Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messianism

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
John T
Posts: 1109
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 8:57 am

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by John T » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:51 am

@neilgodfrey,

"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."...Neilgodfrey

Your opinion based on what? Your dislike of the idea of a messiah?

I gave several valid arguments along with scripture to back it up and you dismiss them as invalid arguments because in your personal opinion you don't like the concept of an anticipated messiah.

Yeah, I got that.

So, naturally I take it the Dead Sea Scrolls to you are being misinterpreted or a complete fraud as well, when it comes to prophecy of a messiah removing the Kittim, i.e. Romans?

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

User avatar
cienfuegos
Posts: 346
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2014 6:23 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by cienfuegos » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:51 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
The new cities could also be a source of wealth: markets for crops, work for artisans. The issue would be if the local peasantry were forced off the land, I don't know for sure, but would speculate that there was not a lot of immigration into, say, rural Galilee, but rather into the cities. I could be wrong about that, though. To arouse any social banditry, I think you would need a large population of displaced or threatened "peasants." The tax revolt of the early first century is interesting, though, as it seems to have maybe been a self-determination issue (how much could the tax have been?) in a time before there was any true "nationalism." In terms of peasant revolt, we can recall Skocpol's observation that peasants always have reason to revolt, but revolt usually only occurs with opportunity (such as the weakening of the state, in this case, imperial administration(?)). I see a lot of assumptions thrown around, like in Crossan's work, that because peasants are poor they will revolt. In fact, peasants, as most people, are generally passive as long as their lives and way of life are left alone and not threatened. That's how feudalism managed to survive over many centuries. It is when change comes that could threaten their well-being that people are more likely to rise up. Land grabs would be one example of a threat.

User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 3568
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:10 pm

John T wrote:@neilgodfrey,

"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."...Neilgodfrey

Your opinion based on what? Your dislike of the idea of a messiah?

I gave several valid arguments along with scripture to back it up and you dismiss them as invalid arguments because in your personal opinion you don't like the concept of an anticipated messiah.

Yeah, I got that.

So, naturally I take it the Dead Sea Scrolls to you are being misinterpreted or a complete fraud as well, when it comes to prophecy of a messiah removing the Kittim, i.e. Romans?

John T

Sorry, I thought (or hoped) you were serious for a while and were capable of discussing fundamental methods of logical and evidence-based argument. You evidently have no interest in reading anything I have actually written so far except to find a way to turn me into an evil messiah-hating conspiracist.
vridar.org Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

User avatar
John T
Posts: 1109
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 8:57 am

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by John T » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:08 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
John T wrote:@neilgodfrey,

"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."...Neilgodfrey

Your opinion based on what? Your dislike of the idea of a messiah?

I gave several valid arguments along with scripture to back it up and you dismiss them as invalid arguments because in your personal opinion you don't like the concept of an anticipated messiah.

Yeah, I got that.

So, naturally I take it the Dead Sea Scrolls to you are being misinterpreted or a complete fraud as well, when it comes to prophecy of a messiah removing the Kittim, i.e. Romans?

John T

Sorry, I thought (or hoped) you were serious for a while and were capable of discussing fundamental methods of logical and evidence-based argument. You evidently have no interest in reading anything I have actually written so far except to find a way to turn me into an evil messiah-hating conspiracist.
I'm sorry you feel that way but based on previous posts and on other topics, I'm not at all surprised.

"...Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."...Zechariah 9:9-10 That was written around 620 B.C.

Fast forward to 1 century A.D.

Jesus is mounted on a donkey and rides into Jerusalem.

"The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."...Matthew 21:9-11

How could the common folk get excited about an unfulfilled prophecy 600 years later, unless the belief of a liberating messiah was still alive in their hearts and prayers during the time of Jesus?

I anticipate you will say that part about Jesus riding on a donkey was all made up or it doesn't specifically say Jesus was the messiah coming to remove the Roman occupation.

