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The Canny Steward (Lk 16:1-13)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG On: The Canny Steward (Lk 16:1-13) From: Bruce My eye happened to fall, recently, on the exclusively Lukan Story of the Canny Steward. It
    Message 1 of 11 , Jun 27, 2006
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      On: The Canny Steward (Lk 16:1-13)
      From: Bruce

      My eye happened to fall, recently, on the exclusively Lukan Story of the
      Canny Steward. It seems that commentators have labored, from one end of the
      20c to the other, to make appropriate sense of this segment, and on the
      whole have failed. They confess their failure by using words like
      "difficult" or by acknowledging that some prior exegesis, though mending a
      line, leaves the story as a whole without point. That the Canny Steward is
      one of a group of stories in Lk 15-16, everybody is certain. What this fact
      does to make sense of the Canny Steward story is not all that certain.

      When something like this happens, there are many possibilities, among them
      these two: (1) It is a genuine early story, but Christianity has since
      evolved in quite different directions, and no longer has a feel for its
      message; or, contrariwise, (2) It is not a Christian story at all, but one
      adapted from outside Christian tradition, and shows the strain of a not very
      successful adaptation. Suppose we have narrowed the possible answers down to
      these two. How do we decide between them? It would obviously help, in
      evaluating the second possibility, if one knew what the "outside traditions"
      of the time were likely to have contained. As far as the commentary
      literature available to me suggests, this does not seem to be the approach
      taken by the NT field. The OT people, as I gather from dipping slightly into
      their writings, would not dream of speaking with authority about the Psalms
      unless they were decently cognizant of the parallel Ugaritic material, but
      decade seems to succeed decade on the NT side of the fence without any
      comparable sense of urgency toward Babylon. I can't think why.

      The tale of the Canny Steward is a tale of commercial cunning, not of
      spiritual aspiration. It uses dishonesty (falsifying the master's contracts,
      in favor of his debtors) as a means of worldly success (providing future
      friends for one who is presently to be in need of friends). Particularly if
      considered together with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Servants (which
      admonishes the hearer to be zealous, not devious, in his master's commercial
      interests), this story (which praises a servant for betraying his master's
      commercial interests) is a hard nut to crack. The end of the story as it
      appears in Lk (16:8b-9) advises the hearers to "make friends for yourselves
      by means of unrighteous Mammon, so that when it fails, they may receive you
      into the eternal habitations." The part about "eternal habitations" is a non
      sequitur, and merely exacerbates the problem. It is further exacerbated by
      the immediately following paragraph (16:10-13), which states as a general
      principle that "no man can serve two masters," thus deepening the
      difficulty, since the steward is clearly looking out for his own interest,
      with his Mammon manipulations, and indeed not serving his master. We need a
      story in which, despite appearances, the servant is indeed serving his
      master by what he does.

      The story proper probably ended with 16:8a, "The master commended the
      dishonest steward for his shrewdness." The problem is really here. Why did
      the master commend the dishonest steward for what amounted to his
      dishonesty, coming on top of previous peccadilloes sufficient to bring about
      his dismissal by his master? If we ignore the struggles of the ensuing
      material (18:8b-13) to make Christian sense of the steward's business
      smarts, and simply ask: Within the tale proper, why did the master commend
      the steward? we may perhaps be on the way to an understanding.

      But only (I would suggest, to the Rector of the local seminary, if there
      were a local seminary, but I haven't time just now to start raising money to
      found a local seminary) if we know a little bit about the Babylon, or
      commercial, ethos of the time.

      This particular tale is old in the commercially connected East. In all
      probability it had its roots in the commercial sector itself, and the
      Eastern commercial sector is not at all well documented. But something very
      like this tale does turn up, and possessing the properties just stated to be
      the prerequisite for an intelligible reading of it, as one segment of a much
      longer Chinese story of early Empire date. The story itself may well be
      pre-Imperial, meaning, mid or late 03c. It was thus in all probability not
      copied from Lk, but more likely, the directionality ran the other way.

      THE CHINESE ORIGINAL (WITHIN A LARGER STORY)

      Should I type out the whole thing? No, it would exceed six lines, and
      anyway, it is widely available (Crump, Chan-kuo Ts'e, Michigan 1996, 195f).
      Here is just the part that encapsulates the segment in question. Fvng Syang,
      I should say, is a good-for-nothing swordsman who has been taken on as a
      retainer by the magnate Lord Mvng-chang, and so far has never proved his
      worth by accomplishing any notable exploit for his lord. [Chinese readers of
      tales love tales in which the unsuspectedly skillful person gets a chance,
      in a crisis, to show his hidden stuff; this tale belongs to that genre].

      "Later on, Lord Mvng-chang wrote out a notice asking his retainers, "Who
      among you can keep accounts, and will collect the sums owed me from my fief
      of Sywe?" Fvng Sywaen sent in an answer, saying "I can." Lord Mvng-chang was
      curious, and asked who this was. His attendants told him it was the one who
      had sung the song [of his discontent about his treatment by Lord Mvng-chang]
      to his longsword. Lord Mvng-chang said, "So after all, he has some
      abilities, but I have neglected him and never given him an audience." So
      Lord Mvng-chang received Fvng Sywaen and apologized to him, saying, "I have
      been so burdened with business and distracted by troubles that my
      sensibilities have been dulled. Being immersed in affairs of state, I have
      wronged you, and yet you take no offense, and are willing to collect debts
      for me in Sywe?" Fvng Sywaen said, "I am."

      "When Fvng Sywaen had made ready his attire and loaded the debt tallies into
      his chariot, he took formal leave of Lord Mvng-chang. He asked, "When the
      debts have been collected, is there anything I can do for you on my return?"
      Lord Mvng-chang said, "If you see something that my house lacks, buy it."

      "Fvng Sywaen hastened to Sywe and sent out an officer summoning the debtors
      to come and match their tallies. When all had been matched, Fvng Sywaen
      produced a forged order from Lord Mvng-chang, that all debts were to be
      forgiven. The tallies were accordingly burned, and the people all cheered."

      "Fvng Sywaen then hastened back to Chi without pausing. He arrived in the
      early morning, and sought an audience. Lord Mvng-chang, surprised at how
      soon he had returned, put on his formal robes and admitted Fvng Syang to his
      presence. He asked, "Why have you returned so soon? Have all the debts been
      collected?" Fvng Sywaen replied, "They have." Lord Mvng-chang then asked,
      "And what did you purchase for me on your return?"

      "Fvng Sywaen said, "My lord asked me to see if there was anything his house
      lacked. It was my humble opinion that his castle was filled with precious
      objects, his stables and kennels abounded in steeds and coursers, and the
      lower palace was filled with beautiful women. It seemed that only one thing
      was lacking, and that was loyalty. This I have purchased."

      "Lord Mvng-chang said, "How can one buy loyalty?"

      "Fvng Sywaen replied, "At the moment the Lord holds the small fief of Sywe,
      but does not cherish its people as his own children, but looks on them only
      as a source of profit. His servant took it upon himself to forge an order
      from the Lord, that all debts were to be forgiven the people of Sywe. The
      tallies were burned, and the people cheered their Lord. This is how his
      servant has purchased loyalty."

      "The Lord was displeased, and said, "Very well. You may go now."

      "A year later, the new King of Chi informed Lord Mvng-chang that he dared no
      longer to retain a minister of the previous King, and Lord Mvng-chang had to
      return to govern his own fief of Sywe. When he was still a hundred leagues
      from the city of Sywe, its people, the young supporting the old, and parents
      holding their children by the hand, came out to welcome their Lord in
      mid-journey. Lord Mvng-chang turned to Fvng Sywaen, and said, "I now see how
      you purchased loyalty for me."

      INTERPRETATION

      This is not the original form, but it is probably nearer to it, and the
      story here is clearer; not tangled up in itself as in Luke's version. The
      servant earns his Lord's disapproval, not for unspecified previous
      shortcomings, but precisely for his conduct in forgiving the debts. The Lord
      later admits the wisdom of what had at first seemed to be a
      counterintuitive, and certainly an uncommercial, action.

      Is forgiving debts a good commercial move? It seems on its face not to be,
      but both governments and banks and kings and ministers of finance have over
      the centuries found it a wise and even, in the long run, a profitable one.
      Here, then, is some surprisingly ethical advice from what we might have
      thought would be the hard-nosed and cruel commercial sector. Persons of
      ethical disposition might then take to heart the lesson that forgiveness is
      not only nicer than its opposite, it may also be, in the crassest political
      sense, better policy. Such at any rate would seem to be the commercial
      meaning of the tale which may lie behind the Fvng Sywaen political story.

      The story as Luke has picked it up, and despite his efforts, within it and
      directly following it, to turn it to some sort of ethical account, is very
      difficult to turn to ethical account. No doubt Luke had a glimmer of
      something, however, or he would not have included it in the first place.
      What that something may have been, I have tried to suggest by the above
      transcript, letting an earlier version of the story speak more or less for
      itself.

      Respectfully submitted,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      Copyright (c) 2006 by E Bruce Brooks
    • Stephen C. Carlson
      ... Thank for this Chinese parallel. A similar explanation has been done in JBL by David Landry and Ben May,
      Message 2 of 11 , Jun 27, 2006
        At 07:25 AM 6/27/2006 -0400, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
        >The story as Luke has picked it up, and despite his efforts, within it and
        >directly following it, to turn it to some sort of ethical account, is very
        >difficult to turn to ethical account. No doubt Luke had a glimmer of
        >something, however, or he would not have included it in the first place.
        >What that something may have been, I have tried to suggest by the above
        >transcript, letting an earlier version of the story speak more or less for
        >itself.

        Thank for this Chinese parallel. A similar explanation has been
        done in JBL by David Landry and Ben May, <http://personal1.stthomas.edu/dtlandry/steward.html>"Honor Restored: New Light
        on the Parable of the Prudent Steward".

        http://personal1.stthomas.edu/dtlandry/steward.html

        Stephen Carlson


        --
        Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
        Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
        Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
      • Chuck Jones
        Bruce, Thanks for introducing this parable for discussion, and especially for sharing the Eastern parallel. Something we ve discussed before in the westar
        Message 3 of 11 , Jun 27, 2006
          Bruce,

          Thanks for introducing this parable for discussion, and especially for sharing the Eastern parallel.

          Something we've discussed before in the westar (Jesus Seminar) e-group is the overall reluctance of interpreters to see Jesus condoning bad behavior.

          In the course of discussing this parable, the group mentioned the parable from Thomas 98 that goes like this: "Jesus said, The Father's kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one." This is obviously a sister parable to the-king-goes-to-war from Luke, only more gruesome in a one-on-one context.

          There are also a couple of parables in which the kingdom is compared to unpleasant circumstances: Mustard plants were fast growing weeds that tended to overrun neglected fields (like kudzu here in the Southern US), and Thomas 97 says, "The [Father's] kingdom is like a woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along] the road. She didn't know it; she hadn't noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty." The kingdom produces impressive--but negative!--results.

          We should add the feast parables, the talents, etc., which are set in the world of the (exploitative) rich, treating them as morally neutral or positive characters.

          Jesus was clearly indiscriminant as he looked around him for material for aphorisms and stories. Much of our interpretation tends to domesticate him.

          Chuck

          Rev. Chuck Jones
          Atlanta, Georgia


          BRUCE

          The tale of the Canny Steward is a tale of commercial cunning, not of
          spiritual aspiration. It uses dishonesty (falsifying the master's contracts,
          in favor of his debtors) as a means of worldly success (providing future
          friends for one who is presently to be in need of friends). Particularly if
          considered together with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Servants (which
          admonishes the hearer to be zealous, not devious, in his master's commercial
          interests), this story (which praises a servant for betraying his master's
          commercial interests) is a hard nut to crack....


          __




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        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Chuck Jones On: The Canny Steward (Lk 16:1-13) From: Bruce CHUCK: Something we ve discussed before in the westar (Jesus
          Message 4 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
            To: Synoptic
            Cc: GPG
            In Response To: Chuck Jones
            On: The Canny Steward (Lk 16:1-13)
            From: Bruce

            CHUCK: Something we've discussed before in the westar (Jesus Seminar)
            e-group is the overall reluctance of interpreters to see Jesus condoning bad
            behavior.

            BRUCE: Very probably so. But there may be subtleties in the concept "bad
            behavior," for suggestions as to which see further below.

            CHUCK: In the course of discussing this parable, the group mentioned the
            parable from Thomas 98 that goes like this: "Jesus said, The Father's
            kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at
            home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his
            hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one." This is obviously a
            sister parable to the-king-goes-to-war from Luke, only more gruesome in a
            one-on-one context.

            BRUCE: For what it may be worth, my own study of the evidence disinclines me
            to mix Thomas in with the canonical Gospels. I accept the indications that
            Thomas is later than all of them, and has drawn vaguely but detectably on at
            least the first three of them, but is not in the same tradition, the same
            Trajectory if one will, as any of them. I think Thomas represents Esoteric
            Christianity. I thus don't think it tells us anything about Jesus that we
            need to factor into any discussion of the Historical Jesus. It does tell us
            about receptivity to Jesus in a probably non-Palestinian context, which to
            me is an important subject, but still a separate one.

            CHUCK: There are also a couple of parables in which the kingdom is compared
            to unpleasant circumstances: Mustard plants were fast growing weeds that
            tended to overrun neglected fields (like kudzu here in the Southern US), . .
            .

            BRUCE: Mustard is presented positively in the parable in question (in all
            variants), and however vigorous it may be(and I hadn't heard the "weed"
            categorization), mustard was still a cash crop in those days. And perhaps
            now too, for all I know to the contrary. I thus don't think that an interpre
            tation along "undesirable circumstances" lines will hold.

            CHUCK: . . . and Thomas 97 says, "The [Father's] kingdom is like a woman who
            was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant
            road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along]
            the road. She didn't know it; she hadn't noticed a problem. When she reached
            her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty." The
            kingdom produces impressive--but negative!--results.

            BRUCE: As noted above, I think Thomas represents a different ideological
            basis, and so is not directly comparable with the canonical Gospels. So I
            will pass, on the opportunity to enter this particular line of discussion.

            CHUCK: We should add the feast parables, the talents, etc., which are set in
            the world of the (exploitative) rich, treating them as morally neutral or
            positive characters. / Jesus was clearly indiscriminant as he looked around
            him for material for aphorisms and stories. Much of our interpretation tends
            to domesticate him.

            BRUCE: As for the commercial setting of many of the parables, I should think
            that the point of a parable is to compare something that is hard to
            understand (say, the Kingdom) with something that the hearer already
            understands (as it might be, the growing of mustard plants or the herding of
            wayward sheep or catching of elusive fish or the management of a large
            farm). The tone of many of these parables, as it seems to me, is, "You know
            how to interpret the weather omens in the sky, and how to deal with your
            employees, but you don't extend that understanding to reading the portents
            of the Kingdom, or the management of your spiritual resources, which is all
            that you will have when the Kingdom comes."

            The message of these comparisons is not to go out and behave like the
            comparand (as, to buy a boat or a farm or a tax franchise), but to transfer
            your understanding of it to the new thing being discussed.

