Key historical developments such as the Jews under Persian rule (424-331 B.C.), Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period (331-167 B.C.), Greek rule under Alexander (331-323 B.C.), Egyptian rule under the Ptolemies (323-198 B.C.), Syrian rule under the Seleucids (198-167 B.C.), the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean dynasty (167-63 B.C.), the Roman period (63 B.C. to Christian era), must be studied to understand the rivers of history and how they mix to set cultural trajectory. In the religious realm, the Jews were exposed to beliefs like Hellenistic religion, traditional mythology, philosophies like Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism and Neo-Pythagoreanism, mystery religions, Gnosticism and Emperor worship.
John Dominic Crossan: "Crucified victims were not buried. They were left for dogs and carrion birds and served as a warning. If they were buried at all, it might have been in a shallow grave, dug by Roman soldiers. Anyone who had enough influence to get a burial probably wouldnt have been crucified in the first place.
Part of Jeuss radical nature is not only his mingling with women, but acting like one as well. For example, at the Last Supper, he breaks bread, and serves it to his followers, all of whom are peasants and have never been served by slaves, but have been served by women. He evokes this motherly, sisterly, daughterly, wifely memory in them by doing so. Jesus a radical egalitarian Mediterranean Jewish Peasant who believed the Kingdom of God had come to make the world right.
Jesus's first followers knew almost nothing about the details of what happened, and the description was written in order to make the story correspond to prophetic texts in the Hebrew Scriptures. There was no Joseph of Arimathea and Jesus's body was not buried in a tomb; crucified individuals almost never were. Instead, their bodies would be left on the cross or buried in a shallow grave where they would soon be dug up by waiting dogs. This is what would have happened in Jesus's case but "the horror of that brutal truth [was] sublimated by hope and imagination into its opposite."
If there can be several natural explanations for an event why jump to the supernatural explanation as the only option unless you are tied to dogmatic ideology? The Death of Jesus is natural history. The Resurrection of Jesus is supernatural hope.
"Jesus was crucified by Romans, and at the time of his death his body was in the hands of Romans, so any historical investigation of his burial must begin with the Romans. What would Pilate and the soldiers guarding the cross, who were in charge of the body of Jesus, have been most likely to do with it? There is a distinct possibility that they might have done nothing at all with the body, but simply left it hanging on the cross. As Martin Hengel has observed, the Romans used crucifixion not only as a punishment but also as a deterrent, and while the punitive effect of crucifixion may have ended when the victim died, the deterrent effect did not have to. The impact of crucifixion could go on for days at a time, as the body of one who had crossed the purposes of Rome was left hanging in public view, rotting in the sun, with birds pecking away at it.
In 31 CE, when Tiberius moved against Sejanus and his supporters, some of them committed suicide rather than be executed, "because people sentenced to death forfeited their property and were forbidden burial" (Tacitus, Annals 6.29)
When the Romans did not permit the burial of crucifixion victims, then, they were doing more than merely showing off the power of Rome: they were also declaring that the deaths of these victims were not a loss to Roman society. "
M. Hengel, Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross
Thomas Jefferson-To his nephew he writes as follows regarding the Bible:
"Read the Bible as you would Livy or Tacitus. For example, in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still for several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of their statues, beasts, etc. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature" (Works, Vol. ii., p. 217).
In a letter to John Adams, written August 22, 1813, Jefferson says:
"It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticism that three are one and one is three, and yet, that the one is not three, and the three are not one.... But this constitutes the craft, the power, and profits of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of fictitious religion, and they would catch no more flies" (Ibid, p. 205).
Writing to John Adams a year later -- July 5, 1814 -- he again refers to this subject:
"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticisms of Plato materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence"
Three years before his death he writes John Adams: "His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points is ... a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin" (Works, Vol. iv., p. 363).
I TOO AM AN EPICUREAN. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.
Monticello, October 31, 1819
"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites."