2012-08-17

32. Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Part 32 (Jesus an Apocalyptic Prophet?)

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by Earl Doherty

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Ehrman’s Case for Jesus as an Apocalyptic Prophet

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COVERED IN THIS POST:

  • Ehrman’s criteria for Jesus as apocalyptic prophet
  • Jesus as the Son of Man
  • Did Q identify its Jesus with the Son of Man?
  • “L” and “M” not apocalyptic
  • No apocalypticism in Q1 and the Gospel of Thomas
  • No apocalypticist in the epistles
  • Does Q’s John the Baptist know a human Jesus?
  • Between the Alpha and Omega lies an apocalyptic Jesus

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Evidence for Jesus as an Apocalypticist

(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 297-304)

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The issue of multiple attestation

Bart Ehrman now presents his evidence that

Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who predicted that the end of this evil age is soon to come and that within his generation God would send a cosmic judge of the earth, the Son of Man, to destroy the forces of evil and everyone who has sided with them and to bring in his good kingdom here on earth. (DJE? p. 298)

Referring to his criterion of “contextual credibility,” Ehrman points out that apocalyptic expectation of this sort was widespread in Jesus’ day; and he promises to show that the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus also fit the criterion of dissimilarity.

But to begin with, he stresses that

. . . the apocalyptic proclamation of Jesus is found widely throughout our earliest sources. In other words, it is multiply attested, all over the map, precisely in the sources that we would normally give the greatest weight to, those that are our oldest. (DJE? p. 299)

I think the reader by now can detect what is going to happen here. After the sweeping declaration that Jesus as apocalyptic proclaimer is found “throughout our earliest sources . . . all over the map” (we have already seen that this is not the case), Ehrman reduces that map to the narrow world of the Gospels and Acts, and his claim that these or their underlying sources constitute “our oldest”—i.e., “Mark, Q, M and L.”

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Jesus and the Son of Man

Ehrman lays out examples of Jesus’ apocalyptic preaching. Let’s look at two of these, one from Mark (this has expanded parallels in Matthew and Luke), and one from Q, using the translations provided by Ehrman:

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of that one will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38)

And you, be prepared, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming. (Luke/Q 12:39; Matthew 24:44)

The first thing to notice is a curiosity which scholars have long remarked on. (Ehrman will also discuss it shortly.) In these sayings of Jesus, when he refers to the Son of Man he sounds as though he is speaking about someone else, not himself. This is true of the great majority of the Son of Man sayings, in both Q and the Gospels.

Now look at the first quote. This is what Matthew does with it (10:32-3):

Whoever shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven.

Note that Matthew’s version is expanded into two elements, positive and negative, whereas Mark had only the negative. But Matthew has also eliminated the curiosity. No longer is it the Son of Man who will confess and deny in heaven; rather, “I”—Jesus himself—will do the confessing and denying. There is no mistaking that Matthew’s Jesus is referring to the Son of Man as being himself.

But Matthew’s version is not dependent on Mark. His dual saying is derived from Q, for Luke’s version (12:8-10) has the same duality, positive and negative, although Luke has kept the original ambiguity reflected in Mark; he has not changed “Son of Man” to a pronoun to make a clear identification with Jesus.

The dual saying is judged to be derived from Q rather than Mark because it is highly unlikely both later evangelists would independently have made such an identical expansion on their own. But a Lukan use of Matthew here should be ruled out as well, because if Luke had seen Matthew’s elimination of the ambiguity in Mark, there seems no reason why he too would not have seen the error of Mark’s ways and reproduced Matthew’s alteration. (Perhaps Goodacre would explain this as Lukan “editorial fatigue,” operating across the space of one verse.) This, of course, fits one of the principle arguments against a Lukan use of Matthew: that he never reproduces Matthean redactions of Mark.

Mark, operating through oral tradition, has either not fully remembered the Q tradition of this saying, or perhaps he has drawn on a simpler version he is familiar with. And because Luke shows the same ambiguous juxtaposition, this has to be regarded as the more primitive version present in Q, which only Matthew chose to clarify. In other words, all of this shows that in the oldest form of the idea, Jesus is made to convey the impression (probably because the tradition so regarded it) that the Son of Man was a figure who was expected but not yet on the scene. An impression created in virtually all the apocalyptic Son of Man sayings.

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Ehrman’s response

Now, Ehrman might say, “What’s the problem?” In fact, later in the chapter he claims that Jesus originally did preach the coming Son of Man, not identifying that figure with himself, and that this is the situation reflected in the oldest tradition in the Q community, taken over by Mark, Matthew and Luke. The evangelists have also taken over, at least partly from the Q tradition, a different class of “son of man” sayings which are not apocalyptic and do not refer to a future figure: the ‘biblical euphemism’ type.

In addition, Mark himself goes on to create yet another form of sayings as part of his incorporation of a Passion dimension into his story: the “suffering Son of Man” sayings in which Jesus teaches that scripture has prophesied that he, the Son of Man, must suffer and die—a dimension not found in Q. (This would reflect the Christ cult’s contention that their heavenly Son and his sacrifice had been discovered in scripture.) But by and large, the “future Son of Man” sayings have been left as Q presented them: Jesus seeming to speak of someone else, and Ehrman points to these as coming from Jesus the apocalypticist, who did not regard himself as the Son of Man.

But question-begging is surely evident here. Ehrman is assuming that these sayings were first recorded with a Jesus speaker in mind . . . . there is no compelling reason to make Ehrman’s assumption.

Using the criterion of dissimilarity, Ehrman pronounces these sayings as authentic to Jesus, since “early Christians believed that Jesus himself was the Son of Man,” and thus

surely Christians who thought Jesus was the Son of Man would not make up sayings that appear to differentiate between him and the Son of Man. (DJE? p. 306)

But question-begging is surely evident here. Ehrman is assuming that these sayings were first recorded with a Jesus speaker in mind, whereas taken by themselves they could originally have been at home in the mouths of any preachers prophesying the coming of the heavenly Son of Man. There would have been no question of identification with anyone. Given the nature of Q and its lack of differentiation between the Q prophets and Jesus, there is no compelling reason to make Ehrman’s assumption.

Moreover, there is a puzzling aspect to this point. Even by the end of the Q document’s evolution, before it got into Matthew and Luke’s hands (when several decades would have passed since Jesus’ supposed preaching), all those references to the Son of Man not being identified with the presumed Jesus founder and speaker had still not been changed, despite Q having gone through a number of redactions, with much more complex changes performed on the collection. If, as Ehrman claims, early Christians believed that Jesus himself was the Son of Man and thus would not make up misleading sayings, why would that misleading ambiguity have been left standing for so long, continuing to create an erroneous impression which would have been at odds with Christians’ own view of him? If Matthew occasionally recognized the problem and altered passages to correct it, why not the Q redactors?

It would be curious indeed if that identification of Jesus with the Son of Man was not made through several decades of Christian development and only appeared suddenly in Mark.

Now, it is possible that an actual identification between the Son of Man and their Jesus was made not by the Q people at all, but only by Mark and his redactors, and I have in fact raised that possibility in my own study of Q (see Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, p.377-8). But I am not sure how Ehrman would cope with this in view of his claim that early Christians saw Jesus as the Son of Man. It would be curious indeed if that identification was not made through several decades of Christian development and only appeared suddenly in Mark.

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Who preached the Son of Man in Q?

In regard to Ehrman’s example of Jesus’ apocalyptic preaching (Mark 8:38 and parallels, quoted above), I once again call on William Arnal’s evaluation of the Q Jesus: one cannot tell the difference between what he says and does and represents, and what the Q prophets themselves are saying and doing. We cannot tell if in fact the original form of Mark and Q’s basic saying did not have a collective reference where the attribution was concerned. Such as:

Whoever is ashamed of us and of our words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of that one will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

In other words, prophets of the kingdom-preaching sect are admonishing those of their audience who reject their message, that they themselves shall be rejected by the Son of Man when he arrives. This would be the original pronouncement of a sect which believed in precisely what Ehrman is claiming the historical Jesus believed and preached. When a founder figure was added to the Q community’s outlook, such pronouncements were assigned to that figure. We can see elsewhere in Q that little changes of attribution have been made to earlier discrete elements to work a speaking Jesus into the picture, notably in the Dialogue between Jesus and John or the set of three chreiai in Q1. Little anomalies have also been created in the process, as in leaving the neuter “pleion”—greater (than)—in reference to the new Jesus when he is being compared to Solomon and Jonah (Lk./Q 11:29-32). Kloppenborg, too, has noted the latter.

