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Guest Post by James Tabor: The Historian and the Supernatural

I am honored to have a guest post provided for us by James D. Tabor, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at my sibling-school UNC-Charlotte, and longtime friend.  Many of you will know James and his work, as he publishes not only for the scholarly crowd but also for broader audiences.   If you want to stir up controversy – that’s the way to go!

And James is no stranger to it, as becomes clear in this post – or rather these two posts.  I’ve decided to split them in half to fit in with the more common length on the blog.  So, one today and one tomorrow.

James is dealing with a topic we have queried before on the blog before, about the role of miracles/the supernatural in scholarship.  But this will be very different from the most recent posts by our firm atheist friends last month.  James is not dealing with the difficult question of whether miracles are plausible at all, but with the equally difficult question of whether historians, by the nature of their craft, are required to exclude discussion of miracles in their reconstructions of the past.  Here is the first part of his view.  (If you have any comments or questions, go at it!)

James Tabor’s most popular books are The Jesus Dynasty and Paul and Jesus.

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Do Historians Exclude the Supernatural?

Prof. James D. Tabor, Dept. of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte

The investigative task of the ancient historian is by definition an interpretive one and no interpretation is without predisposition or even prejudgment stemming from known or unknown proclivities of both a personal and contextual nature. Add to this the paucity of our incomplete evidence, whether textual or material, and there is no wonder we hardly ever agree on anything of consequence. Nonetheless careful argument based on logical analysis and best evidence remains our only path.

James Tabor regarding classes dealing with the academic study of religions.

One of the most frequent responses I get to my work as a historian of religions, particularly in my dealings with Jesus, Paul, and the development of early “Christianities” is the objection that I “exclude  the miraculous” as a valid part of the investigation. The idea seems to be that “secular historians” prejudge evidence and are accordingly biased in that they will not allow even the possibility of the miraculous as part of ones historical inquiry. If historians ask the questions: what do we know and how do we know it—how is it that we claim to “know” from the start that miracles do not happen and that supernatural explanations for various developments are to be rejected? As Darrel Bock put things, reviewing my book, The Jesus Dynasty for Christianity Today: “James Tabor’s historical assumptions that reject God’s activity on Earth force him into odd arguments to explain the birth of Christianity.”

For Bock and others these assumptions essentially result in “explaining away the New Testament” to use his words. Bock is referring particularly to my observation that historians assume that all humans have two biological parents, that dead bodies don’t rise, and that humans do not bodily ascend to heaven. Oddly enough, I maintain, along with most historians, that the “odd arguments” are characteristic of those who take the assertions that Jesus had no human father or that he walked out of his tomb and ascended bodily into the clouds of heaven as literal scientific statements of fact. Whether I reject “God’s activity on Earth” is a much more complex matter that I will deal with in another context, but what about this charge that secular historians are biased against the supernatural?

My training at the University of Chicago was that of a historian, not a theologian or even a “Biblical Scholar” as such. My Ph.D. was not from the Divinity School but in the Division of Humanities. I worked broadly in the area study of “Ancient Mediterranean Religions and Culture” and more specifically within ancient Judaism and early Christianity. My teachers were primarily Jonathan Z. Smith and Robert M. Grant. What I reflected in The Jesus Dynasty and in all of my academic work (see my Curriculum Vitae), are the methods and approaches generally employed by most qualified scholars who work in these areas.

Doing the work of an historian is not “hard” science in the purest sense of the term, but none of us in the field would want it to be understood as “art” either, at least not in some wholly subjective way. There is no doubt that historians often differ in their conclusions in important ways, and that “interpretation” of the data, how it is finally weighed and processed, is indeed a somewhat subjective process. When it comes to Jesus, as Albert Schweitzer pointed out long ago, historians all to often have “looked into the long well of history” and seen their own reflection staring back at them. In other words, when they come up with a so-called “historical Jesus” fashioned almost wholly by their own imaginations and biased desires.

When my students retreat to some historical conclusion that I or others have reached, with the easy retort “but that is just your interpretation,” I encourage them to go beyond that kind of reductionism. History is not mere subjective interpretation, even if it involves such. Ideally it is based on arguments and evidence and in the end a good historian wants to be persuasive. It is rare that historical conclusions close out any possible alternative interpretations, but the goal is to set forth, in the open court of reasoned argument and evidence, a compelling “case” for whatever one is dealing with. Even when we disagree we end up stating “why” we don’t find this or that argument convincing, or what we find weak in the assumptions of one with whom we differ.

As for sources, nothing is excluded, and everything can be evaluated as long as it offers us some reasonable way to reconstruct the past. Historians love and welcome evidence. That is what we live on and we crave any new materials that can shed more light on what we know. But even our best sources, particularly the literary ones, are remarkably tendentious. Modern standards of argument and objectivity were unknown to ancient writers. Writing was more often than not a blatant attempt at propaganda and apologetics, and all the more so when it came to competing systems of religious understanding. Recognition of those factors is a vital part of every historian’s method. If we want to “use” Josephus we also have to give attention to what we know of him as a person, as a writer, what his tendencies are, what his competence was, and so forth. It is the same with the Gospels, with Eusebius, and with all the ancient texts and material evidence that we have at our disposal. It is also the case that for many important questions related to Jesus and his movement we simply do not have good evidence and probably never will. As thankful as we are for what we have, whether textual or archaeological or myth or tradition, in the end we have to face our own limitations.

Determining what Jesus said, or what he did, given the obvious theologically motivated editing and “mythmaking” that goes on even in our core New Testament gospels is a methodologically challenging project upon which none of us wholly agree. For example, we know virtually nothing about the so-called “lost years of Jesus,” and thus are left to speculate about his childhood and early adult life until about age 30 (assuming we even trust Luke, our single source, about his age when he joined John the Baptizer). Our attempts are educated guesses and creative reconstructions. Most of us are quite sure that the reports of the various so-called “Infancy Gospels” that have Jesus as a child magically turning clay birds into real ones or jumping off the roof of a building unharmed are less than historical. They are late, legendary, and fabulist to the extreme. It is doubtful that such sources contain any useful historical information at all. I cannot prove that Jesus and his brothers worked with their father Joseph in the building trades in nearby Sepphoris, but I think it is a likely possibility, given what we know (see Mark 6:3). In contrast, the assertions that Jesus traveled as a child with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea to Britain, or that he studied in Egypt or in India, are based upon legendary materials far removed in time and place from his world. It is the same with the question of whether or not Jesus was married or had children. For years I agreed with most of my colleagues that the possibilities of this appear to be slight but over the past five years, in looking at the new evidence from the Talpiot tombs, as well as reviewing all the arguments, I have become convinced otherwise. A reviewer of my book, The Jesus Discovery, has asserted on this point that “The claim that the Gnostic Gospels are a good source on Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, for instance, is just breathtakingly silly — they were written incredibly late and reflect a particular theology/religious perspective—not history.” I have to disagree here and clearly, the reviewer, Raphael Magarik, is completely unaware of the solid scholarship on Mary Magdalene by fine scholars such as the late Jane Schaberg, April DeConick, Karen King, Ann Graham Brock, Margaret Starbird or a host of others. But more important he seems not to have read very carefully the arguments I review in the book that I think are actually quite persuasive.

THE POST WILL CONTINUE FROM HERE.

Note from Dr. Tabor: I will begin responding to all comments tomorrow morning (Wed 22nd) and until they taper off. I appreciate all of you who have offered comments and input. I look forward to the dialogue.


Jesus, the Supernatural, and the Historian: Guest Post 2 by James Tabor
How Were People Crucified?

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  January 20, 2020

    I knew a Methodist minister once who told me in private conversation that he found the idea of an unmarried Jesus preposterous. In the culture of that time and place, Jesus would have been a freak. For the same reasons, he told me that his disciples were certainly married as well. All of them would have wives and and children. If they were normal human beings of that time and place, they would surely have had wives and children– probably a LOT of children. I ought to have asked him whether he ever advanced such ideas to his congregation! Looking forward to the rest of your comments!!

    • Barfo
      Barfo  January 21, 2020

      That Methodist minister probably watched the Bob Guccione/ Gore Vidal production of Caligula too many times.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      I have changed my mind on this…see my blog posts on this subject…I think the strongest argument for Jesus being “married,” though that word might not be the right one–is Paul in recommending the single life in 1 Cor 7 does not appeal “to the Lord” as he does on other related matters in this chapter. If Jesus were “single” then Paul would have certainly mentioned it–as he is arguing for the single life, a kind of apocalyptic celibacy, I call it. Not Gnostic/Dualistic celibacy.

      • Avatar
        meohanlon  January 23, 2020

        Dr. Tabor,
        A couple remarks and questions I´d be interested to hear your thoughts on (And thanks for contributing to the blog. I´ve been a fan of your work alongside Dr. Ehrman´s for a while now, originally prompted by research for a story I´m writing about Jesus´ pre-ministry life) I don´t know if this is generally taken as lack of evidence for Jesus being a bachelor; that the lack of mention of Jesus’ marital status should be compared to the lack of mention of any of his disciples’. Although we can assume some of not most of them probably did have wives and families (not being ascetic Essenes, but fishermen) and Peter´s mother-in-law is mentioned, but it is only, incidentally mentioned in the context of a healing.
        My other questions: I have sometimes heard the argument made that Mary Magdalene´s having special access to Jesus´ corpse indicates strongly that she was a significant other. What do you make of this? (assuming the story is true, and even if not, shé´s still given that status in the possibly ficticious traditions)
        Also if Jesus was married, is it most likely Magdalene was his wife (as both gospels, and possibly Talpiot tombs would suggest)? I have sometimes wondered whether he was actually a widower by the time of his baptism (perhaps the tragic loss pushing him towards a spiritual life) – because it might also make sense of both the lack of mention of a wife (unnamed, like his father, next to relatives who are) and his being unusual (or Paul´s model) for being an unmarried rabbi.

        • JDTabor
          JDTabor  February 1, 2020

          Thanks for your question…not sure I can get back to all the comments and replies but I will try to spend a bit of time on this over the next week or so…

          The mysteriously prominent place of MM in Mark 15/16 is indeed quite striking. Taken as it is passed on in this our earliest gospel the most striking thing about her is that she is mentioned first, and is the “head” of a group of women, I would say including Jesus’ mother, perhaps sister, and others–and takes the lead for this group of “many women” who followed Jesus from the Galilee. John of course has a different story, where she is perhaps even more prominent, and Luke adds an entirely new view of her in chapter 8. But yes, I do think it is noteworthy that she leads the group who is to anoint Jesus’ body…this implies a family intimacy, and one things of a mother, sister, or “companion,” whether fitting the term “wife” or not…remember in many languages–one’s “woman” can imply wife–and even in slang English…The issue of celibacy among late 2nd Temple Jewish groups is another matter…I won’t address it here, but will say that Josephus’s description of the celibate “Essenes” does not fit what we know of the social life reflected in the sectarian scrolls, which never mention the idea. I do agree with Joe Zias that the cemetery at Qumran is all male, or surely 99% male…but that does not imply celibacy…but ideas of a kind of “sacred space” in which sex, blood, and death as ritual defilement were segregated. The scrolls also say “no sex in the City…” which does not mean celibacy, but adhering to standards of ritual defilement…

  2. Avatar
    Bwana  January 20, 2020

    “As for sources, nothing is excluded … Historians love and welcome evidence.”
    Great ! So I was wondering, would you consider the Turin shroud as valid evidence? Or do you, like so many other historians and NT scholars, simply dismiss it on basis of a C14 dating that seems more and more in doubt.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331956466_Radiocarbon_Dating_of_the_Turin_Shroud_New_Evidence_from_Raw_Data

    • Avatar
      Leovigild  January 21, 2020

      There is no documentary evidence for the Shroud of Turin before the 14th century, and the pigments, approach and materials are all quite compatible with a creation around that time.

      • Avatar
        Bwana  January 22, 2020

        There is a considerable amount of documentary evidence before the 14th century on something called the Mandylion. And with a bit of historical sleuthing the missing years between the disappearance of this Constantinople cloth and the appearance of the Turin shroud can also be accounted for. https://www.shroud.com/markward.htm
        Furthermore, anybody who has properly investigated the shroud knows that pigments were not used in the creation of the image.

        But this discussion should not turn into arguments pro/con the Turin shroud. My question was more about the validity of a historical methodology that would dismiss evidence without proper investigation, merely on basis of a distorted presentation of the facts on only 1 aspect of the entire issue (ie. the C14 dating). It would be like dismissing the Talpiot Garden tomb because of some lazy “these were common names” argument.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      I would consider anything…though don’t have the time for everything! So like all of us, I have to be selective. I do know something though about 1st century Jerusalem burial shrouds though, since Shimon Gibson and I and my UNC Charlotte students found the ONLY ONE every found in 2000. See my blog for details…search shroud. We found the only Jewish male hair of the period, and verified a true case of Hanson’s disease for the first time. Lots more. But our shroud is nothing like the Turin shroud…so from the only example we have, it does not seem ancient. It all just comes down to evidence. I have read what you assert here on the DNA tests but am not in a position to know. I think it is probably a forgery but I remain open.

      • Avatar
        Bwana  January 22, 2020

        Thanks, I read about the discovery of that tomb in one of your books, fascinating story. And it’s good to know you keep an open mind on that other shroud!

        Of course, if the Turin shroud is indeed the real thing, then it might have been interpreted by Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul in particular, as the physical embodiment of a spiritual resurrection. Indeed a “glorious body”, no longer “flesh and blood”, yet still showing the wounds to convince doubting Thomas. So I think the image on the shroud, not hallucinations, is what might have persuaded these early followers to start believing that Jesus was resurrected. And I find the Jan12th posting on your own blog to be eerily consistent with this hypothesis.

  3. Avatar
    AlbertHodges  January 20, 2020

    What a treat! The two best and most honest scholars in Early Christian Studies on the same blog! Proud to learn from you both!

  4. Avatar
    smackemyackem  January 20, 2020

    Been following James for years.

    Bart…would be interesting if you devoted a post to the Talpiot tomb.

    Your views specifically.

  5. Telling
    Telling  January 20, 2020

    James,

    I come from a study of metaphysics. It is neither religion nor science; not theology or history. Yet it is all of that. There is a growing cadre in the sciences and other disciplines that see our fundamental understanding of the nature of reality as hopelessly flawed. (See biologist Robert Lanza as an example). Metaphysics can right this.

    Fundamentally, conscious awareness did not evolve from inanimate physical matter. In fact there is no such thing as “inanimate physical matter”. All matter is made up of living cells which have consciousness. Consciousness is the foundation of everything, physical matter a mere construct of mind. What exists is energy and that energy has consciousness, and that consciousness forms worlds of infinite varieties, physical objects as we know them being mental symbols for communication between minds accessing the same “dictionary” of the physical senses.

    In metaphysics the concept is fundamental. It is also in the Eastern religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Evolution occurs through the dream state, a “physical” world emerging from a less-than-physical source. Essentially, thought comes first, and from thought all things arise.

    With this understanding we can see the religious myths as myth, and this is true whether or not such “myths” emerged into full-blown 3D space, for nothing is actually true, thought and action are essentially alike, just the degree and intensity of the thought being different. You can see that some sayings of Jesus follow the idea: mere thinking the thought is the same thing as doing it.

    Robert Lanza, a biologist mentioned above, suggests that until we correct this fundamental problem science will not ever resolve the basic problems. This would be true also with religion.

    • Avatar
      RICHWEN90  January 21, 2020

      What you are describing is “panpsychism”, if I’ve spelled it correctly. It used to be dismissed out of hand but ideas like these are gaining respectability. In current form, the idea is that consciousness is built up from the most basic elements of interactions that are well known in physics. Assembled into complex enough structures, you get our kind of subjective awareness. Some ideas from Gestalt psychology fit in this scheme as well. Interesting ideas.

      • Telling
        Telling  January 22, 2020

        Richwen90,

        I hadn’t heard that term before but yes, it is an ancient idea gathering steam presently, because it fully answers everything except what consciousness is in a non-spatial environment, and that perhaps cannot be answered.

        I used the term “living cells”, but I recall that Jane Roberts/Seth uses “EE Units” or something like that, meaning “electromagnetic energy” bundling of some sort. It would be an entirely new ballgame because Science cannot recognize anything outside of what is observed by the physical senses, and this different science has this “unknown” area as the source from which the physical world “evolved”. More simply put: We evolve physically from the internal dreaming state.

      • JDTabor
        JDTabor  January 22, 2020

        I would prefer Whitehead & Hartshorn’s “panentheism.” But I think I agree, from what I can follow and understand of quantum physics…I do general reading, that is about it. I am horrible with math. The BEST resource out there is Robert Kuhn’s many interview on his PBS Closer to Truth (closertotruth.com) series. I don’t think there is a major philosopher, physicist, or theologian he has not interviewed–and his skills are legendary. If you don’t know it check it out. I use these shows and clips in my classes all the time.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Well in the meantime, without wanting to be cavalier, bodies don’t ascend to heaven, women do not get pregnant without a male, no one walks on water, jumps off a roof and flies, sinks a ship by a wave of the hand, moves a mountain to the ocean, or creates a full meal on a banquet table by waving the hand. All of these things, and much much more, are reported in the gospels, Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius, and the Mithras Liturgy. So however we classify things: physical, spiritual, metaphysical…and I thing the terms are all misleading–what IS is and the nature of nature–meaning the way things are, do not include such “miracles” and I think most everyone knows it…even if they are in the Bible.

      • Telling
        Telling  January 22, 2020

        Thank you Dr. Tabor,

        I would just like to mention, however, that any of those things could happen . . . in the dream state. The difference between dreaming and waking state — and I’m speaking the arena of metaphysics — are the rules. Those things can and do happen while dreaming yet by mutual agreement do not happen to most of us in the waking state. The idea is, if we truly believe it will not happen then it cannot happen. But when we truly believe it will happen then it will happen. The rule is, there are no rules until we manufacture rules for the particular reality we are agreeing to inhabit. the world is a mental construct, the rules are as we agree. This happens at a deeper level that most of us are not privy to, of course.

        This “truth” (quoted because opinions vary) resolves a multitude of problems. Why this? Why that? Is there a God? How did the world come into being? Answer is we literally thought the world into being, individually and communally. It is reflective of our very imaginations (and perhaps inherited also). God is the consciousness composed of the sum total of all awareness. God is everything; we are God. If you want the world to change then look within; change yourself and the world will change. The Jesus teachings work quite well. They are the Master’s teachings, in every race and society.

        • JDTabor
          JDTabor  February 1, 2020

          Of course, what people dream or otherwise “think” they see may or may not have anything to do with non-dream reality–if that is a term. In other words, that ship I sunk in my dream is sailing on and anyone I thought sailed up into heaven, remains dust and ashes…So, to get to the point, Paul’s “sighting” of Jesus–and he can’t say what kind of body he had other than “glorious” and “powerful” does not mean anything about Jesus’ physical body, crucified and laid in the tombs (yes, I think there were two).

          • Telling
            Telling  February 1, 2020

            Dr. Tabor,

            Thank you for your time and thoughtful response.

            Giving Paul benefit of the doubt, that is, assuming he’s being truthful, I think it’s fair to say that his experience with Jesus when coming into Damascus was a life-changer.

            I just self-published a book demonstrating it is more likely than not that Jesus was not crucified. My authority and foundation is the metaphysical Jane Robert/Seth Material, which authoritatively states that some other man was crucified and was confused as Jesus. While researching Paul, I found this idea to be supported by the gospels and particularly by Acts and Paul’s letters. The idea is, Peter and the disciples knew the truth about the crucifixion (Peter repeatedly said it wasn’t Jesus); Paul did not. Paul’s letters demonstrate that Peter and the disciples and both the Jews and Christian Jews wanted nothing to do with Paul and were intent on getting rid of him. this is a most curious piece of Christian history. Researchers should not be ignoring this contradictory element.

            For Paul to have the visionary revelation, Jesus would not need to have died. It could be explained in different ways, and is one of those things where only the person experiencing the event can really know that it happened, yet as you’ve mentioned here, may not actually know what it is that he saw. And I agree with you the separating element between dream and waking state is the all important “paper trail”. If after the fact there is something lingering on in this world from the experienced event then it was indeed a “miracle” in our terms. If not then even the person who experienced it cannot know for sure it was not a hallucination.

            But Seth, mentioned above, convincingly says we now are as much in a trace state as anyone, and are hallucinating now. It’s far more tricky, and deeper, and curious than what we think we see in front of our eyes.

            As I said earlier, the Bible is a metaphysical book. I don’t see it will be understood without the historian having an understanding of metaphysics.

  6. Avatar
    ShonaG  January 20, 2020

    Whilst archeology can be objective history by definition must be subjective. There is no objective way of knowing if I’m lying when I say the sky is blue, you aren’t where I am, you don’t know what my motivation is and your presumptions about my biases will be based on your own cognitive biases.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Don’t think archaeology is without interpretation…but more data helps. Though stones never speak. Your solipsist point seems valid–impossible to refute–but we nonetheless have to function, with tomāto/tomato…

  7. Avatar
    El_Toro  January 20, 2020

    Thanks for this post, it is interesting to hear from a scholar in religious studies who has been trained as an ancient historian. I find many biblical scholars like to claim they are ancient historians when they are not (there’s nothing wrong with being a generalist, which is what many students of divinity are).

    A question along these lines – I agree history is a science (among the other historical sciences such as biology, archaeology, etc.), but is distinct from the theoretical sciences (like physics or astronomy). As history is scientific, and as you suggest that “careful argument based on logical analysis and best evidence remains our only path” – do you commend specific methodological approaches? Say, borrowing from the philosophy of science? Or is this where you see the “art” of history? That such logical argumentation is based off of technical skills and critical intuitions?

    Thanks ~ Toro

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      I think all of us who do history know we are woefully unqualified when it comes to method. Our “evidence” is so varied and pulls together the material, literary, psychological, philosophical, in really complex ways. We simply do our best. Often major affirmations hang on a tiny thread–i.e. the author of Luke mentions in passing that Jesus was “about” 30 years old at his baptism…so we all KNOW that and built huge assumptions one a passing word or two. And everyone now knows that…worldwide. But what if he were 20 or 40? Just one silly example. I have learned the most, see post below (Fiensy and Strange), from the archaeologists working the the Galilee–they have completely rewritten the assumptions lots of my colleagues had 20-30 years ago about the culture of that time and place, all sorts of assumptions that we now have to question…see there opening essays. We are hungry for every morsel…after all, this is Jesus folks. But on some levels we have so little…but in other ways we have so much. Bart and I seem to keep busy…

  8. Avatar
    ZeroSheFlies  January 20, 2020

    Great post. It would have been interesting if you addressed the topic you raise on your blog under the heading `Why a “Spiritual” Resurrection is the Only Sensible Option` or the earlier longer 2005 piece titled `Why People Are Confused About the Earliest Christian View of Resurrection of the Dead`. That would have generated much interest and discussion. Maybe one day .,.. Many thanks for contributing to Bart`s blog.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Thanks…yes, I hope people interested will look at those posts–particularly the one Why People are Confused…Of course language here, regarding “spiritual” and “physical” is tricky…but be that as it may, our earliest witness, Paul, who says he had “seen the Lord,” nonetheless did not “see” any shape or form apparently since he uses Jesus’ “glorious body” as the model for what he thinks his followers will be like at the Parousia (1 Cor 15, 1 Thess 4, Phil 3). He says he can’t really “say” what that “soma” or let’s call it “mode of being” will be like…I assume he saw some light or other apparitional phenomenon, along with a commissioning voice. I don’t have in mind here the three accounts in Acts…I find them of little use. But Galatians 1, 1 Cor 9, 15, etc. and what he reports…and my dissertation text: 2 Cor 12!! He has conversations with this entity! I cover this in my book Paul and Jesus…and recommend those interested follow up there.

      • Avatar
        ZeroSheFlies  January 22, 2020

        Thanks again. I bought the hardcover of your book on Paul and Jesus and the e-book version of the `Jesus Dynasty` and found them very interesting – if speculative in some instances, I recommend them highly.

  9. Avatar
    brenmcg  January 20, 2020

    “I cannot prove that Jesus and his brothers worked with their father Joseph in the building trades in nearby Sepphoris, but I think it is a likely possibility, given what we know (see Mark 6:3).”

    The Matthean version needs to be used here, Matthew 13:55. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”

    Mark removes all trace of Jesus having an earthly father.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      I don’t think Matthew helps much–here or elsewhere–in his rewriting of Mark. But especially here, where I think he has a problem with Mark’s “son of Mary…” and wants to clear that little bit of confusion up by putting in the reputed father. My own view is not that Mark “removes” Joseph as the father but that he has no idea who Jesus’ biological father might have been, much like Paul’s “born of a woman” line. I dug at Sepphoris in the 1990s with Jim Strange and it was the literal visible proximity to Nazareth that impressed me. We used to walk to Nazareth from our hillside site on the south side of Sepphoris to get falafel for afternoon lunch. It is a hop and a skip, with major roads running N/S and E/W. Now that I know more, i.e. Ken Dark’s work, etc. and James Strange, Jim’s son at Shikhin, the cultural/religious connections between village and urban centers is pretty clear. The MOST important book to read in dealing with the “historical” Jesus in my view is the two volume set, edited by David Fiensy and James Riley Strange, Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods (1) Life, Culture, and Society and (2) The Archaeological Record.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  January 22, 2020

        Thanks, but I think Mark is the one rewriting Matthew. That the tradition of Joseph being Jesus’ father is known independently by Matthew, Luke and John but not Mark, despite Mark knowing the name’s of Jesus’ mother and 4 brothers isn’t the most likely. Moreover it’s not the fact that Mark doesn’t know the name “Joseph”, its that his gopel has no reference whatsoever to any earthly father (he could do like Matthew here and say ‘the carpenter’s son’).

