Craig Evans’ article Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right addresses the thought of Bart Ehrman who takes issue with the claims that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross. The basis of his argument rests on his faulty stance on Roman execution practices. Yes, crucifixion was indeed a brutal and perhaps the cruelest method of torture and execution that the Romans could inflict on a person. Ehrman believes that a significant part of the horror of crucifixion was the refusal of proper burial. This is true in some cases, but Evans provides evidence that it was not always the result in many instances. He sites Philo’s account of Flaccus in which it is stated that the bodies of those who had been crucified were given back to friends and families for burial as an act of mercy on Roman holidays. This was done in an effort to keep peace and also to celebrate the emperor. He also sites the Digesta which was the summary of Roman law. Perhaps this source is one of greater credibility as it shows so clearly the Roman instruction that “the bodies of those condemned to death should not be refused to their relatives.” Cases of those charged with high treason would be grounds for a denial of burial, but there are many other accounts which involve the return of a corpse to a family member. In addition to this evidence, had there been a common practice of crucifying people with no intent to bury them, the Jewish people would have me furious and demanded that the rite practice of their faith be honored. The last thing that the Romans would have wanted would be an uprising and a disturbance of the peace. Furthermore, since Jesus was executed as a criminal, it would have been the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to arrange for a burial. This was the practice of the time in Jerusalem, but it is not clear as to how far the practice was spread thought Israel. The point is that it was perfectly normal, and in fact expected, for Joseph of Arimathea to request the body of Jesus for burial. In short, the clear evidence provided by the burial traditions of the age lead anyone to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross.
Simon J. Gathercole, in his article What Did Christians Think About Jesus? explains thoroughly why the approach taken by Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God, does not correspond to the truth of the Bible. Gathercole analyses the arguments presented by Ehrman in which he questions the preexistence of Jesus and argues for a Jesus whose divinity and existence begins at the moment of his conception. For him, a key element in understanding Jesus’ identity is the resurrection, by which they come to believe that Jesus has been adopted son of God and becomes a divine being.
He argues that the Christologies in Matthew, Mark and Luke that show the preexistence of Jesus are very well rooted. Gathercole argues against Ehrman’s assertation that Jesus becomes Son of God at birth, by showing the use of phrase “I have come.” He is in favor of the argument that Jesus ‘came’ from heaven to carry out his mission. Gathercole’s treatment of the ‘tunnel period’ is rather systematic and argues against the idea that Jesus became Son of God at the resurrection. The Fragments from Romans 1:3-4; Acts 13:32-33 and Acts 2:36 cited by Ehrman, show a reputed earlier Christology of exaltation and adoption that is faulty. Finally, Gathercole critiques the interpretation of the exaltation of Jesus and the words “made” and “appointed” as a result of the new role of Jesus after his redemptive act.
The critique made by the author about Ehrman’s point of view is well rooted and explained using the sacred texts and the context in which they were written.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, The parables bear meaning in every age because we find in them the person of Jesus. In comparison to other allegorical interpretation of texts that were prevalent in the time of Jesus, Jesus’ parables stand out as a piece of real life. The parable is a proclamation of the Kingdom of God, which is realized in the person of Jesus. This is why the parable is a call for faith in Jesus and this call is made anew to all peoples at every age.
But there is a bit of confusion when Jesus says he talks to the people in parables else they be converted and be healed. To understand this, one has to put Jesus in the line of the prophets, for through what He suffered, he draws our attention to the true sign of faith in Him: the cross. Jesus knows the demands of the Kingdom and the possibility of refusal. It is only by gazing on His cross that even the hardened heart can finally “turn and be forgiven.”
The point of the parables is to lead us to the deepest meaning the Kingdom. This deepest meaning of the Kingdom is the cross. The parable of the good Samaritan is an example of how we can be more like Jesus, by going out of our way, on the everyday road from Jerusalem to Jericho where we see humanity beaten, stripped, and lying half-dead. The parable is an invitation for us believe and follow Jesus not just figuratively but in the reality of human history. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit.
In an examination of who Jesus is, we may turn to the testimony of those present during his earthly ministry. Correctly he is called: “Christ,” “Lord,” “Son of God,” and “King of the Jews.” But, what does Jesus call himself? We find Jesus attributing two titles to himself: “Son of Man,” and “Son.”
Firstly, “Son of Man.” In the Gospels, “Son of Man” is found only on Jesus’ lips. This is attributed to the fact that “Son of Man” was not used as a messianic title at the time of Jesus. The only access Jews had to the title was the vision of Daniel of the four beasts, the Son of Man, and the Ancient of Days. But Jesus gives a new meaning to the vision: he is the new Kingdom of God, the judge, and he is equal to the Ancient of Days (the Father). Additionally, in Jesus the titles “Son of Man” and “Suffering Servant” are newly connected, making the judge of the new Kingdom compassionate and connected to the suffering humanity.
Secondly, Son. Here Jesus gives us his “primordial identity”: the Son who receives all from the Father, who knows the Father, and thus is in perfect communion of being with the Father. Different from the political connotations of the kingdoms at the time of Christ, “Son [of God]” here refers to a new communion extended to all humanity through, in, and for Christ.
From these two titles Jesus ascribes to himself, we hear a call to discipleship: we should let ourselves be drawn into the new Kingdom of the Son of Man, and, through the Son, we should be drawn into communion with the Father.
In this chapter of his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict attempts to present an in-depth analysis on the “Two Milestones” of Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration. Before getting at Peter’s Confession itself, Pope Benedict looks at the question prior, “Who do people say that I am?” and the response of the apostles. Pope Benedict explains that the responses of the “people” are not necessarily false but are “inadequate”. The “people” see Jesus as a great prophet but not as the Son of God. Like “people” today, the “people” of Jesus’ time just measure Jesus up with what they already know and fail to see his uniqueness. He is not merely another prophet, who’s earthly wisdom “people” can adopt according to what they like and discard what they do not like. Immediately, Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the “Christ”, the “Messiah”, the “anointed one”, or “the Son of the living God”, depending on how it’s found in the Gospels, is in stark contrast to what the “people” have said. What did Peter mean in this confession? Some scholars like Pierre Grelot argue that Peter was misled by notions of a historical Messiah and does not really mean his confession of Jesus as the “Son of God” in the theological sense because that concept would be unknown to him. Pope Benedict counters by offering evidence that the disciples surely knew that Jesus was truly God incarnate in front of them. “At certain key moments” … (i.e. the sermon on the mount, the calming of the storm at sea, the large catch of fish) “…the disciples came to the astonishing realization: This is God himself” (304). In the next event, the Transfiguration, Peter and a couple other disciples see this in a more profound way and “personally experience the anticipation of the Parousia” (318).
This article touches on several different topics including: What language did Matthew originally write in, did he write primarily for a Jewish audience, was the Christian community understood as essentially distinct from the Jewish community at the time the Gospel was written, was the author of Jewish or Gentile descent, how/why did the author have very specific knowledge of Roman language and culture, and where was the Gospel originally written.
One consensus of the article’s different perspectives, backed by Patristic sources, is that the Gospel was not originally written in Greek, but in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Also, I agree with the more widely accepted belief that the Gospel was intended for an audience with a Jewish background (held by some of the Church Fathers), whether that is because they themselves are ethnically Jewish, or because they have a firm knowledge of the teachings of Judaism. The opinion that Matthew wrote the Gospel for a singular community (community theory) is far too narrow minded and un-probable. It seems to make more sense that Matthew surely knew of other Christian communities that were experiencing the same difficulties as the one (or ones) he was personally around, thus, he would have written the Gospel with the intention of being used by many Christian communities. Between the distinction of Jewish Christians (extra muros) or Christian Jews (intra muros) I lean towards the opinion of extra muros. Although his points on who is asking the question (e.g. a Pharisee or an Apostles) seems convincing, there does seem to be a very prevalent, essential difference between Jews and Jews who choose to follow Christ stretching throughout the Gospel (obviously not implying that Christ abolished the Law, but that He fulfills the Old Testament). Regarding the last topics, I think the best conclusion is that Matthew was a Christian of Jewish descent, who was well educated in both Jewish and Roman history and tradition, and who wrote the Gospel around the area of Syria, most likely in Antioch.
In this chapter author, Ian Boxall stresses the importance of reading the Gospel of Matthew as narrative and explores characters and places to more effectively engage the text. He makes a distinction between “round characters”, those who possess a variety of character traits, and “flat characters”, those who behave in predictable ways, such as crowds. He identifies God as the main actor in Matthew’s story, if fact, the main character in the whole of salvation history. Jesus is the main protagonist in Matthew, his messianic credentials are identified, as well as his role as the perfect personification of God’s ‘son’ Israel.
Angels and demons are identified as key players in the narrative, and their role id expounded upon. Political and religious leaders are identified as a single “flat character” because their traits do not develop throughout the narrative. There have no traits other than their “evilness”. Boxall contends that the character, John the Baptist is the returned prophet Elijah from the old testament. The disciples are another character group who are part of the action, they contrast, and are more nuanced than the political and religious leaders. They listen and learn from Jesus, and are generally more receptive that the general crowds which are treated as individual “minor characters”.
Settings and geographical place offer great significance to the narrative. Places recall individuals and events from Israel’s past history and help link the past to the present. The settings of the narratives also have symbolic significance for Matthew’s audience.
Marshall claims to want to do “not simply a word-study but a study of the concept of prayer” in the gospels.
From the outset of his article Marshall assumes that St. Matthew based his writing on Mark and a Q source (which was also used by St. Luke). From this he makes a variety of suggestions about who wrote what in the gospel and whether Matthew was likely to have inserted his own thoughts about prayer into the work. He concludes the “there is…nothing in any of this to suggest an independent development of the topic of prayer in Matthew’s gospel.”
My thoughts on this initial discussion are that no serious Christian should care what Marshall concludes, since the questions he asks are at best irrelevant to the reception of the inspired text, and at worst they are destructive to the piety of the faithful and seek to cast doubt on the received tradition of the Holy Church. I don’t blame Marshall in particular for this, since it seems simply to be the stock and trade of the “Scripture scholar”. I also confess that from this point I am skeptical about the value of any conclusions which Marshall will draw since they will evidently rely on forcibly treating divine revelation as if it were the meandering thoughts of middle-eastern peasants.
The remainder of the commentary has value mostly as a catalogue. Marshall notes where prayer is mentioned and the barest details about its context. With regard to Mark 1:35 “And rising very early, going out, [Jesus] went into a desert place: and there he prayed,” Marshall notes that it suggests that Jesus got up earlier that morning than the other people…
Some of Marshall’s comments suggest that he considers the gospels to be basically inventions: “Here Jesus is portrayed,” “the actual words [are] taken from Psalm 22,” and “Jesus is depicted as…”
It seems to me that more fitting language would be: “we see Jesus,” “the gospel informs us that Jesus does,” or “Jesus quotes from Psalm 22…”
Marshall combines his confident trust in the fallibility of the gospel narrative with a confidence in his own (and his peers) interpretation of the real meaning of words and events as well as the moral import of what they contain. He knows, for example, that prayers for divine blessing are “petitions for God to do good to other people” including those who crucified Jesus (although he isn’t sure who inserted the part about Jesus praying for his persecutors into Luke’s gospel). He suggests from a reference to certain hypocritical prayers in Mark 12:40 that long prayer in general is a questionable practice. (So much for the monastic life.) In reference to a lack of distinctions made in Luke 18 he makes claims as to the worthlessness of casuistic reckonings about morality.
Marshall seems determined to read the gospels (and sections within them) in isolation from each other and from the Old Testament: He says, for instance that “there is nothing in Luke 11:5-8 that suggests that importunity, or continued and intense effort, is required for prayers to be heard by God…” and goes on to make a page of conclusions based on that understanding.
Marshall is not just confident in his interpretation of the text, but also in which parts are late scribal additions (as for instance Mark 9:28: “And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”) It is somewhat curious, given his obvious certainty about its invalidity, that he spends a few paragraphs condemning this line as a “folk-memory” .
Marshall does not understand the perduring presence of Christ in the Eucharist, suggesting in reference to the Resurrection that Christ left his disciples from this point. He concludes based on this assumption that fasting does not have much value in relation to prayer. He also seems confused as to the implications of the Hypostatic Union (or at the least uses very imprecise language), claiming that at Gethsemane “Jesus had to be content that the Father’s will, rather than his own desires, would be fulfilled.”
In the end Marshall does draw some general points about Jesus’ prayer in contrast to traditional Jewish prayer: 1. Jesus shows, particularly in the exclusive company of his disciples, his special of relationship of Son to God the Father. 2. Jesus’ prayer revolves around the coming of the kingdom of God and its implications. 3. His prayer has to do with a transformation of the notion of the temple, the center of worship.
Marshall offers the conclusion that prayer is not solely about getting what we want or not, but that it involves coming into contact with the Divine will.
Paul as Preacher: The Gospel Then and Now (2007)
This was a lecture given by Michael Devlin delivered on October 19, 2005 at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland. Michael Devlin is a bishop in the British House of Lords.
His lecture began by commenting about a conference he had in Atlanta Georgia, when England won the Rugby Union World Cup. He was so excited and eager to share the good news to the people in his hotel and conference…. But nobody in the hotel or conference attendee’s had the slightest idea what Rugby was, let alone how important England’s victory was. Michael commented on their blank look’s. “I might as well have walked out onto O’Connell street in Dublin and announced to a startled audience that Hang Chow province had just won the Chinese inter-provincial table tennis tournament”.
This analogy the author thought would paint a picture for his audience an idea of what Paul was doing in his preaching and cultural differences. “When Paul arrived in, Thessalonica and announced that Jesus was Lord, it must have felt like someone telling an audience about a game they did not play, being won by a team they did not know. Announcing that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s true King and therefore the World’s true Lord. This would not have made any sense at all to a first-century pagan. To suppose a Jew would become Lord of the world was ridiculous to a citizen of Rome”.
Paul saw that what the non-Jewish world needed was a Jewish message about the one true God and what this God had done in Jesus the Messiah. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he insisted, was the one true God, the world’s creator, who revealed Himself to Israel. Then God acted through Jesus for the whole world.
Paul was a pioneer missionary, He was telling a story and making a royal proclamation. The word “Gospel” was used in this time frame proclaiming the good news about the emperor of Rome, the Caesar colt, the fastest growing religion. Paul used the word “Gospel” when he was summoning all people to join in the community that hailed Jesus Christ, not Caesar as the true lord. To announce this gospel in today’s world means confronting postmodernity, post secularism, with the same challenging word, to let today’s Caesar’s know that Jesus is Lord.
Michael Devlin lecture of Paul’s preaching of the Crucified and Risen Jesus Christ as lord had four main points:
- Paul’s proclamation was challenging news to people who were not expecting it.
- His message belonged within the storied world of Jewish apocalyptic and eschatology, and can only be properly understood there.
- Paul believed that this message went to work in human hearts and lives to generate new community.
- His preaching of Jesus, and the communities it generated, posed a deliberate challenge to the empire of Caesar.
My overall view of this speech from a person claiming to be a Pauline scholar was weak and very wordy. Not once did he mention the letters of Paul that were read to the various communities. The genre for Paul is his letters dealing with the communities’ respective issues, I thought would be critical to highlight or introduce. His topic,” Paul as preacher” and his forced metaphor of a rugby game to get his audience to focus on the cultural difference of England, Atlanta Georgia, and China. In 2003 most of the world would have known of the game of rugby. We need to go to the century and culture to understand Paul. Again the author does not identify the category of rhetoric Paul used in his writing or preaching. In fact, he states “the gospel itself must carry its own power and human rhetorical skill must stand back and give it room to operate”. The author calls his narrative a “love” story in the various” gospel speaking communities”. I believe the arguments were different in the various communities and Paul would have summarized his letters to his targeted audiences.
Jesus, Paul and the Task of the Church
N.T Wright ends the book Paul with a great summary of the whole book, this book has brought me to a better understanding of Paul. Not the Paul that was taught to me but the deeper side of Paul, Paul the Preacher and Paul the bridge builder. Who Paul is proclaiming the kingdom of God to and why he is moved my love to preach to the whole world. The Paul that teaches about Love and how Love is a better understanding of Jesus.
N.T Wright says in the first part of the Chapter what the relationship is with Paul and Jesus
“ Jesus preached about God But Paul preached about Jesus. Or if you like, Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, Paul announced the Mesiahship of Jesus.”
This moves the reader into, what has happen to me in most of the Chapter which, to ask for myself who is Jesus for me? Something that Wright says in page 168” our labels of culture, philosophy, politics, sociology religion and even theology are all alike inadequate.” Most labels we put on Paul and his mission is something that could be false. We have learned in this class that Paul’s Letters should be read in context of the people and the time that Paul lived, not our time.