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Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:47 pm
by Ben C. Smith
Giuseppe wrote:
Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:28 am
Another explanation of the origin of the crucifixion, one very interesting:

Ben has talked about the crucifixion as a servile supplicium by definition, since this form of death was applied to slaves in primis.

The translation of the Jewish word ébed (=servant), by the Greek word παῖς (child, young slave, Latin: puer) inspired the idea that the Messiah had to be of very humble condition.

He was the son (παῖς) of God, hence the slave of God (still a παῖς !), hence he had to die as a slave: i.e. crucified.
I appreciate all the contributions to this thread, from among which the above contribution has turned out to be especially illuminating to me; I originally thought that Isaiah 53 would not belong to the list in the OP because it did not specify a crucifixion (as opposed to any other kind of suffering and/or death), but juxtaposing my own observation about crucifixion being the servile supplicium alongside this important passage is like playing trump in a card game.

I honestly do not know whether an historical Jesus existed or not. But I have long been trying to imagine ways in which a purely mythical or legendary Jesus might lie at the root of Christianity, and one thing which has often held me up has been the crucifixion: why that particular form of death? I can readily admit (and did so in the OP) that some miscellaneous vision or insight could easily account for it, but the issue has always been whether it is the best way to account for it. An historical crucifixion with which Christians were stuck (and which Christians had to make the best of) always seemed to provide at least a slight advantage in trying to trace possible developmental trajectories. But that may no longer be the case for me.

What I am going to suggest will look a bit complicated at first, I am sure. It will not necessarily look like the most efficient way of accounting for a purely mythical crucifixion. But a second look will, I think, be most helpful in that regard, because (as I have mentioned before) Christianity was never simple. Being based upon particular streams of Jewish and related interpretations of the Hebrew (and Old Greek) scriptures, it always had a very complex set of traditions to draw from. And the seemingly complicated yet deceptively simple trajectory I am suggesting here and now can be sourced from that set of traditions and in the early Christian record. What I hope to show is that, given a particular set of ideas which are well attested, a crucified Messiah can be viewed as a very logical, almost inevitable consequence of those ideas.

First, we have the generational prophecy, of which I have written much before. For many years Jewish prophets and teachers from the Twelve through Jubilees to Qumran foretold, based upon scriptural exegesis, the coming of "the last generation," a single generation of human beings who would witness God's final plan for Israel and for the world actually happening in real time. Calculations based upon Daniel 9.24-27 (the seventy weeks) led to various Jewish sects believing that they were now living in that last generation, that "this generation" would not die out before the prophesied events came to pass. This belief, extremely well attested across our earliest Christian literature, is important in this context because of the pressure it had to have exerted upon certain predicted events: if the end is nigh, then certain prophecies either are going to be fulfilled very soon or have already been fulfilled.

Second, we have the network of scriptural passages which fleshed out the details of what was supposed to happen in the end times. This network of passages began with simple seeds in the Pentateuch, adopted historical patterns in the Prophets and the Writings, and became an entire bundle of predictive expectations of various kinds by the time Christianity was ready to blossom. The scriptures at issue built upon each other (both intracanonically and extracanonically) and promised, in general, that God would restore Israel's fortunes in the holy land; the details could vary, but the overall promise was quite secure. The most important of these passages for my purposes here and now are:

Isaiah 52.13-53.12: 52.13 Behold, my servant [ὁ παῖς μου] shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14 As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men — 15 so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand. 53.1 Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; 11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant [εὖ δουλεύοντα], make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Zechariah 12.10-14: 10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.”

Zechariah 14.5: 5 “You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!”

Daniel 7.13-14: 13 “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

Daniel 9.24-27: 24 “Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Wisdom of Solomon 2.12-20: 12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child/servant [παῖδα] of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

With the possible exception of that passage from the Wisdom of Solomon, Christians read these prophetic texts together as part of a script or a plan for the end times, each passage being read in light of the others. The rabbis read these same texts in many of the same ways, as it happens. What follows is a sampling of Christian texts interpreting the above passages (and others):

Matthew 24.30-31: 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man (= Daniel 7.13) will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn (= Zechariah 12.10-14), and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (= Daniel 7.13-14). 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (= Isaiah 27.13 and many more).

Mark 13.26-27: 26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory (= Daniel 7.13-14). 27 And then He will send forth the angels (= Zechariah 14.5?), and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven (= Isaiah 27.13 and many more).

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18: 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the advent of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven (= Zechariah 14.5) with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds (= Daniel 7.13) to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Revelation 1.7: 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds (= Daniel 7.13), and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him (= Zechariah 12.10); and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him (= Zechariah 12.10-14). So it is to be. Amen.

Didache 16.3-8: 3 For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; 4 for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world deceiver as Son of God, and he shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. 5 Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. 6 And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first the sign of an extension in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and third the resurrection of the dead — 7 yet not of all, but as it is said, “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him” (= Zechariah 14.5). 8 Then shall the world see (= Zechariah 12.10) the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven (= Daniel 7.13).

Third, a shift from expecting the arrival of Yahweh (= "the Lord" in the LXX/OG) to expecting the arrival of a Messiah figure (= "the" Son of Man from Daniel 7.13-14) can be traced across these texts. I have much to say about the metamorphosis of "one like a son of man" to "the Son of Man" and related topics, but those observations will have to wait. For now, my claim (which I can support) is that certain texts which can most easily be read as predicting the advent of the Lord God actually were read in some circles as predicting the advent of a Messiah figure. And this shift is crucial, because now the texts are pointing to a Messiah figure who has undergone a few things.

For example, we have Daniel 9.26, right in the middle of the supremely important prophecy of the seventy weeks, predicting that an Anointed One (= a Messiah) would be cut off and have nothing. Since early sectarians were applying the seventy weeks to their own time, this Anointed One could hardly be Onias III or any such historical figure in their eyes. Or, as another example, we have Giuseppe's insight (above) concerning what the Suffering Servant's being "cut off from the land of the living" in Isaiah 53.8 might imply. If the prophets foretold that an Anointed One would be cut off toward the end of the seventy weeks and that God's own Suffering Servant would be cut off from the land of the living, then when was this supposed to happen? The advent in glory, with the holy ones, is when the tribes of the land would look upon the one "whom they have pierced," according to Zechariah 12.10, so this piercing must come before the advent in glory, according to the combined prophetic narrative most naturally gleaned from these (and other) passages.

But, once the generational prophecy has been put into play, the clock is ticking. The longer "the last generation" continues to go on living, the more pressure there would be for at least some of the preliminary events from the prophetic timetable to be viewed as having already happened. I believe this is what we see, for example, in the case of John the Baptist being called Elijah; since Malachi 3.1; 4.5-6 had predicted that Elijah would arrive before the Day of the Lord, and since "the last generation" was already underway, it became expedient to claim that Elijah had indeed already arrived in the shape of John the Baptist. Now that this preliminary expectation has been taken care of, the "real deal" is now all that much closer. And I think that the same pressure would have applied to that other preliminary expectation, the suffering of the Messiah. It would become almost imperative at some point to claim that the Messiah had already suffered precisely in order to continue to claim that the last generation was already underway. Confirmation of how natural this division of eschatological expectations into two such phases would have been comes from how the rabbis treated these same passages: first there would come the Messiah ben Joseph, who would die in battle (against Gog), and then there would come the Messiah ben David. The passages about suffering (Isaiah 53.1-12 and Zechariah 12.10, for example) were commonly applied to the former, while the passages about conquering were commonly applied to the latter. That Christians should divide the timetable up into these two phases (later described explicitly as the "two advents") is not at all unexpected; given their own particular and well attested set of concerns, they should have, and they did. I have also argued that Jesus was viewed (through Galilean eyes) as the Messiah ben Joseph before coming to be viewed (through Judean eyes) as the Messiah ben David, so everything dovetails neatly on that score, as well.

So why crucifixion? Because the set of scriptural passages which Christians drew upon predicted that a Messiah figure (= "the" Son of Man = the Suffering Servant) would suffer and die, and because the "servant's/slave's death" (the servile supplicium), the most shameful death of the era, was crucifixion. That Isaiah 53.1-12 can plausibly be read as describing a shameful death is supported from Wisdom of Solomon 2.12-20, which is a conscious interpretation of Isaiah's Suffering Servant. Christians were not off on a rail in interpreting Isaiah in this manner. Once one admits that a shameful death is in view, crucifixion looms large as the commonly agreed most shameful death culturally available at the time. Christians may well have been stuck with a crucifixion and had to make the best of it, but it could have been a crucifixion inferred or even practically forced upon them from the Hebrew scriptures rather than from an historical incident.

What this all means for me, at least, is that a purely legendary or mythical crucified Messiah seems like a potentially quite natural (as opposed to merely possible) consequence of (A) the time pressure applied by the generational prophecy and (B) an intuitive way of reading the prophecies concerning the last generation. I am not necessarily claiming that this mythicist trajectory is automatically better than all available historicist ones; there may yet be good historicist arguments from other angles. But for me a sine qua non of a solid mythicist argument is a natural way to understand the crucifixion, and my past efforts in this area have all required the acceptance of too many things which are actually unknown; by contrast, the trajectory suggested here is supported by actual Christian and Jewish texts all along the way.


ETA: I want to add that I am not (yet?) distinguishing between a crucifixion before death and a crucifixion after death:

Herodotus, Histories 3.125.1-4: 1 But Polycrates would listen to no advice. He sailed to meet Oroetes, with a great retinue of followers, among whom was Democedes, son of Calliphon, a man of Croton and the most skillful physician of his time. 2 But no sooner had Polycrates come to Magnesia than he was horribly murdered in a way unworthy of him and of his aims; for, except for the sovereigns of Syracuse, no sovereign of Greek race is fit to be compared with Polycrates for magnificence. 3 Having killed him [ἀποκτείνας] in some way not fit to be told, Oroetes then crucified [ἀνεσταύρωσε] him; as for those who had accompanied him, he let the Samians go, telling them to thank him that they were free; those who were not Samians, or were servants of Polycrates' followers, he kept for slaves. 4 And Polycrates hanging in the air fulfilled his daughter's vision in every detail; for he was washed by Zeus when it rained, and he was anointed by Helios as he exuded sweat from his body.

Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.17: 17 "And yet if we submit and fall into the king's hands, what do we imagine our fate is to be? Even in the case of his own brother, and, yet more, when he was already dead [τεθνηκότος ἤδη], this man cut off his head and his hand and crucified [ἀνεσταύρωσεν] them; as for ourselves, then, who have no one to intercede for us, and who took the field against him with the intention of making him a slave rather than a king and of killing him if we could, what fate may we expect to suffer?"

Either option would be considered the height of disgrace. In other words, it is not necessarily certain that all Christians or even that the earliest Christians imagined death implemented by crucifixion; it could hypothetically have been some other kind of death followed by crucifixion.

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:47 pm
by perseusomega9
Add to that the fall of jerusalem/temple and the mass crucifixions by the Romans would solidify or reveal the truths of the prophecy. Crisis cult meets ptsd

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:04 pm
by Ben C. Smith
perseusomega9 wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:47 pm
Add to that the fall of jerusalem/temple and the mass crucifixions by the Romans would solidify or reveal the truths of the prophecy. Crisis cult meets ptsd

Those crucifixions could also, I think, provide plenty of reverse engineered candidates to be the figure intended by the "crucified Messiah" designation. If the crucified Messiah was originally a narrative derived from the combination of scriptural predictions and prophetic necessity, then by definition its subject had to be obscure: so obscure as to not even exist. But, if his existence was required by prophetic expectation, then of course there would be some who would make educated guesses as to who it was and as to when and where it occurred. And those crucifixions might have given many people who had witnessed them grounds to claim that they had witnessed "the one" crucifixion which actually counted. They did not realize what was going on at the time, of course (any more than the spiritual entities in 1 Corinthians 2.6-9 or in the Ascension of Isaiah), but later on it occurred to them what was actually happening. Their eyes were opened....

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:34 pm
by neilgodfrey
Clarke Owens, whose specialist area is literature, presents a simpler explanation (without speculating prophetic ideas at the time) for the crucified figure in the Gospel of Mark in his book, Son of Yahweh: the Gospels as Novels -- and one that ties in directly with perseusomega9's point. His starting position is that authors cannot help but reflect the world they know and if the Gospel of Mark had been written close to the destruction of Jerusalem, then the gospel Jesus is a creation of a culture under siege and crucifixion is essentially synonymous with the destruction of that culture. As per perseusomega9, the people of Israel were being crucified and Jesus represents Israel. His story restores hope.

Owens is not a mythicist (at least he made that clear some years back when his book was released). One can find links to Clarke Owens' blog and his book along with a series of posts on his thesis at See also his entry at Christian Alternative.

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:24 pm
by MrMacSon
I think the above commentary by several posters probably comes closer than to what I present here, but it may add another dimension worth ruling in or out, and, even if plausible, it may only be a partial contribution to the reason for a narrated crucifixion (rather than a real one being behind the crucifixion narration). I have in the past had a couple of abstracts thought about this but had put the concept aside to research later, as it'd be a controversial proposition, until I came across this book in the last 24 hrs which may encapsulate or at least present it from a better historical foundation contemporaneous to the development of early Christianity: The Strange World of Human Sacrifice, 2007, edited by Jan Bemmer (the then first in a 'Studies in the History and Anthropology of Religion' series by Peeters publishers).

There are a couple of contributions listed in the Table of Contents [Google Books] that might be interesting to contemplate -

IV/ L. ROIG LANTZILLOTTA, The Early Christians and Human Sacrifice,

V/ E. NOORT, Child Sacrifice in Ancient Israel: The Status Quaestionis,

and even

III/ J.N. BREMMER, Myth and Ritual in Greek Human Sacrifice: Lykaon, Polyxena and the Case of the Rhodian Criminal,

and perhaps articles VI and VII about human and 'retainer' sacrifice in Egypt.


«The Strange World of Human Sacrifice» is the first modern collection of studies on one of the most gruesome and intriguing aspects of religion ... Turning to ancient Greece, three cases of human sacrifice are analysed: a ritual example, a mythical case, and one in which myth and ritual are interrelated. The early Christians were the victims of accusations of human sacrifice, but in turn imputed the crime to heterodox Christians, just as the Jews imputed the crime to their neighbours. The ancient Egyptians rarely seem to have practised human sacrifice, but buried the pharaoh's servants with him in order to serve him in the afterlife, albeit only for a brief period at the very beginning of pharaonic civilization. In ancient India we can follow the traditions of human sacrifice from the earliest texts up to modern times, where especially in eastern India goddesses, such as Kali, were long worshipped with human victims ...

The Introduction notes war and post-war periods were a common periods it was performed, citing Tacitus about human sacrifice among the ancient Germans (Annals 13.57; and Jordanes Getica 41), and also noting they occurred during the Roman wars against Carthage.

The Introduction also notes Lantzillotta discusses in his contributing article various accusations thrown around at and among early Christians, and that Christians used the same charges "later on, with catastrophic effects, against Jews"; and note the Summary above says 'the Jews imputed the crime to their neighbours'.

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:58 am
by Charles Wilson
perseusomega9 wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:47 pm
Crisis cult meets ptsd
Which is what you see when you read the "Foot Washing Episode". Someone is obsessed with (Bloody) feet from something that happened some time ago and is intent on "Institutionalizing" the cleaning of feet.

One or two steps beyond PTSD.


Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:53 pm
by Ben C. Smith
I mentioned the twin advents of Jesus above (the "first advent" in humility and the "second advent" in glory), and this concept is a thoroughly Christian one, of course, but it is interesting that Jewish exegetes made a similar move in conceptualizing (at least) two different Messiah figures (the Messiah ben Joseph and the Messiah ben David). Many of the scriptural prophecies which the Christian exegetes attached to the "first advent" of Jesus the Jewish exegetes attached to the Messiah ben Joseph, while many of the scriptural prophecies which the Christian exegetes attached to the "second advent" of Jesus the Jewish exegetes attached to the Messiah ben David:

John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic, A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader, pages 135-138, translating the Responsum of Hai Gaon (slightly reformatted):

At that time [at God’s instigation] there shall arise from among the descendants of Joseph a man who will be called the Lord’s Messiah, and many people will assemble around him in Upper Galilee, and he will become their ruler. Other people will continue gathering themselves to him, two or three coming from this province, and four or five from that one. Regarding this time scripture states: “I will take you — one from a city, and two from a family” (= Jeremiah 3.14). However, most of Israel will remain in their places of exile, for they will not realize that the appointed time has come.

