Did Paul Think The Jews Killed Jesus?

08 Dec

This is from the discussion here:

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

14For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews,

15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men

16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last

Here Paul says that the Jews killed Jesus, as well as the prophets. What a statement! That sounds alarmingly like some sort of Muslim charge against the Jews. However, it doesn’t look like the Jews killed any of their prophets.

At least 34 prophets are mentioned by name in the Bible, besides the occasional obscure prophetesses. …

Of these prophets, no record of their deaths is given for most of them, so there is no scriptural indication that they were killed. ….. There were instances where false prophets were put to death, as when Ahab and Zedekiah were roasted to death by Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 29:21. Presumably, the Babylonian king was doing the Lord’s work here, but that’s not what Paul had in mind in 1 Thessalonians. We might also include Jeremiah’s death curse on Hananiah (28:15-17) for the horrendous impiety of giving the people hope in the face of foreign oppression, but, again, that’s not what Paul had in mind either.

No, we need the deaths of “true” prophets, not “false” ones. In my investigation of the prophet-killing charge, I found only three who actually were killed: John the Baptist, Balaam, and the obscure Urijah. The Baptist was killed not by the Jews but at the behest of Herodias, the wife and former sister-in-law of Herod, who took offense at John’s denunciation of her. It is highly unlikely she was a Jew but rather an Edomite.

As far as Balaam is concerned, while Numbers 31:8 records his death at the hands of the Israelites, it is important to realize two things. First, he was not one of “their” prophets anyway (although he set the pattern subsequent prophets followed) but was hired by the king of Moab, whom he double-crossed by refusing to curse Israel. Second, he was judged to be evil (Numbers 31:16; Rev. 2:14; Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15), just the sort of prophet Yahweh would conceivably *want* the Jews to kill, despite his use of Balaam against Moab.

The only fully legitimate prophet I could find who was killed by his own people was Urijah, a small-time Jeremiah parrot, who was tracked down, dragged back, and killed by King Jehoiakim himself (Jere. 26:20-23). This was the deed of one Jew and his flunkies and not a collective act.

“Killed Their Own Prophets”: New Testament Libel of the Jews by Stephen Van Eck

So it doesn’t seem as though the Jews actually killed any of their prophets. Not only that, but Paul’s statement above contradicts his other claims in 1 Corinthians and Romans:

1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers of this world understood [God’s wisdom]: for had they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Romans 8:4 in order that the just requirement of the law [the crucifixion] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Paul, in both 1 Corinthians and Romans, thinks that the crucifixion was just, and according to the law.

Here’s Matthew 23, Jesus’ childish rant against the Pharisees (a similar rant is in Luke):

29″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.

30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.

32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

33″You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.

35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

37″O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

38Look, your house is left to you desolate.

39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'”.

The virtrol in Matt 23 couldn’t have existed against the Pharisees in 33 CE, since they were not the Jews in power. This animosity would better fit in a post 70 CE conflict between Christians and Pharisees, since the destruction of the temple removed the power of the Sadducees and the Pharisees picked it up. “Jesus” here is basically gloating that the Jews lost their temple. Somehow, Paul knew about this as well, since 1 Thess 2:16 could only make sense of the destruction of the temple. What wrath of god befell the Jews in 50 CE?

Thus, this part of 1 Thessalonians must be post-70 CE interpolation.

This makes me more and more suspicious about the traditional date of Paul’s letters. What if they’re all post-70 and the gospel narratives are contemporaneous of the Bar-Kokhba revolt c. 132?

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Posted by on December 8, 2009 in interpolation, paul


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