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A Very Different Portrayal of Jesus’ Death

I am talking about how I came to understand and appreciate the Bible once I realized that there were widely different perspectives presented in one author or another – even when talking about the same thing.  The example I’m using is the Gospel portrayals of Jesus’ death.  In my previous post I laid out how Mark depicts it; here I will discuss how Luke does.  What I came to see (back when I was a graduate student, still a committed Christian but no longer a fundamentalist) was that it was both fruitless and impoverished to think the two Gospels were both trying to say the same thing.   Each of them is rich in meaning, but they meaning they ascribe to the event is very different.  Failing to appreciate the difference means failing to understand each author and the point that he is trying to make.

Here is what I say about Jesus’ death in Luke, in contrast to Mark, in my book Jesus Interrupted.

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Luke’s account is also very interesting, thoughtful, and moving.  But it is very different from Mark’s (Luke 23:26-49).  It is not just that there are discrepancies between the accounts in some of their details; the differences are bigger than that.  They affect the very way the story is told and, as a result, the way the story is to be interpreted.

As in Mark, Jesus is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, rejected by the Jewish leaders, and condemned by Pontius Pilate.  He is not, however,…

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How Did Judas Iscariot Die? Readers’ Mailbag June 18, 2017
How a Non-Historical Account Can Be Meaningful: The Death of Jesus in Mark

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Comments

  1. fishician  June 16, 2017

    Funny how fundamentalists revere the Gospels just as written, yet the Gospel writers like “Luke” obviously had no qualms about taking existing material (like Mark’s gospel) and reworking it to suit their own purposes (the intro even says he’s using other sources). Seems like a very non-fundamentalist thing to do!

    • godspell  June 20, 2017

      Luke had no idea what a fundamentalist was, and neither did any other Christian (or religious person), for many centuries after all the Old and New Testament authors were dead.

  2. nbraith1975  June 16, 2017

    I never could reconcile the Christian teaching which blends the four gospel stories into one “unified” gospel – a fifth gospel. I accepted that blending for many years as a way to discount the discrepancies between the four gospels that bothered me.

    I don’t mind that the authors of the gospels were each trying to impose a specific narrative of Jesus’ message. I just take issue when Christian apologists try and pass off obvious differences and sometimes contradictions as part of God’s plan.

  3. Pegill7  June 16, 2017

    Bart,

    In connection with the use of the terms PARADIDOMI and PRODIDOMI by Paul you said that the editors of the NRSV purposely translated the former as “betrayed” rather than its real meaning of “handed over.” You say that perhaps the editors found this “such a familiar verse that they decided to keep the traditional rendering.” Considering that the editors were such a distinguished lot of scholars, how could all or the majority of them have agreed to this obvious mistranslation? In the footnote for verse 23 of I Corinthians chapter 11 it says “Received… handed over, technical term for transmitting an oral tradition.” I’m confused.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      I would say that it’s not a *false* translation so much as an *unnuanced* one (or rather: too nuanced: it indicates too clearly, and wrongly, what it means in this instance to be handed over)

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  June 19, 2017

        “Handed over” is too nuanced? I don’t understand that. When I read the passage as “handed over,” I get the impression that Paul believed Jesus’ betrayal was part of the divine plan in order for him to become the Redeemer. So, instead of saying Jesus was “betrayed,” he says that he was “handed over.” The reality of the situation was that Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, and Paul knew that, but that’s not how he viewed it in the grand scheme of things.

        • Tony  June 22, 2017

          Paul shows no knowledge of a Judas or a betrayal. A-historicist think the term refers to God the father who “handed over” his son to be sacrificed.

      • SidDhartha1953  June 23, 2017

        Could it not also refer to the Jewish authorities handing Jesus over to the Roman Prefect, if in fact it was the temple police who initially took him into custody?

  4. Eskil  June 16, 2017

    I’m looking these passage of gospel of Luke in the bible hub. There most of the difference you list are marked with red (in NIV) and with a footnotes saying “Some early manuscripts do not have this sentence”.

    http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/23.htm

    Could that mean that the author of gospel of Luke did not actually create these differences but they were works of some latter scribes? Could that also give gospel of Luke earlier date than year 70 if the passages referring to destruction of Jerusalem are added by scribes during latter centuries and not the author of Luke?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      No, the differences I’ve been talking about are *not* ones with those footnotes.

  5. Mohammed Musa  June 16, 2017

    Bart,
    as a Muslim (all Muslims believe in the existence of Jesus p.b.u.h) i have to confess that i pitied my Christian brothers, Men!!! Christians have a terrible record about their Savior.The story of Jesus is to Christians the most important event in the history of the planet. To have the Greatest Story Ever Told” based on hearsay and rag-tag bunch of tales, full of errors, inconsistencies and clear contradictions is unfortunate. One of the golden rules of scholarship is: big claims require big evidence. Bart, i couldn’t believed it when i noticed that the inspired gospel writers couldn’t agree on the color of Jesus (pbuh) robe that the Roman soldiers mocked him with before Crucifixion. Bart please what was the color of the robe? How do Christians reconcile this?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re asking. Where are you seeing a contradiction in the color of a robe?

      I try to keep religious polemics to a minimum on this blog, so that I do not like it if Christians mock Jews or Muslims — or if anyone mocks Christians! So please do bear that in mind.

      • Mohammed Musa  June 20, 2017

        Bart,
        Your point is well noted, it will not happen again, i will be very careful next time when posting a comment. I believe polemic attacks built walls instead of bridges.
        Now regarding the color of Jesus robe: After Jesus had been brought before Pontius Pilate, Pilate gave the people a choice: he would release either Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd chose Barabbas, and the soldiers then mocked Jesus by dressing him as a king and flogging him before he was taken away to be crucified.

        According to Matthew 27:27-31, the soldiers dressed Jesus in a scarlet robe as part of this humiliation: but according to John and Mark 15:16-20 the, robe was purple:

        So what color was the robe that the soldiers put on Jesus, scarlet or purple?
        This may look trivial (one man’s blockbuster is another’s trivia) it had a devastating effect on me, just the way the Ahimelech/ Abiathar had on you.

        In your debate with Michael Bird during Q&A session you said: “The difference is when Lazarus was raised from the dead; the idea is he is going to die again. …he is brought to life for a while. Jesus is raised from the dead never to die again”. Bart how can Lazarus die twice? It is un-biblical, It goes against Hebrews 9:27 which says, “And it is appointed unto men once to die…” Don’t you think it is possible that Lazarus and others that were raised from dead are alive somewhere awaiting judgement?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 20, 2017

          Ha! Good question about the robe. I don’t recall ever noticing that. And that’s probably because I myself could not tell you the difference between scarlet and purple!!! (I’m not much of a color guy.)

          • godspell  June 20, 2017

            It’s not much of a contradiction, since the colors are very similar. Two people might look at the same robe and describe it differently. If this was the most serious contradiction in the gospels (or many other sacred texts, relating to every religion that ever existed, and I do mean every single o ne), skeptics would have very little to work with.

          • SidDhartha1953  June 23, 2017

            I would take the colors to be symbolic of something. Isn’t purple usually associated with higher status — royalty or aristocracy? Then there is a passage in one of the OT prophets (Isaiah maybe?) “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” So, could one evangelist have been emphasizing Jesus’ status as King of Israel and the other his taking on the sins of others? Just speculating. What do you think, Bart?
            Second question: you have written elsewhere that 1st century Jews and early Christians focused more on the resurrection of the body in a restored Earth at the end of time, than the immortality of the soul in an incorporeal heaven. Yet Luke’s Jesus specifically tells the “good” criminal that they will be together in Paradise before day’s end! Did Luke think there was a disembodied existence for the righeous before, or maybe even instead of an eternal life in the body? Was the modern popular view of the afterlife already taking hold among Christians?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 25, 2017

            Colors: I really don’t know. Luke: yes, that’s one of the points I’ve often made: Luke is deapocalpyticizing Jesus’ message.

          • Mohammed Musa  June 23, 2017

            Bart,
            Whenever you decide to change career, avoid a career at Textile, Garment or Fashion design industries, you wouldn’t last a day.
            godspell wrote:
            “It is not much of a contradiction, since the colors are similar.” I wish godspell was there when I presented it to a friend of mine who happens to be a Pastor who is a manager in a paint making company. To say he was dumbfounded was an understatement. When he recovered the contortionist explanation he displayed to escape this problem was truly a sight to behold. This is the same Pastor that dismissed the Ahimelech/Abiathar problem as a non-issue; his explanation was that “Abiathar was already born at that time period”. I would like godspell to know that “one man’s trivia is another man’s block buster.”
            Eric wrote: “I believe the same die was used (from a shell fish I think) for scarlet through purple. If they were even a different color in those days…” The origin of the die or how expensive it is, is just a strawman Eric! Even if the die originated from a dinosaur urine, purple is different from scarlet even in those days. Eric you are merely speculating that purple and scarlet are the same in those days. In the Book of Numbers chapter 4, Jesus/God gave Moses and Aaron instructions on how to set a tabernacle. Jesus was specific on the colors of clothes to use:
            Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.—Numbers 4:6 (NIV)
            They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place. —Numbers 4:8 (NIV)
            They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it.—Numbers 4:13 (NIV)
            This color difference is clear thousands of years before these soldiers (Pilate’s according to Matthew or Herod’s according to Luke) put the robe on Jesus.
            Now Bart, I am willing to forgive your color blindness, after all unlike the gospel writers you are not claiming inerrancy. (Pls forgive my English, it is my third language.)

          • Bart
            Bart  June 25, 2017

            Trust me, I would be lousy with that as a career….

        • Eric  June 21, 2017

          I believe the same die was used (from a shellfish I think) for scarlet through purple. If they were even different colors in those days, it would have simply been one of degree in contemporary minds.

          In those days, purple/red die was VERY expensive, hence its association with royalty … and the unliklihood of soldiers using such a robe to mock a bleeding prisoner.

  6. Tony  June 16, 2017

    Luke was not shy about reusing good phrases or concepts when he had them. In Acts he recycles the final words of his gospel Jesus, as well as, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”. Also, the “cried out in a loud voice” from Luke 23:46.

    Acts 7:59-60, “While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he died.”

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      What is most striking, in fact, is that the two verses don’t share any verbatim similiarities. (Luke does *that* a lot: same ideas in different words)

      • Jim  June 19, 2017

        I suspect Tony’s question may have been inspired by Neil Godfrey’s review of “Luke’s Literary Creativity” (Eds Muller & Nielson), or possibly even taken directly(?) from Muller’s chapter in this book.

        Would you entertain occasionally posting a very brief overview of a book/book chapter that you feel could be helpful for blog members (sort of like a recommended read for students, and not a full book review), or is this a bit of a pain in the posterior on several fronts? (And I should add, as long as there are no exam questions on the book for blog readers … and if they fail the exam … well … their annual dues increase 🙂 )

        • Bart
          Bart  June 20, 2017

          Interesting idea! I’ll think about it! (The problem is that most of the books I read presuppose so much background informatoin that it would be hard to explain their precise thesis in just a post or two. It would require numerous posts just to give the background!)

  7. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 17, 2017

    I know I’m being a pain right now but I can’t help it. Regarding the Galatians 3 scripture:
    3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?

    NRSV: It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!

    First of all, Paul inserted the word “portrayed” instead of just writing the simple and clear sentence–“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was crucified.”

    Paul is frustrating because he does not come out and definitively connect an eyewitness with Jesus’ life and crucifixion. When I read the NRSV, it’s very clear until I get to the next verse. Why would they need to hear about what they’d already seen? This caused me to look up the word “portrayed” which has another meaning in Greek– written beforehand. That comes across very differently. “Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly written beforehand as crucified. And it makes sense that they would have received the Spirit by hearing the Scriptures being read to them because Paul states elsewhere that they can’t believe unless they hear the Gospel.

    So, what do these verses mean exactly? What’s the correct translation for “proegraphe”? (I don’t know how type the words in Greek the way everyone else seem to be able to do!)

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      Paul is engaging in an act of “ekphrasis,” a very common literary trope in antiquity where a speaker or writer “paints a word picture” that is so vivid that his readers/hearers can “see” what he is describing. In this case, he had described Jesus’ death so vividly that they saw it right in front of their eyes.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  June 19, 2017

        How is it decided that in the case of 1 Cor.11:23, “proegraphe” is painting a word picture, whereas, in Romans 15:4, it means “written before” or “written in earlier times”?

