2008-10-19

When they saw the Son of Man coming in the clouds

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by Neil Godfrey

Imagine the author of the Gospel of Mark wrote about the coming of the Son of Man in clouds from the same perspective as frequently found amongst the Jewish Wisdom, Prophetic and History writings. (Leave aside for this discussion the perspective of the Deuteronomist, who on other grounds appears to have spawned a separate tradition about the deity anyway — see posts on Margaret Barker’s work for details.)

Last time I posted something here without taking time to check my bookshelves to remind myself what “the professional scholars” had written I got thoroughly roasted. That was a good, if lazy, way to be brought up to speed. Now my excuse is that I am separated by thousands of kilometers from my library, and am likely to remain so for some months yet. But what’s a blog for if not to toss out off the cuff thoughts anyway? Besides, I know the following interpretation is by no means novel. But it is one that I have been a long time refusing to accept — till about now.

What I’m moving towards is the view that Mark’s depiction of the coming of the Son of Man in clouds was intended to be as metaphoric as his description of the stars falling from heaven. Further, when he spoke of everyone “seeing” this advent, he really implied a “spiritual” seeing just as surely as he meant the miracles of Jesus to be interpreted as a restoring of spiritual insight.

Let’s imagine the same author did not call Peter “Satan” because he got his timing wrong over exactly when Jesus would act apocalyptically as in returning with angelic hosts and burning up the old physical world before inaugurating a new cosmic order, but because he was opposed to the very idea root and branch, totally, absolutely. Mark’s Jesus did not tell Peter, “Yes yes, you are right, I will come as a conquering hero, but not just yet — I have to make atonement for sins first, THEN I can do the world-conquering thing, you Satan you!”

Earlier times when God “came in clouds”

2Sam 22:10, 12 –
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. . . . He made darkness his canopy around him– the dark rain clouds of the sky.

David did not literally see God come down in clouds, but he did “see” him, as Job “saw” him (Job 42:5), coming down in clouds to overthrow his enemies. The image is probably not strictly metaphorical. It was probably believed that the fates of the earthly combatants literally were decided by heavenly powers in the clouds.

Compare:

Deut 33:26 –
There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.

And:

Isa 30:27 –
See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.

Check the context of this verse: It is speaking of the historical military destructions of Assyria and Egypt.

Jer 4:13 –
Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!

Again check the context of this verse: It is about the invading armies of the Chaldeans.

Compare:

Jer 10:13; Jer 51:16 –
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Jer 51:9 –
“‘We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; let us leave her and each go to his own land, for her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the clouds.’

Lam 2:1 –
How the Lord has covered the Daughter of Zion with the cloud of his anger! He has hurled down the splendor of Israel from heaven to earth; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.

And again in Ezekiel:

Eze 30:3 –
For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near– a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.

Eze 30:18 –
Dark will be the day at Tahpanhes when I break the yoke of Egypt; there her proud strength will come to an end. She will be covered with clouds, and her villages will go into captivity.

The context of these verses is explicitly stated as the military conquest by Nebuchadnezzar’s Chaldean army.

Ditto for

Eze 32:7 –
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.

Another military invasion is later addressed with the same cloud metaphor:

Eze 38:9 –
You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.

Eze 38:16 –
You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

And again a reference is made to Israel’s destruction “on a day of clouds”:

Eze 34:12 –
As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

Other prophets used the same image:

Joel 2:2 –
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.

Nah 1:3 –
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

Zep 1:15 –
That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness

Besides, clouds are the normal habitation of God anyway

I don’t know if this was the literal view of the author of Mark, or how many heavens above the clouds he may have believed in. But this is certainly embedded in at least one literary tradition with which he was familiar.

Job 22:14 –
Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.

Ps 18:11 –
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

Ps 18:12 –
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

Ps 68:34 –
Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.

Ps 97:2 –
Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

Ps 104:3 –
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

Wis 5:21 –
Then shall the right aiming thunderbolts go abroad; and from the clouds, as from a well drawn bow, shall they fly to the mark.

Job 22:13 –
And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?

Job 26:9 –
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.

Job 37:15 –
Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?

Isa 14:14 –
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

La 3:44 –
You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.

Clouds of creation and new creations

Clouds above are also symbolically linked with creation, or a new creation, from the time of Genesis 1:

Wis 19:7 –
As namely, a cloud shadowing the camp; and where water stood before, dry land appeared; and out of the Red sea a way without impediment; and out of the violent stream a green field:

Isa 45:8 –
“You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it.

Clouds: How people can see the location of the unseen God

Isa 4:5 –
Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.

Isa 14:31 –
Wail, O gate! Howl, O city! Melt away, all you Philistines! A cloud of smoke comes from the north, and there is not a straggler in its ranks.

1Ki 8:12 –
Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;

2Ch 6:1 –
Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;

The coming of one like the Son of Man in Daniel

Dan 7:13 –
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

The coming of this “Son of Man” is within the realm where one expects deities to travel. The coming is, moreover, to another station within the clouds,  namely the throne of the Ancient of Days. The context again explains that this “coming” is effecting a change of rule on earth. A kingdom is falling, and freedom is given to “the saints of the Most High”.

The kingdoms Daniel references are those of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander and Seleucus (son of Antiochus and ancestor of several more Antiochus’s). I side with interpreters who see this latter kingdom (established at the Battle of Ipsus some 20 plus years after the end of Alexander’s empire) as the kingdom of iron, separate from all the rest. Not Rome. It was Antiochus Epiphanes, king of the Seleucid empire, who persecuted “the saints” of Judea, attempting to Hellenize the Jews. The book was written in the wake of the war involving the Maccabees.

The coming of one like the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days marked the success of the Maccabean rebellion against Seleucid rule. This, I believe, makes the most sense of the text of Daniel.

Daniel likes to describe the contests among kingdoms through the tussles of those kingdoms’ heavenly counterparts: see Daniel 10:20 and 12:1. The one like the Son of Man represents the kingdom of the saints, the people of God, the faithful Jews.

And the stars, the sun and the moon

Isa 13:10 –
The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

This is explained (see verse 19) as symbolic of the end of the kingdom of Babylon. The “cosmos” known as the kingdom of Babylon is no more.

If this is a poetic figure of speech, then how can anyone decide the next verse in Mark should be read literally?

Back to Jesus’ prophecy

Mark 13:24-26 –
But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

Read through the literary tropes above, what can this possibly mean other than the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans?

23 Comments

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-02 06:30:02 UTC - 06:30 | Permalink

    Well, it could mean what the traditional interpretation takes it to mean – the parousia at the end time when Christ will come with his avenging angels and met out justice on earth. I am not persuaded by the interpretations of Caird or N T Wright. I think Edward Adams makes a good case for the traditional interpretation in his recent book “The stars will fall from heaven”.

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-02 07:07:09 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

    You wrote:
    “Let’s imagine the same author did not call Peter “Satan” because he got his timing wrong over exactly when Jesus would act apocalyptically as in returning with angelic hosts and burning up the old physical world before inaugurating a new cosmic order, but because he was opposed to the very idea root and branch, totally, absolutely. Mark’s Jesus did not tell Peter, “Yes yes, you are right, I will come as a conquering hero, but not just yet — I have to make atonement for sins first, THEN I can do the world-conquering thing, you Satan you!”

    I think you actually got it a bit wrong about why Jesus calls Peter Satan in Mark 8:33. It has nothing to do with Peter getting things wrong about the apocalypse. The context in Mark make it perfectly clear that Jesus is unhappy about Peter´s belief that the messiah is ONLY a powerful miracleworker who will restore Israel. According to Jesus (or actually Mark who is propagating early christian theology here) Peter only got it half right – the Messiah must also suffer, die and resurrect.

    PS. I am glad I happened to find out about your blog today. I am a fellow sceptic from Sweden. But I am not impressed by the arguments by people like Doherty and Verena that Jesus never existed.

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-02 07:59:48 UTC - 07:59 | Permalink

    I could also add that I thought you made a great job demolishing Richard Bauckham and his “Jesus and the eyewitnesses”. That they have managed to put it up as compulsory reading here at the religion course at the University of Goteborg just show the rotten standards the confessionals at the theology department think they must feed the students. Bauckham, N T Wright, Ben Witherington – pseudohistorians that make my blood boil.

  • 2008-11-03 10:01:44 UTC - 10:01 | Permalink

    Just a quick response to your comment about Bauckham’s book – – – What I find the most astonishing is that so many fundamental logical errors and a complete disregard (even contempt) for historical norms (implying they are some sort of wayward post-enlightenment degeneration of true scholarship) can be found so popular even among scholars. It’s a bit like watching a new fad for astrology or something.

    I was recently in Berlin and was reminded of the time when scholars (not only in Germany) embraced all sorts of race-theory nonsense.

    My recent post on what Josephus might have said about the gospels was mainly intended to be a response to “Bauckhamism” which sees ancient historians as somehow validating the historicity of the gospels.

    Will respond to other comments later.

  • 2008-11-03 21:44:28 UTC - 21:44 | Permalink

    Hi Antonio,

    You wrote:

    I think you actually got it a bit wrong about why Jesus calls Peter Satan in Mark 8:33. It has nothing to do with Peter getting things wrong about the apocalypse. The context in Mark make it perfectly clear that Jesus is unhappy about Peter´s belief that the messiah is ONLY a powerful miracleworker who will restore Israel. According to Jesus (or actually Mark who is propagating early christian theology here) Peter only got it half right – the Messiah must also suffer, die and resurrect.

    Is this really so? Maybe, but I’m having doubts. To call Peter Satan because he is only half-right would seem a bit of an over-reaction to me. Elsewhere in the gospel he is depicted as blind and uncomprehending after his fine start. He finishes up denying his Lord, thus facing the condemnation of the Son of Man denying him at his return.

    The messiah’s glory is the cross. The Israel to be restored is the spiritual Israel — through the glory of the cross. Peter failed to spiritually discern the meaning of the miracles. He saw only the physical manifestation, and this was part and parcel of the “physical” messiah who is expected to be seen literally restoring physical Israel. Peter is off the planet, so to speak. Mark’s message is really found in the metaphorical meaning of the miracles. Failing to discern the miracles of the loaves was failing to discern the spiritual meaning. All of the miracles are parables.

    I am suspecting that Peter was Satan because of his total failure to discern Christ, and to see only the physical. If so, it is not so much the problem of getting something only half right, but of “missing the mark” altogether.

    The half-right Peter is, perhaps, a legacy interpretation from the assumption that Mark’s disciples are only redeemed after the resurrection — off-stage. I think they are not redeemed at all (is Satan only half-right and redeemable?). They are ciphers, written in the same tradition of Jewish scripture/Primary history — they are the models of the Israel that started well but failed in the end — the motif that is repeated throughout the Hebrew Bible — as a lesson for the current “new Israel”, the audience.

    I have not read Edward Adams’ “Stars will fall from heaven”, but ouch!, it is very expensive. Do you know of any discussions/reviews of it online?

    I have not had time to catch up with details of Verenna’s ideas yet. (You mean Thomas Verenna?) I actually do like the core of Doherty’s argument. There are areas where I disagree but they relate more to explanations for how the concept of Jesus and the central christian myth arose. But that’s another topic.

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-04 01:46:38 UTC - 01:46 | Permalink

    Neil,
    I think you are missing something in Mark´s carefully constructed structure in the gospel. Peter´s confession of Jesus as Messiah is actually the place that divides the two thematical halfes of the gospel. Before 8:29 Mark is presenting Jesus as the powerful miracleworker sent from God. No mention of Jesus suffering and death (except for an allusion in 2:20). It is based on what he has seen of Jesus as miracleworker that Peter confesses him as the Messiah. Jesus does not contradict Peter´s confession but tells him and the other disciples not to tell others about it. Then Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the Messiah as the Son of Man must ALSO suffer, die and and be resurrected. It is this part of Jesus teaching that Peter rejects (and here Peter stands as a symbol for all Jews and pagans who had problems with the concept of a crucified Messiah). Which is why Jesus rebukes him as Satan because Peter thinks like a human without knowing God´s larger plan, which is to redeem humankind through Jesus death and resurrection.
    When you claim that Mark sees the Messiah´s glory as the cross I think you do the mistake of reading Mark through the lens of John´s gospel. Mark actually has a rather dark view of Jesus death at the cross. Not much glory there. For Mark the true glory is shown at the resurrection and when Jesus returns at the end time (13:24).
    Neither do I quite agree with you that all miracles in GMark are parables. I don´t see much that is parabolic or metaphorical in a miracle scene like the one in Mark 2:1-12. I think Mark meant it to be taken as a pretty straightforward account of one of Jesus many powerful deeds as God´s Messiah. I also agree with scholars like Maurice Casey and James Crossley (actually fellow naturalists like you and me) who see a historic kernel behind stories like the healing of the paralytic. Casey has shown that there is a aramaic substratum behind many of the stories and sayings, and not the least that some of controversies between Jesus and the pharisees in GMark make good sense in a Galilean environment in the 30ies AD and not in the 2nd century when the according to many Jesus mythers the gospels were written. And the blessed bishop NT Wrong is absolutely right when he accuses Jesus mythers like Thomas Thompson of parallellomania.
    You can actually read a recent review of Edward Adams here:
    http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleID=6312

    Adams shows that the apocalyptic worldview of Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and other early christians fit well with similar ideas in contemporary Judaism and its pagan environment.

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-04 02:11:51 UTC - 02:11 | Permalink

    Neil,
    you are absolutely right that the kind of scholarship that people like Bauckham (and NT Wright, Witherington and an endless list of exegetes) represent has much in common with pseudosciences like astrology and creationism. I actually made that anology on Loren Rosson´s blog a few days ago.
    I also think a confessional I responded to on another blog is representative of the kind of nonsensical approach people like Bauckham take to history. The confessional wrote:
    “The only problem with the ‘methods of historical study’ is that they are dependent on current philosophical preconceptions – they are subject to changing fashions.”
    And I responded:
    “Maybe the methods some historians use are dependent on “current philosophical preconceptions” but I very much doubt that a good historian does that. It is hardly because of philosophical speculations that an overwhelming majority of modern historians dismiss the miraculous. It is based on observation of the real world out there. It´s not like we haven´t taken a deep look at supposedly miraculous phenomena like glossalia and demonpossession. The closer you look at it the less there is to it…”

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-04 14:01:54 UTC - 14:01 | Permalink

    Mark has his Jesus calling Peter Satan because Mark is using Paul as a model for his Gospel. Paul’s dislike of Peter and the Jerusalem church is part of the reason Mark has his Jesus despise Peter at times, while other times making him look foolish. I’m actually writing an article on this for a collection of essays due out next year. Mark certainly appears to have copies of Paul’s letters, or perhaps another collection of letters or poems about Pauline theology that he was using. (Most likely it was Paul’s letters)

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-04 14:09:58 UTC - 14:09 | Permalink

    Mark has his Jesus calling Peter Satan because Mark is using Paul as a model for his Gospel. Paul’s dislike of Peter and the Jerusalem church is part of the reason Mark has his Jesus despise Peter at times, while other times making him look foolish. I’m actually writing an article on this for a collection of essays due out next year. Mark certainly appears to have copies of Paul’s letters, or perhaps another collection of letters or poems about Pauline theology that he was using. (Most likely it was Paul’s letters)

    Antonio seems to make his way around the blogsphere doing little else then complain about mythicists. While his complaints may be annoying, I wish he would actually make an argument or present a position. This seems to be the way which detractors of modern mythicists work. First they complain about the arguments, they make up words like “parallelmania” without actually being knowledgeable of how ancient authors authored (If antonio would like to debate this issue, I would be more than willing to take him to task on his ignorance in this regard). Then they attack the scholars or historians who hold the opinion (labeling them as pseudoscientists like McGrath does). Yet, when all is said and done, they have ignored every attempt at clarity, have not adequately presented a case against the ahistoricity arguments, and have only seemed to accomplish making themselves look bitter and arrogant, close-minded and petty.

    I have a gathered list of some 50+ questions that Hambydammit and myself have asked of these historical Jesus proponents which have not only gone unanswered, but need to be answered in order for their positions to make sense. I can understand why these questions have been ignored – when you start with an assumption (i.e. that Jesus existed), it is easy to build a whole case around this assumption. You can even make this stack of cards look like a strong, well-built wall. But the wall is not made of stone, its made of assumptions. And they come tumbling down when examined critically. Anybody disagree? Does anybody want to take the time to answer these questions? Or shall we just hear more complaints?

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-05 04:35:03 UTC - 04:35 | Permalink

    Good that Tom Verenna and me can at last agree about something. Yes, Mark is probably a paulinist gospel. But that doesn´t take away the fact that Jesus rebuke of Peter is most propably about his refusal to see that the Messiah must suffer and die. The context make that pretty obvious. And in the scene with Peter´s confession Mark is just using Peter as a foil to indicate a kind of christology that Jesus´ disciples may have had before the death of their leader, a christology they had abandoned after the crucifixion and supposed resurrection. There is nothing to indicate that Paul or Peter had any quarells about the fact that Jesus was crucified according to God´s plan.
    And Tom is most welcome to go on talking to the air. I won´t let myself get dragged into a meaningless discussion abouth wheather Jesus existed or not. Tom will have to find himself other sparring partners on that subject.

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-05 04:58:18 UTC - 04:58 | Permalink

    The fact that you consider it meaningless is astonishing. You don’t think his existence, either for or against, could have implications historically on the foundations and origins of Christianity? Are you really going to pretend that this is irrelevant? I think your ignorance is damning if you believe Jesus’ existence is irrelevant and unreasonable to discuss.

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-05 05:05:54 UTC - 05:05 | Permalink

    There is nothing to indicate that Paul or Peter had any quarells about the fact that Jesus was crucified according to God´s plan.

    No, your absolutely right. But you’re wrong if you think this holds true for where how and by whom Jesus was crucified, and what exactly God’s plan was to them. Paul clearly did not place Jesus’ crucifixion on earth at the hands of the Romans or the Jews. It was at the hands of the heaven;y archon’s of the aions. It is unknown to us what Peter’s perspective on Jesus actually was since nothing from Peter’s own hands survive. What exactly the dispute between Peter and Paul were cannot be said with any authority and those who wish to pretend they know are deluding themselves.

    But it is clear Paul was unaware of an earthly ministry. I find it interesting that at times best suited to cite Jesus as a source of a saying to quell the discontent among the churches, Paul doesn’t He cites scripture in its place. How very quaint. Paul’s understanding of Christianity–what Paul converted into–is something I have labored hard to determine. I do not like it when people swoop in and make baseless assumptions one Pauline understanding when it is clearly not evident.

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-05 05:08:13 UTC - 05:08 | Permalink

    Oh, and one more thing…if you want me to “find another sparring partner” perhaps you should stop bringing up my name. Clearly your grasp of my position is inadequate; stop pretending you know it well enough to be able to represent it to others and I won’t have to keep correcting you.

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-05 06:54:55 UTC - 06:54 | Permalink

    Tom,
    your position is just a variation of the hodgepodge that people like Wells, Doherty and Thompson have already presented. That is why I don´t see much use in getting embroiled in a discussion like that.

    peace

  • Tom Verenna
    2008-11-05 08:54:38 UTC - 08:54 | Permalink

    It’s complaints like that will make you look foolish. You can complain all you want, but you look weak when you fail to present an argument.

  • 2008-11-06 19:51:46 UTC - 19:51 | Permalink

    I am still in the middle of moving my home and job to a new country and still have not yet had opportunities to read in depth most of the above conversation (was working in Australia Friday last week and started new job in Singapore the following Monday while simultaneously home-hunting!) — but a few interim comments from what I skimmed:

    Antonio, thanks for your comments. There is another way of viewing the 2 halves of Mark’s gospel, and the import of the miracle section. The miracles are not in isolation, but within the context of the “kingdom being at hand”. But you raise other points re the darkness of the cross in Mark, and the “also suffers” element, that I would like to take more time to address in a future post, maybe.

    Secondly, you said that N.T. Wright was absolutely spot on with his claim that TLT is a victim of parallelomania, while appearing to strongly endorse Adam’s argument for reading Mark within the matrix of Stoic and Jewish apocalypticism. I have not read Adams, but did skim the linked review, and it appears that Adams’ case draws heavily on Hebrews, 2 Peter, Revelation, (and avoids Daniel 2) and Stoic and Jewish apocalyptic literature.

    Question: in what way does Adams argument differ in method from T.L.Thompson’s? If TLT is guilty of parallelomania for apparently “seeing parallels” between literatures, on what basis is Mark to be seen, rather, within the context of Stoic and Jewish apocalyptic — if not by “parallels”?

    In what sense are Hebrews, 2 Peter and Revelation relevant, if not by “parallels”?

    Where does “parallelomania” end and “literary matrix/influence” begin?

    Third: Another point re parabolic meaning of miracles. The bookend allusions between the miracle of Mark 2:1-12 and the Passion scenes are legion, as I have discussed elsewhere. There is a very strong case for metaphorical intent here. But will have to discuss more fully when opportunity arrives.

    4. Re Crossley’s arguments on the first century Galilean context of some of Mark’s exchanges, he’s on my “to do a review list” for this blog. But that won’t be done tomorrow. In the meantime there are two online reviewers who fail to be convinced by Crossley’s arguments for the early dating of Mark:

    http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4577_4671.pdf
    http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4577_4907.pdf

    Cheers,
    Neil

  • 2008-11-07 17:33:39 UTC - 17:33 | Permalink

    Antonio, can you direct me to N.T. Wright’s parallelomania judgment re Thompson, pls?

    Do you find it ironical that others lay the same charge against Albrightians?

    Thirty years ago there was general agreement in the field of biblical studies, then dominated by the towering figure of W. F. Albright, but with a host of other luminaries, now all deceased, in accord: Theodor Gaster, H. L. Ginsberg, Harry Orlinsky, G. R. Driver, Roland de Vaux, Otto Eissfeldt, Benjamin Mazar, Yigael Yadin, and others. Of that generation of giants, the only one still alive today is my own teacher, Cyrus Gordon . . . .

    True, this group later would come under attack by what their detractors would term “parallelomania,” and true some of these great scholars often went too far in making connections between the Bible and the ancient world. From Rendsburg.

    But I’m particularly interested to learn how Wright distinguishes between parallelomania and genuine literary influences.

  • 2008-11-18 22:00:27 UTC - 22:00 | Permalink

    Antonio wrote:

    But that doesn´t take away the fact that Jesus rebuke of Peter is most probably about his refusal to see that the Messiah must suffer and die. The context make that pretty obvious.

    My comment:

    This interpretation has to omit the significance of Mark’s Jesus castigating Peter’s views as culpably “human”. The interpretation of the context needs to give this comment of Mark’s Jesus due significance to be valid. The reason Peter’s “christology” is wrong is because it is a “human” interpretation — it is a mindset “of the things of men”. This is what the context of the passage explains through the words of Jesus. And this point is reinforced elsewhere in the gospel (e.g. “how long must I endure this generation . . .”) It is this “human” factor that Mark interprets as Satanic or opposed by nature to the things of God. And that is what puts the gospel within the literary tradition of the theology underpinning the Jewish scriptures. Hence Thompson’s case. I would go a step further and argue that Mark presents the literal interpretation of both Jesus (his miracles and words) and the Jewish scriptures as “human” — and this includes the literal view of the “christology”. Mark is subverting the human and the obvious by the “spiritual” or allegorical (parabolic??) at every level.

    And in the scene with Peter´s confession Mark is just using Peter as a foil to indicate a kind of christology that Jesus´ disciples may have had before the death of their leader, a christology they had abandoned after the crucifixion and supposed resurrection.

    This is entirely speculative, completely beyond the text of the gospel we are reading. I suspect it relies on drawing “parallels(!)” with other texts that will need to be argued as related on other grounds entirely.

    There is nothing to indicate that Paul or Peter had any quarells about the fact that Jesus was crucified according to God´s plan.

    Agreed. Nor is there anything to indicate that the disciples somehow changed their beliefs about Jesus, and in what direction, after the story closes.

    And Tom is most welcome to go on talking to the air. I won´t let myself get dragged into a meaningless discussion abouth wheather Jesus existed or not. Tom will have to find himself other sparring partners on that subject.

    I wish you would have stayed to cite the passage and location where I could have read Wright’s critique of Thomas Thompson’s “parallelomania”, and to have explained the difference between “parallelomania” and comparing the (um, parallels with) the texts of 1 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation, etc etc to those in Mark.

    Cheers,
    Neil

  • Antonio Jerez
    2008-11-20 07:41:42 UTC - 07:41 | Permalink

    Neil,
    sorry for being a bit late in answering, but I happened to be away on a holiday to Turkey and finally got home again.
    1. Did I say N.T Wright complained about Thomas Thompson´s “parallelomania”? If so I was actually talking about his alter ego N.T Wrong. I read it on his blog a while ago. And to give you a friendly advice from one naturalist to another: I think both of us can learn more on biblical matters from bishop Wrong than from Tom Verenna and other Jesus mythers.

    2. I still advise you to read Adams book. It helps clarify the contexts of the cosmology of the NT writers.

    3. Regarding Crossley and Casey. It is worth reading their books too. I do not agree with Crossley´s early dating of Mark´s gospel but that still doesn´t invalidate the conclusions of Crossley and Casey that the gospels contain genuine historical traditions that appear to go back to the early 30ies AD.

    4. Again. The context of Jesus saying in Mark 8:33 make it clear that Jesus is referring to his teaching that he must suffer, die and resurrect and Peter´s denial of this. You really have to read things out of context to conclude that Jesus calls satan because he has not understood the spiritual meaning of Jesus parabolic talk troughout the gospel. And Jesus is taking Peter to task for seeing things through human eyes when he thinks the Messiah has not come to this world to suffer, die and resurrect. From a divine viewpoint (which Jesus sees) God has willed it so that his Messiah must suffer, die and resurrect. Implicit in Mark´s gospel (more clearly spellt out in GMatthew and Luke) is the idea that after the resurrection and the arrival of the holy Spirit to guide the disciples it will be clear that God had laid out his plan all along through the prophets (Servant verses in Isaiah etc) in the OT. After the arival of the Spirit the blind eyes of the disciples will finally be opened and they will see things like the Servant verses in Isaiah in a new light.
    That is my take on things…

  • 2008-11-25 09:50:50 UTC - 09:50 | Permalink

    Istanbul, Turkey, Turks (one in particular) are some of my most favourite places/people so your delay is forgiven.

    1. I love Bishop Wrong’s wit, and often find him enlightening. But I also have to note that once or twice I have found myself having to inform him of my disagreement with an argument or point of his (under his other name on another site), however much I enjoy the wit of his original case. I would probably find myself in disagreement with a claim that TLT is a parallelomaniac. I had read much of Thompson’s work prior to his Messiah Myth, and concede that often TLT can be his own worse enemy with a style that takes too much for granted in his readers. I have found TLT to be the most trenchant of critics re the sham “methodologies” of so much of biblical scholarship, and his studies of Mid East literature is not so much a series of parallels but an analysis of cultural themes and motifs informing the cultures and their local variations and adaptations. Long before his Messiah Myth TLT’s challenge to traditionalists that “messiah” was a formal term applied to royals has never been answered, as far as I am aware. And his distinction between the literary/ideological and the historical/biographical is too rarely addressed.

    As for the “Jesus Mythers” epithet, the term leaves me cold. I don’t understand it or it’s point. I am not the least interested in arguing that Jesus was a myth. I don’t see the point of such an argument, if that is what “mythers” are supposed to be doing. What interests me is understanding and learning about the origins of Christianity — and a quick survey of books I have discussed here would show probably not more than one author who holds a mythical Jesus position. I do believe that the evidence best points to the emergence of Jesus as a theological evolution from Second Temple times, and I do not apologize for agreeing with many of Doherty’s arguments. (I think Doherty has too often been unfairly misunderstood and misrepresented, by the way. Though Doherty himself knows I do not agree with some significant parts of his argument.)

    My sources for understanding early Christianity will continue to be wide and varied, with an emphasis on the recent and not so recent scholarship from a number of areas.

    2. I have read much of ancient cosmology, and have no doubts that I will read much more, probably Adams, too. But I wonder if you are assuming I reject the significance of this cosmology for early Christian literature on the basis of what I have said in specifics about Mark. Of course Stoic and other apocalyptic cosmologies etc informed much of the early Christian lit, but Mark raises some unusual questions, and we should not take a default position either way with him in this question. Your comment here is about the impact of cosmology on NT writers. I have never argued against the obvious.

    3. Early traditions do not of course establish historicity. And the term “tradition” is itself laden with presuppositions of a certain model that should be questioned. Besides, some of those “early” “traditions” (rather, debates) were very much alive, perhaps even with more evidence to back this up, in the second century than the first, as so often taken for granted.

    4. This is clearly a discussion that requires its own space. Again, as with the cosmology misunderstanding, I think you are reading too much into what I have said. I certainly do not dismiss the centrality of Jesus’ suffering and death etc, but the matrix within which Mark addresses this is stripped away completely in later gospels to give it a quite different gloss. But this is best seen by interpreting Mark through the literature that has preceded him (bring in TLT again, if you will), not that which has come after (GMatthew, GLuke). Have been looking forward to discussing this in more depth sometime soonish, I hope.

  • Tony
    2009-05-06 12:09:12 UTC - 12:09 | Permalink

    Mat 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

    Mat 16:22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

    Mat 16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

    Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

    Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

  • will
    2009-05-09 03:04:49 UTC - 03:04 | Permalink

    Satana’� of Aramaic origin corresponding to (4566) (with the definite affix)
    Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
    Satanas 7:151,1007
    Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
    sat-an-as’ Noun Masculine

    Definition
    1.adversary (one who opposes another in purpose or act), the name given to
    a.the prince of evil spirits, the inveterate adversary of God and Christ
    1.he incites apostasy from God and to sin
    2.circumventing men by his wiles
    3.the worshippers of idols are said to be under his control
    4.by his demons he is able to take possession of men and inflict them with diseases
    5.by God’s assistance he is overcome
    6.on Christ’s return from heaven he will be bound with chains for a thousand years, but when the thousand years are finished he will walk the earth in yet greater power, but shortly after will be given over to eternal punishment
    b.a Satan-like man

  • Jack C.
    2009-06-08 15:29:33 UTC - 15:29 | Permalink

    You should know that Tom Verenna is a known plagiarist and liar. Read about it here: http://thomasverenna.blogspot.com

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