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Tendencies in Mark

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG On: Tendencies in Mark From: Bruce [I was in the middle of a note to a small NT list when my computer decided to send it for me. This is
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2008
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      On: Tendencies in Mark
      From: Bruce

      [I was in the middle of a note to a small NT list when my computer decided
      to send it for me. This is the repair version, which may have some points of
      more general interest also. I here repeat the original comment, which was in
      reaction to my earlier reply to Chuck Jones, and go on from there. / Bruce]

      Q: . . . I find this a natural consequence of what we find in the Gospels.
      Jesus became known in several areas for various actions, statements,
      appearances, etc. while he was alive, and he then died in very public
      circumstances. End of 'phase 1.' It would be natural (as far as I can
      understand) if this then became the basis of early Christianity: Jesus was a
      'good guy' and prophet, who died on the cross. No resurrection, and no
      post-resurrection appearances.

      BRUCE: I think it makes a difference what Jesus preached in his lifetime. If
      he was an ethical sage, then the above scenario would not only work for the
      first few years, it might work forever. We would have, say, a Confucius or
      an Erasmus in the first century. No need for a resurrection appearance, then
      or later.

      But if Jesus led his followers to look toward some future event in real time
      (for example, the return of Davidic sovereignty to Israel, which is all that
      the average contemporary Jew would have understood by the term Messiah),
      then his death would have been a seeming denial of that expectation, and
      would have generated instant pressure to either redefine the coming event
      (so that it could still be expected, perhaps in a revised form) or to
      redefine Jesus, so that his death was only apparent not real, and his
      original prediction could still be inspected: it was intact.

      I think that people did both these things, in various combinations, and that
      the various combinations are exactly what we find in the views represented
      in Paul's own beliefs and in the sometimes conflicting beliefs he
      encountered elsewhere. I think that this "Pauline diversity" is most easily
      explained in this way. The "Glorification" Christology and the
      "Resurrection" Christology are only two of the competitors. A third way was
      to focus not on coming events but on self-cultivation - not on what God was
      going to do, but on what you and I can do right now - along lines suggested
      by things Jesus had said about purification and repentance; this leads to
      the "Ethical" Christology which we see in the second-tier Gospels, and in
      the so-called Q as a subset of second-tier material. (I note that one
      attempt to read the Christology of Q" calls it "Wisdom Christology." But
      Wisdom is not a Christology, it is a whole nother enterprise).

      These look to me like different solutions to a single problem: the problem
      of how to theorize the death of Jesus. If the word "Christology" is applied
      not to what Jesus preached (which is difficult to recover directly) but to
      how his followers regarded him after his death (on which we have more direct
      evidence), then I think it may be easier to discuss Christology. Since
      strictly speaking "Christ" is only one of the theories of Jesus, and there
      are other theories which don't make that assertion, or don't make it
      central, a more neutral term might be useful (Jesuology??), but I pass on
      that for now. Reforming the dictionary is hard work.

      If we reach the point of seeing that different groups of Jesus followers
      rationalized Jesus's death in different ways, then the next question on the
      table is, Can we distinguish early and late rationalizations among that
      group? We can do it by imagination. I think that, as it happens, we are in a
      position to do it by more scientific methods, but I should save that
      exposition for a separate note.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      [Apologies to my original interlocutor for messing up the previous time;
      hope this will be a little more consecutive].
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