Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: The Johannine Solution
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Kym Smith
On: The Johannine Solution
I have before me all three of Kym's responses (all of 22 May; here
distinguished as Parts 1, 2, 3), and thus a fuller view of his proposal. It
seems to me, in general, to impose an unlikely uniformity of belief and
behavior on the early Church, or perhaps better churches, and to posit an
unwarranted uniformity and authenticity on the four Gospels. It also
explains the Gospels as general responses to two crises close together in
time. It is in places unsupported or ill supported by evidence, and in other
places it seems to go directly against what evidence we have. I single out a
few sample places for comment, in lieu of a full rejoinder.
KYM (Part 1): I believe the 'degree of Church organization' had developed
considerably beyond what we generally allow. In part this is because we have
a view of the apostles in some tension with each other, resulting in a
fractured Church from the beginning. I suspect we may be using the apostles
to justify our own inability to operate in unity rather than reading the
BRUCE: This is dismissive; some would say offensive. The contentions in the
early churches are there in all the records we have of them, including the
early layer of the Epistle of James (never mind furious Paul), which speaks
of disharmony and even alienation in the believers to whom it was addressed.
They are not a figment of any arbitrary bias in modern investigators
collectively, or any culpable failure of "unity" on their part. "Reading the
Scriptures aright" seems in this context to mean "Reading the Scriptures in
terms of a harmonizing hermeneutic." I am not impressed by harmonizing
hermeneutics; I have seen it done too skillfully, yet still against all the
early evidence, by Ju Syi (c1200) for the Confucian classics (04th/03rd
century BC). I am neither persuaded nor, if that is the intention,
KYM: These were the apostles of the gospel of grace and any differences they
may have had (e.g.. Gal 2:11ff) would have been worked out in the Spirit of
truth and the correction received with grace.
BRUCE: This seems to me no more than a pious hope. First, the "differences"
on record go far beyond the food issues of Galatians 2:11f, they cluster
around those who do, and those who do not, believe in the Resurrection
(Corinthians passim). More generally, the gospel preached by Jesus,
according to our probably earliest source, Mk 1:14-15, was a gospel of
repentance (merited forgiveness of sin). Between this and the gospel of
grace (unmerited forgiveness of sin) there lies, like a sword, the doctrine
of the Atonement. Between these two stages, we seem to have undergone a
transition from works to faith. That the doctrine of the Atonement was not
held by all early believers is a matter of record. That it was later than
the rival beliefs or theories is very strongly suggested by its absence in
the earlier Gospels, and its presence in the later ones.
KYM: . . . the Church, expecting conflict with the beast and its associated
tribulation to be immanent, would have organised itself in a way it had not
done previously. I believe they set up prominent leaders (bishops) to care
for cities and/or provinces through the difficult times (e.g. 2 Tim 4:9-12,
19-20; Tit 3:12-13), especially in Asia and Rome.
BRUCE: The transition from no church structure (specifically prohibited in
James) to the beginnings of church structure (hinted at in the genuine
epistles of Paul) to unmistakable hierarchies, though not yet of uniform
nature across all Christendom (the spurious epistles of Paul, including
Timothy and Titus) is also there in the record, if the record is read in its
probable order of composition. Against this Kym opposes a speculation
("would have") based on a scenario with the evidence in question does not
uniformly attest. I am not convinced.
KYM: By Peter's responsibility for the Gospel of Mark I mean that he
actually intended for it to be written to encourage the Church through its
difficult time and, more than likely, actually dictated it to Mark (as per
BRUCE: This implies a single compositional act for Mark, and a compositional
act of the highest authenticity. But it rests on Origen, who seems to have
been later than Papias, who tells a different story. None of the stories
avails against the evidence of the text, which bears all the standard marks
of having undergone not only interpolations, but accretions, over a
considerable period of time.
KYM: It was not named because it was expected to be a one-off with a use-by
date extending no more than a few years.
BRUCE: Not plausible. Nothing in Mark suggests an intent of limited
usefulness; on the contrary, its accretions and self-interpolations suggest
a text eager to keep itself up with events, including doctrinal events like
the Resurrection Theory. Nor does the text as a whole, or its probable core
as a whole, suggest an intention to "encourage the Church through its
difficult time." It suggests an intention to define Jesus; it is not an
exhortation but an apologia. Are there passages in Mark, not interpolations
but part of the literary framework of Mark, which suggest otherwise?
KYM: All that Mt, Lk and Jn have added to Mk - and with Mk - is what the
remaining apostles and eyewitnesses felt was necessary for a continuing
Church - a Church which would outlast the apostles - to have an adequate
account of the life and teaching and passion of Christ. I suspect none of
the three later gospels would have been written if the original purpose of
the apostles had been completed. In that case all of the additional material
would have been added to Mark in a single, comprehensive gospel. Even Mk was
unlikely to have survived.
BRUCE: This scenario gives all material in all Gospels an unimpeachably
authentic source and status: eyewitness accounts, combined by central
authority and thus presumably freed of any variants those eyewitness
accounts might have contained in the raw state. This makes the divergences
of Mt and Lk in particular simply unintelligible.
KYM: I don't know that I would assume 'theological equality' of all the
material. While all of it is useful and to be preserved, much of the
material used in the corporate work of John is, in some ways, the pick of
the whole. But that work was necessary - and necessarily profound - to
exhort a Church in deep crisis.
BRUCE: This response wanders from the point, or else weakens its original
assertion. I would put the matter this way: Each successive Gospel (Mark,
Matthew, Luke, John) tried to improve on the previous ones - Luke,
explicitly so - by making the story of Jesus more narratively effective,
factually accountable, and internally coherent. John, as the last and on
this hypothesis the most rationalized (even if rationalized in a Gnostic
direction), appeals to those who find the non sequiturs and internal
inconsistencies of the earlier Gospels troublesome. But it's like replacing
a pencil with a calculator. The calculator adds more accurately (it solves
the Quartodeciman controversy between East and West), but does that make it
earlier than the pencil?
KYM (in Part 2): The collation (Q) put together by a number of apostles and
eyewitnesses was originally to add to what had already been given in Mk.
That may have meant some adjustments to Mk but, after that project was
abandoned for Jn, the remainder was taken up by Mt and Lk who were both free
to adapt the material or the readers to whom their particular gospels were
directed, i.e. Jewish and Gentile.
BRUCE: Tilt. Kym has up to now been envisioning a unified and even a
hierarchical Church, one that can summon all eyewitnesses together and
collate their material; a single and powerful entity, far more potent than
anything at the present day. Now, suddenly, we are told that whereas the
earlier Mark was addressed to, and circulated to, all of Christendom, in
this later and presumably still more advanced stage, the Church is so
divided between Jewish and Gentile segments that it needs a different
spokesman for each. Which is Kym's real picture? His scenarios for Mk vs
Mt/Lk don't seem to coexist.
KYM: The idea that the Church evolved theologically is a nonsense. Those
from whom we should expect the profoundest theology are those who spent
several years under the tutelage of Christ himself.
BRUCE: Sorry, not nonsense. Insult is not argument. As for the argument:
KYM: Let me quote part of a footnote in the book: [[[.Torrance's book, The
Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers, (Torrance, T. F., Eerdmans,
1948). In that book, and without denying the value of their works, Torrance
shows that in the earliest writings of the sub-apostolic period - and
contrary to the New Testament epistles and gospels, especially John - the
understanding of God's grace as the gift of salvation completed and secured
in the person of Jesus, and particularly in his life and death, had already
grown dim. In some writings it was clearly not understood at all. The works
Torrance examined were: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (i.e. the
Didache); the First and Second Epistles of Clement; the Epistles of
Ignatius, the Epistle of Polycarp; the Epistle of Barnabas; and the Shepherd
of Hermas. The point here is that doctrine did not develop at such a pace as
to make any writer other than an apostle - or apostles - likely to produce
such a profound volume as John's gospel clearly is.]]]
BRUCE: This is an argument that John, being "profound," must be apostolic:
the real story. I would think it more likely that profundity is a result of
protracted thought, and that the profundity of John (or, for less
enthusiastic readers, its profound and thoroughly enforced consistency) is
already an indication of late date, at least relative to the other Gospels.
Kym here has a picture of an original Johannine doctrine, later lost and
broken up by writers of less authority and insight. That view has a certain
number of adherents among authors I happen to have read. For myself, I am
better persuaded by the view that orthodoxy evolved out of conflicting
views, none of which are properly called "heretical" in their own time, but
all save one of which later came to be labeled so by the victorious party. I
believe that not because I believe it, but because that is how the evidence
as a whole disposes me to regard it. And in part also because such orthodoxy
developments are a commonplace of many evolving traditions, secular as well
Did Jesus, in his lifetime, preach the doctrine of Himself Crucified? The
Gospel of John thinks so. It certainly leads to a simpler picture of
Christian Origins. I find it untenable, in part because if it were true, the
witness of Peter as dictated to Mark (for purposes of argument conceding
that this was the case) could not possibly have said the opposite.
As for Torrance, I don't find that he was taken too seriously, at the time
or recently. For two dissenting views by the same person in the same year,
see (or download from JSTOR) the following:
Charles Merritt Nielsen, Clement of Rome and Moralism. Church History v31 #2
(June 19652) 131-150
Charles Merritt Nielsen: More or Less Grace. Journal of Bible and Religion
v30 #3 (July 1962) 232-236
I don't find in the JSTOR materials a favorable review of this book. What do
reviewers know, anyway? But if there is a test by general convincement, it
does not seem that Torrance has notably passed it.
I had wondered about the divergences in Mt/Lk.
KYM: Mt and Lk had both MK and Jn in front of them - as well as their
portions of Q, some unique to each, some which both would adapt and include.
