Ancient stone creates opportunity for reflection
The discovery and publication of an unprovenanced Hebrew document, purportedly from the 1st century BCE and written on stone, has generated some interesting comments about the origins of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism. I'll write more on this in future but in the interim, I'd like to draw attention to one writer in particular.
James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe, concludes his article on the 'Gabriel Revelation' with the following comment:
James has summed up the situation appropriately, although we should always appreciate that anti-Semitism predates the time of Jesus Christ.
HT to Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica.
Was Jesus Christ really crucified on a Friday?
Today it is largely accepted without question that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Most people accept this scenario as there was a Sabbath following and everyone knows that the Jews keep the Sabbath on Saturday. So ipso facto, the crucifixion had to be on Friday.
Making such an assumption shows how little is commonly understood about the world into which Jesus was born, lived and died. However, by putting the key events into context, we can discover more details from the Gospels.
Jesus was crucified on the 14th Nisan and died about 3:00 p.m. The next day, 15th Nisan, was an annual festival: the first day of the seven days of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-7) which was associated with the Passover. So depending upon which day of the week the 15th fell, it was possible to have two Sabbaths during the week in which Jesus Christ was crucified. That possibility creates numerous scenarios for reconstructing the factors given in the gospels.
Rodney J. Decker, Professor of Greek and New Testament at the Baptist Bible College published a paper in which he examined this aspect of the crucifixion week. It is available on his blog and is well worth the read and consideration.
The upshot is that he also considers the impact of Jesus being in the tomb three days and three nights and offers a non-orthodox reading of the event. To be fair to his considerations of the resurrection, what was to prevent that event occurring at sunset on Saturday evening? That would have made a strict three days and three nights, as opposed to the three days and four nights that Decker suggests.
Next week is the time of the Jewish Passover, which represents the real time that Jesus was crucified, rather than the Easter weekend, which this year was almost a month removed from the event according to the Hebrew calendar.
Rereading the story in the 21st century
James Tabor has announced that his Jesus Dynasty has been given pride of place in the latest edition of US News and World Report in a ‘Collector’s Edition’ headlined “Secrets of Christianity.” Within the pages a novel Christmas Story unfolds. Jesus’ birth was not miraculous in any way outside of that of every human birth -- and he was finally betrayed by his favorite disciple; he didn’t rise from the dead, was married to Mary Magdalene and established a very short lived dynasty--unless one accepts the argument of the runaway best seller, The Da Vinci Code. The church, for which no purpose really exists, was not founded by Jesus, but was led by Mary and the other women who with a man called Saul see virtue or opportunity in the life of a man who remains buried in Jerusalem, his bones by now placed in a stone box or ossuary, inscribed with his name. Such material is gleaned from The Jesus Dynasty, courtesy of James Tabor and the Gospel of Judas, the Discovery Channel’s documentary and also from their book entitled The Jesus Family Tomb, along with other populist books that have been published over the last few years relating to Gnostics and their gospels. The fact that these resources have been denounced and called into serious question by scholarship seems to escape the religious editor of the magazine.
But, it provides a salutary lesson.
The ideas that have been taught about Christmas and its relationship to the birth of Jesus Christ are built on a similar foundation. The fact that the ideas expressed above and in the USN&WR article could be espoused by people is an indication of how fragile is our Judeo-Christian heritage, built as it is upon syncretic ideas and traditions rather than an understanding what is expressed in the Bible. The first followers of Jesus Christ would be stunned by our attempts to create a 'credible' story.
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