Paul Maier at The Veritas Forum: The Real Jesus

imageJoe Marino writes:

Paul Maier is retired professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University.  He also attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  I’m not sure when the talk was actually given, but it was put on Youtube on 5/11/13.

Maier is very entertaining.  He once wrote an historical novel in which the Shroud was mentioned as having been proven a fake.  I started corresponding with him and he used to receive my print newsletter and also my email bulletins.

Since he was discussing archaeological evidence for the existence of Jesus, I thought he might mention the Shroud or I thought someone would bring it up in the Q & A.  Neither happened.  Granted, the Shroud isn’t "new," but I would have thought it was worth a mention.

He did mention several interesting things not directly related to the Shroud.  Regarding the date of the crucifixion, he mentions 2 things.  He said that Josephus wrote that James the Just was murdered 29 years after Jesus’ death.  Everyone gives the date of James’ death as 62, so that would put the crucifixion in AD 33.  He also said that a Greek writer named Phlegon recounted a darkness at noon and an earthquake in Nicea in the 4th month of the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, which Maier says matches to April, 33 AD.

He also said that the Jordan River Excavations show that the Strata from 33 AD indicates there was an earthquake disruption.  I’m not sure how you get a Strata for a specific year.

The whole thing is about 1 1/2 hours but it’s very informative and very entertaining.

29 thoughts on “Paul Maier at The Veritas Forum: The Real Jesus”

  1. Check recent paper on Barrie’s site by Jeff Williams, Feb 13, 2014 which discusses the issue of the crucifixion earthquake:

    Nicaea was at the present site of the Turkish city of Iznik on the sea of Marmara, more or less opposite Istanbul i.e. Constantinople. Any earthquake there would not be felt in Jerusalem, there was no solar eclipse (full moon) and any high flying dust cloud in Nicaea proves nothing for Jerusalem. Williams does mention evidence in Dead Sea sediments of a M 6.0 to 6.5 during the years between 26 and 36 AD. A chronology from a core at Ein Gedi, west shore of Dead Sea identified a widespread earthquake in 31 BC and an early first century earthquake temporarily assigned a date of 31AD, +/- 5 years. The paper has a few links to further technical information. The identified earthquake may be that mentioned in Matthew’s gospel, or he may have borrowed it as a type of allegory. Either 30 AD or 33 AD are possible years for the crucifixion (15th of Nisan (Pasch) fell on the sabbath in those years). Paul Maier seems to be crimping the earthquake date tolerances to suit his particular case.

  2. Paul Maier :

    “I have really been the first professor of ancient history to absolutely state that we have categorical proofs that the tomb was empty, in any case.”

    “While speaking to the probability of the correct locations of certain traditional sites in the Holy Land, and faced with a question regarding that shroud which was under intensive study, Dr. Maier then stated that in his judgment it was about “95% probably authentic.”

    Click to access LemkeTurin.pdf

    He probably didn’t mention the Shroud because it is still controversial and he doesn’t need it to claim that the tomb was empty.

    But the Shroud meets the missing body problem he has perfectly exposed.

  3. Maier is indeed entertaining, but he takes a very long time to be informative. His interpretation of the Caiaphas Ossuary is simply wrong. When it is correctly translated – Joseph, son of Caiaphas, not Caiaphas himself – we see that it is Joseph, not his father, who merited the elaborate ossuary, and we wonder why there is no mention of his father’s rank anyway. As it happens there is good evidence from the Miriam Ossuary that Caiaphas was indeed a senior priest, but mistakes like that cast doubt on Maier’s confidence. Maier goes on to quote the usual historical evidence from Roman commenters, of which only Josephus’s is really evidence of Jesus rather than of Christians as a sect, and Maier does not see fit to mention that perfectly sensible people have queried most of his evidence on reasonable grounds. The idea that only 30 years after the resurrection there was a sufficiently substantial Christian movement in Rome either to burn to place down or to be blamed for doing so and executed in their thousands (“an immense multitude”) is a priori a little far fetched, although not of course impossible. We have to wait until the questions at the end for his opinions on the empty tomb, which as it happens I share but have no archaeological foundation, and on the earthquake which we have already examined, negatively, elsewhere.

    There is some good material here (I hadn’t heard of the “Horus, son of Horus” census return) but we do have to earn it!

