Re: [XTalk] lack of NT attestation to the LP
- To: Crosstalk
Cc: Synoptic, WSW
In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson
On: Lack of NT Attestation of LP
JEFFREY: One of the things that Goulder and others (e.g. S. Van Tilborg)
point to in attempting to make their case that the LP is a church creation
and does not go back to Jesus is the apparent lack of knowledge on the part
of those who wrote before Matthew and Luke did of anything that's in either
of the Matthean or Lukan versions of versions except for the LP's
"forgiveness" petition (cf. Mk. 11:25).
But does it necessarily follow from this lack of attestation to other
passages in Mt. 6:9-13//Lk.4:1-3 in NT writings composed before Matthew and
Luke wrote, that there was no connected prayer such as we find at
Mt. 6:9-13//Lk. 11:2-4 for anyone to reproduce?
BRUCE: No, but it's a strong inference. The Second Tier Gospels, Mt/Lk, have
a version (Luke's being earlier, Mt's being more liturgically processed). Mk
does not. The simplest explanation is that the LP arose between the cutoff
date for Mk (which I would put at c45) and the start date for Lk (which I
would less certainly put at somewhere around 70, or about a generation
later). Lots of room there, and lots of occasion. For less simple
explanations, see further below.
The LP, as Lk 11:1 explicitly tells us, is part of the process of
reJohannization in the early Jesus movement. Along with the idea of a set
daily prayer, there was also baptism itself and the observance of fast days,
which John originally had, Jesus originally jettisoned, and the later Jesus
movement readopted. Of the three, it is the fast days which are addressed in
Mk (in a prospective or "future" statement, one which transparently
addresses the later movement and does not describe the life of Jesus; there
are about a dozen of these). Then we can say with confidence that
Johannine-like fasts arose in early Jesus Mvt practice before the end date
of Mk. This makes it the more interesting that the other two items are NOT
so reported in Mk, as they might have been (there is evidently no
anachronism barrier, or at least there wasn't for the fast days).
JEFFREY: In other words, how fatal is the non use of the prayer even it its
shorter Lukan form in any NT work earlier than Matthew or Luke to the claim
that the prayer goes back to Jesus?
BRUCE: That alone is not fatal, but other circumstances make it virtually
so, at least for the Markan community.
Parallel example. Confucius did not teach, let alone write, the Chinese
classics. We know this, not only because the early Analects (the
authoritative text for early Confucian tradition, as Mk is for the Synoptic
Jesus tradition) does not mention the classics (the negative evidence), but
more positively because it shows Confucius himself teaching in quite a
different way (the positive evidence: the place later occupied by the
classics was otherwise filled in Confucius's time). With the LP, in addition
to the negative evidence cited above, we have the positive evidence that
Jesus in Mk gives instructions about prayer, and they are future oriented
instructions, as we should expect, and they don't merely not mention what we
call the LP, they further make recommendations which are incompatible with
the LP. It may thus be said with some assurance that as far as Mk knows,
which given the nature of the evidence is going to be, as far as any of us
knows, Jesus not only did not use or teach the LP, Mark makes him recommend
a detectably different sort of assumption (a magic assumption) about prayer.
If we are trying to detect what may have been set prayer practice in that
community, those are the hints from which we might extrapolate.
Morton Smith (recently mentioned) is good on this issue, or anyway has
useful thoughts in the direction of thinking about this issue; see his
commentary on Taylor's Mark. One of his points is that the magic component
of at least the Markan strand of early Christianity had completely died out
by gJn. The LP as we know it from Lk might then conceivably be a de-magical
version of whatever prayer the early Markan community may have used.
All in all, I think it is a safe and operable inference that Jesus did not
teach our form of the LP, and that it did not arise early within the Markan
strand of the post-Jesus movement..
It should however be remembered that the history of the post-Jesus movement
is not strictly linear, and that especially in these liturgical matters, we
know there was local variation. The early hymns embedded in various Pauline
Epistles, and also in such places as 1 Pt, attest early Jesus Movement
practice in different places. What we learn from that material is that there
were theological variations from place to place, and that even if we hold
the theology constant (as between what I have called Alpha and Beta
Christianity), the expressions of that theology were also not constant; they
varied with the locality. Such may easily have been the case with the LP,
which may have arisen already within the period subtended by Mk, but in a
community other than the Markan one - a community which Luke had contact
with, or information about, or membership in.
JEFFREY: And assuming that Mark knew something like the Lukan version of
the prayer, what explanations can be offered for his failure to reproduce
any more of it than he apparently does at Mk. 11:25?
BRUCE: I don't take Mk 11:25 as "part of it," but, with Goulder, as one
thing that some later churchman skimmed off and reassembled in order to
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst