2016-06-01

On Parallels

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

boy-girl

Image from a related post: When is a parallel a real parallel?

How do we determine the best way to interpret patterns and parallels between the Gospels and other literature?

Here is one parallel that someone asks us to consider:

Fishing for men.
While at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus predicted that his followers would fish for men.
“From now on you will catch men.” Luke 5:10

Titus’ followers then fish for men on the Sea of Galilee.
“And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels.” Wars of the Jews, 3, 10, 527

I am not convinced for the following reasons:

There is no overlapping of theme or idea. The context of the passage in Luke tells us that the idea of “fishing for men” is to “catch” disciples, converts. The metaphor originates in Jeremiah where it means judgment:

“But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. — Jeremiah 16;16-17

So the evangelist (author of the Gospel) has inverted the metaphor from one of condemnation to one of salvation.

The Josephus passage makes no reference to “fishing” and any normal reading of the slaughter would scarcely bring to mind images of “fishing”.

The reason I am persuaded that the Lukan saying is taken from Jeremiah and not from Josephus is that it matches a core criterion often listed as a vital indicator of a genuine literary relationship:

Dennis MacDonald calls it “interpretability”. I have summarized the idea as:

interpretability or intelligibility — the capacity of the original text to make sense of some detail in the new work (e.g. Is there some detail or theme in a story that has mystified modern readers over why it was included, with a satisfactory explanation appearing if the author knew another text where the same detail made more sense? Sometimes borrowing from another text may produce awkwardness or some incoherence in order to fit it in the new work.)

Andrew Clark calls it “parallel theme” and says it adds meat to other indications of borrowing:

parallel theme – this cannot stand on its own but adds strength where it exists to other criteria

Thomas Brodie also uses the term “interpretability” — “or the intelligibility of the differences”

Differences will sometimes be very great, but what counts is whether the differences can be explained in a way that deepens our understanding of the new text. Sometimes such explanations can reveal new surprises about the nature of the reworked document.

One may object that the proposed parallel between Luke and Josephus in the above example may not work on its own but does carry weight when set in the context of a number of other parallels. My objection to this argument is that there is no reason to see the massacre in the sea as a parallel at all no matter what setting it appears in.

Is it possible that the evangelist has used both Jeremiah and Josephus? Anything is possible, but since the argument for the use of Jeremiah as the source is entirely sufficient there is no need to involve the Josephan passage.

But what about the following parallels between Theudas (in Josephus) and John the Baptist, this time from Lena Einhorn:

If we — for the time being — assume that Jesus and “the Egyptian” is the same person, then we have the following situation:

1) The last messianic leader Josephus names before “the Egyptian” is Theudas. And he uses the same term to describe them (“goes”). (In Time Shift L.E. expands on this to point out that John and Jesus are described in similar terms in the NT.)
2) Both Theudas and John the Baptist gather their followers by the Jordan river. (In Time Shift L.E. adds that they are both “spiritual” leaders.)
3) Both Theudas and John the Baptist are attacked by the authorities.
4) Both Theudas and John the Baptist are caught alive, but then decapitated. And the head is carried to the authorities.
5) And last, but not least: There is not much logic in Herod Antipas having John the Baptist arrested, since John was not active in the area under Antipas’ jurisdiction (Galilee and Perea). The procurator who has Theudas arrested, however, is really the ruler of Judea, where both Theudas and John the Baptist were active.

Let’s look at point 1. Yes, Josephus links Theudas and the Egyptian though the common term “goes” — magician. Josephus classifies them as the same type of figure. In the Gospels outsiders do notice similarities between Jesus and John but Jesus is viewed as so much greater by virtue of his miracles, hence he is thought to be the Baptist raised from the dead. Otherwise the gospels devote more attention to their differences in life-style and works.

Point 2: There is a common setting, the Jordan River. And both figures are associated with large crowds there. (The people follow Theudas to the river while they come out to meet John at the river.) A charismatic leader with a large crowd at the Jordan River is one thing. But I would prefer there to be more than the setting of a leader and his following. What relationship is there between Theudas apparently promising to repeat the miracle of Joshua of parting or holding back the waters to allow a dry foot crossing on the one hand and John the Baptist who performed no miracle and was living a solitary life wilderness existence and to whom people came to be baptized on the other? I find it difficult to see a meaningful connection between these two descriptions.

But is not the Gospel somehow “transvaluing” the Theudas of history? Is the Gospel crafting a John the Baptist who stands as a more humble and pacifist foil to Theudas? We see such transvaluation in classical literature and even within the biblical literature itself. Virgil’s Aeneas is clearly a “higher” or “surpassing” foil to Homer’s Odysseus. Where Odysseus must struggle and endure hardship through encounters with Scylla and Charybdis, for example, Aeneas is more well favoured by the gods and sails right past that area without any trouble at all. Many such transvaluation type comparisons can be listed. Jesus likewise transvalues Elijah and Elisha by miraculously feeding far greater numbers of hungry mouths with far less to begin with. And so forth and so forth.

So what about John the Baptist being a transvalued foil of Theudas? It is difficult to see such a connection, I think. The connections between Odysseus and Aeneas, and between Elijah and Jesus, are strongly singled by the imitating authors by connecting distinctive and numerous or strong contextual resonances. Both “pagan” heroes are leading sea voyages and facing similar trials or temptations towards their respective destinies and both emerge victorious through parallel methods in the end. The latter text is pointedly bouncing off the former at as many points as possible to drive home the message. Ditto for Elijah-Elisha and Jesus. Both are faced with comparable situations of physical need and both perform a similar type of miracle to meet those needs, and there are a range of semantic echoes in each tale, too.

With respect to Theudas and John the Baptist, I suggest that we have very little in the way of parallel careers, goals, person-types. There is a common setting, both are leaders, both are decapitated, but those sorts of details do not match one another thematically or narrative/plot-wise. The narratives and plots and themes are very different indeed.

Point 3: Theudas is “attacked” but really his entire following is attacked. His movement was seen as a threat. John is arrested because he denounced the morals of Herod Antipas. His movement is not the issue and does not need to be crushed. We are in a different territory at this point. John being arrested and then not executed because of Herod’s respect for him (according to the Gospel of Mark) has little thematic or narrative overlap with a Roman troop charging a mob with deadly intent.

Point 4: Both are decapitated, one after capture and the other after arrest. Yes. But what reason is there to think that the gospel narrative is adapted from Theudas’s misadventure? Is there anything apart from the decapitation itself to link the two narratives? I am not sure even the carrying of the head to the authorities applies because John’s head was carried to Herod’s wife at her command, not Herod.

We do well to keep in mind Dennis MacDonald’s identification of numerous contacts between Homer and Mark and the decapitation element applying to both Agamemnon and the Baptist.

Point 5: The Gospel account of John’s arrest presents an anomaly. Why was he arrested in Galilee or by the tetrarch of Galilee if he was operating in Judea or Perea? I agree. It does not make a lot of sense. But I suggest that this detail counts against the argument that JtB in the Gospels is based on Theudas.

When it comes to John the Baptist I suspect we have all the source material we need in the Jewish Scriptures to explain his appearance in the Gospels. For example:

Malachi’s last chapter anticipates an Elijah figure to come prior to the advent of the Lord — and the Gospel of Mark alludes to this passage when it introduces John;

The Elijah figure is physically described (clothing, diet, location) in 1 Kings and in the Gospel of Mark John matches this description in clothing, diet and location;

The baptism ritual is known in early Christianity as symbolic of death and resurrection (explained by Paul) and compared with the Jewish Scripture narrative of the crossing of the Red Sea — a miracle sort of repeated at the Jordan by Joshua.

That leaves not much else. Joseph Campbell the mythologist did express some curiosity over the name of John itself being derived from Oannes, the Babylonian water god. Perhaps there was a real John the Baptist after all, although Josephus’s account does raise more questions than it answers with respect to this question.

The tale of Theudas shows us that alternative leaders could indeed find inspiration in leading followers to the Jordan River from Jewish legends. It is not surprising to find John the Baptist finding a setting within the same tradition. He does not need to have been based on Theudas to be the leader of crowds at the Jordan.

As for dates, we should keep in mind that Josephus’s account of Theudas did not appear until the early 90s while majority opinion places the Gospel of Mark around 70 CE. I have no problem dating this earliest gospel anywhere between 70 and the early decades of the second century but mention this detail by way of reminder of the implications of a thesis about borrowing. Of course this “problem” can be avoided if we think of the evangelist relying upon his own memory of the event and not having read Josephus. Nonetheless we are still bound by the details Josephus provides as the basis of our comparison.

What are some of the other criteria cited as controls to help assess literary relationships?

I copy from an earlier post on Thomas Brodie:

2. Significant similarities between the two documents, beyond the range of coincidence

Is some of this evidence strong and requiring more than coincidence to explain? Ignoring the strong evidence by focusing on the weak only obscures the question, as we saw Brodie point out in an earlier chapter.

The similarities can include:

  • genre
  • theme
  • plot/action
  • pivotal clues
  • order/sequence
  • completeness
  • tell-tale details, including details of wording

Here is part of Adam Winn’s list:

Similarities in Narrative Structure/Order of Events

Winn believes that “as long as discernible similarities exist between the two narrative structures, literary dependence is probable.” (p. 31)

By “similarity” Winn does not mean “the same”. We should not overlook that the imitating author (e.g. Virgil) was free to reverse elements within the source, leave out or add in additional structural elements. So similarity of structure, not the same structure, is the key.

By “structure” and “order of events” Winn is presuming something reasonably complex. For example, it is clear from that Virgil’s account of Aeneas among the Libyans is based on Homer’s account of Odysseus’s stay among the Phaeacians. Despite the many very significant differences, the following structure is common to both:

  • Both arrive as the result of a storm
  • Both enter the city in secrecy
  • Both request aid
  • Both interact with the local ruler
  • Both recount their sea voyage
  • Both depart after a brief stay
  • Both leave behind a people to suffer a tragedy

…….

Similarities in Specific Narrative Details and Actions

Sometimes a similar narrative structure can be almost guaranteed to borrowed from a particular source text if there is, in addition to the structure, a salient common detail.

So with the burial of Misenus in Virgil’s epic, and the burial of Elpenor in the Odyssey, we have this common sequence of events:

  1. mourning for the deceased
  2. cutting of logs for the pyre
  3. burning of the bodies
  4. erecting a tomb

To my mind that simple sequence could be found in any account of a funeral within a particular culture. Or maybe I’m being a little naive. I suppose one might point out that there are other details or structures that might make up an account of a burial: arrival or presence of the mourners, a procession of some kind, the source of the fire, etc. My point is that sometimes the order of events is not strongly persuasive that there is direct textual imitation.

But even if an order of events seems what one might expect from a common cultural matrix, the possibility of literary dependence is enhanced if even that structure is found within a similar context (e.g. taking place on a sea-shore, as is the case with the burials of Misenus and Elpenor). What clinches the possibility in this example, however, is the common detail that an oar is used to mark the graves of both characters. Dennis MacDonald, I think, would call such a striking common factor a “flag” to alert readers to the literary comparison.

…….

Verbal Agreement

Virgil wrote in Latin and Homer in Greek so we cannot expect verbal agreement between the two.

But clearly this lack of verbal agreement does not undermine literary dependence. This point is particularly important for the field of New Testament studies, a field that for far too long has operated under the false assumption that verbal agreement and verbal agreement alone is necessary to establish literary dependence. The reality is that most imitating authors wanted to avoid verbal agreement, and direct copying of an imitated work was not as admirable as creative imitation. (p. 32, emphasis added)

Obviously where there is verbal agreement we have very strong evidence for direct literary dependence. Winn’s point is that it can never be primary evidence and its absence can never be counted against the possibility of literary imitation. Think again of the Gospel of John against the Gospel of Mark.

Weight of Combined Criteria

If two narratives share a number of specific details and also share narrative structures, literary dependence is highly probable and perhaps undeniable. The weight of combined criteria, therefore, is the most convincing evidence of literary dependence . . . (pp. 32-33)

That is not to say that a single criterion can also be a very strong pointer to imitation if it is sufficiently complex or distinctive.

Do Differences Matter?

A handful of minor similarities between two largely differing texts is clearly not enough to prove literary dependence. (p. 33)

Here is Dale Allison‘s list:

  1. explicit statement by the author that he is comparing with another work
  2. inexplicit citation or borrowing (e.g. Mark 1:6 And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; . . . . ; 2 Kings 1:8 And they said to him, He was a man in a hairy garment, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.)
  3. similar circumstances in the narrative of the text (c.f. Moses crossing of the Red Sea and Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan River)
  4. keywords or phrases similar across the texts (e.g. the gospels’ story of the miraculous feeding of the 5000 and the tale of Elisha miraculously feeding 100 men with 20 loaves – 2 Kings 4:42-44 -share words.)
  5. similar narrative structure (e.g. Compare the calling of the disciples with the calling of Elisha – Mark 1 and 1 Kings 19 – Elijah appears/Jesus appears; Elisha is working/Disciples are working; Call to follow/Call to follow; Elisha follows Elijah/Disciples follow Jesus)
  6. word order, syllabic sequence, poetic resonance

And Andrew C. Clarke‘s:

  1. content – similarity in language (not necessarily identical language)
  2. literary form (e.g. distinct literary technique or motif — e.g. a double dreams in the narratives of both Peter’s call to the gentiles and Paul’s conversion)
  3. sequence – the more extensive the stronger this criterion is
  4. structure (e.g. the parallel structures of the birth of John and Jesus strongly indicates it was the author’s intention to create the parallel)
  5. parallel theme – this cannot stand on its own but adds strength where it exists to other criteria
  6. disruption of the text where the parallel is introduced – suggesting the parallel was deliberately created even at the cost of doing something awkward with the text

And Dennis MacDonald‘s:

  1. accessibility to the author of the potential borrowed text (How likely is it that the author of a text had access to another he appears to have borrowed from?)
  2. analogy with borrowings of the text by other authors (did other authors also borrow and re-write the same stories?)
  3. density of the numbers of similarities between the texts (The more details there are in common and the more closely packed these are in the two episodes the more likely it is that one text has borrowed from the other.)
  4. order or sequence of the parallels (The more closely the similar details in a text follow the same sequence of similar details in another text, the greater the likelihood of borrowing.)
  5. distinctiveness of special features of the stories (e.g. 2 stories describing how people sat down and ate is hardly a distinctive parallel, but two stories of a mass feeding similar numbers of thousands of males who sit down in similar groupings is more distinctive)
  6. interpretability or intelligibility — the capacity of the original text to make sense of some detail in the new work (e.g. Is there some detail or theme in a story that has mystified modern readers over why it was included, with a satisfactory explanation appearing if the author knew another text where the same detail made more sense? Sometimes borrowing from another text may produce awkwardness or some incoherence in order to fit it in the new work.)

Thomas Brodie points out with abundant illustrations that literary borrowing was not always as explicit and mechanical as some of the above criteria appear to assume. (I think those who devised the criteria were well aware of this but were conservative in compiling lists in order to have stronger cases to defend.) But thematic or ideational parallels are a given. Interpretability is key. Mere semantic or image matches are not sufficient.

34 Comments

  • Scot Griffin
    2016-06-01 13:22:09 UTC - 13:22 | Permalink

    “As for dates, we should keep in mind that Josephus’s account of Theudas did not appear until the early 90s while majority opinion places the Gospel of Mark around 70 CE.”

    Actually, Josephus’ War of the Jews, in which the story of Theudas appears, was published in the 70s CE. Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews was published in the 90s.

    –Scot

  • 2016-06-01 14:29:41 UTC - 14:29 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    As the “someone” who suggested that Jesus’s prediction that his followers would ‘fish for men’ was typologically mapped to the passage in Josephus where Titus’s followers literally fished for men, I would first give as stipulations that the passages fulfill two criteria of deliberate parallels. The first is sequence – the events occur at the onset of Jesus’s ministry and Titus campaign. The second is location, both events occur at the Sea of Galilee.

    As far as the passages’ conceptual relationship, I would note that your claim that the author has “inverted” the metaphor fails in terms of coherence. Why would the author of the gospels’ story have used a metaphor that he knew his informed readers would understand as indicating God’s wrath against the Jews as a term to indicate evangelism?

    Obviously the analytic position that the author used the term as he found it is the stronger platform. Note that Jeremiah’s passage had the same perspective as Josephus did in general – that the Jewish war was God’s wrath.

    Moreover your claim that: ”The Josephus passage makes no reference to “fishing” and any normal reading of the slaughter would scarcely bring to mind images of “fishing” is demonstrably incorrect.

    To verify that a “normal reading of the slaughter would bring to mind images of “fishing”” you. or anyone. can simply conduct the following test. Take Matthew 4:19 and add it to a collection of 9 other Gospels passage selected at random. On the same sheet add Josephus’s passage and ask ten random readers to choose the Gospels passage that is most parallel to Josephus’s.

    You will find that a greater than random number will choose Matt 4:19.

    Such parallels are unusual and finding one that also meets the two criteria given above strongly supports the premise that the passages were deliberately mapped. In other words, to fit all three criteria the related passage in the Gospels had to occur within a small area of text and thus had no real chance of having occurred accidentally.

    This is the case of all of the parallels I give in the Flavian Signature chapter in Caesar’s Messiah. Once the sequence is established each parallel must occur within a small area of text, which is strongest methodology against “parallelomania”.

    Many of the parallels are historical events like the encircling of Jerusalem with a wall, the razing of the Temple complex, or the AoD. Others are self-evident, but heretofore-unseen parallels, such as this one:

    Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. Luke 9:51

    Josephus, keeping in sequence, recorded that Titus then marched on to Jerusalem and, like his typological forerunner, he sent out “messengers” – his legions – before him.

    Titus, when he had gotten together part of his forces about him, and had ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, marched out of Cesarea. Wars of the Jews, 5, 1, 40

    Many of the parallels are trivial:

    19) The crowds increase

    Josephus and Luke each record the Jews’ massing around the son of god.

    As the crowds were increasing . . .Luke 11:29

    The Jews became still more and more in number . . Wars of the Jews, 5, 2, 78

    or

    20) Lying in wait And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail [Him] vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him. Luke 11:53-54

    . . . Caesar himself, [who spake to them thus]: These Jews, who are only conducted by their madness, do every thing with care and circumspection; they contrive stratagems, and lay ambushes . . .Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 121

    A number are puzzles. For example:

    “Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth?
    “I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
    “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Luke 12:51-53

    These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon.
    And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two. Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 104-105

    However a number are so intricate they prove the thesis in and of themselves, for example Josephus’ three crucified, one survives story.

    Moreover, when the city Jerusalem was taken by force . . .
    I was sent by Titus Caesar . . . to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp; as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them;
    so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.
    Life of Flavius Josephus, 75, 417, 420-421

    When evaluating Joseph bar Mathias’ crucifixion story above with the parallel Joseph of Arimathia’s story in the Gospels please be aware that for the Josephus parallel to meet the criteria of sequence it must occur within a few hundred words of text. Obviously this could not have occurred by chance.

    Please feel free to address me by my name.

    Joe Atwill

    • James D Williams
      2016-06-01 21:10:06 UTC - 21:10 | Permalink

      Dear Joe,
      Although the prospect of Caesar creating the Messiah terrifies me because of “faith-based” reasons, I am delighted that you have graciously and inexpensively provided an opportunity to generally compare your own and Lena’s and Neil’s parallels.
      We do know the Caesars do put their hand in eventually.
      “What we have here is a classic case of mistaken identity.”~~Eddie Haskell

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-02 01:04:08 UTC - 01:04 | Permalink

      Joe, you wrote:

      As far as the passages’ conceptual relationship, I would note that your claim that the author has “inverted” the metaphor fails in terms of coherence. Why would the author of the gospels’ story have used a metaphor that he knew his informed readers would understand as indicating God’s wrath against the Jews as a term to indicate evangelism?

      Far from failing coherence, such a transvaluation is at the heart of the much of the ancient literary practice of mimesis, including the bulk if not all NT allusions and reworkings of OT stories. (I gave some examples in the post.)

      Of the criteria lists I set out above, I don’t recall any of their compilers (MacDonald, Brodie, Winn, Clarke) ever relying upon just two criteria to establish a case for literary relationship. Criteria are only indicators, pointers, offering suggestions.

      Apologies for offence over linking your point as deriving from “someone” — I did link to you so anyone could see the source but I did not think it fair to come across as making it appear I was presenting your argument on the basis of just one parallel. I was only using that for illustrative purposes.

    • MrHorse
      2016-06-02 02:19:53 UTC - 02:19 | Permalink

      The link to “A little quirk in the “historical” reconstruction of the Jesus story” (Neil’s 2012 article about EP Sanders on Nazareth) is above http://vridar.org/2012/08/29/a-little-quirk-in-the-historical-reconstruction-of-the-jesus-story/

      This comment by mP is interesting –

      “The towns mentioned match, in order, the very same towns that Titus battled and conquered on [his] campaign against the Jews which ended in Masada. Its that simple.” http://vridar.org/2012/08/29/a-little-quirk-in-the-historical-reconstruction-of-the-jesus-story/#comment-16760

      • Lena Einhorn
        2016-06-02 07:20:15 UTC - 07:20 | Permalink

        Wow! Did you check? And if so, do you have the references at hand?

      • MrHorse
        2016-06-02 08:37:11 UTC - 08:37 | Permalink

        No, I haven’t. I’m not sure what to check on either side: whether mP was referring to (i) what a gospel mentioned (& which one: Mark 3?, Matt 11?, something else), or (ii) what Sanders mentioned; and, I wasn’t sure what reference to ‘towns-that-Titus-conquered’ that mP were referring to.

        Matt 11 is interesting. It starts (ESV)

        1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in *their* cities …

        Later –
        20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, *because they did not repent*. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

        25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

        Mark 3 is interesting, too. It starts with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand (as Tactitus & Suetonius recorded Vespasian as doing (Histories. 4.81–84; Suet., ‘Vespasian’. 10.7). Then (ESV) –

        7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

        13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

        • Lena Einhorn
          2016-06-02 09:00:09 UTC - 09:00 | Permalink

          So let’s check if the towns are really the same towns as those Josephus list, and in the same order!

          The more I have worked on the time shift hypothesis, the more I have found that the parallels are not restricted to the 40s and 50s — when Theudas and ‘the Egyptian’ were active and defeated. Many pertain to the Jewish war (and two to the Census rebellion in 6 CE). The common denominator seems to be, that all the parallels I have found pertain to the history of the lestai, the robbers/rebels.

  • John MacDonald
    2016-06-01 15:24:21 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

    There is a spelling mistake above. You wrote “That leaves no much else.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-01 20:47:59 UTC - 20:47 | Permalink

      “not much else” — thanks

  • Lena Einhorn
    2016-06-01 22:39:30 UTC - 22:39 | Permalink

    Neil, in your comments to the Theudas-John the Baptist parallel you omitted perhaps the most important element in the parallel: Theudas was the predecessor of ‘the Egyptian.’
    We don’t know if Theudas had the same role in relation to ‘the Egyptian’ as the Gospels state that John the Baptist had in relation to Jesus. What we know is that Theudas is the last Jewish messianic leader Josephus names before ‘the Egyptian’, and that he used the same terms to describe them.
    So now we have significantly narrowed the field of named predecessor-candidates (to ‘the Egyptian’) in Josephus’s books to one — or none.
    And it so happens that this particular candidate, Theudas
    1) Gathered his followers by the river Jordan.
    2) Was captured by the authorities, subsequently decapitated, whereupon his head was carried to the authorities.

    Assuming that Jesus is ‘the Egyptian’, I think a statistician would disagree with your statement that “it is difficult to see a connection” between Theudas and John the Baptist.

    Now with regard to the “fishing for men”-topic you bring up, this comes from a conversation on a different post of yours (Jesus and the Egyptian: What to make of the Mount of Olives parallel), where I discussed this with Joseph Atwill. I would like to formulate the discussion differently than you have above. Because as I see it (and as I formulated it then ), the clincher is Matthew 17:24-27, which you don’t bring up above. In the interest of time, I will quote myself from that earlier post:

    “When Mark 1:16-17 and Luke 5:10 have Jesus say to the disciples (who in this case are fishermen) that they will from now on “fish for people,” this of course must mean something. I first of all see it in the context of eschatological texts in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 16:16 says: “I am now sending for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall catch them [the people of Israel].” The text says that the reason for this catching and hunting of the people of Israel is that they have forsaken God, and will therefore suffer calamities. But ultimately, “I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.” Similar pronouncements on “men like the fish of the sea” are seen in Amos 4:2 and Habakkuk 1:14-17. So not only are the fish people, but the catching of them seems to have an eschatological meaning.

    Is there in addition to this also a concrete meaning? Are there any actual people/fish that the disciples are supposed to catch? Well, perhaps. Matthew 17:24-27 deals with the question of whether Jesus and his disciples should pay taxes (a very sensitive issue, especially among the robbers/rebels, and one that that had sparked the rebellion under Quirinius). The section ends with Jesus telling Peter that they are free (not to pay the tax). But then he adds: “However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
    This is mostly interpreted to mean that Peter the fisherman should pay part of his income from fishing to the authorities.
    But what if the fish are people? What, then, does that mean? And if the person caught has a coin in his mouth, what, then, does that mean?
    Well, either it means that a fish is just a fish. Or it means that Peter should make someone else pay the tax. Which often was the modus operandi among the rebels/robbers.”
    END OF QUOTE.

    The point here, and the point I have made in earlier discussions, is that yes, the links between the NT and earlier scripture, and the intrinsic eschatological message, is absolutely clear. But you can not see Matthew 17:24-27 in that light! Those verses harbor an entirely different story — a deeply political one.

    At the same time as I am writing this, I know we will not convince each other. Hardly of anything. Because that’s how we tend to function. We rarely move an inch when it comes to things that matter to us (for whatever reason). You will insist that all the parallels in the New Testament are literary-theological. And I will insist that they are both literary-theological and political-historical. And we will stick to our guns … no matter how hard we try to convince each other.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-01 23:10:51 UTC - 23:10 | Permalink

      Limiting my response at this point to the John the Baptist and Theudas connection —

      I don’t see evidence for any historical connection between Theudas and the Egyptian in Josephus. Chronologically Theudas appears first but that’s all. (I hesitate to call them messiah figures, actually. I know it is often said that Josephus refrained from explicitly saying they were messianic pretenders because he was too fearful to even hint at a reminder of Jewish messianism — but that’s not true. Josephus has no problem explaining elsewhere in relation to Vespasian that there were widespread misdirected messianic expectations at the time of the war.) I see no reason to think that a Theudas movement somehow gave rise to or somehow organically linked to the Egyptian. It’s possible, of course, but we have no evidence that I can see for it. Theudas was dead and gone by some years before the Egyptian is said to have come on to the scene.

      I don’t think statistics make a case for any particular relationship. Correlations need to be identified and understood for what they are, of course. We have high statistical correlation between the details of the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations but a literary or historical relationship is not the best explanation for these.

      To return to a theme of my post, one indicator of the coincidental nature of the correlation is the absence of any “interpretability” arising from the data.

      • Lena Einhorn
        2016-06-02 07:01:06 UTC - 07:01 | Permalink

        In a pattern, each and every point on the graph can always be given an alternative explanation. That’s the nature of the beast. And so, the pattern disappears.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-02 01:14:58 UTC - 01:14 | Permalink

      Lena, you wrote

      Matthew 17:24-27 deals with the question of whether Jesus and his disciples should pay taxes (a very sensitive issue, especially among the robbers/rebels, and one that that had sparked the rebellion under Quirinius). The section ends with Jesus telling Peter that they are free (not to pay the tax). But then he adds: “However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
      This is mostly interpreted to mean that Peter the fisherman should pay part of his income from fishing to the authorities.
      But what if the fish are people? What, then, does that mean? And if the person caught has a coin in his mouth, what, then, does that mean?
      Well, either it means that a fish is just a fish. Or it means that Peter should make someone else pay the tax. Which often was the modus operandi among the rebels/robbers.”

      and

      Matthew 17:24-27 . . . harbor an entirely different story — a deeply political one.

      The tax referenced in Matt 17 was the voluntary temple tribute, not a tax imposed by Romans. (See Commentaries.) The episode appears just after the mountain-top revelation of the superiority of Jesus. Jesus was greater than the temple (Matt 12:6) so was no more obliged or expected to pay the temple tax than God himself. But as with his baptism in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew tells us Jesus did not need to be baptised) he chose to do so to avoid offence.

      Given the nature of the tax here (voluntary, for the temple, by the Jews) the meaning of the fish hypothetically standing for an action characteristic of robbers and rebels would lose its force.

      • Lena Einhorn
        2016-06-02 06:54:17 UTC - 06:54 | Permalink

        And the fish with a coin in its mouth is just a fish?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-06-02 09:11:26 UTC - 09:11 | Permalink

          I don’t know. I haven’t studied Matthew to the same extent I’ve attended to Mark.

          A first glance has brought up a range of explanations ranging from the Talmud traditions to cultural anthropology. Matthew’s overall treatment appears to be more literal in many respects (and attracted to the dramatic yet unnatural literal scenes) than the flagrant symbolism of Mark. Fish elsewhere have a positive association in Matthew, too — as when he says a good person gives fish instead of a snake. Then there are Matthew’s textual and theological links with the Gospel of John where fish likewise are symbolic of some positive Pythagorean mystery that might deserve a place in the balance. Not forgetting some of those very old studies by the likes of Robert Eisler that sometimes yielded interesting gems relating to various cultural symbols overlapping with the New Testament — thinking here in particular of “Orpheus, the Fisher”.

          Many pathways to explore. Including Josephus! 😉

          • Lena Einhorn
            2016-06-02 09:27:07 UTC - 09:27 | Permalink

            To the lestai, the Temple authorities were as loathsome as the Roman authorities.
            And in the “fish-with-a-coin-in-its-mouth”-quote from Matthew, they seem to be talked about as one: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” If anything, this quote stresses the worldly authorities, despite the fact that they had started by talking about the two-drachma tax.

            So if the fish in this case is not a person, but just a literary construct, why would it have a coin “in its mouth”? Is the coin also a literary construct?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-06-02 19:45:35 UTC - 19:45 | Permalink

              The (“biblical”) tax is not compulsory, nonetheless. And elsewhere Matthew admonishes submission to corrupt authorities where they act or lead on behalf of God. There is also the question of when Matthew was writing and his and his audience’s contemporary situation — e.g. it has been suggested it was at a time that temple tax was collected by Rome for the benefit of a Roman temple. That’s something that might support your interpretation in some way. But I’d want to do a lot more study of Matthew and the leads I mentioned above before coming down with a strong opinion whether the fish was meant to be a symbol and if so, of what. How does the episode fit within the larger context of Matthew’s narrative, imagery and ideological messages, etc.

              It’s an interesting question and one I’ll keep an eye out for investigating as time and opportunity permit.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-02 05:57:45 UTC - 05:57 | Permalink

      At the same time as I am writing this, I know we will not convince each other. Hardly of anything. Because that’s how we tend to function. We rarely move an inch when it comes to things that matter to us (for whatever reason). You will insist that all the parallels in the New Testament are literary-theological. And I will insist that they are both literary-theological and political-historical. And we will stick to our guns … no matter how hard we try to convince each other.

      I hope I don’t come across as stubborn for the sake of holding on to an opinion, Lena. I think you do raise too rarely considered issues to discuss, a number of details I have wondered about. Some of your specific conclusions I think would be best tested against existing explanations for the data and tested for falsifiability against predictions or expectations that should arise from them.

      There are so many factors that can be related to the production of the canonical Gospels and Richard Carrier has addressed many of these as “background information” in his On the Historicity of Jesus. What your work has done is to revive details in Josephus to be added to that background information to be factored in to historical inquiries. Questions also arise in relation to what Josephus was attempting to convey with his history. I’m particularly curious about certain names that overlap with persons in the Gospels and some of the curious scenes they are found in (e.g. Simon at the end emerging from underground and the method of his execution in the Roman Triumph.)

      My own views have changed considerably over the years and I expect they’ll change further in the future.

      • Lena Einhorn
        2016-06-02 07:03:12 UTC - 07:03 | Permalink

        Great. And I’m grateful that you are bringing up my book for discussion.

        • Kunigunde Kreuzerin
          2016-06-02 08:08:34 UTC - 08:08 | Permalink

          And we are very grateful that you join the discussion. Thanks

          • Lena Einhorn
            2016-06-02 08:17:32 UTC - 08:17 | Permalink

            It’s a pleasure!

  • Giuseppe
    2016-06-02 07:44:35 UTC - 07:44 | Permalink

    Let the reader remember that Lena’s theory gives a solution for this apparent enigma.

    I am curious to know other alternative parallels that explain the enigmatic occurrence of Abba in Mark 14:36 when seen in relation with the Barabbas episode.

  • 2016-06-02 14:13:54 UTC - 14:13 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    No, your claim that the Gospel’s author attempted a metaphorical shift from Jeremiah’s metaphor using the term ‘fishers’ to indicate the catching of men to evangelism is clearly incoherent. That is to say, it would be very difficult for a reader to comprehend. It is not a coherent “transvaluation” as is the case with your example of Jesus being the greater prophet because he fed more people than Elijah.

    In Elisha/Jesus the stem concept is not abandoned, but forms the basis for a reader to understand who is the greater prophet. What you are suggesting is that the Gospel’s author created a ‘fisher’ metaphor with an entirely different meaning than the stem, which of course is already a ‘transvaluation’ of the term ‘fisher’, in that Jeremiah is indicating the catching of men not fish. Way too complicated for a reader to comprehend.

    Anything is possible in literature, of course, but compare your complex conjecture to the parsimony of the parallel I propose, which uses the same occulted meaning as the stem. This fact, of course, supports my interpretation as it is far fetched to maintain that the Gospel’s author accidentally used Jeremiah’s metaphor at the same location where Titus fished for men.

    To your point of the various criteria proposed by the parallel gurus, I would note that one must weight the evidentiary power of the different proposals. Concepts that are parallel enough to be recognized by a greater than random number of readers that occur in the same sequence must be accepted as deliberate. The reliability of the rules of probability demands this and against such evidence, the other criteria are meaningless.

    Joe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-02 19:57:58 UTC - 19:57 | Permalink

      Your approach to the place of transvaluation in ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish literature flies against what is widely recognized and analysed by classicists, literature scholars and increasingly among biblical scholars. That’s simply how mimesis (and haggadic midrash) worked. It was as common as the air we breathe in the literature of the day. One only has to read Virgil beside Homer to see the most well-known example. It was taught by the rhetoricians and anyone who learned to write and read Greek in the Hellenistic and Roman eras was familiar with it. The NT epistles express the idea almost every time they touch upon an illustration from the OT. One sees it in the noncanonical Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. Of course Jesus is presented as a greater than Solomon, a greater than Elijah, a greater than the Temple…. and he is greater through explicit inversion of the physical to spiritual, of administering death to administering life, etc. etc etc

      This is all very basic information about ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish literature. It’s certainly not “my” theory or interpretation.

  • 2016-06-02 14:33:55 UTC - 14:33 | Permalink

    Hi Lena

    First, since the Gospels foresee the Roman war and men are described as ‘fish’ it is clear that the fish with the gold coin in its mouth is related to Wars, 5, 15, 548, where Josephus describes Romans slitting Jews open to get the gold coins they hid in the bellies.

    This may relate to the following passage wherein Titus – now owning Judea, as the Passover forty-year cycle will soon come to an end with the fall of Masada – placed the country for sale and then demanded all Jews pay him the Temple tax. My conjecture is that the passage creates a puzzle.

    “About the same time it was that Caesar sent a letter to Bassus, and to Liberius Maximus, who was the procurator [of Judea], and gave order that all Judea should be exposed to sale for he did not found any city there, but reserved the country for himself. However, he assigned a place for eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus, and is distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs. He also laid a tribute upon the Jews wheresoever they were, and enjoined every one of them to bring two drachmae every year into the Capitol, as they used to pay the same to the temple at Jerusalem. And this was the state of the Jewish affairs at this time.” Wars 7, 6, 216

    So the puzzle is how did the 960 Jews holding out at Masada pay the temple tax Titus demanded?

    I won’t go in to my speculation as it is too long to post – and too conjectural as it requires a posit concerning how the Flavians viewed taxation – but will simply point out that the numbers 960 minus 7 (survivors of Masada/children of god who don’t have to pay the tax as they will form the origin of Flavian Christianity) minus 800 – the number Titus had already received ‘payment’ for – equals 153 – the number of ‘fish’ pulled out of the sea at the conclusion of he Gospels.

    If you actually try to work the ‘puzzle’, well, good luck.

    Joe

  • 2016-06-04 14:47:32 UTC - 14:47 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    I am not contesting the existence of the genre – the entire NT ‘transvalues’ the OT – only your use of it as an explanation as to why the Gospel author used Jeremiah’s term ‘fisher’. Please note that in your Elisha/Jesus example the transvaluation is coherent because the stem concept is unchanged. Jesus is the greater prophet because he feeds more people. The stem concept is left intact and therefore a reader can understand the author’s point. What you are suggesting is that the Gospel author changed the meaning of Jeremiah’s stem concept but expected that his readers would nevertheless see Jesus’s evangelism as a transvaluation. This would be the equivalent in your example above of changing the story from one about feeding people to one which describes Jesus capturing sheep.

    As a genre, transvaluation is comprehensible when one text reworks a simple stem concept from another text to make a simple point like who is greater – Jesus is ”greater’ than Solomon. Transvaluation is not comprehensible when it changes the meaning of the stem concept. An example of a comprehensible transvaluation would be my linkage to Josephus’s ‘fishing for men’ passage because the stem concept remains the same.

    As far as your appeal to authority that ‘fishers’ is ‘widely recognized’ as transvaluation; would you mind passing along the citations? I want to read the explanations as to what the Gospel author thought was being transvalued and how a reader was supposed to understand his point.

    Joe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-05 20:18:18 UTC - 20:18 | Permalink

      Firstly, transvaluation is not a genre but a process, a technique, if you will. Secondly, transvaluation is a particular outcome of a process of intertextuality. Intertextuality as practiced by ancient authors did indeed regularly change the meanings of “stem” words. One such means by which they did so was the use of irony: peace for war, ease for struggle, favour for disfavour, etc. One sees this at work throughout the best known instances: Virgil’s use of Homer.

      It’s called “word-play”. We all understand it perfectly well.

      Changing meanings through use of irony or puns or metaphors is what the human mind is especially good at and what it enjoys throughout all cultures. It’s what makes language “fun”, or “interesting” — “poetic” even. The “stem” concept is easily recognized and the new meaning it is given is for that reason registering with all the more “punch” for the reader/hearer.

      As for recognizing the fisher reference in the gospels Bibles with comprehensive marginal or footnotes will direct readers to the associated passage in Jeremiah/Matthew or Mark. (e.g. the Ellicott commentary at http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jeremiah/16-16.htm) There are more of the same references in the various commentaries listed at https://www.studylight.org/commentary/jeremiah/16-16.html
      — Biblical Illustrator,
      — John Gill’s Exposition,
      — Commentary Critical and Explanatory — including the Unabridged version,
      — Notes of Dr Thomas Constable. See also Driggers’ Following God Through Mark (link is to the relevant page on Google books), evangelistic blog sites such as High Calling; even Wikipedia…. I’ve just dug those references up in a very few minutes and they are one’s I don’t recall ever seeing before. I have not yet begun to go through my own shelf books on Mark.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-05 21:34:14 UTC - 21:34 | Permalink

      Of course the “stem” in question is not “fishers” or “fish” per se but “fishers of men/fishing for men”. That’s a striking image that can be turned to a positive or negative connotation according to context.

  • 2016-06-06 14:35:05 UTC - 14:35 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    First, please note that a literary “technique” that creates a “particular outcome” is a genre.

    Second, of course individual words are changed. I never wrote otherwise. My point is simply that the “stem concept” has to be parallel enough to the transvalued one to be comprehensible. In the case of ‘fishers’, Jeremiah’s stem concept of violence is too oblique to evangelism to be a strong candidate for the Gospel author’s occulted meaning.

    Which is why, presumably, none of the critics you referenced mentioned anything about the concept having been transvalued.

    Though anything is possible in literature, my interpretation is stronger. It is not only more parsimonious in terms of the concept but it fulfills the requirement of location. This is obviously a strength in that within the Moses/Jesus typology that Matt 4 is part of, location was one the elements that built the mapping.

