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The Crucified Messiah in 1 Corinthians

Historians usually have reasons for what they say; that is, when they make a historical claim, it is almost always based on a close reading of the surviving sources.  When it’s not, they’re just blowin’ smoke.  But if they’re blowin’ smoke – that is, taking a guess –they’ll usually tell you.   I suppose that’s one difference between an expert (in any field) and an amateur: the expert actually has a deep and nuanced reading of the sources that informs his/her views.

I have to say, as you probably have noticed in your own areas of expertise, it is pretty easy if you are an expert to know who else is an expert and who is not.  I say that as someone who is an expert in one or two areas, but an amateur in thousands.  When I have an interpretation of Hamlet or Lear that I bounce off my wife – who is a hard-core, internationally recognized expert on Shakespeare – I realize that, for the most part, I’m just taking a stab at something that she can take apart in a flash.   As I have experience on many an occasion.

People on the blog regularly ask me what basis I have for saying something, and I completely encourage that kind of thing!  That’s what the blog is all about.   Because my posts are only a thousand words on average, I often have to say things without giving the basis.  And even when I give the basis, it is often in just a post or two, when it deserves an entire chapter (or long thread).  Still, I’m always happy to indicate when I have evidence and argument, when I’m simply making an educated guess, and when I’m actually just flippin’ a coin.

Yesterday I indicated that most Jews rejected the claims of Jesus’ followers that he was the messiah because Jesus was just the opposite of what the messiah was expected to be.  As I put it:  “Rather than a powerful figure who destroyed God’s enemies, Jesus was a lower class peasant who got on the wrong side of the law and was *squashed* by God’s enemies.”  Some readers have wondered if I’m blowin’ smoke on this one: and that indeed is worth asking.

So let me tell you my reasons for thinking this is why the claims about Jesus were rejected by most Jews.  The short answer is …

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Readers’ Mailbag on Revelation: November 6, 2015
The Jewish Messiah

41

Comments

  1. Avatar
    stephena  November 5, 2015

    You write: “God manifests his true power and wisdom in a way that strikes Jews as weak and foolish. No wonder most Jews didn’t buy it’ – That’s a theological interpretation, or at best, it’s what this “Paul” wished people to believe. It should not be stated as fact, as you’ve done here, and it’s certainly at odds with what Acts records, namely, that THOUSANDS of Jews coming to the new Jesus movement, led by men who KNEW Jesus, not just acquainted with him in hallucinations. And they attended the temple regularly, so they were NOT being rejected wholesale by the Jewish leaders. Not that Acts is literal history, but it’s odd that in this case, like many others, Paul is contradicted by his own disciple, Luke. (Author of Acts, for those who don’t know.)

    Question: Why are you trusting Paul’s words as a “source?” I have never understood why you accept him as reliable and his interpretations of Jesus as “normative” of early Christianity. He could very well have been writing from Tarsus and making the entire experience with the Risen Christ up, decades later (and of course, he never met Jesus in the flesh, the way his Jerusalem apostles did – the same ones he condemns repeatedly.) I find Paul to be a shaky source, given the fact that even his alleged conversion has three separate and irreconcilable versions in Galatians and Acts. Unless you believe they CAN or MUST be reconciled, and I somehow doubt that. Or at least I hope you do.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2015

      I obviously don’t trust Paul for everything! But when it comes to knowing why Jews rejected the Christian message, he’s an impeccable authority, as one who was himself a Jew who rejected the Xn message and as a missionary who confronted such people all the time.

      • Avatar
        stephena  November 6, 2015

        Paul is no authority at all, except on “His” gospel (the one Paul received either through exclusive visions/hallucinations with the Risen Christ God-man or through discussions with the Jerusalem apostles, which he claims in various places to have either NEVER consulted, consulted with after 14 years, or to have consulted with almost immediately.)

        His assertions that the Jews rejected HIS Gospel – the Gospel of a dying/rising God-spawned demigod named Christus, upon whose blood we believe and are instantly “saved” to a Heaven – are almost certainly TRUE.

        He clearly shows, and freely admits, that THIS Gospel was being rejected.

        But the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, by all accounts – by early in the book of Acts and by the early church historians – flourished. So his testimony is tainted, at best.

        And that’s the point: We can’t say that JESUS was being rejected, but only Paul’s interpretation of him and his message. I submit that we need to make that clear when speaking about the “Gospel” or “Christ” being rejected, since as you so excellently not in your book, Lost Christianities, there were MANY competing faiths of this time, and frankly, I trust the Apostles who knew and walked with Jesus more than Paul, who met him only in dreams.

  2. Avatar
    Scott  November 5, 2015

    “If those are the saints, you wonder what the sinners looked like….”

    ** rimshot **

  3. Avatar
    john76  November 5, 2015

    Paul meant that a “crucified savior” was a stumbling block for “most Jews,” but not for Jews who read the scriptures like the way Pau did following his conversion experience. Paul had no problem with a crucified messiah, and accordingly said ” Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3).” The scriptures Paul saw Christ as fulfilling in the passage in 1 Cor 15:3 were most likely Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The messiah had to die to atone for the sins of the world (1 Cor 15:3), and to be the “firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20)” of the general resurrection.

    • Avatar
      john76  November 5, 2015

      spelling mistake – “Paul,” not “Pau” sorry

  4. Avatar
    JonH  November 5, 2015

    The Jews expected the messiah to be a human, not a divine being who was (or was made) equal to God. It seems like the idea of a crucified messiah would have been the least of the stumbling blocks for the Jews when Paul was asking them to believe that not only was the messiah killed, but he was God himself (or a divine being made equal to God).

    In that context, why would Paul have focused on the messiah aspect of the claims about Jesus being a stumbling block to the Jews?

    To use your David Koresh analogy, this is a bit like saying the idea of David Koresh as a prophet is a stumbling block that prevents Americans from believing David Koresh is Lord of the Universe. The prophet claim is trivial compared to the much larger claim about his divinity. And even if Americans did believe he was a prophet — like, say, some do believe about Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy — that would not imply that he was also a god.

    I guess my question is, why did Paul say the comparatively trivial claim (messiah) the stumbling block, when that was not the claim, or belief, that Paul emphasized was important for salvation?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2015

      Because Jesus was the Christ expected by the Jews. Except he was the opposite of what that figure was to be. Yes, for Paul he was also a divine being who came into the world, but that was not the original message to Jews. Notice Jesus “last name” becomes “Christ” (not “God”)

  5. Avatar
    Wilusa  November 5, 2015

    Was Paul embracing the “atonement” idea at this point? Did he indicate that *that* was the reason Jesus had to die – and specifically, be crucified? (Without looking it up, I’m not sure where he explains having changed his mind about the meaning of a person “hanged from a tree” being “cursed.”)

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2015

      I’ll be dealing with the Galatians passage in my next post.

  6. Avatar
    Prizm  November 5, 2015

    For most practicing Christians, conversion comes first and apologetics come later. Heck, just look at Paul.

    If a person claims they read the bible and made a logical decision that Jesus must be the Christ and therefore they became a Christian, I would have to call BS 99% of the time. Dig a little deeper and you’ll usually find it’s an emotional decision: Their spouse got converted first and they’ve been influenced by them; or they’ve had a positive experience with a warm community of believers; or they’re lonely/destitute and feel accepted or influenced by believers that reach out to them; or they’ve had a dream/experience/amazing coincidence that convinces them that the God they grew up with (or were previously taught about) is real.

    After the conversion experience, then the apologetics kick in. After all, saying “The Lord spoke to me” doesn’t carry a lot of weight. They want to feel like they made a rational, logical decision.

    I would venture it’s the same situation for first century Christians. They wanted to be part of an accepting community and an accepting, loving God. They couldn’t be part of Judaism, so they got Judaism Lite — no wacky food laws and no genital mutilation. Paul starts talking about having an experience with Jesus, and suddenly many people are ‘seeing’ Jesus in visions and whatnot and getting converted. But soon it was time to get serious and actually back up their beliefs, so Paul starts refining his apologetics and comes up with some clever doctrinal twists.

    I think most Jews could tell Jesus was not a kosher Messiah (or at least their religious leaders knew enough and rejected him, so the average jew simply followed suit). Whereas the gentiles were less-versed and less-concerned with Jewish doctrine, so were more open from the start.

    • Avatar
      flcombs  November 6, 2015

      Along those lines of order of belief/aplogetics: I always think it interesting how many Christians like to bring up 1 Cor 15 and the “500 witnesses” as some type of proof. What many of them have trouble realizing is that he is writing and reminding people that are ALREADY Christians. They have no reason to doubt Paul or to be inclined to check out his claims. Just because he claimed it doesn’t mean that anyone there bothered to travel to Jerusalem or wherever to check out is what Paul said is true and talk to x number of witnesses. If they did, I’m not aware of a record of it. I don’t recall any evidence or proof of what Paul claimed to them and it appears they believed Paul’s testimony. (Please someone say different if any evidence not so!)

      • Avatar
        Prizm  November 8, 2015

        flcombs said “he is writing and reminding people that are ALREADY Christians”
        Yes, and not only that, but Pauls says the 500 witnesses were *brethren* – people that were already believers! Go to a charismatic church and ask how many in the congregation believe God has spoken to them at some point. Most would raise their hand!

  7. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  November 6, 2015

    It’s very difficult not to ask a hundred questions.

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 6, 2015

    Good post. Quite a crew of “saints” in Corinth!

  9. Avatar
    dragonfly  November 6, 2015

    If anyone knew why jews rejected christianity it was Paul. He was a jew who rejected it. When he says the crucifixion was the biggest stumbling block to jews accepting Jesus as the messiah, I think he’s talking from experience.

  10. Robert
    Robert  November 6, 2015

    “To Jews the idea that the Christ / messiah would be crucified was a sign of “weakness” and evidence of absolute “foolishness” (1:23-25).”

    I don’t disagree about the majority of ‘Jews’ not accepting the early Christian message, but Paul here is not only speaking about ‘Jewish’ rejection of his message. The ‘foolishness’ Paul speaks about here is the perception of the Gentiles, the Greeks who desire wisdom, not the Jews.

    The fact that the Christian message, initially proclaimed by Jews, succeeded among Gentiles in the Roman Empire is rather amazing. A worthy topic of your book, which I look forward to reading. The first Jewish Christians obviously created a very strong movement. The fact that Gentile Christians accepted as part of their scriptures what came to be known as the Old Testament is an enduring sign of the Jewish origins of Christianity. Once Christianity was separated and even opposed to Judaism, the gulf of misunderstanding and violent opposition became catastrophic, but I think we are still able to recover Paul’s fundamentally Jewish perspective. It isn’t always easy to read past the practical concerns of Paul, the argumentative and boastful Paul, or the Paul of Lutheran and Catholic theologies, but Paul the Jew is still there for readers who want to recover him.

  11. Avatar
    willow  November 6, 2015

    What was it that the Jewisj people expected “the” Messiah to do, if not end Roman occupation, wipe out all evil, establish a kingdom (on earth, key words, such as was in Heaven) of such peace that the lion would lay down with the lamb, and never ever again would the Jewish people know such occupation or oppression.

    OT Hebrew Scripture, as far as I can tell, doesn’t support a virgin born, dying and rising Messiah who takes away the sins of the world. One can misinterpret or misunderstand or manipulate OT prophesy to make it say one wants it to say. But of course, I may well be the one who is without understanding; none the less, I just don’t see it there especially when certain words are given their proper meanings. Then too there’s that little matter of contemporaneous fulfillment of prophesy that has nothing to do with future events.

    No matter. When it comes down to the nitty gritty Jesus didn’t fulfill the prophesies as the Jews understood them, though I suspect he believed he would, as well as his followers believed he would. Instead he was crucified, and in anguish cried out unto God whom he believed failed him. “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me.” at which point the Jewish people had no reason to believe he was their long since awaited one.

    He wasn’t the first, and he wasn’t the last to have claimed to be, or believed to be, something he wasn’t, as the first Chapter of How Jesus Became God makes clear. I’ve put down two books in order to read Forgery and Counterforgery. One of them is Michael Wise’s “The First Messiah.” It’s enlightening.

    Good day to all.

    • Avatar
      Prizm  November 6, 2015

      willow said: “OT Hebrew Scripture, as far as I can tell, doesn’t support a virgin born, dying and rising Messiah who takes away the sins of the world”
      You’re right, it doesn’t. The christian’s best bet is Isaiah 53, but if you had read that passage before Jesus was born, nothing about it would indicate that it’s about a coming Messiah. Whereas the OT has plenty of other verses that are explicitly about the messiah and what will happen when the messiah is present (enemies destroyed, world peace, etc).

      I was looking into how many times the gospels refer to Isaiah 53, and I found something interesting. There is only one direct reference to Isaiah 53 in Mark (the earliest gospel). Digging a little deeper, it turns out that that verse (Mark 15:28 KJV/NKJV) was inserted later into the text — it was never in the earliest manuscripts. If you look up Mark 15:28 in a newer translation (NRSV, NASB, NLT, etc), the best you’ll find is a footnote explaining why it shouldn’t be there.

      So essentially, comparing Jesus to Isaiah 53 does not appear to have been a tactic in the first gospel (and I may be wrong, but it doesn’t appear to be a tactic used in Paul’s epistles either, only in later NT letters). Daniel 9 is another chapter used by Christians today, but no books in the NT use that chapter as evidence of a suffering messiah either.

      Also, remember how Jesus talks about going to Jerusalem and suffering, dying, and rising again? And Peter says, “Not so Lord, this shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-23). Wait a minute. If the Messiah is destined to suffer and die, Peter should know! Only a few verses earlier, Peter said he believed Jesus was the Messiah and even Jesus said that God had revealed that information to Peter. Yet Peter hasn’t got a clue about a dying Messiah!

      • Avatar
        willow  November 14, 2015

        Digging a little deeper, it turns out that that verse (Mark 15:28 KJV/NKJV) was inserted later into the text — it was never in the earliest manuscripts.

        Wow! Thanks, Prizm! I didn’t know that, and am looking to see if the 1917 KJV says anything!

    • Avatar
      Kirktrumb59  November 9, 2015

      The “messiah” was an evolving, multi-faceted concept by the time Jesus and other contemporary apocalyptic preachers decided, maybe, perhaps and sometimes in part, according to who’s relating the story, “I am the One.” For thorough background on the concept/history of Messiah (man, son of man, supernatural being, corporation), suggest two books previously mentioned on this blog:
      “Jesus An Historian’s Review of the Gospels” by Michael Grant
      “Jesus the Magician” by Morton Smith, forward in the recent edition by one Bart Ehrman (see his blog entry of 12-5-13)

  12. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  November 6, 2015

    hello Bart
    if jews did not believe jesus was the Mesiah how early Jewish Christians who accepted him saw jesus

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      sorry, you’ll need to rephrase that. I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      • Avatar
        Mhamed Errifi  November 9, 2015

        hello Bart

        i meant jews who believed in jesus . Did they believe in me to be mesahia , prophet or god

  13. Avatar
    john76  November 6, 2015

    Regarding what we know about the historical Jesus, Paul says the cross was a stumbling block for most Jews, because they expected a messiah would be a military conqueror. But Jesus was never thought of in this way, so when he was identified as a messiah by his followers they must have had something else in mind. Paul, as a Jew, had no problem with a crucified messiah, and accordingly said ”Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3).” The scriptures Paul saw Christ as fulfilling in the passage in 1 Cor 15:3 were most likely Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. For example, in Acts, the conversion of Ethiopian Queen Candace’s eunuch is an example where the original Christians were seeing the messiah through the lens of Isaiah 53. The eunuch “who had charge of all her treasury” was on the road to Jerusalem and was reading the “suffering servant” passage from Isaiah (53:7–8), when Philip approaches him saying “Do you understand what you are reading?”. (Acts 8:30). After interpreting the text, Philip convinces the eunuch to declare “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” and immediately baptize himself. So there must have been some Jews who interpreted the messiah as suffering and dying, through the lens of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Because Paul saw Jesus’ death as crucial to his messiahship, Paul saw Jesus’ death as atoning for the sins of the world (1 Cor 15:3), and to be the “firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20)” of the general resurrection. Paul was close to the first Christians who knew Jesus, so maybe his views reflect what the original followers about Jesus also thought about him as well. Maybe the historical Jesus thought that it was his place to suffer and die, to fulfill Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Maybe the cross was not a stumbling block to the original Jewish followers of Jesus because they did not see him as a military messiah, and that they, and Jesus, believed he was supposed to suffer. Maybe this is why Jesus thought the end of the world was coming, because he thought it would come with his death where he would be the “firstfruits” of the general resurrection. It’s just hard to believe Paul came up with this interpretation all on his own.

    • Avatar
      john76  November 6, 2015

      And this goes along with what we see in Mark.

      Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

      The only thing is, as Spong points out, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark was doing an exegetical reading of Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, is where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

      Then, as Dr. Robert Price says

      The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 7:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p. 362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and
      let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

      As for other details, Crossan (p. 198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p. 168). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

      So, it is possible that the original understanding of Jesus was as a suffering, dying messiah, and so the cross was never a stumbling block to the Jews who originally followed Jesus – even though this is not the understanding of “messiah” that most of the Jews of that time had.

