bred by the later disaster. His interest in distancing all of these movements from the native aristocracy of Judaea, in which he included himself, may also distort his descriptions. He calls several of the leaders 'bandits' (leistai, e.g. AJ 18.7; 20.121, 160, 163, 167, 172, 185, 186), the term he also prefers for the instigators of the revolt under the governor Florus (e.g. BJ 2.434). The same word is used in the gospels to describe the two men crucified with Jesus (Mark 15:27; Matt 27:38, 44) and, in the fourth gospel, Barabbas (John 18:40; note also John 10:8). Others Josephus calls goetai, 'soothsayers', 'charlatans', though he admits they called themselves prophetai, 'prophets' (BJ 1.148-54; AJ 20.160,16772, 188). Other leaders, he reports, had royal pretensions (BJ 2.57, 60, 444; AJ 17.272, 273, 278-85).

There are several recurring elements in Josephus' narratives of failed rebellions that should warn us against a facile separation of'political' from 'religious' factors. First, the dramatic images that attracted followers and interpreted their aims echo the sacral traditions of Israel's past: conquest of the Holy Land would come from the wilderness (AJ 20.167); a dry path would open through the Jordan on command (AJ 20.97); tabernacle implements hidden by Moses on the sacred mountain would be recovered (AJ 18.85-7); the city's walls would collapse on command (AJ 20.170). Second, the uprisings were thus eschatolog-ical: corresponding to the saving events of the past there would come in the immediate future a direct, final intervention by God to transform the social order. Third, the movements were popular, led by figures whose authority was traditional and charismatic, not institutional.

All three features are found in early traditions about Jesus and his followers. They are also characteristics of the community described in the sectarian documents discovered last century in Wadi Qumran in Judaea. In both cases, despite the obvious differences between them, we have to do with something like what modern anthropologists have called a 'renewal' or 'nativist' movement. In a traditional society that has experienced recent social and cultural change, usually by superimposition of a foreign power, a charismatic leader gathers followers for some transformative programme, cast in imagery drawn from the society's traditional defining symbols but imaginatively reformulated for the present crisis.8

In the early church's remembered lore about Jesus and his disciples, there are a number of elements that accord well with the 'renewal movement' model. The fact that a group of twelve is singled out - even though the tradition

8 The literature on 'renewal', 'revitalisation', 'nativistic' and 'millenarian' movements is vast. Oneofthe early classics is Wallace, 'Revitalization movements'. Two other examples: Worsley, Trumpet; Burridge, New heaven.

The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment