Friday, May 13, 2005

Caird on Politics and Jesus

The late and brilliant New Testament scholar, George B. Caird [Teacher of so many excellent present day biblical scholars it's surreal...] had much to say on my topic of research, namely Jesus and the Politics of Israel and Empire. Although Caird's emphasis lay on the politics of Israel, he had much to say that would equally apply to the politics of Roma. Below is a smackle of quotes from Caird's book New Testament Theology completed and edited by L. D. Hurst.


Recalling our warning that we should begin where the evidence is least subject to doubt, we turn to the one undoubted fact in the history of Jesus: He was crucified. Apart from those few on the lunatic fringe who have denied that Jesus actually existed, nobody in our time has attempted to deny that Jesus died on a Roman cross. But can we accept a fact without also asking why?[1]
If the cross is central to the story, the controversies which led up to it must be equally central. Here the points of disagreement between Jesus and the authorities would, if recoverable, constitute an entry into the material which might bring us close to the centre of Jesus’ message.[2]
We now return to our main question: why was Jesus crucified? And here we face an inexorable fact about the Gospels, namely that Jesus’ teaching has within it a strong political element. It has, of course, been crusted over by centuries of piety which has distinguished between religious concerns and politics; and this is the format which all New Testament Theologies have implicitly employed in their consideration of the teaching of Jesus.[3]
If Jesus had no interest in politics, why go to Jerusalem at all? Why not be content to train his disciples in the calm of the Galilean hills? Why this headlong clash with authority? And at the last, when he is aware that treachery is afoot, why not simply slip away quietly, under cover of darkness, to a place where his enemies could not get at him?[4]
Such questions require an answer. One answer f course is that he exposed himself to certain danger because he believed he was fulfilling the scriptures. But apart from attributing to Jesus a one-dimensional understanding of this world and his role in it, such an answer does not account for much information in the Gospels which relates to Jesus’ concern for the Jewish nation. If he found himself at the end embroiled in political crisis which resulted in his execution on the order of a Roman governor, it was not because he avoided politics. It was because for him politics and theology were inseparable.[5]
Pontius Pilate was the representative of the Roman Emperor, much as the Governor General represented the Crown in a British dominion during the first half of the twentieth century, with a local parliament carrying on day-to-day affairs.[6]
A prima facie case therefore exists for claiming that Jesus was crucified for political reasons, not simply because of any concern for individual souls in the hereafter. He addressed an equally great question: What does it mean fr the nation of Israel to b the holy people of God in the world as it is? Ultimately of course the individual and the national will not be unrelated. To claim that Jesus was embroiled in the politics of first-century Judaism hardly sends into limbo his many sayings which reflect his concern for the individual, and any approach to the teaching of Jesus which is unable to integrate such a concern is to be resoundingly rejected. But it is also true that the nineteenth-century picture of Jesus as the Saviour of individual souls only, that his exclusive concern was the relationship of individuals to their Maker, leaves out of account too much Gospel material, with too many crucial questions left unanswered.[7]
[1] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 353 [2] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 354 [3] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 356 [4] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 357 [5] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 357 [6] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 358 [7] Caird, New Testament Theology, pg. 359
What Caird has done here is remind us both of an important criterion in historical Jesus research, and also a solid indicator as to the mission and message of Jesus. An apolitical Jesus would make little historical sense. Politics plays an important role in Judaism, see the latest post by Seth Sanders for a good example. So much so that Sanders says:
Israelite writers thought a lot about empire, comparing Israel to the succession of men who, in trampling through their small country, claimed to be carrying a mission to rule the world. They thought about how they were and weren't like their imperial rulers. Empire was imprinted on their consciousness... The prayer [Pslam 89:21ff.] reverses this triumph, mourning how God has let David's dominance be shattered--God's covenant, it seems, did not faithfully endure. The psalm is almost an incantation, summoning God to pony up, demonstrate his vaunted faith, and restore his side of the bargain. The prayer dares God to be a real imperial ruler

This is an astounding claim. More thoughts later on Caird's comments...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Liberator: a prophet like Moses or Elijah

a brief response to my nemesis...

No proposal in scholarship is written in a vacuum and my proposal of Jesus’ counter-imperial empire is no different. So in my response to Eddie’s fine comments, I must note that I am building on the works of those who are before me and who know more than me. In their studies of Jesus’ prophetic role both Ben Witherington and Scot McKnight have alluded to features of Jesus mission and message that beg the question: “What sort of a prophetic figure might Jesus have been?”
[1] Witherington proposes the meta-question of “what role did Jesus see himself playing in the drama of God’s people?”[2] He then goes on to propose that Jesus was an Elijah type prophet but also notes that no single category could ever encapsulate such a complex figure as Jesus. McKnight categorises the various prophetic traditions and then compares them with what we know about Jesus’ prophetic ministry. Based on a comparative analysis he concludes that Jesus was no classical or even pre-classical prophet but rather his ministry shares many features with that of Moses, and even Joshua.[3]

What’s the deal with Elijah and Moses? Both of these prophetic figures sought to liberate Israel from either oppression or false gods, or both. They were liberation prophets leading the people of Israel out of bondage to foreign rule and oppression. It was never YHWH’s intention to keep the people of Israel under bondage forever. They had suffered the consequences of their unfaithfulness and now YHWH would return to Zion’s people and once again embrace her.

I find it interesting to note that the transfiguration narratives [which are an historical anomaly] connect Jesus, Moses and Elijah together. Luke even has the opaque reference to an “exodus” which would be accomplished at Jerusalem. It appears that the gospel writers had already made this connection with the identity of Jesus. So scholarship is possibly on the right track in it’s identification of Jesus with such liberation figures.

Yes Jesus probably believed that there is "no king but YHWH", but the question is, what kind of king did he believe YHWH was, and how did he envision YHWH carrying out his reign? In other words, what shape was the kingdom of God to take in the present and in the future? I see no evidence within Jesus sayings that his followers had to bring Caesar down. What he did do was re-commission those within God’s people who accepted the call to drop their agenda’s for Israel and follow him as the Messiah from God, to continue Israel’s purpose, but now heightened to discipling the nations. Through this, all humanity would come to serve the one king, YHWH.

But this leads us back to our former question. What sort of prophetic figure might Jesus have been, and what role did he see himself playing in the drama of God’s people? It is my contention, following Wright’s exile thesis, that Jesus saw himself as the one would liberate Israel from foreign rule and oppression. I would agree that there is no evidence that suggests that Jesus envisioned his disciples wanting to “take Caesar down.” But given the nature of Jesus’ kingdom message, and the Mosaic backdrop, one is struck that although Jesus never spoke directly against Caesar, by claiming allegiance to himself that even redefined filial allegiance, he was drawing/pulling people away from the leadership of Caesar and Rome [with all her rituals, rules and categories] and into the Kingdom of YHWH, right here on earth celebrated in community, table fellowship and allegiance to Jesus. It was a subversive kingdom that operated on the laws of love and liberty.

I am not sure what “discipling all nations” means but the evidence is clear that although Jesus did focus on Israel, he often called and directed his own disciples to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom to those outside Israel. Especially to those with an allegiance to Rome. One example from Jesus will suffice from Matthew 8:5-13.

The story is told of a centurion, i.e. Roman commander, who comes to Jesus and “appeals” to him. The issue is the vitality of a servant. Jesus is willing to cross over into a pagan’s home, the home of an army officer who controls the discipline in that area. An officer who makes sure that people pay tax, an officer who pledges allegiance to ROME and her gods, especially the emperor. Knowing the rules of authority and how Jewish people don’t enter pagan homes, the centurion asks for another way and recognises Jesus’ unique ability to heal from afar. A Roman soldier, the perfect symbol of allegiance to Rome, is asking YHWH’s representative for help. Rome’s gods and the emperor have failed to provide vitality and hope for life. All Rome’s benefits come to naught when faced with the enemy of death. And once again Jesus proves victorious in this manner by doing what Rome cannot do. By healing both a cultural barrier and physical ailment. The Empire of Rome is confronted with the Empire of YHWH and Rome is shown to be impotent. This subversive act of healing confronts the populace with the question of who is able? Who is able to heal and restore? Who is able to conquer death and sin? Who is able to do this? Only the one with true authority. Not those who steal or force authority, but those who submit to the true authority found in Jesus. Here Jesus is bringing liberty to the oppressed. Rome claimed to bring health and wholeness to her empire and yet here, one of her most allegiant persons is asking Jesus for help, in an almost desperate state. Yes, Jesus’ mission and message was “to the house of Israel”. But clearly Jesus had a mission and message that extended far beyond the borders of Israel. A mission to liberate not only Israel from Rome, but also Rome from Rome [and if Wright is anyone to go by this meant liberation from the satan as well!].

Once again with crucifixion, it was not only revolutionaries who were crucified, but all manner of people who committed crimes. Yes these crimes were against Roman Imperial order, but not all were designed to overthrow or undermine it. It is likely, however, that in the context of Jesus ministry with the various symbols and stories he was evoking, that the saying would have been heard by those gathering around him, against the context of Roman power to suppress Jewish revolution.

With regards to crucifixion I think the point that I’m making is that Jesus was crucified as a lestes or Brigand which has the direct connotation of revolutionary. Although there is no direct saying or logion in the gospels to suggest this, I think historically the case is quite simple. John 19:12, a very historically plausible logion notes that the leadership tell Pilate, “if you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar’s!” Luke makes note that they also claimed that “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Wright notes that “Pilate recognised that Jesus was not the ordinary sort of revolutionary leader, a lestes or brigand.”

It makes good historical sense, that taken within the larger context of Jesus’ mission and message, the charges laid against him, and the fact that Pilate recognised some sort of claimant here, that Jesus mission and message was covertly subverting the imperial regime. Jesus was not like Judas the Galilean in method, but he was like him in position of not wanting Rome to rule Israel anymore. YHWH’s people must be liberated from the oppressor, just like Moses liberated Israel from Pharaoh. But the means of liberation were ontologically opposed to that of violence and military revolution. This would be a revolution based on allegiance to Jesus and his alternative teachings.

Now, when you write that: If indeed, to pick up ones cross does suggest embrace the revolution (which I am not convinced of yet), then the reshaping that Jesus did to the means of that revolution, turns it more into social protest than active resistance or opposition (what ever form the latter takes).

I can perfectly agree. But is it not a superficial distinction to suppose that a social protest is active resistance to the opposition? Such analytical distinctions seem hard to justify in the first century mindset. Social protest was politically volatile and explosive. Rome did not take to kindly to anyone just saying anything or doing anything. However, politics and social protest are tied to theological convictions. In the first century one would be hard pressed to have one without the other. Jesus’ conviction that it was him who was to lead Israel [evidenced by the re-gathering of the twelve and the reaching out to the gentiles] out of Exile is a politically charged activity. There was much protest against Rome, and the revolutionary movements seem to have plagued Rome for sometime during the 1st century. Why did they protest “No King by YHWH!” ?

The principal goal of these revolutionaries was to overthrow Herodian and Roman domination of Palestine. In addition to fighting the Romans, these revolutionaries attacked the mansions of the aristocracy and the royal residences. This undoubtedly reveals the frustration of years of social inequality. In response, Varus, legate of Syria, dispatched two legions (6,000 troops each) and four regiments of cavalry (500 each). This was in addition to the troops already in Judea and the auxiliary troops provided by the city-states and client kings in the area. In spite of this military might these messianic movements were difficult to subdue.

Because of the lack of sources it is difficult to identify any messianic movements between the revolts and those surrounding the First Jewish Revolt (except, of course, the followers of Jesus).[5] With regard to the First Jewish Revolt, Josephus notes two messianic movements that bear mentioning. The first is Menahem, son of Judas, the Galilean, who

took his followers and marched off to Masada. There he broke open king Herod’s arsenal and armed other brigands, in addition to his own group. With these men as his bodyguards, he returned to Jerusalem as a king, and becoming a leader of the insurrection, he organized the siege of the palace.[6]

Thus, I think the case can be made. The cross, an image of martyrdom was sealed since the Maccabean revolt. Martyrdom, dying as a protest, was massive. In fact, many would rather die than submit to slavery.

