bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 13

I have taken a quick look at the L-source passages in Luke, and my conclusion is that the L source does represent Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person. So, Bart Ehrman is clearly the winner of the first round. But there are several more rounds to go before I will have enough facts and data to make a reasonable general conclusion about whether and to what extent the sources of the canonical gospels support the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH), and then after that we need to look at the non-canonical evidence that Ehrman points out.
Recall that Ehrman does not explicitly specify that Jesus was portrayed as a flesh-and-blood person in the gospels and their sources. However, I take it that being a flesh-and-blood person is part of what he (and others) means by saying that Jesus was an historical person or that Jesus existed.
So, Jesus being a flesh-and-blood person is a part of Ehrman’s thesis, and since Mark, Q, L, and (to some degree) M represent Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, this aspect of Ehrman’s view is supported by the facts. What really will determine the success or failure of his Seven Gospels Argument (SGA), however, is whether these various sources agree on most or all of the basic aspects of the life and death of Jesus, as specified in MJH.
Here is my assessment of the L-source passages:
14 passages are NOT RELEVANT to the question of whether Jesus was represented as a physical person
9 passages provide SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT for the view that Jesus was represented as a physical person
3 passages provide WEAK SUPPORT for the view that Jesus was represented as a physical person

The following nine passages are the ones that I think provide significant support for the view that Jesus was represented in the L-source as a flesh-and-blood person:
Luke 7:11b-15 Jesus raises son of widow in Nain
Luke 7:36-47 A sinful woman forgiven
Luke 10:39-42 Mary and Martha dispute
Luke 13:10-17b Healing on the Sabbath
Luke 13:31b-32 Warning about Herod
Luke 14:2-5 Healing on the Sabbath
Luke 16:19-31 Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (“even if someone rises from the dead.”)
Luke 17:12-18 Ten Lepers healed
Luke 19:2-10 Zacchaeus repents

The following three passages are the ones I think provide some weak support for the view that Jesus was represented in the L-source as a flesh-and-blood person:
Luke 10:30-37a Parable of the Good Samaritan
Luke 13:1b-5 Repent or perish (discussing current events “He [Jesus] asked them…”)
Luke 14:8-10 & 14:12-14 Parable of choice of place at table (“He [Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him…”)

Ehrman wins the first round. Now on to round two.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 12

Back in Part 10, I took a look at Mark and (in the Comments section) Q, and determined that they both represent Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person. Now I’m looking into the M-source, the unique material used by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, to see whether M also represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person.
One problem with M, at least in terms of the material that G.D. Kilpatrick concluded was from M (in Origins of the Gospel of St. Matthew, 1946), is that it does not include narratives, only sayings and parables of Jesus. So, we would not expect to find as much clear evidence for Jesus being a flesh-and-blood person in M as we found in Mark or Q.
For one thing, an angel or a spirit could, in theory, say anything it wanted to say. So, the words coming from Jesus cannot provide conclusive evidence for his being (or being represented as being) a flesh-and-blood person.
However, if Jesus were represented as saying “I have a physical body, and can feel pain, and I can be injured or killed.” this would be very strong evidence that Jesus was being represented as a flesh-and-blood person, because believers in Jesus would assume Jesus to be honest and truthful, so they would not view these words as an attempt by Jesus to deceive others into believing he had a physical body when he was actually a spirit or an angel.
But since Jesus is generally represented as teaching, or at least discussing, religious beliefs and moral values, there is no reason to expect that he would make such claims about himself, or that he would claim to be a physical person.
Furthermore, if Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person, that would be a fairly obvious fact for the people who were his disciples and the people who came to listen to him speak. There would be no point in Jesus saying “I have a physical body” when the people listening to him could see his body with their own eyes, when they could hear his voice, and touch his arm, and see him eating food.
The expectation that M would probably not provide clear evidence of Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person is what in fact turns out to be the case, as far as I can tell from a quick review of the passages in Matthew that come from M.
Three passages provide some significant support for Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person, and one passage provides significant evidence against Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person. Four passages provide some weak support for the view that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person. Most passages from M seem to me to provide no relevant evidence for or against M representing Jesus as having a physical body.
I found one passage from M that provides significant evidence against the idea that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person:
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20, NRSV)
Jesus had followers in many different towns and cities in Palestine, so this passage suggests that Jesus was either able to be in many places at the same time, or else that he was able to travel long distances in the blink of an eye. Either way, this stongly suggests that Jesus was a spirit or an angel, and NOT a flesh-and-blood human being.
Of course, this saying can be fit in with the belief in a flesh-and-blood Jesus. Christians believed that Jesus died and rose from the dead (at least by the time the Gospel of Mark and the early letters of Paul were written). So, such a saying could have been attributed to the risen Jesus, who had obtained a ‘glorified’ body, which could have been thought of as being radically different than an ordinary physical body, having special supernatural powers and properties.
In other words, given the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus, a Christian could hold that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person prior to his resurrection, and that after the resurrection Jesus had an extraordinary supernatural body that is radically different from a typical human body.
So, although this one verse clearly points to the idea of a Jesus who was NOT a flesh-and-blood person, it is possible to fit this passage into a larger framework in which Jesus is represented as having been a flesh-and-blood person during his ministry in Palestine, up until his death and resurrection.
One more consideration is that this alleged M passage might not be from M. The scholars from the Jesus Seminar comment on this passage:
“Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name” has rabbinic parallels and was probably a standard feature of Judean piety. Since it was a part of common lore, Jesus cannot be designated as its author.
(The Five Gospels by Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar, p.217)
A similar comment appears in another scholarly commentary on Matthew:
Just as contemporary Judaism handed on sayings to the effect that wherever two or three discuss words of Torah [OT Law] they are attended by the divine presence, so also Matthew’s church proclaims that when it gathers in Jesus’ name, Christ himself is present.
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, p.379, “The Gospel of Matthew”- commentary by M. Eugene Boring)
If this idea was part of common lore, then Matthew and/or some people in his Christian community were probably aware of this idea and so that awareness could have been the source of this passage, rather than a written M source. This is a plausible alternative explanation for the origin of this particular passage, so this raises significant doubt about the assumption that Matthew 18:20 was based on the M source.
There are three passages that I think provide some significant support for the view that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person (assuming these passages were taken from the M source):
[Jesus responds to criticism from some Pharisees:] “Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
(Matthew 12:5-7, NRSV)
Then he [Jesus] left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! …”
(Matthew 13:36-43, NRSV)
Then the disciples approached and said to him [Jesus], “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He [Jesus] answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.”
(Matthew 15:12-13, NRSV)
There is, however, a significant problem with these passages. There is good reason to doubt that these three passages are actually from M.
The commentary on Matthew 12:5-7 in The New Interpreter’s Bible suggests that the author of Matthew created this passage, with a bit of inspiration from Q for verse 6:
In rabbinic debate, a point of law (Halaka) could not be established on the basis of a story (Haggadah), but required a clear statement of principle from the Torah. Matthew, conditioned by this rabbinic context, adds an example from Num 28:9-10…. Since the priests sacrifice according to the Law on the sabbath, sacrifice is greater than the sabbath. But mercy is greater than sacrifice, as the divine declaration makes clear (Hos 6:6 again….), so mercy is greater than the sabbath.
The declaration that “something” greater than the Temple is here is Matthew’s adoption of a Q formula (cf. 12:41-42)…

(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.278)
If the author of Matthew is the creator of this passage (with some inspiration from Q), then this passage was not based on the M source.
The same commentary provides reasons for doubting that Matthew 13:36-43 came from the M source:
Since the language, style, and theology of this interpretation are thoroughly Matthean, most scholars regard it as his own composition, even if (an earlier form of) the parable of the weeds may derive from Jesus himself.
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.310)
Finally, the same commentary casts doubt on the view that Matthew 15:12-13 came from the M source:
The scene changes again, and the disciples become the only addressees. Into the Markan story Matthew inserts vv. 12-14, mostly composed by him (with a Q point of contact; cf. Luke 6:39).
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.333)
So, the passages that provide the clearest evidence that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, might well not be from the M source. Since there is significant doubt that these three passages are from M, I won’t bother to go into the reasons why I interpret these passages as representing Jesus as having a physical body.
============
UPDATE
The four M source passages that I believe provide some weak support for the view that M represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person are:
Matthew 5:27-28 refrain from lust
Matthew 5:38-41 endure pain and discomfort for the sake of others
Matthew 19:10-12 castration and celibacy as a way to be devout
Matthew 25:34-45 feed the hungry, give drink to thirsty, clothing to the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners

Although a spririt or angel could give such advice and commands, Jesus would seem more sincere and more authoratative in giving such bodily-oriented advice and commands if he himself had a physical body. Also, the fact that he frequently deals with physical desires and needs suggests that he has experience with these things.
Three M passages clearly indicate that Jesus had a body, and four passages provide additional but weak support for the view that M represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, whereas only one passage clearly indicates that Jesus did not have a body.
Although there is doubt about each of the three passages that clearly indicate a physical Jesus, doubt that they are actually from the M source, there is a significant chance that at least one of the three passages was from the M source. So, the combination of the three passages provides some added support to the four less clear passages.
I conclude that the M source leans in the direction of representing Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, though this is less clear than in the case of Mark and Q.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 11

I will now take a brief break from answering the 44 questions about Mark, Q, M, and L.
For your reading enjoyment, I bring you John Crossan’s brief defense of the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus:
Jesus’ death by execution under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For, if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion, we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavious Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus…. We have, in other words, not just Christian witnesses but one major Jewish and one major pagan historian who both agree on three points concerning Jesus: there was a movement, there was an execution because of that movement, but, despite that exectution, there was a continuation of the movement.
(Who Killed Jesus?, p.5)
According to Crossan, the execution of Jesus was an actual historical event, and we can know this with a great deal of confidence, because of the corroboration of two ancient non-Christian sources concerning the execution: Josephus and Tacitus.
I think Crossan needs to read Bart Ehrman’s defense of the existence of Jesus in Did Jesus Exist?, because it might lead Crossan to reduce his confidence in the historicity of “Jesus’ death by execution under Pontius Pilate”:
As a result, even though both the mythicists and their opponents like to fight long and hard over the Testimonium of Josephus, in fact it is only marginally relevant to the question of whether Jesus existed. (DJE, p.66)
The Testimonium is a key passage in Josephus work Antiquities that mentions Jesus and says that Pilate condemned Jesus to the cross.
Ehrman explains why he does not think the Testimonium evidence carries much weight:
Suppose Josephus really did write the Testimonium. That would show that by 93 CE–some sixty or more years after the traditional date of Jesus’ death–a Jewish historian of Palestine had some information about him. And where would Josephus have derived this information? He would have heard stories about Jesus that were in circulation. There is nothing to suggest that Josephus had actually read the Gospels (he almost certainly had not) or that he did any kind of primary research into the life of Jesus by examining Roman records of some kind (there weren’t any). But as we will see later, we already know for lots of other reasons and on lots of other grounds that there were stories about Jesus floating around in Palestine by the end of the first century and much earlier. So even if the Testimonium, in the pared-down form, was written by Josephus, it does not give us much more evidence than we already have on the question of whether there really was a man Jesus.
(DJE, p.65)
If we cannot rely upon the Josephus passages to provide significant evidence for the existence of Jesus, then we also cannot rely upon those passages to provide significant evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Ehrman also is unimpressed by the evidence for Jesus in the writings of Tacitus:
…the information is not particularly helpful in establishing that there really lived a man named Jesus. How would Tacitus know what he knew? It is pretty obvious that he had heard of Jesus, but he was writing some eighty-five years after Jesus would have died, and by that time Christians were certainly telling stories of Jesus (the Gospels had been written already, for example), whether the mythicists are wrong or right. It should be clear in any event that Tacitus is basing his comment about Jesus on hearsay rather than, say, detailed historical research. Had he done serious research, one might have expected him to say more, if even just a bit. But even more to the point, brief though his comment is, Tacitus is precisely wrong in one thing he says. He calls Pilate the “procurator” of Judea. We now know from the inscription discovered in 1961 in Caesarea that as governor, Pilate had the title and rank, not of procurator (one who dealt principally with revenue collection), but of prefect (one who also had military forces at his command). This must show that Tacitus did not look up any official record of what happened to Jesus, written at the time of his execution (if in fact such a record ever existed, which is highly doubtful). He therefore heard the information. Whether he heard it from Christians or someone else is anyone’s guess.
(DJE, p.55-56)
It would be rather ironic if Crossan were to read Ehrman’s case for the existence of Jesus, and as a result begin having some serious doubts about the existence of Jesus.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 10

In my previous post on this topic, I argued that we need to answer 44 specific questions in order to come up with fact-based initial evaluation of Bart Ehrman’s Seven Gospels Argument (SGA).
The first question is whether Mark (one of the seven sources that Ehrman points us to) confirms the following attribute claim:
A1. Yeshu’a was a flesh-and-blood person.
Because Mark is the most extensive source of the seven, one would expect that Mark would confirm all or nearly all of the eleven attribute claims involved in the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH).
In the case of attribute claim (A1), Mark has an abundance of verses that confirm this claim.
There are explicit references to Jesus’ body in Mark
14:8 “…she has anointed my [Jesus’] body beforehand for its burial.”
14:22 “Take; this is my [Jesus’] body.”
15:43 “Joseph of Arimathea…went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”
15:46 “taking down the body [of Jesus], wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb.”
15:47 “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body [of Jesus] was laid.”
Jesus had a mother, brothers, and sisters (implying that he was born into a family)
3:30-32 “A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him [Jesus], ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ “
6:2-4 “They said, ‘Where did this man [Jesus] get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? … Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’”
Jesus got hungry
11:12 “he [Jesus] was hungry.”
Jesus produced saliva
7:32-35 “he [Jesus] spat…”
8:23 “when he [Jesus] had put saliva on his [the blind man’s] eyes and laid his [Jesus’] hands on him…”
Jesus ate food
2:16 “he [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors.”
14:14 “where I [Jesus] might eat the Passover with my disciples?”
Jesus drank liquid
14:25 “I [Jesus] will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day…”
15:36 “and gave it to him [Jesus] to drink…”
Jesus walked
2:14 “As he [Jesus] was walking along…”
10:32 “and Jesus was walking ahead of them…”
11:27 “as he [Jesus] was walking in the Temple…”
Jesus sat down
2:15 “As he [Jesus] sat at dinner…”
4:1 “he [Jesus] got into a boat on the sea and sat there..”
9:35 “He [Jesus] sat down…”
11:7 “he [Jesus] sat on it [the colt].”
14:3 “as he [Jesus] sat at the table…”
Jesus went to sleep
4:37-38 “he [Jesus] was in the stern [of the boat] asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up…”
Jesus had arms
9:36 “taking it [a little child] in his [Jesus’] arms, he said…”
10:16 “he [Jesus] took them up into his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”
Jesus had hands
1:41 “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him…”
5:23 “Come lay your [Jesus’] hands on her, so that she may be made well…”
6:5 “he [Jesus] laid his hands on a few sick people…”
8:23 “when he [Jesus] had put saliva on his [the blind man’s] eyes and laid his [Jesus’] hands on him…”
10:16 “he [Jesus] took them up into his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”
Jesus had fingers
7:33 “he [Jesus] put his [Jesus’] fingers into his [the deaf man’s] ears.”
Jesus had feet
5:22 “when he [Jairus] saw him [Jesus], fell at his [Jesus’] feet…”
7:25 “she came and bowed down at his [Jesus’] feet.”
Jesus had a head
14:3 “she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his [Jesus’] head.”
15:19 “They struck his [Jesus’] head with a reed…”
Jesus was subject to being beaten and flogged
14:65 “to blindfold him [Jesus], to strike him…The guards took him over and beat him.”
15:15 “after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.”
Jesus was subject to being crucified and killed
8:31 (& 9:31) Jesus predicted that the ‘Son of Man’ would be killed.
10:32-34 “they will mock him [the Son of Man], and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him…”
15:15 “after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.”
15:24 “And they crucified him…”
15:37 “Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.”
As you can see there are many factual details associated with just this one question out of the 44 questions. This is, hopefully, because Mark is the most extensive source of the seven, and there will be fewer relevant details when we examine Q, and presumably even fewer details when we look at M and L.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 9

The current version of the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH) has five parts:
=======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1A. named Yeshu’a, and
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, and
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E., and
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and
5B. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 28 and 33 C.E.).
========================

MJH can be re-stated in terms of a list of attributes of Yeshu’a:
A1. Yeshu’a was a flesh-and-blood person.
A2. Yeshu’a was an adherent of Judaism.
A3. Yeshu’a was a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
A4. Yeshu’a lived in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s CE.
A5. Yeshu’a was know to be a preacher of religious beliefs.
A6. Yeshu’a was known to be a preacher of moral values.
A7. Yeshu’a was known to be a teacher of religious beliefs.
A8. Yeshu’a was known to be a teacher of moral values.
A9. Yeshu’a was crucified in Jerusalem.
A10. Yeshu’a was crucified by the Romans.
A11. Yeshu’a was crucified around 30 CE (between 28 CE and 33 CE)

These are the specific claims that should be confirmed by multiple early and independent historical sources in order for MJH to be considered to be verified or highly probable.
Ehrman’s Seven Gospels Argument (SGA) is based upon some principles of historical investigation. Here is a summary by Ehrman of the key principles:
In short, if a historian were drawing up a wish list of sources for an ancient person, she would want a large number of sources that derive from near the time of the person they discuss; that are extensive in what they have to say about that person; that are disinterested, to some extent, in what they say; and that corroborate one another’s accounts without having collaborated.
(DJE, p.42)
According to Ehrman these criteria are satisfied by the Gospel evidence for Jesus:
But if we restrict ourselves here, as we did earlier, to a hundred years after the traditional date of Jesus’ death, we have at least seven independent accounts [about Jesus], some of them quite extensive.
(DJE, p.78)
The claim that these seven accounts provide ‘independent’ evidence for MJH means that the seven accounts “corroborate one another’s accounts without having collaborated.”
I’m more familiar with the canonical Gospels, so let’s start our evaluation of Ehrman’s claims in relation to the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Ehrman argues briefly for the independence of the Gospel of John from the other three canonical Gospels (see DJE, p.76). I think, however, that this is a controversial issue among NT scholars. I’m going to do a bit of reading up on this question before passing judgment on Ehrman’s claim about the independence of John from the synoptics, so I will set this claim aside for now and return to it in a future post.
Matthew and Luke are clearly and obviously NOT independent from the Gospel of Mark, since it is clear that Matthew and Luke used Mark as one of their main sources of information about Jesus. Ehrman acknowledges this:
It is almost (but not quite) universally thought among New Testament scholars that both Matthew and Luke had access to the Gospel of Mark and used it for many of their stories of Jesus.
(DJE, p.75)
Ehrman emphasizes the fact that Matthew and Luke drew upon multiple sources in composing their Gospels. So, it appears that Ehrman’s claim about ‘independent accounts’ should be understood to be not about Matthew and Luke being independent from Mark, but about the various sources used by Matthew and Luke being independent from each other:
Matthew and Luke did indeed use Mark, but significant portions of both Gospels are not related in any way to Mark’s accounts. And in these sections of their Gospels Matthew and Luke record extensive, independent traditions about Jesus’s life, teachings, and death.
(DJE, p.75)
In the three synoptic Gospels, Ehrman points to at least four different sources, which he claims are independent of each other:
When dealing only with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic Gospels, then, we are talking not just about three books written late in the first century. We are talking about at least four sources: Mark, Q, M, and L, the latter two of which could easily have represented several, or even many, other written sources.
(DJE, p.81)
I believe that most NT scholars would agree with this view about the sources used by Matthew and Luke, and that these sources are independent of each other. So, that is my initial position. I’m open to arguments and objections against this view of the synoptic Gospels, but the burden of proof rests on those who reject this viewpoint, as far as I am concened.
So, I think Ehrman has the makings of a good argument for MJH. If these four sources each confirm all (or most) of the eleven specific claims about the attributes of Yeshu’a, then his argument will be off to a good start.
The problem, however, is that Ehrman’s presentation of SGA is relatively fact free. He is short on details, but as a skeptic I believe that the devil is (often) in the details. The facts and data, in this case, should drive our evaluation of the strength or weakness of SGA.
What we need is a matrix that shows the four key sources as rows, and the eleven key claims as columns, and check marks (or some sort of evaluative terms: GOOD, FAIR, POOR) to indicate whether a source confirms a particular attribute claim:

So, in order to do an initial evaluation of the evidence from the synoptic Gospels (three out of the seven Gospels put forward by Ehrman), we need to answer 44 questions and fill in the above MJH-Source Matrix chart.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 8

In Did Jesus Exist?(hereafter: DJE) Bart Ehrman argues for something like the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH), which I have clarified and tweaked a bit to get to this formulation:
=======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1A. named Yeshu’a, and
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, and
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E., and
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and
5B. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 28 and 33 C.E.).
========================
I don’t claim that this formulation of MJH successfully gets around the ‘triviality’ objection, the objection that this claim has a significant likelihood of being true even if the Gospels are complete fiction (because in first century Palestine there were lots of Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’, and lots of Jewish males who were crucified by the Romans, and lots of Jewish males who were preachers and teachers of religious beliefs and moral values).
It might be necessary to add some further details of time, place, events, or names to MJH in order to avoid the ‘triviality’ objection. But the above version of MJH is somewhat more specific than what Ehrman states, and I don’t want to revise MJH so much that it no longer reflects Ehrman’s viewpoint.
So, I’m going to proceed with looking into Ehrman’s case for MJH (as it stands), starting with Chapter 3 of DJE:
We are not dealing with just one Gospel that reports what Jesus said and did from sometime near the end of the first century. We have a number of surviving Gospels–I named seven–that are either completely independent of one another or independent in a large number of their traditions. These all attest to the existence of Jesus. Moreover, these independent witnesses corroborate many of the same basic sets of data–for example, that Jesus not only lived but that he was a Jewish teacher who was crucified by the Romans at the instigation of Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.
(DJE, p.92)
The seven Gospels that Ehrman uses as evidence for MJH are:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
AND
Thomas, Peter, and Papyrus Egerton 2

