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 » Sun Jan 04, 2015 3:28 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
TedM wrote:From what I understand we have Jewish records which are rife with hundreds, if not thousands of references to Messiac passages. It seems to me that common sense would dictate that Messiac expectations were rampant among those who paid any attention to those Jewish records.

I don't have time to go into this, but it would seem this is relevant:
A great deal of the evidence in this section comes form a priceless work of great scholarship The Life And Times of Jesus The Messiah An old 19th century work by Alfred Edersheim; an English Jew who converted to Christianity and became a Cambridge scholar. Edersheim compillied a list of 458 passages which rabbinical authority sites as Messianich. He uses theTargumim, the two Talmuds, The most ancient Midrashim but not the Zohar. Also the uses a work called Yalkut, a collection of 50 of the oldest writtings in rabbinical tradition. Most, but not all of what Edersheim quotes comes from the second century or latter. But he argues that is still an indication of the some ideas floating around in the popular quarters in Christ's time, especially ideas which show up in the NT since we can discount chrisitian influence upon Talmudic Judaism. But the evidence from Qumran and Psuedapigrapha is clearly prior to, or contemporanious with, the time of Jesus.
http://www.doxa.ws/Messiah/Messiah1.html
Green's point is that most scholars who addressed "messianism" were assuming many passages were messianic as a result of their preconceptions about what they believed a messianic passage would look like. He is questioning this circular process for identifying messianic passages. If we take only explicit references to a messiah in the Old Testament works we find very few such passages.

Sometimes good arguments can be made for thinking that certain types of passages in the Mishnah represent ideas that should be dated to the Second Temple era, but this is not a blanket rule. Many passages in the Mishnah can best be explained as reactions to the conditions of later centuries. For a time in the fourth century (iirc) there were real hopes for a rebuilt Temple for a time, but after these were dashed we apparently see a turning among Jews to looking forward to a future messiah to come and restore them and it. (Others with the historical details closer at hand may be able to fill this out.)

It is easy to imagine they would want to authenticate such hopes by saying they originated with their "fathers" and the "holy books" and therefore find prophecies to justify their new hopes in the wake of recent failures.
My understanding is that the passages Edersheim listed were done so not because of his interpretation but because of the Jewish interpretation, apparently quite clear. So, then it comes down to the timing -- when were they seen as such ? Was it only after the temple was destroyed? Etc.. I think too one should be careful to not too easily separate out 'explicit references to a messiah' from references to a 'Messianic age' as being something different. It may well be that the culture saw them as entertwined. Can't get into this any further. To me the very fact that Paul was going after 'Messianists' early on who basically had the 'same faith' as he ended up converting to suggests that there were high expectations and that's why the Jesus movement was able to expand in the first place. If only a small minority of Jews were expecting/hoping for a Messiah, it seems hard to believe that the movement would have had much chance to grow.

I must move on..

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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 5:28 pm

TedM wrote:To me the very fact that Paul was going after 'Messianists' early on who basically had the 'same faith' as he ended up converting to suggests that there were high expectations and that's why the Jesus movement was able to expand in the first place. If only a small minority of Jews were expecting/hoping for a Messiah, it seems hard to believe that the movement would have had much chance to grow.

I must move on..
I don't know of any reason to think that Paul was persecuting people on grounds of their identification with "messianists" or for their "messianic" beliefs.

There are also some good reasons (I think) to view the whole story of Paul being a persecutor of the church prior to his conversion is a myth. Price and Parvus don't accept any of it.

(Paul himself said he was persecuted for his position on the law; and given that he was the one who appears to have introduced that new teaching then we can be sure that he was not being persecuted for the same reason he is said to have persecuted Christians.)

There are other plausible scenarios that potentially explain how Christianity "took off". It provided a new identity for those who had once related to the Temple and Mosaic customs that had been overturned by the war. Its values and central myth emulated the best of classical heroic and ethical ideals. It appears to have been a neat amalgam of mystery and philosophical motifs that appealed to a wide cross-section of peoples.
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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 5:28 pm

George MacRae proposed the following theses in Judaism and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era.

1. The earliest recoverable strata of the Christian proclamation of the gospel are aware of the claim that Jesus was (is, or will be; see below) the Messiah of Israel; this claim is not the primary focus of their message.

2. The earliest Palestinian Jewish preaching of the gospel probably emphasized the messianic idea, but there is no adequate evidence to support this probability.

3. The further one gets away in time from the earliest preaching, whether Palestinian or Hellenistic, the more the issue of Jesus as Messiah gains prominence.

4. The development takes roughly two forms:

a. a movement away from traditional Jewish understandings of the Messiah and his role, evidenced in the Gospels of Mark and John, and

b. a movement towards some aspects of traditional Christian understanding, with an emphasis on the continuity of promise of prophecy and fulfillment, evidenced in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke.

5. These trends are not to be explained simply as diverging views of gentile as opposed to Jewish Christians, for the Gospel of Mark and Luke represent mainly gentile concerns while those of Matthew and John arise out of originally Jewish Christian churches.

6. The Gospels of Mark and John, and to a certain degree those of Matthew and Luke, illustrate the fact that to the extent that the title Christos became progressively more central to early Christian proclamation, to that same extent it departed from the Jewish understanding of the Messiah.


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

Post by DCHindley » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:13 pm

DCHindley wrote:
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
I will have to shortly go out and secure my son's school lunch money from our bank's money dispensing machine, but
what prompted my interest is your description of these robber/bandits as "military rebels."

Blumell seems to be diving headlong into the hypothesis that the robber chiefs of the 1st century were "social bandits" who had risen among the people as symbols of resistance to the hated Romans. Think along the lines of Richard Horsley, J. D. Crossan, Jonathan Reed and The Context Group all rolled into one. He ends up abruptly rejecting the hypothesis, but I found out later he is a credentialed scholar, at Brigham Young University who has previously published three papers on the LDS view of the KJV.

An option that seemed to have escaped his notice was that these men were operating private militias. Perhaps the best modern analogue would be the PLO and Syrian backed militias which ran Beirut Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s. They were funded by the few folks who managed to make any serious money, basically cannabis/poppy growers in the Bekkah Valley and those who profiteered off of gaining control of refugee camp relief supplies from the UN and then selling to residents what was supposed to have been free. Others got money from either the Soviet Union, Syria, and even Israel, to maintain a sense of control. Strangely, the civilian government continued to function as militia members sped about town in armored personnel carriers or one of those crazy Toyota pickup chassis with a functioning quad four anti-aircraft machine gun from WW2 welded where the bed would normally be. The problem was, during times of tension you could encounter a roadblock and if your government ID card identified you as Sunni, Shia, Druze, etc, as the case may be, and the roadblock folks were of a belief system that was your belief system's sworn enemy, they'd spray your car (and family) with machine gun fire.

Anyways, I wonder if anyone knows of any in-depth studies, economic and social nuts and bolts stuff, of militias of this type (Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Bosnia Herzegovina, etc), I'd like to know about it. Blumell's article seems to uncritically assume too much about socio-economic conditions (the new or rebuilt cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris were sucking the blood out of the poor peasants, living just barely above subsistence, etc etc) that fly in the face of the descriptions coming from folks like Fabian Udoh. See his To Caesar What Is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine (63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.) (Brown Judaic Studies, Mar 7, 2006).

Oh yeah, the ATM ...

DCH

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John T
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by John T » Mon Jan 05, 2015 6:05 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
John T wrote:"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet."...Deuteronomy 19.12

The people of Israel as far back as the time of Moses, expected in the time of trouble, i.e. foreign invaders, that God would provide a messiah to deliver them.

During the time of Jesus the foreign invaders would be the Romans. The Essenes of the 1st century A.D. not only sought a messiah to rid them of the Roman occupation but anticipated the Son of Man to put an end to the evil of the world once and for all. The expected year of the apocalypse was calculated based on a known number of Jubilees (49).

Sincerely,

John T
Today when we read a passage like Deuteronomy 19:12 it is easy for us -- with our conservative Christian cultural heritage -- to interpret it messianically. But on its own and in its local context there is nothing "messianic" about it. Even less is there anything messianic about it in the sense of what "messiah" means to most of us.

Deuteronomy was written long after any "time of Moses" and needs first of all to be interpreted in its literary and wider historical context. Is the prophet Joshua? Or is it King Josiah? We can't confuse what later Christian interpreters thought it meant with what the original author thought.

That's the first point.

My second response is that we have no evidence that I know of that such a passage in Deuteronomy fed into the popular consciousness of Jews in the Second Temple era as some sort of cultural marker. No doubt scribal elites knew of it and had their views on it, but the general Jewish population? How can we even know they even knew the passage existed? Okay, we can imagine many of them hearing priestly readings of the scriptures, but do we have any reason to believe that this passage was part of the make-up of popular messianism? And how many Jews were diligently attending and attentive to the priestly readings anyway? Do we have evidence to inform our views on any of these things?

Thirdly, yes there were sectarians who had various messianic teachings, but does that not tell us that such views were not widely popular but simply "sectarian"?
First things first. I cited the wrong scripture, it was Deuteronomy 18:15 not Deuteronomy 19:12. I did it by accident. However, it goes to show that most people don't bother to read the scriptures to check it out, let along put it into proper context.

The word Messiah means anointed. The anointed could be anyone divinely assigned a task that affected the people of Israel. In Dan. 9:24 the anointed one would bring everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. The Dead Sea Scrolls are replete with the expectation of the messiah appearing soon. To think the devote Jew did not know about this tradition/prophecy is highly unlikely. In light of John the Baptist baptizing the general public as well as the Pharisees and Sadducees and proclaiming; "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."..Matthew 3:3, I would suggest it would be almost impossible for anyone in the region to not know about the expected messiah.

As far as to your statement: "That we have no evidence that I know of that such a passage in Deuteronomy [18:15] fed into the popular consciousness of Jews in the Second Temple era as some sort of cultural marker."

I would respond, then why would Stephen point it out to the High Priest (Acts 7:37)?

Sincerely,

John T
"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."...Jonathan Swift

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John T
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by John T » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:17 am

DCHindley wrote:
DCHindley wrote:
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
I will have to shortly go out and secure my son's school lunch money from our bank's money dispensing machine, but
what prompted my interest is your description of these robber/bandits as "military rebels."

Blumell seems to be diving headlong into the hypothesis that the robber chiefs of the 1st century were "social bandits" who had risen among the people as symbols of resistance to the hated Romans. Think along the lines of Richard Horsley, J. D. Crossan, Jonathan Reed and The Context Group all rolled into one. He ends up abruptly rejecting the hypothesis, but I found out later he is a credentialed scholar, at Brigham Young University who has previously published three papers on the LDS view of the KJV.

An option that seemed to have escaped his notice was that these men were operating private militias. Perhaps the best modern analogue would be the PLO and Syrian backed militias which ran Beirut Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s. They were funded by the few folks who managed to make any serious money, basically cannabis/poppy growers in the Bekkah Valley and those who profiteered off of gaining control of refugee camp relief supplies from the UN and then selling to residents what was supposed to have been free. Others got money from either the Soviet Union, Syria, and even Israel, to maintain a sense of control. Strangely, the civilian government continued to function as militia members sped about town in armored personnel carriers or one of those crazy Toyota pickup chassis with a functioning quad four anti-aircraft machine gun from WW2 welded where the bed would normally be. The problem was, during times of tension you could encounter a roadblock and if your government ID card identified you as Sunni, Shia, Druze, etc, as the case may be, and the roadblock folks were of a belief system that was your belief system's sworn enemy, they'd spray your car (and family) with machine gun fire.

Anyways, I wonder if anyone knows of any in-depth studies, economic and social nuts and bolts stuff, of militias of this type (Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Bosnia Herzegovina, etc), I'd like to know about it. Blumell's article seems to uncritically assume too much about socio-economic conditions (the new or rebuilt cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris were sucking the blood out of the poor peasants, living just barely above subsistence, etc etc) that fly in the face of the descriptions coming from folks like Fabian Udoh. See his To Caesar What Is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine (63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.) (Brown Judaic Studies, Mar 7, 2006).

Oh yeah, the ATM ...

DCH
Blumell is only partially right if you trust Josephus to have given a fair account of the situation. There were several sets/series of bandits.

One set, the robbers felt justified in stealing and killing those that were obedient to the Roman government in order to promote the Jews to revolt. War of the Jews (264-265). Another set, bribed the government which then failed to do anything to protect travelers from bandits, e.g. Eleazar, the son of Dineus.

Although Felix got rid of Eleazar and had a good chance of tamping things down he made a major blunder by having Jonathan murdered by hiring another set of bandits and then letting them take over the town. It was this group of bandits that Josephus blames for the down fall of Jerusalem.

"...[The bandits] slew others not only in remote parts of the city, but in the temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty. And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out his hatred to these men's wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery,-as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities....The Antiquities of the Jews (165-166)

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

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:23 pm

John T wrote:First things first. I cited the wrong scripture, it was Deuteronomy 18:15 not Deuteronomy 19:12. I did it by accident. However, it goes to show that most people don't bother to read the scriptures to check it out, let along put it into proper context.
The mistake was yours but I get the blame for trusting you? No credit offered to me for trusting you or the fact that it was very clear what we were discussing from the content addressed rather than the peripheral numbering assigned to the verse.
John T wrote:The word Messiah means anointed. The anointed could be anyone divinely assigned a task that affected the people of Israel.
The topic being addressed is the evidence for popular messianic expectation in the sense that people generally were anticipating a messiah to overthrow Rome and establish the Jews as the chief kingdom of the world.
John T wrote:In Dan. 9:24 the anointed one would bring everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. The Dead Sea Scrolls are replete with the expectation of the messiah appearing soon.
Again, this is missing the topic in question.

The DSS represent the beliefs of the majority of Jews in the early first century?
John T wrote:To think the devote Jew did not know about this tradition/prophecy is highly unlikely.
So we don't need evidence? Just assume the majority of Jews in early first century were all as well read as the scribal elites and studied their bibles daily and knew the scriptures well? What of the other writings about the messiah? How do we know they interpreted the Daniel passage in the way you seem to suggest?
John T wrote:In light of John the Baptist baptizing the general public as well as the Pharisees and Sadducees and proclaiming; "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."..Matthew 3:3, I would suggest it would be almost impossible for anyone in the region to not know about the expected messiah.
The topic being addressed is the evidence for popular messianic expectation in the sense that people generally were anticipating a messiah to overthrow Rome and establish the Jews as the chief kingdom of the world. Citing a theological story written after 70 CE (and one that contradicts Josephus's account of JtB) is not evidence.
John T wrote:As far as to your statement: "That we have no evidence that I know of that such a passage in Deuteronomy [18:15] fed into the popular consciousness of Jews in the Second Temple era as some sort of cultural marker."

I would respond, then why would Stephen point it out to the High Priest (Acts 7:37)?
A rhetorical question based on a late text that is most likely fiction and that relates to a verse in Deuteronomy that is interpreted through Christian theology and late messianic ideas instead of in its original context is not evidence germane to the topic in question.
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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John T
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by John T » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:02 pm

@Neilgodfey,

Thanks for your reply.

