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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Previous On: ARONSON 6 (MARK) From: Bruce Is there any value to this exercise? Not necessarily; it is a speculative venture. We are doing it just
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 25, 2009
      To: GPG
      Cc: Previous
      On: ARONSON 6 (MARK)
      From: Bruce

      Is there any value to this exercise? Not necessarily; it is a speculative
      venture. We are doing it just to see what might happen. Its point of potential
      interest is that it deals with some of the Nice Jesus material previously
      associated with "Q" from a different, and externally defined, standpoint.
      External definition avoids circularity, and offers the possibility of a
      different perspective. This externally defined potential source we are
      tentatively calling W, without prejudice as to whether W was a text, a group,
      or just a bunch of straws blowing in the wind.

      ARONSON 6 (MARK)

      W as initially defined by the Aronson parallels, refined by myself, contained
      no credible links to Mark. But in the course of checking the Aronson
      Matthew/Luke links, we found six sayings which for reasons of Synoptic
      propriety are best assigned to Mark. These would then represent the earliest
      appearance of W material in the Synoptic tradition.

      The inventory is:

      Mk 8:35 (DDJ 7) save life by losing it
      Mk 10:15 (DDJ 28) become like chidren
      Mk 10:27 (DDJ 59) all things are possible
      Mk 10:45 (DDJ 66) came not to be served
      Mk 12:31 (DDJ 13) love neighbor as self
      Mk 13:31 (DDJ 16) word/Dau will not pass away

      All six are preserved in both Mt and Lk, sometimes (as Graham Budd has
      separately and coincidentally pointed out) in more than one place.


      As those will know who were at the open session at SBL 2008, there exists a
      reconstruction of Mark as a layered text, an original narrative of Jesus
      augmented several times by new material designed to keep the text current with
      ideas of Jesus in whatever community Mark may be thought to reflect. That
      reconstruction was made without regard to the Q theory, and several years
      before my attention was drawn to the Aronson parallels. It is thus of interest
      to see where these six sayings come, in the accretional model of Mark. Are they
      original, or early additions, or late additions, or all of the above?

      The answer is easily given. All six are from Layer 5 of the model. They are not
      only late, but they are associated with a single stratum within Mark: they
      cohere as part of whatever new advance in theology Layer 5 elsewhere reflects.
      Other details that seem to belong to Layer 5 are (a) the Verily statements,
      indicating a need among the faithful for extra assurance as to key points of
      their belief, (b) some contact with the teaching of Paul, (c) a revisionist and
      milder view of Herod Agrippa, perhaps to avoid antagonizing a dangerous
      antagonist, and (d) certain odds and ends of narrative enhancements such as
      inclusion of Judas among the Twelve, to heighten the sense of betrayal which
      the tale of Judas already possessed.

      Layer 5 is almost the last layer, and it is the last substantial layer, in
      Mark. It is aware of events of the year 42, including the martyrdom of Jacob
      and (see Bacon 1931) John.


      No one looking only at these six sayings would think of calling them Nice Jesus
      They are more precisely Mystical Jesus. The "like children" bit is particulary
      suggestive of the defeat of intellect achieved in most forms of mysticism,
      though it is not at all in the spirit of the original Jesus stance as we find
      it in the earlier layers of Mark. A mystical development of early Christianity
      is pefectly intelligible: it is one obvious direction which such a movement
      might take, after the disappointment of the original terrestrial Messianic
      project (on which see Reimarus).

      They also seem to represent the Hillel side of the standard Hillel/Shammai
      contrast within contemporary Judaism. In matters Mosaic, particularly the hot
      topic of divorce, Jesus himself (as befits a Galilean) was evidently on the
      Shammai side. But the "love thy neighbor as thyself" maxim is specifically (and
      I would think credibly) associated with Hillel. Similar material also appears
      in Tobit, and this whole line of thought may thus represent a particlar ethical
      strand within contemporary Judaism. It is this ethical strand, at least in
      part, which the above material shows as coming, at a late date, into the ken of
      the Markan Congregation, and being incorporated into its evolving portrait of

      That portrait, after those augmentations, gives renewed assurance that the
      convert's hope of eternal life is well grounded, and can be achieved by ethical
      means available to anyone, and no longer specific to Judaism, as the Davidic
      Restoration project of Jesus had been, in effect (despite the potential for
      development in wider directions) specific to Judaism.

      Layer 5 thus represents the acceptance of the Gentile or universal mission of
      the Church by the Markan community, and the further spiritualization of that
      mission itself. That stance, though nothing earlier in Mark, has been
      articulated in part with material from the W source.

      Further W material, and a great deal of it, would later be added by Matthew,
      and perhaps a slight amount also by Luke, coming third and last of the
      Synoptics. For the character of the Matthean and Lukan W material, which is not
      identical to that of the Markan W material, see previous notes 5 and 4,

      Bottom Line: Was Jesus himself Nice? On the record as here developed, the
      answer must be No. The Nice Jesus is a later construct, first appearing in the
      40s. It was invented by, or in the vicinity of, the Markan group, and further
      developed (in sometimes antithetical ways, but that's their problem) by Matthew
      and subsequently by Luke.

      Next and Concluding: W


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: GPG Cc: Previous On: ARONSON 7 (W) From: Bruce It might seem from the previous notes that, despite a certain vagueness in its originally published form,
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 27, 2009
        To: GPG
        Cc: Previous
        On: ARONSON 7 (W)
        From: Bruce

        It might seem from the previous notes that, despite a certain vagueness in its
        originally published form, there may be something useful at the core of the
        Aronson DDJ/Gospel parallels. On that possibility, I offer herewith what is
        meant to be the last in this series of notes.

        ARONSON 7 (W)

        On the assumption that, at one or more of the Aronson points, something from
        outside is indeed coming into the thinking of Very Early Christianity, I have
        for convenience given the name W to whatever was its local and proximal source.
        As in all cultural contact situations, it is to be expected that we will see
        the source tradition - as it might be known AT the source - garbled, excerpted,
        adapted, and generally transmuted in the process of being incorporated into
        other thinking. That is more or less what we do see in the cases so far
        examined: some striking similarities of phrase, along with some significant
        difference of background conception.

        1. The DDJ component of W is the only one examined in the previous notes. I
        here expand a little on it, for those not previously closely aware of it.

        DDJ is an interesting text, and on reflection, one likely to be productive of
        material useful to the Early Christians. It was at its core a Chinese
        meditation group, using a breath control technique originally imported (with
        the usual adaptations) from India. Its emphases included the usual mystical
        downvaluing of sensory input, and of pleasures and possessions in general. It
        did not envision salvation in anything like the Christian sense of the term,
        but it did look to contact with, and for some practitioners, also escape into,
        a larger world (the exact nature of whose largeness can here be left vague, but
        the word "cosmos" might not be too misleading). At the same time, the DDJ text,
        soon after it began to appear AS a text, also developed a strong interest in
        statecraft; that is, in the management of "kingdoms." Here is another point of
        possible affinity with the Early Christians, who also looked to a more
        ideal "kingdom" to which they alone held the key.

        The idea of weakness as a positive virtue (and even as a tactical strength),
        and the idea of humility, including returning good for evil, are strong and
        early in the DDJ, and sufficiently prominent that they arouse a contemptuous
        response from the Confucians and the other more conventional statecraft
        thinkers of early China. That is to say, these doctrines are not esoteric (and
        thus unavailable to nonmembers); rather, they have been highly public since
        they were first put forth (in the 04c and early 03c), and were publicly debated
        at that time. We thus have here not an esoteric teaching, but a public program.
        So successful was that program outside its home state (Lu) that the text, while
        it was still being composed, was taken to Chu and, once suitably extracted and
        adapted to local Chu tastes and conditions, was used as part of the
        instructional materials of the tutor to the Heir Apparent of Chu. The DDJ, in
        this and other ways, quickly established itself as one of the most popular and
        successful texts of classical China.

        We may thus not be too surprised to find a number of recognizably DDJ ideas
        turning up in what we have so far defined as the W portfolio.

        But there were very probably others, and I continue by identifying some of the
        more probable.

        2. Probably also present in that portfolio, though not dealt with by Aronson,
        are Mician ideas. The Micians, whose public pronouncements begin at an even
        earlier period than those of the DDJ (beginning of the 04c, with proto-Mician
        positions attested in the 05c), are the followers of the wholly unknown but
        definitely sub-elite Mwo Di. They represent the commercial sector of classical
        Chinese society: the well-to-do householders whose ideology was formed partly
        on the wish for a stable society (including opposition to war), and partly on
        the protocol requirements of trading across cultural boundaries. From the
        latter need, they developed a completely lateral ethic, emphasizing universal
        love (love that is not restricted to one's family - a point on which they
        bitterly differed from the elite Confucians). The love ethic attested in
        several early Christian communities would have seemed normal, or anyway
        paradigmatic, for the Micians. So would their ethic of civic subordination, a
        topic to which Paul devoted several impassioned paragraphs (with parallels in
        sayings attributed to Jesus as early as the later layers of Mark), and to which
        the Micians devoted a whole series of closely argued essays. The DDJ, like the
        primitive Buddhism in which its roots seem ultimately to lie, is concerned
        primarlily with the individual, and secondarily with the state, but not much
        with the community. The community side of things is extensively addressed by
        the Micians.

        Further, given their commercial connections, the Micians, far more than the
        Dauists, are likely to have been the carriers of their own and any other
        Chinese ideas to points westward. They were the traders, or were in contact
        with the traders, and it is by trade that ideas of this kind normally move
        across distances. We may note that Hillel, who is anecdotally associated with
        some of these ideas, is sometimes called "Hillel the Babylonian" in deference
        to his wider than usual cultural acquaintance, and for that matter, that the
        story in Tobit in which one of the W ideas early appears, involves a journey to
        a great city. The sense of trade contact, in persons or texts with which W
        ideas are associated at the other end, is palpable. Paul himself, a great
        traveler, and one who (unlike Jesus) did not shun the major towns, was an
        artisan, just as Peter was a commercial fisherman. Such people are likely to
        have been, from their pre-Christian days, associated with the movement of goods
        over distances. I think I already mentioned Levi the Disciple, whose original
        calling put him athwart one trade route, and gave him the responsibility of
        taxing what went by him. Here is yet another personal point of contact with the
        route which is far the most likely one for the transmission of W-type ideas.

        3. I have earlier pointed out that the most perplexing of the Lukan parables,
        wrongly called the Unjust Steward (it is rather, the Canny Steward), becomes
        transparent and wholly relevant to Luke's narrative intent at that point, if it
        is read as a garbled version of a postclassical Chinese story from the early
        02c. These things too were widespread in Chinese culture and acquaintance; like
        the DDJ, we have archaeological evidence of the popularity of that story genre.
        There is thus nothing against the idea that they would have been among the
        cultural equipment, the maxim store and anecdotal baggage, of traders working

        4. One of the stories near the Canny Steward in Luke, the strange tale of
        Lazarus, has also been thought to derive from an exotic source, in this case
        Egypt. I mention this as a reminder that the trade routes, by land and sea, do
        not run exclusively west. There are also those that run north.

        5. And even among those that run west, not all originate in China. There is
        also India, home of Buddhism and (later) of Jainism, and justly famous as "the
        Mother of Story." Nothing mentioned above amounts to a religion in the strictly
        apposite sense of the word, but religion is among the things that India has
        been exporting for centuries, along with spices and other commodities. The
        whole of the overland caravan route from China was through Indianized cities
        and oases, and there were also important routes through Egypt and Arabia. Paul,
        to mention no one else, spent considerable time (in ways that seem to be still
        mysterious) in "Arabia," where again he would have been anything but isolated
        from all that was passing along the arteries in the world's body.

        I hope in the above to have suggested that the formation of early Christian
        thinking took place not in a vacuum, but in the midst of a tumult of exotic
        notions, gathered from afar and concentrated at the trade junctions, whether at
        the modest Capernaum level or at the great centers such as Babylon or Edessa or
        Antioch or Alexandria. It is known, or on good evidence suspected, that the
        early Christians proselytized in most of these places. My final suggestion is
        that the exposure may have been a two-way affair.


        I thus think that the seminary student whom I began by describing was missing
        something, not to be more interested than in fact she was at the possibility of
        non-Christian elements in the formation of Christian doctrine. I venture to
        think that her personal lack of interest, and her institution's lack of
        curricular awareness, in these matters is a serious impediment to eventual
        understanding. Christianity conquered by being universal in tone and message.
        Did it possess that universality from the outset? Or was it in part an acquired
        trait, not only through adaptation to local circumstances like the death of
        Jesus, but through affinity with traditions arising in not dissimilar
        circumstances, and available locally in convenient lore form?

        It is a mistake, albeit a mistake universally made in academe, to think that
        a "discipline" contains within it all it needs to solve the problems to which
        it addresses itself. As well attempt to explain a mosquito without reference to
        the animals, including sometimes myself, from which it draws life and blood.


        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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