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Re: [Synoptic-L] Birth Narratives

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Chuck Jones On: Birth Narratives [New Thread Name] From: Bruce I suppose everyone realizes that this conversation has been
    Message 1 of 8 , May 22 8:18 PM
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Chuck Jones
      On: Birth Narratives [New Thread Name]
      From: Bruce

      I suppose everyone realizes that this conversation has been going on
      sporadically since 23 September 2005, with more or less the same principals,
      and more or less the same positions. However, perhaps some progress is still
      possible. On the Mt/Lk birth narratives, we had:

      Chuck: I do not believe either of them is historical. It is simply that
      someone who reads both has to choose one or the other as their birth
      story--Nativity plays aside, you can't have both.

      Bruce: I never saw a Nativity play or other depiction that did not in fact
      mingle both. But the important point here is that neither story is
      historical. Let's take that as a point of agreement and see where it gets us
      (not everyone will care to follow on that basis, but it's up to them to
      suggest another basis).

      Mark is not involved. The two stories are, shall we say, analogous but
      without extensive verbal commonality. Neither is a scribal copy of the
      other. What questions remain to be asked?

      I would say, (a) How old is this motif within early Christian thinking, (b)
      Which of the Mt/Lk realizations of the motif is later typologically, and (c)
      Given the preceding result, is it more credible that the later one was aware
      of the earlier one, or was composed independently, in an entirely separate
      inspiration?

      My own answers have been given before, but to recapitulate,

      (a) The motif is late within early Christian thinking. Mark, for what that
      may be worth, knows nothing of it, and indeed Mark accounts for the divine
      property within Jesus in quite a different way. Paul, who had intimate
      contact with the early churches as their persecutor and later as their
      founder, and who had interviewed Peter and John in Jerusalem, knows nothing
      of it. Our earliest evidence for it seems to be precisely Mt/Lk. If so, we
      can eliminate any longstanding "tradition" as the inspiration for the Mt/Lk
      accounts.

      (b) Lk is typologically later, as can be seen in the Mary trajectory, not
      here reprised. Also the John trajectory, where Lk introduces the motif of
      John the herald of Jesus not in his adulthood, but in the womb; this is
      missing in Mt (as our revised Synopsis would graphically show us, if only
      someone had completed the said revision and posted it for all to consult;
      publishers' reps, are you listening?). These are further developments beyond
      the point in the trajectory represented by Mt.

      Therefore, since the Lk version is typologically and thus chronologically
      later than Mt, if either was inspired by the other's story, it will have
      been Lk who was inspired by Mt.

      I should think it remains only to consider (but now advantageously, with
      both Mk and "oral tradition" eliminated as possible sources), whether Lk is
      not only later than Mt, but also indebted to or inspired by the specific Mt
      version.

      Chuck, what's your opinion?

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Chuck Jones
      Bruce, I have to agree with you--much progress has indeed been made. Here are a few lines from your post: neither story is historical Neither is a scribal
      Message 2 of 8 , May 23 5:59 AM
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        Bruce,

        I have to agree with you--much progress has indeed been made.

        Here are a few lines from your post:

        "neither story is historical"

        "Neither is a scribal copy of the other"

        "The motif is late within early Christian thinking.... we can eliminate any longstanding "tradition" as the inspiration for the Mt/Lk accounts."

        "if either was inspired by the other's story, it will have been Lk who was inspired by Mt."

        "it remains only to consider whether Lk is not only later than Mt, but also indebted to or inspired by the specific Mt version."

        My only point in this entire thread, Bruce, is that neither is a scribal copy of the other. With the arguable exception of the announcement scene, it is incorrect to call Mt's account the source of Lk's account. "Source refers to a document that a synoptic writer incorporates into his work, not material he rejects.

        I this your words "inspired by" and "indebted to" are much more helpful.

        Here is my own reconstruction of the events:

        (1) A very young birth tradition was developing that consisted only of an angelic announcement of a virgin birth and a divine origin of the name Jesus.

        (2) Mt took this kernel and created a story (and a cracking good one at that) that set the stage for his primary theological theme.

        (3) When Lk wrote, he had heard of Mt's birth story but had not read it, thus he repeated the same process, creating a story (another excellent tale) that served his theological ends.

        (4) It was only when both books were in wide circulation that Xnty had to deal with the incompatibility of the stories, which in fact it's been doing in various ways ever since.

        Rev. Chuck Jones
        Atlanta, Georgia
      • John Lupia
        Presuppositions vary considerably. If Jesus instituted a Church then the authority of that Church wrote the entire canonical New testament. Distant in time by
        Message 3 of 8 , May 23 6:47 AM
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          Presuppositions vary considerably. If Jesus instituted
          a Church then the authority of that Church wrote the
          entire canonical New testament. Distant in time by two
          millennia we anachronistically read into these texts
          what we have been taught to think, how we have been
          taught to think, what we believe as thinkers and
          believers, and so on. For some taught to think that
          Jesus never instituted a Church anything is possible
          as most posts to Synoptic-L (as well as most other
          biblical lists) demonstrate. The crux of the matter is
          did Jesus institute a Church prior to the crucifixion,
          or not? Was Jesus merely an ordinary man with nice
          qualities, or is He God Incarnate? The answers to
          these questions determine our approach to the study of
          the New testament since it is >impossible< to separate
          them.

          The Synoptic Problem is an interesting question for
          modern readers, but one that is more interesting in
          finding out why the Church continued to modify the
          texts it created and published. The answer apparently
          was the reaction and response of the diverse
          communities with their diverse backgrounds with
          certain individuals misunderstanding, misinterpreting,
          corrupting the teaching and theology of the infant
          Church producing factions. Things needed
          clarification, elements not mentioned are now
          introduced, narratives put one way are now put another
          with a different nuance or emphasis, or de-emphasis,
          and so on. In order to clarify the points misconstrued
          a new edition or rewrite was produced so that four
          Gospels and the various letters, an early history of
          the beginning of the Church in the Acts and an
          Apocalypse portraying the end were produced.

          John

          --- Chuck Jones <chuckjonez@...> wrote:

          > Bruce,
          >
          > I have to agree with you--much progress has indeed
          > been made.
          >
          > Here are a few lines from your post:
          >
          > "neither story is historical"
          >
          > "Neither is a scribal copy of the other"
          >
          > "The motif is late within early Christian
          > thinking.... we can eliminate any longstanding
          > "tradition" as the inspiration for the Mt/Lk
          > accounts."
          >
          > "if either was inspired by the other's story, it
          > will have been Lk who was inspired by Mt."
          >
          > "it remains only to consider whether Lk is not only
          > later than Mt, but also indebted to or inspired by
          > the specific Mt version."
          >
          > My only point in this entire thread, Bruce, is that
          > neither is a scribal copy of the other. With the
          > arguable exception of the announcement scene, it is
          > incorrect to call Mt's account the source of Lk's
          > account. "Source refers to a document that a
          > synoptic writer incorporates into his work, not
          > material he rejects.
          >
          > I this your words "inspired by" and "indebted to"
          > are much more helpful.
          >
          > Here is my own reconstruction of the events:
          >
          > (1) A very young birth tradition was developing that
          > consisted only of an angelic announcement of a
          > virgin birth and a divine origin of the name Jesus.
          >
          > (2) Mt took this kernel and created a story (and a
          > cracking good one at that) that set the stage for
          > his primary theological theme.
          >
          > (3) When Lk wrote, he had heard of Mt's birth story
          > but had not read it, thus he repeated the same
          > process, creating a story (another excellent tale)
          > that served his theological ends.
          >
          > (4) It was only when both books were in wide
          > circulation that Xnty had to deal with the
          > incompatibility of the stories, which in fact it's
          > been doing in various ways ever since.
          >
          > Rev. Chuck Jones
          > Atlanta, Georgia
          >
          >
          >
          >


          John N. Lupia III
          New Jersey, USA; Beirut, Lebanon
          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/
          God Bless Everyone
        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Chuck Jones From: Bruce Chuck: My only point in this entire thread, Bruce, is that neither [of the Birth Narratives] is a
          Message 4 of 8 , May 23 3:18 PM
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            To: Synoptic
            Cc: GPG
            In Response To: Chuck Jones
            From: Bruce

            Chuck: My only point in this entire thread, Bruce, is that neither [of the
            Birth Narratives] is a scribal copy of the other. With the arguable
            exception of the announcement scene, it is incorrect to call Mt's account
            the source of Lk's account. "Source" refers to a document that a synoptic
            writer incorporates into his work, not material he rejects.