        The point of the original story is Jesus returning to his hometown where the townsfolk know the carpenter and know Mary and ask ‘isn’t this their son’. Not that they know Jesus to be the carpenter (as per Mark).

        The historical fact of Jesus having an earthly father is at odds with the theological belief that Jesus is the son of god. And we see the affect this theological belief has on the historical fact as the synoptics progress. In Matthew Joseph is visited by the angel, he protects the family and makes the decisions. In Luke Mary is visited by angel; Joseph tags along and is an inconvenient third wheel in the story. Finally Mark attempts to erase Joseph entirely from the pages of history.

        Joseph may well have worked with Jesus and his brothers in Sepphoris but its Matthew as the earliest gospel which comes closest to telling us so.

        • JDTabor
          JDTabor  January 22, 2020

          Well we disagree totally and we are not going to solve this in comments on a blog, with hundreds of books on the “Synoptic Problem.” I would only say this from my 40 years teaching these texts, side by side, there is no way Mark is a derived “cut down” version of Matthew. Things always move the other way. And the same with the material Mt and Lk have in common (whether you think it is a source or not), Mt is the one who embellishes, expands, shifts, and edits. The interests and theology of Matt is clear.

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  January 22, 2020

            The writer of 1 Tim 1:4 tells his followers not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies. If handed the gospels of Matthew and Luke he might well produce a cut down version of the gospel similar to Mark’s.

            Matthew may well have more pericopes overall than Mark, but of the one’s they share its Mark who does the embellishing and expanding.

            The errors brought about by the shifts and edits of Mark are numerous – eg the switching of the order of the Isaiah and Moses quotes from Mt 15 to Mk 7 produces the pointless repetition of Mark 7:8,9. Or the removal by Mark of the earthquake and dead walking into Jerusalem making the centurion’s declaration of Jesus to be the son of God looking bizarre.

            Matthew’s interest is in Jesus being a Jewish messiah fulfilling Jewish prophecies and being the son of David. Clearly of lesser interest to the later christian writer Mark. Matthew’s Jesus alone being sent to the lost sheep of Israel or telling his disciples not to go among the gentiles can only point one way.

  10. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  January 20, 2020

    Thanks for sharing !

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    dankoh  January 20, 2020

    Dear Prof. Tabor,

    To my mind, a good historian will apply the “Hume Maxim” to any claim of a supernatural miracle: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That doesn’t mean we reject the possibility of miracles a priori, but that we understand that since the point of a miracle is that it IS extraordinary, it needs correspondingly extraordinary support.

    Slightly OT, I would be VERY interested to hear about why you think Jesus was married, whether to Mary Magdalene or someone else.

    Regards,
    Dan Kohanski

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      I think I agree, though the point of my post was not about evaluating claims but including them in historical work, even given a Hume approach. But yes, as I make clear, I think “historically” Jesus had a human father like all of us reading this blog. The problem with any kind of “truth” evaluation, as Bart and others have made so clear, is our distance (chronological and otherwise) and lack of access to the very “thing” we are evaluating. See the link in my post on resurrection accounts in our gospels. These do not lend themselves to the kind of “evidence that demands a verdict” that McDowell, Craig, Brown, and others claim. Bart’s debates have made this abundantly clear I think.

      Your second question is not OT really, see part 2 and the links, and my blog. Too much to cover in a comment, but I have changed my mind on this question. Married I am not sure of, but seemingly by taking the lead in the most intimate family moments–burial rites, washing and anointing a corpse, etc. seems to give her a special status along with Jesus mother and possibly his sister.

      • Avatar
        joemccarron  January 22, 2020

        Your blog on the resurrection appearances was very interesting. It does at least suggest some disagreement about where the first appearances happened. Although I do not put so much weight on mark not talking about the appearances since he at least indicates there will be appearances in Galilea and I tend to think he may have just never finished his Gospel. (Dr. Goodacre suggested this possibility and I think it may win a plurality of probability in my mind) However, I am not immediately convinced on your view of early accounts claiming these appearances are non-material. That is because I tend to agree with Dr. Ehrman that Paul believed in a physical resurrection.

        “Paul certainly thought, and would have said, if asked, that the tomb was empty, because he definitely thought Jesus was physically raised from the dead.”
        https://ehrmanblog.org/pauls-view-of-resurrection-for-members/

        That said I am still digesting your blog.

        But to bring it back to this discussion, if you want to argue that there were inconsistencies about where and in what order the appearances happened, and therefore you don’t think any physical appearances happened, I really don’t have an issue with that. At least you are using the historical criteria to analyze it. And my issue is not with people using historical criteria and coming to a different conclusion. My issue is when historians agree to use the criteria but when they find using the criteria contradicts their religious or philosophical beliefs they suddenly claim using the criteria is invalid.

        But if you are to say using the historical criteria alone you would say there were no physical appearances then consider this.
        Instead of physical appearances of Jesus after his death, lets say we were talking about various memorial dinners on his behalf. (That is we were talking about something that does not contradict your naturalist worldview) And you had the same discrepancies about where the first such memorial dinner was and Paul even talked about a vision where he was at a memorial dinner. But you also had the same sorts of multiple accounts of memorial dinners happening. Would you really say no memorial dinners happened at all?

        Maybe my example could use work but do you see how I am trying to isolate how your philosophical views may be influencing your historical analysis?

  12. Avatar
    brenmcg  January 20, 2020

    I think the historian’s job, as with the physical sciences, is to give an account of the past without resorting to supernatural explanation.

    However the upshot is that the conclusions of a historian cant be used in arguments of a theological nature.

    eg the historian’s conclusion that Daniel must be 2ndC BC because of its prophecies of Antiochus and therefore not written by the prophet himself can’t be used as an argument against the bible being the word of God.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Well I would resort to “supernatural” explanations but only in the sense that such beliefs are a powerful element of faith in many movements. Unfortunately, historians of ancient religions seldom get first-hand testimony, most of what we deal with is on the literary/tale telling level…so its function “on the ground” in a sociological sense, is not available to us. We can’t listen to Jesus or watch him heal in one of his great crowds…sensing how it all worked. Rather we have Mark–perhaps in the 70s CE, telling us these stories that are being passed around, causing wonder and faith–but meant for “readers” (whom Mark even addresses directly in chapter 13!)…I studied with Perrin at Chicago and of course he taught me–and I agree with him on this–that Mark is in fact counter-miracle on one level–not that he does not report and spread such tales, but he wants readers to see a dead Jesus as “son of God” on the cross, forsaken by God and man…and then ask–should I follow if that is the cost–miracles be damned. One sees a bit of this in Paul as well, appealing to his sufferings. But with both of them, as ancient figures, I assume they likely “believed” such things–just that they can not replace the “taking up the cross” call as central to the message as they saw things.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  January 22, 2020

        I don’t think so. Mark has Jesus tell us that after he is risen he will go ahead of the disciples into Galilee. Even if Mark’s book ends at 16:8 his story ends 14:28.

        I don’t think Mark is the clever writer everyone takes him to be. He’s an editor of Matthew and makes plenty of mistakes while doing so.

  13. Avatar
    John Uzoigwe  January 20, 2020

    Dr. Bart I’m still on the same question I asked in one of your post. Now in Mathew 16 when Jesus came to the district of caeserea philipi he asked his disciples, ” who do people say I am?” Some say John the Baptist, other say, Elijah,…one of the prophet,….and then finally Peter said thou art Christ.
    Now a look at this verse will reveal that the people at the time Jesus walked the earth didn’t see him as the Messiah.
    Secondly, it seems that the whole gospel of Mathew was centered around Peter . From the beginning to the end
    Thirdly, since the disciples weren’t expecting the Messiah to be crucified. My guess is that idea of Jesus being the Messiah was something that developed many years after Jesus lived. Thus I will say the gospels we’re written in the light of the old prophesies and that Jesus never really called himself the Messiah.

    • Avatar
      John Uzoigwe  January 21, 2020

      My reason of saying the whole Mathew gospel was centered around Peter is this:
      Peter was the first disciple called by Jesus in Mathew
      Only Peter had revelation who truly Jesus was
      Only Peter rebuke him
      Only Peter was called to walk on water
      Only Peter was charged by Jesus concerning church
      Peter only proclaims undying loyalty
      Taken by Jesus to garden (Gethsemane) to pray
      Only peter follows Jesus’ trial from distance
      Only peter, is recognized as follower of Jesus by accent
      It was Peter that denied Jesus
      Remembers prophetic words of Jesus after denying Him a third time.
      My guess is that whoever wrote the book of Mathew met with Peter himself or with someone close to Peter

    • Bart
      Bart  January 24, 2020

      I”m not sure what your question is.

  14. Avatar
    joemccarron  January 20, 2020

    Often we get very sensible statements about the limits of sources and how we wish we had more sources. I certainly agree with all of this, but this applies equally well to non-miraculous events. You can apply the same historical criteria to miracle events and non miracle events. So to me the fact that we wish we had more information seems a bit of a red herring when it is raised in this debate.

    The infancy gospels fail on many of historical criteria for both miraculous and non-miraculous claims.

    Do you think a scholar that thought Jesus survived the crucifixion could use historical criteria to say he was alive after the crucifixion? If so why not one who thinks he died during the crucifixion? I would have no issue at all with a scholar saying yes we can apply this historical criteria and on its own it shows he likely was alive but for other reasons (philosophical, religious or whatever) even though the historical criteria are met, I do not believe it happened. Keeping your philosophical/religious reasons and your historical analysis separated in this way is clear thinking.

    You say it is odd to understand a miracle claim from the past as a:
    “literal scientific statements of fact.” A historical fact is not the same as a scientific fact. But many people think God acted in the world and his actions in the world were historic facts. Even if you have all sorts of philosophical reasons for finding those views odd, shunning a view as odd is not how positions “based on arguments and evidence” are created. Lots of odd things ended up being supported by the evidence and arguments. I am all ears if you want to present “evidence and arguments” miracles in general or particular did not happen. But if you are not even willing to consider contrary evidence that because you think that view is odd, well it may be “persuasive” to students and others who do not want to appear odd to the rest of society but that sort of persuasion has nothing to do with “evidence and arguments.”

    I do appreciate you sharing your views in “open court” and look forward to your next post.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Thanks Joe. I think it was Bock calling my views “odd,” not me calling those who believe in miracles “odd.” I don’t consider claims about miracles as odd at all. They are incredibly common and fully a part of what we historians study in trying to give account of something how the Jesus movement thrived and shaped itself in the early days. Years ago I heard Pat Roberson read one of his healing testimonies that people send in, on the air, and the person said they got their teeth pulled, were waiting for dentures, but Jesus put in a whole set of new adult teeth, and the molars had a gold cross in each one. He read it with a straight face! Said something like praise the Lord. I pick this outlandish example to make the point. I would include this as part of trying to understand how the 700 Club “worked” but I think the claim of this person absurd–and I am sure you do to–even though the “God can do anything” mantra could include such things.

      • Avatar
        joemccarron  January 22, 2020

        I never cared much for Pat Robertson but yes that would be what I consider an odd action by God. But the question is not whether we should believe God took odd actions (like the one described by Pat Robertson) but rather whether we should consider *any* action by God odd.
        You said:
        “Oddly enough, I maintain, along with most historians, that the “odd arguments” are characteristic of those who take the assertions that Jesus had no human father or that he walked out of his tomb and ascended bodily into the clouds of heaven as literal scientific statements of fact.”

        Now you say:
        “I think it was Bock calling my views “odd,” not me calling those who believe in miracles “odd.” I don’t consider claims about miracles as odd at all.”

        I’m not saying these two statements directly contradict but I hope you can understand why I might be unsure of your position.

        So you think believing miracles literally happened is not odd. But the arguments that support the beliefs are odd? The arguments to support them are just using the historical criteria about being multiply attested and close in time to the event etc. These are the same arguments based on the same criteria you use for other events. People saw and wrote that Jesus died by crucifixion. People then saw and wrote that he was alive after the crucifixion. This seems standard fair for a historian. I admit I may be misunderstanding what you are saying so I am asking for some explanation.

