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4153RE: The Gentile mission? RE: [Synoptic-L] Luke's Great Omission

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    May 18, 2012
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      To: Synoptic (GPG)
      In Response To: Bob Schacht
      On: Samaritans and Gentiles
      From: Bruce

      I had suggested (without claiming entire originality for it, since both
      Creed and Goulder, inter alia, have noted the symbolism of 70, echoing
      Genesis, as meaning the nations of the world; this is a variant on Mark's 7
      baskets, which is how Mark signals the meaning he intends to be perceived in
      the Feeding of the 4000), that the Samaritans in Luke symbolize the
      Gentiles, and that the appointment of the 70 is meant to imply Jesus's
      recognition, and indeed inauguration, of the Gentile Mission.

      Bob: I object to this characterization of Samaria. Rather than being a
      symbol of Gentiles (which Samaritans were not), I think it symbolizes Luke's
      message that Jesus' message was for all Jews-- not just the orthodox Judean
      Jews, or the local parochial Galilean Jews, but all of them.

      Bruce: In which case, it seems that Luke's appointing of a new set of 70
      Apostles (and splitting Mark's instructions to the 12 in half, to furnish
      them) is a bit of narrative overkill. The symbolic interpretation seems the
      more likely since no Samaritans are actually visited, or preached to, and no
      specifically Samaritan beliefs are noted (compare John, where the
      differences between Samaritans and Jews are part of the conversation between
      Jesus and the locals). We might also consider other instances in Luke, such
      as the Healing of the Ten Lepers, where Jesus says of the only one - a
      Samaritan - who returned to thank him, "Was no one found to return and give
      praise to God except this foreigner?" (Lk 17:18). I find it easier to
      construe "foreigner" as "foreigner," than as either a Jew or a heretical Jew
      (which seems to have been the status of literal historical Samaritans).

      On the prior case of Mark's 4000, . . .

      Bob: I object to these characterizations, as well. The inclusion of the
      Gentiles in Luke is shown primarily by Luke 2:32 and the references to Tyre
      & Sidon in Luke 6:17 (Sermon on the Plain) and the Woes in Luke 10:13-14, as
      well as Mark's story of the Syrophoenician woman.

      Bruce: Lk 2:32 is an Isaiah quote from Mary's Magnificat; it has nothing
      biographically to do with Jesus. As for Lk 6:17 (the crowd from Judaea,
      Jerusalem, and the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon), what is to prevent them
      from being any less Jewish than the crowds who came to hear John the
      Baptist? There were Jews as far away as Rome, and surely the apostolic
      effort outside Palestine had Jews, not the general population, of those
      places as their first, and indeed their originally intended, audience. The
      inclusion of Gentiles most likely began as an inadvertent, unlooked-for, and
      at first unwelcome side effect of preaching to Diaspora Jews. As for the
      cursing of three Galilean towns in Lk 10:13f, that might be thought to give
      preference to the Jerusalem Mission over the Galilean one, especially since
      Luke, like Matthew (who has an exactly parallel curse), was committed to the
      Jerusalem-centrist view of Christian history (he totally eliminates the hint
      of a Jesus appearance in Galilee, and transfers it to Jerusalem). But does
      that curse amount to a blessing on Gentiles? If I curse my neighbor on the
      left, is this evidence of love for my neighbor on the right?

      If these were all the evidence for Luke's acceptance, or even his awareness,
      of the Gentile Mission, it seems to me that it would be very hard to prove
      Luke's knowledge or approval of the Gentile Mission. No?

      And yet if conventional wisdom holds, the same Luke who wrote this
      Gentile-denying or at any rate Gentile-ignoring Gospel also personally
      accompanied Paul on what Paul himself was pleased to call a mission to the
      Gentiles. Surely there is a conundrum here, and so far, I prefer my solution
      to any alternative so far on offer.


      The Gentile mission was something which arose after the lifetime of Jesus.
      On that, perhaps agreement is possible. Given that fact, if we may concede
      that it is a fact, it was awkward for any Gospel writer to portray Jesus as
      himself preaching, or sending preachers, among the Gentiles. A manifest
      anachronism would have been involved. So if Jesus's approval of the
      intentional conversion of Gentiles was to be portrayed, it could only have
      been in symbolic terms. I think that symbolic terms were in fact used, by
      both Mark and Luke. The only other course was to portray the Mission to the
      Gentiles as something not part of Jesus's plan, but as belonging exclusively
      to the post-Jesus period. In the eyes of probable readers, it seems to me
      that this would tend to render the Mission to the Gentiles invalid, as
      departing from the practice and the approval of Jesus. It was then a
      second-best rhetorical strategy. I think the Evangelists followed what they
      thought was a first-best strategy.

      In all religions, including the Buddhist, the tendency is to portray later
      innovations (in the case of Buddhism, such things as the cult of relics and
      pilgrimages to sacred sites and the establishment of fully residential
      monasticism) as occurring in the lifetime of the founder, or at any rate as
      having somehow received his explicit approval. I suggest that in these
      symbolisms of Mark and Luke, we are seeing this universal tendency also at
      work: retrojecting into the time of Jesus developments that actually came


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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