Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messianism

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TedM
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by TedM » Sat Jan 03, 2015 2:51 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
I don't deny the likelihood of such hopes from the 60s on, though I am not sure if the evidence even there is more than ambivalent. I'm much more open on that one. But I see no evidence for popular messianism prior to then.
How do you view Judas the Galilean, and the Egyptian referenced by Josephus? Simply military rebels?

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DCHindley
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by DCHindley » Sat Jan 03, 2015 9:11 pm

TedM wrote:How do you view Judas the Galilean, and the Egyptian referenced by Josephus? Simply military rebels?
I was recently reading Lincoln Blumell's article "Social Banditry? Galilean Banditry from Herod until the Outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt," in Scripta Classica Israelica, vol. XXVII, 2008, pp. 35-53, which is exactly about the status of the λῃστής ("robbers" or "bandits") who the Romans loved to crucify. He tries to pin down the social conditions that might explain how these bandits managed to maintain themselves. Unfortunately, I found holes in his reasoning that seriously undermines his arguments.

The fact that I have this article on my computer tells me I found it online, probably by accident or maybe by an advertisement by http://www.academia.edu (or Scribd). See if you can download a copy and let me know what you think about it. Martin Hengel's Crucifixion in the Ancient World (1977) is also available online somewhere, but I think Blumell's article is more to the point of your question.

DCH

ericbwonder
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by ericbwonder » Sat Jan 03, 2015 11:11 pm

Hmm, very interesting. So what did Green conclude in his essay?

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neilgodfrey
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:10 am

TedM wrote: How do you view Judas the Galilean, and the Egyptian referenced by Josephus? Simply military rebels?
Is there any evidence to suggest that their rise to notoriety was a response to popular expectations of a messiah?
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:40 am

ericbwonder wrote:Hmm, very interesting. So what did Green conclude in his essay?
Green's essay is a preparation for the compilation of articles following. His concluding paragraph (my bolding):
In the past quarter century, the established consensus about the messiah
in ancient Judaism has begun to break down, and there now are powerful
reasons to ditch it altogether. Careful word-studies, fresh and disciplined
readings of well-known texts, and a new appreciation of ancient writings
as social products and cultural constructions have revealed religious worlds
of ancient Jews (and Christians) considerably more diversified and complex
than was hitherto imagined. The new agenda requires that we
reverse the procedures of earlier scholarship. Instead of treating the literary
sources as reflections of a preconceived and synthetic Judaism, or as
segments of a hypothetical (and, frankly, fictive) uniform and linear tradition,
we must employ them as the context out of which a critical
description of Jewish religion must be constructed. It is no longer possible
to justify the standard, homogenous reading of the varied Jewish writings
or to assume that different Jewish groups, even within Palestine, shared a
single outlook, social experience, or religious expectation simply because
they were Jews. The evidence in this book shows that preoccupation with
the messiah was not a uniform or definitive trait, nor a common reference
point, of early Jewish writings or the Jews who produced them. As a speculum
for the analysis and understanding of early Jewish religious life, the
category "messiah" probes less obliquely, and with rather less precision
and discernment, than we have come to suppose.

I am not saying that no Jews entertained today's understanding that a messiah would come to restore a political kingdom, etc. What I am questioning is that such an idea was endemic in the popular consciousness. Was it really a cultural trait? Or was it just one many ideas debated among the scribal elites?

We can see the conscious teaching of this "popular messianic hope" in later rabbinic literature meeting the identity needs of a later era. I don't know if there is any evidence for such a popular expectation until at the earliest the very last years of the Second Temple era (or, perhaps more likely, in the wake of the loss of the Temple).
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arnoldo
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by arnoldo » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:32 am

The Pauline writings reflected a "popular messianic hope" which were arguably written before the jewish temple was destroyed.
THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE
Galatians

Salutation

Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the members of God’s family who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

There Is No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
However, the question arises whether Paul was expecting a neoplatonic messiah or a more "earthly" messiah.
Last edited by arnoldo on Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Blood
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by Blood » Sun Jan 04, 2015 7:41 am

arnoldo wrote:
Judas of Galilee (6 CE), Judas led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around 6 CE. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans.[9]
Menahem ben Judah (?), the son or grandson of Judas of Galilee, was a leader of the Sicarii. When the war broke, he armed his followers with the weapons captured at Masada and besieged Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem, overpowering the troops of Agrippa II in Judea and forcing the Roman garrison to retreat. Emboldened by his success, he behaved as an "insufferable tyrant",[10] thereby arousing the enmity of Eleazar, the Temple Captain and de facto a rival Zealot rebel leader, who had him tortured and killed.[11] He may be identical with the Menahem ben Hezekiah mentioned in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 98b) and called "the comforter that should relieve".

Theudas (?–46 CE), a Jewish rebel of the 1st century CE, at some point between 44 and 46 CE, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt. Some writers are of the opinion that he may have said he was the Messiah.[12]
Vespasian, c.70, according to Flavius Josephus[13]

John of Gischala (? after 70), was a leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War, and played a part in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE.[14]
Shouldn't the fact that Josephus never identifies any of these as messiah claimants, or leaders of messianic movements, count as positive evidence against that commonly-held idea? You could object that since Josephus was writing under the employ of Vespasian, and wanted to portray him as the one prophesied by the scriptures, he deliberately suppressed this information. But you could just as easily argue that it would have been more effective for him to portray them as "false messiahs" vanquished by the noble Vespasian.
“The only sensible response to fragmented, slowly but randomly accruing evidence is radical open-mindedness. A single, simple explanation for a historical event is generally a failure of imagination, not a triumph of induction.” William H.C. Propp

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neilgodfrey
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:14 am

arnoldo wrote:The Pauline writings reflected a "popular messianic hope" which were arguaby written before the jewish temple was destroyed.
Is there any evidence is to support the idea that Paul's gospel was an expression of a popular messianic expectation?

