In my previous post I began to deal with the first of two arguments that Craig Evans provides from Josephus. Craig wants to argue that Josephus, a first-century Jewish authority, explicitly indicates that Romans allowed Jews to provide decent burials for their dead. In this first argument Craig provides a concatenation of passages from Josephus that together, Craig argues, indicate that Jews would not leave a corpse (such as that of Jesus) on the cross, but would provide a burial for it. Here is the argument again.
“Josephus asserts the same thing. The Romans, he says, do not require “their subjects to violate their national laws” (Against Apion 2.73).
The Jewish historian and adds that the Roman procurators who succeeded Agrippa I “by abstaining from all interference with the customs of the country kept the nation at peace…” (Jewish War 2.220)
“… customs that included never leaving a “corpse unburied” (Against Apion 2.211).
I dealt with the first quotation in yesterday’s post, where I pointed out that in Against Apion Josephus is not referring to burial practices but to idolatry: Jews were not forced to worship representations of the emperor against their customs. Even if one generalizes the point broadly to say that Romans never forced Jews to do anything contrary to their customs, I argued that (a) this is not true and (b) leaving Jesus’ body on the cross would not require Jews to violate their customs because it was not Jews who put him on the cross in the first place. Jewish law applied to Jews, not to Romans, and it was Romans who executed Jesus.
Jews of course would not have liked for bodies to remain unburied – just as they would not have liked other things Romans did, such as ruling the promised land and requiring Jews to pay tribute. But in some instances, Romans frankly didn’t care what the Jews liked and didn’t liked. When it came to punishing enemies of the state, Romans did what they thought was in their own best self-interests. Our surviving sources indicate that this included not just