On Feb.19 Steve Davies wrote a "plaintive" question in response to Don
Murphy's quotation from Chad Myers' book:
> "Is there anything left that one can point to and say 'because this is >
asserted in Mark we can confidently say that it was true of the Jesus of >
Steve's question got me to thinking: What is "known" of the Jesus of history
apparently comes to us in literature
representing a movement
which interpreted him, and the way of life associated with him,
in mythic terms.
Are there parameters we can set with reasonable confidence so that what is
mythically conveyed can be better understood?
For example: the thread I initiated a few weeks ago on the Role of Women in
1st Century Palestine attempted an initial exploration of one aspect of the
*context* in which a historical Jesus may have been expected to speak and act.
One inference to be drawn from what is known of marriage practices would
have bearing on Jesus' birth. His mother's pregnancy could be expected to
have occurred after her third menstrual period. That is, no matter what
medieval pietistic dogma might be built out of the available Gospel reports,
Jesus' mother was barely launched into teen age years when she could be
expected to have conceived her first-born child. Mythological
interpretations could be built on that sort of foundation.
But another, surely, is that if Yeshu was a Galilean Jew, he was nurtured in
a social environment that had conservative standards of marriage. Out of
that kind of environment such a teaching as we find in Mk.10.6-8 is firmly
at home. What Mark makes of the teaching, having it be Yeshu's response to
Pharisees (who presumably represent Judean mores) who initiate a controversy
on divorce must be seen in its relevance to the Gospel's structural
development. Since a Jewess could not initiate divorce, the "add on"
application in vss.10-12, particularly in vs.12, "If she divorces her
husband and marries another," indicates a Gentile context, but the original
*logion* would have been Palestinian - and probably Galilean. If that point
of reference (parameter) could be pinned down, then other "variables" could
be explored, you see.
[In contrast, the 5Gospels shows doubt about "What did Moses command you"
and treats the rest of the saying(s) as gray.]
Similarly, in Lk.6.38 we are offered a saying that Luke associates with
judging and forgiving (vs.37): *"Give and it will be given to you; good
measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be put into
your lap."* Luke continues with tying the key saying into his context, "For
the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
Now, the key saying designated above has its relevance in the "rocking
measure" gesture accompanying the giving of a basket of wheat to the priest
or Levite who stood ready to receive offerings for theTemple's provender at
Pentecost. (See Deut.26) It and the annual Confession which followed it
was still observed as long as the Temple stood.
I do not suggest that Lk.6.37a was a saying of the Jesus of history
necessarily; it rather establishes a reference point - a parameter - from
which "variable" traditions can be assessed.
May we agree that some Gospel elements can be accepted as reliable enough
that attention can then be turned to attributions about which we cannot be
as sure? No, I do not think that a majority vote of scholars, such as the
Jesus Seminar undertakes, serves. There is a whole historical context into
which what is claimed for Jesus must fit.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
We invent histories to suit ourselves and call them facts.