            Bruce: No. That definition of the term is much smaller than the standard
            one, and it doesn't serve well here either. "Source" is where a later writer
            gets something, whether exact wording or a vague notion which he then
            develops independently, or anything in between. There are other forms of
            indebtedness than "scribal copy." To those who attend to modern media
            matters: Remember the lawsuit brought on behalf of the children's book of
            decades earlier that had been J K Rowling's inspiration for the Harry Potter
            series? Or, going further back, the Canadian woman who had submitted to H G
            Wells her massive manuscript for a world history, which he rejected? And
            then published his own equally massive world history a few years later? The
            legal verdicts in both cases were that the later author had not copied the
            respective previous works verbatim. That will strike nobody of sense and
            judgement as a fully adequate account of the relationship between them. I
            think the same sort of sense and judgement will render a similar verdict in
            the case of Luke: No, he has not copied the wording, but he has vastly
            profited from, and improved on, the Matthean prototype.

            Chuck: I thi[nk] your words "inspired by" and "indebted to" are much more
            helpful.

            Bruce: Me too. But notice that inspiration is precisely one way to use
            pre-existing material. It is not a way to get an analogous result *without
            knowledge of* pre-existing material. In all literary probability, Luke's
            Birth Narrative did not arise out of thin air, as some humongous
            coincidence. If all we had were the respective Birth Narratives, I submit
            that this would still be the most reasonable conclusion. Since in fact we DO
            also have the rest of Matthew, and the rest of Luke (2v), the presumption
            becomes overwhelming that Matthew is somewhere in the background of Luke's
            typically proletarianized Birth Narrative. Do we expect Luke to somehow look
            away, at these points, from a work which by other evidence was before him? I
            don't. I think he was very much engaged with it, not only creatively but
            competitively.

            Chuck: Here is my own reconstruction of the events: (1) A very young birth
            tradition was developing that consisted only of an angelic announcement of a
            virgin birth and a divine origin of the name Jesus.

            Bruce: I have a problem with the idea of a tradition *beginning* with
            something like an outline, or a scene plot, and not as itself a tellable
            tale. In that inchoate and prenarrative form, how could it propagate from
            one person to another? I have never heard of such an instance, and I can't
            this minute imagine one. There was probably a growing tendency to respect
            rather than reject the family of Jesus. Another sign of this is the contrast
            between Mark's rejection of Jesus's brothers in Mk 3:31f and the appearance
            of Brother Jacob as a leader of the Jesus movement in its Jerusalem phase,
            unassailably attested by Paul. Again, not to belabor a point, but we can't
            understand how Mary develops in the Gospels without taking account of her
            other son, Jacob, develops in the Gospels. And out of them. (There is Paul
            in the witness box, banging to be heard).

            Chuck: (2) Mt took this kernel and created a story . . . that set the stage
            for his primary theological theme.

            Bruce: I think it suffices to say that Mt was the first to embody the above
            tendency in story form. After all, it is a mere pittance of a story, and not
            one which is very flattering to Mary at that; the point of the angel in
            Matthew is to remove scandal from what is otherwise narratively perceived as
            a scandalous situation: the already pregnant bride. Surely if the thing is
            going to be done, it can be done more magnficently than that, with the
            Angelic Announcement made more of, and given more narrative room? Right. And
            so thought Luke as well, which makes three of us.

            Notice too, speaking of Trajectories (longterm ideological developments
            running through the Gospels), that the angel in the curt Matthean account
            addresses Joseph as "Son of David." This is cognate with Mt's genealogy,
            which needs to be in this conversation somewhere. That genealogy is strictly
            a Davidic genealogy; it connects Jesus to David and then stops. Luke, as I
            see it, has magnificently splendorized Mt's Annunciation scene. What will he
            do to this pathetic, mere-Davidic Matthean genealogy? Right. He
            magnificently splendorizes it, running right past David to Abraham (the
            Jewish people inclusively), and then continues on to Adam (all of mankind,
            about as splendid salvific vision as one can readily imagine). And for that
            matter, on to Adam's Creator. Jesus, in Luke's view, is not the Davidic
            Israelitic Messiah (an idea that Matthew old-fashionedly retained and
            developed from Mark). No. Not in a million hears. Jesus is a channel for
            people in the present, straight back to God.

            In other words, Luke treats Mt's genealogy in much the same way, and with
            much the same narrative freedom and theological tendency, as he treats Mt's
            Annunciation scene. I don't only see no problem here, I see a very
            consistent if sometimes high-handed Luke at work here, not climaxing his
            story in a Davidic way, with Jerusalem, but moving right on to take that
            story beyond Jerusalem, and to the real center of the then known world,
            namely Rome. It is not only Jews who Jesus restores to God, it is everybody
            in the world.

            Don't people feel this? Isn't it palpable to them? If not, I marvel why not.
            Lk leaves Mt so far behind, in poetry and in theological vision, that one
            would think his narrow Jerusalemite vision of the Jesus story would have
            been outclassed and left in the dust forever.

            Luke himself at least agrees with me, for this is exactly what he announces,
            albeit implicitly, in his Prologue. Go read it, if I may venture that
            suggestion. It is not the Prologue of some out-at-elbow scribe and copyist.
            It is the prologue, the Proclamation, of One Who Has Finally Got It Right.
            Or to put it his way, speaking to us his readers, "to write an orderly
            account for you, . . . that you may KNOW THE TRUTH concerning the things of
            which you have been informed."

            And now back to our script:

            Chuck: (3) When Lk wrote, he had heard of Mt's birth story but had not read
            it, thus he repeated the same process, creating a story . . . that served
            his theological ends.

            Bruce: In scenario, we now have two imaginable sources for Luke's faculty of
            inspiration to work on: a conjectured proto-tale and a Mt development of
            that proto-tale, neither of them available to Lk in specific form. Entia non
            sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. The general trend toward respect
            for Jesus's family will have been there for both Mt and Lk, but the idea of
            a story as such was probably sowed by Mt, especially since elsewhere in Lk
            we cannot suppose a *remote* awareness of Mt on Lk's part, else the verbatim
            portions become unintelligible. And if the major verbatim or near-verbatim
            agreements are exported to some conjectural lost text, there still remain
            the minor verbatim or near-verbatim agreements to make the same point.

            If Mary becomes the source of Jesus's authority, as in a sense she does in
            the Birth Narrative (it is Mary, not Jesus, who is impregnated), then it is
            worth considering whether others of her children may not receive some
            special standing in the Jesus movement also, simply by BEING her children.
            Enter Brother Jacob. No?

            Look now at the Trajectory of Rejection. Mk 3:31f, as above noted, showed
            Jesus rejecting his family in preference to his community of believers in
            [his version of] God. Mt 12:46f repeats this story. Lk nowhere repeats that
            story. He has instead, as his version of the Rejection of Family, Lk 11:27.
            And please not that Lk's Rejection is in the same terms; in preference to
            those "who hear the Word of God and keep it." We cannot read Luke until we
            are accustomed to taking account of the times when he makes a large, new
            brushstroke in a different part of the canvas.

            Then did Luke originally side with Mark in this matter (making that point in
            a comparable way, but at a different place in the narrative), and only later
            come to share Matthew's enthusiasm for the tendency to venerate Mary? Yep.
            Those who were at my paper for SBL ("Formation of Luke-Acts") last November,
            and to a lesser degree those who merely flip back in the Synoptic message
            archive, will see how this works. I won't burden this note by repeating
            those details here.

            Best weekend wishes to all,

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • E Bruce Brooks
            To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: John Lupia On: Church From: Bruce John: Presuppositions vary considerably. Bruce: Indeed they do. And as the first step in
            Message 5 of 8 , May 23 4:48 PM
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              To: Synoptic
              Cc: GPG
              In Response To: John Lupia
              On: Church
              From: Bruce

              John: Presuppositions vary considerably.

              Bruce: Indeed they do. And as the first step in any decent historiographical
              procedure, it is the job of those who have them to get rid of them.

              John: If Jesus instituted a Church then the authority of that Church wrote
              the entire canonical New testament.

              Bruce: I take it as evident that this non sequitur scenario is also
              manifestly self-refuting. [See however below, where there seems not after
              all to be agreement on this point; hence the length of this note, for which
              apologies in advance, plus my advice to quit reading it and go out on the
              terrace instead with a good eight ounces of lime rickey, while there is
              still a little sun in the sky].

              John: Distant in time by two millennia we anachronistically read into these
              texts what we have been taught to think, how we have been taught to think,
              what we believe as thinkers and believers, and so on.

              Bruce: This (sigh!) is again the standard postmodern gesture, designed
              solely to disable others and enable only oneself. That postmodern assumption
              was briefly addressed above. It is not empirically true, it is not
              discussionally polite, and above all, it is not methodologically fruitful.
              Our job as discoverers, as weighers of primary evidence, is to get rid of
              what we think we know, from whatever source. And then start.

              We can't help having once been children, and thus subject to the wrong ideas
              of others. But now is the time to have put away childish things, and
              confront the evidence directly.

              John: For some taught to think that Jesus never instituted a Church anything
              is possible as most posts to Synoptic-L (as well as most other biblical
              lists) demonstrate.

              Bruce: The rhetorical device of attributing opposing views to malign
              conditioning, as I think I may have observed before, is not collegial, and
              therefore not recommended under any reasonably enlightened set of procedural
              prescriptions. I thus ignore this statement, as my best contribution to
              civil discourse.

              John: The crux of the matter . . .

              Bruce: Finally, we are getting to it. I am all ears.

              John: . . . is did Jesus institute a Church prior to the crucifixion, or
              not? Was Jesus merely an ordinary man with nice qualities, or is He God
              Incarnate?

              Bruce: I beg to point out that the two questions are not identical. And the
              polarity of the second question is a false polarity. Jesus can have been
              extraordinary in lots of ways, including charismatic healing power, without
              being God Incarnate. As for Jesus's instituting a Church prior to the
              Crucifixion, all the evidence available to me says that he did not. John
              proceeds on the assumption that he did, and in what follows, I try to show
              that this leads him into assumptions about the canonical texts that
              drastically conflict with the evidence of the canonical texts. Please note
              that I am not concerned with whether John was taught his opinion about the
              pre-Crucifixion church, or invented it, or concluded it from study of the
              evidence. I take the opinion as it is, asking not where it came from, about
              which I could not care less, but whether it is consistent with the evidence
              which it seeks to explain. I find that it does not, and having reached that
              conclusion, my interest in the matter, which is at no point biographical but
              rather at all points historical, entirely ceases.

              John: The answers to these questions determine our approach to the study of
              the New testament since it is >impossible< to separate them.

              Bruce: It is highly possible to separate them, and as for using them as an
              APPROACH to the study of the NT, I should have thought that an answer to
              them would far better be reached AFTER study of the NT. What other evidence
              do we have, on which to form an opinion? The biases listed by John above?
              Surely not, since he himself feels they are biases, and by definition, mere
              evil predispositions that cloud our understanding of the past.

              John: The Synoptic Problem is an interesting question for modern readers,

              Bruce: Not to mention ancient readers, including Papias, who seems to have
              given some thought to the question of the relation between the Gospels. Also
              including Luke, who seems (see his Prologue) to have found all previous
              texts bearing on the life of Jesus to have been mere piles of inadequacy and
              mounds of misrepresentation and strings of bad taxis. That disapproval of
              everything else in sight was explicitly his primary justification, and
              perhaps also his real motive, for writing his own Gospel in the first place.
              Did he write to fill a void? No, he wrote to redress a mess. Is there
              earlier evidence refuting Luke's low opinion of all writing anterior to
              himself? If so, it would have to be evidence in favor of the completeness
              and perfection of one of them, and in all probability that nod would go to
              the Gospel of Mark, and this is not a position I expect to hear expounded in
              this conversation. If not, then Luke's explicit opinion, and the silent if
              inconsistent witness of all the Gospel texts, taken in any order one likes
              or in none at all, is evidence that there is indeed a Synoptic Problem,
              since the texts do not, of themselves, resolve themselves into a harmonious
              account of the deeds and persuasions of Jesus. Harmonization has been tried,
              from at the time of Tatian to that of Aland inclusive, and it has always
              failed. There, I should think, is the end of the matter. The Synoptic
              Problem, or in general terms the Inconsistent Gospel problem (Aland includes
              John), is real.

              John: . . . but one that is more interesting [is] finding out why the Church
              continued to modify the texts it created and published.

              Bruce: I do not know of one shred of evidence that supports the idea that
              The Church, which in the question as phrased seems to be a corporate entity,
              created and published any, let alone all, of the often mutually
              contradictory canonical texts. The texts within the canon that make
              authorial claims make them on behalf of named individuals, not institutions.
              Whether those individuals actually wrote them, or whether those names are
              being used by anonymous writers as a cloak of authenticity, is a question.
              It is a question hyperfamiliar in the philology of any ancient or modern
              text tradition, including the plays of Plautus. But there is no question of
              corporate vs individual authorship, let alone authorship by an overarching
              corporation capable of forcing its idea of orthodoxy onto the scripted page.

              But just for fun, suppose it had done so, say in the case of Matthew. Then
              it failed to do so in the case of the obviously incompatible Luke, and yet
              it is supposed that this same authorially active corporation also included
              the heterodox Luke in its canon of recognized writings. There seems to me to
              be something bad wrong with this version of the hypothesis, and I can't find
              the hypothesis of corporate authorship of *all* canonical texts any more
              persuasive; rather, less so. I thus remain underconvinced.

              As to why the real author of a text, or its proprietor (the leading figure
              in the group of which that text was the official house document) should
              modify or extend it, I should think the answer is obvious, and that it is
              the same answer that always comes up in analogous situations in other text
              traditions. Namely, they modified or extended in response to changes outside
              which either created a demand for more of the same (the plays of Plautus,
              the dialogues of Plato, the detective novels of Erle Stanley Gardner), or
              created a need for modification in order to keep current with new conditions
              and susceptibilities (the later chapters of Plato's Republic, the
              civilianized rather than martial parts of the oral repertoire of the early
              and late Homeridae, the successive heads of the School of Confucius). Or, as
              I would also wish to suggest, the authors or proprietors of, at minimum, the
              Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. (On Matthew, I presently take a raincheck).

              And what is it that these people are keeping up with? Growing tradition, new
              doctrinal conflicts within the movement, standing internecine squabbles with
              the parent religion, new threats from Rome without. In short, all the things
              we already know about. These together are surely at least part of the
              dynamic that drove the creation of new texts, and also drove the updating
              and rearranging and extending of extant texts.

              To give a modern example: Is there any political party in current America
              which bases its pitch to the electorate on the Free Silver doctrine? No, and
              why? Because that issue as such, though once a vital and fighting matter,
              and by fighting matter I refer to the kids in the schoolyards at recess, is
              now politically dead. Other issues, for outside political and economic and
              indeed personal reasons, have supervened. Is any party of today a lineal
              descendant of the party of Bryan's time? Yes, but it has mutated
              ideologically out of all recognition. Were it not for the minutes of their
              meetings, we would hardly know it is the same institution. I think the house
              churches of Galilee in the year 32 were under very similar constraints of
              growth, and so were those in Smyrna, in Antioch, in Corinth, and where you
              will. You either ride the winds of change, or they blow on past you. That is
              the rule in all times and places, and in contexts sacred or secular.

              John: The answer apparently was the reaction and response of the diverse
              communities with their diverse backgrounds with certain individuals
              misunderstanding, misinterpreting, corrupting the teaching and theology of
              the infant Church producing factions.

              Bruce: This is the heresy model: one original true doctrine being later
              corrupted by evil persons in different places. I don't know of any direct
              evidence for that model. I see instead, in the doctrinal feuds implicit in
              the Gospels and explicit in the Pauline Epistles, both original and
              pseudonymous, a wildfire growth of new ideas about Jesus (and, increasingly,
              about the authority organization of cells of Jesus believers), leading to
              irascibility in the earliest years which are directly described for us. Note
              for example the implied strife between Jesus and his brothers in Mark
              (3:31f; see my previous response to Chuck Jones), and the many Markan
              controversy scenes, some of which are pitched not in terms of high belief
              but in more modest terms of believer praxis (the followers of Jesus as
              contrasted with their cousins, the fasting followers of John). The evidence
              is numerous and complicated; I would say that this very complication is
              itself part of the evidence. I don't claim to have digested all of it, but
              from what I have considered, I am much inclined to believe that those
              analysts have it right who see that what eventually became orthodoxy was a
              thing arrived at, a thing subsequently imposed, and not a thing originally
              present.

              And for that thought, I call to witness the considerable degree of
              divergence and disagreement even among the texts admitted as canonical. As
              Chuck Jones has recently said, you can't believe in the Matthean Birth
              Narrative and at the same time believe in the Lukan Birth Narrative. The
              one, in any serious sense of its being a true reportive account, invalidates
              the other. (Some would say that the disagreement between them invalidates
              both). I think we can only conclude that even orthodoxy, as embodied in the
              final decisions about canonicity, is not able to impose consistency on the
              texts it recognizes. Still less on those it excludes. As well try to tame a
              wildfire (borrow this image from the Epistle of James, which takes a dim
              view of diverse opinion, and in so doing, proves the existence of diverse
              opinion). This, I think, is exactly what the early authorities of the still
              emerging Church did. It is all they could have done, short of making up new
              and artificially consistent texts of their own.

              Something like this imposition of retrospective consistency actually
              happened in the Sung dynasty to the already more than a thousand year old
              corpus of canonically recognized Confucian classical documents. Even there,
              it was done largely by voluminous reinterpretation, and only in a few
              instances by rearrangement or new composition. That is how canons, or the
              constituents of future canons, work: they gain attention by an already wide
              acceptance, and given that acceptance, there are limits to how far they can
              be tampered with. The makers of canons in most cases must work with found
              materials, and make the best of them. As late as the 4th century, the best
              manuscripts (eg Sinaiticus) still include material later judged noncanonical
              (eg Barnabas, Hermas). It was a slow process, but not one of composition by
              any central Church. Rather, of winnowing what other authorial processes had
              left for consideration.

              John: Things needed clarification, elements not mentioned are now
              introduced, narratives put one way are now put another with a different
              nuance or emphasis, or de-emphasis, and so on. In order to clarify the
              points misconstrued a new edition or rewrite was produced so that four
              Gospels and the various letters, an early history of the beginning of the
              Church in the Acts and an Apocalypse portraying the end were produced.

              Bruce: The claim here, as I understand it, is that all changes in canonical
              texts were from above, and were in the direction of greater consistency, and
              more adequate explanations of existing (and presumably only seeming)
              inconsistency. It is certainly true that scribal changes often harmonize one
              Gospel to another, perhaps intentionally, perhaps sometimes unconsciously.
              But in the text formation process itself, the question of why Mark and
              company say what they do, I don't think that there is evidence, either for
              this state of initial harmony or for this further harmonizing process. I
              also think that there is evidence directly against it. For one thing, do all
              the NT texts constitute a single corpus? There is surely considerable
              evidence the other way. The Gospels seem to have belonged to one corner of
              the early literature (there are terms in common among them, eg Son of Man,
              that are unknown elsewhere in the NT), the Pauline Epistles to another
              (ditto), and the Johannine material to a third (ditto ditto). Each group has
              characteristics in common to it AS a group, and no group seems to have been
              very closely aware of any other (Paul knows only smatterings of what Mark or
              other Gospels contain, and Acts for its part, from the Gospel corner of the
              corpus and representing Luke, tells a vivid story of Paul but one that
              historically and doctrinally is hopelessly at odds with Paul's own version
              of his story. As for the Apocalypse allegedly of John ("Revelation") it too
              is hopelessly at odds with the Apocalypse attributed to Jesus (in "Mark").
              Does this bespeak common authorship or devising? Not to my outsider's eye.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst
            • Dennis Dean Carpenter
              John Lupia questions, The crux of the matter is did Jesus institute a Church prior to the crucifixion, or not? Was Jesus merely an ordinary man with nice
              Message 6 of 8 , May 24 4:27 AM
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                John Lupia questions, "The crux of the matter is
                did Jesus institute a Church prior to the crucifixion,
                or not? Was Jesus merely an ordinary man with nice
                qualities, or is He God Incarnate? The answers to
                these questions determine our approach to the study of
                the New testament since it is >impossible< to separate
                them. "

                It seems to me that the first question could possibly be a question for historical inquiry. The second question, however, carries a presupposition that would not be historical but supernatural. If one approaches historical Jesus studies from the viewpoint that Jesus was "God Incarnate," is there any need to delve any further? At that point, there is no reason to fret about the historical situation of first century Judah or Galilee, because if Jesus was/is "God Incarnate" there is no reason to question the Christian Testament, since a God Incarnate would certainly make sure that everything written about him (that existed) was correct, wouldn't he? There would be no "synoptic problem," we are back to the idea of different witnesses telling different stories and other apologetics, aren't we?

                Doesn't the second presupposition preclude "historical study?"

                Dennis Dean Carpenter
                Dahlonega, Ga.

                (John, I didn't mean to send the post directly to you. I post so little on this forum, I'd forgotten I had to send to all.)


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • John Lupia
                ... QED. I rest my case. John N. Lupia III New Jersey, USA; Beirut, Lebanon http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/ God Bless Everyone
                Message 7 of 8 , May 24 7:48 AM
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                  --- E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:

                  > To: Synoptic
                  > Cc: GPG
                  > In Response To: John Lupia
                  > On: Church
                  > From: Bruce
                  >
                  > John: Presuppositions vary considerably.
                  >
                  > Bruce: Indeed they do. And as the first step in any
                  > decent historiographical
                  > procedure, it is the job of those who have them to
                  > get rid of them.
                  >


                  QED. I rest my case.

                  John N. Lupia III
                  New Jersey, USA; Beirut, Lebanon
                  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/
                  God Bless Everyone
                • John N. Lupia
                  Dennis: The questions are rhetorical. Each answers them their own way and the dice fall where they may. . . . which is my point. However, I do disagree that if
                  Message 8 of 8 , May 24 8:36 AM
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                    Dennis:

                    The questions are rhetorical. Each answers them their
                    own way and the dice fall where they may. . . . which
                    is my point. However, I do disagree that if Jesus is
                    God then there is no Synoptic Problem. The entire
                    premise or issue is one of perception and
                    interpretation to begin with. Depending on which model
                    you use the perceptions and interpretations will vary
                    greatly.

                    Also, I disagree with your statement :
                    > Incarnate would certainly make sure that everything
                    written about him (that existed) was correct<. No, not
                    everything, only those texts which His Church declared
                    to be true and accurate, texts which we call
                    canonical. That is the whole point behind canonical
                    texts and those the Church rejected as apocryphal.

                    John

                    --- In Synoptic@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Dean Carpenter" <ddcanne@...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > John Lupia questions, "The crux of the matter is
                    > did Jesus institute a Church prior to the crucifixion,
                    > or not? Was Jesus merely an ordinary man with nice
                    > qualities, or is He God Incarnate? The answers to
                    > these questions determine our approach to the study of
                    > the New testament since it is >impossible< to separate
                    > them. "
                    >
                    > It seems to me that the first question could possibly be a question
                    for historical inquiry. The second question, however, carries a
                    presupposition that would not be historical but supernatural. If one
                    approaches historical Jesus studies from the viewpoint that Jesus was
                    "God Incarnate," is there any need to delve any further? At that
                    point, there is no reason to fret about the historical situation of
                    first century Judah or Galilee, because if Jesus was/is "God
                    Incarnate" there is no reason to question the Christian Testament,
                    since a God Incarnate would certainly make sure that everything
                    written about him (that existed) was correct, wouldn't he? There would
                    be no "synoptic problem," we are back to the idea of different
                    witnesses telling different stories and other apologetics, aren't we?
                    >
                    > Doesn't the second presupposition preclude "historical study?"
                    >
                    > Dennis Dean Carpenter
                    > Dahlonega, Ga.
                    >
                    > (John, I didn't mean to send the post directly to you. I post so
                    little on this forum, I'd forgotten I had to send to all.)
                    >
                    >
                    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    >
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