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Pontius Pilate: A Sensitive Guy….

QUESTION: Could Pilate have conceded over burial rights also? Granted this may not extend to those accused of treason, but as Pilate did permit some local customs, does this not open up sufficient space for Josephus’ claim over burial rights to be taken seriously?   RESPONSE: This question arose a couple of weeks ago after I had returned briefly to an older conversation about whether Jesus would have been buried on the afternoon he was crucified.  I tried to show that if so, this would have been in clear violation of policy and precedent.  Part of the entire punishment for capital offenses -- especially crimes against the state (e.g., claiming to be a ruler of a people ruled instead by Rome) -- was to be left *on* the cross for days, as a public display, and a humiliation and denigration: bodies were left subject to the elements, the scavengers, and natural decay.  The Romans wanted everyone to know that THIS is what happens to those who cross the power of Rome. A number of readers [...]

2018-01-21T15:33:57-05:00January 21st, 2018|Early Judaism, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

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 [...]

Josephus’s Clearest Claim about the Burial of Crucified Victims

We come now, at last, to the best argument in Craig Evans’ arsenal, in his attack on the views of Jesus’ burial that I set forth in in How Jesus Became God.   Tomorrow I will deal with the second best – an argument from archaeology.   Craig makes a somewhat bigger deal of the second best; in fact he throws off this, his best argument rather quickly.  But it’s the most important point of the many (many!) issues he raises.   The argument is this.  In one passage of Josephus’s writings, in an extremely brief few words (it’s only half of one sentence) (this is the only half sentence in the entire corpus not only of Josephus’s 30 volumes of writing but in the entire corpus of pagan and Jewish literature of all of antiquity that makes this claim) he explicitly indicates that Jews buried victims of crucifixion before sunset.   Craig’s commentary on the passage amounts only to two sentences. At the end of the day I don’t find even this piece of evidence persuasive, and in [...]

2020-04-03T16:39:56-04:00July 29th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

More on Josephus and Jewish Burial Practices

In my previous post I began to deal with the first of two arguments that Craig Evans provides from Josephus.  Craig wants to argue that Josephus, a first-century Jewish authority, explicitly indicates that Romans allowed Jews to provide decent burials for their dead.   In this first argument Craig provides a concatenation of passages from Josephus that together, Craig argues, indicate that Jews would not leave a corpse (such as that of Jesus) on the cross, but would provide a burial for it.  Here is the argument again. “Josephus asserts the same thing.  The Romans, he says, do not require “their subjects to violate their national laws” (Against Apion 2.73).  The Jewish historian and adds that the Roman procurators who succeeded Agrippa I “by abstaining from all interference with the customs of the country kept the nation at peace” (Jewish War 2.220), customs that included never leaving a “corpse unburied” (Against Apion 2.211). I dealt with the first quotation in yesterday’s post, where I pointed out that in Against Apion Josephus is not referring to burial [...]

2020-04-03T16:40:04-04:00July 28th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Does Josephus Show that Jews Always Buried Their Dead?

I have not covered all of the points that Craig Evans makes in his essay “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right,” which is his response to the position I stake out in How Jesus Became God.  My view is that Jesus probably was not given a decent burial on the day of his death by the otherwise unknown figure, Joseph of Arimathea.   In this thread I have tried to focus on Craig’s main points – but I will be happy to address any of the others if anyone is interested.   In my judgment, despite all the various issues he raises there are really only two of that are directly relevant and that need to be taken with utmost seriousness:  Josephus appears to say that Jews were allowed to bury their dead (Craig makes two arguments about this) and we have the skeletal remains of one crucified victim from Judea at about the time of Jesus. First I’ll be dealing with the evidence from Josephus.  My view is that of the two arguments Craig makes, [...]

2020-04-03T16:43:17-04:00July 27th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Did Pilate “Learn His Lesson”?

I think there is almost no historical figure that Craig and I disagree on more than the Roman governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’ death, Pontius Pilate.   I see him as a cruel, vicious, hard-headed, insensitive, and brutal ruler; Craig portrays him as an efficient but wise and rather sensitive aristocrat who could learn from his lessons and who would go out of his way not to offend Jewish sensibilities.  A lot hangs on which view (if either) is right, since it was Pilate – we agree on this! – who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion.  Moreover, if Jesus was given a decent burial (Craig’s view) or was left to hang on the cross for some time in accordance with standard Roman practice (my view), it was, in either case, Pilate’s decision. Craig’s view is that Pilate’s sensitive decision not to allow crucified victims to hang on their crosses after their deaths is what allowed him to keep “the nation at peace” (the phrase comes from the Jewish historian Josephus, whom I will be dealing [...]

2020-04-03T16:43:55-04:00July 18th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Did Pontius Pilate Respect Jewish Sensitivities?

When I was in high school I was active on the debate team, and really loved it.  We were pretty good, although I was nowhere near being the best on the team.  My colleague and another fellow on the team ended up debating together in college and won the national championship as sophomores.  These guys were terrific. One of the decisions we constantly had to make when arguing the negative side of a resolution was how to go about attacking the claims of the affirmative side.  There were two general approaches: one was what we called the “shotgun” approach.  This involved leveling lots and lots of arguments (like buckshot) and hoping that the other side could not respond to them all, thereby making the judge of the debate think that some of the arguments stuck, even if not all of them were that good.  The problem with the shotgun approach was that if a bunch of the arguments weren’t very good, the affirmative side could knock them down fairly easily, and by the end, it [...]

2020-04-03T16:44:04-04:00July 17th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|
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