Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon May 06, 2019 2:27 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:00 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 11:16 am
Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule.
This statement is anything but "fundamental." Whether Jesus is really the messianic son/heir of David in the gospel of Mark is an issue to be debated. Maybe he is; maybe he is not. Good arguments can be mustered on both sides, and the reason is simply that Mark never actually answers the question for us: not even in Mark 12.35-37. He could have; it would have been easy. But he did not. (The issue of what kind of messiah counts as Davidic — militant or pacifistic, rebel or conformist — is separate.)
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
Well, pacifistic in his earthly state: but not when he comes back in heavenly glory, obviously.
The phrase "messianic son" confuses the issue of ancestry with the issue of what kind of messiah Jesus is. Mark has much to say about the latter, but unlike the other evangelists, he says nothing about the ancestry of Jesus.

Doesn't the question of ancestry arise in 12:35-37? Not really. Jesus teaches the temple crowd that the messiah is not the son of David. The reader knows that Jesus is the messiah, but Jesus keeps that a secret within the world of the narrative. It seems to me he is challenging the crowd's assumption that the messiah will be like David, a national liberator and warrior king, not dropping hints about his own lineage.

At this point in the narrative, Jesus has entered Jerusalem on a colt, alluding to the peaceful king of Zechariah 9:9. The people great him with palms in the manner of the Kings of Judah, and hail the "coming kingdom of David." But then nothing happens. Jesus looks around the temple and leaves. The next day he is hungry and approaches the fig tree. But this time, unlike the earlier episode where he invoked David to justify eating corn as they pass through the fields, there is nothing to eat. The fig tree becomes a symbol of Jesus' not being a Davidic messiah who will expel the Romans, and instead a Pauline messiah who must die.

All to say I think gMark presents Jesus as being not completely certain about what kind of messiah he is meant to be until after the entry into Jerusalem. After he encounters the fig tree, the grim truth is finally clear to him. When Pilate asks whether he is the king of the Jews, he is unwilling to answer the question. The burden of action shifts to Pilate.

In the end it is Pilate alone (albeit manipulated by the Sanhedrin and the crowd) in gMark who makes Jesus out to be "king of the Jews." The final symbolism of the king of the Jews being crucified is a plain reference to the events of 70.
There are many good points here. I can see easily that you belong on the "not the son of David" side of the issue.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Tue May 07, 2019 5:28 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:27 pm
Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:00 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 11:16 am
Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule.
This statement is anything but "fundamental." Whether Jesus is really the messianic son/heir of David in the gospel of Mark is an issue to be debated. Maybe he is; maybe he is not. Good arguments can be mustered on both sides, and the reason is simply that Mark never actually answers the question for us: not even in Mark 12.35-37. He could have; it would have been easy. But he did not. (The issue of what kind of messiah counts as Davidic — militant or pacifistic, rebel or conformist — is separate.)
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
Well, pacifistic in his earthly state: but not when he comes back in heavenly glory, obviously.
Now I am really confused. Where in the royal psalms, or in any Hebrew scripture, is the anointed king of Judah, David, or any of his successors, expected to "come back in heavenly glory"?
I can see easily that you belong on the "not the son of David" side of the issue.
As I tried to explain, I think we are talking about two separate issues. While it is true that gMark does not deny Jesus' descent from David, neither does he deny that Jesus has blue eyes. That fact doesn't make it a debatable question whether or not Mark's Jesus has blue eyes.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue May 07, 2019 6:01 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 5:28 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:27 pm
Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:00 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 11:16 am
Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule.
This statement is anything but "fundamental." Whether Jesus is really the messianic son/heir of David in the gospel of Mark is an issue to be debated. Maybe he is; maybe he is not. Good arguments can be mustered on both sides, and the reason is simply that Mark never actually answers the question for us: not even in Mark 12.35-37. He could have; it would have been easy. But he did not. (The issue of what kind of messiah counts as Davidic — militant or pacifistic, rebel or conformist — is separate.)
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
Well, pacifistic in his earthly state: but not when he comes back in heavenly glory, obviously.
Now I am really confused. Where in the royal psalms, or in any Hebrew scripture, is the anointed king of Judah, David, or any of his successors, expected to "come back in heavenly glory"?
What? I was responding to your question:
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
The answer is that many early Christians conceived of Jesus as a Davidic messiah who was not militant during his earthly tenure, but who would be militant upon his return. The question is not whether or not Christians could put those pieces together (Davidic messiah, earthly pacifism, heavenly militancy); we know they could... and did. The question is whether Mark was one of those Christians who did that, which is a more difficult question to answer, which is my entire point.

(That you apparently cannot conceive of a Davidic messiah who walks the earth as a pacifist and who will later come in heavenly glory means exactly zero to the case at hand.)
As I tried to explain, I think we are talking about two separate issues. While it is true that gMark does not deny Jesus' descent from David, neither does he deny that Jesus has blue eyes. That fact doesn't make it a debatable question whether or not Mark's Jesus has blue eyes.
Jesus' ancestry is brought up in Mark ("son of David, have mercy on me"); his eye color is not. If Bartimaeus had said, rather, "O blue-eyed son of God, have mercy on me," and Jesus failed to correct him, then we could start talking about what Mark thought of Jesus' eye color.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue May 07, 2019 6:07 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 5:28 am
As I tried to explain, I think we are talking about two separate issues. While it is true that gMark does not deny Jesus' descent from David, neither does he deny that Jesus has blue eyes. That fact doesn't make it a debatable question whether or not Mark's Jesus has blue eyes.
Also, you went further than this in your original statement:
Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule. This is why the Donkey ride into the Temple, when the crowds proclaim that he will restore the kingdom of David, results in the nothing burger that you referred to in 11:11. It is why Jesus teaches overtly that the messiah is not David's son (12:37).
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Tue May 07, 2019 7:34 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 6:01 am
Irish1975 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 5:28 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:27 pm
Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 2:00 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 11:16 am


This statement is anything but "fundamental." Whether Jesus is really the messianic son/heir of David in the gospel of Mark is an issue to be debated. Maybe he is; maybe he is not. Good arguments can be mustered on both sides, and the reason is simply that Mark never actually answers the question for us: not even in Mark 12.35-37. He could have; it would have been easy. But he did not. (The issue of what kind of messiah counts as Davidic — militant or pacifistic, rebel or conformist — is separate.)
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
Well, pacifistic in his earthly state: but not when he comes back in heavenly glory, obviously.
Now I am really confused. Where in the royal psalms, or in any Hebrew scripture, is the anointed king of Judah, David, or any of his successors, expected to "come back in heavenly glory"?
What? I was responding to your question:
How could a Davidic messiah be "pacifistic, conformist," i.e. submissive to foreign rule? I can't make any sense of that.
The answer is that many early Christians conceived of Jesus as a Davidic messiah who was not militant during his earthly tenure, but who would be militant upon his return. The question is not whether or not Christians could put those pieces together (Davidic messiah, earthly pacifism, heavenly militancy); we know they could... and did. The question is whether Mark was one of those Christians who did that, which is a more difficult question to answer, which is my entire point.

(That you apparently cannot conceive of a Davidic messiah who walks the earth as a pacifist and who will later come in heavenly glory means exactly zero to the case at hand.)
How "many early Christians conceived of Jesus" has nothing to do with the topic here. I was talking about a Davidic messiah, who would be a liberator, warrior, and "king of the Jews"--but not an eschatological figure like the Son of Man, or the Jesus of Christianity. And I asserted that Mark's Jesus is not a Davidic messiah, even though he is believed to be one and is executed on that charge. You said that was debatable, because you thought I was talking about Jesus' lineage in gMark, which I wasn't.
As I tried to explain, I think we are talking about two separate issues. While it is true that gMark does not deny Jesus' descent from David, neither does he deny that Jesus has blue eyes. That fact doesn't make it a debatable question whether or not Mark's Jesus has blue eyes.
Jesus' ancestry is brought up in Mark ("son of David, have mercy on me"); his eye color is not. If Bartimaeus had said, rather, "O blue-eyed son of God, have mercy on me," and Jesus failed to correct him, then we could start talking about what Mark thought of Jesus' eye color.
"Son of David" is a way of talking. It has to do with messianic expectation in gMark, not lineage.
Last edited by Irish1975 on Tue May 07, 2019 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue May 07, 2019 7:38 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 7:34 am
"Son of David" is a way of talking. It has to do with messianic expectation in gMark, not lineage.
This is an interpretation on your part, not fundamental basic knowledge gleaned from the text of Mark itself without any interpretation required.

