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2807Re: [Synoptic-L] Christological Peculiarities

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Sep 29, 2010
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: David Cavanaugh, Ron Price
      On: Alpha and Beta Christianity
      From: Bruce

      Just a few comments from here and there.

      DAVID C (responding to Ron): I'm perfectly well aware that 2 Peter is
      generally considered pseudonymous, but I had never heard that said of
      1 Peter and it seems a far more contentious affirmation.

      BRUCE: Hort considered 1 Pt genuine; so did Selwyn. I think that Frank
      Beare's was the first substantial commentary to take the other view.
      Selwyn responded on behalf of genuineness (in the rather dreary
      festschrift for Fred Grant called The Joy of Study), and Beare came
      back in a supplement to the second edition of his commentary. Beare's
      view has gained considerable acceptance since. Given the texts of
      which 1Pt seems to have been aware (inluding Ephesians, see the study
      by Mitton; and Ephesians in turn is aware of Acts II), 1Pt must be
      post-Pauline, and thus way too far down the scale to be other than
      pseudonymous. The position is reviewed at some length (with a final
      decision dating 1Pt to the decade of the 80's) in Reinhard Feldmeier,
      The First Letter of Peter, 2005, tr Baylor 2008.

      (Admittedly, we are currently in an age of faith rather than whatever
      the other thing is, and as we all know by now, SBL has even
      jettisoned, from its mission statement, the term which put that
      organization on the side of the other thing, and so one can now cite
      any desired number of commentaries which take it as not even requiring
      discussion that 1Pt is by Simon Peter. I don't consider that this
      branch of literature itself requires discussion).

      RON: . . .there remains no evidence that Peter ever came to accept
      Jesus as the unique Son of God, i.e. that he ever became a Christian.
      Therefore the best working hypothesis is that Peter remained a Jew all
      his life.

      DAVID C: That's a false distinction. In the first generation
      "Christian" and "Jew" were not contrasting labels. I also wonder what
      interest the early church could possibly have had in presenting Peter
      as a Christian and indeed the first amongst the apostles if he was not.

      BRUCE: The followers of Jesus were distinctive among Jews already in
      the time of Jesus, if we take the oldest account of Jesus (Mark) into
      consideration. And I think we *should* take it into consideration.
      Mark describes the Jewish/Christian difference in various places, and
      not all of them involve acceptance or rejection of the term "Son of
      God." For example, some of Jesus's audiences in Mark find Jesus to be
      a more authoritative teacher than the usual synagogue expounders. But
      the question is not whether Christians and Jews can be distinguished,
      it is whether Christians can be distinguished from other Christians.
      Following the general line of Walter Bauer (who however did not get
      much into the 1c), and with even more attention to the earliest
      literature, Markan, Jacobite, and other, I conclude that we can;
      indeed, that *they* *did.* Nothing is more obvious from Paul's angry
      epistles that his teachings are being opposed, *within this or that
      local church,* by others. The Judaizing party, for example, were not
      Jews, they were more precisely Jewish followers of Jesus who thought
      that Christianity should maintain all its roots in Judaism, including
      circumcision - in effect, that Christianity (or whatever they called
      it; one thing they called it was the Way, another was the Word,
      another may have been the Gospel of God, see again Mark) was the new,
      the more adequate, kind of Judaism.

      DAVID C (repeating an earlier phrase): I also wonder what interest the
      early church could possibly have had in . . .

      BRUCE: Could I take a moment to object to the term "the church?" I
      think that the term, and the presumption which it embodies, are fatal
      to any discussion of the question at hand. Jesus (by earliest
      accounts, not contradicted in this sense by later accounts) preached
      here and there, establishing groups of believers but not enrolling
      them in a single organized enterprise. Paul ditto, though on a larger
      and more metropolitan scale. There was no large organization which
      added unto itself new groups of converts as they were converted. What
      they were added to was not an institution with powers of enforcement,
      it was a movement defined by belief. Christians in Antioch might feel
      some sort of brotherly kinship with those in Ephesus, and vice versa,
      but no person was originally in sole charge of either (hence the habit
      of missionaries in continuing to exert, in absentia and by epistle,
      guidance after they had moved on), let alone of both.

      A stage is reached with the circular letter, of which Jacob is the
      oldest canonical example: distance guidance effectuated by a letter
      send to more than one group. But how long did it take before this
      resulted in anything that can fairly be called a single organized
      "church?" One of my benchmarks is 1 Clement, writing from Rome to a
      church not of his founding and not strictly speaking under his
      control. This is from late in the 1c, and look how tentatively it goes
      about its business. Even the letters of Irenaeus, if one happens to
      regard them as genuine, show a certain courtesy when writing from one
      church to another. Between Clement (late 1c) and Irenaeus (2c) some
      evolution toward institutional unity is clearly visible. The disputes
      about doctrinal unity - conducted, interestingly enough, in terms of
      texts rather than (as earlier) in terms of beliefs - also appear at
      exactly this time, the overlap between the late 1c and the early to
      middle 2c. All this seems to be intelligible and consistent: it shows
      an increasing tendency toward cohesion and the emergence of an
      enforceable orthodoxy. It also shows that such a situation seriously
      began to emerge in the late 1c. Not earlier. If so, then it destroys
      clarity of thought to retroject that picture into the preceding 60 or
      70 years.

      I warmly recommend not doing so.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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