Chapter 15 of Thomas Brodie’s discovery memoir (Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery) surveys what can happen when one applies comparative literary analysis to the letters attributed to Paul. The third case study Brodie outlines is one I particularly love. How can one not be attracted to a scholarly synopsis that introduces a case for a view that one has long held independently as a consequence of one’s own personal analysis?
When I compare the conclusion of Acts (a conclusion generally regarded as problematic or otherwise incomplete) with other ancient (including biblical) literature I am almost sure there is nothing problematic about the ending of Acts at all. It is based upon the conclusion of Israel’s “Primary History”. That is, the conclusion of Acts is strikingly similar to the concluding chapter of 2 Kings. (I have posted detail on this before.) And of course once one recognizes that, the logical question to ask is whether the events of Acts leading up to that conclusion bear a similarity to the events in 2 Kings leading up to the liberal captivity of the king of Judah. In other words, does Paul’s journey to Rome evoke substantial literary connections with the exile of the captive “Jews” to Babylon? I believe it does. So I cannot help but take pleasurable notice when Brodie makes the same point.
Regrettably there is a dark side to this chapter, or at least to the way a key point the chapter makes was completely botched in a review by a certain associate professor and world authority on parallelomania studies between science fiction and religion. But I will save that for the “Who holds the pen?” section.
THE SHIPPING FORECAST: DEEPS BELOW AND A STORM AHEAD
Chapter 14 of Thomas Brodie’s Memoir of a Discovery is probably one of the volume’s most significant and it is to be regretted that some of Brodie’s critics have so totally avoided its message. This chapter strikes at the heart of what most of us at first find most challenging about Brodie’s thesis.
But first, let’s start where Thomas Brodie himself starts in this chapter. Let’s begin when he meets the new professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School, Richard B. Hays, in the 1980s. There is a new wind beginning to blow in New Testament studies and Hays’ work is among those ships that have felt its first gusts. (We will see that many are still in denial and refusing to prepare.) Meanwhile, Hays invited Brodie to speak on Luke’s use of the Old Testament to his New Haven class.
Since then, Brodie informs us, Hays has become “a pioneer in narrative theology — in showing how New Testament narrative often builds a story or narrative that is grounded on that of the Old Testament”. Others have come along to complement his work. Some of these:
Carol Stockhaussen 1989, Moses’ Veil and the Story of the New Covenant: The Exegetical Substructure of II Cor. 3:1-4:6; 1993, ‘2 Corinthians 3 and the Principles of Pauline Exegesis’, in C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders (eds) Paul and the Scriptures of Israel.
In acknowledging the importance of the Old Testament “allusions” or “echoes” in the New Testament, these works (according to Brodie) are “a real advance for New Testament research.”
But there’s a but . . .
Brodie’s optimism is tempered, however. The above “pioneers” speak of “echoes” and “allusions” and for that reason do not really do full justice to the way the New Testament authors re-worked/re-wrote the literature of the Old.
If many scholars have jumped at doing “history” with the Gospels before they have taken care to explore the nature of their literary sources, Richard Hays has been too quick to jump into doing theology. By that Brodie means that Hays has failed to appreciate that questions of theology can be significantly influenced by understanding how the texts being studied came to be put together, how they were transmitted. By understanding how authors put the texts together one can better appreciate the questions of theology they posed in their final products.
Hays can appreciate that the continuity between the narratives of Luke-Acts and of the Old Testament functions to give readers the theological message that they can have assurance in the continuity and reliability of God’s plan. But what he misses, according to Brodie, is that one of the most central factors of God’s plan was the composing of Scripture itself. So by studying the way Scriptures were composed, how they were sourced and put together, we can understand how God worked, how he implemented his plan. For Brodie, such questions are fundamental to truly appreciating the theology of the New Testament writings.
Brodie appears to me to be suggesting that a scholar can trace the mind of God, at least as it was understood by the New Testament authors, through an analysis of the literary sources of the New Testament writings and the way the Old Testament writings were “reworked” into the New.
And the ineffectuality of “intertextuality”
The word intertextuality has been frequently used by scholars studying the ways New Testament authors made use of their literary sources but its meaning is also too often imprecise. The word originated with Julia Kristeva in 1966 and today is more commonly associated with anthropological questions of interaction between cultures, Several biblical scholars use the word to refer to concepts as light as “textual allusions” or “echoes”. This is fine insofar as it draws attention to the relationship between written texts. But Brodie is arguing that ancient writing involved much more than “allusions” and “echoes”:
The kernel of ancient writing was not in allusions: it was in taking hold of entire books and transforming them systematically. VIrgil did not just allude to Homer; he swallowed him whole. And there are comparable systematic transformations within the Bible. Allusions and quotations were often little more than decorations and embellishments. (p. 127)
So what is the nature of the textual relationship that is at the core of Brodie’s argument if it’s more than “echoes” and “allusions”?
Transforming Texts Beyond Immediate Recognition
Spotting the differences between the following stories earns no points. But spotting the similarities AND being able to coherently explain them might yield rewards. Many scholars have discussed the comparisons of Luke’s narrative with its matches in Matthew 8:5-13 and John 4:43-54. Many commentators of the Lukan narrative have even been aware of the Naaman episode. Continue reading “Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 3 (Deeps Below, Storms Ahead)”
Many scholars of Christian origins (biblical and religion scholars, theologians) write in the belief that the most important thing to grasp about the narratives and sayings in the Gospels is the historical context that gave rise to them.
And yet, and yet, and yet. Being first in importance does not necessarily mean being first in the order of investigation. The first thing to be sorted out about a document is not its history or theology — not the truth of background events or its ultimate meaning —but simply its basic nature.
For instance, before discussing a will — its possible many references to past events, and its provisions for distributing a legacy — the first thing to be established is whether it is genuine, whether it is a real will. (p. 121, my bolding)
Its basic nature! The nature of the text we are reading! Exactly. One theologian who regularly refers to himself as a historian has insisted that historical analysis of the Gospels has nothing to do with literary analysis and that literary analysis has no relevance for historical analysis. That is flat wrong. Even at a very superficial level everyone necessarily does some form of literary analysis in order to determine how to interpret the content of what they are reading. Is what we are reading a diary, a parody, an advertisement, an official news report, a novel? Deciding that question involves some basic level of literary analysis.
The commonly expressed view that the Gospels are a form of ancient biography actually arises more from the a priori assumption that they contain or are based ultimately on biographical data than a theoretical analysis of the genre. For an analysis of the influential work of Burridge (whose work arguing for the Gospels being a form of biography is widely taken for granted but less widely analysed critically) see other Vridar posts in the Burridge archive. For discussions of a work that is, by contrast, a theoretically grounded analysis of the genre of the Gospel of Mark see the Vines archive.
(Unfortunately not even classical studies helps much here since, I’ve been informed, questions of genre generally remain fairly fluid in that department. But biblical studies does elicit certain distinctive questions critical for cultural reasons so genre analysis of biblical literature does deserve to be taken more seriously.)
But enough of my take. This series is meant to be about Brodie’s views. So for the sake of completeness I have decided to copy my earlier post within this series here. If you’ve already read it then think of this as a refresher. It’s a topic that can’t be overstated given that it appears to be utterly lost on the bulk of the present generation of scholars of Christian origins. Continue reading “Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 2 (“What Is Rule One?”)”
I have covered Brodie’s arguments on oral tradition in depth here (see Two Core Problems with the four links there), and have yet to do more posts on the detailed work of Barry Henaut. So this post will survey primarily what led Brodie to raise the questions he did.
I recently posted on Robert Alter’s description of literary artistry in Genesis. It was Robert Alter, in the same book, The Art of Biblical Narrative, whom Brodie credits with “waking him up”. Alter was reading an attempt by Robert Culley to demonstrate that the variations in the Hebrew Biblical narratives might be understood through the variants that appear in oral storytelling among peoples of West Indies and Africa. On the contrary, however, Alter noticed that Culley’s presentation of the Hebrew narrative variants were not at all random as the oral tradition thesis would predict. No, when in Genesis we read what seems to be the same narrative being told several times about different people, or even about the same person in different circumstances. What we are reading are predictable type-scenes, not unlike some of the repetitions we read in Homer that adhere to fixed patterns (though in Homer the conventions applied more to rituals of daily existence while in the Bible they are applied to crucial junctures in the lives of the heroes.)
I grinned when I read that Brodie even went out of his way to meet personally Walter Ong, a scholar who published much on orality, because in my own early days of wanting to understand what lay behind the New Testament I myself traveled especially to dig out and copy many articles on orality by Ong.
What Brodie learned was that
even writing, for most of its history, resonated with orality. All ancient writing, until the eighteenth century, reflected orality or oral rhythms; it was aural, geared to the ear, to being heard — unlike modern writing, geared primarily to the eye. Virgil’s epic was highly crafted and a distillation of earlier literature, but it was saturated with orality; it was geared to oral communication , to being heard, and in fact it was being read aloud in Augustus’s imperial court before it was complete. But such orality was still not oral tradition, not oral transmission, it was simply a quality of ancient writing. (pp. 115-116)
“Studying non-literate tribes did not help”
How does one deduce from a piece of writing that it is based on oral transmission? Studies have been made into variations of oral transmission among non-literate tribes and into the variations that have arisen through rabbinic methods of memorization. The fact is (as Fitzmyer published in relation to the rabbinic variants) that these variations are not the sorts of variants we find in the Gospels. They do not account for the Gospel data.
From my outsider perspective I understand that the Dominican Biblical Institute (DBI) was founded by Thomas Brodie (though he has an oblique way of explaining this in Beyond the Quest), so when I turn now to the DBI’s website to see what they have had to say about Brodie and the book, aspects of which I am addressing in this series of posts, and read the contents on the following images, it hurts, as it must hurt anyone who knows a significant loss that accompanies religious differences.
And on another DBI page we read about the change of directors:
This post follows on from my earlier one on Chapter 9 that
began with a discussion of my own on parallelomania,
introduced Brodie’s desire to understand why the gospels appeared to use the Elijah-Elisha narrative as the framework for the life of Jesus,
Brodie’s deepening understanding of the literary artistry and coherence of the Book of Genesis,
and culminated in Brodie’s The Crucial Bridge, the hypothesis that the Elijah-Elisha narrative was an encapsulation of the larger themes of the Primary History, or Genesis to 2 Kings.
From Homer to 4Q525: 1995-2000
Thomas Brodie continues with his biographical changes of circumstances that will segue into the establishment of the Dominican Biblical Institute, covered in chapter 11.
Among the snippets of interest for Brodie’s understanding of the Bible that emerge in this chapter:
By concentrating on understanding Genesis in its final form rather than through seeking to identify its possible sources, Brodie began to see the whole book slowly taking on a coherent shape, thus losing its initial appearance of a series of awkwardly joined story-segments. The story of Abraham began with the themes of those two all-too-ephemeral values of beauty and wealth.
The themes of duality in the Bible, discerned as early as the two creation stories of Genesis, are present even in the duality integral to the story of Elijah and Elisha. The same theme of heavenly focus balanced or set against the earthly plane is found in both. Indeed, it was work on Genesis that helped shape Brodie’s understanding of the Elijah-Elisha narrative, both in its episodic details and dual themes.
“Michael Barré suggested that, like the ancient god Janus, the second creation account (Gen. 2.4b-24) is two-faced: it looks back to the first creation account, so that the two accounts form a pair, a diptych; but it also includes features that look forward to the account of the fall (Gen. 3).” (p. 97)
Could or should Genesis be related at all to Homer’s epics, in particular the Odyssey? The character of Jacob appeared to mirror the essential qualities of Odysseus. But was not Homer too far removed from the Bible? Then Brodie learned that others had made similar observations linking Genesis to the Odyssey, and even between Jacob and Odysseus. But the notion of Homer-Bible relationship was prima facie too far removed from what was acceptable in Biblical studies. The Anchor Bible Dictionary said it all with its entry for Homer:
This post follows on from my earlier one on Chapter 8 where Brodie is beginning to appreciate the nature of the literary artistry of the biblical books.
The Third Revolution Deepens: 1992-1995
Reminder: This series is skipping over many of the personal details related to Thomas Brodie’s intellectual odyssey. It also needs to be kept in mind that generally, this book does not present Brodie’s detailed arguments but rather traces how his understanding of the nature and origins of the Biblical literature emerged.
If a Jesus narrative were based on the Elijah-Elisha story (see “That Is An Important Thesis“) one had to ask why. Would not the story of Moses or David have been more appropriate as a model? This question perplexed Brodie until his further studies on Genesis opened up a new awareness of the nature of the biblical literature. But let’s digress a moment to consider an objection that has on some theologian’s blogsites recently been flung at Brodie’s arguments since he has claimed they lead to a “mythicist” conclusion.
Parallelomania: the facts
“Parallelomania” has once again been flung as a dismissive epithet by a number of theologians and religion scholars at Christ myth arguments in general and Thomas Brodie’s arguments in particular, so it is worth taking a moment to revisit the article that introduced the notorious notion of “Parallelomania”. It can be read on this Vridar.org page; I have taken excerpts from it in the following discussion.
I don’t think James McGrath has ever had the time to read that article that he invites others to read. If he had, he would know that its author (Samuel Sandmel) points out that by “parallelomania” he means plucking passages from the vast array of, say, rabbinical literature or from a work of Philo’s out of their broader contexts and using them (thus decontextualized) to claim they have some direct relevance to similar-sounding passages in the New Testament. That is notwhat Brodie is doing. Sandmel even explains that the sort of detailed analysis done by Brodie to explore questions of literary indebtedness is indeed justified and is not to be confused with something else that he is addressing.
The key word in my essay is extravagance. I am not denying that literary parallels and literary influence, in the form of source and derivation, exist. I am not seeking to discourage the study of these parallels, but, especially in the case of the Qumran documents, to encourage them. . . . .
An important consideration is the difference between an abstract position on the one hand and the specific application on the other. . . . . it is in the detailed study rather than in the abstract statement that there can emerge persuasive bases for judgment. . . . . The issue for the student is not the abstraction but the specific. Detailed study is the criterion, and the detailed study ought to respect the context and not be limited to juxtaposing mere excerpts. Two passages may sound the same in splendid isolation from their context, but when seen in context reflect difference rather than similarity.
Note the problem with taking excerpts from a corpus of literature and using them as parallels with something else. This results in
confusing a scrutiny of excerpts with a genuine comprehension of the tone, texture, and import of a literature.
In Brodie’s analyses, on the other hand, it is as much the tone, texture, and import of the respective documents that are being analysed as the individual words and phrases.
One of the greatest sins of “parallelomania” is
the excessive piling up of . . . passages. Nowhere else in scholarly literature is quantity so confused for quality . . . . The mere abundance of so-called parallels is its own distortion . . . .
I recently posted chapter 7 of Brodie’s book to demonstrate that Brodie does not make his case by a mere piling up of matching words or ideas. The structure, the theme, the context, the motivation — these are all part of Brodie’s argument.
Finally, the crowning sin of parallelomania is one that I not too long ago identified in the work of historian Michael Grant about Jesus. I’ll first quote Sandmel:
On the one hand, they quote the rabbinic literature endlessly to clarify the NT. Yet even where Jesus and the rabbis seem to say identically the same thing, Strack-Billerbeck manage to demonstrate that what Jesus said was finer and better. . . . . Why, I must ask, pile up the alleged parallels, if the end result is to show a forced, artificial, and untenable distinction even within the admitted parallels?
Grant followed many theologians who insist that though the golden rule was known in some form among the rabbis (and in other civilizations), Jesus expressed it better than anyone else.
Sandmel’s article on “parallelomania” is actually an endorsement of the sort of work being done by scholars who work seriously on literary analysis of texts and a warning against the sins found too often among the mainstream scholars. Unfortunately some theologians, McGrath included in his Burial of Jesus, are on record as saying that literary analysis has no place in the work of historical inquiry. On the contrary, without literary analysis the historian has no way of knowing how to interpret literary documents.
It is that very detailed study that Sandmel said is necessary, and the study of the context, both immediate context and the wider cultural context of literary practices of the day, that Brodie is undertaking. He is not plucking passages out of context from disparate sources and making an abstract claim that they can be read as a “parallel” to, and by implication source of, what we read in the gospels. (Such “extravagance” is the characteristic fault of “astrotheology”, but not of the scholarly work of Brodie and MacDonald.)
This is not the same as saying that MacDonald’s and Brodie’s arguments are necessarily correct. They still need to be studied and engaged with. There may be alternative explanations for some of the data they have addressed and believe points to literary borrowing. But it is not particularly scholarly to simply reject an argument one does not like by dismissing it with a pejorative label.
Thomas Brodie argues that the Gospel narratives are in large part sourced not from oral traditions but from the Greek versions of the Jewish scriptures. I recently posted a chapter from one of his books in which he presents the minute details of an argument for the literary indebtedness of one scene in the Gospel of Luke to passages about Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Rick Sumner responded with his view that Brodie’s argument was too subjective to be of any real value. Exchanges followed and Rick has since presented a more formal response on his blog, The Drum Majorette, to explain why he believes Brodie’s arguments are inadequate.
Rick argues that arguments like those of Brodie (another example would be those of Dennis MacDonald that argue the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Acts draw in places upon scenes in the Homeric epics) are “unchecked interpretation” comparable to a Freudian seeing sexual allusions everywhere. He implicitly compares Brodie’s argument with a psychologist explaining our attraction for a drum majorette in terms of our latent homosexuality:
But this “prominent psychologist” provided their own interpretation. The drum majorette protrudes from the band the way they erect penis protrudes from the body. Thus, our attraction to her represents our latent homosexuality.
This is the among the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.
Yet, stupid or not, it was treated seriously, and accorded serious consideration. And ever since I first read Cleckley’s volume some 15 years or so ago it has served as a constant reminder to me of the dangers of unchecked interpretation.
I believe such an analogy fails to appreciate what it is that Brodie and MacDonald are doing with their analyses of the literature.
The comment of mine that prompted Rick to write his post was this:
. . . when one gets down to the structural and detailed verbal analysis of literature, I think that’s where we are doing more than cloud-shape-spotting. I think, in fact, that we can all at least “see” the parallels that Brodie, for example, points out. The question is not seeing them, but explaining them.
Rick has two problems with my comment, one lesser and one greater.
I have been posting a chapter by chapter series on Thomas L. Brodie’s book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Chapter 7, however, is where Brodie draws the reader in to the nitty gritty of a case-study that demonstrates the way an author of a Gospel drew upon Old Testament literature in order to create his narrative.
I did address in very broad outline the main points of this chapter in Brodie’s Mythicist Case: The Facts, but at the same time I knew that anyone seriously interested in engaging with Brodie’s argument would need to read the detail. Phoenix, the publisher of Brodie’s book, has very kindly given me permission to post the chapter (see permissions) in which Brodie spells out all of this detail.
With this work everything from Genesis to Joshua was rendered suspect. Even Joshua was thus more validly classified with the “former Prophets” than with “history”. But the Book of Judges was said to be historical to the extent that its “jumbled-looking sequence and style” appeared to indicate that it was a collation of oral traditions.
What are we going to do with St John?
Meanwhile, back in St Louis, Missouri, Thomas Brodie was not getting very far in his search for the Gospel of John’s sources. Recall in our previous post that Brodie was struggling with this question since 1982, particularly through the window John 9 (the healing of the man born blind) and its apparent view out to Mark’s accounts of healings of the blind (Mark 8.11-9.8). Brodie was becoming increasingly aware that discerning John’s sources was a question that was inseparable from John’s meaning, and the meaning of John 9 could not be separated from the rest of the Gospel. The meaning of the Gospel of John was also bound up in the narrative spanning Jesus’ ministry out over three years (as opposed to Matthew, Mark and Luke’s one-year ministry). The explanations to all of these questions could not be summed up in a single article.
Then one day I woke up and realized I was being drawn into writing a commentary! (Beyond, p. 80)
Brodie did not clearly recognize it at the time, but what at this point he was entering a new, the third, revolution of his understanding. Others were also beginning to develop these new ideas to some extent. One landmark example was Alan Culpepper’s Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel (1983). Effectively for the first time the Gospel was being studied for its qualities as a finished literary product. This departed from earlier studies that sought to discern its various parts that had presumably been stitched together over time and to understand their respective histories.
If I were to deal responsibly with John’s Gospel, I would have to take account of both aspects — the sources that underlie it, insofar as they can be identified, and also the completed body, all the features of ancient rhetorical art, especially its basic form (is it . . . history or story?). (Beyond, p. 81)
To step outside Beyond the Quest for a moment, I might point out that later when Brodie finally published The Quest for the Origins of John’s Gospel in 1993 he devoted a chapter to comparing John 9 with the Markan section on healings of blind, pointing out that as the centre episode in John’s gospel it was indeed the window into the meaning of the entire Gospel
Thomas Brodie argues that the Gospel accounts of Jesus, both his deeds and teachings, are like other literature of the era insofar as they are creative re-writings of earlier literary sources. The best-known example of such creative imitation in the classical world is Virgil’s use of Homer’s epics to create the Aeneid. What is less well known is how pervasive this sort of literary imitation (and creative emulation) was in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Many scholars have pinpointed isolated passage in the Gospels that appear to be derived from other literature (e.g. Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus is very like similar miracles by Elijah and Elisha) but Brodie goes well beyond these arguments and into a quite different dimension of literary analysis, as I will explain below. He also argues that the hypothesis that the Gospels are derived from oral traditions is flawed for many reasons.
No-one who has read Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery can ever legitimately accuse Brodie of resorting to “extreme parallelomania” in order to argue his case. Indeed, scholars as reputable as Charles H. Talbert and Wilfrid Cantrell Smith found Brodie’s thesis to be worthy of wider serious consideration. Anyone who dismisses his arguments as even at times stooping to superficial dot-point comparisons of prepositions was never paying attention to what they claim they read. (I have suppressed the name of the prime culprit in order to protect the guilty.)
In Chapter 7 of Beyond the Quest Brodie gives a 26-page detailed explanation of what is involved in identifying the source of Luke 9:57-62 in 1 Kings 19. Six of those 26 pages set out in small font the relevant Greek texts and translations side by side. This is the sort of detail that Brodie explains he did not have space to include in his 2004 tome (680+ pages) identifying the sources of New Testament writings, The Birthing of the New Testament. But of those 680+ pages Brodie only gave a 6-page explanation of how those six verses are derived from 1 Kings 19. In Beyond the Quest we are treated to the full course banquet.
Getting Inside What Is Happening
Studies of how ancient writers adapted or transformed older texts, especially of how the New Testament used the Old Testament, are now becoming commonplace, but it is useful to look at an example closely because the transforming process can seem strange. (Beyond, p. 51)
The theme of Act 2 is how Brodie learned that the biblical writers found much of their material in literary sources.
In 1980 Brodie met Joseph Fitzmyer in Washington, DC, and asked him to comment on an article he (Brodie) had had published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament the previous year. It was on Luke’s use of Chronicles. After considering the argument Fitzmyer set Brodie on a new journey with one question:
‘Is the process you are invoking found elsewhere in the ancient world?’
Brodie had no answer.
So this is what followed:
As never before I started wading through libraries, and eventually hit on the obvious — the pervasive practice of Greco-Roman literary imitation (mimēsis) and its sundry ancient cousins, many of them Jewish. Jewish practices included rewriting and transforming older texts; and Jewish terms included rewritten Bible, inner-biblical exegesis, and the processes known rather loosely as midrash, Hebrew for searching — in this case searching for meaning.
What I had noticed within the Bible was the tip of the iceberg. Here was a whole world of diverse ways of deliberately reshaping diverse sources.
The process I was invoking was not just present in the ancient word — it was at the very centre of ancient compositions. And the New Testament use of the Old, pivotal though it is, is just part of the larger pattern whereby the Bible as a whole distils the larger world of ancient writing. (Beyond, p. 44 – my bolding and formatting)
Biblical studies, Brodie reflects, “had developed in a world where the very concept of any form of imitation was fading, and aversion to the notion of imitation had affected even classical studies.” Though he had studied both Virgil and Homer in high school there was no teaching that one had imitated the other. The Oxford Classical Dictionary had no entry for imitation until its 1996 (third) edition.
Brodie is discovering where the New Testament writers found their source material. This is the pattern of literary dependence that he was beginning to see (elaborated with details from Birthing of the New Testament):
A series of sayings in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 5and 11 — beatitudes, antitheses, revelatory cry . . .)
were a distillation of Deuteronomy
and to a lesser extent, Sirach
Early epistles, following the tone of Matthew’s “sayings/logia”,
also drew upon the Septuagint (e.g. 1 Corinthians’ use of the Pentateuch, esp Deuteronomy)
An early form of Luke-Acts, Proto-Luke,
modelled on the Elijah-Elisha narrative,
also drawing upon Deuteronomy (other scholars first discerned this),
and 1 Corinthians
The Gospel of Mark,
drawing upon Proto-Luke,
some epistles (e.g. 1 Peter)
and Septuagint (also the Elijah-Elisha narrative)
Gospel of Matthew is completed in its current form, using
the earlier kernel of sayings (see above)
the Gospel of Mark,
and with further input from Deuteronomy,
and probably Tobit,
The Gospel of John,
making use of Matthew,
and epics such as the Aeneid
I like the idea of a pre- or proto-Matthean collection of sayings. The earliest “Fathers” seem to make a lot of use of such a compilation with apparently little or no knowledge of a fuller Gospel of Matthew. (But of course I also like to date the Gospels to the second century, with Mark’s imagery linked more pointedly to the Second Jewish War — Bar Kochba and Hadrian — than the first.)
Such a sequence pointed to a complex literary and historical process, provided a framework for approaching the NT writings, outlined a solution for the Synoptic Problem, and a context for discussing John.
But was it correct?
After 48 hours in an overcrowded Beirut prison on suspicion of being a spy for Israel (in the wake of an Israeli raid on Lebanon) Brodie returned to Normandy.
The earlier posts, “Act 1” covered Brodie’s Part One of Beyond the Quest. That covered the period of Brodie’s intellectual discoveries from his late teen years till June 1972 (when he was about 30 years of age). Much of the setting was Trinidad. Brodie titled that Part of his book, his first four chapters, “The First Revolution: Historical Investigations” and explained its theme:
Becoming aware that biblical narratives are not necessarily reliable accounts of history.
Becoming aware of where biblical writers found much of their material
The setting is Europe, Normandy. 1972. Brodie is studying for exams in Rome.
While in Trinidad he had taught the Gospel so Matthew knew it well. Now he was studying Deuteronomy when the abductive moment flashed:
Now I was focused on Deuteronomy when I suddenly said ‘That is like Matthew, that is so like Matthew’ — something about the sense of community, the discourses, the blessings and curses, the mountain setting. (p. 31)
Other similarities suggested themselves in the following days:
aspects of the Elijah-Elisha narrative “showed startling similarities to Luke-Acts”
the book of Wisdom’s confrontation between Wisdom and the kings of the earth was in some ways suggestive of the meeting between Jesus and Pilate in the Gospel of John
While in Jerusalem, at the École Biblique, a center of biblical historical and archaeological studies, Brodie continued his study of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) with Matthew in mind. Only flimsy and tenuous connections with Matthew could be noticed, however, until he reached Deuteronomy 15.
Since beginning this series I have discovered James McGrath’s distortion of Brodie’s book so where appropriate I should make clear what Brodie really says. McGrath speaks of Brodie’s “extreme parellelomania”. It is one thing to question and debate specific claims that certain passages were borrowed from others, but quite another to dismiss any such argument out of hand because we don’t like its implications. I emphasize the passages that clearly escaped McGrath’s notice.
Connections with Matthew seemed few and flimsy. Then suddenly, in Deuteronomy 15, the search came to life. The repeated emphasis on remission resonated with Matthew’s emphasis on forgiveness (Mt. 18). Both use similar Greek terminology. Obviously such similarity proved nothing. But further comparison revealed more links. And the Deuteronomic word for debt, daneion, is unknown elsewhere in the Bible — except in Matthew 18. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Matthew 18 had used first-century materials, including Mark, but it had also absorbed Deuteronomy 15. (p. 32)