Chapter 2 WIFTA (What I Forgot To Add — to be regularly updated I am sure) Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 2/WIFTA”
To those who might wonder if Papias’s reference to “living and abiding voice” is one of the multiple Johannine resonances in his Prologue (c.f. the final chapter of John’s discussion of whether and how long the beloved disciple would “remain” with them; and further note other Johannine touches such as both the names and the order of the disciples, the preference for the word “disciples” over “apostles” and the apparent reference to Jesus as “the truth”) Bauckham argues No. Papias’s preference for “a living and abiding voice” over information from books is further evidence that Papias was embracing the best conventional historical practice. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 2c”
Bauckham argues that Papias, towards the end of the first century, seized opportunities to question disciples of “elders” who knew personally two eyewitness disciples of Jesus — Aristion and John the Elder — who were at that time still alive in Asia. Other eyewitness disciples of Jesus, specifically Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John and Matthew, were by that time dead. The best Papias could do to learn what particular Jesus stories each of these names was a custodian to was to question itinerant disciples of other elders who traced some word-of-mouth trail back to those disciples. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 2b”
Chapter 2: Papias on the Eyewitnesses
Bauckham begins with a discussion of Papias apparently to verify the historicity of his eyewitness model: — That eyewitnesses of Jesus provided a living source and confirmation of the oral reports circulating about Jesus; and that the earliest written accounts of Jesus (Papias’s book, and therefore plausibly the gospels, too) were composed by drawing from among the last surviving of these eyewitnesses. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 2a”
WIFTA — What I Forgot to Add to my previous post (updated 27th Jan 07)
10.15 am 3rd Feb 07
This is about the craziest “problem” facing a modern scholar that I have ever heard: That the fact that some characters in the gospels are named while others are not is a “phenomenon” that cries out for explanation??? Come on, how many works of literature of any length, whether historical or nonhistorical, fictional or nonfictional, that do NOT feature such a “phenomenon”. It is plainly a simple matter of common literary competence not to name every person in a story featuring many persons — speaking generally — since it obviously would be simply too much clutter to have names for everyone. And in the case of the gospel of Mark, the first written of the gospels, then it is surely as clear as the nose on one’s face that the author has chosen to bring in names as often as not when they have symbolic value by way of mnemonic illustration of the story: e.g. Jairus, enlightened, for a miracle of raising back from ‘sleep’; Bartimaeus, a son of honour, for one raised from the status of beggar to a follower of the “royal son of David”. That such a phenomena should be considered something crying out for explanation is to dismiss the basics of western (and possibly broader than that, too) literary cultures.
This is the first part of a detailed review of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham (2006). It is in response to the discussion begun by Chris Tilling on his Chrisendom blog, and remarks I have seen from a variety of quarters indicating that this work is having quite an impact in some quarters. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 1”
Despite the obvious symmetrical neatness of the idea that John 21 is a redaction of what was originally the ending of Mark (John 21 appearing as a double ending added to John and Mark appearing to lack a coherent ending) I am stuck on several questions that this raises.
If John 21 were originally the ending of Mark (minus the johnanninisms) then must we reject the fundamental interpretations of Mark treatment of the disciples by Weeden, Kelber, Tolbert, Fowler…? In other words, would not the hypothesis that John 21 is the original ending of Mark determine how we interpret the very meaning of Mark itself? What is the role of analytic literary criticism here in the interpretation of the texts as opposed to a “naive” reading of the texts as face-value “reports”?
Is it possible to hold both to Mark being a Pauline gospel (with its anti-Petrine position) and to John 21 being the original ending (with its pro-Petrine conclusion)?
If John 21 were the ending of Mark then how did it fit, exactly? What do we do with the women who are told to speak to Peter and the disciples about what they had seen at the tomb? Does not John 21 indicate that Peter had NOT heard? If we think the original said something like “but they believed not the women”, then don’t we also have to add another hypothesis that John edited out some reference to this (“and he upbraided them for their lack of belief”). If so, then aren’t we setting out on the road to finding that ‘the John 21 being the ending of Mark hypothesis’ is going to raise more questions than it answers?
Have studies of the endings of John and Mark been made in the broader context of ancient literature? My previous entry here addresses some of the “strange” endings in classical literature discussed in “Classical Closure” edited by Roberts, Dunn and Fowler.
Has anyone raised a possibility of John 21 having in some way some sort of relationship with another missing ending that we read in the noncanonical Gospel of Peter (No, I’m not presuming GPeter preceded GJohn or anything…. completely open re where and to/from what the evidence points) — but the gospel of Peter as we have it ends with an account of the disciples breaking up and going their various ways, with Peter and 2 others taking their nets and going back to the sea. Now that just on the surface of it would seem a most natural lead in to John 21, would it not? If so, why do we default to thinking John 21 might relate to Mark and not some other gospel which we see surviving in GPeter?
Apart from the original words and phrases (markan vs johannine) used in John 21, does it not seem that John 21 is far more rich in the detail and colour of its narration than anything we find in the generally terse style of Mark? If so, has any study been done on these richer details in John to see if there is any “Markan” language in those vs Johannine? Has anyone thought through whether the story in John 21 would coherently hold together without loss of meaning if that (unmarkan) richness of detail were absent?
Has anyone compared John 21 with Mark’s and/or John’s account of the feeding of the 5000? There seems to me to be strong ties between John 21 and John’s Feeding of the 5000 that are not found in a comparison with Mark’s Feeding story. If so, would this change our perspectives on the integrity of John 21 being original to John?
- Jesus opens the scenes with a question 21:5; 6:5 (unlike Mark’s 5000 story);
- the stress in the stories is on none of the potential food being lost (21:11; 6:12) (unlike Mark);
- John has Jesus command that the bread/fish be gathered and brought in (unlike Mark);
- the number 7 is integral to John’s account more deeply than it is in Mark’s — 21:2 it is done with 7 (5 named and 2 unnamded) disciples matching(?) the 5 loaves and 2 fish in the common story of the 5000;
- John 6:13 specifies that the miraculous fragments consisted on bread only although the initial handout had been of bread and fish, thus allowing the John 21 fish miracle to form a natural complement of the miracle of the loaves — contrast Mark 6:43 that says the fragments were of both bread and fish;
- the culmination of the stories in John is the same: recognition of Jesus (21:7, 12; 6:14) (unlike Mark).
Has anyone raised the possibility that John 21 was an early attempt by someone who did not like the Mark 16:8 ending to compose a more happy conclusion for Mark? And that this could explain why it was not accepted widely enough to have survived as a secure ending of that gospel, and also why some did not want to lose it altogether and managed to salvage it with John? (“Classical Closure” reminds us that there were other ancient attempts to write a more satisfying (for many) conclusion to Virgil’s Aeneid, none of which finally “stuck” to the original.)
I’m not “arguing” that John 21 could not have been an original ending of Mark — who knows what redactions have been done to both gospels or what scripts we may uncover in the future. But these are the sorts of questions I’d like discussed before deciding to go too far with thinking John 21 “probably” was the Markan ending.
gospel, john, mark
It is widely assumed that the endings we know of Mark (16:8), John and Acts cannot have been the ones originally intended but after reading “Classical Closure: Reading the End in Greek and Latin Literature” edited by Deborah H. Roberts, Francis M. Dunn, and Don Fowler (1997) I have less confidence in that assumption. Nowhere are Mark, Acts and John discussed in the book and the extrapolations below are entirely my own.
In the book Carolyn Dewald discussion of “Strategies of Meaning at the End of Herodotus’s Histories” struck me as raising the same sorts of questions over Herodotus’s ending as are raised over the present endings of Mark and Acts. Herodotus leaves his work in mid-air too. This could only have been intentional since Herodotus throughout his work manages to consistently draw many satisfying conclusions to his many story sections. The question that arises then is what Herodotus was wanting to achieve by way of response from his audience by not framing a formal final conclusion to his work. ‘Histories’ can be read more accurately as a kind of theological tragedy than as a history in a modern sense. It is about the fate of Athenians and their lot within the common destinies of mankind, and their future is left in doubt. The mid-air ending of Histories inevitably left the questions about how one understood the present and future as uncertain and as issues to be questioned in the light of all that had just been read.
Francis M. Dunn discusses the ending of Euripides’ Heracles is tormentingly ambiguous and incomplete, so much so that there have long been many attempts rearrange the text or re-write the ending. The ending is indecisive and the audience has no way of knowing if it is meant to see Heracles as a failure or a hero let alone what sort of future is in store for him. Again, it appears that the author was by this means seeking to provoke a certain type of response in the audience to the deeper questions raised in the play.
Philip Hardie has much to say about the Virgil’s Aeneid and hellenistic fiction in general that is also reminiscent of issues that arise in the scholarship relating to the endings of Mark, John and Acts. He writes: “Ancient novels use many paratextual devices, usually to give a sense of (historiographic) authenticity to the fiction …” By paratextual devices he means those sorts of intrusive authorial comments we find in John 20:30-31. With this consideration the disputed ending of John can then be read as something like: “I can’t possibly write about everything but I have to add just one more thing before I close…. ”
The Aeneid is another case of an abrupt “improper” ending leaving the reader on the point of lurching in mid-air. Hardie says the more appropriate ending has been already written and is tucked away in Book 8 with its prophecies of the future history of Rome and Augustus. Deaths always need a resolution of some kind, a new treaty or funeral etc. but in the Aeneid we have the treaty of peace being made near the beginning of the story and the death it is meant to follow is at the end. Not only so, but there are many textual allusions in the final scenes that echo those found in the opening scenes thus reassuring the reader/listener that this ending really is as intended however unconventional it is. So Mark was by no means the first to create an unconventional story with suitable endings in the middle and an ending that leaves readers hanging, and wondering, and scrambling back over all they have read before to find its meaning.
The obvious objection is that Mark is alone in ending his work with that conjunction ‘gar’. Maybe so, but “Classical Closures” leaves less assurance that the endings we find problematic in Mark, John and Acts were not originally intended to be just as they are.
My copy of George Kennedy’s “New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism” has just arrived today. Can’t recall what footnote originally compelled me to purchase it online however many weeks ago, but already I’m impressed with one little gem.
A doctrinaire insistence on source criticism tends to underestimate Matthew’s abilities as a writer and the perceptual sensitivity of his intended audience; rhetorical criticism can help to redress that estimate. (p.42)
and before that:
He was surely not deliberately leaving his readers clues to unravel his use of sources. (p.42)
That last sentence says heaps. Do we really think that one well enough versed in Greek to compose a gospel that would last 2000 years so limited that they found it too much effort to adjust wording of their sources to fit the thematic contexts of their larger composition?
Kennedy in this section focuses on the apparent contradiction in the Sermon on the Mount that appears to begin with Jesus addressing his inner circle of close disciples only yet concluding as if he had been addressing the larger multitude.
The explanation to Kennedy is really elementary, my dear Watson:
In classical oratory, apostrophe, or the turn from the nominal addressee to someone else, is even more common than in modern public address. What perhaps should be envisioned in Matthew, as in Luke, is that Jesus first looks at the disciples and then begins to refer to the crowd in the third person, shifting abruptly to the second person in 5.11. (p.41)
Kennedy further points to the obvious intended audience throughout the rest of the Sermon — that Matthew clearly intended his Sermon to be read/heard as a speech, and among it audience were “the poor, the grief-stricken, the meek, those contemplating divorce, all Jews who will pray.” (p.40)
There is much, much more to Kennedy’s exposition of Matthew’s rhetoric, but I have chosen to isolate for the purpose of this moment this sole point, which is worth my digesting for before moving on and reading much else.
I think I might have liked Bruce personally so please don’t take the title as anything but a response to those who should know better and who recommend his works for a purpose for which Bruce himself says they were not intended. (See my last post for the explanation of this.)
First, the comparative context:
Obscure references in obscure historians such as Thallus and Phlegon, to supposed eclipses which may or may not be identified with some tradition about the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion, have in any case reached us exclusively through the filter of later Christian commentators. Origen and Julius Africanus may well have put their own spin on what historians actually said; Africanus comes to us only second-hand. No case can be made based on references like this, and it is a mark of how thin the evidence really is that they would be considered of any evidentiary value. (p.203 of Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle)
[3rd century] Julius Africanus describes the earthquake and the preternatural darkness which accompanied the crucifixion of Christ, and says that Thallus, in his third book, explained this darkness as an eclipse of the sun . . . . We may wish that we had the actual passage from Thallus to compare with Julius Africanus’s account; but it is a reasonable inference that Thallus knew the Christian narrative of the crucifixion of Christ, and made some reference to it in his work. (p.30 of Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament)
Bruce continues by claiming that Suetonius’s description of Jewish riots over Chrestus “meant that some knowledge of Christianity was available in that city around the time when Thallus was writing.”
If anyone is wondering if Thallus can still be used as independent evidence for the historicity of Jesus I invite ‘anyone’ to have a look-see for themselves on what Thallus is said to have written:
The entire quoted line is found here:
- Thallus (historian) (Wikipedia)
A lengthier discussion and the second/third hand context surrounding that one line can be found here:
- Thallus: an analysis (Richard Carrier, 1999)
I think most would agree with Doherty’s concluding remark cited above:
“it is a mark of how thin the evidence really is that they would be considered of any evidentiary value.”
Thallus, historical_Jesus, Julius_Africanus, Jesus_myth
Bruce writes of his purpose in “Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament” (referring to himself as “he”):
He is certainly not concerned to establish the historicity of Jesus of the trustworthiness of the received account of Christian origins on such data as these: such an exercise would be based on the study of the primary sources, the New Testament writings themselves. (p.203)
It is interesting then that Bruce has been recommended as “sturdy” and “true” by academics who appear to find intolerable the thought that some really do doubt the historicity of Jesus.
As for those who discount that most contentious of all bits of data, the TF, Bruce also writes:
“[M]any students have come to the conclusion that the paragraph was interpolated by some Christian copyist or editor into the record of Josephus between the time of Origen and the time of Eusebius. It is a reasonable conclusion, held by many Christian scholars; and we must not accuse a man of undermining the case for historic Christianity because he cannot accept the authenticity of this paragraph. For, after all, it is not on the authority of Josephus that Christians believe in Christ!” (p.38)
Again, it is interesting that some academics appear to recall far too much back into Bruce when they recommend his work as an antidote to doubting a Josephan core in the TF.
The tone of these two passages by Bruce himself leads me to think there was once a more tolerant time when diametrically opposing views of the basic paradigm could be discussed more openly by representatives of both ends.
Hoo boy! Not good. Look what I have just read:
- “In fact, there are only four occurrences of demos in the New Testament, and they all mean “people” in the sense of an unruly or idolatrous crowd.”
p.154 in Paul Nadim Tarazi’s “The New Testament: an introduction. Volume 3, Johannine Writings“
I got carried away with my own comments on Bruce’s treatment of the non-christian sources. This morning I have reprimanded myself for straying from my original intent and made amends. I have gone back and revised each of the Bruce posts to include direct comparison’s with Doherty’s treatment of same.
Can’t wait to meet the next academic who is going to tell me or anyone else to “go to Bruce” the “sturdy” and “true” scholarly source on early non-christian sources!
I wonder if some just don’t like to be challenged to rethink their assumptions preferring for peer-pressure reasons as much as any other to lazily fall back on what “the majority of scholars” say.
Forgot to include what may possibly be allusions (or may not be) in the Pliny letter to the New Testament narratives:
- The Roman governor, like Pilate hearing the charges against Jesus, asked those brought before him “two or three times” of their guilt in order to give them a chance to free themselves. (Matt.27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; John 18:33, 19:9. C.f. Titus 3:10)
- The Roman governor finds no criminal or illegal activity in the accused (Matt.27:23; Mark 15:12; Luke 23:13-15, 22; John 19:6)
- The Roman governor asks for advice on how to judge the accused given his apparent innocence of any crime (Matt.27:22; Mark 15:14)
- The religion has spread widely beyond expectations (Acts 19:26)
- The temple economy in Bithynia was threatened by the astounding numbers of conversions (Acts 19:27).