Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NT Pod 53: Are the Passion Narratives "Prophecy Historicized"?

NT Pod 53 discusses the origins of the Passion Narratives in the Gospels, asking whether they are "prophecy historized" (John Dominic Crossan) or whether the better described as "tradition scripturalized". It is thirteen minutes long.

NT Pod 53: Are the Passion Narratives "Prophecy Historicized"? (mp3)
NT Pod 53: Are the Passion Narratives "Prophecy Historicized"? (mp3) (Alternative location)

Key texts: Mark 14-15, Psalm 22

Programme Notes (NT Blog)

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Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Interesting podcast, thanks!

    What I noticed was how important context -- how the question is framed -- is in this. If you're looking just at the detail of the soldiers casting lots for Jesus' clothes, then "prophesy historicized" makes sense even by your description (since it's a detail created in order to fulfill a prophesy). But if the context is expanded to being about Jesus' death on the cross in general, than it makes more sense to talk about "scripturization," since it's a detail that was added as a sort of byproduct of theologically interpreting an actual memory.

    What might complicate it even further is the question of common knowledge. Public executions were known well into the 19th century, and the crowd's mocking of the condemned person was a regular part of contemporaneous descriptions. An Evangelist who knew only that Jesus had been executed might have assumed the mocking, and that in turn could have led (via scripturization) to "wagging their heads."

    I sometimes find it hard not to throw up my hands in despair at these line drawing exercises. Every detail is equally potential evidence of historicity and potential evidence of non-historicity.

    Have you ever written or podcasted about Dale Allison's "The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus?"

  2. I think you make a far more convincing case than Crossan does.

  3. Thanks, mwp and Brian. Agreed. I've been reading that little book by Allison recently; he developed it from his Clark lectures here at Duke a couple of years ago. I was pleased to see him referring to my work on this issue in his recent bigger book, Constructing Jesus, too.

  4. Of course Crossan's case rather collapses when one gets to the resurrection appearance, where there is a sudden desert of allusions to the Hebrew bible.

  5. Another matter where the writing of the story from Crossan's point of view doesn't really fit is the saying from the cross, which is clearly an allusion to the Psalm. The misinterpretation of it as calling for Elijah is not, and seems to me to be just the kind of realistic mistake that could have been made. It is those kind of incident asides that suggest a real historical core; if the narrative was generated from the prophecy, they would have no place.

  6. I hate to be a nitpicker, but you allowed a 'q' to slip into your spelling of Mark above. I'd normally let it go, but we just can't have Q with Mark :-)

  7. ooh, well spotted! Wonder how that got there!