      • Avatar
        john76  November 6, 2015

        Here are 2 interesting blog posts from Vridar arguing some of the Jews of Jesus’ time may have been expecting a suffering messiah:

        http://www.vridar.org/2015/08/26/suffering-messiah-is-a-very-jewish-idea/
        http://vridar.org/2014/08/02/was-paul-really-persecuted-for-preaching-a-crucified-christ/

        • Avatar
          john76  November 6, 2015

          Paul says “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3).” The scriptures being referenced here clearly seem to be Isaiah 53. For instance, we read that “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).” It seems this perspective from Isaiah 53 is also reflected elsewhere when Paul writes “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom 4:25).” But if you think there is another scripture besides Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 that Paul could be referring to in 1 Cor. 15:3, then please name that scripture.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 8, 2015

            It’s always seemed like these were two likely choices — but Xns, including Paul, have long cited all sorts of Scripture, starting with Genesis 3!

      • Avatar
        Prizm  November 8, 2015

        john76 said: “It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story.”
        This is a good point. I mentioned in an earlier comment that there is only one direct reference to Isaiah 53 in Mark (15:28), which is actually a later insertion and is not in the earlier manuscripts. So it seems Mark may be writing in a clever way to make it look like the story is a fulfillment without overplaying his hand.

        Although I find it interesting that Paul never directly quotes Isaiah 53 either (from what I can recall). And he was writing before Mark.

    • Avatar
      willow  November 14, 2015

      Re:
      Maybe the historical Jesus thought that it was his place to suffer and die, to fulfill Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

      I’m sorry to be so late to the party, John, and hope you don’t mind; but I tend to believe Jesus would have known better than to see a suffering and dying Messiah in Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. He, if we are to believe he was a “teacher”, a rabbi, would have known that which is consistent throughout Torah and Tanakh that is, that one man cannot atone for the sins of another.

      IE:
      Exodus 32: 30-35
      Deuteronomy 24:16
      Jeremiah 31: 29-30
      Ezekiel Chapter 18 (near all of it)

      • Avatar
        Prizm  November 15, 2015

        willow said: “[Jesus] would have known that which is consistent throughout Torah and Tanakh that is, that one man cannot atone for the sins of another.”
        That’s a good point. When I listen to Jewish rabbis today talking about the messiah, they often mention how abhorrent/unscriptural the idea is that Jesus (or anyone) could die for our sins. So it would’ve been a rather controversial point of view.

        I think the first mention of atonement in the gospels is not until John, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
        And correct me if I’m wrong, but where does Jesus *himself* ever claim to be an atonement for sin? I don’t think he ever does! Which makes the whole thing even weirder. Christ’s atonement is the core foundation of christianity, yet the man himself doesn’t make this clear to his own followers?

        Perhaps Jesus believed in a suffering messiah as per Isaiah 53, but not an *atoning* messiah.

        One point that one rabbi brought up was regarding the verse “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5). The Jewish bible actually translates this as “he was pained *because of* our transgressions, crushed *because of* our iniquities”. Meaning the suffering servant (Israel) was being punished *because of* their sins. So there’s serious question over Isaiah 53’s famous reference to supposed atonement.

  14. Avatar
    john76  November 7, 2015

    I’m not sure why you are always so resistant to the idea that the New Testament writers were sometimes making exegetical use of the Hebrew scriptures to create the New Testament literature. After all, everyone agrees that Matthew presented Jesus as the new Moses. And it is often so obvious. Mark comes right out at the beginning of his gospel and says: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE PROPHETS.” Mark then immediately INTERPRETS John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived. The Jordan baptism and the endowment with the spirit is a repetition of 2 Kings 2, where, near the Jordan, Elijah bequeaths a double portion of his own miracle-working spirit to Elisha, who henceforth functions as his successor and superior. ****** I mean, it’s just so obvious that this exegetical use of the Hebrew scripture is going on. lol

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      Why do you think I’m resistant to that idea??? It’s what I think.

  15. Avatar
    JSTMaria  November 7, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman, what are your thoughts on why the followers of Jesus were seemingly willing to die over their insistence that Jesus was a messiah given how many Jews of the day considered it nuts?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      I’m not sure how many of the apostles of Jesus were actually martyred, or for what reason. But my sense is that their belief in the resurrection is what made them committed to the cause.

  16. Avatar
    Steefen  November 8, 2015

    The post after next gets to Celsus?

  17. Avatar
    Kent  November 20, 2015

    This has been one of the most interesting string of “Comments” that I’ve read here. So much to learn.

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