Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 21

Another bit of historical information allegedly supporting the spear-wound-of-Jesus story in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel is a quote from Origen.  I think I originally came across this information five years ago from a website called A Lawyer Examines The Swoon Theory.  The website is still available:

The Origen quote is still on the above web page:

Roman custom required stabbing under Jesus’ circumstances.  It wasn’t a coincidence.

Most people, even most theologians and historians, believe it was pure coincidence that a Roman soldier stabbed Jesus.  Most people believe the soldier stabbed Jesus to make sure He was dead.  Usual Roman practice was to leave the corpses of crucified victims on the cross to be eaten by wild animals or to rot in public view—after all, crucifixion was intended to be the ultimate degradation and humiliation … and a warning to others!  Interestingly, there was an exception.  According to Quintilian, a first-century author, a victim’s relatives were permitted to take down the body and bury it if the victim was first pierced by the executioners. In his Commentary on Matthew, Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says the lance thrust to Jesus was administered “according to Roman custom, below the armpit.”  (See Humber, Thomas.  The Sacred Shroud. New York, Pocket Books, 1977)

From the bottom of the web page:

This site and page written by Texas attorney Joseph “Rick” Reinckens.

Note that there are no quotation marks in the above paragraph, except for the phrase quoted from Origen.  Note that the quote is not taken directly from a book by Origen, but is from a modern book by Thomas Humber, who provides the quote in English. The use of a secondary source like this (when a primary historical source is available)  is our first hint that Mr. Reinckens is not a competent historian nor a competent scholar. 

If you read my previous post (Part 20), then you know that the comments about Quintilian are mistaken and provide only very weak and sketchy support for Mr. Reinckens’s claim in bold above the paragraph by Mr. Reinckens.  This is our second hint that Mr. Reinckens is not a competent historian nor a competent scholar.

The third hint that Mr. Reinckens is not a competent historian nor a competent scholar is that he does not even bother to provide the page number for the secondary source that he has used.  And this web page has been up for at least five years, but he has never bothered to correct that obvious failure to provide basic information about his source.

So, I ordered a used copy of Humber’s book, The Sacred Shroud,  and went searching through it for the quotation of Origen.  The book is over two hundred pages, but I found the quote of Origen on page 60, as well as Humber’s discussion of Quintilian.  You don’t have to go digging around for a copy of this book from 1977; I will give you the relevant passage (an actual quotation, not a paraphrase):

“Usually the victims of crucifixion were left on their crosses to be devoured by wild beasts or birds of prey or to rot. According to a Roman law of the imperial period, however, it was possible for the families of the deceased to obtain the bodies for decent burial.  In such cases a single reference of antiquity suggests that the executioners were required by law to administer a sort of coup de grace to the crucified–even when they were apparently dead–before giving over the remains to the mourners.  Quintilian, an author of the first century, writes: ‘Crosses [or the crucified] are cut down, and the executioner does not forbid the burial of those who have been smitten [or pierced, presumably with a sword or javelin].’ 
     Origen, in the Latin translation of his Commentary on Matthew, says that the lance thrust was administered ‘according to Roman custom, below the armpit.’ …” 
(The Sacred Shroud, p.60)

It is easy to see that Humber is also not a competent historian nor a competent scholar.  Humber does not indicate what book or source the Quintilian quote comes from, and although he does give a general indication of where the Origen quote comes from, he does not cite the specific edition, translation, section, or page where he found the Origen passage.  It is unclear whether he is citing an English translation of a Latin text, or if he himself has provided the translation from Latin.

To be fair to Humber, we should take into account the very first sentence of his book:

“I am neither a scholar nor a scientist, and this book is largely the product of secondary research, an attempt to present clearly in one accessible volume the complex story of the Shroud of Turin.” 
(The Sacred Shroud, ‘Acknowledgments’, p.7)

So, Mr. Reinckens not only fails to cite a primary source (a work by Origen) in support of his historical claim about the spear-wound story, but the secondary source he uses to obtain the quote from Origen and information about Quintilian is not only not a competent historian nor a competent scholar, but is a person who in the opening sentence of his book states that he is not a scholar and that the book is itself based on secondary research. Humber is obviously not even a solid secondary source, given that he fails to provide basic information about the texts or editions or works where he gets his quotations of Quintilian and Origen.

To be continued…

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