ETA:
You said that was debatable, because you thought I was talking about Jesus' lineage in gMark, which I wasn't.
This is correct. And, if you were not talking about Jesus' lineage in Mark when you said that Jesus was not the son of David in Mark, then you were already adding a layer of interpretation to the text, while simultaneously calling your interpretation fundamental and condescending to John2 in the process.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Tue May 07, 2019 8:20 am

Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule.
It doesn't look this way to me at all, since Jesus says he is the Messiah in Mk. 14:61-62, which, given the context and its equation with Daniel's "son of man," I take to mean "king of the Jews":
Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ [aka the Messiah, whether "Davidic" or not], the Son of the Blessed One?”

I am,” said Jesus ...
And I think what he says next makes his ultimate intention clear, since he says that you (i.e., the Jewish leaders who were favored by Rome) “will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

And what does Dan. 7:14 say about the "son of man coming on the clouds of heaven"?
And he was given dominion, glory, and kingship, so that every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.


So it doesn't matter if Jesus thought of himself a "Davidic" Messiah or not (though I think he did, or at least that his family thought so, to judge from Hegesippus' account of the grandsons of his brother Jude in EH 3.20.1-2:
Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord's brother according to the flesh.

Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were.


But in any event, as we can see, by equating himself with Daniel's "son of man," Jesus is effectively calling himself a king ("Davidic" or not) who will soon rule over "every people [and] nation," which would include Rome, right?

This is why the Donkey ride into the Temple, when the crowds proclaim that he will restore the kingdom of David, results in the nothing burger that you referred to in 11:11. It is why Jesus teaches overtly that the messiah is not David's son (12:37).

There are other explanations for these verses, which I don't have time to go into right now (though Ben has discussed the first one upthread).

And it is why Jesus gives different answers to the "Christ question" posed first by the high priest, then by Pilate: they ask him two different questions. You missed this crucial fact when you equated "Christ" with "King of the Jews." Jesus says that he is "Christ, son of the blessed one," and then prophesies the coming of the Son of Man. To Pilate he only says "you say that I am" the King of the Jews.

Can we at least agree that the Greek word "Christ" is equivalent to the Hebrew word "Messiah"?

In Christianity, the Messiah is called the Christ, from Greek: χριστός, romanized: khristós, translating the Hebrew word of the same meaning.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah

And Daniel 9:25 equates the word "messiah" with the word for "prince" (nagid), which means "leader, ruler," and it is also used to describe David (like in 1 Sam. 13:14):

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince
The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart [i.e., David], and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people ...”
https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5057.htm


The Jerusalem mob demands the liberation of Barrabas, a rebel and murderer (representing the lestai, sicarii). That is, the type who would eventually lead the revolt in 66. But they reject Jesus ...

Yes, because they were stirred up by the chief priests (who were favored by Rome).

... the messiah who preached a humble Judaism of righteousness (12:28-34), rejecting sacrifices and purity laws ...



How is Jesus' response in Mk. 12:28-34 a "humble Judaism"? He just answered the question that was posed to him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" by citing verses that are standard in Judaism (as the scribe acknowledges):

Now one of the scribes had come up and heard their debate. Noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

“Right, Teacher,” the scribe replied. “You have stated correctly that God is One and there is no other but Him, and to love Him with all your heart and with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, which is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Hear, [O] Israel") is a prayer. It is also the first two words of a section of the Torah, and is the title (better known as The Shema) of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃), found in Deuteronomy 6:4. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). Also, it is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shema_Yisrael
The Talmud tells a story of Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus. A pagan came to him saying that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the whole of the Torah in the time he could stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it." (Talmud Shabbat 31a). Sounds a lot like Jesus' "Golden Rule"? But this idea was a fundamental part of Judaism long before Hillel or Jesus. It is a common-sense application of the Torah commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18), which Rabbi Akiba described as the essence of the Torah

http://www.jewfaq.org/brother.htm

And Jesus certainly does not reject sacrifices or purity laws, he just says that the above commandments are more important than sacrifices, which is also a standard Jewish opinion that pre-dates Jesus, and in fact he castigates the Pharisees for disregarding the Torah in Mk. 7:8-13:
" ... You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.” He went on to say, “You neatly set aside the commandment of God to maintain your own tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘The help you would have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift committed to God), he is no longer permitted to do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.”

Wouldn't Jesus be a hypocrite if he "set aside" and nullified "the commandment" and "word of God" too?

And I think Mt. 5:23-24 perfectly encapsulates what Jesus says in Mk. 12:28-34 above:
Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

... and affirming the payment of taxes to Caesar.


I answered this one upthread. You may not agree with my view, but as I said, I see Jesus' response as major insult to Caesar (and one that in and of itself disproves the Flavian hypothesis, since it says that Caesar is not divine).
Last edited by John2 on Tue May 07, 2019 9:09 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Tue May 07, 2019 9:03 am

Your attempt to defend the historicity of gMark's portrait of Pilate is hopelessly circular, because you simply appeal to what is in the portrait itself. And then you say that gMark's portrait is "in keeping" with that of Philo. But it clearly isn't. A prefect who is inflexible and stubborn, and loves to vex and offend the Jewish multitude is not someone who would ask such a multitude how he ought to render justice to would be rebels against Roman rule. That he would ask "what wrong has he done?" contradicts Philo's description of his wanton cruelty and injustice, etc. etc.
It is Pilate's custom to "release to the people a prisoner of their choosing" and is why "the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to keep his custom." And the chief priests (who were favored by Rome) took advantage of it by stirring up the crowd to choose Barabbas, in keeping with their "plan" to kill Jesus, in accordance with the Pharisees and Herodians (who were also favored by Rome) in Mk. 3:6. And Pilate knew this and had Jesus flogged and crucified anyway. And that seems in keeping with Philo to me.

I think the words you use regarding the Romans in Mark are telling, like "embarrassing" and "of course he isn't a nice guy." I think the portrait of the Romans in Mark is much worse than "embarrassing" and "not nice"; it is horrible (and yes, in keeping with Philo and Josephus), and I think your choice of words drastically downplays it, which I suspect is due to the influence of later gospels.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Tue May 07, 2019 9:23 am

The Jerusalem mob demands the liberation of Barrabas, a rebel and murderer (representing the lestai, sicarii). That is, the type who would eventually lead the revolt in 66. But they reject Jesus ...
You know, this one really bugs me. Okay, I'll give you that Jesus' "triumphal entry" in Mark was a bust (though Ben has noted another explanation for it upthread), but what about the "mobs" (including those from Jerusalem) who supported Jesus and were powerless to stop him from being killed by the Romans and their Jewish toadies, like in Mk. 3:7-8?
So Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, accompanied by a large crowd from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, the region beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon. The large crowd came to him when they heard what great things he was doing.
But at the same time, while I agree with you that Mark opposes "the type who would eventually lead the revolt in 66" (in which I would also include Judas and the "I am He" guys Jesus likens himself to in Mk. 13:5), I think it is because this is what Josephus says Fourth Philosophers did in Ant. 18.1.1:
… whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left ...


Like Niger of Perea, for example, who was executed by other Fourth Philosophers for his moderation towards the Romans:
… he was among the moderates who were executed, apparently on suspicion of wishing to come to terms with the Romans …

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/niger-of-perea


In my view, Mark simply took this Fourth Philosophic strife to a literary level post-70 CE and it doesn't mean that the Romans are good and Judaism is bad, as you seem to be suggesting.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Tue May 07, 2019 1:29 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 10:56 am
Wow, okay. Let's go over some fundamentals. The Jesus of gMark is precisely, emphatically not a Davidic messiah, not "king of the Jews," not a rebel against Roman rule.
Is that better?
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 7:38 am
Irish1975 wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 7:34 am
"Son of David" is a way of talking. It has to do with messianic expectation in gMark, not lineage.
This is an interpretation on your part, not fundamental basic knowledge gleaned from the text of Mark itself without any interpretation required.

ETA:
You said that was debatable, because you thought I was talking about Jesus' lineage in gMark, which I wasn't.
This is correct. And, if you were not talking about Jesus' lineage in Mark when you said that Jesus was not the son of David in Mark, then you were already adding a layer of interpretation to the text, while simultaneously calling your interpretation fundamental and condescending to John2 in the process.
1) I didn't say "that Jesus was not the son of David in Mark," I said that he is not a Davidic messiah. Why is this so difficult?

2) Even if I had said "Jesus is not the son of David in Mark," I would have had excellent grounds in that "son of David" functions in gMark exclusively as a messianic title (as opposed to a statement about his lineage), a title that Jesus explicitly dissociates from the messiah.

3) The only reason I can see to debate whether "son of David" means "descended from David" in gMark is that that's what it means in Matthew, Luke, Romans, and Christian theology. But this is a history forum.

4) Like everyone else here, I get to decide what counts as basic knowledge vs. what is interpretation (because that too is a matter of interpretation).
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