Making Mountains Out of Molehills, Part 2

In this second part of my response to Valerie Tarico’s Salon article, we will be looking at 3 more “myths“. The first part of my response can be found here.


“Myth” number 4:

Short, not tall. The typical Jewish man at the time of the Roman Empire would have been just over five feet tall, which makes this a best guess for the height of Jesus. That he is typically depicted taller derives from the mental challenge people have distinguishing physical stature from other kinds of stature. Great men are called “big men” and “larger than life.” In ancient times they often were assigned divine parentage and miraculous births, and the idea that Jesus was uniquely divine has created a strong pull over time to depict him as taller than is likely. A good illustration of this is the Shroud of Turin, which is just one of many such Jesus-shrouds that circulated during medieval times and which bears the image of a man closer to six feet in height.


Um, so what? I have never heard any message on the “doctrine of the height of Jesus”. This is just nonsense.


“Myth” number 5:

Born in a house, not a stable. The miraculous birth story of Jesus is a late, maybe second-century addition to the Bible, and it contains many fascinatingmythic elements and peculiarities. But the idea that Jesus was born in a stable was added to the Christmas story even later. In the original narrative, Joseph and Mary probably would have stayed with relatives, and the phrase “no room for them in the inn (gr: kataluma)” is better translated “no room for them in the upper room.” Later storytellers did not understand that people of the time might bring animals into their ground floor, as in Swiss housebarns, and they assumed that the presence of a manger implied a stable.


This is technical quibbling here, since houses in the ancient Near East were built on top of the stable areas. So technically, Jesus was born both in a house and in a stable, since they were one in the same. But, given that the only testimony to his birth, namely its location, is in Luke, we have to conclude that Jesus was born in the stable area of the house, because, to quote Luke, “there was no room for them in the καταλύματι,” literally, the “guest chamber”, ie. the house proper. If people believed that this was a structure separate from the house, it is irrelevant and therefore not a myth, rather a misunderstanding of what the writer meant.



“Myth” number 6:

Named Joshua, not Jesus. The name Joshua (in Hebrew Y’hoshuʿa meaning “deliverance” or “salvation”), was common among Jews in the Ancient Near East as it is today. Joshua and Jesus are the same name, and are translated differently in our modern Bible to distinguish Jesus from the Joshua of the Old Testament, who leads the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. In actuality, the relationship between the two figures is fascinating and important. Some scholars believe that the New Testament gospels are mostly historicized and updated retellings of the more ancient Joshua story, with episodes interwoven from stories of Elisha and Elijah and Moses. A modern parallel can be found in the way Hollywood writers have reworked Shakespearean tropes and plot elements into dozens of modern movies (though for a very different purpose).


Just as a point: Duh! Just one tiny correction, Y’hoshua, doesn’t simply mean “deliverance” or “salvation” it means “Yahweh is salvation“. Actually, the anglicized name “Jesus“, comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew/Aramaic Yeshua,  Ἰησοῦς. It’s nice to know that there are “scholars” who believe, “that the New Testament gospels are mostly historicized and updated retellings of the more ancient Joshua story“, at least it’s not reworking or retelling of the Iliad or Egyptian myths. Never mind that there are no allusions made to conquering of the land and that the only discourse we have of Joshua is his final address and there is nothing in common between them. So this is just parallelomania of the biblical kind. Also, you can’t just assert a position, you have to prove it. And she doesn’t.


Enough craziness for this post.


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