Wounds Not Bones

It seems someone is always “finding” the rumored remains of Jesus Christ. But even if this is true — what does it really do for us now?

Every now and again we hear of someone finding the remainder of Jesus Christ’s body. The definitive discovery of Jesus remains would not change my faith in Christianity because the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a metaphorical parable about the meaning of Jesus’ life and death and not an historical account about the status of Jesus’ corpse and tomb.

First, the New Testament says that Jesus is seated (or standing) at the right hand of God. As a Christian I do not take that literally. I take it metaphorically as announcing that Jesus is the heir-apparent of God since — in ancient court protocol — the heir-apparent sits at the king’s right hand. In other words, God always comes to me through Jesus — yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Second, the New Testament — at least in the Gospel according to Luke and (differently) in his Acts of the Apostles — describes Jesus ascending into heaven at a specific time and place and before a watching apostolic audience. I do not take that literally. I take it metaphorically as the necessary prelude to locate Jesus at God’s right hand.

Third, the New Testament speaks of the risen apparitions and empty tomb of Jesus. There were certainly visions of Jesus after his execution — and visions are literal facts. How one explains them is another question. Visions or apparitions are not hallucinations but are — like dreams — hard-wired options of the human mind in absolute grief over the sudden — and especially the horrible — death of a beloved person. The finding of the empty tomb is a fiction created by Mark in order to avoid ending his gospel with those earlier visions.

In other words, bodily resurrection by God, bodily ascension to God, and bodily location beside God are linked metaphors which insist that Jesus was executed by Rome but raised to God. The Heavenly Court overturned the decision of the Earthly Court (God as Activist Judge!). In other words, the resurrection of Jesus means that God was on a collision course with the Roman Empire — not because it was Roman but because it was Empire. Faith in Jesus’ resurrection is a declaration of Christian treason against any Empire — yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Fourth, it took Paul the 58 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 to (try to) explain the exact status of Jesus’ body after his bodily resurrection. It did not seem as easy a question for him as for many contemporary Christians for whom Jesus simply exited the tomb to a new and never-again-to-die life. And, were you there, you would have seen that departure.

Finally, I imagine myself asking this question of Paul. We have found the remains of Jesus, Paul, so what about his bodily resurrection? Get a life, Dominic! A human person is always a combination of body and soul so — if the bones are in a tomb somewhere — God has given Jesus a new and Spirit-filled body. We can only speak of that new body, Dominic, metaphorically and never literally—like the seed that dies and lives again in absolute continuity and discontinuity with what went before (see 1 Corinthians 15:36-50).

Let me ask you one other question, Paul. What if we — definitively — found the remains of Jesus and we — definitively — found that he died of old age? What if, Paul, Jesus had not died by Roman execution? What if, Paul, there were no wounds? What if that Spirit-filled body seated beside God bore no wounds from imperial execution but only the scars of aged arthritis? Would that change everything, Paul? Yes, Dominic, it would.

Christian gospels, Christian artists, and Christian mystics have always borne witness that the wounds of imperial injustice never fade from the body of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is, therefore, a metaphorical or parabolical claim about the body — and not just the soul — of Jesus. My own Christian faith does not concern itself with the remains of Jesus — whether found or not found — but it concerns itself constitutively with the wounds of Jesus. Bodily resurrection is about imperial wounds and not about buried bones.

 

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  • Adam

    Hi JohnInteresting exposition of your views, which I’m fairly well acquainted with after reading your various Historical Jesus books. One striking analogy you pointed out as a parallel with Jesus is Bishop Romero and the faith his life inspires in others. Another one that struck me was Che Guevara – I browsed a book about his life and death, which was almost a hagiography as it was so full of photos as a loving record of his life, and a proclamation about how he still influences people.I was listening to the local Christian radio station and they had William Lane Craig on discussing the resurrection, and how it seemed like the most unlikely thing for the disciples to have fabricated and built their message on, then to have died for a false belief. I know you answer that particular claim partially by saying that, for them, the Resurrection they felt in their lives after Jesus’s death was enough explanation of why they were impelled to die for Jesus’ message.People have certainly died for less noble causes, but there seems to be an explanation gap – what caused the belief? Why did the Jesus message seem like New Life, a new body etc? Surely it must’ve been a defeat for the disciples’ Messiah to have been killed?What makes Jesus’ death any more significant than any other martyr for a (supposedly) righteous cause?

  • Bill L

    Your faith in Christianity? What faith? You are one of the wolves fortold who wish to devour the faithful!

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Bill L.,Christian charity, if you please, particularly at Easter.Thanks.

  • Ba’al

    Professor Crossan’s writings are always interesting. I wish he could go all the way to where his results are so clearly pointing.

  • Anonymous

    Crossan’s article is the first time I’ve heard a Christian say that he views the Resurrection as a parable and other statements in the Gospels as metaphors.

  • Bill L

    Concerned, the devil is not a winged thingy, but the most beautiful and powerful of angels! Russell, his name is not Possan! He claims to be a Christian yet denies everything to do with Christianity. Thats dishonesty and needs to be called on. Non-Christians always call for open mindedness and bash those who disagree in the same breath.

  • FRIEND

    If leaders in the church allow the interpretation of the resurrection as metaphorical, they will be welcoming back many who have left.

  • FRIEND

    A metaphorical interpretation of the resurrection is honest and true.

  • Anonymous

    Crossan saying he’s a Christian who doesn’t believe Jesus was the Christ is like someone else saying they’re an atheist who believes in God. You can’t make up your own definitions.

  • FRIEND

    Why can’t you make up your own definitions if it helps describe who you are?I don’t see any problem with an atheist believing in a non-personal god.

  • Anonymous

    well, then they’re not an atheist, they’re a theist.

  • FRIEND

    I guess calling myself an atheist/buddist/catholic must be confusing but I can’t describe it in any other way.

  • Bill L

    I am being charitable! He fell for Satans lies and now promotes them. Truth is charity! Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, which he denies.

  • ALM

    Prof Crossan,A beautifully written essay that brought tears to my eyes, and the thought that Jesus LOVES what you are saying about his Resurrection!Find HIM in one another; don’t be concerned about the things of the flesh. And he is present always and closer to us than our breathing in and out.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Bill L,The mythical projections of devils would not be in the category of “most beautiful and powerful” of “talking wingy thingies”. They would be in mythical categories of gargoyles, fairies, demons, vampires or werewolves, all extensions of Dark Age devil superstitions. Walking in the “holy rain/reign” of orthodoxy should however keep you safe.

  • Bryan

    Dom, Thanks again,

  • E Favorite

    Former Catholic priests, like Crossan, who become scholars, don’t have to toe the party line, so they don’t.I think that many active clergy share his perceptions, but can’t say so, for fear their superiors and/or their congregations would go ballistic, a la Bill L. Meanwhile, so many people are awash in a sea of misinformation and misperception and ignorance, misled and betrayed by the people they trust the most.This is a travesty. Please prof Crossan – do something about this. Speaking your mind on an internet forum is a start, but it’s not enough.

  • Bill L

    Friend, I call it confused. Russell, that is very true! However calling yourself Christian, then attacking every belief Christianity holds is lying. Non-Christians call for Christians to be tolerant by giving up all their beliefs and embrace non-Christian beliefs. That is not being tolerant of Christian faiths!

  • Russell D.

    Bill:Open your mind and think about what he said before you shove your foot in your mouth even more. Great article Mr. Possan. I enjoyed it.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Bill L,Satan is another mythical “wingy thingie” taken from ancient religions and folklore. The devil concepts were once good at placing blame for leading uneducated “pew peasants” astry. We “pew peasants” are now educated and we will no longer accept the belief in ancient myths.

  • Jack Jozevfz etal “Secular Soldier” against religious Killers int’l & Beyond

    Att: A N O N Y M O U S, et al:You said, “…. During my International Smuggling days i remember when I wpuld be sleeping, In some Inter contonental hotel, marriott or where ever that:In ARABIC and now ON-LOUD- SPEAKERS systems, For all the world to hear ( I find that repulsive and insaine) The Mosques & their Cantors (reciters or religious singers , would wake me up! It was a if the Islamic Rooster “Cocka Doodle Do’s” for your rude awakening.. Ya Ya Mon!THIS Is WHY & How, Islam gets sustained or preserved. In brooklyn, N.Y., the Cops will ticket them. and posibbly close them down. Ya? Ya!Now We should know why they are Hard Headed under those SCHmottess!Oh, ANNONYMOUS, I like your Arabic Letters: in Shallah. Praise Eclati the true SOURCE ONE. The all knowing and all powerfull ECLAT. Ya Ya!

  • Anonymous

    I do agree with you JWS; I almost always do! I have a very big problem with Crossan and the Jesus Seminar. Crossan does not believe that Jesus was the Christ. He does not believe that He was God in man. He does not believe He was God’s begotten Son. He does not believe that Jesus performed miracles. He does not believe that He rose from the dead.When you start with the belief that “miracles are impossible”, then you immediately discredit a huge portion of the NT as “obviously” made-up. That is the kind of “scholarly” work that the Jesus Seminar has done.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    The problem with the “miracles” of Jesus is the lack of attestations i.e. major miracles appear in only one Gospel e.g. the changing of water into wine only appears in the Gospel of John (349-. Water into Wine: (1) John 2:1-11; ). See An excerpt: “It is evident that the fourth evangelist is less interested in the miracle itself than in its symbolic value. . … In the Cana story, the replacement of the water destined for the purification rotes with good wine constitutes the symbolic miracle: the new, good wine is Christianity, which replaces the old, ineffective rites symbolized by the imperfect number six—one short of seven … “

  • Anonymous

    CCNL,There are multiple mentions in Matthew, Mark and Luke about miracles and healings being performed.

  • JWS

    My point is that whether these events and miracles, etc. are historical or metaphorical/mythological doesn’t change the ‘truth’ of the bible. Take for example the star over Bethlehem. It doesn’t really matter if really happened or not. What matters is that that particular story illustrates for us, for humanity, the idea that Jesus was a “light unto the world”. It provides us with an understanding of the underlying consequence/meaning of Jesus birth. Just because we call something mythological, doesn’t mean it isn’t true in a wider sense. So there is nothing wrong with viewing much of the stories in the bible as metaphorical or mythological. If anything it opens your mind to the greater truth that they illustrate.

  • Anonymous

    JWS,Well, if you’re going to say that only “some” of the bible is true, then someone has to decide which parts are true and which parts aren’t. So, how is that determined? And who gets to decide?

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a thought:If you don’t think the Bible’s true, then stop worrying about how to change it, and who really wrote it. Leave it alone; you don’t believe it anyway, so why worry yourself? Go read another book. Or better yet, write your own!

  • Ken

    It is all very well to opine that much resurrection language is metaphor and symbol. But it is an intellectually dishonest dodge to stop with that declaration. Metaphors and symbols can have concrete as well as abstract referents.Pretending that by using the metaphor talk we have said anything meaningful about the resurrection exposes our materialistic nineteent-century presuppsoitions. The resurrection evidence, so abundantly documented by witnesses, and so easily refuted if there were contrary evidence, was as implausible to its first hearers and readers as to us. They had nothing to base their beliefs on other than there own direct experience.The belief that the early Christians went willingly to their deaths because of some hopeful symbolism developed by later generations is too preposterous.