It seems your point of view is; nothing in the Bible about the messiah is consistent with what the people believed, because the people being illiterate had no clue what a messiah was because their religious leaders kept it a secret from them.

By the way do you think the Dead Sea Scrolls are a fraud as well?

Best wishes,

John T
"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."...Jonathan Swift

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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:39 pm

John T wrote:@Neilgodfey,

Thanks for your reply.

It seems your point of view is; nothing in the Bible about the messiah is consistent with what the people believed, because the people being illiterate had no clue what a messiah was because their religious leaders kept it a secret from them.

By the way do you think the Dead Sea Scrolls are a fraud as well?

Best wishes,

John T
That's not my point at all. I am simply asking for evidence for what seems to be a generally taken-for-granted view that Jews generally were expecting a messiah conqueror to come and deliver them from Rome etc up to the later part of the first century.

If you don't know of any evidence there is no need to twist my words to make my request sound unreasonable. Normally (real) historians like to base their claims on evidence. If one can only defend one's view by rhetorical questions and sarcasm then I am not confident that it is a view I should embrace.

I don't know of any evidence that this was the situation. That certainly does not mean there was no such popular messianic hope but I don't know how we can justify assuming that there was.

I don't believe it is a valid argument to assume that a passage in Scriptures that we identify as significant for a certain view of the messiah meant the same, if anything at all, to the populace generally. I also don't see any reason to think Jews somehow needed special motivations to act in a way that we know people act generally in history.

I don't think you are even reading my replies or you could not ask me such a silly question about the DSS. Please read my points before responding with nonsense. I have addressed the DSS at least twice already.
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:05 pm

Joseph Fitzmyer in The One Who Is to Come fails to adequately distinguish between the elites who produced the biblical literature and the general populace. This led one reviewer of Fitzmyer's book, Jeffrey Staley, to write the following in which he reminds us of the research of scholars like Horsley:
There is no serious attempt to place messianism within the broader matrix of social history. There is no interaction with, say, Richard Horsley or John Dominic Crossan’s work on social banditry and peasant movements (Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus; The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant). One might then ask of Fitzmyer what communities he thinks are reflected in his textual study. If, as many have suggested, only 5 percent of the ancient Mediterranean population could read and write, then what segment of the population is reflected in Fitzmyer’s analysis? Is his “history of an idea” representative of Jewish belief at large, or does it represent only a small segment of the population? Does Fitzmyer’s study of the “history of an idea” reflect only the elites’ mental peregrinations, which are largely unrelated to the general masses? And what difference, if any, would his answer to this question make to this “history of an idea”?
Here are the sorts of statements one comes across regularly in the lit:
From the first century B.C.E. the Messiah was the central figure in the Jewish myth of the future (Patai, The Messiah Texts, 1979)
Belief in the Messiah is one of the four good gifts which the people of Israel have left as an inheritance to the entire world (adapted from Smith, What is Implied by the Variety of Messianic Figures?, 1959)
In the time of Jesus the Jews were awaiting a Messiah (Mowinckel, He That Cometh, 1956)
William Scott Green (I mentioned him earlier as the one who started me questioning this claim) points to flawed assumptions in the above quotes when he writes (in the same chapter I referenced earlier from Judaisms and Their Messiahs):
One may wonder . . . how so much has come to be written about an allegedly Jewish conception in which so many ancient Jewish texts manifest such little interest. (p. 4)
So what is the reason for the sustained interest despite the apparent absence of evidence for the very existence of the topic in question?
The primacy of “the messiah” as a subject of academic study derives not from ancient Jewish preoccupation, but from early Christian word-choice, theology, and apologetics. Early Christians, and particularly the earliest Christian writers, had to establish a discourse that made Jesus’ career reasonable, his unexpected death believable, and their audacious commitment and new collective life plausible. The New Testament’s gingerly application of multiple titles to Jesus suggests a crisis of classification, the dilemma of a signified without a signifier. (p. 4, my emphasis)
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