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

Friday, July 9, 2010

Professor Larry Hurtado has shared a pre-pub contribution to the Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls over at his blog entitled "Monotheism, Principal Angels, and High Christology" where he focuses on these concepts within the Second Temple period.  In Typical Hurtado fashion, it is well worth the read.

Professor Darrell Bock briefly discusses Gunnar Samuelsson's dissertation Crucifixion in Antiquity commenting that "This hype is not the fault of Gunnar Samuelsson, the author of the study who is clear about what he is and is not saying. Rather it is the media hype in headlining and spinning his claims where the fault lies." Who would have thought?

And  James R. Edwards' recent monograph The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition has finally been reviewed in this weeks RBL.This is one of those works I hope to get to in the very near future. In terms of traditional gospel authorship (or attribution) the patristic testimony is quite useful for, say, the Gospel of Mark but for Matthew and these so-called Hebrew Gospels the data just gets confusing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

International Project for Q discovers Non-Apocalyptic Qumran Community

Members of the renowned International Project for Q have turned their attention to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the results are set to shake the foundations of the scholarly arena. Project director James M. Kloppenson in an announcement at Harvard Divinity School earlier this week stated that, "as we looked closer and closer at the scrolls, we discovered that the views of the sectarians at the inception of the community were very different to those discovered in the extant documents of today."

"While some scholars take the old approach of constructing a small exclusive community with apocalyptic interests" Kloppenson remarked, "in carefully stratifying these documents we have discovered that the earliest sectarians were not concerned with issues of Torah, purity or end days...they were an informal philosophical community owing much to surrounding Hellenization."

An early press release from the IPQ stated that "the Teacher of Righteousness is best understood in terms of Hellenisitc cynicism...a secular Jewish Diogenes of Sinope." Blogger Michael Eagle informally responded that the IPQ has found their "Californian Teacher of Righteousness...constructed in their own image." This scepticism was shared by former Christian scholar Bart Simpson who stated, " we only have copies, of copies, of copies, of copies of these documents...[and] although they were obviously wrong, the Community was concerned with end days."

Leif E. Mack in an interview exclaimed that the "implications for the study of early Christianity are amazing!" He went on that "it may be that these cynic-styled Jewish Essenes were the inspiration for Jesus' first followers. Gone are the days of apocalyptic Judaism - that is simply the construct of later mythmaking and fundamentalist scholarship will have to lay it to rest." Jon Cameron has also stressed this point, "we know that both John and Jesus were non-apocalyptic, and this best explains John's connection with the wilderness he shared with the just all finally makes sense."

May McCormick has expressed scepticism at the findings of the IPQ  in an online response to Kloppenson writing that "the lack of apocalyptic interests in some documents represents a toning down as the end times did not come, if we were to look towards the kernal 4QMMT we find a Community and Teacher of Righteousness concerned with future eschatology."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010