In Response To: Ron Price
On: Early Beliefs (renamed thread)
I guess I should try to clear up some of the small points here (a few
were already touched on in an earlier reply to Tony Buglass, qv). A
certain number will in the end probably have to be logged in as an
agreement to disagree.
[I had noted Mk 3:21, 31-34 as recording dissension between Jesus and
his mother and brothers].
RON: I don't take it at face value. Rather it forms part of Mark's
extensive denigration of the original disciples and the family of
Jesus. The case for this conclusion would require another thread.
BRUCE: Feel free to start that thread. People do build theories of
Mark on the idea of his opposition to the disciples, or alternatively,
his opposition to the Jerusalem movement. The trouble is that there
are plenty of other oppositions in Mark, and not all of them, indeed
no two of them, point in the same direction. This is the kind of
confusion which a stratification theory can help to resolve. No single
notion of the agenda of Mark seems to be enough to cover the manifest
variety of stance and agenda in Mark.
[I had also pointed to a shift of Christian center from Galilee to
Jerusalem, between the years 29, when Mark shows Jesus centered in
Capernaum, and 35, which is more or less the year referred to by Paul
in Galatians, when Brother Jacob was the big thing in Jerusalem,a and
Jerusalem itself, on his view, was the whole show].
RON: No. The only thing that is clear from Paul is that from his first
extant observations on the issue (Gal 2:9, 11-12), James the brother
of Jesus was the undisputed leader of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem.
BRUCE: Right, but not at variance with my statement above.
[I had noted that Paul's first persecutions were in Galilee, which
implied that in the years immediately after the Crucifixion, there was
something there to persecute].
RON: Your version of Acts must be different from mine, or else it's
your geography. Since when was Damascus in Galilee?
BRUCE: Snitty remarks won't get us anywhere we want to go. The lull in
persecution after the conversion of Paul is thus noted in Acts 9:31,
"So the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee [sic] and Samaria had
peace and was built up, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the
comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied." That was quite possibly
an inadvertence on the part of the author of Acts, but not the less
Notice the word "church" and the word "Galilee."
[It is obvious from Mark that Galilee, and particularly Capernaum, was
Jesus's center of operations during his lifetime. If Jesus had left
convert communities behind him, Capernaum was certainly one of them. I
had noted that Matthew 11:21-23, and following him Luke, curse three
locations in Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum].
RON: Mt 11:20-24 says nothing about churches. It's my turn to take
something at face value. The setting is the ministry of Jesus. The
implication is that Matthew or some earlier tradition is portraying
the people of these cities as not responsive to the preaching of
Jesus. Need I remind you that there were no "churches" prior to the
BRUCE: Circular reminder. And "churches" is perhaps a tricky word.
What was probably the case throughout all of Jesus's preaching, in
Galilee and points north of it, was a few converts who brought with
them their households (patria potestas), and perhaps met together in
one of their houses. In a few places, perhaps a majority in a
synagogue where Jesus (or an assistant) had preached. The usual term
is "house churches," and they will on the whole have been small and
not hierarchically organized. If we think of a church as something
with a bishop inside, then no. If we think of a cohesive group, whose
older members by default assert any leadership or other guidance in a
crisis, we have exactly the sort of Diaspora community addressed by
the Epistle of Jacob (not the brother of Jesus). The typical house
church founded by Paul may not have differed very much, save for being
somewhat larger (they were mostly in large cities, not small towns).
Did any of Jesus's followers preach during his lifetime? Mark says so,
but in a too schematic way to be convincing (the Twelve, as Eduard
Meyer did not quite see, are not a Source but a set of
interpolations). But assuming that the author of James (I rather like
James of Alphaeus for it, presumably the brother of the early deceased
Levi of Alphaeus) is writing to communities he had himself founded,
just as Paul was to do elsewhere, Whether this was in the year 29 or
the year 32, the letter may have been written from Galilee, and the
preaching preceding it may have been based in Galilee. It is notable
(Luther noted it, and hated it accordingly) that this Epistle does not
mention the Resurrection; quite the contrary, it preaches a whole
different ground of salvation. It preaches a doctrine that could
easily have been preached by Jesus in his lifetime.
Thaddaeus plays no role in Mark, save as a name on a nonfunctional
list, but he is interesting. His only repute is as a missionary, and
his only place of supposed missionarizing is Edessa, and Edessa
tradition, alone (as far as I know) among the preaching traditions,
unless you count Thomas and India, specifies that Edessa was visited
by Thaddaeus during the lifetime of Jesus. That has of course been
controverted, and a confusion of the names of kings in Edessa adduced
in refutation. I am not so sure. But in any case, here is an explicit
claim of missionarizing by someone not Jesus, during the lifetime of
Jesus. It is far enough from the Matthew/Luke orthodox tree to be
[I had noted that the earliest faith of those to whom Jesus preached
in his lifetime cannot logically have been based on his death, and
that Ron had implied that this belief did not survive].
RON: I didn't say that at all. What I indicated was that immediately after the
crucifixion it survived only via the Jesus community in Jerusalem,
i.e. James, Peter et al.., from whom it spread to most of the
BRUCE: And I still disagree. Christianity was not first propagated
from Jerusalem, it was first propagated (by Jesus and others) from
Galilee. Mark says so, and the late Gospels do not really dare to
disagree, they just increasingly dilute it. And at least at first, the
doctrine preached cannot have been a Resurrection Doctrine, since the
ground for that doctrine - the death of Jesus - did not yet exist. The
survival of that non-Resurrection doctrine is still attested by not a
few canonical documents (Jacob, Jude) and by not a few noncanonical
documents (the Two Ways, the Ebionites as recorded by later
commentators). The non-Resurrection belief thus produced both texts
and named movements. This would seem to meet the definition of
"church" as given above: a discrete community of believers, though
perhaps without stained glass.
[I had cited Michael Goulder, among others, as having usefully called
attention to the beliefs of the Nazarenes and Ebionites, which did not
include, or did not emphasize, the Resurrection doctrine]
RON: As Michael Goulder put it: "... there is a straight line through
from Peter and James to Cerinthus and the Ebionites" ("Paul and the
Competing Mission in Corinth", p.221). This is entirely consistent
with my claim quoted at the beginning of this email.
BRUCE: Don't get me wrong, I regard Michael's contribution as one of
the great landmarks of the last hundred years. But it has, for me, its
less convincing moments. I find that like some other Anglicans, he is
much too attracted to the idea of lectionaries. And in the Paul book,
as he explicitly states, he is trying to revive a dualistic theory of
Baur, propagated by the Tübingen school. I find it too Hegelian, and
more to the point, too simplistic. It accepts Paul's estimate, that
the Gentile and Jewish missions were the whole story, a theory
elaborated to new heights of dualism and authorially imposed
symmetries by Luke, or anyway the author of Acts (an early Hegelian if
ever there was one).
There are several lines of contrast here. One is the Gentile/Jewish
one, which is not material for the present case; it is an audience
matter. Another is whether Christian teaching was propagated
exclusively from Jerusalem, or also (and earlier) from Galilee.
Michael (p128) goes with Jerusalem. For reasons given above, I think
the picture is more complicated, and in any case this is an
organizational matter. Yet another is the possessionist doctrine
(Jesus acquired divine powers at his baptism, as in Mark, rather than
earlier, as in all the later Gospels). That is an important point too,
but it does not of itself define the content of Christian teaching; it
concerns only the nature of the special powers thought to have been
possessed by Jesus during his lifetime - a matter of intense
indifference (by the way) to Paul.
Michael (p129 and passim preceding) takes Mark as "Pauline." Well, Yes
and No, but both Yes and No; I do not think that this simple statement
meets the case. It has often been noted (Branscomb 1937 xx, and many
another in the years since) that Mark has no one theology. I would
add, Mark is a stack of theologies, one piled on top of another like
the successive cities of Troy. Each of them makes sense in its time
and in its immediate context. It is only in what I take to be the
relatively late layers of Mark that the mission to the Gentiles is
(grudgingly) acknowledged, and the presence of Paul is (grudgingly)
tolerated. I would not go so far as to call this "Pauline."
(It does put the late layers of Mark contemporary with the early
activities of Paul, which is also exactly where the one definite
indicator of date in Mark puts the late layers of Mark. Bingo).
2 Peter is another study, though of much later date (the epistles of
Paul, plus a few others for good weight, were already circulating as a
group), in how one rival group accepts, as an unavoidable presence on
the scene, the work and ideas of Paul.
Peter, even more than John the B, is the great enigma of this whole
business. As I have several times said, I would like to see a little
more concentration on that enigma. Stratifying Mark is one
contribution, or so I imagine, but whatever the cogency of my
particular result, it leaves much still to be investigated. The whole
Twelve business (strictly pro forma in Mark, and no less so in Acts,
but probably having some sort of reality on some plane of actual
existence) is involved, and I need not say how often Twelve seekers
have come up against a blank wall in their attempts to far. Surely
The above questions bring us into this area of relative ruination in
NT studies. I won't attempt to point a way out of it in this note. I
merely mention that, at this point, we come to what must for the
present be several less firmly decidable matters.
One of the curses of our subject is the Book of Acts, with its too
simple schematisms and its rabid dislike of the Galilee origins of
Christianity. Of course when mere English speakers are taken in by it,
one somehow understands. But when the advanced societies, as
represented by, say, Lietzmann (1937), follow the story of the early
Jesus movement by driving their new carts along the old ruts laid down
by Acts, one really wonders where to look for betterment. Anybody have
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst