Uncommon Sense

December 21, 2020

Sunday Leftovers

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:40 am
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I try to confine my religious writings to Sundays (The zeal, the zeal!) but since this is Chrsitmas week, I will indulge myself.

I am driven to write about the “holes” in various stories about the character Jesus. These are things that belong in the discussion but are almost always left out. For example, a pivotal action in the narrative is the crucifixion of Jesus. It is pivotal because “no crucifixion, no Christianity.” You couldn’t argue “he died to wash away your sins” if he didn’t die, and so forth.

People have written extensively about the crucifixion, made movies centered upon it, all of which attest to its centrality in a massive religion, but do not reflect upon the historicity of the event. This is assumed by most.

There are more than a few “holes” in this narrative. Here are a few of those.

  • Crucifixion was a humiliating punishment meant to dissuade others from taking the same path as the perpetrators did. Consequently, bodies were left “up” until they rotted and when taken down they were not buried with normal rites. Instead, they were buried in mass graves.
  • Supposedly, the Romans allowed Joseph of Aramathea to take Jesus down and bury him following all of the Jewish rites after only a very short time. The character Joseph argued that leaving Jesus “up” during the Sabbath would defile the entire nation.
    This is problematic for a number of reasons. Joseph was supposedly a member of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus for heresy, not a follower or disciple of Jesus. By what reason did this person, through influence or bribes, avail himself of that ability? Is a great mystery.
    What about the other two, the “Robbers” strung up next to Jesus? (Robbers was a term used frequently for insurrectionists, such as the Sicarii.) Were neither of these two Jews? I can’t imagine that the myriad Jews who were crucified were all taken “down” before the next Sabbath began. Where did this “defilement” originate from?
  • Many have commented upon the garbled stories in the four gospels of the discovery of the empty tomb, so I won’t add to those.
  • In gJohn, it is claimed that the ”resurrected” Jesus walked around Jerusalem for 40 days, drawing large crowds and meeting with many people. The other gospels contradict this, but either way, the Romans had extensive spy networks. Nothing happened that they did not get word of as they paid for information. So, the Romans somehow didn’t notice a crucified man, allowed to be taken down from his cross shortly after being put up, was walking around drawing crowds. If this were an imposter, significant damage to the Roman state could ensue from riots and increased seditious activities, so they would have rounded up this guy, and all of his close associates, and strung them all up, this time waiting until only bones were left before repurposing those crosses.
  • In Pilate’s judgment of Jesus, the representatives of the Sanhedrin asked Pilate to put Jesus to death, but the correct punishment for the blasphemy that Jesus was “convicted” of was stoning. Why didn’t the Jews ask to be able to stone Jesus? The reportedly callous Pilate surely would have said, “Sure, eliminate another troublesome Jew? Sounds good to me.” But what possible argument could the Sanhedrin representatives make that would result in Jesus being condemned for sedition, the act that he was crucified for. In the trial, it was the claim that Jesus was “King of the Jews” which got him condemned, not any sort of blasphemy. (Note the mention of the placard on his cross, naming Jesus “King of the Jews,” as an additional incentive to others to not do that. Sounds like entrapment to me. Their strategy seems to have been “get him in front of Pilate and talking and maybe he will condemn himself and we won’t have to do the dirty work of stoning this overly popular charismatic movement leader.”
    On what basis would Pilate have heard the Jews and not thrown them out forthwith? Why would he have heard the case in the first place? He apparently didn’t give a damn about the religion or the people. He was there as a tax collector and a maintainer of order, nothing more. Without an initial claim of sedition or insurrection, Pilate would have told the Jewish leaders to stick to their knitting.

* * *

There are similar “holes” in every aspect of the New Testament narratives, holes that make the stories seem more and more outlandish and less and less likely. Just one other example is “the cleansing of the temple.”

15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. (Mark 11:15-17, New King James Version)

The temple complex was huge. How could one man have done all of this? The money changers sat at their tables and in possession of quantities of coin . . . and had no personal guards? The Temple itself had temple guards, where do you think they would be concentrated the most? And, all of these “events” seem to be patterned upon Hosea 9 and bits of Isaiah and other books. Strip away these OT references and storylines and instead of an historical Jesus you have the invisible man unwrapped (thanks to Neil Godfrey for the metaphor).

Again, all of this is claimed to be “true” because the Bible says so, which is not an historical argument . . . at all. They are all literary arguments, yes, but literary arguments cannot be used to prove historical facts, otherwise we would be sponsoring archeological digs based upon The Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings.

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