We have argued that the Jesus Seminar fails to adequately evidence its claims concerning its rejection of the supernatural, such as the miracles of Jesus. Before turning to their treatment of Jesus’ resurrection, we will view the events that led to it.
Initially, it should be pointed out that the Seminar Fellows do not deny the death of Jesus. In keeping with the first phase of their research, they commented only on the words attributed to Jesus as he died on the cross.^22 Yet, no objections are raised concerning Jesus’ death by crucifixion and other member publications confirm the acceptance of at least the main outline of these events.
For example, Crossan affirms this event in the strongest terms: “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be,” and this event resulted in Jesus’ death.^23 In an earlier volume he states: “I take it absolutely for granted that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” This is followed, interestingly enough, by reasons for this conclusion.^24 Borg agrees: “The most certain fact about the historical Jesus is his execution as a political rebel.”^25
But when it comes to Jesus’ burial, Crossan takes a rather peculiar approach. He surmises that, consistent with crucifixion customs, Jesus was either left on the cross after his death to be torn apart by wild beasts or buried in a shallow grave where dogs would still have found the body. Thus, Jesus was not buried in Joseph’s tomb and his body was most likely consumed by animals. In the end, he asserts that “by
19 B.D. Chilton, “Exorcism and History: Mark 1:21–28,” Gospel Perspectives, Vol. 6, ed. by David Wenham and Craig Blomberg (Sheffield: JSOT, 1986), p. 263.
20 Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pp. 82, 95.
21 Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision, pp. 66–67, 70–71.
22 Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, Five Gospels, pp. 126, 268, 397, 464–465.
23 Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 145 along with pp. 154, 196, 201.
24 Crossan, The Historical Jesus:, pp. 372–376.
25 Borg, Jesus, p. 179; cf. pp. 178–184.
Easter Sunday morning, those who cared did not know where it was, and those who knew did not care. Why should even the soldiers themselves remember the death and disposal of a nobody?”^26
But Crossan’s approach is marred by numerous shortcomings. (1) All four Gospels agree on the basic burial scenario, which potentially provides even further confirmation if these texts are otherwise corroborated. (2) On the other hand, no early documents dispute these reports. One might ask Crossan for the specificdata that support his thesis, especially from the first century. A challenge such as his cannot rest on a surmisal, or even on a generalized practice among Jews.
Also, (3) are we to believe that the Jewish leaders, who had tried for so long to get rid of Jesus, would have paid no attention to his burial? Moreover, (4) Crossan’s suggestion that the soldiers would merely have forgotten the location where they buried the body just a few days before is also preposterous. They should have remembered where they buried anyone. But contrary to Crossan’s contention that Jesus was a “nobody,” the interest occasioned by his preaching, his popularity, his trial, and his death would have insured both their work as well as their memory. After all, might they not be called upon later to evidence the death and burial of this famous insurrectionist?