With ropes he lowered [over the cliffs] the toughest of his men in large baskets until they reached the mouths of the caves; they then slaughtered the brigands and their families, and threw firebrands at those who resisted. . . . Not a one of them voluntarily surrendered and of those brought out forcibly, many preferred death to captivity.[7]

An old man who had been caught inside one of the caves with his wife and seven children . . . stood at the entrance and cut down each of his sons as they came to the mouth of the cave, and then his wife. After throwing their dead bodies down the steep slope, he threw himself down too, thus submitting to death rather than slavery.[8]

Josephus tells us that they would rather die than submit to imperial rule. Jesus uses the image of the cross as a counter-imperial call to oppose Rome by embracing allegiance to Jesus as the true king which would in fact most likely mean walking the same road and ending up in the same place that Jesus ended up in. The cross is a politically charged image of domination. To embrace that, in allegiance to Jesus is to deny it it’s power of imperial agency.

I think the aim should be, not to find out whether Jesus had an opinion on Caesar and his reign (which he no doubt did), but whether this formed part of his mission to the Jews. It may be seen, against a thorough knowledge of his 1st Century context, that what he was saying and doing was indeed “revolutionary” (not literally) within his context and that it did have definite and dramatic implications for the future of Caesar’s Empire. But, it may not be (and I don’t think it was) that he encouraged or instructed active rebellion against it (as opposed to more passive protest or perhaps subversion which I think he did). Jesus focused not on Israel’s political situation (other than to discourage zealous nationalism, and perhaps nationalism altogether), but on her then current failure in fulfilling their purpose of being a light to the nations (Mt. 5-7).

If the exile, or even “bondage” thesis is correct
then we have cause to believe that Jesus’ mission to the Jews did incorporate a subversive challenge to Rome and her imperial dogma. The motif of exile together with its expression in the interpretive traditions in early Judaism constitutes an important background for understanding Jesus and the origins of Christianity. With reference to Jesus, much discussion has taken place about the relationship between Jesus’ understanding of his mission and the alleged despair or feeling of exile experienced in popular Jewish social groups, especially among peasants who endured not only Roman occupation and a burdensome tax load, but also the corruption of the temple crew.

According to Wright, Jesus understood himself to be the Messiah who had come to liberate Israel from its continuing state of exile (“the present evil age”) and bring it into a state of restoration (“the age to come”). He came as a messiah who not only represented the people of Yahweh by taking on himself the suffering of the nation in the tradition of the Jewish martyrs and the wrath of disobedient Israel but also enacted their liberation from exile by intentionally dying in order to achieve victory over Satan, who constituted the true enemy of Israel. The result is a renewal of the covenant, the forgiveness of sins, the coming of the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of Israel’s original mission to be a servant people who are a light to the world.

Other scholars have pointed to specific points of contact between Jewish exile theology and the teaching and actions of Jesus. For example, C. A. Evans argues that at least five features justify a connection: Jesus’ appointment of the Twelve, which may suggest the reconstitution of the twelve tribes of Israel; the request for a sign from heaven (Mk 8:11–13), which may reflect the signs promised by messianic pretenders; Jesus’ appeal to Isaiah 56:7 during the demonstration in the temple (Mt 21:12–13 par.), which, when the oracle of Isaiah 56:1–8 is in view, indicates that Jesus chastises the religious leaders for neglecting to live up to the eschatological expectation; Jesus’ allusion to Zechariah 2:6 (Heb v. 10) in Mark 13:27, which recalls the gathering of God’s people; and Jesus’ criticism of the Jewish religious leaders (Mt 11:21–23 par.), which appears to threaten judgment of exile.

I don’t think this amounts to active rebellion against Rome unless of course by that we mean the refusal to bow down to Caesar, the refusal to partake of imperial festivals which gave honour that was due only to YHWH to pagan idols, or if it meant compromising the teachings of Jesus in any way, shape or form. The testimony of the early Jesus Liberation Movement is that they would, as many of the Jewish forefathers had done, rather die than submit to another King named Caesar.

Ergo, I think your objection has merit only if we discuss this within the context of violent revolution. But given my stance and understanding of Matt 5 and other key texts and exemplary activities of Jesus, I cannot justify that as an accurate description of Jesus. Despite Brandon’s lament to the contrary, the Zealot hypothesis has no merit in history. Jesus was opposed to military violence and the view that Rome needed to be physically attacked in order to be subdued. Jesus had a much tidier mission and message. A much more dangerous agenda. One that would outlast any kingdom built on force and domination. A kingdom built on liberty and love in allegiance to Jesus and his teachings.


Witherington, Jesus the Seer, pg. 246. See Scot McKnight “Jesus and Prophetic Actions” BBR 10.2 (2000) 197-232.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Although, McKnight’s case for a prophet like Joshua seems to be pushing the evidence beyond what it can handle.
[4] Wright, JVG, pg. 546.
[5] P. W. Barnett, “The Jewish Sign Prophets—a.d. 40–70—Their Intentions and Origin,” NTS 27 (1981) 679–97[5]. R. A. Horsley “Popular Messianic Movements Around the Time of Jesus,” CBQ 46 (1984) 471–95.
[6] J.W. 2.17.8; cf. 2.17.5
[7] J.W. 1.16.4
[8] Ant. 14.15.5
[9] C. A. Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel,” in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, ed. C. C. Newman (IVP, 1999) 77–100.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cracking the Code #3

Divinity and the Emperor
Was Jesus only considered divine when they voted about it 300 years later? This seems to be the most awkward claim of the whole book. He claims that Jesus wasn’t considered divine until the Council of Nicea voted him so in 325 at the request of the emperor. Then Constantine—a lifelong sun worshipper—ordered all older scriptural texts destroyed, which is why no complete set of Gospels predates the fourth century. Christians somehow failed to notice the sudden and drastic change in their doctrine. However, this flies in the face of New Testament scholarship that shows textual evidence for the fourfold gospel circulating in the 2nd Century! [1]
So let’s look at the evidence closer.
Many scholars believe that fragments of primitive hymns can be found throughout the NT. The content of these hymns includes those that are doctrinal, didactic, or liturgical in scope. Some examples of this first category can be found in Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16 and 6:15–16; 2 Tim 2:11–13; Titus 3:4–7; Phil 2:6–11; and Rev 22:17. Our example is from Philippians 2:5-11.
Let the same mind be in you that was in the Messiah Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What makes this hymn or poem so striking is that it is written by a 1st century Jewish thinker. Paul was trained as a Pharisee and never abandoned his basic Jewish worldview. He merely adopted it and adapted it to respond to the reality of Jesus and everything that entailed. As a Jew, Paul held that:

the exclusive monotheism of the Jewish religious tradition, as distinct from some other kinds of monotheism, was [that] worship was the real test of monotheistic faith in religious practice… In Jewish religious practice it was worship which signalled the distinction between God and every creature, however exalted. God must be worshiped; no creature may be worshiped.[2]

But if Jesus was being worshiped, as he is in this letter, then we must conclude that Jesus was viewed as divine. The conclusion is logically inescapable. One more example to satisfy our curiosity.
In what is surely one of the most striking Christological formulations ever written in any century, Paul takes an argument which is about monotheism, and takes the Jewish formula which is the most basic expression of Jewish monotheism, and places Jesus at the heart of it.
Instead of Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Deuteronomy 6:4)
we have But for us: One God the father, from whom are all things and we to him and one Lord > Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things and through whom are we. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
As N. T. Wright goes on to explain:
Paul, in other words, has glossed "God" with "the Father," and "Lord" with "Jesus Christ," adding in each case an explanatory phrase: "God" is the Father, "from whom are all things and we to him," and the "Lord" is Jesus the Messiah, "through whom are all things and we through him." There can be no mistake: Paul has placed Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament's best known monotheistic text, of the doctrine that Israel's God is the one and only God, the creator of the world. The Shema was already, at this stage of Judaism, in widespread use as the Jewish daily prayer. Paul has redefined it Christologically, producing what we can only call a sort of Christological monotheism.[3]
Thus, the evidence from sources dating to the mid 50’s C.E. are convinced that Jesus is divine and part of the reality we know as GOD. Christological Monotheism seems to be the view advocated by the New Testament writers, at least by Paul if not by the others. [On this point see R. Bauckham's seminal thoughts in GOD CRUCIFIED: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1998) See also Dr. Larry Hurtado's essay What do we mean by 1st Century Jewish Monotheism?].
We also gain a little information about early Christian worship from the famous letter of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan, written shortly after the close of the apostolic era (ca. a.d. 107–15). In asking the emperor how he should deal with the Christians, Pliny, governor of Bithynia and Pontus, briefly summarized their gatherings on the basis of information he had been able to glean through interrogation of witnesses. The pertinent portion of his letter states that:
On a fixed day, [the Christians were] accustomed to meet before dawn, and to recite a hymn, singing to Christ, as to a god, and to bind themselves by an oath [sacramentum]. . . . After the conclusion of this ceremony it was their custom to depart and meet again to take food; but it was ordinary and harmless food; and they had ceased this practice after my edict in which, in accordance with your orders, I had forbidden secret societies.[4]

The Roman writer clearly view the early Christians as giving honours to Christ that were readily due to a god. In fact, if time and space were available, one could point to many of the early Christians being persecuted for their belief that Jesus was in fact the supreme ruler and not the emperor. N. T. Wright's article Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire would be a good place to look for those interested.

Now, it appears Brown is completely ignorant of all the sources. The evidence for the divinity of Jesus in the letters of Paul is undeniable, unless of course one has not read or studied the evidence. Any first or second year bible student would be able to point this out. Why has Brown missed something so fundamental? Has Brown actually provided us with a researched proposal for understanding the origins of the Christian faith? Is that beyond the genre and point of the novel? How serious does Mr. Brown want us to take him? Or is this just an example of postmodern literary theory at it's darkest spectrum where a reader can use sources to suggest/create any kind of meaning that one can?
[1] Skeat, T. C. “The Oldest Manuscript of the Four Gospels” NTS 43 (1997): 1-34
[2] Bauckham, R. “The Worship of Jesus in Apocalyptic Christianity,” NTS 27 (1980-81): 322-323
[3] Wright, N. T. “One God, One Lord, One People: Incarnational Christology for a Church in a Pagan Environment’ in Ex Audito Vol. 7
[4] Epistle of Pliny the Younger. 10:96.7

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cracking the Code #2

Code Two: Was Jesus Married?

The argument put forward for supposing Jesus was married comes from the gospel of Luke 8:1-3. The suggestion is made that to travel with an itinerant teacher or to live alongside men in such a way would have been rather unusual in that culture. While this is probably true, what does it prove? That Jesus allowed women to travel with him! It doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination prove that he was married to one of them. Let’s examine the text closer to see if there is anything here to help Brown’s case.

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
These women were possibly supporting the ministry of Jesus financially. It is likely that it would have been scandalous for Jesus to have women travelling with him. But does that suggest that Jesus was married to one of them, or Mary Magdalene in particular? Why could not Mary be married to one of the other disciples? Some have tried to associate Mary Magdalene with the story of the sinful women in the preceding narrative of the anointing of Jesus. But again that seems highly unlikely for several reasons. Firstly, the act in Luke 7:36-50 is about an unnamed women. The story narrates that this unnamed woman came to anoint Jesus and to beg for his forgiveness. The story is portrayed as offensive. But this begs our second question. If Jesus was married to this women, would the act have been offensive? There appears to be a narrative break at Luke 8 so the inference that the women are the same as that of the previous pericope is question begging.

Lastly, why could Mary not also have embraced clear teaching in Matthew 19:12 that it is better to remain single and serve the Kingdom of GOD?
Our text reveals much that is telling:

His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
The explicit question at hand, by the disciples is “Is it better not to marry?” Jesus suggests himself as the example here to be followed. “If you can do this, then do it.” Darrell Bock poses the perceptive question: why would Jesus issue such a statement, acknowledge it as a demanding calling, and not follow it?[Bock, D. Breaking the Da Vinci Code, pg. 38]. Bock, in his article Was Jesus Married?, also notes the following historical context that we must take into account:

Traditions encouraging a dedicated single life also existed elsewhere in Judaism. Members of the ascetic Jewish sect of the Essenes were known for their emphasis on celibacy (Josephus, Antiquities; Jewish War; Philo, Hypothetica 11.14-18). At Qumran, most appear to have been celibate, although a Dead Sea Scroll about the community suggests some possibility (1QSa 1:4-10) of marriage, women, and children in the messianic times. For those Essenes at Qumran, the point of remaining single was also dedication to God.

Thus, the theory that Jesus was married lacks positive support and is shown to be begging because of Jesus’ radical teachings and example. So if we ask what the hard evidence is that Jesus was married, there really is a very short answer. There is none.
[Incidently, I was just reading Scot McKnight's essay Jesus and Prophetic Actions {Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) pg. 197ff} and he quickly makes the same case from Matt 19:12 as I have above... yay!]
I might add a third code later... Research is keeping me busy and Horsley's new collection of articles Paul and the Roman Imperial Order has just arrived but alas, it will be a week before I sit down with that one... ciao, s. D.

Cracking the Code

Since everyone's reading it, or read it, and many are asking me about it, and it does somehow concern the historical Jesus and my field of studies, I suppose I could spare a few random thoughts on Cracking the Da Vinci Code... Plus, I'm giving a lecture at Somerset College on it, so if you're kind enough to read this and offer comments that would be great!

Code One: Who was Mary?
We know that Mary Magdalene was a faithful disciple, a witness to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. There is no evidence to suggest she was a prostitute. Some later texts outside the New Testament suggest that she was privileged to receive revelation from Jesus [The Gospel of Mary]. There is no evidence to suggest she was married to Jesus. Nothing in the New Testament or later Christian writings ever state this, or even suggest it. But there is a particular text that is used in support for this theory. Let’s examine a piece from The Gospel of Philip, 59:
The wisdom which (humans) call barren is herself the Mother of the Angels. And the Consort of the [...] is Mariam the Magdalene. The [...] Mariam more than [...] Disciples, [...] kissed her often on her [...]. The other [...] saw his love for Mariam, they say to him: Why do thou love [...] more than all of us? The Savior replied, he says to them: Why do I not love you as her?
The brackets here indicate the broken sections of our manuscript. So, you can see the historian or textual critic is set the impossible task of trying to guess what was written in between those brackets. Wesley Isenberg has suggested that the date of the gospel be around 350 C.E.[Isenberg, W. W., and Layton, B. “The Gospel of Philip: Introduction, Translation, Coptic Text, and Notes” in Nag Hammadi Codex II,2–7, ed. B. Layton. NHS. Leiden.] He goes on to suggest that:

Gos. Phil. is not like one of the NT Gospels. It is a compilation of statements in a variety of literary types: parable, paraenesis, narrative dialogue, dominical saying, aphorism, and analogy, along with samples of biblical exegesis, dogma, and polemics. These statements, however, are not placed into a narrative framework but are arranged in a sequence that is neither strictly topical nor predictable. Efforts to analyze the scheme of arrangement are hampered by inconvenient lacunae in the ms.[Isenberg, W. “Philip, the Gospel of” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary ed. Freedman, David Noel, [Doubleday, 1992]]

So trying to use this text to suggest that Jesus and Mary were in fact married seems to be stretching the imagination into the realms of pure illusion. The text can only be constructed via guess work and even the constructions given don't prove or even suggest that Jesus was married. They merely hypothetically suggest that Jesus on a particular occassion showed Mary affection. Something the early Church was prone to do [Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14].

Another text used in support for Brown’s illustrious theory is that of the Gospel of Mary. The text is dated to the late second century and is also plagued with the problem of missing fragments. Pheme Perkins explains that:

What remains of Gospel of Mary consists of the ending of two separate revelations held together by a frame story about the gathering of the apostles after Jesus’ ascent to the heavens. The first revelation is a dialogue between the risen Jesus and his disciples. The second is Mary’s report of a private vision and its interpretation that the Lord had granted her… Instead of fulfilling the commission, the disciples despair over the suffering that surely awaits them. At this point, Mary reminds them of the Lord’s grace and protection. She alludes to their restoration to their true gnostic identity, “he has prepared us and made us into men” (cf. Gos. Thom. 114; and “put on the perfect man,” Gos. Phil. 75: 20–35). Peter requests that Mary recount a revelation that she had had from the Lord which was unknown to the apostles.[Perkins, Pheme “Mary, the Gospel of” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary ed. Freedman, David Noel, [Doubleday, 1992]]

From the various verses in The Gospel of Mary it seems impossible to try and use this as evidence to suppose that Mary was married to Jesus. The pericope in question, 17:10-18:21, tells us nothing that even remotely suggests that they were engaged in any activity or action that suggests sexual union or anything about them being married. So the argument being constructed here is dubious.
For another excellent portrait of Mary Magdalene, see Mary, Mary Extraordinary.
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