            Beyond that, it seems to be the witness of the whole Synoptic record that,
            unlike the ascetics of which John the Baptist is the best documented
            example, Jesus moved by choice in the impure zone of fishing and selling
            fish, of making and investing money, of partnerships in the ownership of a
            boat and of task assignment in the stewardship of an estate. He did not
            adopt the policy of denouncing fishing (or tax collecting) as impure or
            sullied or wrong. Instead, he wanted the fishermen and the tax collectors to
            use their knowledge of their craft in understanding the purpose to which he
            wished to direct their attention; as a means of understanding something
            better than fishing or tax collecting - better than family, if it should
            come to that, and it did come to that.

            Does Jesus denounce wealth? Not as I read the record in general. He does
            recommend transferring the account to a safer bank.

            The parables, as I read them, are not exempla, they are rather a means of
            convincement by similitude, starting where people are, and with what they
            understanding, and trying to take them a step further.

            Not that all of them are genuine, not by a long shot. But the ones which, in
            my best current judgement, are likely to be the earliest, the least removed
            and reconfigured from what might actually have happened, seem to be
            describable in something like this way.

            Not of course guaranteed. But in the marketplace of ideas about the
            parables, this would be what is on offer at my booth. At least until a
            shipment of something better comes in (and our people in R&D are continually
            working on that).

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • Loren Rosson
            ... Certainly Jesus and all gospel writers present the mustard shrub as something positive, in the same way they present leaven positively, though everyone
            Message 5 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
              Chuck wrote:

              >There are also a couple of parables in which the
              >kingdom is compared to unpleasant circumstances:
              >Mustard plants were fast growing weeds that
              >tended to overrun
              >neglected fields (like kudzu here in the Southern US)

              Bruce responded:

              >Mustard is presented positively in the parable in
              >question (in all variants), and however vigorous
              >it may be (and I hadn't heard the "weed"
              >categorization), mustard was still a cash
              >crop in those days. And perhaps
              >now too, for all I know to the contrary. I thus
              >don't think that an interpretation along
              >"undesirable circumstances" lines will hold.

              Certainly Jesus and all gospel writers present the
              mustard shrub as something positive, in the same way
              they present leaven positively, though everyone knew
              leaven was actually a metaphor for moral corruption
              (Exod. 12:15-19; Gal 5:9, I Cor 5:6). I believe it was
              Doug Oakman who first suggested that Jesus thought of
              the kingdom like a weed on account of how outsiders
              perceived the movement, and I've always thought that a
              good way of putting it.

              One way the inappropriateness of the mustard-metaphor
              becomes plain is to watch how the gospel writers tried
              sanitizing it (on which see, especially, Brandon
              Scott's book on the parables, _Hear The the Parable_).
              In Mark's version the mustard seed becomes "the
              greatest of shrubs"; in Matthew it grows into "the
              greatest of shrubs" and then "a tree"; in Luke it
              grows right into "a tree"; and in Thomas it ends in "a
              great plant". Matthew and Luke's versions are wrong (a
              mustard shrub isn't a tree) and reflect later attempts
              to reclaim the appropriate metaphor for the kingdom,
              the cedar of Lebanon (Ezek 17:22-24, 31:5-6; Dan
              4:10-12; Ps 104:10-17). Note that the Farrer theory
              makes good sense of the movement here: the myth
              originally undermined by Jesus (in Mark) becomes
              gradually reclaimed (halfway by Matthew, completely by
              Luke). On the two-source theory, we're stuck with
              "tree" in the earliest source (Luke/Q) (which is what
              Scott thinks), and that's problematic.

              The mustard shrub, as I see it, makes the point that
              the kingdom will meet grandiose expectations in
              surprising ways -- the "reversal of fortunes" manner
              characteristic of apocalyptic movements. This is Bill
              Herzog's commentary (which would seem largely
              compatible with what Chuck is getting at). Aside from
              Herzog's attempt to marginalize apocalyptic dimensions
              to the parable, I think it's near spot-on:

