So, in my last three posts I’ve been talking about the question of whether Jesus died by crucifixion, or for some other reason:
That Jesus was killed by crucifixion is considered historical bedrock (whether by Pilate if you are a historicist, or by sky demons if you are a mythicist). I’ve tried to point out some problems with this reading. Just to wrap up, our oldest statement of Jesus’s death as a salvific event is:
- 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures 4 and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
As is obvious, this is not a bare historical claim, but a theological one. And we know the references. Christ’s death is being interpreted in the light of Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Deuteronomy 21:23 (as per Galatians 3:13). Christ’s 3 day burial and resurrection is being interpreted according to the sign of Jonah (as per Matthew).
And so, what we have with interpreters is special pleading. For instance, narrative elements obviously lifted from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are granted unhistorical, but the crucifixion is assumed historical and the fact that it fits perfectly with Deuteronomy 21:23 as a method (hung on a tree) and a content (becoming a curse – whether you interpret this as penal substitution or moral influence) is taken as coincidence. The same is true of the 3 day sign of Jonah, which is treated as a coincidence. In contrast, I would argue there are some major historiographical problems here.