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An… Interesting Interview With Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan has a new book out called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. In this book he argues that the historical Jesus was a Zealot. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m agnostic about the existence of Jesus. But the reconstruction that I feel makes the most sense of his crucifixion is if he were himself a Zealot (owing to the strange translation between “Canaanite” and “Zealot”) or if he had really strong ties to the Zealot party (as opposed to the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes) . For example, I wrote:

Simon the Zealot in the gospel narratives is the same Simon the Zealot in Josephus. Josephus’ Simon was executed (along with his brother James [the Zealot]) sometime in the mid 40s CE.

It’s telling that two of Jesus’ disciples share the same names as these two sons of Judas [the Zealot]. Not only that, but these two are also among the “pillars”. While I think that part is coincidence, I do think there’s significance that Simon the Zealot was listed as one of Jesus’ disciples in Mark and the other two Synoptics. I don’t see any reason for Simon the Zealot’s inclusion, either from a wholly literary point of view or from the traditional peace preaching Jesus historical view.

What if Jesus on the other hand was the disciple of Simon the Zealot and not the other way around?

This would mean that not only is Mark’s narrative theology; that Mark’s Jesus is mythical, but that Mark’s narrative is also apology. I think this makes sense of the silence in early Christian writings about the teachings of Jesus – because there were none. This makes sense of why no one talked about any of the Earthly activities of Jesus – because he was a revolutionary, and his actions were disreputable. That’s why they used to think of “christ” from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16) but no longer. This might mean that Jesus was executed along with the brothers James and Simon, hence the two other criminals on the crosses with Jesus.

So I’m partial to Aslan’s thesis that Jesus was a Zealot.

As for the interview itself, the Fox News correspondent comes across as obtuse and unable to think outside of a very narrowly defined box. She actually sounds eerily like how some NT scholars react to the Jesus Myth hypothesis. Her objections to Aslan being a Muslim writing about Christianity — even though he has the relevant expertise — sound a lot like Bart Ehrman’s objection to anyone writing about the historical Jesus unless they had super-duper specific qualifications. And the fact that the Fox News’ correspondent’s questions were answered right in the book reminds me of how James McGrath doesn’t read books he reviews. It’s interesting how bias always looks the same, no matter the medium.

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Άλλο ιστορία για Ιησου

Here’s another model for a historical Jesus that’s been rattling in my head for a couple of weeks.

A while back, I made a little post about Simon the Zealot. There I made an argument that the Simon the Zealot in the gospel narratives is the same Simon the Zealot in Josephus. Josephus’ Simon was executed (along with his brother James [the Zealot]) sometime in the mid 40s CE.

It’s telling that two of Jesus’ disciples share the same names as these two sons of Judas [the Zealot]. Not only that, but these two are also among the “pillars”. While I think that part is coincidence, I do think there’s significance that Simon the Zealot was listed as one of Jesus’ disciples in Mark and the other two Synoptics. I don’t see any reason for Simon the Zealot’s inclusion, either from a wholly literary point of view or from the traditional peace preaching Jesus historical view.

What if Jesus on the other hand was the disciple of Simon the Zealot and not the other way around?

This would mean that not only is Mark’s narrative theology; that Mark’s Jesus is mythical, but that Mark’s narrative is also apology. I think this makes sense of the silence in early Christian writings about the teachings of Jesus – because there were none. This makes sense of why no one talked about any of the Earthly activities of Jesus – because he was a revolutionary, and his actions were disreputable. That’s why they used to think of “christ” from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16) but no longer. This might mean that Jesus was executed along with the brothers James and Simon, hence the two other criminals on the crosses with Jesus.

Though this throws the traditional dating scheme for the Jesus narrative 10 years later than it usually is. I see no reason to stick to that, since Jesus being crucified under Pilate is part of the narrative that we have no reason to think is veracious (especially since Mark is primarily theology and not biography).

So where did all of the teachings come from?

Well, we know that Paul already had some ideas that have parallels in Mark. Since Paul didn’t attribute those ideas to Jesus, and Paul precedes Mark, then Mark must have gotten those sayings from Paul or other “super-apostles” like Paul. I think we can assume that Paul and his philosophizing wasn’t restricted to Paul; that there were other Christians who were preaching similar messages and had their sermons and preaching memorized.

So a saying like “let the dead bury their dead” wasn’t uttered by Jesus, it was uttered by one of the pillars like John. The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t given by Jesus, it was given by Cephas (and attributed to Jesus) while he was caught up in the third heaven.

If the Jesus I’ve proposed is only tangentially related to the Jesus in Mark and Paul – as in, only sharing the name and the crucifixion – does this count as a historical Jesus or a mythical Jesus?

 
Comments Off on Άλλο ιστορία για Ιησου

Posted by on September 23, 2010 in historical jesus, jesus myth, simon the zealot

 

Simon the Zealot

Two of Judas (the Zealot) sons, James and Simon, were involved in a revolt and were executed by Tiberius Alexander, the procurator of Iudaea province from 46 to 48 (“Ant.” xx. 5, § 2)

Luke 6:15 σιμωνα τον καλουμενον ζηλωτην (Simon the one called zealot)
Matt 10:4 σιμων ο καναναιος (Simon the Canaanite?)
Mark 3:18 σιμωνα τον καναναιον (Simon the Canaanite?)
Acts 1:13 σιμων ο ζηλωτης (Simon the Zealot)

Matt 15:22 γυνη χαναναια (Canaanite woman) same spelling as in the LXX for Canaan. Canaanite/Canaan in Hebrew is כנען / כְּנַעֲנִי

The Hebrew word qanai (קנאי “kana”), meaning The Zealous.
Exodus 20:4 El Kana (אֵל קַנָּא) “jealous god” in English, but might be “zealous god”.

Jewish Encyclopedia:

The reign of the Idumean Herod gave the impetus for the organization of the Zealots as a political party. Shemaiah and Abṭalion (Ptollion), as members of the Sanhedrin, at first opposed Herod, but seem to have preferred a passive resignation in the end (Josephus, “Ant.” xiv. 9, § 4; xv. 1, § 1; xv. 7, § 10; xv. 10, § 4); though there were those who “could by no torments be forced to call him [Herod] king,” and who persisted in opposing his government. Hezekiah and his so-called “band of robbers,” who were the first to fall as victims under Herod’s bloodthirsty rule (“B. J.” i. 10, § 5; “Ant.” xiv. 9, §§ 2-3), were by no means common robbers. Josephus, following his sources, bestows the name of “robbers” upon all the ardent patriots who would not endure the reign of the usurper and who fled with their wives and children to the caves and fortresses of Galilee to fight and to die for their conviction and their freedom (“Ant.” xiv. 15, §§ 4-6; xv. 8, §§ 3-4; xvii. 10, §§ 5-8; xx. 8, §§ 5-6; “B. J.” i. 18, § 1; ii. 13, §§ 2-4; iv. 4, § 3; and elsewhere). All these “robbers” were in reality Zealots.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=49&letter=Z#ixzz0nk0xrkKT

In other words, the Zealots were a reaction to Herod the Great’s murder of the last of the Hasmoneans (Antigonus) and taking the throne from them. Herod was actually a convert to Judaism so many saw him as not being a “real” Jew. This was the impetus for the Zealots.

One of Jesus’ disciples being called “Simon the Zealot” might actually have a root in history, since it seems as though the word was transliterated from the Hebrew “kana” to be read phonetically in Greek as kananaios. Bible translators probably translate it as “Canaanite” to cover this up, even though “Canaanite” would be spelled with a Chi, not a Kappa. No other information is given about Simon the Zealot’s actions in the gospel narratives, but it’s curious that a Simon the Zealot is listed as one of Jesus’ disciples and another Simon the Zealot is described by Josephus as being an insurrectionist (or “robber”). The gospel Zealot has no personality, while Josephus’ Zealot does.

The two are also contemporaries.

I think it could be argued that these two Simons are one and the same. What a violent insurrectionist was doing in Jesus’ party is an enigma… unless the supposed historical Jesus was a violent insurrectionist as well, which would explain his crucifixion.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2010 in simon the zealot

 
 
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