Secret Followers of Jesus?

QUESTION:

Tangential to the discussion here but what do you think of the idea symbolized by the Joseph of Arimathea character that there may have been closeted sympathizers or even fellow travelers of the Jesus movement among members of the Sanhedrin?

RESPONSE:

It’s a good question.  My sense is that it is virtually inconceivable that there were followers of Jesus, closeted or otherwise, in the Sanhedrin.  For a lot of reasons.  The main one is that according to our earliest accounts, Jesus’ ...

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Questions on Jesus’ Language and on the Crucifixion

QUESTIONS:

If Jesus could not speak Latin, he must have communicated with the Romans in Aramaic. Was it common for Romans, at least of a certain class, to speak Aramaic? If not, how could Jesus have communicated with, for example, Pontius Pilate? Perhaps through a translator?

Also, are there any sources I can consult regarding my question on the crucifixion? Wikipedia does not address this issue and you yourself have stated that you believe it was a small public ceremony which coincides ...

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Resurrection and Resuscitation

The following is just a small chunk that I’ve written up for my Bible Introduction on the idea of “resurrection” — in relationship to other views of afterlife in the Bible. It’s short, but it’s the last sentence that is very much worth thinking about (most people haven’t thought about it; I know I never did, until fairly recently).

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Many readers of the Bible are surprised to learn that the ideas of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible are not closely ...

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My Colleague’s Archaeological Find!

You have probably noticed that almost every time an archaeological find makes its way into the major newspapers (or even the minor ones) it is a “discovery” that is very iffy, dicey, dubious, questionable and, to make a long story short, generally rejected by the real experts in the field. That’s probably because real archaeologists are very careful, methodical, and, well, not all that interesting for the mass media. But they do the real work, and sometimes they come up ...

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Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 10 (and last!)

Q.   In what way is the Jewish notion of a resurrection a different idea than either the fertility crop cycle idea, or what is sometimes said about pagan deities that either disappear or die?

A.   One of the reasons for thinking that the belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is not exactly like what you can find in pagan myths about their gods is that it is solidly rooted in Jewish apocalyptic beliefs of the first century.  This should come as ...

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Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 3

CONTINUATION!   Ben Witherington, a conservative evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, has asked me to respond to a number of questions about my book Did Jesus Exist, especially in light of criticism I have received for it (not, for the most part, from committed Christians!).   His blog is widely read by conservative evangelicals, and he has agreed to post the questions and my answers without editing, to give his readers a sense of why I wrote the book, what I ...

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Was Jesus an Essene?

QUESTION:

I was wondering how big of an influence you think the Essenes had on Jesus and his teachings, and if there’s any evidence that he and John The Baptist were students of that philosophy. Jesus’ apocalyptic teachings seem to align with them a lot.

RESPONSE:

Great question!  When the Dead Sea Scrolls (= DSS) were discovered in 1947, it was quickly realized that this was a library of documents produced by the Jewish group known from other ancient authors (such as Josephus ...

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