Re: [Synoptic-L] Early Beliefs
- Pace, Bruce, there is no "churches" in Acts 9:31. The Word is 'ekklesia', singular, and can be translated equally validly as 'the whole company of Jesuites' if you will. Other than emphasis on an eschatological ethic and the proximity of the end-time, as was the case with the Baptizer and, like so many others at this time, seeing himself as the Messiah, I have yet to see anything which otherwise distinguishes the beliefs of Jesus from the Pharisees and its military wing , the fourth philosophy of Josephus about which he is so coy, the Zealots. Mark, the Roman Gospel, produced shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, is also understandably coy on the subject. All three Synoptics buy into Pauline soteriology, so it is not surprising that the silence on James the brother of Jesus is deafening, not to mention that on the ekklesia in Alexandria, which only knew the baptism of John.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:56 AM
Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Early Beliefs
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Early Beliefs
This interchange seems to be reducing itself to differences about
words. But perhaps it is worth the time to take up a few of them.
I had noted Ac 9:31, describing the peace of the "churches" after the
conversion of Paul (and this the end of his persecutions).
RON: Even taken at face value, this does not constitute evidence that Paul had
persecuted anyone in Galilee.
BRUCE (interrupting): In Acts context, What else then can it mean?
RON: . . . But I don't take it at face value. It is much too
stereotyped and clearly
designed to further Luke's presentational aims. So it cannot be relied
upon as historical evidence.
BRUCE: I would need to have that more spelled out. Pending which, I
would say that on the contrary, it somewhat sabotages Luke's
presentational aims, which include a clear wish to occlude the Galilee
phase of the Jesus movement. Luke's grand scenario is to show a
progression of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. In that great
design, any prior little Galilee phase is just a nuisance. That is why
I called this one mention of Galilee in Acts an inadvertence. I think
Luke's knowledge of the history is here breaking through his authorial
What other view of Luke's purposes makes this "Galilee" reference
either "stereotyped" or "designed to further his presentational aims?"
RON: Furthermore this reference to the church in " ... Galilee ..." is
the only NT reference to Christianity in Galilee, and is thus
BRUCE: Here comes the word "Christianity." Acts is on record as
claiming that this term was first used in Antioch. But Ac 9:31 doesn't
ascribe Christianity to Galilee, it mentions only "the church," by
which I take it to mean "the collective body of Jesus followers and
converts [never mind what exactly they were converted to] in Galilee."
On the issue of "church," Ron had said:
RON: I take a (local) church to be a group of Christians. Jesus and
his immediate followers were Jews.
BRUCE: Let's not get bogged down in the word "Christians." Jesus was a
Jew, and as I read the earliest evidence, he preached to Jews, and his
message was one relating to Jewish tradition, and indeed to Jewish
national aspirations. At first, his followers were probably
exclusively Jews. But they were from the beginning distinct from other
Jews, as the frequent oppositional passages in Mark are there to
suggest for us, and they were eventually, by decree, excluded from
synagogue fellowship. From the beginning they were somehow set apart.
Then for us to discuss them conveniently, they need a different label.
We can call them Jesuites, for example. Suppose we do.
Then there were Jesuites in Galilee, some of them converted by Jesus,
and there were, very early, also Jesuites in Jerusalem, in Damascus,
in Antioch, in Edessa, and perhaps in Ephesus. Some of those Jesuites
were Jews, now distinguished from their fellow Jews by their new
beliefs (whatever those may have been), and some of them, especially
in points north of Galilee, were Gentiles.
I think all this is plain and unexceptionable. Then I will rephrase my
statement, or rather that of Ac 9:31, as follows: "So the Jesuite
groups throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and
were built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort
of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
Now then, which of these geographical sets of Jesuite groups is Paul
most likely to have personally beset? I seem to recall that he himself
says, and I quote, "I was still not known by sight to the churches of
Christ in Judaea, as they only heard it said, He who once persecuted
us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."
Then the Judaean (ahem) Jesuite groups had never seen Paul, and they
are at second hand with their knowledge, both of his former
persecution and his later conversion. They had not experienced it,
they had heard it said. So if we continue to follow Acts for a moment,
that leaves Samaria and Galilee as the remaining possible scenes of
Paul's in-person persecutions. Since it seems to be generally agreed
that he was setting out for Damascus to arrest other Jesuite
believers, that would add southern Syria to his field of, what shall I
call it, inverse missionary endeavor. Notice the geographical
propinquity. If we think that he persecuted only in Samaria and
bypassed Galilee, we have a weirdly discontinuous itinerary that would
have sent Pierson Parker off into gales of derisive laughter. To avoid
that, it may be best to include propinquitous Galilee in the zone of
Pauline persecution. Then whether or not we include Samaria, Galilee
seems to be geographically implied. I have to say that, as far as it
goes and for what it is worth, and I count Paul in with the author of
Acts on this one, it seems to make sense.
I had said, in a lexically unguarded moment: "Christianity was not
first propagated from Jerusalem."
RON: Indeed it wasn't. The first recognizably "Christian" preaching
was by Paul.
[I had earlier continued: "it was first propagated (Jesus and others)
RON: What Jesus and his first followers preached was a strand of
Judaism, as is indicated, for instance, by the scathing response put
into the mouth of Jesus in Mark 8:33 following Peter's declaration of
Jesus as (only) the Messiah.
BRUCE: Jesus was from the beginning distinctive within Judaism. What
exactly he preached at first (and whether his message stayed the same
from first to last) are technically controversial. But there is a
strong sense in Mk, and from the beginning of Mark, that Jesus's
teaching (which at that point in Mark emphatically did not contain the
Resurrection idea) was perceived as new.
Thus Mk 1:22 "And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught
them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes [who merely
interpreted the standard scriptures]."
Mk 1:27 "What is this? A new teaching!"
And if we dispense with the Markan reports of the crowds, here is his
report of Jesus talking: "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an
old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from
the old, and a worse tear is made" (Mk 2:18). And so on.
This amounts to a statement that Jesus's doctrines are not only
distinctive within previous Judaism, they are incompatible with
previous Judaism. They cannot be joined to the old; they are new.
RON: Seen from a Christian point of view, the first disciples never
got beyond Judaism. They continued to oppose the Christian gospel
formulated by Paul.
BRUCE: The first disciples, if we accept Mark's testimony, did indeed
get beyond the standard sacrificial piety of the day, and the signs
are that Jesus took them there. It is the Pharisees (representing that
standard sacrificial piety) who object to Jesus and his disciples, and
their neglect of purity laws and calendrical prohibitions. All of
that, Jesus seems to have dumped. Jesus's own summary of his take on
the Commandments is reported in Mk 10:19f. Go look at it. Is there in
that list the slightest shred of Jewish sacrificial piety? No, there
is not. The Law of Moses is there reduced to its ethical half (plus
the bit about fraud, which has an interesting subhistory of its own).
And its specifically Jewish half, its tribal heritage, its hangup on
the blood of killed animals, and all the rest of that, is gone.
Jesus, on the record as I read it, did not intend to deJudaize
Judaism, With ample and eloquent precedent in the Later Prophets, whom
I would here quote if I had not already done so in a previous note in
this thread, he intended to purify Judaism, to get it out of its
minutiae and back to where God, as preached by the Later Prophets,
wanted it. This was radical in Jewish terms, and it is in Jewish terms
that its radicalness can best be defined.
But of course, once you get rid of the tribal and sacrificial elements
in Judaism, you have left a more universal set of precepts. The
Gentile God-fearers, the fellow travelers of the synagogues, were
suddenly free to take part more fully in what, on mere ethical
grounds, they had always admired. From this completely unintended fact
there grew a quite remarkable development, the amazing success of the
Jesus doctrine beyond its intended bounds. And then come all the
frictions about circumcision and idols and the rest, the working out
of the detente between Jesus believers from conflicting cultural
backgrounds. But the whole ground of those controversies was a deeper
ground of commonality: the duty of man to man, and God's approval of
men who behave rightly to other men.
RON: Hence Mark's persistent denigration of Peter and the family of Jesus.
BRUCE: The problem with this and a half dozen other possible
statements is that they are all true, but none of them is true of the
entirety of Mark. There are numerous places in Mark where the
disciples are praised for their insight. Does this mean that Mark is a
mere maniac jumble of inconcinnities? As it stands, somewhat. But the
inconcinnities can to some extent be sorted out, and (as several
noted, during the unlamented 20th century) what results is a
stratified view of the text, laid down in layers. Each layer by itself
is doctrinally and advocationally consistent, but it is somewhat at
odds with the previous layers, and designed is was sometimes meant to
overlay and correct the previous layers.
If we bother to collate the tensions separately, what the disciples
cannot understand is the Resurrection belief. And will might they not,
since during their time with Jesus, there had yet occurred no
Resurrection; it was only predicted (and that, rather suggestively,
only after a certain point in the narrative). Since the Resurrection
belief, when it did arise, perhaps soon after Jesus's death,
drastically conflicted with what Jesus had taught during his life, it
was necessary for the upholders of the new belief to impugn the
intelligence of those who still held the old views. This they did by
inserting these famously hostile passages into the previous Mark. What
they failed to do was to remove or rewrite the old passages, leaving
the resultant text of Mark to contradict itself all over the place, to
the despair of those, beginning no later than Branscomb 1937, who
strove, and failed, to make unitary sense out of Mark.
It cannot be done. What CAN be done is to make unitary sense out of
each of the *layers* in Mark, and to make developmental sense out of
the series of layers themselves, as they get piled onto the previous
ones by those intent on proving the pedigree of the newer doctrines,
and also on disabling those who still held the older ones. In Mark,
more clearly than anywhere else in the NT, we see nascent Jesuism (I
am carefully avoiding the other term, as it has proved a stone of
stumbling in this conversation) arguing with itself.
And of course winning. That is the way these arguments always come
out. There was a very similar argument (though of course in secular
terms) within early Confucianism, between the original disciples and
the later comers, the kin of Confucius, who tended to take over the
movement and to take it in quite different doctrinal directions. That
drama is set forth, in details and for what I believe is the first
time since the extinction of the Confucian School of Lu in 0249, in my
book, The Original Analects (Columbia 1998). Suggestive comparative
material,and unlike most commentaries on that text, with references to
the Golden Rule and the Pastoral Epistles. Anyone who has not seen it,
or who wants their theological library to catch up with Harvard, Yale,
and Chicago Divinity Schools by acquiring a copy, can save
considerable off the list price by contacting yours truly,
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- To: GPG
In Response To: Keith Yoder
On: Mark and John
Thanks to Keith for his additional notes on recasting of previous
tradition in John. The subject is a large one, with its own special
interest, and all points are welcome.
One of the skills needed by the successful churchman is the grace to
respond politely when presented with a Festschrift which is small,
undistinguished, and full of internal rancor, one author using his
space to trash the opinion of another author about the date and
authenticity of 1 Peter. Such was the crisis which must have
confronted the dedicatee when he was handed Sherman E Johnson, The Joy
of Study: Papers on New Testament and Related Subjects Presented to
Honor Frederick Clifton Grant (Macmillan 1951).
Fred his my sympathy in that moment.
Nevertheless, there are some shreds of interest in the thing. One is
the paper by Sydney Temple (University of Massachusetts, no less) on
Geography and Climate in the Fourth Gospel. He makes what looks to me
like a good case that the author of John knew Palestinian geography
and its seasons very well: when a certain ford was passable, when the
court migrated from Jerusalem to Jericho, when the high road through
Samaria would have been preferable to the more obvious lowland one.
Does this mean that John, being more cogent about geography than it
seems Mark always was, knew Palestine, and Mark did not? That might be
a rash conclusion. But with Temple's data in mind, we can at least say
that he had done his homework, not only on the calendar, but on the
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts