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Re: [GPG] More on Judeans (Thomas PS)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic Responding Late To: Dave G (25 May 09) On: Mark and Peter From: Bruce [Trying to catch up a little bit on old mail. We are back at Mk 7:3,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 8, 2009
      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic
      Responding Late To: Dave G (25 May 09)
      On: Mark and Peter
      From: Bruce

      [Trying to catch up a little bit on old mail. We are back at Mk 7:3, and I
      am going to append a comment. There is a Thomas postscript, which links this
      comment to the more recent Thomas discussion on Synoptic, hence the copy to
      that list].

      DAVE: Why everywhere else "Pharisees" or "Pharisees and Herodians" or
      something of that sort, but here "and all of the Judeans".

      BRUCE: The 7:3 remark is a narrative aside: it explains to an intended
      audience something that an original audience (say, the original followers of
      Jesus) would have known, before going on with the story. That needed
      information is that the strictures in question were not exclusively the idea
      of Pharisees, but were held generally by people in and around Jerusalem.
      Unless it is an adaptive addition of later date, 7:3 tells us that the
      Markan audience was outside Israel, and though perhaps Jewish in a diaspora
      sense, was not up on the fine points of current ritual controversy within
      Israel. This to me suggests Syria, and a lot of signs in all the Synoptics
      seem to point to one place or another in Syria. I am working on getting used
      to it. I take it as a working notion for the present.

      DAVE: My suggested explanation would be that later Mark is opposed to Peter,
      located in Jerusalem. Thus early Mark includes only the historical opponents
      of Jesus, but later Mark has lumped Peter and his crowd in with the

      BRUCE: Peter, along with John B, is to me the great unsolved enigma of this
      whole business. I welcome any light or leading in the matter. Meanwhile, I
      think it doubtful to associate Peter with Jerusalem, and despite the full
      airing of the shortcomings of Peter and his comrades in Mark, I hesitate to
      go all the way and make Late Mark actually anti-Petrine. Because:


      My present impression from Acts (whose accuracy I do not forget to doubt,
      but which seems to have some schematic notion of the events of the first few
      years after the Crucifixion) is that once Peter gets to Jerusalem, he loses
      all authority, and others have it instead. This can only be emblematic at
      best, but so taken, I think it suggests a Peter with authority in the
      Galilee phase of the early movement, but eclipsed (or merely tolerated as a
      no longer active senior figure) when it entered its Jerusalem-dominated

      Who had the later authority? Who supplanted Peter, at least in the version
      of that history that Luke proposes to tell us about? Presumably, people of
      the puristic persuasion, who took a strict line on Jewish cultural
      observances. Christianity, in their view, was for Jews, and Jewish
      observance was prerequisite for Christian membership. I personally suspect
      that this Jewish exclusiveness is not far from (or could be a thinkable
      development from) that of Jesus himself, but that in matters of ritual
      strictness, it represents rather a reaction from the practices of the Jesus
      circle during Jesus's life (and of that circle, Jesus's brother Jacob, let's
      remember, formed no part).

      In other words, trying to read behind the lines of Luke and between those of
      Mark, it may have been that Peter and Jacob represent alternate lines of
      development from Jesus, Peter moving ahead in a particular theological
      direction (he seems eventually to have been convinced of the Resurrection,
      which in principle kept a door open to the non-Jewish areas to the north),
      and Jacob in a rather reactionary direction, back to the nationally limited
      and more strictly puristic John the B sort of piety (the sort of piety of
      which Jesus's parents probably approved, or how would they have let him go
      to John the B in the first place?). This is the kind of idea whose natural
      habitat is Jerusalem, in which area (let us not forget) John the B had also
      concentrated his attention. And the Essenes, where are they on the map??
      Right. Hmmm.


      Jesus, according to Mark, went through a crisis of whether to stick with his
      family's conventional piety or go with something more drastic; he took the
      latter. Of the two leaders of the posthumous Jesus movement here considered,
      it seems that Peter more or less (with important theological additions) went
      further along a particular version of the Jesus line, whereas Jacob took
      things back where Jacob and his brothers and his mother had always been in
      the first place: a national piety more intelligible in strict traditional
      terms, and assuming a hyper sort of ritual purism as its basis. Back, in
      short, more or less toward John the B, though with better clothes and better
      ecclesiastical access.

      Did Jacob accept the doctrine of the Resurrection? There is no credible sign
      that he did. Was Peter a strict constructionist on food purity and similar
      issues? Seemingly not, though apparently he once infuriated Paul by waffling
      under pressure from Jacob and the Jerusalemites. Peter lacked the
      theoretical equipment to resist that argument, when it came to argument, as
      it did in Antioch. Whereas Paul, schooled in argument and logical to a
      fault, had no trouble in resisting the whole Jerusalem position, with an
      exasperation which easily transcends the centuries. Paul was like a good
      Provost: he knew what worked, and he went for it in a big way. He didn't
      waste time with traditional notions merely because they were traditional.
      That whole idea outraged his business sense.

      This is what I get from the record as it stands, allowing for the usual 212%
      markup when Luke takes over the telling. I think this picture makes sense,
      not of the Gospel accounts exactly, but of a possible situation behind them
      that the Gospels might have mythologized in different directions (Principle
      of Tischendorf). It sort of works for me.

      For such reasons, I don't see Peter as a Jerusalem figure; more of a
      Jerusalem victim (notice that in Acts, where Peter miraculously escapes from
      prison and death, it is assumed that Jacob is in no danger). Mark, as it
      seems to me, ultimately takes the Peter side of things, whereas Luke is a
      completely shameless Jerusalem propagandist - not that he agrees with them,
      but that he sees them as a necessary, almost Hegelianly necessary, stage in
      the story as he wants to tell it, a story which ultimately goes in a
      different direction. Thesis (Galilee), Antithesis (Jerusalem), Synthesis
      (Rome). QED.


      Peter and Jacob both figure in Thomas. One of the most initially puzzling
      phenomena in Thomas is the remark attributed to Jesus, that after his death,
      Jacob (and not Peter or Matthew, who are also named in one or another Thomas
      saying) should be the leader of his disciples. Is there a way of making
      sense of this? Yes, I can think of two. One is the division of the
      post-Crucifixion world between a Jacob and a Peter faction, with no very
      strong third option (original, or what I call Alpha, Christianity was
      quickly and easily overlaid by the more vigorously led factions). Two is the
      identification of Jacob with the ascetic faction, and Peter with the more
      permissive faction. It was the ascetic aspect of Jacob that appealed to the
      Thomas ascetics. And they were probably more comfortable with a doctrine
      that did not emphasize, and perhaps did not even include, the Resurrection,
      a notion which does not figure in Thomas (for whom no such scenario is
      tolerated: salvation from the material world is by secret personal
      knowledge, not by any miracle of God). Not only Jesus, but God, play an
      amazingly limited role in Thomas.

      As between Peter and Jacob, then, the Thomasites might have found Jacob a
      more manageable platform from which to expound their beliefs, which actually
      diverged from both Peter and Jacob. The divergences from Jacob are in fact
      spelled out in other low-numbered Thomas sayings. The divergences from Peter
      and Beta Christianity are not so much dealt with as never mentioned. This is
      an interesting difference of treatment, or so it looks from here.

      May we reasonably infer that this Thomas saying goes back to the time when
      it would have been literally relevant, namely to a time before Jacob's (and
      perhaps also Peter's) death in the early 60's? Maybe. If so, what does this
      tell us about the text of Thomas? Nothing yet. But the saying in question is
      Thomas 12, which at any rate is near the physical beginning of the text. If
      the text was accumulated in the order written, which is the most natural
      assumption (it is also the default procedure in actual ancient texts), then
      a date around 60 might work for Thomas 12. Neither Arnal nor De Connick put
      Th 12 in their lists of the oldest Thomas material. Neither did Crossan, who
      considered the otherwise attested sayings to be the oldest. Well, OK, but
      maybe all of them are wrong.


      We have many layerings of Thomas, among them Puech (with three layers), and
      Arnal, De Connick, and Crossan (each with two). These A, C, D, and P
      theories seem to leave alphabetical room for a B theory, and so I will
      tentatively note (for reasons suggested above) the possibility that Thomas
      12 may be relatively early. Unfortunately, Th 12 is known only from what may
      be a Coptic revision, but hey, nothing is perfect. We can only do what we
      can with the material in front of us.

      More maybe later.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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