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Early Beliefs (Q)

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  • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG On: Early Beliefs (Q) From: Bruce As a promised codicil to my previous response to Tony Buglass, I here take up my response to a line he
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2010
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      On: Early Beliefs (Q)
      From: Bruce

      As a promised codicil to my previous response to Tony Buglass, I here
      take up my response to a line he quoted from Dunn, "The most obvious
      explanation for these features is that the Q material first emerged in
      Galilee and was given its lasting shape there prior to Jesus' death in
      Jerusalem. That is to say, it expresses the impact made by Jesus
      during his Galilean mission and before the shadow of the cross began
      to fall heavily upon either his mission or the memory of his teaching."

      As some will know, I have for some years (SBL 2006, 2008, and we will
      see about 2010) been suggesting that Mark is a stratified text, and
      that its earliest layer, necessarily the earliest consecutive account
      of Jesus, does not mention his Resurrection (here in agreement with
      Adela Yarbro Collins) or include many another point of later doctrine.
      There would thus be some interest in seeing what that earliest Markan
      narrative DOES include or imply about the original teachings of Jesus.

      And if the earliest Q were indeed compatible with what I take to be
      those original teachings, I would go do far as to reconsider my
      previously negative view of the reality and importance of Q.

      There has been much enthusiasm of late, not only for Q, but for the
      idea that a stratified Q (due to Kloppenborg 1987) shows that Jesus
      was originally a mere teacher of virtue, not an apocalyptic thinker or
      any of that other upsetting stuff which, embarrassingly enough for the
      thoughtful modern Christian, never came true in the form predicted. Q
      then becomes a text to rescue Christian faith in the 21c; no mean

      But there are problems.

      The first problem for that Nice Jesus idea is: why then was Jesus
      arrested by the Jerusalem authorities and executed by the Romans? Did
      they pick up all the nice people they could find, including the
      beatific holders of lambs and children, and put them to death? That
      Jesus is a pretty nice guy, I grant you, but I find those Romans
      administratively incomprehensible. Personally, I tend to lose
      enthusiasm at this point.

      But to continue anyway: The next problem, and specifically the problem
      with the stratified Q is, does its first Kloppenborg layer really
      present such a Jesus, a Jesus "on whom the shadow of the cross is yet
      to fall?" Never mind Mark; that would be an interesting result merely
      on its own merits.

      My lab test of that proposition is via Arnal "The Q Document" in
      Jackson-McCabe (ed), Jewish Christianity Reconsidered (2007). I here
      avoid mentioning that Kloppenborg 2008 (Q, the Earliest Gospel)
      apparently sets so little store by the 1987 stratification theory as
      scarcely to mention it. But no matter; enough for the present that
      Arnal 2007 finds it cogent. We can test his proposal in isolation of
      anything Kloppenborg says or does not say.

      I confine myself accordingly to Arnal's own exposition, p122f. under
      the heading The First Stage of Q's Composition (Q1). "The document's
      first layer and earliest written stage (Q1) presents Jesus as a
      teacher of unusual wisdom and exhorts obedience to his radical
      teaching and emulation of the lifestyle that accompanies that teaching
      (see Q 14:26-27, 17:33)."

      OK, there is our test. I will now transcribe the passages in question,
      from Kloppenborg 2008 with double brackets rendered as single brackets:

      Q 14:26. [The one who] does not hate father and mother cannot be my
      disciple, and [the one who] does not hate son and daughter cannot be
      my disciple.

      Q 14:27. The one who does not take one's cross and follow after me
      cannot be my disciple.

      Q 17:33. [The one who] finds one's life will lose it, and [the one
      who] loses one's life [for my sake] will find it.


      Surely never, in the long history of the humanistic sciences, can
      cited passages so signally have failed to live up to their
      advertising. I grieve to report it, but the shadow of the cross seems
      to fall heavily on 14:27, and the necessity - not the possibility, but
      the necessity - of martyrdom for the follower of Jesus appears to be
      the whole point of 17:33. We have here not, after all, the Nice Jesus,
      the petter of lambs and the blesser of children and the consoler of
      the poor, but the Via Crucis.

      What seems to have emerged from this lab test is that the earliest
      layer of Mark, as reconstructed by myself, does provide the sort of
      teaching Dunn and Arnal envision as early and Galilean - a teaching
      not shadowed by the cross, and consisting of simple and universally
      followable ethical prescriptions. A teaching stunningly new (Mk 1:22,
      2:21f) but also popular and thus doable (Mk 2:2, 3:7f).

      But the earliest layer of the supposed Q, as reconstructed by
      Kloppenborg, does not.

      Respectfully noted,


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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