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Aphorisms

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Ron On: Aphorisms From: Bruce Ron disputes the niceness of his set of Sayings, and denies an intention to make them so. The Q
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 4, 2012
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Ron
      On: Aphorisms
      From: Bruce

      Ron disputes the niceness of his set of Sayings, and denies an intention to
      make them so. The Q cluster, by any other name and in any version of which I
      am aware, including Ron's, does indeed contain some hard stuff. It also
      contains some nice stuff, and empirical research could probably establish
      that it is the latter which overwhelmingly occupies the attention of Q
      proponents and their converts. But let's take a more nuanced view. Here
      goes.

      RON: RON: What nonsense. There is nothing inherent in the aphoristic style
      which makes their content "nice".

      BRUCE: As a principle of selection, I am afraid there is. (1) Restriction to
      sayings and exclusion of actions wipes out, in advance of any determination
      about their value, any hints of what Jesus may have DONE, and most
      critically, anything he did that led to his death. This is already a
      distortion; a limitation of what one is willing to hear about. It eliminates
      the Messiah figure in favor of the Preacher figure. (2) Among sayings, some
      of which in Mark (but not in Q) are directly Davidic, the aphorisms tend to
      be wisdom talk, able to be received as detached and nonsituational. That's
      two selection principles so far, and for me, it's two too many.

      But the Q net, or anyway the sorting principle with which classical Q
      proponents start, does indeed bring in some strange fish. We might consider
      some of the less nice of the Q sayings (limiting ourselves to those in Ron's
      smaller set), and see what their Jesus credentials might be, since that is
      their claim on our attention.

      (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
      than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.

      Comment: This is an extreme legalism, which the Markan Jesus would seem to
      have consistently opposed. Jesus in practice ignored many of the
      conventional pieties, and he also disputed Moses' rule on divorce. Not
      credibly Jesuine; rather, characteristically Matthean.

      (B10) Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?
      I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
      For I have come to set son against father,
      and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her
      mother-in-law.

      Comment: Likely reflects the difficulties of the early Church, when families
      were denouncing each other to Paul or the later Roman murderers. The logic
      of it is this: If Jesus can be seen as predicting my troubles, then by
      definition, my troubles are somehow OK. This is something practical to tell
      to the suffering faithful (those who visit the sick in our time will know
      what I mean), but the sufferings here described are likely those of the
      posthumous Christian period. There is no hint in Mark of any reprisals upon,
      or even any danger to, those who follow and believe Jesus (only to Jesus
      himself). That stuff came later. Not plausible, then, as an original remark
      of Jesus.

      (C12) Truly I tell you, among those standing here there are some who will
      not taste death
      before they see the kingdom of God come with power.

      Comment: Unfortunately, this did not come about, a fact on which the
      commentators do not greatly dwell. Did Jesus say it and was he mistaken? I
      am quite ready to discover a Jesus who made mistakes, and Mark shows a
      number of those mistakes. But this saying too is typologically an
      encouragement to the later faithful, a renewal of an earlier guarantee that
      seemed not to have been honored (hence the emphatic, Amen, I tell you). What
      is the probable date of this, in terms of Years After Jesus? The promise is
      that not everyone in the present generation will die before the promised
      Return occurs. Then some have already died, raising the doubt which this
      saying is meant to dispel. I don't have actuarial figures for probable rates
      of death in the cohort of Jesus followers, nor do I know their median ages
      or their number. But I would guess we are somewhere at least 10 years out
      from the death of Jesus. Then not plausibly Jesuine.

      (C21) Truly I tell you, when God's kingdom comes,
      and the Son of Man is seated on his glorious throne,
      you who have followed me will likewise sit on twelve thrones,
      judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

      Comment: see above, and note again the emphatic reassurance, the Amen. A
      specific promise to specific individuals. Where is the fulfillment? Answer:
      Nowhere. This is then another consoling or encouraging remark, made in times
      of seeming adversity, which the near future is expected to redeem. Only (and
      I think we need to face this), it didn't. Is it out of the question that
      Jesus himself might have been mistaken? On the contrary. But this and the
      preceding have the same character, and the structure of the Markan version
      of the preceding shows that at least one comment of this type is late in the
      Markan tradition. If late, then presumptively inauthentic.

      (D114) Keep awake, then, for you do not know on what day your master is
      coming.
      Be sure of this: if the householder had known at what time of night the
      thief was coming,
      he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.
      So you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do
      not expect.

      Comment: At some point (and that point can be localized, if one wants to
      consider the evidence), the shepherds of the post-Jesus flock ceased making
      time-specific promises, for obvious reasons including the repeated failure
      of those promises, and confined themselves to more general counsels of
      readiness, like this one. I understand the tactic, but it is a tactic which
      is most intelligible in the post-Jesus years. In this case, most likely the
      rather late post-Jesus years.

      ----------------

      In short, all of these are intelligible as arising in the later history of
      the church, and as highly relevant to the situation of that church. Since
      (for the most part) they turn up in what are demonstrably the Second Tier
      Gospels, and since one likely motive for the writing of Second Tier Gospels
      in the first place is precisely to address previously unexperienced
      difficulties, or to give new and more convincing answers to old but still
      unsolved problems, the presumption for anything in those Gospels, whether
      rewritten from Mark or newly invented, is that it arises for reasons rooted
      in the experience of the later church. That's the presumption, which seems
      to me to be fulfilled in the above samples.

      The Second Tier Gospels are not exclusively Nice territory (they only become
      so when selectively read); they are also cursing territory. Luke curses the
      rich, Matthew curses the Galileans, thus vacating the entire tradition of
      Jesus's preaching. And by the way, why the latter, which is verbally
      identical in Mt = Lk and thus a prime Q candidate, is not in Ron's
      collection, I cannot guess. Perhaps he can enlighten us.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • David Mealand
      (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped. Comment by Bruce: This is an extreme legalism
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 4, 2012
        (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
        than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.

        Comment by Bruce: This is an extreme legalism

        Reply: Might that not depend on the tone of voice used
        when spoken? Could that possibly have been one of
        exasperation?


        David M.


        ---------
        David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


        --
        The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
        Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
      • Dennis Goffin
        Is it not true also that by the time of Jesus, the Torah was held in such high esteem that the Law was considered to have existed from before the Creation.
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 4, 2012
          Is it not true also that by the time of Jesus, the Torah was held in such high esteem that the Law was considered to have existed from before the Creation. Given that the physical universe was also expected to be destroyed in some circumstances, it is not a difficult thing for a Jew to make such a statement of belief at this juncture in the religious development of Judaism.
          Dennis
          ---------------------

          Dennis Goffin

          Chorleywood UK

          To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
          From: D.Mealand@...
          Date: Sat, 4 Feb 2012 18:40:44 +0000
          Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Aphorisms & tone of voice






























          (A4). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away

          than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.



          Comment by Bruce: This is an extreme legalism



          Reply: Might that not depend on the tone of voice used

          when spoken? Could that possibly have been one of

          exasperation?



          David M.



          ---------

          David Mealand, University of Edinburgh



          --

          The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in

          Scotland, with registration number SC005336.


















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