    1. Hi Hugh, I think you’re mistaken. The high priest’s name was Joseph Caiaphas. i.e Joseph Son of Caiaphas is correct.

      1. Oh, dearie me, you’re absolutely correct. Consider me mortified. Helen Bond has much to say about the ossuary in “Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus”, including appropriate objections, but they do not amount to much. It looks as if this ossuary was indeed the High Priest’s, and (not for the first time) I rushed in like a bull in a china shop. My apologies all round.

      2. Oh, goodness me: I you’re absolutely correct. Consider me mortified with embarrassment. Helen Bond has a lot about the Caiaphas Ossuary in “Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus” and although she discusses the objections to its identification, they don’t amount to much. It seems that (not for the first time) I just rushed in like a bull in a china shop. My apologies all round.

  4. Forget Caiaphas, the high priest. Père Emile Puech, world-renowned epigrapher and co- editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls wrote:

    It has been erroneously interpreted as “Caiaphah”, the high priest. The correct reading should be “Quphah”. He published a paper on the topic.

  5. The inscription is authentic, so in that sense I too am pro-authenticity. However as Father Émile Puech ( also an expert in Hebrew, Aramaic, Ge’ez, Akkadian, Ugaritic, other Mesopotamian scripts) has written, it is “Qupha”, and that is not Caiaphas. The tomb could belong to another Sadduceean family. The pool of names during the period was extremely limited, there were two high priests named “Jesus” during the time of Christ. The statisticians even say that one in every ten ossuaries should have the incription “Jesus, son of Joseph”. So many “Jesus family tombs” will we have then?

    1. Hi Louis, do you have a link to that paper? I need to look further.moat references say it’s disputed but they end up with the conclusion that it is indeed Caiaphas’ probably not putting much emphasis on the spelling mistake. Is Qupha even a Jewish name?

  6. Mike, I would hesitate to refer to OSV when it comes to biblical archaeology and have noticed that the authors drift towards theology. We shouldn’t mix things here.
    Regarding your query about “Qupha”, there is no certainty that it is a Jewish name, the best scholars think it is a surname: “Qafa” or “Qofa”, and it is “Qupha” according to E. Puech.
    I read about the controversy a long time ago and if I’m not mistaken the reference was in Father Puech’s book: “La croyance des Esséniens en la vie future: Immortalité, résurrection, vie éternelle?”, 2 volumes, Paris, Liv. Lecoffre, 1993.
    There were 12 ossuaries in the tomb, and the name was inscribed twice on one ossuary. The tomb was not rich, something that could be expected from the status-conscious Sadducees who were very influenced by the Greeks.
    Puech wondered why “the priest” was also not inscribed if it did indeed refer to Caiaphas and it is not hard to agree with him.
    You know something? This ossuary will not take us anywhere. I am more inclined to agree with the great Israeli scholar David Flusser, We must bury Caiaphas, not remember him.

    1. I agree we should bury Caiaphas, but as it stands, the ossuary is important in the argument for a Historic Jesus. As Hugh mentioned, the Ossuary of his daughter is probably even more important in that regards.

  7. Mike, yes, it could be an argument for the Jesus of history, although I do not agree that we need to rely on archaeology to prove that Jesus existed. What has the daughter to do with it?

    1. Miriam’s ossuary proved that Caiaphas was historic figure. The inscription even assigns the priestly line of Ma’aziah, instituted by king David to him. I don’t personally rely on history to prove Jesus but some people do. Others claim that Jesus, Pilate, Caiaphas never existed. To those archeology is a very important piece of the discussion.

  8. As I said, the NT account is sufficient for me, as it is for Jewish scholars. The role of Caiaphas in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus is accepted by them and therefore the view of David Flusser.
    Yes, Ma’aziah is a priestly course that served at the Temple, however from “Beth Imri” can have at least two interpretations.
    The main problem is the interpretation of “Qupha”, which Father É. Puech does not associate with Caiaphas. He seemed to have based his judgment on the accents, and being a world-renowned epigrapher, co-editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a highly qualified and well-respected scholar, I bet on his interpretation.

  9. The discussion above illustrates a wider point about the interpretation of ancient artifacts in that although the evidence about them may not be disputed, different overall conclusions regarding them depend on the weight that individuals assign to it. As I understand it the name inscribed on the Caiaphas Ossuary appears twice, but spelled slightly differently. Fr Puech has, probably correctly, explained that the two spellings can only both be correct if they indicate the name Qopha, which is sufficiently far from Qayyapha, or something similar, for identity with Caiaphas to be rejected. However, Helen Katherine Bond points out, with photographs, that the inscriptions are somewhat clumsily executed, nothing like the elaborately decorated front of the ossuary, and appear to have been added as afterthoughts, after the ossuary had been placed in its niche, as the inscriber had to jam his hand into the narrow space between the ossuary and the wall of the tomb to scratch the letters. In this case the possibility that there was a simple misspelling of one of the names cannot be easily discarded. Neither she, nor I, nor, I dare say, the museum of antiquities in Jerusalem, would go to the stake in favour of authenticity – it is, as I say, a question of the weight one gives to a piece of evidence – but that’s the reason I do not concur with Fr Puech’s conclusion, however much I agree with his linguistic interpretation.

    1. As I wrote above, a tomb belonging to a (Sadducean) priestly family with Caiaphas among those buried there would be much more elaborate. There would be no clumsily executed inscriptions. Fr. Puech had written that Quphah was written twice in scriptio defectiva and once in scriptio plena, which cannot be transcribed into a diphthong.
      A lot of nonsense written about Herod’s tomb and Masada will also have to be eliminated.

      1. I’m sorry that having no expertise on the matter I have to fall back on Helen Bond again. It is odd, I suppose, that any casket as elaborately carved as that should appear in such an ordinary tomb. Her explanation is that Caiaphas was the only one of five High Priestly relations of Annas not to be a descendent (having married into the family) and his own family need not have been anything special, and also that as he was dismissed from office under slightly tendentious circumstances, he may have ended his days rather less importantly than his previous eminence should have suggested. I have no idea whether these are good arguments or not.

        1. Well, the important thing is to have a fruitful discussion, where different, relevant ideas and leads are put forth and both sides can learn from each other.
          Helen K. Bond is a qualified scholar, however her field is NT literature and language, not palaeography and epigraphy. That is why I rely more on E. Puech.
          She has raised relevant points and perhaps in the future these could be taken together with what is finally decided about the ossuary inscription to reach a conclusion.

          For the time being I will follow the advice of the great Israeli scholar: We should not remember Caiaphas, we should bury him. I think the same about Herod, but asking to do the same with him is well nigh impossible.

  10. I have just quickly read through an excellent 200 page Master’s Thesis touching on two current topics, 1) concerning ossuaries in late 2nd temple Judaism; 2) the development of resurrection belief at this time. In addition the author reviews whether these two topics are indeed connected or not.

    The Relationship between Ossuary Burial and the Belief in Resurrection during the Late Second Temple Period Judaism by Dina Teitelbaum; Carleton University, Canada 1997. So it’s a little dated, but well researched, considered and presented.

    Click to access mq22102.pdf

    I learnt a lot from it and it’s well worth taking the time to read through it, by those interested in these two topics.

    Secondary burial in ossuaries may have commenced in Jerusalem as early as 50 BCE and continued into 70 AD; With the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish diaspora, the practice drastically diminished, and with Hadrian’s edict excluding Jews it ceased in 138 AD. Subsequently secondary burials became established in Southern Galilee. Rahmani is known to assert that the practice only commenced during the Herodian period from 20 BCE, while others asserted it can be dated to 200 BCE, but this early date is not now generally accepted.

    Author considers that the first affirmation of Jewish belief in resurrection is only found in II Maccabees and afterwards, from about 168 BCE. She sees it partly as a reaction to the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, and to some extent, reaction to the Book of Job, “Why do bad things happen to good people, while evil-doers prosper?” She also connects it with Ezekiel’s earlier ‘Valley of Dry Bones’, although most exegetes have seen this text as referring to post-exilic Jewish resurgence. She also connects the concept with the pervading Greek influences on notions of the soul.

    The relative scarcity of ossuaries (perhaps only some 2000 are known), in relation to demographic considerations, suggest that their use was principally a privilege of the well-to-do, and not necessarily associated with, nor an essential corollary to a belief in the resurrection of the body. But the issues involved are examined in considerable detail. She refers to the site known as the Caiaphas family tomb, and it would therefore seem that a Caiaphas ossuary would not necessarily imply his belief in the resurrection, nor need it be considered paradoxical.

    She observes that whereas some ossuaries have been ornately well-decorated, the inscription of names is often rough, suggesting that inscriptions were not made in the work-shop, but possibly on site. This of course might imply that the names were not inscribed accurately, by those sufficiently well-lettered to do so, and hence inaccuracies might therefore be expected. There may therefore be no great significance in any presumed mis-spelling of any occupant’s name on their ossuary.

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