I know that by now I’m supposed to be citing Craig Evans’s best arguments that Jesus was probably given a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea, rather than being left hanging on the cross for a few days in accordance with standard Roman practice. But I’ve realized that before I get to the first of these arguments, I have to say something about how historians need to use their ancient sources. The short answer to that question is that they need to use them … gingerly. And consistently gingerly.
This perspective will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog for a long while and seen how I think we need, consistently, to use the books of the New Testament itself as sources for what actually happened in the past – whether we are considering the Gospels for knowing about what Jesus really said and did, or considering the book of Acts for knowing about the life and teachings of Paul, or considering the letters allegedly, but not really, written by Peter, James, and Jude for knowing the teachings of the historical Peter, James, and Jude – and so on.
But I do need to stress the point to make sense of what I want to say about Josephus, whom I have discussed in previous posts.
Let me make the point by telling an anecdote. This has happened to me a dozen times, but I’ll recount simply one instance.
A couple of years ago I was