8 April 2020 | classicalsteve
Ridiculously Bad History and Scholarship Mixed with a Couple of Interesting Incites
"The Jesus Strand" purports to answer a question, mostly targeted to American Evangelicals who want to believe just about everything mythological about Jesus. Can scientists and scholars actually trace Jesus of Nazareth's DNA? The short answer is of course not. Anymore than you might be able to trace the DNA of Caiaphas or Pontius Pilate or any non-noble figure you can think of from 1st century Antiquity.
Joe Basile touts himself a Bible scholar. He is a devout Christian first (I'm not sure which denomination but he seems very Evangelical), and a scholar second. In other words, anything which contradicts the New Testament must be wrong. Of course this is not scholarship but more like wishful thinking.
Firstly, let's talk about real history, not history as reported in the Gospel accounts which were not written by eyewitnesses. Two very fundamental aspects of the Jesus story which just about every important scholar of Early Christianity agrees with: The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses and Jesus' body was most likely thrown into a common grave and burned with the many other executed criminals.
After crucifixion, Jesus' body wasn't placed into a tomb. This is not a hunch, it's a fact, which has been the conclusion of biblical scholars looking into this for many decades. Pontius Pilate probably feared that Jesus, claiming he was the Messiah or some kind of Jewish spiritual leader, could incite a Jewish revolt in Jerusalem during Passover. The over-turning of the money-changers and possibly proclaiming he could destroy the Temple are what probably got him trouble with the Roman authorities. That's likely why he had him arrested and crucified. Even the trial before the Jewish leaders is probably a fiction. Romans wouldn't have cared if Jesus proclaimed himself a Messiah unless it might lead to rabble-rousing. If the Jewish authorities felt he was committing blasphemy, then he probably would have been stoned to death.
Back to the main point. There's a 99.99% chance Pilate did not allow Jesus' body to be taken down from the cross for proper burial. There would be absolutely no rational reason for Pilate, Prefect of Jerusalem whose job it was to maintain order during Passover, to grant such a request from Joseph of Arimathea. Part of the punishment of crucifixion was the condemned was denied proper burial, the third phase of punishment, the other two being scourging and the actual crucifixion.
The first place they go is the Shroud of Turin which had extensive radio carbon dating testing done in the late 1980's. The conclusion: it's a shroud from the Middle Ages although it does have a similar weave design as ancient cloths. But that doesn't prove it has anything to do directly with Jesus. Even if it were proven to be from ancient times, many people were buried in shrouds. If someone was publically executed, which was very common in Antiquity, people could be put to death in a number of different ways. Being stoned to death was a common form of execution in Antiquity, probably more prevalent than crucifixion. But if someone was crucified, they wouldn't be buried in a shroud.
One tidbit which was pointed out that the face of the Shroud of Turin bears little resemblance to most images of Jesus from Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. He appears to be a much older bearded man, and there is speculation he was one of the leaders of the Knights Templar. (The current image of Jesus is based largely on a Medici prince from the 15th century.)
Even if DNA evidence reveals the person is of Middle Eastern descent, that doesn't prove the shroud was created in the Middle East. Middle Eastern traders went to Europe frequently during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. In fact some scholars have pointed out that during Late Antiquity, the road networks in the Roman Empire were quite sophisticated, allowing someone like Paul of Tarsus to spread his missionary message all over the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses but later intellectual Greek-speaking scholars, not Aramaic-speaking peasants which is who Jesus' disciples were. Those four names were attached to the Gospels by Bishop Irenaeus in circa 200 CE, about 170 years after Jesus' death. So to rely so heavily on the Gospels to find finer points in history about Jesus to prove things like the Shroud and DNA is absolutely ludicrous. To be fair, some of the accounts may be historical. Jesus was a Jewish preacher who also may have been a healer. And he probably was crucified as a rabble-rouser. Putting the plaque "King of the Jews" at the top of his cross was probably a Roman insult, sort of black humor Roman style. That probably happened.
One thing, if Joe Basile is truly a devout Christian he probably believes in the Virgin Birth, which means God impregnated Mary by the Holy Spirit. If Mary gave birth only by insemination from the Holy Spirit, then isn't it irrelevant to trace Jesus' lineage through his father Joseph? At best, by tradition, he'd be a step-father! I don't believe in the virgin birth myself but the argument can't hold on both sides. If Jesus was born of a virgin, there is no lineage through Joseph.