All posts by Tom

Rudin Efrain Martinez

December 1, 2018

Calle Primera

Rudin Efrain Martinez 2

I am thirty years old, from Danli del Paraiso. I have a grade school education. My parents are still in Honduras, as well as three older siblings and five younger, three brothers and five sisters. My father worked all the time, doing all types of work. I didn’t see him much.

I did all types of farm work for different farmers. I worked for three years cutting cane. I couldn’t make enough to get by. I couldn’t help my family. I had to do more.

I had no real problems with gangs or crime. I had no trouble with the government, but the government did not help me. The government should help the poor, but they did nothing. When the caravan started, I saw the news written about it. I also it on television. It started in Guatemala. I said to my friend, “Let’s join.” The caravan just started up on its own. A few people started and the word spread. I made up my mind the first day I heard about it. There’s work there. This is how it happened. People just immediately decided to go.

Along the road I was hungry and thirsty. My feet were damaged and they hurt. I had no money. In Guatemala we were treated very well. We were treated well in Mexico also. The Mexican people have been good. Right now I’m just looking around, trying to figure out how to cross, what to do next.

The danger I face if I return to Honduras is dying of hunger. I couldn’t continue to study. I had to find work in the fields, but there’s little work.

In the United States, I could work as a painter. I would do any type of work I could get.

Cristian Castillo Cerrato

December 1, 2018

Calle Primero, Tijuana

Cristian Castillo Cerrato 2

I am twenty years old, from the city of Danli, El Paraiso in Honduras. I worked in the ranches and fields. I chopped cane, cut coffee, watered coffee and maiz, tended beans. I cleaned. I did all tasks that you can do on a farm. I also worked construction.

When I was sixteen, I completed a diploma in building. But I could not find work in building.

I have not worked recently because I have been threatened by criminal gangs. The gang member threatened me with a gun in midday. They threatened me because of my father. I ran away and went to the police. The pandilleros will throw you in the well. Nobody ever leaves the well. They want to kill me because I went to the police. The police might give some help, but it comes to nothing. They’re all controlled by the people who have money. It’s the gangsters who have the money.

My parents don’t care that I’m here. My parents don’t help me. They left me in the streets. I had to work, so I worked. I worked for the gangs for two years. I got up at 2:00 a.m. and loaded the boats. The boats left at 5:00 a.m. They were smugglers. I worked until 5:00 p.m. They paid me 400 lempira [about $16.40 USD] per week. I started doing tasks for the gangs at twelve because I had no money. My aunts and uncles didn’t care. They treated me like a dog.

I had been planning to go to the United States for about a year, getting things together. Little by little preparing. In San Pedro I heard the news of the caravan from a friend. I came here with him.

[Interviewer asked him if there were organizers, if anybody recruited him or was in charge of the trip.]

Nobody recruited me. I just heard about the caravan. I didn’t think about what would happen. I just went. When I got here, I was just happy.

I got a loan for my trip. My uncle pawned something and gave me 500 lempira. From Honduras, I walked for at least twenty days. For ten nights, we walked all night. I’m not clear on the numbers. I was worried all the time, mostly about the people back home who wanted to kill me. Along the way, I was thirsty and hungry. I needed a place to sleep. Mexico is pretty but still I dream of going up there [to the United States]. A relative of a friend lives up there. He might help me. I can’t tell you his name. But he has no money.

I have not talked to an immigration lawyer or anybody about what I need in order to cross. If I get across I want to raise myself up through work and study, first studying English, then architecture. I don’t know what to do now, what my next step should be. I know I can’t go back. They will kill me.

The president of Honduras does not help us. He takes all the money sent to him for aid. Nothing gets to the people. There is no work of any kind. They don’t pay the workers. Many who try to work are physically abused.

More than anything now, I feel trauma.

Bayron Enrique

December 1, 2018

I am sixteen years old, from Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. There I experienced lots of crime. Gang members killed my brother. He was twenty-four years old and they killed him because he didn’t pay the extortion. They were going to kill me if I wouldn’t pay. We had a food stand where we sold chicken and potatoes. He was my only sibling. The gangs harassed us for two years. They took all we had. We couldn’t even be safe in our own homes. I’ve left but my mother is still there.

