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Evolution in Christianity 1

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  • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
    To: SJS On: Evolution in Christianity From: Bruce One of the most obvious things that the evidence tells us is that Christianity evolved (few facts about
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2010
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      To: SJS
      On: Evolution in Christianity
      From: Bruce

      One of the most obvious things that the evidence tells us is that
      Christianity evolved (few facts about Christianity present greater
      problems for current believers, but I leave individuals to work that
      out if they need to).

      I have my attention called to this general situation by three books,
      not all of them recent, that have seemed (from my point of view) to
      speak to different aspects of it.


      Carl Clemen, Primitive Christianity and its Non-Jewish Sources (1908,
      tr 1912) takes a long look at possible sources, and in the end (the
      book is 404 pages long) rules out all of them except Stoic influence
      on Paul. That is, he sees no taint of Buddhism or anything else
      heathen in what is predicated of Jesus in the early docuuments. The
      posture is openly defensive, and the point at which (in the author's
      judgement) the defenses fail is in the Pauline strand of development.

      With the positive finding, I think a historically minded person is
      likely to concur. I note its very general similarity to my earlier
      suggestion that outside influences are well marked in the Second Tier
      gospels (which are posterior to Paul and thus to the genuine portions
      of his letters). It is in this first expansion period that we see the
      ship of doctrine and anecdote taking on freight from other ports of

      But is there nothing of merit in the tailings of Clemen's mine? His
      Conclusion (p366) says, "First of all, an indirect or direct influence
      of [non-Jewish religious and philosophical systems) on the preaching
      of Jesus and the ideas of the Synoptists is discernible merely in
      certain expressions, metaphors, and comparisons (Mt 5:48, 7:13f, 7:16,
      Mk 2:17 and parallels, Lk 4:23); the subject-matter as a whole is very
      little affected."

      Those in a hurry (and who dares be at leisure, in these last days
      before the beginning or Rural New Year?) may put aside the Mt/Lk or
      Second Tier items; their lateness is, at least from this point of
      view, given in advance. I take up the only Mk item, that is, the only
      item on this list that has a chance of being early.

      Mk 2:17 concludes the group Mk 2:15-17, subtitled by Taylor "On eating
      with Tax-gatherers and Sinners." Some make a larger group of 2:13-17,
      beginning with the Call of Levi. Taylor notes that Bultmann considers
      2:17 to have been originally an isolated logion.

      In Mk, 2:15 reads "And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, Those who
      are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came
      not to call the righteous, but sinners." Between these two sentences
      Mt makes an insertion: "Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy
      and not sacrifice." The effect of this OT-oriented insertion might be
      to reJudaize a saying that Matthew also felt was somewhat alien. To
      Matthew's reJudaizing I may be able to return in a later note.

      What is Clemen's position? On p52 he cites a parallel to the
      "physician" saying in Diogenes (Dio Chrys Or 8:5). "Sonny thinks that
      the aphorism passed from the Cynics to the Christians, and Julicher
      comes to the following conclusion: It may be that Cynic itinerant
      preachers helped to naturalize this idea in Palestine as well,
      although it was such an obvious one that different men may quite well
      have stumbled on it independently . . ."

      I would say, No. The thing has, as it sits there in the literary
      context, the fit and feel of a previous saying, used to support
      something situational, not a remark newly minted as a teaching in its
      own right. Literarily, it looks like a previous entity. Rhetoric of
      convincement: People are much more easily persuaded by the familiar
      than by the strange, and the intended effect of the saying on the
      hearers in the story, and of the story itself on the readers of the
      story, is surely to legitimize by familiar wisdom the drastically
      novel ministry of Jesus to outcasts and untouchables, the dregs and
      waste matter of Jewish society.

      If then the previous association of the saying is with the Cynics,
      that is just extra detail. We can file that detail for future
      reference as future investigation may suggest.


      That Jesus called Levi is one of those things that look historical in
      Mk. The banquet scene following the call, with a comment by offstage
      Pharisees, which must somehow be reported to Jesus (outside the story)
      for his comment, is unconvincing in the way many Markan stories are
      unconvincing (and many Confucian ones; adepts in those mysteries will
      at once think of the reported remark in Analects 7:31, or the
      "Gentleman's" evaluations in the Dzwo Jwan). The reported remark gives
      an opportunity for comment by the Central Personality, an opportunity
      which the mere anecdotal setting does not supply.

      Such devices are late in the Analects tradition: first come
      uncontexted sayings, then anecdotally contexted sayings, then at quite
      a distance the device of indirect report, which allows comment not
      only on the situation, but on the wider meaning of the situation,
      extracting a general principle from it. LY 7:31 is an interpolation in
      LY 7; we date it to c0342, or about a century after the date of the
      original LY 7.

      What about Mk 2:17, is it part of the original Mark or a later
      addition? In the draft reconstruction which I shared with those
      interested at SBL 2008, Mk 15-17, though separated from the Call (Mk
      13-14), is put on the same original level as the Call (Layer 1). On
      further reflection, it might better be put on the same level as other
      passages (immediately following in Mk 2) which involve Pharisee
      challenges to Jesus about the behavior of his disciples, or Pharisee
      challenges to the disciples about the conduct of Jesus (2:18-20,
      2:23-27). All these involve eating, which as we know became a big deal
      at one point, the point being the divergent practices of Gentile and
      Jewish convert groups.

      For the question of eating with tax-collectors (the paradigmatic
      unclean person), the call of a tax collector in Mk 2:14 would have
      provided an obvious point of attachment.

      I am thus disposed (in this busy pre-New Year period) to reconsider
      the position of all these eating passages. Though a separate argument
      can probably be made for the issue of Johannine reversion in 2:18-20,
      it would also make a certain sense if they were all on a level. There
      are arguments other and stronger than those for mere tidiness. But as
      a working suggestion, I invite comments and objections from those who
      see a difficulty with aligning Mk 2:15-17, Mk 18-20, and Mk 23-27 all
      on Level 3 (where Mk 2:23-27 already is).

      Respectfull requested,


      Either way, I don't think there is any necessity, in the above, to
      posit a knowledge of maxims of Cynic origin by the historical Jesus.
      What we are dealing with here is a construction by the historical
      Mark. Whether it was his first idea or a later afterthought is, as I
      see it, the issue for discussion and reflection. How closely it might
      have corresponded to historical reality is an aspect that might be
      taken up on a later occasion, after these and other preliminaries have
      been worked out.
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