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  June 19, 2017

          Oops, I mean Galatians 3:1!

          • Bart
            Bart  June 20, 2017

            Ah! Answer: words mean what they do only in their context. The only way to know what a word means is to study it’s context.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 20, 2017

          ??? 1 Cor. 11:23?

  8. Hume  June 17, 2017

    You would think in Luke 10 when Jesus sends out the 72 to heal the sick they would be in proximity to the sick, and thus get sick.(Barring God given powers)!

  9. Lev
    Lev  June 17, 2017

    I think I’ve heard you say that you thought the historical Jesus did not expect to die, that he expected the Son of Man to arrive and install him as King.

    How do you dismiss Jesus’ multiple predictions of his death in Mark? His first prediction in Mark 8 seems to be a particularly embarrassing account that I find difficult to accept a later Christian would make up – surely Jesus comparing his chief apostle (and leader of the early Church) to Satan isn’t something the early church would want to invent?

    • Lev
      Lev  June 17, 2017

      I mean, surely if this was an invented story Judas, not Peter, would have been the perfect person to place in this scene? Learning Jesus is not to be king, that he won’t after all, govern the kingdom with his fellow apostles, and receiving such a sharp rebuke would have certainly given Judas the motivation to betray his master.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      I’m differentiating between what Jesus really said and what he is recorded as saying int he Gospels. That’s a very basic, important, and fundamental distinction. If it doesn’t make any sense, I’d suggest you look at my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

      • James Cotter  June 18, 2017

        “His first prediction in Mark 8 seems to be a particularly embarrassing account that I find difficult to accept a later Christian would make up – surely”

        why would it be embarrassing to the writer of mark? mark writing decades later needs a prediction, because it is possible that jesus did not know he would get caught off guard.

        marks later story is to promote the idea of crucified messiah, what i find strange is that the promotions comes very later in his gospel. compared to gospel of john, the promotion is very early on(john has john recognise jesus as lamb who takes away the sins).
        it is possible that marks crucified messiah is not being promoted by the jewish peter

        “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”. (Mark 8:31–33)

        mark writing decades later that peter knows nothing about dying messiah. i wonder if even jesus knew about dying messiah?

        “comparing his chief apostle (and leader of the early Church) to Satan isn’t something the early church would want to invent?”

        why not, if peter is not promoting crucified messiah?

        mark always takes digs at peter .

        • Bart
          Bart  June 19, 2017

          I do’t recall saying that about hte first prediction in Mark. Are you quoting me?

      • Lev
        Lev  June 18, 2017

        Sorry Bart – I think you misunderstand my question. Forgive me if I’ve been too clumsy in putting it to you.

        I’ve located the (awesome!) lecture where you give us your view on why Jesus was really executed (How Jesus became God part 1): https://youtu.be/7IPAKsGbqcg?t=57m49s

        You give a fascinating analysis on why a saying of Jesus was historical (where the twelve apostles will rule the twelve tribes of Israel). The reason you give as to why this quote is historical, is that no later Christian would make up a saying that included Judas Iscariot as one of the rulers of Israel.

        I’m trying to ask how you accept this saying in Matthew as historical, but reject the rebuke of Peter in Mark 8 as unhistorical, as both seem to share the same criteria of embarrassment.

        I make the observation that if this was an invented saying, then the author seems to have picked an embarrassing target of Jesus’ rebuke (the leader of the Church) rather than a more obvious target, Judas who betrayed him.

        I hope you can see that I not only understand the distinction between the historical sayings of Jesus and what he is portrayed as saying in the gospels, but that I’m using your own methodology in making those distinctions.

        PS: Happy fathers day. 🙂

        • Bart
          Bart  June 19, 2017

          Yes, I don’t see the rebuke of Peter as passing the criterion of embarassment. One of mark’s entire points is that hte disciples never understood who Jesus was, and so the rebuke fits perfectly into his own literary/theological agenda.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 19, 2017

            Thanks Bart – that makes a lot of sense. 🙂

          • James Cotter  June 19, 2017

            yes doc, it does seem like mark has no problem with admitting that the disiples never got jesus

            your thoughts on the following :

            Reading Mark in his own right
            If we read the Gospel of Mark through the perspectives of the later gospels who loved Peter (Matthew, John and Luke) then that “rock” epithet makes him sound solid and strong.

            Assume Mark’s gospel is the earliest of the canonical gospels, and that its original ending is 16:8.

            Mark lets Judas off fairly lightly. A case can be made that he is little worse than the rest of the Twelve and not nearly as bad as Peter.

            But if we try to forget those later gospels and think about that word “peter” exclusively within the context of that first gospel, then the only association we are ever likely to make with that name is the one in the parable of the sower and the seed. As Tolbert shows in “Sowing the Gospel”:

            the rocky soil represents the disciples who begin well but whither like the fig tree in the end,
            the thorny ground represented those like the rich man,
            the wayside represented the Pharisees and such,
            and the good soil the hearers of the gospel itself — represented by the nameless many who were healed and responded fruitfully to Jesus.
            In that parable “rocky” means shallow, iinfertile, undependable soil. It will sprout famously for a minute but then collapse in the heat. That is how Simon Peter is portrayed in Mark, as are all the disciples, who are led by that “rock”.

            Peter follows Jesus immediately as he should, is keen to learn, but by the time we get half way through the plot the central hero suddenly calls the leader of the Twelve “Satan”; at the same time Jesus delivered his warning that whoever will be ashamed of Jesus would be cast out in the last day (Mark 8:33-38); and at the end all disciples, and Peter in particular, did indeed demonstrate their shame in knowing Jesus.

            Peter’s tears of remorse were as efficacious as the remorse felt my Matthew’s Judas who was so distraught he hanged himself. A foretaste of the time when there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

            And the final mention of Peter in Mark’s gospel is a biting twist to highlight the total failure of the Twelve, represented by Peter who denied his Saviour 3 times. The message is for the readers/hearers of the gospel. Don’t be like the Twelve, the rocky soil, who become incapable of understanding spiritual things, betray and flee from their saviour and deny him repeatedly.

    • SidDhartha1953  June 23, 2017

      The embarassment about Peter may have come from the common knowledge that he denied knowing Jesus at the time of his arrest. Maybe the gospel writers felt it necessary to show that Peter was not totally with the program from early on, so his denial doesn’t come out of the blue. It might also give a less clairvoyant explanation to Jesus’ prediction of his denial. Jesus knew from experience that Peter was full of it.

  10. Wilusa  June 17, 2017

    Very OT: I’d advise others to check out the article on the NBC News website today: “Is the Universe Conscious?” Re discussions we’ve had here, about possibly undetectable things like “souls,” or whether a non-visible “something” may pass from one incarnation to another. The article isn’t discussing *that*, but whether there may be consciousness on a level materialists would consider even more “impossible”…as some scientists are coming to believe. “Panpsychism”!

    • Wilusa  June 17, 2017

      A quote:

      Gregory Matloff’s ideas are shocking. The veteran physicist at New York City College of Technology recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit. A “proto-consciousness field” could extend through all of space, he argues. Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware.

      Me again: That “proto-consciousness field” *extending through all of space* might permit transfer of “something” from one being to another, without there being a physical connection. Also…I’d been thinking that just as we now know there are “cells” in our bodies, we ouselves may be “cells” in something much larger…

      • SidDhartha1953  June 23, 2017

        Reminds me of a line from the “Unny Upps” episode of the Dick Van Dyke show — “like the last living cell in a dead building.”

  11. godspell  June 17, 2017

    To me, Luke’s account is far less powerful than Mark’s. There’s almost a Victorian quality to it (the Victorians would have greatly preferred Luke to Mark–he’s more their style). Jesus is too perfect to be real. He’s becoming God, after all.

    With Luke, for all his skill at invention, I can see the wires holding his marionette up. With Mark, for all the obvious literary devices he employs, I always think “Ecce Homo!”

    And though I suspect anti-semitism would have been a factor in world history with or without any of the gospels, Luke certainly was laying a foundation stone for something very evil here.