Incidentally, as ‘proof’ that “early Christians believed that Jesus himself was the Son of Man, the cosmic judge of the earth who would return in glory,” Ehrman appeals to Revelation 1:13—an example of how confining oneself inside the historicist box will skew a reading of the text. Revelation 1:13 says:

And in the midst of the lampstands (I saw) one like a son of man, clothed to the feet . . . etc.

Here the writer is speaking of a vision of Christ who—neither here nor anywhere else in Revelation—is identified with a human Jesus. Moreover, the phrase “one like a son of man,” like its counterpart in 14:14, is not being used as a title, let alone as the designation of an historical man, but in its seminal form in Daniel 7:13 where it describes a heavenly figure. Scholarship generally sees this as an apocalyptic motif drawn directly from Daniel and not mediated through the Gospel usage—of which ‘John’ shows no sign of being aware. (Could we possibly think that an apocalyptically-oriented document like Revelation, if it knew of the Gospel Jesus, would fail to draw on “early Christian belief” that the human Jesus was a figure identified as the apocalyptic Son of Man? Of course, neither does a single epistle writer make such an identification either, all of which Ehrman is forced to ignore.)

This somewhat lengthy analysis has served two purposes:

  1. to show that Ehrman is on shakier ground than he thinks in identifying a teaching of Jesus and what it says about his nature;
  2. to give an idea of the sort of thing involved in a study of Q which points to the introduction of a Jesus/founder figure only in the course of Q’s development.

Of course, there is a lot more evidence for this in Q than the points raised here, and I suggest a reading of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, from Chapters 23 to 26.

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“L” and “M” sources

Ehrman next throws in a pericope from Luke (21:34-6) about the coming of the Son of Man which is usually assigned to a postulated “L source.” It ends thus:

. . . Be alert at all times, praying to have strength to flee from all these things that are about to take place and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man. [Note again the curiosity of the Son of Man seeming to be a different figure than the speaker.]

But the point has been made that there is no way to demonstrate that the ‘L source’ is not simply a set of material of Luke’s own invention, building on motifs already within the Q and Synoptic traditions. Certainly, if one takes L or M as a whole, neither one looks like a distinct body of material circulating independently, for many basic elements of Jesus tradition show no sign of being included, to be drawn on by Matthew and Luke.

But Ehrman uses this L pericope about the Son of Man to make the following argument:

The oldest attainable sources contain clear apocalyptic teachings of Jesus, all of them independent of one another. What is equally striking, however, is a subsidiary issue. The apocalyptic character of Jesus’s proclamation comes to be muted with the passing of time. After the writing of these earlier sources, we find less and less apocalyptic material. By the time we get to our last canonical Gospel, John, we have almost no apocalyptic teachings of Jesus at all. Here Jesus preaches about something else (chiefly his own identity, as the one who has come from the Father to bring eternal life). And when we get to still later Gospels, from outside the New Testament, we actually find instances—such as in the Gospel of Thomas—where Jesus argues against an apocalyptic view (Gospel of Thomas 3,113). (DJE? p. 300-301)

First of all, the L source is hardly made up of a majority of apocalyptic material. While not all scholars are in precise agreement about the content of L, we can look at one Christian’s reconstruction of it. Kim Peffenroth [see http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_lukespecmat.html] lists some two dozen separate pericopes (excluding the Nativity and Luke’s unique Passion/Resurrection elements which are generally not regarded as belonging to L). Those which present an unmistakeable apocalyptic motif amount to precisely one: the one quoted by Ehrman (21:34-36). The situation is not much better where Matthew’s “M” is concerned. (Apparently those “earliest sources” were already muted.)

The bottom line is that neither L nor M supply much of anything for Ehrman’s contention that the “early record” shows Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet.

In fact, the vast bulk of L consists of parables (having a structure Robert M. Price regards as suspiciously alike). A parable collection, even if preceding Luke, could have been the product of anyone or any sect in the field of kingdom preaching. A few constitute miracle stories, which again could originally have represented the sect’s own traditions (following on Arnal’s observations). But since a few other L items seem designed by Luke himself to further the progress of the action (such as 9:51-56 and 13:31-33), there is little reason not to see the whole of the material as his own contribution to his redaction of Mark’s Jesus story, including his own supplement to the Q collection.

The bottom line is that neither L nor M supply much of anything for Ehrman’s contention that the “early record” shows Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Nor for his “subsidiary” claim that Jesus traditions exploded out of the starting gate laden with apocalyptic motifs which eventually underwent a muting, allegedly fitting Jesus’ preaching career as an apocalypticist and the gradual fading of its influence as time moved on. Certainly Mark several decades later shows no ‘muting’ of apocalyptic expectation over alleged earlier sources of the Gospels. But pointing to John does little either, for the Fourth Gospel’s focus is entirely on a different portrayal of Jesus (as Ehrman points out), and besides, there remains a clear interest in Jesus as apocalyptic Son of Man and judge in John 5:25-29.

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The Gospel of Thomas and Q

As for appealing to the Gospel of Thomas, this works against Ehrman. It is true that Thomas has little interest in apocalypticism and even, as Ehrman points out, has Jesus arguing against it. But Thomas as we have it is judged a mid-second century product, and its later gnostic-like stratum is concerned with salvation through knowledge, so it is not surprising that things apocalyptic would tend to have fallen by the wayside and even into discredit. The latter is in common with most second century Christian writings, which have begun to play down promises and expectations that have too long gone unfulfilled.

Concerning the early strata of Thomas and Q: There isn’t a single apocalyptic saying in the lot, much less about the apocalyptic Son of Man.
English: Image of the Last Page of the Coptic ...

Last Page of the Coptic Manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand, the Gospel of Thomas is a two-edged sword. In finished form it may have a second-century provenance, but it is recognized to contain a stratum which is not only early, it has much in common with Q1. (Crossan calls their similar content the CST: Common Sayings tradition.) You remember Q1, the earliest record of the ‘genuine’ teachings of Jesus, which the offshoot earlier stratum of Thomas corroborates? There isn’t a single apocalyptic saying in the lot, much less about the apocalyptic Son of Man. Here the Kingdom is quite a different animal. As for Q2, if all that apocalypticism goes back to an historical Jesus, we have to ask not only why such an atmosphere is entirely missing in the supposed earliest record of his teaching, but how we can reconcile the incompatibilities between the two. Q2’s apocalypticism is simply not in keeping with the sentiments of Q1. Apparently Jesus must have been profoundly schizophrenic.

Thus, there are two documents with very early strata which belie Ehrman’s claims about the preaching of an historical Jesus.

And while there is no doubt that End-time preaching was all the rage until around the end of the first century (it received a shot in the arm from the Jewish War of 66-70), Ehrman can supply no evidence that a specific historical Jesus was engaged in it. Certainly he has ignored the observations of Arnal, even in my references to him in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man.

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Apocalypticism in the epistles, but no apocalypticist
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there is a whole other body of early documents which Ehrman quietly ignores here

Of course, there is a whole other body of early documents which Ehrman quietly ignores here. There is no question that the communities which produced the New Testament epistles and Revelation were intensely interested in apocalyptic matters, even in an arrival of Jesus the Son at the imminent End-time. But this makes it all the more startling that not a single one of those writers refers to the precedent of Jesus’ own preaching on these matters.

The same is true of a range of non-canonical documents.

  • 1 Clement presents no apocalyptic prophet (he and the rest of the epistle writers of the first century do not even know of John the Baptist), despite ‘Clement’ throwing everything into his long argument but the kitchen sink.
  • The Didache contains no earthly teacher either, except by forcing God as “the Lord” into a select application to Jesus (see JNGNM, Appendix 8); nor does it show any interest in apocalypticism outside of the final chapter, where “the Lord” is expected to arrive, but with no word on him having already been here to preach that arrival.
  • Barnabas, too, while speaking in principle about a teaching Jesus, says nothing about his apocalyptic orientation.
  • The epistles of Ignatius say nothing about his teaching or apocalypticist character.
  • The Son in the Shepherd of Hermas never touches the ground.
  • And the Odes of Solomon, often interpreted as a poetic expression of Christian joy in the arrival of the messiah (despite saying nothing about an incarnated Jesus, not even the name), is as gloriously un-apocalyptic as one can find anywhere in the record.

Ehrman’s claim that Jesus as apocalyptic proclaimer can be found “throughout our earliest sources . . . all over the map” is an empty one.

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The Alpha and the Omega
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Has Ehrman read a reconstructed Q lately? . . . Ehrman has the nerve to quote from the opening of Q even in the face of a void in those verses on any link whatever with Jesus.

Ehrman now crafts an argument which focuses on the beginning and end of Jesus’ public life. The first is the baptism of Jesus by John.

That Jesus associated with John the Baptist is multiply attested in a number of our early sources. It is found in both Mark and John, independently of one another; there are also traditions of Jesus’s early association with John in Q and a distinctive story from M. Why would all these sources independently link Jesus to John? Probably because there was in fact a link. (DJE? p. 302)

Has Ehrman read a reconstructed Q lately? Where in its opening pericopes of the Baptist preaching is there any link between the Baptist and Jesus, let alone that the latter had been baptized by the former? (The occasional suggestion that the opening of Q included a baptism scene is a fringe position in Q scholarship, lacking any basis but wishful thinking.)

Where is it made clear that John is even aware of the existence on earth of the “baptizer with fire” he prophesies? (Later he is made aware in the Dialogue pericope, put together courtesy of a Q redactor.) Ehrman has the nerve to quote from the opening of Q even in the face of a void in those verses on any link whatever with Jesus. As for John, the evangelist’s use of a motif in the Synoptic baptism of Jesus is proof of his dependence on Mark (see Part 30).

And what is the “distinctive story” from M? Ehrman doesn’t inform us. If it is Matthew’s little addition to the baptism scene (3:14) in which John protests to Jesus that “I need rather to be baptized by you,” Ehrman ought to be well aware that scholars in general regard this as Matthew trying to rescue what he perceives as an objectionable Markan episode in having Jesus baptized at all.

Would that any of our sources could convey the internal workings of Jesus’ mind in the way that Ehrman and indeed many New Testament scholars have no trouble deciphering.

Ehrman applies the criterion of dissimilarity to Jesus’ baptism. Since the baptizer was traditionally regarded as superior to the baptized, who would make up a story about the superior being baptized by the inferior? Mark would, if he was only allegorizing, or presenting a scene which served to create a paradigm for the community’s own rite of baptism. He might have, if his lesson was to show that even the greatest needed to undergo the symbol of repentance. Or maybe just because he was less sensitive to the idea than later evangelists were.

For Ehrman, Jesus submitting to baptism by John showed that he considered himself in sync with what John was preaching. (Would that any of our sources could convey the internal workings of Jesus’ mind in the way that Ehrman and indeed many New Testament scholars have no trouble deciphering.) This becomes, in Ehrman’s view, evidence that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet.

Ehrman raises the other bookend: the movement which sprang up in response to the death of Jesus. Lo and behold—it was an apocalyptic one! We can see this in Paul and the other Christian writers, who were

filled with expectations that they—the Christians at the time—would be alive when Jesus returned from heaven as judge of the earth (see, for example, l Thessalonians 4 :13 – 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15). (DJE? p. 303)

One can only groan at Ehrman’s “returned” from heaven, which of course no epistle writer ever voices.

Or at his failure to take into account that almost every sectarian expression on the first-century scene, Jewish or Christian, was basically apocalyptic in nature. Did an historical Jesus inspire 4 Ezra, 1 and 2 Enoch, 2 and 3 Baruch, or the many apocalypses from Abraham to Zephaniah? Even the Zealot movement had its apocalyptic dimension, expecting the intervention of God in their anticipated overthrow of the Romans.

Between these Alpha and Omega bookends, Ehrman places his apocalyptic Jesus:

To explain this beginning and this end, we have to think that Jesus himself was an apocalypticist.  (DJE? p. 304)

As the comedian remarked, it was a long way to go to arrive at a rather mundane punch line.

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. . . to be continued

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17 Comments

  • 2012-08-17 08:10:54 UTC - 08:10 | Permalink

    Too bad that people like Ehrman or even Ehrman himself will never read any of this. It reminds me of devout Christians who would rather die than read a word of atheist literature. They don’t want to see it, hear it or discuss it…they have made up their minds that they know “the Truth” and there is no way to get through to those up there in their ivory towers.

  • Grog
    2012-08-17 08:37:48 UTC - 08:37 | Permalink

    I have only read up to the section on gThom, but I am motivated to comment. It is weighty and thought provoking posts like these by Earl that cause me to check up on Vridar. I can only say that I wish there were equally competent historicists interacting with this material.

    One other point: why not develop some of these ideas into monographs? Monographs need not be labeled with an “overarching thesis” of mythicism, but provide the bricks with which to build the foundation of a solid theory. Your analysis here on The Mark 8/Matt10/Luk 12 is insightful and demonstrates your deep understanding of Q. For that matter, why not a book on Q,itself, and who it fits the mythicist arguments?

  • alnitak
    2012-08-18 12:17:19 UTC - 12:17 | Permalink

    We can at least hope for an e-book that tells this tale. Sam Harris has marketed a couple of little ones for a few dollars, and these postings would easily serve as one. It would be a good link to include in a comment on Ehrman’s book on Amazon.

  • 2012-08-19 12:14:21 UTC - 12:14 | Permalink

    “…if Luke had seen Matthew’s elimination of the ambiguity in Mark, there seems no reason why he too would not have seen the error of Mark’s ways and reproduced Matthew’s alteration.”
    I’m not exactly an expert, but I think the simplest explanation (against this and most arguments for Q I’ve seen) is that the primary Lukan author just didn’t take Matthew as seriously as Mark – a perfectly reasonable attitude. (Never mind the assumption that ‘Luke”s version of Matthew would have been the same as ours…)
    I don’t doubt that the synoptic authors drew on other sources, but lumping them into a single, unattested Q document (or even 3, with M and L) seems a failure of imagination.

  • 2012-08-19 13:42:46 UTC - 13:42 | Permalink

    Quite the contrary. Seeing the merit of the arguments for Q requires that one follow through by examining the texts to see the actual application of an argument like: Luke never takes over Matthew’s redactions of Mark. Just to hear the basic argument stated does not have the same effect as looking, for example, at Matthew’s addition of his “Upon this rock” saying (his own invention) to Q and pondering, well, why the hell didn’t Luke use Matthew’s addition? Then you have to look at the excuse (it’s too lame to call it an argument) which Goodacre puts forward to explain why not, and judge which side has the most compelling point. And so on.

    It’s entirely too lazy just to say, Oh, Q is too complicated, it’s hypothetical, it contravenes Occam’s razor, isn’t it much easier just to think that Luke copied Matthew? THAT is “a failure of imagination.”

    I’ve challenged a couple of people with that kind of attitude to actually address the arguments in favor of Q (as I set them out in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man) and actually rebut them. If they do anything at all, it’s usually just appeal to Goodacre. Well, I’ve set out those Goodacre arguments as well and rebutted them. You’ll have to deal with those in turn.

    You say: “the primary Lukan author just didn’t take Matthew as seriously as Mark”. Did you mean “didn’t take Matthew as seriously as he took Mark”? That is about the level of some of Goodacre’s ‘arguments’ (like “Luke didn’t find such-and-such congenial”). It’s too easy a dismissal, and it’s too trite. How would you demonstrate that? You can’t just throw out a statement like that without backing it up, and show that you really understand what you’re saying based on a good familiarity with the texts.

    Understanding the arguments for Q is not simple, but rejecting it on the basis of shallow dismissal like this is simplistic. And it is that sort of thing which gives someone like Hoffmann grounds, in his mind, to dismiss us all as “bloggers”.

    • 2012-08-19 15:00:24 UTC - 15:00 | Permalink

      As I said, I’m no expert in Biblical scholarship (as I take both you and Goodacre to be), but I am a professional storyteller, used to dealing with stories with multiple variations, and feel justified in presenting my own opinions on things which are too often claimed to be beyond the layman’s ken. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, and I’d be happy to be convinced otherwise. Can you point me to your refutations of Goodacre’s arguments online?

      • 2012-08-19 19:26:28 UTC - 19:26 | Permalink

        FRDB is one forum where Earl Doherty has defended the case for Q: http://www.freeratio.org/search.php?searchid=3467987

        Earl, Burton Mack and John Kloppenborg have been able to keep me always open to the possibility of Q. I think it was Mack who lamented that many people reject Q without even taking the trouble to familiarize themselves with the in-depth arguments for it. That’s why I cringe a little whenever I read of someone dismissing Q on the grounds that it is “only a theory”. As Hurtado might say, it is a “damned well” argued theory. Evolution is also a theory, is it not?

        I am interested in following up Thomas Brodie’s arguments for literary dependence in his The Birthing of the New Testament. I have in the past had some problem with Brodie in that some of his proposed instances of literary borrowing seem to be only thinly argued. But after reading the first two chapters of his 2004 volume I am beginning to be more impressed with a substantial and well-argued underpinning of his argument. Brodie chooses not to discuss Q, but does offer his literary dependence theory as an alternative explanation to the “Synoptic problem”. I look forward to reading it further and discussing aspects of his book on this blog.

        • 2012-08-20 09:04:23 UTC - 09:04 | Permalink

          Thanks again, Neil. I’m having trouble registering with FRDB, but I’ll keep googling. ‘m too poor a boy to buy every book that interests me – if I haven’t said it before, I’m highly grateful for all the reviews posted here.

        • Grog
          2012-08-20 13:30:29 UTC - 13:30 | Permalink

          Neil, just for the record, I believe the majority of evolutionary biologists consider Evolution to be a fact,not a theory. Evolution, itself, is an observable fact. The mechanisms of evolution are theoretical, but that evolution occurs is a fact. Not to nitpick, but Q as a theory does not compare to evolution. I am not saying that Q is not a robust theory, it certainly is, and I think it does explain the evidence better than the alternative. Compared to the vast physical evidence that exists for evolution, though, it pales.

          • 2012-08-21 05:00:16 UTC - 05:00 | Permalink

            Right; evolution is only a “theory” in a technical sense. That it occurs is no more dubious than that gravity exists. When biologists refer to “evolutionary theory”, it’s usually in reference to the details of natural selection. Besides, neither I nor any scientist of my acquaintence would dismiss any theory simply for being a theory.

      • 2012-08-20 00:56:09 UTC - 00:56 | Permalink

        There are none online. You’ll have to go to my book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man (p.313-324). An e-book version on Amazon costs only $14.95.

        Everyone is free to present their opinions. But if it is clear that one does not have presentable evidence to back up that opinion, or it is notably shallow, one should not expect that they will gain much traction.

  • Fpvflyer
    2012-08-20 09:06:19 UTC - 09:06 | Permalink

    Hi, Earl,

    In Chapter Fourteen of Jesus Neither God Nor Man you discuss 1 Corinthians 15:36-49, saying that Paul teaches Jesus is the “heavenly man” with a “spiritual” body whereas Adam was the “earthly” man in possession of “natural/physical” body on earth (page 187). Jesus’s body consisted of “material of heaven” (page 195). Do you think Paul means Jesus always possessed the “spiritual” body, meaning that Jesus was never without this spiritual body? This seems to be what you argue on pages 190-191. If not, when do you think Jesus received the “spiritual” body?

    Thanks,

    Fpvflyer

  • proudfootz
    2012-08-21 11:39:30 UTC - 11:39 | Permalink

    Does it not seem that 1 Thessalonians 4:15 has Paul attributing an apocalyptic message to Jesus (here referring to Jesus as ‘the Lord’)?

    “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.”

    • 2012-08-22 13:49:03 UTC - 13:49 | Permalink

      If you take all the “words of the Lord” as a group, you find that Paul is not quoting or referring to any messages delivered by Jesus on earth, but to himself through personal revelation. This is an interpretation adopted by many mainstream scholars going back even to Rudolf Bultmann. Paul is not offering directives or information given by an earthly Jesus.

      • brettongarcia
        2012-08-22 15:43:43 UTC - 15:43 | Permalink

        The conclusion of 1 Thess. 4.15 seems to confirm an ultimate “cosmic” message: “we show are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4.17; 1 Corin. 15.35-55).

        The real nature of it all, seems to be the “clouds,” the “air,” the heavens; the cosmos.

      • proudfootz
        2012-08-23 00:07:45 UTC - 00:07 | Permalink

        That’s what I thought – I just wanted to confirm this ‘Lord’ was Jesus.

        I can’t recall if any of the ‘gospel’ tales pick up on this Pauline ad hockery?

  • Michael Macrossan
    2016-06-17 02:20:54 UTC - 02:20 | Permalink

    “[Luke] never reproduces Matthean redactions of Mark.” – Doherty

    Well, not “never”? What about for “who is it that struck you” in Mathew and Luke, but missing from Mark? (This is one of Goodacre’s examples of minor agreements against Mark).

    Mark 14:65 Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards greeted him with blows.

    Math 26:67-68 Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”

    Luke 22:63-64 The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”

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