Did the Jewish War eliminate all the possible counter-witnesses to the life of Jesus in the NT?


[Draft: Jul 27/2008 ]

 

 

 

[This is part Three of a series of question, related to the historical Jesus… see the beginning of the stream at muddleplatonismx1.html ]

 

 

This was another question that came in, related to the Mythicist question (although it could be raised for other considerations as well, I think):

 

 

“Dear Mr Miller,

 

“I have been an avid reader of your apologetics site for years.  Usually, I can hold my own when I comes to questions, but a blog written by a popular atheist apologist has made me questions the Gospels accuracy.  This man believes that Jesus is a myth that rapidly became historized after he was invented.  He asserted that the Gospels and Acts have NO historical value because it was possible for the evangelists to wholly invent situations and no one could respond saying, "I was there and this Jesus guy never did anything like that."

 

“I know many apologetic books say that people where still alive when the Gospels where written.  But this guy dates them really late, Mark being the first written in the '90's AD.  I asked him why, if the Gospels and Acts are totally made-up, why no one cried "foul!" when they had the chance to.  I will give his response as best I can remember it:

 

"I do not think you appreciate the devastation the Jewish-Roman war had on Palestine.  3/4 of the population were killed, since the Gospels where written after the war, the evangelists could say whatever they wanted because there wouldn't have been a lot of LIVING people around to refute them.  And the rest would simply be branded "satan's children" by the Christians and ignored.

 

“Can it be this easy to fabricate history?  It seems to me that a conclusion like this would make any info on Israel from that time suspect.  All of Josephus would have to be questioned, especially since he was a traitor.

 

“Other than this, I can't think about what to say.  Can you help?

 

………………………………………………..

 

My response:

 

I think I will organize my analysis into these areas:

 

  1. Events and actual damages done during the War to Galilee (where Jesus grew up, spent most of His ministry, did most of His miracles, and from which most of his disciples came)

  2. The situation in the Land between the Jewish War and the beginning of the 3rd century

  3. Evidences of Jewish/Christian interaction during this period (in the Land)

  4. Reality check: was Jewish literature being written in Palestine during this period?

  5. Constraints on dating the Gospel of Mark

 

 

 

Since Jesus and the disciples were Galileans, and most of his ministry, miracles, and teaching was done ‘in front of Galileans’, Galilee is the area where we have to concentrate. Galilee will be where potential ‘objectors’ could arise, claiming ‘Hey, I’m from Nazareth and there was no such family’ or ‘Whoa—I am from Cana and I was AT that wedding and there was no Jesus character there’ etc.  So we will have to ascertain to what extent the Jewish War killed all of the ‘multitudes’ who allegedly flocked to Jesus at every stop of His ministry journeys.

 

I hate to give away the conclusion this early (smile), but your blogger-friend has grossly overstated the situation in post-70 Palestine. I have no idea where he came up with this notion of such a harsh aftermath of the War (even IF he believed Josephus ‘hook, line, and sinker’, you cannot get from here-to-there).

 

Consider this summary statement by Levine:

 

Nevertheless, it is easy to overstate the effects of the year 70. Contrary to popular opinion, the exile did not commence in that year—most Jews were already living in the Diaspora before the destruction—nor did the year 70 signal the loss of Jewish independence. In reality, Judea had been conquered 130 years earlier by Pompey in 63 B.C.E. Although much autonomy had been granted to Herod (37-4 B.C.E.), it had already been greatly curtailed following Judea's annexation as a Roman province in 6 C.E. … Moreover, the continuum between the pre-70 and post-70 periods was maintained by the ongoing rule of Rome; culturally, economically and even socially much of Jewish life was not seriously interrupted between the pre- and post-destruction era. Indeed, large parts of the Jewish people were unaffected or only marginally affected by the revolt and its aftermath. Few Jewish communities in the Galilee were destroyed—Jotapata and Gamla were the exceptions. The Roman military march had little, if any, effect on the large Jewish settlement in Perea east of the Jordan, on the communities along the coastal plain or even on many areas in Judea itself. Thus, beyond Jerusalem and some parts of Judea, the upheavals of the First Revolt were not all that widespread, either demographically or economically.” [CRJ, 126f, Levine]

 

And Schwartz:

 

“For many, or even most, Palestinian Jews, especially those outside Judaea proper, the revolts had caused less drastic disruptions. Here the main changes, aside from an influx of Judaeans of unknown extent, were produced by the collapse of the central institutions—no more pilgrimages, no enforced deference to representatives of the Temple and Torah, no obligatory gifts to the priests.” [HI:IJS,110]

 

 

That should be clear enough: the Jewish War was devastating for Jerusalem and parts of Judea, but not for Galilee—where the ‘witnesses’ were. We will go through the events of the War next, but your blogger-friend needs to update his research.

 

Before we get into the Jewish War discussion, I should go ahead and point out that the Bar Kochba Revolt (131-135), which resulted in the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians from Jerusalem had no impact on Galilee. The Galileans neither participated nor were affected by it (except for the migration of rich and/or learned Judeans to Galilee which followed).

 

Galilee scarcely took part in the Bar Kochba revolt of a.d. 131 to 135. Bar Kochba (see Simon bar Kosiba) tried to involve the Galileans, but perhaps the memories of a.d. 66 to 70 burned too brightly. Galilee seems to have mainly stayed quiet, although tunnels in which Jews hid during the revolt have been discovered. It was after the revolt, perhaps after a.d. 160, that Sepphoris became known by its Greek name, Diocaesarea. [DictNTB]

 

“No texts, coins, or archaeological excavations indicate that Galilee was involved in the second great Judean revolt against Roman rule, the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-135. The extensive disruption and devastation were confined to Judea. Following the first revolt, however, Roman military presence increased in the area, as did the economic burdens that entailed…. The major impact of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and Judea came after the Bar Kokhba Revolt with the migration of prominent Judean families to Galilee and the resulting development of rabbinic academies in Sepphoris and Tiberias. Indeed, by late antiquity, Galilee and Tiberias in particular had become perhaps the most important centers of nascent rabbinic Judaism, with influence reaching far and wide in the Roman empire and into the Babylonian Jewish communities…. After the further Roman devastation of Judea in suppressing the Bar Kokhba Revolt, many of the sages moved to Galilee, establishing academies first in Usha and Beth Shearim and then in Sepphoris.   [AHSG,   38-40]

 

“Why Galilee, so far as we know, had played no significant part in the Bar Kochba revolt, and why the Jewish villages of the former Idumaean zone play only a small role in rabbinic literature, it is not possible to say. … [RNE, 349-50]

 

Until relatively recently, scholars have assumed that the entire province of Judea and most Jews living there were mobilized and actively supported the Bar-Kokhba revolt. This view is based on highly exaggerated accounts that magnified the suffering, tragedy and loss of life during the revolt. Later rabbinic tradition adopted a generally critical attitude toward Bar-Kokhba—referring to him as Bar Kosba (Son of Lies); it sought to discredit him and to demonstrate the futility of armed rebellion. Similarly, the Church Fathers saw the Bar-Kokhba revolt as a futile attempt to restore the Jewish independence that had been taken away by God as punish ment for the Jews' denial of Jesus. Even the Roman historian Dio Cassius greatly exaggerated the scope of the violence, thereby enhancing the significance of the Roman victory; he speaks of the destruction of some 50 fortifications and 985 villages and the loss of 585,000 lives!

All these claims notwithstanding, there is practically no description of hostilities except in southern Judea (the biblical area of Judah). The archaeological material clearly corroborates this picture. All remains of the Bar-Kokhba revolt, whether coins, caves of refuge, papyri or fortifications, have been found in that region. The Galilee, the second major area of Jewish population at the time, remained virtually untouched by the devastation of the revolt and thus was able to assume a position of leadership as it absorbed refugees from the southern part of the country after the hostilities ended.” [CRJ, 141f; Levine]

 

 

 

One. Events and Damages of the Jewish War on Galilee

 

We should note at the outset that there were two historical accounts of the Jewish War written: one by Josephus and one by his political rival Justus of Tiberias. The one by Justus is only known through Josephus’ unflattering remarks about his rival’s account, so we don’t have it to use. References to the Jewish war in classical historians are summaries mostly (e.g., Tacitus) and coins commemorating the War give precious little data.

 

With this in mind, we have to recognize—with most historians—the ‘exaggerated’ accounts of Josephus, with regard to his personal ‘importance’ in the war and with regard to (alternately) the brutality and the clemency of the Roman military leaders!

 

In our data quotes, we will see very strong statements by scholars on his exaggeration, while most will give some credence to the basic outlines of his story. Most of the time, it seems like Josephus is inflating his numbers by an order of magnitude:

 

“The first impression we have, once we recognize that Josephus's accounts of the Galilean phase of the Jewish War constitute one long self-glorification of his own exploits as the great Jew­ish general worthy of engaging in war with the future emperor Vespasian, is that there was not much of a war Again, while we cannot trust the details, including the exaggerated numbers, we must take seriously the basics of his account of Japha's resistance to the Ro­man reconquest (BJ. 3.289-306; he even gives the date, 13 July 67). That is, persisting in their insurrection, the villagers offered stiff resistance to the Roman troops, the "women as well as the able-bodied men doing whatever they could to fight back. In re­action to such resistance the angered Roman commanders became all the more vicious in retaliation. As Josephus reports, virtually the whole population (thousands, but not 15,000) was massacred.” [AHSG, 127-130]

 

 

With this in mind, let’s note the actions/damages believed by scholars…

 

A. Overall (as in the above quotation), there wasn’t much of a war. Galilee seems relatively passive, and the majority of natives seem uninterested in the war at all. There are very few actual battles described—but lots of fleeing and hiding… Summary accounts in the secondary literature typically only mention/describe a couple of battles, with most of the large cities only marginally involved/affected

 

“During the first revolt Galilee formed one military command under the leadership of the general Josephus, later known as a historian. Vespasian, the Roman commander sent by the emperor Nero, marched south from Tyre to Acco-Ptolemais and set up a headquarters. From there he routed any Jewish defenders in Galilee on his way eastward to Sepphoris. The city fathers of Sepphoris met him in the field and declared their loyalty to Rome and their abhorrence of the revolt, petitioning Vespasian for a garrison to protect them from their more warlike neighbors (Josephus J.W. 3.2.4 §§30–34; Life 74 §411). Josephus and the few defenders he could gather entered Jotapata in the mountains about 10 miles north of Sepphoris. Vespasian besieged the city for forty-seven days, then took it in a fearsome slaughter. He discovered Josephus, arrested him and saved him for later. After the surrender of Tiberias and the defeat of the Jewish rebels in a pitched battle on the Sea of Galilee, Vespasian had secured Galilee and needed only to march to Jerusalem to prosecute the siege there and finally at Masada.” [DictNTB; note only two real battles mentioned: Jotapata and something on the Sea of Galilee.]

 

“In the spring of 67 the Roman general Vespasian, sent by Nero, and his son Titus arrived with an army of nearly 60,000 men (J.W. 3.4.2 §69). Using friendly Sepphoris as a base in Galilee, Vespasian encountered little resistance in that district except from the fortified places where most of the resistance had moved. His first sustained opposition came from the hilltop fortress Jotapata under Josephus’ command. After a seven-week siege it fell in July 67 (J.W. 3.7.5–31 §§150–288; 3.7.33–36 §§316–39). Josephus surrendered and was taken prisoner (J.W. 3.8.8 §392; cf. 4.10.7 §§622–29). Then the Roman forces took the port of Joppa (J.W. 3.9.7–8 §§445–61) in late July to protect the supply routes, Tiberias in August (J.W. 3.9.2–4 §§414–31), Tarichaeae in September (J.W. 3.10.1–5 §§462–502), the fortress of Gamala in October after a four-week siege (J.W. 4.1.3–7 §§11–53; 4.1.9–10 §§62–83) and finally Gischala. There the rebel leader John of Gischala escaped for Jerusalem with his band of followers (J.W. 4.2.1–5 §§84–120). Having subdued the district of Galilee, Vespasian set up garrisons through out the area during the winter months to maintain control.

 

“Once Sepphoris received him with open arms the other cities also remained quiet, and Caesennius' only engagement was against 'all the rebels and brigands' (…) who had fled to an unidentified mountain near Sepphoris called Asamon, and more than 2000 of these perished. The account of this excursion of Roman troops into Galilee concludes: 'Gallus, seeing no further signs of revolt in Galilee returned with his troops to Caesarea' and Cestius was able to continue his march on Jerusalem (War 2.-510-13).

In assessing the situation in Galilee up to this point, therefore, one can only be struck by the relative passivity of the area. At least the indications are that it did not cause the Romans any undue anxiety. Strategically, it was unlikely that Cestius would march south, and more especially on Jerusalem itself without making his presence felt in Galilee also, since as we have seen, it was always the first objective of armies invading from the north. Even after Cestius' defeat and withdrawal there does not appear to be any immediate worsening of the situation, for Josephus recounts his own involvement with another of Cestius' generals, Placidus, again in the region of Chabulon, who had been sent 'with two cohorts of infantry and a squadron of horse to burn the Galilean villages in the neighborhood of Ptolemais'. However, both sides seem to be prepared to play a ‘wait-and-see’ game, and the impression one gets is that Josephus is more concerned about his Jewish enemies than his Roman foes (Life 213-215)” [HI:GFAGH,80f; note—the ‘burning’ didn’t happen; they played ‘wait and see’ instead]

 

“When the Romans finally launched their massive expedition to reconquer greater Judea in 67, starting as usual with Galilee, they met with little resistance. For all of the pages the great general Josephus writes about his own supposedly brilliant preparations for and strategy in battle against the Romans, he cites precious few incidents of actually engaging in combat. The one major exception is Jotapata. Of all the sites he claims to have fortified, this one now has at least some credibility. It has finally been excavated. The Romans did indeed besiege and destroy this town, although the scale of the conflict was nowhere near what Josephus claims. In the midst of the battle, of course, Josephus found a way of deserting to the Romans and thereafter assisted the enemy in reconquering the land and people. The other principal resistance came in Upper Galilee, at the refortified village of Gischala.” [AHSG,   38-40; note: after this quote, Horsley takes Josephus’ statement that the Romans enslaved ‘tens of thousands’ at face value—which is not at all consistent with how he treats other numbers in BJ…]

 

 

B. The Roman army DID use their standard ‘terrify through pillage’ (‘scorched earth’ approach, selectively applied) tactics in the countryside (and ad hoc strongholds), but the actual depopulation effect (of Jewish Galileans—possible witnesses/objectors) was minimal, because the Galileans were smart enough to flee!! Most of the villages Josephus says they plundered, pillaged, or burned, were empty of people when they got there—even IF the Roman army had intended to kill the economic base of the country.

 

“Vespasian recognized that Sepphoris afforded an excellent springboard from which he could control the whole of Lower Galilee (War 3:30.34), and so the tribune Placidus is stationed there with 1,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry as reinforcement for the garrison already sent by Cestius (Life 394; cf. War 2:510). This force was adequate to overrun the surrounding countryside. Josephus' 'army' was not able to take the city which he himself had so strongly fortified as to render it practically impregnable! The Romans adopted a scorched earth policy: 'they never ceased, night or day, to devastate the plains and to pillage the property of the country folk, killing those who might be able to carry arms, and reducing the weak to slavery' (War 3:59-63.110f). This seems an altogether likely tactic if Galilee was as thickly populated as Josephus reports [note: most people don’t believe his numbers, so the ‘thinning’ process might be less severe than might look at first. I.e., if you don’t run across anybody to kill or enslave while you are ‘ravaging the countryside’, then you sorta cant hit your quota, can you?]. He prides himself on the fortresses he had provided as the only source of refuge for the country folk, and while we have already voiced certain misgivings about the list, undoubtedly there must have been great numbers of refugees leaving the villages and attempting to dig themselves in in the more easily defended centers. Vespasian's first arrival in Galilee is told as though it were a triumphal journey already. As he proceeded from Ptolemais to the borders of Galilee, Josephus' army deserted before even catching sight of the enemy. They fled from the camp at Garis near Sepphoris, willing to capitulate, and Josephus himself retired to Tiberias with a few loyal supporters (War 3:127-31). Vespasian was not about to expose his troops to possible attacks in the open country after Cestius' defeat, so instead he turned north-west to Gabara (one of the three largest cities in Galilee), and though there was no resistance there he slaughtered all the inhabitants of age, and burned all the small towns and villages in the neighborhood, finding some completely deserted and reducing the inhabitants of others to slavery (War 3:132-4).” [HI:GFAGH,84-86]

 

“The peasants in Chabulon and neighboring villages bore the brunt of the Roman attempt to intimidate the Galileans and of the first assaults in the Roman campaign of reconquest (B.J. 2.503-5; Vita 213-14). Situated along the frontier with Ptolemais, Chabu­lon had houses of the same style as those in the Phoenician cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Berytus. The villagers having fled, the Ro­man troops pillaged and burned Chabulon and the other villages near the frontier. … Galilean villagers, however, were not suicidal. Faced with the overwhelming might of the Roman army in the open country or in indefensible villages (as at the village of Garis, near Seppho-ris, BJ. 3.129), they usually fled to what seemed more defensible sites.[AHSG, 127-130]

 

“1. (132) So Vespasian marched to the city Gabara, and took it upon the first onset, because he found it destitute of any considerable number of men grown up and fit for war. (133) He came then into it, and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever; and this was done out of the hatred they bore the nation, and because of the iniquity they had been guilty of in the affair of Cestius. (134) He also set fire, not only to the city itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it; some of them were quite destitute of inhabitants; and out of some of them he carried the inhabitants as slaves into captivity.” (Wars 3.131-134).

 

 

C. Indeed, the major/large cities of the region were spared much of the possible damage and loss of life. The native Galilean folk were almost universally ‘spared’, while the minority rebels and foreigners bore the brunt of Roman fury. Let’s look at the major cities/towns of the area and see how many of them were depopulated and/or abused. The major cities of Lower Galilee were: Sepphoris, Tiberias, Tarichaeae, Gamala (in Gaulan), Jotapata, Gabara, and perhaps the fortresses of Gishala (Upper Galilee) and Itabyrion (at the base of Mt. Tabor).

 

Sepphoris. We have already noted that they actually fared well in this deal. After the war their administrative power was actually increased. The large influx of people from the south (and villagers from the surrounding areas looking for protection from Rome) increased their economic base.

 

Tiberias. Tiberias actually was under the jurisdiction of Agrippa, and was not really Vespasian’s ‘responsibility’. It was actually pro-Roman, but some rebels virtually forced them to resist the Romans. The Romans, however, understood the situation, so when the city was eventually captured, only the outsiders/Greeks were killed/enslaved. The city was not even plundered.

 

“First Tiberias and then Tarichaeae had revolted at the instigation of Jesus son of Sapphias, and Vespasian 'wishing to repay his hospitality' decided to restore both cities to their allegiance to the king (…). In other words, Vespasian did not consider these cities his personal responsibility, and obviously he does not regard the disturbances in either as the continuation of the struggle that he had completed at Jotapata. Once Jesus and his followers left Tiberias the peace party there quickly prevailed and there were no undue reprisals on the part of the Romans (War 3:453-61). [HI:GFAGH,84-86]

 

“Yet despite this influential group in Tiberias the facts are that the city did revolt eventually, and pad a certain price for its behavior. The (minority) Greek population was massacred, and Herod’s palace burned down… Through the mediation of the elders the Romans were received by the people at large as saviors, and Vespasian forbade any looting by his soldiers, merely destroying one section of the wall (War 3:445-61).” [HI:GFAGH,131, 132]

 

Tarichaeae. This town also offered resistance, but received a similar result:

 

“At Tarichaeae matters were slightly different. It had accepted Josephus' position in the earlier period, and stood solidly behind him in his dealings with Tiberias - possibly because of jealousy towards its more prominent neighbor (Life 158f. 174.276.304.404). It seems that the city was an accepted refugee center (…) for people from the countryside despite the obvious exaggeration of Life 142, which speaks of vast numbers having come there to throw in their lot with Josephus. Presumably, these earlier refugees were from Agrippa's territory or from the Syrian cities in the Dekapolis (War 3:541f), but these would now be joined by people from Galilee, who were on good terms with the city and its inhabitants (cf. Life 981. 304-6). In view of the earlier attitudes it seems a little surprising to hear that after a preliminary skirmish 'the native population, intent on their property and their city, had from the first disapproved of the war, and were now more opposed to it than ever' (War 3:492f). Yet there is nothing inconceivable about such a change in the light of the Roman presence and apparently they recognize the difference in their handling of the affair, by separating the aliens and selling them into slavery while the natives were left unmolested (War 3:532-42).” [HI:GFAGH,84-86]

 

“Though Tiberias and Tarichaeae were in rebel hands, pro-Roman feeling was known to be strong in Tiberias and Vespasian could hope to recover that city for his ally Agrippa without difficulty. In August he reassembled his three legions at the loyal city of Sepphoris and advanced on Tiberias, which opened its gates at the mere threat of force and welcomed the Romans as saviours and benefactors, while the rebels, after offering token defiance, made good their escape to Tarichaeae. There the war-party was stronger even before it was stiffened by the refugees from Tiberias, but the city's resistance was brief; the rebel army was defeated, and when dissension then broke out, the Romans took advantage of it to enter the city from its unwalled side facing the Sea of Galilee. Vespasian recognized the distinction between citizens of Tarichaeae, Agrippa's subjects, who had been caught up in the war involuntarily and were now handed back with their city to the king, and non-resident insurgents, who were massacred or sold as slaves, with the exception of six thousand who were shipped to Greece to work on Nero's Corinthian canal.” [HI:JURR,309]

 

 

Gamala (in Gaulan). According to Josephus, many of the able-bodied people fled the town during the siege (War, 4.52f, 63f), and he states that more committed suicide than were killed by the Romans (4.80ff). The Romans are described here as killing all the remaining inhabitants except for two women.

 

Jotapata. This, as has been noted, was the only significant battle in the war. In this case, Josephus was one of the only two survivors (who broke a suicide pact). Most of the rebel forces were concentrated here, in an act of desperation. Presumably, all were killed. [Josephus gives the number of slain at 40,000—which, when you divide by 10 (smile), gives about 4,000 casualties. [“The one major exception is Jotapata. Of all the sites he claims to have fortified, this one now has at least some credibility. It has finally been excavated. The Romans did indeed besiege and destroy this town, although the scale of the conflict was nowhere near what Josephus claims.” ([AHSG,   38-40]); Tanknote: I arrived at the ‘divide by 10’ factor by calculating the amount of exaggeration that appears in Josephus’ description of the height of Mount Tabor, in IV.54ff. He gives the ‘absurdly inaccurate’ (Loeb footnote term) height of 19,800 feet, when the actual height is 1,843 feet above the plain… a factor of ten…smile.]

 

Gabara. We have already seen how this town was ravaged, but also that many (most?) of the inhabitants had already fled.

 

Gishala (Upper Galilee). This was actually a fortress imposed by John on the unwilling townspeople people. In any event, the people were spared, once John had escaped.

 

“One final phase of the Galilean campaign remained, the reduction of various 'strongholds' throughout the country. Most of them 'surrendered' as soon as Jotapata had fallen, Josephus admits (War 4:1); only Gischala and Itabyrion remained and the narration of these events allows him to honor Titus, Vespian's son who reduced Gischala. It is difficult to estimate the proper extent of either operation, given the highly anti-John polemic of the War account, and the fact that the description of the size and quality of the Itabyrion fortress is blatant exaggeration, presumably to extol his own achievements. It is noteworthy that John did not appear at any of the lower Galilean centers to aid his fellow countrymen in their hour of need. Of course, his absence may be explained by the antipathy that had grown up between himself and Josephus and the failure of the Jerusalem delegation to unseat his great rival. Even so, it is unlikely that John would have openly revolted after the treatment meted out to Lower Galilee by the Romans. John would be known to them as a potential threat to peace in the north, since his attack on the imperial granaries (Life 71), and so it was decided to bring him to heel before turning all the attention to the south. The sequel paints John as a traitor to his fellow townsmen fleeing by night to Jerusalem with some followers, whereas Titus, sated with bloodshed, spared the masses with typical Flavian sympathy (War 4:92-120). The probabilities are that capture of John rather than the rebelliousness of the people (cf. War 4:102) was the real purpose of Titus' mission, and therefore no drastic measures were taken. [HI:GFAGH,87-88]

 

 

Itabyrion (fortress). Same as Gishala—natives spared.

 

Itabyrion, which bordered on the Great Plain, might well have been a center of some resistance, for it was in this very neighborhood that the highwaymen of Dabaritta had waylaid Herod's steward's wife early in Josephus' command (Life 126; War 2:595ff). However, as noted, the area of the enclosed rampart is impossible, and this reduces the vast multitude considerably. Presumably some did escape to Jerusalem, there to join (?) John and the 2,000 Tiberians who are also supposed to have fled to the capital (Life 354). However, their numbers must have been small since 600 calvary had been sent against them by the Romans, and again the natives were left unmolested as at Tarichaeae and Gischala. [HI:GFAGH,87-88]

 

 

So, the two largest cities were spared altogether (Sepphoris and Tiberias), and several of the others were dealt with mildly. Two seem to have been completely annihilated (probably due to the amount of investment that was required to subdue them)—Jotapata and Gamala.

 

 

Summary: The depopulation of the Galilee is nowhere near ‘catastrophic’, and even the devastation of select villages is relatively contained. The major urban centers faired very well, and the native Jewish Galilean population (except for the rebels) maintained their property and means of livelihood. The migration of peoples into the area (see below) would have actually added to the economic base of the region. People who lived there before the War – and perhaps witnessed the ministry of Jesus and knew His family and friends—probably survived the Galilean part of the War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two: The situation in the Land between the Jewish War and the beginning of the 3rd century

 

 

Here I want to focus on the evidence for continuity between the pre-War and the post-War settings, and to discuss the nature of the major changes in the area during the post-War and post-Revolt period. To the extent the data suggests continuity, to that same extent the likelihood of families and communities having group memories of Jesus’ life goes up.

 

First, let’s look at the data for change: migration of Judean families into Galilee.

 

There is a fairly strong consensus that many wealthy people (i.e., landed individuals, Priestly families) from Judea and many learned (i.e. scribes, rabbis) people from Judea moved into Galilee. Galilee became the center of Jewish life, and grew strong and prosperous during 70-200AD.

 

“At the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 the priestly family of Jedaiah settled at Sepphoris. Another twenty-three priestly families settled at other Galilean cities and villages, including Nazareth. …The Sepphoris of the second century a.d. was a great Jewish intellectual center. It was at Sepphoris that the work of Rab Juda, also known as the Prince, culminated in the compilation of the oral law, or the Mishnah, at the beginning of the third century of the common era.” [DictNTB]

 

“Since Josephus was a general of Jewish forces located in “both Galilees” (BJ ii.20.4 [568]), we could easily lose our objective if we were to track down his many references. Furthermore, for this article it would serve no useful purpose. Suffice it to say that Vespasian quickly conquered Galilee, taking Josephus prisoner in the process. Jotapata, Sepphoris, and Gischala were already important Jewish cities. After the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, the religion of the Jews might have come to an end. But Johanan ben Zakkai escaped from Jerusalem, according to tradition smuggling a copy of the Holy Scriptures with him, and obtained permission from Vespasian to set up an academy at Jabneh (Jamnia, the OT Jabneel in the Sharon plain). He organized a Beth Din to take the place of the Sanhedrin, which had ceased to exist. After the defeat of Bar Cochba in a.d. 135 the council moved to Sikhnin N of Jotapata, and due to the persecution under Hadrian other schools that had developed moved to Galilee, with locations at Usha, Peqi’in, Sepphoris, Beth-shearim, and Tiberias. Galilee thenceforth became a strong center of Judaism. The teachings of the Tannaim were gathered, the codification of the Mishnah was accomplished by Judah ha–Naśi, and the traditional pronunciation of the Hebrew Bible was preserved by the Tiberian masoretic pointing. Thus the foundations of modern Judaism were securely laid — in Galilee of the Gentiles.” [ISBE]

 

“Another fact was also of considerable consequence: after the revolt had been crushed by the Roman legions, Emperor Hadrian issued a decree that made it illegal for all circumcised persons to live in Jerusalem or even to come within sight of the city. Along with their Jewish brethren, the Jewish believers were also affected by this decree. It meant the cessation of the community of Jewish believers in Jerusalem, at least for some years. They lost their spiritual headquarters, so to speak. The most influential and oldest community of Jewish believers was dissolved. In their stead, Gentile Christians invaded Jerusalem and established a purely non-Jewish community there.” [HI:IST, 2001; Note—there is a tradition that the Christians were forced by the combo of BarKokhba and Hadrian to leave the city and that they fled to Pella, but some (or all) of them could have gone back to Galilee.

 

“After the failure of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, the twenty-four “courses” or divisions of priests from the Temple in Jerusalem fled northward. One priestly family by the name of Hapizez (or Hapises) settled in Nazareth (Mishmaroth 18). That Nazareth was the home of a priestly course is repeated in a fragment of a Byzantine period Hebrew inscription, a list of the priestly courses, found at Caesarea in 1962. In the 3d century, Nazareth still had a strong priestly character according to Midr. Qoh. 2.8.” [ABD]

 

“…we also find another picture of Sepphoris emerging from the rabbinic sources, namely that of wealthy Jewish landowners dwelling there in the 2nd century C.E. These 'great ones' or 'heads' were the recognized leaders of the Jewish community and acted as judges in their law courts, as well as representing them in the city council which was part-Jewish, part-Gentile, at least after the Bar Cochba revolt and the re-naming of the city as Diocaesarea. The picture which rabbinic sources paint of these great ones and their oppression of their poorer Jewish brothers is not very complimentary, giving rise to the bitter disputes with the Jewish teachers who transferred there after 135 C.E. Presumably this Jewish landed aristocracy can be dated back to the period immediately after the first revolt when, as we have seen, many, especially of the upper classes, fled Jerusalem for safer places like Agrippa's kingdom, and presumably also Sepphoris, which was spared the ravages of the war due to the presence of the Roman garrison which Vespasian had granted them.” [HI:GFAGH,126-127]

 

“After the further Roman devastation of Judea in suppressing the Bar Kokhba Revolt, many of the sages moved to Galilee, establishing academies first in Usha and Beth Shearim and then in Sepphoris. “  [AHSG,   38-40]

 

“As if history were repeating itself, recovery and the reinstitution of Jewish self-government ensued once again. With the accession of the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 C.E.), virtually all of Hadrian's decrees were rescinded. The patriarchate and the high court were reconstituted at Usha, in the Galilee. Indeed, the two revolts contributed greatly to encouraging the Jewish population of Palestine to move from Judea to the north, settling primarily in the Galilee. Under Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel II, (first half of the second century c.E.) and later under Rabbi Judah the Prince (latter half of the second and beginning of the third century c.E.), the editor of the Mishnah, the patriarchate and the other institutions of the Jewish community reached their height. Taxes poured into the patriarchal coffers even from the Diaspora, where the emissaries of the rabbis of Palestine attempted to foster the spread of tannaitic Judaism. … [FTT, 174]

 

Around the beginning of the third century, for reasons long the object of speculation and still unknown, the position of the patriarchs and rabbis began to change—a change most scholars follow rabbinic literature in attributing partly to the activities of the patriarch Judah I. He somehow became a wealthy landowner, well-connected in the increasingly prosperous Galilean cities and even, the Talmudim claim (or rather fantasize), in the Roman imperial court. He or his son may have been the famous Jewish "ethnarch" referred to by Origen as behaving regally, to the point of executing criminals—though without imperial authorization. It was probably in this period, too, that the patriarchs began to claim Davidic ancestry. Cohen argues that around 200 rabbinic judicial activity broadened to include issues of interest outside rabbinic circles, like civil law and Sabbath observance. Apparently, rabbinic judicial prestige was growing again, perhaps in part because the rabbinic movement left its rural Galilean exile for the cities, mainly Sepphoris and Tiberias, but also Caesarea, Scythopolis-Beth Shean, and Lydda.” [HI:IJS, 113]

 

 

“The Galilee, the second major area of Jewish population at the time, remained virtually untouched by the devastation of the revolt and thus was able to assume a position of leadership as it absorbed refugees from the southern part of the country after the hostilities ended.” [CRJ, 141f; Levine]

 

“The center of Jewish life moved from Judea to towns and villages in Galilee that had survived the war unscathed. … With the emergence of Galilee as a major center of Jewish life, the rabbinic leaders also moved there. From places like Yavneh and Lydda in Judea, they migrated north. Indeed, the first rabbinic literary works were redacted (that is, compiled and edited) in Galilee, not Judea.” [CRJ, 196f, Cohen]

 

 

For our purposes, there are three implications of this:

  1. Any of the leadership who had encountered Jesus and His followers in Jerusalem or Judean would now be living ‘next door’ to those Galileans who had a personal (or family, or community) remembrance of Jesus and His life.
  2. Any ‘official’ interaction between emerging Judaism and Jewish Christians in the area will originate among this Galilean group
  3. To the extent this ‘new’ scholarly group develops an ‘official response’ to any remembrances of Jesus ‘on the ground’ or ‘in a text’, these responses will help identify the remembrances encountered (somewhat).

 

 

Second, let’s look at the data for continuity.

 

Here we are looking for indications of family stability, cultural continuity, and any social means for enforcing/supporting community/family longevity or identity.

 

There are a couple of data points here:

 

Nazareth lay beside Yafa or Yafia, a city that Josephus fortified in the first revolt against Rome and in which he lived (JW 2.20.6–573; Life 52–270). This village was known to be Jewish as late as the 4th century a.d. “ [ABD]

 

“One priestly family by the name of Hapizez (or Hapises) settled in Nazareth (Mishmaroth 18). That Nazareth was the home of a priestly course is repeated in a fragment of a Byzantine period Hebrew inscription, a list of the priestly courses, found at Caesarea in 1962. In the 3d century, Nazareth still had a strong priestly character according to Midr. Qoh. 2.8.“ [ABD]

 

“Fortunately we are in a position to fill out this picture of Sepphoris from rabbinic sources, both prior to and after 70 C.E. From these it is apparent that in the period before 70 C.E. Sepphoris was one of the few priestly towns in Galilee. The evidence of Rabbi Jose ben Halaphta who lived in Sepphoris in the second half of the second century C.E. is of particular significance, given his own genuine historical interest in the past of his people, and the fact that his father was head of the community in Sepphoris shortly after 70 C.E. Jose mentions that a priest from Sepphoris, Jose ben Illem took the place of the high priest on the day of atonement. We are able to date this event more precisely from Josephus, who tells that it was the place of his cousin Matthias who had rendered himself unclean the previous night. This occurred towards the end of the reign of Herod the Great (Ant 17:166), long after his purge of the Hasmonaean nobility. We are safe in assuming that this family at least survived both Herod's purges and the attack on the Galilean nobles who remained faithful to him (Ant 14:450) and that Sepphoris was their home, even though Matthias is described by Josephus as being from Jerusalem (Ant 17:78). We hear also of Arsela from Sepphoris, 'an Israelite' (i.e. a lay noble) who was given an active role in regard to the scapegoat rite on the day of atonement usually reserved for a priest (M. Yoma 6:3)…” [HI:GFAGH,126-127]

 

“Galilee should probably not be lumped with Judea in discussions of the Roman disposition of the land following the reconquest. In either case, the territory was evidently not taken as imperial land after the revolt. Recent critical analysis suggests that only rebels' lands were confiscated. Early rabbinic literature indicates that Galilean households still farmed their own family inheritance, and were not largely tenants on imperial land. … “[AHSG,   38-40]

 

“In the second and third centuries the free population of Tiberias apparently consisted mostly, or almost entirely, of people who were in some sense Jewish.  The rabbis unquestionably regarded Tiberias, along with Sepphoris and Lydda, as "Jewish," in contrast to the mainly pagan Scythopolis and Ptolemais. Probably in all these places there was a small Christian or Jewish-Christian presence, notwithstanding Epiphanius's claim (Panarion 30.11.9-10) that around 320 the cities and large villages of Galilee were entirely Jewish.” [HI:IJS, 132]

 

“Eventually all of Lower Galilee was divided between the territories of these two cities but Upper Galilee apparently continued as the separate district of Tetracomia. This is best explained by the strong persistence of Jewish village life in the area which had not been disturbed by the revolt.” [HI:GFAGH,90-91]

 

 

Of special importance here is the existence (and use) of genealogical records—to PROVE family continuity.

 

There are two data points (one Jewish, and one Jewish-Christian) to illustrate that these were still in use. [BTW, they are almost invariably ‘in use’ in any inheritance-based land-ownership society (!), so these cases are only the tip of the iceberg.]

 

“… and Rabbi Jose also informs us that old registers were kept in this city indicating who were Israelites of pure blood, equal to those whose ancestors were priests, levites, or members of the Sanhedrin (M. Kidd 4:5).” [HI:GFAGH,126-127]

 

“Apart from this, we also meet Jesus’ relatives as church leaders and travelling missionaries in some other scraps of information in Hegesippus and others. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 9:5 about the rights of a traveling apostle, rights that were used by “the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas”. Some 170–80 years later Julius Africanus said that Herod, being a non-Jew, had all Jewish family records burned so that no one should have an advantage on him, yet a few careful people had private records of their own, … priding themselves on preserving the memory of their noble birth. Of such were the persons mentioned above, called Desposyni [Relatives of the Lord] from their connexion with the Saviour’s family. Coming from the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba, they travelled over the rest of the land, explaining the aforesaid genealogy, as far as they could trace it, and from the Book of the Days [= Chronicles]. (Ecclesiastical History 1.1.14). … Africanus’s concern in context is to explain the differences between the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke; this explains why he makes it sound as if the main contents of the preaching of the relatives of Jesus was their genealogy. The tradition on which he depends, however, could contain correct historical information: in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, his relatives emphasized his (and their) Davidic descent. That this was an important element in the earliest version of the Christian message is witnessed to by Paul in Romans 1:3–4, where he quotes an old Jewish-Christian kerygmatic formula.” [HI:IST, 192]

 

But you really didn’t need written records (in an oral culture) to document family membership—the community around you simply ‘remembered’. It was stable enough for generations and generations.

 

[That’s why it is not really ‘critical’ when Mark’s gospel was ‘written down’—the pieces could have (and were, actually) circulated orally everywhere, for decades and decades before being written down. The issue is not ‘when was it written down’, but ‘when did the story originally emerge and begin to be disseminated’.]

 

A great example of this is the post-War/post-Revolt actions by Rome to make sure Davidic-based messianic fever did not arise AGAIN (after Bar Kochba). Three times they went into Galilee, queried people and records, and called the relatives of Jesus up on the carpet!

 

“Religious toleration went hand in hand with increased political vigilance in the decades after 70, and Rome took precautions which may have been excessive to guard against any resurgence of Jewish nationalism. Christian tradition tells of three occasions between 70 and the end of Trajan's reign on which members of the "family of David" were hunted down in Palestine. The first was "after the capture of Jerusalem", when Vespasian ordered a search to be made for all the members of the family of David, so that none of the "royal house" might be left in the province, and this led to a serious "per­secution of the Jews". It is possible that "Vespasian" is an error and that the search was actually ordered by Titus before his return to Rome in 71. But be that as it may, the tradition is entirely credible and the purpose of the search clear: the messiah was expected from the house of David, messianic hopes had contributed to the outbreak of the revolt in 66, and Rome was anxious to forestall any recurrence of movements such as had disturbed the province periodically before it. It was a political precautionary measure, confused by Church historians with later Roman hostility towards the Church and magni­fied into a "persecution of the Jews" of which Jewish sources are completely ignorant. The menace, such as it was, was not regarded as entirely eliminated, for under Domitian members of the family were again rounded up. The story of this investigation, much fuller than the notice of the previous one and furnished with picturesque detail, cannot be taken literally, for in it members of the immediate family of Christ are haled before the emperor, personally present in Palestine (which Domitian never visited), who then terminates "the persecution of the Church" on discovering that they are poor working-class folk, not likely to constitute a political danger. But the significant point is that the men arrested are interrogated about "Christ and His kingdom.” The enquiry thus had the same purpose as the earlier one, to nip potential messianic movements in the bud, and though only Christian Jews are named as its subjects, the third episode seems to involve non-Christian Jews also. Early in Trajan's reign the house of David was in trouble again, when Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, described as a cousin of Christ, was denounced by "certain heretics" to Atticus the legate of Judaea and executed; but his fate recoiled on the heads of his accusers, who were themselves arrested as members of the "royal family of the Jews", which was then being hunted down. This suggests that Simeon's enemies were members of his own family who had not adopted Christianity and were trying, un­successfully, to divert attention from themselves. If such Jews were in danger under Trajan, they will hardly have escaped under Domitian. The details of these stories, related from the Christian angle, matter little for the present study. Their overall significance for the history of the province after 70 is simply that for at least thirty years the Romans were on the alert to guard against incipient messianic movements and to pounce on anyone who looked like a potential trouble-maker. And lack of evidence does not mean that their vigilance was relaxed after the beginning of the second century. But the opera­tions can more accurately be described as police measures than as "persecutions". [HI:JURR,351f]

 

In other words, the family blood ties were public enough that Rome could carry out these actions.

 

This argues, though, that we can also use the family of Jesus as a data point on continuity. They are said to be based out of two cities during this entire time—one of which was Nazareth (where a priestly station also existed—as noted above).

 

“These wandering missionaries of our Lord’s family are said to have preached in the land of Israel and lived in the villages of Nazareth and Cochaba. The latter is very likely modern Kaukab, sixteen kilometers north of Nazareth.” [HI:IST, 192]

 

“In the 3d century the Christian martyr Conon from Nazareth of the family of Jesus was killed in Asia Minor (Bagatti 1969: 16).” [ABD]

 

“More promising is the evidence of Julius Africanus (c. 170 C.E.) in his letter to Aristides, namely that the desposynoi, that is the cousins of the Lord 'from the Jewish villages of Nazara and Cochaba traversed the rest of the land expounding their genealogy from the book of Chronicles as far as they went' (Eccles. Hist. 1,7.15). The context is a discussion of the differing genealogies of Mt and Lk and it is possible that in the second century different people laid claim to being cousins of the Lord within the Jewish Christian community, relying on the differing genealogies. [HI:GFAGH, 352]

 

 

What this means is that we have a concrete example from history of a family which spanned the two events and lived in the same town all that time: Jesus’ family, at least down to the late 3rd century. And the priestly families in Sepphoris, and probably the Tiberian house-manager servants did too—at a minimum.

 

We have one more stake in the ground to place: that there was probably a Jewish-Christian witness (in addition to the family of Jesus) within the area of Galilee during our period.

 

We have already seen that

 

“The rabbis unquestionably regarded Tiberias, along with Sepphoris and Lydda, as "Jewish," in contrast to the mainly pagan Scythopolis and Ptolemais. Probably in all these places there was a small Christian or Jewish-Christian presence, notwithstanding Epiphanius's claim (Panarion 30.11.9-10) that around 320 the cities and large villages of Galilee were entirely Jewish.” [HI:IJS, 132]

 

And the non-heretical nature of the Nazarenes – who were very probably in Transjordan, and possibly operating in Galilee too—was a Jewish-Christian presence:

 

“The Nazarenes. Despite the considerable symbolic significance of the event just mentioned, it should not mislead us to think that Jewish Christianity completely disappeared. In the middle of the second century, some twenty-five years after the Bar Kokhba revolt, Justin knew of Jewish believers who had two characteristics: (1) They believed in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, and (2) they continued to observe the law of Moses without requiring that their Gentile brethren do the same.In the third and fourth centuries there is still solid evidence for the existence of such Jewish believers. In the fourth century they are called “the Nazarenes”, and from Jerome and Epiphanius we get the following information: they are few, mainly to be found in the region of Israel and Syria. They recognize Jesus as the Son of God, they accept the virgin birth, they recognize the apostleship of Paul and the Gentile mission, and they have a gospel in Hebrew. These two church fathers—who were zealous hunters of all heresies—found nothing wrong with the doctrines of the Nazarenes. But they took offense at another aspect of this Jewish Christian group: they continued to keep the law, that is, circumcision and the Sabbath. By this time there was no longer any willingness in the Gentile church to accept such Christians; the spirit of brotherly recognition, as seen in Justin, was gone.[HI:IST, 2001]

 

 

So, the players are on stage: we have the ‘embedded’ Galilean witnesses (friendly and maybe hostile) and memory-carriers of Jesus, we have new possible ‘Jerusalem witnesses’ who observed Jesus decades before, we have some level of Jewish-Christian witness, and we have a new, “fiercely re-configuring” Judaism leadership. Let’s see what there interactions tell us about our question of ‘no body there to refute a gospel?’

 

 

Three: Evidences of Jewish/Christian interaction during this period (in the Land)

 

 

What we are looking for here is the (post-biblical) Jewish response to Jewish-Christian proclamation in our area/period. As Judaism-without-a-Temple gets to work trying to reinvent itself, national identity becomes ‘at risk’. The fierce boundary setting requirement of this period (“this is a Jew—and that is not”) is standard for threatened organizations. [Christianity went through it early, and over and over and over again…]

 

A practical starting point for delineating what you ARE is to first list all the things you are NOT. And Galilean Judaism defines that during our period and in interaction with Jewish-Christian literature.

 

Consider this simple summary of Jewish response:

 

“As we glance back over this chapter, a number of things come to light. There is evidence that Jews persecuted and harassed Christians intermittently in a number of locations. This could take the form of synagogue discipline or of persuading Gentile authorities to act on their behalf. Christians neverthe­less had a tendency to exaggerate the intensity and extent of Jewish hostility, and this has unduly influenced certain strains of scholarly analysis since.

Christians were included among those targeted by the Jewish authorities at Yavneh. The banning of books, occasional expulsion, and liturgical male­diction all appeared in new or revised form during the Yavnean period, and their implementation throughout world Jewry was probably encouraged by roving envoys. From the rabbinic viewpoint, Christians were one of several troublesome groups of nonconformists, but Christians increasingly saw themselves as singled out for rabbinic antipathy. The Bar Cochba uprising may have been an important turning point, precipitating the expansion of the synagogue malediction to include Gentile Christians too. And, as an element of liturgical routine, the more this malediction focused on Chris­tians the greater its influence would have been on popular Jewish attitudes.

Traditions about Jesus as a miracle worker and teacher are prominent in Jewish sources. Josephus, noncommittally, describes him in just these terms, but the rabbis preserve the negative version of the same two traits: that Jesus was a magician and deceiver of the people. The rabbinic view is ascribed more generally to Jews by Justin and Origen. In the stories about Eliezer ben Dama and R. Eliezer there is a hint that some rabbis consorted with Christians until they were challenged by stricter colleagues or came under suspicion by political authorities. .. Christology was one of the main obstacles to Jewish-Christian rapprochement. There is nothing surprising about this, nor about the two foci of disagreement that appear in many different sources: messianism and monotheism. The issue of messiahship does not arise explicitly in the rabbinic sources, though the polemical reading of Jesus' role as miracle worker and teacher effectively denies to him activities that some sources expected of the messiah. The assertion of Jesus' divinity met with several objections. One centered around his arrival in the world, about which the rabbis transmitted a polemical (perhaps, unknown to them, historical) line: that Jesus was a bastard and his mother an adulteress. If the idea of God's becoming human was absurd, the idea of a second god was for many Jews blasphemous. To the rabbis, Christians were part of a wider heretical tendency in which the existence of "two powers" in heaven was espoused. This may have made the Christians more difficult to combat, since other Jews were promoting speculations along the same lines. … Overall, Jewish reaction to Christians took many forms: political action, communal discipline, liturgical innovation, exegetical reasoning, and po­lemical subversion. Variety of action, however, is not matched in the sources by much variety of mood. Most of the evidence we have considered in this chapter suggests that resistance and opposition were the instinctive modes of Jewish response. But even if this reflects the preponderant reality, it is still misleading. Recalling Josephus's statement, and the possible rabbinic references to amicable contact between Jews and Jewish Christians, might seem to be clutching at straws, and it does not do much to balance the account. However, the actions and attitude of Trypho, as well as the encouragement that some Christian Judaizers were presumably given from the Jewish side, are only two other factors that need to be consid­ered for a fully rounded picture. [RS:193f; note R. Eleazar b. Dama died ‘sometime in the first third of the second century’ (HI:JITT, 54), and R. Eliezer around 90 AD.]

 

and

 

“Jewish Polemic and Rejection of Christianity. Jewish polemic directed against Christianity could be just as harsh and ugly as was Christian polemic, though with the ascendancy of Christianity, Jewish polemic came to be muted and sometimes was even edited out of texts. Some of the Jewish polemic is preserved in “dialogues” composed by Christians. The best known is Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Although these dialogues are artificial and routinely portray the Christian apologists as refuting, even silencing, their Jewish opponents, the nature of the objections raised by the Jews in all probability accurately reflects the arguments and polemic that Jews directed against Christians.

Justin’s Trypho found it difficult to accept that Jesus could really have been the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. How could Jesus have been the Messiah, since he had been defeated and put to death by the Romans in such a shameful manner? Trypho declares: “Be assured that all our nation awaits the Messiah; and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to him. . . . But we are in doubt about whether the Messiah should be so shamefully crucified. For whoever is crucified is said in the Law to be accursed, so that I am very skeptical on this point. It is quite clear, to be sure, the Scriptures announce that the Messiah had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you can prove it to us whether by suffering he was cursed . . . Prove to us whether he must also be crucified and die such a disgraceful and dishonorable death, cursed by the Law. For we cannot bring ourselves even to consider this” (Dial. Tryph. 89–90).

With the passage of time the polemic became much sharper, even hateful. Civil arguments, such as we find in Justin’s Dialogue, gave way to vituperation and slurs. The polemic found in the Talmud and Midrashim document some of this nastier polemic. In reference to Jesus’ birth we find: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors [= Mary] played the harlot with carpenters [= Joseph]” (b. Sanh. 106a). …  In various places Jesus is accused of having practiced magic and having led Israel astray (b. Sanh. 43a; t. Šab. 11.15; b. Šab. 104b). Indeed, Jesus can be raised through incantation (b. Git. 57a, MS M).

As early as the end of the first century the liturgy of the synagogue was modified to discourage Christian Jews. It was apparently at this time that the twelfth benediction of the ancient Jewish prayer, called the Amidah (or Shemoneh Esreh), was expanded: “Can anyone among you frame a benediction relating to the heretics? Samuel the Lesser arose and composed it” (b. Ber. 28b). Samuel the Lesser’s composition may have something to do with the revision of the twelfth benediction: “For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom of arrogance quickly uproot. [In a moment let the Nazarenes and the heretics be destroyed; let them be blotted from the Book of Life, and with the righteous not be inscribed.] Blessed are you, O Lord, who loves judgment!” (Amidah §12). The bracketed words are thought to be the later inserted material. It was probably to this malediction (often referred as the Birkat ha-Minim, lit. “blessing of the heretics”) that Justin alluded when he told Trypho, “You curse in your synagogues all those who are called from him Christians” (Justin Dial. Tryph. 96).

Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (2000, c1997). Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

 

 

We don’t have room here to unpack these, but if you look over the responses, you can see that they match up pretty well with what a Jewish-Christian might define as his or her belief at the (pre-Church Councils) time. There are no ‘straw men’ in there: they would be addressing items that they could hear from Galileans in Nazareth or Greeks in Antioch. But some are closer-to-home, around Nazareth. The issues of Mary’s infidelity, Jesus’ sorcery [i.e., His mostly-Galilean and probably-remembered miracles!], and His messianic deception are all found (or at least hinted at) in the Gospel of John.

 

But this is an exercise in literary ‘reverse engineering’—figuring out what the audience ‘said first’ in a piece of literature or tradition. And in this case, the response suggests that much of the core proclamation of the Gospels was circulating in Galilee during the 70-135-200 ‘reinvention period’. [Note: this ‘reverse engineering’ methodology is generally very risky, as can be noted by those who study the Heresiologists. We cannot be sure the Heresiologist is representing their opponent fairly/accurately—since we do not have any of the alleged heretic’s actual writing. But in our case, we do have the ‘heretic writing’—in our NT documents.]

 

Summary: Our first three points argued that there were PLENTY of people who lived through the war, that their ability to articulate objections (e.g. the polemical responses to Christians) was always there and increasing in sophistication, and that the Christian witness (of at least, the very flesh-and-blood family of Jesus in Nazareth) was available for them to ‘shoot’ at.

 

And they shot at it—at various times and in various ways—but this confirms that their intellectual world confronted the traditions of the historical Jesus (e.g. birth, parentage, Galilean ministry) and confronted the theological explanations of the Jewish-Christian church of the time (e.g. Jesus as Messiah and as Son of God).

 

We are right back to the implications of our opening summary by Levine: Galilee had plenty of resources to debunk Jewish-Christian claims.

 

 

 

Four: Reality check: was Jewish literature being written in Palestine during this period?

 

 

This is just a reality-check point. If Jewish literature was being written from Palestine during our period—AFTER the Jews had been banned from Jerusalem (and had moved from Judea to Galilee), then this alone shows that there were at least SOME people who COULD have written about this issue, if they wanted to.

 

[If NO literature was produced—when it WAS produced on either side of our period—then this would warrant further investigation.]

 

So, do we have any written Jewish literature (or Jewish ‘parts’ of mixed literature) from this period?

 

Yes, we do.

 

An analysis of [OTP] yields these results. Of the 52 works in the two-volume TOC, here is what shows up:

 

Work

2nd Century-3rd Century?

Provenance/Perspective?

Testament of Solomon (1-3rd AD)

Yes?

?, mixed

3 Baruch (1-3rd AD)

YES?

Disputed, Jewish

History of Joseph (prior to 4th AD)

YES?

Egyptian, Jewish

Prayer of Jacob (1-4th AD)

Yes?

Egyptian, Jewish-magic

Apocalypse of Abraham (70-150AD)

YES?

Palestinian, Jewish

Testament of Abraham (100AD +/- 20 yrs, Jewish part)

Yes?

Palestinian, Jewish

Greek Apocalypse of Ezra (2-9th AD)

Yes

?, Christian

Apocalypse of Sedrach (2-5th AD)

Yes

?, Jewish (apoc part)

Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers (2-3rd AD)

Yes

Egyptian or Syrian, Jewish

Testament of Isaac (2nd AD)

Yes

Egyptian/Palestinian(?), Jewish

Testament of Jacob (2-3 AD)

Yes

Egyptian/Palestinian(?), Jewish

Apocalypse of Elijah (150-275 AD)

YES

Palestinian(?), Jewish/mixed

2 Baruch (early 2nd AD)

Yes

Palestinian, Jewish

4 Baruch (100-135 AD, Jewish part)

YES

Palestinian, Jewish base

Testament of Adam (Jewish base 2nd AD)

Yes

Syriac, Jewish base

Odes of Solomon (100AD)

Yes

Syrian Antioch/Edessa, Jewish-Christian

The Sentences of the Syriac Menander (150-400 AD)

Yes

Syrian(?), Jewish

 

In fact, several of these deal with the fall of Jerusalem. Nickelsburg can contrast Josephus against the more ‘emotional’ of these this way:

 

“Its value as a source of historical information notwithstanding, the War is an interpretive piece of literature that presents an approach and a point of view quite different from that of Pseudo-Philo and the authors of 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The work is not pseudonymous and thus deals with named places and persons. It is less interested in theological explanations of historical causation—though they are present also—and more concerned with the nitty-gritty of political intrigue and social tension. And not least, the War reminds us that the empire had its own point of view about the events between 60 and 70 c.e. … In these respects, Josephus walks a tightrope. He is a client of the Roman emperor, writing a history that would later be adopted as the empire’s authorized version of the events he describes (Life 363). He does not hesitate to emphasize Titus’s goodwill toward the Jews, for example, his attempt to avoid the destruction of the temple. At the same time, Josephus writes as a Jew, who both criticizes those of his own people whom he sees as the cause of the revolt and praises the virtues of his religion and the power of his God, who in the final analysis allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed on account of the sins that took place, notably in the temple. Josephus does speak in a voice that will please his Roman patrons because it justifies their severe measures against the Jews. Nonetheless, in blaming the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple on the Jews, he is expressing a point of view that is present also in 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. What is missing from Josephus is the grief of “Baruch,” the puzzlement and intellectual agony of “Ezra,” and the anger that both of these writers direct against the Romans as they assert that the instrument of God’s judgment will be subject to that same judgment for its arrogant excesses. A conversation (or shouting match) between Josephus and the author of the last two visions of 4 Ezra would have made for interesting hearing.” [Nickelsburg, G. W. E. (2005). Jewish literature between the Bible and the Mishnah : A literary and historical introduction. (2nd ed.) (290). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.]

 

So, apparently the War/Revolt didn’t kill off all the writers at least…

 

 

 

Five: Constraints on dating the Gospel of Mark

 

 

Very, very few scholars [if ANY] would put the ‘writing’ of Mark this late. [You should push back on the blogger-friend and get them to DEFEND this date!]

 

Here’s a list of the datings/authors in just my library:

 

 

(Source)

Dater

When

France

"early church"

no later than early 60's

Carson/Moo

"majority of contem. scholars"

mid2late 60's

NT:EG

"most NT scholars"

ca70ad

Kummel

"most scholars"

64-70

NT:OMMCCD

"scholarly consensus"

60-70

France

"skeptical moderns"

65-70+

Kummel

Albertz

40-50

Carson/Moo

Anderson

mid2late 60's

Kummel

Beach

after 70

Kummel

Brandon

after 70

Carson/Moo

Brown

mid2late 60's

Carson/Moo

Carson/Moo

late 50's or the 60's

Casey

Casey

‘within a few years of the crucifixion'

Carson/Moo

Cranfield

mid2late 60's

Crossley

Crossley

mid2late 30's to mid-40s

Carson/Moo

CS Mann

draft in 55

Carson/Moo

Edwards

mid2late 60's

Ellis

Ellis

55-58

Guelich (WBC)

Ernst

“shortly after the fall of Jerusalem"

Dunn

Evans

middle-60s

France

France

mid-60's

Guelich (WBC)

Gnilka

“shortly after the fall of Jerusalem"

Gould

Gould

ca70ad

Guelich (WBC)

Grundmann

“shortly after the fall of Jerusalem"

Guelich (WBC)

Guelich

67-pre70

Ellis

Gundry

60-62

Kummel

Hamilton

after 70

Carson/Moo

Harnack

50's

Carson/Moo

Hengel

mid2late 60's

Kummel

Hopf-Gut

40-50

NT:OMMCCD

JAT Robinson

45-60

Kummel

Johnson

after 70

NT:OMMCCD

Kelber

post-70

Wenham

Kummel

70

Kummel

Kummel

70

Guelich (WBC)

Lane

65-68

Guelich (WBC)

Luhrmann

“shortly after the fall of Jerusalem"

Ellis

Marcus

70

Kummel

Mariani

40-50

Carson/Moo

Martin

mid2late 60's

Kummel

Masson

after 70

Kummel

Meinertx

40-50

Kummel

Minette de Tillesse

after 70

Ellis

Moffatt

shortly after 70

Guelich (WBC)

Nineham

65-68

Carson/Moo

Pesch

"as late as the 70's"

Guelich (WBC)

Pesch

“shortly after the fall of Jerusalem"

Ellis

Plummer

65-70

Carson/Moo

Reicke

late 50's

Guelich (WBC)

Schmithals

75-80

Guelich (WBC)

Schweizer

65-68

Carson/Moo

Stock

mid2late 60's

Guelich (WBC)

Taylor

65-68

Ellis

Theissen

75

Kummel

Torrey

40

Carson/Moo

Torrey

40's

Kummel

Trocme

40-50

Ellis

usually set'

65-75AD

Ellis

Vielhauer

after 70

Wenham

Wenham

45

 

 

 

 

Note that when a date given is ‘post-70’ or ‘after 70’, it generally means ‘shortly after’—not twenty-plus years later!

 

BTW, the reason ‘shortly’ is generally added is this: post-70 dates are generally given on the belief that the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem/Temple in Mark 13 is given ‘after the fact’, and that therefore the passage MUST BE dated after the fall of the city/Temple in 70. They don’t believe it could/would have been ‘predictive prophecy’ as others do. … But the reason they add ‘shortly’ to this date, is because of other things in the passage that were NOT fulfilled but which looked EQUALLY prophetic [“…the events associated in much of the current scholarship with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple simply do not fit with this verse that contains both a reference to the “abomination of desolation” and the note about fleeing “into the hills.”, Guelich/WBC]. In other words—to these later-daters—the passage had to be written immediately AFTER the writer saw the Temple/city fall, but BEFORE he noticed that the ‘abomination of desolation’ thing didn’t happen and the people didn’t flee, and before he realized that the events described in verses 24ff (“Then will you see the Son of Man coming…”) were gonna apparently be delayed…

 

But at any rate, you get the picture. The VAST majority of scholars date the written version of Mark to 65-70 (with oral circulation of the content much earlier). I could only find one scholar that had it later (by five years), and none of them had anything as late as the 90’s!

 

A date that late would require special, extra evidence—to overturn the considerably more data in favor of traditional date ranges.

 

[See now the detailed Tank piece on Can the gospels (or the stories of the historical Jesus) not have been written (or invented) until 100-150 AD?]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have already pointed out, though, that even with this being this late, there is still enough continuity in community memory/family history/public folklore even in Galilee at this time to refute it.

 

I can only summarize one strand of dating-data for this.

 

I cannot go through all the data here, but let me mention for starters:

 

One. I have already shown that I Clement-written around 95 AD already knows of, and uses, the synoptic tradition MULTIPLE times! [dumbdad2.html] A 90’s AD date for Mark just isn’t enough room for development of Matthew and Luke from it, in order for those two gospels to show up in other Apostolic Fathers. There is no time-gap for development/transmission to happen ‘in’!

 

Two. One can easily consult the series of books by Edouard Massaux on “The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus” [HI:IGSM3], to see the many, many cases where Matthew (allegedly dependent on and therefore LATER than Mark!) is quoted by I Clement, Barnabas (prob. 95 AD-ish too), and Ignatius (105-107).   [See the individual chapters in [HI:RNTAF] where each of the Apostolic Fathers are shown to have at least one allusion/reference to a Synoptic Gospel (and other evidence for the existence of the Synoptic traditions—in either written or oral form). ]

 

[The following is a bit dated, and probably needs about “20% correction” to dates and such, but this summary of 2nd century writings’ knowledge of the NY/synoptic traditions argues that the gospel materials needs to be dated MUCH earlier than at ‘the edge of the 2nd century’ to have had this wide a range of acceptance, impact, and even imitation:

 

“What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter? Clement makes two quotations, the canonical source of which is doubtful. Pseudo-Clement gives twelve,—nine of them canonical but free, and three extra-canonical; Ignatius, four,—one of them probably uncanonical; Polycarp, five,—four canonical but free, and one probably extra-canonical; the Didache, sixteen, quite canonical; Pseudo-Barnabas, four, canonical; Shepherd of Hermas, one, normal; the rest mere reflections of Scripture. Justin quotes largely but freely, and introduces incidents from apocryphal sources, one of which, the Acts of Pilate, he cites by name as authority for the miracles of our Lord; Athenagoras, four, quoted freely; Papias, one from Mk., with distinctly apocryphal matter. The Clementine Homilies give us canonical and uncanonical matter in the proportion of about seventy to thirteen. One of these, about good money-changers, is a distinct addition to the probable sayings of our Lord. Finally, we have the testimony of Papias to the composition of Mk., and of the Logia, the probable witness of Marcion to Lk., the more than probable testimony of the Canon of Muratori to the canonical Gospels, and the Diatessaron of Tatian, with its unmistakable use of the four Gospels as the exclusive source of information about the Gospel history. The conclusions are inevitable: first, that the second-century literature certainly uses extra–canonical sources of information about our Lord, and does it freely and without apology; secondly, that the four Gospels were the main stream to which the rest was tributary,—the standard writings on the subject; thirdly, they were not Scripture in the sense which we attach to that word,—they were not separated from other writings by any such line; fourthly, that the amount and importance of extra-canonical matter is after all small. Substantially, the Jesus of the second-century literature is the Jesus of the Gospels.” [Gould, E. P. (1922). ICC, A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (xli). New York: C. Scribner's sons.]

 

Three. We have NT apocryphal literature from the early 2nd century which is DEPENDENT on Markan traditions…

 

Four. For goodness sake, we even have a fragment of John’s Gospel that dates earlier than/equal to this hypothetical date for Mark!:

 

“We cannot conclude this survey of the papyri without some further comments on the truly amazing discoveries of the past generation. The critical significance of p52, which preserves only a fragment of John 18, lies in the date of 'about 125' assigned to it by the leading papyrologists. Although 'about 125' allows for leeway of about twenty-five years on either side, the consensus has come in recent years to regard 125 as representing the later limit, so that p52 must have been copied very soon after the Gospel of John was itself written in the early 90's A.D. (with the recent discovery of p90 another second century fragment of the Gospel of John is now known). It provides a critical witness to the quality of the New Testament textual tradition, further confirming it by exhibiting a 'normal text', i.e., attesting the text of today (that of Nestle-Aland26 and GNT3).” [ATNT, 85f]

 

 

This is just a thumbnail here… There are just so many reasons to reject this late a date for Mark…this just seems to be an arbitrary number (ask the blogger-friend for non-conjectural data to support it!)…ask them to explain how the above dependencies can emerge so quickly and in such a wide range of places and uses… Ask them to re-evaluate this data, and adjust their figures for further discussion…

 

But the strongest reasons against this late date (IMO) are related the ‘spacing’ required for its use by OTHER documents in the same time period. [And, BTW, you cannot appeal to ‘earlier common tradition’ to get around this, because ‘earlier common tradition’ means the stories originated earlier—and this is a huge problem for the mythicist-gospel position.

 

………..

 

 

Anyway, my main point here was to show that the devastation in Galilee after the Jewish War was not of such an extent as to render the probability of contrary-witnesses null.

 

I think the data shows that…

 

Thanks,

glenn


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