A Curious Key to a Historical Jesus (Part 7 of 9)

New to the series? I recommend tracing back through previous entries to catch up. Part 6 is here.

Part 7: Hints of a Particular Person and Place

So, where are we now?

We have the chief priests, setting guards over a body. Which pretty much obliterates the notion that the body was thrown into a common grave.

Jesus' disciples wouldn't have thrown their own Master into a common grave; the only people who would have done that, would be the Romans or the Sanhedrin itself.

If the Romans had done this, then Romans would have accepted any necessary responsibility for guarding it (assuming any guarding was thought to be desirable in the first place). Yet as I have shown, it is not the best historical conclusion that the Romans were the ones who sent the guard (even before we get out of the Key and into other parts of the GosMatt story, much less into other accounts of the incident!)

So either the Romans never had anything at all to do with the body--as far as the Key by itself goes, and assuming that the promise to the guards from the chief priests as reported in the Key cannot be established as being itself a historically accurate report yet--or else the Romans had released the body back to someone within Jewish authority jurisdiction.

Back to the Sanhedrin? Then the Sanhedrin would have put the body in a place so tightly guarded that no story of sleeping on the job would have had even bare credence, no matter what kind of authority backed the story!

More precisely, had a body disappeared while under direct Sanhedrin control, and if they thought their opponents could score (or were scoring) points about that disappearance, they would have said simply that they had disposed of the body.

The implication therefore, is that someone other than the Sanhedrin itself (and other than Rome) had nominal responsibility for the body.

Who else other than the two State Departments (Roman and Jewish) would likely have control of the body? Jesus' family or disciples.

Would his family or disciples have left the body just sitting out in the open exposed? No, they would have tried to put it somewhere, even if only for temporary storage (until after the Passover, for instance).

The notion of a tomb, or a similarly enclosed area, becomes increasingly more likely.

And that adds to the further implausibility of the theft-story.

After all, the Sanhedrin had sent guards.

The Sanhedrin was hardly in the habit of setting body-guards for every dead body. Guards might be set against graverobbers of an ordinary sort (especially during Passover weekend?); but those would have been hired by the family or followers (somewhat as 'police squads' were commonly hired by people to make citizen-arrests at the time). These guards evidently were not hired by the family or friends of Jesus, though.

The Romans, admittedly, might set a guard over the common criminal grave, perhaps, as a normal operating procedure. But we aren't talking about the Romans anymore; and the notion of a common grave has vanished into deep implausibility.

The Sanhedrin, therefore, must have also had a reason to suspect someone would tamper with the body.

State Departments do not normally send out only two guards to keep watch over a body not entirely within their control, when they expect someone might tamper with the body.

And if we decide (later) that this whole incident must have happened near the tail-end of a politically volatile holiday, then we may deepen this suspicion into a virtual certainty--especially if we also decide (later) that our dead man was a political hot potato.

Yet, the more guards on watch, the exponentially less probable the 'we-all-fell-asleep-or-were-standing-around-bored-beyond-comprehension-of-nearby-events' explanation becomes.

Furthermore, if the Sanhedrin thought someone might tamper with the body, are we to suppose this did not occur to whomever did have control of the body? Would they not have done their own best to make certain the body was secure?

Either they had no clue, and were as surprised as anyone when the guards started testifying that they had gone out to post a detail on the body overnight; or else 'their own best' evidently did not include letting the Sanhedrin take the body and put it within direct State control (within a special compound in the city, for instance, near the Temple--assuming such a place even existed or could have existed.)

While I can draw nothing from this (by itself) strong enough to hang anything else on, it does at least point toward the concept that someone had nominal control of the body, who not only wasn't the Sanhedrin (I mean altogether, considered as an acting group), but who wasn't inclined to let the Sanhedrin do whatever they wanted to with the body--and maybe who also had the clout to prevent the Sanhedrin from simply taking the body someplace more secure.

After all, the chief priests evidently were interested in the security of the body, at some point in time before its disappearance: interested enough to detail some guards.

But, I won't try to establish this person's existence from the Key.

As I have demonstrated, there is a significant amount of solid history that can be inferred from this one little key passage--an otherwise unremarkable sub-story that on the face of it might have been invented from scratch to fulfill some dramatic unities.

This unity shouldn't be surprising, even on a strictly naturalistic presupposition: we should expect reality to be self-consistent, and so a natural history reported with reasonable accuracy will be a self-consistent story. So would a history with elements of the supernatural, for what it's worth--although admittedly I would need to demonstrate that we can expect the supernatural to be just as self-consistent as the natural (I mean that contradictions cannot be real, even at the supernatural level.) To say the least, that’s a topic far outside the scope of this series of articles.

Meanwhile, there is one element of history, preserved in this Key, that I haven't strongly touched yet: an element that reduces to shambles some theories regarding the behavior of the early Christian church.

Next up: so, why were the opponents claiming a theft...?


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