(see MJH, p.74-77)
So, Ehrman points to the four canonical Gospels as well as three Gospels that are not part of the New Testament.
I have one initial comment on the above summary of Ehrman’s Seven Gospels Argument (SGA); Ehrman appears to be confused about his conclusion. First, he makes the claim that the seven Gospels “all attest to the existence of Jesus”. Next, he makes what appears to be a different and additional claim: “Moreover, these independent witnesses corroborate many of the same basic sets of data–for example that Jesus not only lived but that he was a Jewish teacher who was crucified by the Romans…”
But wait a minute. What does it mean to attest to “the existence of Jesus” or to the fact that “Jesus…lived”? If I understand Ehrman correctly, to attest to “the existence of Jesus” means to attest to MJH. What this does NOT mean is that the Gospels attest merely to the trivial claim that there was a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who lived in Palestine in the first century. This latter claim we know to be true, even if all seven of the Gospels that Ehrman points us to are complete fiction. There were about 17,000 Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ who lived in first century Palestine (at any given point in that century).
But in order to attest to MJH, these Gospels must attest to the various necessary conditions that make up MJH, such as that the Yeshu’a in question “was a Jewish teacher who was crucified by the Romans”. Attesting to the various attributes or conditions that make up MJH is precisely what is required in order to attest to “the existence of Jesus” or to the fact that “Jesus…lived”.
So, Ehrman is confused in making it seem as though there were two separate conclusions at issue here. In order to provide evidence for “the existence of Jesus” the seven Gospels MUST each provide independent evidence supporting MJH, that is to say they MUST “corroborate many of the same basic sets of data” such as that there was a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who was “a Jewish teacher who was crucified by the Romans”. There is no such thing as showing “the existence of Jesus” apart from showing the existence of a Jewish male who had various specific attributes, i.e. the attributes specified in MJH.
If one Gospel provides evidence for a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who was crucified by the Romans around 30 CE, but does not provide evidence for this person being a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and if another Gospel provides evidence for a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who was a teacher and preacher of religious beliefs and moral values, but does not provide evidence for this person being crucified by the Romans around 30 CE, then this sort of evidence will be weak and problematic. How do we know that these two Gospels are about just one person, as opposed to being about two different persons who both happen to have the name ‘Yeshu’a’ (which was a very common name in first century Palestine)?
The existence of Jesus can no more be separated from MJH than the existence of God can be separated from a the existence of a person who has various divine attributes (omniscience, omnipotence, perfect freedom, etc.). It makes no sense to say “I have provided evidence for the existence of God, and I have also provided evidence for the existence of a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free.” If one has NOT provided evidence for the existence of a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, then one has NOT provided evidence for the existence of God.
Similarly, if one has NOT provided evidence for the existence of a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who was a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values AND who was crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem between 28 CE and 33 CE AND who was living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s CE, then one has NOT provided evidence for the existence of Jesus.
‘God’ is a proper name. ‘Jesus’ is a proper name. We can specify the meaning of a name by means of a definite description, and that seems to be the best way to clarify the meaning of the proper name ‘God’. Similarly, we can specify the meaning of the proper name ‘Jesus’ by means of a definite description, and that seems to be the best way to clarify the meaning of this word. Once the meaning of ‘Jesus’ is clarified by means of a definite description (which is what MJH is, or is supposed to be), then the question of whether such a person exists (or did exist) should be understood in terms of that definite description, in terms of the list of attributes or characteristics that are used to identify the person to whom the name belongs.
Since MJH is how we have clarified the meaning of the proper name ‘Jesus’ evidence for the existence of Jesus must now be in terms of the various attributes or characteristics that are spelled out in MJH.
The logical error that I’m anticipating about the case for the existence of Jesus, has actually already been manifested in the case for the existence of God. Although the proper name ‘God’ is generally understood in terms of a definite description along the lines of ‘a person who is eternally omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly free, and perfectly good, and who is creator of the universe and who creates moral obligations for humans’, the traditional arguments for the existence of God do not attempt to show the existence of a being who possesses all of these divine attributes.
One argument is used to try to prove that there is a creator of the universe, another argument is used to try to prove the existence of a moral law giver, another argument is used to try to show the existence of an eternal being, and so on. But even if each of these arguments were sound, there is no particular reason to believe that the ‘creator’ is the same being as the ‘moral law giver’ or the ‘necessary being’. Proving the existence of a creator is NOT the same thing a proving the existence of God. Proving the existence of a ‘moral law giver’ is NOT the same thing as proving the existence of God.
The same problem could well crop up in relation to arguments about the existence of Jesus. Proving the existence of a Jewish male named ‘Yeshu’a’ who was crucified by the Romans about 30 CE is NOT the same as proving the existence of Jesus. Proving the existence of a Jewish male nameed ‘Yeshu’a” who was a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values in first century Palestine is NOT the same as proving the existence of Jesus.
One must show that there is good reason to believe that there was a Jewish male who had BOTH of these attributes and a few others as well. Because there were about 17,000 Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ in first century Palestine, it is quite possible that there was one such man who was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans about 30 CE, and another such man who was a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values who was an adult who was living in Palestine in the 20s CE, and that these were two different men.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 7

For the following discussion of the chronology of Jesus’ ministry, I’m drawing upon the evidence and reasoning and conclusions presented by John P. Meier in his book A Marginal Jew, Volume 1: The Roots of the Problem and the Person, Chapter 11 “‘In the Fifteenth Year’…A Chronology of Jesus’ Life” (hereafter: AMJv1).
Jesus was crucified sometime during the rule of Pilate over Judea:
The Four Gospels (and various streams of earlier traditions within them), the Acts of the Apostles, Josephus, and Tacitus all agree that Jesus was put to death during the rule of Pilate, the governor of Judea.
(AMJv1, p.373)
Pilate’s rule over Judea was from 26 CE to 36 CE:
Thanks to Josephus, with supplementary information supplied by Philo, Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, and Eusebius, we can calculate that Pilate held his office from A.D. 26 to 36 (or very early in 37).
(AMJv1, p.373)
Mainstream NT scholars are unanimous, or nearly unanimous, in accepting the claim that Jesus was crucified between 26 CE and 36 CE.
Jesus’ ministry lasted at least one year (based on the characterization of his ministry in the Synoptic Gospels), and may have lasted up to three years (based on the characterization of his ministry in the Gospel of John) (see AMJv1, p.375). So, we start out with 11 possible years in which the crucifixion could have occurred, and with three different possible durations for Jesus’ ministry (1 year, 2 years, or 3 years). That gives us 11 x 3 = 33 different possibilities for the dating of Jesus’ ministry:
25-26 CE……….24-26 CE……….23-26 CE
26-27 CE……….25-27 CE……….24-27 CE
27-28 CE……….26-28 CE……….25-28 CE
28-29 CE……….27-29 CE……….26-29 CE
29-30 CE……….28-30 CE……….27-30 CE
30-31 CE……….29-31 CE……….28-31 CE
31-32 CE……….30-32 CE……….29-32 CE
32-33 CE……….31-33 CE……….30-33 CE
33-34 CE……….32-34 CE……….31-34 CE
34-35 CE……….33-35 CE……….32-35 CE
35-36 CE……….34-36 CE……….33-36 CE
Again, such a range of dates would allow for unanimous or nearly unanimous acceptance by NT scholars. However, this broad range of dates also pushes the MJH in the direction of triviality. Recall that at any given point in time there were about 17,000 (give or take 3,500) Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ living in Palestine during the first century. So, if we leave open all 33 differnt possible datings for the ministry of Jesus, we increase the already significant likelihood that there was a Jesus (Yeshu’a) who had a teaching and preaching ministry and who was crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem in one of those years even though the Gospels are all complete works of fiction. In order to avoid the charge of triviality, MJH needs to be narrow enough and specific enough to make it unlikely that its conditions would be satisfied merely by chance.
To avoid the charge of triviality, it would be best if we could narrow down the date of Jesus’ crucifixion to a specific year. However, identifying a specific year of the crucifixion would then push us to the opposite extreme, making MJH controversial and making it so that there would be no reasonable chance of being able to prove that MJH was true (or highly probable). Thus, if possible, we need to steer a middle course between the proverbial rock and hard place, and identify a range of dates for the crucifixion that is narrower than the 11 year spread of Pilate’s rule, but a range wide enough to remain relatively uncontroversial and potentially provable.
According to Meier, we can eliminate the later years of Pilate’s rule:
Moreover, we can be fairly certain that Jesus was not executed at the very end of Pilate’s tenure. Data from Paul’s epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, plus such extrabiblical evidence as the Delphi inscription mentioning Gallio as proconsul of Achaia (cf. Acts 18:12-17), help determine that Paul’s arrival in Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1) must have occurred around A.D 49-51. When we consider all the events that had to take place in early Church history between the death of Jesus and Paul’s arrival in Corinth ca. A.S. 50 (e.g., the spread of Christianity in Palestine, the persecution and scattering of the Hellenists, the founding of the church at Antioch, the conversion of Paul and his years of seclusion and activity before he joined the church at Antioch, his first missionary journey and the so-called “Council of Jerusalem”), it is almost impossible to place Jesus’ excecution as late as A.D. 36. It must be pushed back at least a few years in Pilate’s governorship.
(AMJv1, p.373)
Furthermore, based on some chronological information from Chapter 3 of Luke, Meier argues that we can also eliminate the possibility of the crucifixion occuring in the early years of Pilate’s rule:
The mention of Pilate [in luke 3:1-2] places the beginning of John’s ministry [John the Baptist] within the decade of A.D. 26-36 and indicates that Jesus’ ministry began after Pilate had already taken up his office as governor of Judea.
(AMJv1, p.374)
If we allow for about one year for the ministry of John the Baptist prior to Jesus’ starting his ministry, and given that Jesus’ ministry was at least one year in duration, the earliest possible date for the crucifixion would be 28 CE:
Therefore, even from a very superficial, initial survey of the data, a time somewhere between 28 and 33 seems the most likely date for Jesus’ death, with a ministry of roughly one to three years proceding it.
(AMJv1, p.375)
E.P. Sanders arrives at a very similar range of dates for the crucifixion for the same reasons:
Taking into account Luke’s dating of the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, the period of Pilate’s administration and the evidence derived from the chronology of Paul, most scholars have been content to say that Jesus was executed sometime between 29 and 33 CE.
(The Historical Jesus, “Appendix I: Chronology”, p.283)
John Meier goes on to argue for a specific date for the crucifixion of Jesus, but as I said above, to specify a particular year for the crucifixion would make MJH controversial. So, I propose that we not specify a particular year, but instead narrow the range of years a bit to between 28 CE and 33 CE. I believe that most NT scholars would accept this range of dates as being correct or highly probable, and Meier has provided a strong case for this range of dates, so I’m going to modify MJH to specify that range of dates for the crucifixion of Jesus, and narrow the range of dates for his ministry to 6 x 3 = 18 possibilities:
27-28 CE……….26-28 CE……….25-28 CE
28-29 CE……….27-29 CE……….26-29 CE
29-30 CE……….28-30 CE……….27-30 CE
30-31 CE……….29-31 CE……….28-31 CE
31-32 CE……….30-32 CE……….29-32 CE
32-33 CE……….31-33 CE……….30-33 CE

