In discussing the crucifixion, I argued that the story of Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally unhistorical. If he was buried at all, he was buried not by his friends but by his enemies. And not in a tomb hewed out of stone, but in a shallow grave that would have made his body easy prey for scavenging animals.
[Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan. Westminster John Knox Press: 1996. 120.]
On August 27, 2005, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries debated John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar on the subject of “IS THE ORTHODOX, BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF JESUS OF NAZARETH AUTHENTIC AND HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?” This debate held particular interest for me personally as I have received a good deal of information of how to give a biblical answer to those who oppose the Gospel through Dr. White’s apologetics ministry, he became an acquaintance of mine through the #prosapologian chat room, and I also once had the privilege of having him as a dinner guest in my home (though he may not remember me now).
On the other hand, as a minor in philosophy at Georgia State University, I often encountered the teaching of John Dominic Crossan and other members of the Jesus Seminar in classes that subtly called the basic tenets of biblical Christianity into question. (Issues in this regard have already been examined in my post Jesus’ View of Scripture.) And if you are in a college program that includes any philosophy classes or you know someone who is, this debate should hold interest for you as well, for the teachings of the Jesus Seminar have become so prevalent in academic circles.
Over the next few weeks I hope to post as frequently as possible on different quotes taken from John Dominic Crossan and to give a biblical, God-honoring response to these quotes.
Eaten by Wild Dogs?
The quote given at the head of this post is one of the most infamous of Crossan’s sayings. If you have heard the name of John Dominic Crossan before, you more than likely heard it in relation to this saying.
Crossan gives this quote based on the historical evidence of what usually happened to criminals who suffered crucifixion. But this is just the problem with his logic. To examine what normally took place does not disprove multiple accounts of what were obviously meant to explain an exception to the rule. The fact that men do not normally walk on the moon does not mean that “one small step” never historically occurred.
And this is the main failure of Crossan’s words about scavenging animals: that they contradict the historical narrative of the Gospel accounts. Most Christians reading the above quote would get angry at the thought of our Lord’s corpse being so dishonored, but really, if we think about it, there would be nothing wrong with Crossan’s hypothesis if we did not have a direct witness to the contrary. For Jesus was treated with the utmost dishonor in His death on the Cross, and so, with no further word from the Gospel writers, we would expect that He would have been despised in His manner of burial as well. But God chose to demonstrate His approval of His Son’s sacrifice beginning with the manner of Jesus’ burial. And the following points must be made, which will be repeated in different ways throughout this discussion of Crossan’s work:
1. The Gospel narratives are given an an eyewitness account of historical events.
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us, it also seemed good to me, having carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 HCSB)
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25 HCSB)
2. The historicity of the events provided in the Gospel accounts are given by God to provide basis for our trust in Christ as the fulfillment of prophecy.
Yet He was with a rich man in His death. (Isaiah 53:9b NASB)
As we continue to look at these quotes by Crossan, I hope that these posts will provoke you to meditate on the nature and purpose of Scripture, and I hope that we will all worship God better as a result of this focus.
[The material above is adapted from a post that originally appeared on 8/13/05.]