2807Re: [Synoptic-L] Christological Peculiarities
- Sep 29, 2010To: Synoptic
In Response To: David Cavanaugh, Ron Price
On: Alpha and Beta Christianity
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
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
I warmly recommend not doing so.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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