Parallels or Parallelomania (Josephus and Mark) How can we tell the difference?

May 2011
2,925
Rural Australia
#1
This discussion is about the validity of drawing parallels. An example is introduced here:
Better Informed History for Atheists -- Scholars assess the Two Jesus Parallels

Parallels between Josephus’ Portrayal of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus

Some scholars have noted a large number of parallels between these two texts. In the above link at Vridar the full treatment is provided for a total of 22 parallels. Below I have provided a very brief summary.

Some scholars see the existence of these parallels to be suggestive that there may be an historical and literary dependence between these two separate stories. Here is the brief list:

(1) Both primary subjects of the two stories are named “Jesus” ( _J.W._, VI. 300; Mark, passim).
(2) Both in a social class (constituting about 5% of the population) which ranked below peasants
(3) Both presumed by Jerusalemite leaders to be demon-possessed.
(4) Both thought to be deranged by certain people.
(5) Both depicted as being daily in the Temple.
(6) Both present in the Temple
(7) Both draw upon sections of Jeremiah 7
(8) Both pronounce woes on the people
(9) Both pronounce doom upon the Temple
(10) Both arrested by or at the instigation of Jerusalem leaders.
(11) Both make an inflammatory pronouncement against the Temple.
(12) Both keep silence in face of charges
(13) Both physically abused at their Jewish hearings.
(14) Both delivered to the Roman procurator by Jerusalem authorities.
(15) Both interrogated by their respective governor
(16) Both are asked by the Roman governor to disclose their identities.
(17) Each procurator moves then to release “his Jesus.”
(18) Both are scourged at the conclusion of their respective Roman hearings.
(19) Both are killed by the Roman soldiers.
(20) Both let out a woeful cry of personal woe just before dying.
(21) Both die with a loud cry.
(22) Both stories use the same syntactical term for Temple NAOS

"INTUTITIVELY" we might be persuaded that this list of parallels is significant.



PARALLELOMANIA?

On the other side of the argument the question is what actually constitutes a parallel, and how is a parallel to be defined, since there does not seem to be any rigorous definition..

Parallelomania - Wikipedia

In historical analysis, biblical criticism and comparative mythology, parallelomania refers to a phenomenon (mania) where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies allegedly without historical basis.[1] The concept was introduced to scholarly circles in 1961 by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel (1911–79) of the Hebrew Union College in a paper of the same title,


Parallelomania
Author(s): Samuel Sandmel
Source: Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 81, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 1-13
Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature
Stable URL: Parallelomania on JSTOR

"It seems to me that we are at a junction when biblical scholarship
should recognize parallelomania for the disease that it is
"



SUMMARY: Parallels between Josephus’ Portrayal of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus

Are these 22 parallels real or imagined?
If real, does this imply the two texts are related?
If imagined, what are these biblical scholars doing?

Please discuss.
 
Nov 2016
769
Germany
#2
On the other side of the argument the question is what actually constitutes a parallel, and how is a parallel to be defined, since there does not seem to be any rigorous definition..
A quick first remark on the question of "Parallelomania": It is striking that the argument comes from a Rabbi who has certainly been annoyed more than once by the fact that certain aspects of Judaism were attributed by some scholars to influences from other religions (which I also like to do). So he was surely delighted that someone in the 19th century coined the term Parallelomania, which is well suited to characterize scepticism about the independence of religious ideas as a symptom of mental confusion ("mania") in order to silence the troublemakers.

Of course, the attempt at parallelization can in some cases be based on a misinterpretation or strange coincidences, but the opposite is also true: a denial of parallels (i.e. of the assumption of a causal connection) can be based on blindness or unwillingness (as maybe with the Rabbi?), which could be described as "Discretomania".

A frequent occasion to accuse someone of parallelomania (without using this word) is the assumption of many Christianity critics (including myself) that ancient cults around a dying and resurrected God have influenced the Christian conception of Jesus. Ironically, the theologian Justin, who had to listen to the accusation as early as the 2nd century, turned the tables in a rather absurd way in his dialogue with a Jew:

(Dialogue 69)

Be well assured, then, Trypho, that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah's days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by [Jupiter's] intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that [the devil] has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses? And when they tell that Hercules was strong, and travelled over all the world, and was begotten by Jove of Alcmene, and ascended to heaven when he died, do I not perceive that the Scripture which speaks of Christ, 'strong as a giant to run his race,' has been in like manner imitated? And when he [the devil] brings forward Æsculapius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ? But since I have not quoted to you such Scripture as tells that Christ will do these things, I must necessarily remind you of one such: from which you can understand, how that to those destitute of a knowledge of God, I mean the Gentiles, who, 'having eyes, saw not, and having a heart, understood not,' worshipping the images of wood, [how even to them] Scripture prophesied that they would renounce these [vanities], and hope in this Christ.
 
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Nov 2016
769
Germany
#3
(1) Both primary subjects of the two stories are named “Jesus” ( _J.W._, VI. 300; Mark, passim).
(2) Both in a social class (constituting about 5% of the population) which ranked below peasants
(3) Both presumed by Jerusalemite leaders to be demon-possessed.
(4) Both thought to be deranged by certain people.
(5) Both depicted as being daily in the Temple.
(6) Both present in the Temple
(7) Both draw upon sections of Jeremiah 7
(8) Both pronounce woes on the people
(9) Both pronounce doom upon the Temple
(10) Both arrested by or at the instigation of Jerusalem leaders.
(11) Both make an inflammatory pronouncement against the Temple.
(12) Both keep silence in face of charges
(13) Both physically abused at their Jewish hearings.
(14) Both delivered to the Roman procurator by Jerusalem authorities.
(15) Both interrogated by their respective governor
(16) Both are asked by the Roman governor to disclose their identities.
(17) Each procurator moves then to release “his Jesus.”
(18) Both are scourged at the conclusion of their respective Roman hearings.
(19) Both are killed by the Roman soldiers.
(20) Both let out a woeful cry of personal woe just before dying.
The list comes from Richard Carrier, who took the argument from two other scholars. With all respect for Carrier, who does not always argue in the most reliable way: to see here a sufficient analogy to the story of Jesus is, in my opinion, a great exaggeration. There are of course certain parallels, but they are rather superficial, while there are differences that are very significant. Perhaps the story of Jesus ben Ananus has contributed a little to the invention of the Jesus narrative, yes, but to see it as main source of this invention is not scientifically justifiable.

On the Trinity University website, Carrier's parallelism argumentation is caricatured in this way:

A month before Lincoln was assassinated he was in Monroe, Maryland.

A month before Kennedy was assassinated he was in Marilyn Monroe.
 
Nov 2016
769
Germany
#4
(2) Both in a social class (constituting about 5% of the population) which ranked below peasants
This statement seems inaccurate to me.

In the Jesus narrative it is said that he is a craftsman (carpenter). This is socially below the peasant class, since a craftsman has no land ownership.

In Joseph's Jewish War (English translation), however, it is said about Jesus ben Amanus that he is a peasant or peasant farmer. A "peasant" or "peasant farmer" was a landowner, so he does not belong to the lowest class. Also in the German translation it is mentioned that he is a "Bauer" (peasant).

So the Jesus of the Gospels is socially lower than Jesus ben Amanus, they don´t belong to the same social class.
 
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May 2011
2,925
Rural Australia
#5
The list comes from Richard Carrier, who took the argument from two other scholars. With all respect for Carrier, who does not always argue in the most reliable way: to see here a sufficient analogy to the story of Jesus is, in my opinion, a great exaggeration. There are of course certain parallels, but they are rather superficial, while there are differences that are very significant. Perhaps the story of Jesus ben Ananus has contributed a little to the invention of the Jesus narrative, yes, but to see it as main source of this invention is not scientifically justifiable.

On the Trinity University website, Carrier's parallelism argumentation is caricatured in this way:

A month before Lincoln was assassinated he was in Monroe, Maryland.

A month before Kennedy was assassinated he was in Marilyn Monroe.
Thanks I had seen these and the points are valid.

At the moment I tend to see the appeal to parallels in stories such as these as a form of questionable logic. In certain cases the parallels are probably quite real, but in other cases the parallels are a form of inventive licence that may not have any historical basis.

As such, in the negative cases, the appeal to "many parallels" seems to me very similar to the appeals many biblical historians make to "The Criteria of Embarrassment" and "The Criteria of Dissimilarity" and other such "Criteria". These criteria are based on faulty logic.

We could call it "The Criteria of Parallel Texts".
 
May 2011
2,925
Rural Australia
#6
Here is the full and complete statement of the 22 parallels (taken from the link in the OP):

Weeden offers his own list of parallels:

D. Parallels between Josephus’ Portrayal of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus

Here now is a complete list of the extensive parallels that I find between Josephus’ portrayal of the Jesus, son of Ananias and the Markan Jesus, a list which includes all the parallels which Evans identified as parallels inherent to Mark’s Gospel…​

(1) Both primary subjects of the two stories are named “Jesus” ( _J.W._, VI. 300; Mark, passim).​
(2) Jesus, son of Ananias, is depicted by Josephus as TWN IDIWTWN AGROIKOS (translated by Thackeray as “a rude peasant”:_J.W._, VI, 301). That means, at least in Josephus’ eyes, that Ananias’ son Jesus was an unskilled, boorish person. [Note: H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, _Greek-English Lexicon_ (1996), 819, define IDIWTNS , variously, as one who has “no professional knowledge,” “unpracticed, unskilled,” a “raw hand, ignoramus” and they suggest (15) that the term AGROIKOS is used to depict someone who is “rustic,” “boorish,” “rude.”]​
The Markan Jesus is identified by Mark as a TEKNWN (“carpenter,” 6:3). In other words, Mark considered Jesus to be an artisan, which means that Mark placed Jesus in a social class (constituting about 5% of the population) which ranked below peasants and just above the Degraded and Expendable, the lowest classes in the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ time (see John Dominic Crossan, _Jesus: A Biography _, 23-25).​
(3) Both Jesus, the son of Ananias, ( _J.W._, VI. 301) and the Markan Jesus (Mk. 3:22) are presumed by Jerusalemite leaders to be demon-possessed.​
(4) Both Jesuses are thought to be deranged by certain people. Jesus, son of Ananias, is dubbed MANIAN (“a maniac”) by Albinus, the Roman procurator (_J.W._, VI. 305), and the Markan Jesus is declared EXESTH (“out of his mind”) by certain people, a view apparently shared also by his family (Mk. 3:21f.).​
(5) Both Jesuses are depicted at least for some period of time as being daily in the Temple. Jesus, son of Ananias, is described by Josephus as KAQ’ hHMERAN (“daily”) in the Temple repeating “his lament, “Woe to Jerusalem” ( _J.W._, VI. 306), and the Markan Jesus reminds the arresting party in Gethsemane that “KAQ’ hHMERAN (“daily”) I was with you in the Temple teaching.”​
(6) Both Jesuses are staged as present in the Temple (TO hIERPON; see _J.W._, VI.. 301 and Mk. 11:15-19) during the time of the holy festival(s) (EORTH; see _J.W._, VI..300 and Mk 14:2).​
(7) Both Jesuses draw upon sections of Jeremiah 7— in which the prophet condemns the Temple, the people of Judah and Jerusalem— to frame their own respective condemnation of the Temple and or Jerusalem itself. Jesus, son of Ananias, makes Jer. 7:34 (“the voice of the bride and the bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem”) part of his woe-filled harangue against Jerusalem, the Temple and the people (_J.W._, VI. 301), and the Markan Jesus uses LXX Jer. 7:11 (SPHLAION LHSTWN [hUMEIS DE PEPOIHKATE, per Mark] hO OIKOS MOU: “a cave of robbers [or insurrectionists] you have made my house”), conflated with Isa. 56:7, to denounce the Judean Temple cultic practices (Mk. 11:17).​
(8) Both Jesuses specifically pronounce woes (OUAI or AIAI) on the people (LAOS) of Jerusalem and/or Judea (_J.W._, VI. 304, 306, 309 and Mk. 13:17)​
(9) Both Jesuses pronounce doom upon the Temple (NAOS) itself ( _J.W._, VI. 300, 309 and Mk. 13:2).​
(10) Both Jesuses are arrested by or at the instigation of Jerusalem leaders. Jesus, son of Ananias, is arrested by some of Jerusalem’s leading or distinguished citizens (TWN . . . EPISHMWN TINES DHMOTWN: _J.W._, VI.. 302), and the Markan Jesus is arrested by an armed crowd sent by the chief priests, scribes and elders (Mk. 14:43).​
(11) In their respective hearings before Jerusalem leaders (i.e., the “Jewish hearings”), each Jesus is either chastised for or accused of making an inflammatory pronouncement against the Temple. Jesus, son of Ananias, is chastised for “his ill-omened words” against the Temple, as well as the city and its people (_J.W._, VI. 302 ). The Markan Jesus is accused (but falsely so, according to Mark) of vowing that he would destroy the Temple and build another in three days (Mk. 14:58).​
(12) Both Jesuses in their Jewish hearings keep their respective silence in the face of the charges made against them with regard to their respective pronouncements against the Temple (_J.W._, VI. 302 and Mk. 14:60f.).​
(13) Both Jesuses are physically abused at their Jewish hearings. Jesus, the son of Ananias, is struck by certain ones (TOUS PAIONTAS) at his hearing (_J.W._, VI. 302 ). The Markan Jesus at his hearing is spit upon, people begin “to strike [KOLAFIZEIN] him” and “the guards [when it is all over] received him with blows” (Mk. 14:65).​
(14) Following their respective Jewish hearings, both Jesuses are delivered over to the Roman procurator by Jerusalem authorities. In the case of Jesus, son of Ananias (Josephus _J.W._, VI. 302f.), he was “brought before the Roman governor,” Albinus, by hOI ARCONTES (“the rulers” or “magistrates,” as Thackeray translates the Greek term). The Markan Jesus is “delivered” to Pilate by the chief priests, the elders, scribes, and the whole counsel(?) (Mk. 15:1).​
(15) In their respective hearings before the Roman governor (i.e., their “Roman hearings”), both Jesuses are interrogated by their respective governor: Jesus, son of Ananias, by Albinus (_J.W._, VI. 305) and the Markan Jesus by Pilate (Mk. 15:2-4).​
(16) Both Jesuses are asked by the Roman governor in their Roman hearings to disclose their respective identities. Jesus, the son of Ananias, was asked by Albinus, TIS T’ EIH KAI POQEN (“who and whence he was:” _J.W._, VI. 305), and the Markan Jesus is asked by Pilate, SU EI hO BASILEUS TWN IOUDAIWN (“Are you the king of the Judeans?”: Mk.15:2).​
