There's faith and there's religion and religion is hopelessly entangled in politics so this little piece goes on the political side of my little piece of J Land.
We did manage to meet Lisa and her wonderful hubby Matt for lunch up in Salem. Salem is about midway between Springfield and Scappoose so it’s a good place to meet. Lancaster mall is close to the freeway and there are enough decent places to eat to provide a different place to meet and keep in touch.
Something she said while we were talking about everything under the sun has sort of stuck with me. It’s the Christmas season after all, but how can you really prove that a rabbi from the back of beyond in Roman era Galilee even existed. It’s hard to realize in our paper plagued era just how little has survived from that era.
The gospels have Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem for a census. Presumably some record was made, we’re talking about taxes after all, but where was it stored? If the tax information was stored in Jerusalem, tough luck, the city was destroyed in 70 AD at the end of a protracted siege. Any records there would have been lost. Palestine was attached to Syria for the purpose of taxation (biblically at least) but that part of the world has been sacked almost as often as Palestine, again paper burns, gets dumped in the cistern, or gets trampled under foot. No help there.
Then there’s the other end of the story. Palestine was never an easy province for the Romans to control. From what I’ve read, there was a rebellion large enough to require an army to put it down about once a generation. And the low level resistance was constant. If the authorities sent a notice of every rebel or potential rebel executed for opposing the rule of Rome or the descendants of Herod, they’d have run out of room in the archives. And again, any records kept in Jerusalem would have been destroyed when the city fell. The Romans were thorough. I’ll give them that. They were a lot of things. For one thing, their armies were really good at ancient population control.
So, we can’t find an ancient piece of paper anywhere that mentions the name of Joshua Bar Joseph. We can’t prove he existed. We can’t prove he didn’t. What we can see is how the teachings attached to his name have been used and misused over the centuries. Perhaps what’s important is the message, and how it’s used (or misused now) not proving how it got here.