    My interpretation is also stronger in that it continues the typological genre the Gospel author was engaged in. We should never presume an author has switched genres if the interpretation that he continues with it is more coherent.

    Joe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-06 16:31:29 UTC - 16:31 | Permalink

      I am using the word “genre” in the same sense as do the scholars I have cited (e.g. MacDonald, Brodie, Clark, Winn, Allison) and in the same sense as do other scholars writing on genre in the many, many posts I have made on gospel genre and what the scholarship says about it here at Vridar. Transvaluation is a practice that can be found across all genres, as can, say, alliteration, puns, intertextuality, etc. Examples of what is normally meant by the term genre as I use it can be found here.

      It is probably true that the particular references I cited to demonstrate the universality of the idea that the gospels transvalue the text of Jeremiah do not use the specific literary critical word “transvalue” but of course they DO clearly and directly argue that the gospels do indeed appear to transform the meaning of the Jeremiah text in the same way that I have been explicitly saying is the meaning of transvaluation.

      They do indeed recognize that an image of administering death has been, through word-play and new application, been changed to an image of administering life. Fishing for men as in the sense of hunting to punish has been transformed into an image of salvation. They all recognize and discuss that process — which is exactly what I have meant by the term transvaluation.

      The point I have been making is not changed at all whether we use the term transvaluation or rose or any other name — if words have any meaning and it is the meaning we are addressing.

      Since it is widely recognized that the gospels’ reference to “fishers of men” is a transformation (or transvaluation) of the Jeremiah expression then I think it is reasonable to conclude that the same association or link — and transfer of meaning or value of the image — was also understood by the evangelists themselves.

      Given that it is a commonplace in the Bible commentaries that the gospel image derives from an adaptation of the Jeremiah passage I think it is reasonable to argue that Jeremiah is the source of the image found in the gospels, and that just as the gospels transform other OT motifs and characters from physical to spiritual, from violent to irenic, so it is reasonable to accept that they have done the same with the Jeremiah image of fishing for men.

      If you don’t find that explanation more coherent than your own then we must agree to disagree.

  • 2016-06-06 20:19:33 UTC - 20:19 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    A genre is simply the use of a literary technique to produce a type of writing – “a strategy used in the making of a narrative to relay information”. No sensible NT critic would ever exclude either ‘transvaluation’ or ‘typology’ from the term. I would be amazed if you could provide even a single citation where any critic has done so.

    It is certainly true that your “particular references” in the prior email did “not use the specific literary critical word “transvalue” you claimed but moreover even your current examples failed to “clearly and directly argue that the gospels do indeed appear to transform the meaning of the Jeremiah text in the same way that I have been explicitly saying is the meaning of transvaluation.”

    In fact, the majority I read referred to the violence inherit in Jeremiah’s term and said nothing about it being ‘transvalued”.

    Examples:

    Pulpit Commentary
    Verses 16, 17. – I will send for should rather be, I will send. Fishers and hunters, by a divinely given impulse, shall “fish” and “hunt” the unhappy fugitives from their lurking-places. There may, perhaps, be an allusion to the cruel ancient practice of “sweeping the country with a drag-net” (Herod, 3:149), and then destroying the male population: Samos, e.g. was thus “netted” and depopulated by the Persians. Habakkuk may also refer to this when he says (Habakkuk 1:15), “They catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag.”

    Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible
    The scattering of the people is to be like that of hunted animals, of which but few escape, the ancient method of hunting being to enclose a large space with beaters and nets, and so drive everything within it to some place where it was destroyed. The destruction of the whole male population was one of the horrible customs of ancient warfare, and the process is called in Herodotus “sweeping the country with a drag-net.” The same authority tells us that this method could only be effectually carried out on an island. Literally, understood, the fishers are the main armies who, in the towns and fortresses, capture the people in crowds as in a net, while the hunters are the light-armed troops, who pursue the fugitives over the whole country, and drive them out of their hiding places as hunters track out their game.

    Matthew Poole’s Commentary
    Though some interpreters make these words a promise, either of God’s restoration of this people, and making use of Cyrus, who, as a fisherman or huntsman, by his proclamation fetched the Jews out of all parts of his dominions, to return to Jerusalem; or of the calling of God’s elect by the apostles, who were God’s fishermen, and went up and down preaching the gospel in all places; yet the next verse rather guideth us to interpret it as a threatening, and by these fishermen and huntsmen to understand all those enemies whom God made use of to destroy these Jews, hunting them out of all holes and coverts wheresoever they should fly and take sanctuary.

    Geneva Study Bible
    Behold, I will send for many {g} fishermen, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and afterwards will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.
    (g) By the fishers and hunters are meant the Babylonians and Chaldeans who would destroy them in such sort, that if they escaped the one, the other would take them.

    Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible
    METAPHOR OF THE FISHERS AND THE HUNTERS
    The fishers and hunters in this passage are metaphors used to describe the thoroughness and completeness of the Babylonian destruction of apostate Israel. All of the sinful people will be flushed out of their hiding places, and none shall escape.

    Finally, you wrote:

    “Since it is widely recognized that the gospels’ reference to “fishers of men” is a transformation (or transvaluation) of the Jeremiah expression then I think it is reasonable to conclude that the same association or link — and transfer of meaning or value of the image — was also understood by the evangelists themselves.”

    May I suggest that your reasoning is circular and is exactly what we should not do? Accepting an interpretive framework simply because it is widely recognized is how NT scholarship got into a cul de sac. Let us resist the prejudicial influence of the past and look for interpretive frameworks that have analytic strength.

    Anyway, I think we’ve put a good face on the point, so let us agree to disagree and thanks so much for the exchange.

    Please have the last word.

    Joe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-06-06 20:41:03 UTC - 20:41 | Permalink

      Your final comment is merely repeating more of the very points I addressed above. Though I think you would be less “amazed” if you did read the many authors I have posted about when discussing gospel genre. You appear not to have read any works explicitly on gospel genre and ancient literary methods.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *