4153RE: The Gentile mission? RE: [Synoptic-L] Luke's Great Omission
- May 18, 2012To: Synoptic (GPG)
In Response To: Bob Schacht
On: Samaritans and Gentiles
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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