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“Dating the Death of Jesus” A report on a paper given by Dr. Helen Bond (Senior Lecturer in New Testament, University of Edinburgh) at the Biblical Studies Seminar at New College, the University of Edinburgh, 2 December 2011 .


“Eucharistic Symbolism in the Gospel of John” David E. Fredrikson prof. at the Luther Seminary St. Paul, Minnesota

“Dating the Death of Jesus” .

“Dating the Death of Jesus” Helen Bond. Senior Lecturer in New Testament. particularly the gospels. cultural and religious context of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. and why? And to what extent are they historical? I'm interested in most aspects of the social. Ever since I first encountered historical criticism I have been fascinated by the documents that make up the New Testament. University of Edinburgh . Who wrote these texts. though I have a particular interest in the recent explosion of literature on the 'historical Jesus' and the debates over sources and methods associated with it.

Her paper first set forth the reasons for this consensus. and her own suggestion. . a reflection on the nature of the chronological data in the Gospel of Mark.“Dating the Death of Jesus”  Dr. the implications of the date. She concluded by pre-emptively answering some common objections to her position. Central to her thesis was a contemplation on the nature of human remembrance and its tendency to shift to infuse meaning in subjectively significant events. which affirms the basic historicity of the Gospel accounts but which also detaches the event from the specific date of 7 th April 30 CE. Bond presented a clear and persuasive argument against the certainty with which numerous scholars date the death of Jesus to 7 th of April 30 CE.

Saturday the 15 th of Nisan. The Gospel of Mark in its final form presents the Last Supper as a Passover meal (occurring Friday evening. with the Last Supper occurring on Thursday evening.“Dating the Death of Jesus”  The paper's impetus is a scepticism towards the apparent certainty a large number of scholars exhibit in dating Jesus' death. On the other hand. This date emerges from the scholarly awareness of apparent contradictions between. the Gospel of John presents Jesus' crucifixion as occurring at the same time as the slaughter of the Passover lamb. on the day of Preparation. since the Jewish day was considered to begin with sundown). Friday the 14 th of Nisan. thus making Jesus' crucifixion and death occur on the day of Passover. . especially. the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels of Mark and John.

4) according to either alternative calendar. Bond. and hence the Last Supper. Bond raised several objections: 1) there is little evidence for widespread use of alternative calendars for religious use in 1 st century Palestine. 3) there is not the slightest indication in Jesus' preserved teachings that contention about the religious calendar was an issue. . Some have attempted to harmonise the data. would have happened on a Tuesday or a Wednesday rather than a Thursday or Friday. but one would think. that anyone making the journey to Jerusalem would have needed to use a Jerusalem calendar. relating to a future age. the 14 th or 15 th of Nisan. according to Dr. Against these harmonising efforts. usually positing some kind of alternative or dual calendrical system (eg as opposed to using the dominant Babylonian lunar calendar the disciples used either an old solar calendar. as found at Qumran. so reconciliation along these lines introduces other problems. Others have posited a difference in dating between diaspora and Palestinian Jews. 2) the old solar calendar in evidence at Qumran is now thought to be schematic rather than practical. or a pre-exilic lunar calendar).“Dating the Death of Jesus”  Scholars have dealt with this discrepancy in several different ways. Dr.

Joseph of Arimethea's activities in 15:42-46 would have been difficult to impossible on the Passover (especially the commerce indicated in the purchase of a linen shroud for Jesus).“Dating the Death of Jesus”  Rather than attempting to harmonise the data. perhaps indicating a distance of travel longer than was deemed permissible on the Sabbath.Second. If one does not take these two passages into consideration. But this preference is immediately questionable given that the Gospel of John is at the same time generally considered to be the least historically reliable of the four Gospels. a possibly pre-Markan chronology emerges. more recent scholars have usually given preference to the account in the Gospel of John over that in the Gospel of Mark for two reasons: 1) John's account is internally consistent. the release of Barabbas in 14:2 makes more sense at the beginning of the week of preparation. The evidence of astronomy has also been garnered to support the Johannine chronology. Third. not on the day of Passover itself. Mark's entire portrayal of “Holy Week” is organised by subject rather than chronology. First. Dr. Rather than giving an indirect confirmation of the Johannine chronology. In fact. Dr. whereas Mark's is not. The evidence for an alternative date comes especially from three places. as Mark's Gospel would have it. Dr. Bond next re-examined the evidence in the Gospel of Mark and noted that the two passages which make the link with the Passover (14:1 and 14:12-16) are considered redactional. Bond notes. Bond seeks a third  but less specific way to deal with the data . in 15:21 Simon of Cyrene is coming in the from the field. and 2) the trial makes more sense in the Gospel of John.

possibly the Thursday evening of the week before Passover. and makes the most sense of the types of activities said to have occurred.“Dating  the Death of Jesus” Her proposal is that in historical fact. the Last Supper was not a Passover meal. the Last Supper is connected with the Passover celebration itself. Jesus was equated with the paschal lamb and was crucified the day before Passover. . The connection of the Last Supper and Jesus' death more specifically with Passover celebrations was a result of later remembering and theological reflection which took two directions (meaning argument for specific dates from details included in either text or from astronomy misses the point). In one of the two directions (that of John and Paul). so that Jesus is remembered as having been crucified on the very day of Passover.In the other (seen especially in Mark). including the release of Barabbas. and in any year between 27 and 34 CE.This allows for a connection of the event with the Passover celebration. it was simply a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples some time before Passover.

Bond tied in this process of remembering with some discussion of scholarly work done on the fragility of human memory and with a personal anecdote (with which she had introduced her paper) wherein she had misremembered the death of her grandmother as having occurred on the 31 st of December when it had actually occurred on the 27 th of December. This misremembrance she attributes to the fact that the death had occurred near the new year and to her desire to find some solace in associating that death with the end of one year and the beginning of another.“Dating the Death of Jesus”   Dr. .

. she is formulating an explanation for psychological and sociological forces in the early Church which could have led to the development of two irreconcilable and equally problematic chronologies of Jesus' Last Supper and death.“Dating the Death of Jesus”  To conclude her paper. In response to the most significant of those objections. Bond differentiated her work from text criticism. Dr. Bond addressed three objections to her kind of suggestion raised by John P. Rather. Dr. both of which relate the passion to the Passover albeit in different ways. Meier in A Marginal Jew . that text criticism should only in the rarest cases reject all extant readings in favour of a hypothetical one. She was not attempting to argue that the original or most-authoritative reading of Mark is one which excises 14:2 and 14:12-16.

“Eucharistic Symbolism in the Gospel of John” .

his research and writing interests in the Pauline Epistles led him into ancient Greek philosophy and poetry. Eros and Absence: Longing in Paul's Letter to the Philippians. He is a graduate of Carleton College and holds advanced degrees from Luther Seminary and Yale University. Fredrickson. Fredrickson is Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary where he has been teaching since 1987. MN David E. Professor of New Testament Luther Seminary St. .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” David E. An ordained pastor of the ELCA. Currently. Paul. he is concluding a year-long sabbatical and is completing his book.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life. you have no life in you.and I will raise them up on the last day.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” I. Jesus shocks many of his hearers.” (JOHN 6:53-54) . both ancient and modern:  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.

” .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 1) How are we to understand this apparent exhortation to cannibalism? Two very different ways of interpreting Jesus' words have been proposed. Some scholars have asserted that here we encounter an especially vivid metaphor. They reason that when Jesus says “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood” what he really means is “believe in me and the efficacy of my death for your salvation.

In this interpretation.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 2) In quite a different move. other scholars refer Jesus' words to the practice of the Lord's supper in the early church. . it is assumed that original readers would have a metaphorical reading of eating Jesus' flesh in John 6 is insufficient. it does not allow for our participation in the life of God through the ascent of the incarnate Word. it does not reckon with the communication of divinity to communicants. It keeps the reader from seeing the connection between Jesus' self-giving and his divinity.

and. At stake in the eucharistic interpretation of John 6 are the following items: the relation between Jesus‟ divinity and his ability to impart himself to others. makes more profound truth claims about God and the redemptive work of Christ than the metaphorical approach logically allows. Christ‟s redemptive work as communication of divinity. . At the heart of each of these objections is my conviction that the sixth chapter of John.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 3) In what follows I propose a series of objections to the metaphorical interpretation. the meaning for God of the mutuality of Christ and the church. particularly verses 51-65. finally.

“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” II. “HOW IS THIS ONE ABLE TO GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?” .

.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John”  The first problem with understanding Jesus‟ exhortation to eat and drink as a metaphor of belief is that it keeps the reader from seeing the connection between Jesus‟ self-giving and his divinity. This connection is at the heart of John‟s understanding that the Son shares fully in the Father‟s divinity.

Gather up the fragments left over so that nothing may be lost. “Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” A paradox winds its way through the whole of John 6: that which gives itself away for others to consume does not perish but persists. who makes the impossible possible. So they gathered them up. Neither do Jesus‟ interlocutors in 6:52 consider the divinity of Jesus as they puzzle over his power to give himself to be eaten: “The Jews then disputed among themselves. they filled twelve baskets. he told his disciples. This is an anticipation of the true bread. Think of the bread in 6:12-13: When they were satisfied. Jesus. Nicodemus did not factor in the Spirit. left by those who had eaten. and from the fragments of the five barley loaves. „How can this man give us his flesh to eat?‟” . An impossibility? Readers will remember Nicodemus‟s puzzlement in 3:4 concerning the possibility of rebirth . even increases. who is not diminished as he is consumed. saying.

Only God has the power to raise the dead. since belief alone does not threaten his flesh. Without the paradox. If eating Jesus only means to “believe in him” then there is no paradox in chapter 6—no being consumed yet persisting. Jesus can give his flesh to be eaten and yet continue to exist because he is God. .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John”   Yet the same Jesus who gives himself away to be consumed will also on the last day raise the ones who have consumed him (6:54). there is no need for Jesus‟ divinity.

“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” III. “LIFE IN YOURSELVES” .

Essays on John (Westminster: Philadelphia. .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John”  So far we have drawn attention to the role Jesus‟ divinity plays in allowing him to give his flesh to be consumed. Barrett. I have argued that the emphasis the narrator Eucharistic Symbolism in the Gospel of John 3A nuanced analysis along these lines is found in C. 1982) 80-92. K.

Neyrey.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 4) For the centrality of Jesus’ equality with God in John‟s Gospel. 1988) 9-93. An Ideology of Revolt: John‟s Christology in Social-Science Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress. does not have the power to communicate divinity from Jesus to the one who holds the proposition to be true. We move now to the related observation that a metaphorical reading fails to account for the Johannine theme of the communication of divinity to those who consume Jesus‟ flesh. no matter how fervently held. Belief in the proposition that Jesus‟ death is efficacious for salvation. . If he is not really to be consumed.places on Jesus‟ divinity would be pointless if eating Jesus‟ flesh simply meant believing in him. see J. he has no need to be divine.

Both phrases describe in Johannine parlance the life of God. but he grants the same life to the Son. The Father is the only one to have life in himself. We see this in the naming of the benefit of this eating and drinking in 6:53-54: to have life in yourselves and to have eternal life . becomes their life as well. which is fully present in the Son. . Such a communication of divine life is indeed the promise given by Jesus to all who eat his flesh and drink his blood.“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John”  There must be something bodily going on between Christ and believers (starting with Christ and moving to believers!) in order that the life of God.

“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 5) The Son gives it to those whom the Father draws to him. .

“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 6) The means through which the life of God comes to believers in 6:53-54 is communion. if we do not refine the concept of life. This is necessary because the notion of “life” (whether it is God’s life or the life of the world) remains vague throughout most of chapter six. . We need to define with more precision the nature of the divine life that comes to believers through the eating and drinking. Furthermore. there is a danger that John could be interpreted as advocating a view of the Lord’s supper which turns it into the “food of immortality” plain and simple.

It is this transformed divinity that is communicated through the supper. there is good reason to stay with the idea of communication of divine life through the bread and wine. however. .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John” 7) Rightly offended by the magical overtones of this way of thinking about the Lord‟s supper. some interpreters reject the sacramental background altogether in favor of the metaphorical reading. In spite of its dangers. The interpretive task is to show how the very notion of divinity is transformed in the evangelist‟s discourse. There is a movement in the text away from thinking about God in terms of substance and towards relationality.

the underlying logic of “consuming” does take the reader in the direction of thinking of Jesus as a substance. in verses 56-57 we encounter two striking expansions of what it means for the Son to live: Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me. .“Eucharis tic Symbolis m in the Gospel of John”  Admittedly. and I in them Just as the living Father sent me. Yet. in an abrupt shift away from the theme of consumption. and I live because of the so whoever eats me will live because of me. which dominates the preceding discourse (the believer is related to Jesus as a person is related to bread).