Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: comments please
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; WSW
In Response To: Bob Schacht
On: LXX and Literacy
Jeffrey Gibson had asked: "May we presume that Jesus (and his disciples)
knew the LXX?" I think that we can better dodge some of the points Bob
raised in response if we frame it this way: "Would the intended audience (of
Mk, Mt, Lk, whatever, and perhaps those questions should be separated) have
been more likely to recognize and relate to an OT quotation if given in its
LXX form, or as a new translation from, and closer to, the Hebrew?" (The
question may not really relate to Jesus, but more closely to those writing
persuasion tracts for the Jesus movement; see further below).
To some of Bob's other points:
Bob: If Jesus really was a cousin of J the B,
Bruce: Not claimed until gLk (#3), and therefore late in Gospel history.
Since that passage is exiguous in gLk, and thus belongs to the gLk rewrite
and not to the primitive gLk, we should code it #3b.
Bob: . . . and therefore a relative of a priest, perhaps he was literate and
had access to the LXX.
Bruce: If a relative of a priest, would it not be even likelier that he was
exposed to Hebrew?
Bob: The gospels do . . .
Bruce: I think it is a great, if seemingly also frequent, methodological
mistake to lump the Gospels together and then draw indiscriminately from the
resulting pool for evidence on a given point. Sources of different date
should not be mixed at the beginning of an investigation.
Bob: . . . describe him as reading from a scroll of Isaiah,
Bruce: In gLk (#3), and if the truth be told, in the rewrite of that passage
in gLk; hence #3b.
Bob: . . . and writing in the sand,
Bruce: In gJn (#4), and that story is notoriously loose in its textual
placement, which probably indicates a post-Gospel addendum (#5).
Bob: . . . so it is plausible that Jesus himself knew some of the LXX, but
the evidence is rather scanty.
Bruce: You left out the 12-year old Jesus, Prodigy of Scriptural Learning
(gLk, #3; oops, 3b). After adding that piece to the pile, I would still
agree that the evidence is scanty, but I would think it still better to say
that the evidence is consistently late. We may in fact have here a Jesus
Let me add, for those who have not yet sought out the local theology
library's well-thumbed copy of The Original Analects (Columbia 1998), that
such things are not unheard of in perhaps comparable traditions. The period
of directly documented early Confucianism ran from 0479 (death of Confucius)
to the fall of Confucius's state Lu and the end of his successor school
(0249). It is not until the late middle of this 230-year span that newly
written "sayings" of or about Confucius depict his disciples as memorizing
texts, or as writing down Confucius's words. The larger context is that
literacy, and its accompanying phenomenon, textualization, increased in the
environing society over this same period, being attributed (in various
texts) first to elite persons (in the 04th century), and then to slaves (in
the 03rd). So the indicated summary statement is not "the disciples were
literate" but rather "Jesus, and by implication his disciples, tend to be
portrayed in the successive Gospels as commanding whatever resources of
memory or text production were considered standard at the time, for persons
of that social level."
Though textualization as such was well established in Israel by the period
of our present interest, it seems possible that the degree of diffusion of
access to texts changed between the date of gMk and that of gJn, and that
the image of Jesus in the several Gospels is being adjusted to keep it
current with reader expectations. No?
Bob: The reputation of his brother James also suggests literacy.
Bruce: Aha, the perennial red herring, Brother Jacob. The tales about him
that I can call to mind at this moment suggest an extreme form of top-down
rote Temple piety, far less radical philosophically and politically than his
older brother. But literacy? I don't remember that part. Reference
Excursus 1. If one son in a pious but not rich family was to be given the
advantages of contact with the high tradition, would it not most likely have
been the eldest, namely Jesus? Thus perhaps beginning the break that seems
at one point to have arisen between him and the rest of the family: the
seminarian versus the more fundamentalist and uncritical folks back home. It
seems not impossible, though as earlier noted, the positive evidence for it
is apparently absent in the earliest sources. So here too, I would have to
think that the cautious inference would rest on the earliest sources, and
that the notably different picture drawn by the latest sources should
probably be ascribed to the reinvention of Jesus in later decades, and not
to the historical person.
I note in parallel that the Gospels themselves, and here perhaps is yet
another Trajectory development, all rely, but taken as a series, at least
within the Synoptics, *increasingly* rely, on validation by resonance or
prediction from the OT. If the authors gradually outstrip their subject in
virtuosity with the OT, isn't an image gap likely to develop between them,
one which could be relaxed by attributing to the subject more of what his
chroniclers themselves know? If someone has counted the number of times
Jesus refers to an OT text, especially as a forecast of his own actions and
fate, I would be interested in seeing the resulting numbers.
Excursus 2. Here is another way a gap could have developed. gLk is exposed,
nay, committed, to Gentile Christianity, and thus, in something like a
comprehensive way, to Greek culture in general. As the previous image of
Jesus moved out into that larger arena, and was used for persuasion purposes
therein, might it not reasonably have seemed, to those in charge of the
image department, that the image could do with a bit of brushing up? Think
of Paul in Athens. Paul himself was moving in educated circles, at some
points only once removed from such luminaries of light and learning as the
Roman writer Seneca. Paul's own learning seems to have counted positively in
helping him make a good impression on these functionaries. Might not certain
aspects of the Lukan and post-Lukan picture of Jesus then be due to image
refurbishing, rather than to historical memory?
[Note, by the way, that Paul's expert acquaintance with Hebrew learning
under Gamaliel does nothing to diminish his parallel expertise with the
Greek language. It is not necessarily an either/or situation. Sometimes
people who are good at one language are good at languages, period].
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst