Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

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Kunigunde Kreuzerin
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Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin »

Giuseppe wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 5:18 am
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2024 12:48 amThe „seditious material“ is not found in deeper archaeological layers of the text, but is found at the "final editing stage", as source critics would say. Carrier demonstrated this very well for the two swords story.
Kunigunde, I value very much your opinion on this point. Since I recognize that the marcionite priority has serious problems in explaining the titulus crucis, have you a cogent explanation of it under the Markan priority that is not the Bermejo-Rubio's explanation (i.e. that the rebel Jesus advanced claims to the kingdom of Israel and the titulus parodied deliberately a such claim)?
I still don't fully understand what your exact problem with Bermejo-Rubio is. Can you explain that again?

In order to understand what Bermejo-Rubio thinks about the title of the cross, I google-translated (see below) a section of a Spanish essay by him: La pretensión regia de Jesús el Galileo. Sobre la historicidad de un motivo en los relatos evangélicos PDF (The Royal Claim of Jesus the Galilean. On the Historicity of a Motif in the Gospel Narratives).

In this essay, Bermejo-Rubio discusses, among other things, the title “King of the Jews”, particularly with reference to GMark. He examines three passages:

- the interrogation before Pilate
- the mockery by the soldiers
- the title of the cross

He considers it possible/probable that all three uses of this title from Roman side could be historical (and references to Jesus' actual royal claims), especially the title on the cross, while he considers the Evangelists' (alleged) account that the Jewish elites made such a charge to be unhistorical. Compared to previous HJ-scholars, I find two things very positive:

- Bermejo-Rubio admits that the extra-biblical references to a title of the cross as a Roman execution practice are extremely thin / they don't even exist.
- Secondly, he doesn't miss the little detail that Mark - in contrast to the other evangelists - doesn't even talk about a title on the cross, but only mentions an inscription in general (which could theoretically be also a board next to the cross).

google-translation
3. “King of the Jews” in the passion stories: from interrogation to titulus crucis

Once the historical-political context has been exposed, it is necessary to find an Archimedean point that constitutes a sufficiently secure foundation for our analysis. Since the news of the crucifixion of Jesus by order of the Roman prefect is rightly considered the most credible fact in the gospels, everything advises starting from it. Furthermore, it is in the passion stories where the term "king of the Jews" has a conspicuous presence, and this in three different contexts: the interrogation of Pilate, the mockery of Jesus by the soldiers and the titulus crucis.

The story of Mark 15:1-3, the oldest text we have, presents Pontius Pilate examining Jesus and asking him: "Are you the king of the Jews?" (Mk 15, 2), and in the rest of the interrogation scene the expression βασιλεὺς τῶν ’Ιουδαίων often reappears in his mouth. It is significant that the first to use the expression is the Roman prefect himself, who—despite not having previously appeared in the narrative—seems aware of Jesus' royal pretensions. The obvious seditious nature of the claim is made explicit in Jn 19:12 ("Anyone who claims to be king declares himself against Caesar") and Acts 17:7: "And all these act against the edicts of Caesar, saying that there is another king." , Jesus (βασιλέα ἕτερον Ἰησοῦν)»

However, as is known, the gospels—already from Mc 15, 1.3 (cf. Luke 23, 2)—try to show that “king of the Jews” is an accusation made by the Jewish authorities. Since these works offer an ominous portrait of these authorities as determined to destroy Jesus, the attribution implies that the designation does not constitute a reliable description, but rather a slander and/or the result of a translation into political terms of a charge of a religious nature. that the authorities would have presented to the prefect just to get the preacher eliminated. This version of events is, however, very doubtful, for numerous reasons that I limit myself to stating here, after having been sufficiently exposed in the critical investigation. First, the expression "king of the Jews" does not seem to come from the Jewish environment itself: it is clearly an external designation, in this case Roman. Second, it is difficult to believe that the Israeli authorities would have invented a political charge to eliminate an adversary for religious reasons: if they had the right of capital jurisdiction they could have used it, but then the death penalty would have been the one contemplated in the Torah (stoning) and not crucifixion; If they did not have that right, the mere invention of a position not only represented unscrupulous cynicism (an in malam partem vision that depends on the gospels themselves), but also entailed a risky move in relation to the prefect. Third, even if the invention of such a charge is deemed possible, for the Roman authority to have accepted it, proceeded with an interrogation and a crucifixion there must have been some compelling reason; a fortiori, since the gospels—despite the efforts of their authors to single out Jesus—portray a collective crucifixion and that a connection between all the crucified individuals is quite plausible. Fourth, the accounts of Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin are infested with contradictions and inconsistencies. Fifth, a careful examination of the passion stories shows the existence of a series of indications that point to a different and more original story according to which the arrest of Jesus would have been carried out not by a Jewish troop but by a Roman one. Sixth, the chronological and cultural circumstances in which the gospels were composed allow us to understand the genesis of the partial exculpation of Roman power and the attribution of guilt to the Jewish authorities by virtue of the apologetic and polemical needs of the authors, the transmitters and their followers. communities. From all this it follows that there are compelling reasons to doubt the reliability of the evangelical version, and this implies that there are reasons to question whether the accusation leveled against Jesus was false.

