In my previous post I began to discuss Craig Evan’s essay “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right,” which was his attempt to show that the views I set forth in How Jesus Became God were flawed.  In his view, the New Testament portrayal of Jesus’ burial is almost certainly historical: Jesus really was buried, in a known tomb, on the afternoon of his death, immediately after he expired, by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who had, the night before, called for his execution.  My view is that this is entirely unlikely, that Jesus was probably left on his cross to suffer the ravages of time and, possibly, scavenging animals, as was the practice of Romans for crucified victims.  In no instance was this practice more constant than in the case of “enemies of the state,” anyone, for example, who was involved in an insurrection or who threatened a violent opposition to Roman rule (or was thought to have threatened).  Jesus himself, of course, was executed on just this charge, of planning to supplant the Roman governorship of Judea in order to set himself up as king.

In the previous post I dealt with Craig’s discussion of a passage in Philo – the one text from antiquity that explicitly indicates that a governor might sometimes show clemency in allowing a crucified victim to be buried.  I argued that Craig completely misconstrues this evidence.

Craig goes on to argue that clemency was in fact a Roman practice more generally.  His reason for arguing so is to show that it is not inconceivable that Pilate would be merciful and would allow Jesus to be buried, since Roman authorities frequently, in Craig’s opinion, did show mercy.  In his words, “the Romans not only permitted the bodies of the executed, including the crucified, to be buried [Craig never does show this was a policy or custom – he only has the quotation from Philo], they even pardoned those in prison and sometimes even pardoned those awaiting or faced with the threat of execution, whether by crucifixion or by other means”  (p. 75).  Craig refers to this as the “Roman practice of granting clemency.”

When I read this statement for the first time I expected Craig to cite some examples of Roman administrators who stayed the execution by crucifixion of criminals – or even just their execution by any means.  Oddly enough, Craig next cites four instances of clemency –none of them from the days of Jesus and none of them in the land of Israel – and none of them involves a person convicted to be executed, let alone crucified, let alone for committing high treason against the state.

So why does he say

Unlock 4,000+ Articles Like This!

Get access to Dr. Ehrman's library of 4,000+ articles plus five new articles per week about the New Testament and early Christianity. It costs as little as $2.99/mth and every cent goes to charity!

Learn More!