 31:12-13, 2 Sam 2:4-5, 21:12-14) which even extends to the "wicked" and enemies of Israel (Numbers 11:33-34, Deut 21:22-23, 1 Kings 11:15, Ezekiel 39:11-16). In Tobit, Tobit's greatest virtue is burying the dead (1.18-20, 2.3-8; 4.3-4; 6.15; 14.10-13). These buried also include those that were executed (Tobit 2:3) Similarly, Josephus states "We must fumish fire, water, food to all who ask for them, point out the road, not leave a corpse unburied  show consideration even to declared enemies' (Apion 2.29 §211; cf 2.26 §205).(236) The importance is also evident in the rabbinic writings where even a Nazarie or High Priest is obligated to bury an abandoned body (B. Meg. 3b, Sipre Num on Numbers 6:6-8) The importance of this is set against the backdrop of those who will not be buried, often in relation to eschatological warnings. E.g. Moses' warning to Israel that birds will consume their unburied bodies ((Deut. 28:25-26) or Jeremiah's warning (Jer. 7:33)
  • Burial is also important "to avoid defilement of the land of Israel" (236) See Deut. 21:22-23; Ezekiel 39:14, 16 which is expanded in the Temple Scroll  11QT 64.7-13a. "In Deuteronomy it simply says, 'you shall bury him the same day'; but the Temple Scroll adds 'you must not let their bodies remain on the tree overnight'. The reason given for taking the bodies down and burying them the day (or evening) of death is to avoid defiling the land, for the executed person is 'cursed of God'." (237) On various fragmentary DSS he believes that while God will give them victory of the Romans, the High Priest will still need to oversee the burial of the bodies to save the land from defilement. In the Mishnah one hanged must not be left over night, but not buried in the "place of their fathers" but a place allocated for criminals. After decomposition, the bones may then be taken to the family burial place. (m. Sanh. 6.4-6). He concludes, "even in the case of the executed criminal, proper burial was anticipated. Various restrictions may have applied, such as being forbidden burial in one's family tomb—at least until the fiesh had decomposed— or not being allowed to moum publicly, but burial was to take place, in keeping with the scriptural command of Deut. 21.22-23 and the Jewish customs that had grown up alongside it." (238)
Burial and Non-Burial of Executed Criminals
Deals with objection to the gospel narratives that appeal to the Roman practice of non-burial. Evans wishes to question the assumption that the practices of Rome during the siege of Jerusalem is indicative of normal Roman practices in Palestine. He contends that a review of Josephus shows this to be an exception from normal practices.
  • Josephus mentions many mass executions/crucifixions but does not mention the burial. This may be indicative of an assumption that they would not have been buried. Cases explicitly mentioning no burial are those of executions by Jewish rebels. On this behaviour Josephus remarked 'Jews are so careful about funeral rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset." (240)  These cases, however, are not representative of peace time Roman administration.
  • Josephus and Philo suggest that Roman administration did not interferece with Jewish customs; for example John the Baptist's disciples are allowed to bury his body (Mark 6:14-29; Ant 18.5.2). Roman law also provided that "those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives" (Digesta 48.24.2). That said, non-burial was often part of the punishment of crucifixion, but would this still apply in peace time?
  • Conclusions: In all probability Jesus and the two others crucified would have been buried, especially with concern of defilement of the land. Furthermore, politically Pilate would not have wished to provoke the Jewish population, nor would the Jewish authorities.
Gospel Narratives
"The Gospels' portrait of the execution of Jesus is consistent with what we know of crucifixion." (241)  And the judicial procedure is very similar to that of Jesus ben Ananias 30 years later (Josephus, War 6.5.3 §§300-309).  The ossuary of a crucified man c.20CE (Ossuary no. 4. in Tomb I, at Giv'at ha-
Mivtar)  - evidences nailed feet (although not nailed hands/wrists which is evidenced in literary sources); broken legs, possibly to hasten death. And this, and other tombs, evidence the burial of execution victims. He returns to the archaeological evidence in 246-7, that a lack of other crucifixion victims buried has many explanations.

Some historical probable elements of the narrative:
  • The story of Joseph of Arimathea at its core is probably historical. At the core, he may have volunteered or been assigned to the burial.
  • "The story of the women who witness Jesus' burial and then return early on Sunday to anoint his body smacks of historicity." (245). The women's prominent position in the narrative is unlikely to be fictitious. "Carefully observing where Jesus is buried and then retuning on Sunday morning to confirm and even mark, for identification, his corpse, is in keeping with Jewish burial customs." (246)
  • Pre-Pauline 1 Cor 15:4 evidences the burial and elsewhere Paul presupposes the burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).
It is concluded that it is very probable that Jesus was buried, in keeping with Jewish customs, and was not left hanging on his cross, nor was cast into a ditch, exposed to animals. It is further concluded that it is very probable that some of Jesus' followers (such as the women mentioned in the Gospel accounts) knew where Jesus' body had been placed and intended to mark the location, perfume his body, and moum, in keeping with Jewish customs. The intention was to take  possession of Jesus' remains, at some point in the future, and transfer them to his family burial place.
In my estimation, discussion of the resurrection of Jesus should take into account a known place of burial. Interpretation of the resurrection should take into account, not only Jewish beliefs about resurrection, but Jewish beliefs about death and burial. (247-8)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Burial of Jesus in Dunn, "Jesus Remembered"

While making little mention of the burial of Jesus in an earlier treatment of the resurrection, Dunn addresses the assertion of Crossan and others that Jesus was not buried. Against this view, Dunn contends that "the tradition is firm that Jesus was given a proper burial (Mark 15:42-47 pars.), and there are good reasons why its testimony should be respected." (781) There are a number of reasons as to why this is so:

  1. It is one of the oldest traditions we have available to us about Jesus 1 Cor. 15:4 and like in the narrative accounts, it is not drawn from scripture.
  2. Jewish law required the body be removed before nightfall (Deut 21:22-23; Josephus Wars 4.317) and Passover was a sensitive time meaning the Romans would probably hold to it.
  3. Literary and archaeological evidence of crucifixion victims being buried - Philo, Flacc. 83, Josephus Life 420, the disciples of John in Mark 6:29; Crucified man in family tomb discovered at Giv'at ha-Mivtar.
  4. Joseph of Arimathea is a plausible historical character (Mark 15:43 pars; G. Peter 2:3-5), unlikely to create a sympathiser from among the Jewish council, Arimathea has no scriptural significance.
  5. Presence of women at the cross and their involvement in the burial - "more plausibly [attributed] to early oral memory than creative story telling" (783)

Resurrection in Dunn "The Evidence for Jesus"

I have recently been working on the burial and resurrection traditions and a number of treatments of these. I might as well share my notes on some of these for all those interested (and I know at least one person around here has written a book on the subject.)

James D.G. Dunn discusses the resurrection in a number of works that I will later discuss (namely, Jesus Remembered and  Jesus and the Spirit). This first post will set out his position as presented in the shorter popular level book The Evidence for Jesus (1985).

What did the first Christians believe about the resurrection?
Dunn begins with a short(ish) discussion on the nature of history and that the historians task is to provide a reconstruction on the available data. This reconstruction will always risk being imperfect - it is an event in the past that cannot be repeated. The data/evidence is never enough.

Reports of the Empty Tomb
Dunn points to the gospel accounts of the empty tomb - Matt 28.1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 23.1-11, John 20:1-10. (57) There are inconsistencies with these accounts at different levels: Matt has two women discover the tomb/Mark has three/ John has one; was it discovered before dawn (Matt, John) or after dawn (Mark)? When was the stone rolled back? Did the women tell the other disciples of the discovery or not? Dunn contends that these inconsistencies are insufficient to dismiss the accounts, the litmus test being "is the degree of confusion more or less than we might expect where the participants were very emotionally involved?" (64) Secondly, are these differences any more significant than those we would usually find in the synoptic gospels? Furthermore, what do we make of Paul's silence on the empty tomb?

