Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Mara Bar-Serapion - Is it Jesus?

In the last post we saw a few possibilities of who this "wise king" in the letter from Mar Bar-Serapion could be. The ones that we looked at seem to be in high positions of teaching, they were Jews and were possibly killed by Jews.

Mar Bar-Serapion wrote after 73 AD (and maybe after 135 AD) and it mentions how this wise king's teachings lives on. So were the possible suspects known a hundred or so years later? The Essenes were still just around that time frame. Onias III and Mattathias, although never considered to be kings, were more than likely still well respected around that time, but maybe more so for their actions and not for their teachings.

The Mar bar Serapion also says "It was just after that [the killing of the wise king] that their kingdom was abolished". Its the "just after that" phrase that could be a problem for those guys as they are still more than 140 years before Jerusalem was taken out by the Romans.

How Jesus shapes up?

Lets see how Jesus might fit into this Mar Bar-Serapion letter:

Jesus was a Jew (Matthew 1:1-17, 26:69, Luke 22:59, 23:5-8)
Jesus was considered king of the Jews by some (Matthew 2:2, Mark 15:9, 12, John 18:39)
Jesus was charge by the Jewish high priests for blasphemy (Matthew 26:65, Mark 14:64) and then handed over to Pilate (Matthew 27:2, Mark 15:1, Luke 23:1) and charged Jesus with been the king of the Jew and that charge was attached to his cross (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19)
Jesus admitted to the charge of been king of the Jews (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3)
Jesus was considered a teacher (Matthew 8:19, 9:11, 12:38, 17:24, 19:16, 22:16, 22:24, 22:36; Mark 4:38, 5:35, 9:17 ... (you get the idea)), and a "good teacher" (Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18) and referred to himself as a teacher (Matthew 26:18) and taught with his own authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22, 27, Luke 4:32)
Jesus' teaching who drew in large crowds (Matthew 4:25, 8:1, 13:2, 15:30, 19:2; Luke 5:15, 14:25 (Jesus even snookered the teachers of the law who then stopped asking him questions (Matthew 22:46, Mark 12:34)
Jesus died about 40 years before Jerusalem fell. (Under Pilate)
Jesus' followers were also quite passionate in getting his teachings out to Jews and Gentiles all over the place (most of the book of Acts, Romans 1:15, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 21-23, 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Galatians 1:15-18, Philippians 1:15)

So what can we say?

Jesus is a good option for the Mar bar Serapion. If (and this may be considered a big "if") Jesus is the "wise king" mentioned then we have a good non-Christian reference to Jesus that says:

1. Jesus was a Jew
2. Jesus was killed by Jews
3. Jesus was considered wise
4. Jesus died before Jerusalem fell
5. His teachings lived on after his death

Anything else?


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