Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Dying Messiah

This article has been superseded by a complete revision, The Dying Messiah Redux.  The following is retained for historical purposes only. Readers interested in its argument should proceed to the new version.
 
As a bonus for those who funded my research on or are anticipating the publication of my two volumes on the historicity of Jesus, I have decided to summarize one of the many things I have discovered and will include in that work, making it public early, particularly as it seems important to recent scholarly debate (in a sense making this a sequel to my earlier Ignatian Vexation). Indeed, I have heard one particular claim several times recently in conversations with Jesus scholars that simply isn't true.

It is frequently claimed, even by experts in the field, that no Jews expected their messiah to be killed, nor ever would, that all of them expected a militarily triumphant übermensch. And therefore Christianity went totally off-book when it came up with the idea that their "failed" messiah was the "real" messiah. But this is actually demonstrably false. Some Jews did expect a dying messiah, or would easily have done so. 

And not just in the middle ages or late antiquity (if not earlier), when we have a well-attested Jewish belief that there would be two messiahs, one ("Christ ben Joseph," the Messiah son of Joseph) who would gather his people to revitalize the Jewish cult and then be killed by the powers that be (meaning, Rome) and one who would come after him ("Christ ben David," the Messiah son of David) and resurrect him and set everything straight. The Enemy who would kill the first messiah would be Armillus, which some suggest is a Hebraicism for Romulus, symbolically any Roman leader. This belief is already found in the Talmud (b.Sukkah 52a-b), and later Judaica (see Messiah ben Joseph) [some scholars find evidence of this belief already in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where also it seems two messiahs are spoken of, one "of David" and one "of Aaron," but the material is too fragmentary to draw definite conclusions from, so I'll set that aside]. No, I am talking about concrete evidence that there were beliefs among some Jews in a dying messiah even before Christianity arose.

I already make an extensive argument from the sources in Not the Impossible Faith (or NIF, ch. 1, pp. 34-44, with notes on p. 49; although my treatment there of Isaiah 49 is erroneous and should not be counted toward the argument). But I found a great deal more in my research for my future book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (which will appear some time after my preliminary study, Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, a peer reviewed treatment of the subject, and of historical method generally, that was published by Prometheus Books in April of 2012).

NIF is available in both print and kindle from Amazon, and as a PDF download from Lulu. So I will not repeat its argument here. But in summary: Daniel 9 (even in the Hebrew but especially in the Greek) explicitly says a messiah will be killed despite being innocent (implying a state execution for a crime he didn't commit) and the end of the world would soon follow, followed by the general resurrection (detailed in Daniel 12); and the same idea of the suffering and executed righteous one (even a "Son of God") who would be vindicated by God after being killed by his enemies is extended in Jewish texts like the Wisdom of Solomon and the Psalms. Many sources (not only Josephus) confirm that this prophecy in Daniel was what inspired many Jews to start the Jewish War. And Isaiah 52-53 contains the idea of the chosen one of God, the one who brings the Gospel of Salvation, being executed and buried with criminals despite being innocent, and also describes this death as atoning for all the sins of Israel--in effect describing what would become the Christian Gospel. And yet these elements of Isaiah 52-53 could easily have evoked and thus been connected with the executed but innocent Christ of Daniel 9 whose death likewise (in some fashion) "makes an end of sin," well before Christians thought of it. I give the sources, passages, and analysis for all of this in NIF.

One of those evidences is Psalms 89:38-52, which explicitly describes "the messiah" being humiliated and killed by his enemies, identifies him as "God's servant," and ends by saying the enemies of God will mock the "footsteps" of the messiah before God's wrath comes, which could easily have evoked and thus been connected with the "footsteps" of the humiliated and killed "chosen one" of Isaiah 52:7, who is likewise again identified as "God's servant" (in 52:13). Already we have two OT passages that explicitly predict the humiliation and death of a messiah (Daniel 9 and Psalms 89) and another that could easily have been seen as expanding on the same prediction (Isaiah 52-53).

The usual response to these facts is that the Christians only saw these connections afterward and then used them to lick their wounds after Jesus, whom they were sure was the messiah, got himself (supposedly) unexpectedly killed. In other words, no Jews supposedly made these connections before. In itself that is not a sound argument, because it is based on the premise that we know what all members of all Jewish sects thought about everything, which we don't, not even by a long shot. So blanket statements about what "no Jews" said or thought can be tossed out the window right from the start. We simply can't make such claims. 

In The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, pp. 107-18 (eds. Lowder & Price: Prometheus 2005) I survey the scholarship establishing dozens of different Jewish sects in the time Christianity began, about most of whom we know next to nothing, and yet what we do know of them shows that Jewish beliefs were remarkably diverse, open to innovation, and not as conservative as later Rabbinical Judaism would become. In fact many an expert on ancient Judaism has called attention to the repeated mistake of assuming first century Judaism was "just like" medieval Rabbinical Judaism. So it would be more than safe to propose as a hypothesis for the origin of Christianity that some Jews did see these connections and did expect a dying messiah and that it is from their movement (or its influence) that Christianity arose.

That's valid enough. And yet we needn't hypothesize. Because the fact of it is already in evidence. The Talmud explicitly assumes Isaiah 53 is about the messiah, and that the messiah was expected to endure great suffering before his triumph, and reports that several rabbis had already debated whether in fact he had already died or would die as many expected him to (see b.Sanhedrin 98b; the messiah is said to suffer greatly in 93b). There is no evident connection with Christianity here, and it's clear this was an independent Jewish understanding (for example, Christianity is never mentioned in the debate, nor any of its teachings).

But one might claim that this, being a late text, could reflect a late belief. Well, for such doubters we have even better evidence to add:

The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, which was originally composed in the 1st century A.D., actually inserts "messiah" right in Isaiah 52:13 ("Behold, my servant, the messiah…"), thus confirming this "servant" was already being interpreted as the messiah by Jews decades before Christianity began. A Targum is an Aramaic translation (or paraphrase or interpretation) of the OT. So really, this is akin to a textual variant for this passage. In other words, some pre-Christian Jews believed their scriptures actually outright said this. Though this same Targum also erased or downplayed the death-and-burial angle in the passage, we already know that content predates the Targum; what the Targum shows is that some Jews saw this passage as about the Christ. 


Though we cannot conclusively date this one singular insight to before the rise of Christianity, neither can we conclusively date it after. It certainly occurred sometime in the first or early second century. So perhaps a hard nosed doubter would then say that this text has been tampered with and that this isn't how it originally read in Jonathan's autograph. That would serve only to avoid a conclusion that we have already seen other evidence proves obvious. The Targum may have been edited or redacted after the Jewish War, or even in reaction to Christianity, but to assume this is what happened in every case (and in the case in particular, of the insertion of this one word ["messiah"] in this one verse) is still highly conjectural; and even if granted, it still evinces early Jews could see this passage as messianic, well before the Talmud was written. But we have even better evidence to add:

A fragmentary pesher among the Dead Sea Scrolls explicitly identifies the servant of Isaiah 52-53 with the messiah of Daniel 9. This decisively confirms that this specific equation had already been made by pre-Christian Jews, as it exists not just in a pre-Christian text, but in this case a pre-Christian manuscript. The passage in question is in 11QMelch ii.18 (aka 11Q13). A pesher is an interpretive commentary on the OT that operates on the assumption that the OT text has hidden, second-level meanings (a view Christians shared, e.g. Rom. 16:25-26). Thus some pre-Christian Jews were already finding hidden "secrets" in the OT that basically are the Christian gospel: that Isaiah 52-53 is about the messiah whom Daniel 9 predicted will be killed (this same pesher also identifies Isaiah 61 as being about this same messiah, thus proving again that the Christians did not come to this conclusion post hoc either). See my analysis in NIF (where I was not yet even aware of this scroll) for why this pretty much gives away the game.


Notably, a repeating theme in the OT (e.g. Daniel 9) is that God keeps holding back his apocalypse (in which he would reverse Israel's fortunes and make the whole world bow to them as the master race, and horribly kill all who refused, e.g. Zech. 14:12-19) because of Israel's sins. It would have been a rather obvious conclusion that if Israel's sins were cleansed and thus decisively removed from the picture, no obstacle would remain before God, and he could finally make good on his promise and end the world, and create a paradise in which the Jews would finally rule the world eternal. Thus if the messiah could be killed and thereby atone for all the sins of Israel (as explicitly declared in Isaiah 52-53), doomsday would at last be upon us. Connecting Isaiah 53 with Daniel 9 proves that some Jews were already thinking this before Christianity even began. In fact Daniel 9:24 also says the messiah's death would somehow correlate with the final atonement for the sins of Israel and thereby bring about the end of the world (9:27), and this after a long preface complaining that those sins had been getting in the way (9:1-26). Should we be surprised that some Jews would come to believe that this had at last happened? For them, the death of the messiah, setting up the subsequent end of the world, was expected. That Christians taught all these things (their messiah had died, his death atoned for all sins, and the end was therefore nigh) is unlikely to be a coincidental reinvention of ideas the Jews were already getting on board with. No, the first Christians most likely came from these very Jews, or were directly inspired by their teachings.

We know a lot now about pre-Christian messianism at Qumran (locus of the Dead Sea Scrolls). See, for example, James Charlesworth's edited volume, The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (Fortress: 1992), which includes, among other things, a study of the Parables of Enoch; and Craig Evans and Peter Flint's volume, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (William B. Eerdmans, 1997), which treats, among other things, early calendric doomsday calculations, placing the expectation of the messiah in the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D. But we need to look at one particular piece of evidence: the messiahs in Josephus.

It is sometimes denied that Josephus mentions messianic pretenders, because he meticulously avoids the word "messiah" or "Christ" in discussing them, and he doesn't explicitly link their activities to Jewish messianism. Of course, given his Roman audience, he had a good reason to play this down, and play up the angle that they were only "pretenders" (although one could just as well ask, pretenders to what?). But the literary analysis of Craig Evans (
in "Josephus on John the Baptist and Other Jewish Prophets of Deliverance," in Amy-Jill Levine et al., The Historical Jesus in Context [Princeton University 2006], pp. 55-63) establishes that they certainly understood themselves to be "the messiah," because they were consciously emulating Joshua, the first anointed conquistador of Palestine, first founder of Israel as the Holy Land, and quintessential model for what the messiah was expected to do and be. 

Experts in the ancient languages well know that Joshua is the name Jesus. They are the same name. They are distinguished only in modern English translations. In ancient texts they are identical. (And of course that name means "Savior" in Hebrew, making it a conveniently symbolical eponym for any messiah). Likewise, "Christ" is simply an English rendering of the Greek word for Anointed, the Hebrew word for which is Messiah. Thus anyone making themselves out to be the new Joshua and Messiah is making themselves out to be Jesus Christ. Because the phrase "Jesus Christ" simply means "Joshua the Messiah." Thus the "pretenders" cataloged by Josephus are quite unmistakably all acting as Jesus Christ. Not our Jesus Christ. But a Jesus Christ. And they would have been recognized as such by any Jew of the time.

As Evans points out, Josephus describes three specific "pretenders" enough for us to get a read on them: 


(1) "The Samaritan" tried to gather Israelites at Mount Gerizim, at which point Pontius Pilate sent a legion to wipe them out. One might wonder why such a hasty scorched earth reaction from Pilate. But gathering the Israelites at Mount Gerizim is precisely what Joshua did, and which God had previously commanded him to do, once he had launched his conquest of the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 27:12 and 11:29, and Joshua 8:30-35; also alluded to in the parable of the trees in Judges 9). Pilate clearly had advisers who got the point. No doubt he had access to other confirming evidence that a reenactment was what the Samaritan had in mind. Thus just as the first Jesus did (meaning Joshua, the original Conqueror of the Holy Land), the last Jesus would do (reestablish the Holy Land by military might). The later Christians even made their Jesus allude to this (in John 4).

(2) "Theudas" gathered a multitude of Israelites and said he would part the Jordan, which is precisely what the first Jesus did to launch his original conquest of the Holy Land (Joshua 3). Theudas was thus modeling himself on the first Jesus, too, in effect claiming now to be the last Jesus, just as the Samaritan seems to have done. That the Romans responded again with overwhelming lethal force is thus not surprising here either. Notably the Christians made their Jesus "part the Jordan" as well, metaphorically: he is baptized in the Jordan and "parts the heavens" above it (Mk 1:9-11).

(3) "The Egyptian" preached from the Mount of Olives and claimed he would miraculously fell the walls of Jerusalem. The Messiah was expected to preach from the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14), and of course the Christians made their Jesus do so, too. But more importantly, miraculously felling the walls of Jericho is precisely what the first Jesus did to secure his first great victory in his conquest of the Holy Land (Joshua 6). Thus "the Egyptian" was also claiming to be the last Jesus, who would begin his reconquest of the Holy Land the same way the first Jesus did (only beginning with Jerusalem rather than Jericho). He was thus representing himself to be the final Jesus, Messiah. In other words, Jesus Christ.

The NT suggests John the Baptist (Jn. 1:20 and Lk. 3:15) and Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-11) were also messianic pretenders (or else depicted John as preaching the messiah was nigh: e.g. Mt. 3:1-12; Mk. 1:1-8; Lk. 3:1-20; Jn. 1:15-28). The Gospels and Acts can't really be trusted as historical sources since they are so laden with the skewed agendas and views of later Christians. But it's possible that their reports on this point derived from popular historical knowledge that they inserted into their stories, like so much else that dresses their narrative (e.g. the prefectures of Pontius Pilate and Porcius Festus are historically real, too, even though neither is likely to have actually done or said any of the things the NT claims of them). And that the Jewish War of 66-70 A.D. was caused by messianic doomsday calculations from (what is obviously) Daniel 9 we have the testimony of Josephus (Jewish War 6.312-316), Tacitus (Histories 5.13), and Suetonius (Vespasian 4). So we have widespread confirmation that the early first century A.D. was awash with "messiah fever," in which many people were claiming or were claimed to be the messiah and the end was truly nigh. And on top of this, the accounts in Josephus suggest that many of these messianic claimants were making themselves out to be Jesus Christs.

Why then? We can see from Julius Africanus (Chronology 18.2, a 3rd century A.D. text preserved in the medieval collection of George Syncellus; see also
Tertullian, Answer to the Jews 8, and Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1.21.125-126) that a rather straightforward calendrical reading of Daniel 9 pegged the period between 23 and 38 A.D. as the expected year of the messiah's rise (at least, the first messiah, who would die, before the final war to end all wars). In fact with his (sensible enough) math, Africanus pegged it as the year 30 or 31. It is unlikely this calculation only occurred to Christians after the fact, since it would already have been self-evident before the fact--a date somewhere around that is one of the only two straightforward interpretations one can make of the text as-it-was. Thus some Jews would already be expecting the messiah, their Jesus Christ, to arise and die in that very year (or near enough to it). It cannot be a coincidence that Christians just happened to produce such a thing.

The other interpretation of Daniel's math, in fact the one its authors originally intended but that was actually more convoluted than the other (for reasons I'll explain in a moment), pegged the year of the end as 164 B.C. and Onias III was its intended referent (to die seven years before, in 171 B.C.), the end of the world being then expected to arrive any moment, but alas it did not come. In fact Daniel 9-12 was forged around that time to sell that very message. It didn't happen, but it came to be believed that Daniel was an authentic prophetic text and thus couldn't have been wrong, so attempts were then made to recalculate the meaning of his timetable, as one can infer from various remarks in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Why is the most obvious meaning of Daniel 9's calendrical timetable not the one its authors intended? Because Daniel 9 was forged specifically in a desperate
attempt to fix another failed prophecy in Jeremiah 25:8-33, in which the end of the world was supposed to have happened seventy years after the Babylonian conquest. Trying to get "seventy years" to mean a completely different number of years (exactly enough to give a result of 164 B.C. for the end of the world) is what the weird, convoluted number crunching is all about in Daniel 9. All this is very expertly demonstrated in André LaCocque's The Book of Daniel (John Knox 1979).

Note that the pretenders in Josephus either got themselves killed or tried really hard to. It is usually assumed that this represented their failure, an outcome contrary to their expectation. But what if they expected the messiah's death, to atone for Israel's sins, and thus begin the timetable for the imminent end of the world, like we know several Qumran Jews were contemplating? Would they not then be trying to get themselves killed? Wouldn't their deaths then be exactly what they had hoped for? Their only failure then would be that the end did not follow on. But in that sense, Christianity is the very same failure. Two thousand years and the end has still to follow on (contrary to Paul's repeated certainty that it would come in his lifetime and Jesus' own supposed saying so in Mark 13:30).

Christianity thus does not look so unique in this context. It looks like just another failed attempt to get a messianic claimant killed--someone posing as the last Jesus (i.e. Joshua) and the Christ, in other words yet another Jesus Christ. Even his resurrection fits right into this scheme: as a powerful sign proving the end was nigh indeed. Paul remarks that Christians believed Jesus was "the firstfruits" of the general resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23, a fact perhaps also alluded to in Rom. 11:16-18), in other words his resurrection proved the general resurrection of Israel had begun, but would proceed in stages, as some Jews likewise believed (see references in Empty Tomb, p. 107, with note 11 on p. 198). The end was therefore proved to be in the offing. It would just take a little time more to gather in the flock and make a last chance available for sinners to repent. 

That alone would be enough cause to imagine his resurrection. The exaltation and "prolonging of days" of the deceased messiah described in Isaiah 52:13 and 53:10 would likewise easily be understood as a resurrection or could easily inspire such a notion. That pagan savior gods got as much would be full enough incentive to draw this conclusion, too (including Osiris, Bacchus, Inanna, Zalmoxis, Adonis, and Romulus himself: for sources and evidence see NIF, ch. 3, pp. 85-105; for even Baal as resurrected savior god, known to the Romans as Jupiter Dolichenus, see Tryggve Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and RisingGods” in the Ancient Near East [Coronet 2001] and “The Dying and Rising God: The Peregrinations of a Mytheme,” in Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia, ed. W.H. van Soldt [2005]: pp. 198-210).

At any rate, for the origins of this component of Christian belief, I have provided a full analysis in NIF along with my chapters "Why the Resurrection Is Unbelievable" (in John Loftus's The Christian Delusion [Prometheus 2010], pp. 291-315) and "Christianity's Success Was Not Incredible" (in John Loftus's The End of Christianity [Prometheus 2011], pp. 53-74). Seen in its actual context, there really isn't anything all that novel about Christianity's basic claims. The way it assembled the parts is unique, as every religion was and is, but the parts were already there for the taking.




Final (albeit relatively minimal) revision to this article was made on June 27 in conjunction with the revision of its follow-up, well worth reading: The Dying Messiah Redux.
 

68 comments:

AIGBusted said...

Interesting.

I would mention Israel Knohl's research ("By Three Days Live") in which he found a tablet that refers to the apocalypse, and a resurrection (possibly of a messiah figure mentioned previously in the text). It's a little difficult to know who's resurrection was being referred to. Nonetheless, the fact is that it *could* refer to a dying and rising messiah, and when we combine this with all the other evidence you mentioned, it's like the straws break the camel's back, and it begins to go against the odds that a dying messiah concept was not present in first century Jewish thought.

Little Green Penguin said...

Um, doesn't all this just STRENGTHEN the apologists' arguments?! Am i missing something here, Professor?

Will A. said...

@ Little Green Penguin - only if you take seriously the idea that Jesus actually existed and did all the things "prophesised" in the OT. Most of us who like Richard's work don't have any time for such a claim. Far more likely people wrote up or invented a Jesus whose life-story came out of the OT.

@ Richard - your article here seems to be ambiguous about how much of Jesus was invented - are you now holding to the Doherty mythicist position, or have you rather gone back to your earlier position with a probable Jesus whose followers had overactive imaginations?

derreckbennett said...

Great analysis, Dr. Carrier. I do have one question. As I have understood it, Daniel 9 refers generically to "an anointed one," not definitively to "The Anointed One." Here is my source on this:

http://www.messiahtruth.com/anointed.html

Am I mistaken?

Bernard said...

Some comments to Carrier:

This "Christ ben Joseph" came from rabbi Dosa who was active before and after the fall of Jerusalem. Maybe he got that from the real Jesus' story, not denying that Jesus was considered Christ by some. What he would be saying: OK, that Jesus, son of Joseph, was a chosen (anointed) one, but wait, a second one, the really great one to come, will be another Christ and a descendant of David and do what a Messiah is thought to do, that is fight off the Gentiles for the benefit of Jews.

It is undeniable for me that tales from the OT (such Isaiah's suffering servant and Psalm 89) gave the inspiration for interpreting the crucifixion of Jesus as a sacrifice for atonement of sins.
But now you are saying, the crucifixion of an innocent Jesus would have made him the Messiah. However Paul did write that the idea of "Christ crucified" was unappealing for Jews and Gentiles. And nowhere in the NT, Jesus is said to be Christ BECAUSE he was innocent and crucified (supposedly for sins cancellation).

According to the rest of your post, it seems you abandoned the idea of a crucifixion in heaven, but rather that Jesus was an invented (or a real one?) human, some new conquering Joshua, which conflicts with your initial idea of the dying Messiah (for atonement of sins). I am confused. More so when sometimes you are very close of implying that Jesus existed, such as when you say Jews, before the fact, would expect their Messiah to come and die around 30 AD (and if they witness that from a Jesus, start a cult!).

That post of yours seems to me to be a test balloon about your ideas for your second book on the historicity of Jesus. Confusing and messy, and with far-fetched remote evidence.

Bernard said...

Please skip the part about Jesus as the new Joshua. It seems to me that Carrier was suggesting that the like of the Samaritan, Theudas & the Egyptian were trying to be the second Christ, the conqueror of Gentiles in the tradition of Joshua. But that would imply the previous existence of a human dying Messiah named Jesus, thought as (the first) Christ.

Ben said...

Either way it doesn't seem to matter. New ideas spring up all the time. The argument from "it was different" is just as weak as the argument from "this part of the Bible matches this part of the Bible". It's all a wash in the fog of pseudo-epistemology land.

derreckbennett said...

Ah, one more question: Can it truly be said that Romulus experienced a resurrection? The relevant texts seem to suggest Platonic disembodiment rather than bodily resurrection, and I fear that any good apologist would happily quibble over this.

Then again, the same could be said of Jesus--that he experienced a mere spiritual resurrection--especially given Paul's denial of "flesh and blood" (1 Cor 15:50) regarding the resurrection body.

Nevertheless, Osiris, Bacchus (i.e. Zagreus), Inanna, Zalmoxis, and Adonis seem to suggest a bodily resurrection to which Romulus does not categorically belong. I'd be interested in your response to this.

James F. McGrath said...

I felt that I should chime in, and express my disappointment that relevant considerations regarding the date of texts (such as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan) and their background as key to their meaning (Daniel's pseudo-prophecy about Onias III) were ignored, making it impossible for those well-versed in scholarship about texts you discussed to find your treatment of them satisfactory. But I am still hopeful that you will address these issues and offer a rigorous, scholarly treatment of this topic at some point in the future!

Gilgamesh said...

James, I left some comment on your blog, but here I notice you think Richard is talking about the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which was a targum of the Torah, but that is not the right document. Richard links to a different document. Perhaps that is why you were so critical of the use of this targum; the name issue is confusing, but since the pseudo-J targum does not include the prophets, your error is more serious.

LabSpecimen said...

Every time I read your blog I am amazed by our vast knowledge. Your blog is great.

Bernard said...

Hum,
Carrier said that the Samaritan prophet, Theudas and the Egyptian were trying to be the last Christ, that is a conqueror of Gentiles like Joshua. But next he imagined those threesome wanted to be killed like the first Christ, as the dying Messiah. That's very confusing. And why Jesus would be named 'Joshua' if he was thought to be the first Christ, not the conqueror "new" Joshua?

Edward T. Babinski said...

This part of Carrier's post I found fascinating, I'll have to read André LaCocque's The Book of Daniel (John Knox 1979)!

"Daniel 9 was forged specifically in a desperate attempt to fix another failed prophecy in Jeremiah 25:8-33, in which the end of the world was supposed to have happened seventy years after the Babylonian conquest. Trying to get 'seventy years' to mean a completely different number of years (exactly enough to give a result of 164 B.C.) is what the weird, convoluted number crunching is all about in Daniel 9. All this is very expertly demonstrated in André LaCocque's The Book of Daniel (John Knox 1979)."

Edward T. Babinski said...

Below are some passages from Susan Sorek's, The Jews Against Rome: War in Palestine AD 66-73 (Continuum, 2008):

“There were a variety of underlying causes that helped spark [the 70 CE] revolt; social tensions, bad Roman procurators, the divisions amongst the ruling class, the rise of banditry and poor harvests, but perhaps the most significant feature of all was the apocalyptic storm brewing over first-century Palestine.

“Of all the messianic movements one in particular drew the most attention; the . . . community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, based their calculations on the ‘end of days’ on a prophecy from the book of Daniel. Josephus says that the major impetus inspiring the Jewish revolt of 70 CE against Roman rule was an ‘oracle found in the sacred scriptures.’ This oracle effectively said when the time came ‘one from their own country would become ruler of the world.’ The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls calculated that the year 26/27 CE would usher in the messianic age. There was never a time previously quite like it, and there has never been one since; two messiahs, one king one priest would rule over Palestine. The fervor with which many fought against the greatest power of the ancient world could only have come from such beliefs; that the end of days was nigh. . . .

"Some anti-Roman Jewish extremists equated the Evil Kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy with Rome and the end of days ('In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever' Dan 2:44, NIV)."

See also Dead Sea Scroll 1Q33 (1QM) = 1Q War Scroll:

(Column 1) “The first attack by the sons of light will be launched against the sons of darkness, against the army of Belial [Belial = supernatural evil figure]… The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah and the sons of Benjamin [in other words, “The Hebrews”], will wage war against them. . . against all their bands . . . And there will be no escape for any of the sons of darkness . . . And the sons of justice shall shine to all the edges of the earth, they shall go on shining. . .

“There will be a battle, and savage destruction before the God of Israel, for this will be the day determined by Him since ancient times for the war of extermination against the sons of darkness . . . It will be a time of suffering for all the nation redeemed by God. Of all their sufferings, none will be like this, hastening till eternal redemption is fulfilled . . . The army of Belial will gird themselves in order to force the army of light to retreat. There will be infantry battalions [so large as to] melt the heart [at their sight], but God’s might will strengthen the heart of the sons of light . . . And God’s great hand will subdue Belial and all the [evil] angels of His dominion and all the [evil] men of his lot . . . He [God] will [show Himself] to assist the truth, for the destruction of the sons of darkness. . . "

Neil said...

This has been one of my favourite topics so I cannot resist (1) a congratulations to Richard for posting this wonderfully rich and thoughtful research and (2) putting in a plug for my own posts on this same topic -- largely based on the works of the likes of Jon D. Levenson and Thomas L. Thompson (and a few others?) that the concept of a dying messiah was by no means novel to Christians: Dying Messiah (Refrain).

James F. McGrath said...

Gilgamesh, you are indeed correct that I was running together in my mind the earlier Targum on the prophets attributed to Jonathan and the later one on the Pentateuch that also came to be attributed to him. I do apologize.

In fact, this Targum which identifies the Servant as the anointed one also transfers the element of suffering and rejection from him to the people of Israel, as in this example: "Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high, and increase, and be exceeding strong: as the house of Israel looked to him through many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men."

Apologies again for the confusion!

Bernard said...

To Edwards T. Babinski

I have two questions:

1) Can you sum up how some Jews concluded from 'Daniel' that the messianic era would start in 26-27.
2) Can you sum up how LaCocque deducted that the 70 years of 'Daniel' pointed to 164 BC?

I would appreciate if you answer me. Thanks. Bernard

Richard Carrier said...

Little Green Penguin said... Um, doesn't all this just STRENGTHEN the apologists' arguments?!

No. Because anticipation is cause.

That's the problem with prophecies: they are not very much different from plans. And plans aren't divine. Humans can carry them out. And it looks like a lot of humans were trying to do just this in the 1st century. No divine intervention is thus needed to explain the result.

When we look at the divine intervention hypothesis, the prophecies failed (the end did not come as expected) and the only miraculous parts claimed to have been fulfilled (e.g. an actual resurrection) have dismal evidence to back them as having actually occurred. (See the three references I ended the article with.)

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... Can you sum up how some Jews concluded from 'Daniel' that the messianic era would start in 26-27.

I said some Jews could have concluded that, depending on which calendar they used. But no matter which you use, you get a result in the range I gave. I already summarize this point elsewhere.

Can you sum up how LaCocque deducted that the 70 years of 'Daniel' pointed to 164 BC?

He shows the weeks were intended to be overlapping, rather than additive, and began from the prophecy not the decree. In other words, Dan. 9:25's "the word of restoration" means Jeremiah's prophecy in 605 B.C. (Jer. 25:1), not Artaxerxes' decree. This should have been obvious, as when Daniel was supposedly writing, the latter had not yet occurred, yet he was trying to explain Jeremiah's prophecy that said seventy years beginning with Nebuchadrezzar (Jer. 25:8-13), thus 605 B.C. Since that could not produce any useful year after 164, the only possible interpretation left (for someone who was certain the prophecy remained true) was that Dan. 9:25 meant Artaxerxes' decree in 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-9). But the authors of Daniel were writing before 164, and it's clear they intended the start date to be 605.

Then it's overlapping math: 62 weeks of [Jewish] years = 62 x 7 x 365.25 / 360 = 440.33, and 605-440.33 = 164.67 B.C. The "seven and sixty two" in Dan. 9:25 is not additive (hence 9:25 omits the seven). The seven weeks of years are the actual 49 years it took for Babylon to fall (Jeremiah predicted 70, history proved it 49, so "Daniel" is making Jeremiah's prophecy fit by working this in as an overlapping count). In other words, to fit the facts, the author of Daniel needed 63 weeks of years (62 plus the final 1 of Dan. 9:26-27), which means he needed to find a way to subtract 7 from Jeremiah's seventy, and the convenient fit of the 49 year exile served his aims. For how this works out (and ample evidence confirming this was the intent) see LaCocque pp. 174-99.

Richard Carrier said...

Will A. said... Richard - your article here seems to be ambiguous about how much of Jesus was invented - are you now holding to the Doherty mythicist position, or have you rather gone back to your earlier position with a probable Jesus whose followers had overactive imaginations?

This blog post takes no position on that and makes no argument either way. It is solely about this one fact, which can fit both mythicist and historicist hypotheses of the origins of Christianity. Indeed, in isolation, one could use what I establish here to argue in favor of historicity, since the other Jesus Christs were historical (Jesus is then just another historical figure posing as the Joshuan Messiah and trying to get himself killed). But one cannot argue from isolated items of evidence. A conclusion must come from a survey of all the evidence together.

Richard Carrier said...

derreckbennett said... As I have understood it, Daniel 9 refers generically to "an anointed one," not definitively to "The Anointed One."

In the Hebrew there is no difference, i.e. "the" messiah" is routinely just called "messiah." Indeed, the apocalyptic messiah belief post dates the messiah concept, leading to commonplace confusion later on (Jews "interpreting" a passage as "messianic" in the apocalyptic sense that was not intended as such when written).

Messiah simply means anointed. Full stop. Before apocalyptic Judaism, the anointed meant the king and high priest, and next anyone metaphorically chosen by God in a similar capacity. It retained that meaning later, but also acquired the meaning of "the" messiah in the apocalyptic sense. This ambiguity explains how Jews could talk about multiple messiahs, and confuse texts about kings and high priests as apocalyptic.

For example, one explanation for the "two messiahs" in the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the authors are talking about a king and a high priest and not an apocalyptic messiah. But even if so (it's debated), that's exactly the kind of text that could be later seen as prophetically speaking of the true messiah (as we see happening in the Melchizedek scrolls, and later to Daniel, which was originally talking about a high priest). Particularly as it is precisely such "hidden meanings" Jews were looking for (as the whole pesher genre shows).

Part of the confusion, however, is modern: the very fact that you are talking about "the" messiah might be anachronistic. It is not clear Jews were so specific. Any messiah would do, no matter how many. The word simply means in effect God's Chosen One. There did not have to be only one of those. The fact that Jews associated a messiah with the apocalypse may have led modern scholars to mistake this as distinguishing that messiah from all others, and so we talk about "the" messiah as "that" messiah, when ancient Jews might have found that too fastidious a use of the term.

Indeed, you can read my entire article here without any knowledge of "the" messiah as a belief at all: the fact remains "a" messiah was expected to get killed to usher in the apocalypse, messiah in Greek is the word Christ, and pretenders acting like Joshua are Jesuses, so we have Jesus Christs trying to get killed to usher in the apocalypse. The issue of "the" messiah vs. "a" messiah makes no difference to this conclusion. Or any other I make.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... This "Christ ben Joseph" came from rabbi Dosa who was active before and after the fall of Jerusalem.

All my refs. date Dosa 3rd A.D. (some even say 4th), long after the fall of Jerusalem. What source do you have placing him two centuries earlier?

Maybe he got that from the real Jesus' story, not denying that Jesus was considered Christ by some. What he would be saying: OK, that Jesus, son of Joseph, was a chosen (anointed) one, but wait, a second one, the really great one to come, will be another Christ and a descendant of David and do what a Messiah is thought to do, that is fight off the Gentiles for the benefit of Jews.

That's a hypothesis. What evidence do you have it's true? Does it make sense of the actual evidence? For example, if that's what he was saying, why isn't it what he says? That is, why isn't the Christ identified in Dosa's commentary as that of the Christians or even as having died already (much less in a specific year)?

Nevertheless, note that I agreed in my article that this medieval two-Christs doctrine can't be conclusively dated pre-Christian. So dating it is irrelevant to my argument. I move on to discuss completely different evidence. But the relevance remains of the medieval story: Jews were not hostile to the idea of a dying messiah, i.e. they were not opposed to adopting it when it was convenient to them. As for them, so for any other Jews--say, the Disciples of Jesus.

But now you are saying, the crucifixion of an innocent Jesus would have made him the Messiah.

I'm not aware of having said that. Perhaps you mean, say, that as an innocent executed and then in post-mortem apparitions predicting the end was nigh, he could thus be considered the messiah by anyone keen on seeing him as such. That would agree with what I said. But the issue of actually identifying someone as the messiah is not something my article discusses. There were additional criteria to apply.

However Paul did write that the idea of "Christ crucified" was unappealing for Jews and Gentiles.

Only some. Obviously. Because he then goes on to say many Jews and Gentiles believed it and joined up. Read my book Not the Impossible Faith for an extensive discussion of this filtering effect: some scoff, some consider, some are persuaded (Acts even says this explicitly). That's how ancient populations always broke down, for any religion, Jews included (that's why Judaism had fragmented into dozens of sects: for any given Jewish belief, some scoffed, some considered, and some bought in).

And nowhere in the NT, Jesus is said to be Christ BECAUSE he was innocent and crucified (supposedly for sins cancellation).

Since I never said that, this is a moot point.

What the Epistles say is that Jesus proved he was the messiah by his resurrection, in the sense that in revelations to Paul et al. he declared himself the living messiah [and identified biblical texts confirming it (Rom. 16:25-26; Luke 24:15-47, esp. vv. 46-47, confirming 1 Cor. 15:3-6)]. Since this proved the resurrection had begun, this proved he was indeed the messiah whose death would begin the end times--likewise now as he is appearing in visions he was obviously God's chosen (and the holy spirit's powers he conferred on the believers confirmed this, e.g. exorcism and faith healing).

I discuss many of these points in NIF.

According to the rest of your post, it seems you abandoned the idea of a crucifixion in heaven, but rather that...

Let me stop you there. I am in this article taking no position whatever on that. Stop trying to read my mind. I am only establishing a single fact, which may or may not support any theory either way, and depends on no underlying theory either way. Its conclusions therefore require no assumptions from you either way.

Richard Carrier said...

derreckbennett said... Can it truly be said that Romulus experienced a resurrection? The relevant texts seem to suggest Platonic disembodiment rather than bodily resurrection, and I fear that any good apologist would happily quibble over this.

They would be wrong. There is no evidence in any Romulus texts of "Platonic disembodiment" but of divine reembodiment. Plutarch even exposed this fact by grumbling in a long digression that popular Romulus belief was like other bodily resurrection beliefs that disagreed with Plato.

(BTW, there was hardly any such idea as "Platonic disembodiment." Apart from a few possible fringe exceptions, that is an anachronistic invention of modern scholars. Even Plato's "disembodied soul" was a body. And when it was a divine body, it could even be a mightier body. And that's exactly how Romulus was understood, likewise Hercules, Asclepius, and other resurrected gods, and it is how many Christians and Jews understood their own resurrection. I discuss this issue in the "Spiritual Body" chapter of The Empty Tomb, extensively citing sources and scholarship.)

See my discussion of a similar confusion laymen make regarding Osiris in my essay Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange. Even though that essay is a little outdated (as is my essay on the resurrection that it links to in the first paragraph--my work in print has superseded all of it) its general points remain correct (I correct a few specific points in NIF ch. 3, in which I found popular resurrection belief appears to have often been more down to earth than even I had thought).

Richard Carrier said...

James F. McGrath said... I felt that I should chime in, and express my disappointment that relevant considerations regarding the date of texts (such as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan) and their background as key to their meaning (Daniel's pseudo-prophecy about Onias III) were ignored

No they weren't. I specifically named Onias as the original referent, and cited scholarship discussing this (LaCocque); and I specifically mentioned the possibility that the Targum had been redacted.

Moreover, I did not simply assume this one reading in that Targum was reliable. I gave more than one argument for this assumption's validity, including the subsequent evidence corroborating it. Moreover, "assuming" every verse is redacted contradicts the facts: redactions are a minority of any text, therefore the prior probability of meddling is low, therefore you need evidence for meddling. Such evidence need not be only manuscript variants; but you still need evidence making the case. Have you any?

You can't just "assume" the text read differently than you want it to have read. Especially since it was against all Jewish interests to change this verse this way, since their established apologetic against Christianity was that this text did not apply to Jesus. Actually making it about a Christ would undermine that argument. Thus there is no evident motive to have redacted it. Jews would not doctor their own texts to confirm Christianity was prophetically anticipated!

But I am still hopeful that you will address these issues and offer a rigorous, scholarly treatment of this topic at some point in the future!

Certainly. In print work I always cite and discuss all relevant evidence and scholarship. Being a blog, I only linked here to a thread of sources and discussion of Jonathan and the Targum for those who want to explore it further. Your expectations should reflect the medium. And you should actually read what you criticize--such as thinking I didn't mention Onias, which convicts you of not paying attention. How can you have a valid opinion if you didn't even pay attention to what you are criticizing?

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... Carrier said that the Samaritan prophet, Theudas and the Egyptian were trying to be the last Christ, that is a conqueror of Gentiles like Joshua. But next he imagined those threesome wanted to be killed like the first Christ, as the dying Messiah.

It would indeed make sense: gather people by claiming to be the new military-style Joshua Christ, knowing this will get you killed, thus bringing God's wrath as Daniel was thought to predict.

And why Jesus would be named 'Joshua'...

Jesus is Joshua. You just asked why Jesus would be named Jesus.

...if he was thought to be the first Christ, not the conqueror "new" Joshua?

Not the first Christ. A Christ. Full stop. A Christ (in this context) was one who would restore Israel and conquer the Holy Land, as Joshua did. Thus by making themselves out as Joshua (which Josephus confirms they did), they were telescoping their claims to be the Messiah (conquerer and restorer of Israel). Evans is quite right about that. The Messiah was also a savior, and Joshua means savior, so the connection makes double sense.

The only "confusing" thing (and it's not my idea, but theirs) is that the dying-messiah camp expected the messiah to conquer and redeem Israel not by military victory but by spiritual victory: cleansing the land of sin by their sacrifice thereby letting God loose to restore Isreal with death from on high. The Joshua parallel only intended to evoke their aims and claims, and thus establish that they are the anointed and to ensure they get killed (or so it was inferred) "by the prince who will come."

Richard Carrier said...

Edward T. Babinski said... Susan Sorek [wrote] "The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls calculated that the year 26/27."

Ed, I know I asked you already offline and you said she cites no source for this claim, so I will ask anyone reading this thread: do you know what text she is referring to here, whereby this specific date is calculated in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

James F. McGrath said...

You're absolutely right, the way I worded it, it does indeed sound like I am accusing you of having missed the reference to Onias altogether. I think I am going to have to force myself to refrain from blogging on evenings when I've taken an antihistamine for my allergies. Either that or I should develop the common sense to save it and not publish until I've proof-read it the next morning.

The points which I made which I think are still worth considering are that the Daniel text arose as a result of an actual historical killed anointed one and not as a purely fictional figure, and the targum felt the need to shift the suffering elsewhere in identifying the Servant with the anointed one, and so I don't see that any of these sources in any way helps the case for mythicism.

Tom Verenna said...

//and so I don't see that any of these sources in any way helps the case for mythicism.//

James, there is no discussion of mythicism here. His argument, if anything, is a refutation of the criterion of embarrassment and that there is indeed evidence of an interpretation in the second temple period of a suffering and dying messianic figure. So how in the world do your points fit into the discussion? It seems like you're shifting goal posts in an effort to defuse your mistake--which is fine, everyone makes them. But I don't know how appropriate it is for this discussion. If you want to talk about mythicism, and how valid your points are vs. those of Richard's, it seems to me you should really wait and see what Richard says in his book.

Perhaps you should wait until your medication fully wears off so as to be sure you're better able to understand the content you're addressing? In the interim, maybe you should consider purchasing a digital copy of Not the Impossible Faith?

James F. McGrath said...

I am under the impression that Richard has decided to throw his weight behind mythicism, and he has gone on record as finding the case made by Earl Doherty persuasive. As someone who values things that he has written, I would love to see him return to doing mainstream historical scholarship and producing more of the insightful sorts of work that he did back in his pre-mythicist days.

Richard Carrier said...

James F. McGrath said... You're absolutely right, the way I worded it, it does indeed sound like I am accusing you of having missed the reference to Onias altogether. I think I am going to have to force myself to refrain from blogging on evenings when I've taken an antihistamine for my allergies.

:-) Apology accepted.

(BTW, thank you. Too often I don't get an admission of error. So I feel the need to call it out for praise.)

The points which I made which I think are still worth considering are that the Daniel text arose as a result of an actual historical killed anointed one and not as a purely fictional figure...

I entirely agree. But the point actually worth considering is that this has nothing to do with my argument.

...and the targum felt the need to shift the suffering elsewhere in identifying the Servant with the anointed one...

I have no opinion on that (I'm assuming you conclude this by some means other than retroactive telepathy). The point at issue is that it is irrelevant why some Jews came to believe that Isaiah identified this Servant as the Messiah, as all that matters is that they did so. Once that cat was out of the bag, you have the Christian Gospel right there in explicit Jewish prophecy. Indeed, that's why we can be sure this happened before Christianity: only when Jews had no idea what Christians would do with this connection would they themselves have put it in there.

...and so I don't see that any of these sources in any way helps the case for mythicism.

I don't see why you think this blog post is about mythicism. The fact is just the fact. What it means for the mythicism debate is a wholly separate issue that I don't even discuss here.

Tom Verenna said...

Sure you would, and I can understand that. What is odd, James, is that you recognize that Richard is an excellent scholar (so long as it suits your opinions--like his pre-mythicist days) but are 'disappointed' when, in his own research, he finds mythicism more likely than historicism. I don't believe for a second (and in fact, I am sure of this) that Doherty in any way tricked Richard or forced his hand to doubt historicity.

Richard is a well-educated scholar who knows what he is doing. I think it is extremely unfair of you to suggest, especially to a colleague, that he is somehow 'not doing mainstream historical scholarship'. What is particularly interesting is that you seem to believe that what Richard is doing--questioning the presuppositions of historical Jesus scholarship--is somehow less important. If anything, it is quite important. Especially if those presuppositions, which 'mainstream scholarship' (in the field of historical Jesus studies) follow, turn out to be completely wrong.

Finally, you must know that Richard does research on other things besides mythicism. And last I checked, it wasn't related to historical Jesus studies at all (unless you want to claim that ancient science is related in some fashion). Really James, I'm not sure what you hope to accomplish through provocation. Is it that you think Richard's position on the historicity of the figure of Jesus and his credentials make him a threat?

James F. McGrath said...

I don't think that the post is about mythicism. But I do think that the evidence you present here is relevant to it. It may be that the swarm of mythicists that are constantly around my blog (one of them insists on asking about the historicity of every fictional character I mention, just to be annoying) that I may have begun to connect things to mythicism when I shouldn't. In which case, I offer you a second apology! :)

Perhaps at this stage I should emphasize my agreement with you on one point in your post that I don't think is made often enough: the Danielic time frame clearly led to a mindset in and around the first century that can usefully be compared to (even though it may have been more intense than) some other date-related panics, such as Y2K or the nearing 2012. And clearly there is a lot to be gained from comparing Jesus to the other similar figures mentioned in Josephus and in other sources.

Richard Carrier said...

James F. McGrath said... I am under the impression that Richard has decided to throw his weight behind mythicism, and he has gone on record as finding the case made by Earl Doherty persuasive.

That doesn't justify hyperbolizing. I find elements of Doherty's case persuasive. But he and I still disagree on a lot, both as to theories and as to methods, and I have said so in venue after venue. Moreover, the "black and white" thinking here is a little concerning to me: either I am a historicist like you or I am a full on myther who "has decided to throw his weight behind mythicism." There is an excluded middle there: such as the view that mythicism is more credible than historicists like you recognize, and may be more probably true in the final analysis. Note how much softer that position is: I am not certain of any conclusion, I only talk about balances of probabilities, and degrees of plausibility.

In fact, I have repeatedly said in public venues, including many times on my blog, (a) that mythicism must be treated as a hypothesis still in need of proper formulation and vetting, not as a proven conclusion and (b) even though I find mythicism more probably true, I do not consider the margin between them to be as great as most other mythers do (I've previously estimated about a 1 in 5 chance there was a real Jesus given all the evidence we have, but that's a rough estimate made years ago and may change in my final calculation).

As someone who values things that he has written, I would love to see him return to doing mainstream historical scholarship and producing more of the insightful sorts of work that he did back in his pre-mythicist days.

I do tons of mainstream historical scholarship. I have a whole book and several journal articles in peer review now, and I have published chapters in two books in 2010 and 2011 on matters not defending or pertaining to mythicism. Why would you ignore all my other ongoing work, and then ask why I'm not doing any other ongoing work? You seem so oddly obsessed with this mythicist issue it seems you even convinced yourself it's all that I do anymore. What's up with that?

James F. McGrath said...

Tom, it is nothing to do with threats - it actually has to do with the fact that I reached the end of one of Richard's book chapters (if I remember correctly) which actually seemed to be making good sense of the evidence, against the background of a mainstream historical approach, and then he added a disclaimer indicating that his view had changed in a way that meant he no longer subscribed to the assumptions that his case there was based on.

At any rate, Richard, I'm glad your work on Bayes theorem and the historical Jesus is being published, and hope that we can have some interesting blog interactions about that when it comes out - assuming I demonstrate that I've read what you wrote carefully and responded carefully on those future occasions!

Richard Carrier said...

James F. McGrath said... I don't think that the post is about mythicism. But I do think that the evidence you present here is relevant to it.

Sure. But that's not what you said on your blog or here in your original comment above.

In what way it is relevant is a matter I did not discuss. Which makes it odd that you would attack the conclusion because it is "relevant" (in some unstated way) to mythicism. That's a non sequitur and suggests a blinding psychological obsession with mythicism, which prevents you from seeing an argument from the facts as just an argument from the facts. You are "against" my conclusion right out of the gate, before carefully considering the actual arguments and evidence, merely because you think it's "relevant" to mythicism. That's a problem.

Richard Carrier said...

James F. McGrath said... I'm glad your work on Bayes theorem and the historical Jesus is being published, and hope that we can have some interesting blog interactions about that when it comes out - assuming I demonstrate that I've read what you wrote carefully and responded carefully on those future occasions!

By all means. We can even set up a formal blog dialogue starting with a review, or part of a review (if you want to treat it topically rather than all at once) that you write of the book, to which I blog, to which you blog, etc., and we keep cross-linking as these exchanges go. Being open ended that way and ongoing, I think that could not fail to be fruitful.

Bernard said...

Thank you for replying to my questions, Richard.
On the first point, I see no real answer. The text you invited me to read relates only to some unknown prophecy pointing at 65-70 and the writing of a later Christian, Julius Africanus.
On the second point, I see Jeremiah's prophecy as the starting date, Jewish year in days, division, substraction, overlapping and the Hebrew word for "seven" or "heptad" interpreted as week of years (7 years). Very complicated and far-fetched. BTW, I have a very simple explanation for this "seventy" business, with Cyrus' decree as the starting point, and leading to 168-167, the year when the Jews were massacred in the caves (which is alluded to in 'Daniel' while the start of the successful rebellion the next year is not mentioned).
But thank you regardless.

Gilgamesh said...

Bernard, if you want to see the sorts of calculations of the Dan 9 prophecy in action, I suggest Harold Hoehner "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ". He disusses a significant number of attempts to calculate the prophecy to fit the Jesus timeline, so you can get an idea of how it was used, at least by modern scholars.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... The text you invited me to read relates only to some unknown prophecy pointing at 65-70 and the writing of a later Christian, Julius Africanus.

Then you didn't read that material (the date he gets is 30-31, not 65-70), nor my blog (I specifically cited Africanus above and explained his relevance).

I see Jeremiah's prophecy as the starting date, Jewish year in days, division, substraction, overlapping and the Hebrew word for "seven" or "heptad" interpreted as week of years (7 years). Very complicated and far-fetched.

Not to an ancient Jewish reader, who always used Jewish scriptural years of 360 days to interpret scriptural passages, and who reads the text as it is actually written, and not from a perspective of someone who lives at a time that its plain reading has already failed to come true. For example, the Jeremiah prophecy Daniel names says seventy years, so when Daniel interprets that as seventy heptads of years, the only obvious meaning is seventy sevens of years. In the Greek and Hebrew that's simply what the text exactly says. If there is any confusion, its entirely yours, as an anachronistic modern day Gregorian-calendar-using speaker of modern European languages.

...I have a very simple explanation for this "seventy" business, with Cyrus' decree as the starting point...[etc/]

Everyone does. Cranks crawl out of the woodwork online, every one with "a very simple explanation" of the passage.

The issue is what would have been the most obvious reading to an ancient reader reading the ancient language in their historical-cultural context.

And the answer is exactly what LaCocque comes up with (for pre-164 readers) and what Julius comes up with (for post-164 readers). Every other reading is less obvious in its original language and setting. But I know you love your pet theories to death.

Bernard said...

To Dr. Carrier,
OK, so your theory for the Samaritan, Theudas and the Egyptian is they wanted to be known as the new Joshua (victor over the Gentiles in the Jewish homeland) (but got nowhere in that direction!) and at the same time, wanted to be killed (which they successfully achieved, with many of their followers!) for atonement of sins. That's very hard to swallow.
And you might be still a Mythicist, but a deity crucified in heaven by evil spirits (and resurrected afterwards) is rather foreign in that new theory of yours. Don't you agree?

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... so your theory for the Samaritan, Theudas and the Egyptian is they wanted to be known as the new Joshua (victor over the Gentiles in the Jewish homeland) (but got nowhere in that direction!)

They did not get nowhere: they built de facto armies and actually engaged in military actions with the Romans. Which had exactly the outcome they intended: their death. (Except for the Egyptian, I think, whose fate is not discussed in Josephus, but whom Acts portrays as genuinely feared by Roman authorities, which would again reflect having gotten somewhere, rather than nowhere.)

That's very hard to swallow.

I don't see why. It makes perfect sense.

But all I do claim is that it makes perfect sense--without retroactive telepathy or much more evidence than survives, we cannot conclusively know whether this is what they all had in mind. Hence my point is (a) its intelligibility and plausibility (which my blog more than amply establishes) and (b) the ubiquity of Jesus Christs (still a fact no matter what their intentions were--i.e. regardless of whether they were following the Jewish faction that embraced the idea of a messiah's atoning death as the final lynch pin in launching doomsday, they were still claiming to be Jesus Christs, which changes the way we look at the "Jesus Christ" we find in the NT--in fact, combine that faction with that trend, and you get Christianity).

And you might be still a Mythicist, but a deity crucified in heaven by evil spirits (and resurrected afterwards) is rather foreign in that new theory of yours. Don't you agree?

If you mean this blog's theory does not entail that theory, yes. If you mean this blog's theory is incompatible with that theory, no.

Will77 said...

Dr. Carrier,
This isn't spicifically relevant to the more narrow scope of the present blog post, but i was wondering if you will be taking a position on the synoptic problem in your upcoming volumes? I know you have previously stated preference for Goodacre's or Brodie's conclusions... but i was wondering if you will be going on the assumption that the Q hypothesis is correct since that would reflect the current scholarly consensus. just curious.

As a related point, will you discuss the Josephus Testimonium and the case for it being wholly interpolated in the forthecoming works? To my knowledge it seems that partial authenticity of the Testimonium is still held in favor by the majority of mainstream jesus scholars. But to me their reasoning is not convincing since i haven't seen stylistic evidence INTERNAL to the Testimonium to justify them slicing out the overly christian sections... they seem to be arbitrarily removing the offending bits so that some reference to a historical jesus can be salvaged. I have to admit that i haven't surveyed all the scholarship, but that has definitely been my impression. i wonder of you could comment.

Thanks for all the great work!!

Richard Carrier said...

Will77 said... I was wondering if you will be going on the assumption that the Q hypothesis is correct since that would reflect the current scholarly consensus.

Since I find it makes no difference either way, I will take no formal position. Though I may briefly mention my reasons for rejecting the Q hypothesis, I won't rely on such a rejection for any argument.

Will you discuss the Josephus Testimonium and the case for it being wholly interpolated in the forthecoming works?

Yes. In volume two (On the Historicity of Jesus Christ; that discussion is currently in chapter eleven therein, though the final draft may be organized differently). I already discuss it in a peer reviewed journal article that should appear next year (I'll blog that when it is published; it treats both references in Josephus).

To my knowledge it seems that partial authenticity of the Testimonium is still held in favor by the majority of mainstream jesus scholars.

I don't know as to actual relative numbers (no one has done a poll), but it certainly was a position many scholars jumped on to when the Arabic text was all the rage. But since that was proved to be erroneous (the text comes from Eusebius, and thus does not reflect the original reading of Josephus but a late, poor paraphrase of the full testimonium) there are no remaining arguments for its partial authenticity that carry any logical weight.

My article on this (which I mentioned above will be out next year) cites all the scholarship worth reading on this point.

derreckbennett said...

Dr. Carrier-

Thank you so much for getting back to me. I am indeed seeing the texts on Romulus in a new light. Could you share with me the relevant texts on Hercules and Asclepius?

Bernard said...

Carrier wrote: "Then you didn't read that material (the date he gets is 30-31, not 65-70), nor my blog (I specifically cited Africanus above and explained his relevance)."
BM: 65-70 is about the oracle mentioned in Josephus' Wars.
I am not contesting Africanus gave an explanation (with hindsight!) for 30-31. But I am contesting that prediction was done before the fact by some Jews (and was significantly believed!). We have no evidence for that, do we?

Carrier wrote:
"so when Daniel interprets that as seventy heptads of years, the only obvious meaning is seventy sevens of years."
BM: The Hebrew does not say "seven", nor "heptads of years" in Daniel 9:24-27 (as in "seventy 'seven'/'weeks'").
See also: "according to the 'Encyclopedia of BIBLE DIFFICULTIES', Gleason L.Archer:
"the word for "week" is sabu [Hebrew in italics, approximate rendition only (the phonetic signs could not be reproduced)], which is derived from seba, the word for "seven". Its normal plural is feminine in form: s_buot. Only in this chapter of Daniel does it appears in the masculine plural sabuim ... it is strongly suggestive of the idea 'heptad' (a series or combination of seven), rather than a "week" in the sense of a series of seven days."
The NKJV has "literally sevens" as an alternative for "weeks", while the NASB proposes "units of sevens".

If you accept a theory which include a prophecy (rather than a decree) as the starting point, division, substraction, overlapping, reduced in days Jewish years reconverted in normal (solar) year, so be it.
And my so-called "crank" theory does not include any of that. But you always make a point to ignore my work and reject it without knowing it.

Richard Carrier said...

derreckbennett said... Could you share with me the relevant texts on Hercules and Asclepius?

The evidence for Hercules is discussed in The Empty Tomb pp. 137-38 (esp. with, as cited n. 170 on p. 212: Jean-Pierre Vernant, “Mortals and Immortals: The Body of the Divine,” Mortals and Immortals: Collected Essays [Princeton University Press, 1991]: pp. 27-49). Relevant texts on Asclepius are collected in Edelstein & Edelstein, eds., Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies (1945): esp. §66-93, §232-56 (and §382-91, §443-54). But these must be read in light of the Vernant study, too (as cited above).

Bernard said...

Carrier wrote: "They did not get nowhere: they built de facto armies and actually engaged in military actions with the Romans. Which had exactly the outcome they intended: their death. (Except for the Egyptian, I think, whose fate is not discussed in Josephus, but whom Acts portrays as genuinely feared by Roman authorities, which would again reflect having gotten somewhere, rather than nowhere.)"
BM: I think you are imagining things about these de facto armies. Nowhere did Josephus wrote those tried to build armies (certainly not for the Samaritan prophet & Theudas). And they did not engaged the Romans. That was the opposite. And those followers looked to be poorly armed and not trained: the Romans had no problem to chop them off. And your evidence about them trying to be a new Joshua and some Jesus Christ is rather poor. Certainly this Egyptian did not get caught and killed during the massacre. Maybe he forgot about that dying Messiah!

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... 65-70 is about the oracle mentioned in Josephus' Wars.

That's not relevant to what you were asking. Once the obvious date had passed without result (the one that caused Christianity), new interpretations would begin (exactly as happened when 164 passed without event). Thus I am not using the "post-Christian" Jewish interpretations of Daniel to explain Christianity, but the pre-Christian ones. The Jewish War (and a few of the pretenders) only proves the trend continued, under steam from the previous decades of the fashion.

I am not contesting Africanus gave an explanation (with hindsight!) for 30-31.

It's not properly hindsight. Note that Africanus gives no independent reason to believe the crucifixion happened that year. Thus he is not retrofitting. He derives the date solely from Daniel. And he does so by a calculation so obvious and straightforward it is literally impossible that no one came up with the same result before Christianity arose.

The Hebrew does not say "seven", nor "heptads of years" in Daniel 9:24-27 (as in "seventy 'seven'/'weeks'").

Yes it does. Shebu is the word for "sevened" in Hebrew (passive participle of the verb "to seven" something). It is therefore directly analogous to the Greek heptad. It does not imply days or years or anything except by context (although as a participle it implies motion and thus usually indicates a temporal period). See the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 988 (strongs 7620). It is just a denominative of sheba, the normal Hebrew word for "seven" (ibid. 987, strongs 7651), e.g. Gen. 7:2, from the root verb "to seven" something (which came to be associated by superstition with "to swear a binding oath", see ibid. 989, strongs 7650). It has no etymological connection with "day." That sense can only be inferred from context.

If you accept a theory which include a prophecy (rather than a decree) as the starting point, division, substraction, overlapping, reduced in days Jewish years reconverted in normal (solar) year, so be it.

In other words, a theory that is simple, correct, obvious on a plain reading of the text, and proven by established scholarship.

I wonder again why you pretend to know the ancient languages. The word "decree" for example is not in the original text. That's a modern translator's conjecture. The actual word there is just "word," used over a thousand times in the OT (obviously not a thousand decrees), and used routinely of prophecies (e.g. "the word of the Lord," Is. 28:14). The Hebrew reads "from the utterance of the word [about] the return and rebuilding of Jerusalem" which simply means Jeremiah's prophecy of when that would occur. This is the exact same word as in Dan. 9:2, which clearly means the prophecy of Jeremiah.

And you seem quite ignorant of the fact that no division was then required. Only we need to divide, in order to convert Jewish years to our years (there was no such thing as "164 B.C." in 164 B.C.). To an ancient reader, there is no math to do: it's straightforwardly what the text itself says.

And my so-called "crank" theory does not include any of that. But you always make a point to ignore my work and reject it without knowing it.

When you get it published in a peer reviewed journal, let me know. Until then, I'm going with the peer reviewed scholars on this one, particularly as you keep showing me how little you really know about the languages and the context.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... I think you are imagining things about these de facto armies. Nowhere did Josephus wrote those tried to build armies (certainly not for the Samaritan prophet & Theudas). And they did not engaged the Romans.

They did not initiate the engagement. That does not mean they did not gather a body of men in a way that posed such a military threat that the Romans immediately attacked them. The Romans weren't in the habit of randomly killing mass crowds of pilgrims. Nor was anyone so foolish as to stand around as a legion slowly marches on them, unless their intent was indeed to stand their ground. A large body of men who does that, after just hearing their leader declare their military intentions (felling walls, parting seas in emulation of invading armies, evoking famous military speeches on the very site they were delivered), is not some idle crowd. That's a de facto army.

And those followers looked to be poorly armed and not trained

Funny how you criticize me for inferring what's not directly in evidence, and then immediately infer what's not directly in evidence.

You no more know that than that they were wholly unarmed lollygaggers. The evidence argues against the latter, as I just noted. Your reasoning, by contrast, is illogical. The Romans easily cut down even heavily armed foes. The massacre of Boudicca's army is an infamous example. The "ease" with which Romans prevailed against small rebel armies was a matter of course, not something unusual that needs explaining.

Your evidence about them trying to be a new Joshua and some Jesus Christ is rather poor.

Not my evidence, Craig Evans' evidence. This is published scholarship. Not my pet theory. The Joshua connection is not poor but too obvious for any rational observer to deny. It's not as if people could talk about parting the Jordan and miraculously felling the walls of cities and not realize that these are exactly the things Joshua did to conquer Palestine. No one then was that stupid. Moreover, I only listed some of the evidence. Evans' gives a good deal more, which together is conclusive. Why don't you try reading the scholarship before pooh-poohing it?

Certainly this Egyptian did not get caught and killed during the massacre. Maybe he forgot about that dying Messiah!

Actually we don't know what happened to him. He vanished in that battle and Josephus says he was never seen again. So how Josephus knows he escaped is a good question. The most plausible answer is that his sources inferred it from the failure to identify any of the bodies as his, but that would be (as we know) a non sequitur, since they would not have thoroughly investigated the identity of hundreds of bodies, especially bodies mangled beyond recognition. In modern logic, a rebel leader who vanishes in a battle never to be heard from again would more usually be presumed dead. At any rate, our evidence is inadequate to know.

jules said...

Any progress on finding a publisher for "Bayes' Theorem and Historical Method"?

jules said...

Ah sorry, I see you've changed the title, and due out next April.

Bernard said...

To Carrier:
You mention pre-Christian prophecies for a Messiah in 30-32. What evidence do you have for these? Africanus is not pre-Christian. Actually, he was very much a Christian apologist (he attempted to explain the different genealogies in gMatthew & gLuke). And Jews making the same calculations than Africanus before the fact (that is 30-32) is totally unproven. You are asking for blind faith from your readers.
BTW, Africanus' calculation is less than straightforward. He originated his timing from the time of a Persian king (Artaxerxes) living well after Daniel supposed lifetime (very unlikely that Daniel would be believed to have done that). In order to get the desired result, he interpreted "year" as lunar year to get a reduced number of days, then converted the total in solar years. No hindsight? Don't you think he read the gospels?

"Sevened" is not exactly "seven" the number. That's what I meant. I do not see why "seven sevened" has to mean forty-nine years duration. And LaCocque has solar years for the 49 years but he used Jewish years to arrive at 164 BC. How convenient! And he has for origin a prophecy in Jeremiah 25 which never says anything about rebuilding Jerusalem.

About "decree" in Daniel 9:25: "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree [or, from the utterance of the word about] to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' ..." (NIV)
Don't you think Daniel 9:25a is related to Isaiah 44:28a? "[God] says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," ...'" I certainly think so. BTW, I repeat, Jeremiah 25 says nothing about rebuilding Jerusalem.

Carrier wrote: "Nor was anyone so foolish as to stand around as a legion slowly marches on them, unless their intent was indeed to stand their ground."
Where did you get a legion slowly marching on them? Josephus said the Samaritans and Theudas & the Egyptian followers were attacked by Roman cavalry and infantry (only a troop of cavalry for Theudas). And I doubt the Roman governors had a legion at their disposal. More likely a much lesser force of a few hundreds. And for the one who did not flee, they probably wanted to protect their leader. Josephus reported of much fleeing when the Romans attacked the Samaritans and the Egyptian's followers. I think you are rather carried away with your armies. Lot of imagination here also. Only the Egyptian is said to have (misguided) military ambition but obviously he did not stand his ground with his 30,000!

BTW, Pilate was sent to Rome to explain himself about his action against the Samaritans, because those made a case they had no intention to revolt against the Romans (but they got attacked regardless). It does not look the Roman top brass knew that an army was raised to fight their soldiers! If they did, they would not have listen to those complainers and bother Pilate. Furthermore, the assembly of the Jews of Joshua below Mt Gerizim was not part of a military operation (see Joshua 8), neither the assembly of Samaritans below the same mountain during Pilate, according to Josephus.

Also for Josephus, Theudas was only a magician. His goal was to impress his followers by “dividing” the Jordan (I suppose he had a trick prepared for that). Joshua did not part the Jordan.
And for the Egyptian, Jerusalem is not Jericho. And he obviously did not want to be a dying Messiah.

So that's why I wrote any evidence to show these three wanted to be seen a some new Joshua is rather poor (and that's a generous statement!).

Neil said...

Richard, I have yet to read Craig Evans' chapter in Amy-Levine's book, but you refer to it as definitely establishing that certain would-be deliverers of the first century thought of themselves as messiahs because they were emulating Joshua.

This leads me to ask what evidence there is for Joshua being thought of as a messiah at any time up to the first century c.e. Is there any tradition or account of him being anointed -- or known as an anointed one?

Yes I can understand certain persons consciously imitating him, but does it follow that this was related to messianism? That interpretation needs to be established on other grounds, does it not?

Thanks,
Neil

M. W. Nordbakke said...

Thanks to the blog owner for sharing these insights. I have no original thoughts on this subject, but when reading the suggestion that Isaiah 52-53 describes the death of the chosen one "as atoning for all the sins of Israel," I was reminded of a book I read last year. Leroy A. Huizenga (The New Isaac, [Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009], pp. 189-208) argues that, in comparison with the Masoretic version of Isaiah, "Greek and Aramaic versions of Isaiah present a radically different version of the Servant Songs and 'second' Isaiah in general, and no well-delineated Servant figure is found in extracanonical literature" (p. 190). While still allowing that the Aramaic Targum to Isaiah does indeed link a Servant Song with the Messiah, Huizenga (p. 196) believes the Targum "removes almost all references to the suffering of the Servant present in the [Masoretic] version of this Song and applies them to the enemy of the Messiah or Israel."

This is not intended as criticism, just a reference to a recent dissertation. (Interestingly, Huizenga does not discuss 11QMelch ii.18.)

David M said...

Dr Carrier,

Great to see a properly qualified ancient Historian digging into the topic.

What's your take, I wonder, on crucifixion as a denouement?

I tend to see it as more of an indicator that someone was nailed up. But it could be non-historical.

If it didn't happen (and it may not have), then it's possibly a piece of creativity on the part of someone, someone (in that instance) who might have been expected to source the OT. But, it's not in the OT (unless we stretch a bit, and I, like you prefer to read what the text actually says, in the first instance).

Sure, someone could have borrowed from a Sumerian story, but is this likely? We can't say, but we might feel reasonable in saying that if they did, it may have been something of a lightbulb moment. :)

Basically, I'm agnostic, with HJ leanings, but only slight. Everything I've ever taken from rational scepticism tells me that wandering far from 'maybe', in either direction, is surely unwarranted in this case. I hope you don't wander too far in your chosen direction.

Cheers.

AIGBusted said...

Here's a thought that I have, in response to David: On page 62 of Rodney Stark's book "The Rise of Christianity" it says:

“…Nor would the Jews have been so easily put off by
the facts of the Crucifixion. Indeed, the cross was a symbol
used to signify the messiah in Hebrew manuscripts prior to
the Crucifixion.”

Here us what I wonder: could the crucifixion be understood as a dramatic and ironic fulfillment of Jesus' messiahship, since Jesus (the messiah) is being executed using a messianic symbol? I'm no historian so I can't speak to the plausibility of that, but I do wonder about it.

Ben said...

"ironic fulfillment of Jesus' messiahship"

Jesus, the first hipster messiah.

David M said...

AIGBusted,

That is an interesting item. I'd be curious to hear more. If true, it would indicate that crucifixion could have been symbolic.

Another possibly interesting precedent is the possibility that the 'last king of the Jews' (Antigonus II Mattathias) was crucified by the Romans in 37BC.

Josephus' account disagrees with Cassius' account, but that would not be unexpected.

Edwin said...

In NIF you say that the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem and the road to Rome from Alba Longa are both 14 miles long. Other sources say the road to Emmaus was 7 miles long. What's the discrepancy about? (Also, numbers like this in myths are usually metaphors for something else.)

Qualia said...

Dr. Carrier,

Please make sure your new books, when published, are available in e-book format, too! As a non-US citizen I'm just too lazy-assed to wait for an Amazon delivery (takes bloody ages to get here).

Richard Carrier said...

Edwin said… In NIF you say that the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem and the road to Rome from Alba Longa are both 14 miles long. Other sources say the road to Emmaus was 7 miles long. What's the discrepancy about? (Also, numbers like this in myths are usually metaphors for something else.)

I agree they often are symbolical. The mileage I am stating is the actual mileage (the actual distances are essentially identical). Luke in current mss. states sixty stadiums, which is about 7 miles, and that's geographically wrong (it's about half the actual distance, even as reported in Ptolemy's geography, based on that of Marinus, a near contemporary of Luke). Josephus places Emmaus thirty stadiums away, which is absurdly wrong. This betrays the common frequency with which numbers don't get transferred accurately in the copying. Most likely neither Josephus nor Luke originally wrote the numbers that are now in our copies of their texts. (Or possibly Luke originally meant they met the stranger sixty stadiums along the road to Emmaus, i.e. half the distance along; since fourteen miles is an average daily march, that would put their meeting with Jesus at high noon, which is apposite; it's just that the wording of the extant text would normally mean Emmaus was sixty stadiums from Jerusalem, not that they were.)

Richard Carrier said...

AIGBusted said... On page 62 of Rodney Stark's book "The Rise of Christianity" it says: “...Nor would the Jews have been so easily put off by the facts of the Crucifixion. Indeed, the cross was a symbol used to signify the messiah in Hebrew manuscripts prior to the Crucifixion.”

I am doubtful of this, first because I don't know what "pre-Christian" Hebrew manuscripts he has in mind (the Dead Sea Scrolls? Which one?) or what symbol he is referring to (there were many different uses for cross symbols in manuscripts, and in Hebrew iconography in general), and second because Jesus would not likely have been crucified on what we mean by a "cross" but on a T-shape (crux and patibulum, an agricultural instrument commonly used for crucifixions); the idea of a cross as the instrument of crucifixion only came to Christians centuries later.

Richard Carrier said...

David M said… What's your take, I wonder, on crucifixion as a denouement? I tend to see it as more of an indicator that someone was nailed up. But it could be non-historical. If it didn't happen (and it may not have), then it's possibly a piece of creativity on the part of someone, someone (in that instance) who might have been expected to source the OT. But, it's not in the OT (unless we stretch a bit, and I, like you prefer to read what the text actually says, in the first instance).

There are two different questions in here: (1) what did they mean by saying he was crucified and (2) where did they get the idea that the messiah would be crucified.

As to (1), I think the most likely meaning is literal: Jesus was literally nailed up (or impaled on a stick, the word can mean either) in outer space (in what they called the firmament, a distant land of demons between the earth and the moon), similar to Osiris (in the secret teachings Plutarch relates, Osiris is actually killed in outer space). He was likewise buried there (just as some Jews of the time believed Adam's body was buried in the third heaven, which would be somewhere in the vicinity of Mars). This all sounds strange to us, but having events and places and burials in the heavens was a commonplace kind of thinking back then.

As to (2), the possibilities are countless. It may have simply been a cultural assumption that that's how demonic authorities operate, by analogy with the Romans, who were their analogs on earth. It might also be a confusion for Jewish practice (the executed were crucified by the Jews, after being killed, and one could refer to the whole execution that way; later Christians then gradually assumed a Roman style execution was meant, or used that as a convenient way to sell a particular message). But since Paul says it was foretold in scripture that the messiah would be crucified (in the actual Greek of Gal. 3:1; english translations tend to hide this), clearly some Jews were reading the text of the OT already as saying exactly that (or possibly the apocrypha, since what scripture Paul meant is not stated, and many scriptures were accepted then that aren't in the OT now; likewise they had bibles with different variant readings than we have now, so e.g. Psalms 22 may have existed with an actual textual variant more explicitly implying the speaker was being crucified, etc., or it was seen in the text we have as already implying a crucifixion, thus originating the assumption that that's what it was). Without someone of Paul's era explaining exactly where they got the idea, we can only speculate, and some speculations are more plausible than others given what clues we have.

Richard Carrier said...

M. W. Nordbakke said… Leroy A. Huizenga (The New Isaac, [Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009], pp. 189-208) argues that, in comparison with the Masoretic version of Isaiah, "Greek and Aramaic versions of Isaiah present a radically different version of the Servant Songs and 'second' Isaiah in general, and no well-delineated Servant figure is found in extracanonical literature" (p. 190). While still allowing that the Aramaic Targum to Isaiah does indeed link a Servant Song with the Messiah, Huizenga (p. 196) believes the Targum "removes almost all references to the suffering of the Servant present in the [Masoretic] version of this Song and applies them to the enemy of the Messiah or Israel."

The Targum of Janathan indeed alters the text so that it does not make the dying messiah claim (hence I didn't cite it as such). Its relevance is that it understood this servant to be the messiah and thus translated it thus. The Targumic messiah will still be despised, and will forgive all Israel's sins, but not by dying and getting buried. That latter variant exists in the Dead Sea texts of Isaiah (and correspondingly in the modern Masoretic).

However, the Greek text of Isaiah fully includes the dying messiah motif, matching the Masoretic text, so I don't know what Huizenga can mean. I can only guess he is referring to the fact that in the pre-Christian Greek translation, "my servant" is rendered instead "my boy" (this was more colloquial but meant the same thing, plus having the additional connotation of "my son," of particular relevance to any theory regarding the Jewish origins of Christianity).

Richard Carrier said...

Neil said… I have yet to read Craig Evans' chapter in Amy-Levine's book, but you refer to it as definitely establishing that certain would-be deliverers of the first century thought of themselves as messiahs because they were emulating Joshua.

Yes, that is Evans's thesis.

This leads me to ask what evidence there is for Joshua being thought of as a messiah at any time up to the first century c.e. Is there any tradition or account of him being anointed -- or known as an anointed one?

That's anachronistic (even then). It's not that Joshua was regarded as a messiah, but that the messiah was regarded as the one who would be chosen by God to reconquer the Holy Land; thus after the idea of a messiah was developed, emulating a famous biblical character chosen by God to reconquer the Holy Land became code for advertising oneself as the messiah.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said… And Jews making the same calculations than Africanus before the fact (that is 30-32) is totally unproven.

It doesn't need to be. It's the only straightforward calculation to make. As I explain in the body of this blog. Any others require contortions. If Africanus had to engage in contortions to make Daniel fit the date, then you'd be right: he is retrofitting and we can't assume anyone else would have come up with the same result before the fact. But when we know pre-Christian Jews between 125 and 50 B.C. saw Daniel as predicting the messiah (as the Dead Sea Scrolls prove they did), there is only one calculation that one can make that requires no post hoc distortions, and that's the one that gets us a date between 23 and 38 A.D., exactly as I said (and using the Jewish calendar, the most obvious one for Jews to use, that date comes out at 30 or 31).

BTW, Africanus' calculation is less than straightforward. He originated his timing from the time of a Persian king (Artaxerxes) living well after Daniel supposed lifetime (very unlikely that Daniel would be believed to have done that).

You mean it's unlikely Christians and Jews would believe the Prophet Daniel predicted the act of Artaxerxes? Are you even listening to what you are saying? You want them to believe he accurately predicted the coming of the messiah, but none of the calendrical signs leading up to it? That's just illogical. Obviously they believed he was a prophet of God relaying what God told him. The fact that the Artaxerxes part "came true" (from their POV) was for Africanus, and the Jews before him, confirmation that Daniel was a reliable prophet.

In order to get the desired result, he interpreted "year" as lunar year to get a reduced number of days, then converted the total in solar years.

The Jewish calendar was indeed lunar. That's exactly the math a 1st century B.C. Jew would engage in. They were not commonly using any other calendar at the time. That's indeed Africanus' point (who evidently knew more about historical calendrics than you do).

"Sevened" is not exactly "seven" the number.

Yes, in that context, it is. All the lexical authorities in Hebrew and Aramaic confirm this.

And LaCocque has solar years for the 49 years but he used Jewish years to arrive at 164 BC. How convenient! And he has for origin a prophecy in Jeremiah 25 which never says anything about rebuilding Jerusalem.

You are evidently not reading LaCocque's text in its entirety. Such carelessness needs no reply from me.

Don't you think Daniel 9:25a is related to Isaiah 44:28a? "[God] says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," ...'" I certainly think so. BTW, I repeat, Jeremiah 25 says nothing about rebuilding Jerusalem.

Daniel 9 is about Jeremiah 25 because Daniel 9 says so. A passage that says it is talking about Jeremiah is obviously not talking about Isaiah. Honestly.

Later Jews couldn't use the original meaning, because it didn't come true. Then they could not assume Cyrus's decree was meant, because that would give dates that had also already passed, so they would "know" that was not what "Daniel" meant; the only thing that would have still worked was the decree of Artaxerxes. Furthermore, the Danielic prophecy places the marker at the "restoring of Jerusalem," not the temple, and only one order was ever given to restore the city and not just the temple, and that was from Artaxerxes. QED. It's literally the most obvious reading of Daniel, and therefore the most probable any Jew would propose in the 1st century B.C.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said… Josephus said the Samaritans and Theudas & the Egyptian followers were attacked by Roman cavalry and infantry (only a troop of cavalry for Theudas).

The "and infantry" sets the marching pace. Cavalry were used to guard the flanks of marching troops and to run sorties from the ranks of shield-carrying infantry. Thus they moved together as a unit. Even if a cavalry unit was sent alone unprotected, it's still easy to escape a cavalry unit you see coming a mile away. Especially since a dispersing crowd, if unarmed, can't even be identified as the hostiles you are supposedly looking for.

And for the one who did not flee, they probably wanted to protect their leader.

In other words, they stood their ground to fight against Rome. Exactly my point.

BTW, Pilate was sent to Rome to explain himself about his action against the Samaritans, because those made a case they had no intention to revolt against the Romans (but they got attacked regardless).

Just because the case was made doesn't mean they were right. That's like saying O.J. was innocent because his defense team said so. Josephus does not say Pilate was ever convicted of any wrongdoing.

Instead, Josephus confirms the Samaritans assembled under arms ("So they came thither armed"). Thus not a peaceful gathering. And their defenders claimed "they did not go to Tirathaba in order to revolt from the Romans, but to escape the violence of Pilate" which is a backhanded way of saying they took up arms to fight Pilate because he was attacking them (a clear distortion of the order of events).

Furthermore, the assembly of the Jews of Joshua below Mt Gerizim was not part of a military operation (see Joshua 8)

It was an army about to embark on a famous campaign of conquering the holy land (have you ever read the book of Joshua?).

Your attempts to deny the obvious here are just irrational on every count.

Richard Carrier said...

Note to all: I am soon retiring my blogger account and thus locking all posts, so no further comments can be made. I will announce my new blog location later this week. Anyone who wants to continue discussions unfinished here will have the opportunity to initiate them anew after my inaugural post. But you will have to wait out the delay as I close out this account and get the other up and running. I apologize for the inconvenience.