I should clarify that I am not questioning the existence of messianic concepts and speculations in the Second Temple era. What I am cautious about is the suggestion that these were of one kind and that they were part and parcel of popular Jewish consciousness/cultural expectation up until the final (war) years of the Second Temple era at the earliest.

The book of Enoch and the book of Daniel are arguably testimony to quite different messianic concepts in the Second Temple era (one of a pre-existent heavenly messiah and another of a messiah to die) but do we have any evidence that tells us that either of these views were part of the general popular consciousness at any time, let alone the early first century. The fact that we find such ideas in such writings informs us that scribal elites probably speculated in various directions about such things but what reason or motivators would there be for one set of such speculations to possess popular cultural expectations?

Did the Maccabees need popular messianism to wage their struggle? If not, what evidence do we have to justify the claim that Jews of later generation were motivated in part by messianic hopes?

The only data I can think of at the moment is the claim in Josephus, some twenty years after the close of the war I think, that such an idea did excite much of the population of Palestine but we have no way of determining whether this was an idea that preceded the war or was a propaganda rumour subsequent to its outbreak or was a matter of Josephus retrojecting post Temple ideas back to an earlier time. Further, the Qumran community appear to have had messianic ideas comparable to the common idea we have of a visitor from God coming to restructure the earth but I don't think we can justify extrapolating from Qumran beliefs to the beliefs of the wider Jewish culture.
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arnoldo
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by arnoldo » Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:35 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
arnoldo wrote:The Pauline writings reflected a "popular messianic hope" which were arguably written before the jewish temple was destroyed.
Is there any evidence is to support the idea that Paul's gospel was an expression of a popular messianic expectation?

I should clarify that I am not questioning the existence of messianic concepts and speculations in the Second Temple era. What I am cautious about is the suggestion that these were of one kind and that they were part and parcel of popular Jewish consciousness/cultural expectation up until the final (war) years of the Second Temple era at the earliest . . .
Ok, it does make sense that amongst Jews as a whole the need for a "messiah" would become self-evident after the destruction of the jewish temple, not before. The Gospel of Mark could've been allegorically written to illustrate such a need for a spiritual messiah based on Pauline concepts.
Last edited by arnoldo on Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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arnoldo
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by arnoldo » Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:45 am

Blood wrote:
arnoldo wrote:
Judas of Galilee (6 CE), Judas led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around 6 CE. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans.[9]
Menahem ben Judah (?), the son or grandson of Judas of Galilee, was a leader of the Sicarii. When the war broke, he armed his followers with the weapons captured at Masada and besieged Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem, overpowering the troops of Agrippa II in Judea and forcing the Roman garrison to retreat. Emboldened by his success, he behaved as an "insufferable tyrant",[10] thereby arousing the enmity of Eleazar, the Temple Captain and de facto a rival Zealot rebel leader, who had him tortured and killed.[11] He may be identical with the Menahem ben Hezekiah mentioned in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 98b) and called "the comforter that should relieve".

Theudas (?–46 CE), a Jewish rebel of the 1st century CE, at some point between 44 and 46 CE, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt. Some writers are of the opinion that he may have said he was the Messiah.[12]
Vespasian, c.70, according to Flavius Josephus[13]

John of Gischala (? after 70), was a leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War, and played a part in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE.[14]
Shouldn't the fact that Josephus never identifies any of these as messiah claimants, or leaders of messianic movements, count as positive evidence against that commonly-held idea? You could object that since Josephus was writing under the employ of Vespasian, and wanted to portray him as the one prophesied by the scriptures, he deliberately suppressed this information. But you could just as easily argue that it would have been more effective for him to portray them as "false messiahs" vanquished by the noble Vespasian.
Good point, neilgoodfrey also pointed out the following.
neilgodfrey wrote:
There is nothing unusual in historical annals of peoples being willing to attack or dig in and defend against what we can see are impossible odds eventually leading to their destruction. The historical reasons are probably wide and varied. Historically we might expect the events of the Maccabean rebellions to somehow figure as inspirations in this case. There is no explicit evidence that I know of for "popular messianic expectations" until after the fall of Jerusalem and only implicit evidence to testify of such during the final years of the Temple. What is pointed to as evidence even here is very often the product of circular reasoning pointed out by Green.

Besides, there is no evidence of any such willingness to defy Rome until at least a generation or two after the time of Jesus. (Local banditry was endemic across the empire and is not the same thing.)

It's uncomfortable for me to be of this view so I am very willing to change my mind. But I have not yet been shown or recognized the evidence that convinces me.
After the destruction of the jewish temple however we start getting more concrete evidence for the consensus amongst jews for a messiah.

[wiki]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Kokhba[/wiki]
Image
Bar Kokhba silver Shekel/tetradrachm. Obverse: the Jewish Temple facade with the rising star, surrounded by "Shimon". Reverse: A lulav and etrog, the text reads: "to the freedom of Jerusalem"

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