In Response To: Tony Buglass
On: Early Beliefs (change of thread name)
TONY: Consider this, from J D G Dunn "A New Perspective on Jesus -
What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed" p.27: "Here I simply
want to draw attention to the more obvious, much the more obvious
explanation for the two features of Q that have been drawn into such
speculation about the "Q community" - the absence of a passion
narrative and the Galilean provenance of the Q material. . ."
BRUCE: As those who frequent SBL will know, Q is currently in the
process of being provided with a passion narrative. That Q actually
existed is still a matter of discussion; I am on the side that doubts
it as presently proposed. If Q existed, and if it was simple, and if
it reflected teachings not obviously retrospective, that is, not
obviously deduced from any of the post-Crucifixion ideas of Jesus,
then it might well be Galilean. I take up this possibility in a
separate message, and devote this one to responding to Tony's comments.
TONY: The idea of death and exaltation as distinct from death and
resurrection is particularly strong in the Letter to the Hebrews . . .
BRUCE: I have earlier tried to distinguish Hebrews with its High
Priest view of Jesus from the rest of NT, and won't here repeat.
Special symbology for a special niche audience.
TONY: . . . Resurrection and exaltation are only incompatible if they
are both argued as historical accounts of "what happened to Jesus".
Since the NT accounts are much more concerned with theological
significance, that ought not to be a problem.
BRUCE: I doubt that any expert auditor has gone through the tenets of
any religion and eliminated logically incompatible elements. Thus,
belief in predestination does not (though logically it should) lead to
apathy in the believer. You may believe in white supremacy, and still
teach your white children that they will have to work hard to make it
into college and a highpay job afterward. And so on, through the whole
catalogue of human foibles.
All the early Christian beliefs I have so far been able to detect in
the evidence (with many thanks to the secondary literature) agree in
an exalted Jesus. Where they disagree is in including, or not
including, the Resurrection. Then in a practical sense, exaltation
does not imply resurrection. And the reverse, whence it cannot be said
that a Resurrection belief necessitates an Exaltation belief, and
accordingly that evidence for Exaltation is also evidence for
Resurrection. Empirically, that seems not to be the case.
TONY: The argument that the empty tomb and resurrection narratives
were 'invented' later and added to an earlier 'non-resurrection' faith
(cf Crossan's arguments for a "death
> tradition" and a "life tradition") doesn't fit with the fact that
> the resurrection traditions go back to the earliest stratae of NT
> tradition - the structure of the paradosis in 1 Cor.15:3-5 suggests
> Aramaic origins, thus formulation within a few years or even months
> of Jesus' death and resurrection.
BRUCE: Corinthians is late. And not everything with Aramaic (or more
generally, Semitic) linguistic cast need be original. The question is
precisely how far back in NT tradition the resurrection traditions go.
They go back as far as our Mark, but our Mark is a composite text, and
Adela Yarbro Collins has given good reasons for thinking that the
oldest Markan Passion Narrative (she calls it Pre-Markan) did not
include the burial and resurrection.
Notice also that in Mark, Peter and company are depicted as not
believing in, or not accepting, the idea of Jesus's death and
resurrection. They are said to have been convinced only after Jesus's
death. Then in case Mark knows anything, our earliest witness to the
history of the tradition is that the Resurrection tradition arose only
after Jesus's death. That is so logical I marvel that it needs to be
stated, but anyway, I have stated it.
Of course Mark makes Jesus predict his own death, and indeed his own
later appearance in Galilee. Mark makes Jesus predict a lot of things,
some of which are still to come true. But Mark agrees in this with
Paul: that the Resurrection belief is (a) not at all concerned with
Jesus in his lifetime, and (b) arose only through an apparation to
Peter, and subsequently to others, after Jesus's death.
If the actual Jesus taught anything in his life, it is not likely to
have been his death. It is more likely to have been a variant of John
the Baptist's message: the Gospel of Life: God is coming, and
repentance and right living will put you on the right side of the
ensuing Judgement. This is precisely what Jesus is said to preach in
Mk 1:15. Later, Jesus is represented as saying other things. But the
final judgement of the Markan text, in the form in which its last
interpolator left it, with its ending much extended but its beginning
quite possibly intact, is that Jesus was a preacher of salvation
through repentance and right living.
[Tony's argument that one community can believe two drastically
different things I pass over, beyond simply saying that when it does,
as was true at Corinth, we do not really have one community, we have
two interpenetrating but ultimately hostile communities. Consider also
one practical point: the Exaltation Only people had a different
concept of baptism - a sign of forgiveness - than did the Resurrection
people - participation in the death and rebirth of Jesus. No working
community can possibly conduct prebaptismal orientation teaching on
both bases. Theory you can mix and match as you like, presumably. But
when you come to teach the kids the meaning of what they will be
experiencing, you sort of have to choose. No?].
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst