Jesus of Nazareth 9

Jesus of Nazareth HW 9
RLG 210
Dean Brady
Paul Fischer

Antiquities actually reveals more about the reality of the reactionary Temple and High Priests than about Jesus himself. Admittedly, his brother is sentenced to stoning without a trial, except for the illegitimate trial held by a Sanhedrin of Judges, whom Herod called against the will of Jerusalem’s populace.  The execution of James and others constituted a dangerous act directly before the outbreak of war in 66 AD.

Sanders points out astutely that  there are at least two major trains of thought regarding the actual dates of Jesus and John the Bapitst (286). The more prevalent, and certainly better elaborated upon by Sanders is that Jesus’ career would in fact be shifted somewhat to the later, in accordance to the Gospels, which depict the lives of Jesus and John as overlapping.  In such a scenario, Jesus would have been executed in 36 AD, two years after Antipas and Herodias’ marriage. John would have been executed for criticism of the couple just as Jesus began to go about and teach (Mk 1.14//).
This chronology is plausible, but Sanders admits that , in the Antiquities from this period, Josephus is far from specific, and the sequencing of events is not highly chronological. Though not much time  is devoted to its discussion, Sanders mentions that the death of Germanicus is 19 AD. If Book 18 of the Antiquities is at least chronologically authentic, then the appointment of Pontius Pilate would have to have been before 19 AD. The Crucifixion would then have taken place as early as 21 AD.  In either of these two historical hypotheses, Sanders points out, one certain fact is being used to make the rest of the evidence match, or as he puts it, “the tail is wagging the dog.”
Because of the paradox presented by the details of Josephus’ account, Sanders encourages the reader to take a more general view of everything. Roman accounts can be used, presumably, to verify a certain pericope or point, but there is nothing conclusive there, most of the information is not specific or trustworthy because of the small  impact Jesus and John had on the Romans. Probably, like Josephus, they believed Jesus to be a small-timer, and would not become aware of his message or importance until centuries later as Apolline schools began to speak Christ and salvation together, and the early Christian Church began to form.
Unfortunately, this part of the story is incredibly hard to check out. In Antiquities 18.3.63-4, the passage appears to have been entirely written by followers of  Jesus. It is obvious because of the extreme break from Josephus’ normal habit of calling these leaders false prophets and “charlatans” while those who followed were “dupes.”
The scholar Kokkinos claims that the Jews would wait for years for big incidents that they could tie together into one story. For example, Antipas could be depicted as marrying Herodias on two different occasions, one when it happened, and again when he was punished in war.

Jesus of Nazareth 8

Jesus of Nazareth HW 8
Paul Fischer
RLG 210

Historically, it seems, Jesus was a rural teacher who, like other religious leaders, went to Jerusalem with his followers. The uprising he caused there either forced a prefect terrified of revolt (or lost tax revenue) to execute him or at least “wash his hands of the matter.” Other, perhaps more influential, perhaps more contrary in doctrine, were generally dealt with harshly.

Such strict rules were necessary to keeping order on the frontier of the Roman Empire. Imperial garrisons in Judea and Israel were generally small, and usually kept out of the way of day-to-day governing. In the case of the man who marched his followers to Mount Gerizim (Antiquities 85), Pontius Pilate led Roman infantry to disperse them, and he executed many. The impact on Historical Jesus research is that now there is multiple sources that attest to not just Rome, but specifically Pilate’s willingness to use violence to  quell uprising. Because “Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential,” (An. 85) this passage causes the reader to wonder if other leaders in Jesus’ ministry were perhaps killed with him.
That the entire circle around a religious leader might be killed, or members of it killed arbitrarily means that fear for their lives would have been a better incentive for betrayal than 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:15). Or especially in the case of Peter, who three times forsake Jesus because he was terrified of the repercussions (Lk. 22). These minor insights afforded by the passages are overshadowed by the fact that Jesus’ ministry was considerably smaller than the other period movements in the same area. The Egyptian prophet led a force of thirty thousand and Thedeus threatened to invade Jerusalem with the divine power that brings walls down. Pilate executed over 300, as mentioned before; those were only the leaders, and indicate a much larger overall movement.
Thedeus (An. 20.97-8) is only briefly mentioned by Josephus, but his general path seems to parallel Jesus’ more closely than the others provided. He, apparently alone in his movement, was executed by Roman leaders after encouraging  followers to give up everything in order to follow him to the Jordan river. Like a stunted, unsuccessful story of Jesus, this does not appear to be militant and his power was sourced in miracles (though Thedeus never had the opportunity to show off).
All of these false prophet stories, whether from the Jewish History, or Josephus’ Antiquities, share aspects with the life of Christ, that can help us understand the people’s reaction to Jesus, and better orient ourselves contextually. However, it is very important to remember that the four Gospels are written by followers of Jesus, believers in the resurrection. Conversely, Josephus and Rabbinic scholars assembling the Jewish History would have downplayed the legitimacy of these uprisings. They had the goal of ensuring that Rome did not leave them to foreign invaders, and to do that they had to create a mindset for the populace of the Jews, accordingly. So one should be careful that when the title “charlatan” or false prophet is given, it isn’t necessarily the belief of Judaism as a whole, or even that writer, but just what that writer expected the Romans to need to hear in order to think Judea was worthwhile to the Empire.

