Re: [Synoptic-L] Early Beliefs
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Dennis Goffin
On: Early Beliefs
The question is: How new were the teachings of Jesus, and how opposed
were they to the conventional Judaism with which he was in immediate
contact during his lifetime?
BRUCE (quoted by Dennis): 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 [should have been 2:21 -
EBB]). 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.
DENNIS (quoting Brandon): Brandon says "Jesus is represented as
pronouncing on the obsolescence of Judaism. The attempt made by Jewish
Christians to adapt Christianity to Judaism was hopeless - new wine
cannot be held in old wine skins. The ruin of the temple in AD70 (of
which the Roman Christians were well aware from the triumph held by
Vespasian and Titus in AD 71) had ended the compromise which the
Jerusalem Christians had sought to maintain, and now Christianity was
free of its Judaistic swaddling bands." [Page 266 in the chapter 'The
Markan Gospel' from "Jesus and the Zealots".] Brandon dates Mark's
Gospel to 71 AD.
BRUCE (now): Brandon, typically, puts the difference more
adversatively, not to say aggressively. But putting such matters
aside, and also putting aside the Temple question, which is a
logically separate matter, probably the first question to ask here is,
Who is making this statement? Do we have Jesus talking, reported by
Mark, or Mark making a point of his own by having Jesus articulate it?
It may be relevant that Mark does not specifically flag this comment
as a saying of Jesus The last explicit quote was at 2:18-20 (the
Bridegroom logic for the nonfasting of Jesus's disciples). 20:21f is a
change of tone, and need not be construed as a continuation of that
saying, though of course there is a thematic link.
But does the link join things that are really consecutive? The point
of Jesus's reply in 2:19f, about a seeming violation of fasting
conventions, is that the violation is only temporary, and that normal
practice will be resumed after Jesus himself has died. That is, there
is here no rejection of fasting as such; on the contrary, fasting is
going to be part of the future culture of Jesus's followers. The
interruption is only due to Jesus's presence.
[And we seem to know that the early Jesuites, or some of them, DID
observe fast days; they also baptized, as Jesus and his followers in
his lifetime did not do].
Whereas in 2:21f, the incompatibility of Jesuite beliefs or practices
with those of conventional Judaism is insisted upon. The two passages
are thus not really consecutive after all, and though 2:18f already
looks forward to a time after Jesus's death, it seems that 2:21f looks
to a time still later, when similarity of custom does not suffice for
viable fellowship, and incompatibility of doctrine must be recognized.
In fact, a split of some sort has likely occurred between the two.
Then 2:21f are an update of a previous passage, changing its message
to fit more conflicted times.
Mark elsewhere narrates Jesus as producing an impression of novelty,
not just authority, on his hearers, and I am still disposed to take
that as a historical memory; I think Jesus WAS distinctive, and I find
the claim that Jesus was simply teaching Judaism to be wide of the
mark. But that the differences provoked conflict and a parting of the
ways seems to have been a later matter. I take Mark, in these two
passages, to be witnessing to both stages in that evolution.
It would now be interesting to ask, What else in Mark takes the same
oppositional stance as we have just been inclined to attribute to the
seeming update passage 2:21f? And do any such passages cohere to form
a whole update layer in Mark? But we are supposed to keep these
messages short, and I will therefore confine any further exploration
to the smaller and more private of the two groups here addressed.
E Bruce Brooks
warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- 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