I completed grade school and then went to work.

Life was terrible for me, and in July 2018 my friends and I decided we had to leave. We couldn’t stay there. There are seven of us. When the opportunity came, we all left together. None of us ever got into trouble. We have all decided we want to stay in Mexico. We will try to get the papers that will allow us to work here. I like Tijuana. It’s pretty.

Bayron Enrique

Joel Hernandez Jimenez

November 30, 2018Joel Hernandez Jimenez

The first time I went to the US was in 2000, when I was 18. I was deported to Mexico, and then went back in to Gruenau, Texas. I was deported again and returned in 2010. I worked until December 2015. Then I traveled to Miami and flew from Miami to Honduras to see my father. Traveling to Honduras was my own choice then. My father was sick and I wanted to see him one last time. He died one month and two weeks after I returned. He died on January 22, 2016.

I wanted to work in Honduras but the situation was very difficult. I had a house and a car, but I was threatened when I tried to work. The gangs were extortionists, pandillas. They demanded a percent of my sales. I had a shop where I sold shoes and clothes.

I got married in 2017. Then I went to the American Embassy in Honduras to ask for a visa. I was denied because of my deportations. My wife and child are already in the US. The child is two years old, her child by a previous partner. My wife is wearing an ankle tracker and has a hearing coming up in Chicago in two or three months. She is staying with her sister in Columbus, Ohio, and working there. They have to rent a car to go to her court hearing. It’s expensive.

I tried to enter again at Piedras Negras, Texas in August and was deported again in September. I have never had any problem with the law except with immigration. All I want to do is help my family. Everything is for my daughter. I have American friends. They would like to help me, but they say there is nothing they can do.

Today is my birthday. Look here on my passport. I was born on November 30, 1979.

I have been a victim in Mexico. I was attacked in Nuevo Leon. Here is the police report. This page shows the surgeon’s report. Here is my own testimony. I showed this at the United States border, but they weren’t interested. There were four of us in the group when I was attacked. One was a Mexican. We were waiting for a train. One of the criminals had a firearm. I had eight injuries. They took everything. Luckily I had my Honduran identification certificate, so I was able to get a new passport.

In Honduras, everyone is afraid.

The first time I came to the United States, I wanted to help my family. I had no fear then. At the time of my first deportation, I was with a group of Mexicans, from Nuevo Laredo. If I said I was Honduran they would separate me from them, so I said I was Mexican. We went to Querétaro.

I stayed for two days, then crossed again, near San Antonio and Three Rivers. I went to Gorges and worked for a farmer for six months. Then I went to San Antonio, then Houston. In Houston, I worked in a Chinese restaurant. I worked twelve hours a day, six days a week, and they paid me $1,500 a month. They gave me a place to live and I was able to send home $1,100 a month. I had nothing. I had no choices. I worked there for fifteen months.

I’m not happy in my country. I will be happy to be with my family. I can’t see going back. I want to live in the United States so I can have peace and tranquility. In the United States, people respect one another and they value education.

In Honduras, the president has marches in the street. I don’t really know who is behind the marches, but clearly they have ties with the government. His followers assault people. They will stop traffic. They break windows so they can enter people’s houses and rob them. I never saw anything in fifteen years in the United States like I did in the little time I was back in Honduras. In the United States, I was accustomed to getting up and five in the morning and going to work. In Honduras, I got up at five in the morning and do nothing. There was no work. Everything there was stress. My mind was occupied with worry and stress.

When I returned to the United States on June 10, 2010, I went to work right away.

When I returned to Honduras in 2015, I didn’t intend to return to the United States. I wanted to work there. All I had was fear and insecurity. If you make a little, the delinquents take that.

Ranchers came into the town with rifles, walk around and threaten us. Or they would sit inside their watch posts and track our movements. They were vigilantes, threatening us.

The Mexicans have helped us. They are our brothers. Still we feel insecure here. In the United States, you can walk home at night safely or go to a restaurant. Now I find myself here in Mexico. I have no idea how I will get in. The last time I crossed in Piedras Negras, the judge gave me twenty-five days before my deportation. I didn’t have an ankle monitor. On the last day, I didn’t go back to the judge. I just returned to Mexico on my own.

Since I have been in Tijuana I talked to an immigration lawyer, but I didn’t understand her.

I think my wife will get a permit to stay. I am still in touch with her. She has a lawyer, and her sister got her work. This is a struggle for her. It is a big trip from Honduras. It’s hard with one there [in the US] and the other here. The judge in Piedras Negras told me I that I would get six months for another illegal crossing.

We’re doing all this for our daughter. We talked about going to Costa Rica or Spain, but decided on the United States. When I went to the Embassy, they told me I should apply for a pardon for my previous deportation, and gave me the paperwork. It costs $585. The lawyer told me I can’t enter illegally again. If I get the pardon and apply for the visa again, I think I can get it. My biggest problem is the 2000 deportation. I can’t go back to Honduras. There’s too much trauma. If there were a different president, I don’t know what it would be like.

I’ve never had any problem with the law, except for immigration.

Roberto De La Caridad Articasoto

November 30, 2018 at Calle Primera, Tijuana

 

The problem in Honduras is bad government. There’s so much crime and you get no help from the police. In effect there is no police force, no government. I had my own shop, where I sold roasted chicken. I was assaulted there three times. The thieves were organized. The regularly robbed both me and my business.

In the United States, I hope to get dignified work.

The problems in Honduras have been going on for four years. If you report a crime, the police don’t do anything.  They don’t investigate your complaints. The situation has been like this for four years. Before that, life there was the best. With the change of presidents, with Orlando Hernandez, everything changed. Now the government is only for the rich.

I have seven children. My only daughter is five months old. My sons are 21, 17, 14, 12 and twins at 10. If I don’t work, they don’t eat. My children are still in Honduras. I hope to get work and send them money.

The trip has been horrible, tiring. My feet hurt. They are damaged. I walked for eighteen days and spent eight days on trucks. Kind people along the way helped me out with food and water, places to sleep, and rides.

I have not talked to any attorneys here. I have had no help on how to cross the border or what to do when I cross. God gave me this opportunity, and if it is God’s will, I will succeed. What I hope for is the dignity of work. In a short time, I will have that, if it is God’s will.

Who invented Christianity?

Was Christianity as we know it an invention of Paul? I will leave for another discussion the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. In my forthcoming novel “Becoming Christ,” I explore (among other things) Jesus in the context of his mission, and how elevated claims about his person were likely to have been an integral part of his mission.
Logically we start with one of the most incontrovertible facts about Jesus, his execution as King of the Jews, that is to say, he was crucified as an insurrectionist. Nothing in any tradition suggests in the final days, Jesus did anything to evade this fate. On the contrary, the evidence indicates that he was aware that something like this would happen, and well in advance. What forces led Jesus to acquiesce to such a fate?

We can safely infer from Jesus’ fate that insurgency was a problem in Judea at the time of Jesus. After the death of the Baptist, Jesus was the only prominent figure upon whom potential insurgents might pin their hopes. As Jesus contends with other groups in the diverse Judaism of his times–Pharisees, Sadducees, priests–I suggest he also contended with insurgents. His message of love of enemies and forgiveness was in sharp contrast to theirs. It may have been that they were determined to put him at the head of their army. Unable to dissuade the insurgents, he sets about to abort their movement. Jesus concentrates his entire mission into the person of himself, so that if he is eliminated the insurgency collapses. He accepts this fate to avoid the catastrophe that would inevitably ensue from a massive insurgency. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. It is better from one man to die than that the entire country be lost.

Making elevated claims about himself also draws a line between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were literate groups while Jesus’ followers were largely illiterate.  If Jesus was the embodiment of his message, then his followers had direct access to that message without the intervention of the literate elite. His group could set a separate path from the Pharisaic movement.

If elevated claims were already part of Jesus’ mission, this allows for a continuity with the message about him after his death. If Jesus’ followers built a church on Jesus and his mission, then Jesus laid down the foundation for them.

Jesus and the zealots

Many contend that Judas the son of Ezekias (Hezekiah) who led the uprising centered in Sepphoris around the time of the death of Herod the Great (Jewish Antiquities 17:271-272) and Judas the Galilean, who led the resistance to the census under Quirinius (JA 18:4f) were the same person. The claim seems to rest primarily on the fact that they had the same name, ignoring how common the name Judas (Judah) was among Jews (Judeans) at that time. The first argument against this claim is that Josephus does not link the two. The second Judas is identified by his city of origin, Gamala, and not by any famous father. The former Judas has royal aspirations. The latter Judas considers paying tribute to Rome a form of slavery and contend that God is their only Ruler and Lord (JA 18: 23). This position is hardly amenable to one who himself wants to be king. It is more favorable to the arrangement during much of the Hasmonean era when the High Priest governed and there was no king, an arrangement that Josephus himself favors.
Identifying the two Judases is convenient, but unsupported.

Why does this matter? Those who saw Jesus as the messiah seem to be more in the tradition of the son of Ezekias. This could be a sentiment especially prominent in the backwaters of Galilee. Josephus links Judas the Galilean, whose uprising was not in Galilee but in Jerusalem, with a group of Pharisees, with what he calls the Fourth Philosophy, and eventually with the Zealot Party of the rebellion of 66 CE.  To me the Fourth Philosophy does not resemble the Jesus movement, cf. JA 18:23-25.

The Cleansing of the Temple, a different interpretation

Recent attempts to interpret Jesus’ so-called cleansing of the temple range from a repudiation of Temple worship, to an attack on the supposed inequality that the exchange and sacrificial system fostered, to a destruction and renewal of the Temple. There is general agreement that the incident itself is highly likely to be historical, and that it is a key event leading to the passion. A problem with interpreting the incident as a critique of the Temple cult or corruption associated with the cult is that this critique appears in isolation from the rest of the ministry of Jesus. Far more of the Torah addresses the particulars of Temple cult than anything we might consider matters of ethics. If Jesus were repudiating vast tracks of the Torah, we would expect to find him addressing that topic somewhere in his polemics against the religious leaders of the day. We do not. I find any interpretation of the incident as a devaluation of the Temple cult unsatisfactory.
All of these interpretations ignore the key that Mark gives us to the interpretation of the event: a saying attributed to Jesus that alludes to Isaiah and Jeremiah. I suggest that Mark 11:17 gives us a key to interpreting the incident in a way that is consistent with the overall mission of Jesus: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ but you have made it a den of thieves.”
Here is my solution. Jesus preaches about the coming of a new era. Either God will bring about the new era with his own hand without any human assistance, or the new era will come about through a battle between the righteous and Israel’s enemies, in which God will intervene decisively in Israel’s favor. Let us call adherents of the former position pacifists and the latter, militants.
Early in his mission Jesus does not distinguish between these two positions. The earthly battle and the heavenly battle are metaphors for one another. In any case, the coming distress will be real enough. As his mission progresses and the number of his followers grows, both positions emerge among his followers. The militant group is influential even within his inner circle. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Mt. 11:12). Jesus moves toward the other position, advocating love of enemies.
Moving directly to the cleansing of the temple, I would put it in the context of Mark 13:1-2. These two lines as they are located in the present text have no context and they make little sense. The disciple’s comments are gratuitous and Jesus’ response is somewhat mean-spirited: “Look teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.” “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another….”
The disciple’s comment is not merely an aesthetic observation. The stones are wonderful because they are huge, and they have a military value. Perhaps the greatest Temple in the Roman world, it is possibly an impenetrable fortress. Jesus is in the Temple with his disciples. One of the militants remarks on the great fortress with tens of thousands (at least) gathering in preparation for Passover. If Jesus could lead the people, they could seize the temple, hold out against the powers of darkness (i.e. Rome) and bring on the new age.
This is a crucial turning point. Jesus must make clear that he is not another Galilean bandit come to take on the power of Rome by force. He does not see the temple as a fortress, in which to do battle against Rome, but rather “a house of prayer (for all people).” His vision of the new era reflects Isaiah 56:6-7. In the new era, the nations will not be wiped out, but they will all keep the Torah and worship in Jerusalem.
At this point, Jesus wants to make a point to his followers about how easily the temple, which seems so sturdy, may be upset. He grabs a table of a money changer not because his business is corrupt but because knocking it over will produce a big dramatic effect.
I would put the context of the reference to Jer. 7:11, “you have made it a den of thieves” all the way back through Jer. 6:22. Jeremiah has been preaching a reform toward justice (7:5-7). The context is a military threat from the north (6:22-26). Instead of heeding Jeremiah’s call, the people trust in the fortifications of the temple, using the “deceptive words, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’” (7:4). In this case, the robbers in Jesus’ reference to Jer. 7:11 would mean the same thing as Josephus, another Aramaic speaker, means by bandits: insurrectionists. Those who rely on the strength of the temple rather than the righteousness of their acts are bandits. Jeremiah’s own reference is not specifically to people engaged in thievery within the Temple, but to injustice and infidelity as practiced by the people as a whole. Jesus has been preaching about living a reformed life in anticipation of the new era, while a significant group of his followers have been thinking about military strategy. Rather than repenting, they are gathering arms. His great prophetic act is directed against those of his followers who still adhere to the Galilean banditry tradition. The money changers and those selling doves are collateral damage.
Of course a disturbance in which a crowd of Galileans is referring to bandits would certainly be disturbing to chief priests who might hear about it. They would be prudent to find out more about the person at the heart of the disturbance.
This solution does not need to deal with Zechariah 14:21, since the act was not directed at the traders. It is positive toward the rites of the temple, since Jesus wants to avoid turning the temple into a military zone, but keep its ritual function, in anticipation of all people being brought to the Torah.

The militant tradition within Jesus’ followers was inconvenient to the early church, since Christians wanted to portray themselves as amicable to Roman rule. If I am right that the original context of Mark 13:1-2 was the militants’ view of the temple as fortress, then we can see why Mark dislodged it from its original context. Rather than reveal the existence of a militant faction among Jesus’ followers, he makes Mark 13:1 into a puzzling and innocuous comment, a side comment somebody makes as they’re leaving the temple. Mark attaches it to another prediction of the destruction of the temple. But Mark does not reveal the possibility of the destruction of the temple as a warning to the militants of Jesus time. Rather, Mark uses this prediction as a lead-in to an apocalyptic passage narrating events that were occurring in Jerusalem even as Mark was composing his Gospel. He moves the militants out of Jesus’ inner circle and into an apocalyptic future now unfolding.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine a spontaneous quote from the prophet Jeremiah? Jesus was faced with the problem of the militants throughout the later portion of his mission. As Jesus took upon himself the role of Isaiah’s suffering servant, it is not a great stretch to imagine that Jesus was familiar with Jeremiah chapters 6 and 7, and their similarity to his own situation. He may have used this phrase in an earlier context, and Mark later put it here. At any rate, it sums up Mark’s interpretation of the event. Matthew and Luke concur. It places the incident within the twin issues of the threat of militants with Jesus’ ranks and the failure of the people to repent.

Project of historical Jesus research

At one of the #SBL sessions last week, a colleague said he does #historicalJesus research because he wants to #makeJesusRelevant. I protested this. If the project is to make Jesus relevant, then you get the #CheGuevara Jesus or the #spiritualButNotReligious Jesus or something else that Jesus clearly was not. As a consumer and producer of historical fiction I want to bridge the strangeness of the past and make that strange and different world come alive. I challenged the historical Jesus researchers to do this.
As John Meier says, nothing ages quicker than relevance.

Lamb of God

If Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, he takes away irregularity or inadvertent transgression or omission, but not necessarily the deliberate sin. Such faults require a ewe lamb or a she-goat. See Lev. 5:1-6, compare Lev. 5:17-18. Actual transgressions require a ram.