Thursday, November 29, 2007

Court on Crossley

Tomorrow's Church Times (it's still today in America though it's already tomorrow in England) features a short review by John Court of James Crossley's Why Christianity Happened:

Explaining a faith
John Court is sceptical about an account of Christianity’s causes

2 comments: said...

I think the change from a law-observant movement to a nonobservant movement had its origin back in time probably several centuries from the first. It was a prophetic movement, perhaps of the poorer sort of priests, that questioned the efficacy of animal sacrifices in cleansing. Matters came to a head at the time of Judas the so-called Galilean. We read in Ant.18.2.2 that some 'Samaritans' entered the temple and 'threw about dead men's bodies'. One might well suspect that the 'dead bodies' were in fact those of sacrificed animals. I find it hard to believe that human bodies could be carried past the priests on the gates into the temple and dumped without raising some alarms. If murders had been committed, then the culprits would have been punished capitally, not simply barred from the temple.

To me this is one of a number of indications that many priests were taking action and putting their rejection of animal sacrifices and the temple cult into practice. said...

The incident in the temple described in Ant.18.2.2 has a distinct ring about it. May be those who came into the temple didn’t throw ‘dead men’s bodies’ about, but drove live animals out. Thus I ask myself is that incident a garbled version of the one that occurred early in the prophet’s ministry as described in John 2.12-16? - the prophet ‘made a whip and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle’. I don’t know if James Crossley deals with this incident in his book.

The writer of John suggests that prophet objected to the trading in the temple of animals, presumably for sacrifice. The making of a whip to drive animals is appropriate. But the synoptic writers dissemble by having the prophet drive out only traders. The dissembling is a sure sign that at least one of the synoptic writers was aware of the problem, and that we are dealing with a real historical incident, to the chagrin of the mythicists. Thus the prophet drove animals out because he wanted the temple to be a house of prayer, something like a synagogue, not a house of sacrifice. Driving out the animals prevented them from being sacrificed and reflected the prophet’s view that sacrifice failed to cleanse from sin.

But the incident also had a more "down-to-earth" aspect to do with the difference between rich and poor, in sharp reality for the latter, than any other incident in the NT. If James Crossley didn’t consider it in his book, then he should have done so.