Healing Miracles

Jesus of Nazareth HW 7
Paul Fischer
Healing Miracles

Perhaps the most powerful, and undoubtedly the most prevalent, healing miracles show that a religious leader has a connection to an inner life force, or is able to channel the power of God himself. In Mark 5:23-43, Jesus raises a girl  from the dead, and on the way a woman with a severe hemorrhage is healed just by touching him in the street.

Jesus’ ability to heal even without intentionally meaning to suggests that he was overflowing with some sort of divine healing power, which complemented his mastery of demons. Healing miracles make up the vast majority of miracles in the New Testament and are one of the foundations of Christians’ claim to Christ’s titles and fame.
These inexplicable occasions of divine interference are by no means limited to Jesus Christ; as one of the most powerful forms of miracle pagans, Christians, and Jewish alike claimed the ability to heal the sick as one of the greatest powers of their religious leaders even today. Apollonius and other pagan healers such as Hanini and Honi performed healing miracles of faith as well. However, without a sense of institutional religious tradition, these other miracle workers didn’t see their work as a part of a greater work, as Jesus saw himself as a diety-like figure, or at least believed he was among a stream of prophets upholding the grace of God through astonishing miracles.
Healing miracles are either active, passive, or somewhere in between the two. An active healing implies that the healer actually took a sick or dying person and made them better. Passive healers, like Apollonius, only can tell when someone is living who everyone else thought was dead. While there are some occasions of Jesus healing passively, the mere multitudes of active healings that are claimed in the gospel is overwhelming. Mark 5:21-43, 7:31-37, and 8:22-26 are all examples of active healing. In these stories, Jesus heals a legitimately sick person through divine power or magic. In Mark 8:23, Jesus spits on a blind man’s eyes, and touches him in order to bring his sight back. Ritualism was a vital part of his healing process, according to the gospels. Whether it is an authentic tradition or not, ritual became one of the most important parts about Christianity by the time Emperor Constantine converted in the mid-fourth century AD.
Exorcisms aren’t nearly as prevalent as healing miracles in the New Testament, though there are several instances of Jesus driving demons from the people. In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus is actually depicted as incurring the wrath of his followers by driving demons into the soul of two thousand swine, and driving them off the edge of a cliff.
In the Antiquities 8.2.5, Josephus recounts the story of Eleazar, an exorcist from the time  of Solomon with significantly more ritualism than later Jews. Interestingly, and in contrast to the stories in the bible, the exorcism is described as being watched by important people (Vespasian and Josephus, among others) almost as  entertainment. It also describes the use of potions and rituals, both of which would liven the exorcism for an audience; this brings up the question of whether Jesus was not as influential as these other miracle workers or what reason he had for staying relatively local in his work. Without knowing more about what Jesus wanted and sought out, it isn’t possible to say why he didn’t work with more important leaders.

Jesus of Nazareth 6

Jesus of Nazareth HW 6
Paul Fischer
Relg 210

In Historical Jesus work, the story of Jesus of Ananias provides a respected, documented Jewish historical narrative with several significant parallels to the story of Christ (i.e. poor, religious leader, executed by Romans after prophesying the fall of Jerusalem and Second Temple Judaism). The similarities in their speech, their hatred for the Temple, and in their respective narrative stories shows that there was probably cross-pollination between the oral traditions that led to each history. More importantly, the story emphasizes the importance of  Jewish eschatology to Christ’s career. A similar prophet, Jesus of Ananias, without that critical advantage is ridiculed by his contemporaries and declared a mad man. Without eschatology to affirm his sense his arrival on the scene was special, Jesus of Nazareth may have remained an unimportant prophet mentioned just a couple of times in Josephus’ history.  