Then the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will go up from Galilee to Jerusalem together with the people who had gathered themselves to him, and they will kill the official appointed by the ruler of Edom and the people associated with him. Regarding this time scripture states: “I will enact my vengeance against Edom by the agency of my people Israel” (= Ezekiel 25.14). He will dwell in Jerusalem for a brief time.

When all the nations hear that a king for Israel has arisen in Jerusalem, they will rise up against them in the rest of the provinces and drive them out. They will say to them: “Up to now you dwelt loyally with us, since you had no ruler or prince of your own. But now that you have a ruler, you can no longer dwell in our land!” Many Israelites will go out into the wilderness regions adjacent to their (former) homelands — regarding this time scripture says: “I shall make you enter the wilderness of the peoples” (= Ezekiel 20.35) — and they will dwell there in tents, as scripture says about this time: “I shall make you live in tents again” (= Hosea 12.10). Many of them will lack food and water, and they will experience suffering based on their (previous) deeds. Scripture states about this time: “I will make you pass beneath the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” (= Ezekiel 20.37). Many will abandon the covenant with Israel, for they will be weary of their lives (as Jews), and about them scripture has stated: “I will purge from among you those who rebel and those who offend Me” (= Ezekiel 20.38).

It will happen that when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and all the people who are with him have made their dwelling in Jerusalem, Armilos will hear the news about them. He will come and prepare charms and enticements so as to lead many astray by them.He will come up and do battle against Jerusalem, and he will defeat the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and his people. Some of them he will kill, whereas others he will take captive, and he will divide their spoil. Regarding this time scripture states: “I will gather all the nations at Jerusalem to do battle” (= Zechariah 14.2). Even the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be slain, and Israel will experience great distress. Scripture reveals about this time: “and they shall look to Me about the one whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one would mourn an only child, and feel bitterness about him as one would feel bitterness about (the death of) a firstborn son. On that day the mourning will be great in Jerusalem” (= Zechariah 12.10–11).

Why will Armilos be granted the power to kill the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph? (This will occur) in order to break the heart(s) of the dissenters among Israel; that is, those who have no faith. They will say: “This is the man for whom we have been waiting? He has come and been slain! No more deliverance remains for [for Israel]!” They will abandon the covenant of Israel and cling to the gentile nations, but these latter will kill them, for scripture says about them: “All the sinners among My people will die by the sword” (= Amos 9.10). Consequently those who remain in Jerusalem will be refined and purified, and also those who went out to the wilderness areas will be tested and refined; about two parts will be left over from these and about a third will be left of those. About them scripture testifies: “And it will come to pass in all the land — utterance of the Lord — that two portions in it will be cut off (and) will expire, and only a third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and I will refine them like one refines silver, and I will test them like one tests gold” (= Zechariah 13.8–9). During that time all the “messianic birth pangs” will pass over them, those things that have been expounded in numerous places from scriptural verses and the teachings of our Sages, may their memory be blessed. Afterwards they will cry out, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will hearken to their cry, as scripture promises: “And he will call upon My name, and I will answer him” (= Zechariah 13.9).

At that time Elijah will appear in the desert among those who are located in the wilderness regions, and he will restore their hearts, as scripture says: “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (= Malachi 3.24). The Messiah of the lineage of David will suddenly appear to those who are in the Land, for the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph had previously assembled the people before him, as scripture states: “Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. Suddenly the Lord Whom you seek will enter His Temple” (= Malachi 3.1). The Israelites who are in the wilderness regions will follow Elijah until they meet the Israelites who are with the Messiah of the lineage of David in Judea. Scripture says about them: “In those days the house of Judah will come with the house of Israel, and they will come together from a northern land unto the land that I bequeathed your ancestors” (= Jeremiah 3.18).

Most of those who were slain will lie dead in the Land for forty days, for when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph is killed, his corpse will be cast aside for forty days. Nevertheless no impure thing will afflict it until the Messiah of the lineage of David comes and resurrects him at the command of the Lord. This will be the first of the signs that he will perform; namely, the resurrection of the dead, for he will regain life.

Then the Messiah of the lineage of David, Elijah, and the Israelites who came from the wilderness regions to Jerusalem will dwell securely (and) undisturbed for a long time. They will construct houses, plant vineyards, and enjoy prosperity in business and trade. (This situation will continue) until Gog hears news of them, as it is written: “I shall come up against a land of unwalled towns; I will come to those who are tranquil (and) who live unsuspectingly” (= Ezekiel 38.11). The land of Gog is Magog, (a territory) in the land of Edom, for scripture has said about him: “[Gog of the land of Magog] is chief prince of Meshek and Tubal” (= Ezekiel 38.2). He will bring (with him) peoples from all of its surrounding areas and from Edom, as scripture attests: “The far reaches of the north and all his flanks — numerous peoples” (= Ezekiel 38.6). These will, moreover, be augmented by masses (of people) drawn from every city and province through which they pass: (some will be) wicked and destructive men intending to mob them and annihilate them, but (also) others, some of the best of the gentiles, “who plan to gather beneath the wings of the Shekinah.” All of them will come to do battle, and they will fight against Jerusalem with the Messiah of the lineage of David and those persons with him. Scripture says about this time: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem (to be) a cup of venom” (= Zechariah 12:2), in addition to what is said in the passage about Gog (= Ezekiel 38–39). At that time a mighty earthquake will also rock the Land of Israel.

The correspondence is not perfect, verse by verse, but the overall pattern is that the Messiah ben Joseph has to die and be raised up again (rather like Jesus at his "first advent"), whereas the Messiah ben David simply comes and conquers (rather like Jesus at his "second advent"). Another major eschatological figure, the "prophet like Moses," does not seem to figure into the scenario outlined in detail by the likes of Hai Gaon, but we know that Christians wrapped those prophecies around Jesus, as well (in Acts 3.17-26, for example), whereas other Jewish sects did not have to do that. Neither Hai Gaon nor the extant Christian texts combine the returning Elijah with the Messiah, but I believe that we have evidence that at least some early Christians may have done just that.

At any rate, it is clear that, while the scriptures promise or imply the advent of various eschatological figures (a prophet like Moses [or Taheb], the Messiah ben Joseph, the Messiah ben David, a priest like Aaron [or Messiah of Aaron], Elijah, and so on), it was possible either to keep some or all of these figures separate (like many Jewish exegetes did) or to combine at least some of them together (like many Christian exegetes did). The scriptures themselves were not always that clear on which figures overlapped with which, so various approaches were possible; what really mattered for the exegetical game being played was that the divine promises, whether implicit or explicit, were being kept: the prophecies were being fulfilled. And that game led to a bifurcation both for Jews (Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David) and for Christians (first advent and second advent of Jesus). Christians, on the whole, seem to have been charmed by a sort of "summing up of all things in Christ," as it were:

Ephesians 1.8b-10a: 8b In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10a with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

Jews, on the whole, seem to have been more content to let each separate figure play his own separate part in the eschatological drama.

Re: Why crucifixion?

Posted: Sun Oct 13, 2019 5:34 pm
by neilgodfrey
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:47 pm
Giuseppe wrote:
Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:28 am
Another explanation of the origin of the crucifixion, one very interesting:

Ben has talked about the crucifixion as a servile supplicium by definition, since this form of death was applied to slaves in primis.

The translation of the Jewish word ébed (=servant), by the Greek word παῖς (child, young slave, Latin: puer) inspired the idea that the Messiah had to be of very humble condition.

He was the son (παῖς) of God, hence the slave of God (still a παῖς !), hence he had to die as a slave: i.e. crucified.
I appreciate all the contributions to this thread, from among which the above contribution has turned out to be especially illuminating to me; I originally thought that Isaiah 53 would not belong to the list in the OP because it did not specify a crucifixion (as opposed to any other kind of suffering and/or death), but juxtaposing my own observation about crucifixion being the servile supplicium alongside this important passage is like playing trump in a card game.
Agreed that Giuseppe's point is most pertinent. One might further strengthen it by noting that Daniel drew upon Isaiah's Suffering Servant image in drawing its Son of Man messianic type figure. And Daniel was, we may think, written with consciousness of crucified martyrs who had confessed their piety through circumcision.

See, e.g.,
  • Cummins, Stephen Anthony. 2007. Paul and the Crucified Christ in Antioch: Maccabean Martyrdom and Galatians 1 and 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Hengel, Martin. 2004. “The Effective History of Isaiah 53 in the Pre-Christian Period.” In The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources, edited by Bernd Janowski and Peter Stuhlmacher, 75–146. Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.