Re: [Synoptic-L] Christological Peculiarities
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Leonard
On: The Church
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
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
- 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