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Re: [Synoptic-L] Christological Peculiarities

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Leonard On: The Church From: Bruce I had objected to the general use of the singular term the church for the variety of
    Message 1 of 36 , Sep 29, 2010
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Leonard
      On: The Church
      From: Bruce

      I had objected to the general use of the singular term "the church"
      for the variety of belief and practice which may have characterized
      the early years of the Jesus movement, as imposing on it a conceptual
      and organizational unity which remain to be proved for the period in
      question, and for which the earliest positive organizational evidence
      seems to be in the late 1c.

      BRUCE [then] . . . Jesus (by earliest accounts, not contradicted in
      this sense by later accounts) preached here and there, establishing
      groups of believers but not enrolling
      them in a single organized enterprise. Paul ditto, though on a larger
      and more metropolitan scale. There was no large organization which
      added unto itself new groups of converts as they were converted.

      LEONARD: Bruce, you seem not to take into account here a usage such as
      that found in I Cor 12:28. Though by far the more common usage of
      EKKLESIA in the Pauline letters is one in which the term refers to a
      local community, or local communities of Christians, . . .

      BRUCE [now]: Let us pause a moment to let that true statement sink in.
      The basic "church" for Paul was something with a specific locality,
      and a specific membership, meeting in the house of someone personally
      known to him. That is the basic Pauline fact.

      LEONARD: . . . it does seem that Paul could use the term also, and
      without need for excessive explanation, in a much more global and
      unified sense. Of course this does not imply the levels of
      organization to which you refer, and which evolved only later in the
      1st, and through much of the second century. But it does seem to me to
      justify the use of the term in this more global sense to which you
      object above, no?

      BRUCE: 1 Cor 12:28 is not, as far as I know, plausibly argued as an
      interpolation, and thus may be taken as belonging to 1 Cor, the date
      of which is 55. Jesus died in 30. So our example occurs exactly one
      human generation after the preaching of Jesus, and toward the end of
      the preaching of Paul. It is a late statement, and thus can only be
      evidence for a late situation.

      What is that situation? 1 Cor 12 is an extended member of the members
      of the body, not an image for many local churches as parts of a larger
      organization, but as an image of people in the same church but with
      different gifts and thus different contributions (Spirit, tongues,
      miracles . . .). He argues that all are valid, and all, however
      humble, are part of the whole. The whole what? I should think: the
      whole community.

      1 Cor 12:28 takes a somewhat distinctive tack, but still not an
      organizational tack. It refers not to institutions but to authority as
      such. It begins with apostles, continuing with [non-apostolic]
      prophets, that is, persons speaking with the Spirit in this or that
      local church, then healings ditto), helps ditto), governments (local
      administration, probably including care of widows etc), and tongues
      [individuals in one or another local church]. There is thus no one
      local doctrinal authority, and the hierarchy for doctrine begins with
      the apostles, and runs next to locally inspired persons (Paul was
      still stuck with the ecstatic community, which would eventually prove
      so wild that another kind of governance needed to be imposed on it).

      I don't see here any sense of a single entity embracing all believers,
      or even of a doctrinal authority which overrides the utterances of a
      local "spiritual" person. I also note the frequent evidence, in this
      and all the other letters of Paul, and for that matter in the
      deutero-Pauline and the pseudo-Petrine literatures, of continual and
      sometimes bitter doctrinal differences within any one local church.
      There was thus, on this direct evidence, neither organizational nor
      doctrinal unity across the spectrum of the various convert
      congregations and cell groups of Jesus followers. Quite the contrary.

      It is this lively and (if we may trust Paul for a moment) largely
      uncontrolled diversity -- Paul hismelf seems to have been unable to
      control it - that a singular noun like "the church" tends to deny and
      to obscure. This is why I recommend that it not be used for the early
      period. It can be used as soon as the evidence for local, and then
      subsequently for translocal, authority structures allows. That period
      is not the first generation after Jesus.

      LEONARD: Certainly by the time of the deutero-Paulines this meaning is
      well established and more frequently encountered; but it is not a pure
      invention of that time.

      BRUCE: It is not an invention out of nothing, and hence not "pure,"
      but almost no inventions are out of nothing, so this proves little. It
      seems proper to say that it is a *development* of that time, that is,
      a post-Pauline development. How much post? I would suppose that this
      depends on things like the date of the Pastorals, which are not the
      most firmly understood part of the repertoire. That they are
      Deuteropauline, I think no reasonable person doubts. But there may be
      more than one "Deuteropauline." Goodspeed found, in effect, that the
      Pastorals do not belong to the same, so to speak, stemma as Colossians
      and Ephesians, and what little I know does not contradict that. It
      suggests, on the contrary, that we have here a separate, but also
      post-Pauline, development, which needs its own dating argument, and
      its own filiation statement. I don't propose to supply that argument
      here (anyone who has a good one is invited to share it), but we are at
      minimum well into the last third of the 1c, and more than one
      generation after Jesus.

      That these developments are best not retrojected into the time of
      Jesus, or the years immediately following his death, I still take as
      methodologically obvious. And venture to recommend accordingly.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Ronald Price
      ... Jeff, 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
      Message 36 of 36 , Oct 3, 2010
        Jeff Peterson wrote:

        > ..... Your "ordinary follower of Jesus" would
        > 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
        > did;


        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 a
        > 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) .....

        James and Peter were expecting the kingdom of God to come with power
        (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 to
        > 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 16:3–4; 2 Cor 9:4),

        Travel was indeed facilitated by the Pax Romana, and also by the widespread
        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 agreed
        > 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?"

        But as I indicated earlier in this thread, I don't think Paul claimed that
        the pillars agreed on the gospel.

        > ..... Peter and the
        > 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; 13:9–13; 14:9,
        > 27–28; 16:7).

        I don't see 9:9 or 14:9 as indicating eventual enlightenment.
        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 that
        > ascribed to Peter in 8:27–33 becomes untenable .....

        I agree. But my understanding of what transpired is that James, Peter et al.
        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

        Ron Price

        Derbyshire, UK

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