  • Anonymous

    The press is not biased…only the questions it asks.What if it had asked: “If someone resurrected after being dead 4 days and said: “Jesus raised me”, would atheists believe?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Ross,If you have more than two web addresses in your comments, you will get the message about your note being reviewed. Pamela, I doubt, has anything to do with it since it happens on all the On Faith comment sites. Strange limit!!!

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Think about why people were executed in first to third century Roman empire. Typically you were executed because you were considered a threat to the peace or economic well-being of the Empire. Those preaching about a new Kingdom/empire and also those getting funds for said activity, funds that typically went to Roman temples and taxes were executed, no questions asked. Jesus for example was considered such a threat as were his followers.

  • E favorite

    Hi, JSS, I’m baaaack, with my message to counter yours:Apologies to those who have seen it before.No one is saying that Jesus is a con-man. The number of copies of a book, any book, says nothing about the veracity of its contents. It seems that if people are taught to believe something,(e.g. Santa Claus, Jesus) by trusted elders, they will, blocking out logical arguments against it and becoming unusually gullible to arguments that confirm their beliefs. Add the promise of eternal life, and I can see how such beliefs become resistant to normal logic.

  • JWS

    The shear number of different Christian denominations is an obvious example of why you cannot define a finite an exclusive set of ‘Christian beliefs’. It is arrogant to claim that you are a Christian by what *you* believe and simultaneously claim another is not Christian because their Christian creed or their view of the Resurrection is worded differently than yours.BTW, I think an ‘athiest who believes in God’ is a perfect way to describe those who have discarded both the theistic and deistic portraits of God, but still believe there is something that encompasses and yet transcends our vast universe.Dr. Crossan, thank you for your comments, they are always thought provoking and yet comforting.

  • JSS

    Christian Charity…does that take into account that Christ said he came to bring a sword and that a man’s enemies will be members of his own household? Christian Charity…what about when Christ say woe to you…and condemned people to hell. Further, what about Christ returning in Revelation with a sword coming out of his mouth to open up the seals of final judgment. Many on this site would like to define Christian charity in a non-biblical manner through their supposed enlightened scholarship which basically gives them freedom to believe whatever they want about Christ and ignore the Bible.Atheist who believes in God…Liars with integrity…unselfish thieves…compassionate murderers…Pagan Christians…The ability to manipulate words makes no one more intelligent. Instead, it exposes tortured attempts to square the contradictions of one’s life with the truth. It is inherently dishonest.Bill, you should keep sharing your phenomenal insights. You are a good man.

  • Ba’al

    Bill LProfessor Crossan doesn’t share YOUR beliefs in Christianity. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a Christian.

  • JWS

    JSS: Ahhh the irony!

  • candide

    Crossan knows that the New Testament is bunk. He knows that Jesus did not come to save men from their sins but to save Israel from the Romans. He knows he was not raised from the dead. Yet he pretends to believe. Crossan: come clean!

  • Bill L

    And if someones taught not to believe something by trusted elders they will block out all evidence to the counter, even if given by God himself.

  • JSS

    If a bomb goes off it leaves evidence in a thousand different ways. If Christ’s resurrection was really false, then this idea that a Catholic purge of historical documents has covered that up requires massive amounts of faith to believe. Consider these historical documents. I will list the data for each in this order:Herodotus; written 488-428 BC; earliest copy 900 AD; 1300 years between; 8 copiesThucydides; written 460-400 BC; earliest copy 900 AD; 1300 years between; 8 copiesTacitus; written 100 AD; earliest copy 1100 AD; 1000 years between; 20 copiesCaesar’s Gallic War; written 58-50 BC; earliest copy 900 AD; 950 years between; 9-10 copiesLivy’s Roman History; written 59 BC-17 AD; earliest copy 900 AD; time between 900 years; 20 copiesNew Testament; written 40-100 AD; earliest copy 130 AD (full manuscript 350 AD); time between 30-300 years; 26,300 copies…all I am saying is that the evidence for the authenticity of the documents related to the New Testament is overwhelming compared to other documents that NO ONE disputes. There are over 5000 Greek manuscripts; over ten thousand Latin manuscripts and 9300 other manuscripts, as well as over thirty-six thousand citings in the writings of the early church fathers. As one of the greatest textual critics every, F.J.A. Hort, said, “In the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests, the test of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.”No Other Religion is founded on fulfilled prophecies given hundreds of years before the life of the religious leader. Christ fulfilled over 300 prophecies (spoken by different voices over 500 years) including 29 major prophecies fulfilled in a single day. If Christ was such a clever con-man then how did he fulfill the prophecy about his birth place. Was he able to con his mother into moving to Bethlehem while he was still in the womb? What about prophecies about Herod’s attempt to kill all children 2 years and under thereby requiring a move to Egypt to escape. Did Jesus as a barely speaking 2 year old convince his parents to choose Egypt? It is equally absurd to think that we have over 26,000 copies of the New Testament dated to within 300 years of being written and NOT ONE that says Jesus never existed or that he was a liar or that his followers were con-men.

  • Nivedita

    A very nice and insightful article. Hope more people can actually judge religion for themselves rather than blindly follow what a book and /or priest says!!

  • Anonymous

    Nivedita,Ah, but millions of people don’t simply follow what A book or A priest say. It’s what many books and many pastors have echoed over many years, that they know in their hearts to be true. You don’t have to be lacking in knowledge to believe what the Bible says about God and Jesus. And you don’t have to have a wealth of knowledge to believe it either, although it can help you if you want to argue about it with someone. What you do need is faith. Crossan and Spong and others like them had it once. They lost it. They didn’t get smarter; they lost their faith.

  • JWS

    Anon: If you interpret the bible literally, than that will give you one interpretation. If you interpret the bible metaphorically, than you can have a different outlook. Biblical “truth” IS in the eye of the beholder. In terms of the resurrection, what is important to some of us at least, is not the specifics of how it happened, it is the end result. Our ‘faith’ is the relationship that we have with God/Jesus because of the resurrection, not our belief of how the resurrection happened.

  • JWS

    Upon further thought, I want to clarify my last statement. A literalist interpretation of the bible can give many viewpoints, since there are many instances within the bible where scripture contradicts itself in a purely literal reading. Many fundamentalists seem to me to be selective in what they decide is biblical ‘truth’. I think they are missing the point. The resurrection, be it literal or metaphorical or something inbetween clearly happened, or we wouldn’t be pontificating about it. But the historical details, while of academic interest, don’t change the effect that it has had on much of human society.

  • FRIEND

    The less you know, the more you believe.

  • Henry

    Oh Oh

  • Adam

    John Crossan came to his conclusions by a deep study of the Gospels – in the standard Greek NT text and its variant readings, not just English translations. Thus I trust his understanding of what the Gospels are saying. The Gospels are shockingly diverse in their treatment of quite important events – look at the contradictions between the Synoptics and John, or even between Matthew/Mark versus Luke/Acts on the nature and location of the Resurrection appearances – there’s an evident tendentious reworking and reinterpretation of the story in each of the Gospels. Not harmony, not superstitious reverence of a fixed, immutable text, but creative re-deployment of key ideas by each Gospeller. They all wrote with a specific purpose, but often at odds with each other – look at how John ignores the story of Simon of Cyrene, stating explicitly that Jesus carried his own cross. Why? Because his Jesus is in control from first to last. Yet Mark has him cry out in utter despair. Why?And what kind of faith motivated such different stories of Jesus at his most critical time? When literalists can answer that, then perhaps they’ll understand the difference between fact and faith.

  • Anonymous

    Bill L: And how do people know that the evidence comes from “God himself” — because a trusted person, or book tells them so?At some point,with some people, logic comes into play. That’s why kids will confront their parents about santa claus – and the parents will concede there’s no santa claus. deception over.It doesn’t work that way with religion. The trusted person urges people back into belief, threatening them with eternal hellfire and the loss of eternal life.This is more compelling than the loss of a jolly old elf delivering Christmas presents, especially when the presents keep coming anyhow, delivered straight from mom and dad.

  • E Favorite

    Last post to Bill L is mine.

  • Adam

    Hi “Anonymous”Even assuming the traditional authors are correct – it can be argued either way – the differences are too great to be just style or memory differences. The Gospellers were preaching quite distinct though related Gospels, but that’s a point that’s lost on inerrantists too.Personally I would prefer a transcendentally unique Resurrection event – a real, full-body reanimation – because it would be a slam-dunk for the existence of God (though Patrick Tilley’s “Mission” gives an alternative to mainstream Christianity – a good book to read.) I personally think the Shroud of Turin is evidence for Jesus’s burial and his likeness, and thus – contra mythicists – there was a real Jesus, who really died – contra “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”.But did he physically rise? And, more importantly, was that the only trigger for the Resurrection faith? Or was the process more protracted, more gradual, as per John Crossan’s model? I don’t think there’s enough evidence either way. I disagree with Crossan over Joseph of Arimathea – I think he was real, and John doesn’t – but I do find him to be too ambiguous historically to accept John-the-Gospeller’s claim that Joseph was a disciple. And none of the Synoptics mention a Nicodemus.So I accept Jesus was buried, and I think one of his followers found an empty tomb (and Shroud) a few days later – but that didn’t trigger faith in a Risen Jesus straight away. I agree with Mark-the-Gospeller that the Risen Jesus wasn’t seen until the disciples fled back to Galilee, but I can’t say how long that took either. Surprisingly the Gospels are at odds over that issue too.Many evangelicals have tried to reconcile the Gospel accounts, but the variance is too great for any proposed solutions to be little better than wishful piety.

  • Anonymous

    All I can say about the different things that were or were not included in the different accounts in the gospels is that different people have different writing styles and remember different details. John was a fisherman, Luke was a doctor, Matthew a tax collector. I would imagine they would have greatly different writing styles, emotion and attention given to detail.

  • Cyndy

    Wow, some really passionate responses!Please know that many Christian groups are not seen as Christians by others who call themselves Christian. Since Christianity is concerned with a personal, inner, spiritual change, I think it is difficult to argue with someone who calls themselves as Christian. As far as a literal or metaphorical meaning of the Bible: Fundamentalists (as far as I understand) hold the Bible to be the LITERAL, ACTUAL, FACTUAL truth. I do have issues with this since the Bible that most of these Christians is reading has been translated many times. Jesus himself said he was teaching in parables — a story meant to teach a moral, not necessarily true. We tell our children many parables; do you expect them to believe all of them as literal truth?The Bible is an amazing document. I doubt anyone can make a valid argument that a man named Jesus (depending on translation, maybe Joshua) actually exsisted. The truth about the resurrection is a matter of faith, not science.

  • Viejita del oeste

    Once again, I wonder whether the people commenting on this item have even read what Dr. Crossan wrote. He represents the most reliable form of Christian, those whose basic faith in the power of the Trinity is unshaken by research and study. If the Lord didn’t want us to ask questions, he would not have given us the type of brains we have. The simple-minded might require physical miracles….

  • E favorite

    Bill L – I know you said “…God Himself, not someone reprsenting God.”I’m saying God hasn’t spoken to anyone directly since Bible times, so how can people tell, these days, that God is talking to them?

  • Marc Halo

    QUOTE JSS: RESPONSE:

  • Marc Halo

    “God hasn’t spoken to anyone directly since Bible times, so how can people tell, these days, that God is talking to them?”lololololololol I guess God’s hiding away because He still knows He owes Satan or me for taking for granted what some ‘arcangel’ of mine told Him about me, before I fell.God, it’d be great if he came back, I’d forgive Him over my whole big ‘war’ with Him if He’d just give me my supernatural body back. Nobody knows how much I miss it. I’d even obey it all, all those stupid rules, be better than being replaced.. it’s just my nature to hate Him since I can’t cope doign the ‘right’ thing without Him.

  • Marc Halo

    oops – mistake – – *after* i Fell, aka before the ‘2nd’ Fall aka when i was stationed on Earth in early human times.

  • Marc Halo

    * ie SUPERNATURALLY , but still around humans. The devil that was a snake in Eden was most likely a different being, not me – or i’d have the feeling like anythign else that’s true in my ‘gut’, – that snake a different devil. i think i was not a shapeshifter.. i can’t remember being in a snake!!!!!

  • Bill L

    E.Favorite, through the bible and his Holy Church. He told his disciples that “those who listen to you listen to me, and those who reject you reject me and He who sent me”.

  • Garyd

    So professor Crossan is your religion then merely a metaphor for your politics?

  • Anonymous

    Anonymoys says: “It doesn’t work that way with religion. The trusted person urges people back into belief, threatening them with eternal hellfire and the loss of eternal life.”Not exactly. The person with faith knows he has experienced living truth and cannot turn his back on it.While founders of other religions have been reduced to myth figures, the followers of Jesus Christ have become increasingly vivified by what we believe is his compelling presence.

  • Bill L

    Viejita, Mr Crossan doesn’t believe in the Trinity. How can you say he repesents those whose basic belief in the Trinity is unshaken by reseach? E. Favorite, you missed my point completely. I said God Himself, not someone reprsenting God. Cindy, a Christian is one who accepts Jesus’ teachings, Church, and divinity. If I call myself an American but was not born here, do not live here, do not believe in free speech, free elections, free press, trail by jury, or private ownership I am either very confused or I’m a liar! The same goes for many “christians”.

  • Garyd

    Adam litterally hundreds of harmonizations have been written of the four Gospels the first ones as long ago as the second century. They all work quite nicely and you need to reread Mark which frankly tells us almost nothing of Christ post Ressurection beyond “Go ye therefore…

  • E favorite

    Bill L, I’m not quite sure what you mean by this: “through the bible and his Holy Church. He told his disciples that “those who listen to you listen to me, and those who reject you reject me and He who sent me”.”Are you saying that God speaks to us through the Bible and also speaks to us through priests and ministers?If so, does that imply that everyone’s interpretation of the Bible is accurate and that what priests or ministers say is directly from God and should be treated as God talking to us?

  • Adam

    Hi GaryDA harmonisation is the opposite of an answer – it assumes the Gospels are in utter agreeance, which they aren’t. The Diatessaron was written because of the disagreements, as a glossing over of the internal textual arguments. It’s simple denial to naively combine the stories and then claim they’re in “harmony”. Perhaps they’re telling the story of one event from several points of view – but they sure don’t read that way. The disagreements are real and they have to be answered.That’s why Crossan has been led to his current minimalist Christianity – a personal quest using a historical methodology to find the Gospel free of 1st century Church-Making and mythology. Whether Crossan has succeeded or not is an individual decision – as I’ve said I respectfully disagree with some of his basic claims – but it’s disingenuous to say he’s not a Christian because he’s left behind someone else’s pet dogmas.And AFAIK he doesn’t deny the Trinity – read his “statement of faith” in “The Birth of Christianity” to see what he does believe. What he does reject is mistaking mythological language for real factual data. He might have a metaphysical myopia – I certainly think so – but he is honest in his conclusions and application of his methodological tools. And I think he really does believe.

  • Anonymous

    “…does that imply that everyone’s interpretation of the Bible is accurate and that what priests or ministers say is directly from God and should be treated as God talking to us?”No, it does not imply that. God speaks yet there is also a receiving end, us. The receiving end is limited, big time. Accordingly, we receive imperfectly, although what has been given is perfect.How do we know it is perfect? By the presence of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with peace, joy; who helps us discern notwithstanding our limitations. So it’s a process of revelation, not a formula.

  • Bill L

    Not exactly, I mean the Magesterium of the Church, not any one minister or priest. Anonymous above writes well on a personal level! We all understand as we are able, yet the Magesterium is the instrument of the Holy Spirit on a teaching level.

  • john Dominic Crossan

    Dear Bob:

  • Russell D.

    Get him Mr. Crossan! Get him!

  • Bob

    Thanks for the correction, Professor Crossan! I must go back to the text.

  • BGone

    Well professor, He’s either one or the other, seated or standing. The picture shows Him seated, as I’m sure you were taught at Cahtolic school, “at the rith hand (side) of the father and the 12 Apostles/Disciples are seated to His right.”Now, whatever gave someone an idea like that? Try the PICTURE from the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead” showing the trinity followed by ‘some’ Pharaoh followed by twelve figures. You don’t suppose….Wanna see that picture? Try BILL L, you’re all confused about Satan. Satan is God’s right hand man, a crane headed humanoid never pictured with wings that does the SECOND Judgment, the judgment of soul (record). He adminsiters the lie detector test to the dead after they get their new bodies, in the underworld (beneath the earth) on the nebol bridge. Satan records sins on their souls. The “winged” critter you’re probably thinking about is Lucifer, the fallen angel, Lord and master of hell. You need to study the hoax buster web site and get educated.

  • Garyd

    E. favorite:You left out a very important word here. That word is ‘some’. As in ‘some scholars’ and I might add that those scholars are a distinct minority.Ex Fr. Crossan and the Jesus seminarians aren’t the only Christian scholars still working today and much of what they have said has been rebutted.

  • john Dominic Crossan

    Dear BGONE:

  • Anonymous

    E favorite you ask: “Could you explain where the Holy Spirit is? How it communicates? How you know it “fills us with peace,” etc.?”I don’t know. All I know is that the presence I in his sacramental presence is not of this world and is most holy.

  • Anonymous

    E favorite you ask: “Could you explain where the Holy Spirit is? How it communicates? How you know it “fills us with peace,” etc.?”I don’t know. All I know is that the presence I feel in his sacramental presence is not of this world and is most holy.

  • Anonymous

    E- Favorite — One more point.Jesus’ sacramental presence was instituted by Jesus according to 3 of the earliest gospels and Paul.

  • BGone

    Dear Professor John Dominic Crossan:Don’t you ever wonder where so much detailed information came from? Who was there writing all that down when Stephen had visions of God?Is there any factual history in the Bible and other sacred writings or is it all from invisible people having visions of an invisible God? Don’t you find it odd how so much of the writing of those unknown people matches the pictures “on the wall” in ancient Egypt, with a coat or two of Greek mythology? They couldn’t read the writing but they could look at the pictures, kinda like, you know…

  • E Favorite

    Anon – you say, “How do we know it is perfect? By the presence of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with peace, joy; who helps us discern notwithstanding our limitations How do we know it is perfect? By the presence of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with peace, joy; who helps us discern notwithstanding our limitations.”Could you explain where the Holy Spirit is? How it communicates? How you know it “fills us with peace,” etc.? ThanksBill L, regarding how we know [galaxies] “weren’t created on computers” considering that “we haven’t been there to see for ourselves.”Humans have been observing the universe for millennia, long before computers, and thanks to constantly improving technology, our knowledge about it continues to change and increase. We have even traveled to the moon – our closest neighbor in our galaxy. This openness to new knowledge is in startling contrast to our treatment of the ancient stories in the Bible. For example, many Christians still believe in Jesus’ bodily ascension in heaven even though we now know a human body would burn up in the stratosphere and that heaven is not a physical place right on the other side of the clouds, as our ancestors thought.

  • E favorite

    Anon – I appreciate you getting back to me, but I’m afraid I’m no closer to understanding how God speaks to us these days. The holy spirit sounds pretty hard to pin down.GaryD – you’re right – I should have said all biblical scholars who are not Christian apologists think that the NT was not written by eyewitnesses. And they are definitely in the majority. They base their determinations on analysis and scholarly methods, like people any other academic field. Wanting something to be true, or having faith that it’s true doesn’t make it a fact.

  • garyd

    Adam, What disagreements among them are there that matter?The list of women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday? Sorry bad idea. Is it necessary for a brief history of the trans Missippi West that we List the names of every member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition or would it be enough to just list The names of Lewis and Clark and might not different historians list different additional names of party members without being in actual disagreement with each other? What differences there are between the four Gospels can be chocked up to the fact that different eyewitnesses are recording them.

  • Steve Ferry

    There is no contemporary historical evidence that Jesus existed, at least as one individual. If you ask most Christians what the core of their beliefs was they would cite things like baptism, marriage, Christmas and Easter that are ceremonies borrowed from other religions and cults, Mithraism, the cults of Isis and Sol Invicta etc.Interestingly Mr Crossan seems to be repeating an old heresy, Arianism, that denied the co divinity of Jesus or Homoousios as I think it was called. Read the excellent book The Great HeresiesIf God created or begot Jesus then, as the Arian argument runs he must be inferior to him. As the early church patriarchs realised hijacking the idea of ressurection from the cult of Isis and holding out the promise of it to believers would keep the money rolling in. They’re still running the same old con now and people are still falling for it.

  • Bob

    Professor Crossan,in The Dark Interval you write: 1. “The first great master claim is one which makes a distinction between art (or faith, or imagination) and science (or fact, or reason) and then postulates for each a different language and a different destiny. Having established this complete disjunction, the claim then situates one term in hierarchical supremacy over the other. In our time, it is clear that for most people the ascendancy is that of science over art.”Do you still hold to those claims? If so, don’t you have to give up on truth? If there is no external reality for our statements to correspond to then it seems we are stuck in story with no way to determine which story is true or closer to true.

  • E Favorite

    GaryD: “What differences there are between the four Gospels can be chocked up to the fact that different eyewitnesses are recording them.”That’s one possibility. You don’t and can’t know that for certain. Meanwhile, biblical scholars who study ancient writings, culture and history, don’t think that’s the case. They can’t know for certain that their views are completely accurate,either but they reach their determinations based on analysis, not a simple assertion.

  • shawn b

    john Dominic Crossan,”PS If Jesus is to the right of God, then God is to the left of Jesus. In other words, to find God, first find Jesus and the keep heading left ….”I like that :-)

  • Mr Mark

    BGone wrote:”The first significant book of the Bible, Exodus is all about killing. Passover celebrates the killing of the “eldest son” of Pharaoh who just happened to be heir to the throne. You don’t suppose the one “passed over” became or tried at least to become Pharaoh?”How many believers of the Judeo-Christian faiths know that the exodus never happened? that the word “Pharoah” is a Jewish word, not an Egyptian word?The exodus story is one of overt racism told entirely from the perspective of the Jews: the Egyptians were evil taskmasters, the Jews were god’s chosen people, oppressed by an evil state that worshipped false gods. Yet, archaeology shows absolutely no proof that the Jews were slaves to the Egyptians, or that an exodus of 1.5 million Jews from Egypt ever took place. In fact, the Jewish population in Egypt as counted by the Bible would have exceeded that of the entire population of Egypt.There’s also the laughable belief that the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years. Put aside the fact that there is no archaeological evidence (ie: garbage, pottery shards) to support such a wandering, one wonders how a trip that is only 10 days distance by foot could have taken 40 years to accomplish. If the Jews were going in circles, we should have 40 years worth of garbage to examine. Yet such proof isn’t there.The Exodus story boils down to a myth of the mouse that roared: a tiny group of nomads writes a fiction that shows their god defeating the mightiest power on the earth, accomplished with silly incantations, god-sent plagues and the god-approved murdering of children. The Egyptians are painted as evil incarnate while the Jews are the poor suffering masses and the object of Egyptian evil. Rather than presenting the accomplishments of the Egytians for what archaeology and history prove they were – ie: great public works projects built BY and for the Egyptian people by themselves – their accomplishments are portrayed in the Bible as having been bought with the blood of slaves, thus justifying the wrath of an angry god upon an evil people while tainting the greatness of their accomplishments in the eys of the willfully uninformed.Why does no one talk about this? Instead, we’re treated to the yearly TV showing of “The Ten Commandments” debacle – an affront to our knowledge of history and our American belief in fair play?Go figure.

  • Bob

    Dear Dominic,I just finished reading “God and Empire” and found the “conservative, liberal, radical Paul” reading particularly insightful. I have learned a great deal from your books and from your careful reading of texts. This current discussion resonates for me because of your insistence on the art of reading and the importance of metaphor. I imagine myself asking this question of you: “Dominic, wouldn’t the logical conclusion of your metaphoric reading of the Judeo-Christian texts be that “God” is really a metaphor for distributive justice and thus has the same ontological status as a Platonic Idea?”Bob

  • Anonymous

    E favorite — “Why surrender? What made it so important for you to have your heart opened to God?.”The world seemed irremediably and almost absolutely contaminated with evil, notwithstanding beauty. I needed to know if this was in fact ‘it’.

  • Russell D.

    Very good questions Mr. Mark. I’d like to know also. Seems logic is a very big part of the Bible that was left out. Don’t even get me started on Revelations, or Adam and eve.

  • FRIEND

    Mr Mark:You use the word religious myth like a fundementalist uses the scientific word theory.

  • FRIEND

    Sorry, I thought you said:The Exodus story boils down to a myth of the mouse that roared: a tiny group of nomads writes a fiction that shows their god defeating the mightiest power on the earth, accomplished with silly incantations, god-sent plagues and the god-approved murdering of children.

  • FRIEND

    Your secular American 21st century eyes are using the common vernacular definition of myth to trivialize an ancient story of deliverance in a condescending tone.A fundamentalist uses the common definition of theory to trivialize the massive amount

  • E favorite

    Anon: “although you find no reason to believe, you appear more open and trying to discern what, of anything we say, might possibly be real in the sense we claim is real.”This is about right – thanks for putting it into words for me. I am very interested in understanding how and what people believe.If you want to continue the conversation, here’s another question: Why surrender? What made it so important for you to have your heart opened to God?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    A synopsis concerning some Catholic dogma:“Now Rome which developed the Church of Dogma dared to add things which have scant basis in scripture like the Trinity, Individual priesthood, Auricular Confession, Transubstantiation, Infallibility, Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. None of these are present in scripture not can they be deduced. Matthew 16:18 was discovered to apply to the papacy by Damasus I who had over a hundred of his rival’s supporter’s killed to gain the bishopric of Rome. It is after this time that the phrase from Matthew is more and more centered on Rome. The bishops of Rome committed many crimes. The biggest one was to ascribe their malfeasance to the Holy Spirit. Still is.”

  • Mr Mark

    FRIEND wrote:There is nothing trivial about myth or its inherent power to move people. But a myth is what it is, and that is not truth.The ancient story of deliverance of which you speak is a racist screed that wouldn’t be given any support were the roles of the protagonists in said myth reversed. The Bible wouldn’t support any story that painted Yahweh’s foes as the good guys. But the ultimate point is that the story is untrue – always has been, always will be.What a sad commentary on a faith that not only relies upon but defends outrageous lies as being uplifting tales of deliverance.

  • BGone

    CTCNL, lies that cause people to believe are moral. So what’s the problem with killing a few rivals to become infalible? Those rivals were into killing too?The first significant book of the Bible, Exodus is all about killing. Passover celebrates the killing of the “eldest son” of Pharaoh who just happened to be heir to the throne. You don’t suppose the one “passed over” became or tried at least to become Pharaoh?The popes kill[ed] to gain the crown of the church. In Exodus the killing of the crown prince was to do what, “let my people go?” P.T.Barnum said….

  • Mr Mark

    Thanks to John D Crossan for taking the time to answer questions of the various bloggers on this thread. I wish that other columnists would do the same. Perhaps they don’t have the strength of their convictions, as does M Crossan…or maybe they simply lack the stomach for a real discussion.Again, thanks.

  • Anonymous

    E favorite — “…I’m afraid I’m no closer to understanding how God speaks to us these days. The holy spirit sounds pretty hard to pin down.”You’re absolutely right, the Holy Spirit cannot be pinned down, moves as he wishes, no discernable predictable way. He reveals himself as he wishes when he wishes to me too.I hope I’m not wrong if I say that although you find no reason to believe, you appear more open and trying to discern what, of anything we say, might possibly be real in the sense we claim is real.In my experience I faced perhaps just such a wall at one point, at which I surrendered, and basically prayed or opened my heart daily to whoeever God might be, without expectation. Some time after that point He appeared to become evident…and then Christ became rather fully and unmistakably evident. I cannot say that is how it necessarily happens with most or even a few Catholics, but that is how it happened with me.

  • FRIEND

    Thank you for your time, Professor John Dominic Crossan.

  • FRIEND

    Fair enough, Mr Mark.Take care.

  • Bill L

    I have a wild theory, what if it is true and exodus is a true stoay? What if God did make the promise about the land and his enemies are not good? What if those who deny him are wrong and find themselves opposing God? What if the myth is the deniers idea?

  • FRIEND

    Mr Mark:For me, truth comes in many forms in this absurd, complex life I find myself in.In the Bhagavad-Gita, should we view the story from Arjuna’s point of view or his If I read this story as absolute truth and fact in history, I am missing the point of the story.A myth is not a lie but as Joseph Cambell would say, “A mythology is an organizationAnd, of course, we should study ancient Egypt and their myths.

  • Bob

    Dear Dominic,

  • Mr Mark

    FRIEND wrote:”If you read Exodus as a fact in history with no interpretations, then you are a religious fundamentalist.”Unfortunately, that’s exactly how many people read the Exodus story – as fact. That leads to consequences of, well, Biblical proportions, such as believing the words in that song from the B’way play, Exodus – “this land is mine, God gave this land to me.”If you truly believe that you are god’s chosen people and that god gave you a particular parcel of land, you are going to take a very different view of life than a person who believes there is no god, that there are no chosen people and god wasn’t around to give any land to anyone, anywhere, any time.If you wish to take myth as being the “primary” influence on your life, then, good luck. Personally, I’ll go with the facts 95% of the time, with a bit of myth and legend thrown in just to make things interesting.

  • FRIEND

    I’ll take facts and theories 100% of the time.They are a rare commodity, especially when you throw in human nature. With the complex system we find ourselves in, we cannot get a complete picture without the study of myths and the stories of the world’s people as these offer the insight into our past and thought processes which are both evil and good.

  • Mr Mark

    FRIEND wrote:”They are a rare commodity, especially when you throw in human nature. With the complex system we find ourselves in, we cannot get a complete picture without the study of myths and the stories of the world’s people as these offer the insight into our past and thought processes which are both evil and good.”Agreed. The question comes in how much weight is given to myth as a way to understand where we are coming from as a species, and – more importantly – whether any weight at all should be given to myth as an influence on our future actions.

  • Greg

    When are the close minded Chritians going to see that Christianity is NOT about the Bible. Christianity pre dates the Bible by many decades. To constantly reference the Bible when talking to atheists or “too liberal Christians” shows that your focus is wayyyyyy off. The Bible is a tool to understanding Christian experience not guide on how to be a Christian. To treat the Bible as an end point is similar to handing someone a map of Los Angales circa 1900 and asking someone to locate the Staples center on it.You really need to call yourself “Biblicans” and leave the teachings of Jesus in more qualified hands like Dr Crossan.Peace

  • Bill L

    Greg, you’re right about Christianity not being about the bible! The bible is Gods gift to his Church! It was written {the New Testament} by Catholic Bishops under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is why the bible, infalible though it is, is the third leg of Gods word, not the all of His word. The bible, Holy Tradition {not tradition, small “t”}, and the Church make up the fullness of Gods truth on earth.

  • Fr John

    I always enjoy the work of Dr. Crossan and his insights into the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.A shudder goes up my spine as I read his words related to Jesus’ stand against the imperial power of Rome. It seems to me that the imperial power of Amercia rivals the imperial power of Rome in Jesus’ day and that if one claims to be a Christian she/he is called anew to sacrifice and to take-on the wounds of Jesus.I cannot call myself a Christian and ignore the imperial actions of the United States around the world and especially in the Middle East. Instead of taking on the wounds we are still yelling, “give us Barabas!”Thank you Dr. Crossan, the empire needs to hear the words of Jesus anew.

  • Bill L

    Greg, read history! The bishops I was refering to were Paul, Timothy among others who were being persecuted by imperial Rome!

  • Adam

    Bill LThere’s no evidence that Paul became an Overseer (episkopos) at any point in his career of service for Christ. He was an Apostle (Messenger/Apostolos) the whole time we have any record of his life – a travelling preacher, never a stay-put guardian of orthodoxy. Timothy clearly had more authority than a mere episkopos as he was charged with appointing the right people to the job. But he was staying put in Crete to get the job done – what could we call him? An Archiepiskopos?

  • john j

    Bill L,“6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”The Judaizers “only added to the Gospel. Crossan subtracts most of the gospel, which is much worse. The Judaizers and denominations cited above could all attest to the Apostles Creed (albeit with differences in interpretation). Even most liberal Christians could (with some difficulty) fit within the Apostles Creed. Based on his stated beliefs, it seems clear that Dr Crossan cannot. Reformed Christian

  • Bill L

    Adam, read acts of the apostles where the apostles laid hands on Paul giving him authority {a bishiphoric {sp?} }-. Paul is the one to appointed Timothy to Bishop. Several times Paul appoints Bishops and directs people to pick bishops from among trustworthy men.

  • john j

    Mr. Mark,Also, what sources would you recommend on this topic.Thanks in advance for your help.Reformed Christian

  • john j

    Mr. Mark,Also, what sources would you recommend on this topic.Thanks in advance for your help.Reformed Christian

  • Bill L

    Mr.Mark, you are, for the most part, more full of #*^ than a christmas turkey!

  • Allan

    One question I would like to ask Crossan (if you check these comments), if Jesus’ resurrection was an experience in the lives of the disciples and not an “event” in the “life” of Jesus (whatever that could mean), then doesn’t it mean that God’s collision course with Empire was not real, it certainly appears to me that the earliest Christians believed that the resurrection (whatever that means) was a vindication of Jesus’ life and ministry, sowould it have lost its theological implication if we see it only for what it “means” and not what it “is”? Perhaps I’m not explaining my question as well as I could… I hope you know what I’m trying to get at.

  • Allan Popa

    I know that in your “Birth of Christianity” you underline a distinct inconsistency in Paul’s understanding of the Resurrection. You also note that Platonic dualism of body and soul is fundamentally dehuamanizing. I would suggest that the flesh -is- the spirit of a person. I understand that Paul was a Platonic dualist and has seemed to resort to this to explain his resurrection-body-ontology, yet how would one understand it giving up on the idea of Platonic dualism whilest maintaining the continuity of Jesus after the crucifixion?