A second context in which, in the story of the passion, the motif of royalty appears is the scene before the soldiers. According to Mark 15:16-20 (cf. Jn 19:1-5), Jesus is the object of a parody of royal epiphany by the Roman soldiers. The parody includes putting on him a purple garment (πορφύραν) and a crown of thorns, acclamation (χαῖρε, βα σιλεῦ τῶν ’Ιουδαίων) and prostration before him as a burlesque act of vassalage. This indicates that, to the troops, Jesus had pretended to be a king: the mockery was intended to highlight the vacuity of his pretensions, and perhaps also to take revenge for the behavior of his group, which was armed and had resorted to violence. If the episode deserves credit - which is not certain, since it cannot be ruled out that the scene has been excogitated to present Jesus as the victim of a general scorn - the probability would increase that Jesus' royal claim reflected a historical fact. .

A third relevant aspect is related to the titulus crucis, the tablet that specifies the reason for the sentence. In the canonical gospels there are four different formulations of the title, although all of them have as their common denominator the core βασιλεὺς τῶν ’Ιουδαίων. Now, what can we say about the historicity of the titulus? Some authors have denied it, citing as the main reason that the practice of fixing a tablet on the cross of the condemned is not, strictly speaking, attested outside the gospels. Although there are reports of the existence of criminal charges in explanatory tabellae, contrary to what is sometimes assumed this does not seem to have been a systematic practice in the Roman Empire, and in fact there are no further testimonies about tablets nailed to crosses, but only of tablets that precede the prisoner taken to the place of execution. Now, to this it can be answered, on the one hand, that in Mark's account it is not expressly said that the inscription is fixed to the cross; This being so, and as has been pointed out, at least one parallel can be adduced. On the other hand, the fact that descriptions of the crucifixion are relatively scarce in the Roman world may make the absence of parallels hardly significant, all the more so since it seems reasonable to assume that if the cause was deployed before the execution it would continue to be so. next to the condemned during the execution itself. Another reason given to deny historicity would be that the titulus constitutes a historicization of the expression used by the prefect during the interrogation, but it would be more plausible to consider it as the natural corollary corresponding to an effective accusation.

In fact, there are good reasons to give credibility to the titulus crucis. First of all, the association of the royal title with the cross lacks biblical precedent, and since the expression was not later used in Christianity, it is implausible to consider it the historicization of a dogmatic motif: Mark wishes to present Jesus as the son of God, not as king of the Jews, and the titulus is only a circumstantial detail in his account. Second, it is hardly credible that the formulation of the inscription, of unmistakably political significance, was invented by Christians. Third, the irony in the Roman use of the title fits well with the parodic nature of the Roman crucifixion: the supposed king finds death reserved for humiliors, unmasking his – for the Empire – outrageous pretensions. Fourth, given the public nature of the crucifixion and its intended deterrent function, it is very plausible that the causa mortis was shown in order to serve as a warning and increase the impact of the sentence. Fifth, the title expresses a desire for independence and the desire to usurp the imperium from the prefect—and ultimately the emperor—which fits very well with the type of crimes (crimen maestatis) to which crucifixion was applied in the Judea subject to the Roman Empire. The convergence of all these reasons argues for opting in favor of the titulus reflecting a historical fact. The probable historicity of the title allows us to conjecture that a royal claim could have been raised by Jesus himself, a possibility that is supported by his reaction in the interrogation narratives. Although there seems to be no reason to give credibility to the answer to Pilate in Mark 15:2b (Σὺ λἐγεις, "you say so"), regardless of whether it is given or not, what is significant is that neither here nor anywhere else in the In the synoptic gospels, Jesus is shown distancing himself from that name or from the implications that derive from it. If he had done so, chances are he would not have been crucified, at least for that reason.

The analysis carried out creates a reasonable initial presumption in favor of a royal claim of the character, but certainly not yet a solid foundation for the hypothesis. Just as the crucifixion is a powerful indication of the anti-Roman character of Jesus' undertaking but not in itself reliable proof - since it cannot be ruled out from the outset that this specific crucifixion was the result of an arbitrary application of coercitio or a interested plot on the part of the Jewish authorities—nor is the presence of the accusation “king of the Jews” in the story of the passion and the titulus crucis sufficient to conclude without reasonable doubt that it reflects an effective claim on the part of Jesus. This requires us, therefore, to continue the analysis.
Secret Alias
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Secret Alias »

Part of the reason the "substitution-theory" has such traction in Semitic speaking countries is that "King Judas" and "King of Judah" (1 Kings 22:10) are identical = מלך יהודה. So it was that there was irony in the sign for Semitic speakers.
Giuseppe
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Giuseppe »

I searched for a midrashical reason (or in alternative a theological reason) for the presence of the titulus crucis.

For example, the following point:
Pontius Pilate examining Jesus and asking him: "Are you the king of the Jews?" (Mk 15, 2)
...is explained (in the context of this discussion about Bermejo-Rubio, I would say: 'neutralized') by Dennis MacDonald (The Gospels and Homer, Imitations of Greek Epic in Mark and Luke-Acts) as:
Jesus’ Silence (Mark 14:60–62 and 15:2–5)
Mark’s Jesus refuses to speak in his own defense in his two trials. This is what happened at the Sanhedrin trial: “The chief priest arose in the middle, interrogated Jesus, and said, ‘Have you nothing to answer these people who are witnessing against you?’ He was silent and made no response” (14:60–62). Jesus shows composure also in his Roman trial. “Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus responded to him and said, ‘So you say.’ And the chief priests accused him of many things, and Pilate again asked him, ‘Have you no reply? Look at the number of accusations they are making against you!’ 5 But Jesus still made no response, so that Pilate was amazed” (15:2–5). Interpreters frequently see here the influence of Isa 53:7: “Despite the abuse, he did not open his mouth. Like a sheep he was led to slaughter, and like a lamb silent before the one shearing it, so he does not open his mouth.” Yarbro Collins suggests that Jesus’ silence was inspired by Ps 37:15 (MT 38:14): “I became like a person who does not hear and has no refutation in his mouth.”195 Such biblical associations may be correct, but the context suggests also a connection with Odysseus’s silent suffering in Od. 17–20. By refusing to defend himself, he treats his accusers with contempt and increases their guilt. Later they will get their comeuppance, which is precisely what Jesus predicts for the Jewish authorities at the end of his Sanhedrin trial: “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62), like Odysseus, who later would slay the suitors. Particularly noteworthy are the following parallels:

Od. 20.183–184 Mark 15:5

And clever Odysseus said nothing [τὸν δ᾿ οὒ τι προσέφη πολύμητις ᾿Οδυσσεύς]/ but without a word, he shook his head while secretly planning evil.


Jesus still made no response [ὁ δὲ ᾿Ιησοῦς οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίθη]. [Jesus knew he would be vindicated in the end and his enemies would be punished.]



According to Mark 15:16-20 (cf. Jn 19:1-5), Jesus is the object of a parody of royal epiphany by the Roman soldiers.
Also this presumed 'seditious clue' is neutralized by Dennis MacDonald along the following lines:

This mocking of the soldiers in Mark resembles another passage in Od. 18. When Odysseus laid out Irus, the suitors saluted his victory by giving him food and drank a toast to him: “Welcome, father stranger; may good fortune be yours / in the future, even though now you have many woes” (18.122– 123). No careful reader could miss the irony: the good fortune that the beggar wanted most of all was the death of the very men who were toasting him. Like Homer, Mark used a rogue to intensify the guilt of his hero’s foes. Instead of siding with the true son of God, they championed “Son of the Father,” a murderous revolutionary. Ironically, the suitors toasted Odysseus, “Welcome, father stranger,” wishing him “good fortune,” unaware that soon he would have his good fortune at their expense. Ironically, the soldiers in Mark saluted Jesus, “Welcome, king of the Jews,” unaware that he actually was a king and that he would indeed reign and punish those most responsible for his death.

(my bold)

The last item is the titulus crucis.

About the titulus crucis, I don't find in Dennis MacDonald, nor in other authors following strictly the Markan priority, a good midrashical explanation. A fact that is recognized by Bermejo-Rubio himself when he writes, as from you translated:
First of all, the association of the royal title with the cross lacks biblical precedent, and since the expression was not later used in Christianity, it is implausible to consider it the historicization of a dogmatic motif: Mark wishes to present Jesus as the son of God, not as king of the Jews, and the titulus is only a circumstantial detail in his account.
(my bold)

Now, the Bermejo-Rubio's argument is the following:
  • 1) there is not a midrashical source for the titulus crucis
  • 2) there is not a theological cause behind the titulus crucis
  • 3) this fact makes the previous cases (where the expression 'king of the Jews' occurs) rise from the tomb where the reductio ad midrash had thrown them, by making them a pattern of 'seditious clues'
  • 4) therefore: Jesus existed and was a rebel.
Hence, my question for you, Kunigunde, is if you know, based on the your many readings about Mark, a possible midrashical or theological reason that goes to confute the point (1) and/or the point (2).

I have found a possible theological reason for the titulus crucis here:

La polémique contre Jésus Bar-Abba prit la forme la plus populaire et la plus efficace, celle du récit. Il s’agissait de faire voir que le seul crucifié, le seul rédempteur des hommes, était bien le Messie d’Israël, celui même qu’annonçaient les pro­phètes. Les Synoptiques, principalement Luc et Matthieu, s’at­tachèrent à cette démonstration. Dès la naissance de Jésus, un prophète inspiré, Siméon, le prend dans ses bras et reconnaît en lui le Messie, salut de Dieu, lumière des nations, gloire du peuple d’Israël. Matthieu souligne d’un trait appuyé vingt accomplissements de prophéties. Devant Pilate Jésus est for­mellement accusé de se dire le Messie-Roi (Luc xxiii. 2), et quand Pilate lui demande s’il l’est, il ne contredit pas. Donc il n’y a pas de doute. Le vrai crucifié est bien Jésus le Messie. Quant à Jésus Bar-Abba, le brigand, il n’a aucunement été crucifié. Il a été relâché. Voilà ce qu’il faut répondre à ceux qui racontent autre chose de lui. Quant aux circonstances de la libération, elles ont été inventées et habilement agencées dans le récit de manière à prouver autre chose encore d’utile : l’irresponsabilité de Pilate.

Ainsi les épisodes de Barabbas et de Simon de Cyrène sont de même guise. Ce sont des récits polémiques. Le premier est dirigé contre l’évangile johannique, le second contre l’évan­gile basilidien.

(my bold)

...but obviously this interpretation is obliged to give up to the Markan priority. Hence my question for you is even more urgent and pressing. :whistling:
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Secret Alias »

Pontius Pilate examining Jesus and asking him: "Are you the king of the Jews?"
In a Hebrew text he could be understood to be asking "Are you Judas the king? (or King Judas)." The irony of crucifying the name which embodies all Jews at the start of the Jewish War (or after) need hardly be explained.
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin »

Giuseppe wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 7:16 am Now, the Bermejo-Rubio's argument is the following:
  • 1) there is not a midrashical source for the titulus crucis
  • 2) there is not a theological cause behind the titulus crucis
  • 3) this fact makes the previous cases (where the expression 'king of the Jews' occurs) rise from the tomb where the reductio ad midrash had thrown them, by making them a pattern of 'seditious clues'
  • 4) therefore: Jesus existed and was a rebel.
Hence, my question for you, Kunigunde, is if you know, based on the your many readings about Mark, a possible midrashical or theological reason that goes to confute the point (1) and/or the point (2).
This sounds more like an argument you would make if you were Bermejo-Rubio ;) I'll take a look at it tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's take a look at GJohn's version as an appetizer.

19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth (NAZŌRAIOS), the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Can we really believe that this is entirely or at least partially historical truth? It is obvious that GJohn claims that Pilate himself wrote the inscription and, first of all, in Hebrew. Is it historically plausible that Pilate would have known and referred to Jesus as "Jesus the Nazorean" and then as "King of the Jews"?

Do we rather have the impression that this "fact" contradicts GJohn's agenda and that he has reluctantly said a few words about the "shameful" historical truth? Or do we have the impression that the theological muse kissed John and he wrote a lively story quite imaginatively?
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by rgprice »

Bermejo-Rubio's approach is so stupid. Seriously, apply this same approach to any number of entirely fictional books and see what you get. Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Little Women, etc. Yes, of course all of these stories are set in historical settings, and contain within them elements of real history. That doesn't make them historical.
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Giuseppe »

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 2:55 pm In the meantime, let's take a look at GJohn's version as an appetizer.
the titulus crucis in the Fourth Gospel is explained here: http://www.garriguesetsentiers.org/arti ... 86584.html

In short:

Image

But I would like an explanation based on Mark, not on John.
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin »

rgprice wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 3:31 pm Bermejo-Rubio's approach is so stupid. Seriously, apply this same approach to any number of entirely fictional books and see what you get. Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Little Women, etc. Yes, of course all of these stories are set in historical settings, and contain within them elements of real history. That doesn't make them historical.
To both of us, all the methods used by HJ scholars may seem a bit crazy. But I find it very interesting to see what new things they come up with. Memory theory already seems to be out of fashion.

I only read a few lines from Bermejo-Rubio. So I may be wrong, but he seems to be working with some kind of revised criterion of multiple attestation combined with the criterion of dissimilarity.

He does not seem to accept every little detail as historical if it is attested in all the gospels, but only if it is repeatedly attested and forms a pattern that is also inconsistent with the (alleged) agenda of the evangelists. It seems that it is less the individual details of the gospels which matter to him, but rather the overall picture that they form.

In his essay that I quoted, Bermejo-Rubio explicitly presupposed that the historical Jesus was crucified and that he was crucified on the orders of Pilate. That may be legitimate for a HJ scholar. He doesn't say it explicitly, but he implicitly assumes that there was an interrogation or at least an encounter between Jesus and Pilate.

For Bermejo-Rubio there are already historical facts, namely Pilate's interrogation of Jesus and the later crucifixion, and he now tries to get more details from the gospels. He therefore already discusses the question with regard to a historical reality outside the text.

He then notices a pattern. The expression “King of the Jews” is repeated again and again and there seems to be only one alternative to him. Either this is how the Romans judged Jesus or the Jewish elites presented it as a slanderous accusation.
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by maryhelena »

rgprice wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 3:31 pm Bermejo-Rubio's approach is so stupid.
:eek:

Seriously, apply this same approach to any number of entirely fictional books and see what you get. Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Little Women, etc. Yes, of course all of these stories are set in historical settings, and contain within them elements of real history. That doesn't make them historical.
It seems that Bermejo-Rubio's approach to the gospel Jesus story is getting under your skin...By all means fault this scholar for his view that a seditious element in the gospel story supports a historical Jesus. But doing that requires you to thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The 'baby' is not his assumed historical Jesus. The 'baby', Bermejo-Rubio's argument, is based on the seditious elements in the gospel Jesus story. That is what needs addressing not what conclusion Bermejo-Rubio draws from this sedition element. An historical Jesus is not the only conclusion that one can draw from the gospel's seditious elements.
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Re: Bermejo-Rubio and the Titulus Crucis ("King of the Jews")

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin »

Giuseppe wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 10:46 pm
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2024 2:55 pm In the meantime, let's take a look at GJohn's version as an appetizer.
the titulus crucis in the Fourth Gospel is explained here: http://www.garriguesetsentiers.org/arti ... 86584.html

In short:
That's cheating :D They smuggled the “V” from “YHVH” in there. GJohn's Greek text does not say "and king of the Jews" but "the king of the Jews". I'm not sure, but one would probably rather capitalize the first letter of the Hebrew nouns (the-Nazir, the-Melek) and not the articles (The-nazir), so to speak, even if it's just one word. In this case we would have "YNMY". Anyone an idea?

I think John is really significant because he was the first known author who saw a problem in the formula “King of the Jews” and discussed this problem. It's exactly the same question that Bermejo-Rubio also problematizes.
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