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Did Romans Allow Decent Burials?

Now that I have restated my views about the burial of Jesus by citing two passages from How Jesus Became God, and emphasized one particular general point – that it is of utmost importance to remember why Romans crucified people, and in particular why they crucified those who were guilty of insurrection, the threat of insurrection, or high treason (a point that I cannot stress enough: Jesus was executed for calling himself the King of the Jews – a political charge of treason against the state) – I can now begin to summarize the counter-arguments that Craig Evans has made in his relatively long response, “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right.”   Despite this title, and despite the respect I have for Craig as a scholar, I have to say that in my judgment he gets virtually all the evidence(s !) precisely wrong.

He focuses his counter-argument on two of my main points: the Roman practices of crucifixion and the character of Pontius Pilate in particular.  I will respond to all of his major claims – but if anyone wants me to respond to yet anything else in his essay when I’m done, just let me know and I’ll be happy to oblige.

When reading Craig’s response, I have to say that I was taken aback by the fact that he started to counter my views by quoting a passage from the Jewish philosopher from Alexandria,Egypt, Philo, in order to show that Romans had a “practice” (his term) of allowing bodies of crucified people to be given burials under “various circumstances.”  I was surprised because this is the very passage that I myself used in my discussion!   When I cited the passage, I did so precisely because it is the *one* literary reference we have in any ancient source to any Roman officials of any kind showing clemency to crucified victims by allowing them to be given a decent  burial.  I cited it for a very specific reason (which I stated), namely, to show that the *one* exception we know about has no bearing at all on the case of Jesus.

Craig cites the same passage to argue that “it was in fact Roman practice , under various circumstances, to permit bodies of the crucified to be taken down and buried” (How God Became Jesus, p. 75).  Craig reads the passage to show that “normally” crucified men were allowed burial in these “various circumstances” (pp. 74, 75).   I will quote the passage and then explain why I think this reading of it is completely wrong, and then you will be able to make up your own mind.

But first I have to say that Craig actually *objects* to my use of the passage because he thinks it is irrelevant to the case of Jesus.  Here’s what he says:  “Had Jesus been crucified in Alexandria, Ehrman’s point would be well taken.  But Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, where very different political and religious factors were in play” (p. 75).

Now *this* is an argument I just don’t get.  Craig wants to use the passage to make his point about Roman “practice” but he does not think that I can use the passage to make my point about an exception to that practice.  And, well, why would the passage be relevant for his case but not to mine exactly?  He doesn’t say.

But I would argue just the opposite:  the passage makes sense for my point and not for his.  And here is why.  I cited the passage because it is the only known *exception* to the rule that Roman authorities left bodies on the cross rather than allowing them to be buried (although see below: this is not actually true either: these people Philo refers to were also left on their crosses).  I don’t cite exceptions in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, precisely because there ARE NO KNOWN EXCEPTIONS in Jersualem in the land of Israel.  Well then, if the passage does not apply to Jerusalem, why does Craig cite it?  For an obvious reason: he wants to say that the situation in Alexandria, Israel IS applicable to the situation of Jesus, in Jerusalem, Judea.

But my entire point is that it is NOT applicable.  Here’s the passage.

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Did Roman Authorities Show Clemency?
Why Romans Crucified People (The Story Beyond the Cross & Nails)



  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 8, 2014

    This is a good summary of the evidence which makes sense to me. As you know, sometimes such a scholarly review of the evidence makes no difference as people can often find a way to spin or ignore that evidence to support what they are certain is true.

  2. Avatar
    toejam  July 8, 2014

    Do you think it is possible that the empty tomb narrative was created as a response not only to unbelievers, but to those Christians who thought Jesus’ resurrection was in more of a non-physical / spiritual or ghostly form? This seems to be a particular emphasis in Luke and John where the resurrected Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate that his body is a real body, complete with scars and the ability to eat fish etc. (eg. Luke 24:36-43).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      Could be! It’s worth thinking about (though, of course, probably hard to demonstrate one way or the other….)

  3. Avatar
    Steefen  July 9, 2014

    Dr. Ehrman, Jesus could have been allowed a decent burial because

    1) Pilate supposedly washed his hands of Jesus’ guilt–finding no fault in him.
    Therefore, Jesus was not a candidate for full-blown crucifixion humiliation by the Roman authority in Judea.

    2) Josephus asked Titus if he could take down three men from crucifixion. Titus gave his permission that Josephus do this. Two of the three died. Those two had an opportunity to have a decent burial. The third one, like Jesus, survived the crucifixion. The third one, when he eventually died, got a decent burial. The Josephus account is the closest non-biblical account of the biblical picture of three crucified on Calvary. Historians must hold this card.

    3) Jesus healed a Roman’s daughter. That would have gotten to Pilate. Jesus had brownie points for not getting the full-blown crucifixion humiliation.

    4a) What account are you referencing against the accounts of the Bible and the Life of Flavius Josephus? To be more persuasive, I’d like an account (historical account) that Jesus did not get buried decently.

    4b) I can’t wait, so here’s an account. In the Babylonian Talmud, there is an account of Jesus being given 40 days notice that he would be stoned and hanged.

    In support of your own argument, what say you of this account?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      I”ve answered on facebook.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  July 11, 2014

        Bart Ehrman: I don’t accept the historicity of 1 and 3; 2 isn’t relevant to Jesus; 4 — Josephus doesn’t say anything about Jesus’ burial; 4b Jesus obvioulsy wasn’t stoned.

        1a. Jesus makes a public display against Rome on Palm Sunday and he isn’t seen by Pilate?
        1b. At Caiphas’ insistence, Pilate doesn’t address the Palm Sunday bandit Jesus by taking him into custody, speaking with him, then scourging him?
        1c. Just as Saddam Hussein had no WMDs, Jesus had no weapons of destruction against Pilate or Caesar, but Jesus’ reputation preceded him: he healed, he told parables, he taught people to pray, he said give unto Caesar that which is Caesar.

        In conclusion to my rebuttal against your 4b: the Babylonian Talmud treats one of the many Jesuses as having been stoned by them. There is a good degree of historicity in this account.

        Pilate could not prove Jesus to be a Judah of Galilee or anyone worse.

        Jesus was harmless enough for Caesar to wash his hands of capital punishment.

        The name of Jesus healed and heals even today. The name of Jesus brought comfort and helped people cope, and even today.

        Jesus did not deserve full humiliation of crucifixion.

        If Pilate was so angry with Jesus, why did he send him on to Jewish political leaders for judgment?

        3) You do not accept Jesus showing kindness to those who were not Jews. Well you might as well say Jesus didn’t tell us about the Good Samaritan.

        Like I said, just the name of Jesus helps people cope and heals, and there are a lot of non-Jewish Christians today who can attest that Jesus heals and saves Gentiles. There are a lot of people non-Jewish Christian Romans in Italy today who can attest that Jesus heals and saves Gentiles.

        2. You cannot put a restriction on where the facts lie. You can’t force the facts to 29-36 Common Era. If the picture of three crucified is not historical in 29-36 but is historical in 66-73 Common Era, as a historical investigator, this file gets the facts rather than be a folder strawman for criticism of faith. Christians are also held accountable to truth.

        The book Jesus outside the New Testament already has the historical account that the Jews lost their city not long after losing Jesus. This in itself let’s us know that the crucifixion happened during the Jewish Revolt.

        We backdate Jesus by 40 years just because it is Jewish tradition to make Jesus a Moses. 73-40 is 33. What this tells the Christian is that Jesus WAS captured by Rome-Titus. The victor’s historian has Daniel and Moses influences in his history. His censorship, or the censorship of the Roman colleges which were in charge of foreign religions censored the way Christianity was reported. God had a plan, supernaturally signed by the Star Prophecy. With or without a Jewish Leader, there was going to be a new king in Judea. 33 simply marks Judaism’s loss to fill the position. 40 years later, a gentile got to be King Son of Man–AND, Josephus, Jewish Historican punctuated that fact by saying Vespasian and Titus, Father and Son, is as close as we’re getting to the gospel’s Father and Son.

        4a You have no historical accounts? You’re justing appealing to categorical precedent? That doesn’t discount a fact or prove a fact.

        4b The Babylonian Talmud mentions Jesus as an aside as it discusses points of law. Jesus is a “for instance” in the account. As a “for instance,” Jesus was an exception for rules on giving notification of stoning unless one can get counter witnesses. The Talmud specifically says Jesus was connected to government and that was part of his special (exceptional) treatment.

        With the Talmud knowing Jesus had clout. Pilate knew Jesus had clout. The Temple authorities knew Jesus had clout with the people. Josephus said one of the Jesuses which factors into the composite biblical Jesus was a political leader in Galilee. Josephus has run-ins with Jesus when he was given military authority in Galilee. Josephus was chased, with a friend telling him, wake-up, Jesus is trying to kill you. (I reference the Life of Josephus, and if needs be, Antiquities and War).