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 6

Here is my clarified version of the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH):
=======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1A. named Yeshu’a, and
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, and
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E., and
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and
5A. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 26 and 36 C.E.).
========================
A reasonable challenge to this version of MJH is that the specification that Jesus was in his twenties and/or thirties in the 20s CE is an assumption that is not adequately justified. It is not necessary to prove this claim, since the point is to (at some point) critically evaluate whether or not MJH is true or probably true. But claims about chronology or the age of Jesus need to be well-supported and uncontroversial from the point of view of mainstream NT scholarship to be included in MJH.
Although MJH is supposed to reflect a key claim put forward by Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist?, I’m clarifying and tweaking his claim a bit, in order to give it the best chance of success.
Two extremes need to be avoided. First, we don’t want to make MJH so detailed and so strong that it would be controversial among NT scholars. We want MJH to be a MINIMAL hypothesis; one that most NT scholars would accept and support with a significant degree of confidence, and one that has a reasonable chance of being provable.
Second, we don’t want to make MJH so broad and so weak that it makes a trivial claim; a claim that is clearly true or higly probable, but that has little significance for the question of the historicity of Jesus. The general claim that “a Jewish man named ‘Jesus’ (or ‘Yeshu’a’) was crucified in Palestine in the first century” could be appropriately called the Weak Jesus Hypothesis (WJH).
WJH is true or at least highly probable, but trivial. Many Jewish men were crucified in Palestine in the first century, and ‘Yeshu’a’ was a very common name for Jewish males in Palestine at that time:
All of the names on these ossuaries were extremely common names among Jews in Palestine at this period. We have a great deal evidence about this (the data is collected in the enormously useful reference book: Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, part 1 [Mohr-Siebeck, 2002], and also analysed in chapter 4 of my recent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses [Eerdmans, 2006]). We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women, excluding fictional characters). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph (including Yose, the abbreviated form) was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew (in several forms) was borne by 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme). (My figures differ very slightly from Ilan’s because I differ from a few of her judgments for technical reasons, but the difference is insignificant for present purposes.)
from a blog post by by Richard Bauckham (viewed 6/16/13):
http://www.christilling.de/blog/2007/03/guest-post-by-richard-bauckham.html
There were about one million Jews living in Palestine in the first century at a given point in time (a ballpark estimate). About half of those Jews were male. So, at any given point in time in the first century there were aproximately 500,000 Jewish males living in Palestine, because about half of the Jewish population was male. Since this is a ballpark estimate, let’s increase the probability of our correctness by using a range instead of a single number: between 400,000 and 600,000 Jewish males.
Since 3.4% of Jewish males were named ‘Yeshu’a’ (on average), we can calculate that the number of Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a” who were living in Palestine at any given point during the first century would be between 400,000 x .034 and 600,000 x .034 or between 13,600 and 20,400. In rounder numbers, there would have been about 17,000 (give or take 3,500) Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ living in Palestine at any given point in time during the first century. It is almost certain that one or more of those 17,000 (or so) Jewish males died as a result of crucifixion, even if the NT Gospels are complete fiction.
And this number only represents a particular time slice. Each month more Jewish boys would be born in Palestine, and some of them would be named ‘Yeshu’a’ adding more people to the existing collection of Jewish males with that name, and each month some of the Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ living in Palestine would die, grow old (beyond an age appropriate for the historical Jesus), or move away from Palestine. So, over the course of several decades, thousands of Jewish males named ‘Yeshu’a’ would come and go, increasing still further the probability that one or more of them would be crucified.
So, if it is possible to narrow the scope of people who would satisfy the requirements/conditions layed out in MJH, then that will help to avoid the problem of triviality just illustrated in terms of WJH. One way to do this is by narrowing the range of dates for the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus, and the range of the age of Jesus when he was crucified or at the start of his ministry. But we also need to do this without making clearly questionable or controversial chronological claims about Jesus of Nazareth.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 5

In his book Did Jesus Exist? Bart Ehrman argues for something like the following Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH):
======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1. named ‘Jesus’, and
2. a Jewish man, and
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E., and
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher, and
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E., and
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

========================
1. named ‘Jesus’
As previously pointed out, the actual name would have been Joshua (in Aramaic):
1A. named Yeshu’a
2. a Jewish man
From my American Heritage Dictionary:
Jew n. 1. An adherent of Judaism. 2. A descendant of the Hebrew people.
Condition (2) is thus ambiguous. But presumably, both senses of the word are intended. This condition describes both the general religious viewpoint of Jesus and his ethnicity. Jesus was not a Hindu, nor a Zoroastrian, nor a worshipper of Greek or Roman deities. Jesus was not Chinese, nor African, nor East Indian:
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E.
This condition seems fairly straightforward. The phrase ‘as an adult’ is a bit vague. That could mean anywhere from 16 years old to 110 years old. Since Jesus is generally believed to have been about 33 years old when he was crucified, we could narrow the age range a bit by assuming that Jesus was between 30 and 36 years old in 30 CE (i.e. 33 years old plus-or-minus three years). So, we can say that Jesus was betweem 20 and 26 in 20 CE., and that Jesus would have been in his twenties or thirties in the 20s CE:
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E.
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher
This condition is also a bit vauge. A man who taught mathematics or who taught Greek philosophy or who taught others how to build boats would not fit our concept of Jesus. The word ‘preacher’ does imply speech with religious content, and thus is a bit less vague. But I think Ehrman has in mind the widely held assumption that Jesus was a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values:
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E.
This condition is straightforward and clear. The phrase ‘around 30 C.E.’ is a bit vague, so I would make a slight clarification/specification here:
5A. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 26 and 36 C.E.)
This puts the crucifixion of Jesus in the timeframe when Pilate was governor of Judea (26-36 C.E.)
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea
Given the above clarification of the date range for the crucixion of Jesus, condition (6) is largely redundant, since (6) is logically implied by (5) in conjuction with the generally accepted assumption that Pilate was governor of Judea from 26-36 C.E.
So, here is my clarified version of MJH:
=======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1A. named Yeshu’a, and
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, and
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E., and
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and
5A. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 26 and 36 C.E.).
========================

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 4

When Bart Ehrman asserts that “Jesus existed”, he is asserting something like the following Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH):
======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1. named ‘Jesus’, and
2. a Jewish man, and
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E., and
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher, and
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E., and
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

========================
There was a flesh-and-blood person
Ehrman does not specify that Jesus was a “flesh-and-blood person”, but I think that is what he has in mind when he asserts that “Jesus existed.” For one thing, a literal crucifixion of Jesus does not fit well with the idea of Jesus being a spirit.
Many Christians believe in the existence of angels and demons. Most Christians believe in the existence of souls. Virtually all Christians believe that God exists, and that God is a ‘spirit’, meaning that God is a person who does NOT have a body. Since Christians believe in the existence of persons who do not have bodies, it is theoretically possible, given such a metaphysical viewpoint, that “Jesus existed” but that “Jesus did NOT have a body” and thus that “Jesus was NOT a flesh-and-blood person”.
Given Christian metaphysics, it is theoretically possible that Jesus was an angel or a spirit who existed but had no physical body. Therefore, when a defender of the historicity of Jesus claims that “Jesus existed” this is a somewhat ambiguous claim. I think that most defenders of the historicity of Jesus have in mind the claim that there was a flesh-and-blood Jesus; they don’t have in mind the claim that there was an angel or spirit named ‘Jesus’ who appeared in Palestine in the past. So, if what is intended by Ehrman is the claim that there was a Jesus with a physical body, then that belief needs to be made clear and explicit.
This point is also important to me, because I’m intested in the logical relationship between the claim that “Jesus existed” and the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”. If “Jesus existed” (or “Jesus was an historical person”) implies that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person, then this claim is directly relevant to the the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”, at least if the resurrection claim is taken to be asserting a literal, physical resurrection.
In order for Jesus to literally rise from the dead, he must first literally die. And literal death requires that Jesus have a physical body, that Jesus be a flesh-and-blood person. So, because I’m interested in the resurrection claim, understood as asserting a literal, physical resurrection, I’m interested in the claim “Jesus existed” because this claim, understood as implying that Jesus was a ‘flesh-and-blood person’, is a necessary condition for the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”.
If, on the other hand, one interprets “Jesus existed” as including the possibility that Jesus was merely an angel or a spirit who never occupied a physical body, then the claim “Jesus existed” would NOT entail that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person who could die on a cross. If Jesus was merely a spirit and he never had a physical body, then “Jesus rose from the dead” would be a false claim, assuming that this claim is understood to refer to a literal, physical resurrection.
My interest in the resurrection issue influences my preferences here. So, I’m in favor of adding the qualification “flesh-and-blood person” not only because this is what I think Ehrman and other defenders of the historicity of Jesus have in mind, but also because this makes the claim “Jesus existed” of greater significance in relation to the claim “Jesus rose from the dead.”
1. named ‘Jesus’
Strictly speaking, Jesus was not named “Jesus” by his parents, nor was he called “Jesus” by his disciples. “Jesus” is an English word, and since the English language did not exist 2,000 years ago (Prehistoric Old English dates back to the 5th century C.E.), it is highly unlikely that Jesus’ parents used an English word as the name of their son!
The word “Jesus” derives from the Latin name Iesus. Latin is an older language than English, but Jesus probably did not speak Latin, nor his parents, nor his disciples. So, Jesus was not called Iesus by his parents or disciples.
The Latin name Iesus derives from the Greek name Iēsous (in Greek letters: Ἰησοῦς), the name used of Jesus in the Greek New Testament. Although it is possible that Jesus’ parents and some of his disciples could speak some Greek, they probably talked to each other in Aramaic not Greek, and thus whatever name Jesus was given, was presumably a name in Aramaic, not Greek.
The Greek name Iēsous (in Greek letters: Ἰησοῦς) is usually translated as “Jesus” in the Gospels, but the same Greek name is translated elsewhere in the NT as “Joshua” (Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8), and is translated “Joshua” in Luke 3:29.
Furthermore, the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint) uses the Greek name Iēsous ( Ἰησοῦς) to translate the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (in Hebrew: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ). In English versions of the OT the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ) is translated as “Joshua”. Thus, the Greek name Iēsous is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ).
But Jesus and his parents and his disciples probably did not speak Hebrew either. They probably only or primarily spoke Aramaic.
The Aramaic version of this Hebrew name is: Yeshu’a (יֵשׁוּעַ). Presumably, if Jesus was an actual historical person, the actual name that Mary and Joseph gave to their son was: Yeshu’a (יֵשׁוּעַ).
To be continued…