You are trying to imply that the historical Jesus is a myth because our concept today of what a messiah should be is different (if the idea existed at all) back then.

Yeah, I got it.

Best wishes,

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

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6062
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:14 pm

John T wrote: "...Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."...Zechariah 9:9-10 That was written around 620 B.C.

Fast forward to 1 century A.D.

Jesus is mounted on a donkey and rides into Jerusalem.

"The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."...Matthew 21:9-11

How could the common folk get excited about an unfulfilled prophecy 600 years later, unless the belief of a liberating messiah was still alive in their hearts and prayers during the time of Jesus?
They got exicted b/c
  • a. they were told it happened, whether it did or not; or
    b. someone mounted a donkey and rode into Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy
John T wrote:You are trying to imply that the historical Jesus is a myth because our concept today of what a messiah should be is different (if the idea existed at all) back then.
That doesn't really make sense.

User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 3568
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:01 pm

John T wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
John T wrote:@neilgodfrey,

"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."...Neilgodfrey

Your opinion based on what? Your dislike of the idea of a messiah?

I gave several valid arguments along with scripture to back it up and you dismiss them as invalid arguments because in your personal opinion you don't like the concept of an anticipated messiah.

Yeah, I got that.

So, naturally I take it the Dead Sea Scrolls to you are being misinterpreted or a complete fraud as well, when it comes to prophecy of a messiah removing the Kittim, i.e. Romans?

John T

Sorry, I thought (or hoped) you were serious for a while and were capable of discussing fundamental methods of logical and evidence-based argument. You evidently have no interest in reading anything I have actually written so far except to find a way to turn me into an evil messiah-hating conspiracist.
I'm sorry you feel that way but based on previous posts and on other topics, I'm not at all surprised.

"...Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."...Zechariah 9:9-10 That was written around 620 B.C.

Fast forward to 1 century A.D.

Jesus is mounted on a donkey and rides into Jerusalem.

"The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."...Matthew 21:9-11

How could the common folk get excited about an unfulfilled prophecy 600 years later, unless the belief of a liberating messiah was still alive in their hearts and prayers during the time of Jesus?

I anticipate you will say that part about Jesus riding on a donkey was all made up or it doesn't specifically say Jesus was the messiah coming to remove the Roman occupation.

You are trying to imply that the historical Jesus is a myth because our concept today of what a messiah should be is different (if the idea existed at all) back then.

Yeah, I got it.

Best wishes,

John T
I see. So to you someone you (erroneously) believe is a mythicist does not deserve any civility or effort at engagement with reasoned discussion even if the topic he is attempting to address has no bearing one way or another on the question of mythicism but is even demonstrated to be a subject of scholarly inquiry.
vridar.org Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

Stephan Huller
Posts: 3009
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:59 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by Stephan Huller » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:33 pm

"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 have enjoyed this post for the most part but I wanted to comment upon this idea expressed by neil - and distinguish myself from John T. Let's analyze this suggestion. The idea seems to be that since people in the Empire were always revolting against the authority of the Emperor the Jews were pretty much the same as everyone else. But what evidence do we have that the Jews were 'pretty much the same as everyone else'? Do we assume no difference unless difference can be demonstrated?

I would argue that the religion of Israel was likened to slavery - that Israel was a slave of their Lord - that the Jews had no cultural conception of 'free will' and if such a concept did exist it was likened to sin. That doesn't mean that there weren't Jews acting 'freely' but that as a culture they very much resembled 'radical Islam' in terms of their fear and obedience of divine commandments and regulations.

I think that if someone came along and tried to organize the Jews in one way or another, religious precedent an appeal would have to be made to 'the scriptures' or 'priestly authority' to establish that person as 'a man of God.' This helps explain why the Jewish religious authorities are so important in the gospel narratives. Their rejection of Jesus wasn't viewed as some 'free choice' on their part. From the heretical Christian viewpoint (Marcionism etc) they were faithfully carrying out the ordinances and commandments of their god. There is a clear juxtaposition then between Jesus the man of God the Father and the man the Jewish authorities were expecting. Jesus is condemned specifically for corrupting the nation etc.

The reason the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus is understood in terms of not fulfilling pre-existent expectations associated with a 'one is to come.' Clearly that office has to be the figure of 'the Messiah.' The fact that it is 'difficult' to track and trace the develop an understanding is not surprising - the Romans continued to destroy any cultures which were hostile to their authority. But can we really go so far as to suggest that Jews weren't awaiting the arrival of a royal figure sanctioned by God to overthrow their enemies? Really this is in doubt?

User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 3568
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:17 pm

Stephan Huller wrote: The reason the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus is understood in terms of not fulfilling pre-existent expectations associated with a 'one is to come.'
I have no problem with the evangelists contrasting Jesus with the military conquering view of the messiah. But we have ample explanations relevant to the situations of the authors/original audiences of the gospels to happily account for that.
Stephan Huller wrote: But can we really go so far as to suggest that Jews weren't awaiting the arrival of a royal figure sanctioned by God to overthrow their enemies? Really this is in doubt?
I simply ask to see evidence that applies to the peoples of Judea/Jewish diaspora up to the mid first century for (1) a defining concept of "the" messiah as one who would "overthrow their enemies" (assuming we mean worldly powers such as Syrians and Romans), and (2) that there was a general cultural expectation for the advent of such a figure in a near-future time.

I suspect if evidence for either was so obvious it would have surfaced by now in this discussion.

(I don't see the relevance of discussions relating to a Jewish religious "slave" mentality etc to the question.)
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
vridar.org Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 3568
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:52 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
John T wrote:You are trying to imply that the historical Jesus is a myth because our concept today of what a messiah should be is different (if the idea existed at all) back then.
That doesn't really make sense.
Agreed. I cannot make any sense of John T's reasoning or what he somehow imagines me to be thinking or trying to do. It is evident that there is nothing I can say he will not somehow distort or twist in some bizarre fashion.
vridar.org Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

Stephan Huller
Posts: 3009
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:59 pm

Re: Questioning the Historicity of Early 1C Popular Messiani

Post by Stephan Huller » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:23 pm

I simply ask to see evidence that applies to the peoples of Judea/Jewish diaspora up to the mid first century for (1) a defining concept of "the" messiah as one who would "overthrow their enemies" (assuming we mean worldly powers such as Syrians and Romans), and (2) that there was a general cultural expectation for the advent of such a figure in a near-future time.
But is that a reasonable expectation given the Roman Empire would necessarily have eradicated any movement which sought to overturn its authority. While we don't have direct evidence of the Imperial government destroying Jewish manuscripts we do have it for the Samaritan tradition. In that case the issue seems to be centered around monarchianism as a lofty philosophical concept - but I have always suspected these discussions were veiled allusions to something political. Allen Brent has nicely developed the relationship between the monarchian Imperial cult and the penetration of monarchian philosophical and religious expression in second and third century cults. Again, if a Jewish or Samaritan or any other cultures text said 'the Roman Empire needs to be overthrown' we can bet that document would not survive down to us.
I suspect if evidence for either was so obvious it would have surfaced by now in this discussion.
Again don't fall into the trap of seeing no evidence as proof of non-existence. How much evidence do we have for homosexuality in Islamic countries or in European culture before the modern era?
(I don't see the relevance of discussions relating to a Jewish religious "slave" mentality etc to the question.)
The slave quote was to draw attention to the fact that religious Jews are regulated in every aspect of their lives. Nothing escapes the mastery of their Lord. I remember a Jewish religious person once told me that Jews can't even pee naturally. God doesn't want them apparently to touch their penis while standing at a urinal. In the same way, if they wished for a military savior he would have to be divinely appointed, pre-ordained and every aspect of his being would be regulated by God - predictably.

Post Reply