Did GosMark's Author Possibly Invent the Empty Tomb? (Nope 3 of 9)


In Part 1, I introduced the question of whether it's possible the GosMark author invented the empty tomb; and in Part 2 I referred back to a detailed analysis of options, concerning a remnant of Christian vs Jewish polemic in GosMatt, that answers a decisive and sepulchral "NO!"

But that evidence doesn't stand alone, out on the edge of a pond in the mist. There's a substantial amount of unquiet quacking going on around the pond!

Thus we come to:

2.) At no point in any layer of early tradition is there any alternative proposed to an empty tomb. That includes Paul, who is at worst only neutral on the topic of how Jesus was buried. Where the topic isn't neutral, though, the tomb is the only option in view.

This might not seem like a major piece of evidence; and I admit it usually isn't treated as such. As I said in Part 1, my list is topical in order, not in order of importance; and so I acknowledge this isn't anywhere near as important as point (1) for various reasons. But it's something; it isn't nothing.

And there's a subtle relation of implications to the question at hand. The question of whether it's even possible Mark did actually invent the empty tomb, is tacitly also the question: is it even possible that some anonymous Mr. Nobody (or for that matter the mere John Mark, who in Christian tradition whines and goes home causing a rift between the team of Paul and Barnabas), introduced so awesome an innovation with a tomb and its emptiness, competing against received existent traditions dating back 40 years already (on standard dating theories), that people across wide groups of Christendom quickly overwrote their own ideas to comport with his own bold novelty from plot-nowhere?

Sure it's possible in a hypothetical metaphysical sense; it isn't a nonsensical proposition.

But when spelled out like that, and in concert with the known historical contexts (even very sceptically considered), it is so implausible as a historical hypothesis, I'd have to judge it a historical impossibility in the sense that this did not actually in fact happen.

When I say this did not happen, I mean that many different competitive Christian groups (according to one sceptical stereotype) would be competing against this upstart from nowhere as a dangerous innovation; or this upstart innovation would be competing, itself, against a widespread long-established singular resistance to the innovation (according to another sceptical stereotype, although one more in agreement with conservative beliefs -- just a more vaguely sinister interpretation of them). But there is no evidence either option happened, or any variety of either option. There is a flock of evidence floating around instead, that the empty tomb is accepted without any problems in itself at all.

In combination with (1), I think this point is decisive about the empty tomb as such (accepted without any problems in itself), and not something-just-like-an-empty-tomb-but-somehow-not (which theoretically the GosMatt polemic could be about), dating back as an idea to within days of Jesus' death (per the implications of the GosMatt polemic).

If it's an invention, it was invented then, not 40 years (or however long) later by GosMark's author. There is no possible alternate historical theory that fits the eventual shape of the data.

While I said the empty tomb, upon all available evidence (of a flock of tomb references), was clearly accepted without any problems in itself, the tomb story tended to come along with a significant number of associated problems! -- even starting in GosMark!

But I think those problems turn out to be important in support of Mark (whoever the GosMark author is) not inventing the empty tomb.

Next up: a gratuitous Doctor Who reference in the title!


Jason Pratt said…

...no, of course that isn't it. Jelly baby?

Also, registering for comment tracking.

Jason Pratt said…
Addendum: I suppose an alternate theory could be that for 40 years Christians widely believed in something like a tomb whenever the topic came up but for 40 years no one could figure out what, in a Judeo-Palestinian origin-situation, this thing-like-a-tomb could possibly be, so that when Mark innovated a tomb to address this problem the ground was well-prepared for glad and wide acceptance of the innovation to solve the problem.

But this would require a pretty silly lack of the most mundane imagination possible for 40 years. When paired with any sceptical theory based on the Christians creatively imagining up a lot of more colorful things, the theory looks proportionately worse! -- they could imagine Jesus walking on water (and imagine three variants that happen to have stereoscopic narrative details), but needed Mark to imagine where that body could have possibly be stored and guarded to vanish from that was just like a tomb but never called a tomb yet??

Yeah, no, I would never be that desperate as a sceptic.

Jason Pratt said…
(Yes, in hindsight I should have chosen a miracle from the pre-Markan narrative tradition, instead of the water walking which could without horrible implausibility have been invented by Mark, to illustrate the problem with the addendum theory variant. That isn't the point.)

you know the atheist argument that the would not have wasted a tombon a crucified guy, so we have answered that by showing they woudl if someone claimed the body,
Jason Pratt said…
They wouldn't even have necessarily needed someone to claim the body, depending on what their setup was for dealing with religious holidays without inflaming the population (a key point for rationales by both the Romans and the Sanhedrin in all the canonical stories, and historically relevant). I remember seeing a pretty liberal documentary arguing against JosArim on the ground that the Romans would have had a few spare tombs nearby for temporarily storing bodies during such a period (thus adjusting the sceptical theory to needing JosArim for a new tomb.)

I don't know anything one way or another about demonstrated Roman practice in that regard (had they actually found evidence of this, or were they just spitballing?) but I acknowledge that a spare temporary tomb for executed criminals during holidays is plausible under the circumstances.

Even a demonstrated practice of this, however, wouldn't actually count against a citizen committee for taking responsibility of the bodies and so ensuring that Torah regulations weren't left to the caprice of Roman sergeants! -- which is also historically plausible. All the texts (including GosJohn, in some ways more than the others) show a lot of support for Jesus by religious leaders up to and even (tacitly) during the pre-trial investigation meeting that night. That's historically plausible, too, and so that the guy in charge of dealing with the bodies before the Passover/sabbath happened to himself be a follower of Jesus isn't historically implausible.

Really, JosArim would be my choice for setting up a faked vanished body situation, although I don't know how he could have had time to set it up. There'll be a series on that later someday. {wry g}

Jason Pratt said…
(I will in fact be passing by JosArim topically in the next entry -- although not addressing a conspiracy theory about Joseph setting up a body disappearance.)

Anonymous said…
I just happen to be working my way through Glenn Miller's Christian Thinktank articles and was reading this one just the other day. It might be of interest to those reading through this series of posts. (Glenn gets rather detailed in his discussion, but there's a helpful summary at the end for those who can't stand the suspense.) ;-)

Temporary Burial?
Jason Pratt said…
Good link; that topic is outside the scope of my argument, but would eventually be covered in a later series about moving the body intentionally (including to fake a resurrection).

Ah, the good old days, when Richard had no problems with the historicity of Jesus, the tomb, and even the empty tomb really! {g!} I remember those days fondly. He and Jeff were both good opponents; Jeff still is!

And I still usually get along with Richard. When I point out that Jesus Myth proponents are really just putting together eeevvvveeerrryyyythiinnnngggg sceptical they can find about Jesus from all kinds of sources into a sort-of coherent total, I usually have him in mind as an example. In a backhanded way, refutations like Glenn's (and mine and a bunch of other people) to proposed theories of Richard's (or to other theories Richard was aware of) would have kind of boxed him into a corner where his resolution alternatives would be to treat the Jesus story as being completely mythical (for all practical purposes, aside from some ultimately insignificant bits perhaps), or to treat the Jesus story as being substantially historical. And if the latter option runs into his philosophical constraints, and he sees no good reason to alter those, then what's the best solution remaining for someone in his position? Jesus Mythicism, whatever its difficulties, must look less difficult than the other options: now he doesn't have to come up with a historically plausible scenario for what happened to the body for example, because there was never any dead body to begin with.

I can see the same process playing out over time with Bart Ehrman. In his famous debate with William Lane Craig several years ago (...gosh, how old am I now??), BE was willing to grant all four of WLC's historical core points, including that the body went missing; but during the debate he could only come up with theories for it that were so weak he himself explicitly stated he couldn't believe his own theories -- and yet he was still trying to convince the audience that theories he himself rejected were still worth accepting as plausibly historical! In one of his examples, almost before the echoes from his disavowal of his own proposition could return from the parking lot, he was trying to get the audience to regard it as entirely plausible. (In the afterchat at Victor Reppert's dangerousidea.blogspot.com, I opined that this was why he had suddenly changed his mind about doing a book of the debate with WLC, treating the offer with great hostility as damaging to his career if he did so. I had a lot of criticism for both sides in that debate, but this is why I regard him as having lost it overall.) Eventually he moved to a position where he doesn't think the body went missing, but rather that the disciples' beliefs originated from hallucinations and/or dreams of Jesus' return. (As far as I know he's still there, but I haven't kept up with him very closely for a while.)

Ironically, there's a fan page for Richard -- I mean kept up by his fans -- with links to various discussions, which includes an entry for me going to one of our later discussions on Victor Reppert's site, if I recall correctly, although my main discussion might have been with Keith Parsons instead. I don't recall for sure because I haven't checked it in a while, but I've been meaning to do a Cadre article on it for a few years, because whoever created the link and its description misread me so badly as to think I was denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus!

Jason Pratt said…
I should note that the temporary-tomb theory I was talking about had nothing at all to do with Jewish care for the body (which is a separate issue) but rather Roman attempts to meet a minimum local socio-cultural requirement under unusual circumstances. Thus the documentary was trying to get a (temporary) tomb burial without recourse to Joseph of Arimathea or anyone else like him (Nicodemus etc.) at all.

This would be a theoretical case of Jesus being slain by the Roman state and no one showing up to give him burial rights for some reason (rights which would have been largely though not entirely voided by a Sanhedrin execution but which voidance wouldn't have applied for a Roman execution, any more than the Sanhedrin would have been required to fast for a day since they didn't actually condemn Jesus to what was eventually his actual death legally speaking); but the sergeant on duty has orders to deal with the slain bodies in some way that might avoid giving more cause to foment a riot, especially with a sabbath starting (and even more importantly a Passover -- and even more importantly a Passover sabbath!) So in that very unusual situation a couple of nearby tombs would give the Romans some leeway for locals to deal with the problem later according to their own customs (and give local proto-rabbis something to debate about for procedure! {g})

Whether this would fulfill the criteria for producing the GosMatt polemic testimony (as linked back to in Part 1), I'm not sure; but then I'm also verrrry unsure whether this Roman temporary Jewish tomb proposal is anything other than a hypothesis. Or whether, even if technically historical, it would count for Jesus under the broadly testified circumstances -- even if the Romans did have emergency temporary tombs nearby for rare situation cases, why wouldn't a citizen committee under (at least) nominal leadership of a Sanhedrin member be making preparations to get all the bodies down and into a full first-burial of some kind? The blasphemy charge against Jesus doesn't seem to preclude this procedure; and even if it precluded some rites, if JosArim (and Nico) had abstained from condemnation then giving Jesus standard fast rites would be a protest vote. Rabbis (even proto-rabbis) are some clever insulters after all!


Popular posts from this blog

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

Tillich, part 2: What does it mean to say "God is Being Itself?"

The Folded Napkin Legend