(17) Each procurator, once having interrogated the Jesus brought before him, moves then to release “his Jesus.” In the case of Albinus, having “pronounced [Jesus, son of Ananias] a maniac,” APELUSEN AUTON (“released him” or “let him go,” as Thackeray translates the Greek: _J.W._, VI. 305). In the case of Pilate, he appears to move to release the Markan Jesus, but he leaves the decision to the crowd as to whether Jesus should be released. The crowd, having been stirred up by the chief priests to reject Pilate’s offer to release Jesus, demands that Jesus be crucified instead. Pilate acquiesces to their demand (Mk. 15:6-15).​
(18) Both Jesuses are scourged at the conclusion of their respective Roman hearings. Jesus, son of Ananias, is scourged either by Albinus or by others in his presence (_J.W._, VI. 304), and the Markan Jesus is scourged by Pilate (15.15b).​
(19) Both Jesuses are killed by the Roman soldiers. Jesus, son of Ananias, is, as fate would have it (cf. _J.W._, VI. 308: “he [Jesus, son of Ananias] found his rest”), killed by a stone “hurled from EK TOU PETROBOLOU (“the *ballista*,” a Roman catapult, siege-weapon: see _J.W._, VI, 309). The Markan Jesus is crucified by Roman soldiers (15:16, 20-24).​
(20) Both Jesuses let out a woeful cry of personal woe just before dying. Jesus, son of Ananias, “while going his round and shouting in piercing tones from the wall, ‘Woe once more to the city and to the people and to the Temple,'” appends to his familiar mantra a word of personal woe. Namely, he cries out as the stone strikes him, “and woe to me also” (_J.W._, VI. 309). The Markan Jesus, at the ninth hour and just before dying, cries out from the cross a plaintive personal woe in a loud voice, namely: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).​
(21) Both Jesuses die with a loud cry. Jesus, son of Ananias, the piercing cry just cited “still upon his lips, THN YUCHN AFHKE” (“died”or “passed away,” as Thackeray translates the Greek: Josephus _J.W._, VI. 309), and the Markan Jesus, having “uttered a loud cry, EXEPNEUSEN” (“died” : Mk. 15:27).​
(22) In both the “Jesus” stories, the term for Temple used in the syntax of their reputed pronouncements against the Temple is NAOS (_J.W._, VI. 301, 309 and Mk.14:58). This is a particularly interesting linguistic features the texts share in view of the fact that, except for this particular Markan linguistic parallel with the Josephus story, with respect to the use of NAOS as a term for Temple, Mark, otherwise routinely chooses to use the term hIEROS when he makes reference to the Temple in his narrative (11:11, 15, 16, 27; 12:35; 13:1,3; 14:49). Only in 14:58 (when the charge is presented— falsely so, according to Mark— that Jesus vowed that he would destroy the Temple), in 15:29, (where Jesus is mocked with that charge in the taunt at the cross: 15:29), and in 15:38 (where Mark seeks to vindicate Jesus’ attack on the Temple cult through the narration of the apparent divine rending of the Temple veil) does Mark choose to use NAOS as a term for the Temple rather than hIEROS.​
In my judgment this significant list of 22 parallels is not only striking but stunning in its possible implications. Put quite simply: the parallelism existing between the two stories is provocative and demands an answer to the obvious question: How can one account for these 22 narrative points at which there are such a close parallels between Josephus’ story of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s story of Jesus?​
 
May 2011
2,925
Rural Australia
#7
Parallels in the Four Gospels?

What about the great many parallels in the four gospels?
(Perhaps the Eusebian Canon Tables are relevant?)

Are these parallels real or imagined?
If real, does this imply the four texts are related?
If imagined, what are biblical scholars doing?

Please discuss in light of OP.
 
Nov 2016
769
Germany
#8
In certain cases the parallels are probably quite real, but in other cases the parallels are a form of inventive licence that may not have any historical basis.
What I miss in the whole discussion about the parallelization hypothesis is a framing theory that shows how the Jesus of Amanus parallels have been embedded in the overall construct of a mythical Jesus narrative. As far as I see, there is only talk of these parallels forming the basic structure of a part of the Passion story. That is argumentatively too little.

So, how did the idea of a Passion story - from a mythicist point of view - emerge at all? This must precede the idea of processing the Ananus story. Maybe the author(s) in the 2nd century (or later?) talked like this:

"Ok, so now we have found a good mixture, half Messiah as described in our ancient writings, and half Heavenly Savior as appearing in the writings of those who call themselves the Knowers. This will satisfy the widespread need for a redeeming king who saves the Jewish people, and will take the wind out of the damn Knower´s sails, and will also make possible the institution of the Pope's succession, for whose sake we take the trouble to meditate on the story of a human savior. Without the foundation of a such a savior, the Pope would be up in the air. Now let our Jesus die in agony and then rise again like those gods we know from the stories of the heathen, and then ascend to heaven like the Heavenly Savior of the Knowers. But how to construct the earthly details? Let him be stoned like HaMa'agel? No, this is too common and does not have enough dramatic effect. But wait - there was Jesus of Amanus, the madman, who was nevertheless quite right with his prophecy. He was whipped terribly by the Romans - wonderful! But what then? How shall our Jesus die? Of course, we let him crucify by the Romans, like Spartacus. Never let it be said that brainstorming is useless! Yes, that adds a lot of value to our story."
 
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May 2011
2,925
Rural Australia
#9
What I miss in the whole discussion about the parallelization hypothesis is a framing theory that shows how the Jesus of Amanus parallels have been embedded in the overall construct of a mythical Jesus narrative. As far as I see, there is only talk of these parallels forming the basic structure of a part of the Passion story. That is argumentatively too little.
I am not sure that the parallelisation hypothesis is a tool exclusively used by a "mythicist agenda". From what I understand it was first used by biblical scholars in exploring the dependence (or not) of literature from antiquity. It certainly has been used by people with all forms of agenda.

My question relates to its validity. People see patterns in everything. How can we be sure the pattern we see is not simply being imposed by ourselves?[/QUOTE]
 
Nov 2016
769
Germany
#10
I am not sure that the parallelisation hypothesis is a tool exclusively used by a "mythicist agenda". From what I understand it was first used by biblical scholars in exploring the dependence (or not) of literature from antiquity. It certainly has been used by people with all forms of agenda.

My question relates to its validity. People see patterns in everything. How can we be sure the pattern we see is not simply being imposed by ourselves?
It is true that the two historians Theodore Weeden and Craig Evans from whom Carrier took the argument are not mythicists.

Theodore Weeden sees Mark - as far as I understand his statements - as a, say, very creative author who does not take historical facts too seriously in order to assert his image of Jesus against the view of a competing group in his congregation that sees Jesus as a God walking on earth, whereas Mark wants to emphasize the suffering traits of Jesus. That is one point. The other point is that Weeden insists that the parallels between Josephus-Jesus and Mark-Jesus are the result of a literary imitation that, according to Weeden, was a popular and fully accepted stylistic device in literature in ancient times. What I have not yet been able to find in Weeden is an argument as to how Mark has interwoven the biographical details of the story of Jesus of Ananus found in Josephus or orally transmitted, as far as they are recognizable as parallels, with the (hypothetically) real biography of the Christian Jesus. Without such a reconstruction the argument of parallelization - as I already wrote with regard to the mythicist theory - stands only on one foot and is thus rather shaky.

Statements by Craig Evans on the topic I could not find to a relevant extent.

What you say about the human tendency to pattern recognition is certainly true in principle. Whether the recognition of the parallels we are talking about here is only a result of this unconscious process, in the sense of wanting to recognize a pattern at any price, regardless of whether the recognition is really founded, I doubt. The arguments for the parallelization hypothesis are not so bad. At first I was inclined to see only coincidences in the parallels, but depending on the contextual reconstruction - e.g. in the way I tried in my previous article - the hypothesis can make sense.

Charlie Eppes from the series ´Numb3rs´ might be able to show us how very low the probability is that the parallels are random. So there are 20 or so parallels, each of which - let's say very roughly - is random on average with a probability of 50%. One starts with one parallel and then calculates successively how likely it is that more and more parallels occur together until all 20 parallels have been calculated. The initial probability of 50 % is thus halved 19 times. In the end, there remains such a low probability that the 20 parallels are random in their sum that the probability that they are NOT random is practically 100%. And yet all parallels could be coincidences. So the probability argument is not compelling.
 
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