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Re: [Synoptic-L] Early Beliefs

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  • Dennis Goffin
    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
    Message 1 of 33 , Mar 14, 2010
      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 -----
      From: brooks@...
      To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: GPG
      Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:56 AM
      Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Early Beliefs

      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      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
      especially dubious.

      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)
      from Galilee"].

      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]
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: GPG Cc: Synoptic In Response To: Keith Yoder On: Mark and John From: Bruce Thanks to Keith for his additional notes on recasting of previous tradition in
      Message 33 of 33 , Mar 24, 2010
        To: GPG
        Cc: Synoptic
        In Response To: Keith Yoder
        On: Mark and John
        From: Bruce

        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
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