  12. RonaldTaska  June 17, 2017

    I am afraid that I have focused mostly on differences in incidental details and it is helpful to see the big picture thematic differences as well. Thanks

  13. J.J.  June 17, 2017

    Just curious. You take the forgiveness statement (Lk 23:34a) from the cross to be part of the initial text of Luke. I know you’ve stated that here and elsewhere. I’m not sure if I’ve seen you fully address that complex textual variant. I looked in Orthodox Corruption and you don’t address it (but in a footnote state you planned to address it in a future article). Of course, Lk 23:34a is a difficult textual conundrum with theological factors (for absence & presence of the statement), early witnesses to both its absence and presence, parallels to deaths of Stephen & James, parallels to non-canonical gospels (Gosp of Heb & Naz), etc. It’s difficult to account for all the evidence for and against this statement. So just curious, what part of the evidence makes you lean in favor of its presence in the initial text of Luke?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      For one thing, the non-verbal parallel to Stephen’s last words in Acts 8. Also the claim that they acted in ignorance — a very important motive in Luke. And also because it is much easier to explain a scribe taking it out (since it asks for forgiveness of Jews), than for a scribe to have put it in. That would take about ten pages to argue, but those are the main points. (I don’t deal with it in Orthodox Corruption because the book is about textual variants arising from the Christological controversies)

      • J.J.  June 18, 2017

        Thanks. Interesting about the theme of ignorance, for sure. I hadn’t given that as much consideration.

        I lean the same way as you on this one, but due to a different Lukan theme. I see the evangelist over-emphasizing the innocence of Jesus in his death. It comes out repeatedly in the passion narrative. Pilate 3x explicitly declares “no guilt.” Antipas gov of Galilee doesn’t condemn Jesus. The chief executioner declares, “Truly this man was innocent.” Pilate tries to get Jesus off the hook in three ways (Barabbas; sending to Antipas; flogging as a substitute for crucifixion, not a preliminary action). And the innocence of Jesus is seen throughout the gospel in the compassionate things Jesus does towards the poor, vulnerable, hurting, and needy… even towards the criminal crucified next to Jesus. And then the innocence of the Jesus movement is repeatedly shown throughout Acts as all opposition to them comes from Jewish sources, not Roman. Every time without exception Christians are dragged before Roman authorities, they are released or found to be innocent, of if punished, apologies offered (as in Philippi). And I personally think that’s why Luke never mentions the deaths of Paul or Peter in Acts. So the forgiveness statement in Lk 23:34a makes much sense in light of the innocence of Jesus, even as he dies. Whoever recorded the statement (whether the initial author or a later scribe), it may have been intended as forgiveness towards the Romans for crucifying Jesus, even though patristic writers unanimously took it as a statement forgiving the Judeans.

        But on the other hand, it’s odd to me that P75 and 03/B lack Lk 23:34a. And of course, you certainly know how important those 2 witnesses are. It doesn’t seem to be accidental due to homeoarcton nor homeoteleuton. And what’s really odd is that several of the same important witnesses (incl. both p75 and 03) agree for the omissions of both Lk 22:43-44 and 23:34a. So if we say Lk 22:43-44 is a late addition, but 23:34a is not, then we’re saying p75 and 03 got one right and one wrong. Granted, neither p75 nor 03 are perfect witnesses, but these are two noticeable and sizeable variants… and two highly significant manuscripts.

        And then there’s the factor that Jim Royse has called into question from the papyri the whole notion that the shorter reading should be preferred. But then again, Royse himself says that when it comes to harmonizations, scribes were more likely to add than omit… and in some ways, the absence of Luke 23:34a is a harmonization (but granted, Luke 23 doesn’t follow Mk 15 nor Mt 27 too closely)… but harmonization is probably not the main factor influencing the absence of this statement.

        And like you I don’t think Stephen’s statement in Acts 7 probably generated this as a late addition. But if the forgiveness statement is a late addition, then I think it’s more likely to have come from oral traditions later reflected in the Gospels of Hebrews or Nazarenes, or possibly the death of James the Just… not so much Stephen’s death.

        Thanks for your insights. This is one of those variants that I wake up some mornings and think, that’s got to be a late addition… and on other mornings, that’s got to be the initial text. I guess I’m still searching for definitive evidence to help me say one or the other. Thanks again.

  14. catguy  June 17, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Several or at least a few years ago I read an overview of the Gospels by, of all thing, a retired homicide detective out in California. During most of his adult life he had not been much of a Bible believer. But he took it upon himself to do a critical analysis of the Gospels, treating them as eyewitness accounts. The fundamental theme throughout his book was that if all 4 of the Gospels said exactly the same thing, he would not believe them. Why? Because in real life no detective expects eyewitness accounts to be copies of one another. They expect discrepencies and they also expect that each account is how that person saw and interpreted the crime. So he makes a case that he was more likely to believe the Gospels because of their differences. Of course, this man was not a historian. Just wondered what you thought of that perspective.
    Also I have read commentaries where Jesus speaks to the thief and tells him, “…I tell you this today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Some, who argue that we do not immediately go to heaven will say the comma is in the wrong place which does make the meaning quite different. “I tell you this today, you will be with me in Paradise.” The latter doesn’t say when only that Christ is telling the thief on that day that at some time he will be with Christ in Paradise. Anyway, food for thought.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      Yes, I would agree with him that eyewitness accounts contain discrepancies, and so do the Gospels. But that does not make the Gospels eyewitness accounts! (Apples are red and so are my socks; but that doesn’t mean my socks are apples).

      The placement of the comma is not much disputed among Greek scholars. It has to do with whether Luke places his adverbs (“today) with the preceding or the following clauses typically.

  15. James Cotter  June 17, 2017

    dr ehrman
    in the gospel of john , jesus is no longer a reluctant in doing the will of the father. if john sees jesus as “pure sacrifice” then he definitely had to remove all traces of doubt, fear and reluctance, right? otherwise jesus would have been killed as one who was reluctant and one who “my soul is deeply troubled even unto death”
    i wonder if the idea of blemish and unblemished animals guided the thinking of the writer of the gospel of john.

  16. Tony  June 17, 2017

    Bart June 16, 2017

    I’m just saying that Paul thought of himself as an apostle and yet he says that Jesus appeared to him and to all the apostles — so that seems completely analogous to saying that Jesus appeared to Cephas and to the twelve (two separate appearances, each time, one to a member of the group and one to the entire group)
    ——————————————————————
    No, your finding of analogy is misplaced. Paul does not “group”. His sole purpose of 1 Cor 15:5-9 is to establish chronology. He very much reports on each appearance as an single independent event – separated by time. The reason for his approach is to stress his own unique apostleship nature. Self-depreciating, he stands alone. The last, the least, undeserving, unfit and untimely born, he does not really belong with the others – but by the grace of God….

  17. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  June 17, 2017

    Bart, randomly, have you heard Dionysus…

    Prince in heaven, by divine right, is what my father has shown me. Watch me as I dance for Zeus. Watch me as I deny father and mother on earth in my heart, knowing my father is Zeus in heaven. Deny to his royal son, and feel his wrath… How could you forget about me? Zeus! They are being to me…
    Freedom of speech
    Freedom of my religion
    Freedom to pray
    “Hail Zeus”

  18. MSMacho  June 20, 2017

    Bart, I took your suggestion and combed thru both Mark’s and Luke’s accounts of the arrest and crucifixion. It was interesting to note the differences, and similarities that you identified. I found two, however, that you had not mentioned but struck me as interesting. The first was Mark’s mention of people ‘passing by’ (Mark 15:29), as if they were going on with their daily lives as Jesus and the others were being crucified. Whereas Luke references the mass of people following and watching the crucifixions (Luke 23:27). Also, in Luke 23:28-31, where Jesus is talking to the ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ and ends by saying: “For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV).

    Are these significant to scholars, or just non-relevant differences?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 22, 2017

      Yes indeed, these are signficant. That final saying is especially intriguing.

  19. joncopeland  June 22, 2017

    Thanks for this series of posts, Dr. Ehrman. This has been helpful for thinking about what the gospel authors thought about Jesus’ death.

    In regards to what Paul thinks, does he hold to a story that more closely resembles the Johannine death narrative than the one in the Synoptics? I am referring to his description in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.”

    I am not suggesting that Paul had a copy of John or was in contact with the Johannine community, only that the “paschal lamb” motif was held by Paul and was in circulation during his day.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 23, 2017

      Yes, that is one opint of contact between John and Paul. But it’s hard to know how close they were on details of the passion, since Paul never tells a narrative about it.

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