Dunn provides four key arguments in favour of the authenticity of the Gospel's testimony of the empty tomb.
  1. Discovery by women - all the gospels testify to the discovery of the empty tomb by women, in the historical context the testimony of women was not worth as much as a man's. It is unlikely that a contrived story would attribute the discovery of the empty tomb to women, especially if there was a high chance of their testimony being rejected. (65)
  2. "The confusion between the different accounts in the Gospels does not appear to have been contrived. The conflict of testimony is more a mark of the sincerity of those from whom the testimony was derived than a mark against their veracity." (65) The hallmark of a created witness would be a unified testimony. In Mark the empty tomb is ambiguous and does not lead directly to the realisation of resurrection. While the early creed of 1 Cor 15 has no empty tomb but has resurrection appearances, but Mark has an empty tomb and no resurrection appearances - both were independent in some sense and not contrived to apologise for or expand the other.
  3. Archaeology and burial practices. From the evidence we can say that resurrection beliefs had a lot to do with bones in tombs. "It follows that in Palestine the ideas of resurrection and of empty tomb would naturally go together for many people. But this also means that any assertion that Jesus had been raised would be unlikely to cut much ice unless his tomb was empty." (67) Without an empty tomb, the claim of resurrection would not stand and even the Jewish polemics at the time of Matthew witness this (Matt. 28:13-15)
  4. No tomb veneration - although this was current among Jewish contemporaries (e.g. Matt 23:29) This lack of veneration is explained quite easily: "The tomb was not venerated, it did not become a place of pilgrimage, because the tomb was empty!" (68)
The verdict on the empty tomb: "As a matter of historical reconstruction, the weight of evidence points firmly to the conclusion that Jesus' tomb was found empty and that its emptiness was a factor in the first Christians' belief in the resurrection of Jesus."(68)

Resurrection Appearances
The chief narrative data for the "sightings" are Matthew and Luke. Matthew contains two sightings in Matt. 28:8-10 and Matt 28:16-20. In addition to those there is the Emmaus appearance (Luke 24.13-35); an allusion to an appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34) and an explicit appearance to the disciples as a group (Luke 24:36-43.) In John there is Mary M at the tomb (John 20:11-18), an appearance to the disciples w/o Thomas (Jn 20:19-23), Thomas with the disciples (Jn 20:24-29) and a Galilee appearance (John 21:1-23). Finally, there are the sightings in the pre-Pauline creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-8.

Like the empty tomb tradition, there is some confusion such as with the when/where of the appearances. Were there Galilean appearances or were they only in Jerusalem? Of the five traditions Dunn notes that "Each contain one or more reports of which the others make no mention. Indeed, almost the only common ground between two or more is that (1) the earliest appearances were to
women (Matthew and John), (2) one of the first appearances was to Peter (Luke 24.34; I Cor. 15.5), and (3) there was one or more appearances to 'the twelve' (all five, including Acts 1.2-3 and I Cor.
15.5)." (69)

Dunn provides three positive considerations for the resurrection appearances.
  1. The earliest testimony is very early. Paul recorded the 1 Cor 15 creed in the 50s while those purporting to be witnesses would still be alive. By providing the appearances Paul is inviting cross examination. Furthermore, the creed is itself is what Paul had earlier received. Most likely within 2-3 years of the crucifixion/resurrection when Paul converted.
  2. First sightings reported by the women, as with point 1 for empty tomb.  For these reasons it is most likely authentic, and the omission in 1 Cor 15 may reflect a bias in including them as witnesses in the "fairly formal list".
  3. As for note two under empty tomb - the divergence in the appearances does not reflect a uniform contrived story. The inclusion of unresolved doubt in Matt 28:17 whereas Luke and John resolve the doubt. In Matthew it is is not a literary technique but "it was introduced simply because it was part of the original eyewitness testimony." (70) The honesty of confusion and doubt in the appearances is in favour of authenticity.
How do the alternative explanations to the resurrection appearances stack up?  Drawing parallels with visions of Isis and Asclepius are insufficient. Dreams of Asclepius, for example, were conditioned and a prerequisite of the healing. The psychological process for the disciples visions would be more complicated, and require more speculative theories. Dunn suggests closer parallals would be found in Jewish visionary experiences-  such as those of dead Jewish heroes in near/contemporary literature. However, these visionary experiences never lead to the conclusion that the figure was raised from the dead. It is this conclusion, more so than the visions themselves, that set the story of Jesus apart. He points out that in 1 Cor 15 Paul sets his own appearance apart from those that came before him.

Circumstantial evidence: 
  • Up to the crucifixion, the disciples were demoralised - Peter disowned Jesus (Mark 15:66-72), the disciples on the road to Emmaus lamented (Luke 24:21) and the disciples returned to Galilee lacking purpose (John 21:2-3). This is in contrast to the disciples as presented in Acts as bold and charismatic individuals. According to the preaching, it is the resurrection of Jesus that was the source of this transformation. "From the Christian perspective 'the resurrection of Jesus' is a central part of that explanation." (60)
  • "But already within the first generation of Christianity we see Jesus being spoken of in divine terms."(61) But why? "For Paul the Christian, confession of Jesus as Lord evidently
    arose out of belief that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10.9)." (62)

Resurrection redefined
Dunn emphasises the innovation regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Firstly, although many Jews at the time held to a resurrection belief, this belief was a "final" and "general" resurrection at the "end of history" (72, cf. Daniel 12:12).  However, the Christian's belief was that Jesus was resurrected before the end. Secondly, "the first Christians believed that with Jesus' resurrection the general resurrection had already begun." (73) Romans 1:4 has Jesus resurrection as "the resurrection of the dead" and 1 Cor 15:20-23 describes Jesus resurrection as the "first fruits" for all; it was "the beginning of the harvest." This understanding is incompatible with the visionary claims as it is from these sightings that the first Christians came to believe "that God had actually begun the resurrection of the dead is without any real precedent." (73)

This brings us to the meaning of resurrection and the NT writer's conception of a resurrected body.
  • Luke - a very physical body (Luke 24:39)
  • Paul - distinguishes between the "body of this life (='physical or natural body') and the resurrection body (= 'spiritual body') (I Cor. 15.42-46). And he concludes his discussion on the
    point with the ringing declaration: 'I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God . . .' (I Cor. 15.50). What Luke affirms (Jesus' resurrection body was flesh and bones) Paul denies (the resurrection body is not composed of flesh and blood)!" (74) How do we reconclise this? In 1 Cor 15 Paul was addressing a Greek audience who were not fans of bodily resurrection. However, Paul continues to emphasise the bodily aspect but there is both continuity and discontinuity.
Dunn lists five conclusions to take away from his examination.
  1. It is impossible to deny that the origins of Christianity lie in some visionary experience of Jesus that lead to the belief that God raised Jesus. 
  2. The empty tomb was a "contributory fact" to this belief "
  3. In the terms Paul has given us, Christian belief in resurrection is not properly speaking belief in a physical resurrection. Nor is it properly speaking belief in immortality (the true 'me' will never die). The Christian believes rather that death is followed by resurrection more in the sense of recreation." (75-6)
  4. (1) At the historical level it is hard to explain the resurrection belief w/o the empty tomb but (2) at the theological level it is not necessary. But as both these statements can be made independently, they both strengthen the historical and theological significance. Evidently, whether one emphasises one or the other should not mean they are breaching orthodoxy.
  5. The Christian interpretation of the data (empty tomb/appearances) that "God raised Jesus from the dead" is the best explanation of the alternatives.

Sorry if this needs to be proof read but it is 2.30am here and they are mostly for my own benefit. Next posts will probably be on the Markan burial tradition, Fitzmyer's discussion in To Advance the Gospel: New Testament Studies (The Biblical Resource Series) or an almost completed review of The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus