2019-07-06

The Only Way to Make Sense of the Gospels

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by Neil Godfrey

Albert Schweitzer addressed the critical views of Bruno Bauer in some depth. I have selected only a few details to quote. I have omitted the far more extensive discussion of Bauer’s insights into the reasons Jesus’ messiahship could not have been acknowledged even by his followers, let alone anyone else in the early first century; his analysis of the sayings of Jesus and why these cannot have been historical; and more. I have pulled out only those details that point directly to certain sayings and actions of Jesus being constructed out of the life of the church.

It is only when we understand the words of Jesus as embodying experiences of the community that their deeper sense becomes clear and what would otherwise seem offensive disappears. The saying ‘Let the dead bury their dead’ is amazing on the lips of Jesus, and had he been a true man, it could never have entered into his mind to create a collision of such abstract cruelty, So here again, the obvious conclusion is that the saying originated in the community, and was intended to inculcate renunciation of a world which was felt to belong to the kingdom of the dead, and to illustrate this by an extreme example.

The sending out of the Twelve, too, is simply inconceivable as a historical occurrence. It would have been different had Jesus given them a teaching, a symbol, a view to take with them as their message. But how badly the charge to the Twelve fulfils its purpose as a discourse of instruction! The disciples are not told what they needed to hear, namely, what and how they were to teach. The discourse which Matthew has composed, working on the basis of Luke, implies quite a different set of circumstances. It is concerned with the community’s struggles with the world and the sufferings that it must endure. This is the explanation of the references to suffering which constantly recur in the discourses of Jesus, in spite of the fact that his disciples were not enduring any sufferings, and that the evangelist cannot even make it conceivable as a possibility that those before whose eyes Jesus holds up the way of the cross could ever get into such a position. The Twelve, at any rate, experience no sufferings during their mission, and if they were merely being sent by Jesus into the surrounding districts, they were not very likely to meet with kings and rulers there.

That this is invented history is also shown by the fact that the evangelists say nothing about the doings of the disciples, who seem to come back again immediately, though to prevent this from being too apparent the earliest evangelist inserts at this point the story of the execution of the Baptist.

. . . . The charge to the Twelve is not instruction. What Jesus there sets before the disciples they could not at that time have understood, and the promises which he makes to them were not appropriate to their circumstances. . . . .

The eschatological discourses are not history, but are merely an expansion of those explanations of the sufferings of the church of which we have had a previous example in the charge to the Twelve. An evangelist who wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem would have referred to the temple, to Jerusalem, and to the Jewish people, in a very different way.

The treachery of Judas, as described in the Gospels, is inexplicable.

The Lord’s supper, considered as an historic scene, is revolting and inconceiv- able. Jesus can no more have instituted it than he can have uttered the saying ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ In both cases the offence arises from the fact that a conviction of the community has been cast into the form of a historical saying of Jesus. A man who was present in person, corporeally present, could not entertain the idea of offering others his flesh and blood to eat. To demand from others that while he was actually present they should imagine the bread and wine which they were eating to be his body and blood would have been quite impossible for a real person. It was only later, when Jesus’ actual bodily presence had been removed and the Christian community had existed for some time, that such a conception as is expressed in that formula could have arisen. A point which clearly betrays the later composition of the narrative is that the Lord does not turn to the disciples sitting with him at table and say, ‘This is my blood which will be shed for you,’ but, since the words were invented by the early church, speaks of the ‘many’ for whom he gives himself. The only historical fact is that the Jewish Passover was gradually transformed by the Christian community into a feast which had reference to Jesus.

Schweitzer, Albert. 2001. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. pp. 131-136

You may have heard similar explanations for details of the life and sayings of Jesus among more modern theologians. Yet Bauer was making these observations 180 years ago. Are modern critics building on Bauer’s work? Unfortunately, Schweitzer informs us, no. From page 142:

Unfortunately, by the independent, the too loftily independent way in which he developed his ideas, he destroyed the possibility of their influencing contemporary theology. The shaft which he had driven into the mountain collapsed behind him, so that it needed the work of a whole generation to lay bare once more the veins of ore which he had struck. His contemporaries could not suspect that the abnormality of his solutions was due to the intensity with which he had grasped the problems as problems . . . . Thus for his contemporaries he was a mere eccentric.

(I have not read the relevant works of Bauer. I am relying entirely on Schweitzer’s presentation.)

 

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27 Comments

  • 2019-07-06 20:44:28 GMT+0000 - 20:44 | Permalink

    The argument(s) Bauer is criticized for making above are what we used to call, in literary study, normative. No real person could have said, “This is my body. Take and eat…” etc. Hm, why not? It just wouldn’t happen. We can’t imagine it. (Really?) When there’s nothing to fall back on but your own sense of what is or is not likely, the ground can become shaky, unless it is really obvious. I sort of agree with Bauer, but I wouldn’t base an argument on these points. Anyway, “normative” was always frowned upon by the old wise men.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-07-07 13:11:22 GMT+0000 - 13:11 | Permalink

      I accept what you are getting at, I think, to a point. I wish I had Bauer to read and not merely S’s summary. I have read more complete arguments, for example, about the “normative” response to “take eat . . . my body, etc” — and can see (stronger) arguments for B’s view as well as against. The “let the dead bury their dead” makes sense as a symbolic saying but when set against the background of its OT source where disciples were allowed to return to sort things out with their families it does become problematic — unless read at an entirely literary/symbolic level.

  • JBeers
    2019-07-06 22:02:34 GMT+0000 - 22:02 | Permalink

    Let me ask stupid questions, please, and make an argument that maybe misses the entire point in hopes of being corrected.

    From childhood onward I always assumed that the story that everyone understood was that Jesus tried to let the disciples in on the secret of his divine identity from early on. Maybe they didn’t get it all at once or had recurrent doubts, and at least with some perhaps it only gelled 100% after the the Resurrection, but they had the general idea well before the Last Supper.

    Is this not a common reading, even the standard reading, as I assumed? Was this not a common reading from the creation of the gospels? Or should I have flunked Sunday School and have I misread since then?

    If, hypothetically speaking, one has a divine entity speaking (even if simultaneously human), is there anything incongruous about the bread/wine:body/blood? A listener can easily consider it metaphorical (as I was taught at least implicitly), but a god could make it literal and could make it o.k. If your deity is telling you something, there it is, and that’s that.

    Thus I would like to be told that the disciples were not meant to know that Jesus was a deity in order to agree with Bauer’s arguments fully. If however Jesus were meant in these narratives to be known as a deity, or a possible deity, that the disciples might repeat the words of the Last Supper could make perfect sense. There is complete internal consistency if the understanding I grew up with is correct. What am I missing?

    There is a similar argument for “let the dead bury the dead” as well as other comments where at times Jesus seems to be if not “cruel” at least not as self-effacing and meek as sometimes portrayed. Being divine he’s entitled to be inscrutable, as well as potentially or eventually omnipotent and unworldly. Again, I don’t see how the narrative is not historical if the premise is accepted that he has been trying to let the disciples know about his divinity. Was he not trying? Were these comments in fact not ways, according to the narrative, that he was trying to confirm his divinity to the disciples by being a bit unwordly?

    I am trying to avoid a discussion of whether Jesus was divine or whether Jesus even existed but addressing the logic of Bauer’s arguments.

    The narratives seem almost as internally consistent with an entirely human and historical Jesus without any special divinity who however convinced some disciples (as well as himself) that he was divine, and they, in the fashion of religious fanatics even after something goes badly awry, were so convinced that they spread the word so well even after his death that resurrection stories got tacked on. Why couldn’t followers of a leader whom they believed or suspected to be divine have heard these utterances and taken them seriously enough to have repeated them? I’m not arguing that these things happened or that they didn’t, but rather against Bauer’s arguments as presented. Or else my understanding from Sunday School on that the disciples were supposed to be in on his divinity, at least somewhat.

    Also, some religious fanatics accept crazy stuff from leaders they don’t consider divine for that matter, but I always thought the disciples were in on the divinity bit.

    Apologies for not having figured out how to have been more succinct.

    • JBeers
      2019-07-06 22:11:49 GMT+0000 - 22:11 | Permalink

      I suppose the better, shorter version might be:

      “But, Bruno Bauer, it’s a historical fact that committed religious followers have believed and repeated some mighty strange things said to them by their leaders.”

  • JBeers
    2019-07-06 22:53:29 GMT+0000 - 22:53 | Permalink

    The Judas story in the Gospels works just fine.

    From the extreme perspective of the literal believer, you have a world where not only are there lots of nasty people out to get Jesus, but a world where Satan has stalked Jesus trying to tempt him and there are demons all over the place running amok who probably could be put to work. I think that hundreds of thousands and probably millions of people over the years would have implicitly assumed that demons were doing stuff with Judas without the details having to be laid out for them or necessarily having thought the matter out in detail. It could be historical esp. in a world of literal demons.

    From the skeptical extreme, it makes perfect sense that out of a dozen fanatical followers of a marginalized extreme religious figure, one might be unstable enough to oscillate in beliefs and actions, enough so to betray the leader of his cult and perhaps to do so in a way so as to disgrace himself deliberately. Crazy cult, crazy follower. It could be historical provided the rest of the story is correct.

    In between, it makes sense for someone in an unusual stressful situation to revert to pleasing standard authority, perhaps, as some Christians might teach, listening to metaphorical demons, such as greed. Many people over the years must have found this sort of version psychologically acceptable. It makes sense. It could be historical.

    It is Bauer I think who, much as I’d like to admire him, is (from these excerpts) too rigidly rationalistic with Judas as well. The Judas story makes great sense from various perspectives. Or am I completely missing the point?

    • JBeers
      2019-07-07 02:38:24 GMT+0000 - 02:38 | Permalink

      I concede that the Judas story as written is nonsensical in that there should be no need for the authorities to have someone identify a well-known public nuisance. (I suppose there is a weak, convoluted potential counter-argument to the effect that there could be an implicit story such as the authorities using Judas for PR: “See, he and his bunch are of such poor character that even one of his own can be bribed to rat on him.”)

      • JBeers
        2019-07-07 09:14:44 GMT+0000 - 09:14 | Permalink

        I am afraid I may have been writing unclearly enough so as to have provoked misunderstanding and possibly confusion.

        I did not want to address whether the Jesus narratives were correct or not. I wanted to address Bauer’s reasoning against some of the historicity of the narratives, not the historicity of the narratives. Extremely religious people, whether hypothetically deities or not, might say any number of things, and followers, also hyper-religious, might accept even highly unusual utterances as signs of divine wisdom, and proclaim them as truth, even after some disaster such as a failed prophecy or a crucifixion, or otherwise behave in ways that might seem inexplicable to a reasonable person of the 19th century. Thus Bauer might be have been a bit too rationalistic and too surrounded by rationalistic people for his reasoning to be completely right in dismissing the narratives (whether or not he might have been correct in dismissing them).

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-07-07 10:06:47 GMT+0000 - 10:06 | Permalink

          Presumably you are including my response among those you are addressing. It is the weirdness of the Gospel of Mark’s narrative, its unreal ‘horror’ character, that is the basis of seeing it as a plausible narrative, whether historical or otherwise. As I see it, the only way for that narrative to be at all plausible is to read it through the rewritten narrative of Matthew or Church teachings. Mark’s gospel on its own simply has so many bizarre and nonsensical points throughout. Plausibility only enters when Matthew rejects Mark’s narrative and writes a quite different one over it.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-07-07 10:19:01 GMT+0000 - 10:19 | Permalink

          I think there has to be some level of universality of character and motivation in a narrative for it to have any traction outside a tiny elect who are the only ones presumably able to appreciate the unique details. When Jesus tells a man he just healed to keep the healing a secret and this is said in front of a large crowd, then we have more than esoteric significance. We have nonsense. Otherwise anything one writes can always be rationalized has having meaning for some in-group.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-07-07 10:24:47 GMT+0000 - 10:24 | Permalink

            And if we see that the experiences, instructions, sayings, of characters make no sense in their story setting but do make sense of another group of people known to the author — we can say, yes, they did make sense in their story setting for those “in the know”, — and that’s certainly true. We know for many people there is no problem in the narrative. There are all sorts of divinely inspired double meanings and divine signs, etc. But is there any place for an outsider’s literary analysis?

  • 2019-07-07 05:52:01 GMT+0000 - 05:52 | Permalink

    Dear JBeers….

    There is much to consider or respond to in your comments. None of this is noted as negative criticism but questions …so what..???

    So what if Jesus was really a historical figure..? So what? Who cares? Do you really care? Why?

    Paul did not get his gotch in a knot over a historical Jesus or not!!!!!! It is quite clear from his so-called letters or theological essays…

    I have no clues as to what your own views are on the questions and issues being posed here… if you think of the texts as historical per se, maybe you don’t,,

    Even if you did.. a lot of things won’t make sense…

    but I would relax somewhat too on the so-called theological or personal implications of the texts, given that the first things we have are “human”literary texts with some purpose or multiple purposes…

    and interpreting texts does not have to do simply with finding out what texts mean,,, but what are they doing….to the readers!!!

    And so texts must be examined as to what the texts were meant to accomplish..

    All attempts at trying to find out what a text meant and means to me and to others is a very difficult text…

    So texts raise more problems (even if you know the Biblical languages) for us at many levels than we could imagine…

    and so when the texts says this or that…due to desperate and difficult times we feel the need to anchor or keep keep us from drifting,

    but these ancient texts are fully human and yield no divine revelations that can solve so many tough ancient and modern existential questions…

    There is no clear proof that any spirit or anyone,,,angel or otherwise is telling us how we ought to read these texts to our benefit.. Craig, etc say the Holy spirit gives us confirmation we are interpreting history correctly or not! Really??!!! How is that!??

    When we are really honest with ourselves and the texts,,, there is just too much disparity to conclude that we have any clear word, about whether these texts are from any god or any human that is in possession of so-called eternal truth.

    When one accepts that all these texts have human origins and constructions, most of them, if not at all, they yield up their human origins and interpretations…and that there is no interpretation that can be established without an adversarial answer in response to an interpretive viewpoint…

    We are only readers and not sitting on the right hand of any god telling people down below what god or the gods are saying about this or that text..

    Rest in your human freedom…even hermeneutically. .. Paul did (Galatians) and don’t get too anxious about whether this or that interpretation or reading will send you to darkness or hell or whatever…. as polemically pandered by the Petrine tradition )2 Pet. 2-3)

    Those interested in these texts and perhaps nothing more” must be ruthless as students and scholars of these ancient scriptures which cannot be made ipso facto in some magical way into the truth of some god…

    I love reading and studying the Bible, not because it was allegedly given by god,, but because it is all very human and and human in its origins and construction…from beginning to end. I do find the texts relevant to our own situation,, polemical…

    I am shocked about how far people have take these texts. They reflect human thoughts , not God’s thoughts, even though they make claims that God is speaking… and that their thoughts are God’s thoughts..how ridiculous and arrogant.. and much more..

    What distinguishes human speaking from so-called divine speaking????

    Not even the texts solve this… What a mess!!!

    Scholar or no scholar… we must learn from each other, but you better be damned prepared to argue well and convincingly of one idea over another.

    That approach may lead to truth and it is still the best way of discerning what is really true and even relevant if it was true!!!??? to begin with.

    Judaism claims to be an empirically based religion. Jahweh breaks in with alleged miracles and teachings or words of wisdom or knowledge. So does Christianity.. Okay then,, show me the money!!! And the difference between the two religions.???

    Apologists should give up on all their theology.. Let’s see the divine powers and proofs,, scientifically, historically, etc, . Bring them on… I am tired of philosophical, theological etc. arguments for God’s existence.. without proofs,, and why do texts provide the proof…

    All this is bankrupt as I see it..

  • Jay Raskin
    2019-07-07 07:16:28 GMT+0000 - 07:16 | Permalink

    I guess “coming from the life of the church” means that people reflected back on what was happening in the present (circa 100-450 CE onto the past (circa first half of 1st century.
    Our past is generated from the present. The past is a creation at the present moment.
    Yet the previous stories contradict the later stories. Different communities tell different stories.
    Maybe Jacques Derrida was right, all writing deconstructs and it is writing that deconstructs it. The very process of writing is a deconstruction of what came before. To construct is to deconstruct When I build a house, I destroy what was in that place before the house was constructed.

    The good news is that a man returned from the dead. That means death is not death. Didn’t Socrates say the same thing?
    What is so unusual about a man returning from the dead. Doesn’t it happen in stories and dreams all the time? If we just wish enough don’t our stories and dreams come true. Isn’t that what Walt Disney tells us ad infinitum? Why do we need heaven when we have Disneyworld?
    Superman came back from the dead. Won’t Tony Stark come back from the dead as soon as the Avengers starts to lose popularity? Didn’t the last Avengers movie bring back 25 superheroes who were killed off in the previous Avengers movie? Where did we ever get the strange idea that people don’t come back from the dead? Don’t we all believe in the first commandment – “With the internet anything is possible.”

  • 2019-07-07 08:39:31 GMT+0000 - 08:39 | Permalink

    Mr. Raskin… not sure what your text is saying? Your claims are just claims.
    what the hell do you mean… Sounds quite strange to me given that I think I can discern between someone or something, though never always… but I think you are simply expressing metaphysical stuff unverifiable and unfallsifiable… not a good way to go,,,don’t you think…statements like this need qualification..

    “The good news is that a man returned from the dead. That means death is not death. ”

    Tell us what this means,if you are really serious about what this informational blog is all about..

    So I do not know who you are and I only have access to what you say and what this site allows you to say… Do you have any texts to talk about or just thoughts… ???

    So Jay Raskin ,, what are you saying in such strange and cryptic ways , even seemingly in
    support of some ambiguous spiritualist or super-naturalist view….eg,, all that stuff about death…How do you know all that about death…???

    You seem to be still alive!!! Oh…how can anyone talk about life after death or anything close to that?

    Here is info folks… It is “claimed “Jesus died and then he was buried a grave. Not one person saw any resurrection of anyone, either prior to Jesus or Jesus himself.

    But then the texts claim that Jesus was seen alive after his death… Not one of them saw him actually rise literally, physically from the dead… they only claimed they saw their image of Jesus via some spirit encounter…

    And those that Jesus supposedly met after his alleged resurrection conveyed nothing that Jesus said about “life after death”. Why not if it is so important?

    Who in hell or heaven knows what happens after death?!!!!!!!

    What a waste of time to figure it out, except to help people not to get caught up in such stupidity and silliness about superstitious beliefs pandered by various Jewish-Christian cults in 1st cent. Palestine!! (based on superstitional acculturation from Persia and beyond).

    In conclusion, I am still not sure what you are trying to say in your blog responses.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-07-07 09:12:28 GMT+0000 - 09:12 | Permalink

    In short, in response to JBeers, — The narrative you relate is the church narrative and it does have a logical coherence. The problem for Bauer was that it is not the narrative of the Gospel of Mark, presumably the gospel from which the others developed. The “church”/Christians — we are influenced by the canonical arrangement as well as the church doctrine. We read Mark through Matthew’s explanations — which are more re-writings than explanations. Matthew changes Mark’s story and presents a different Jesus and different disciples. So we rationalize Mark through Matthew.

    The narrative flow — that Jesus was a deity gradually attempting to reveal his identity to his disciples, etc — is a narrative that we too easily impose upon Mark. We re-create Mark’s scenes and sayings in our imaginations to make that narrative work, or to imagine that is what Mark is really wanting us to imagine.

    The questions arise when one manages to study Mark without letting the Church teachings, or Matthew, cast their shadows on the pages.

    Reading Mark in a decent translation “as if for the very first time”, trying to discard all knowledge of Matthew and other teachings from our minds as we read — it can be a sobering experience. Mark’s gospel is dark, it is a bit (big bit) weird, scary even — It is not a comforting gospel.

    • JBeers
      2019-07-07 11:45:04 GMT+0000 - 11:45 | Permalink

      I see. I agree about Mark being strange. I have read Mark much less than you have, but on a recent re-reading Jesus seemed to me not at all of this world, somewhat other than this or any existence.* Among other things on the last reading I sometimes had a hard time not imagining him at times not just translucent but several times or more larger than humans, or just plain not there.

      (* I sometimes felt prompted to think of Tillich’s God beyond God or wondered whether Mark was giving me something from Hinduism or Buddhism hinting at existence beyond existence. However I found it overall comforting. But perhaps I am going off in a direction different from what you intended.)

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-07-07 13:04:30 GMT+0000 - 13:04 | Permalink

        I was regretting my responses thinking I may have been too quick to assume I understood what you were getting at. I will try to think the issues through some more over time.

        Yes, when I read Mark “anew” many years ago I really thought the Jesus character was scary. He was certainly not a human, and not what one thinks of as a benign godly figure either, but really quite dark and, well, “scary”. He frightens and confuses people, he has power over people though they cannot understand him or what he is doing to them. And he messes with them quite deliberately. Those who follow him all disappear as if their encounter was just a passing dream. It’s a very strange book. Read literally scarcely any scene makes any sense. Maybe we need to understand the role of Yahweh in the OT better if he is the embodiment of that being.

        • Steven C Watson
          2019-07-07 15:11:59 GMT+0000 - 15:11 | Permalink

          This… Ad the previous comment also. Keep doing so, keep reading the source material anew as if for the first time. We are kicking against pricks who want to impose narratives on the material that most of the time don’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense when set against the material if read in isolation from the all the material and interpretation of the following millennia.

          … we have set out with a certain recklessness to create a coherent architectonic of ideas in a field over much of which scholarship has yet to dig the foundations.

          Thus Crone and cook from the preface of Hagarism.

          The historical study of the origins and early history of all the Abrahamic faiths suffers from having in substitute for foundations unexamined assumptions serving theology and faith. When you examine the sources for any of them with the tools of archaeological and historical science, you find them clashing with such assumptions at almost every turn.

          Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as historical constructs look very much like three buildings mysteriously hovering above beach sands; bereft of footings, foundations, and lower storeys.

          Given we recognise those assumptions, and that there are probably more to be unearthed, we can begin anew recognising everything that has gone before calling itself “scholarship” is unreliable. That isn’t to denigrate it – Einstein needed Newton, and Quantum Theory needed Einstein – but we can laugh when certain parties insist on daft things being so when it has been shown otherwise.

      • 2019-07-08 05:40:01 GMT+0000 - 05:40 | Permalink

        Sorry to say Mr. JBeers,, much of what you say is simply gobble-de- gook! I don’t care one ;liota what your made up beliefs are …

        What are you saying …please be clear…

        What on earth are you saying so all of here can discern what you are saying….

        I am sorry I can’t stand obfiscating!!! Please get clear and stop abstractions… !!!

        You will experience salvation and freedom!!!

  • Giuseppe
    2019-07-07 12:59:09 GMT+0000 - 12:59 | Permalink

    The animal and carnal Christ, however, does suffer after the fashion of the superior Christ, who, for the purpose of producing Achamoth, had been stretched upon the cross, that is, Horos, in a substantial though not a cognizable form. In this manner do they reduce all things to mere images — Christians themselves being indeed nothing but imaginary beings!
    (Tertullian, Against the Valentinians, 27)

    Now this (Aeon) is styled Horos, because he separates from the Pleroma the Hysterema that is outside.
    (pseudo-Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 6:26)

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-07-07 13:35:50 GMT+0000 - 13:35 | Permalink

    Without going into any details, some of the parts of Mark that make no sense as any sort of plausible narrative:

    1. The spirit enters into Jesus and drives him into the wilderness — but thereafter Jesus appears not to be driven or possessed by the spirit at all. What was that all about?
    2. When Jesus calls his disciples they just drop everything and follow him like zombies. Weird. And terribly cruel to their families. Not to mention irresponsible in just about every way imaginable. (But as an emulation of Elijah’s call of Elisha it does make theological sense.)
    3. In the synagogue the people are “amazed at his teaching” but we never learn what was so amazing about it. Only that he taught with “authority”, but that hardly explains “amazed at his teaching”. And why would teaching with authority “amaze” anyone? It only makes sense if they somehow recognized it came from God himself but of course once we enter that perspective we are no longer talking of any sort of plausible realism — only an entirely imaginative literature without any grounding in reality.

    4. A little later we learn Jesus would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was, but we have just read where he did allow demons to speak and declare who he was, and that was how everyone else seemed to know who he was and why they all came to be healed or exorcised or have their friends healed or exorcised….

    and we haven’t even reached the end of chapter one yet.

    • JBeers
      2019-07-07 14:57:28 GMT+0000 - 14:57 | Permalink

      rgprice may be taking an Independence Day week off, but I’d be interested in his comments. Perhaps 1-2 months ago, after re-reading Mark, I commented here that from my naive perspective that Mark read as if a just plain Gnostic work, almost as if in code written at least on one level for those in-the-know. If I recall correctly, he responded something to the effect that it read in such an odd way at least in part because it was indeed tightly constructed in multiple fashions, almost as if a cipher because densely referencing many prior works. I hope I am not mangling his position too much, but I might be.

      To me it does not feel dark so much as weird. I felt in reading it as if either there were many references I was not getting (as in the rgprice interpretation) or as if I was being provoked as by some presumably benign Buddhist paradoxer (Mark + his Jesus figure) trying to enable my self-enlightenment, telling me it was o.k. to drop the preoccupations of the OT, of the world, of trying to make sense. Jesus seemed beyond otherworldly, and to me it seemed o.k, comforting. But I did not read carefully enough.

      • JBeers
        2019-07-07 15:05:14 GMT+0000 - 15:05 | Permalink

        But in my original comments I missed your point about Bauer’s having distinguished Mark vs Matthew and so forth. I was reacting as if Bauer had been commenting on the Matthew-on-top-of-Mark narrative and not the pure, pure, pure Mark narrative. I am sorry for not having read carefully enough.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-07-07 15:39:54 GMT+0000 - 15:39 | Permalink

        To deepen the difficulty, we cannot know how our canonical version of Mark ought to compare with the original, as they might say, “ur-mark”. What is missing? One example: when Jesus descends from the mountain where he was transfigured the crowds rush and are “amazed” etc — but there is nothing in our text to explain this reaction. Are we meant to assume Jesus’ face shone like Moses’? But why is there no explanation for this response of the crowd? Has something been lost in transmission? It does seem so.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-07-07 16:04:59 GMT+0000 - 16:04 | Permalink

      Correction to #4 above. The demons in the synagogue declared Jesus’ identity but the crowds don’t hear or let their declaration mean anything. So they ask “Who is this?” In other words it made no difference that the demons knew Jesus and declared who he was. The crowds simply “didn’t hear” what they said — like the disciples seeing a miracle of feeding 5000 and then two chapters later scratching their heads and wondering how on earth they are going to feed 4000. And so on.

      • prolixir
        2019-07-08 10:15:58 GMT+0000 - 10:15 | Permalink

        Neil this brings up two questions for me:

        Was this narrative created to make humans look stupid or blinded by evil.
        Or as you point out above about “ur-mark”, parts are missing. I think more likely 2 because originally “ur-mark” might have been a heretical gospel that the proto-orthodox/ Church high jacked for theological purposes.

  • Gary
    2019-07-07 15:40:36 GMT+0000 - 15:40 | Permalink

    “A man who was present in person, corporeally present, could not entertain the idea of offering others his flesh and blood to eat”.
    I agree with this 100%. This was obviously added to the narrative at a later date. A real person would not say this to people he knew (and supposedly loved), unless he was a psychopath. Most likely added to counter the Gnostic movement. What better way to knock down belief in the material world (flesh and blood) being bad, than to commemorate it in a regular ceremony, to remember a body.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-07-07 15:46:46 GMT+0000 - 15:46 | Permalink

      If we bring in anthropological studies I think the evidence we have indicates that rituals (e.g. last supper/eucharist) exist prior to the myths that explain them. Myths to explain their origin, etiological stories, that is, are composed to justify the ritual act in specific circumstances. That is, the story, the explanation, the myth, arises after the custom or ritual in order to explain (not originate) the ritual.

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