        • Avatar
          EricBrown  July 16, 2014

          And so The Pauline letters were either written before the events you date to the Jewish Revolt, which would be striking, or they are careful later forgeries betraying know knowledge of such significant events as the Destruction of the Temple?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  July 16, 2014

            Paul’s own letters were written before the Revolt. The Deutero-Paulines were written afterwards, but it was not a good deal of cleverness that kept them from mentioning the destruction of the Temple; they are writing about other things (just as most 2nd century Christian texts don’t mention the destruction of the Temple either.

          • Avatar
            Steefen  July 17, 2014

            Reply to EricBrown,

            1) Paul is not established as a singular historical person. Bart Ehrman is not 100% satisfied with the historical evidence for Paul vs. a Josephus.

            2) In my work on the second edition of my book, I re-iterate what others have written about the similarities between the biographies of Paul and Josephus.

            3) One thing that bothers me, presently, is Acts 19:31 (And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.)

            Various Bible translations do not express an important point as they substitute other terms for Asiarch.

            But see this:

            Asiarch | Define Asiarch at Dictionary.com


            Asiarch. A”si*arch\, n. [L. Asiarcha, Gr. ?; ? + ? ruler.] One of the chiefs or pontiffs of the Roman province of Asia, who had the superintendence of the public …

            Paul has already made friends with the rich and powerful pontiffs of the Commune Asiae? ! Paul does not appeal to Caesar until Chapter 25 or so?

            Do you know what the Commune Asiae were dealing with when dealing with Asia? Asia was so grateful towards Augustus, they wanted to worship him. People susceptible to god-man worship are ripe for Christianity.
            People who are susceptible to son of god worship are ripe for Christianity. Who was divii filius? Answer: Augustus.

            In Dr. Ehrman’s video lecture, he mentions that the Roman Christianity did well while “Lost Christianities” didn’t.

            Now, Josephus was adopted into Emperor Vespasian’s court. We can see Josephus being a friend to the international leaders of the Commune Asiae, the Asiarchs.

            Paul writes letters to his churches. Hm, Ephesians is not supposed to be an authentic letter of Paul but Ephesus was an important city to the Roman Imperial Cult, I believe listed first when seven churches are listed in Revelation.

            Missing years of Paul, Rev. Marcum of Highland Park UMC – Kerygma Teaching Service/Sermons?

            People write history after the fact and people write historical fiction after the fact, all the time. What’s so hard about Paul doing the same: he obviously had access to Rome’s intelligentsia. A case can be made that when he was shipwrecked on the way to Rome, Josephus was on the same voyage. Read both accounts. Why wouldn’t they become friends, too?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  July 17, 2014

            Actually I *am* 100% certain that Paul was not Josephus. Is it possible to be more than 100% certain?

  4. Avatar
    Srhyner@comcast.net  July 9, 2014

    Bart, if Jesus’ body was left on the cross to rot, it would have been in plain sight for all to see — including the disciples, Mary Magdalene, etc., — for some time. That is, as you say, part of the point of crucifixion — to horrify those left behind. And clearly, this was the disposition of most crucified victims. However, do you think it’s reasonable to believe that the resurrection and “empty tomb” traditions could have originated and promulgated if Jesus was left on the cross, in front of countless witnesses, including his own brother? This is a genuine question, not a challenge. In other words, whether Jesus “actually” resurrected or not, we have evidence of the resurrection details from Paul, taken directly from his conversations with Peter and James, yes? And they claimed to have witnessed the empty tomb. I have tons of skepticism…many, many, doubts…but I’m struggling with the difference between a resurrection legend which emerged over time and through oral retellings and whisper down the lane, as opposed to gross misrepresentation by the disciples themselves. I feel like I’m missing something.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      I think the disciples of Jesus (his brother was not with them) fled town for fear of their lives, as hinted at in the texts, and that there simply were not many people in Jerusalem who even knew who he was; those who saw him with two others on their crosses (along with how many others from the previous days?) simply saw dying and dead men. Paul does not indicate that Peter and James gave him his information about Jesus’ death and resurrection; I wish he told us more!

      • Avatar
        gabilaranjeira  July 11, 2014

        Hi Bart,

        I had this exact same question in regards to how plausible would it be for the empty tomb and resurrection traditions to have developed if Jesus’ body was indeed left to decompose for days on the cross for people to witness that. I just read your answer and now I have another question: why wouldn’t people know who Jesus was (even if only vaguely) and what he was crucified for if the whole point of crucifixion was precisely a public punishment to serve as a disincentive for others to repeat the same crime? Wouldn’t the Romans make sure that people knew who was being crucified and what for?

        Thank you, as always.

        Speaking of public humiliation… I think it’s fair to say that Brazil got crucified in this World Cup… 🙁

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 11, 2014

          Our sense today is that everyone in Jerusalem must have known who Jesus was because he was BIG NEWS. But actually, I doubt if that’s right. My guess is that he was little known outside of his band of followers and possibly people who were starting to gather around to hear him preach — people who may have grown in numbers, but who would have thought little of it if they didn’t happen to see him the next day, since he was getting crucified, and never went outside the walls to check. Just a guess!

          Yes, poor Brazil. So does this mean you won’t be rooting for your southern neighbors (but vigorously just the opposite?)?

          • Avatar
            gabilaranjeira  July 11, 2014

            “Vigorously just the opposite” – you always nail it!
            Argentina is great, I have lots of Argentinian friends but I just can’t root for them in soccer… There is this huge rivalry between us when it comes to soccer. Plus they are mocking us soooo badly…

        • Avatar
          Steefen  July 12, 2014

          Wouldn’t the Romans make sure that people knew who was being crucified and what for?

          “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. John 19:20 states that this was written in three languages: Hebrew, Latin and Greek and was put on the cross of Jesus.

          Dr. Ehrman, are you going to say that is not historical also?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  July 13, 2014

            I think it is historical — and that it explains a whole lot. You should read my books sometime!

  5. Avatar
    sashko123  July 9, 2014

    Professor Ehrman:
    You made your point clearly in the book, and it is hard to believe that Professor Evans gave the section more than a cursory glance. More generally, I try to understand the psychology behind these kinds of rebuttals and find myself wondering whether they demonstrate confirmation bias or deliberate misrepresentation. I have learned a lot from Jesus, Interrupted, Lost Christianities, and How God Became Jesus, your blog, and your several debates on Unbelievable. I look forward to more. –Alex

    • Avatar
      Hank_Z  July 10, 2014

      Bart, I think Sashko123’s comment above is a good one. One or two other members’ comments reflects a similar question about Craig Evan’s apparent confirmation bias and/or deliberate misrepresentation of your argument in this post about whether the Romans allowed decent burials of those who were crucified for insurrection.

      Question: Would this particular argument from Craig Evans’ likely be acceptable in a scholarly book?

      I’m trying to get a sense of the types of poor reasoning or deliberate misrepresentation get into some scholars’ trade books that would clearly not be OK for a scholarly book.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  July 11, 2014

        Yes, Craig’s article is very much a scholarly contribution and would be perfectly acceptable in a scholarly book. I’m just pointing out what strike me as the flaws in it.

  6. Avatar
    sashko123  July 9, 2014

    Big OOPS! – How Jesus Became God. Thinking about the title from the other side. Forgive. 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Wilusa  July 9, 2014

    Not directly related to this post, but for me it’s all one big “issue”…

    Among scholars who don’t believe Jesus was divine and/or was resurrected, is there any consensus regarding whether he went to Jerusalem that Passover Week with the *intent* of trying to make a “spectacle” in the Temple – trying, big time, to call attention to himself and his ministry? Or did he just react on the spur of the moment because he was disgusted by the things he saw?

    I’m thinking that if he *planned* to make a “big splash,” he may have urged his Galilean followers to go to Jerusalem that week (a ready-made cheering section!). Maybe forty or fifty people did go…but didn’t have much luck getting together with him and his disciples. They may have fretted among themselves, fearing he was going to get himself killed. Someone may have suggested – without any prompting from Jesus – that if that happened, God might restore him to life. (They were, after all, presumably looking forward to the “general” resurrection!) And *those* people would have been the ones who’d leap to a false conclusion when they heard about an “empty tomb.”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      I’m not sure there *is* a consensus, one way or the other….

      • Avatar
        SWerdal  January 3, 2015

        More pointedly then, what do you think Jesus went to Jerusalem that week for? I understand Judas taking a bird in the hand instead of a future throne, if he was the low-life choice Jesus said he favored, with the Kingdom coming reversing everything wrong (right?) side up (so Judas is hedging his bets – either way he wins, if the Kingdom really does come when he forces Jesus’s hand). But was Jesus trying to force God’s hand to make his apocalyptic dreams come true (or was he just ignorant of what Romans did to insurrection bumpkins)? The fact that Jesus kept his messianic beliefs secret from the public and only told his inner circle tells me that he knew it was a crime, if it got out, so he was at least that savvy. So was he just fishing for a bigger haul, where all of the fish were (to get more converts? Or was he fishing for a whale of a catch (and the 12 subordinate thrones that came with it)? Or…?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 3, 2015

          I think he went to Jerusalem in order to take his message of the coming apocalypse to the heart of the Jewish nation where he could reach the largest Jewish audience, Jerusalem at Passover.

  8. Avatar
    Rosekeister  July 9, 2014

    Can you really be a scholar if your research leads to Biblical inerrancy with all that entails and if all your research always confirms your traditional beliefs? I have a problem with conservative scholarship because they are writing, preaching and teaching mythology as fact. There is a tremendously interesting story of the evolution of religion and Christianity that most people will never know because conservative scholars have dedicated their lives to confusing mythology with fact. It bothers me because I think people as intelligent as Craig Evans have to know in the back of their minds that what they write, teach or preach is not true and their devotion to orthodoxy is their way of denying this.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      Yes, there are certainly scholars who hold to inerrancy. They are well read, they read Greek, and German and French, they know what scholars have said for the past 200 years or so — so by most every definition, they are scholars. I suppose all scholars have blinders — sometimes it’s more obvious.

  9. Avatar
    shuhan  July 9, 2014

    Ouch! Strong arguments Dr. Ehrman, but what about the Muslim belief that Jesus was not crucified that he was raised up to heaven before such an event? Some say he asked God to take one of his disciples and make his face identical to Jesus; thus, the one executed was not Jesus himself. I mean is it tenable historically or is it simply a matter of belief that cannot be either falsified or proven?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 10, 2014

      Well, it’s not historically likeoly.

      • Avatar
        shuhan  July 10, 2014

        Thanks Dr. Ehrman. Yes, I kinda agree, for if I was never a believer in the whole package of Islam then I wouldn’t even dream to suggest that Jesus was saved miraculously.

  10. Avatar
    Wilusa  July 10, 2014

    BTW, are you aware that when someone clicks on “Public Forum,” not only does nothing show up on the right-hand side, the last post that shows up *at all* is the one beginning with the words “Violent Opposition”? You have to click “Continue” on that, or an even earlier one, to get to a place where you can see there have *been* more recent posts!

  11. Avatar
    Clive  July 10, 2014

    I find it fascinating that documents which are so conflicting concerning the death and particularly after can be cited as evidence. If we have only two or three conflicting accounts of an event after the fact how can you ascertain which source (version) is more reliable? Having been of the inerrant camp through faith once.. I’m now perplexed that anyone could have firm convictions from what remains.. if they have studied the documents in detail. Although I follow your arguments with some degree of pleasure (reinforcing thoughts of my own in times of doubt) I can’t see how you can draw any firm conclusions about Jesus from the available sources. The kerygma of anonymous ‘christians’ which is given an historical setting in the ‘gospel’ accounts.. bearing little relation to actual dates and places.. is a poor source of historical data of any real value. Conflicting accounts which led to Mohammads characterisation of Jesus and the mockery of the Mishna/Talmud sources again do not clarify any particular historical account they merely add to the confusion as conflicting sources. I’m not impressed with Dr Evans but there is little to support your own argument except that it was the normal way of doing things. Pilate was removed from Judea for being too cruel (if I remember the sources correctly) and yet being unable to control the rebellious nature of his subjects through provocation. It is easy to see the mockery of Jesus in the ‘conviction board’ allegedly attached to the cross saying ‘King of the Jews’ to which the Sanhedrin objected to because it was stated as fact and not as a false claim. It sounds to me that it was a typical Roman response to dealing with arguments from an unrully population.. behold this is your king and this is what we do to your king and his kingdom. It is hard to imagine how the romans would have allowed the body to be removed for a Jewish Festival (Passover) unless he was scared of an uprising if he refused the request. Again this doesn’t tie in with the characterisation in other sources of Pilate as a provocative brutal ruler out of his depth (rather than cowardly and easily manipulated by his subjects). Still the data on Pilate is almost as scarce as for Jesus and therefore of dubious reliability. I’m still wondering what made scared disciples frightened of dying for their Messiah into people willing to die proclaiming him resurrected Messiah/Christ after his death. I have no answer to that one directly but the church of Mormon, Jw’s and Scientology show how easily gullible people will believe what they want, even if it is clearly made up.

  12. Avatar
    Steefen  July 11, 2014

    Maybe during the Jewish Revolt, Jewish people were not allowed decent burials. During the time of Caiphas and Pilate, Judaism was not disrespected to that extent. Use the Pilate going after the Samaritans as an example. The Samaritan leader and more were slain. Even Jesus’ legs were not broken. If you want to say Jesus stayed on the cross longer, why don’t you say Jesus’ legs were broken, too?

    In a gesture that you’re not making sport of the gospels, is there a quote from Josephus that mentions during Pilate’s governorship, Jews had a problem burying criminals of any kind? Tell us also about family members and loving crowds sitting out Roman soldiers so they can keep the dogs away and throw rocks at vultures. Tell us how long Pilate did not let people take down a healer or did not let Nicodemus and Mary and the disciples wait beyond waiting for death but waited for the crucifixion to be finished.

    You’re just trying to re-write Good Friday to Easter. Christianity is your doll of contempt. That’s all.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 11, 2014

      Jesus would have remained on the cross whether his legs were broken or not. But my sense is that legs usually were not broken. No reason for them to be.

      I’m not making sport of the Gospels. I’m trying to understand what they are (products of faith) – and what they are not (accurate historical accounts of what really happened).

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  July 14, 2014

        And if Jesus’s legs *had* been broken (I’m not saying they were), that wouldn’t have been something *worse* done to him! As I understand it, that – painful as it was – was sometimes done as an act of mercy, to hasten victims’ deaths by making it impossible for them to use the footrests to push themselves up. Instinct *forced* them to keep doing that, but it just prolonged their agony. As it was intended!

  13. Avatar
    Steefen  July 18, 2014

    Bart Ehrman: Actually I *am* 100% certain that Paul was not Josephus. Is it possible to be more than 100% certain?

    Steefen: Well, we await your comments on the similarities and why Paul before “Felix-Agrippa-Festus-then to Rome” had become friends with Asiarchs: Pontiffs of Rome’s Asian communities, some of which were in areas of Revelation’s churches.

    We’re not 100% certain about Paul, but we are 100% certain there are similarities between the biographies of Paul and Josephus. For this reason alone, we cannot be 100% certain that Paul was not Josephus: Josephus’ Life is in Paul’s life.

    Second, Josephus was more likely to have a vision of Jesus, the Galilean because Josephus was an officer in Galilee where a Jesus probably wanted Josephus to defer to him as the New Testament Jesus was Paul to defer to him.

    Josephus, helping the Flavian Emperors with re-writing religion for those they defeated (producing a non-military Messiah Judaism and Christianity and a non-military Rabbinic Judaism (funding Yavne), needed to understand the Imperial Cult.
    Paul, also, needed to understand the geographical breadth and psychology of the Imperial Cult to pull off Gentile Christianity and organize it. Even Revelation has Christianity re-using the network of the Roman Imperial Cult.

    Sorry, but both Paul and Josephus put their lives in the hands of the Roman Empire: Josephus who thought Rome would win the Jewish Revolt and Paul who not only appealed to Caesar when Jerusalem wasn’t safe for him, but Paul is also friends with foreign ministers of Rome.

  14. Avatar
    pgoggins  August 3, 2014

    One of Evan’s most effective arguments was that under Roman Law, as summarized in the Digesta, bodies of the crucified can be buried if permission has been requested and granted, unless it is not peacetime, and the crucified was not convicted of treason. What Evans does not give us, though, is the exact source. The Digest of Roman Law, also known as the Corpus Juris Civilis, was compiled by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th Century, between 530 C.E. and 533 C.E. This is two centuries after Rome adopted Christianity. It speaks little to the tenets of Roman law in the first century.

    A new edition of my Reader’s Guide to Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God will include a discussion of How God Became Jesus, including a discussion of Evan’s chapter.


  15. Avatar
    ftbond  July 5, 2017

    Dr Ehrman –

    Re: “I’m not making sport of the Gospels. I’m trying to understand what they are (products of faith) – and what they are not (accurate historical accounts of what really happened).”

    Granted, the gospels would be more accurately described as “products of faith”, and not accurate historical accounts of what really happened.

    If we are concerned with accurate history, then…

    (a) I have never seen your (extra-bibilical) evidence to support the “fact” you state, that Jesus was crucified for a “political charge of treason against the state”
    (b) You state (above) “I don’t cite exceptions [to rules regarding removal of crucifixion victims from their crosses] in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, precisely because there ARE NO KNOWN EXCEPTIONS in Jersualem in the land of Israel”.
    (c) In another blog entry, you write the following:

    “Did conditions allow in the case of Jesus? At this time, around 30 CE, the Romans were not laying siege to Jerusalem and there was not a war going on. But it’s important to look closely at what Josephus actually says. When he says that “even malefactors” who were crucified were given decent burials, for the term “malefactor” he uses a generic term (καταδικη). He uses the term or its derivatives 17 times in his surviving writings, always to refer generally to someone who is condemned to something (e.g., slavery, dishonor, or crucifixion). In none of the 17 times that he uses it does he use it to refer to someone who was condemned to crucifixion as an “enemy of the state” or an “insurrectionist.” Jesus in the New Testament is never referred to with this term (translated here as “malefactor”). When he is crucified, he is not simply “condemned.” He is charged with calling himself the King of the Jews – i.e., it is a charge of political insurgency. He was an enemy of the Romans.”

    In this writing, you are ADMITTING to “exceptions” (as per Josephus).

    Also, in this writing, you are stating again – as fact – that Jesus was charged of political insurgency. Yet, you offer no references. But, on the other hand, Josephus states that Jesus was crucified “at the suggestion of the principle men among us”, indicating Jewish-related charges, not Roman charges.

    Josephus also writes (in regards to crucifixion victims) “…although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun”.


    1. what historic evidence can you show that Jesus was, in fact, charged with a political crime against the state of Rome, and
    2. which is actually true:
    (a) there are no known exceptions [to the “removal from the cross” rules] in Israel / Judea, or
    (b) there ARE exceptions, as stated by you in another blog entry, and as supported by Josephus and
    by archeological evidence?
    3. when Josephus writes regarding the “meticulousness” of Jewish burial practices, what evidence can you supply that would demonstrate that this “meticulousness” had begun some time after the death of Jesus (as opposed to, say, having been customary for centuries?)

    My interest is HISTORY, not supposition.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 6, 2017

      1. When you’re asking for “external evidence,” I don’t know what you’re looking for. We don’t have any external evidence that discusses Jesus’ death in any terms 2. I’m not sure what the context was within which I said no exceptions: but yes, obviously Josephus talks about this (he had two of his own companions removed from their crosses while alive); have you seen my many posts on this? I deal with the Josephus issue at length. And to my knowledge there is no archaeological evidence of someone being removed from a cross prior to death or immediately at death. What are you thining of 3. The issue is not whether Jews were meticulous in their burial practices, but whether the Romans were. Jews didn’t kill Jesus. Again, see all my posts on this, (you can just search for the name Craig Evans and you’ll see them)

      • Avatar
        ftbond  July 7, 2017

        Thank you for your reply, Dr Ehrman –

        I want to assure you that I’ve read your posts, and I also have have watched (and enjoyed) your debate with Dr Evans, and, I am still reading your book How Jesus Became God (which is excellent reading). And, I’ve read Dr Evans essay which you refer to in your other posts.

        Here’s a quote from one of your posts which I’d like to refer to:

        “Jesus was killed as someone who claimed to be a rival king. If Jews had executed him for being a blasphemer, they would have been required to bury him by sundown. But he was killed by Romans, not Jews, and for political sedition in opposition to Rome, not for blasphemy”

        As you pointed out in your earlier response to me, there is no external evidence showing that Jesus was, in fact, crucified for “crimes against the state”.

        At the end of the day, then, no matter how ephatically one says it, your statement that “…he was killed by the Romans, not Jews, and for political sedition in opposition to Rome, not for blasphemy” remains an *assertion*, not a fact. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. One can just as easily – and emphatically – assert that Jesus was executed by the Romans simply because the Jewish leadership wanted it, and Pilate coudn’t have cared less what the details were. Pilate evidently didn’t need much of a reason to crucify a trouble-maker. And, in this case, Jesus could quite well have been buried by sundown.

        But also, at the end of the day, we do have Josephus saying that Jesus was crucified “at the suggestion of the principle men among us”, thus appearing not to be a Roman initiative at all. And, we even see Paul, in 1 Thess refer to “…the Jews who killed our Lord, Jesus…”. He leaves the Romans out of it.

        As far as I can tell, that’s about all we have – historically – to tell us anything at all about what led to Jesus’ death. (Maybe also a qoute of Phlegon, by Origin? I dunno).

        I guess I truly was hoping for something more substancial from you, in terms of historic evidence that Jesus was indeed crucified on charges of sedition. But, alas….

        • Bart
          Bart  July 7, 2017

          To all knowledge all the evidence that survives (i.e., the Gospel accounts) indicates that Jesus was killed for calling himself a king — i.e., on political charges. Are you thinking of something else? Josephus simply says that Jewish leaders are the ones who suggested to the Romans that Jesus be killed, which is how 1 Thess is normally read as well — but he says nothing about the legal charges for execution.
          For that all we have are the Gospels — and the logic for why Romans crucified people (it was not because someone else suggested they do so; it was always on the basis of criminal offense). Have you read my book on Jesus? I explain there how it appears to have worked historically.

          • Avatar
            ftbond  July 7, 2017

            I’ve read your reasoning as to why you believe Jesus was actually executed for a criminal offense – calling himself a king. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the claim that Jesus claimed to be a “king” was brought up, and that was that.

            And, of course, pretty much of the rest of what the gospels have to say about it is just “made up”.

            But, I don’t buy into the idea that Pilate “needed” any criminal charges against Jesus at all.

            “…corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.” [ Philo; Flaccus 83 ] (Note: you quoted this in another blog entry)

            “…continual murders of people untried and uncondemned…” How do we arrive at the idea that Pilate somehow needed criminal charges against Jesus???

            If we’re going to do “reconstructions”, then here’s mine:

            Jewish Leaders: “Pilate, this man claims to be the Messiah, which is like a king. We want him dead”.
            Pilate: “Guards, go hang this guy up, and put a sign out there saying he’s the king of the Jews”.
            Jewish Leaders: “Wait a minute – we don’t want that sign. We don’t claim him as king”
            Pilate: “Buzz off… I got better things to do…”

            Pilate didn’t give a rip about the whole proceeding. Probably didn’t think about it twice, and when someone asked if they could take Jesus’ body off the cross, it was “yeh, go ahead…” What did he care?

            You see, I don’t agree with Evans. But, neither do I agree with you, except in stipulating that the term “king” or “messiah” came up when Jesus was brought before Pilate. And, equating “messiah” to “king” is precisely what I figure the Jewish leadership would do, knowing it would catch Pilates attention at least long enough to get Jesus crucified. But, I don’t think that Pilate cared one bit, one way or the other, about any such “legalities”. He couldn’t have cared less about Jesus or claims of “messiahship” or much of anything else the Jewish leaders were telling him. They wanted the guy dead, so fine, go crucify him. But, I don’t think Pilate cared one bit what happened to Jesus’ body after that.

          • Bart
            Bart  July 8, 2017

            I don’t think Pilate cared either. And I don’t think he needed any kind of formal legal declaration. He just ordered him crucified. But even if there didn’t have to be a legally recorded charge sent off to Rome (or some such), there had to be a reason. And the reason given each time is that Jesus made the (rather ludicrous) claim to be a king. It wasn’t for some other reason.

        • Avatar
          Malik  January 23, 2018

          Phlegon is quoted by Africanus as saying “in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth to the ninth hour.” (Chronography, 18:1) and again by Origen as saying “And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place … ” (Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 33) and “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” (Against Celsus, Book 2, Chapter 59).

          Origen is quoting Pheigon,…..no bias at all!(SARCASM)

  16. Avatar
    ftbond  July 8, 2017

    But, your overall point is that Jesus was tried for a “crime against the state”, and hence, would not have been allowed to be taken off that cross (if I’ve at all understood your general contentions).

    My contention is that the Romans didn’t have their eye on Jesus, they weren’t pursuing him, they didn’t arrest him, and they didn’t bring the charges against him. That was the Jewish leadership that did that. They (the Sadducees, in particular – ie, the “temple cult”) had real concerns (in their own eyes). To them, Jesus really did pose a threat to the “order of things”, and, they wanted him gone.

    It’s just too easy to imagine them trying to explain “messiah” to Pilate (who couldn’t care less about “things Jewish”), stammering around until at last they explained that this “fabled messiah” was “supposed to become a king” (blablabla… religious bantering), and Pilate finally has enough, and just says “whatever.. Guards, take this guy out and crucify him”).

    Did Jesus’ offense really rise to the level of “sedition” in Pilates eyes? Probably not. And, so when someone requested his body be taken off the cross, he probably didn’t give a rip about that either – *if* he ever even heard about it. For all we know, responsibility for that particular decision might have just been given over to whatever Centurian was in charge.

    So, I’m no denying that the “king thing” came up. What I’m saying is that the Romans themselves never saw Jesus trying to proclaim himself a king, never saw him trying to usurp Roman authority, and in fact, were probably never really aware of him. The Jewish leaders wanted him dead, and, Pilate – perhaps having found a “reason” (or excuse?) in the babblings about messiahs and “possibly, kings”, just gave the go-ahead.

    But when it came to whether Jesus’ body was requested, he probably didn’t give a rip. It was just going to be easier to say “yeh, let them have the body, who give a rip” than to fool with the issue a moment longer.

    The Big Question is whether there is “room” in the narrative for Jesus’ body to have been taken off the cross. IF I’ve understood your overall contentions correctly, you would say “no”. On the other hand, I see all kinds of room in the narrative for Jesus’ body to have been taken off the cross. I think it is 100% as likely as not. (Actually, I’d give it better odds than that, but, that’s just where we differ).

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