Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It Appears Mark Based Jesus' Passion on a Triumph.

Marcus Aurelius sacrificing at the
Fourth Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.
Note the three doors have crosses.

Originally posted by Stephan Huller here. Reposted here (I have added the photos and some information at the bottom in notes 1 through 6).
Thomas Schmidt, “Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion: The Sacred Way as Roman Procession,” Bible Review, Feb 97: 30-37.   

Thomas Schmidt’s thesis in “Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion: The Sacred Way as Roman Procession,” is that the crucifixion procession is modeled on a Roman triumphal march, with Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa replacing the Sacra Via [sic] of Rome. Schmidt’s rhetorical purpose is to convince us that Mark presents Jesus’ defeat and death, the moment of his greatest suffering and humiliation, as both literally and figuratively a triumph.


1. Schmidt argues, from source criticism, that Mark’s gospel was probably written for gentile Christians living in Rome.
2. Mark’s crucifixion narrative contains a number of striking parallels to the Roman triumphal march. The parallels in Mark follow. 
a. The praetorium – a common designation for the place and personnel of the imperial guard – gathers early in the morning to proclaim the triumphator.  
b. The description of Jesus’ clothing. The triumphator is introduced clad in a ceremonial purple robe and crown. In [Mark], the soldiers dress Jesus in the purple triumphal garb and place a crown of laurel on his head. The crown of thorns is a ceremonial detail, not an historical fact.
Source: Biblical Archaeological Review. 
c. The soldiers’ mock homage of Jesus. The soldier’s accolades are represented by the mock homage in Mk 15.18. The soldiers shout in acclamation of his lordship (“Hail, King of the Jews”) and they salute him as they accompany him through the streets of the city.  
d. Another carries the implement of the victim’s death. Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross parallels the official who walks alongside the bull.  
e. The translation of “Golgotha” – “the place of the head.” Golgotha was the Capitolium (head) to which the triumphator ascended. Jesus’ procession ascends to the place of the head (death), where the sacrifice is to take place. 1, 2, 3 
f. The ceremonial wine poured on the altar. The wine signifies the precious blood of the victim, and links between triumphator, wine and victim signify their connection. The sacrifice is the god who dies and appears as the victor in the person of the triumphator. Jesus does not drink the wine; instead, he pours it out on the altar at the moment of sacrifice. 
g. The acclamation of Jesus as Lord (“The King of the Jews” [Mk 15.26]), and his vice-regents appear with him in confirmation of his glory.) 4
Credit: Biblical Archaeology Review.  
h. The crucifixion of criminals on either side of Jesus is a conscious expression of the mockery of his kingship on the part of the soldiers. Mk tells us that there were 2 bandits – one on his right and one on his left.  
i. The epiphany of the triumphator is accompanied by divine portents (“The curtain of the Temple was torn in two” [Mk 15.38]), confirming that he is one with the gods.)

Mark presents the crucifixion as an “anti-triumph” – with Jesus mocked and killed – to show that the seeming scandal of the cross is actually an exaltation of Christ. Mark’s anti-triumph was composed in reaction to the self-deification of the emperors Gaius (37-41 AD) and especially Nero (54-68 AD).
For Mark, it is the mocked Jesus, not the gaudy Roman emperor, who is the true epiphanic triumphator

I stumbled upon this summary and had to admit - I think the author's right here. This might be useful for mythicists because it presents the story as highly embellished. Again, I think he's basically right about this. I don't know how you argue against what he is saying here.

This too on 2 Corinthians 2:14: 4 5

Here is an article Schmidt wrote for BAR on the subject: 

I think this is one of the most convincing things I have ever read. The problem for me was its literary purpose. Why would Mark develop the narrative this way?

... If, as he claims the gospel was written for a Roman audience, they would have immediately recognized the 'Christ in the place of Caesar' reference. They would also have undoubtedly recognized the irony or some sort of disparaging reference to the ruler of the world. I still accept his identification of the Roman triumph imagery. I just don't see how this could have been written for a Roman audience.

Of course the question would naturally arise - who was written for? Still an open question.

... Here's perhaps the best argument to connect Schmidt's argument with the war of 70 CE. The rebel leader Simon was thrown off the Tarpeian Rock (Latin, Rupes Tarpeia or Saxum Tarpeium) which was a steep cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum.

You don't have this occurring after the Bar Kochba revolt. 

As such on the one hand you have Jerusalem being renamed Aelia Capitolina. That's significant. But claiming the gospel was written as a triumph procession clearly references an impending military victory where - {in my opinion]- the Romans think they have triumphed but really it was Christ victorious.... ... The idea that the revolt was inspired by Jesus is also implied in the Little Apocalypse (many will come saying 'I am he' etc.) ...

I still think that the revolts (which are never properly explained) may well have some underlying connection to a primitive Palestine faith.

[Only] that where the evidence is suspect, nothing can be said with any certainty. The only thing I am sure of in all my years of looking at this stuff is that Schmidt is right about the context. There can be no doubt and as such the idea that the gospel narrative = history implodes. One can argue that Jesus 'must have been' actually crucified or that there 'must have been' a real Jesus. But the gospel doesn't prove anything because it is obviously arranged to fit a theological contrivance. This is NOT how history unfolded. 
Exactly! That the forced march out of the city to the crucifixion field would lead to a place called Gologotha = Κρανίου Τόπος = Calvaria (Mount Calvary) which are mere diversions to hide the fact that it was Capitoline Hill in Rome or its Jerusalemian equivalent, the Temple Mount (for that is where that other most famous temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was built), shows clearly that whosoever wrote this scene in Mark was at the very least copying off of an Emperor's (Vespasian's?) triumphus and the funeral of Julius Caesar. On the other hand, a crucifixion field would more likely be called an "Akeldama:" a field of blood. Even if crucifixion was relatively a bloodless punishment, as some scholars claim.

Indeed, an early, though out-of-order, depiction of his procession and crucifixion is on the Sarcophagus Domatilla, where Jesus is crowned not with a helmet of thorns, but with a laurel wreath, or maybe a coronet of acapanthus leaves, and he is toting his cross around as if he were Romulus carrying a tropaeum. What's even more strange is that his resurrection is depicted as going directly from his cross, which itself was constructed just like a tropaeum.


1. "Curious. When Hadrian built Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was erected in the place of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem." (S. Huller) There was an identical temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on top of Capitoline Hill in Rome. (Ed-M)

2. Jastrow's Dictionary, גולגול' ,גולגולת (gulgol, gulgoletha): skull, head, capitation tax. Compare with modern Hebrew גולגולת (gulgoleth): skull, head, cranium.

3. From Schmidt's BAR article: "Dionysius of Halicarnassus [The Roman Antiquities, 4.61.2] records the legend that, during the laying of a foundation for a temple on a certain Roman hill, a human head was discovered with its features intact. Soothsayers proclaimed:"
“Romans, tell your fellow citizens it is ordered by fate that the place in which you found the head shall be the head of all Italy,” (and) since that time the place is called the Capitoline hill from the head that was found there; for the Romans call heads capita.
Note crosses on the doors of an earlier, perhaps the
first, temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.
Coins do not lie.
4. Nota bene in Vespasian's triumphus in 71 CE for the victory in the Great Jewish War 66-70 CE, his sons Titus and Domitian accompanied him in the ride up to Capitoline Hill, and the three of them performed the culminating ritual sacrifice at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. This follows a tradition of emperors appearing somehow between two others at various points of their triumphs.

5. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 ESV:  "Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."

6. Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005, pp..243-244. Although there is more at the link you should read, the key information about a Roman triumph follows:
The term θριαμβεύω is from the noun θρίαμβος, which was a hymn sung to Dionysius (Bacchus) during festal processions, a title of Dionysius, and also a meeting of the Latin term triumphus. Linguistically θριαμβεύειν corresponds to the Latin term triumphare, "to celebrate a triumph" (intransitive) or "to lead in triumph" (transitive). The Roman triumph was a victory procession celebrated by Roman generals on their return to Rome after a successful foreign campaign, although during an empire the privelege of celebrating a triumph became the prerogative of the emperor. There are some who deny that the Roman triumph is the conceptual background to 2:14, but, given the linguistic data mentioned above, and the face that about 350 triumphs are recorded in Greco-Roman literature, it seems antecedently probable that Paul is alluding to this ceremony and its ritual when he uses θριαμβεύω here and in Colossians 2;15, the only other NT use.

Some significant features of this ostentatious pageant may be briefly sketched. At the head of the procession came the magistrates and the senate, followed by trumpeters and some spoils of wars such as vessels of gold or beaks of ships. Then came the flute players, ahead of the white oxen destined to be sacrifices in the temples, along with some representative captives from the conquered territory, including such dignitaries as the king, driven in chains in front of the ornate chariot of the general, the triumphator ("the one honoured by the triumph"), who wore the garb of Jupiter (ornatus Iovis) and carried a scepter in his left hand. A slave held a crown above his head. The victorious soldiers followed, shouting "Io triumphe!" ("Hail, triumphant one!"). As the procession ascended the Capitoline Hill, some of the leading captives (usually royal figures or the tallest and strongest of the conquered warriors) were taken aside into the adjoining prison and executed. Sacrifies were offered upon arrival at the temple Jupiter Capitolinus. Livy informs us of the two purposes of a triumph: to thank the gods who had guaranteed the victory and to glorify the valor of the triumphator.

No comments: