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Authenticating the Activities of Jesus

 

 

B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998)

 

Chapter 1. "Authenticating the Activities of Jesus" - Craig A. Evans

Evans (p. 3-5) agrees with:

Sanders' list of 8 facts/activities about which we may be confident, Jesus and Judaism p. 11:

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.

3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve.

4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel.

5. Jesus engaged in a controversy about the Temple.

6. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities

7. After his death Jesus' followers continued as an identifiable movement.

8. At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement (Gal 1:13, 22; Phil 3:6), and it appears that this persecution endured at least to a time near the end of Paul's career (2 Cor 11:24; Gal 5:11; 6:12; cf. Matt 23:34; 10:17).

Sanders' list of other highly probable facts in The Historical Figure of Jesus:

1. Jesus was born c. 4 BCE, at the approximate time of the death of Herod the Great.

2. Jesus grew up in Nazareth in Galilee.

3. Although Jesus taught in small villages and towns, he seems to have avoided cities.

4. Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples.

5. Jesus was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, apparently by orders of the High Priest.

6. Although they abandoned Jesus after his arrest, the disciples later 'saw' him after his death. This led the disciples to the belief that Jesus would return and found the kingdom.

Wright's few facts added to the list in Jesus and the Victory of God:

1. Jesus spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, and probably some Greek

2. Jesus summoned people to repent (pace Sanders)

3. Jesus made use of parables to announce the kingdom of God.

4. Jesus effected remarkable cures, including exorcisms, as demonstrations of the truth of his proclamation of the kingdom.

5. Jesus shared in table fellowship with a socially and religiously diverse group, including those whom many Torah-observant Jews would regard as "sinners".

Evans adds to the lists:

"To Sanders's and Wright's several facts one can add a few more complementary details. I think that it is highly probable that Jesus was viewed by the public as a prophet, that the Romans crucified him as 'king of the Jews', and that following Easter his followers regarded him as Israel's Messiah…I think it is also appropriate to maintain as highly probable Jesus' reference to 'twelve'."(p. 5)

 

Jesus and the Restoration of Israel-

Evans reviews several of the above points, specifically elucidating the way in which they portray Jesus as concerned for the restoration of Israel, a point w/which many in the Jesus Seminar would disagree.

Concerning the significance of the fact that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Evans writes:

"If we agree that Jesus was baptized by John, what does it mean? I think that it implies at the very least that Jesus was in essential agreement with the Baptist's agenda, and agenda that seems to have the restoration of Israel as its goal (through repentance and preparation for an eschatological moment)."(p. 7)

Commenting on the fact that Jesus was a Galilean who proclaimed the kingdom of God, Evans writes:

"His proclamation of it as the 'good news,' as 'fulfilled,' and as 'at hand' is consistent with his recognition as a prophet. [12] It is also consistent with the theme of Isaiah 61 ("the Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news"), to which Jesus alludes in tradition which surely is authentic (cf. Matt 11:4-5 = Luke 7:22).[13] Influence of the theology of Second Isaiah is witnessed throughout Jesus' ministry: the provision of food (Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-10; cf. Isa 25:6), healing (Mark 1:29-31, 32-34, 40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-6; cf. Isa 35:5-6; 61:1-2), and even raising the dead (Mark 5:35-43; Luke 7:11-17; cf. Isa 26:19). Although how much of this tradition derives from the actual activities of Jesus is debated, the contribution of Isaiah can hardly be gainsaid…An orientation toward Second Isaiah strongly suggests that Jesus understood his message and mission in terms of national restoration."(p. 9)

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12. Two passages in particular strongly suggest this: (1) Mark 6:4, where Jesus' self-reference, "A prophet is not without honor except at home," can hardly have been the creation of the early church; and (2) the passage in which the soldiers mockingly ask Jesus to "prophesy" and so identify those who strike him (Mark 14:65; cf. Matt 26:68, where the request for identification is made explicit). The doleful lament in Q, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which stones the prophets and kills those sent to you…" (Matt. 23:37 = Luke 13:34), also implies that Jesus understood Himself as a prophet. A few other passages lend additional support (cf. Matt 10:41; Mark 6:15; 8:27-28)…

13. Occurrences of "good news" or "gospel"…are found in the second half of Isaiah. There are five passages in all (Isa 40:1-11; 41:21-29; 52:7-12; 60:1-7; 61:1-11). The summary in Mark 1:15 betrays significant points of dictional coherence with the Aramaic paraphrase of some of these passages from Isaiah. In Tg. Isa 40:9 we read "The kingdom of your God is revealed!" instead of "Here is your God!" Again, in Tg. Isa 52:7 we read "The kingdom of your God is revealed!" instead of "Here is your God!" The italicized words indicate the places where the Aramaic departs from the Hebrew. The Aramaic diction approximates the gist of Jesus' proclamation: "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the good news." What draws the Aramaic tradition even closer to Jesus' proclamation is that the verses cited above are understood to relate to the essence of the message that the prophet is to proclaim.

Commenting on the fact that Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve, Evans writes:

"Jesus is called 'rabbi,' his most common designation. His activities of teaching and disciple-making are consistent with what we know of Jewish religious teachers of this period. His allusive, ad hoc appeal to Scripture reflects interpretive tendencies that may be traced to the synagogue (as attested in prayers and in the Aramaic paraphrases). His eschatological and charismatic understanding of Scripture is paralleled in important ways at Qumran. As a teacher, or rabbi, Jesus disputed with other teachers about what constituted purity, an important factor in Israel's covenant with God and, from an eschatological perspective, the nation's restoration. Even his actions in the Temple precincts are consistent with his recognition as a rabbi and followed the examples of other rabbis before him…The appointment of the twelve, taken with the proclamation of the kingdom of God, virtually makes certain Jesus' hopes for the restoration of Israel. That the twelve signified the twelve tribes of Israel can hardly be doubted and that such symbolism pointed to the whole of Israel is highly probable and is consistent with later rabbinic discussion of the regathering of the twelve tribes in the age to come."(p. 11)

Commenting on the fact that Jesus confined his activity to Israel, Evans writes:

"This adds further support to Jesus' mission of restoration of Israel. If only a philosopher, and a cynic one at that, why not more ministry in the cosmopolitan cities within and without Israel? Why no mention of activity in neighboring Tiberias and Sepphoris? The formulation in Matthew 10 may reflect a great deal of editorial work of the evangelist, but surely the command to 'go nowhere among the Gentiles, but only go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel' (Matt 10:56; cf. 15:24), could not have been generated in the church, even the Matthean church. For one, the saying stands in obvious tension with the Great Commission, whereby the apostles are to make disciples of the nations, but it also stands in tension with the immediate context of the Missionary Discourse. For later in the discourse the disciples are given instructions about what to say and not to fear when brought before the Gentiles (cf. Matt 10:18). The instructions to go only to Israel very likely originated in Jesus, which through contextualization in the Missionary Discourse and in the Great Commission is qualified in an important sense.

"The over-all impression one gains is that Jesus was indeed a teacher and prophet to his own people. His teachings may have contained implications for Gentiles and he may have encountered a few Gentiles (such as the Syro-Phoenician woman), but his ministry appears to have been confined for the most part to Israel itself. This limitation is consistent with the view, recommended above, that Jesus' ministry had as its goal Israel's redemption."(p. 11)

Commenting on the fact that Jesus was widely regarded as a remarkable healer and exorcist, Evans writes:

"Any fair reading of the Gospels and other ancient sources (including Josephus)[18] inexorably leads to the conclusion that Jesus was well known in his time as a healer and exorcist. Historians need not be distracted by scientific and philosophical questions that inquire to the exact nature of these events. It is sufficient for historians to conclude that Jesus engaged in activities that led his contemporaries to view him as a healer and exorcist. Many scholars in recent years have adopted this view.[19]

"Scholarship has now moved past its preoccupation with demythologization. The miracle stories are now treated seriously and are widely accepted by Jesus scholars as deriving from Jesus' ministry. Major studies on the historical Jesus discuss the miracles, whether in general terms or in reference to specific miracles, with little or no discussion of myth or the philosophical issues at one time thought to be necessary for any assessment of the miracle traditions in the Gospels.[21] Several specialized studies have appeared in recent years, which conclude that Jesus did things that were viewed as 'miracles'." (p. 11-12)

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18. In the part of the so-called Testimonium Flavianum most scholars regard as authentic, Josephus describes Jesus as a "doer of amazing deeds"…(Ant. 18.3.3 63). This language is not negative; it is neutral.

19. …Even the Jesus Seminar, as reported in R. W. Funk (ed.), The Acts of Jesus…have accepted many of the miracles (e.g. Mark 1:30-31, Simon's mother-in-law; Mark 1:40-42, the cleansing of the leper; Mark 2:3-5, 12, the paralytic; Mark 5:25-29, the woman with the hemorrhage; Luke 8:1-2, exorcism; Mark 10:46-52, blind Bartimaeus.)

21. Many of the most significant studies in Jesus in recent years take the miracles seriously into account, e.g. G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels (London: Collins; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973) 58-82; M. Smith, Jesus the Magician (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978) 8-20; Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, 154-58; A.E. Harvey, Jesus and the Constraints of History (London: Duckworth, 1982) 105-18; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 157-72; M.J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) 57-75: B. Witherington, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 145-77.

Evans quotes various scholars on the authenticity of the miracle traditions:

Barry Blackburn: "the miracle-working activity of Jesus--at least exorcisms and healings--easily passes the criterion of multiple attestation. Such miracles are attested in Q [Matt 4:3 = Luke 4:3; Matt 8:5-10, 13b = Luke 7:1-10; Matt 11:4-5 = Luke 7:22; Matt 10:8 = Luke 10:9; Matt 11:20-24 = Luke 10:13-15; Matt 9:32-34 = 12:22-29 =Luke 11:14-15, 17-22], Mark, material unique to Matthew [7:22; 9:27-31; 17:24-27; 21:14] and to Luke [4:18, 23-27; 5:1-11; 7:11-17; 8:2; 9:54; 10:17-20; 13:10-17; 13:32; 14:1-6; 17:11-21; 22:51; 23:8, 37, 39; 24:19], and the Gospel of John (healings only), including the 'signs source'. Jesus' wonderworking is also attested in various forms of oral tradition isolated by form criticism: (1) controversy [Mark 3:1-6 par; Luke 14:1-6; 13:10-17; Mark 3:22-30; 2:1-12 par], scholastic [Matt 11:2-19 par; Mark 9:38-40 par; 11:20-25 par], and biographical apothegms [Luke 17:11-19; Matt 17:24-27; Luke 13:31-33. Bultmann also regards Mark 7:24-31 par and Matt 8:5-13 par as apothegms (cf. History of the Synoptic Tradition, 38-39)], (2) dominical sayings, including logia (wisdom sayings) [Mark 3:24-26 par], prophetic sayings [Matt 11:21-24 par; 11:5-6 par; 7:22-23 par], church rules [Mark 6:8-11 = Matt 10:5-16 = Luke 10:2-12], and "I" sayings [Matt 12:27-28 par], (3) miracle stories, (4) legends, and (5) the passion narrative.

"(Moreoever), Jesus' exorcistic and healing activity is mentioned or implied by a few dominical logia with strong claims to authenticity. Following the charge that Jesus exorcised as a sorcerer, both Mark and Q contain two dominical parables, the former of which, the 'divided kingdom' parable (Mark 3:24-26; Matt 12:25-26; Luke 11:17-18), almost certainly originated as a defense against the charge of demonically empowered healings and/or exorcisms. Only so could the language about Satan being divided against himself be meaningfully interpreted. Independently attested by Mark and Q and addressing a charge patently not created by the church, its claim to be an authentic dominical saying is good."[B.L. Blackburn, "The Miracles of Jesus," in Chilton and Evans (eds.), Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994) p. 356-57.]

R.H. Fuller: "the tradition that Jesus did perform exorcisms and healings (which may also have been exorcisms originally) is very strong"[R.H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles (Philadelphia: Westminister, 1963), p. 39]

Gerd Theissen: "There is no doubt that Jesus worked miracles, healed the sick and cast out demons."[Gerd Theissen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) p. 277]

Morton Smith: "In most miracle stories no explanation at all is given; Jesus simply speaks or acts and the miracle is done by his personal power. This trait probably reflects historical fact."[Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978) p. 101.]

E.P. Sanders: "There is agreement on the basic facts: Jesus performed miracles, drew crowds and promised the kingdom to sinners."[E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) p. 157.]

H. Hendrickx: "Yes, we can be sure that Jesus performed real signs which were interpreted by his contemporaries as experiences of an extraordinary power."[emphasis his][H. Hendrickx, The Miracle Stories and the Synoptic Gospels (London: Chapman; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) p. 22.]

Ben Witherington: "That Jesus performed deeds that were perceived as miracles by both him and his audience is difficult to doubt."[Ben Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) p. 155]

Evans writes:

"One of the most revealing episodes, to which Blackburn also draws our attention, is the account in which Jesus is accused of being in league with Satan (Mark 3:22-27):

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Be-elzebul, and by the prince of demons.' 23 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, 'How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

"What is interesting is the statement that 'Satan is coming to an end' (Mark 3:26). An exact Latin equivalent of Mark's…"comes to an end"…is found in the Testament of Moses: 'Then his [i.e. God's] kingdom will appear in his entire creation. And then the devil will come to an end…, and sadness will be carried away together with him' (10:1). The association of the appearance of God's kingdom and the demise of the devil is the presupposition of the eschatology of both Jesus and the author of the Testament of Moses, a pseudepigraphon which in its final form appeared in the first third of the first century CE. What is especially interesting is that what is viewed in the Testament of Moses as part of the End, at which time Satan will finally be undone, in Jesus it is viewed as having already been accomplished in his ministry. What is anticipated in the Testament is believed to be in the process of fulfillment in Jesus' ministry. We find the same difference in temporal perspective in the comparison of Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God and the paraphrasing in the Isaiah Targum. What in the Aramaic tradition is anticipated, in Jesus' proclamation it is fulfilled (see n. 14 above).

"Jesus' widespread ministry of exorcism, which included healings that in some ways were thought to involve the countering of Satanic influence, creates a strong presumption that Jesus' aim was the restoration of Israel through the renewing and reviving power of God's presence. The kingdom of Satan has begun to give way to the greater power of the kingdom of God."(p. 14-16)

Concerning the fact that Jesus associated with diverse elements of Jewish Palestinian society, Evans writes:

"More than two dozen times in the Synoptic Gospels we hear of 'sinners', often in reference to Jesus' association with them. In many of these passages 'tax (or toll) collectors' are mentioned as well. The authenticity of this tradition can scarcely be doubted, for it appears in all layers of the Synoptic tradition and no convincing reason can be given for assigning its origin to the early Church.

"One of the most interesting instances involves a dominical saying in Q, where in contrast to the ascetic John the Baptist Jesus says of himself: "the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'"(Matt 11:19 = Luke 7:34). Here we have a saying that can hardly have been produced by the early Christian community. This saying offers important corroboration of the Gospel's general portrait of Jesus as frequently in the company of sinners. But the epithet itself, 'a glutton and a drunkard,' is ominous, as Howard Kee comments:

The verbal links of this phrase with Deut 21:20 have been noted and discussed but not adequately explored. The fact that the phrase in Q…differs sharply from the LXX, even its wording, would be a likely sign of context in which the phrase occurs in Deuteronomy (21:18-21) and the implications which it carries with it for the use of the phrase in the Jesus tradition. The passage in Deuteronomy outlines the procedure for dealing with a 'stubborn and rebellious son,' who refuses to obey his parents. More is at stake than relations within the family, however. He constitutes a threat to the welfare of the community as a whole, as is evident in the court of appeal to which the case is to be referred and the agents through whom the legally prescribed punishment is to be carried out. The problem is not to be resolved by the parents alone. Instead, the charge against the rebel is to be brought to the town council: to the elders gathered at the town gate. The execution of the rebel is to be by stoning, and it is to be carried out by all the adult males of the community.[37]

"Kee's insight reveals the extent to which Jesus' comment anticipates his fate in Jerusalem. The saying may also shed important light on Jesus' understanding of the kingdom in relation to his mission. From the accusation that he was 'a glutton and a drunkard' we should probably infer that Jesus had begun to celebrate the coming of the kingdom of God. It is only when faced the probability of death, that Jesus vows not to 'drink again of the fruit of the vine until the day when [he] drink[s] it new in the kingdom of God' (Mark 14:25).

"The charge that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners also draws attention to the redemptive aims in his ministry. This point is well illustrated in the popular Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31. The prodigal is said to have 'squandered his property in loose living' (v. 13) and is later accused by his older brother of having cavorted 'with harlots' (v. 30). But despite his sins, having repented he is to be received with joy (vv. 24,32). The natural inference from what is said of the prodigal and what is said of Jesus is that the latter's association with sinners was part of the restoration of Israel. Jesus sought to reclaim 'sinners' and enjoined the righteous to receive them. The kingdom of God, then, entailed a call to repentance and a ready acceptance of the penitent into full participation, even celebration, in the new community." (p. 16-17)

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37. Kee, "Jesus: a Glutton and Drunkard," in B. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Words of Jesus (NTTS 28.1; Leiden: Brill, 1998) p. 329.

Concerning the fact that Jesus engaged in a controversy about the Temple, Evans writes:

"This controversy centered on criticism of the ruling priests. This is consistent with Jesus' being a rabbi, for on occasion rabbis did this sort of thing.[40] It is consistent with his role as prophet, for the later prophet Jesus son of Ananias did something similar. It is also consistent with Jesus' concern for the fate of Israel, for if Temple polity is defective, Israel's restoration will be postponed.

"The appeal to Isaiah 56:7 is highly significant and should not be dismissed as a Christian invention, either to deflect charges that Jesus was attacking the Temple or to find some scriptural warrant to justify his actions. The saying, 'my house shall be a house of prayer for the nations' (Mark 11:17), cannot easily be explained as deriving from the early Church. Why would early Christians wish to claim the Temple as the house of prayer for the nations? Would not such a view stand in tension with the Church? The assumption of Christian origin becomes even more problematic, if Mark's Gospel was not published until after the destruction of the Temple in 70. It is better to understand the saying as originating with Jesus, for it is consistent with his restorative theology, as the fuller context of the prophetic oracle suggests. Isaiah 56:1-8 constitutes an oracle that looks forward to the day when all the peoples of the world will come to Jerusalem. Jesus' appeal to this oracle, which forms the scriptural presupposition for his complaint against the Temple polity, is consistent with his proclamation of the appearance of the kingdom. The kingdom is at hand, Temple polity should reflect it."(p. 17-19)

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40. Pharisees incite the crowd to pelt Alexander Jannaeus before he could offer sacrifice (Josephus, Ant. 13.13.5 372-73); rabbis encourage youths to damage an eagle Herod had mounted over a Temple gate (Josephus, J.W. 1.33.2-4 648-655); and Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel protests the overcharge for doves (m. Ker. 1:7)

Concerning the fact that Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples, Evans writes:

"In this meal Jesus spoke of not drinking wine 'until the day' when he drinks it new in the kingdom of God…Jesus' anticipation…clearly attests an expectation of Israel's restoration. The authenticity of this statement is virtually guaranteed by the extreme improbability that the Markan evangelist or tradents that preceded him, decades after Jesus' death, would create a saying whose fulfillment seemed problematic. The Pauline version, which is some twenty years earlier than the Markan version, does not retain this part of the tradition. Its absence may have been the result of deliberate omission. The material should be judged as largely authentic. However, the Jesus Seminar does not agree…[see The Five Gospels p. 118, where the saying is rated 'gray']…This judgement is too skeptical, for the words are attested in Paul, though admittedly in a somewhat different form.

"Paul's form of the tradition underscores the memorial aspect of the words of institution, a feature totally absent from the Markan version. This is important to note. The memorializing of the words of the Last Supper shifts the emphasis away from Jesus' anticipation of the imminent fullness of the kingdom, which his reference to drinking wine surely implies. Mark's form is primitive, the Pauline form--attested in Luke 22:19--is secondary.

"Jesus' expectation to drink wine 'anew'…in the kingdom anticipates not only the restoration of Israel, a 'kingdom of God' in which the reign of God is felt throughout the nation and the world, but it also anticipates an active administrative role for himself and his disciples. The Q saying about the twelve sitting on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, as well as the Markan saying about the disciples not administering to Israel the way the Gentiles and mighty men of the world lord it over others, is part of this kingdom hope.

"The hope for the full manifestation of the kingdom of God, which brings with it Israel's restoration, entails a shaking up of the political and economic structures of Israel. Old administrators must go (as seen in the Parable of the Wicked Vineyard Tenants), serious social and religious wrongs must be set right (as seen in the warning about the scribes who plunder widows, as seen in the widow's last mite), and new administrators, 'who do the will of God' (Mark 3:35), must assume positions of leadership (as seen in the Markan and Q sayings). In his last meal with his disciples, which left an indelible imprint on the collective memory of his earliest followers, Jesus spoke of the coming of the kingdom and of 'blood of the covenant'. However that last phrase was originally intended, it is very probably part of Jesus' hope for Israel's restoration."(p. 20-22)

Concerning the fact that Jesus was crucified as 'king of the Jews' outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities, Evans writes:

"The execution of Jesus by the Romans as…["king of the Jews"]…is one of the single most important data we have. David Catchpole doubts the historicity of the titulus, suspecting that it has been drawn from the earlier material in Mark 15. But Mark wishes to portray Jesus as the 'Christ', the 'son of God', not as the 'king of the Jews.' The Roman Senate, and later emperor Augustus, recognized Herod the Great as 'king of the Jews', or 'king of Judea'…Only Romans call Jesus 'king of Israel' (vv. 31-32). Christians, however, regarded Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God, and never call him 'king of the Jews'. In view of these considerations I have to agree with the majority of scholars who accept the titulus and its wording as historical and genuine.[52]

"The titulus accordingly gives us a great deal of insight into the nature of Jesus' activities and how his contemporaries apparently viewed him. If Jesus was in fact executed as a royal claimant, then we probably should regard the entry, in which Jesus is mounted on the animal (evidently as a conscious enactment of Zech 9:9), as also historical. For it would have been a symbolic act such as this that would have contributed to the growing belief that Jesus was in some sense king…Other traditions, such as the cry of blind son of Timaeus, in which he addresses Jesus as 'Son of David' (Mark 10:47-48), also receive a measure of corroboration.

"The crucifixion of Jesus as 'king of the Jews', therefore, seriously weakens attempts to interpret Jesus in non-messianic ways. The Jesus Seminar's portrait of Jesus more in terms of a Cynic philosopher stumbles on the nature of Jesus' death. At most a pest, neither Jewish nor Roman authorities would have paid much attention to him. A good beating, perhaps imprisonment, would have been more than sufficient. Execution, however,--and an execution by crucifixion at that--calls for a much better explanation of Jesus' words and activities. When we notice that the substance of his message centered on the 'kingdom of God', we may justifiably suspect that his execution of the 'king of the Jews' was related and that this sort of correlation surely points to a messianic agenda of some sort."(p. 23-24)

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52. G. Schneider, "The Political Charge," in Bammel and Moule (eds.), Jesus and the Politics of His Day, 403-14. On p. 403 Schneider comments that the titulus is "historically unimpeachable." Other supporters for the historicity of the titulus include J. Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Marci (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1909) 130-31; P. Winter, On the Trial of Jesus (Studia Judaica: Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums 1; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1961) 108; E. Dinkler, Signum Crucis (Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1967) 306; E. Bammel, "The titulus," in Bammel and Moule (eds.), Jesus and the Politics of His Day, 353-64. On p. 33 Bammel concludes that the "wording of the titulus as it is reported in the Gospels is in all likelihood authentic."

Concerning the fact that After his death Jesus' followers continued as an identifiable movement and were called 'Christians' because of their belief that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, Evans writes:

"The widespread understanding of Jesus as Israel's Messiah, and therefore God's 'Son' (in keeping with Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7--all part of the Davidic royal tradition), strongly recommends a messianic element that reaches back to the period of Jesus' ministry. If nothing messianic was present in Jesus' ministry, if only primarily implicit, this widespread messianic understanding of Jesus is hard to explain. After all, there appears to have been no competing interpretations of Jesus among his followers, that is, some messianic and others non-messianic.

"The force of this point seems lost on many who claim that the recognition of Jesus as Messiah originated only in the post-Easter setting. Had there been no messianic element in Jesus' teaching or activity, at least nothing discernible to his following, then it is very hard to understand where post-Easter Messianism came from. The resurrection alone cannot account for this widespread belief, for there is no pre-Christian messianic tradition that viewed resurrection in some way evidence of a person's messianic identity. The early Church, it should be remembered, usually found the proclamation of Jesus' resurrection an insufficient apologetic in Jewish settings. Alone, the resurrection of Jesus could not compensate for the enormity of the problem of his rejection by the ruling priests, his ostensible defeat at the hands of the Roman authorities, and his shameful execution. The Messiah was to 'remain forever' (John 12:34).

"Although due allowance must be made for its obvious apologetic slant, the question with which Justin Martyr credits Trypho the Jew very likely approximates the misgivings many Jews would have entertained when hearing Christian claims:

Then Trypho remarked, 'Be assured that all our nation awaits the Messiah; and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to him. Moreover, I also admit that the name of Jesus by which the son of Nun was called, has inclined me very strongly to adopt this view. But we are in doubt about whether the Messiah should be so shamefully crucified. For whoever is crucified is said in the Law to be accursed, so that I am very skeptical on this point. It is quite clear, to be sure, that the Scriptures announce that the Messiah had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you can prove it to us whether by suffering he was cursed.'(Dialogue with Typho 89.1)

'Lead us on, then,' [Trypho] said, 'by the Scriptures, that we may also be persuaded by you; for we know that he should suffer and be led as a sheep. But prove to us whether he must also be crucified and die such disgraceful and dishonorable death, cursed by the Law. For we cannot bring ourselves to even consider this.'(Dialogue with Typho 90.1)

"Trypho is quite accommodating in his concession that 'the Scriptures announce that the Messiah had to suffer,' but remains skeptical due to the shameful dishonorable nature of Jesus' suffering, ending in a form of death that brings to mind Deut 21:23 and the idea of one who dies in such a manner is 'cursed of God.'

"Of course, Jewish critics were not alone in mocking the Christian proclamation that the crucified Galilean was none other than Israel's King and God's Messiah. According to Origen, Celsus regarded the notion as absurd, that someone betrayed, abandoned, captured, and executed could be regarded as God and Savior. The whole notion is preposterous (cf. Origen, Contra Celsum 2.9, 35, 68; 6.10, 34, 36). To make any headway at all, especially in a Jewish context, a Christian apologetic would have to explain the circumstances of the passion and would have to show how the passion was in keeping with scriptural expectation. Proclamation of the resurrection would in itself constitute an insufficient apologetic.

"From these considerations it seems prudent to conclude that the origin of the messianic understanding of Jesus is pre-Passion, not post-Easter. The resurrection of Jesus served to revive messianic categories; it did not create them."(p. 25-26)

 

Confirmation in Josephus that Jesus was handed over by religious authorities-

According to Josephus, Pilate condemned Jesus to death "upon hearing him accused by the first men among us." (Ant. 18.3.3 64).

"Who are these 'first men among us?'? The most probably candidates are Jerusalem's ruling priests and associates. First-century usage supports this suggestion. The author of Luke-Acts refers to Israel's leaders as the 'first of the people': And he was teaching daily in the Temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people…were seeking to destroy him' (Luke 19:47). Luke links these 'first' ones with 'the ruling priests and scribes'. Two additional examples in Acts should be cited: 'And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews…informed him (i.e. Governor Festus) against Paul" (Acts 25:2); 'After three days (Paul) called together the principal men of the Jews…' (Acts 28:17). Examples from Josephus are instructive: 'There came to (Ezra) certain men who accused some of the common people as well as Levites and priests of having violated the constitution and broken the laws of the country…because the first men among the people…were guilty of this charge' (Ant. 11.5.4 140-141). Here, the 'first men' are synonymous with the Levites and priests. In a text closer to the one that concerns us, Josephus describes Vitellius' movement against Aretas: 'Since he had started to lead his army through the land of Judea, the Jews of the highest standing…went to meet him and entreated him not to march through their land. For, they said, it was contrary to their tradition to allow images…to be brought upon their soil' (Ant. 18.5.3 121). These 'first men' who are concerned that Roman icons not be allowed to pass through Judea were in all probability religious leaders. Vitellius accommodated their wishes. Accordingly, the 'first men' of the Testimonium Flavianum should be understood as ruling priests and their associates. If this is correct, then we have in Josephus an important point of agreement with the New Testament Gospels, which tell us that the ruling priests had Jesus arrested and handed over to Pilate." (p. 19-20)

 

Postscript-

"At this point we might briefly compare the recent work of the Jesus Seminar with the probable facts outlined above. The Seminar has affirmed the following:

1. Jesus was an itinerant teacher in Galilee.

2. Jesus practiced prayer in seclusion.

3. Jesus preached in synagogues of Galilee.

4. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God.

5. Jesus cured some sick people.

6. Jesus drove out what were thought to be demons.

7. Jesus enjoyed a certain amount of popularity in Galilee and surrounding regions

"Other incidents recorded in the New Testament Gospels regarded by the Seminar as probable include Jesus' baptism by John, his association with 'sinners', for which he was criticized, his use of parables, plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath, scribal criticism for allowing his disciples to eat with unwashed hands, his being accused of being demon empowered, his negative reception in his hometown, his driving out vendors in the Temple precincts, desertion by his disciples, his being handed over to Pilate, who flogged him and had him crucified. The Seminar believes that the hearing before the Jewish Council and the trial before Pilate are propaganda, not historical. Indeed, with the regard to the latter, the Seminar states: 'It is not just the content of the trial but the fact of a trial that lacks historical foundation."[The Acts of Jesus, 152] Accordingly, the Seminar does think Jesus was brought before the High Priest.

"What is therefore absent in the Seminar's findings is the question that Caiaphas the High Priest put to Jesus: 'Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed?' as well as the detail that Jesus was crucified as 'king of the Jews' (Mark 14:61; 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26). The evidence for the historicity of both of these elements is strong, especially for the latter, which in turn lends important support to the former. These two details also receive important support, as already noted, from the facts that before his death Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, and after his death this disciples proclaimed him to be the Messiah, the king of Israel. Logic strongly suggests that a messianic element was present in Jesus' teaching and activities, if only implicitly, and that this best accounts for this development.

"What is absent in the Seminar's work is a convincing explanation of what led to Jesus' death. Key elements in the Temple controversy are discounted, as well as Jesus' appearance before the High Priest. The Seminar's portrait of Jesus as a teacher (but not messianic claimant) is insufficient to account for what happened to Jesus and the ideas his following entertained in the aftermath. One remembers Sander's appreciation of one important aspect of the work of the late Morton Smith. Sanders described it as 'a serious effort to explain historically some of the principal puzzles about Jesus, specifically why he attracted attention, why he was executed, and why he was subsequently deified…regarding Jesus as essentially a teacher does not answer these and related questions.'

"The point is a good one. Much about Jesus' teaching and activities can be inferred from the results. Why was he executed? Why did his followers regard him as Israel's Messiah, despite what by all accounts should have been viewed as his disqualification? The weighty relevance of these questions does not seem to have ben adequately appreciated by the Jesus Seminar.

"The 'probable facts' that have been surveyed above form a coherent picture and provide a plausible framework into which the sayings of Jesus may be placed. What emerges is a man whose public life began in association with and apparent support of the baptizing ministry of John. We immediately suspect an agenda of national restoration. Consistent with this suspicion is Jesus' subsequent proclamation of the kingdom of God, a proclamation that appears to be an Aramaic interpretation of Second Isaiah's 'good news.' This observation adds further support to the idea of national restoration, for Second Isaiah proclaims the coming new exodus. Again, consistent with this theme Jesus calls disciples and speaks of 'twelve'. The twelve surely represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus' focus on Israel is supported when we observe that he confined his activity to Israel. His healings and especially his exoricisms were understood by Jesus as evidence of the powerful presence of the kingdom of God and the beginning of the demise of Satan. His exorcisms, in some sense a 'rescue operation,' is consistent with his ministry of reclamation, as seen in association with 'sinners' and other Jewish people who were marginalized. When Jesus takes his program to Jerusalem he encounters serious opposition from the ruling priests. Jesus demonstrates in the Temple precincts, evidently as part of a criticism leveled against Temple polity. This action provokes further antagonism, which in turn leads to threats about the loss of the ruling priest's hegemony. In his final meal with his disciples, which may have been a Passover meal (which again would be consistent with Second Isaiah's promise of a new exodus), Jesus vows that he will not drink wine again until he drinks it 'new' in the kingdom of God. His subsequent arrest and crucifixion as 'king of the Jews' confirm the messianic and national element in his ministry. This belief is further confirmed when his disciples, upon hearing about and in many cases personally experiencing the resurrected Jesus, with confidence proclaim their master as Israel's Messiah."(p. 26-29)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2. "Can the Third Quest Hope to Succeed?" - James D.G. Dunn

 

Epistolary Silence concerning Jesus-

Concerning the "continuity [between Jesus and his followers] implicit in the self-identity of the first Christian churches", Dunn writes:

"Here, after all, were small house groups who designated themselves by reference to Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus. Sociology teaches us that such groups would almost certainly require founding traditions to explain to themselves as well as to others why they had formed distinct social groupings, why they were 'Christians'. It is unlikely that a bare kerygmatic formula like 1 Cor 15:1-8 would provide sufficient material for self-identification. Even the initiatory myths of the mystery cults told a more elaborate story. And stories of such diverse figures as Jeremiah and Diogenes were preserved by their disciples as part of the legitimation for their own commitment. Of course, counter examples can be named: we know very little of Qumran's Teacher of Righteousness. On the other hand, the Teacher of Righteousness never gave his name to the movement he initiated, whereas the first Christians could only explain themselves by reference to him whom they called '(the) Christ.'

"This a priori logic is supported by the evidence that the passing on of tradition was part of church founding from the first. Paul was careful to refer back to such foundation traditions on several occasions (e.g. 1 Cor 11:2; 15:1-3; Phil 4:9; Col 2:6-7; 1 Thess 4:1; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). It is true that the lack of explicit reference to Jesus tradition within the Pauline letters appears to point in the opposite direction. But, as I have argued elsewhere, there are a fair number of allusions to Jesus' teaching and behaviour in Paul's letters, and, more to the point, allusions are just what we would expect when there was a large body of shared tradition to which allusion could be made without further identification. In other words, the letters were not themselves the medium of initial instruction regarding founding traditions, but were able to draw on and refer back to these traditions as to something well enough known as part of their shared heritage. If further confirmation is needed, it is provided by the prominence of teachers within the earliest Christian churches (Acts 13:1; Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). Teachers, indeed, seem to have been the first regularly paid ministry within Christianity (Gal 6:6). Why teachers? Why else than to serve the congregation's repository of oral tradition? What else would Christian teachers teach? A Christian interpretation of scriptures, no doubt. But also, we can surely safely assume, the traditions which distinguished house churches from house synagogues or other religious, trade or burial societies."(p. 37-38)

 

 

Later Christian Prophecy incorporated into the Jesus Tradition-

"There is a further argument here which needs to be given some weight, even though it has rarely been deployed. Since the rise of form criticism it has been a regular assumption that sayings first uttered in the name of Jesus by early Christian prophets were incorporated into the Jesus tradition. And that this happened in at least some measure seems probable. But if prophetic utterance is invoked at this point then we also have to consider the long established recognition that inspiration could give rise to false prophecy. The need to test prophecy and to have tests for prophecy was recognized more or less from the beginning of Israel's reliance on prophecy. And as soon as we begin to read of prophets operating in the earliest churches we find the same concern reflected. Already in what may be the earliest writing in the New Testament Paul counsels: 'Do not despise prophecy, but test everything, hold to the good and avoid every form of evil' (1 Thess 5:20-22). And the concern runs through the New Testament and into the second century churches (Did. 11:7-8; 12:1; Hermas, Mand. 11:7, 11, 16): 'Believe not every spirit, but test the spirits…' (1 John 4:1).

"Once this point has been grasped, it gives rise to an important corollary of relevance for present discussion. The corollary is that wherever prophecy was active in the earliest churches it is likely to have been accompanied by what we might call a hermeneutic of suspicion. The prophetic utterance would not automatically have been assumed to be inspired by the Spirit of Jesus or the words to be words of (the exalted) Christ. The awareness that such utterances must be tested seems to have been continuous through Israel's prophetic experience and into Christianity's prophetic experience.

"The next step in the logic is a decisive one. What test would be applied to such utterances? One of the consistent answers is in effect the test of already recognized and established tradition. It was denial of or departure from foundational tradition which most clearly attested a false prophecy, which should therefore not be given any credence (Deut 13:2-3; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:2-3).

"When this insight is brought to the issue of prophetic utterances becoming incorporated into the Jesus tradition the result is quite far-reaching. For it means, first, that any prophecy claiming to be from the exalted Christ would be tested by what was already known to be the sort of thing Jesus had said. This again implies the existence in most churches of such a canon (the word is not inappropriate) of foundational Jesus tradition. But it also implies, second, that only prophetic utterances which cohered with that assured foundational material were likely to have been accepted as sayings of Jesus. Which means thirdly, that any distinctive saying or motif within the Jesus tradition is likely to have come from the original teaching of Jesus, since otherwise, if it originated as a prophetic utterance, it is unlikely to have been accepted as a saying of Jesus by the church in which it was first uttered. In other words, we have here emerging an interesting and potentially important fresh criterion for recognizing original Jesus tradition--a reverse criterion of coherence: the less closely a saying or motif coheres with the rest of the Jesus tradition, the more likely is it that the saying or motif goes back to Jesus himself.

"In short, there is quite substantial circumstantial evidence both that the first churches would have and actually did cherish and refer to Jesus tradition, provided for them as foundational tradition by their founding apostle(s), and that they would have been alert to the danger of diluting or contaminating that vital foundational tradition by incorporation into it of material incoherent with it."(p. 38-40)

 

 

More on Early Church's handling of the Jesus Tradition-

1. Traditions already circulating in churches prior to written Gospels:

"All this a priori reasoning and circumstantial evidence is given immeasurably greater credibility by the most important fact of all: that we have immediately to hand clear evidence of the sort of tradition these earliest churches possessed and of how they regarded and handled that tradition. I refer, of course, to the Synoptic Gospels themselves.

"Here, in the first place, we must take with due seriousness the starting point of form criticism--that is, the recognition that behind the written Gospels earlier forms of the tradition can be clearly enough discerned, and the assumption that these earlier forms indicate the way in which this tradition was preserve and used in the first churches. Despite this, some discussions of Synoptic pericopes at times almost seem to assume that when a copy of Mark or Matthew or Luke was first received by any church, that was the first time the church had heard the Jesus tradition contained therein. How ludicrous! In fact, it is almost self-evident that the Synoptists proceeded by gathering and ordering Jesus tradition which had already been in circulation, that is, had already been well enough known to various churches, for at least some years if not decades. Where else did they find the tradition? Stored up, unrehearsed, in the failing memory of an old apostle? Hardly! On the contrary, it is much more likely that when the Synoptics were first received by various churches, these churches already possessed (in oral or written form) their own versions of much of the material. They would be able to compare the evangelist's version of much of the tradition with their own version.

"This, surely, must be part at least of the explanation of the variations between Gospels. To treat such variations solely in terms of redaction of written sources betrays a gross failure of historical reconstruction. The corollary, of course, is that the task of tracing the history of particular forms becomes immeasurably more difficult, since it is no longer a case of tracing a simple linear development. But if such complexity and uncertainty is closer to historical reality, then any resort to more simplified hypotheses is a flight into false security whose outcome deserves little trust."(p. 40-41)

2. Synoptic relationships themselves evince a high regard for the core stories:

"Secondly, we have evidence of the way the Jesus tradition was actually handled in the process of transmission. For within the Synoptics themselves we can discern the effects of at least two if not three retellings of various traditions. I refer, of course, to the universally recognized fact of literary interdependence between the Synoptic Gospels. In terms of the principal consensus, we can see how Matthew and Luke used tradition derived from or shared with Mark, how, less confidently, Matthew and Luke used Q material, and how, much more speculatively, any of these three or four writings made use of earlier forms and blocks of material. The firmest data are the first mentioned--how Matthew and Luke used tradition derived from or shared with Mark--and this is where we should obviously start. To start elsewhere is likely to lead quickly into a quagmire of speculative hypotheses, such as two or more recensions of Q, and to provide little or no secure ground on which to build.

"When, however, we look at the clearest example of tradition-history (Mark as a source for Matthew and Luke) an important conclusion soon emerges. That is the clear evidence of a deep and genuine respect for the story being told or the saying recorded. Again and again, even when material is reordered or a story told differently, we can be confident that the same event or the same saying is in view. And even when dialogue or sayings have been modified (to avoid possible misunderstanding) [cf. Mark 6:5-6 with Matt 23:58 and Mark 10:17-18 with Matt 19:16-17], there is evidence of a concern to hold as closely as possible to the earlier form, that is, evidence of a respect for the earlier form of the tradition. This is not to discount the equally clear evidence of editing--the reworking of material, the modification and elaboration of earlier forms, and so on. But over all, the strong thrust of the evidence is of a consistency and coherence between the earlier material and the evangelist's redaction of it, not of an editing which changes character and introduces abrupt discontinuities. Of course, a detailed substantiation of this argument would cover many pages. But if there is anything in the above summary, it provides a far sounder basis for tracing the pre-Gospel history of the material than speculative hypotheses about the redaction by any of the Synoptists of imaginatively reconstructed sources no longer extant."(p. 41-42)

3. Oral traditions revolved around certain fixed points, and differences in later retellings of stories are not necessarily any farther from the truth of the actual circumstances. For the most part, they are probably just due to elaboration upon those fixed points due to different requirements/circumstances, rather than evidence of layer upon layer of linear legendary progression:

"Thirdly, in taking seriously the fact that most of the pre-history of the Synoptic tradition was in oral form, we should note how much of the material and process visible to us conforms to the character of oral tradition. So far as we can tell, the communication of oral tradition was typically characterized by traditional themes focused in a number of fixed points, and elaborated in the re-telling with motifs and formulae characteristic of the particular re-teller. What did this mean in practice? The best example comes in fact in Acts, in the three tellings of Paul's conversion (Acts 9, 22, 26). The episode in view is clearly the same in each case, with the commission of Saul as missionary to the Gentiles a common theme. Each telling focuses in the brief encounter between Jesus and Saul which is word for word across all three tellings ["Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?…Who are you, Lord?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;…Rise…"(Acts 9:5-6; 22:7-10; 26:14-16)]. And yet the details and development of the narrative are very different. What is worth noting is that the differences between the three tellings are very similar to the differences between parallel pericopes in two or three different Gospels. And yet the three retellings in Acts appear in the same document. In other words, such differences are to be reckoned not only in terms of literary redaction of written sources; we must also reckon in terms of retellings of the same story even by the same narrator but adapted to different circumstances. Within the Synoptics themselves the best example is probably the healing of the centurion's boy (Matt 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10), with the same feature of a word for word core, but differently developed in the different retellings of the two Evangelists.

"An important corollary follows from this. It is that the usual model of analysing the pre-written Gospel history of the Synoptic tradition is probably wrong. That model assumes layers of tradition, layers of redaction upon redaction, separating the final Gospel form from any putative original deriving from Jesus' own ministry. In consequence the trail leading back to an original Jesus word often becomes so tortuous that the quester is unable to pursue it beyond two or three layers at the most and must give up having penetrated back further than, say, the 40s. But why should we assume that the process of transmission was a sequence of successive editings of individual forms? On the model of oral transmission we should rather assume a substantial store of remembered episodes and teaching from Jesus' ministry, remembered by the congregations' teachers as a prime part of their responsibility, with retellings usually focused in particular sayings fairly fixed in content, but otherwise variously elaborated. In other words, the model is not so much that of an archaeological tell, with success depending on ability to dig down through many strata. A better model is that of forms somewhat like space satellites circling round the remembered Jesus, with the forms of the 60s and 70s not necessarily further from Jesus than those of the 40s and 50s. In short, in an oral culture, where the outline, theme and fixed points of a cherished tradition were probably soon established and remained relatively constant, the later pre-written retellings were probably little or no further from the original than the first retellings." (p. 42-43)

4. Gospels as Biographies:

"Finally, we need also to reckon with a point now fairly widely acknowledged. It is that Bultmann's denial that the Gospels were biographies was almost certainly misplaced. What he really meant is that they were not modern biographies and therefore did not facilitate a modern biographer's interest in 'the life and personality of Jesus.' But it is now clear that the Gospels are very similar in type to ancient biographies: that is, their interest is not the modern one of tracing how an individual's character developed over time; rather their concern is with the portrayal of a historical character by means of recounting episodes and sayings which document that character. Of course, a Gospel is not simply a biography; it is propaganda; it is kerygma. But then neither were ancient biographies wholly dispassionate and objective. In other words, the overlap between Gospel and ancient biography remains substantial and significant. In short, the genre itself tells us at once that there was a considerable historical interest in the formulating, retelling and collecting into Gospel format of the material which now comprises the Synoptic Gospels."(p. 43-44)

5. Conclusion:

"In summary of this section of the argument, then, we may simply say that a priori deductions, circumstantial evidence, the character of the Synoptic tradition and the clearest indications regarding its transmission, and the very character of the Gospels themselves all reinforce each other and point firmly to the conclusion that a careful scrutiny of the Synoptic tradition is likely to lead us back at many points to Jesus as he was remembered from the first." (p. 44)

 

Criteria of Authenticity-

"We need to attend first to the broad picture, otherwise we are liable to become quickly bogged down and lost in a mire of details over individual sayings. The criteria for recognizing 'authentic' tradition are usually thought about in reference only to individual sayings. But there is a prior criterion which emerges more or less directly out of the considerations marshaled above, and to which appeal should be made before turning to particular detail. The criterion is this: any feature which is characteristic of and relatively distinctive within the Jesus tradition is most likely to go back to Jesus, that is, to reflect the original impact of Jesus on several at least of his first disciples. The logic is straightforward: if a feature is characteristic and relatively distinctive within the Jesus tradition, then the most obvious explanation of its presence in the Jesus tradition is that it reflects the characteristic and relatively distinctive impact which Jesus made on his first followers.

"When we apply this prior criterion to the Jesus tradition a remarkably full portrayal quickly begins to emerge: a Galilean who emerged from the circle of John the Baptist and who ministered for a lengthy period, most of his ministry, in the small towns and villages of Galilee; a preacher whose main emphasis was the royal rule of God; a healer who was famous for his exorcisms in particular; a teacher who characteristically taught in aphorisms and parables, who successfully summoned many to follow him, and how had a close circle of twelve; a prophet who somehow challenged the Temple authorities and who was crucified in Jerusalem on the charge of being a messianic pretender. We could elaborate in the same vein. For example, when we encounter a thoroughly consistent and distinctive feature--a tradition which depicts Jesus regularly using the phrase 'son of man' and virtually no other use of the phrase--it simply beggars scholarship to deny that this feature stemmed from a remembered speech usage of Jesus himself. To argue otherwise is the reductio ad absurdum of rational debate. Similarly, but more controversially, it would seem to me to be highly implausible to deny to that first layer of remembered Jesus a consistent feature in the Jesus tradition, such as talk of the royal rule of God coming to full eschatological expression in the near future [fn. 39: "Nevertheless such denial is characteristic of the findings of the Jesus Seminar"]." (p. 46-47)

 

 

 

Chapter 3. "The Synoptic Gospels and History" - E. Earle Ellis

 

All history is interpreted history-

"The historical investigation of the Gospels has taken mainly four routes: (1) the attempt to identify underlying documents (known as 'source criticism'), (2) the attempt to identify individual literary units and analyze their formation and character (known as 'from criticism'), (3) the attempt to trace changes in these units during their transmission prior to their use by the evangelists (known as 'tradition criticism'), and, finally, (4) the attempt to identify changes that each evangelist himself made in composing his Gospel (known as 'redaction' or 'composition criticism'). Each of these avenues of research is perfectly legitimate but, as in other areas of historical reconstruction, the results arrived at are heavily influenced if not determined by the world-view with which the historian approaches the texts and by his other historical and methodological assumptions.

"An assumption that may be addressed at the outset is the view, still held in some quarters, that history writing is an objective science in which the historian is a neutral observer and evaluator of probabilities. This view has been effectively discredited by such writers as Carl Becker, H. S. Commager, and, for biblical history, Alan Richardson [3], and its fallacies illustrated again in the work of John Kenyon on critical historians in Britain.[4]

"As Bernard Lonergan and others have reminded us, the term 'history' may be employed in two senses, that which is written and that which is written about. It is history in the former sense that is presented to us both by the Evangelists and by modern historians of early Christianity. Such history is by its very nature interpretive and modern historians, including of course the present writer, are no less subjectively involved in their reconstructions than the Evangelists were in theirs."(p. 49-50)

-----------------------

3. C. Becker, "Detachment and the Writing of History," Atlantic Monthly 106 (Oct. 1910) 524-36; repr. In idem, Essays (Westport: Greenwood, 1972) 3-28; H. S. Commager, The Study of History (Columbus: C. E. Merrill, 1966) 43-60; A. Richardson, History Sacred and Profane (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964) 83-183

4. J. P. Kenyon, The History of Men (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983; Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1984).

 

 

 

Burden of Proof-

"According to E. Bernheim's classic text on historical method the historian has the two-fold task of testing the genuineness and demonstrating the nongenuineness of his sources. [14] Applied to the Gospels this means, as W. G. Kummel has rightly seen [15] that the historian must demonstrate that any part of the Gospel materials is created in the post-resurrection church since the Gospels present their accounts in the context of the pre-resurrection mission of Jesus. Ina word good historical method requires that a Gospel passage be received as an account of Jesus earthly ministry unless it is shown that it cannot have originated there."(p. 52-53)

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14. E. Bernheim, Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1903; repr. New York: B. Franklin, 1960) 332…

15. W. G. Kummel, Dreissig Jahre Jesusforschung (1950-80) (BBB 60; ed. H. Merklein; Bonn: Hanstein, 1985) 28-29; cf. Tru 31 (1965-66) 42-43.

 

 

Gospel Formation/Transmission-

1. There wasn't necessarily a long period of solely oral transmission as has been assumed:

"Under the influence of R. Bultmann and M. Dibelius the classical form criticism raised many doubts about the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels, but it was shaped by a number of literary and historical assumptions which themselves are increasingly seen to have a doubtful historical basis. It assumed, first of all, that the Gospel traditions were transmitted for decades exclusively in oral form and began to be fixed in writing only when the early Christian anticipation of a soon end of the world faded. This theory foundered with the discovery in 1947 of the library of the Qumran sect, a group contemporaneous with the ministry of Jesus and the early church which combined intense expectation of the End with prolific writing. Qumran shows that such expectations did not inhibit writing but actually were a spur to it. Also, the widespread literacy in first-century Palestinian Judaism [18], together with the different language backgrounds of Jesus' followers--some Greek, some Aramaic, some bilingual--would have facilitated the rapid written formulations and transmission of at least some of Jesus' teaching.[19]" (p. 53-54)

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18. Cf. Josephus, Against Apion 2.25 204: The Law "orders that (children) should be taught to read…"; cf. idem, Ant. 12.4.9 209; Philo, Embassy to Gaius 115, 210, Further, see R. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (WUNT 2.7; Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1981; 4th ed., 1998) 112-15.

19. Jesus had hearers and doubtless some converts from Syria (Matt 4:25), the Decapolis (Matt 4:25; Mark 3:8; 5:20; 7:31), Tyre and Sidon (Mark 3:8; 7:24, 31; Matt 15:21).

2. Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models:

"Secondly, the early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, [22] the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditioned 'teaching'. [23] In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples.[24] In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal.[25] (p. 53-55)

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22. O. Cullmann, "The Tradition," in Cullmann, The Early Church (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956) 55-99; B. Gerhardsson The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); H. Riesenfeld The Gospel Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970) 1-29; Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer.

23. Rom 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:3; Phil 4:9; Col 2:6-7; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim 3:14; Titus 1:9; 2 John 9-10; Jude 3: Rev 2:13, 24. Cf. Abot 1:1; Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 65-68…

24. John 19:35; 21:24-25; cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:1-10; 21:7, 21-23. Cf. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) 298-311…

25. On parallels with other rabbis and their disciples and other Jewish usage cf. Mark 2:18 = Luke 5:33; K.H. Rengstorf TDNT 1 (1964) 412-43;…TDNT 4 (1967) 431-55.

3. Invented Chronology and Geography?:

"A third fundamental axiom of classical form criticism is also historically doubtful, that is, that the geographical and chronological framework of the Gospels was wholly the creation of the traditioners and Evangelists. The Gospels are not chronologues, of course, and the Evangelists feel free, as did the Roman historian Suetonius, to organize their presentation on thematic or other lines." (p. 55)

4. Conclusion:

"…[T]he Gospel traditioners included themselves among those who according to Matt 5:12, 13:11, Luke 21:15 and other passages fulfilled a prophetic role both in their preaching and persecution and also in their writing as 'wise men and scribes', that is, scripture teachers [32]…There are few if any historical or literary grounds to suppose that the Gospel traditions created events in Jesus' life or, indeed, that they mixed to any great degree oracles from the exalted Jesus into the Gospel traditions. If a proper historical critical method is followed, proper presuppositions observed and the practices of first-century Palestinian Judaism considered, the Gospels of the New Testament will be found to be a reliable presentation and faithful portrait of the teachings and acts of the pre-resurrection mission of Jesus."(p. 57)

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32. Matt 13:52; 23:34; cf. Luke 11:49-51. Cf. Wis 7:27; Philo, On the Giants 5, 22; idem On the Unchangeableness of God 1, 3: prophet = wise man.

 

 

 

Chapter 4. "Reflections Upon 'The Historical Perimeters for Understanding the Aims of Jesus" - William R. Farmer

 

General comments on the Gospels-

"The Gospels embody tradition concerning Jesus. Between Jesus and the Gospels stands the traditioning process, by which the Gospel stories and sayings of Jesus were handed on. These traditions were oral and written and included sayings both of Jesus and of early Christian prophets speaking in the name of Jesus. They also included accounts of eyewitnesses concerning the actions and character of Jesus and later modifications of this tradition made to meet the changing needs of different Christian communities.

"The canonical Gospels afford us our best access to the earliest traditions concerning Jesus. From a form-critical study of the Gospels, it is clear that the Jesus tradition was already richly developed by the time the Gospels were written."(p. 64)

 

 

Criteria of Authenticity-

"When a tradition concerning Jesus or a saying attributed to him comes alive against the background of his environment as it is known through a study of the topography, geography, and climate of Palestine and the history of Palestinian Judaism prior to AD 70, then an element in the tradition is isolated or identified which may be early. If this tradition would be unintelligible outside Palestine or unfamiliar in gentile-oriented circles, then the probabilities increase that such a saying or story belongs to an early stage in the development of the tradition. Material in the Gospels which presupposes the death and resurrection of Jesus and reflects a situation where he is remembered and worshipped as a transcendent being represents tradition which may have originated in some post-Easter Christian community. Such tradition could have developed either early or late, either in Jewish or gentile circles. Paul's letters preserve evidence that mythopoeic tendencies were at work at a very early date in some Christian communities, producing powerful christological statements about Jesus." (p. 65-66)

 

 

Major turning points in the tradition-

"There are four major turning points in the development of the tradition leading from Jesus to the Gospels: (1) Jesus' baptism by John followed by the arrest, imprisonment, and death of the Baptist; (2) Jesus' challenge of religious authorities climaxing in his cleansing of the Temple followed by the arrest, imprisonment, and death of the Baptist; (2) Jesus' challenge of religious authorities climaxing in his cleansing of the Temple followed by a final institutionalizing meal with his disciples, his arrest, trial, death, and resurrection and the emergence of a post-Easter messianic community; (3) sectarian conflict and division within the Jewish-Christian messianic community over the manner by which Gentiles were to be admitted to full membership; and (4) the inspiring rediscovery and renewal of ecumenical unity in the aftermath of the martyrdom of chief apostles Peter and Paul in Rome and the outbreak of the catastrophic Roman-Jewish military conflict." (p. 66)

 

 

Authentic theology of Jesus in parables of Luke and Matt, and Paul-

"When the parables preserved in the Gospel of Matthew are analyzed theologically and compared to the parables of Jesus preserved in the Gospel of Luke, in every case the theology of the parables in Matthew can be matched by the theology of one or more of the parables in Luke. Moreover, the theology of Jesus' parables is essentially the same as the theology of Paul. Since we learn from Paul himself that he preached the faith of the church he once persecuted, it follows that Paul preached a pre-Pauline faith. The historian has no alternative but to conclude that the theology common to Paul and to the two streams of parable tradition preserved separately in Matthew and Luke goes back to Jesus. To imagine that these three streams of tradition converge in some unidentified pre-Pauline theologian would be to crate an unnecessary set of historical and theological problems." (p. 69)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5. "Five Gospels but No Gospel" - N. Thomas Wright

 

General comments on The Five Gospels-

"Some of the Seminar's members treat any questioning of its work like a slap in the face--though not with the turning of the other cheek, as one might have thought considering that that saying received the rare accolade of a red vote…In other quarters, one only has to mention the Seminar to provoke a wry smile, or even guffaws of laughter. At a packed and high-profile meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature's 'Pauline Theology' seminar in 1991, the person in the chair--one of the most senior and respected of North American biblical scholars--rejected a call for a vote on the subject that had been under discussion by simply saying, 'This ain't the Jesus Seminar.' This was greeted with laughter and applause in about equal measure." (p. 84)

Incomplete representation of 'scholars':

"…one could compile a very long list of North American New Testament scholars, including several who have written importantly about Jesus, who are not among those present [in the Seminar], and whose work has had no visible impact on the Seminar at all. The most obvious is Ed Sanders, whose work, massive in its learning, and almost unique in its influence over the present state of scholarship worldwide, seems to have been ignored by the Seminar--except for one tiny particular, and that precisely where Sanders is at his weakest. Another figure whose work has been totally ignored is Ben F. Meyer, who has more understanding of how ancient texts work in his little finger than many of the Jesus Seminar seem to have in their entire word-processors, and whose writing on Jesus is utterly rigorous, utterly scholarly, and utterly different in its results from anything in the volume we are considering. So, too, one looks in vain for members of the teaching faculties of many of the leading North American colleges and universities. There is nobody currently teaching at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, McGill, or Stanford. Toronto is well represented; so is Claremont (not least by its graduates); several Fellows of the Seminar have doctorates from Harvard. But where is the rest of the guild--those who, for instance, flock to the 'Historical Jesus' sessions of the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature? They are conspicuous by their absence.

"No doubt some within the Seminar would suggest that this comment is academic snobbery, but they cannot have it both ways. The Jesus Seminar is in something of a cleft stick at this point. On the one hand, the members are determined to present to the general public the findings which 'scholars' have come up with…They must, therefore, present themselves as the pundits, the ones in the know, the ones the public can trust as reputable, even authorized, spokespersons for the serious tradition of biblical scholarship. But, on the other hand, they lash out at the 'elitism' of their critics within the broader academic world--while saying on the next page that attacks on members of the Seminar have tended to come from 'those who lack academic credentials.' Sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander: either academic credentials matter, in which case the Seminar should listen to those who posses them in abundance and are deeply critical of their work, or they don't matter, in which case the Seminar should stop priding itself on its own, over against the common herd…It becomes apparent that the work we have here does not represent 'scholars', as simply as that; it represents some scholars, and that mostly (with some interesting exceptions) from a very narrow band among serious contemporary readers of the Gospels worldwide." (p. 87-89)

 

The arguments in "The Five Gospels" for the most part do not speak for the Seminar:

"Though this book claims, on every page, to speak for all the Fellows of the Seminar, it becomes increasingly apparent that it comes from the Seminar's Chair, Robert W. Funk (R. W. Hoover is named as co-author, though there is no indication of which author drafted which parts). Dissentient voices are, of course, recorded in the reporting of voting patterns. But it would be a mistake to saddle all, perhaps even most, of the Fellows with the point of view, and the arguments, that we find on page after page. Only occasionally is this really acknowledged. In the bibliography, for instance, one of Marcus Borg's books is listed, with the comment 'It goes almost without saying that he didn't vote with the majority on every issue.' One suspects that that is something of an understatement. In the present essay, therefore, I am discussing the work of Funk and Hoover, not necessarily that of other Fellows; we may note, though, that the whole layout and intent of the book predisposes the reader--not least the non-academic reader, who is clearly in view--to assume that the verdicts reached are those of 'scholars' in a much broader sense." (p. 89)

[a note on voting: The way the voting system works, a saying could wind up gray or pink though a majority voted black or red. The conclusion of two polarized groups, one voting a saying authentic and the other inauthentic, is misleadingly represented by averaging out the obvious discrepancy. A majority can vote a saying "authentic" or "probably authentic", and the final result can still be "probably inauthentic".]

 

 

The Gospel of Thomas-

"…when all is said and done, huge questions remain about the relevance of Thomas for the study of Jesus. By no means all students of it agree with the majority of the Seminar in placing it early and independent of the canonical Gospels. If members of the public are interested in knowing what 'scholars' think, they ought to be told fair and square that diagrams in which a hypothetical first edition of Thomas is placed in 50s of the first century are thoroughly tendentious, and belong out on a limb of current scholarship." (p. 91)

"The suggestion (Funk and Hoover [eds.], The Five Gospels, 500-501) that the Gnosticism in Thomas is very like what we find in John and Paul would be laughable if it did not reveal culpable ignorance of the entire drift of Pauline studies in the last forty years. The brief sketch of how Thomas got its name (p. 20) reveals an astonishing naivety, speaking of the apostle being 'revered in the Syrian church as an apostle,' and giving as evidence for this Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13; John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2. The attribution to Thomas, we are told, 'tells us nothing about the author,' but 'may indicate where this gospel was written.' In which of the above texts do we find evidence for Thomas in Syria? If the writers applied the same skepticism to claims about Thomas as they do, on the same page, to claims about the other four (the evidence of Papias, for instance), it would quickly become clear how little evidence there is for an early date, or a Syrian provenance, for the Thomas collection."(fn. 24, p. 92)

 

 

On Luke 17:6-

On p. 362-63, "we are blithely told that 'people in the ancient world' (which people? all people? Jews?) 'thought that the sky was held up by mountains that serve as pillars at the edge of the world.' No doubt some people thought that. To offer it as an interpretative grid for a text in the Gospels (Luke 17:6, which is in any case about trees, not mountains) is rather like trying to interpret a Mozart opera by means of nuclear physics."(fn. 54, p. 111)

 

 

On the Pharisees-

"…the authors offer (p. 242) a brief discussion of first-century Pharisaism, in order to substantiate the Seminar's decision to cast black votes for most of the sayings in Matthew 23. They repeat uncritically the line which Sanders took from Morton Smith, though there was never much evidence for it and always plenty against it: the Pharisees were based in Judea, not Galilee, so Jesus may not have come into contact with them or even known much about them (pp. 242, 244). This is backed up in a way which neither Sanders nor Smith suggests: 'The teachings of the rabbis in Jesus' day were all circulated by word of mouth; it was not until the third century C.E. that rabbinic traditions took written form in the Mishnah.' This last statement is of course true, but totally irrelevant, implying as it does that word-of-mouth circulation would be a casual, inefficient, uncertain thing, so that, lacking written texts, Jesus would not have known much about Pharisaic teaching. As we shall see presently, however, in a substantially oral culture, oral teaching will have circulated far more widely, and far more effectively, than written texts.

"The authors further suggest that the Pharisees became the dominant party after the fall of Jerusalem, and that 'at the council of Jamnia, in 90 C. E., the Pharisees laid the foundations for the survival of Judaism in its modern form--rabbinic Judaism.' Meanwhile, even in the last quarter of the first century, the 'emerging church, in its Palestinian and Syrian locales, was still largely a sectarian movement within Judaism.'

"All this comprises so many half-truths and inaccuracies that one is tempted to wonder whether it is worth reading further in a book supposedly about the first century. It is highly likely that the Pharisees were already very influential, quite possibly the most influential group, within the plurifom Judaism of the pre-70 period. The group that became dominant after 70 was one variety of Pharisees, namely the Hillelites, over against another variety, the Shammaites. But even this was not achieved overnight; it was only with the collapse of the second revolt, in 135, that the shift of influence was complete. In addition, our knowledge of the council of Jamnia is very nebulous; its date and achievements are very uncertain. The later rabbinic traditions about it are, most likely, far more heavily overlaid with subsequent reinterpretations than almost anything we find in the Gospels. To use it as a fixed point for establishing early Christian material is like a hiker taking a compass bearing on a sheep. Finally, we do not actually know very much at all about the church in Palestine and Syria in the last quarter of the century. What we do know is that a sharp division between the church, precisely in Palestine and Syria, and Pharisaic Judaism of the more zealous (i.e., Shammaite) variety had already taken place in the first five years after Jesus' death. We know this because of Saul of Tarsus, alias the apostle Paul, who, for neither the first nor the last time, puts a spoke in the wheel of the Jesus Seminar's speculative reconstructions of early Christianity.

"Serious contemporary research on first-century Judaisms by no means rules out the possibility, which must then be decided (and interpreted) on quite other grounds, that Jesus did come into sharp confrontation with the Pharisees. What the discussion tells us is that the Seminar, or at least its spokespersons in this book, are not to be trusted to know their way around the details of the first century, which they are supposed to be describing."(p. 109-111)

 

 

Guiding Principles of the Seminar are Flawed-

"…again and again throughout the book, the 'rules' boil down to three guiding principles which are wheeled out almost ad nauseam as the justification for accepting, or more usually for rejecting, a particular saying or set of sayings.

"These three actual guiding principles may be formulated as follows. First, the Seminar in fact presupposes a particular portrait of Jesus. Second, the Seminar adopts a particular, and highly misleading, position about eschatology and apocalyptic, particularly about the kingdom of God; this too was presupposed. Third, the Seminar assumes a particular picture of the early church, especially its interest in and transmission of material about Jesus. In each case there is every reason to reject the principle in question. We must look at each in turn." (p. 98)

1. Jesus the Distinctive Sage:

The sayings voted red/pink go into the database for "determining who Jesus was", but the problem is:

"For the majority of fellows at least, what comes first is an assumption about who Jesus really was, which is then used as the yardstick for measuring, and often ruling out, a good many sayings.

"This assumption focuses on the portrait of Jesus as a 'traveling sage and wonder-worker' (p. 128). Sayings can be assessed according to whether they fit with this. The Fellows, or at least their spokespersons in this volume, somehow know that Jesus is a 'reticent sage who does not initiate debate or offer to cast out demons, and who does not speak of himself in the first person' (p. 265). On this basis they feel able to make judgements about sayings which, since they make Jesus do some of these things, cannot be his. As a reticent sage, Jesus 'did not formally enlist followers' (p. 284); he used secular proverbs, having 'perhaps acquired his knowledge of common lore from itinerant philosophers who visited Galilee while he was growing up" (p. 287). He does not, however, quote Hebrew scriptures very often (pp. 376, 380), so that when we find such quotations attributed to him, they almost certainly come from the early church, which, unlike Jesus, was very concerned to understand his work in the light of the scriptures.

"As a reticent sage, Jesus did not, of course, predict his own death (pp. 94, 208, and very frequently); still less did he refer to himself in any way as Messiah or Son of God (pp. 75, 312, and regularly). Among the reasons given for this latter assumption is the remarkable argument:

Jesus taught that the last will be first and the first will be last. He admonished his followers to be servants of everyone. He urged humility as the cardinal virtue by both word and example. Given these terms, it is difficult to imagine Jesus making claims for himself…unless, of course, he thought that nothing he said applied to himself. (Funk and Hoover, p. 33)

"What the writers seem to ignore is precisely that Jesus taught these things. By what right? Even at the level of teaching, Jesus' words carry an implicit self-reference. When we put even a small amount of his teaching into its first-century Jewish context (see below), it was inevitable that questions should be asked about who he thought he was; and virtually inevitable that he would reflect on such a question himself. Instead of this context, however, the Seminar's spokespersons offer one that may perhaps be thought just a little anachronistic:

Like the cowboy hero of the American West exemplified by Gary Cooper, the sage of the ancient Near East was laconic, slow to speech, a person of few words. The sage does not provoke encounters…As a rule, the sage is self-effacing, unostentatious. (Funk and Hoover, p. 32)

"Jesus, then, was not aware that he had a specific mission to carry out (p. 70). He did not organize 'formal missions' (p. 213). The older liberalism was right after all: Jesus' teaching was about being nice to people, not about warning them of punishment in store for the wicked (pp. 170, 181, 289-90, 320, and frequently).[35]

"In particular, when Jesus did speak it was almost always in pithy subversive, disturbing aphorisms. (This, of course, was the presupposition for the Seminar's whole enterprise, of breaking up the text into isolated sayings and voting separately on them.) Thus, in rejecting Luke 22:36-37, the editors comments: 'there is nothing in the words attributed to Jesus that cuts against the social grain, that would surprise or shock his friends, or that reflects exaggeration, humor, or paradox…[thus] nothing in this passage commends itself as authentically from Jesus' (p. 391). Proverbs that 'are not particularly vivid or provocative' or which 'do not surprise or shock' 'belong to the stock of common lore and so are not of Jesus' invention' (p. 157). It is admitted that Jesus could have used such proverbs, but again and again they attract a gray or black vote.[36]

"The Seminar claims, then, that a portrait of Jesus 'begins to emerge' from their work at certain points (p. 340). Not so. The portrait was in the mind all along. It is, for the most part, a shallow and one-dimensional portrait, developed through anachronistic parallels (the laconic cowboy) and ignoring the actual first-century context. Its attractive and indeed sometimes compelling features, of Jesus as the subversive sage, challenging the status quo with teasing epigrams and parables, has been achieved at the huge cost of screening out a whole range of material which several of the leading Jesus-scholars around the world, in major, serious, and contemporary works of historical reconstruction, would regard as absolutely central. By far the most important of these is the material designated as 'apocalyptic'…The rejection of this material is the largest and most central presupposition that the Seminar brings to its entire work…"(p. 98-101)

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35. The Seminar nevertheless held…that the judgmental sayings in Matt 11:21-14 (for example) were uttered by a Christian prophet 'speaking in the spirit and the name of Jesus'…(…[p]181; cf. 320). We are to assume, it seems, that the prophet in question misunderstood that spirit, and misused that name, quite drastically. 'Jesus…would not have told Capernaum to go to Hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies' (p. 320). This touching naivety is rightly questioned at 214: 'prophetic anger does not entirely contradict the injunction to love one's enemies. It is possible for the two to be combined in one person.'

36. There seems to be an added confusion at this point. According to all the Seminar's literature, the voting was supposed to be on the question of whether Jesus said things, not on whether he was the first to say them. But frequently the votes seem to have reflected the latter point in stead: e.g….106, 168, 176, 240, 298-99, 337 and elsewhere. This produces a strange heads-I-win/tails-you-lose situation. The secular, non-Jewish sages who (according to the Seminar) may have influenced Jesus in his early days provide us, we are told, with the model for how he spoke. But if a saying looks as though it came from such common stock, it still does not attract a pink or red vote.

2. The Resolutely Non-Apocalyptic Jesus:

"Nearly three decades ago Klaus Koch wrote a book describing, among other things, what he called 'the agonized attempt to save Jesus from apocalyptic.' Albert Schweitzer, at the turn of the century, had described Jesus as an apocalyptic visionary; many theologians after Schweitzer found this too much to stomach, and neatly extracted Jesus from his surrounding Jewish, and apocalyptic, context. This was normally done for apologetic motives: if Jesus predicted the end of the world, he was wrong, and this has serious implications for Christology.

"The Jesus Seminar, of course, harbors no such motive. Instead, it has a different one, no less all-pervading: Jesus must not in any way appear to give sanction to contemporary apocalyptic preaching, such as that on offer in the fundamentalist movements against which the Seminar is reacting so strongly. [cf. the Seminar's journal Forum: Foundations and Facets and the work of Burton Mack in particular - "The Kingdom Sayings in Mark." Forum 3 (1987) 3-47; idem, A Myth of Innocence.]

"By what means does the Seminar know, a priori, that Jesus so firmly rejected something which was 'everywhere in the air', which was absolutely central to the work of John, who is acknowledged as Jesus' 'precursor and mentor,' and which was fundamental, in some shape or form, to all forms of early Christianity known to us--except, of course, to the Thomas collection? (We had better leave the doubly hypothetical 'Early Q' out of account, since the only reason for inventing a non-apocalyptic 'Early Q,' when so many 'apocalyptic' sayings are in Matthew/Luke parallels upon which the Q hypothesis rests, is the very assumption we are examining, that Jesus and one strand of his followers did not make use of this world of thought.) If almost everyone else spoke like that, how do they know Jesus did not? [39] The answer is that they do not. This 'conclusion' was, in their phrase, 'in the air' from the inception of the Seminar. It was a starting point, not a result. It may even, we may suspect, have been one of the reasons why the Seminar came into existence in the first place."(p. 101-103)

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39. See…[p] 112, where the comment (on Mark 13:14-20) that 'almost anyone could have formulated these warnings' is followed at once by the report of near-unanimity among the Fellows that 'Jesus was not the author of any of these sayings.' In place of the distinctive Jesus of some traditional Christology, who stood out from everyone else because of his divinity, we have the distinctive Jesus of the Seminar, who was certainly incapable of saying things that almost anyone else at the time might have said. This is almost a secular version of the Docetic heresy.

"But this view of apocalyptic, and of Jesus' participation in it, can be controverted again and again by serious study of the first-century phenomenon which goes by that name. I have argued in detail elsewhere, in line with a fair amount of contemporary scholarship, that 'apocalyptic' is best understood as a complex metaphor-system through which many Jews of the period expressed their aspirations, not for other-worldly bliss, nor for a 'big bang' which would end the space-time world, but for social, political, and above all theological liberation. This enables us to affirm that Schweitzer and others were absolutely right to see Jesus as part of apocalyptic Judaism, while denying Schweitzer's unhistorical notion (shared, of course, by fundamentalists) that apocalyptic language was designed to be taken literally. The Seminar is fighting a shadow."(p. 103)

"It is with the discussion of the Kingdom of God…that the problem is focused most clearly. The 'cameo essay' on the subject (pp. 136-37) is extremely revealing; and what it reveals is a string of misunderstandings, prejudices, and false antitheses.

"The essay sets out four categories. First, there is the preaching of John the Baptist. Second, there are sayings of Jesus which speak of God's rule as future. Third, there are sayings of Jesus which speak of God's rule as present. Fourth, there is a passage from Paul. Already there are problems. (a) The passage quoted from John the Baptist (Matt 3:7, 10) does not mention the Kingdom of God, and in any case would be regarded by many as a later formulation, not necessarily giving us access to John himself. (b) The main passage quoted as an example of sayings of Jesus about God's future rule is Mark 13:24-27 and 30, which again does not mention the Kingdom of God, but speaks instead of the son of man coming on the clouds. (c) One of the passages quoted as illustrating sayings of Jesus about God's rule as present in Luke 11:2, which is the petition from the Lord's Prayer, here translated as 'Impose your imperial rule.' If this indicates that the kingdom is already present, why is one commanded to pray for it as though it were not yet here? (d) The single passage quoted from Paul is 1 Thess 4:15-17, which says nothing about the Kingdom of God, but speaks of the dead rising the Lord descending, and the living Christians being caught up in the air…

"I have to say that if I had been served up this 'cameo essay' by a first-year undergraduate, I would quickly have deduced that the student, while very ingenious, was unfamiliar both with some of the basic secondary discussions of the topic, and, more damaging still, with the meaning of the primary texts in their first-century context…It would be one thing to find a student doing this. When two senior academics do it, after having gone on record as saying that 'critical scholars practice their craft by submitting their work to the judgement of peers,' while 'non-critical scholars are those who put dogmatic considerations first and insist that the factual evidence confirm theological premises,' the uncomfortable suspicion is aroused that it is the latter description, not the former, that fits the work we have in our hands." (p. 103-107)

3. Oral Culture, Storytelling, and Isolated Sayings:

"The third driving principle behind a great many of the Seminar's decisions can be stated quite baldly. It is assumed that only isolated sayings of Jesus circulated in the earliest post-Easter period. Unless a saying can be conceived as having enough intrinsic interest and, as it were, staying power to survive being passed on by word of mouth, all by itself and without any context, we can assume that it cannot be original to Jesus. Words of Jesus which fail this test, and which occur within more extended narratives, are simply part of the storyteller's art, or of the evangelist's theology. This is, at its heart, an assumption about the nature of early Christianity.

"Examples of this principle in operation could be picked from almost anywhere in the book's 500 and more pages. Here are some taken at random:

The words ascribed to Jesus in this story [rebuking winds and wave; Mark 4:35-41] would not have circulated independently during the oral period; they reflect what the storyteller imagined

Jesus would have said on such an occasion. [Funk and Hoover, p. 60]

The stories Mark has collected in chapter five of his gospel contain words ascribed to Jesus that are suitable only for the occasion. They are not particularly memorable, are not aphorisms or parables, and would not have circulated independently during the oral period. They cannot, therefore, be traced back to Jesus. [Funk and Hoover, p. 62]

The words ascribed to Jesus [during the healing of the blind man in Mark 8:22-26] are the invention of the evangelist. Because they are incidental dialogue and not memorable pronouncements, they would not have been remembered as exact words of Jesus. [Funk and Hoover, p. 75]

Jesus' public discourse is remembered to have consisted primarily of aphorisms, parables, or a challenge followed by a verbal retort. Matt 4:17 does not fall into any of these categories. [Funk and Hoover, p. 134]

The remarks quoted from Jesus [in Matt 8:5-13] are intelligible only as part of the narrative and could not have circulated as a separate saying apart from this narrative context. They were accordingly voted black. [Funk and Hoover, p. 160]

The words attributed to Jesus in the story of the feeding of the crowd all belong to the narrative texture of the story. They cannot be classified as aphorisms or parables and so could not have circulated independently during the oral period, 30-50 C.E. As a consequence, they cannot be traced back to Jesus, but must have been created by the storyteller. [Funk and Hoover, p. 205, compare with 199-200]

"The basis for these judgements is found in the extended discussion of oral memory and tradition in the introduction (pp. 25-29). It is impossible, without quoting the entire section and discussing it line by line, to show the extent of the misunderstandings it reveals. Though the authors regularly refer to oral cultures, the only actual examples they give come from a very non-oral culture, that of their own modern Western world."[63] (p. 110-112)

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63. "We" rephrase jokes and witticisms, such as those of Oscar Wilde (Funk and Hoover [eds.], The Five Gospels, 27); "we know" that oral memory "retains little else" other than sayings and anecdotes that are short, provocative, and memorable (p. 28); "recent experiments with memory" have reached various conclusions about the capacity of memory, emphasizing that, though people remember the gist of what was said, they do not recall the exact phrases. All of these examples are 100% irrelevant when we are considering a genuinely oral culture, such as still exists in certain parts of the world, not least among peasant communities in the Middle East. On the whole topic, see K. E. Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels," Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1991) 34-54.

"Referring to what Thucydides says about making up speeches to suit the occasion (p. 27) is not to the point; the speeches in question tend to be longer by far than any of Jesus' reported discourses, even the Sermon on the Mount and the Johannine 'farewell discourses.' In any case, Thucydides was a man of learning and letters, and to that extent less representative of a genuinely oral culture.

"The theory that sayings, aphorisms, memorable oneliners, and sometimes parables are the things that survive, whereas stories about Jesus, with his words embedded within them, do not, is clearly promulgated with one eye on the results. 'It is highly probable', we are told --this, recall, at the introductory level, before we have examined a single saying!--that the earliest layer of the Gospel tradition was made up almost entirely of single aphorisms and parables that circulated by word of mouth, without narrative context--precisely as that tradition is recorded in 'Q' and Thomas. [p. 28]

"With the evidence thus well and truly cooked in advance, it is not surprising that the portrait of Jesus-the-quizzical-sage 'emerges' from the subsequent discussion. It could not help doing so. The theory about what sort of material survives in oral tradition, I suggest, was designed to produce exactly this result.

"Against this whole line of thought we must set the serious study of genuinely oral traditions that has gone on in various quarters recently. [65] (p. 112-113)

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65. For example, see H. Wansbrough (ed.), Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (JSNTSup 64; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), referring to a large amount of earlier work; Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition," 34-54. The following discussion depends on these and similar studies, and builds on Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 418-43; and idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, 133-37.

"Communities that live in an oral culture tend to be story-telling communities. They sit around in long evenings telling and listening to stories--the same stories, over and over again. Such stories, especially when they are involved with memorable happenings that have determined in some way the existence and life of the particular group in question, acquire a fairly fixed form, down to precise phraseology (in narrative as well as in recorded speech), extremely early in their life--often within a day or so of the original incident taking place. They retain that form, and phraseology, as long as they are told. Each village and community has its recognized storytellers, the accredited bearers of its traditions; but the whole community knows the stories by heart, and if the teller varies them even slightly they will let him know in no uncertain terms. This matters quite a lot in cultures where, to this day, the desire to avoid 'shame' is a powerful motivation.

"Such cultures do also repeat, and hence transmit, proverbs, and pithy sayings. Indeed, they tend to know far more proverbs than the orally starved modern Western world. But the circulation of such individual sayings is only the tip of the iceberg; the rest is narrative, narrative with embedded dialogue, heard, repeated again and again within minutes, hours and days of the original incident, and fixed in memories the like of which few in the modern Western world can imagine. The storyteller in such a culture has no license to invent or adapt at will. The less important the story, the more the entire community, in a process that is informal but very effective, will keep a close watch on the precise form and wording with which the story is told.

"And the stories about Jesus were nothing if not important. Even the Jesus Seminar admits that Jesus was an itinerant wonder-worker. Very well. Supposing a woman in a village is suddenly healed after a lengthy illness. Even today, even in a non-oral culture, the story of such an event would quickly spread among friends, neighbors and relatives, acquiring a fixed form within the first two or three retellings and retaining it, other things being equal, thereafter. In a culture where storytelling was and is an art-form, a memorable event such as this, especially if it were also seen as a sign that Israel's God was now at last at work to do what he had always promised, would be told at once in specific ways, told so as to be not just a celebration of a healing but also a celebration of the Kingdom of God. Events and stories of this order are community-forming, and the stories which form communities do not get freely or loosely adapted. One does not disturb the foundations of the house in which one is living.

"What about detached aphorisms, then? Clearly, a memorable saying is a memorable saying, and could circulate independently. But what about sayings which sometimes have a context and sometimes not? I suggest that the following hypothesis is far more likely than that proposed by the Seminar. [66] It was only later, when the communities had been scattered through external circumstances (such as sundry persecutions, and the disastrous Jewish War of 66-70), that individual memorable sayings, which might very well have enjoyed a flourishing earlier life within various narrative settings, would become detached from those settings and become chreiai, isolated pithy sayings with minimal narrative context, such as we find (of course) in Thomas, and also to some extent in Luke. It is heavily ironic that the reason often given for supposing Luke's versions of 'Q' sayings are more chreia-like, while Matthew's are more embedded in Jewish, and often in narrative, contexts. Unless one had been fairly well brainwashed by the idea that Jesus-traditions consisted originally of non-Jewish, detached sayings, and only in the second generation acquired a Jewish setting, complete with scriptural overtones and so forth, the most natural historical hypothesis here would have been this: that Jesus' earliest hearers, being Jews, eager for their God to act in their present circumstances, would have told stories about Jesus in a thoroughly Jewish way, with scriptural echoes both deliberate and accidental. Then, later on, the church which was leaving the tight storytelling communities, and going out into the wider Hellenistic world, would find it easier to detach sayings from their original narrative context and present them, like the sayings of wise teachers in the Greco-Roman world, as isolated nuggets of wisdom." (p. 113-115)

------------------

66. Sometimes the absence of narrative context in the Thomas collection is remarked on (e.g. Funk and Hoover [eds.], The Five Gospels, 122) as though this were of great significance--which it clearly is not, since Thomas never has any such contexts. Waving Thomas around (e.g. p. 102), as though its detached sayings somehow prove that the saying first circulated independently and only subsequently acquired its synoptic context, constitutes an empty celebration of a circular argument.

"The Jesus' Seminar's view of oral tradition is thus based, not on the most likely historical hypothesis, but on the same view of the distinctive Jesus that we have seen to dominate their whole picture. Jesus would not have quoted Scripture; [67] he did not share, or address, the aspirations of his contemporary Jews; he did not even follow the line taken by his 'precursor and mentor'. Nothing much memorable ever happened to him, or if it did we do not know about it. He was not involved in incidents which made a deep impression on the onlookers, causing them to go at once and tell what they had seen over and over again, with the anecdote quickly fixing itself into a pattern, and the words of Jesus, including incidental words, becoming part of that regularly repeated story. He never spoke about himself (the more one thinks about this suggestion, the more absurd it becomes); his conversation consisted only of subversive, teasing aphorisms. He must, in short, have been a very peculiar human being (as one Fellow of the Seminar pointed out to me, a Jesus who always and only uttered pithy aphorisms would start to look like some of the less credible cinematic Jesuses). Such a person would in fact be quite maddening. More importantly, as a historian I find it incredible that such a Jesus cold have been a significant historical figure. It is not at all clear why people would have followed him, died for him, loved him, invented rich and powerful stories about him, and (within an almost incredibly short time, and within a context of continuing Jewish monotheism) worshipped him." (p. 115-116)

-----------------

67. For example, Funk and Hoover (eds.), The Five Gospels, 174, where the reference to Micah in Matt 10:34-36 is given as a reason for inauthenticity. Compare p. 201, where we are told that 'scholars believe that most, perhaps all, quotations from scripture attributed to Jesus are secondary accretions." This is quite breathtaking, both in its ignoring of serious and well-known scholarly traditions in which Jesus is seen as a major expositor of Scripture, and in the extraordinary nonJewishness of the portrait which emerges.

"Perhaps the greatest weakness of the whole construct lies just here. In order to sustain their home-made view of Jesus, the authors of this book, and presumably a fair number at least of Fellows of the Jesus Seminar, have had to invent, as well, an entire picture of the early church out of not much more than thin air. Sometimes they have borrowed other people's inventions, but they, too, are based on little or nothing. Paul, as we have seen, is the one major fixed point in early Christianity; we know that he was active, travelling, preaching and writing in the 40s and 50s, but we do not know anything at all, with the same certainty, about almost anyone else. We do not know that 'Q' even existed; notoriously, there is a growing body of opinion that it did not (though one would never guess this from reading The Five Gospels), even as there is a growing body of opinion, represented strongly within the Jesus Seminar, that expounds ever more complex theories about its origin, development, historical setting, and theologies. Of course, once scholars are allowed to invent whole communities at will, anything is possible. Any jigsaw puzzle can be solved if we are allowed to create new pieces for it at a whim. But we should not imagine that historical scholarship built on this principle is of any great value." (p. 116-117)

Conclusion:

"There is such a thing as the serious contemporary search for Jesus in his historical context. This particular book makes no contribution to it." (p. 120)

 

 

Chapter 7. "Appointed Deed, Appointed Doer: Jesus and the Scriptures" - Ben F. Meyer

 

Introduction to the Argument-

"Of the many indices to Jesus' consciousness of his mission to Israel, three kinds are especially revealing: his identification of himself and his disciples as eschatological antitypes of Israel, her kings and prophets; his allusion to divinely appointed eschatological 'measures' (of time, of evil, of revelation) being fulfilled to the brim: and his pointing, as to signs of the times, to the enactment, in his own activities, of God's promise of salvation for the end-time. We begin our effort of reflection with the observation that these three facets of the consciousness of Jesus exhibit a point of convergence: a full awareness of being charged with the climactic and final mission to Israel as promised and previewed in the Scriptures.

"Second, we shall independently (i.e. without dependence on the foregoing) establish this same conclusion by a cumulative and convergent argument drawing on five data in the Gospel narratives, the historicity of which has won almost universal agreement. These are: Jesus' proclamation that the reign of God was at hand; the fact hat Jesus spoke and acted 'with authority'; that he was widely known as and was a wonder worker; that he 'cleansed'--or mounted a demonstration at--the Jerusalem Temple; and that he died crucified, condemned by the Romans as 'the king of the Jews.' From these as yet disparate and unelucidated data I propose to argue to the main currents of the Gospels' Christology. All the themes belonging to these main currents, according to the argument, derived from Jesus and reflected his grasp of the Scriptures as bearing on his own mission.

"The form of the argument is as follows: the above-mentioned data, of which the historicity is all but universally accepted, establish Jesus' consciousness of being charged with God's 'climactic and definitive' mission to Israel in view of the imminent consummation of history, or the reign of God. But to speak of a 'climactic and definitive mission' in the context of imminent consummation of history is to imply the imminent consummation of fulfillment of the whole of eschatological promise and prophecy. It follows that we ought to positively expect to find on Jesus' part not only an eschatological consciousness, but one marked by the awareness of present fulfillment, a phenomenon without parallel in ancient Israel."[1] (p. 155-156)

----------

1. On whether the realized element in the eschatology of Jesus and of earliest Christianity has any true parallel in ancient Judaism, see D.C. Alison, Jr., The End of the Ages Has Come: An Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985; repr. Studies of the New Testament and Its World; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1987) 91-92.

"Crucial to the argument is the ascertainment that, like his contemporaries, Jesus understood the great soteriological themes of the Scriptures as prophetic, that is, as awaiting fulfillment from the moment at which the end-time would break out. That is why we should positively expect the bearer of God's climactic and definitive mission to focus on and coordinate these themes.

"…this argument evokes an antecedent expectation that the profusion, the positive explosion, of christological speech following on 'the Easter experience of the disciples' will have been rooted in Jesus' own self-understanding. We shall accordingly conclude by entertaining the question of whether this expectation is confirmed."(p. 156-157)

 

 

The Argument-

Three Sorts of Indices to Jesus' consciousness of His Mission-

Three sayings are first analyzed by Meyer:

 

1. The Temple riddle (Mark 14:58 = Matt 26:61 = John 2:19; cf. Mark 15:29 = Matt 27:40; Acts 6:14),

2. The response to Antipas (Luke 13:32)

3. The Jonah saying in response to the demand for a sign (Matt 12:39 = Luke 11:29; cf. Mark 8:12; Matt 16:4)

These three sayings cohere well with what we know of Jesus. They "share a set of sharply profiled traits that reflect the Jesus of history: first, a context of clash with authoritative or elite forces in Israel; second, the 'three-days' motif, which evokes (in consciously enigmatic fashion) the divine governance of the life and fate of Jesus; third, a consequent and unmistakable note of perfect confidence. Jesus clearly regarded the looming crisis (or eschatological ordeal) in the light of its subjection to God's royal sovereignty." (p. 157)

The 3 sayings are analyzed according to the three indices discussed in the Intro. (1st par. above):

 

 

1. Eschatological Antitypes:

"Two of these sayings present 'types' of salvation: the sanctuary…of the Temple is presented as a type of the messianic community of salvation, transfigured in the reign of God. Jonah, saved from the sea-monster, is presented as a type of one raised from the dead, returning (at the great consummation, the saying of 'the [son of] Man') to confound those who pressed Jesus for a 'sign'. There would be no sign but that one! Both sayings thus belong to the series of the words presenting Jesus and his disciples as eschatological antitypes of familiar biblical figures: Moses (Matt 5:17, 21-48; cf. John 6:14; 7:40), David (Mark 12:35-37 = Matt 22:41-46 = Luke 20: 41-44; Mark 2:25-26 = Matt 12:3-4 = Luke 6:3-4), Solomon (Matt 12:42 = Luke 11:31), Elisha (Mark 6:35-44 = Matt 14:15-21 = Luke 9:12-17), Isaiah (Mark 4:12 = Matt 13:13; Luke 8:10), the Servant of the Lord (Mark 10:45 = Matt 20:28; Mark 14:24 = Matt 26: 28; Luke 22:20; John 6:51), the one like a [son of] man and the tribes and prophets of Israel (Mark 3:13-14 = Matt 10:1-2 = Luke 6:13; Matt 5:12 = Luke 6:23). The typological interpretation of the early Church was not an independent development; it was grounded historically in Jesus' own use of typology. The two typological texts adduced here (the riddle of the new sanctuary and the sign of Jonah) are, in particular, words of Jesus; nor is the eschatological character of the antitypes open to reasonable doubt."(p. 157-158)

 

2. Divinely Appointed Measures:

 

"Second, we meet the motif of divinely appointed measure of all things and its specific application to the Eschaton in the Markan form of the public proclamation:…'the time is fulfilled' or 'filled full'…Though the verb is used variously of time, the probable image here is a great vase that with the years has been slowly filled until at last it is full to the brim…The whole is aligned closely with the 'today' and 'fulfilled' motifs in Luke 6:21('Today this Scripture is fulfilled…in your hearing').

"Elsewhere Jesus applied the same filling-up-to-the-appointed-measure motif to 'evil' and to 'revelation.' 'This evil generation' (of unbelievers and killers of God's envoys) will find itself overwhelmed by the rapidly approaching ordeal/tribulation, when God will exact from it the blood-debt for all the murders recorded in the Scriptures from first to last (i.e. from Cain's fratricide in Genesis 4 to the stoning of Zechariah in 2 Chr 24:20-25; cf. Matt 23:34-36 = Luke 11:49-51). Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers! (Matt 23:32), spoken to persons already set on the death of Jesus (Matt 21:45-46), is a bitterly ironic summons to bring to completion with this prospective crime the last wave of evil allotted to history.

"By contrast, the final measure of revelation allotted to Israel is bestowed, now at last, through the agency of Jesus. 'Do not think that I have come to annul the Law [or the prophets]; I have come, not to annul but to complete' (Matt 5:17). This motif of the eschatological completion of God's revelation is carried through in the following antitheses (cf. Matt 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44) as well as in the accounts of Jesus' teaching in general, e.g. in the move, from Moses' provisional legislation on divorce (Deuteronomy 24) to the eschatological restoration of the idea of paradise (Gen 2:24), enacted anew from the already inaugurated restoration of Israel (Matt 19:3-9 = Mark 10: 2-10). In short, Jesus here presents himself as the prophet like Moses, bringing to Israel the final measure of revealed truth." (p. 158-159)

 

3. Jesus' Pointing to His activity as Signs of God's Promise of Salvation for the End-Time:

 

"Third and last, when John in prison sent the question to Jesus, 'Are you he who is to come [Ps 118: 26], or shall we look for another?' Jesus allowed his actions to speak for him; in the urgent staccato of two-beat rhythm, he answered: Go and tell John what you hear and see:

blind men see,

cripples walk,

lepers are cleansed,

deaf persons hear,

dead persons are raised,

and good news is spoken to the poor!

(Matt 11:5 = Luke 7:22-23)

"Jesus is saying that his own public activity in Israel must be read as the superabundant fulfillment of eschatological promises (Isa 35:5-6; 29:18-19; 61:1).[9] He had come as the messianic consolation of Israel (Isa 40:1; Tg. Isa 33:20). Like the answer to the High Priest in the Sanhedrin hearing (Matt 26:64; cf. Luke 22:70), Jesus response is averse to claims (in manner), while entirely affirmative (in substance)." (p. 159-160)

--------------

9. "Superabundant," especially inasmuch as the Isaianic texts on which Jesus drew do not include reference to raising the dead.

He concludes this section: "It seems to me that these three phenomena--self-identification as eschatological antitype, the claim that in him and his mission the divine measures assigned to the Eschaton were being brought to completion, and finally, the specific invitation to interpret his public activity as the fulfillment of eschatological promise and prophecy--are inexplicable except as attesting a unique consciousness: that of mediating God's last, climactic visitation to his people…The historicity of the texts is solidly probable and their central meaning appears to be perfectly clear." (p. 160)

Meyer then seeks to establish this same conclusion he feels is obvious from consideration of the first three sayings, independently by discussing the 5 data mentioned in the Intro.

1. Jesus and the Imminent Eschatological Reign of God:

"We take it that scholarship has copiously established the historicity of the proclamation of Jesus." (p. 160)

The Gospels show evidence of "the present realization in Jesus' own time of at least part of Israel's heritage of eschatological promise and prophecy. To this should be added the nascent Christian community's unambiguous affirmation of the era of fulfillment as having already arrived. Both in Jesus himself and in the Easter community of his followers there were two faces of the eschatological consciousness: first, a consciousness of eschatological promise/prophecy 'already fulfilled'; second, the complementary consciousness of promise/prophecy 'still to be fulfilled.' Together these facts of eschatological consciousness commend, as the most useful terminological rubric both for the views of Jesus and for those of the post-Easter Church, 'eschatology inaugurated and in the process of realization.'

"No one doubts the historicity of Jesus' proclamation of the reign of God."(p.162-163)

2. Jesus spoke with "Authority":

"Jesus impressed his contemporaries of one who spoke and acted 'as having authority' (…cf. Mark 1:22 = Matt 7:29 = Luke 4:22; Mark 1:27 = Luke 4:26). What sort of authority? Not, emphatically, the authority of the professional trained theologian (Mark 11:28 = Matt 21:23 = Luke 20:2); rather that of a charismatic wielding supernatural power over demons, a power that he could and did sovereignly transmit to his disciples (Mark 3:15 = Matt 10:1; Mark 6:7 = Luke 9:1). More, Jesus acted as one bearing the authority to remit sins (Mark 2:10 = Matt 9:5 = Luke 5:24)--in short, like the plenipotentiary of a new economy of salvation." (p. 163)

3. The Eschatological Facet of Jesus Wonder-Working

"Once, when some Pharisees delivered a threat against Jesus' life, allegedly from Antipas, Jesus coolly responded with a memorable word on his invulnerability until the moment of God's choosing, when he would indeed be subject to the onslaught of Satan:

Behold, I drive out demons

and perform cures

today and tomorrow,

and on the third day I complete my course.

(Luke 13:32)

"Since the three-days motif connotes God's sovereignly appointed plan, the sense of the text is: '(Tell that fox that) I cannot be touched until the divinely appointed time.' Quite incidentally, however, the saying defines the public career of Jesus under the rubric of exorcisms and cures, thus significantly adding to the sum of testimonies to Jesus' career as a wonder worker.

"Central to these testimonies is a series of sayings: (a)…on Beelzebul and the advent of the reign of God (Matt 12:27-28 = Luke 11:18-20); (b)…on dynasties and households divided against themselves (Mark 3:24-26 = Matt 12:25-26 = Luke 11:17-18); (c)…on the binding of the strong man (Mark 3:27 = Matt 12:29 = Luke 11:21); (d) the inference that, if (in the context established by Jesus' proclamation) it was God's power that he drove out demons, the reign of God had already (virtually) come (Matt 12:28 = Luke 11:20). This last motif epitomizes at least one of the many facets of Jesus' wonder working."(p. 163-164)

 

4. The Temple Cleansing:

"The historic drama of the cleansing of the Temple, as I have recently argued elsewhere, has been underplayed both by the Gospels themselves and by recent historical-Jesus research. The historicity of the event is not in doubt. The meaning of the event is clearly many-faceted. In the present context, however, the critical point is that in all its aspects the cleansing is peculiarly charged with an implicit claim to plenary authority over the destiny, the definitive restoration, of Israel. A secondary matter is the provenance, in the public life of Jesus, of the riddle of the new sanctuary. It seems to belong, with mid-range probability, to the follow-up on the cleansing of the Temple. This follow-up…must…have been the demand for a sign, as John presents it (John 2:18-19). But whatever the precise source of this word, it is clear that in Jesus' riddling answer (some like: 'Destroy this sanctuary and after three days I will build it'; cf. John 2:19 and Mark 14:58), the 'authority' was that of the son of David/son of God (2 Sam 7:12; 1 Chr 17:12-13; Ps 2:7; 110:3; 4Qflor 11) commissioned to build God's house (2 Sam 7:13-14; 1 Chr 17:12-13; Hag 1:1-2; 2:20-23; Zech 6:12-13). Inasmuch as 'God's house' in texts such as these was open to signifying God's eschatologically restored people…, and since this is precisely the sense of the new sanctuary in Jesus' word, the cleansing itself as well as this word (which, in the present hypothesis, immediately followed on the cleansing) showed that Jesus understood the restoration of Israel to belong to his mission--indeed, as its central task." (p. 164-165)

5. Jesus was crucified as "King of the Jews":

"In light of the above ascertainments, the titulus on the cross, 'the king of the Jews'…, makes excellent historical sense. In the passion story the key religious question (as shown by Mark 14:61 = Matt 26:63; cf. Luke 22:67) had been whether Jesus would acknowledge his claim, up till now exclusively implicit in the public forum, to be the appointed agent (the Messiah) of the appointed eschatological act (the restoration of Israel). When the Sanhedrinists presented this question to Pilate, they gave it a political twist. The titulus, doubtless a product of Pilate's own malicious irony, is a solid index to the crime of which Jesus was accused: pretension to royal dominion. The titulus, besides being well attested (Mark 15:26 = Matt 27:37 = Luke 23:39 = John 19:19), interlocks easily with the other data on the Sanhedrin's effort to bring about the suppression of Jesus. (p. 165)

Conclusion from these 5 points:

"Our purpose is not to deal on its own merits with each of the five data adduced here; it is rather to point to the fact that, taken collectively, they converge on Jesus' consciousness of being the bearer of a divinely appointed, climactic and definitive, mission to Israel. Once again, consider these data cumulatively: (a) He proclaims the imminence of the divine saving act celebrated in the prophets as the eschatological restoration of God's people. (b) But he does not just announce it. His public performance, including teaching and wonder working, strikes his contemporaries as maximally authoritative, the authority deriving directly from God. (c) When threatened by Antipas--just as when questioned by the Baptist--his response points to his career as wonder worker: it accords with the divine plan and proceeds under its protection (Luke 13:32) and it fulfills the promises of the Scriptures (Matt 11:5 = Luke 7:22-23). (d) When 'reign of God' is taken in the sense that Jesus intended, namely, as God's definitive act of salvation, its correlates include new covenant, new sanctuary, new cult. The thrust of the symbolic action at the Temple accordingly appears to intend the end of the old (Mosaic) dispensation and to intimate some new, implicitly messianic, dispensation. (e) The last wisp of remaining ambiguity is dissipated by the titulus on the cross. The conclusion that we find imposed on us (again, not from these five data taken singly but from the five taken cumulatively and collectively) is that Jesus did indeed think of himself as called to a climactic and definitive mission to Israel." (p. 165-166)

 

 

The Scriptures Must be Fulfilled-

Meyer quotes Downing making what he sees as an apparently irrefutable observation about Jesus:

"He was the last prophet…for men's reactions to him and to his preaching determined their eschatological destiny (Luke xii.8 and par.)." Jesus' role was, in the expression of Amos Wilder, "that of mediator of God's final controversy with his people."[J. Downing, "Jesus and Martyrdom," JTS 14 (1963) 279-93; 286-87.]

Meyer writes:

"Keeping in mind this motif of 'last envoy, last prophet' (which Jesus himself made thematic and emphatic by his warnings to the crowds that time was running out, that the great judgement was on the brink), we should perhaps bring it into relation with the biblical conception of God's word and of his fidelity to his word." (p. 167)

Meyer quotes Joshua 21:42-43 (English: 21:42-45), stating that the keyword in this passage is "all". In the texts that follow in Josh., this passage is repeated several times in fragmentary fashion. Moreover, it epitomizes the "endlessly recurrent" "biblical theme of YHWH's…righteousness and his fidelity". In this text we are "in the presence of a massive index to the way in which Israel would come to understand promise and prophecy for the end-time. The whole of it, all without exception, would come to pass. That specifically included the salvation of the nations by assimilation to eschatologically restored Israel." (p. 167)

Meyer proceeds to sketch out the "background to new developments in the reading of Scriptures" (p. 167-168):

-the traumatic events of the 6th century BC-the loss of the king and aristocracy in 597, the violent and severe losses in the capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple in 587, another deportation in 582; return followed by disillusionment; rifts and factions in the Judean restoration

-the Macedonian conquest of the East

Meyer argues that these developments were reflected in the way prophecy was written and read - making the true and ultimate restoration of Israel a dominant theme, instigating "new developments in the way indentured Israel envisaged the salvation of Israel." The transcendent terminology in Trito-Isaiah and Deutero-Zechariah brought in the era of proto-apocalyptic and made way for "new forms of faith-literature." Meyer further states that, by the time of Jesus, at Qumran, in the inter-testamental writings, Targums, and with John the Baptist, the prophets were read as pointing "toward a definite fulfillment at the outbreak of the end-time."

Meyer points to the fact that Paul in 2 Cor. 1:2 says that all God's promises find their "yes" in Christ. Also, Jesus, in response to the charge against him concerning the annulment of scripture, claimed rather to be bringing them to fulfillment/completion (Matt 5:17 = Luke 16:7; Matt 11:5 = Luke 7:22). (p. 169)

He reminds us of his statement in the intro. to the effect that the type of consciousness he argues that Jesus had (one of a decisive mission related to the imminent consummation of history), should also evince a belief that God's promises were presently being fulfilled in his actions (a belief unique to Jesus). He says, to be more precise, they should evince the following beliefs on the part of Jesus:

(a) that some of this whole-to-be-fulfilled had already been so

-And we see that this is the case, as after Antipas executes John, we learn that Jesus' feels God has already fulfilled the 'Elijah' promise in John's mission (Mal 3:23-24; English 4:5-6; Sir 48:10)

(b) that some of it was now being fulfilled in his ministry

-And we see that Jesus points to his own career of wonder-working and proclaiming, in answering the Baptist's query, as bringing prophecies of salvation to fulfillment

(c) that some of it was about to be fulfilled

-And we see that Jesus instructed his disciples that, due to prophetic requirements, he was destined to be killed, and subsequently vindicated (see Mark 9:1) as was the Servant of the Lord. Furthermore, the disciples would share in His suffering and this would signal the "outbreak of the eschatological ordeal" (p. 170)

(d) "that, since the prominent, perhaps dominant, end-time scenario (e.g. Dan 12:1-2) posits a distinction between the great affliction and its cessation (e.g. with the resurrection of the dead), all the rest, i.e. whatever prophecy remains still outstanding (including the very resolution of the ordeal) would find fulfillment when the mission of Jesus would be crowned by the advent of God's 'reign'."(p. 169)

-And we see that Jesus indicates that "once the tribulation or ordeal had run its fierce but brief course, he would complete his work as the Davidic master-builder of the new sanctuary (i.e. of the people of the new covenant) (Mark 14:58 = Matt 26:61 = John 2:19; cf. Acts 6:14), a saying that, once more, inescapably implied the total reversal of his personal fate. This would be the moment at which the gentile world would be judged and saved (Matt 8:11 = Luke 13:29)." (p. 170)

Meyer concludes this section by restating his claim that, given the type of consciousness Jesus seems to have, and given Judaic views of Scripture being ultimately fulfilled in the Eschaton, He should also have the conviction that, in His final climactic mission to Israel, all the prophecies, without any remaining, would be fulfilled.

 

 

Jesus: Proximate Source of the Messianology of the Gospels-

Meyer argues that since the Scriptures were seen by Jesus to prophetically call for the restoration of Israel, the herald who would announce it (Isa 52:7), the prophet like Moses who would reveal God's demands (Deut 18:15, 18), the Davidic Messiah anointed to bring it about (2 Sam 7:13-16; cf. 4Qflor), the Servant who would extend it to the whole earth (Isa 49:6), and the one like a son of man whose triumph would seal it (Dan 7:9-27), it necessarily follows that, in Jesus' mind, these all called for fulfillment, precisely at this last moment. (p. 170-171)

Meyer then seeks to show, from His actions the Gospels, what specific Scriptures Jesus took to be "soteriologically significant", and hence, in need of fulfillment (p. 170-173):

a. Jesus' public proclamation "the reign of God is at hand/has arrived!" would, to many that heard it, recall the Qaddis prayer recited every week in Synagogue and recognizably evoked the news of

salvation embodied in "your God reigns" (Isa 52:7). This further suggests that Jesus spoke in the voice of the Isaianic Servant who was interpreted messianically at Qumran: 'one anointed with the Spirit' (11QMelch 2:18).

b. Though there is no direct evidence in the Gospels, its "highly probable" that Jesus saw the passage in Deut 15 referring to the 'prophet like Moses' as finding its fulfillment in the end-time, and hence, in his own actions - bringing in the fullness of revealed truth (Matt 5:17).

c. Meyer once again refers to the riddle of the new sanctuary (Mark 14:58 = Matt 26:61 = John 2:19) with its biblical background of the one appointed to build God's house (2 Sam 7:12-13; cf. 1 Chr 12:13-14; Hag 2:20-23; Zech 6:12-13), and claims that it is "out of the question" that Jesus would not have been aware of the promise of a son of David, or new David, who would bring about Israel's restoration.

d. Other areas that show Jesus' relation to motifs of royal messianism are the Caesarea Philippi scene; the royal entry into Jerusalem, and repeated use of shepherd imagery (on messianic shepherd imagery, see Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24; Zech 13:7-9; cf. 12:10; 13:1-6).

e. Jesus shows awareness of the Isaianic Servant passages as "soteriologically significant prophecy." (p. 172) In Mark 10:45 = Matt 20:28, the ransom word, specifies the recipients of the ransom as "many" (cf. Isa 52:14-15; 53:11-12), and in Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28, the saying concerning the cup brings together two themes of Isaiah 53: the 'pouring out' of the Servant's life (Isa 53:12) and, again, the 'many'.

f. Jesus also shows resonance with the apocalyptic scenario in Daniel 7. This is evidenced by his references to the thrones for the court of judgement (Dan 7:9-10) in Matt 19:28 = Luke 22:29 and, also, in his saying concerning the 'little flock' in Luke 12:32, "where the motif of transferring to the disciples a share in royal dominion is derived from Dan 7:27." (p. 172) Meyer adds that "though Jesus never simply relaxed that altereity which typified is words on the Son of man, picturing him, for example, as witnessing for or against people in accord with how they had stood vis--vis Jesus (Mark 8:38; Matt 10:33 = Luke 12:9), it is ultimately inescapable that he understood himself as destined to perform the triumphant role of the Son of man. It is an attractive hypothesis that, adopting a deliberately ambiguous use of 'Son of man'…, he applied it both to humanity in general and to himself (in his prediction of the passion, in Mark 9:31 parr.). If Luke 22:69 is an authentic word, we are given a hint of Jesus' focus on Psalm 110; this in turn grounds the hypothesis that he provided at least a hint (e.g. Mark 12:35-37 = Matt 22:41-46 = Luke 20:41-44) that he himself, now the lowly son of David, but soon to be transcendently enthroned--therefore David's 'lord'--at the right hand of God. This, of course, correlates and converges with the role of the Son of man on the 'Day when the Son of man will be revealed' (Luke 17:30; cf. vv. 24, 31). Nevertheless, for the disciples only the Easter experience would definitively break down the altereity that somehow differentiated between Jesus and 'the (Son of) man.' (In the light of that breakdown, it is amazing that the original form of the sayings, which exhibit it, should have been so well preserved in the tradition.)" (p. 173)

 

 

Conclusion and Summary-

Meyer concludes that "Jesus, in the consciousness of election to a climactic and definitive mission to Israel, sought and found in the Scriptures the specifications of God's eschatological deed and the specifications of his own role as the chosen instrumental doer of that deed. By ineluctable logic these Scriptures could not, in Jesus' view, fail to find fulfillment in the drama of his own mission and in its swiftly approaching climax--the ordeal and its resolution. All the Scriptures must find fulfillment, whether in the now of his mission or in the rapidly approaching ordeal and final triumph. If the Baptist had fulfilled the Elijah role, Jesus with his disciples was to fulfill the roles of servant of the Lord and Davidic Builder of the house of God.

"The procedure of the above argument, one that puts a premium on the value of heuristic anticipations, has been consciously and inevitably schematic. First, we acknowledge evidence for Jesus' firm personal conviction of election. He was a man with a mission; the mission bore on and belonged to the climactic and definitive saving act of God. Jesus accordingly found himself called to function as God's (intimately instrumental) agent with respect to what the Scriptures defined as the final restoration of Israel, comprehending (by assimilation to Israel) the salvation of the nations. Second, to this we added the observation that Jesus could not have failed to expect that the sum total of scriptural promise and prophecy was bound by necessity to come to fulfillment in connection with his own mission. Third, we consequently found ourselves in the position of being able to articulate a set of significant anticipations; that the accounts of Jesus should yield evidence (a) of eschatology inaugurated and in process of realization; (b) of eschatology in accord with the schema of crisis to be followed by resolution (Dan 12:1-2; cf. Isaiah 53) and hence of some elements of fulfillment postponed until the moment of resolution; (c) on Jesus' part, of some reflection on and correlation of such soteriological themes (interpreted as prophecy) as the herald of salvation, the awaited prophet, the royal Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, and the one like a man in Daniel 7; (d) on the disciple's part, of the probably fragmentary, only partly thematic, and gradually developing knowledge or realization of the eschatological roles of Jesus. Fourth, we found that these anticipations were solidly met by the data of the Gospels. Fifth, we concluded that Jesus himself had been the principle source of the earliest post-Easter messianology/Christology.

"We should add that in this reconstruction Jesus is seen as intent on listening to the Scriptures for the orientation of his life and mission. We do not, however, find in him one constantly and restlessly engaged in adjustments, revisions, changes of heart and mind. The paucity of messianic self-revelation accorded on the part of Jesus neither with simple ignorance nor with any supposed sense of personal ordinariness, but with an economy of revelation that withheld the secret of his person and destiny out of realism and wisdom respecting his listeners. Hence the special importance that accrues to the esoteric traditions in the Gospels. It should be added that the disciples were neither swift nor deft in construing the intentions and paradoxical self-disclosures of Jesus. The conditions of the possibility of accurate comprehension were not given except with the so-called Easter experience. But what this experience generated in the disciples was not the celebration of new, previously uknown messianic and soteriological themes. All had been repeatedly adumbrated, if not made thematic, by Jesus." (p. 173-175)

 

 

Chapter 8. "The Itinerant Jesus and His Home Town" - J. Ramsey Michaels

"Explicit references in Matthew and Mark to Jesus' mother Mary, to his brothers James, Joseph (or Joses), Judas, and Simon, and to his sisters (Matt 13:55-56; Mark 6:3), underscore the point that Jesus found no honor as a prophet even in his immediate family." (p. 178)

 

 

Chapter 9. "Behind the Temptations of Jesus Q 4:1-13 and Mark 1:12-13" - Dale C. Allison, Jr.

"Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 tell a story in which Jesus is thrice by the devil. The two accounts are so close that a common origin within Q is, for those of us who accept the existence of that source, assured." (p. 195)

 

Angels cooking meals-

Abot R. Nat. A $ 1: "Adam was reclining in the Garden of Eden and the ministering angels stood before him, roasting meat for him and cooling wine for him."

 

Typology - The temptations of Israel and Jesus

Forty years/days in wilderness (Exod 16:35; Q 4:2)

Temptation by hunger (Exod 16:2-8; Q 4:2-3)

Temptation to put God to the test (Exod 17:13; Q 4:9-12)

Temptation to idolatry (Exodus 32; Q 4:5-8)

 

Typology - Elijah and Jesus

Mark 1:16-20 is modeled upon 1 Kgs 19:19-21 where Elijah calls Elisha

Mark 6:15 and 8:28 - some people say Jesus is Elijah

Luke 4:25-26 - Jesus compares his own situation to that of Elijah

Luke 7:11-17 - the resurrection of the widow's son at Nain recalls Elijah's miracle in 1 Kgs 17:17-24

Luke 9:61-62 - compare w/1 Kgs 19:19-21.

"We have every reason to believe that Jesus was not just an exorcist but a highly successful one." (p. 208)

"…a couple of sayings in the Jesus, tradition, sayings often reckoned authentic, might refer to a particular, triumphant encounter of Jesus with the devil."(p. 205)

Mark 3: 27: "But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house."

C.J. Cadoux writes: "It is difficult to see what else this victory [referred to in Mark 3:27] could have been but his successful resistance to the Temptation that beset him in the wilderness shortly after his baptism."[C.J. Cadoux, The Historic Mission of Jesus (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941) 66.]

 

Criteria of Authenticity-

Niles Dahl made the observation that uncertainty about the historicity of an individual word or episode is not crippling for life of Jesus research, for "the fact that the word occurrence found a place within the tradition about Jesus indicates that it agreed with the total picture as it existed within the circle of disciples."[N. A. Dahl, The Crucified Messiah and Other Essays (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974) 67.]

Similarly William Walker wrote: "If the early Church did, in fact, create traditions about Jesus (and it surely did), it would no doubt have attempted, at least for the most part, to create such traditions as would fit 'reasonably well' into the general picture of Jesus which it had received through the prior traditions."[W. O. Walker, "The Quest for the Historical Jesus: A Discussion of Methodology," ATR 51 (1969) 50.]

 

Working miracles in Q-

"In Q's temptation narrative the devil asks Jesus to turn bread into stones and to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple in the expectation that angels will lift him up. The text assumes that Jesus has the power to perform miracles." (p. 209) [see also Q 7:1-10, 19-22; 10:9; 11:14-20]

 

Isaianic Herald-

"The evidence is, however, sufficient for the inference that he associated his activities with the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah and indeed thought of himself as the anointed herald of Isaiah 61." (p. 210)

 

Jesus' Quotation of Scripture-

"In Q 4:1-13 Jesus quotes Scripture more than once. Some scholars would find this out of character. For them almost all of the scriptural citations and allusions in the Jesus tradition come from the church. Others of us, however, believe there is good cause for thinking that Jesus was much concerned with the prophetic tradition and with interpretation of Torah. If this is the correct point of view, then Q's picture of Jesus using the Pentateuch and Psalms to interpret his experience would be faithful to his memory: Jesus was a pious man who quoted from the Jewish Bible." (p. 210)

 

 

Chapter 10. "An Exorcism of History: Mark 1:21-28" - Bruce Chilton

Gerasene demoniac was probably a gentile-

"The maniac may be understood to be an Israelite or not. His proximity to the pigs is no disqualification; Jesus' own parable of the wayward son conceives of pig-keeping as the supreme symbol that a Jew has hit rock bottom (see Luke 15:11-32). The reference to Jesus as 'the son of God Most High,' however, probably suggests that the maniac is a gentile, since 'God Most High' is a title of the God of Israel which is classically used by non-Israelites (see Melchezedek in Gen 14:19; Balaam in Num 24:16; the Philippian slave girl in Acts 16:7)." (p. 234)

 

Jesus Seminar-

Bruce Chilton writes that the Gerasene demoniac of Mark 5 was "extensively discussed within the meeting of the Jesus Seminar which found than an historical event generated the story. Robert Funk was visibly annoyed with the finding at the time, and now writes, 'The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar concluded that some vague historical event might lie behind the story' (The Acts of Jesus, 78). The Seminar might well have gone further in assertions of historicity had there been greater participation by those who are interested in history, but in any case the discussion was much more pointed, and the results sometimes more accommodating of a positively historical concern, than Funk indicates." (p. 235 fn. 42)

 

James and Apostolic Influence-

"…the circle of James is expressly claimed in Acts to have exerted authority as far away as Antioch, by means of emissaries who spoke Greek (Acts 15:13-35)…What is of immediate import is that James alone determines the outcome of apostolic policy. James in Acts agrees that Gentiles who turn to God are not to be encumbered with needless regulations (15:19), and yet he insists they be obstructed by letter to abstain 'from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood' (v. 20)…Judas Barsabbas and Silas are then dispatched with Paul and Barnabas to deliver the letter in Antioch along with their personal testimony (vv. 22-29), and are said particularly to continue their instruction as prophets (v. 32-33)." (p. 238)

"Acts pictures Peter as the first leader of a tightly knit group, which broke bread at home and held property in common (see Acts 1:12-26; 2:46; 3:1-26; 4:1-37; 5:1-11). But Peter is also represented as active much further afield. A shift in leadership of the community in Jerusalem, from Peter to James, became necessary, and Acts clearly attests it (see Act 12:17). Acts 12:17 also reflects an important (and overlooked) aspect of the shift in power from Peter to James." (p. 240)

 

 

 

Chapter 11. "The Beelzebul Controversy and the Eschatologies of Jesus" - Joel Marcus

 

 

Binding of Satan = disempowerment-

Marcus refers to several "history-of-religions parallels from early Judaism and Christianity, in which the binding of Satan and/or evil spirits is synonymous with their disempowerment (see in their contexts 1 Enoch 10:4; Jub. 5:6; 10:7-11; T. Levi 18:12; rev 20:1-3). [11] Especially significant here are Jub. 5:6, where the binding of the evil angels is parallel to their being 'uprooted from all their dominion,' and Jub. 10:7-8, where Mastema complains that if all his subordinate spirits are bound, 'I will not be able to exercise the authority, of my will among the children of men'." (250-251)

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11. The binding of evil spirits may be a temporary measure awaiting the final judgement (e.g. 1 Enoch 10:11-12; Jude 6), but it may also signify perpetual captivity as an eternal punishment (e.g. 1 Enoch 14:5…)

 

 

In Mark 3:26 - Jesus is referring to the obvious fact that Satan is still strong-

"For it is standard theme in Jewish traditions, especially apocalyptic ones, that the sad state of the world testifies to the sovereignty of Satan over the present age." (p. 259-260)

 

 

Dissimilarity of Exorcisms interpreted eschatologically (Against Vermes - 'Jesus, the Hasid')-

"As for the portrayal of Satan disarmed, both the saying about casting out demons by the finger of God in Q 11:20 and the Parable of the Strong Man in Mark 3:27 = Q 11:21-22 are full of the sort of eschatological dynamism that is characteristic of the teaching of Jesus, and they both link exorcism with a conviction about eschatological advent, a linkage that is almost nonexistent outside of the teaching of Jesus." [45] (p. 261)

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45. …1 Enoch 10:4; 55:4; T. Moses 10:1-3; Pesiq. R. 36; and Sipra $ 262 (on Lev 26:6) speak of eschatological judgement on, destruction of, or the rendering harmless of Satan, his angels, and/or demons, but none of them speaks of exorcism…Similarly, several passages in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs refer in an eschatological context to treading evil spirits under foot (T. Sim. 6:6; T. Levi 18:12 [which also speaks of Beliar being bound]; T. Zeb. 9:8), but none of them talks explicitly about exorcism, although a related passage, T. Dan %:10-11, speaks of 'taking captivity from Beliar, the souls of the saints.' These passages from the Testaments, in any case, may be Christian or reflect Christian influence.

 

 

Development in Jesus' Interpretation of His Exorcism-

Marcus hypothesizes that "Jesus' thinking on the subject of Satan's dominion over the earth underwent a development. Early in his ministry he performed exorcisms without drawing the conclusion that he or anyone else had overthrown Satan; this early sage in Jesus' understanding of his charismatic gift is reflected in Mark 3:23-26 = Q 11:17-18. That Jesus held such an opinion is perfectly plausible, since most of the Jewish exorcists known to us maintained similar views; as we have seen above, the linkage between exorcism and eschatological advent or the defeat of Satan is rarely if ever made in Jewish traditions that antedate the New Testament. This early Jesus was, to be sure, probably in some sense an apocalyptic thinker, as the language about Satan's dominion indicate, but that does not necessarily mean that he would have interpreted his exorcisms as signs of eschatological advent. The people whom he exorcised, rather, were individual brands plucked from the Satanic fire of the present evil age; he did not yet see himself as the fireman whose task it was to put the fire out. His practical response to evil in the world, then, was episodic rather than programmatic, the sort of response that Wilson characterizes as 'thaumaturgical':

The individual's concern is relief from present and specific ills by special dispensations. The demand for supernatural help is personal and local: its operation is magical. Salvation is immediate but has no general application beyond the given case and others like it…The evils feared are all highly specific, and it is from their particular incidence (not from their universal operation that salvation is sought (B. Wilson, Magic and the Millennium (St. Albans: Paladin, 1973) 24-25.

"Later, however, Jesus came to see his exorcistic ministry in a different, more exalted way that Wilson would characterize as millenarian. He began to view himself as the effective opponent of Satan, the Stronger One whose exorcisms testified to his role as the spearhead of the inbreaking age of God's dominion; it is this stage in his self-understanding that is reflected in Mark 3:27 = Q 11:29-22…This sort of changed evaluation is, in a way, logical; if miracles begin to occur on a wide enough scale, it may start to seem to the miracle-worker and/or his followers that these extraordinary events do not merely represent 'the activity of God in territory held largely by the devil' but a momentous alteration in the structure of the universe, the beginning of the longed-for defeat of cosmic evil. Such a change in world-view has sociological precedents; Wilson cites several Third World examples of thaumaturgical movements that mutated into millenarian ones, entitling the relevant chapter of the book 'From Magic to Millennium--and Back.' [p. 348-83]…Closer to Jesus religiously if not chronologically, there is a Jewish parallel in the transformation since the beginning of the twentieth century of the Habad (Lubavitch) Hasidic sect, which had previously been thaumaturgical in Wilson's sense, into a movement that retained and even increased its emphasis on miracles, but now interpreted them as signs of imminence and eventually the arrival of messianic redemption.

"…the opposition that his sensationally successful and popular exorcistic ministry provoked in more mainstream groups such as the scribes [71] could have pushed him in a millenarian direction even before his baptism, and could indeed have been partly responsible for his joining himself with the Baptist movement in the first place. Wilson describes the analogous apocalyptic transformation of the movement started by Simon Kimbangu, a faith healer whose successful ministry in the Belgian Congo of the 1920's aroused official concern and led quickly to his arrest and imprisonment. This persecution 'set the seal on the mutation into a revolutionist movement of an originally thaumaturgical revival.' [Wilson, p. 367-73]

Similarly, Jesus' exorcisms could have provoked harassment from envious and fearful authorities who were concerned about the growing popularity and influence with the people of a charismatic figure who had no link with official circles. The plausibility of this scenario is supported by the unease with which other Galilean faith-healers and miracle-workers (Hasidim) were regarded by religious officials, as documented by Green and Vermes. [73] The more intense opposition provoked by Jesus' more sensational charismatic ministry could have helped radicalize him, pushing him towards the apocalypticism of the Baptist. (p. 265-269)

--------------

71. It is probably significant that the manifestations of scribal hostility to Jesus in Mark 2:1-3:6 are immediately preceded by the series of healing miracles described in 1:21-45. This juxtaposition may well reflect a scribal antipathy to displays of free-lance charismatic power both in Mark's own day and in the time of Jesus…

73. …See for example the complaint of Simon ben Setah against the impudence of Jesus' fellow Galilean miracle-worker Honi the Circle-Drawer in m. Ta an. 3:8. Aune ("Magic in Early Christianity," 1539) rightly notes that in Vermes's analysis, which interprets Jesus exclusively as a Galilean Hasid, "the apocalyptic framework within which Jesus' activities and teachings took place has unaccountably receded into the background."…

"…Luke 10:18…implies a change in the status of Satan, a movement from power to disempowerment. Previously--before Jesus' baptism--Satan was enthroned in heaven, 'the prince of the power of the air' (Eph 2:2; cf. Job 1:6; Asc. Isa. 7:9; Philo, Giants 6). Now, however, he has fallen like lightning from this exalted status (cf. 1 Enoch 16:2-3; 54:4-5; 90:21, 24; Rev 12:7-12), and this fall is linked in the Lukan context with submission of the demons to Jesus' power. Jesus now sees that his exorcisms, and those people who cast out demons in his name, have been made possible by the overthrow of Satan. The tension between Mark 3:23-26 = Q 11:17-18 and Mark 3:27 = Q 11:20-22, then, does not reflect a clash between concurrently held opinions but a progression in understanding, corresponding to the event of Satan's fall from heaven." (p. 269-270)

 

 

Return of the Unclean Spirit in Q 11:24-26-

Marcus speculates that this is the Jesus talking about "his own exorcisms and their lack of lasting effectiveness" (p. 273)

"Why couldn't this saying be the cri de coeur of an exorcist who, like a battlefield medic, comes to the depressing realization that he mends his patients only to send them back into the thick of the fighting, where they will be mauled still more terribly by the enemy?" (p. 273)

 

 

Relocation of Spirits in Exorcism-

"In both ancient and modern times, demons have usually been treated by rituals of location or relocation…" (p. 274 fn. 86.)

 

 

Critiques of Kloppenborg's Stratification of Q-

R. A. Horsley, "Questions About Redactional Strata and the Social Relations Reflected in Q," in D. J. Lull (ed.), Society of Biblical Literature 1989 Seminar Papers (SBLSP 28; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989) 175-209

H. W. Attridge, "Reflections on Research into Q," Semeia 55 (1992) 223-34

C. M. Tuckett, "On the Stratification of Q: A Response," Semeia 55 (1992) 213-22

Allison, The Jesus Traditions, 3-8.

 

 

 

Chapter 12. "The Encounter of Jesus with the Gerasene Demoniac" - Jostein Adna

 

 

Mark to Matt. Redaction-

"The account of Jesus and the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-20 is the most dramatic and astounding exorcism story in the Gospels. It has a slightly shorter, but basically corresponding parallel in Luke 8:26-39, whereas the Matthean parallel in Matt 8:28-34 is both remarkably much shorter and less dramatic." (p. 279)

 

 

 

Relocation of Spirits in Exorcism-

"To be taken much more seriously is the consideration that the pigs episode might be a secondary proof of Jesus' success in expelling the demon(s). There are clear analogies in contemporary exorcism stories of a demonstration that an exorcism has been successful. Particularly interesting and relevant is the story related by Josephus about the Jewish exorcist Eleazar (Ant. 8.2.5 46-48):

I have observed a certain Eleazar, of my race, in the presence of Vespasian, his sons, tribunes and a number of other soldiers, release people possessed by demons. Now this was the manner of the cure: Placing to the nostrils of the demon possessed person the ring which had under the seal a root which Solomon had prescribed, he then, as the person smelled it, drew out the demon through the nostrils. When the person fell down, he adjured the demon, speaking Solomon's name and repeating the incantations which he had composed, never to re-enter him. Then, wishing to persuade and to prove to those present that he had this ability, Eleazar would place at a small distance either a cup full of water or a foot basin and command the demon while going out of the human to overturn it and to make known to those watching that he had left him.

"To be mentioned is also the story about how Apollonius of Tyana exorcised a demon from a young man in Athens who with a loud and coarse laughter disturbed him while he was speaking. Apollonius realises that it is a demon which makes the young man behave the way he does, and confronts it directly (Vit. Ap. 4.20):

Now when Apollonius gazed on him, the ghost in him began to utter cries of fear and rage, such as one hears from people who are being branded or racked; and the ghost swore that he would leave the young man alone and never take possession of any man again. But Apollonius addressed him with anger, as a master might a shifty, rascally, and shameless slave and so on, and he ordered him to quit the young man and show by a visible sign that he had done so. 'I will throw down yonder statue,' said the devil, and pointed to one of the images which were in the king's portico, for there it was that the scene took place. But when the statue began by moving gently, and then fell down, it would defy anyone to describe the hubbub which arose thereat and the way they clapped their hands in wonder.

(p. 290-291)

"Rudolf Pesch describes this widely attested category of epipompe, i.e. 'the banishment of the demons to a new abode,' as an element of exorcistic practice often added to the preceding apopompe [i.e., the exorcist's command expelling the demon]. The new abode can be either some distant place, objects of different kinds, or animals. There are many references to banishment into the sea, and a Babylonian incantation even witnesses to a pig being offered to demons in place of the human being they have possessed. Thus, 'the concept of the epipompe in Mr. 5.12 is by no means unusual.' Also, the violent effect that the entering demons have on the pigs can easily be explained on the background of ideas related to the phenomenon of epipompe." (p. 292)

 

 

Pigs as Symbol-

"Being classified in the Torah as an unclean animal, strictly forbidden for food (Lev 11:7-8; Deut 14:8; cf. Isa 65:4; 66:17), by the time of the first century CE the pig had become the very symbol of paganism to be avoided at any price in the eyes of all Jews. Probably, the violent measures of the Seleucids during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 BCE) to force the Jews to sacrifice and eat pigs and the vigorous Jewish resistance against this suppression (cf. 1 Macc 1:47; 2 Macc 6:2, 5; 6:18-7:42) had contributed to making the pig such a prominent token of pagan uncleanness. Besides the story of the Gerasene demoniac, pigs are mentioned in only three other texts in the New Testament (Matt 7:6; Luke 15:15-16 and 2 Pet 2:22…). In all these texts the pig is associated with paganism in a way that corresponds to the current Jewish sentiments." (p. 293)

 

 

Pigs as Later Development in line with Uncleanness in the Passage-

"As far as I can see, Franz Annen has sufficiently explained how the story could have developed in this way in the course of its transmission (cf. pp. 293-94 above). Already some of the original elements related to the demoniac are for a Jew associated with paganism and uncleanness; we can note particularly the use of the term 'unclean spirit(s)' instead of 'demon(s)' (vv. 2, 13), the man's dwelling in tombs (vv. 3, 5; cf. Num 19:16, 18) and his nakedness (to be inferred from v. 15). Narrative elements like these and the pagan setting of the exorcism of a gentile demoniac in gentile territory to the east of Jordan gave the story a strong colouring from its inception; and the introduction of the pigs episode was clearly in the line with this tendency. By introducing a new scene in which the pig as the symbol par excellence of paganism and the sea as the appropriate chaos abode of the demons are the decisive elements, some pre-Markan narrator(s) has/have midrashically expanded and thereby further emphasized the contrast between the distasteful paganism and the liberation from wit which Jesus brings in his triumphant exorcism. My concluding judgement is that we have a sufficient basis for declaring the episode with the pigs in vv. 11-13--plus the mention of the 'seaside' in the conjectured introduction…and of the fleeing herdsmen in v. 14--a secondary element in the story of Jesus' encounter with a Gerasene demoniac." (p. 297-298)

 

 

Jesus as Exorcist-

"There is a broad consensus among scholars that Jesus actually worked as an exorcist. The total weight of accumulated evidence…is very impressive, indeed." (p. 299)

Barry L. Blackburn concludes: "[T]hat Jesus acted as an exorcist and healer can easily be described as the consensus of the modern period."[B.L. Blackburn, "The Miracles of Jesus," in Chilton and Evans (eds.), Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994) p. 353-94, here 362]

"The first result we can record from our study is that we are able unhesitatingly to support the view that Jesus was an exorcist"[Graham Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus (WUNT 2.54; Tubingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1993) p. 225-28]

 

 

 

Chapter 14. "Jesus, the Messiah of Israel: The Debate About the 'Messianic Mission of Jesus" - Martin Hengel

 

"Jesus Christ"-

"[Christos]…as a personal name for Jesus was already in use long before the letters of Paul, e.g. in Rome, and above all in Antioch, where barely ten years after the death of Jesus the Christians were described as…[Christianos]. This means that they changed the title "The Anointed One" into a name within an astonishingly brief period, and thereby usurped it exclusively for their Lord, Jesus of Nazareth.

"Accordingly, we find several times in Paul the formula, 'Christ died for us.' [5] We can still discern in this formula traces of the originally titular meaning, for at the center of the new message was this: it was the sinless Messiah, the eschatological emissary and savior--not merely a suffering righteous man or prophet--who sacrificed his life 'for the many.' Thus Paul speaks of '[the] Christ crucified' as the content of his preaching." (p. 323-324)

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5. Rom 5:8; cf. 5:6; 14:9, 15; 1 Cor 8:11; 15:3; 2 Cor 5:15; 1 Thess 5:10; Gal 2:21; 1 Pet 3:18.

"That Paul was perfectly acquainted with the Old Testament-Jewish conceptions bound up with the messianic name…[Jesus Christ]…can be seen from any number of texts: thus, the reference to Jesus' descent 'from the seed of David' (Rom 9:3-5): '…my kinsmen by race…are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants…the worship, and the promises…the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is [the] Christ.'

"The descent of Christ from Israel forms a climax to this series. For Paul Christ is the Messiah promised to Israel--to be sure his salvific work has universal significance. At the end of Romans (15:7-13) he treats this question: Jews and Gentiles in Rome ought to welcome one another 'as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs….'

"With this 'Christ became a servant to the circumcision,' Paul refers to the 'messianic ministry' of the earthly Jesus to his own people, through which both the truth of God's promises to the patriarchs (and later to the prophets) becomes manifest: God has promised nothing in the messianic prophecy of Scripture that he does not keep (cf. Rom 11:28-29). On the other hand, the 'Gentiles' access to salvation in Christ results from his free mercy, and for this reason they ought to give God the glory." (p. 324-325)

 

 

Adoptionist Christologies-

"An adoptionist Christology, first valid via the resurrection, was an impossible idea for Paul. This can be seen not only in Paul's pre-existence- and 'mission-' Christology, but also in that the earthly Jesus, i.e., the Crucified One, is already Kyrios [7]; it is also apparent in the account of the institution of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:23-25): Jesus dedicates the fruits of his death to his disciples; i.e. already before his death, as Kyrios, he promises them full salvation. Paul holds in common with all the Gospels the certainty that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel promised in Scripture. Even in John Jesus acquires his first disciples because they recognize and confess him to be the Messiah of Israel." (p. 325)

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7. 1 Cor 7:10; 9:1; cf. 1 Thess 4:5

 

 

The Pre-Pauline Tradition and the Resurrection of Jesus-

"The transition of the title 'Messiah' into a name, and its fusion with the person of Jesus, happened already early on in the crossover of the gospel from the Aramaic into the Greek language sphere. The description of the Antiochene followers of Jesus as…[Christianos]…(Acts 11:26) presupposes this as long since accomplished. Presumably, the confessional formula 'Jesus is the Messiah,' by virtue of constant use, gave rise of itself, so to speak, to a permanent name both among Christians, who thereby emphasized that only one could bear this name, and their Gentile auditors, who were not particularly conversant with the language of Jewish piety." (p. 325)

"This also means, however, that this confession was fundamental to the earliest community in Jerusalem. The persecution of the early Church in Jerusalem stems from this very confession of Jesus of Nazareth as the crucified Messiah whom God had risen from the dead." (p. 325-326)

"The connection is inseparable between the appearances of Jesus, which established the new messianic community of disciples, and the proclamation of the crucified Messiah by the messengers whom he himself authorized, the 'apostles of the Messiah, Jesus'. [8] However, there is no proof whatever for the current supposition that in the beginning the confession 'God raised Jesus from the dead' stood alone--the appearances of Jesus being understood merely as the beginning of the general resurrection--and only after a secondary level of reflection, was the Resurrected One proclaimed as the Messiah. How are we to suppose this to have happened? After waiting vainly for the general resurrection, did someone perhaps suddenly 'discover' the messiahship of Jesus' as the solution to the dilemma? Were the beginnings of early Christianity based on a twofold self-deception?

"No, the certainty that Jesus' resurrection also meant his exaltation as Messiah-Son of Man to the right hand of God was rather a direct consequence of the appearances; for the commissioning of the disciples as messengers of the Messiah was connected with these. [10] Their task was to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, and to offer the people a final opportunity for repentance. The ancient confession, 'God raised Jesus from the dead,' only became a meaningful part of the proclamation because it originally stood beside the confession 'Jesus is the Messiah.' The mere revivification of a person or, as the case may be, his translation into the heavenly realm, established neither messianic majesty nor eschatological mission, nor could it, of itself, supply the content of a message of salvation." (p. 326)

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8. 1 Cor 1:1; cf. 2 Cor 1:1; 11:13; Eph 2:1; Col 1:1

10. 1 Cor 9:1; 15:1-8; Gal 1:15-16; Acts 1:8; Matt 28:19-20; John 20:21

"Here it is popular to refer to two 'adoptionist' statements, Rom 1:3-4 and Acts 2:36. However Rom 1:4 does not say that the Son possessed no messianic claim prior to the resurrection; rather, this is referring to the enthronement of the Son of God in his full eschatological majesty and power. This is valid for Acts 2:36. This text--formulated by Luke--expresses not an adoptionist Christology, but a radical volte-face of the 'powers that be': God made him who had been crucified on the accursed tree to be 'Lord and Anointed'; i.e., he installed him in his eschatological office as the Lord and Judge. That an adoptionist Christology in the fullest sense--i.e., in which Jesus is not regarded as the Messiah until his Passion, this first being established through the resurrection--ever existed in early Christianity seems to me more than doubtful." (p. 326-327)

"Jewish Religionsgeschichte presents an additional problem to be sure, we have accounts of the translation of certain righteous men, and we hear also of isolated instances of resurrection. But that a righteous man via resurrection from the dead was appointed as Messiah, is absolutely without analogy. Neither resurrection nor translation have anything to do with messiahship. Indeed, the suffering righteous man attains a place of honor in Paradise, but there is never any question of messianic majesty and transfer of eschatological functions in this connection.

"If Jesus never possessed a messianic consciousness of divine mission, nor spoke of the coming, or present, 'Son of Man,' nor was executed as a messianic pretender--as is maintained by radical criticism untroubled by historical arguments--then the emergence of Christology, indeed, the entire early history of primitive Christianity, is incomprehensible. But this is not all--all four gospels, and above all the Passion narrative as their most ancient component, would be a curious product of the imagination very difficult to explain, for the Messiah question is at the center of them all. When all is said and done: if the eleven disciples with Peter at their head, on the basis of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus so difficult for us to comprehend, and completely unprompted, reached the view that Jesus was the Son of Man exalted to God, knowing that in reality he had been merely a proclaimer of the kingdom of God, a rabbi and a prophet, knowing nothing of eschatological offices, did they not then completely falsify the pure (and so unymthologically modern sounding) intention of their master? Is it not the case that not only Judas, but also the disciples, wallowing in messianic mythology against their master's will, were--viewed historically--at bottom betrayers of Jesus, since they misunderstood his cause as thoroughly as it could possibly be misunderstood?" (p. 327)

"On the other hand, since human beings also had memories then, why do we nowhere find a protest against this 'messianic' falsification of Jesus? A pious veneration of a suffering righteous Jesus, who now (as with all the righteous) resided with God, would have given less offense among their own compatriots, and the impending separation from Judaism could have been avoided (removing all the contemporary difficulties of Jewish-Christian dialogue). But such a protest in favor of the true, unmessianic intention of Jesus is nowhere attested." (p. 327-328)

 

 

Mark's Messianic Secret Motif-

"To be sure, later investigations have shown that this entire complex cannot be traced back to a single motive of masking the unmessianic character of Jesus' ministry, and reading post-Easter Christology into his history. Rather, this is seen as a paradoxical style device intended to allow the hidden 'glory' of the Messiah, who goes to the cross, to shine even brighter." (p. 329)

 

 

The Final Herald-

"…The final herald, after whom 'no one else 'comes' but God himself', is not Jesus, but John the Baptist. If Jesus were the 'final crier' what then would distinguish him from the Baptist? The synoptic accounts give a clear answer. For example, in Q we find:

The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…(Luke 16:16). [From that time] the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently and men of violence take it by force (Matt 11:12).

"However, where the kingdom of God is breaking through, 'God is already coming,' i.e. in Jesus' activity itself. The treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, will be discovered now or not at all, and appropriated by means of a 'violent' decision! Jesus says nothing of a merely future 'coming' of God. The plea for the coming of the kingdom of God in the Lord's Prayer refers to present and future, just as all the other pleas. The future reserves only the revelation of the Son of Man, whatever Jesus may have meant by this, and will make manifest the decision which is consummated now regarding Jesus' message. In contrast to the Baptist, the final and greatest prophet, Jesus brings the eschatological fulfillment of the promise:

Blessed are the eyes which see what you see, and the ears which hear what you hear! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Matt 13:16-17; Luke 10:23).

"Is it not rather the 'Fulfiller' who speaks thus, the 'Bringer of the Kingdom of God' than the 'final crier', and is it not so, given the prophetic promise of the Old Covenant, in which Jesus lives, that (in E. Kasemann's words), 'the only category which does justice to this claim…is that in which the disciples…placed him--namely, that of the Messiah'? If this is so, then is not the construction which has ruled large parts of German Protestant research of the past 90 ears, the completely unmessianic Jesus, a fundamental error?" (p. 331-332)

 

 

The Religion-Historical Problem-

"Earlier research assumed almost as a matter of course the existence of an established, traditional, Jewish 'Messiah dogmatic'. Under this rubric aspects of Christian teaching from a much later period were read into ancient Judaism. A 'firmly established "Messiah" concept,' such as Wrede presupposes and uses to account for an originally unmessianic Jesus, never existed. Instead there were different Messiah pictures with numerous descriptions, often expressing not so much titles as functions. We would do better therefore to speak of a --relatively broad and variable--'Messiah Haggada.'" (p. 332)

"Our knowledge here has been greatly increased by the Qumran texts. But already the material assembled by Billerbeck shows that Judaism had no unified, predominantly political, Messiah picture, but rather that the views here were extremely diverse. The messianically interpreted Old Testament texts were already extraordinarily variable. Thus, for example, the contrast between an earthly, political, 'Messiah' and a 'heavenly, transcendent,' Son of Man is questionable, for the 'Son of Man' coming from Heaven in Daniel 7 is also victorious against the godless 'world powers,' and functions there in the Parables of Ethiopic Enoch in an even greater capacity as universal judge than the Davidic Messiah in Psalms of Solomon 17, whose role seems limited to more immediate nationalistic interests. On the other hand, the Messiah cannot attain his God-given rule without God's help: slaying the army of nations gathered against Jerusalem 'with the rod of his mouth and the breath of his lips' (Isa 11:4), is no less a miracle than flying along with the clouds. The earthly and the heavenly world formed one continuum, were bound together and continually influenced one another.

"The timing of the Eschaton is also variable. In the zoomorphic apocalypse of 1 Enoch the Messiah is not born until after God himself has destroyed the power of the nations and passed judgement. Might not this order sometimes have been reversed? Psalms of Solomon 17 already attests that the Messiah will be the Spirit-filled teacher and judge of his people. This refutes the alleged contradiction, emphasized chiefly by Vielhauer, between Messiah and kingdom of God. God sets up his rule through the king from David's house who, taught by God and armed with the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in Isa 11:2-5, will lead and judge his people in righteousness. [26] In T. Judah 24 we find a non-warlike Messiah from Judah with an ethical orientation. Alongside this, T. Levi 18 speaks of the messianic High Priest as savior. The circumstances of place and time of the Messiah's appearance, his concealment before his public ministry, the forms of his legitimation, though God himself, through a prophet like Elijah, or coram publico, and his coming in humility or glory, remain astonishingly variable in the later Messiah Haggada. Even the pre-existence Messiah, hidden by God, or the suffering and dying Messiah, are not absent." (p. 332-333)

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26. Pss. Sol. 17:3-4, 21, 36-37, 43. See also the recently published 4Q369, which in 1 ii 5-8 speaks of someone instructed by God: "and you have made clear to him your good judgements […] in eternal light. And you made him a first-bo[rn] son to you […] like him for a prince and ruler in all your earthly land […the] crown of the heavens and the glory of the clouds [you] have set [on him…]." The figure described here is probably a Davidic king (if not David himself), but quite possibly a Davidic messianic figure. Note that God has instructed him "in eternal light." See C.A. Evans, "A Note on the 'First-Born Son' of 4Q369,' DSD 2 (1995) 185-201.

"The thesis that there is no reference whatever to a pre-Christian suffering Messiah appear questionable in light of the messianic features of the LXX translation of Isaiah 53, and Aramaic text from Cave 4 concerning an atoning revelator. [27] In fact, we have only very few pre-Christian messianic texts, which nonetheless already show an astonishing variety; Qumran has significantly increased these. We now know of the two Anointed figures, the pre-eminent priestly, and the Davidic. To this may be added the eschatological role of Michael as heavenly savior. With such a widely arrayed background, which continues in the rabbinic texts despite the consolidations following AD 70 and 135, it may be presumed that the messianic spectrum was even much broader. A case in point are Josephus' references to radical eschatological groups, and the messianic ambitions of individuals, although he passes over in silence all messianic statements because of their political sensitivity. There can be no question here of a systematic configuration of the Messiah Haggada, to say nothing of a Messiah dogmatic." (p. 333-334)

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27. Cf. M. Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981) 58. The text is 4Q541.

"The word…[anointed]…refers already in the Old Testament to God's activity. He is the actor in the 'anointing ' carried out in his name. Thus,…[anointed/Christos]…is not simply a 'title of majesty,' which one can adopt, but presupposes God's acting. But the concept need not possess, a priori, a greater theocratic-political content, than the metaphor 'kingdom of God'. Isaiah 61:1-2 is especially fitting as an eschatological text here: 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted.'

"I know of no other Old Testament text that better describes the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Luke, with excellent historical-theological flair, puts this word on Jesus' lips in his sermon at the outset of his public ministry in Nazareth (Luke 4:17-19). The importance of this text for Jesus himself can be seen from his answer to the Baptist's question, and the Beatitudes. The same motif, however, appears in one of the most influential texts of those referring to the 'kingly' Messiah, Isa 11:1-5: 'And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…'

"The Dead Sea Scrolls have significantly added to our knowledge of Jewish messianism of late antiquity. We know from Qumran texts that the messianic prophet of Deuteronomy 18 plays a role, not only in the Samaritan eschatology (where there could be no royal Davidic Messiah), and in Christian texts, but also in Jewish texts. Moreover, there the Old Testament prophets are sometimes described as 'anointed,' for example, we read in 1QM 11:7, 'your Anointed ones, seers of the testimonies'; elsewhere we find 'Anointed of the Holy Spirit' (CD 2:12, and a further D fragment from 4Q267…), and 'holy Anointed Ones' (CD 6:1). Moses appears once as 'God's anointed.' [30] In another text the 'Shoot of David' is the 'Anointed of Righteousness,' [31] while elsewhere we read of one 'anointed with the oil of the kingdom' (4Q458 2 ii 6). David was not only the prototype of the kingly Messiah, but, next to Isaiah, the most important prophet as well. What was true for the prophets of Israel was certainly valid for a figure bringing eschatological salvation, as is seen by the appearance of such a one in 11QMelchezedek. There the messenger of good tidings from Isa 52:7, with an allusion to Isa 61:1, is interpreted as the one 'Anointed with the Spirit'…who '[preaches] good news, proclaims [salvation], of whom it is written, [when it says, "to comfort [all who mourn in Zion], and to teach them in truth…"' The variability of the…[anointed]…manifest in the Qumran texts accords with the possibility of describing the 'Son of Man' as Messiah since the Similitudes of Enoch." (p. 334-335)

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30. 4Q377 2 II 5: "by the mouth of Moses his anointed…"

31. 4Q252 1 v 3-4: "until the coming of the anointed of righteousness…, the branch of David…"

"If, then, a prophetic teacher figure with the authority of God's Spirit appeared with the outrageous claim that with his activity God's eternal reign became reality, if he applied the apocalyptic cipher '(Son of) Man' to himself, and also to the future heavenly Judge, if he also came from a family of the lineage of David, then does it not appear probable, that he was invested with the title 'Anointed,' and took a position with regard to the title, and under the charge of being the long-awaited 'Messiah' and 'King of the Jews' was executed on the cross as a political criminal? In other words: the historical sounding of the question, Jesus and 'Messiah', must begin with the Passion story."(p. 335)

 

 

The Crucified Messiah-

"H. J. Holtzmann said of Jesus' death on the cross that it was 'of all things, the most certain.' On this single point, even in research today, there is still a consensus. But here the consensus ends. The workbook by Conzelmann and Lindemann, following R. Bultmann, manages to admit that it must have been 'a political accusation that was leveled against Jesus' and 'that a trial before the representative of the Roman government actually did take place,' which led to crucifixion; all else is alleged to be redactional, secondarily 'spun from' Old Testament material, or simply legend. All that remains of the Markan Passion narrative is what we can otherwise derive from the Pauline statement that Jesus was executed by crucifixion.

"On the other hand, it seems that scholarship is widely agreed that, as Bultmann emphasizes, Mark 'had already before him a Passion story that was a continuous narrative,' [37] indeed the earliest of all the early Church's connected narratives about Jesus. To be sure, there is much disagreement about the date and extent of this pre-Markan 'Passion story.' Paul provides a hint in 1 Corinthians 11, where he refers to Jesus' last meal. This account may already have existed at the end of the Thirties where Paul was preaching in Syria. Can then the account of Jesus' suffering be very much later? If the oldest narrative account about Jesus, the Passion story, represents a mere conglomerate of 'dogmatic' and legendary community formulations, as radical criticism postulates, can anything at all of the Jesus tradition be trustworthy? The disciples must have been much more interested in Jesus' Passion--which formed the basis for the beginning of the Church and the Kerygma--than in individual logia and parables. Wellhausen, the great skeptical historian, comments: 'the reminiscences of him are one-sided and sketchy; only the last days of his life remained etched in memory.' [38] The early Jerusalem church, under the leadership of Peter and James, the Lord's brother, was for the next three decades the primary church that could gather information about that unique event. If they were not interested in this, but instead, contrary to all memory, freely constructed and historicized, than neither can we expect them to have had any interest in sayings of Jesus. But no one is prepared to accept this consequence. Bultmann wrote a classic study on Jesus, and Conzelmann is able to tell us a good deal about Jesus in his article, 'Jesus Christus.'" (p. 336-337)

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37. R. Bultmann,…The History of the Synoptic Tradition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1972) 275. Close to the ancient kerygma of the "Passion and Death of Jesus, as the analysis has shown, was a short narrative of historical reminiscence about the Arrest, Condemnation and Execution of Jesus."…"A Study of the Synoptic Gospels," in R. Bultmann and K. Kundsin, Form Criticism: Two Essays on New Testament Research (New York: Harper & Row, 1962) 11-76, here 65.

38. J. Wellhausen, Israelitisch-judische Geschichte (8th ed., Berlin: de Gruyter, 1921) 367

"With Good reason. For how can the disciples have forgotten the most convulsive day of their lives? If, however, we take the view that the disciples, Peter at their head, held this day in memory, and attempted to supplement their knowledge of their Master's death through additional information from Simon of Cyrene, the women, Joseph of Arimathea, and others, then we cannot ignore that the Messiah question runs through the Passion story of all the Gospels like a red thread. This is particularly prominent in the oldest account, Mark's, and is surely true for the pre-Markan story as well.

"N. A. Dahl has already pointed out the line of connection between the Pauline message of 'Christ crucified,' and the statement of the Gospels that Jesus was executed as King of the Jews. This was the decisive charge against Jesus, that brought him to the cross; for 'the formulation "King of the Jews" derives neither from a prophetic proof nor from the Church's Christology.' [39] It is improbable that the early Church, with no reference to historical reality, introduced of itself the politically prejudicial expression, 'King of the Jews', since this would have justified the Roman proceedings against Jesus as a rebel. All those who even stretched their hand towards the crown, from the last of the Hasmoneans, Antigonus, to the pseudo-messiah, Bar Cochba, were rebels against Rome and suffered a violent death. Had the earliest Church applied the title, 'King of the Jews', to Jesus, it would itself have been responsible for arraying him with the worst of all possible company, defaming both him and itself. But it was unnecessary to invent this charge; it was, in fact, brought by the hierarchs against Jesus before Pilate as the most certain means of bringing this seducer of the people to the cross." (p. 337-338)

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39. N. A. Dahl,…The Crucified Messiah and Other Essays (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974) 10-36, here 23-24.

"With good reason, Dahl refers to the causa poena on the cross (Mark 15:26): King of the Jews. This informed everyone in Jerusalem of the charge against Jesus. Conzelmann and Lindemann, however, see even in this item, which disadvantaged Christians in the eyes of their opponents, 'a christological [motive] without historical background'; for, 'there is no evidence for affixing such inscriptions…as a Roman custom.' But this argument is misleading. For it must be recognized that antiquity has supplied us with very few real descriptions of crucifixion at all. The Gospels are by far the most extensive accounts of execution on the cross. Ancient authors generally considered it far too unsavory a subject. For this reason we find hardly any details. The practice of publicizing a causa poena on a placard for general deterrence at an execution is attested in several texts. These were hung around the delinquent's neck, or carried before him when he was led to the place of execution. [42] With crucifixion however the suffering of the condemned man before his death could last for days; to increase the deterrent effect, the placard will have been affixed to the cross. There is no basis then for dismissing as 'dogmatic invention' the reference to the causa poena, likely to be understood by ancient readers as a defamation. The titulus on the cross is just as historical as the ensuing account that Jesus was crucified between two 'robbers', i.e. presumably two political insurrectionists. The same is true of the mocking of Jesus by the anti-Jewish soldier rabble, who deride him in a parody of royal homage as a king wearing a purple mantle and crown of thorns. [43]" (p. 338-339)

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42. Suetonius, Caligula 32.2; Domitian 10.1; Cassius Dio 54.3.7; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 5.1.44.

43. Mark 15:16-20; cf. Philo, Flacc. 36-42.

"Further, I find improbably the view that Pilate's question, 'Are you the King of the Jews?,' and Jesus' positive answer, was secondarily interpolated into original unity of 15:1 and 3. For it is incredible that the original account of Jesus' delivery to Pilate should have been no more specific than the banal, 'And the chief priests accused him of many things,' of 15:3. Is the earliest Church supposed to have believed that Jesus was executed on such unspecified grounds? In fact, v. 3 underscores only the one point of the charge, to which Jesus confesses in v. 2, and in which all four Gospels agree. Jesus' confirming answer to Pilate seals his fate: confessus pro iudicato est (Digestae 42.2: de confessis)

"Here, one thing leads to the next. Jesus was delivered to Pilate with the capital charge, 'King of the Jews.' But how did the hierarchs arrive at this charge, graver than any other? Through the previously narrated interrogation at night before the highest Jewish office, the High Priest and the court over which he presided. In favor of the Markan account is the curious note concerning the alleged Temple saying of Jesus. The erection of the new eschatological sanctuary was a messianic task. Thus there was an inner connection between this alleged saying of Jesus and the provocative question of the High Priest concerning Jesus' messianic dignity. Is it not plausible that Jesus answered this question with a word of judgement which, in its turn, provoked the Sanhedrin, confirmed his God-given authority, and at once referred the hierarchs to the coming Son of Man with whom he was inextricably bound? This would explain their indignant reaction, and the abuse he suffered as a false prophet. The precautions taken at Jesus' arrest, and the speed with which he was delivered to Pilate, show that his influence with the people was feared, making it necessary to avoid public proceedings. It was his messianic claim that finally led to their making short work of him." (p. 339)

"The Messiah question, according to Mark, was predominant during the final, tense days in Jerusalem. He dramatically prepares the way for it with the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Jericho; this healing falls outside the topics of customary miracle stories. The address, 'Son of David,' marks Jesus as a messianic pretender. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, riding down from the Mount of Olives into the Holy City--as in Zech 9:9--accompanied by the acclamation of his fellow pilgrims, brings the Messiah question distinctly to the fore. Why should not the crowd of accompanying pilgrims, who knew only too well a prophetic word such as Zech 9:9, have seen in Jesus the messianic Prophet, and have harbored the hope that he would be 'one to redeem Israel'? And Jesus himself--why should he not have acted out a messianic symbolism, with the Holy City and its Temple in view?

"The Cleansing of the Temple also presupposes a scriptural reference from Zechariah--the last word in the book: 'And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day' (14:21b). With this second symbolic action, Jesus cleanses the Temple for the kingdom of God in a paradigmatic act in his full authority as Messiah designatus. It is no wonder that the hierarchs question his authority (11:27-32). A messianic background is evident in other episodes as well. The Parable of the Wicked Vineyard Tenants (Mark 12:1-12), showing a familiarity with Palestinian conditions, threatens the hierarchs with the judgement of authority as a charismatic teacher, 'not as the scribes.' If Mark has invented all this material--historically appropriate in style to an astonishing degree--then he has done it with ingenious empathy, intuition, and understanding. But in the opinion of many critics he was a simple anonymous Gentile Christian! How is this supposed to have come about?" (p. 339-341)

"With these all too brief reflections I have intended no more than to point out that the Passion narrative can (and in my opinion must) be viewed very differently than the widespread historical skepticism in contemporary criticism allows. Absolute proof for the historicity of the individual episodes in the Markan passion is not the issue here. This can hardly be obtained, given the limited source basis--as is frequently the case in Ancient History. Whoever radically strikes the Messiah question from the Passion story makes the account not only incomprehensible, and a banal torso, but is also unable to explain the Easter events and the origin of post-Easter Christology. This is a high price--much too high a price--to pay for the postulate of an unmessianic Jesus." (p. 341)

 

 

Hengel on Mark Scholars who say Mark is a Gentile-

"Such opinions are typical for modern unhistorical 'uncritical New Testament criticism.' (p. 341)

 

 

The Titles 'Messiah' and 'Son of Man'-

"Might one not object here that in all four Gospels Jesus never applies the appellation 'Christ' (anointed) to himself, but, on the contrary, this title is always applied to him by others. However, Jesus never rejects the title--neither in the trial before the High Priest, nor before Peter and the disciples. During the trial before Pilate he might yet have denied this charge, and he explained that he was only a rabbi and prophet declaring the will of God. But even as he refused a hasty flight the night before to avoid arrest, so also he refuses this option. In Mark 8:24-26 he merely forbids Peter and the disciples to betray the secret. The ensuing repudiation of Peter as 'Satan' (is this also a product of the earliest Church?) results from Peter's reaction to the revelation that Jesus 'must suffer many things'. We do not know whether, or how, these accounts originally belonged together.

"I would put the question the other way round: Is it not an indication of the relative trustworthiness of the Gospel tradition that the alleged great creativity of the 'community' never produced an unambiguous scene in which Jesus announces his claim coram publico with a clear 'I am the Messiah, the Son of God'? Could this not be the result of the 'community' knowing that Jesus never proclaimed himself to be the Messiah in this manner, or even that it was simply impossible thus to proclaim oneself Messiah, for example, because the revelation of God's Anointed in his majesty could only be accomplished by God himself? [49] The messianic secret then would stem in nuce from the (eschatological) secret of Jesus himself, and his conduct." (p. 341-342)

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49. Matthew's expansion of Peter's confession reflects this very belief; cf. Matt 16:17: "And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.'"

"This is known by his use of the disputed cipher, 'the man', for himself and the coming Judge. This expression, incomprehensible in Greek and which with one exception (Acts 7:56) occurs only on the lips of Jesus, and always in the four Gospels, is among those imitations of Jesus' speech found in the Gospels such as 'the Kingdom of God', 'amen I say to you', the prayer address, 'Abba, Father,' and 'this generation.' I am simply unable to believe that the so-called earliest community (i.e. in reality, his closest disciples) made him the resurrected Son of Man after the appearances, and then very quickly suppressed this cipher because it was unsuitable for mission proclamation, while at the same time being extremely careful to insure that in the Gospel tradition only Jesus speaks of the Son of Man, never his disciples, just as the Messiah title was strictly held at a distance from him in the production of the dominical sayings. Radical exegetes seem to me to be too 'trusting' here." (p. 342)

"It is in any case wrong to construct a thoroughgoing antithesis between the '(Son of) Man', and the 'Messiah'. Already the (few) Jewish sources referring to the '(Son of) Man,' of Dan 7:13 forbid this. Jesus employs '(Son of) Man,' an expression characterized both by Dan 7:13, and ordinary, everyday use, because it is a cipher, and not explicitly messianic. It becomes then, paradoxically, the expression for the mystery connected with his mission and passion. Mark appears already to have understood it in this way, and thus for him it is not included in the messianic secret. We meet the expression 81 times in the Gospels. That all these texts were secondarily inserted by the Community, I hold to be impossible. In the interest of space, I restrict myself to what seems to me to be the most plausible solution. The earthly and suffering Son of Man are a cipher with which Jesus, in certain situations, expresses both his authority (indeed, we may say as Messias designatus), and his humility and tribulation, which ultimately lead him to suffering and death. Regarding the coming Son of Man, who appears as a mysterious heavenly figure, I refer to the seminal study by Carsten Colpe: 'The apocalyptic Son of Man is a symbol for Jesus' certainty of perfection.' [50] Just as the Son of Man may not be set in opposition to Jesus, neither may he be set over against the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, a precipitous identification in the contemporary ministry of Jesus was impossible. A text such as Luke 12:8-9 emphasizes the inextricable connection between Jesus and the coming Son of Man, but does not remove the dialectical tension between the earthly preacher and the coming judge. Adolf Schlatter, as well, emphasizes that the eschatological dignity of Jesus is indeed one of his 'goals,' therefore, [51]

the "Messiah" idea was flexible because it expressed a goal; it did not derive its content from a realized state of affairs. The procession of events had to show how the kingdom of the promised king came into being, and what it accomplished. No promise receives its concrete form until God's government supplies it.

"This means, however, that Jesus himself, in obedience to his God-given task of announcing the eschatological fulfillment of the promise, and thereby introducing it, expounds, through his conduct and his way, just what was really fitting for God's chosen 'Anointed.' It was not a given, fixed Jewish 'messianology' that determined his service, but rather his service established the standards for what was, in the truest sense, legitimately 'messianic'. His God-given task, the fulfillment of His will, stood before, and above, the titles. To this messianic ministry to his own people we now turn our attention." (p. 343-344)

---------------

50. C. Colpe…TDNT 8 (1972) 400-77.

51. A. Schlatter, 'Der Zweifel an der Messianitat Jesu,' BFCT 11/7 (1907)…[p. 162]

 

 

The Messianic Ministry of Jesus-

"Despite the widespread aversion to attributing to Jesus a 'messianic consciousness,' there is broad consensus that Jesus' ministry and conduct can hardly be explained as that of a mere rabbi and prophet: 'And they were astonished as his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes' (Mark 1:22). For Mark, this is the teaching authority of the perfect Spirit-bearer (1:10, 13), which brings the radically New. This same authority shows itself in Jesus' behavior and conduct. He promises to sinful men and women the forgiveness of their sin, that which is the prerogative of God alone; the scandalous fellowship with tax-collectors and sinners has a similar intention. He justifies it with the saying: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners' (Mark 2:17b). The Pauline justification of the sinner derives from Jesus'' messianic activity.

"His dismissive answer concerning the Pharisees and the Baptist's disciples, 'Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?', rests on this mission-consciousness which exceeds the bounds of the prophetic. This saying, even as Jesus' behavior with the tax-collectors and sinners, is only comprehensible if the promise is already present in Jesus' ministry, if the Kingdom of God comes with him. Because the promises are now being fulfilled, those who witness with eye and ear are counted blessed; thus the cry of acclamation that the eschatological revelation of the Heavenly Father's salvation of the poor and dis-enfranchised is come (Luke 10:21 = Matt 11:25); thus also healings and exorcisms, the deeds of him in whom the fulfillment of the promises becomes reality. 'But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you' (Luke 11:20 = Matt 12:28)." (p. 344-345)

"The Kingdom of God, overcoming the old aeon and the kingdom of Evil, is not only near, it is present in Jesus' ministry. When Jesus speaks of the earthly Son of Man on the one hand, and the coming Son of Man on the other, the tension between the two corresponds to that between the presence of the kingdom in his ministry--which undergoes testing and trial--and his coming in power. Jesus' answer to the charge of being in league with the Devil tends in this direction: '...how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house' (Matt 12:29). Jesus is he who brings 'liberty to the captives' (Isa 61:1-2). As the victor in this battle he can also call out to his disciples as they return full of joy from their exorcisms: 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven' (Luke 10: 18). What follows this is no less astonishing:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:19-20)

"Who utters such an outrage is not only certain, in his high-flying, god-inspired enthusiasm, that the power of the 'Enemy' is broken here and now, but he also dares to anticipate the judgement of God. Thus also, in three blessings (following Isaiah 61), he can promise the poor, the hungry, and the grieving, unconditional participation in the Kingdom of God. As he already now promises salvation with absolute certainty, so also he can anticipate the word of the last judgement; thus, we find the woes pronounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida, where he had done such 'mighty works', and even more sharply, against the center of his activity: 'And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades' (Matt 11:20-24 = Luke 10:12-15 [Q])." (p. 345-346)

"For this very reason, then, one cannot demand a sign of him--as from a prophet. Rather, Gentiles will rise up as witnesses against this generation of Jesus' contemporaries: the Queen of the South, who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, the wisest of the wise, and the Ninevites, who repented at the preaching of Jonah, the most successful of the prophets; for 'behold, a greater than Solomon is here,' and 'behold, a greater than Jonah is here' (Matt 12:42 = Luke 11:32 [Q]). How are we to understand this 'behold, a greater than Solomon is here' if not in the sense of the end of the old 'salvation history,' and the dawning of the Kingdom of God in the work of Jesus himself? Because he is 'more than a prophet' he does not begin his authoritative words with the Old Testament's 'Thus says the Lord,' but with the unique 'Amen, I say to you.'

"In my judgement, the real Jesus was more enthusiastic, more ecstatic, more passionate, and that means also, more alien to us, than we enlightened Westerners care to admit today. We al tend to shape him theologically 'in our image'. The enthusiastic, messianic Jesus is further from us than the 'rabbi and prophet' who has become dear to us, or even the 'herald before the end.'" (p. 346)

"Jesus' 'ethical' preaching, as well, stands under his 'messianic authority', which can anticipate God's judgement: whoever judges, will himself be judged, only he who hears and obeys his word builds upon the rock, whoever is anxious makes mammon his idol. This very saying, 'Do not be anxious', contradicting all wisdom and experience, presupposes that limitless care of God, which is part of his Kingdom. With the seeking of the Kingdom of God as a present power, anxiety and fear fall by the wayside. This command, 'Do not be anxious', is just as much part of his divine 'messianic' certainty as the saying about faith that moves mountains, and the certainty of answer to prayer. That he reveals the Kingdom of God in parables shows that he (alone) knows its present and future secret.

"The trial of Jesus, which ends with his execution as messianic pretender, and the unique authority, which determines his preaching, his ministry, and his conduct, illuminate each other. Therefore, it seems to me also probable that he goes to Jerusalem in this very authority, with his death before his eyes as the way that the Father has determined for him. The double saying, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!' (Luke 12:49-50), indicates that he is going to his death for the sake of his mission. This is also true of the question by the sons of Zebedee, the debated ransom saying (Mark 10:45), and above all, the words spoken at the Last Supper. Jesus goes to his death for the sake of his messianic ministry to Israel.

"That he intended to address not only the Galilean population, but all Israel, is seen by his call and appointment of the Twelve and his sending them out among the people. He calls them to follow him as God once called the prophets, and commissions them with his message.

"Just as the Son of Man and the Messiah cannot be fundamentally separated, neither may one a priori completely tear the 'prophetic' from the 'kingly' Messiah. Each is 'Spirit-bearer' in a unique way, and this connects the two. Also, the 'kingly', and the 'prophetic', Messiah can be teacher and proclaimer of God's will, and even more so, judge. At first, the motif of the political Messiah can recede into the background: the overcoming of the worldly powers at enmity with God, not only the ruling political kingdoms, but above all in Satan as their lord, was accomplished 'in power' by God's miracle. One cannot deny all political consequences to Jesus' efficacy, but this was of a very different kind than that of the various 'messianic' pretenders of his time.

"About Jesus, one may say that he made his appearance in Galilee as 'Anointed of the Spirit,' in the manner of Isaiah 61, and was executed in Jerusalem as 'King of the Jews'. That his family was reported to be descended from David, that he addressed the entire 'twelve tribes' with the fulfillment of promise and the dawning Kingdom, that he not only entered Jerusalem accompanied by a crowd greeting him as a messianic figure, but entered with eschatological authority, all may have played a role here. With regard to the charges as at his trial, he did not renounce the messianic claim." (p. 346-347)

"How he himself viewed the eschatological accomplishment of his work, we may only presume by examining such texts as Mark 14:25; 10:37; or 14:62. In our lack of knowledge, however, we should not forget that Jesus' disciples knew infinitely more about Jesus than we today, and that this knowledge also flowed into the earliest Christology which began directly with, and after, the Easter appearances. How could this have been otherwise! Easter did not alter the direct remembrance of Jesus. This experience burned it into the hearts of the disciples.

"With our extant sources, we today can sketch only a very fragmentary 'picture' of Jesus' ministry. To be sure, this is true of many great figures from antiquity. I am reminded of the debate over the 'historical Socrates'. Many features remain obscure. However, we ought not therefore to make of necessity a virtue, and, with radical critical skepticism, reject a limine information which is plausible. That Jesus neither intended to be a mere 'rabbi and prophet', nor one 'eschatological prophet' among many, ought no longer to be disputed. Just as one-sided is the picture, so popular today, of the supertemporal, benevolent teacher of brotherly love and humane principles, who died in the end as a martyr for his good cause. Here, aspects appealing to the modern mind are emphasized in a one-sided manner. Orthodox-fundamental biblicism has its counterpart in critical biblicism. Both are nave and in danger of doing violence to historical reality--the one, because of its ahistorical biblical literalism, and the other, because it selects and interprets in accordance with its modern world-view, and theological interests. Against the view, since Wrede, of the unmessianic Jesus, it must be admitted that Jesus conducted himself with 'messianic' authority, and was executed as a messianic pretender. Only thus are the development of post-Easter Christology, the accounts of his Passion, and his efficacy, historically comprehensible." (p. 348)

"With his messianic claim, Jesus the Jew may appear alien, indeed vexing, since his 'mythical' characteristics obscure our ethically determined, demythologized picture of him. But the real Jesus was very different. He lived in the language and imagery of the Old Testament and its Jewish-Galilean environment, and he conducted himself with the--in the truest sense of the word--'apocalyptic' (the word comes from…'to reveal') right to usher in God's reign over Israel (and all nations), and , as the 'Anointed of God', to fulfill the promises made to the fathers and the prophets. His death--which he consciously affirmed--placed the seal of confirmation on this right.

"That Jesus conducted himself in this manner, I hold to be provable by the methods of historical-critical research." (p. 348-349)

 

 

 

Chapter 15. "Assessing the Historicity of Jesus' Walking on the Sea: Insights from Cross-cultural Social Psychology" - Bruce J. Malina

 

 

Social Constructs Influence Reading-

"The task of assessing the authentically historical deeds of Jesus can only be undertaken by means of the imaginary constructs of readers and/or hearers of the Gospel documents. Readers and/or hearers read or hear the documentary sources for a life of Jesus in order to imagine and assess the written descriptions of the deeds in question. Every person seeking to evaluate the historical authenticity of Jesus' deeds thus must necessarily assume and apply some theory of reading, of language and of social meaning, whether they are aware of it or not (see Malina 1996). While a number of scholars do invoke the Romantic, aesthetic category of the Gospels as 'literature', nearly all give no thought to the fact that the descriptions in question initially had meaning because of some first-century Mediterranean social system context. And if they have any meaning today at all, it is only because the reader or hearer brings to his or her reading or listening imaginative scenarios of social interaction from a social system context, more often than not that of their own contemporary society. In the quest for evaluating the authentic deeds of Jesus, I suggest that an appreciation of the social system of those who attest to Jesus's deeds as well as that of those who read those deeds today is fundamental. " (p. 351)

 

 

Parallels of Jesus Walking on the Sea-

"There are no real parallels to the sea-walking narrative in the OT or in pre-Gospel pagan literature." [Madden, Patrick J. Jesus' Walking on the Sea: An Investigation of the Origin of the Narrative Account. BZNW 81. (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 1979) p. 139]

 

 

Problems w/Jesus Miracles-

"…Jesus' walking on the sea is one of those culturally unfamiliar, problem-filled behaviors in traditions about Jesus. These include his healings, exorcisms, his hearing voices from the sky, seeing visions of Satan and angels in the wilderness, wonders such as his multiplication of loaves and fishes, or the disciples' visionary experience (transfiguration, appearances of the resurrected Jesus) and the like. Such behaviors are a problem largely because there is no room for them among the patterns of conduct and perception available in contemporary U.S. and northern European social systems. They are anomalies, not replicable in terms of contemporary cultural cues.

"The problem posed by such behaviors are variously solved. Conservative, 'believing' scholars have recourse to the category, 'miracle', and trace the behavior to some supernatural agency. The reason for this, it seems is that if the behavior in question occurred in the way it is described in the Gospels, then modern witnesses would have to say it was miraculous, obviously supernaturally caused. These scholars seem innocent of the fact that the category 'miracle' as they use it is traceable to rather recent times (see Brown 1984; Remus 1983), while the label, 'supernatural', invented by Origen in the third century, was of little significance in the world of Jesus and much of the world today (see De Lubac 1948; Saler 1977).

"Liberal scholars, on the other hand, judge such behavior as simply impossible, either in the first-century Mediterranean or today. Hence some modern, more enlightened explanations must be used to clarify what our benighted first century Mediterranean authors describe. Such more enlightened explanations include modern psychology and its psychosomatic inventory, psychiatry with its neurosis and psychosis: psychotic interludes, group delusions, or even total shamanistic hoaxes (see Noll 1983). Among these enlightened moderns, there are the literati who would assess these behaviors as literary fiction, fictional accounts developed for some such purpose as supporting weak faith or symbolically expressing some truth or even rooted in misperceptions on the part of first-century witnesses (see Hesse 1965; Keller and Keller 1969).

"As a rule, any behavior not readily verifiable in terms of conceptions available from the contemporary social system into which the interpreter has been enculturated is judged to be a problem. As Jung long ago noted: 'all human beings are bad observers of things that are unfamiliar to them' (1976: 307). Since the inquiry into the historical authenticity of Jesus' deeds is largely carried out by liberally enlightened scholars, the general presumption is that none of these extraordinary deeds is historically authentic in the way the Gospel authors describe them. Thus Jesus surely healed, but psycho-physical problems were the real issue and Jesus was a master as instilling confidence and allaying anxiety. Hence he could 'heal' people. Exorcisms are a case in point. They are instances of psychological projections produced by psychoses. Jesus' techniques were successful in redirecting the projections and bolstering the patient's crippled ego. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the subsequent walking on the sea simply highlight Jesus as the new Moses, in a graphic retelling of God's Exodus wonders (water and food) pointing up the role of God's new prophet…" (p. 352-353)

 

 

Altered States of Consciousness as Explanation-

"A cross-cultural, anthropological approach to understanding these extraordinary behaviors in the story of Jesus has produced a rather different set of explanations. For such behaviors still exist on the planet in general, and in the Mediterranean as well. The US and its parent northern Europe have grown selectively inattentive to such behaviors. Taking his cue from anthropologists, John Pilch has demonstrated the historical accuracy and plausibility of Jesus' healings in terms of models drawn from a number of non-Western societies (see Pilch 1992; 1993a for a list of his previous work). Pilch has also taken the lead in introducing the explanation-rich category of altered (or alternate) states of consciousness ( = ASC) into New Testament study (Pilch 1993; 1995; 1996; 1998a; 1998b).

"Some twenty-five years ago, Erika Bourguignon has demonstrated that visionary, trance-state experiences and other forms of ASCs exist in institutionalized form among most societies comprising world's population. Pilch offers an overview of her data, as follows:

ASCs can be induced either directly and intentionally or indirectly and unintentionally. On a continuum, such experiences extend from REM sleep (rapid eye movement) on one end through trance and culminate in possession trance on the other, with many different experiences in between. These insights and further details about them are based on a meticulous analysis of ethnographic literature from 488 societies in all parts of the world including 44 circum-Mediterranean societies. Ninety percent of these societies reported one or more institutionalized, culturally patterned forms of ASC. Eighty percent of circum-Mediterranean societies shared the same experience. Since ancient Palestine and neighboring societies such as Ancient Egypt and Greece were included in the data bank, the ASC experience is a highly plausible, cultural explanatory model for New Testament reports of circum-Mediterranean people seeing the Risen Jesus (Pilch 1998a).

"In recent years a goodly number of researchers have taken serious, experiential, participatory cross-cultural looks into such phenomena, revealing our ignorance of the broad range of possible altered states of consciousness available in human experience (Goodman 1988; 1990; Walsh 1993). There is significant evidence that ASCs represent core experiential features of human living in most societies on the planet, where the are 'a matter of major importance, not merely a bit of anthropological esoterica' (Bourguignon 1973:11). ASCs serve to explain visionary, trance, and ecstatic experience, often combined with extraordinary feats of behavior (e.g. walking on a ladder of sharp knives unscathed, walking over a bed of coals unharmed, walking over an unrolled sheet of paper held off the ground without tearing the paper, self-piercings without bleeding and rather rapid healing, and the like--all now documented on film, available on videocassettes, and sporadically televised on The Discovery Channel)." (p. 353-355)

"Any incident presumably rooted in an ASC may be difficult for Westerners to believe because people in this cultural area have been enculturated to discount such states of awareness except in dreams. Pilch (1994: 233) has noted:

The physician-anthropologist Arthur Kleinman offers an explanation for the West's deficiency in this matter. "Only modern, secular West seems to have clocked individual's access to these otherwise pan-human dimensions of the self." What is the Western problem? The advent of modern science in about the seventeenth century disrupted the bio-psycho-spiritual unity of human consciousness that had existed until then. According to Kleinman, we have developed an "acquired consciousness," whereby we dissociate self and look at self "objectively." Western culture socializes individuals to develop a metaself, a critical observer who monitors and comments on experience. The metaself does not allow the total absorption in lived experience which is the very essence of highly focused ASCs ( = alternate states of consciousness). The metaself stands in the way of unreflected, unmediated experience which now becomes distanced.

"If we recall that 'objectivity' is simply socially tutored subjectivity, we might be more empathetic with persons of other cultures who report perceptions that we find incredible, whether miraculous or not, because they are socially dysfunctional for us.

"We have come along a bit further than Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is devoted to showing how our perceptions, so far from conforming to the objects themselves, can only conform to the conditions imposed by our own minds--which include even such apparently objective external conditions as space and time. For Kant, the 'real' world of 'things-in-themselves' is both unknown and unknowable. We inhabit a universe of our own personal constructs (see Prickett 1996:184). The Kantian spin-off known as the 'sociology of knowledge' (so often confused in religious studies with the academic discipline of sociology) would go a step further and proclaim that reality is socially constructed. But this Romantic view normally conflicts with U.S. pragmatism that insists that it is not reality that is socially constructed, but rather the social conceptions by which we produce our culturally rooted perceptions. This means that reality is socially interpreted. While I might stub my toe on a hard object in my path and interpret the object as a 'large stone', the object and my immediately felt pain are personally experienced realities that are not socially constructed (see Borhek and Curtis 1975). The reason for insisting on the radical difference between the social construction of reality and the social interpretation of reality is that for the former, ASCs are mere socially contrived mental constructs, while for the latter, ASCs are realities. Yet various cultures deal with these realities differently or not at all, even to the point of denying their existence as anomalies. Anomalies are always full of problems for members of a given social system (see Malina 1993: 154-59)."

(p. 355-356)

Malina writes: "The Gospel descriptions of Jesus walking on the sea have all the hallmarks of a report of an ASC experience. As a matter of fact, Jesus is regularly described in the Gospels as a 'shamanistic holy man,' to use an etic designation (see Pilch 1998a; also 1996). The category is well-known and much used by biblical scholars (Theissen 1983: 266). In emic terms, Jesus was said to be a person like John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the old prophets (Matt 16:14; Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19)." (p. 356)

Malina quotes Walsh to the effect that such people can "voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirit(s), traveling to other realms at will and interacting with other entities in order to serve their communities." (Walsh 1993: 742)

"This service consists of solving social problems, providing unavailable information, healings, rescues and the like. Initial experiences that indicate one is able to experience ASC usually befall persons who are effective in personal interaction, superior in energy, concentration, memory, knowledge and leadership. In antiquity such persons had access to the realm of God, divine men, those with the power of god, divine teachers, wise men, and the like (Gallagher 1982: 72). Pilch was the first to apply ASC anthropological models to the Gospel episodes of the transfiguration…Malina applied this perspective in explaining the ecstatic journeys of the author of Revelation (John took his sky readings while 'in spirit,' 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10; see Malina 1995, following Pilch 1993b).

"Felicitas Goodman, a foremost researcher into ASCs (see Goodman 1988; 1990) has identified four elements almost invariably found in ASC experiences (summarized in Pilch 1993). (1) Those experiencing the vision are initially frightened and (2) do not recognize the figure. (3) The figure in the vision offers calming assurance (e.g. 'fear not') and (4) identifies self ('it is I…' often giving a name). After this opening gambit, the visionary figure then proceeds to interact with the visionaries in terms of the purpose for the ASC: provide information, healing, rescue and the like. For example, in the Jesus tradition, reports tell of the figure in the vision offering information sought by the one having the vision: a clearer grasp of the identity of the figure in the vision as in Baptism or Transfiguration accounts, explanation of a difficult problem (Matt 11:25), or the granting of a favor, most often healing (Acts 9:17-18).

"Why is it that persons falling into ASCs, where these are institutionalized, invariably encounter expected figures offering quite relevant information, timely rescue or appropriate healing? Goodman offers data indicating that such experiences are always culturally significant for the persons undergoing them because they have been socialized in ASC experiences. Again, she lists four requisite conditions found among the persons she has studied who have experienced ASCs and expect to have them: (1) The person needs to know how to find the crack between the earth, ordinary reality, and the sky on the horizon, the alternate reality. (2) The human body is an intruder in that alternate reality, hence by bodily preparation and posture, the person must tune the physical self to the alternate reality in order to properly perceive it. (3) The person needs the readily learnable proper angle of vision. (4) The event perceived in the experience of the alternate reality is sketched out very hazily; hence the experience must be filled in with elements provided by the general cultural story as well as by any specific story to appreciate a particular experience (Goodman 1990: passim, summarized by Pilch 1994). Goodman has, in fact, demonstrated that it is not difficult to teach individuals how to access ASC states; she has done so in public with rather incredulous Western subjects (graduating German medical students). But persons from social systems where ASCs are not institutionalized find their experience (1990: 17). In other words, as Walsh likewise notes, '[ASC] experiences are consistent with the world view and ontocosmology of the tradition. This suggests that there is an intriguing complementarity between a tradition's world view and its technology of transcendence such that an effective technology (set of practices) elicits experiences consistent with and supportive of the world-view' (Walsh 1993: 158, citing Walsh 1991)." (p. 356-357)

"Consequently, if descriptions of this experience are so rich in activity and imagery, it is only because participants were culturally prepared to have such experiences and to know what is left unsaid in them. Hence any interpretation of the ASCs in the Gospel requires that the interpreter delve into the available dimensions of persons enculturated in ASC experiences and compare them with features in the Jesus tradition. ASC scenarios might be equally composed from data provided by Israel's traditions that report events that took place in an alternate dimension of reality and that involved people or beings who straddled the two dimensions. For example, the stories of Elijah and Elisha as well as descriptions in the books of Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, Enoch and John's Revelation are excellent examples of available stories." (p. 358)

 

Jesus and Possible ASCs-

"Jesus had already been presented as a person capable of ASC experience. First, there was the sky voice at baptism (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; in Matt 3:17 the voice may be directed to the other holy man in the story, John the Prophet; and in another context, the sky voice in John 12:28). Then there was the interlude in the wilderness where Jesus' loyalty to God is tested by Satan/devil (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), and where God's sky-servants, the angels, minister to Jesus (note in Luke). And the first activity of Jesus described in the tradition is his ability to exorcize (Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37; not mentioned at this point by Matthew or at all by John). Along with exorcizing and healing, Jesus likewise demonstrates ability as an astral prophet (see Malina 1997). In sum, he is like one of Israel's prophets of old, for whom ASC experiences were quite normal." (p. 358-359)

 

 

Windstorms on the Sea of Galilee-

"Heavy windstorms are a common occurrence on the Sea of Galilee at certain times of the year, and the suddenness with which they can arise is truly astonishing." (p. 359)

 

 

The Disciples and ASCs-

"That the disciples should have such visions is not surprising. After all they were chosen to deal with unclean spirits, thanks to Jesus' authorization (Matt 10:1; Mark 3:15; 6:7; Luke 9:1)….[T]he triple tradition reports that the disciples were not always successful even in what they were empowered or authorized to do, that is expel evil spirits/demons (Matt 17:16; Mark 9:18; Luke 9:40). The point is that the disciples were no strangers to the powers that normally were connected to persons capable at ASCs. While the tradition notes the visionary experience of all the disciples here on the Sea of Galilee and after Jesus' death (Matt 28:16; Luke 23:36-43; repeatedly in John 20:19-23, 24-29; 21:1-14; only in the longer ending to Mark 16:9-20).

 

 

Walsh's Model For Mapping ASC Experiences-

"Walsh has developed a model that provides for a multidimensional description and phenomenological mapping of features allowing for a comparison of alternate states of consciousness based on ten years of research and personal experience. He uses the model to highlight significant features that characterize the profiles of schizophrenics described in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980). He then sets out these features in comparative array alongside characteristics of shamans in journey trance states, Buddist Vipassana meditaters and Patanjali yogins (Walsh 1993: 751-52, Table I). The comparison demonstrates that ASCs are not pathological, as ethnocentric Western observers might think. His cross-cultural comparison indicates quite clearly that the three ASC traditions he cites have almost nothing in common with schizophrenia. His model runs as follows:

Key Dimensions for Mapping Altered States

1.Degree of reduction of awareness of the experiential context or environment: ranging from complete to minimal or none

2. Ability to communicate

3. Concentration: important factors here include:

(a) The degree of concentration and

(b) Whether the attention is fixed immovably on a single object (e.g. Buddhist jhanas or yogic samadhi states) or momentary or fluid, where attention is allowed to shift between selected objects e.g. in shamanic journeys)

4. Degree of control.

Here there are two types of control:

(a) Ability to enter and leave the ASC at will

(b) Ability to control the content of experience while in the ASC

5. Degree of arousal

6. Degree of calm. This refers to more than low arousal, which refers simply to the level of activation, since calm also implies low levels of agitation and distractibility (Nyanoponika Thera).

7. Sensitivity or subtlety of sensory perception. This may be either reduced, as in hypnotic anesthesia, or enhanced, as in Buddhist insight meditation.

8. Nature of the sense of self or identity

9. Affect: especially whether the experience is pleasurable or painful

10. Out of body experience (OBE)

Does the subject experience perceiving from a point that seems outside the body?

11. Content of inner experience:

Here many further differentiations can be made such as: Is the content formless or with form?

(a) Formless, i.e. without differentiation into specific objects or forms, e.g. an experience of undifferentiated light or clear space, as in the Buddhist jhanas

(b) With form, differentiated, having specific objects, e.g. visual images. If the content is differentiated then it and the state of consciousness can be divided along several subdivisions. Critical subdivisions include:

(1) Degree of organization

(2) Modality of the predominant objects, e.g. auditory, visual, somatic

(3) Intensity of the objects

(4) Psychological "level" of the objects, e.g. personal or archetypal imagery

12. The developmental level of the state. In some disciplines different ASCs emerge in a fixed sequence of stages, e.g. the formless samadhi states of yoga emerge after earlier stages in which attention is focused on specific images (Wilber 1980; Wilber et al.). There does not seem to be clear evidence in the literature of a distinct developmental progression of states in shamanism, and so this dimension is not discussed further in this paper (Walsh 1993: 746-47)

(p. 360-362)

 

 

Further Notes-

1. Degree of reduced awareness:

Modern research indicates that in the meditative experience "consciousness of one's physical positioning and environment rapidly fade away" (Forman 1993: 716).

-sleep deprived exhausted situations make for easy access to ASC

-People often confront frightening experiences in ASC, which are followed by "pleasant, ecstatic, and blissful experiences."

 

 

Conclusion-

"In conclusion, this overall phenomenological mapping of the reports of Jesus' walking on the sea confirms that the etic categories of Walsh's model have sufficient breadth to encompass the emic descriptions presented by Matthew, Mark and John…As reported in the Gospels, the incident has all the hallmarks of historical verisimilitude and should be ranked as a historically authentic episode." (p. 369)

"In sum, the Gospel tradition offers sufficient indication that both Jesus and his disciples were capable of ASCs." (p. 369)

Pilch noted in his study of the transfiguration account:

"[T]he social sciences reduce the number of plausible interpretations of texts like the transfiguration, but the choices that remain have a high degree of Mediterranean cultural plausibility and would make perfect sense to illiterate peasants who constituted 90% of the population of first century Palestine. The ASC is undoubtedly an epiphany or theophany for Jesus and his select companions, even if these words are not used. For people who have no control over their lives and who believe that God alone is in charge of life, ASCs like ecstatic visions are an essential to well being as aspirin or Tylenol is to modern Westerners." (Pilch 1995: 64)

 

 

Bibliography-

Bourguignon, Erika. Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change. Columbus: Ohio State

University Press, 1973.

------. Culture and the Varieties of Consciousness. An Addison-Wesley Module in Anthropology, No. 47.

Reading: Addison-Wesley. 1974.

Goodman, Felicitas D. Ecstasy, ritual and Alternate Reality: Religion in a Pluralistic World. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988.

------. Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences. Bloomington and

Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Pilch, John J. "BTB Readers Guide: Understanding Healing in the Social World of Early Christianity." BTB

22 (1992) 26-23.

------. "Insights and Models for Understanding the Healing Activity of the Historical Jesus." Pp. 154-77 in

E. H. Lovering, Jr., ed. Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar Papers. SBLSP 32. Atlanta: Scholars, 1993a

------. "Visions in Revelation and Alternate Consciousness: A Perspective from Cultural Anthropology."

Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 28 (1993b) 231-44.

------. "The Transfiguration of Jesus: An Experience of Alternate Reality." Pp. 47-64 in Philip F. Esler, ed.

Modelling Early Christianity: Social Scientific Studies of the New Testament in its Context. London and New York: Routeledge, 1995.

------. "Altered States of Consciousness: A 'Kitbashed' Model." BTB 26 (1996) 133-38.

------. "Psychological and Psychoanalytical Approaches to Interpreting the Bible in Social-Scientific

Context." BTB 27 (1997) 112-16.

------. "Appearances of the Risen Jesus in Cultural Context: Experiences of Alternate Reality," BTB 28

(1998a)

Walsh, Roger. "Phenomenological Mapping and Comparisons of Shamanic, Buddhist, Yogic and

Schizophrenic Experiences." JAAR 61 (1993) 739-69.

------. "Shamanic Cosmology," ReVision 13 (1991) 86-100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16. "Jesus and Zechariah's Messianic Hope" - Craig A. Evans

 

Introduction-

"Jesus entry into Jerusalem and his activities during the course of the Passion Week are marked by biblical symbolism, at least as they are described by the evangelists: Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on an animal, evidently enacting the prophetic vision of Zechariah. In anticipation of his approach to the Temple precincts his disciples shout out some of the words of Ps 118:26 ('Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord'). He encounters a fruitless fig tree and curses it, perhaps echoing the prophetic words of Jeremiah who laments that 'there are no figs on the fig tree,' symbolizing that there are no righteous persons for God to redeem (Jer 8:13). He enters the Temple precincts and drives out merchants, perhaps in the spirit of Zechariah's vision, and then appeals to oracles from Isaiah and Jeremiah: 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer or all the nations"? But you have made it a "cave of robbers"' (Mark 11:17; cf. Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11). Reviewing a larger part of Mark 11 Deborah Krause, in a recent study, finds several points of contact with Hos 9:10-17. She believes the Hosean oracle has influenced the Markan evangelist in his selection, arrangement, and editing of material. Finally, mention should also be made of the Passion itself. Jesus refuses the mixed drink (Mark 15:23, 34), perhaps alluding to Ps 69:21. The guards cast lots for Jesus' clothes (Mark 15:24), perhaps alluding to Ps 22:18. Jesus is mocked (Mark 15:29), which probably alludes to Ps 22:7. And in dying (Mark 15:34), Jesus quotes Ps 22:1.

"Many of these scriptural allusions are deliberate, originating in the earliest stages in telling the story and supplemented by the evangelists themselves (as comparison of the later evangelists with Mark makes clear). The details from the lament Psalms are especially compelling evidence of the intentional blending of the story of Jesus with images and details of Scripture. After all, some of these details are acted out by Roman soldiers who could hardly be deliberately imitating the patterns of the Jewish scriptures.

"Having said that, however, it is unjustified to assume that all actions that reflect biblical themes and images are the product of later tradents who wished to cast the stories of Jesus into a biblical light. As will be shown below, there were many persons in the approximate time of Jesus whose actions were clearly based on the patterns of Scripture. Indeed, these actions were intentional and pedagogical, meant to clarify the agenda of the figure. The embellishment of the Gospel narratives with words, phrases, and details drawn from the biblical text did not originate with the evangelists and the tradents that preceded them; it originated with Jesus himself. Early Christian tradents and the later evangelists embellished, formalized, and made explicit what in the Sitz im Leben Jesu was implicit and allusive.

"What is necessary, therefore, is a nuanced approach in which the embellishing and apologetic tendencies of tradents and evangelists are recognized, on the one hand, and the implicit, symbolic actions of Jesus are uncovered, on the other. This approach recommends itself, for many features of the Jesus narratives are not readily explicable as productions of the early Church (such as Jesus cursing the fig tree or 'triumphantly' entering the Temple precincts, only to be ignored, or later becoming involved in an altercation in the precincts, the consequences of which are later mitigated, or quoting Ps 22:1 while dying on the cross, which hardly painted an impressive portrait of the Church's Messiah and Lord). Many of these features are not easily explained as part of Jewish eschatological or messianic expectation. I invoke here, in general terms, the criterion of dissimilarity, a criterion which has been justly criticized. My appeal to it is heuristic and positive, for it is in its negative application (i.e. because this is not dissimilar to Judaism Jesus could not have said or done it) that the criterion loses its validity." (p. 373-374)

"Some narrative traditions are complex. The story of Judas' handing over of Jesus is an interesting case in point. That Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples is highly probable, for it is very difficult to imagine why a tradition of this nature would have been invented by the early Church. [2] The appearance of allusions to Scripture (such as the allusion to Zech 11:12 in Matt 26:15, and Zech 11:12-13 [with influence from Jer 18:2-3; 32:6-15] in Matt 27:3-10) testify both to the authenticity of the story of Judas and to the need to explain it in prophetic terms. But the scriptural traditions themselves did not invent the story. No one reading Zechariah 11 and Jeremiah 18 and 32 would have dreamed up the story of Judas. But one searching the scriptures for clarification of this shocking story could have found in these ancient prophecies helpful details and the sense that the actions of this disciple were foreordained." (p. 375)

--------------------

2. The importance of the tradition of the "Twelve" apostles is so strong that Judas must be replaced, even if there is no story of anything ever accomplished by his replacement (cf. Acts 1:26).

"It is proposed that Jesus consciously patterned his entry into and ministry within the city of Jerusalem in the light of themes and imagery found in this prophetic book. This proposal gains support not only from the observation of the many allusions to Zechariah, but also from the observation that others from the approximate time of Jesus, apparently motivated out of hopes for Israel's restoration, acted out patterns found in Scripture." (p. 375)

 

 

Acting Out Scripture as Phenomenon in Judaism-

"In a recent study Jeffrey Trumbower makes a compelling case that the prophecies of Malachi 'had a profound influence on the career of the historical John the Baptist.' [4] The Baptist's dire warning of the coming judgement of fire and the threat of an ax striking the root of trees (Matt 3:7-9 = Luke 3:7-9) echoes the language of Mal 3:2-3, 19-20. Of especial importance is Malachi's reference to one who is coming. Trumbower notes that although other prophetic texts, such as Isa 5:24 and 33:10-12, make use of similar imagery, only Malachi speaks of a coming one. Indeed, Malachi's sharp attack on divorce (Mal 2:13-16) coheres with John's criticism of Herod's divorce and remarriage (cf. Mark 6:18; Josephus, Ant. 18.5.4 136)." (p. 376)

------------------

4. J. A. Trumbower, "The Role of Malachi in the Career of John the Baptist," in Evans and Stegner (eds.), The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel, 28-41. See also J. D. G. Dunn, "John the Baptist's Use of Scripture," in Evans and Stegner (eds.), The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel, 42-54.

"The geographical setting of the Baptist is also intriguing. His presence at the Jordan River may hint at either the story of the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua or its crossing by Elisha (2 Kgs 2:13-14). John's comparison elsewhere with Elijah, Elisha's predecessor, possibly favors the latter identification. But his reference to 'these stones' (Matt 3:9 = Luke 3:8) may allude to the twelve stones of Joshua 4. It is possible that John had erected a memorial of twelve stones, taken from Jordan, to recall Israel's crossing into the promised land and to remind his contemporaries of the nation's commitment to the Lord.

"For support, Trumbower appeals to the examples of men like Theudas whose actions appear to be directly inspired by the stories, as well as prophecies, of Scripture. These men and their provocative claims offer additional features of interest for the present study." (p. 376)

"According to Josephus, two Jewish men in the first century promised fellow Israelites signs of salvation; one by parting the Jordan River, the other by bringing down the walls of Jerusalem. We begin with Theudas (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5.1 97-98):

97 During the period when Fadus was procurator of Judaea, a certain impostor named Theudas persuaded the majority of the masses to take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River. He stated that he was a prophet and that at his command the river would be parted and would provide them an easy passage. 98 With this talk he deceived many. Fadus, however, did not permit them to reap the fruit of their folly, but sent against them a squadron of cavalry. These fell upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them and took many prisoners. Theudas himself was captured, whereupon they cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem.

"Next we may consider the episode of he Jew from Egypt (cf. Josephus, J.W. 2.13.4-5 258-263; Ant. 20.8.6 167-172):

258 Besides these there arose another body of villains, with purer hands but more impious intentions, who no less than the assassins ruined the peace of the city. 259 Deceivers and impostors, under the pretence of divine inspiration fostering revolutionary changes, they persuaded the multitude to act like madmen, and led them out into the desert under the belief that God would there give them signs of freedom. 260 Against them Felix, regarding this as but the preliminary to insurrection, sent a body of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, and put a large number to the sword.

261 A still worse blow was dealt at the Jews by the Egyptian false prophet. A charlatan, who had gained for himself the reputation of a prophet, this man appeared in the country, collected a following of about thirty thousand dupes, 262 and led them by a circuitous route from the desert to the mount called the Mount of Olives. From there he proposed to force an entrance into Jerusalem and, after overpowering the Roman garrison, to set himself up as a tyrant of the people, employing those who poured in with him as his bodyguard. 263 His attack was anticipated by Felix, who went to meet him with the Roman heavy infantry, the whole population joining him in the defence. The outcome of the ensuing engagement was that the Egyptian escaped with a few of his followers; most of his force were killed or taken prisoners; the remainder dispersed and stealthily escaped to their several homes.

167 With such pollution did the deeds of the brigands infect the city. Moreover, impostors and deceivers called upon the mob to follow them into the desert. 168 For they said that they would show them unmistakable signs that would be wrought in harmony with God's design. Many were, in fact, persuaded and paid the penalty of their folly; for they were brought before Felix and he punished them. 169 At this time there came to Jerusalem from Egypt a man who declared that he was a prophet and advised the masses of the common people to go out with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives, which lies opposite the city at a distance of five furlongs. 170 For he asserted that he wished to demonstrate from there that at his command Jerusalem's walls would fall down, through which he promised to provide them an entrance into the city. 171 When Felix heard of this he ordered his soldiers to take up their arms. Setting out from Jerusalem with a large force of cavalry and infantry, he fell upon the Egyptian and his followers, slaying four hundred of them and taking two hundred prisoners. 172 The Egyptian himself escaped from the battle and disappeared. And now the brigands once more incited the populace to war with Rome, telling them not to obey them. They also fired and pillaged the villages of those who refused to comply.

 

"Theudas and the Egyptian Jew were offering their contemporaries confirming signs, in keeping with the traditions of the exodus. [9] It is probable that they were laying claim to the Deuteronomistic promise that someday God would 'raise up a prophet like Moses' (Deut 18:15, 18). Such a prophet would have to be confirmed by the fulfillment of a prediction or sign." (p. 377-378)

-----------------

9. The word "signs"…is very common in the exodus story (some three dozen occurrences). The combination…"wonders and signs"…[cf. Ant. 20.8.6 168] is common in the exodus story, especially as retold in Deuteronomy (Exod 7:3, 9; 11:8, 10; Deut 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 11:3; 13:3 [in reference to false "signs and wonders"]; 26:8; 28:46; 29:2; 34:11), while reference to "signs" taking place "in the wilderness" is also attested in the exodus tradition (Num 14:22).

"The actions of Theudas are reminiscent of Joshua, the successor to Moses. According to Josephus, this man 'persuaded the majority of the masses to take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River.' Theudas claimed to be a 'prophet'…at whose 'command the river would be parted' allowing for 'an easy passage' (Ant. 20.5.1 97). Calling himself a prophet coheres with the Mosaic promise of Deuteronomy 18. Persuading people to gather at the Jordan River, whose waters will be divided and which will then be crossed with ease, is surely patterned after the example of the generation of Israelites who crossed the Jordan, following Joshua (Joshua 1-4). Taking up possessions heightens the parallel, for the ancient Israelites carried their possessions across the Jordan to the promised land.

"In the case of the Egyptian Jew the details are somewhat different, but the Joshua-successor-to-Moses pattern is just as obvious. Josephus speaks of people being led out into the desert (J. W. 2.13.4 259). As already mentioned, this theme is common to the exodus story, but it also is a feature in the story of the great Joshua, conqueror of the promised land (Josh 1:4; 5:6; 24:7). Very revealing is Josephus' reference to the 'circuitous route' (….'led around'). This word occurs in an important passage in LXX Amos 2:10 ('and I led you up from the land of Egypt and led you around…in the desert…forty years'). As the usage of the word in Amos shows, what Josephus seems to be describing is a reenactment of the exodus. Finally, in the later account in Antiquities, Josephus says that this man 'wished to demonstrate from there that at his command Jerusalem's walls would fall down, through which he promised to provide them an entrance into the city' (Ant. 20.8.6 170). Here we have an unmistakable reference to Joshua's first major conquest in the promised land--the collapse of the walls surrounding the city of Jericho. Indeed, even the closing comment, 'the brigands…also fired…and pillaged the villages of those who refused to comply' (Ant. 20.8.6 172), may very well recall Israel's burning (cf. LXX Josh 6:24: 'And the city was burned…with fire…'; cf. 8:19; 11:11) and plundering (11:14) of several cities in Canaan. That the 'brigands' did this to those who 'disobeyed'…also coheres with the presentation of Joshua (cf. 1:18; 5:6)." (p. 378-379)

"Although Josephus did not discuss the biblical precedents and goals of men like Theudas and the Egyptian Jew, we are able, nevertheless, to catch glimpses of their true purposes. It is very probable that both of these men promised a new conquest of the land, perhaps reflecting hopes of an eschatological jubilee, in which the dispossessed could reclaim their lost patrimony, and, in keeping with the requirement of Deuteronomy 18, offered confirming signs. [10] Their popularity and the resultant violent responses from the authorities testify to the broad appeal of their message, as well as to its intelligibility. The populace understood and identified with the promised biblical deliverance. The authorities understood it also and took steps to eradicate it." (p. 379-380)

----------------

10. Josephus' description of the Egyptian Jew as a 'false prophet'…is consistent with and may even consciously reflect Deut 18:22, which identifies the wicked prophet as one whose prophecies do not come to pass. In the case of Theudas also the tradition of the test of the true prophet probably applied; after all, the promised parting of the Jordan did not take place.

 

 

Jesus and Zechariah-

Quotations and allusions to Zechariah in the Gospels

UBSGNT:

Zech 1:1 Matt 23:35

Zech 2:6, 10 Mark 13:27

Zech 2:6 Mark 24:31

Zech 8:6 (LXX) Mark 10:27 = Matt 19:26

Zech 9:2-4 Matt 11:21-22 = Luke 10:13-14

Zech 9:9 Matt 21:5; John 12:15

Zech 9:11 Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28 = Luke 22:20

Zech 10:2 Mark 6:34 = Matt 9:36

Zech 11:12-13 Matt 27:9-10

Zech 11:12 Matt 26:15

Zech 12:3 (LXX) Luke 21:24

Zech 12:10 Matt 24:30; John 19:37

Zech 12:14 Matt 24:30

Zech 13:4 Mark 1:6

Zech 13:7 Mark 14:27, 50 = Matt 26:31, 56; John 16:32

Zech 14:5 Matt 25:31

NA^27:

Zech 1:1 Matt 23:35 = Luke 11:51

Zech 1:5 John 8:52

Zech 2:6 Mark 13:27

Zech 2:10 Matt 24:31

Zech 3:8 Luke 1:78

Zech 6:12 Luke 1:78

Zech 7:9 Matt 23:23

Zech 8:6 (LXX) Mark 10:27 = Matt 19:26

Zech 8:17 Matt 5:33; 9:4

Zech 9:9 Mark 11:2; Matt 21:5; John 12:15

Zech 9:11 Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28 = Luke 22:20

Zech 11:12 Matt 26:15

Zech 11:13 Matt 27:9

Zech 12:3 Luke 21:24

Zech 12:10, 12, 14 Matt 24:30; Luke 23:27

Zech 12:10 John 19:37

Zech 13:3 Mark 3:21

Zech 13:4 Mark 1:6

Zech 13:7 Mark 14:27 = Matt 26:31; John 16:32

Zech 14:4 Mark 11:1 = Matt 21:1

Zech 14:5 Matt 25:31

Zech 14:7 Mark 13:32 = Matt 24:36

Zech 14:8 John 4:10; 7:38

Zech 14:21 Matt 21:12; John 2:16

Evans adds:

Zech 14:21 Mark 13:8; Matt 27:51

Zech 1:1 Matt 23:35

note: "Matthew's 'Zechariah the son of Barachiah' may have in mind the prophet, rather than 'Zechariah the son of Jehoida the priest' (2 Chr 24:20)." (p. 382 fn. 13)

-for embellishment in Josephus, see (Ant. 9.10.4 225)

"Besides specific quotations and allusions, at many points themes of Zechariah cohere with actions and emphases in the ministry and teaching of Jesus. We are particularly interested in (1) the manner of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem the week of his passion, (2) his subsequent activity in the Temple precincts, and (3) his appeal to Zech 13:7 to explain his anticipated fate and the scattering of his followers. Most interpreters appear to be willing to accept the first item as historical and authentic, but many dispute the historicity of the second and third items. In my opinion when all factors are considered, the balance tips in favor of the second item but is undecided with respect to the third. However, a nuanced interpretation of the first two items may tip the balance in favor of the third as well. [14] Let us consider in order these possible points of contact with Zechariah." (p. 382)

--------------

14. Grant ("The Coming of the Kingdom," 298) rightly comments that the "evangelist has not constructed this scene [i.e. Mark 11], for he is apparently unaware" of its relationship to Zechariah.

1. Mounted on a colt.

"Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem into Jerusalem marks the beginning of passion week. The entrance itself, in which Jesus mounts a colt, appears to be deliberately modeled after Zech 9:9: 'Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal o fan ass.' Mark's account (Mark 11:1-11) does not quote the passage from Zechariah, but the Matthean and Johannine accounts do (Matt 21:4-5; John 12:14-15). Mark's failure to exploit an important proof text argues both for his Gospel's priority and for the essential historicity of the account. The explicit and formal quotation of Zech 9:9 in Matthew and John is consistent with their scriptural apologetic, an apologetic it seems that is primarily fashioned with the synagogue in mind.

"The shouts of the crowd, which allude to Ps 118:26 ("Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"), is consistent with the imagery of Jesus mounted on the royal mule, much as Solomon did shortly before the death of his father David (1 Kgs 1:32-40). The crowd interpretively adds to Psalm 118 the words: 'Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!' (Mark 11:10). In the Aramaic, Psalm 118 is understood to be speaking of David 'who is worthy to be ruler and king.' The coherence of Aramaic Psalm 118 with Jesus' Zechariah-inspired action of mounting the colt argues for antiquity of the tradition, probably its authenticity." (p. 382-383)

2. Interference with Temple trade.

"In the Temple incident, which Christians have traditionally (and somewhat misleadingly) called the 'cleansing of the Temple' (Mark 11:15-19), Jesus is said to have tried to 'prevent any one from carrying anything through the Temple' (Mark 11:16). Bruce Chilton and others have rightly suggested that Jesus may very well have been acting out Zechariah's vision that 'on that day' everything in the Temple precincts would be regarded as holy and that no merchant would be allowed in the house of the Lord (Zech 14:20-21). Chilton argues that Jesus' actions are consistent with his concerns for purity; and he offers several important examples from Josephus and early rabbinic tradition that document similar actions on the part of religious teachers.

"E. P. Sanders's dismissal of the historicity of Mark 11:16 and its apparent allusion to Zechariah 14 [Jesus and Judaism p. 67, w/364 n. 1] amounts to little more than special pleading. Failure on our part to understand the significance of Jesus' action does not provide warrant for a negative judgement. Jesus' action not only reflects Zechariah's prophetic hope, it is also consistent with Josephus' comment that 'no vessel whatever might be carried into the Temple' (Apion 2.8 106).

"With Zechariah forming a scriptural backdrop to Jesus' activities in the Temple precinct we may have at hand a clue to the strange saying, and its context, in Mark 11:23: 'Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea," and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.' Robert Gundry has suggested that Jesus is speaking of the Mount of Olives being cast into the Dead Sea (which is visible from the Mount). He could be correct, but Zechariah's prediction in 14:4 suggests a different direction: 'On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley…' The Hebrew's 'from east to west' can also read literally 'from east to the sea' (i.e. the Mediterranean!). In other words, Jesus' saying is eschatological, and not simply a lesson on faith, and again reflects the language and imagery of Zechariah. If his followers have faith, they will participate, in perhaps even precipitate the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy." (p. 383-384)

3. The stricken shepherd.

"Finally, following several verbal altercations with the ruling priests and their allies (see Mark 11:27-12:41), Jesus demoralizes his disciples by speaking of his death and of their betrayal of him (Mark 14:7-8, 17-21, 26-31). Jesus is said to have applied to himself the words of Zech 13:7: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered' (Mark 14:27). Again the Matthean and Johannine evangelists exploit the association with Zechariah. Matthew alludes to Zech 11:12-13, which speaks of the thirty pieces of silver cast into the house of God as part of his description of Judas' betrayal of Jesus (Matt 27:3-10). John alludes to Zech 12:10, which prophesies that 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced' (John 19:37).

"Support of the authenticity of this tradition is found in the presence of the Zechariah pattern. That is, if Jesus entered Jerusalem to effect the prophecy of Zechariah, if his actions in the Temple precincts were in part inspired by Zechariah's eschatological vision, then he may have applied the image of the stricken shepherd to himself as well. Further support for the authenticity of this saying is seen in the improbability of the early Church applying this text to Jesus. In context the stricken shepherd of Zechariah is the target of God's wrath: 'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd…Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered…' Again, the Aramaic paraphrase makes explicit the royal element implicit in Zechariah's oracle: 'O sword, be revealed against the king and against the prince…slay the king and the princes…'

"But there are other indications that Jesus understood himself as Israel's eschatological shepherd. A saying from Q, in which Jesus likens his followers to sheep, may imply that he saw himself in the role of Israel's shepherd: 'See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matt 10:16 = Luke 10:3). In defending his policy of seeking out the lost, Jesus illustrates it with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, again implying that he is the shepherd: 'What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?' (Matt 18:12 = Luke 15:4-6). In what may be Matthean not Jesuanic utterances, the instructions to 'Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Matt 10:7), the explanation 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Matt 15:24), and the halakic argument about healing someone on the Sabbath by comparison to rescuing a sheep that has fallen into a pit (Matt 12:11) probably do represent Jesus' disposition. [see also "Fear not, little flock" (Luke 12:32)] Likewise we should regard the evangelists' editorial comment, 'he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd' (Mark 6:34 = Matt 9:36), as a reminiscence of the kind of language Jesus used to describe his mission to Israel, language that suggestively alluded to Old Testament imagery and themes (cf. Num 27:17; Zech 10:2; 1 Kgs 22:17). Finally, according to Pss. Sol. 17:40 the scion of David was expected to 'shepherd faithfully and righteously the Lord's flock.' This expectation is once again consistent with the eschatology of Zechariah: 'On that day the LORD their God will save them, for they are the flock of his people…' (9:16a).

"Jesus' words in Mark 14:24, 'This is my blood of the covenant,' echo those in Exod 24:8, where Moses says, 'See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words,' and those in Zech 9:11: 'As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.' The eschatological perspective of Zechariah, suits well Jesus' program. However, Jesus has interpreted the blood of God's covenant in light of the words that speak of striking the shepherd. Jesus' blood will restore Israel's covenant relationship with God and will make possible the nation's renewal." (p. 384-386)

 

 

Conclusion-

"The three principal points of contact with Zechariah that have just been reviewed lead us to consider the possibility that the theology of the prophet Zechariah may have informed Jesus' understanding of his mission to Jerusalem. In acting out the entrance of the humble messianic king by riding on the donkey--right up to the Temple precincts--Jesus may very well have been guided by Zechariah's vision of diarchic restoration, of the anointed royal figure serving alongside the faithful anointed priest. The shouts of Hosanna, which are drawn from Psalm 118, are consistent with this expectation. For according to the Aramaic version of this Psalm, the priests (or builders) are to welcome the approaching David, who as a boy had been earlier rejected. [27] But Jesus receives no such greeting from the High Priest or from any of the ruling priests. He enters he precincts but is ignored. Such a scenario makes sense of the awkward conclusion of the triumphal entry, at least as it is depicted in Mark's Gospel: 'And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the Temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve' (Mark 11:11). The abrupt conclusion of the entry contrasts sharply with the careful preparations that earlier had been made (Mark 11:1-6)." (p. 386-387)

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27. The Targum of Ps 118:21-26 reads: "21 I will give thanks before You, for You have received my prayer and You have become for me a Savior. 22 The boy which the builders abandoned was among the sons of Jesse and his is worthy to be appointed king and ruler. 23 'From before the Lord this came about,' said the builders. 'It is marvelous before us,' said the sons of Jesse. 24 'This is the day the Lord has made,' said the builders. 'Let us rejoice and be glad in it,' said the sons of Jesse. 25 'If it please You, O Lord, <save us> now, ' said the builders. 'If it please You, O Lord, prosper (us) now,' said Jesse and his wife. 26 'Blessed is one who comes in the name of the word of the Lord,' said the builders. 'They will bless you from the house of the sanctuary of the Lord,' said David."…

"The anticlimactic conclusion of this triumphal parade is almost painful. Was the whole point simply to enter the Temple precincts and 'look around'? It is more likely that a priestly reception was anticipated. But none occurred. From this point on tension between Jesus and the ruling priests escalated. The High Priest's refusal to acknowledge and cooperate with Jesus' eschatological agenda triggers denunciations, which escalate in a series of challenges and threats, culminating in Jesus' execution. Jesus is crucified by Rome as 'king of the Jews (Mark 15:26), a charge that makes no sense apart from the presence of royal messianic sayings or actions.

"Given the correlation with ideas in Zechariah, it is possible that Jesus' entry into the Temple precincts and his expressions of authority were intended to forge the messianic diarchy envisioned by Zechariah (see esp. Zech 4:14), and evidently presupposed by the authors of some of the texts from Qumran, whereby the anointed of David and the anointed of Aaron serve the Lord side-by-side and inaugurate the anticipated era of restoration. Jesus' allusion to Isaiah 56, which envisions the day when all nations will worship at Jerusalem's Temple, is consistent with this proposal.

"Finally, given the observation that other Jewish figures in the late second Temple period acted out scriptural patterns and oracles, we should resist the 'critical' impulse to assign scriptural correlations in the Gospel narratives to the theological and literary creativity of the evangelists (or tradents before them). In my judgement it is probable that Jesus' behavior while in Jerusalem was guided by elements and themes in Zechariah, only one of which the Markan evangelist clearly exhibits--and only then because it was part of a dominical utterance. The other Zechariah elements in Mark appear without special notice and give no indication of resulting from Christian theology or apologetic. Thus, we may have attested here and there in the Markan Gospel important clues to Jesus' self-understanding and mission." (p. 387-388)

 

 

 

Chapter 17. "The Authenticity of Judas' Participation in the Arrest of Jesus" - William Klassen

Scholars on Authenticity of Judas' Betrayal-

James Charlesworth describes the betrayal by Judas as "bedrock historical fact".[J. H. Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1988) 14.]

John D. Crossan accepts "Judas as a historical follower of Jesus who betrayed him…Judas' existence and betrayal are historical because Christians would never have made up such a character…He is too bad to be false."[J. D. Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995) 75, 71.]

 

On Spong ("Liberating the Gospels")-

"Perhaps most insulting is his assumption that the 'midrashic' method is well-known and understood but that we need an Anglican bishop to help us read 'the Bible with Jewish eyes.' Ironical also is the fact that the leaders of the Jesus Seminar who pride themselves in their independence from all ecclesiastical authority are delighted to have a bishop in their midst. Spong seems to have said farewell to any concern about scholarly integrity, shows no awareness of the methods of research used to deal with an issue like the historicity of Judas (Vogler, Klauck, and Dieckmann do not appear on his horizon). Nor is any attention paid to manners in how one treats Jews as partners in dialogue. All in all a sad spectacle." (p. 390-391 fn. 6)

 

Jesus Relatives Finding Him Mad-

"…we must take the criterion of embarrassment seriously. I have, for example, no doubt that at one time or another the relatives of Jesus came to take him away because they thought he was daft (Mark 3:21). I cannot imagine Mark or anyone else in the early church inventing such a story when every effort was bent upon presenting Jesus in a good light." (p. 393)

 

Judas as Informer-

"Dietrich Schirmer's book studies the record of John's Gospel--the only one who tells us that the Jews were looking for an informer to help them arrest Jesus. This publication makes it clear that in Judaism of the Second Temple period the institution of 'informing' was well established and that John may well have been aware of certain procedures which later Jewish sources fully document. In any case both Luke and John report that the authorities were looking for an informer (John 11:57; Luke 19:47-48; 20:19-21; 22:2; 1 Cor 10:28)." (p. 404)

 

 

 

Chapter 18. "Did Jesus Wash His Disciples Feet?" - Richard Bauckham

John and Authenticity-

"The legacy of the nineteenth-century liberals' distinction between historically reliable, early sources (Mark and Q) and late, theological fiction (John) endures, even if only subliminally, in the minds of many New Testament scholars and students. Uniquely Johannine narratives are still often attributed to narrative creativity in the service of theology, at some stage in the Fourth Gospel's history of development. At least, the burden of proof tends to be thrust onto any who would maintain otherwise in any specific instance. That John is indebted to Gospel traditions independent of the Synoptic Gospels (whether or not he is also dependent on one or more of these) is now very widely accepted, but still rarely ensures a level playing field between John and the Synoptics when it comes to evaluating the historical value of their narrative traditions." (p. 411)

 

On John's Alleged 'Creation' of Material-

"A remarkable fact, though it is rarely remarked on, perhaps because it is considered too obvious to merit comment, is the relatively small number of events in Jesus' ministry which the Fourth Gospel recounts. Compared with the Synoptic Gospels, John's narratives are characteristically much longer, inviting the reader or hearer into a more reflective participation in a narrative whose form often provides significant indications of the meaning of the event recounted, while many narratives also incorporate or precede passages in which Jesus himself draws out the meaning of the events. In selecting rather few events to include in his Gospel, John has left himself the space to expound their significance at length. Whatever might be the relationship between John and the Synoptic Gospels, it is scarcely credible that John did not have far more stories about Jesus available to him than he includes in the Gospel (cf. 20:30). This being so, his selection is no doubt determined by the potential of the stories for the kind of interpretation they receive within the Gospel. But given the scope for selectivity which he must have had and given that some of the stories most important to him (such as the cleansing of the temple of the feeding of the five thousand) were, as we can tell from their parallels in the Synoptics, certainly traditional, an easy resort to free creation of narratives, which has often been attributed to him, would seem unnecessary. John's genius as a narrator and interpreter of the story of Jesus seems to lie in telling the traditional stories in such a way as to indicate and incorporate profound and extensive reflection on their meaning. Since he undoubtedly does this in some cases, the onus of proof would seem to lie with those who attribute to him on other cases a kind of theological fiction, consciously inventing stories as carriers of the theological meaning he wishes to propound.

"Of course, an argument that all John's narratives have a basis in tradition cannot show that all such traditions are historically reliable, but it can dispel the residue of suspicion about specifically Johannine narratives that the scholarly tradition of emphasizing John's theological creativity has left. That suspicion derives from the older view of the fourth evangelist as dependent on all three Synoptic Gospels and having no other Gospel traditions available to him. This view is held by few today. Without it there is no good reason to attribute to John's theological creativity the free creation of narratives ex nihilo, as distinct from and in addition to the interpretation of existing stories." (p. 418-419)

"A further consideration is more specific to the footwashing. Jesus' statement that Peter cannot understand what he is doing but will do so 'later'…, i.e. after the resurrection, is paralleled earlier in the Gospel by two statements of the evangelist to the effect that the disciples did not understand at the time, but did so after Jesus' resurrection (2:22) or after his glorification (12:16). In one case the reference is to a saying of Jesus which was already known in the tradition (2:19; cf. Matt 26:61; Mark 14:58), in the other case to an event, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was already known in the tradition (12:14-15). The probability is that in chap. 13, as in the other two cases, John sees, with post-resurrection hindsight, a deeper significance in a feature of the traditions of Jesus' words and deeds, rather than creating an event to which he attributes such significance." (p. 420)

 

Washing of Feet (counter-cultural)-

"Washing someone else's feet was an unpleasant task which no one except a servant or slave could be expected to do. So menial a task was it that in a household with a hierarchy of slaves and servants, it would be the duty of the slaves, not of the servants who performed less demeaning tasks such as waiting at table. It was, in fact, the quintessentially servile task, the one thing that no one else would do. In a household without servants, everyone washed their own feet…Even when the person washing the feet is not actually a servant or slave, the social significance of the act remains the same. In a society highly conscious of relative status, it would be unthinkable for this uniquely servile act to be performed for an inferior by a superior in the social scale. Exceptionally an inferior who is not actually a servant or slave may perform the act as a kind of extravagant expression of their willingness to be subject to the superior, but for a superior to perform the act for an inferior would be an incomprehensible contradiction of their social relationship." (p. 412-413)

 

Significance of Footwashing-

"…Jesus, knowing the Father had given him the uniquely divine lordship over all creation, undertook the role of a slave, performing for his disciples the act most expressive of servile status. The one who can claim the highest status in all reality, sovereign over all creation, humbles himself to the lowest human status, expressing his lordship in self-humiliating service for his social inferiors. A radical overturning of common cultural values with respect to status is implied." (p. 414)

 

John's Omission of the Last Supper-

"There can be no doubt that John understands the footwashing in relation to the cross, where the Jesus who in chapter 13 undertakes the role of a slave finally dies the death of a slave. The footwashing both provides an interpretation of the meaning of the cross, as Jesus' voluntary self-humiliation and service for others, and also gains its own fullest meaning when seen in the light of the cross it prefigures. In this respect it parallels the Synoptic accounts of 'the institution of the Lord's Supper', accounts whose function is not to record the institution as such (only the disputed verse Luke 22:19b indicates that the right is to be repeated by the disciples), but rather to provide an interpretation of Jesus' coming death. John's omission of such an account must be due, not only to the fact that he has already spoken of Jesus' death in eucharistic language in chap. 6, but also to the fact that he gives Jesus' death a sacrificial interpretation in his narration of the death itself (19:34, 36). This leaves him free to narrate a different symbolic action at the Supper, supplying a different perspective on the meaning of Jesus' coming death." (p. 414-415)

"As has frequently been argued, John 13 provides two interpretations of the act of footwashing, one in Jesus' dialogue with Peter (vv. 6-11), the other in Jesus' speech to the disciples after resuming his seat (vv. 12-20). The two interpretations are related, but distinct. Both are christological, taking their meaning from the fact that it is Jesus the Lord who serves as a slave, but the first is christological and soteriological, the second christological and exemplary. The first is a meaning which the disciples will not be able to understand until after the resurrection (13:7; cf. 2:22; 12:16), a clear indication that it is a meaning connected with Jesus' death. This meaning is conveyed by Jesus' words only in a way that to the disciples within the narrative hides it (vv. 8-10), including the characteristically Johannine double entendre of v. 8b: 'Unless I wash you, you have no share in me…'. At the literal level, this can mean that unless Peter's feet are washed he cannot share the meal with Jesus. At the level of true significance, it means that without the cleansing to be effected by Jesus' death, Peter cannot participate in the eternal life to be had in union with Jesus' life. Whereas this first, soteriological interpretation of the meaning of the footwashing cannot be understood by the disciples within the narrative, as Peter demonstrates, there is nothing about the second interpretation which could not be clear to them. It portrays Jesus' act as an example the disciples are to follow. If he, their Lord and Master, serves them as a slave, so should they serve each other. What is not beneath his dignity can certainly no longer be considered beneath theirs. Here the socially revolutionary nature of Jesus' act is evident in the abolition of relationships based on status which is its consequence among the disciples. If footwashing is not beneath anyone's dignity, then nothing is. A social group in which each washes the feet of the others can have no social hierarchy, at least of the type symbolized by the limitation of such menial tasks to those of lowest status." (p. 415-416)

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