Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: [GTh] Christological Peculiarities
- Greetings and thanks ...
> To: GThomas...especially for posting this last reference, which led me to your use
> Cc: Synoptic, GPG
> In Response To: Rick Hubbard
> On: Thomas and Early Christology
> From: Bruce
> Rick's thoughtful question intersects with some work I have been doing
> on the NT at large. Sorry to present a summary rather than a detailed
> account of how I reach it, but the latter would be very long. Here,
> for what it may be worth, is a response from that point of view. The
> essence of it is that there were from the beginning many
> Christologies, or to put it perhaps more usefully, several
> soteriologies. They represent the different ways that Jesus's former
> followers solved the problem presented by his unexpected death. I have
> found it useful to divide these into two main types:
> (1) Alpha, which continued the lifetime teaching of the Historical
> Jesus about salvation through repentance by the individual and
> forgiveness by God, and though envisioning Jesus as enshrined in
> Heaven, and in most variants as destined to return to judge the world
> in the Last Days (some more conservative variants still retained the
> idea of God as the Last Judge, which Jesus himself had presumably
> taught), not regarding Jesus himself as material to salvation.
> Salvation in this view is from God's mercy, and is based on avoiding
> sins and as doing good works, according to the Law (or its Second
> Table, which is the only part of it that Jesus is reported as directly
> affirming). This group of beliefs is also conservative in reinstating
> Johannine baptism essentially in its original meaning: a symbol of the
> purification of the individual through his repentance and the receipt
> of God's forgiveness, and thus, at least at that moment, a effectively
> (2) Beta, which rejects everything Jesus did or said in his lifetime,
> and focuses exclusively on his death, which is seen as vicariously
> atoning for all sins, everywhere. This is the Suffering Servant
> paradigm, based on the readiness of Abraham (the true Jewish
> patriarch) to sacrifice his beloved son, and from certain passages in
> Isaiah. Salvation, in the Beta view, is simply from belief in the fact
> of Jesus's atoning death. Like Alpha, Beta occurs in many varieties.
> One of them sees baptism not as symbolic of purification (the "water"
> concept of baptism), but as symbolic of participation in Jesus's death
> and resurrection (the "blood" concept of baptism, found in Paul).
> There will be a special session on Alpha Christianity at SBL this
> November. Participants will have access to an otherwise unlinked web
> page. For any who may be interested in contributing to the discussion,
> either before or after SBL, I will give that URL here, though with the
> wish that it not be widely shared. It is:
of F. C. Grant (one of my teachers in graduate school) for your
reference there led me to the text from one of his books, which I have
not read "in years" - it was a great pleasure to "renew the
acquaintance," which reminded me of many happy memories of my courses
and conversations with him. He was a terrible lecturer (so much so that
the first year students had rebelled against his teaching their required
course in "Intro To The NT" [he exemplified the worst attributes of
"reading a paper" - dull, boring monotone! -and Chris Becker had
replaced him in my first year year there; ;happily all of my courses
with him were seminars so it was fairly easy to divert him from his
"prepared remarks" by asking a question - his "off the cuff" comments
and reminiscences were "pure gold" and both a pleasure and most
instructive for he owned a wealth of information! I remember one day he
was reminded of a letter he had just received (from C. H. Dodd), which
he proceeded to pull out of a pocket and read to us! At his retirement
dinner [happily W. D. Davies replaced him!] I had the good fortune to
sit next to M. S. Enslin, who was again a "fund of learning"! Sop
"thanks for the memories"! I did really enjoy revisiting my past, which
your posting triggered! Hopefully, I will see you at national SBL this
P.S. Well, a scholarly comment or two about your proposed
reconstruction of the history of earliest Christianity -
1) that such a group as you proposed might well have
existed but the issue is whether there was any impact on subsequent
"history of Christianity." The first problem is that call them
"Christian" is problematic at best and I doubt that even "Jewish
Christianity" (which might apply to James' group in Jerusalem, although
I am currently playing around with the thought that even there
"Christian Judaism" might be be apt) applies for they remained simply a
group of "believing Jews" (who would have seen Jesus as their "prophet"
... not "lord," which seems to have become used among the Diaspora Jews
which is clearly a later stage), believing in the teachings
of their prophet Jesus. Granted part of my comment here is based upon
my own conviction that the proper category for the "historical Jesus"
(including his own self-perception) was prophet but one operating within
a matrix of some version of apocalyptic eschatology - whether or not he
simply repeated (by extending up into the Galilee) in itself merits
further reflection, for while he might well have seen John as "prophet
to Judah" and thus he might well have seen himself as "Elisha to John's
Elijah" (!!!), taking on the task of calling Israel to repentance and
preparation for the coming "kingdom of God" (brought about by the
parousia of that "heavenly man" who would lead the "hosts of the
heavens" [likely Michael, a la Daniel 12. a passage all too often simply
ignored in favor of Daniel 7, which really is a "red herring"]. That
there was a group of Jews in the Galilee who had accepted Jesus' gospel
and teachings about Torah is entirely possible but perhaps simply
irrelevant in helping us understand future developments since it would
appear that the root of all future historical (and literary)
developments rests upon understandings beyond this "simple gospel."
2) A further confession, perhaps, requires me to
admit that in the above I find "the gospel" (meaning "the death and
resurrection of Jesus") the identifying marker that merits using the
category of "Christian," which is not only what we find in Paul's
letters but there Paul also claims that on this issue he is "at one"
with Peter and James and John, i.e. thereby claiming solidarity with all
"the other apostles," as he understood them (and himself). Still, I do
not think that "the person of Jesus" is the main theme to be followed
(or even your focus on soteriology) since the major ideological
framework within which all early versions of Christianity operated was
rather eschatology. Yes, I am here quoting myself in a paper presented
to SBL some years ago (which did not precipitate any interest ... or
even objection ... just a great big empty thud ... or hollow sound! ...
except for one graduate student!); actually, this is a long-standing
issue I have had with "the guild" for while everyone agrees about the
importance of eschatology I can not think of a single scholar who has
used that as the basis for coming to grips with all the issues you
raise; as part of this unhappy situation I also note a lack of creating
a a theoretical taxonomy which would provide us a matrix to use in
understanding the differences among those early Christians as basically
a disagreement as to which eschatology schema should be used to
understand themselves and the events of their times.
3) Finally, our problem in understanding earliest
Christianity rests upon not just a reconstruction of "the real Paul"
[discovered primarily through his letters] and "the real Jesus" but also
"the real Peter" (who seems to have been embraced in Antioch as their
"apostle" and source of their traditions of faith and practice) and "the
real james" (whom the "heretical" Ebionites claimed as the source of
their "variant" of Christianity) ... hmmm, which prompts me to ponder if
the term "Jewish Christianity" is indeed useful, to describe those forms
of faith and practice which at least tolerated Christians who continued
to practice Torah as part of their definition of what it meant to be
"righteous" ... and "Christian Judaism" to describe those who were
convinced that "doing Torah" was a necessary if not sufficient basis
for "being saved" (into the New Age ... not into the heavens), as seems
to have been James position in Jerusalem; if so, then we need a new term
to describe your group of Galilean folks, whom many now call simply "the
Jesus people" or the "Jesuine Jews," which perhaps needs to be
considered more seriously (???).
In conclusion, my comments above indicate how your
continued postings have stirred up my juices to consider again old
problems, issues and question and for this I offer my thanks.
- Jeff Peterson wrote:
> ..... Your "ordinary follower of Jesus" wouldJeff,
> have found it just as difficult to believe that while the Pillars didn't
> understand how followers of Jesus should conduct themselves at table, Paul
What I'm trying to say here is that one can accept a hero who has minor
flaws, such as the earnest but fallible Peter who emerges from a casual
reading of the gospel of Mark. But a follower of Jesus can't accept a hero
who is fundamentally on the wrong track christologically. So Paul could not
have portrayed Peter in this way without upsetting many of his Galatian
> I think the reality described by 1:11 is more complex than Paul having had aJames and Peter were expecting the kingdom of God to come with power
> visionary experience which included a command to "Preach this," with a list
> of propositions appended. Rather, as persecutor he had already heard what
> Jesus' followers were proclaiming about him (viz., the crucified Messiah had
> been raised and enthroned with God, inaugurating the age of deliverance
> promised in Scripture) .....
(Mk 9:1, derived from logia saying C12), i.e. the overthrow of the Roman
occupiers and the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. This clearly
hadn't happened when Paul came on the scene. Paul's supporter, Mark, had to
replace the hopes of the original disciples for the establishment of a new
Israel (saying C21, c.f. Mt 19:28) with a reward in the life to come (Mk
10:29-30). This echoed Paul's promise of eternal life (e.g. Rom 6:22-23).
The idea that the kingdom had been inaugurated by the coming of Jesus arose
after the deaths of the original disciples when it began to look as if the
return of Jesus was delayed and might be delayed a lot longer.
> Your last sentence [regarding the ability or otherwise of the Galatians toTravel was indeed facilitated by the Pax Romana, and also by the widespread
> check Paul's claims] neglects the extent of travel in the early Empire, and
> the use made of this mobility to connect early Christian communities;
> ..... We know that Paul organized Corinthians and Macedonians for an
> embassy to Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:34; 2 Cor 9:4),
Roman roads. But it was still slow. Your example above concerns a journey
which Paul regarded as most important. Travelling several days merely to
check on the truthfulness or otherwise of Paul's assertions in Galatians
would have been a lot less palatable.
> It was very shortsighted of Paul to maintain that he and the Pillars agreedBut as I indicated earlier in this thread, I don't think Paul claimed that
> on the gospel if contact with their followers was a real possibility for his
> converts, and if the reaction of a Jerusalem Christian to an acclamation
> like "Praise be to the God and Father of our crucified Messiah Jesus, who
> raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand" would have been,
> "Come again?"
the pillars agreed on the gospel.
> ..... Peter and theI don't see 9:9 or 14:9 as indicating eventual enlightenment.
> other disciples are depicted as uncomprehending regarding Jesus' impending
> death and resurrection during his ministry, but their eventual enlightenment
> and proclamation of these events is clearly anticipated (9:9; 13:913; 14:9,
> 2728; 16:7).
As for 14:28 and 16:7, I take these verses as early interpolations designed
to rehabilitate Peter. They are quite inconsistent with the rest of the
> In historical terms, once Jesus is executed, a Christology like thatI agree. But my understanding of what transpired is that James, Peter et al.
> ascribed to Peter in 8:2733 becomes untenable .....
changed to a 'Son of Man' christology (see my reconstruction of the logia),
Paul faced up to the inconsistency by glorying in the crucifixion (e.g. 1
Cor 1:23 : "we proclaim Christ crucified"), but playing down the belief in
Jesus as messiah by (for the most part) using "Christ" merely as a sort of