Some People Need to Fact-Check Better

I’ve said this over and over again; around this time of year, some internet meme will develop about Jesus or Easter or the resurrection and produce some lame fabrication full of untruths and atheists and skeptics  will spread it around social media without doing a shred of fact-checking.  This year, it is this atrocity:

562304_10151521973955155_571208390_n

This image contains many inaccuracies.  Do not rely upon a simple internet search, which yields additional misinformation (indeed, it seems that the creator of this meme is merely copying, almost verbatim, from these websites which are just as clueless).

  • Easter was not ‘originally the celebration of Ishtar’; Easter has always been associated with the equinox, with the dawning of spring; it signifies a change–not in fertility and sex–of seasons and the hope of new beginnings.
  • Despite the images intimations, the name ‘Easter’ did not originate from ‘Ishtar’.  This is a subtle, yet effectively deceptive tactic to get you to think there are similarities between the two due to the similar sounds in English. But comparing two words from different language groups is about as useful as comparing a word in German to a word in Korean for the same reason.
  • The word ‘Easter’ most probably originated from an Anglo-Saxon word Eostre, the name of a goddess of spring and of dawn.
  • The background of the hares are not associated with fertility (which seems to be an association based upon popular belief–not evidence), but may have been associated also with Eostre.
  • Ishtar is also considered a goddess of war; the problem with memes like this is they neglect important information.  In this manner, Ishtar has zero relevance to the Easter tradition–not in name, not in her communal functions.  Certainly this would not have been a good choice for Christians from late antiquity who were arguing for abstinence and celibacy, even in marriages!

The real irony here is that Ishtar is actually somewhat relevant to the Christian tradition of Easter for a completely different reason (i.e., Jesus’s resurrection).  Indeed, the narrative known as the ‘Inanna’s Descent to the Nether World’ is an excellent superficial (key word) comparison of the death and resurrection of a Jesus from antiquity–one that would have been somewhat familiar to Jews living in the region of ANE:

The pure Ereckigala seated herself upon her throne, The Anunnaki, the seven judges, pronounced judgment before her. They fastened her eyes upon her, the eyes of death. At their word, the word that tortures the spirit. The sick “woman” was turned into a corpse. The corpse was hung from a stake.  After three days and three nights had passed, her minister Nincubur…fills the heavens with complaints for her…. Before Enki he weeps: “O Father Enki, let not thy daughter be put to death in the nether world….” Father Enki answers Ninshubur: “What has happened to my daughter!  I am troubled, what has happened to Inanna…! What has happened to the hierodule of heaven! …Surely Inanna will arise.”  …Inanna arose.  Inanna ascends from the nether world. (Trans. Samuel N. Kramer, ‘Inanna’s Descent to the Nether World,’ in James B. Prichard, ed., ANET, pp. 52-57)

Some important questions need to be asked:

1.Who would have had access to these myths?
2.Who would have been able to read them?
3.Who would have understood them?

It is easy for someone to claim that Inanna is the precursor to the resurrection narrative of Jesus, but such claims are unfounded.  Without any evidence, these are simply correlations–but correlations aren’t causations.  Proving links between two texts can be an almost impossible task (though conspiracy theorists seem to do it anyway).  Even strong cases are sometimes proved irrelevant simply because one text could not have been accessible to the authors of the other text.  So similarities alone do not prove a link. The only thing that can be said is that the motif of a dying and rising deity had existed prior to the figure of Jesus and would have been known by at least some Jewish communities (Inanna cursed Tammuz to the underworld, of whom the author of Ezekiel 8.14 speaks).

So enough of these crazy conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated memes.  There is no basis for these sorts of claims.

Edit: Of course I think everyone needs to fact-check; But so far only atheists have been bold enough to post this image on social media without doing any additional fact-checking. And then when I would challenge these atheists, they would do only a meager Google search and post up whatever results fit the image without checking those results against legitimate sources (like the ODoCC).  So yes, I’m calling them out. You can’t sit there and arrogantly claim enlightened status if you’re just going to forward along dumb memes without making sure they’re accurate first. That is just not right.  You berate Christians for taking things at face value, after all.  Take heed.

History’s ‘The Bible’ in Broader Contexts

In lieu of writing a much longer piece for an online journal, I have thought it useful to open up some to a conversation concerning the History Channel’s ‘The Bible’.  Recently lots has been made about the inaccuracies of the miniseries, as well as Glenn Beck’s (racist?) comments about how similar is their Satan character to “that guy”.  But not much has been said in its defense.

This is problematic; while there are inaccuracies, I am not sure that it diminishes from the quality or historical contexts that are present.  Before Jim West gets flustered (don’t hate me Jim), let me explain my meaning.

As students of the past, there is one constant fact to all of our ancient literature that I’m sure many of my readers will already know: they contain elements of what some would call ‘truth’ (in a philosophical or theological sense), elements of cultural memory/social memory (historical or otherwise), and lots more mythological constructs–fictions, to be blunt about it.  In the Gospels, this is probably the most clear-cut.  We have four canonical Gospels and dozens of noncanonical Gospels, some contain similar elements between each other (Matthew and Luke contain something like 90% of Mark’s Gospel with their own additional, unique content).

I often wonder how early receivers of these Gospels understood them.  As a literary critic at heart, reception history is an important function of any text; yet somehow I don’t think that Luke’s first readers grumbled on about how little it matched up with Matthew’s accounts.  I mean, you don’t generally find early Christian apologists complaining about how much Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives contradict each other. (critics of Christianity certainly did, but not generally the believers–which is telling)  Somehow four Gospels were, for the most part, accepted into a canon and appreciated as they were–with all of their complexities and nuance, with their competing theological narratives, with their chronological disparities.

Kind of like these discrepancies.

Now not everyone appreciated this, and we have examples of some later scribes attempting to unify the four versions (i.e., they attempted to ‘correct’ the disparities). But these attempts were widely unsuccessful (so far as we know); we still have four Gospels in the canon, contradictions and competitive elements included.  So at some point, along the line, these were still appreciated for what they were: rewritten narratives, tradition ‘history’.  Most of my readers who are academics themselves will undoubtedly be aware of all of this.  And in many respects, probably still accept the Gospels–begrudgingly or otherwise–with their many challenges and puzzling alterations.

But isn’t it interesting that when a miniseries does the same thing as the Gospel authors, many of us just cannot deal with it?  So the producers have a square script in the wrong period.  So what?  Matthew includes a scene where Herod goes about ordering the killing of a bunch of infants (which never happened).  Luke feels it is completely acceptable to add a census at the wrong time.  And lest we forget, Josephus and Philo were quite capable of rewriting the Bible in bizarre and inaccurate ways; Josephus has Alexander the Great reading the book of Daniel for goodness sake; a book which at that time would not be inked for another 160 years or more!  Philo has Heraclitus stealing philosophical ideas from Moses; if you want to talk about inaccuracies and historical improbabilities, look no further than the first century CE.

tumblr_mfz22a3xjY1qfswibo1_500

“Look at this book which conveniently fits right into the theme of my narrative (that hasn’t been written yet)!”

Many have had a (understandable) problem with how white Jesus is portrayed in the film.  But Jesus has been portrayed as white for generations–not that this is an acceptable argument, because it isn’t–but he has not only ever been portrayed this way.  Some of the very first depictions of Jesus are him as a Greek (as Orpheus) or as a Roman (on a Roman sarcophagus where he is portrayed with no beard, a tunic of high quality, and thick, curly hair).

Certainly some early depictions of him appear closer to what one might imagine; painted on a catacomb wall, there stands Jesus–unbearded, olive-skinned though still clearly Caucasian, and in the desert near a tomb–with a magic wand conjuring up a dead Lazarus, for example.  But isn’t that just another example of an artist taking a personal liberty in their own portrayals of Jesus?

JRaiseLazarus

Expecto patronum!” or something.

Let’s be plainly honest: There is no way to know what ethnicity Jesus had been; one might like to imagine him as an approximation of what the popular concept of ‘Jewish’ was like in antiquity, but as Thomas L. Thompson has aptly pointed out, “Jewish” is not an ethnicity.  He may have been a black man, he may have had a Greek ancestry, he may have been an Egyptian, he may have been something else entirely–he just shows up out of nowhere in Mark with no birth narrative or discussion of ancestry (and Luke and Matthew included ancestry for theological reasons–not historical reasons).  Paul may or may not suggest that he was from the line of David (I tend to think not), but even so that does not ipso facto mean every descendent of his was ethnically tied to the region.  Some scholars would like to think so; but this is really sort of a moot point in some ways, isn’t it?  The earliest Christian communities didn’t care about Jesus’ racial background and portrayed him as whatever they saw fit for their communities.  After all, God does not have an ethnicity (nor a gender, for that matter).

Does History’s ‘The Bible’ contain errors, contradictions, inaccuracies, etc…?  Yes, absolutely.  But look at the material from which it is drawing inspiration.  When your actual source material is conflicting, inaccurate, vague, or diversely interpreted, any retelling or rewriting of that narrative will contain those elements.   It is patently unfair to criticize the miniseries for being ‘untrue to the source material’ when even our earliest interpreters were unconcerned with such anachronistic notions.  ‘The Bible’ is a modern day retelling, in the same vein as Josephus or Philo, of any of the Gospel authors, any of the apologists and scribes of antiquity.  Do you understand what it is you are watching?

If you truly do not like what the program offers, don’t watch it.  Or, better yet, watch it and use it in your classrooms.  Use it in your presentations and lectures to show, through example, how a text can be reinterpreted to fit a modern, synchronized world–but also how it was reinterpreted in the past.  Use it, don’t just thump your chest and brow-beat it.  We get it; you went to Seminary or a research institution and you want to prove you know what you’re talking about.  We know you’re smart.  So use that intellect and turn ‘The Bible’ into a learning tool, rather than shunning it.

The tools have changed, but the process is essentially the same; it just takes less time to achieve the same result.

Just my two-cents.  More to come.

Was Jesus’ Water to Wine Miracle a Trick?

Someone sent me a link in an email today asking what I thought about this as a possible point of reference for Jesus’ miracle.

watertowineNo, I do not think this is at all relevant to Jesus’ miracle.  I think anyone who draws connections between this and Jesus are grasping at straws and nothing more.  It goes back to the same point I’ve made with conspiracy theorists: they will try to put two-and-two together regardless of how absurd an idea it is.

The fact is that Jesus’ water-to-wine miracle, like his feeding of the 5000, are imitations of the multiplication stories in the Elijah/Elisha miracle cycles.  In fact, I would say that all seven major miracles in John present Jesus was Elijah/Elisha; the miracles are either (1) healing the sick, (2) raising the dead, (3) water-related, (4) or multiplication/feeding.  All of these can be traced back to the Elijah/Elisha narratives when broken down into their basic motifs.  There is no need to draw into it any additional context or add any bizarre outside influences in an attempt to historicize this event.

Roger Aus, in fact, takes a useful approach and suggests that the wedding narrative in John derives from Esther 1, and surprisingly there are some interesting connections.  He argues this rather thoroughly in his Water Into Wine and the Beheading of John the Baptist: Early Jewish-Christian Interpretation of Esther 1 in John 2:1-11 and Mark 6:17-29 (Brown Judaic Studies, 1988).  It is well worth the read.

So no, I do not believe this is at all related to Hero of Alexandria.  It is just another example of John’s dependency upon ancient Jewish literature–like every other Gospel author.  All attempts to link the two (John and Hero) are tentative and unhelpful, at best.


Beware the Ides of March!

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

And here we are, the Ides of March!  Made famous by the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar (15 Mar). So I have provided here a little collection of useful links and images and articles for your own use.  Enjoy.

121011-julius-caesar-stabbed-hmed-321p.grid-6x2

Area where Julius Caesar was assassinated.

  And here is a re-imagining of the event:

Though it probably didn’t happen like this. Just sayin’.

Here is Plutarch’s description of the event:

Now when the senate was gone in before to the chamber where they were to sit, the rest of the company placed themselves close about Caesars chair, as if they had some suit to make to him, and Cassius, turning his face to Pompeys statue, is said to have invoked it, as if it had been sensible of his prayers. Trebonius, in the meanwhile, engaged Antonys attention at the door, and kept him in talk outside. When Caesar entered, the whole senate rose up to him. As soon as he was sat down, the men all crowded round about him, and set Tillius Cimber, one of their own number, to intercede in behalf of his brother that was banished; they all joined their prayers with his, and took Caesar by the hand, and kissed his head and his breast. But he putting aside at first their supplications, and afterwards, when he saw they would not desist, violently rising up, Tillius with both hands caught hold of his robe and pulled it off from his shoulders, and Casca, that stood behind him, drawing his dagger, gave him the first, but a slight wound, about the shoulder. Caesar snatching hold of the handle of the dagger, and crying out aloud in Latin, “Villain Casca, what do you?” he, calling in Greek to his brother, bade him come and help. And by this time, finding himself struck by a great many hands, and looking around about him to see if he could force his way out, when he saw Brutus with his dagger drawn against him, he let go Cascas hand, that he had hold of and covering his head with his robe, gave up his body to their blows. And they so eagerly pressed towards the body, and so many daggers were hacking together, that they cut one another; Brutus, particularly, received a wound in his hand, and all of them were besmeared with the blood.

A coin commemorating the event:

One of the most famous coins of all time is the EID MAR denarius issued by Marcus Junius Brutus in 43/42 BC. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he threw Rome into more than three years of civil war, eliminating his opponents along the way. In 49 BC, many leading citizens, including some sixty Roman Senators, had come to see Caesar as a power-grabber who wanted to make himself king. This was an unacceptable situation for men like Brutus, who wished to retain their beloved Republic.

From Amateur to Student: A Personal Journey

Over the past few years, I have seen an increase of self-published books by self-proclaimed ‘scholars’ out there, proposing this crappy theory or that terrible hypothesis; and they do so often under the banner of anti-elitism or anti-Academy.

Simcha Jacobovici (no academic credentials in the field of Biblical Studies, Ancient History, Classics, or similar fields) throws credible scholars (of which he is neither) under the bus when he calls them “sleeper agents of Christian orthodoxy” without ever once considering the views of those who are criticizing his work.  He fancies himself and his work to be akin to Indiana Jones.

David Elkington, the man who brought attention to the fake Jordan codices, has no academic credentials whatsoever (he was in art and design school for a bit, but apparently he never finished).      Yet he portrays himself to the media as a biblical scholar and archaeologist–even though these are specific fields of scholarship which often require graduate-level degrees which he doesn’t hold.   Similar to Jacobovici, Elkington berates scholars (those with credentials) who are critical of his work and his credibility by suggesting that they are somehow not scholars.

Joe Atwill, the man behind the ‘Jesus was an invention by the Romans’ hypothesis (one that is clearly bogus), studied computer science in college.  While he may be an excellent chess player (as his ‘About Me’ suggests), that does not make him a scholar.  His views on the New Testament, on Josephus, and on the Dead Sea Scrolls are naive and represent a conspiracy theory–not accurate, dedicated historical research.

More recently, Ralph Ellis has published a new edition of his book on Izas Manu.  This recent travesty of a hypothesis (I take his sample chapter apart here) follows a long series of books by Ellis (Jesus as the last pharaoh, Jesus as King Arthur, etc…crazy and bizarre claims that are rightly not taken seriously), usually self-published.  Though he apparently has no formal education, like Elkington, he falls back on his many years of independent study.  Just how many years? It is impossible to know, as in one place he has 20, another place he lists 25, and yet another he claims 30.  But he feels he is better equipped to handle history as he is “independent from theological and educational establishments“–a nice way of admitting he is not credible.  And yet when those of us who are affiliated with an academic institution criticize his work, he labels them as frauds and seeks to harass them and threaten them with legal action if they don’t remove their criticisms.

These represent a handful of examples of the plethora of individuals out there who feel the same way.  They view academia as if it were some useless game, without a real value.  Or, in extreme cases, they see academics as the primary suspects in a cover-up of the ‘real truth’ and only they–the outsiders–can really expose the false teachings of the false prophets in the ivory towers.  It is delusional, offensive, and–worst of all–there are many people out there who buy into it.

Truth be told, I am well acquainted with this sort of thinking as, unfortunately, I used to be one of them.

Before you ask, yes, I’m aware of the student debt crisis.  Yes, I’m aware the economy is in shambles.  I am absolutely aware that the job market is terrible and for some people, it is impossibly difficult to find a start to their careers as a result.  I recognize the problems, I see the dilemma.  But today I am proud to be a student and am thankful I decided to get an education.  But I wasn’t always this positive about it.

Six years ago I was against any sort of higher learning.  It cost too much, it took too long; I saw it as a hindrance on what I viewed as my research–who wants to take courses in subjects, like Biochem that meant absolutely nothing to me, just to earn a degree in Philosophy or History?  It made no sense to me then.  I wanted to spend all my time reading books I wanted to read on my own time, spending money the way I saw fit, on subjects about which I wanted to learn.  After all, paying thousands of dollars for a few credits here or there seemed absolutely ludicrous.  Where was all that money going, anyway?!

This mentality was fueled by attention, unfortunately.  The more attention I was given by people just as adsorbed as I was, the more authority I imagined I had, and the less school seemed to matter.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured myself as a true academic.  The thought of college tasted flat to me, it felt like such a dated idea; it was where rich kids went to avoid having to do any real work for four years or so.  While they were off partying, I was face-down in texts–in my own version of reality, I was the one doing the real studying.  I was making break-through after break-through that I believed would challenge academia for ages to come.

On the occasions where I was brushed off by scholars, I tried to tell myself it was because I was unfettered by scholastic institutions and could think more freely.  I saw them as a religiously-motivated force that stood against me.  But this was all a fantasy I had concocted; inside I knew I was the one who was not credible.  And when certain individuals called me out on this, I became aggressive and defensive and reacted harshly.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Then, years ago, something clicked inside.  I was betrayed by a colleague who, while to my face appeared to be a friend, behind my back would talk down about me because of my lack of credentials.  When I discovered this, I was at a loss.  As much as I had this build-up of hatred and bile against this individual–who I shall not name–I realized that it was my own fault.  I had stepped into a world bigger than myself and I was, frankly, out of my league.

Soon all those excuses about college and how it ‘wasn’t for me’ meant absolutely nothing, because no matter how much I thought I knew, no matter how many books I had in my library, I had no laurels and I would not be taken seriously.  Ever.  I wanted to be an academic, but those doors would always be closed to me without a higher degree.  It was heartbreaking.

For a few more months after this event, I continued to try to tell myself that college was meaningless, but the same old arguments I’d used before just melted away, like wax to a flame.  While college may be a way to avoid a real job for some people (a rather expensive avoidance tactic at that), the truth was that my own job prospects were limited by my meager High School diploma–I might find a great place to work and get a decent salary, but it would never be the job I wanted to do (teach ancient history) and I would never be completely happy there.  It would be a job, but not a career.

This was also during the very beginning of the crash in late 2007, and jobs were hard to come by–if they were had at all.  When I was applying for new work, I was consistently being turned down by applicants with higher degrees.  Even in basic industrial work, college grads–even those with associates degrees–were getting jobs.

That settled it for me: I had to go back to school.  I was completely ignorant about the process, however, and I had no idea where I was going to go.  But everything started to move quickly the second I decided on a college.   Money was surprisingly not much of a factor for my first few years; the jobs I worked paid too little and I ended up finding the financial assistance I needed.

In a bit of good fortune, I found that I owned a lot of the textbooks already, or I had something comparable that I used instead, which cut the costs of class expenses for me a bit.  Going part time also helped me a great deal, as I still needed to work to pay my bills.  Working and going to school is a difficult life choice and of course I recognize that not everyone can find the time to do it.  But I have met some fantastic human beings, my professors have been brilliant (mostly), and there are some classmates who just continue to impress me (especially the single parents who work and go to school–bravo!).

But having lived that life prior to college, I can now intimate where the mentality comes from, that is, the belief that continuing your education doesn’t matter. In my opinion, and from experience, it stems from insecurity.  These sorts of individuals will probably never be scholars, and I think that really bothers them. So in a way, I can see why some of them demonize historians and scholars.  For those who do, they have to see themselves has superior–they have to be right and the establishment, therefore, is wrong.  Not only does this empower them, but it makes them feel like a real scholar (as flawed as that perception is) and, in some ways, not just a scholar, but one of the greatest scholars.  So they essentially fulfill their own fantasy.

While Joe Atwill may be a smart fellow and a nice guy (which I understand him to be), his work will never be ‘scholarship’.  It will only ever be a hobby he does in his free time.   And his hypotheses will only ever be conspiracy theories.  The same is true for Ralph Ellis (though I hold out little hope he will ever see his bizarre conclusions for what they are), for Simcha Jacobovici (who may just be a C-list television producer who sits around all day, editing his documentaries in his underpants), and for David Elkington (who might not even be genuine in character).  There is one absolute fact that unifies them: they are not academically affiliated, on occasion they overstate their credibility, and they often disregard actual academic arguments which contradict their claims.  Conspiracy and mystery clouds their conclusions.

Interestingly enough, the attempts to sabotage my credibility now are mostly from dated websites that criticized me for the same exact things I’m criticizing others for now.  Someone will state that ‘no college will accept me’ and they’ll send this to my .edu email address (and for these sorts of individuals who love to put two and two together, they certainly miss that detail all the time).  They’ll tell me that I have no academic support, but then I’m the one who actually bothers to publish academically while they can only produce self-published volumes.   Maybe at one time in my life these criticisms were valid.  But if they were, they have long since become obsolete.

To those of you out there reading this who are of a similar state of mind, let me offer some words on the matter.   The grounding that college gives you is extremely valuable.  All those generic classes that you take your first few years, they are what gives your experience depth.  For many college freshmen, they can be a guide towards discovery.  College is not about manufacturing a certain brand of people–don’t listen to that hype.  It is about building you up as a person; what you get from college is what you put into it.  It has made me a sharper thinker, a better writer, a more dedicated researcher, given me a broader perspective on life and nuance, an appreciation for different tastes and cultures, and much more.  My suggestion, always, will be do better yourself.  College is a step towards doing that; at least, it was for me.

The Aramaic Blog on Ralph Ellis and his ‘Izas Manu’ Creation

Steve Caruso, over at Aramaic Designs, weighs in on Ralph Ellis’s bizarre understanding of ancient languages.  Caruso is affiliated with Rutgers University, a librarian by training, and a professional Aramaic consultant and translator, he knows his stuff.  Here is a snippet (along with an excellent graphic he made):

I usually don’t discuss new books here on The Aramaic Blog… but sometimes a work inspires something within me that I cannot contain. One of those books is “King Jesus of Edessa” by Ralph Ellis… and what it inspires (in me) is a bad nervous tic.

It’s the conspiracy to end all conspiracies about who the historical Jesus was. Ralph Ellis claims that he was King “Izas Manu” a patchwork figure that he seems to have cobbled together from a half dozen historical figures spanning two kingdoms (which he assumes are the same) and several hundred years.

via The Aramaic Blog: King Jesus of Edessa by Ralph Ellis — Er.. What?.

Give the rest of it a read.  I did not even quote the meaty morsels of his analysis.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Young Man in Mark 14.52 and 16.5 Through the Lens of 2 Corinthians 5

As the semester progresses I’m finding that I am looking anew at older ideas I’ve read or had myself on various passages in the New Testament.  Two such instances happened last week while analyzing the Gospel of Mark.  The young man who runs off from Jesus naked has played a pivotal role in the Biblioblogging community lately (what with the Jesus Blog bringing up Smith’s discovery–fake or not–which has some implications on the subject).  But for me it brings up an important matter I have neglected, but at some point want to publish on: Mark’s literary indebtedness to the Pauline epistles.

One such correlation between Mark and Paul is this rebirth of the body.  In 2 Cor 5, Paul writes (emphasis added, NRSV):

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off  we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

It seems to me, and in agreement with Carrier, that Paul’s theological belief in an afterlife includes, to a large degree, getting a new and better body.  Not our same body, which is destroyed (καταλυθῇ), but a new and better body, built by God.

This is very interesting.  These are themes that Mark seems to pick up upon and even seems to make note of while describing certain events in Jesus’ life–namely the young man who appears prior to Jesus’ death and then following his resurrection.

While re-reading over Mark 14 and 16, I became more convinced of this play on the narrative elements.  In 14.51-2, Mark writes (NRSV):

A certain young man (νεανίσκος τις) was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked (ὁ δὲ καταλιπὼν τὴν σινδόνα γυμνὸς ἔφυγεν).

It is interesting that Mark makes such a specific notation of the youth’s attire.  I think the emphasis on the linen cloth is important (I’ll tie this all together later) and I don’t think this is the last time we see this young man.

Mark only uses νεανίσκον in two places in his Gospel.  The first is in 14.50-53 above.  The second is in 16.5:

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man (νεανίσκον) dressed in a white robe (περιβεβλημένον στολὴν λευκήν) sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

I find it fascinating that the only other time that a young man is mentioned is in connection with (a) clothing and (b) prior to Jesus’ death and after his resurrection (while he is in his earthly body and when he gains his new and better body, respectively).  Of course I am in agreement, along with most scholars, that the young boy here represents Jesus sitting at the right side of God (which may echo back to Mark 12.36); but in my humble opinion, I do believe this is the same young man in both instances above, used by Mark as a literary analog to portray Paul’s two-body theology.

Now, maybe it is not a direct borrowing, but Mark seems to agree with this to an extent (notice he never says the tomb is empty, as Matthew does–and makes a big spectacle of it in fact being empty).  I believe that the reason why this young man is portrayed as an angel in Matthew is because Matthew did not agree with this theological function–he seems to be keen on the same body being doctrine (i.e., that one’s physical body–the current one we inhabit–will rise) as more important (or just more correct).

%d bloggers like this: