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30Re: Spiritual and Physical

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  • Bob MacDonald
    Mar 28, 2003
      Dear Professor Allison

      Thanks for your introduction to other writers on the synoptic
      problem. I have to admit, sometimes I find myself convinced by
      whomever I am currently reading. But my being convinced by an
      argument is not the expression of the reality of my experience, or I
      think of the experience of the writers of the NT, in whatever order
      they wrote.

      You wrote:
      >>Your comment that I appear to be demythologizing, just as Mark did,
      I fail to understand.

      I thought of Mark as `demythologizing' in the sense that he begins
      without birth story or elaborate genealogy and ends with fear and
      amazement. My comment about your writing was that you also are
      writing about Jesus as he was and removing the layers of religious
      accretion by showing them in various interpretations. I like that
      aspect of the book drafts you have shared with us. It is easy to
      follow your arguments without too much referencing of texts.

      You wrote of seeking
      >>to find out what really happened,
      Even we non-historians seek 'the real' - that is maybe our
      fundamental as humans. Our words are first given to us by others and
      then we learn to express - but the culture and propositions we learn
      prevent our expression and we often remember what is not real and as
      a result allow our words to have a reality they do not deserve.

      You wrote of my question
      >>Your next question concerns the apocalyptic Jesus and how he could
      impact the world in such a positive manner if he were wrong.

      I did not mean so much whether he was `wrong' or not - but that the
      impact of his spirit was so severe and varied in the lives of both
      followers and non-followers. My question is why we would pick the
      distinction 'right' from 'wrong' when judging the aspect of 'soon'
      or 'this generation'? Did the apocalypse happen or not? Of course it
      did, and it does, and it will. It did in Jesus death. It does in our
      lives. And there is more to come. I find the switch to the perfect
      tense in Rev 16:17 to be strongly suggestive of the completeness of
      the apocalypse in Jesus death - that is what sums up the time for the
      writer there. If this is pre 70s Jewish apocalyptic, then would it
      not cohere with Paul's thought as you suggest in 'The Composition
      History', and with Q scribes (assuming there were any), and with the
      desposynoi as Pixner and Bauckham suggest.

      In glancing at a recent book of Hans Kung tonight, I noticed his
      reference to early Catholic doctrine of Christ Jesus as the end of
      time - I had not known this as doctrine before, but he seemed to
      imply it was early (It was not my book and I had to leave it where I
      found it so can't give chapter and verse). If an ancient writer could
      see the crucifixion as the center of history - which I am convinced
      the writer of Revelation did, then why would not the gospels with
      their elaboration on the passion not be saying something similar -
      that Jesus was central to their thought and changed by his death the
      way they thought about time, purpose, eschaton, and end. Yes they
      looked for the world to come - but all these warnings about Hell
      lasting forever - are they eternal torment or eternal thanksgiving
      for life? And I mean in their eyes - not just in mine.

      That this generation would pay for the blood from Abel to Zechariah –
      well we do pay with the blood of Jesus - again and again. One wonders
      with Job about the justice of it all. "The smoke of the damned before
      the Lord and his saints" is a phrase that recurs in Revelation.
      Supposing these words came out of the same generation - what an
      appalling piece of vengeful writing unless one considers it the
      substance of our story having been redeemed in Christ.

      Here you challenge me to refine my words - thanks for being the
      >>that they in effect could think of hell as part of present
      experience. No theoretical reason that they could not have. But I see
      no evidence in the texts that they did. Mark 9:43ff. is clearly about
      the future. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus puts hell in the
      afterlife. And in Matthew 25 Gehenna comes at the last judgment.

      Mark 9:43 and ||'s - cut off your hand if it offends. Absolutely - it
      is better to enter into life. How does one cut off hand or foot or
      pluck out the eye - by the salt of the fire and sacrifice of verse
      49. Jesus is plenty salty - the teaching I think is about the demands
      of life and their fulfillment in the sacrifice that was to come to
      end all sacrifices. I admit this is not a historical perspective. I
      would not be able to prove that it is psychologically possible for
      Jesus prior to his death - but I find it highly suggestive that the
      sacrificial system of Judaism, in releasing the giver into life by
      the death of the gift, pointed to this fire and salt that was to be
      completed in Jesus death. A man who knew his place in the love of God
      could, I think, know this in advance of his own death.

      And re the parable: yes it is a parable and as such is not to be seen
      literally though it may be phrased that way to identify with the
      thought of many. Anyway, I have always maintained there was a bridge
      over the chasm in the shape of a cross - romantic to be sure - but
      how poignant the conclusion of Jesus' story- How do we hear Moses and
      the prophets? The implication is that resurrection is no more
      convincing. Why do we not hear this love, mercy, redemption, and
      entering into life - even without what `really happened' then?

      >> "It is done" can't be said of eschatology if eschatology is the
      defeat of evil, for evil is alive and well.

      It seems to me that all writers of the NT imply that the death of
      Jesus expresses that theological truth. Death is over and done with –
      not continuing. The judgment is past (e.g. John 5:24 – he has passed
      from death to life). I think you get to this in your final comment.

      >>Throughout 5:21ff. Matthew's Jesus has asked for a sort of
      perfection - not the perfection of being without sin but the
      perfection of what we might call completeness.

      I find this a nice understanding - exactly what I am trying to get at
      with the time/hell issue. And the phrase 'It is done' - Es ist
      volbracht as Bach puts it.

      Now as to Matthew 25: last judgment: "When the Son of man shall come
      in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit
      upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all
      nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd
      divideth [his] sheep from the goats:"

      When did/does/will this happen for the writer? It is in some sense
      timeless. The separation into life and death has already been done
      through the acts of the nations and their varied spirit of sheepish
      ignorance and goaty self-justification. "And these shall go away
      into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

      And both will be remembered in that smoke.



      TJW asks: Who then heard the prayer [agony in the garden] to record
      it for posterity?
      Bob: well that young man Mark who was eavesdropping.

      + + + Victoria, B.C., Canada + + +
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