|Some Comments On Joseph of Arimathea|
The article "Still on Sinking Sand" has been refuted by links we have provided elsewhere, but I'd like to add some comments on a particular section on Joseph of Arimathea. The response was made to a claim of Matthew Perman that the claim that Jesus was buried in Joseph's tomb was of such magnitude that it would be impossible to fabricate. Few even among liberal or Skeptical circles argue this point, but:
Such an argument as this gives no consideration at all to the time that separated the alleged burial of Jesus and the writing of the gospels. Mark, the earliest of the four gospels, is generally dated no sooner than A. D. 70, except of course by fundamentalist apologists, so after the alleged crucifixion and burial of Jesus, 40 to 70 years passed before the gospel accounts were written.
We note that there is no reason to date the Gospels so late, per this item. Even so:
In a time when radio, television, newspapers, and other modern means of communication didn't exist, it isn't difficult at all to imagine that a fictional member of the Sanhedrin could have been created and passed unnoticed.
This is false in terms of the reliability of oral communication among the ancients.
Even today, how many people would know who the vice-presidents of the United States were 40 to 70 years ago? How many would know who the supreme court justices were that long ago? Who was the speaker of the house of representatives in 1950? 1940? 1930?
How many people would know is not at issue. What is at issue is that if we made a claim today that our uncle was buried in the tomb of Nebraska's state senator of 1932, you don't have to know who Nebraska's state senator was offhand. If you have reason to doubt (and the claim of the Christians would have provided plenty), you go and find out who it was, and the ancients did keep written as well as oral records and did have the ability to look these things up.
But we need not even go that far. It is illicit to compare politicians on this level with the Sanhedrin, a much smaller and proportionately more influential body over a much smaller nation.
Furthermore, the gospels were written in Greek by Hellenistic Christians, whose audiences would not have been Jews personally familiar with the religious/ political milieu in which Jesus had allegedly lived. If a writer today should fictionalize a member of the Israeli supreme court as it was constituted 40 years ago, how many Jews who are citizens of other countries would notice it?
The assumption of authorship is itself not fully valid, but every year, often several times a year, Jews returned to Jerusalem for religious festivals. There were again more than enough opportunities to confirm this claim about Joseph's tomb -- and more than enough Jewish opponents of Christianity to make trouble over it if they could.