CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Geza Vermes is one of the top scholars on the life of Jesus and perhaps the leading scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this book, he turns his attention to the resurrection of Jesus. Unfortunately, the book lacks depth and fails to grapple seriously with alternative scholarly perspectives. References to other works are few. There are no footnotes, though there are a few non-referenced endnotes. That is not to say that Vermes is not an accomplished scholar. He surely is and because of that I was interested in his conclusions. But the conclusions of even a respected scholar cannot be divorced from his reasoning and interaction with other scholarship.

Vermes covers the usual bases, albeit briefly. He discusses the development of resurrection belief in early Judaism, the interim period, and then during Jesus’ time, including the New Testament. Few of his conclusions are beyond the pale, but time and again Vermes reaches them with little discussion and almost no interaction with other scholarship. For example, Vermes seems dismissive of Ezekiel 37:5-6’s vivid description of the valley of dry bones, thinking it mainly as a metaphor for national restoration that inspired later “creators of the new concept of bodily resurrection.” As a result, he does not really examine why it occurred to the author to use bodily resurrection as a metaphor for anything if no Jew had conceived of the idea yet. In other words, the author's use of this particular metaphor is suggestive that the concept of bodily resurrection was not foreign to early Judaism.

Vermes also concludes that few people believed in resurrection during Jesus’ time. This is a departure from the majority position that resurrection belief was more widespread among the general population of the second temple period. Although he spends more time attempting to justify this position, it is an unconvincing effort. Vermes does not come to terms with Josephus’ statement that the Pharisees “have the multitude on their side.” Antiquities 13:10:6. Although Vermes is probably correct that the Pharisees’ influence was less in Galilee, that does not mean that the doctrine of resurrection was so limited. Moreover, a strong presence in the cities and towns of Judea would have meant at least tens of thousands of Jews with a belief in the resurrection.

Furthermore, the rise of resurrection belief is most often linked to Jewish culture’s response to the martyrs of the Maccabean revolt. The theory is that so many who stood for God’s law died and were left apparently unrewarded for their faithfulness. Given God’s justice and faithfulness, something had to give and the theological tension was relieved by development of the belief that they received their reward after a bodily resurrection. The martyrs at issue were not the elite collaborators who held high positions, but the pious rural and town folk. This would seem to suggest a popularity of resurrection belief that is more widespread than Vermes allows.

Next, Vermes sometimes interprets passages in the way most helpful for his conclusions with little or no regard for reasonable, alternative understandings. Jesus’ debate with the Sadducees over marriage and resurrection is a good example. When the Sadducees – who denied resurrection altogether – tried to show its absurdity by using the unlikely hypothetical example of a woman who had many husbands in this life and asking who would be her husband after the resurrection, Jesus turned the tables on them and said that their question betrayed a fundamental ignorance of the Scriptures. Mark 12:18-25; Mt. 22:23-30; Lk. 20:27-36. The question itself was off base because in the next life we will be like angels. Vermes assumes this means that in the afterlife the righteous will be incorporeal. But none of the gospels link the issue to incorporeality (nor is it at all clear that they would; angels could be quite corporeal). Rather, the issue, as Luke makes explicit, is eternal life. The afterlife is radically different because those who participate in it will never die.

Vermes also claims that John 6:54 is inauthentic: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” According to Vermes, no Jew could have said this because they would have been “overcome with nausea.” Although Vermes is correct that the eating of blood was a biblical and cultural taboo, the step from there to absolute prohibition from using it as an allegory is belied by the evidence. Paul, who could still claim to be blameless before the law and a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and as to the law “a Pharisee,” passed on to his churches a very similar tradition and made it a central part of their worship:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

1 Cor. 11:23-27.

Luke too, though likely a Gentile, also uses these phrases. Mark and Matthew, most likely written by Jewish authors, refer to eating Jesus’ body -- also a taboo -- but are not as explicit in the drinking of Jesus’ blood. Thus, the notion that a Jew could not have used such an allegory is unpersuasive.

Vermes also dismisses Synoptic verses speaking of “eternal life” as related to the idea of resurrection. Although Vermes sees the association of “eternal life” with the “Kingdom of God,” he says there is no necessary link to bodily resurrection. (Mk. 10:17-25; Mt. 19:16-24; Lk. 18:18-5; Mk. 10:29-30; Mt. 19:29; Lk. 18:29-30). But it is the connection of eternal life to eschatological concepts like the “Kingdom of God” which makes it almost certain that bodily resurrection is meant. Resurrection and eschatology go hand in hand. Whereas immortality of the soul required only death to “release” the soul, resurrection occurs at the “end of this age” and presages or transitions into the “Kingdom of God.” Of course, Jesus had a broader understanding of Kingdom of God, but when speaking of eternal life and the Kingdom of God, he had bodily resurrection in mind.

Although intended to be the heart of the matter, the actual discussion of the New Testament resurrection accounts is surprisingly brief. There are nine pages recounting the contents of each gospel, then eight pages of discussion with a chart. (As with the rest of the book, these are small pages with rather large print). Additional pages are devoted to the resurrection in Acts, Paul, and the rest of the New Testament. He notes the differences in the sequence of events, identities of participants, and the number and location of appearances. But rather than spend much time inquiring into the reasons for such differences, including the possible use of literary devices such as telescoping, the use of different sources or the influence of different apologetic purposes, Vermes concludes that such evidence does not satisfy the rules of a legal or scientific inquiry. Which may be true, I suppose, but tells us little about what a historical inquiry should yield.

Despite his misgivings, Vermes seems to accept the historicity of the empty tomb and the fact that some sort of appearances occurred. He explores alternative theories, such as the wrong tomb, stolen body, and not-really-dead theories, and finds them all lacking as historical explanations. So just what does Vermes think happened? I still do not know for sure. His epilogue is titled, “Resurrection in the Hearts of Men.” He admits that Jesus’ followers experienced a powerful mystical event that caused them to proclaim the gospel with authority. His theory seems to be that these two factors combined to spur them on to proclaiming the gospel, and that when their newfound missionary activities were successful, their doubts eased and Jesus was resurrected in their hearts. This seems to put the cart before the horse and fails to offer an explanation for the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances in the first instance. It also leaves unexplained Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus. Finally, it fails to explain why Jesus’ followers would have interpreted these events as a resurrection rather than some other event -- such as an assumption into heaven. This last issue is one of the crucial historical questions surrounding Jesus’ reported resurrection and the absence of any serious exploration of it is a substantial omission.

There are many books on the resurrection of comparable length that would, in my opinion, be more beneficial. For a Jewish perspective -- which accepts the historicity of the resurrection but rejects Jesus’ messiahship -- there is Pinchas Lapide’s The Resurrection of Jesus, A Jewish Perspective. For a Christian defense of the historicity of the resurrection, there is William L. Craig’s The Son Rises or George E. Ladd’s I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. Another slightly longer and somewhat dated, but more neutral book is C.F. Evans’ Resurrection and the New Testament. For a highly readable debate between a believer and skeptic, check out Jesus’ Resurrection, Fact of Fiction: A Debate Between William L. Craig & Gerd Ludemann.

11 comments:

{{Vermes also claims that John 6:54 is inauthentic: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” According to Vermes, no Jew could have said this because they would have been “overcome with nausea.”}}

Like, y'know... in the story itself... GosJohn specifically says that after this a lot of Jesus' disciples bailed out on Him, specifically because they couldn't take Jesus rather grossly hammering on this point. Why would this not count as criteria of embarrassment?! (Frankly the story contexts make it obvious enough to me, that Jesus was intentionally trying to get rid of the rebel-Messianics who had followed Him from the Passover Feeding of the 5000 the day before and had wanted to make Him king by force. That would explain the intentional repetition of the chewy-language, too; despite Jesus reassuring His disciples shortly afterward that He was being figurative after all.)

I take it Vermes has to think GosJohn 5:25-29 is inauthentic, too, then (if not the whole chapter 5 discourse), even though it doesn't have anything nauseating to a Jew in it (aside from divine authority claims maybe {g})--because the topic there is even more obviously about Jesus (as both Son of God and Son of Man) raising up people from the tombs on the authority of the Father, both the good and the wicked, for judgment.

(Good article, btw, Chris. {s})

JRP

Well though out and well researched. Good to see you back.

Jason: (Frankly the story contexts make it obvious enough to me, that Jesus was intentionally trying to get rid of the rebel-Messianics who had followed Him from the Passover Feeding of the 5000 the day before and had wanted to make Him king by force.

So Jesus deliberately used a poor explanation to drive away some of His (potential??) followers? Huh, that's a new one to me.


despite Jesus reassuring His disciples shortly afterward that He was being figurative after all.)

What passage are you thinking of here?


-David

David,

{{So Jesus deliberately used a poor explanation to drive away some of His (potential??) followers?}}

No, He uses an obscure description of a worthy truth, against people who were already ‘following’ Him but not in the way that He wanted them to be following Him; in this case by intentionally affronting them so that they’ll give up trying to make Him king by force. (And, incidentally, engages in a pretty high-level rabbinic debate along the way. {g})

A full commentary on the passages will likely have to wait until next year. Until then, my harmonization of the textual data can be found in this Cadre Journal entry with pickups from the previous KoS entry (linked to at the beginning of that entry.)


Jesus has just heard of the unjust death of John the Baptist (Matt 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9), which shortly precedes the Feeding of the 5000 in all Synoptic chronologies (there are clear time/space cues in the language in the first two cases, and a topical reference with no clear timing cue--and probably slightly out of timing order--in the third case). The news was brought to Him by former disciples of JohnBapt (Mt 14:12; possibly implied Mk 6:29-30); possibly ones who had previously been John’s disciples (Jn 1:35-51, among several other places in all canon texts.) John, for all his perception, had been questioning whether Jesus was really the Messiah after all, apparently due to Jesus’ refusal to launch a military clean-up of the area which would have freed the unjustly imprisoned John in the process (Mt 11:2-19; Lk 7:18-35). Jesus had explicitly refused to do this, with a gentle rebuke back to John in the process--consequently, it could be said with some legitimacy that as a result of Jesus’ refusal to act John had been slain.

In Middle-Eastern contexts, when one king slays the emissary and relative of another king, the normal cultural expectation is BUTT-KICKING TIME HAS ARRIVED!! (See several parables of Jesus to this effect, where the butt-kicking is graciously deferred but does sometimes occur eventually.) But Jesus tries to take His apostles and disciples (recently returned from a winter’s travel of emissary kingdom preaching) off to some quiet location for debriefing and perhaps to remember John instead. (Mt 14:13, which says the withdrawal was due to Jesus hearing about John’s death; Mk 6:31-32, Lk 9:10, both connect the withdrawal to Jesus wanting to talk with the returning disciples about their mission trips, as emissaries of His kingship and kingdom per previous story contexts.) People seeking healing and teaching found out where He was going (the countryside near Bethsaida-Julias, and apparently near the lakeroad), and some of them got there first. Moreover, many people were traveling on the road for Passover holiday, expecting to be there with their families; so the crowd substantially grew. (Jn 6:4.) The Feeding was therefore a Passover feast of some sort, per GosJohn.

Clearly it wasn’t the normal Passover meal, or people wouldn’t have still been on the road to visit families. (Caravans to Jerusalem would have long since gone and arrived there.) One of the provisions, though, for a rabbi holding an abbreviated Passover service a day early, is because he expects a military battle the next day. (Talmudic sources; not readily at hand but I can look them up if you want.) Militant Messianism was always boiling in the area (even among Jesus’ own apostles), and with this miraculous sign being given by Jesus’ charity one day early, and with JohnBapt having been unjustly murdered by a king popularly considered to be illegitimate as ruler of Israel, and with Jesus having been routinely making kingdom claims (and having just had His apostles and disciples out for a season on the roads spreading those claims)--it isn’t terribly surprising that a clique among that large crowd decided to try noisily instigating a military uprising with Jesus as king. (Jn 6:15.)

Jesus tries to defuse things by sending His disciples in the boat to Bethsaida to wait for Him, while sending the multitudes along to their homes and _also_ trying to hide from the militant rebels--apparently hoping they would just go away. (Things get messily complex here, but that wouldn’t be surprising in a historical, tense and confused situation, being talked about after the fact. Luke notably skips everything after the feeding and moves on to a topically related anecdote.) The disciples apparently go a little upshore to Bethsaida-Julius and wait there; but then when Jesus doesn’t arrive after midnight they worry that they misunderstood and so strike off across the lake to Capernaum’s Bethsaida. Insert water-walking scene here.

GosJohn extends the sequence by reporting what happens next morning: some of the people had not gone home but had camped out there (across the river from Julias apparently) waiting for Jesus (Who had waited until late after dark to get away from them secretly, taking the opportunity for some prayer meanwhile.) Who are these people? Not just families out on the road for Passover holiday, and not people seeking healing, and (from what Jesus says in discussing things with them) not people who are really there for the teaching, and not people who had really understood the significance of the miracle. What group does that likely leave over?--because we know one group Jesus had withdrawn from (per GosJohn) the night before. Did _THAT_ group go away already leaving some completely other group behind?!

Jesus gives them the benefit of the possibility of becoming good disciples, and requires only that they trust Him. But then they retort that they need a sign in order to trust Him! Elsewhere in the Gospels when Jesus runs across that kind of test-demand (especially in the face of what He has done already) He gets very prickly and dismissive even to the point of calling such people accursed. So what happens here?

Jesus gives them a test: if they’re really willing to trust Him, then they’d better be prepared to accept that He has come here to save _everyone_. (Jn 6:35-40.)

Some of the Jewish leaders (who are also on the scene, which is taking place in the Capernaum synagogue, v.59), start grumbling about Him using the bread-out-of-heaven language concerning Himself (vv.41-43). Now we’re also getting into a rabbinic debate about the bread out of heaven, which is rather more subtle than most of us Gentiles are in a position to pick up on, though deity claims are part of it, too (and those are more obvious to us). Up to verse 51, Jesus is doing a suggestive theological blend in talking about being the bread of life and His forthcoming sacrifice.

But then some of the rabbis, in a typical move of rabbinic oppositional satire, begin disputing with _other_ rabbis on the scene (who are on the pro-Jesus side), by taking Jesus’ words over-literally--that’s a way of insulting Him to His supporters. (v.52.)

From vv 53-58, therefore, Jesus picks up their satirical insult and really hammers down hard on it. What He’s saying is still just as true (He’s only reiterating what was said in verse 51), but now He’s deliberately and repeatedly making it a literal statement instead. It can only be a counter-insult. It would also, along with the requirement that His followers be prepared to save _everyone_ and bring them into the kingdom, be affrontive to any proto-Zealot types on the scene, for exactly the same reason. (It could even be said to be distantly prophetic, though not in any obvious prophecy ex eventu way; for when the official Zealot party did eventually overrun Jerusalem and in order to rebel against Rome and ‘cleanse’ the Temple, they only ended up putting the city and Temple into a situation so horrid--and ritually unclean of course--that people reportedly had to survive by cannibalism.)

The upshot is that many of His disciples had problems with this statement: “Who can even be listening to it!?” (v 60) But Jesus tries to explain to them that He wasn’t meaning it literally: “Does this cause you to stumble?... It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (vv.61-62, NASV translation.)

After this, many of His disciples hide behind Him (so to speak) and don’t walk with Him anymore--openly anyway. (There are still very significant blocks of pro-Jesus followers among the leaders, especially among the Pharisees, per GosJohn later. But publicly they aren’t coming out in favor of Him anymore. This comes to a head about half a year later during the Feast of Tabernacles, the other Great Feast of the Jews.) That would pretty much have to include the Torah-zealous proto-Zealots who had been agitating for a military uprising the evening of the Feeding of the 5K, too--any of those who had tracked Jesus to Capernaum the day of Passover, would be sure to spread the word through the associate network: avoid Jesus.


I don’t go into all this detail in the harmonization entry; I’m just trying to put the data together reasonably according to contexts and textual cues (as far as possible). But when the sequence of events was put together, and I learned a bit more (afterward) about the numerous Jewish contexts involved, then this is what I arrived at.

JRP

Thank you for that extended response!

I find your take interesting because it escapes the usual problem with a "figurative" explanation of the passage. For those who endorse the symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist, John 6 poses a problem in that the crowd clearly misunderstands Jesus literally, and yet He does nothing to stop their leaving; surely He would have at least attempted to correct their misunderstanding. But on your view, He actually wants them to leave, so it can be no criticism that He lets them go.

Of course I (being the naturally disagreeable sort!!) still demur. Even if we assume that only the rebel-types were listening at this point -- and thus that Jesus was not driving away any sincere disciples as well -- why wouldn't He have used the opportunity to preach on love and peace, and perhaps win some of them over to His true mission, instead of tricking them. And I use the word "trick" advisedly: His words may have been true figuratively, but He knew people were taking them literally and did not disabuse them of this notion.
I also don't see how the "counter-insult" works; so some rabbis take his metaphor and sneeringly throw it back at Him in literal form... then Jesus sneers back at them? Is it mockery? Sarcasm? Elsewhere when confronted this way, Jesus refutes his attackers.

And as a backtracking explanation, verse 63 is pretty subtle. When Jesus talks about raising the Temple in three days, we get the footnote, "the Temple he meant was his body"; but here all we get is "the flesh profits nothing". I don't see that as a clear statement that the foregoing is metaphorical, because if Jesus is discounting the afore-mentioned flesh, then He's discounting the metaphorical interpretation as much as the literal. He would have to say something more like, "Literal flesh is nothing, but the figurative 'flesh' of my sacrifice gives life." In fact, He refers to "the flesh", not "My flesh", so it must be referring to the rabbis' "fleshly" (wordly) attitude as opposed to a Godly attitude (the Spirit) -- i.e. what Jesus said is true, but don't expect it to make sense in an ordinary, worldly way; it can make sense God's way, though. That by itself doesn't indicate that "God's way" is metaphorical (I'd say at the least it strongly implies a literal reading, because a figurative one could easily be accepted on human terms -- but only with God is everything possible, no matter how bizarre it may sound to us).

At any rate, the one thing "the flesh" that profiteth not cannot be referring to is Jesus's own flesh, for that denies the whole essence of Christianity -- Christ's incarnation in the flesh and death and resurrection in the flesh, these are the most (the only!) valuable things in the universe. It's the "eating" part that would need explaining [away], not the flesh part.


-David

David,

{{For those who endorse the symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist, John 6 poses a problem in that the crowd clearly misunderstands Jesus literally}}

More of a problem is that the language from 53 to 58 is emphatically literal. There are good reasons why the crowd is having trouble even listening to it.

{{surely He would have at least attempted to correct their misunderstanding. But on your view, He actually wants them to leave, so it can be no criticism that He lets them go.}}

More precisely, He does try to correct the misunderstanding of the people He would rather have stayed. That’s part of the story, too.

{{Of course I (being the naturally disagreeable sort!!) still demur.}}

No foul there; it’s an unusual (and complex) interpretation! (Besides, who isn’t naturally disagreeable in this field? {g})

{{Even if we assume that only the rebel-types were listening at this point}}

Which I didn’t say, by the way: I said (following the specific data) that it took place in a synagogue, and I said (following GosJohn’s typical referent usage) that Jewish rabbis were there, too. There aren’t only rebels. Are all the general population there for the whole scene?--not necessarily. But those two special-interest groups (so to speak) would have partially overlapping and partially conflicting interests. Moreover, the rabbis would be dueling at a pretty high and subtle level--I haven’t even gotten into that! (But it’s there to dig out, if a reader is familiar with interrabbinc disputes.)

{{why wouldn't He have used the opportunity to preach on love and peace}}

He did, and I mentioned this in the explanation: verses 35-40 are essentially universalistic in their doctrine, and Jesus gives it in answer to the crew who followed Him from the night before, in answer to their request for Him to give the bread of God. He knows they don’t trust Him yet (v.36), and they’ve been kind of dunderheadedly insulting in demanding a sign from Him after what they had seen the night before (v.30-31)--but the reason they’re falling back on ‘signs’ is because He has told them that if they want to work the work of God (which they wanted to know how to do, v.28) then they have got to trust in Him Whom God has sent (v.29).

If they aren’t willing to put aside their hatred for those-enemies-of-God-ove-there, then they might as well pack up and go somewhere else: because Jesus intends to save those people, too. (I mentioned this at length in my analysis of the story contexts.)

{{I also don't see how the "counter-insult" works; so some rabbis take his metaphor and sneeringly throw it back at Him in literal form... then Jesus sneers back at them? Is it mockery? Sarcasm?}}

It’s a form of sarcasm, yes. This is well in keeping with dialogues earlier in GosJohn, as well as in the Synoptics; the most extensive example of the latter that pops immediately to mind is the whirling wordplay of the “Plunder-possessor” retort after Pharisees accuse Him of being in league with Beelzeboul. But there are others. One of my favorites in the Synoptics is right before the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, when some attending rabbis literally puff out their cheeks and buzz their lips in derision (you’d recognize the effect immediately if you saw and heard it--but it’s hard to describe in writing! {g}), at hearing something Jesus has said about money and trusting in earthly security, and Jesus retorts, “Well!--so we have heard _your_ argument then!” My favorite in GosJohn is when Jesus throws a sarcastic a fortiori back on them concerning the healing of the man born blind (which had taken place earlier in the year): “So if Moses commands the unclean cutting of a man on the sabbath, why are you all about to vomit over My having made an entire man whole on the sabbath!?”

There’s refutation, and there’s refutation. The rabbis are aware of how to backhand someone with sarcasm and make a serious point out of it. (It’s done all the time in the Talmud, and occasionally on their side in the Gospels--one retort that comes to mind that I covered recently in KoS, involves them implying that Jesus would commit suicide and go to hell!) In this case, the refutation is an ‘absurd reduction’: and it serves the purpose of helping get rid of those proto-zealots, too. But keep in mind, Jesus wasn’t trying to get rid of the rabbis: they would understand the sarcasm retort. (Moreover, there were two groups of Pharisees present, those on His side and those not: that division is explicitly stated in the text. It’s the opponents, trying to insult Him to His allies, who come up with the derisive literal interpretation.)

{{but here all we get is "the flesh profits nothing".}}

In contrast to, “Why are you stumbling over this? It is the Spirit Who is giving life!” and “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life!” (There’s also a broken interjection at verse 62, which though relevant in some ways is more of an exclamation along the lines of “If you’re having problems with this, then what are you going to do if you see that?”)

So “the flesh profits nothing” isn’t all we get there, in fact. {s} Though we get that, too, and it’s an important part of the correction attempt.

{{In fact, He refers to "the flesh", not "My flesh",}}

Yes, but He had just gotten finished chomping down hard and repeatedly on “His flesh” (so to speak), which is why His disciples are grumbling now.

No, I agre, He wouldn’t say “My flesh profits nothing”, because He is of course about to sacrifice Himself bodily (and resurrect bodily, too); but it would be an awfully big jump for “flesh” here to merely refer to the rabbis’ worldly attitude instead of to a Godly attitude. (Or rather, that would fit fine, too--in regard to Jesus’ rebuke of their insulting derision in verse 52! But His rebuke had involved taking their derision and running with it in an a fortiori fashion, not unlike the Plunder-possessor riposte in the Synoptics.)

JRP

As a clarification, my analysis here has nothing to do with me being some kind of Protestant; I happen to be very fond of the doctrine of transsubstantiation (I think it has been abused, but no moreso than any other or doctrine of the church); and I have few if any theological problems with it--that I know of yet, anyway. {s!} The institution of the Lord's Supper has obvious topical connections to this scene; and also some very not-so-obvious topical connections (related to the rabbinic debate going on under the radar here.) Until I sat down and worked on the harmonization, I had no problem understanding and even accepting the resolute emphasis on noisily munching the flesh of Christ in the climactic verses as being good textual ground for the doctrine of transsubstantiation. But, even though I respect the doctrine and still suspect (and hope) it is true, I can't in good conscience use this as primary evidence for it anymore.

That being said, neither does this interpretation require denying that Jesus was also referring, in advance, to a doctrine of transsubstantiation of the communion elements. I do think He's actually talking about something even more vital and important than the real presence, and I take His words seriously up to the point where one group of Pharisees derides what He is saying to another group. I still take them just as seriously afterward!--but I take their force as being shaped in reply to the contexts leading into the climactic declarations; and that puts a large critical muff on understanding what the emphasis is about.

Anyway, I hope this clarifies that I am not speaking from an anti-Catholic/EOx/HighProt bias here. I would not willingly do that.

JRP

Jason:
No foul there; it’s an unusual (and complex) interpretation! (Besides, who isn’t naturally disagreeable in this field? {g})

=)

As a clarification, my analysis here has nothing to do with me being some kind of Protestant; I happen to be very fond of the doctrine of transsubstantiation

Well, that takes all the fun out of it!! Actually, that makes it even more interesting: I must confess, I was reading -- or reading into, I guess -- your explanation as leading up to the standard "it was all a metaphor" line. I'm happy to stand corrected.

{{why wouldn't He have used the opportunity to preach on love and peace}}
He did, and I mentioned this in the explanation: verses 35-40 are essentially universalistic in their doctrine, and Jesus gives it in answer to the crew who followed Him from the night before, in answer to their request for Him to give the bread of God.


Yes, at least that's clear to us; but to someone with an anti-universalistic bias, wouldn't it have been natural to understand the "all" as "all Israel"? The passage doesn't especially indicate that anyone left over this particular point. (But of course, arguing from what the Bible doesn't say is always a weak argument, so perhaps it's just my own anti-antiunversalist biases showing through!)
I suppose that if the Romans could be saved too, then that does imply Jesus was on a peaceful (rather than butt-kicking) mission, but it's not impossible that He was to defeat them first. After all, what better way to win over your typical hardened Roman soldier than by demonstrating your military superiority?!


{{I also don't see how the "counter-insult" works; so some rabbis take his metaphor and sneeringly throw it back at Him in literal form... then Jesus sneers back at them? Is it mockery? Sarcasm?}}
It’s a form of sarcasm, yes. This is well in keeping with dialogues earlier [...]


Yes; I certainly didn't mean to suggest the view of Jesus as a sort of upper-class English gentleman minus the bowler and brolly, never a harsh word to cross his stiff upper lip. =) "Sarcasm" isn't really the word I should have used there, but I'm not sure there is a word for what I want. It's the kind of sarcasm, I guess; meant literally, I can see Jesus picking up on their attempted insult and driving it home. But if not literal, then the sarcasm would have to be of the smart-mouthed, eye-rolling teenager sort -- which doesn't seem like the kind of tongue-lashing Jesus would use (not sure if that's really a good description of what I want to convey, but I hope you get the idea).

at hearing something Jesus has said about money and trusting in earthly security, and Jesus retorts, “Well!--so we have heard _your_ argument then!”

Luke 16:15? Assuming I've got the right verse, that's definitely one that loses something in translation.

(Moreover, there were two groups of Pharisees present, those on His side and those not: that division is explicitly stated in the text. It’s the opponents, trying to insult Him to His allies, who come up with the derisive literal interpretation.)

(I'm glad you mentioned that, by the way -- I'm sure I'm not the only one who tends to think of the Pharisees as all being against Jesus; and certainly it wouldn't be unreasonable to imagine rabbis arguing both sides of an issue purely on an intellectual level, after all. But it's also a bit of a caricature to think that none of them could genuinely be supporters of Jesus too.)

{{but here all we get is "the flesh profits nothing".}}
In contrast to, “Why are you stumbling over this? It is the Spirit Who is giving life!” and “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life!” (There’s also a broken interjection at verse 62, which though relevant in some ways is more of an exclamation along the lines of “If you’re having problems with this, then what are you going to do if you see that?”)


Since I'm not one to avoid an interesting digression, what other relevancies do you see in v62? I took it more in the way of saying, "What if you saw my ascension, then would you be able to swallow this?" (pardon the pun). Though I suppose it can mean a bit of both. The verse fits there in that it's something else that would be difficult to believe at face value; it's a demonstration of Jesus's power to do the seemingly impossible; it's a confirmation that He comes from God (if that's where He returns to, to the heavens)... in context, it ought to have some connection with the spirit (the Ascension isn't connected particularly with the Holy Spirit per se, but perhaps in the general sense of the spiritual realm which is greater than the temporal).

Ah, I was looking at the accounts of the Ascension, which don't say much at all, but of course the immediate connection is back in v42: "How can he say he came down from heaven?" Obviously, Jesus couldn't return to heaven if He hadn't come from there in the first place. (And v.38, etc.) In fact, it goes back to vv.29-30, where the crowd asks for a sign that Jesus really comes from God: the answer is His ascension (though of course it comes too late for anyone who wasn't already going to put his trust in Jesus, which is almost a bit of meta-sarcasm, I suppose!)

So in v57, Jesus reiterates: "As the Living Father sends Me with this mission, I also am living because of the Father; and whoever chews Me up, will also be living because of Me." Some of the disciples protest, and Jesus replies, "You don't believe me? If you saw me returning to heaven, you would know that it must be true that the Father sent me down from heaven, and that therefore you should trust what I am saying (even if you don't quite get it yet)." (And the passage goes on to point out that not everyone did believe him, in particular Judas; from which we might infer that Judas betrayed Jesus because he thought He had gone "off mission".)

I think this strengthens the interpretation that v63 is about trusting Jesus rather than about explaining what "eating his flesh" is really about. It's not time to explain what it "really" means until the Last Supper (or later than that, really), so Jesus doesn't try. Instead He points out to the disciples that they should trust Him no matter how outrageous they find any particular claims, because He is doing the work of God (as He has demonstrated with signs in the past -- including the mass-feeding they just followed him from! -- and yet to come -- the future Ascension).

So “the flesh profits nothing” isn’t all we get there, in fact. {s} Though we get that, too, and it’s an important part of the correction attempt.

But that's the only part that could be used to indicate a figurative interpretation, surely?

No, I agree, He wouldn’t say “My flesh profits nothing”, because He is of course about to sacrifice Himself bodily (and resurrect bodily, too); but it would be an awfully big jump for “flesh” here to merely refer to the rabbis’ worldly attitude instead of to a Godly attitude. (Or rather, that would fit fine, too--in regard to Jesus’ rebuke of their insulting derision in verse 52! But His rebuke had involved taking their derision and running with it in an a fortiori fashion, not unlike the Plunder-possessor riposte in the Synoptics.)

Except in that case He was pulling a reductio, whereas here I do think He's accepting their interpretation (even though they expected it to be an insult). But I do agree that it follows the same technique: taking their attack and running with it, as you say -- except in the former case, their argument runs into a brick wall (because it's just wrong). Here they've stumbled onto the truth... instead of running off a cliff, Jesus runs over the edge -- and soars with it. =)

The institution of the Lord's Supper has obvious topical connections to this scene; and also some very not-so-obvious topical connections (related to the rabbinic debate going on under the radar here.) Until I sat down and worked on the harmonization, I had no problem understanding and even accepting the resolute emphasis on noisily munching the flesh of Christ in the climactic verses as being good textual ground for the doctrine of transsubstantiation. But, even though I respect the doctrine and still suspect (and hope) it is true, I can't in good conscience use this as primary evidence for it anymore.

Well, of course in a practical sense, the practices and writings of the Church from very early days are probably the best justification for the real presence. But any Councils, Church Fathers, etc., always resort to the Scriptures to undergird their arguments, so we ought to be able to find some reasonable indication of it. I do think the words of the Last Supper provide support, but not enough out of context. (That is, I think a literal interpretation is more natural, but however "natural" that interpretation is, it won't make sense unless you already have some idea of the Real Presence to apply to it.)
I don't think that leaves any other good candidate beside John 6, then -- for spelling out the literal meaning, anyway. But having spent a few more hours pondering it, I think what you've been saying can add to it while still keeping the literal force.

That being said, neither does this interpretation require denying that Jesus was also referring, in advance, to a doctrine of transsubstantiation of the communion elements. I do think He's actually talking about something even more vital and important than the real presence, and I take His words seriously up to the point where one group of Pharisees derides what He is saying to another group. I still take them just as seriously afterward!--but I take their force as being shaped in reply to the contexts leading into the climactic declarations; and that puts a large critical muff on understanding what the emphasis is about.

I get the impression that Jesus would just have fain not gone into an explanation of "eating His flesh". He had to plant the seeds of future understanding of the Eucharist, but for now the crowds could take it as some kind of vague metaphor -- "I am living bread from heaven". But those clever Pharisees (too smart[alecky] for their own good!) pick up on it right away, and start digging beyond the surface image. They don't know what it means either, but obviously it can't mean what He is literally implying! So they seize on that literal idea so as to embarrass Him, and (they no doubt thought) make Him back down, have to water it down, or maybe they thought He would retreat to emphasising the "coming from the Father" part and they could trap Him into some blasphemy, or something like that. (You know, the kind of thing they were always doing! (Except for the ones who weren't of course!!))

But Jesus does the last thing they expected and dives right in to the full, literal conclusion (you know, the kind of thing He always did -- shouldn't they have been ready for it by now?? =) ). And this is where I agree that Jesus does adopt a form of, if not quite "sarcasm", a sort of mockery that does fling their attempted insult back at them. But not by backing out, I think it works precisely by pushing the literal interpretation as far as it will go: "You're asking if you have to eat my flesh? Absolutely, let me tell you! You'd better chew down on my flesh and blood if you want to live!"

This takes the wind out of their sails, but Jesus doesn't go on to explain Himself to the general crowd of disciples. If this isn't the time to explain, it's not the time to explain. He turns to them and says, "You got a problem with that? Just trust me! Perhaps you'll believe me when you see me ascend back to the Father, whence I came (as I've just said for the umpteenth time). Listen to me, because my words are true, the way to life -- that is, they come from the spirit [from The Spirit?]; words that come from mere flesh aren't going to help you." I.e., don't let the Pharisees put you off -- who are you going to listen to, them or Jesus?

I think see better now what you're saying about getting rid of "undesirable" elements in the crowd: not so much Jesus trying to drive people away, because the Pharisees start it; but once they force the issue in front of everyone, Jesus jumps right in and lets it stand as a kind of test: if you're just hanging around for the free food ( =) ), you need to get serious and decide whether you actually trust Jesus or not. The apostles are apparently not sure what to make of the whole discussion either, but they confirm their faith in Jesus as "having the words of eternal life" -- as just mentioned, the "words of the spirit", as opposed to the "words of the flesh". (Of course those who did leave ended up missing out not just on free food, but on freeing food... but I guess that's the story of the whole Bible in a nutshell!)


-David

David,

By the way, you’ve been doing a good job commenting in other threads, too. I appreciate it.

{{I must confess, I was reading -- or reading into, I guess -- your explanation as leading up to the standard "it was all a metaphor" line.}}

That would be a reasonable suspicion, which is why it occurred to me that I had better try to clarify what I wasn’t saying. So to speak. Or words to that effect. Look, it’s Sunday, and I was sick yesterday, okay? {g} I’m still recouping.


{{Yes, at least that's clear to us; but to someone with an anti-universalistic bias, wouldn't it have been natural to understand the "all" as "all Israel"?}}

Depends: are we talking about Christian interpreters after the fact? Or about the audience of the original discussion being referenced here in GosJohn?

Christian interpreters, as a matter of historical record, have tended to take this to mean ‘all Israel but not really all Israel really more like all Christians.’ {g} That wouldn’t have been what the original hearers in the incident would make of it in any case! So we’re back to the original audience of the discourse.

I’m a little unsure what you’re asking, but I will suppose you meant, “To someone like, say, a proto-Zealot who was interested in seeing the enemies of Israel get hopelessly zorched, wouldn’t it have been natural to understand the ‘all’ as ‘all Israel’?”

My answer is, no, not in the context of the whole incident. Even in that paragraph, Jesus is rebuking the people He is saying this to, for not trusting Him even though they’ve seen Him. These people have just challenged Him to produce a sign to back up what He is saying; a challenge given when He had answered them that if they want to work the works of God, then they have got to trust Him Whom God has sent. And they had asked how to work the works of God, in answer to His rebuke that they had followed Him here to Capernaum, not because of the sign of the Feeding, but merely because of what they thought He could do for them. Who are these people who were still in the area all night, when everyone else had gone along home? The same people Jesus had been concealing Himself from. Who were those? The proto-Zealots.

Jesus commends them on their persistence, such as it is, and gives them several benefits of the doubt, even though He knows they aren’t trusting Him: otherwise they’d give up their hopes for a military overthrow and dictatorship! They see the Son but are not trusting Him; they’re in contrast to the people who will (sooner or later) behold the Son and trust in Him. (Even so, Jesus has hope for this coterie, too; He won’t leave them permanently behind.)

I don’t think it is incidental that next year, in early spring before Passover, Jesus institutes a similar Feeding up in largely pagan Syrian territory, as the climax to a three-day gathering in the wilderness. This is not something a proto-Zealot would sanction. (And His disciples had problems understanding it, too, based on comments afterward.)

{{The passage doesn't especially indicate that anyone left over this particular point.}}

Neither did I, though, did I? {g} Nevertheless, Jesus in that paragraph certainly expects them to leave. What happens next is that the rabbis start having problems with Him saying that He is the bread that came down out of heaven. The discussion then shifts (back, as far as I can tell) to a debate between them and Jesus. The proto-Zealots recede into the background; but they’d be the first people out the door when the flesh-chomping rabbi starts talking about drinking His blood (even though that’s in answer to the insultingly derisive rabbis.)

{{I suppose that if the Romans could be saved too, then that does imply Jesus was on a peaceful (rather than butt-kicking) mission, but it's not impossible that He was to defeat them first.}}

As to that: if you think that people wouldn’t have strong difficulty understanding and accepting that even if Jesus whomps someone He’s still trying to save them, I can point you to typical translations of RevJohn 19. The verb regarding what Jesus will be doing with the rod of iron to the final rebel armies He’s about to scatter for the birds to feed on, is shepherd--but until very recent years it has routinely been translated into something like mere ruling. Well, yeah, because otherwise that portrait is too obviously a fulfillment of the Shepherd’s Psalm we all know and love and want to apply to ourselves! (Relatedly, the pursuit-verb in the Shepherd’s Psalm is often trimmed down to a mere ‘follow’, when really it’s the verb that describes a king running down an army to overthrow them!)

It isn’t a question ultimately of butt-kicking. What people of this mindset don’t want, is for those guys over there to have any hope of being saved even with the butt-kicking (much less that the butt-kicking might have to be us on the receiving end!) A proto-Zealot doesn’t just want butt-kicking (which Jesus had already declined to do when He delclined “to be made king by force”); he wants those enemies to be permanently under his own feet as well as okay yeah under God’s feet, too. That kind of person can’t imagine that it can mean anything good, even they allowed it was possible, for all of us to be under Jesus together. They can’t imagine Jesus still trying to save those rebels; and have a hard enough time keeping in mind that they’re rebels, too. (Which, notice, is a key part of the paragraph vv.35-40.)

{{But if not literal, then the sarcasm would have to be of the smart-mouthed, eye-rolling teenager sort}}

We agree it would work fine as sarcasm if meant literally. This is a case, though, where I’m simply in a position to recognize a culturally relevant form of sarcasm among a fraternity. In effect they were saying, “We don’t accept the claims Jesus is making, and to show this we’ll rephrase his statement in a highly insulting and affrontive way.” In retort Jesus is giving them what they insisted on having (far from untypical as a strategic option for Him; it falls under Him hardening the hearts of people who have chosen that themselves, and parallels His rationale for switching to parabolic language in the Synoptics.)

Thus He could mean, “Well, yes, since you insist on putting it that way, I mean it literally, too, so here you go, listen to how it sounds if I talk about it directly. Don’t blame Me for trying to be sensitive to your feelings earlier--you’re the ones who insisted I get to the point on it!” Or He could mean, “Of course it sounds stupid if you put it that way; it’s ridiculous and so obviously I didn’t mean that!” The latter case would be a combination of reductio ad absurdum and a fortiori.

And really, even in transsubstantiation, while the substance becomes translated, the elements remain bread and wine. (I think this was settled back in some Council or other.) So even then it doesn’t occur in the literal sense the oppositional rabbis were talking about; consequently still not as literally as Jesus is retorting (with the agricultural verbs concerning an animal noisily munching at a feeding trough). And no one would argue that the bread and wine themselves accomplish anything; it is the Spirit that works through the bread and wine. (Which is why He can work through the bread and wine rather than having to have literal flesh and blood provided.)


Even so, I don’t have any problem with the notion that Jesus was actually talking about something even more vital and fundamental than what we celebrate in communion, even if transsubstantiation occurs by the grace of God. For the living action of God must sacrifice Himself in order for not-God entities to exist in the first place; the Lamb is sacrificed not only from but as the foundation of the world. Consequently, in a very real sense, any food or drink is the sacrifice of Christ for our sake--and it is by this method that God grants us natural life: a method of transposition analogous (in a minor key, as Lewis would put it, though he wasn’t speaking on this topic) to how God gives us zoe eonion, God’s own life.

This, incidentally, is why I have no theological problem with transsubstantiation as an act of God in a ritual. There God would be doing “small and upclose” as it were, what He is always doing for us, and will be doing for us.

{{Luke 16:15? Assuming I've got the right verse, that's definitely one that loses something in translation.}}

Yep! Though it isn’t so much that a translation like this is inaccurate; it just kind of misses the point: “You are those who justify yourselves before men!” Uh-huh; but their “justification” was to buzz their lips in a scoffing snort! They can’t get away with a tacit voiceless derision, though: God knows their hearts, and what sounds fine among men is detestable before God. (This is a bit of a reverse a fortiori again: had they given some kind of epic defense it might have sounded great, but God would have seen through it and detested it. How much moreso then does He detest their mere voiceless raspberry, which sounds vulgarly amusing among men, as they’re well aware. They do not dignify Him with a reply but only with this; so He picks it up and makes it the centerpiece of an a fortiori reply.)

{{I'm glad you mentioned that, by the way -- I'm sure I'm not the only one who tends to think of the Pharisees as all being against Jesus}}

GosJohn, ironically, is the text that most emphasizes how many rabbis, especially among the Pharisees, were actually on Jesus’ side. This gets routinely ignored by many commentaries, though. sigh.

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the division among the Pharisees was largely split along the Hillel/Shammai schools. Hillel’s school would have been much readier to accept Jesus’ application of Torah, and Hillel himself had even once said something similar to Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles. His disciples subsequently decided he hadn’t really meant it; in hindsight, it makes me wonder if he was prophesying the advent of the true coming Messiah Who would stand up and say it and mean it. It is certainly true that Hillel and his school and family were long afterward connected to Christianity both in fact (Paul of Tarsus), in cautious sympathy (Gamaliel I), and in suspicion (the famous late 1st-c rabbi Elizear comes to mind; as does Josephus the 4th century convert from the school of Hillel who brought tales of secret Christianity and ancient Christian scriptures including Acts and GosJohn being treasured by the patriarchs, to his friend Epiphanius. A highly interesting and curious story there. One wonders exactly which Simeon was visiting the Temple the day Jesus’ family brought Him in for the firstborn sacrifice... The Talmud is oddly quiet about Simeon ben Hillel, father of Gamaliel I, except that he existed...)

Anyway, GosJohn is practically stiff from beginning to end with information about Jewish leaders being pro as well as anti-Jesus. This has been sadly lost sight of by the use of the term “Jews”.


{{Since I'm not one to avoid an interesting digression, what other relevancies do you see in v62?}}

The bread of life discourse is closely connected with deity-descent concepts; obviously, seeing the Son of Man ascending to where He was before would be thematically connected, too. But, ah, if they see something like that are they going to write it off as only an illusion, perhaps? {g}

It fits the darting back and forth style: they’re having problems because they’re taking the flesh and blood chomping too literally, and they haven’t even seen it!--so what are they going to do when they see the Ascension!? Go flying off the other side of the horse?!

At some point (not today) I need to sit down and type out what the underlying rabbinic dispute was, regarding the bread-of-life. Until I read Edersheim, I had never heard of it, but it makes excellent contextual sense.

{{In fact, it goes back to vv.29-30, where the crowd asks for a sign that Jesus really comes from God: the answer is His ascension}}

Actually, His answer is the descension. {g} “For the bread of God is the One which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” The Ascension isn’t mentioned there. (And He isn’t interested in giving them a sign; they had one already the night before, and totally misunderstood it for their own selfish purposes, which was His rebuke back in v.26.)

{{Some of the disciples protest, and Jesus replies, "You don't believe me? If you saw me returning to heaven, you would know that it must be true that the Father sent me down from heaven, and that therefore you should trust what I am saying (even if you don't quite get it yet)."}}

I’d be quickly good with that interpretation; except that the sentence breaks off abruptly (indicating rhetorical exclamation) and when Jesus starts up again, it isn’t along this line. Instead He explains to the them that the Spirit is Who is giving life; the flesh (which is what they had been stumbling over, very specifically) profits nothing. (You do include this factor in a rephrase later, which I'll comment on at that time.)

Incidentally, I take Jesus’ retort about Judas to be correcting Peter about any swell-headedness Peter might be getting from staying loyal to Jesus: Jesus chose them--and yet one of them is an adversary. Peter doesn’t know who yet, of course, but for all he knows Jesus might think it was him.

{{I think this strengthens the interpretation that v63 is about trusting Jesus rather than about explaining what "eating his flesh" is really about.}}

I think v63 is definitely about trusting Jesus (as is the whole discourse starting from when the proto-Zealots show up); but I also think it is explaining what His repeated chomping emphasis wasn’t about. Which is different from explaining what it is about. {s}

{{But that's the only part that could be used to indicate a figurative interpretation, surely?}}

Even if that was true, the portion would still count. However, let us suppose that the disciples were stumbling so badly over the flesh-chomping retort that they were having problems even listening to it. Knowing that they’re grumbling about this, and having problems getting over it, Jesus replies, “Are you stumbling on this? If you beheld the Son of Man ascending from where He came--! The Spirit gives life. [nixing the next clause] The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe..."

To me, even this would look like He was trying to turn them around from taking the flesh-chomping too literally and so stumbling over it. Add “the flesh does not give any benefit.” Does this look less or more like He’s trying to explain that He didn’t mean it that literally?


I stress again, however, that it isn’t simply a case of figurative vs. literal language: even transsubstantiation isn’t that ‘literal’. It’s a question of intent in delivery of the offensive passages. On the other hand, Jesus could have replied something along the Synoptic lines of “I was speaking in parabolic language due to the hardness of their hearts, etc.”--which He doesn’t. So even though He’s directing their attention to the Spirit, He doesn’t after all deny the presence of the flesh. He simply denies that it gives any benefit, i.e. in itself.


{{And this is where I agree that Jesus does adopt a form of, if not quite "sarcasm", a sort of mockery that does fling their attempted insult back at them. But not by backing out}}

I would be very prepared to accept this as a proper interpretation--except that He does back out shortly afterward when talking to the disciples. Not enough to write off the language simply as figurative; but enough that I can’t in good conscience simply point to the language as primary evidence, either. I can still speak of it in the context of the real presence--for that matter (no pun intended {g}), the part about the flesh profiting nothing was used centuries later to explain that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, wasn’t it?--but not as primary apologetic for the real presence.

I note for instance, that in your rephrase beginning at “You got a problem with that?”, you admirably include everything--except that when you get to the flesh profiting nothing part, you have to make that go back to the Pharisees somehow. But the disciples weren’t stumbling over what the Pharisees had said; they were stumbling over what Jesus had said. They had been listening to Jesus. Many of His disciples, when they had heard what He had said (not what the Pharisees had said) were grumbling, “Who can even be listening to this!?”

So the rephrase sounds good right up to that point; and then it jumps a topical track. {s} It wasn’t the Pharisees putting them off; it was Jesus putting them off. The consolation has to be along that line: ‘don’t be put off by what I just said, and here is why.’

So, why shouldn’t they be put off by what Jesus had just emphatically and repeatedly said about chomping His flesh?

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh does not give any benefit. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

That’s why they shouldn’t be put off by what Jesus had just emphatically and repeatedly said about munching His flesh.


Very high quality comments, though! I think we’re actually pretty close to agreement on it.

JRP

By the way, you've been doing a good job commenting in other threads, too. I appreciate it.

Thanks! (And I didn't even get to point out that even if you ignore all the real context about the Galileo thing, Galileo was still a Christian himself! Ah, but I see you've posted more about that anyway.)

Look, it's Sunday, and I was sick yesterday, okay? {g} I'm still recouping.

=) I hope you're feeling better. I have merely been busy -- I got interrupted with a response half done, but I will finish it soon! ('Cause I'm sure you have nothing better to do than wait around for me!!)

Just one point on Vermes'idea that Jesus'saw the Resurrection (to come) as incorporeal. If the later apsotolic church was supposed to have created the incident to bolster corporeal resurrection teaching why would they have put the "like the angels" phrase in his mouth if it implied incorporeality? It would defeat the purpose Vermes presupposes.

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