Criterion of Embarrassment

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by Neil Godfrey

Tim Claason responds to the “criterion of embarrassment” by listing several reasons why the gospel authors would want to depict the disciples of Jesus as blockheads. See his post Criterion of Embarrassment on Tim Stepping Out.


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14 thoughts on “Criterion of Embarrassment”

  1. In my view, the answer to this question is quite disastrous to not only Jesus’s historicity, but also to the Apostles.

    From a mythicist, or historicist, point of view, there is reason to think the council of 12 didn’t exist before Jesus was resurrected, since Paul seems to think having an “experience” of the risen Jesus was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of being an apostle (“Have I not seen …,” 1 Corinthians 9:1).

    In Mark’s gospel, the dullardness of the apostles fits in with the idea that the first will be last and the last will be first in the coming Kingdom, which fits in with Jesus too as a backwater preacher from nowhere Nazareth whose family thinks he’s crazy and who can’t perform miracles in his hometown.

    1. Why do you think his family thought him crazy? I have looked at the episode Mark 3:21 and there is no indication of his family being involved or even that he was called mad. Given the context that a crowd was swarming his house so that they couldn’t even eat, there must have been a large obtrusive crowd that explains how Jesus could be in danger being overrun and lose his balance from which he was to be saved by some of his
      companions who took hold of him. I always considered the accepted translation as quite ludicrous and unnecessary embarrassing unless my better fitting translation was considered even more embarrassing, or there was some strange reason to implicate the family of Jesus that btw wasn’t even introduced at this point(another giveaway that it doesn’t fit here).

        1. No, literally it says he lost his balance, and that is exactly what happens when unruly crowds try to get to you so that is in context the best translation. The gospel of Mark has that as a recurring theme, so why not here?
          Christian translators are to blame for this mess, they consistently change words where the literal meaning is to lose balance or fall into amazement or astonishment and in this case even madness.
          Best other example is the scene with the lame dude coming through the roof, a really funny episode. After Jesus commanded him to take up his mat and go home he has to work his way to the door in a room that is packed with people so as a result they all lose their balance, but translators say they were amazed instead.
          I am convinced most scenes where this mistranslation applies, and there are a lot of them, are meant to be read as lively comedy but are killed in translation and changed to reverend amazement.

          1. Losing his balance?? So his friends heard that he was losing his balance so they went out to help him stay on his feet. . . . I think that’s a far more comical translation than the conventional one.

            1. Now you get it, it’s comedy just like I said it was. And it was sort of embarrassing too. The following scene only confirms it. Some scribes from Jerusalem are looking at the hubbub just described and gloating over it. They say he is like Beelzebul, the lord of the flies or dung heap, dubbing him to be only a champion of the poor and destitute. You could say that was a Hillaryous remark as it sounds just like a “basket of deplorables”.

          2. I made a claim: “The gospel of Mark has that as a recurring theme”. Just forgot to substantiate it. If you want more substantiation look for yourself, they are all over the place.

            3:9Jesus asked His disciples to have a boat ready for Him so that the crowd would not crush Him.

            The early popular success of the confidence trickster gave him a problem that threatened to overwhelm him, but he tried to remedy it, still the crowd was a not so easily controllable beast to cope with.
            I like the comedy. 🙂

            1. Come to think of it, Life of Brian sports the ὄχλος jokes also prominently. With real connoisseurs exploiting the theme, I rest my case on this one.

  2. This issue has always amused me. Almost everyone gets this wrong because they lead off with starting assumptions that are completely unverified or indeed unverifiable. Most people assume that the the Gospel writer were trying to write a biography with the intention of founding the current state of Christianity. This is an awfully big assumption and one that I think is totally wrong. I could be wrong, but at least I’ve stated my position and made a case for it, not just assumed from the start.

      1. 4:34He did not say anything to them without a parable. But privately He explained all things to His own disciples.

        So the disciples didn’t understand the parables and he had to explain it privately to them. Somehow I have the feeling even after explaining they still didn’t understand. 🙂

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