Difficulties, Contradictions and Problems in the Crucifixion tale (part 2)

Contention 2: There are no reliable multiple independent attestions

The following are some of the historical sources appealed to by Christians that are considered independent historical attestations.

1. Flavius Josephus.

Flavius Josephus is popularly quoted by Christians to substantiate the crucifixion tale. They quote the very famous passage that is attributed to him known as the Testimonium Flavianum.

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3) [7]

Scholars have long suspected the above to be spurious. Questions regarding the authenticity of this particular passage have been raised since the 16th century as Raymond Brown notes in his volume one of The Death of the Messiah on page 374. Today it is widely  rejected as a forgery attributed to Josephus. Raymond E. Brown on the same page of his work cites a number of authorities who rejected the text as outright inauthentic which includes Battifol, Birdsall, Burkitt, Conzelmann, Hahn, L. Hermann, Lagrange, Norden and Zeitlin. It is historically known that Josephus was a Jew and died as one. He did not convert to Christianity at any point in time. It goes without saying that being a Jew he would have hardly attested Jesus’ Christhood and his rising again fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets of old. Had he believed in such Christian doctrines he would have been a Christian. The early church father Origen explicitly states in Against Celcus, 1.47 and in his Commentary on Matthew, 10.17 that Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Christ. Had the passage been authentically written by Josephus surely the early church fathers of the second and third centuries quoted him especially when they cite him regarding Old Testament interpretations. The earliest citation of the text is from the fourth century by Eusebius of Caesaria in Demonstratio Evangelica or  The Proof of the Gospel. That’s over 400 years of a gap which is more than enough time to fake a document. Impossible to be traced back to Josephus it is indeed a fake. It is noteworthy that Raymond E. Brown prefers the position of partial-interpolation where Josephus is thought to have written the basic text and the special references to Jesus e.g. as Messiah are later Christian interpolations. In discussing this however, Brown does not offer any definite substantiation for this position. In fact, he merely describes it as “plausible”. The Testimonium  is found in all the mss. of Ant. [8] and none omits the special references to Christ which leads us to contend that the whole text must have been forged.

2. Cornelius Tacitus.

The work involved in Tacitus’ Annals. This work was written in approximately 117 CE. In it Jesus’ death is mentioned.

“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus.” (Annals, 15.44) [9]

Several scholars have questioned the authenticity of this passage. It is claimed that Tacitus made use of Roman documents in reporting the above. If that is true surely he would not have made the error with Pilate. Pilate is identified as a procurator rather than a prefect. This is a historical problem that has been noted by scholars. Those two positions are not one and the same. A procurator is a financial administrator(civilian) whilst a prefect is a military position. Historically Judea was ruled by a prefect appointed by Rome from 6 CE to around 44 CE. It was after that period that the governor was procurator. In fact, an inscription that was found at Caesarea Maritima, ludaea there is an inscription dedicated to Pilate which reads, “praefectus iudaeae” which means “prefect of Judea”.  Raymond E. Brown notes, “In calling Pilate a procurator Tacitus was reflecting the later terminology of the 1st cent., still in vogue at the time of his writing.” [10]Secondly, official Roman documents could not possibly have referred to Jesus as “Christus” as G.A. Wells points out in The Historical Evidence for Jesus.[11] So where did Tacitus get his information from? Well, isn’t it obvious? Christians were already quite known then. He could have easily gotten his information from the Christians as R.T France, E.P. Sanders, G.A. Wells and others have pointed out. This means that even if Tacitus authentically wrote the information it is almost 100 years after the happenings and does not rely on independent sources.

Other historical sources that Christians appeal to include Lucian of Samosata’s The Passing of Peregrinus, Mara Bar Serapion, Thallus and Jewish Rabbinic literature. All these historical sources are late second to third century cources that can hardly be described as independent. And many of them suffer from historical inaccuracies as we have seen inTacitus’ Annals.

Contention 3: There are no prophecies that truly predict the crucifixion

An often quoted passage in support of the crucifixion is Isaiah 53 which we have discussed in another article. Please click on A Critical Study of Isaiah 53 to read it.

We will later show that there are clear prophecies and promises in the Old Testament that should ensure Jesus’ safety from any harm that his enemies could have wished to inflict upon him.

Contention 4: Jesus could not have been crucified outside of Jerusalem.

We will prove from Jesus’ own words that he could not have possibly suffered at the hands of his enemies. Let us begin with the proof text for our premise namely Luke 13:33.

The context of Luke 13:33 starts at verse 31. It says that the Pharisees came to Jesus and warns him of an impending threat from Herod who supposedly wants him dead. In response to this warning Jesus responds,

12. Go tell that fox, ?I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.

13. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem!

The last part in verse 13 is a clear negation by Jesus regarding the impossibility of a Prophet to die outside of Jerusalem. The prophet that is mentioned is a reference to his own person. The verse itself and the context does not allow a different interpretation unless the Christians wish to tell us that Moses died in Jerusalem which he obviously did not. There may be Christians out there who think that Jesus was not a prophet(and I have met quite a few myself). Let us assure them that Jesus was indeed a prophet according to their own books,

And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.“(Matthew 21:11)

But Jesus said to them, “A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country and his own house.“(Matthew 13:57)

“But Jesus said to them, “A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”(Mark 6:4)

“Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no PROPHET is accepted in his own country.”(Luke 4:24)

And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:“(Luke 24:19)

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us“(Luke 7:16)

“Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.”(John 7:40)

Some of you may raise the question, “If Jesus was speaking about himself in Luke 13:33 surely he would have said something like , ‘I cannot die outside of Jerusalem’ instead of ‘a prophet cannot die outside of Jeruslame’ which is in the third person.” That is a legitimate question. And the answer to that is given in the verses you just read i.e. Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4 and Luke 4:24.

They are all relating about the same incident and Jesus is clearly addressing himself as a prophet in the third person. Thus the question raised has secured our premise further, alhamdulillah.

Clutching at straws some Christians(of whom I have met) may try to insist that the verse does not totally negate the possibility of Jesus dying outside of Jerusalem and that it just says that he cannot like in the KJV, NASB and other translations of the verse. First of all, granted that the KJV and the NASB have translated the verses correctly what does the word ‘cannot’ mean? If I said, “I cannot go to the USA” does it mean I can? It’s a silly question I know, but the question raised by the Christians in this regard is also silly. The word cannot is a negation which means not able to or not possible. In fact, that is what the Greek says. The verse reads,

πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἱερουσαλήμ

The words in question are the ones highlighted which transliterates into ou endechetai. The particle ou is a negative and it can mean no, not or even never. The verb enedechetai means possible. Joined together it means not possible. Therefore, Young’s Literal Translation correctly translates the verse thus,

“but it behoveth me to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following, to go on, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish out of Jerusalem.”

God’s Word Translation also translates it in the following manner,

“But I must be on my way today, tomorrow, and the next day. It’s not possible for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.”

So “cannot” as found in the KJV, NASB etc. or “no prophet can” as found in the NIV translation for the verse really means NOT POSSIBLE.

Before we move on let us reiterate it one more time lest we forget, that is, the prophet mentioned in verse 13 is no other than Jesus himself.

By now, you must be wondering what the point is. In fact, some of you may be sitting in your chair saying to the screen, “Okay, so what if Jesus said he cannot die outside of Jerusalem? What does that prove?” Well, the point will be unveiled very shortly.

Where did Jesus allegedly die?

According to the records that we have in the gospels he supposedly died at a place called Golgotha in Aramaic, Calvary in Latin and Kranious Topos in Greek(Matthew 27:23, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33 and John 19:17). Let’s just take one of the four.

“And when they came to a place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull),”

So, according to the verse Jesus was taken to Golgotha to be crucified.

Where was Golgotha?

According to an article by Keith W. Stump published on two Christian websites http://www.wcg.org/lit/jesus/golgotha.htm and http://www.towards-success.com/dejnarde_files/golgotha.htm Golgotha was outside of Jerusalem.

“What does the Bible tell us about the location? The Gospel writers call the place where Jesus was crucified Golgotha?an Aramaic word meaning “the skull.” Calvary is the Latin form of the word. Scripture does not reveal the precise location of Golgotha. It simply states that Jesus’ crucifixion took place outside the city of Jerusalem, though near it (John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12). Jewish law did not permit executions and burials inside the city.” (emphasis added)

HarperCollins’ Bible Dictionary informs,

“John 19:20 and Jewish and Roman execution customs indicate that it was located outside of Jerusalem’s city walls”. [12]

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible tells us,

“Jewish and Roman law would likely have required capital punishment to take place outside the city walls (John 19:20; Heb 13:12).” [13]

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica Golgotha was outside Jerusalem,

“The hill of execution was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, apparently near a road and not far from the sepulchre where Jesus was buried.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/238060/Golgotha) (emphasis added)

According to Online Etymology Dictionary it was near Jerusalem,

“hill near Jerusalem,” via L. and Gk., from Aramaic gulgulta, lit. “place of the skull,” from Heb. gulgoleth “skull.” So called in reference to its shape (see Calvary)” (GOLGOTHA.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 23 Apr. 2009. .) (emphasis added)

In John 19:20 which is cited by Keith W. Stump in his article we read that the place was NEAR the city(Jerusalem),

“Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.”

The word is eggus which literally means near. What does it mean to be near? Near indicates being outside! If you said, “I am near my house.” What does it mean? Does it mean you’re inside your house? NO. It means you’re in close proximity to your house, but it is outside. If you said that you are near New York, you are not inside it but rather outside. So according to John Jesus was taken to a place called Golgotha which was near(outside) of Jerusalem. If that is true then it is in clear opposition to Jesus’ own testimony in Luke 13:33 which we read and analysed earlier. There are really only two options for reconciliation.

1. Jesus lied in Luke 13:33

2. Jesus did not lie in Luke 13:33.

In Matthew 7:24 Jesus says,”Everyone, them, who listens to this sayings of Mine and puts them into practice will be like a thoughtful man who built his house on the rock.” Who is your master? Is he Jesus or the anonymous author of John? My master is Jesus and I would like to follow and believe in what he says. What about you? Luke 13:33 clearly denies what is told about his alleged crucifixion. Unless he died in Jerusalem the whole incident was no incident at all. In fact, it was a lie. Jesus was never crucified nor killed as the Qur’an clearly declares in Chapter 4.

Contention 5: People were forgiven before Jesus so his sacrifice was not necessary for atonement. If his sacrifice was not necessary then there was no point behind the crucifixion.

In Jonah 3 an entire community is forgiven by God when they repented of their sins.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. ” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The above verse clearly shows that what enables forgiveness is sincere repentence. This is further affirmed in Jeremiah 36:3, “”Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings.”

A Jesus is not required for atonement.

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord people avoid evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6)

Because it was not necessary for Jesus to sacrifice himself to enable atonement of sins God would have saved him. More on this later.

Related to this is the matter concerning Jesus’ sinlessness and perfection. Christians contend that Jesus is the only one who can die for mankind because of his uniqueness as the sinless and perfect man.

How can such a claim be true when Job is clearly described as PERFECT in Job 2:3?

“Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

Most Bible translators render the highlighted part in like manner. However, the KJV has retained the meaning of perfectness,

“And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (KJV)

The same is retained in the following versions.

“And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (American Standard Version)

“And Jehovah said to Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and abstaineth from evil? and still he remaineth firm in his integrity, though thou movedst me against him, to swallow him up without cause.”(Darby Bible Translation)

“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and art upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”(English Revised Version)

“And the LORD said to Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and shunneth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”(Webster’s Bible Translation)

In fact the Bible in Basic English renders it in the following manner,

“And the Lord said to the Satan, Have you taken note of my servant Job, for there is no one like him on the earth, a man without sin and upright, fearing God and keeping himself far from evil? and he still keeps his righteousness, though you have been moving me to send destruction on him without cause.”

The Arabic Bible uses the word كامل KAMIL which means PERFECT. The original Hebrew word is tam which does mean perfect, sinless and blameless.

A similar word is found in Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” The word used here is tamiym which means the same thing as tam.

So if God had required a perfect man to die in order to save mankind he could have used Job or even Zecharias and Elizabeth both of whom are described as righteous and blameless(sinless) in Luke 1:6. Jesus’ candidacy and the crucifixion are both absolutely unnecessary.

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