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  1. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  April 28, 2012

    I don’t want to spam but Prof James Tabor recently also had an interesting take on the ‘resurrection’: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/14/why-people-are-confused-about-the-earliest-christian-view-of-resurrection-of-the-dead/

    Some might find this article interesting and/or fascinating too.

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    TimONeill  April 28, 2012

    The other piece of evidence often cited in support of the gospel accounts of Jesus being taken down and buried on the same day he died is Josephus *War* IV.5.2:

    “Nay, [the Idumeans] proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.”

    This is in accordance with Deut 21:22-23. Of course, how often they were able to bury crucified men, let alone were allowed to do so by Roman permission is another matter.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 29, 2012

      Interesting. Quick question (I’m traveling without access to my books), the answer to which I can’t remember off hand: Is Josephus talking about people who were crucified specifically by Jews? If so, then I suppose it’s not relevant to the question of people crucified by Romans in Jewish territory.

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      ntuser  April 30, 2012

      Josephus in “Life” 420-421: he finds three of his friends crucified after the sack of Jerusalem and implores mercy from Titus – two died in the hands of physicians and one lived.
      Philo “Flaccus” 83: that decent Governors sometimes had crucified criminals “taken down and given up to their relatives in order to receive the honours of sepulture” at the time of the Emperor’s birthday since “the sacred character of the festival out to be regarded” (Young 732). Wouldn’t Passover in Jerusalem also be such a time?

      Also, this conclusion from the one identified set of crucified remains does not follow:
      1) Almost everyone in the first century , tens of millions, did NOT die by crucifixion.
      2) The one set of identified crucifixion remains was by a very special stroke of luck – The nail in the heel bone was seen by the excavator in the short time he had before mandatory reburial so it was further examined. When studied by Zias and Sekeles, they concluded that the nail was likely bent in a knot in the wood at the pointed end in a special way so that it could not be removed from the heel bone it was found in without mangling the corpse. Loved ones would of course remove the nails unless they couldn’t.
      3) Special analyses such as in this single discovery was not performed on nearly all discovered ossuary remains (I am guessing)

      Is there really a big problem from an historian’s point of view with the documents we have that say Jesus was entombed? He had both loved ones and devoted followers.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 30, 2012

        Thanks for this. The problem in Jesus’ case is not whether he had friends and loved ones, but whether Romans would have allowed a decent burial for someone who was crucified for crimes against the state. I wish we had a definitive answer!

        • Avatar
          bholly72  April 30, 2012

          Part of the point of crucifixion was disgrace and shame, so it’s unlikely that any subordinate official would have granted such a request for a decent burial. Pilate, as governor, could pretty much do whatever he wanted, but his reputation makes it unlikely that he would have granted such a request either, unless for some reason he wanted to curry favor with Joseph of Arimathea, though the gospels give no hint of this.

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            ntuser  May 1, 2012

            Not only disgrace and shame but to show powerlessness against the will of Rome. The Romans would have every reason to expect that this would be the end of the Jesus movement but it wasn’t. This is used as an argument for the miraculous resurrection but doesn’t it support the likelihood of entombment from an historical-critical perspective?

        • Avatar
          ntuser  April 30, 2012

          Thanks for the reply.
          I really meant to suggest that it is the No Entombment proposition that bears the burden here.
          Putting aside ‘knowing’ or proof for the entombment of Jesus which is not realistic:
          1) We have records of people from the time successfully pleading for crucified bodies even with rebellion charges (I don’t know how good the sources I cited are).
          2) We have a fortuitous discovery of crucified remains from that time. This is hard evidence for burials after crucifixion, albeit for unknown but presumably serious crimes.
          3) We have the non-supernatural accounts in John and Mark. With the relevant passages taken in isolation, these read like a strait-up execution stories. I am not sure if you consider these accounts independent of each other.

          It seems to me that the burden is with No Entombment since we have contrary records of historical value.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 1, 2012

            Good points. Are there records for anyone besides Josephus successfully pleading to have a body taken down from a cross? And that was not for burial, but for, well, survival! I think the burden of proof resides on whoever is trying to make a case, one way or the other. (The fact that we have the remains of only one crucified many does seem significant to me….)

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    ChasingTheTruth  April 28, 2012

    Crucifixion or Crucifiction… An Islamic Perspective

    The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, when Jesus was born, they rejected him and chastised Mary, denying the virgin birth. Although Jesus (pbuh) performed many miracles, they would not accept him and manipulated the Romans into having him crucified to question his status. It was then made to appear to them by God’s will that Jesus (pbuh) was on the cross, and that he was crucified, leading the Jews to believe that he was never the Messiah. God, however would never allow Jesus to be killed in such a manner and raised him up unto Himself.

    This is why in the Bible, Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener, because he is wearing a disguise, at which point he says – “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” If he had died and resurrected he wouldn’t need to be dressed as the gardener as the Bible mentions that no man can die twice.


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    Claude  April 29, 2012

    Prof. Ehrman,

    I read your previous post on the likely fate of postmortem Jesus and was appalled. Is there no way to salvage Joseph of Arimethea (though he’s said to be a literary creation inspired by Isaiah)? Could Roman guards be bribed? Could the legendary centurion have taken matters into his own hands? How aware would PIlate have been of the disposal of crucified criminals, anyway?

    Good grief, there’s got to be some way out of this.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 29, 2012

      Good questions. I doubt if there ever were any guards; that part is put in by Matthew to show that no one could have stolen the body (it’s not in the other Gospels), in order to fend off the counter-charge floating around in his day that the disciples had done so. I doubt if Pilate had much of anything to do with it (he would not have gone out to watch the proceedings), other than to tell his soldiers what to do with the body (leave in on the cross, toss it into the common grave, whatever).

      • Avatar
        Claude  April 29, 2012

        Thank you, as always, for your insights. I’ve assimilated the Christian narrative well enough that it never occurred to me that guards wouldn’t have been stationed at the Crucifixion!

      • Avatar
        bholly72  April 30, 2012

        Of course soldiers can sometimes be bribed, but given the extreme penalty for disobedience in the legion, and given Pilate’s harsh reputation, it would have had to have been one heck of a bribe.

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    oq7777  April 29, 2012

    Are there other religious figures in History who have been resurrected from the dead?
    I am not sure if the Hindu God Krishna was resurrected.

    • Avatar
      bholly72  April 30, 2012

      When I was in college I read Frazier’s “Golden Bough,” and thought that Gods who died and came back to life in the spring were a dime a dozen in the ancient Mediterranean. I knew that some of Frazier’s ideas had not stood the test of time, but I was really surprised when, reading Bart’s new book, I discovered that Frazier’s notion of dying and resurrecting gods has been completely refuted. (a shame — it was a wonderful book). As for Krishna, there is a story about him that has him dying after being shot in the foot with an arrow. His body was then cremated, and there is, at least as far as I know, no resurrection story. Hindus regard his current body as entirely spiritual.

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    andrew0410  August 7, 2012

    Re how the resurrection stories arose, Bart responded: ‘One could argue that it is the question – the most important question in the history of all of Christianity – and therefore, arguably, the most important historical question, in some respects, in the history of Western civilization.’

    I wholeheartedly agree: the truth or otherwise of the resurrection stories is fundamental to Christian apologetics. In my evangelical Christian days I argued as follows:

    1. Why trust the Bible? Because Jesus believed it (Old Testament) and laid the foundation for the New Testament. Because Jesus is the Son of God, we can trust him, despite the existence of all the problems that otherwise might lead us to doubt the inspiration of the Bible.
    2. Why believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Primarily, because God raised him from the dead, so declaring him to be the Son of God.

    If those are your unshakeable convictions, then you approach all Biblical problems with the interpretive framework that all contradictions are apparent only and not real. For me, and I suspect many others, the resurrection was the lynch-pin that held the whole structure together. Hence the importance of the question – if not true, how could the resurrection stories have come about?

    It took a long time for my old convictions to unwind, partly through questions about the morality of the Christian system (predestination, hell, human and animal suffering), partly through a fresh consideration of Bible contradictions, and partly through realising that the resurrection stories as we have them could have arisen without there being an actual bodily resurrection of Jesus. I came to understand this tangentially by considering how genuine but mistaken beliefs about factual occurrences arise, problems with eyewitness testimony, how myths and legends develop, and how individuals and groups adjust their beliefs when their hopes are disappointed.

    Hence the eagerness with which I await Bart’s forthcoming ‘How Jesus Became God’!

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    davidblasko  October 24, 2012

    could it be that after the finality of the crucifixion, after knowing that Jesus was dead, the followers of Jesus just felt really stupid? here they devoted their lives to this guy, i’m guessing some left their families, maybe gave away all their stuff. could it be they just wanted to save face? ” wouldn’t that be enough incentive to lie? -” you’ll never believe it guys….i just saw Jesus!!!!!” i’m sure others in the same boat would be eager to believe that as well. we tend to have confirmation bias , and want to believe the things we want to believe…

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    davidblasko  October 24, 2012

    – maybe “stupid” is the wrong word to use…maybe grief stricken.. even today after a loved one dies, we often hear of people saying things like ,” i know he/she is still with me” i still see his/her face everywhere” ” i was at the store the other day, and such and such happened and i know it was he/she sending me a message.”. “he/shes here in spirit.”- it seems a legend could grow out of that kind of post-death””sighting”

    • Avatar
      Cephas  November 14, 2012

      David, think about Elvis for a moment. We had the doctor’s certificate, the post-mortem report, the list of substances in his gut and bloodstream, and finally the burial and the gravesite. And this was, what? 30 years ago? Newspaper reports, all very much consistent, photographs, eyewitness testimony, all of which had no counterpart in Judea in the 0th century.

      And yet, to this day, there are Elvis “sightings”! So I would imagine that J’s fishing buddies wouldn’t have had to stretch too much to make themselves believe their own most fervent wishes.

      And don’t forget, back then just about everybody who was religious in any way was resurrected. There’s such a long and distinguished history of people prior to (and long after) Big J being resurrected that it was unusual to find a religious person who died and didn’t get resurrected!

      Have a read of Christopher Hitchins’ “God is not Great”, he mentions dozens of such people in a couple of pages.

  9. Avatar
    DominickG  November 24, 2012


    The significance of Joseph of Arimathea is explained by understanding his name.

    “Arimathea” means “Lion dead to the Lord”. The Lion of Judah was the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Indeed it was from the tribe of Judah that David came and he replaced Saul as the King that met the challenge of the Philistine incursions with military might and re-united the twelve tribes into the kingdom of Israel.

    In the Book of Genesis, Joseph is the son of Jacob and receives from his father a multi-colored coat.
    Philo of Alexandria sees in the reference to that coat an indication that Joseph is the consummate politician:

    “And it is not without a particular and correct meaning that Joseph is said to have had a coat of many colors. For a political constitution is a many-colored and multiform thing, admitting of an infinite variety of changes in its general appearance, in its affairs, in its moving causes, in the peculiar laws respecting strangers, in numberless differences respecting times and places.”

    [Philo: On Joseph]

    Philo also sees significance in the fact that Joseph was a shepherd in his early years:

    “Now, this man began from the time he was seventeen years of age to be occupied with the consideration of the business of a shepherd, which corresponds to political business. On which account I think it is that the race of poets has been accustomed to call kings the shepherds of the people; for he who is skillful in the business of a shepherd will probably be also a most excellent king, having derived instruction in those matters which are deserving of inferior attention here to superintend a flock of those most excellent of all animals, namely, of men. ”

    [Philo: On Joseph]

    The divine reason, that was obsessed with the law and associated with the conquering hero of Israel (see the Zealots and the Dead Sea scrolls) , was rejected by the gentiles. This Jesus would not help bring forth God’s kingdom.

    The divine reason who was the Jesus Christ of James was too abstract a notion for most (see James’ letter). This Jesus Christ would not help bring forth God’s kingdom.

    The Jesus Christ that did appeal was the divine logos made incarnate and shorn of Judaic nationalism and ideology, a Jesus Christ with whom people could identify. It is significant, of course, that it is Joseph of Arimathea who asks for the body.



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