              "Once sown, it spreads like a weed, causing havoc on
              the ordered garden of the land. It also throws purity
              boundaries into confusion precisely because it spreads
              indiscriminately, thereby violating the prohibition
              against planting two kinds of seed in the same field
              (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9). The mustard shrub becomes an
              agent of confusion and source of uncleanliness. The
              goal of sowing is not to turn it into something it
              isn't (a tree) but to maximize what it is (a
              ubiquitous shrub), a force to be reckoned with. Like
              the land itself, the purpose of the shrub is to
              provide for others, the birds of the air." (_Jesus,
              Justice, and the Reign of God_, p 206)

              Loren Rosson III
              Nashua NH
              http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/

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            • Ron Price
              ... Loren, Matthew s the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree looks to me (and I m sure to lots of other observers) like Matthew s somewhat clumsy attempt
              Message 6 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
                Loren Rosson wrote:

                > In Mark's version the mustard seed becomes "the
                > greatest of shrubs"; in Matthew it grows into "the
                > greatest of shrubs" and then "a tree"; in Luke it
                > grows right into "a tree" .......

                Loren,

                Matthew's "the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree" looks to me (and I'm
                sure to lots of other observers) like Matthew's somewhat clumsy attempt to
                assimilate his two sources: a sayings source which had "tree" and Mark which
                had "the greatest of all shrubs".

                > Matthew and Luke's versions are wrong (a
                > mustard shrub isn't a tree) ...

                Nor is it possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
                Shouldn't we make allowances for Jesus' liking for hyperbole?

                > ... and reflect later attempts
                > to reclaim the appropriate metaphor for the kingdom,
                > the cedar of Lebanon (Ezek 17:22-24, 31:5-6; Dan
                > 4:10-12; Ps 104:10-17)

                But the kingdom of God was central to Jesus' teaching. Why should we not
                suppose that Jesus himself, as well as using hyperbole, may have been
                alluding to such metaphors for the kingdom?

                Ron Price

                Derbyshire, UK

                Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
              • Chuck Jones
                Bruce, I have read the Landry-May article Stephen Carlson refered to yesterday and am quite persuaded by it. The honor/shame interpretation of the parable is
                Message 7 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
                  Bruce,

                  I have read the Landry-May article Stephen Carlson refered to yesterday and am quite persuaded by it. The honor/shame interpretation of the parable is far and away the most sensible and elegant I've ever read. So, here are a couple of thoughts related to other aspects of my post and your response.

                  First, I possibly should have mentioned that the two Thomas passages I cited are two of a very small number (3 or 4?) of exclusively Th passages considered by the JS to be authentic. (Another is the aphorism, "Be passersby.") I agree with your overall comments about the relative value of Th for understanding Jesus.

                  Second, in the paragraphs from you I've left snipped below, you and I end up at the same place--or rather you do a very good job of articulating what I was trying to get at in my post, even if some of my specific examples may have fallen short. And you make an additional point with which I heartily concur---that Jesus' lifestyle was far from "Sunday School" behavior. He was a scandalous and shocking guy.

                  thanks,

                  Chuck

                  Rev. Chuck Jones
                  Atlanta, Georgia


                  BRUCE: As for the commercial setting of many of the parables, I should think
                  that the point of a parable is to compare something that is hard to
                  understand (say, the Kingdom) with something that the hearer already
                  understands (as it might be, the growing of mustard plants or the herding of
                  wayward sheep or catching of elusive fish or the management of a large
                  farm). The tone of many of these parables, as it seems to me, is, "You know
                  how to interpret the weather omens in the sky, and how to deal with your
                  employees, but you don't extend that understanding to reading the portents
                  of the Kingdom, or the management of your spiritual resources, which is all
                  that you will have when the Kingdom comes."

                  The message of these comparisons is not to go out and behave like the
                  comparand (as, to buy a boat or a farm or a tax franchise), but to transfer
                  your understanding of it to the new thing being discussed.

                  Beyond that, it seems to be the witness of the whole Synoptic record that,
                  unlike the ascetics of which John the Baptist is the best documented
                  example, Jesus moved by choice in the impure zone of fishing and selling
                  fish, of making and investing money, of partnerships in the ownership of a
                  boat and of task assignment in the stewardship of an estate. He did not
                  adopt the policy of denouncing fishing (or tax collecting) as impure or
                  sullied or wrong. Instead, he wanted the fishermen and the tax collectors to
                  use their knowledge of their craft in understanding the purpose to which he
                  wished to direct their attention; as a means of understanding something
                  better than fishing or tax collecting - better than family, if it should
                  come to that, and it did come to that.

                  Does Jesus denounce wealth? Not as I read the record in general. He does
                  recommend transferring the account to a safer bank.

                  The parables, as I read them, are not exempla, they are rather a means of
                  convincement by similitude, starting where people are, and with what they
                  understanding, and trying to take them a step further.




                  ---------------------------------
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                • Loren Rosson
                  ... Fair enough. My Farrer-bias predisposes me to see Matthew as the first one to try aligning the shrub with the tree, with Luke then later dropping the shrub
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
                    Ron wrote:

                    > Matthew's "the greatest of shrubs and becomes a
                    > tree" looks to me (and I'm
                    > sure to lots of other observers) like Matthew's
                    > somewhat clumsy attempt to
                    > assimilate his two sources: a sayings source which
                    > had "tree" and Mark which
                    > had "the greatest of all shrubs".

                    Fair enough. My Farrer-bias predisposes me to see
                    Matthew as the first one to try aligning the shrub
                    with the tree, with Luke then later dropping the shrub
                    altogether in favor of something more acceptable.

                    > > Matthew and Luke's versions are wrong (a
                    > > mustard shrub isn't a tree) ...
                    >
                    > Nor is it possible for a camel to go through the eye
                    > of a needle. Shouldn't we make allowances for Jesus'
                    > liking for hyperbole?

                    See below.

                    [Loren]
                    > > ... and reflect later attempts
                    > > to reclaim the appropriate metaphor for the
                    > > kingdom, the cedar of Lebanon (Ezek 17:22-24,
                    > > 31:5-6; Dan 4:10-12; Ps 104:10-17)

                    [Ron]
                    > But the kingdom of God was central to Jesus'
                    > teaching. Why should we not
                    > suppose that Jesus himself, as well as using
                    > hyperbole, may have been
                    > alluding to such metaphors for the kingdom?

                    He was alluding to it -- and clearly so, what with the
                    birds and all -- but he was doing so with a burlesque.
                    A shrub undermines assumptions... just like the
                    eye-of-a-needle metaphor you mention.

                    Loren Rosson III
                    Nashua NH
                    http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/

                    __________________________________________________
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                  • Loren Rosson
                    ... Fair enough. My Farrer-bias predisposes me to see Matthew as the first one to try aligning the shrub with the tree, with Luke then later dropping the shrub
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jun 28, 2006
                      Ron wrote:

                      > Matthew's "the greatest of shrubs and becomes a
                      > tree" looks to me (and I'm
                      > sure to lots of other observers) like Matthew's
                      > somewhat clumsy attempt to
                      > assimilate his two sources: a sayings source which
                      > had "tree" and Mark which
                      > had "the greatest of all shrubs".

                      Fair enough. My Farrer-bias predisposes me to see
                      Matthew as the first one to try aligning the shrub
                      with the tree, with Luke then later dropping the shrub
                      altogether in favor of something more acceptable.

                      > > Matthew and Luke's versions are wrong (a
                      > > mustard shrub isn't a tree) ...
                      >
                      > Nor is it possible for a camel to go through the eye
                      > of a needle. Shouldn't we make allowances for Jesus'
                      > liking for hyperbole?

                      See below.

                      [Loren]
                      > > ... and reflect later attempts
                      > > to reclaim the appropriate metaphor for the
                      > > kingdom, the cedar of Lebanon (Ezek 17:22-24,
                      > > 31:5-6; Dan 4:10-12; Ps 104:10-17)

                      [Ron]
                      > But the kingdom of God was central to Jesus'
                      > teaching. Why should we not
                      > suppose that Jesus himself, as well as using
                      > hyperbole, may have been
                      > alluding to such metaphors for the kingdom?

                      He was alluding to it -- and clearly so, what with the
                      birds and all -- but he was doing so with a burlesque.
                      A shrub undermines assumptions... just like the
                      eye-of-a-needle metaphor you mention.

                      Loren Rosson III
                      Nashua NH
                      http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/

                      __________________________________________________
                      Do You Yahoo!?
                      Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
                      http://mail.yahoo.com
                    • David @ Comcast
                      BRUCE: For what it may be worth, my own study of the evidence disinclines me to mix Thomas in with the canonical Gospels. I accept the indications that Thomas
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jul 2, 2006
                        BRUCE: For what it may be worth, my own study of the evidence disinclines me
                        to mix Thomas in with the canonical Gospels. I accept the indications that
                        Thomas is later than all of them, and has drawn vaguely but detectably on at
                        least the first three of them, but is not in the same tradition, the same
                        Trajectory if one will, as any of them. I think Thomas represents Esoteric
                        Christianity. I thus don't think it tells us anything about Jesus that we
                        need to factor into any discussion of the Historical Jesus. It does tell us
                        about receptivity to Jesus in a probably non-Palestinian context, which to
                        me is an important subject, but still a separate one.

                        DAVID I: I don't personally know enough about the details of Thomas to
                        assign a 'trajectory' to it with respect to any of the canonical Gospels.
                        However, as I think is generally acknowledged, its mere existence does lend
                        weight to any synoptic theory that posits a sayings source. Like Lk's 'many'
                        sources, Thomas works against a strict adherence to Occam when trying to
                        solve the Synoptic problem. Similarly, IMHO, Q theories should take Thomas
                        into account, in that re-constructions of Q that look more like Thomas
                        should be preferred to those that look less like Thomas.

                        Basically, what I think I'm suggesting is that *all* the evidence has to be
                        taken into account. For example, suppose we posit an authorial process for
                        the canonical Gospels that doesn't allow for accretion of texts over time,
                        and then we realize that there is another text (e.g. perhaps the ending of
                        Romans) that can only be accounted for by an accretion process. If we have
                        to allow for this other process that created Romans, but deny it's
                        applicability to the Synoptics, then we have to come up with a good reason
                        why this process doesn't apply. Unless we can do that, then I suggest that
                        we should allow that whatever forces (or processes) acted on one canonical
                        NT text should be considered to have acted on the others as well.

                        Turning this around, any Synoptic solution that considers the Synoptics in
                        isolation is simply not taking all the relevant factors into consideration.
                        Therefore, I believe we have to at least consider John, Thomas, Marcion, the
                        Western text, Paul, the logia, Mark's notes from Peter, etc. when working
                        out a Synoptic solution. Of course, we can always discount them after due
                        consideration, but we do have to go through that process.

                        David Inglis

                        Lafayette, CA, USA

                        Davidinglis2@...



                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Ron Price
                        While I agree with Bruce that GTh tells us nothing (directly) about the historical Jesus, I also agree with ... There is a potential irony here, for if
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jul 3, 2006
                          While I agree with Bruce that GTh tells us nothing (directly) about the
                          historical Jesus, I also agree with

                          David Inglis that:

                          > Q theories should take Thomas into account,

                          There is a potential irony here, for if comparison with GTh helps us to
                          solve the Synoptic Problem, then it might *indirectly* tell us quite a lot
                          about the HJ!

                          > re-constructions of Q that look more like Thomas
                          > should be preferred to those that look less like Thomas.

                          Indeed. So it could be quite significant that as in GTh and in my
                          reconstruction of the sayings source there are no narrative passages (unlike
                          "Q"), and they both consist solely of sayings attributed to Jesus (unlike
                          "Q" which also includes sayings attributed to John the Baptist).

                          Ron Price

                          Derbyshire, UK

                          Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
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