        “One of the most frequent responses I get to my work as a historian of religions, particularly in my dealings with Jesus, Paul, and the development of early “Christianities” is the objection that I “exclude the miraculous” as a valid part of the investigation.”

        I responded to your second post with a clarification about what we mean by saying historians are not in the business of establishing whether something happened because of God. That I agree with. But they are in the business of establishing what happened on earth. And if accounts talk about someone walking on water or rising from the dead on earth and people reported seeing these events on earth then yes it is something we can validly apply historical criteria to. Do you agree?

  15. Avatar
    tonysolgard  January 20, 2020

    As a historian, can you discuss why people told miracle stories? How did miracle stories function in discourse? To be corralled into discussing whether miracles occurred distracts from what history has to teach us (it seems to me).

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Great question Tony…unfortunately, when it comes to the Jesus movement, other than the references in Paul’s letters that I mention below, the references we have seem to me to function more on a literary level–tales, stories, etc. to enhance faith or verification of authenticity. Of course there is always the “other side,” deceiving spirits and the like, so that as Morton Smith used to say, “One person’s miracle is another person’s magic.” Depends on whether one is inside or outside. However, just taking Paul’s early (authentic?) letters–see the references in my earlier comment–he seems to think these miracles are evidence for his authenticity–even though he reverses the norm with his claim to more suffering than others as he true credential of verification–though without the miracles the reversal would fall flat.

      Your question is a great one though–and I think contemporary claims of miracles whether connected to Mary’s apparitions or the tent revival down the street, have at least a double function. They draw people and build faith–and because people are sick and lame and diseased–people simply have hope for healing, so they flock to such things. It seems totally understandable. I remember 40 years ago going to a Kathryn Cullmann revival/healing service, out of curiosity. I was amazed–even as an observer–at the way the crowd “felt,” just the “spirit” that seemed to take over. And like a good historian of religions, I tried my best to imagine what such activities might have been like among the Jesus folk in the 1st century…crowds flocking together is a key dynamic I think. Hey, we even feel it at football games. And watching films of the Nuremberg rallies…it is palpable. And scary.

  16. Avatar
    Jacqueline3  January 20, 2020

    Doesn’t look very coherent. If by “supernatural” you mean “miracles”, a certain order imposes itself. 1) define what “miracle” means now for you. 2) define what miracle meant for Jesus’ contemporaries (minus our notions of nature’s laws), 3) give examples of that second definition in the gospels, 4) then an only then, describe how this conflicts with the historian’s craft.

    None of this comes out here. The author sallies forth crushing past critics. Feels like I’m overhearing a man ranting at someone else in the bus. No clear context.

    Sorry if this feels negative

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Hey Jacqueline, I do sometimes ride the bus in Charlotte up to the university–trying to support public transportation, but I don’t remember “ranting” at anyone about this or other subjects. Maybe bars? Your comment does not feel negative at all, but I think you might miss the point of the post–which is something I know my students, as I reference, really have a challenge with–namely the idea that historians “ignore” or “exclude” the so-called “supernatural.” Crushing critics? Not sure what you mean by that though I did refer to Bock’s reference to my “odd arguments” for not accepting such a world view as the way the thing work (i.e. bodies ascending to heaven, pregnancies without fathers or via gods, etc.). I am hardly much of a crusher–and my full response to Darrel was pretty tame, see my blog. I was trained as a historian of religions and we in fact “revel” in the miraculous, as one way of understanding the claims of this or that individual or movement we might be studying–especially one such as the Jesus movement which seems to have this element at its center. Given the very thorough discussion on Bart’s blog of late re: miracles–Bart himself on what historians think, Slade, Shermer, Loftus, etc. I was not intending to add much to the questions you list here that I ignore.

      • Avatar
        joemccarron  January 31, 2020

        You say:
        “Given the very thorough discussion on Bart’s blog of late re: miracles–Bart himself on what historians think, Slade, Shermer, Loftus, etc. I was not intending to add much to the questions you list here that I ignore.”

        They seem to disagree about what the basic view is. Ehrman in the introduction to Slade’s post said:
        “He supports the same basic view we have seen by the other two contributors, that there is not and cannot be sufficient proof of miracles, in either the ancient or the modern worlds.”

        I quoted Ehrman and Slade responded:
        “Nope. Try again. I never once said ‘there is not and cannot be sufficient proof of miracles'”…

        Now I imagine he did not realize I was quoting Dr. Ehrman’s representation of his view or he would not have been so snarky. But I think that just demonstrates a bit of “in group” bias. Dr. Ehrman is in his tribe because he generally supports the dogma that belief in miracles is a mark of someone being irrational or unscientific. People like me who don’t just accept that believing in miracles is like believing “that the moon is made out of green cheese” as Dr. Ehrman said are clearly in the other tribe.
        https://ehrmanblog.org/jesus-and-his-miracles-some-interesting-features/comment-page-2/

        I would ask you if you take Ehrman’s or Slade’s position but really I think it is pretty obvious none of you want to actually have your views examined in any reasoned way. I just wanted to point out that although you all accept the general dogma (one would have to be somehow less rational or scientific to believe in miracles) Ehrman and Slade at least contradict each other about what the basic view for believing the dogma even is.

        You say:
        “…the goal is to set forth, in the open court of reasoned argument and evidence, a compelling “case” for whatever one is dealing with. Even when we disagree we end up stating “why” we don’t find this or that argument convincing, or what we find weak in the assumptions of one with whom we differ.”

        Yeah not so much on this topic. This series of articles has been much more about circling the wagons and calling those outside your group irrational, rather than offering any reasoned defense of your assumptions.

        • JDTabor
          JDTabor  February 1, 2020

          Not circling any wagons of which I am aware…I don’t know how to make my overall point any clearer–historians do not exclude the supernatural…they in fact relish it…and it is part and parcel of any account of a movement such as that shaped by Jesus–or for that matter many other figures we have access to at the time, such as Josephus. Whether this or that “happened” is a loaded question and involves the complex interplay of mental states, sensual perception, and presuppositions about how the world works. I think we all know, basically, how the world works as we deal with it “rationally” all the time, in every area of our life. I find life infinitely mysterious and full of the unexplained, and the role of “faith” in areas like healing and health seems well founded. But I don’t think anyone walks on water, flies, or gets pregnant without male sperm, and the like. And I think most of us know such things are legendary and illusionary–though fervently claimed both in texts–and even by some of our contemporaries. I get emails and letters all the time claiming the most outlandish thing you can imagine.

          • Avatar
            joemccarron  February 3, 2020

            Dr Tabor:
            “…I don’t know how to make my overall point any clearer–historians do not exclude the supernatural…”

            “….But I don’t think anyone walks on water, flies, or gets pregnant without male sperm, and the like. And I think most of us know such things are legendary and illusionary–though fervently claimed both in texts–and even by some of our contemporaries.”

            If I say “We know I did not murder Ron Goldman” I am most definitely *excluding* any account of history that claims I murdered Ron Goldman. The same thing counts for general statements like “I know I did not murder anyone.” I am *excluding* any account of history that includes me murdering someone. So for you to say I am not excluding supernatural events but we “know” supernatural events don’t happen seems like a fairly straight forward contradiction.

            I am not sure how you could be *less* clear in your views. I suggest your views are internally inconsistent so the problem may be deeper than just how you are expressing yourself.

            You are indeed circling the wagons when you just claim “most of us know” that miracles don’t happen when that is the very question under examination. Who is the “us” in “most of us know….”? This is what in group bias is all about. It is about reinforcing this “us” that knows versus “them” – the uninformed.

            Again I am not against you simply saying you do not think miracles happened in the past for philosophical, religious or other reasons (because of your views about how science works etc.) Thus you could say yes the historical criteria supports this event happening but I don’t think it happened because I have these philosophical/religious views about how the world works and they simply outweigh the historical criteria in these cases. Thus what you said about the limits of history would make sense. That would be a very clear approach and everyone would know what you are doing. But it seems you and Dr. Ehrman want to claim something different is going on. You seem to want to avoid admitting your philosophical beliefs against the likelihood of miracles are so strong that they outweigh any historical analysis that you or anyone might do.

  17. Avatar
    AJ  January 20, 2020

    There appears to be a clear evolution of Christian supernatural stories evident from Paul (not much at all in terms of miracles or resurrection sitings) to Mark (no post empty tomb sitings) to Matthew (one post resurrection gathering) to Luke and John (doubting Thomas, Jesus eating meals etc.). When placed in chronological order, the building of myth seems pretty apparent. The stories seemed groomed to be addressing insufficiencies in the narrative as the church was trying to grow. I also wonder if the Gospels’ emphases on miracles show a bit of the Greek influence. God must show His bona fides and show that he is more powerful than those other pagan gods. Still, it’s interesting that some of that thunder is then stolen by other NT actors also performing miracles.The absence of contemporary accounts of any of Jesus’ miracles seems like a bright flashing red light to me…..especially no reports by the Jews of anything unusual about Jesus. If a guy is bringing peple back to life, one would think this would garner some attention and some record.

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Thanks AJ…reports of such “signs and wonders” do seem to increase with time over the decades into the 2nd century CE, however, it is hard to know about Paul himself (not Acts but his letters). I wrote my dissertation on Paul’s ascent to Paradise in 2 Cor 12 and he does reference signs, wonders, and mighty works” as the signs of his apostleship–even while touting “suffering” as what really counts. And there are of course other references, Gal 3:5, the various “gifts” of 1 Cor 14, etc.

  18. Avatar
    Hngerhman  January 20, 2020

    Dr Tabor –

    Thanks so much for participating on the blog!

    I have two questions:
    – I just yesterday finished The Jesus Discovery on audiobook. Was a blast. A question arose: Does the existence of the Talpiot remains prima facie undercut the historicity of the Markan Empty Tomb tradition? I know you make subtler arguments about how Luke/John misunderstand the nature of resurrection, and that Mark preserves the early understanding of it better. But if Talpiot contains the bones of Jesus, it would seem that Mark (and his successors and others) didn’t know of this unempty tomb.
    – Does your work on 4Q521 and the synoptics suggest that JB was likely Essene?

    Many thanks!

    • JDTabor
      JDTabor  January 22, 2020

      Glad you read/heard the book. As you know, it has much more than the “Talpiot tomb” discussion. I am of the view that the “bones of Jesus” would have nothing to do with the earliest view of resurrection of the dead as reflected in Paul’s letters, particularly 1 Cor 15 and 2 Cor 5. To use Paul’s analogy, the “flesh and blood” body is left behind like old clothes–with the naked “self” then reclothed (or re-housed!). That does not seem to be Mark’s view–even without “sightings” of Jesus. However, there is a plausible reason to think the initial burial of Jesus near the site of execution was one of “emergency” or necessity–with Passover looming, thus there would be a reburial in a more permanent tomb.

      The problem with labeling JtB as an “Essene” is that the category or label of “Essene” (Josephus, Philo, etc.) does not seem to be one that the Qumran sectarian group used (unless “Ossim”=Essene which might be possible.) I don’t think the labels help. What we can say is that the sectarian texts of Qumran share some core ideas with the JtB/Jesus movement–but also many stark differences. I think the strict wing of the group would have found both JtB and Jesus much to “liberal” in their views of society, gender, ritual, etc.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  January 23, 2020

        Thanks a ton!

        Quick follow-up on 4Q521: curious why you think the Jesus movement/evangelists ostensibly quoted a Qumranic text (this one specifically) back to followers of JtB (or at least made this representation to the gospel reader) as a proof text for messiahship, and rather than an OT quote?

        Cheers!

  19. JDTabor
    JDTabor  January 21, 2020

    I thank Bart for the guest post slot. I will try to get to some of the replies to the comments once the 2nd half of the post appears later today. I am off to classes today and have a packed schedule of meetings. Such is the craft of the academic “tekton.” If you have already made a relevant comment hang in there. It might take me through the week to get to them all.

  20. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  January 23, 2020

    It seems that, for all we know, the accounts of “miracles” Jesus performed are entirely made-up. Perhaps various stories circulated, but there were no eyewitnesses because no one actually saw anyone raised from the dead, or healed. The rumors circulated. The stories became embellished in the re-telling. The legends overtook reality. And now we have nothing but the tall tales. Going on the basis of probability, this kind of scenario is vastly more likely than miracle working. We KNOW that people tell stories. We KNOW that people are credulous. We KNOW that legends exist, and that some people take those legends very seriously. We KNOW there are miracle stories in other religious traditions. If you credit some, why not credit all of them? And if you are not willing to credit all of them, why credit any of them? We can say that miracle stories exist. But that really seems to be the limit. There are all sorts of stories and anecdotes floating around at any given time. We should always keep P. T. Barnum in mind.

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