In Josephus’ account of Jesus of Ananias, like Jesus of Nazareth, though Jesus is punished by local Roman leadership, the Jewish high priests are to blame for his grizzly end. Both Jesus’ are killed, but the impact of Jesus of Nazareth’s death consequences a new religion, which is greater than the wailing fool who was released based on madness before finally dying from a stray Roman catapult’s stone (Josephus 6.5.3). Ironically, the stone both fulfills seven years of wailing prophecy, finally proving the accuracy of Jesus of Ananias, and ends Jesus’ career early, keeping him from the achievements of Jesus of Nazareth.
Figuring prominently in both of the Jesus’ teaching is a hatred for the Temple and Jerusalem, and prediction of their downfall (JoN: Mk 13:2,14 JoA: Josephus 6.5.3). The similarities between Josephus’ Jesus of Ananias and the Jesus of Nazareth in Mt. 24:1-2, where he also predicts the fall of the Temple, raises the question to what extent did Josephus know about Jesus of Nazareth, or to what extent the Christ story influenced his telling of Jesus of Ananias’ story. Because Jesus of Nazareth died around 30-40 years before Jesus of Ananias even hit the scene, there was undoubtedly a strong Anti-Temple sentiment in Jerusalem, that was able to produce powerful leaders for decades.
The similarities between Josephus’ account  of  the words of Jesus of Ananias and the words of Jesus suggest there might have been some connection between them. Because Josephus is dismissive, but not ignorant of Jesus of Nazareth, the chances of both stories’ authenticity is relatively high. Jesus of Ananias’ obsession with the Temple helps drive home the central spot that building would have taken in any leader’s life, and tells us there was enough anger with the Temple as to lend credibility to Mt. 24, where he prophesies the end of the Temple.
These leaders base their power almost solely on eschatology: the more of a sense that the Jewish community had that the system was corrupt, and the time had come for God to take empirical matters into his own  hands, then the greater the leader’s power. Jesus was, according to Christians, the sum of Jewish eschatological hopes and while others may have performed miracles or anything else, Jesus of Nazareth has an importance that is separate, that stems from his position in the expanse of religious history and prophesy.

Jesus of Nazareth 5

Jesus Assignment 5
Paul Fischer
RELG 210

The persecution of an early leader by  pre-rabbinic religious figures sounds familiar to Christians; it is the story of the Crucifixion. Before and besides Jesus, however, other Jewish prophets have been depicted as not only performing miracles (Mishnah, Ta’anith 3.8 B), but also facing execution from the fighting, impatient Jews.

Honi,  a proto-rabbinic figure from the Old Testament, is the first rabbi-like figure in the Mishnah to perform a miracle, that of rain  in a parched land. While these miracles built up Honi’s reputation, they also made him a target for military leaders who needed religious support. Almost 200 years before Christ, Honi was executed through stoning by angry Jews who wanted his help in defeating other Maccabees Jewish factions in their struggle for power in Israel.  
Both miracle performing priests, Christ and Honi, were executed for trying to bring peace to the people. Honi refused to fight against his fellow Semites in the Civil War, though he must have been a potentially useful ally for the warring sides to want him so badly.
The sources for this story date back to some of the most influential Jewish historians of the time. Josephus has a very clear and extensive account of the events of Honi’s life. Less well known are the accomplishments of Hanina, who did not perform miracles, but ordered demons about and predicted death or sickness (Talmud Pesahim 114). Unmentioned in Josephus’ account of the time period, Hanina would have lived just as the last Gospels were being bound and copied across the Mediterranean.
Importantly, in analyzing both stories, Honi bringing rain over a hundred years before Christ and Hanina prophesying health just after Christ’s Resurrection, the greatest consequence is seeing the similarities between the gospel’s miracles and the miracles performed by these “proto-rabbis.” This calls the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles into question because early writers such as the Gospels’writers were in the habit of representing rabbinic figures from the period as miraculous. It could be possible that the entire story of Christ, or certainly the miraculous parts, was created to help solidify his position as a religious leader.
In John 3:43, the healing of the Official’s son, Jesus does not heal the boy, but says only, “Your son will live.” This is similar to the stories of Hanina, who predicted when the sick would live and when they would die (Mishnah, Berakoth 5.5). What is more important, is that the concentration of miracle workers around that time period shows that people  put great faith in the power of miracles at the time, and religious leaders were expected to act with miraculous power.
While there is maybe some cross-fertilization between the story of Christ and the two other Jewish leaders, the greater blow to the authenticity of Christ’s miracles is that these two stories show us that some Rabbis, even without necessarily being miraculous, were acclaimed as such, because that was the custom. It would take a great deal more research, and might be impossible, to find out to what extent these tales are hyperbolic, shared, or to what extent they might be authentic.

Jesus of Nazareth Homework 4

Jesus HW 4
Jesus of Nazareth
Paul Fischer

Jesus’ activities at the temple are somewhat controversial; turning over the table covered in gold, denouncing the high priests and proclaiming divinity are all pretty extreme for the small-scale religious figure who has dominated the New Testament so far. What his motivations, and the motivations of his followers who wrote the Gospels, were is even less understood. It is possible that Jesus was simply causing trouble, provoking his own arrest. He could also have been misunderstood, as the apologetic gospel of John shows, the meaning of his prophetic words only striking his disciples after his crucifixion.

Although in John 2:13-22 only two sayings are attributed by Jesus, the similarities in text with Mark’s gospel are consistent  enough to suggest that there must have been a shared literary source. The fact that the story appears in every single synoptic Gospel and the Gospel of John speaks strongly in favor of its authenticity. The existence of other independent written sources such as a brief mentioning in Acts solidifies the story’s claim to authenticity. The bias of the Gospel writers and other early Christians also means that surviving versions of this story are probably somewhat edited. Jesus may have been somewhat more obnoxiously arrogant, though perhaps not as ideologically crossed as the Gospels have us believe.
It is probable that Jesus was in the Temple shortly before his execution, and that he spoke words that could be misinterpreted to be riotous. It is also possible that he intended to cause trouble, at the end of the Gospels he is very sentient of his coming fate. In either case, his animosity towards the high priests and especially their corrupt methods of raising money are hated by Jesus and his followers, who perhaps expected to return Judaism from paganism and luxury of the Roman Empire to the religious monotheistic ideas they were used to.
Early Christians saw this incident as fuel for anti-semitic thought.  This became especially  important as Christianity vied with other sects of Judaism for power in the Roman Empire. One important line in differentiating between the goals of Jesus the Historical Figure and the goals of his various disciples is drawn from Mark 13:1-2, where Jesus says that the Temple will be torn down, that not two stones will be left together. Unless he was a military leader of some sorts, hoping to tear the Temple down is not something that probably would have been possible for someone such as Jesus.
The way that he talks about the Temple in that passage is different from the other sources. In nearly every case he either quotes the Old Testament, calling the Temple a “den of thieves” or claims he has the power both to destroy the Temple  and to rebuild it.  The latter is not quite as realistic as the former. It is important to remember that early Christians would have been just as interested in displaying Jesus’ conflict with Judaism, even when it led to his downfall, because they needed Jews to leave their Temple in disgust.

Luke 3:1-21; Mark 6:14-29; 10:1-12; Q/Luke 16:18; Matthew 5:31-32 Q/Matthew 11:2-19. Also read Isaiah 62:1-9; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:19-39

Jesus HW #3
Jesus of Nazareth
Paul Fischer
Luke 3:1-21; Mark 6:14-29; 10:1-12; Q/Luke 16:18; Matthew 5:31-32 Q/Matthew 11:2-19. Also read Isaiah 62:1-9; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:19-39
In the time of Jesus Christ, a lot of influence was placed on the significance of the Old Testament in everyday lives. As observant Jews, Jesus, those who lived with him, and his early followers all would have been familiar with the Old Testament and able to quote from it, so making sure that the story of Jesus fits with the prophecies was a central part of convincing believers that Jesus really was the Christ.
Anytime the bible predicts the coming of Christ, as in Luke 3, the grounds for authenticity are quickly challenged. While it is definitely true that John the Baptist taught crowds about various aspects of life, his knowledge of the imminent coming of Christ is dubious. The level of specificity, in the beginning and later in the passage, is very high and adds greatly to the credibility of some of the passage’s information.
Mark, on the other hand, in John the Baptist Beheaded, has a relatively low amount of specificity. His writing seems to serve a point, to tell the tale of Herod executing John for the sake of one of his daughters. There are some details that lend credibility to the source, however, and the subject matter especially makes the passage believable.
The death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod is one of the few verifiable facts of the bible, with a lot of testimony and records. Every version of the story has to check out against one another, so even if small details such as the identity of the girl who demands John’s head change, the general story remains the same. Often the point of view or style will change. For example, where Mark writes a historical account, dry and believable, Matthew’s version of John the Baptist’s story is a fanciful narrative, probably not word perfect, but a conceivable scenario in which discussion with Jesus  explores the consequences of John’s death. It isn’t certain that the tale is completely true, but by checking it against other accounts of the same story we can see which parts are at least historically consistent.
So much of the Bible is consistent, that multiple attestations hardly lend any help to scholars who look at the authenticity of a document. Because of similarities between the books of Matthew, Mark, and John, it is known that a common literary source exists, usually referred to as Q, for the german word, quelle. It is possible that the source contained all of the books, or just the parts that they have in similar. What is not known is to what extent the content was changed by the religious figures who compiled the Bible.

Sovereignty of god and monarchs

Jesus of Nazareth HW 2
Paul Fischer
July 17, 2010

Sovereignty of god and monarchs

The power of the Son of Man, of the holy trinity itself, is directly accessed by the monarch of Israel. This is directly ordained in the Bible to David and his descendants. Admittedly, today most everyone in Israel is probably related to David in some way or another. In Zechariah the king is described in semi divine terms, as Christ or the Saviour. This notion of divine power behind the monarchy stuck on to become a central part of the religion.
Through the development of Christianity, rulers clung to a covenant of divine rights, being born into class and society. This hereditary system is endorsed and ordained by the Holy Bible in several different places. In Samuel the government is supported by the masses as an indifferent god stands by. He doesn’t feel jealousy because his essence is present in the king himself. Rather than stealing his power or glory, the earthly king helps to lead the chosen people, as a shepherd to his flock.
Central to this system and these ideals was the belief that kings and princes would somehow access the power of God directly or indirectly through prayer. The idea that there were multiple facets to God is related to the Holy Trinity, which shows different sides of God to man. As the Bible was codified and collected, the Trinity was heavily emphasised, its existence being among the major differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. Before this, as described in the Old Testament, Jews hoped to centralize their society by centralizing their religion into one church and god. The temple of Jerusalem was established, as seen in Kings, and dedicated by the kings descendant from David and Solomon.
In both the Psalms, it is always clear that God will provide a good and righteous king, the verses are repetitive, and short, praising either hosanna or a chosen king. What his responsibilities are, or to what extent he can be corrupted was not only a consideration for believer, but also his potential for tyranny. Nearly every argument against the monarchy, from tyranny to taking glory from God, is found in the selected reading from Samuel 1, yet the people in their ignorance shout for the king to lead them. The text doesn’t seem to judge them, though an irate god does send a pestilent plague. There is also context that makes their uneasiness without leadership understandable; having a king would help god protect them from foes and disaster.

An Outline of Jesus’ Life

Reading Assignment 1: An Outline of Jesus’ Life.
Jesus of Nazareth
Paul Fischer

Sanders undertakes the considerable task of outlining Jesus’ life with some sense of humility. He understands that many great parts of Jesus’ life will remain obscure to academic criticism. There is no need too explore that which is impossible to know, so it is better to speculate on real occurrences, with hard data. Instead, his outline relies heavily on the facts agreed upon and well explored by various sources and branches out from there to more controversial material. Between the two, he presents a reasonable narrative and accurate chronology of what happened with Jesus of Nazareth.

The narrative does not go easy on Jesus: his actions before his arrest are described as “attacking the temple.” But, still, otherwise the overall story is nearly identical to that described in the New Testament. The little introduction only gives the reader  background knowledge about Jesus, and a bit on his passion. The Acts, in contrast, deals completely with the crucifixion and the resurrection after.
The difference between Acts and Sanders’ outlines is primarily one of audience. The selection from the Acts is a propaganda-like summary of events, explaining to believers (once again) the importance of belief above all else. Sanders’ outline is also a summary, but more it covers more expansively the questions of Jesus’ birth and life. The Acts are really just a source used in Sanders’ outline, one of many, and provide a biased description of the passion of christ. Sanders would like to think that, being in modern times and separated from the events in question, he can be a reasonable and enlightened judge of man’s behaviours and bias. The Acts, written more closely to the actual events and in a contemporary time, have a very high level of bias shown by the glorification of Christ and through what they report.
While the Acts seem to assure the reader that the Christ really did rise from the dead, the bias from the selection also makes the reader critical and doubtful. The text specifically says that only  the disciples saw him rise, but does not explain why no one else saw him.The natural shrouding of mystery around the incident only creates more confusion. The tampering with gospels to fit political or personal agendas over the centuries has created a patchwork of a holy book, and obscures the word of God from those that wish to speak it.

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