In Response To: Jeff Peterson
On: Paul and Jesus
JEFF: ) The Pauline testimonia to Jesus' ministry don't exhibit the degree
of verbal agreement with the Synoptic parallels that commends a literary
explanation of inter-Synoptic agreements.
BRUCE: I would agree that Paul's Epistle is not here being copied from
Mark's Gospel. We do not have a scriptorium situation. But I think it is
still open that Paul may be expressing in his own words tradition that
ultimately comes from Mark. Not that this is the only option, but neither
does it seem to be eliminated.
JEFF: Seems to me at least equally plausible to hold that Paul and Mark
both derived their knowledge of Jesus' teaching and activity from oral
tradition (as Luke's preface suggests was the norm in the first generation).
BRUCE: I think there are other factors which may help us here. First, it is
notable (and Koester duly noted it) that Paul accepts none of Jesus's
ethical principles; only his sayings on church order. That is, whatever he
knew of, he is apparently being selective with. Second, he himself says that
he has no interest in Jesus "after the flesh," which I take to mean, the
teachings and deeds of Jesus during his lifetime. Why not? I presume,
because others had superior access to those details. It is only in the
revelation department, the spiritual department, that he can hope to rank
even with the other Apostles; to compete with them on a level basis.
Third, take miracles. Mark tells of several miracles of Jesus, obviously
thinking that they will add to readers' impressment with Jesus, and their
acceptance of Jesus as bringing a message, along with healing power, from
God. The demand for a "sign" in Mark assumes that supernatural deeds are the
best proof of Jesus's qualification for what he was doing. All this is
consistent with itself, and with the extreme emphasis on miracles in the
Apostolic literature. Did Paul have any knowledge of Jesus's miracles? I
defy anyone to spend a week in Peter's company, as Paul tells us he had
done, without getting an earful of Jesus's miracles. Presumably in a
Galilean twang which, I have suggested, led a Jerusalem hearer like Mark to
get the name Gerasa wrong; he had misheard Peter's Gergesa (so Origen, I
believe correctly). Likely though it is that Paul was exposed in one way or
another to such stories, he rigorously excludes them from his Epistle
teaching. The only signs he invokes are his own miraculous performances:
healings, speaking in tongues, and other evidence of indwelling spirit.
Somebody else's spiritual feats or doings have no authenticating power, or
other interest, for Paul. The only miracle of Jesus that interests Paul is
the Resurrection, and this is really a miracle of God. The only part of
Jesus's life that Paul can use is Jesus's death. I think the filter here is
in Paul, and not in what was available to him.
(I have earlier said why I find "oral tradition" so vague as to be
analytically meaningless. The question is: Who said what to whom? I have
tried to keep to that more realistic standard in the above).
As for Mark, Peter used to come to his house, and he will have had more than
Paul's opportunity to acquaint himself with what Peter knew, or claimed to
know, as an eyewitness. This seems to me to be a good deal more direct than
the phrase "oral tradition" tends to suggest. And does not Mark himself
slyly claim to have been in at the beginning? Like every other Evangelist,
he seems to contrive to put himself into his own story, in his case as the
youth who fled naked at the Gethsemane Arrest scene. No one has ever
suggested a plausible alternative for this otherwise absurd detail
(including Mt and Lk, who omit it). Luke has his We section (in Acts), with
its implicit claim of accompaniment of Paul for many of his journeys. John,
as is well known, has his teasingly introduced Beloved Disciple figure, who
is validated in the superadded Jn 21 as the real source of that Gospel. It
then seems that staid Matthew is the exception. But is it really? Is our
version the original, or is the original better reflected in the Gospel of
the Ebionites (Epiphanius, Adv Haer 30/13:3), "And you, Matthew, sitting at
the tax office, I called and you followed me." Note the direct address. I
get the sense of Evangelists reaching for something better than indirect
tradition, whether oral or otherwise. Doesn't mean they are right, but I
think their implied opinion deserves to be considered as reflecting the
dynamic of the times.
Nearly every NT text seems to be concerned with authentication. In the case
of the spurious 2 Thess, also with disauthentication. (Compare Paul's own
bitter comments about the Pillars, the Super-Apostles).
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst