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Decent Burials for Crucified Victims: A Blast From the Past

My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!!

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In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture and humiliation of being crucified in antiquity was being left, helpless, exposed not just to the elements but to scavenging birds and other animals. These sources suggest that the normal practice was to leave the victims on the cross to be pecked and gnawed at both before and after death; in some instances there are indications that this would go on for days.

And so the question naturally arises if the same thing could be expected in the case of people being crucified in Judea around the year 30 CE. As I pointed out John Dominic Crossan maintains that this was indeed the case and that Jesus corpse probably met the same fate. I used to think that was a ridiculous position to take, but now I’m not so sure.

To decide the issue, one needs to consider the ancient evidence, not simply go on what your personal opinions are based on what you’ve always heard and read about Jesus being buried by Joseph of Arimathea.  The question is whether it is likely that some such decent burial was allowed by the Romans.  To answer the question one has to look for instances in which Romans allowed such a thing.  To my knowledge – and I will be very happy indeed if someone can tell me of more evidence! – there are four pieces of evidence that can be cited, and are cited, to suggest that the Joseph story could well be historical.   None of them, however, seems to me to apply .

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Was My Weird Background a Help or a Hindrance: Mailbag October 22, 2017
Jesus, the Sheep, and the Goats

169

Comments

  1. godspell  October 20, 2017

    I would consider myself agnostic on this. Pretty much everything we know about early Christianity is pretty exceptional. The reason you have so much trouble with people who want to believe the entire story was made up is that it sounds like something people made up. And of course they did make up some of it–let’s be more charitable and say they imagined some of it. They could have imagined the decent burial.

    Maybe there was fear that if the remains of a religious leader–however far outside the mainstream of his religion–were treated with such disrespect, it might lead to uprisings, which would make the local Roman government look bad back home. You’re not just supposed to put down rebellions, you’re supposed to keep them from happening in the first place, otherwise you’ve failed.

    Did Pilate care about how the Jews felt? No. Did he care about how he was perceived in Rome–whether he was seen as a competent administrator, who kept things quiet, so they didn’t have to bother themselves with this backwater? Of course.

    So maybe somebody interceded, and some kind of burial was arranged. Or maybe he was left to be eaten by dogs and scavenger birds. We have a story–which we can be sure was embellished–that he was buried. Mark tells this story. Mark has things in that story you wouldn’t think he’d make up–like the fact that the disciples did not dare to go to the tomb–it was women loyal to Jesus who did that. And that’s what would have happened, if there had been a tomb. And the tomb might have been a very humble thing indeed.

    I don’t prefer one story to the other. To me, there would be, in some ways, more power to the image of a man who became the most important and influential figure in human history, being thrown in a mass grave, or simply left to the animals who clean up our messes for us. To me, that would only disgrace the long-vanished society that did such things. Not Jesus himself.

    I don’t think we can say either story is the default that we must believe if we can’t prove either one. That’s not good history. When we don’t know, we say “We don’t know.”

    • Bukowski  December 12, 2018

      This isn’t about image, it’s about historical probability, and it’s highly unlikely that a crucified victim would be given a burial by his friends or family. That is what we know.

  2. anthonygale  October 20, 2017

    Seeing that nobody truly knows how the Romans performed crucifiction, would you necessarily be able to tell in most cases from bones that a person was crucified? Were they tied to crosses, nailed, or both? Could the nails go between bones without damaging them? Were the nails usually removed from the body? Were legs usually broken or not? I am asking because I wonder if it might be possible, or perhaps even common, to have the skeleton of a crucified victim and not know it. Perhaps even in someone properly buried.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      Yes, you’d have to see evidence of trauma on the bones at the place of the nails.

  3. Wilusa  October 20, 2017

    Yes, you certainly touched all the bases here! And since you don’t deny that the “empty tomb” story – with a natural explanation – is at least *possible*, if unlikely, I can’t complain.

    But I don’t see the suggested reasons for someone’s having “made it up” as compelling. You acknowledge that the ancients never cited it as proof of a resurrection; there were too many possible natural explanations. And its supposedly having shown that some *one* wealthy, influential person had appreciated Jesus strikes me as a weak motive.

    Plus, as I’ve said before, I never trust that the way things like Imperial policies were *supposed to* work was the way they always *did* work.

    So I, personally, will always see the odds as 50-50.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      I don’t think there was a cynical plan to make it up. Rumors happen.

  4. Hon Wai  October 20, 2017

    Christian apologists regularly cite Jesus’ burial as a key premise to show historicity of the resurrection. Suppose it can be proved based on new historical evidence (e.g. archaeological discovery confirming the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, minus any skeletal remains of course) that Jesus was indeed buried in a tomb, would it then become much more difficult to provide a naturalistic account of why Jesus’ followers started to believe he was raised?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      If there is no body there I’m not sure what kind of historical evidence there could be. But no, there are plenty of naturalistic explanations that assume he was buried.

  5. Wilusa  October 20, 2017

    Say, I just realized the criterion of dissimilarity can be considered here!

    *If* someone doesn’t believe early Christians would have had a good reason for making the story up, that might suggest they *didn’t* make it up.

    But some – a majority? – think they *did* have an adequate reason for making it up.

  6. Lev
    Lev  October 20, 2017

    Hi Bart,

    Would Matt 28:11-15, the rumour of Jesus’ disciples stealing his body, pass the criterion of dissimilarity / embarrassment?

    Whilst we could argue against the apologetic aspect of the guards being paid off, the part of the story that appears historical was the persistent rumour circulating (“this story is still told among the Jews to this day”) that Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb.

    It doesn’t sound like an account that an early Christian would make up because it is an unhelpful rumour that was embarrassing to the early church that required some explanation.

    If this does pass the criterion, then would this not indicate that Jesus was buried in a tomb? The logic being that Jesus’ disciples could not steal his body from the tomb unless someone had already placed his body there.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      No, it definitely would not pass the criterion. It blames the Jews for false rumors about the empty tomb — and Christians had no problems blaming the Jews for all sorts of things.

      • Lev
        Lev  October 22, 2017

        I think you misunderstand my question and argument.

        I’m not suggesting the ‘Jew blaming’ aspect of the story passes the criterion, but the story that there were false rumours circulating. Whether Jewish or Romans authorities were responsible for these false rumours is a moot point, the main point is that opponents of the early Church (whoever they were) were circulating this false rumour. The story that a false rumour was circulating, therefore, passes the criterion of dissimilarity because no Christian would invent a false rumour that undermined their message.

        The reason this is important and relevant is that if there really were false rumours circulating that the disciples stole the body from the tomb, then this pre-supposes or acknowledges that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb. If Jesus’ body was left to publicly rot on the cross during the Passover festival, then it would be observed by potentially millions of Jews who were attending the festival in Jerusalem. There would be no reason for the opponents of the Church to spread a false rumour that his disciples stole his body from a tomb because it would have been so widely known that his body rotted on the cross.

        It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb – it disappeared – and the opponents of the early Church invented a rumour that Jesus’ disciples stole his body. This rumour was so persistent in the 1st century that the authour of Matthew decided it needed to be dealt with in his gospel.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Ah, I think I get it now. Yes, Matthew *is* evidence that there were rumors floating around that Jesus’ body had been stolen. BUT, that’s not evidence that, 55 years earlier, Jesus had been placed in a tomb. It’s evidence (in my opinion) that Jews had come to hear Christians claim that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and they responded by saying, Well, it’s probably because the body was stolen.

          • Lev
            Lev  October 24, 2017

            Yes, but isn’t there a conflict with that scenario and the argument you’ve outlined above?

            Say you and Crossan are right – that the Romans left Jesus’ body to rot and be scavenged by wild dogs and birds over the Passover festival. Potentially millions of Jews attending the festival from across the Empire would have walked past the rotting corpse as they entered and left the city. After a few days, what little remained of him was tossed into a common shallow grave. These events would have been widely known at the time, as Cleopas protested in Lk 24:19 “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

            Suddenly, a wild claim appears in Jerusalem and Galilee: “the tomb that Jesus was buried in is now empty – he’s been resurrected from the dead and has appeared to his disciples!” Under this scenario, wouldn’t the reaction have been: “Are you kidding me? You’re telling me that the Romans permitted a Jew crucified for high treason to be given a decent burial?” or “HA! I saw that pretender rotting on his cross – the dogs had already taken his feet, the birds had taken his eyes – and this blind cripple is what appeared to you?”

            Given that it was well known the Romans did not permit decent burials for the crucified, I find it difficult to believe that the Jewish reaction would have pre-supposed or conceded a decent burial if it were untrue. The more likely scenario is that Pilate did make an exception, and as these exceptions were so rare and Jesus was such a well-known and controversial public figure, it became widely known that his body was buried in a tomb. That is why the opponents of the Church had to concede this point and found it necessary to invent the false rumour his disciples stole his body from it.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 24, 2017

            I don’t think there were millions of Jews there — it’s not possible. But say many thousands. My sense is that there were probably numerous people crucified. We tend to isolate Jesus as the one, high and lifted up for all to see. There simply were a bunch of crosses, with some corpses and some bodies writhing in pain.

          • James Cotter  October 24, 2017

            lev, can you EXPLAIN why NO christian in the book of acts is ever ACCUSED of grave robbing?

            you wrote :

            Suddenly, a wild claim appears in Jerusalem and Galilee: “the tomb that Jesus was buried in is now empty – he’s been resurrected from the dead and has appeared to his disciples!”

            my question :
            and suddenly pontius pilate goes silent and so do the sanhedrin. they don’t want to know where jesus is hiding. they don’t care about escaped convict. they NEVER accuse the christians of stealing the body in the books of acts.
            if the rumor were words being passed around , what makes you think they would allow the disciples to preach “he is risen from his tomb” ?

          • James Cotter  October 24, 2017

            you wrote :
            You’re telling me that the Romans permitted a Jew crucified for high treason to be given a decent burial?” or “HA! I saw that pretender rotting on his cross – the dogs had already taken his feet, the birds had taken his eyes – and this blind cripple is what appeared to you?”

            end quote

            you know, the same can be asked for why christianities own propaganda called the book of acts never makes use of the empty tomb as an argument. never once brings to attention that the christians were being accused of stealing the body.

            quote :
            Moreover, the polemic that the body was stolen (in the Gospel of Matthew) only arose after the Gospel of Mark told a story about the body turning up missing. Which is pretty good proof that no such story had existed before. Otherwise, that polemic would have been rampant by the time Mark wrote, requiring his rebuttal. Or someone else’s, well before Mark inherited the story (if such he did). That story could not have been told for four decades across three continents, and no one ever thought to say, “Hey, I’m not falling for that…obviously someone just stole the body!” Instead, Mark doesn’t even know anything about such an accusation. Nor about what Matthew had to invent to answer it: the Jewish elite placing guards and a seal on the tomb, and a space monster descending from the sky to paralyze them with an invisible death ray

            quote :

            Fifth, in the book of Acts, curiously, neither the Romans nor the Sanhedrin ever notice an empty tomb; nor is the existence of one ever used as an argument by any Christian missionary depicted. The latter is inexplicable enough. But to all the authorities, an empty tomb would be evidence of the capital crime of graverobbing or the escape of a convicted criminal. Yet no one ever investigates these crimes. No one ever mentions them. No one ever accuses the Christians of them. It’s as if no one even knew there was an empty tomb. Gosh. Why do you think that is? Could it be…that there was no empty tomb? Ockham’s Razor, people.

          • Lev
            Lev  October 25, 2017

            Yes, I may have erred over the number of witnesses. I was going off Josephus’ figures who claimed 3m attended the Passovers in 65 and 70 – I’ve since learned that most scholars think this is a gross exaggeration.

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be of the opinion that Jesus was virtually unknown in his day, and that his death was largely ignored by most Palestinian Jews who wouldn’t have really known or cared which of those bodies on the crosses belonged to Jesus.

            I think there is some early evidence that challenges that opinion. The letter of Mara bar Serapion (which most scholars date to c73 AD) from his prison in Iraq to his son in Turkey, pre-supposes his son knows of Jesus’ execution when he speaks of how the Jews executed ‘their wise King’.

            Mara’s description of Jesus as ‘King’ of the Jews, rather than his name or his Christian title “Christ” demonstrates he heard of Jesus through non-Christian reports. Bruce Chilton argues that this description relates to the INRI sign that Pilate fixed over the cross. If Chilton is right, then not only did that sign clearly identify Jesus’ body on the cross, but it was such a well-known sight that this was the anonym of Jesus that stuck and used in the transmission of reports of his death among the Pagan world.

            Doesn’t this demonstrate that his execution was well known, witnessed by many and most importantly, clearly identified among those that were crucified that day?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            This is widely discredited as an authentic source.

          • Lev
            Lev  October 25, 2017

            Are you certain the document is so widely discredited?

            I understand a number of leading scholars consider the author a 1st century Pagan:

            1. Sebastian Brock, former Reader in Syriac Studies at the University of Oxford Oriental Institute and currently a Professorial Fellow at Wolfson College.
            2. Fergus Millar, former Camden Professor of Ancient History, Oxford University.
            3. Craig A Evans, John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University.
            4. Ilaria Ramelli, Professor of Theology, endowed Chair and Senior Fellow in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University.
            5. Bruce Chilton, former Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament at Yale University
            6. Frederick Fyvie Bruce, former Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis

            Sources:
            1. Brock, The Cambridge Ancient history (Vol 13; Cambridge University Press, 1988), 709.
            2. Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 BC – AD 337, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 507.
            3. Evans, Jesus, Sources and Self-Understanding, in Jesus and Philosophy: New Essays (Cambridge University Press, 2008), 27-40 esp 32-33
            4. Ramelli, Hierocles the Stoic: Elements of Ethics, Fragments and Excerpts (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009) 20-21.
            5. Chilton, Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research, 1998, 455-457
            6. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins, 1974, 30

          • Bart
            Bart  October 27, 2017

            Interesting. I’ll have to check these out to see what they really say. Do you have a list on the other side? And have you looked up these references to see what they actually say? sometimes when someone cites sources, and you look them up, they don’t say what the person claims they say.

          • Lev
            Lev  October 27, 2017

            I’ve managed to find four out of the six texts:

            Sebastian Brock accepts the author is a Pagan and dates the work to the 1st or 2nd century: “The history of Syriac literary culture prior to the fourth century is extremely obscure, with only a small number of texts surviving. Among the rare pagan texts is a philosophical letter from Mara to his son Serapion, variously dated to soon after A.D. 70 to c. 260.”

            Fergus Miller accepts the letter as a genuine example of Pagan literature: “The inscriptions might tend to suggest that, if there ever had been a literature written in Palmyra, it would have been, like most Syriac literature, both pagan (the Letter of Mara Bar Serapion) and Christian, a derivative of Greek literature.”

            Evans agrees with Brock that this is a work of a Pagan living in the 1st or 2nd century: “Jesus is mentioned a few times in Greco-Roman sources… Mara bar Serapion (late first/early second century?) refers to Jesus as the wise king of the Jewish people (bar Serapion’s letter to his son).”

            Ramelli opts for a first century date of the letter and cites three others who support her dating: “… or a Syriac Stoic such as Mara Bar Serapion, who lived toward the end of the first century… In agreement with me on the dating of the letter of Mara Bar Serapion and the strong presence of Stoic elements in it are, most recently, Ephrem-Isa Yousif, La floraison des philosophes syriaques (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003), 27-28; and David Rensberger, “Reconsidering the Letter of Mara Bar Serapion,” in Aramaic Studies in Judaism and Early Christianity; Annette Merz and Teun L. Tieleman, “The Letter of Mara Bar Sarapion: Some Comments on It’s Philosophical and Historical Context,” in Empsychoi Logoi – Religious Innovations in Antiquity: Studies in Honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst, 2008.”

            I can’t find online text for Bruce Chilton / Craig Evans book, but the Wikipedia entry summarised some of his claim as follows: “Bruce Chilton states that Bar-Serapion reference to the “king of Jews” may be related to the INRI inscription on the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion, as in the Gospel of Mark (15:26 paragraph 1).”

            Alas, I can’t find F.F. Bruce either.

            The only dissenting scholar I can find is Robert Van Voorst who accepts it is a genuine Pagan work, but assigns a date to the second century (Jesus Outside the New Testament, 2000).

          • JoshuaJ  November 10, 2017

            The real problem with the Jewish polemic in Matthew 28:11-15 is that we have no idea when and where it originated, nor do we know how widespread it had actually become by the time it first appears in Matthew. Christian NT scholar, Frederick Dale Bruner, Ph.D., writes: “A message saying that Jesus had been stolen from the grave by conniving disciples was circulated in and around Matthew’s Antioch in the 80s of the first century…” And this is about all we can honestly say about the matter with any degree of certainty. Everything else is purely conjecture. For all we know, the polemic could have originated in Antioch (about 500 miles away from Jerusalem) by Jews who were not close enough to the actual events, in time (decades after the fact) or geography, to really know anything at all about the “burial”, but were simply offering a hypothetical explanation for why the tomb (if it existed) could have been empty (if it was in fact found empty). Further, for all we know the polemic may not be earlier than 70 AD when the first known story of Jesus’ burial in a tomb was written down by Mark. At that late date, there’s no telling what would have become of the alleged tomb (if it did exist, it was not venerated); therefore, there would have been no alternative for Jewish polemicists than to concede the possibility of a tomb burial, but then go on to point out that, in any event, the emptiness of the alleged tomb, even if it could be demonstrated, would not prove anything more than that the body had been stolen or deliberately removed by the followers of Jesus themselves. In other words, it could have been nothing more than a hypothetical tit-for-tat counter to whatever Christians in Matthew’s community were claiming at the time (again, decades after the fact), as opposed to an outright Jewish concession, sometime in the early 30s, of the empty tomb.

            A good reason for thinking Matthew’s empty tomb polemic is a much later development is the fact that it is inseparably woven into the “guard at the tomb” narrative, which is almost universally regarded as a Matthean invention that isn’t really historical. Scholars reject the historicity of the “guard at the tomb” for two reasons: (1) it’s only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn’t know about it, and there wouldn’t be any mention of it (also, notice how the women’s question in Mark “who will roll away the stone” and the bringing of spices to anoint the body drops out in Matthew–these details become senseless in Matthew’s embellished “guard” story, so he removes them!), and (2) nobody seemed to understand Jesus’ resurrection predictions. The disciples, who heard these predictions most often, had absolutely no clue what Jesus was talking about (Luke 24:9-11, John 20:2, 9), and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard these predictions, and understood them so well that they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again, that doesn’t seem to make sense. So, most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as nothing more than apologetic legend intended to discredit the stolen body hypothesis.

            Now, it is true that the Jews in Matthew’s polemic never denied the empty tomb, but instead tried to explain why it could have been empty. But also notice that they never denied the guard at the tomb, the historicity of which no legitimate scholar today would even think of defending. So the fact that the Jews in Matthew’s tale seem to go along with the “guard” story actually points not to an early developing polemic in Jerusalem, but rather to a much later developing argument made by out-of-territory Jews who did not even know that there was no guard at the tomb at all. And if they didn’t even know that there was no guard at the tomb, then they also would not have had firsthand knowledge as to whether or not the tomb was actually empty or that there was a tomb at all. Again, the Jews involved in Matthew’s polemic were not close enough to the actual events, in time or geography, to know whether or not the Christian claims of the “guard” and the “empty tomb” were actually true. They were simply going with the flow of whatever the Christians in Matthew’s community were claiming at the time (again, generations after the fact).

        • HawksJ  October 23, 2017

          “ If Jesus’ body was left to publicly rot on the cross during the Passover festival, then it would be observed by potentially millions of Jews who were attending the festival in Jerusalem. ‘’

          “Millions of Jews”? How many people do you suppose visited Jerusalem in those days? The population of the city was probably less than 100,000 at the time.

          • Lev
            Lev  October 24, 2017

            Yes, I may have erred here. I was going off the figures of Josephus who claimed that in 65 and 70, 3 million souls attended the Passover, but I’ve since read that most modern scholars think this was a gross exaggeration.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            If S. Schwartz is right that there were 500,000 Jews in all of Palestine, it seems implausible that even 10% would be able to take a week and more off to come to Jerusalem for the festival; and far far fewer from outside Palestine. Most people were poor and had to work every day just to eat!

          • Lev
            Lev  October 25, 2017

            Yes, I keep hearing about the high poverty rates in 1st century Palestine, but I also hear that in some parts, especially those near trading routes such as seaports, Roman towns or on the silk road in Galilee, the economy was pretty good.

            I seem to remember Josephus stating the economy was booming at one point. Could you recommend a decent study on the 1st century Palestinian economy?

            I’m not sure the numbers attending Passover were as low as you claim. I think E P Sanders says that Passover was like Christmas and Easter rolled into one for the Jewish people, and that they moved heaven and earth to attend the festival – making a significant effort throughout the year to save up enough funds.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 27, 2017

            Off hand, I don’t know where to send you. I do think the numbers swelled significantly at Passover — absolutely. But I don’t think there’s any way we’re talking about millions of people.

    • James Cotter  October 22, 2017

      “It doesn’t sound like an account that an early Christian would make up because it is an unhelpful rumour that was embarrassing to the early church that required some explanation.”

      when was the rumor started? why didn’t anyone else outside of matthew know about this rumor? what were the other jewish sects saying ? would matthew have quoted the jewish response that the matthew spread a lie that the jews paid off the romans ? why isn’t it helpful rumor?

      “why aren’t the jews believing ?”

      “because they were convinced by false rumors that the body was stolen”

  7. fishician  October 20, 2017

    Even if bodies were sometimes taken down, wouldn’t the invention of a previously uknown Joseph from an unknown place (Arimathea) cast doubt on the story? I mean, why not tell it as it was rather than embellish the story?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      Yeah, possibly. The problem is that the vast majority of people at the time are completely unknown, so you probably wouldn’t *expect* him to be a known figure.

  8. ardeare  October 20, 2017

    Welp, here you go. I’ll use matthew 21:46 “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” This passage tells us that the Pharisees feared the crowds which makes it highly plausible they would have been in even more fear after the crucifixion. Surely, this vital information would have been passed on to the Romans before the arrest. You quote Josephus to which I ask, “Which is easier, to lower a live man from a cross and show weakness or lower a dead man from the cross and show strength?” The Romans could have been motivated by fear into an act which displayed strength. After all, you can identify a tomb, grave, or ossuary but you cannot identify a skeleton. I think they may have recognized the obvious advantages of giving Jesus a burial site. He was no ordinary peasant Jew.

    It’s important to remember that dead men don’t pay taxes and at a time when Rome needed a woman to become pregnant 5 times during her lifetime, just to keep the Roman population stable, an uprising was the last thing they would have wanted. Generally, I limit my comments to two paragraphs or less………….have you been the least bit persuaded?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      I’m afraid not. Jesus was almost certainly a virtually unknown figure who was not feared by Jewish leaders or Romans. He really was an ordinary peasant Jew. But he was one who was preaching on the streets, and his preaching was causing a bit of a disturbance and so they had him arrested and taken out of the way.

      • ardeare  October 22, 2017

        I’m not suggesting that they feared Jesus, but they may have feared the crowds of followers. Every translation of Matthew 21:46 seems to agree with one another. I suppose much of it depends on whether one believes that Jesus had 12 apostles and a half dozen followers or several hundred or even a thousand followers.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          A thousand — I’d say no way. My guess is that he had a couple of dozen, but his preaching was starting to attract crowds, and that was the problem

      • ftbond  March 8, 2018

        Dr Ehrman –

        re: “I’m afraid not. Jesus was almost certainly a virtually unknown figure who was not feared by Jewish leaders or Romans. He really was an ordinary peasant Jew. But he was one who was preaching on the streets, and his preaching was causing a bit of a disturbance and so they had him arrested and taken out of the way.”

        First, I’d have to question who “they” are that “had him arrested” – especially for something like *preaching*.

        He’s arrested for preaching? But, elsewhere, you insist he was crucified as one who committed a crime against the state of Rome, and therefore, as an “insurrectionist” of some type, simply would not have been allowed to have been taken off the cross.

        But, he was a “nobody” who was feared neither by the Romans nor by the Jews. I fail to see how a person like that, arrested for preaching, rise to the level of having committed a crime against the state of Rome.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 9, 2018

          You can see how I play it all out and explain it in my book on the historical Jesus, if you’re really interested.

        • Telling
          Telling  March 9, 2018

          Historians generally say he was arrested for turning over the money-changer tables in the temple courtyard. It’s actually a ridiculous act, something which no elevated Master would do,. As a child I remember the Hollywood movies, the horrible money-changers doing their dirty business inside the temple itself, “this is my fathers house but you have made it a robbers den” (or something like that). But it turns out that the money-changer tables would have been in the gentile area marketplace of the courtyard, certainly not inside the temple. the Jews themselves surely wouldn’t have tolerated any such thing. And more, the money-changers were performing a necessary temple service, exchanging Roman money for local Jewish money, because Roman money was prohibited in the temple area (because it had a “graven” image of Caesar), and people coming from afar for the Passover were instructed (in Duteronomey I believe) to sell an animal at home and use the money to buy a sacrificial animal in Jerusalem, for Passover meal use.

          It is interesting that Jews would surely know the legitimacy of the money-changers (perhaps Ehrman can provide us some info regarding this), so it would appear to me that the gospels were not at all written for Jews, but rather for gentiles, who either had little knowledge of, or no respect for, Jewish custom.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  October 22, 2017

      “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

      And how, exactly, would the followers of Jesus know how the Pharisees thought? Did they interview them after the fact?
      Christian: “So, Mr. Pharisee, why didn’t you guys just have Jesus arrested out in the open?”
      Pharisee: “Oh, that was because we were afraid of the crowds.”
      Christian: “Okay, thanks a bunch.”

      Nah, passages like this are a tell-tale sign that Christians were turning speculations of what they thought might have happened into factual explanations of what had happened, turning what they presumed someone was thinking into a belief that that is what someone was actually thinking. This is a process that happens so often, in fact, that we can see it happening in real time in day-to-day life. Take, for instance, the example of multiple witnesses to a fatal car crash. One witness might ask, “What was that driver thinking?” And a second witness might speculate, “He must have thought he could make the light.” Another witness, only catching a bit of the ensuing conversation asks another witness, “What are they talking about?” And the fourth witness answers, “They’re saying the driver thought he could make the light.” Then the police arrive and ask the witnesses, “Anyone see what happened here?” And they answer, “The driver thought he could make the light.” Did this random stranger who is now dead and no one can interrogate *actually* think he could make the light? Who knows? But now it’s official. He thought he could make the light. This is a product of what social scientists call groupthink.

      • ardeare  October 23, 2017

        A couple of quick points before I move on to the next topic. First, assumption is a necessary part of communication. If one says, “I’m going to work”, we don’t expect them to go to bed. Next, the court-case scenario sounds convincing to everyone but lawyers.

    • James Cotter  October 22, 2017

      ” I’ll use matthew 21:46 “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” This passage tells us that the Pharisees feared the crowds which makes it highly plausible they would have been in even more fear after the crucifixion.”

      how do you address the following :

      Brown then acts like a fundamentalist (the thing he accuses me of) by saying the Jewish authorities “could have seized [Jesus] in public at any time they wanted, [only] if they wanted to risk a deadly skirmish,” a claim that presumes a literal reading of the Gospels in which Jesus is so famous and beloved that “the public” would have battled any soldiers sent to seize him. That is simply not a plausible assumption (were Jesus that famous and that supported by the masses, we would surely have much more evidence of him, as then the literary elite of the era and region could hardly not have noticed him).

      Indeed, if we are to suppose a riot would have ensued at that action, it would have ensued the moment he was crucified…yet somehow, suddenly, the Jewish authorities stop being concerned about deadly skirmishes, when they do something enormously worse than merely arrest him, but actually murder him in a public and humiliating manner, and most offensively, on (or on the dawn of) a high holy day. So we’re supposed to believe riots would ensue at his mere arrest that didn’t ensue at his outrageous public murder? If we’re going to play the game of “read the Gospels literally,” the story just ends up making less sense, not more.

      Jesus was marched in public from the city court (which was packed with crowds noisily crying out to Pilate to crucify Jesus), through the city streets, right into a mass crucifixion within view of the city…where random pilgrims could be pressed into service (Mk. 15:21) and lots of folk were about to mock Jesus (Mk. 15:29-32), but somehow not a single supporter managed to notice or hear about any of this or tell anyone about it, despite it all going on for over six hours. Maybe Fisher will go fundamentalist herself here and claim the Gospel of John contains the only true account of the crucifixion and that it therefore occurred in a private garden away from the prying eyes of all but an inexplicably selected few, who must have been busy dodging the shadows cast by the tombs John says were there, lest they be ritually defiled. But I can only speculate.

      • ardeare  October 23, 2017

        A quick comment before I move on to the next topic. First, your assumption that if Jesus were famous…. we would see more written info about him. In fact. the literary elite did not write about Pontius PIlate nor Caiaphas either. In the first half of the first century of Palestine, Jews just didn’t write…………..or at least we can’t find the writings. Secondly, it’s hardly an argument to say that if a group decides to fight on occasion but not another, they must have never agreed to fight at any time.

        • James Cotter  October 24, 2017

          “Secondly, it’s hardly an argument to say that if a group decides to fight on occasion but not another, they must have never agreed to fight at any time.”

          some how there conviction to riot just disappeared? why ? what changed? and if they were afraid of the crowds in the begining, why didn’t they take him out before or after passover ? they couldnt follow him? they manage to attempt to stone him and throw him off a cliff

          luke 4:29
          They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.

          but they were too dumb to get their spies to follow him and then take him out outside of public eye ?

        • James Cotter  October 24, 2017

          you wrote :
          This passage tells us that the Pharisees feared the crowds which makes it highly plausible they would have been in even more fear after the crucifixion.

          then you wrote :

          Secondly, it’s hardly an argument to say that if a group decides to fight on occasion but not another, they must have never agreed to fight at any time.

          this is a joke or something? they feared AFTER the crucifixion from whom? why not DURING the crucifixion? why after 6 hours of HUMILIATING jesus and making him CARRY his cross, why no worry that they could get done over by the pro-jesus crowd?
          you are telling me that after pilate declared jesus INNOCENT , the jews did not fear any repercussion even BEFORE crucifixion?

  9. Jon1  October 20, 2017

    Bart,

    If you are “completely open to being persuaded” that Jesus was buried on the same day he died (i.e., on Friday, the eve of Passover), I will take you up on the offer. However, there are two quick things that, if you can’t agree on, then there is probably no point in conversing about the topic.

    1] A burial by JoA in a rock-hewn tomb on Friday is NOT the only alternative to your hypothesis that Jesus was left on the cross for many days before being buried. According to archaeologist Jodi Magness, if the JoA story is a fiction (which I agree it is), then “Jesus likely would have been disposed of in the manner of the poorer classes: in an individual trench grave dug into the ground” (BAR, Jan/Feb 2006, pg. 48). Are you willing to compare your hypothesis to a ground burial on Friday by a disinterested Jewish burial crew?

    2] You once said of Digesta 48.24.1 (cited at the bottom of this post), “The passage is absolutely explicit: the release of bodies to be buried DOES NOT APPLY to those who have been convicted of high treason” (https://ehrmanblog.org/did-roman-laws-require-decent-burials/). Will you acknowledge that you were mistaken and that this passage is not “absolutely explicit” in saying what you say it says? Specifically, when the Digesta passage speaks of returning the body to the relatives and says, “SOMETIMES it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason”, it may not mean that those crucified for high treason were NEVER allowed burial (as you take it to mean); it may just mean that it was rare. And the bit about bodies being burned may not refer to the HIGHEST LEVEL OF PUNISHMENT where bodies can be claimed by relatives (as you interpret it at the link above), it may just mean that burned bodies were allowed burial “even” though there was very little of the body left (just “bones and ashes”).

    Digesta 48.24.1: “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and the Divine Augustus, in the Tenth Book of his Life said that this rule had been observed. At present the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason. Even the bodies of those who have been sentenced to be burned can be claimed, in order that their bones and ashes, after having been collected, may be buried.”

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      Yes, I think Jesus was buried in a common grave. No I don’t know of any exceptions to criminals convicted of high treason being given a decent burial.

      • Jon1  October 22, 2017

        Bart,

        Please explain why Digesta 48.24.1 is “absolutely explicit” in saying what you say it says and not what I say it says (my second point above).

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          We’ve gone over this ground several times. I wish I had time to interact with you further — I really do. But I’m not going to convince you, even though I’ve explained how I read the passage and noted that there are no known examples of the exceptions you’re supposing.

          • Jon1  October 24, 2017

            Bart,

            It’s really not a time issue. You’re clearly using the absence of examples of high treason crucifixion victims being buried on the same day they were crucified in order to conclude what Digesta 48.24.1 must be saying. All I have ever asked you to do is be honest about what Digesta 48.24.1, *by itself*, is saying. Digesta 48.24.1 can be read TWO ways, and frankly I am astonished that you cannot acknowledge this. You actually seem to be purposely dodging the question. Very disappointing (sorry).

          • Bart
            Bart  October 24, 2017

            I agree it can be read in two ways. But I think one of those two ways makes best sense of what it is saying.

          • Jon1  October 24, 2017

            Bart,

            Finally!, thank you for acknowledging that Digesta 48.24.1, *by itself*, can be read two ways. In the interest of honest public discourse (which is sadly lacking nearly everywhere these days), I think you should make a post on your blog acknowledging that you made a mistake when you said this passage was “absolutely explicit” in favor of only one (your) interpretation (https://ehrmanblog.org/did-roman-laws-require-decent-burials/). I am not alone in calling you out on this; another member of your blog said on the same thread, “You seem to offer an exaggerate interpretation of the Digesta…”.

            As to your point that there are no known examples of high treason crucifixion victims being buried on the same day they were crucified, why should we expect to see any such examples in the historical record if they were rare? You are asking way more than is reasonable from the historical record. All we have are a handful of passages that generally indicate that the Romans *sometimes* allowed crucified victims to be buried, but for what offenses we do not know. However, in all of these cases we can bet that there was something in it for the Romans. IMHO, this is what tilts the argument in favor of Jesus’ burial on the same day he was crucified (not in a rock-hewn tomb by JoA, but in the ground by a disinterested Jewish burial crew, per Jodi Magness). Jesus was crucified on a holiday that celebrates Israel’s liberation from foreign domination with hundreds of thousands of Jews in the city, and many Jews would have been seriously offended by a corpse left up after sunset, so it makes sense that Pilate would have allowed an exception in the case of Jesus to avoid a possible riot among some of the Jews, which would make Pilate look bad in front of the Emperor. It is exactly what an evil and calculating governor would do. I think it is also significant that if Mark could so easily tell a story of Pilate allowing Jesus to be removed from the cross for burial right after his death (Mark 15:42-45), then it suggests that Jesus’ removal from the cross during a major Jewish festival was a plausible event in the eyes of people who lived in the first century.

            One other point to make. If Jesus was buried on the same day he was crucified, this makes sense of the word “buried” in the earliest creed (1 Cor 15:4) no matter when the first post-mortem bereavement hallucination of Jesus occurred, and it also allows for the possibility that the first vision was on the third day after Jesus’ death, thereby causing the belief that Jesus was raised “on the third day” (1 Cor 15:4). However, if Jesus was left on the cross for X number of days before being buried, then the first post-mortem bereavement hallucination of Jesus *had* to come long enough after Jesus death that Jesus’ followers were *convinced* that Jesus had been buried by then (otherwise they could have just assumed that Jesus was raised right off the cross and never buried at all). I would think that many post-mortem bereavement hallucinations of lost loved ones occur very soon after death. These are all eliminated in your current hypothesis, but they are all included if Jesus was buried on the same day he was crucified and would seem to make your hallucination hypothesis more plausible.

            Do you still think Jesus was left on the cross for days before being buried and, if so, on what evidence do you base that?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            Have you read my discussion of the DIgesta? One huge problem, of course, is the date and its relevance for 30 CE. The other is that when it says that family members might be given bodies it points out that this was especially with the exception of enemies of state. And yet another is that in the Gospels it is not a family member who gets the body. All three are very serious issues, I think.,

          • Celsus  October 24, 2017

            I think the Digesta only applied to Roman citizens in Rome. Therefore, it’s irrelevant to how crucified Jewish peasants were treated in Jerusalem. Their fate would have been left up to the local magistrate i.e. Pilate.

          • Jon1  October 25, 2017

            Bart,

            The “huge” problem with the date and relevance of Digesta you refer to applies to *your* position, not mine. You are the one claiming that Digesta 48.24.1 is good evidence (“absolutely explicit”) for Jesus not being removed from the cross on the day he died. My claim is that the Digesta can be read two ways (and you agree!), and so is not useful *at all* in determining whether or not an exception would be made for a high treason crucifixion victim *on a major Jewish holiday* (i.e., a rare event!) where it would have been beneficial for Pilate to let Jesus off the cross to avoid a mass riot.

            Your other “huge” problem with the Digesta that the body went to the family and not to the Jewish authorities is easily answered with Jewish War 4.317, where no families are mentioned at all and the body very well could have been disposed of by the Jewish authorities: “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.”

            Again, I think you are going at this in the wrong way. You are trying to decide what most plausibly happened to Jesus based on a few passages about crucifixion that tell us nothing about whether or not exceptions was sometimes made for high treason crucifixion victims when the governor was concerned about a mass riot. Also, your position that Pilate had a “complete disregard for Jewish piety” is incorrect. A good example is when Pilate backed down in the blasphemous images incident (Antiquities 18.3.1) to avoid an irrational mass riot by the Jews who remained if Pilate slaughtered their Jewish leaders, which would have shown to Pilate’s bosses in Rome that he was incapable of keeping the peace. Again, a perfectly rational choice for an evil but smart leader.

            A better approach than yours IMHO would be to look at the problem from a higher perch: 1] it would have been beneficial to Pilate to let Jesus off the cross to avoid a mass riot, 2] that Mark 15:42-45 could so easily tell a story of Pilate allowing a high treason crucifixion victim off the cross on a major Jewish holiday suggests that such an event was considered by Mark’s first-century audience a plausible event, 3] Jesus being removed from the cross on the day he died fits better with your own hallucination hypothesis and the word “buried” in the earliest creed (as I outlined earlier).

            Do you still think Jesus was left on the cross for days before being buried and, if so, on what evidence do you base that?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 27, 2017

            Yes, I think so. Pilate had no reason to expect a mass riot for Jesus’ death than for the death of any of the other insurrectionists he was crucifying at the time.

            This would be a good time for us to bring this particular discussion to an end.

  10. Tony  October 20, 2017

    The whole gospel execution (crucifiction?) and resurrection story falls apart like a badly written mystery novel. Grave robbery was a capital crime and the report of an empty tomb would have activated Jewish and Roman search parties alike. As the last person in possession, Joseph would have been the prime suspect and hauled in for questioning. In the opening verses of Acts the convicted, and presumably fugitive criminal Jesus chats for forty days with his buddies in Jerusalem – without any indication that either Pilate or the Sanhedrin gets wind of this!

    Mark, and subsequently Christianity, needed a resurrection as proof of a risen Jesus. Mark wrote his story based on Paul’s resurrected celestial Jesus. But Paul’s resurrection scenario is completely different. Paul thought that, at death and resurrection, the old perishable body is discarded and a new spiritual imperishable body goes straight to heaven, 1Cor 15:35-50 and 2Cor 5:1-4. Putting that scenario into Mark’s story leaves the perishable body of Jesus on the cross with a resurrected Jesus already in heaven, but with no physical resurrection evidence.

    So Mark invented Joseph of Arimathea, his request to Pilate, and the empty tomb scene. Invented may not be the right term. According to Dennis MacDonald, Mark uses Homer – Priam wanting the body of Hector – as a source. Also, like elsewhere in Mark and later copiers, the Septuagint was used. I suspect the Book of Daniel played a role, but here is Genesis 50:4-6:

    “When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, “If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: My father made me swear an oath; he said, ‘I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return. Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.” “

  11. NancyGKnapp  October 21, 2017

    How is the Joseph of Arimathea story explained?

  12. DavidBeaman  October 21, 2017

    Personally, I believe your colleague at UNC Charlotte, James D. Tabor, who has put forth a narrative in his book, THE JESUS DYNASTY, which speculates that Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and influential member of the Sanhedrin was able to persuade Pilate to release the body of Jesus to him for burial. This might have been another exception as was the one told by Philo. Just because there is no mention of other official exceptions, apart from those for the Emperor’s birthday, doesn’t mean that there might have been other exceptions that a Roman governor could make as a situation might have justified. Additionally, just because, in the case described by Philo, only relatives were given the privilege, doesn’t mean that if the situation seemed to demand it, the privilege might be given to a person of wealth and influence who wasn’t a relative, but who requested it.

    Pilate, though ruthless, might have agreed to that if he thought that leaving the body on the cross might provoke a large uprising among the Jews, so many of whom were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. If that happened, it would have been something that would not be pleasing to the Roman Emperor.

    I fully understand the lack of evidence for this speculation. However, I think it is as valid as any scholarly speculation by you or other scholars about matters for which there is no solid evidence. You, as a professional and honorable scholar, recognize that with regard to the historical Jesus there are many instances where we do not have solid evidence and to which intelligent speculation is applied. That speculation sometimes varies in content between equally qualified scholars as it does in this case between you and Professor Tabor.

    • James Cotter  October 22, 2017

      “if he thought that leaving the body on the cross might provoke a large uprising among the Jews, so many of whom were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. ”

      what is the evidence for large uprising? why no large uprising occurred during the crucifixion? how many jewish convicts killed by pilate caused large uprising ?

  13. RonaldTaska  October 21, 2017

    The evidence that Jesus received a decent burial is very limited and, unfortunately, a lot of evidence about a lot of Christian theology is also not as much as we would like for it to be. I always like that you keep an open mind, but that evidence is required to change it.

    • godspell  October 22, 2017

      Everybody, theist and atheist, says that, when what they really mean, much of the time is, “I’d rather not believe this, so unless you have a link to a YouTube video…..”) 😉

      There’s very strong evidence Jesus was crucified (and if he wasn’t, the tomb, empty or otherwise, is kind of beside the point). And yet many would say, as you do, that the evidence doesn’t convince them. And that if you can’t absolutely prove it, you have to believe the opposite.

      You don’t have to believe anything. You can say “We don’t know.” We really don’t. And it’s not either/or–EITHER Jesus had a very nice respectable burial, OR he was thrown in a ditch. Maybe it was something in-between. Maybe there was an attempt to find his remains, and they weren’t where they were expected to be (which could easily happen), and his followers were in a very altered state of mind because of what they’d witnessed, and a legend begins to take hold. We know this happens. It still happens today. Seen Elvis in the supermarket lately? We know exactly where his tomb is.

      Do I believe any of the stories we have occurred exactly as told to us? No. And given that the stories differ quite a bit, it’s impossible for all of them to be true. And yet the things history makes pretty clear did happen are as unbelievable as any of the things we can’t prove. A man was executed as a criminal by the Romans around two millennia ago. And now he is revered by around four billion people (I’m including Muslims), and our civilization is, to a great extent, based on his teachings (or at least aspires to be). Fact.

      If you could prove for a fact Jesus was eaten by dogs–what do you think would happen? People would stop believing? I know for a fact that if the tomb was found, incription and all (with or without a body) many would continue to believe Jesus never existed at all. Because beliefs, theist or atheist, are inherently irrational. There is what we know, and there is what we want to believe, and they are always in conflict.

      Judge not lest ye be judged. We’re all pretty darned crazy.

  14. DavidNeale  October 21, 2017

    Out of interest, what are our sources for what Pilate was like as a ruler? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that outside the canonical Gospels, we only have (a) Philo and Josephus and (b) later legendary accounts such as the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of Pilate, which as I understand it are very much non-historical. I know that the Pilate stone verifies his existence but doesn’t tell us anything else about him. So aside from the (not wholly reliable) accounts in the Gospels, I’m guessing Philo and Josephus are the main sources – but I’m no expert. Are there any Roman sources that say anything about him?

    On a different note, I’m a little wary of the reasoning that because Pilate was a brutal ruler who didn’t show much sign of caring about Jewish religious sensitivities in general, he wouldn’t have shown clemency in Jesus’ case. Dictators are often arbitrary and capricious, and show apparent mercy in one case and none in another, without explanation. This makes me think of my own work with political asylum-seekers – for instance, I’ve seen the immigration authorities argue (wrongly) that an asylum-seeker can’t be telling the truth because it wasn’t plausible that the Iranian authorities would have released a political prisoner to allow them to obtain medical treatment. When in fact there is ample evidence of cases in which the Iranian authorities have done exactly that; whereas there are other cases in which sick and dying prisoners have continued to be detained, without any obvious rhyme or reason.

    (I’m not disagreeing with you – indeed I don’t think I’m really competent to have a concluded view on this issue.)

    • DavidNeale  October 21, 2017

      (Clemency in the sense of allowing him to be buried properly, that is. I’m entirely agnostic as to whether Jesus did in fact have a proper burial.)

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      No, that’s pretty much it. But Josephus and Philo paint a similar picture. (We do have one inscription and some coins, but they don’t help much).
      The main reason people think Pilate may have treated Jesus differently was because he was, after all, the son of God.

      • DavidNeale  October 23, 2017

        Oh, I understand that. Sorry my post was not very clearly drafted (it’s been a tiring week, and I am very inexpert in this field). My point was that I don’t find it inherently implausible that Pilate, even if he was as ruthless and callous a ruler as Josephus records, could have allowed Jesus to receive a decent burial for capricious reasons of his own. From my experience working with asylum-seekers from several countries, authoritarian regimes today are almost always arbitrary and capricious, and what happens to a (perceived or actual) political dissident is often, in part, a matter of luck – one person might be detained for years and severely tortured while another might be released with a warning. I don’t see why the same couldn’t have been true of Roman rule in Palestine. Of course, I understand that we don’t have enough data to be sure. And I’m certainly not arguing that Jesus *was* given a proper burial – the highest I’d put it is that it seems possible.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Do you think he made an exception for the other two men crucified that morning? And the ones crucified the next day? And the ones… etc? If so, it doesn’t look like he kept the otherwise attested Roman policy!

  15. James Cotter  October 21, 2017

    john 7:

    1After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not wanta to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

    6Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8You go to the festival. I am notb going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

    10However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

    At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

    45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

    Dr Ehrman

    why does john tell his readers “his hour has not yet come” ? what is this apologetic for ? here you have a gospel admit that Jews had no issues when trying to kill Jesus. it seems like it was an EASY job.

    all of the excuses john is putting in jesus’ mouth seem to be apologetic excuses.

    note also that John even has the temple guards easily able to go after jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      • James Cotter  October 22, 2017

        “At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”

        could it be possible that historical jesus thought that God would always save him from dying by the hands of his enemies ? when christians found out that jesus was killed, they had to make stuff up like “his hour had not yet come” ?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Yes, I suppose so, though it’s hard to know what was going on in Jesus’ mind.

  16. Silver  October 21, 2017

    I have recently been working through your thread on the subject of the burial posted in July 2014 and find your arguments persuasive. However, with regard to your point about Yehohanan in today’s post you note that these are the only remains of a crucified victim to have been found.
    However, was this not a very special case in that because the nail hit a knot it could not be withdrawn?
    Could it not be the case that other such victims were buried but we just cannot identify them as having been crucified because this freak circumstance did not pertain?
    Are skeletal remains routinely checked for crucifixion wounds?
    Would such wounds be evident if the criminal had only been tied to the cross as, I understand, was sometimes the custom?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      I think all crucified victims were buried. Almost all of them, probably, in common graves.

      • Silver  October 22, 2017

        When you say crucifixion victims were probably buried in a common grave, do you mean by that a mass grave? If that is the case have mass graves been found where it has been suspected that the majority of people therein had been crucified? Is there any other reason for mass graves e.g. for poor people?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Yes, a mass grave. I don’t think we know much about them, and off hand I don’t know if any have been found — but yes, they would be for people who didn’t have family to bury them or who were allowed to bury them.

  17. talmoore
    talmoore  October 21, 2017

    This is something I have thought about for some time now, and I have arrived at two reasons why the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem would want Jesus’ remains taken down, and these are the reasons they would have given to Pilate.

    1) The Jewish authorities would note to Pilate that, though he personally doesn’t care about violating Deut. 21:22-23, there were possibly millions of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem right then who would, indeed, care very much about violating Deut. 21:22-23. And that Pilate would be risking tumult and even rioting should he fail to heed their warning. Remember how the Jews reacted when a Roman soldier merely exposed himself before the Temple. According to Josephus, “the Jews were in a very great consternation; and being beaten out of the temple, they ran into the city; and the violence with which they crowded to get out was so great, that they trod upon each other, and squeezed one another, till ten thousand of them were killed.” (BI: II,12 ) I can imagine Pilate being persuaded to avoid such a thing.

    2) One of the reasons that bodies were always entombed around Jerusalem was that the Jews believed even the smallest particle of human remains could defile the entire Temple and priesthood. The Sadducees were especially vigilant towards such matters. And the ruling powers and priests in Jerusalem were probably overwhelmingly Sadducees. So it’s not terribly unrealistic, in my eyes, that the Jewish authorities would beseech Pilate to remove the dead off their crosses and to despose of them in such a way that no remains can make their way into the city (e.g. by a dog carrying a human femur inside the walls), possibly defiling the Temple, the Levites and the priests. And, again, the same argument from point #1 applies. Should human remains have found their way into the Temple, thus defiling it, and word got out to the Jews that it was a direct result of Pilate allowing dead bodies to remain hanging on his crosses, could you just imagine the tumult. Again, I can easily imagine the Jewish authorities painting a vivid enough image to persuade Pilate. It’s not that unrealistic.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      I’m sure the religious Jews would have wanted *every* crucified person to be given an exception! But I don’t know of exceptions being made.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 22, 2017

        Alas, there’s not enough evidence of how the Romans treated the remains of those crucified within sight of Jerusalem. The only historical account that I’m aware of is when Titus crucified captured Jewish rebels outside the walls of Jerusalem during the siege of 70. In that case, one doesn’t get the impression that Titus was all that concerned about violating Jewish sensibilities, but, since the Jews were already in revolt, I can’t imagine it would have made a difference at that point. The way I look at it is if it’s reasonable then it’s at least plausible. And if it’s at least plausible, then it’s at least possible. And if it’s at least possible, then it cannot be so easily dismissed.

        If I put myself into Pilate’s shoes, I would probably be thinking about it this way. I want law and order during this volatile event. How do get the message across to millions of people — most of which are probably illiterate — that I mean business? Well, I can arrest a few troublemakers right at the start and put them up on crosses within view of all who enter Jerusalem through the biggest gates (Jaffa and Dasmascus). That’ll send the message: don’t f**k with Pilate. But there comes a point where that message has been conveyed and you’re drifting away from warning to inciting. After a few days into the festival, just about everyone there has seen the crosses and gotten the message loud and clear. But if you leave the remains on the crosses — violating the Jews’ sacred laws and risking the pollution of the Temple itself — then you’re starting to rub it in. Those same Jews will see your callous attitude as no longer a reminder to keep the order, but, instead, as an insult, which risks inciting exactly that which you’re looking to prevent. Pilate may have been cruel, but I can’t imagine he was that stupid. I mean, he *may* have been that stupid, but there’s no reason to think he must have been that stupid.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          I guess you’d have to say then that Jesus was not an exception, but that the two guys crucified with him were also buried that day, and the next day the two or three who were crucified, and the ones crucified after that and… In the end I think it’s implausible given what we know aobut Roman practices (and the reasons behind them)

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 23, 2017

            I guess that’s where we differ. I don’t see it as implausible at all. To my eyes, there’s a reason that Pilate chose to crucify Jesus and the others at the start of Passover, and not, say, a week before, or a week after. He chose that particular time on purpose. The day after the Passover meal is when Jerusalem was at its maximum capacity — possibly over 2 million people. Throw a few fresh criminals on crosses before a crowd of over 2 million people, and — as any marketing executive will tell you — you have achieved your maximum audience at minimum cost. As sad as it may be to say, I wouldn’t be surprised of Pilate didn’t give two licks as to what Jesus actually did as long as he had a fresh body to hang on a cross for a couple of days in order to send the biggest possible message to the biggest possible audience. If I put myself into Pilate’s shoes, that’s all I’m concerned about. Jesus who? Who cares? He’s a warm body I can get on a cross for a couple of days. If the Jews want him taken down after that, that’s fine. He served his purpose in the meantime.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 24, 2017

            Where do you get the figure of 2 million? By the most liberal counts that I know of, there were only about 4 million Jews in the entire Roman empire.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 24, 2017

            “Where do you get the figure of 2 million?”
            I’m allowing for the possibility that Josephus’ claim of over 2 million pilgrims during the Passover is correct (BI: VI, 9), hence why I wrote “possibly millions” in my original comment. I do think it must be an exaggeration on the part of Josephus, but even if he’s quadrupling the actual size that’s still over half a million people. No small audience.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            If S. Schwartz is right that there were 500,000 Jews in all of Palestine, it seems implausible that even 10% would be able to take a week and more off to come to Jerusalem for the festival; and far far fewer from outside Palestine. Most people were poor and had to work every day just to eat!

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 25, 2017

            Yeah, I don’t agree with Schwartz’s figure. If we were to add up the total population of all the major urban areas of ancient Palestine (this would include all the associated provinces: Judea, Galilee and Gaulanitis, Gaza, Perea, Samaria and Idumea) then, sure, it was probably close to half a million (which is where I suspect Schwartz is getting his figure). But if you include the people of the countryside (the so-called ‘Am ha-aretz), it’s probably quadruple that number (I would venture 2 to 2.5 million over that entire area of those 6 provinces). Not all of those people were Jews, of course. Many were Greek, some Arab, some Phoenician, etc. And the sizable Samaritan population would have avoided Jerusalem altogether. However, if you consider the Galilean Jews, the Idumean Jews, the transjordanian Jews, disapora Jews, and others, who would have made the pilgrimage for the Passover, combined with those Jews within Judea proper, who were obligated to go to the Passover in Jerusalem if they were within walking distance, then half a million people in and around Jerusalem during the Passover doesn’t sound so far-fetched.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 25, 2017

            As for whether 2 to 2.5 million people living in 1st century Palestine seems unrealistic, consider that the population of France in the 14th century was possibly as high as 20 million. That’s only one third the current population of France! That means 14th century French land could support one third its current population. Could the land of 1st century Palestine support a population of 2 million? Absolutely.

      • Jon1  October 22, 2017

        Bart,

        You’re not really listening to talmoore. He knows religious Jews would have wanted every crucified person to be given an exception; his point is that Pilate would plausibly make an exception in the case of Jesus because there were hundreds of thousands of Jews in the city for Passover and it was to Pilate’s advantage to avoid a possible riot. You response was, “I don’t know of exceptions being made”, but in fact the evidence for exceptions is mixed, and your conclusion that exceptions were not made in the case of high treason seems based on a misreading of Digesta 48.24.1 (cited at the bottom of this post). Specifically, you have said of this passage, “The passage is absolutely explicit: the release of bodies to be buried DOES NOT APPLY to those who have been convicted of high treason” (https://ehrmanblog.org/did-roman-laws-require-decent-burials/). However, when the Digesta passage speaks of returning the body to the relatives and says, “SOMETIMES it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason”, it may not mean that those crucified for high treason were NEVER allowed burial (as you take it to mean); it may just mean that it was rare. And the bit about bodies being burned may not refer to the HIGHEST LEVEL OF PUNISHMENT where bodies can be claimed by relatives (as you interpret it at the link above), it may just mean that burned bodies were allowed burial “even” though there was very little of the body left (just “bones and ashes”). Excuse me for saying this, but you have dodged my question about this passage multiple times in the past. Will you please explain why this passage is “absolutely explicit” in saying what you say it says and only what you say it says?

        Digesta 48.24.1: “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and the Divine Augustus, in the Tenth Book of his Life said that this rule had been observed. At present the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason. Even the bodies of those who have been sentenced to be burned can be claimed, in order that their bones and ashes, after having been collected, may be buried.”

        • Bart
          Bart  October 23, 2017

          Do you think Pilate made an exception for the other two crucified with Jesus? And for the the people crucified the next day? And the day after that? And that in fact Jews around jerusalem were always buried, and that *this* was Roman policy? Seems highly implausible to me.

          • James Cotter  October 23, 2017

            this is an interesting point. If j of a was religious, then his respect for the rules in the Torah would cause him to take down the other two as well.he would have to make SPECIAL REQUEST for them too. it makes no sense why he would only make request for jesus, when his own religion tells him to not leave convict on cross for more than a day.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 24, 2017

            I would go so far as to say that Pilate not only made this exception to the others crucified with Jesus, but that he made this exception for *every* person crucified within sight of Jerusalem. Every year. For ten years. Remember, the purpose of crucifixion wasn’t just the punishment but the message it sent to others who would deem to disrupt order. The same way conservatives today still think the death penalty is a deterrent (nevermind that it actually isn’t a deterrent) the ancients surely thought that crucifixion was a deterrent. The message sent to society was, in a way, more important than the punishment itself. So in that sense, each crucified person was expendable. If you’re a Roman governor forced to remove one body (for example, to placate the local elite), you just find another fresh body to put up there. It’s not like there was a shortage of powerless people to victimize in the Roman Empire.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 24, 2017

            If that’s true, it’s remarkable indeed that Josephus never got around to mentioning it!

          • Jon1  October 24, 2017

            Bart,

            You seem to be confused about (or purposely obfuscating) the point that I am making. I am saying that an exception for Jesus seems plausible *because it was Passover* (read this twice), with hundreds of thousands of Jews in the city, and so the chance of a riot was much higher than normal. So yes, if Pilate made an exception for Jesus, and if there really were two other crucifixion victims with Jesus, then Pilate would have made an exception for them too. However, outside of an event like Passover, I am not suggesting that Pilate would make an exception for someone convicted of high treason.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            I think if the Romans made exceptions for Jews on high holidays that Josephus would have mentioned it. There’s no hint in any of our sources that this was the case.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 24, 2017

            That is a problem, yes, but consider the converse. If Pilate, or any Roman governor, for that matter, were in the habit of regularly violating the Torah and dismissing Jewish sensibilities during holidays in Jerusalem, wouldn’t such impiety and insult have also found its way into Josephus’ account? I mean, that would be a pretty big point of contention, would it not? Indeed, in the one passage we know of where Josephus addresses this issue (BI: IV, 5), he not only writes: “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.” But he also fails to mention that the Romans were in the habit of preventing Jews from fulfilling this mitvah.

            But Josephus does go out of his way to recount how the Romans were often flexible toward Jewish customs, and how the Jews were in the habit of going to the governors to complain when their customs were violated. Also, Josephus does address an incident with some Samaritans that expresses how seriously the Jewish authorities took the possibility of defilement from human remains (“As the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which we call Passover, was being celebrated, it was customary for the priests to open the Temple gates just after midnight. This time, when the gates were first opened, some Samaritans who had secretly entered Jerusalem threw human bones about in the porticoes and the entire Temple. On this account, the priests excluded everyone from the Temple, which they had not customarily done, and took other measures to watch the Temple more carefully.” Ant. XVIII, 2). So nothing I’m suggesting contradicts Josephus at all. I admit that that puts my hypothesis into the realm of speculation, but, as the saying goes, the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 25, 2017

            Josephus does indeed talk about Pilate’s complete disregard for Jewish piety — that’s one of his main points. He simply doesn’t detail every instance of it (in following Roman practices of execution/crucifixion, Pilate was no worse than any of the other governors. They simply did what Roman rulers did.)

          • Jon1  October 25, 2017

            Bart,

            I think you are wrong that Pilate had a “complete disregard for Jewish piety”. A good example is when Pilate backed down in the blasphemous images incident (Antiquities 18.3.1) to avoid an irrational mass riot by the Jews who remained if Pilate slaughtered their Jewish leaders, which would have shown to Pilate’s bosses in Rome that he was incapable of keeping the peace. Again, a perfectly rational choice for an evil but smart leader. It also makes sense that Josephus doesn’t detail every instance of Pilate’s regard for Jewish piety (when it benefited him), so it actually makes sense that Josephus did not mention Pilate’s exceptions for Jewish crucifixion victims on high holidays when there were tens of thousands of extra Jews in the city. Also, how many high holidays a year have tens of thousands of extra Jews in the city (maybe two?), and how often on those was someone actually crucified? So a crucified Jew on a high holiday with tens of thousands of extra Jews in the city might have been a fairly rare event, even more a reason why Josephus would not have mentioned Roman governors letting these Jews off the cross to be buried.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 27, 2017

            He didn’t back down because he appreciated Jewish piety but because he realized there was a revolution brewing and he didn’t want to be responsible for it. THat’s the point of Josephus’s story. If people would riot over Jesus, why wouldn’t they riot over anyone else crucified at the time? We tend to make Jesus a special case because he became so massively important after these events.

          • Jon1  October 27, 2017

            Bart,

            I did not say or suggest that Pilate backed down in the blasphemous images incident (Antiquities 18.3.1) because he “appreciated” Jewish piety; I said the same as you – that he backed down because he did not want to spark a mass riot (or revolution). This indicates that Pilate backed down in some cases, and sometimes not, depending on the situation. In the case of Jesus, it was the eve of Passover, a holiday that celebrates Israel’s liberation from foreign domination, and there were tens or hundreds of thousands of *extra* Jews in the city. Wouldn’t that be a pretty good reason for Pilate to be *more* concerned about a mass riot than at other times during the year and make an exception for crucifixion victims during the Festival? Also, how in your mind could Mark (15:42-45) with so little effort tell a story of Pilate allowing a high treason crucifixion victim off the cross on a major Jewish festival if a first-century audience did not think that was plausible?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 29, 2017

            I don’t see why he’d be more worried about a riot in Jesus’ case than in the case of the other revolutionaries he crucified that morning, or the next, or the next. He didn’t know that he was crucifying the Son of God!

          • Jon1  October 29, 2017

            Ok Bart, I got it, you don’t think violating a Jewish religious belief on Passover would make a riot any more likely than on any other day, I do. You think if the Romans made exceptions for high treason crucifixion victims on high holidays that Josephus should have mentioned it, I think that is as empty of an argument as saying that if the Romans never made such exceptions then Josephus should have mentioned that. One last question if I may that you never answered: How in your mind could Mark (15:42-45) with so little effort tell a story of Pilate allowing a high treason crucifixion victim off the cross during a major Jewish festival if a first-century audience did not think that was plausible?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 30, 2017

            If Romans made exceptions for every high holiday, I would imagine Jewish authors would have told us. It would have involved *lots* of cases over many years…. As to plausibilities, the Gospel are chock-full of implausibilities that people who want to believe will believe! Including modern people who think that Jesus must have been the exception to the rules.

          • Telling
            Telling  October 30, 2017

            Bart,

            I’m sure you’ve answered this before: If Jesus was so insignificant, how did his name, above all others, become so great?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 31, 2017

            It was because his followers later claimed he had been raised from the dead, and with that they started the religion that worshiped him.

          • Jon1  October 31, 2017

            Bart,

            Can you please provide another example from the Gospels where something is conveyed about first-century life that most of its audience would have known was false (to go along with your example of Mark (15:42-45) telling the story of Pilate allowing a high treason crucifixion victim off the cross during a major Jewish festival even though most of his audience, in your view, knew a Roman governor would never do that).

          • Bart
            Bart  November 1, 2017

            Ah, right. If the burial is the only exception, it does indeed look weird. But in fact this sort of thing happens all over the map. You find it at the beginning of the Gospels (no one knew of a census in which “all the world” would be taxed under Caesar Augustus; these were all local affairs); in the passion narratives (the Sanhedrin would never have held an official trial on the evening of Passover); and at the very end (who could really think that zombies were walking around Jerusalem after Jesus’ death). There are lots more. Just because something does not fit with what we know is historically at all likely doesn’t mean a Gospel writer won’t write it!

          • Telling
            Telling  October 31, 2017

            Okay, but if Jesus was an unknown at the time of his crucifixion, then can there be more than a single source (his small band of followers) for grading the historical reliability of the crucifixion? If so, what are these other sources, how reliable are they too and what do they say about Jesus?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 1, 2017

            I”m not completely clear what you’re asking. We don’t have any sources from the time of the crucifixion who talk about it. Our earliest source is Paul. Non-Christian writers don’t mention it until Josephus at the end of the first century. That’s not weird though. They don’t mention the very vast majority of people who were crucified at the time.

          • Jon1  November 1, 2017

            Hmmm. After saying there would be a census of “all the world”, Luke says, “All went to their own towns to be registered”, which, as you say, *is* historically accurate. If it is true that the Sanhedrin would never have held an official trial on the evening of Passover, it seems doubtful that many people would have known that technicality about Roman *court* procedures, which is in contrast to Roman *crucifixion* procedures which are much more visible and would seem to be more well known. And Jewish Christians who believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and then heard Matthew’s story of zombies walking around Jerusalem after Jesus’ death decades earlier could, in my mind, really have found that story to be plausible. So it still seems a little interesting to me that Mark (15:42-45) could, with so little effort, tell a story of Pilate allowing a high treason crucifixion victim off the cross during a major Jewish festival if a first-century audience did not think that was plausible, which in my mind is a small bullet in favor of Jesus being removed from the cross on the same day he died. Do you have a more comparable example of something said in a Gospel about first-century life that its audience would have found implausible?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 3, 2017

            Yes, this is precisely my point. Historical claims that are completely implausible are readily believed by people. When they want to believe them, they come up explanations for them that they find satisfying, even if to most disinterested observers the explanations seem like special pleading. It works for explaining how the entire world had to register for a tax, why the Sanhedrin would be holding a trial on the Passover, how zombies could be wandering around Jerusalem, and why Pilate would grant someone’s wish for a crucified body on the day of execution.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 2, 2017

            Bart,

            As I understand, you are suggesting that Jesus had no significant following at the time of his crucifixion, and his few followers created a resurrection myth after his death, and this myth is the source of his subsequent fame.

            With Jesus as such a nobody at that critical moment, his story expectedly ends there. We would have no outgrowth of multiple sources as we do today. We would have nothing at all.

            If the multiple sources that scholars and historians credit to the evidentiary information on Jesus did not grow out from the crucifixion event itself, then all these sources can only have the story and myth told by his small band of followers as ultimately their source.

            It would seem that with Jesus as an unknown at his death then we have just a single dubious root source (the fabricated resurrection story from his small following) for everything we know about him.

            Can you comment on this? I appreciate it, and thanks.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 3, 2017

            I don’t think we would have a *single* story teller behind it all, but multiple story tellers.

          • Jon1  November 3, 2017

            Bart,

            Two questions:

            1] What evidence is there that the Romans buried crucifixion victims in peacetime when they did not need to rapidly reuse crosses? (It seems like they would just leave the body on the cross until it was gone due to scavenging and weather, or at most just toss any remaining bones on the ground and let the scavengers finish their work there.)

            2] How many crucifixions do you imagine occurred in Jerusalem over the course of a typical year in peacetime?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 5, 2017

            1. I don’t know offhand; 2.I have no idea!

          • Telling
            Telling  November 3, 2017

            But if these multiple storytellers all were from among the “Messiah’s” small band of followers then we are not looking at independent sources, are we? They could get together and agree to anything before they go out and evangelize the “good news”.

            What if the Master died from liver failure (or jumped off a cliff thinking he could fly, or stepped out of the boat to walk on the sea and drowned) and his few followers agreed upon a more compelling story of an arrest and a trial and crucifixion? Can we really say we have good evidence of a crucifixion but not of an ascension or not even a trial? With his few followers as the single subjective source I don’t see that the standard research methods would any longer work.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 5, 2017

            Unless all surviving accounts come down to a single person who made them all up, then we have multiple independent sources.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 5, 2017

            But it would have to be “independent sources” not a single person.

            I suppose your reasoning is that Q and Mark and John are each considered as one source. But this is a different situation, because scholars and historians traditionally believed that Jesus was a powerfully famous figure when he was crucified, as is indicated in these sources, and there would thus expectedly be many independent witnesses not corroborating together. But with Jesus being an unknown, the multiple sources disappear. There becomes just one “independent” source because Mark, Q, etc. would have necessarily have come out of the one very connected source. They could come from nowhere else (except maybe his immediate family). This is the position of the “mythicists”, as I’m sure you’re aware.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 6, 2017

            No, my reasoning is that before Mark, Q, M, etc. were oral traditions. And unless all the oral traditions go back to a single source, an individual person who made it all up, then there were multiple sources at the root of it all.

          • Jon1  November 5, 2017

            Bart,

            If Jesus was not buried on the eve of Passover to avoid a riot, why do you conclude that Jesus was *ever* buried? Seems like you are going against the normal practice of Roman crucifixion during peacetime to just leave the body on the cross until it had been eaten or rotted away.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 6, 2017

            Romans removed bodies from crosses so they could reuse them, after a number of days. They disposed of the bodies in some way, almost certainly in mass burial pits.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 5, 2017

            Bart,
            I think I hit the reply-back too quickly, because we’ve been getting nowhere with this.

            I think best take this a step at a time to better illustrate my argument.

            Let’s say there is a group having a particular belief, and let’s say they have a leader who stumbles and falls off a cliff and dies. The group is dismayed, and one or more members of the group begin telling an embellished story of their leader’s arrest, elaborate trial, conviction, crucifixion, burial, and ascension to heaven. The member or members who made up an embellished account find their story is spreading wildly, whereas the accounts told by other more truthful members (him dying from a fall) fall flat and disappear or are changed to comply with the fabricated one. Behold; no less than four separate accounts of the embellished version survive to this day.

            Do we have multiple sources, given that those surviving accounts had come from different persons in his group? And if we suspect the accuracy of the surviving accounts, what methods do we use to determine whether the leader really ascended to heaven, as all four surviving accounts say?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 6, 2017

            To see how it appears to have worked, I’d suggest you look at my book Jesus Before the Gospels. That’s where I address the issue of the ealry oral traditions about Jesus.

          • Jon1  November 6, 2017

            Bart,

            You said the Romans removed bodies from crosses so they could reuse the crosses. What evidence is there for this in peacetime when there was not a high demand for crosses?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 7, 2017

            I think we’re just going to keep going on and on with this! I don’t have the sources on the top of my head, but you can read about crucifixion in a number of works, maybe starting with the short book by Martin Hengel. For now, I think we need to bring this particular back and forth to a close. But if there are other things you’re interested in besides Jesus’ burial, I’m happy to discuss!

          • Telling
            Telling  November 6, 2017

            Bart,

            I’ll take a look, thanks.

          • Jon1  November 7, 2017

            Bart,

            I have already read Hengel. He agrees with me not you!: “Crucifixion was aggravated further by the fact that quite often its victims were *never* buried. It was a stereotyped picture that the crucified victim served as food for wild beasts and birds of prey” (pg. 87). Other than exceptions where the Romans gave the body to *someone else* to bury it, there is no evidence that I am aware of that the Romans *ever* buried their crucifixion victims. On what evidence do you claim the Romans made an exception and buried Jesus X days after he died, and even more troubling for your position, why on earth would Jesus’ follows assume such an exception occurred (“buried” in 1 Cor 15:4)?! Respectfully.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 8, 2017

            I’m afraid not. The one major point I have been making all along is that Romans did not allow for burial of bodies on the day of crucifixion as part of the punishment, which is what Hengel states emphatically. When I say the bodies were eventually buried I simply mean the remains were disposed of in some way. Hengel is referring to something else: he means “proper burial rites.” I agree with him on that as well. Your view, if I understand it, is that it is plausible that Jesus was buried the afternoon of his death, and my whole point is the one Hengel makes, that this is not *ever* what happened, so far as we know.

          • Jon1  November 7, 2017

            Bart,

            Just to clarify, my above post refers to *peacetime* (in contrast to wartime, where removal from the cross in order to rapidly reuse crosses is suggested in some passages).

          • Telling
            Telling  November 8, 2017

            Bart,

            Re: ” I’d suggest you look at my book Jesus Before the Gospels. That’s where I address the issue of the ealry oral traditions about Jesus.”

            Your Great Courses video “How Jesus Became God” just went on sale this morning and I purchased it. Will this give me the same information as your above reference? Thanks.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 12, 2017

            No, I deal with different issues there I’m afraid.

          • Jon1  November 8, 2017

            Bart,

            Excuse me, but you seem be attributing things to Hengel that he never said, and it’s wrong. Hengel never makes a distinction that he is only talking about “proper burial” being denied, nor does Hengel weigh in on the question of exceptions to Roman policy (he does not even mention those passages in which we *know* bodies were sometimes given to families). Hengel’s book just gives a broad overview of Roman crucifixion, and he is clear (and correct!) that the *normal* procedure was to let the body get eaten or rot off the cross, i.e., “NEVER” buried (pg. 87, for more see pgs. 9, 31, 43, 47, 51, 52, 54, 76, 77, 78). So you have a big problem with your hypothesis. If Jesus was not let off the cross for burial as an exception on the same he died to avoid a riot by some Jews, then I don’t think you can *ever* get Jesus off the cross and account for that historically stubborn word “buried” in 1 Cor 15:4. Even if you want to *imagine* that the Romans needed to reuse the cross in the case of Jesus (like they probably did in wartime when they were crucifying hundreds per day), Jesus’ followers in Galilee would never have known that this exception occurred. Again, please provide one example *from anywhere* where the *Romans* buried a crucifixion victim in peacetime.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 12, 2017

            I don’t understand: if Hengel is right that bodies were not given burial, how can you be right that he was buried that very same afternoon? My point is not that he had some kind of formal burial. It’s that he was *NOT* given a formal burial, so that there was by definition no empty tomb the third day.

          • Jon1  November 12, 2017

            Bart,

            In answer to your question: Hengel is right that the *Romans* never buried crucifixion victims, but as I already pointed out, Hengel does not weigh in on the question of whether or not the Romans sometimes allowed *someone else* to bury a crucifixion victim (he does not even mention those passages in which we *know* bodies were sometimes given to families). So Hengel is only useful for showing that your hypothesis is a dead end, not mine. If you disagree, please provide one example where the *Romans* buried a crucifixion victim in peacetime. (BTW, I agree there was no discovered empty tomb on the third day.)

          • Bart
            Bart  November 13, 2017

            OK, this clearly is not going to go anywhere. If you don’t get my point, you don’t get it! So I’m going to call a halt now to this back and forth.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  October 24, 2017

          I should clarify that while I think it’s perfectly plausible that Jesus’ body was *taken down* after he was found to be dead, I find the idea that he was given a proper interment in an expensive tomb of an aristocrat to be so implausible as to border on the absurd. Assuming that my contention is historical, then the Jewish authorities would have requested that Jesus’ remains be disposed of in a way that would prevent the possibility of any contamination or sacrilege. How does one prevent the possibility of any contamination or sacrilege? You burn the body and bury the bones deep enough so animals can’t get to it. If I were a betting man, I would bet that this is probably what happened to Jesus’ body.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  November 8, 2017

          I just read Hengel’s book and an essay called “The life and death of ancient Roman cemeteries. Living with the dead in Imperial Rome” by John Bodel, and I have to agree with Bart that denial of a burial was the norm. Hengel stresses it was so prevalent that it became a stereotype.

          However, several times Hengel’s sources describe the crucified as “unburied”. From what I understand, criminal grave pits were the equivalent to garbage dumps, so I’m even more convinced Paul would not have considered that as any type of burial.

          I see all of the evidence against Paul and the Gospels’ version of events, but I still believe they got it right. Bart and lots of other experts don’t see it that way. That’s okay with me. Maybe we should agree to disagree!

  18. stokerslodge  October 21, 2017

    Bart, the quotation below is from a recent interview with Dr Craig A. Evans. How would respond?

    “Talk briefly about your book’s exploration of hanging and crucifixion during the time of Jesus.

    Craig A. Evans: As I write in Jesus and the Remains of His Day, the archaeological evidence of crucifixion is quite significant and has until quite recently been under-reported. We have 148 iron nails that have been recovered from pre-70 Jewish tombs. Most of these nails are probably crucifixion nails. Many of them were placed in tombs as good-luck charms, as strange as that may sound. Some of these nails are encrusted with human calcium. Best known are the nails that remain in the right heel of Yehohanan and the hand of Antigonus.

    The evidence as a whole suggests that many people who were crucified were probably buried, according to Jewish customs. Study of Roman law (as seen in the Digesta) allowed for the burial of the executed. According to Philo and Josephus Roman authorities in the land of Israel permitted burial of the crucified. The idea that Jesus was probably not taken down from the cross and buried, but was left exposed to animals, is most unlikely and is in fact rejected by archaeologists, Jewish and Christian alike.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/11/jesus-and-the-culture-of-his-day-an-interview-with-craig-a-evans/)

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2017

      I can’t believe he’s still using the argument about nails, when everyone knows it is completely fallacious. Yes, they have found nails used to crucify people with. Do these nails show that the persons were buried the day they were crucified? No, they show that people were crucified by means of nails. What relevance does it have to the question of when they were buried? Precisely none. See https://ehrmanblog.org/discovered-crucifixion-nails/

  19. smackemyackem  October 21, 2017

    A well thought out and solid argument/rebuttal. Very interesting indeed. All of the points are rational and make sense. That is the ‘likely’ scenario. On a side note…do you think we/people have progressed much since those days? That is a brutal way to go…

  20. fred  October 21, 2017

    I’m curious: did Craig Evans ever respond to your rebuttal to his article?
    (i.e did he rebut your rebuttal of his rebuttal to your book).

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