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Did Romans Allow Jews to Bury Crucified Victims? Readers’ Mailbag January 1, 2018

Here on the first day of the new year, I was digging around on the blog and I found a post that I *meant* to make a couple of months ago that I never did.  Don't remember why!  But here it is.  It is from the Readers' Mailbag, and about a very interesting and controversial issue: would the Romans have allowed anyone to bury Jesus the afternoon on which he was crucified?  I think not, even though I'm in the decided minority on that one.  Here's the post:   ******************************   QUESTION: In Josephus's Jewish Wars he states:: “Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, 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.” It looks like (to me) that the Jews were allowed to bury the crucified before sunset – how do you interpret this passage? RESPONSE: I dealt [...]

What Paul’s Conversion Meant

In my previous posts I talked about Paul’s life up to his conversion and the conversion experience itself.  Now, for two posts, I want to talk about what the conversion actually *meant* to Paul, particularly in terms of how it affected both his thinking and his life (which, for Paul, were very closely related to one another).  His thinking involved his theology and his subsequent life involved missionary work as the newly minted apostle of Jesus with a distinctive message. It is easiest to understand Paul’s subsequent missionary activities and evangelistic message by realizing how an appearance of the living Jesus would force him from “fact” to “implications.”  (I’ve discussed some of this on the blog before, but indulge me for a bit: I’m trying to clarify in my own mind exactly how I’m imagining all this…) For him the “fact” was that Jesus was alive again (it was a “fact” for him because he had seen Jesus alive three years after he had died).   And from that fact Paul started reasoning backwards.  This backward [...]

2017-11-06T21:22:37-05:00June 19th, 2016|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

So … Was Matthew a Jew?

I am near the end of this thread on the Jewishness of Matthew’s Gospel. I have several more posts to go, so I’m not completely at the finish line; but it’s within sight. (I should stress that I am not intending to give an exhaustive analysis of the problem and all the relevant issues. That would take a very long book. In fact, scholars have indeed written significant books on the topic. One of my graduate students, Judy Siker, wrote her dissertation on one aspect of the issue. She's also the author of Who is Jesus? What a Difference a Lens Makes. I hope to close out the thread with posts on three related topics: this post and the next on whether Matthew was himself Jewish; the one after on whether Matthew – whether Jewish or not – was anti-Jewish (I hope to do that in just one post, but it may take more); and finally one on whether Matthew and the apostle Paul would have or could have seen eye-to-eye on the relationship of [...]

2020-04-29T16:03:39-04:00July 4th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

Was Matthew’s Community Gentile or Jewish?

Given the importance of following the law for Matthew (especially as seen in 5:17-20 and in the Antithises), if we had no indication that Christianity spread among non-Jews soon after Jesus' death, we might simply assume that Matthew's community was comprised of Jews who continued to adhere to the law even if they disagreed with the Pharisees over how best to do so.  But Gentiles *were* joining the Christian church well before Matthew wrote his Gospel; indeed, at this time there were probably more Gentiles who claimed to be followers of Jesus than Jews.  Does Matthew think that these Gentiles Christians are to keep kosher, to observe the sabbath, and, if male, to be circumcised?  It is an intriguing question because, as we will see in a later post, the apostle Paul was adamant that they should *not*. It is unfortunate for us that Matthew does not address this issue directly.  In this Gospel Jesus does give numerous indications that Gentiles will become his followers and inherit the kingdom of heaven; but nowhere does he [...]

2020-04-03T18:23:25-04:00July 3rd, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

The Jewish Emphases of Matthew: Part 5

In the last post I tried to show that Matthew’s Jesus (remember: I’m not talking about the historical Jesus here; I’ve been referring to Jesus as he is presented in Matthew – a very different thing!) does indeed seem to think that his readers should follow not just the ethical aspects of the Jewish law, but the cultic aspects as well – keeping Sabbath, tithing, and so on.  At the same time, it appears that Jesus in Matthew thinks that his opponents are wrong in placing the highest priority on keeping these cultic requirements, rather than on emphasizing the commandment to love that lies at its core. This becomes especially clear in two stories that Matthew took over from Mark, but modified.  The first is Mark's account of the call of Levi the tax collector (Mark 2:13-17; in Matthew's account, it is the call of Matthew!).  When the Pharisees see Jesus eating in Levi's home with "tax collectors and sinners," they disparage him for mixing with such tainted company.  Evidently their own emphasis on ritual [...]

2020-04-03T18:24:26-04:00July 2nd, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

The Jewish Emphases of Matthew: Part 4

In previous posts I’ve talked about Matthew radicalizing the law – so that his followers were to adhere to it even more closely than the scribes and Pharisees. Most Christians today think the Jewish law is irrelevant (except maybe for the Ten Commandments) (well, nine of them anyway: most Christians don’t keep the Sabbath.) (For years, as a boy, raised in the Christian church, I thought “Sabbath” meant “Sunday.” I assume that’s typical. But even so, we had no qualms about doing just about anything we pleased even on Sunday….). But when Jesus speaks about the laws that his followers are to keep, they are always the ethical laws such as not murdering and not committing adultery,which presumably would have applied not just to Jews but also to gentiles. What about the laws of Scripture, though, that were widely recognized as making Jews a separate people from the non-Jews, for example, the laws that required Jews to circumcise their baby boys, and to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to observe certain dietary restrictions? We [...]

2020-04-03T18:24:33-04:00July 1st, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

The Jewish Emphases of Matthew’s Gospel: Part 3

In the current thread I have been posting about the Jewish emphases of Matthew’s Gospel, all in an attempt to move to an answer to the question of whether, in my opinion Matthew was himself Jewish. When I get done with these posts, I’ll explain what my opinion is and why I have it; I can tell by some of the responses so far to these posts that some people are in for a surprise…. In previous posts we saw that Jesus, in Matthew, insists that his followers keep the Jewish law – even better than the scribes and the Pharisees. But for Matthew, What is the real purpose of the law? We get a hint of Matthew's answer already in the Sermon on the Mount, in Jesus' famous expression of the Golden Rule. We know of other ancient teachers who formulated similar guidelines of behavior usually in its negative form -- that you should not do to another what you do not want them to do to you – as far afield as Confucius [...]

2020-04-03T18:24:42-04:00June 30th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

The Jewish Emphases of Matthew: Part 2

In continuation of the question of the relationship of the Gospel of Matthew – both the Gospel itself and its anonymous author – to Judaism, I lift from something I wrote somewhere else at some point a while back: ********************************************************************************************************** Contrary to what many Christians have thought throughout the ages, for Matthew following Jesus does *not* mean abandoning Judaism and joining a new religion that is opposed to it. It is worth observing that even some Christians in Matthew's own day appear to have thought that this is what Jesus had in mind, that is, that he sought to overturn the law of Moses in his preaching about the way of God. For Matthew, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The keynote of the sermon is struck soon after the Beatitudes in the striking statement, found only in this Gospel: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass [...]

2020-04-03T18:24:48-04:00June 27th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

The Jewish Emphases of Matthew

In evaluating whether Matthew was himself Jewish or not – the theme of my current thread — it is important to get a sense of his distinctive emphases in his portrayal of Jesus. Here there can be little doubt. The focus of attention in Matthew’s Gospel is on to the nature of Jesus’ relationship to Judaism. You see this off the bat in chapter 1. Whereas Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus as an adult being baptized by John the Baptist, Matthew’s begins with a clear resonance of Jewish Scripture – with a genealogy of Jewish and Israelite ancestors. And before he begins the genealogy, Matthew tells us that it will be one that traces the line of Jesus back to David and Abraham (“The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”). And why does he highlight these two names in particular? Because David was the greatest king of Israel, whose descendant was to be the “messiah” (as Jesus is called here: Jesus “Christ”), and Abraham was “the [...]

2020-04-03T18:24:55-04:00June 26th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|
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