. . Only a council could effectively resolve the matter. Peter and Paul were
dead, the only survivor of the inner three (Peter, James and John) and the
receiver of the
Revelation, John, was best placed to call the council. He was also in Asia
which was central to the Church where it had spread around the Mediterranean
from Rome to Cyrene. The primary power of the council rested in the
apostles, about half of whom, I believe, were present (certainly John,
Andrew and Matthew) as well as other eyewitnesses. Added to these were those
(bishops) who had been appointed to care for certain cities and provinces
through the expected tribulation. The whole church was represented and the
council well able to speak for and unify all. It was also well fitted to
enforce its decisions everywhere.
BRUCE: The picture of Mt/Lk here given does not explain the divergences in
Mt/Lk. If there were an all-powerful Church in this period, and if that
all-powerful Church had summoned all eyewitness or other authoritative
persons to be present at one place at one time, and had assigned the task of
producing an authoritative Gospel, it seems unlikely that (a) it would have
entrusted this task to two people, rather than, like Peter, to one, (b)
especially since the much more satisfactory Gospel of John was already in
hand, and that (c) when it found Matthew and Luke getting into conflicts and
theological divergences as they proceeded with the parallel tasks, they
would have been helpless to adjudicate the differences (birth narratives!
genealogies!), or failing that, to suppress one or both.
And consider: if Luke had been written under any such mandate as Kym here
supposes, would Lk 1:1f read as it now does? I cannot find this credible.
Luke in Kym's scenario had a mandate from a powerful central Church, to
address the (or some) members of that Church in an emergency, using
materials previously made consistent by collation under that powerful
central authority. Luke in Luke's own scenario has a self conceived mandate,
to consider the many conflicting written accounts then extant and compile a
better one, not for the Church at large but for one uncertain believer or
potential believer. He is not a purveyor of agreed and consistent truth, but
an arbiter of rival and inconsistent assertions. As between Kym's scenario
and Luke's scenario, I cannot but think that Luke's should be given
preference. He was there. Not on the Galilean ground with Jesus, to be sure,
but in his own head, as to his own perceptions and motives.
As to Acts:
KYM: As stated earlier, Luke was best suited to write Acts. It was at the
Ephesian council that he collated most of his information re the beginnings
of the Church and Peter's ministry.
BRUCE: If so, he got the whole thing gloriously mixed up. His account of the
early church is an unresolved jumble of things going back to Galilean
tradition (a tradition which Luke in Luke explicitly denies) and to early
KYM: . . . He already knew most of the rest about Paul.
BRUCE: And got that messed up too, if the impressions of those in our time
who find Acts and Galatians irreconcilable are to be trusted. I myself find
those impressions credible. Is Kym prepared to harmonize Acts and Galatians?
If so, how?
KYM (Part 3): There are many complex reasons why the different gospellers
included or omitted or modified various bits and pieces - some of our trying
to work out why is what I meant by straining at gnats - but here is a simple
explanation that makes eminent sense (to me, anyway) and fits all the
necessary pieces together.
BRUCE: "straining at gnats" is simply more insult, and insult is still not
argument. No theory which cannot explain the details, of whatever caliber,
can be said to explain the texts in which the details occur.
KYM: I have stated preciously on this list that Lk's prologue refers to
efforts of the 'many' of the Ephesian council to 'compile a (single)
narrative', i.e. John.
BRUCE: Not a plausible reading of Lk 1:1f as it stands.
KYM: That having been completed, Lk had his share of the remainder of the
apostles and eyewitnesses recollections and he was going to write another
BRUCE: Why another?
KYM: That account - as with Matthew - fulfilled in some measure what the
council originally intended to do with AEEMark but which it realized was not
BRUCE: The reliance on a text said to have been begun, but also said to have
been abandoned, seems to me perilous. If the Council could depute to Matthew
and Luke, it could depute to someone in its midst. The abandonment and
immediate resumption of the Council's intention - its loss of power and its
recovery of power - is not convincing.
KYM: Mk had already been distributed across the whole Church - at least
where it existed in the Roman Empire. From Rome that could have been done in
a couple of months. Its wide distribution would, in part, have guaranteed
its survival, but the Church itself seems to have determined - and stated
quite early - that all four gospels should continue. Note Irenaeus, 'But it
is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than
they are' (i.e. four). Origen tells us, 'I accept the traditional view of
the four gospels which alone are undeniably authentic in the Church of God
BRUCE: Origen is not to the point; he merely says that the then canonical
Gospels are the only ones. Irenaeus is into number mysticism, but again to
justify, and decorate, a previous decision or consensus about canonicity. It
has been well argued in recent scholarship that the canon was not fully
fixed until the 4th century, otherwise why that stuff in Sinaiticus? But
that the early Fathers dealt with a nascent and locally known canon, a
pre-canon if one like, seems likely. That they represent the views of a
Council which they never allude to, and which no extant Gospel in its
wording or in its structural implication implies, seems not likely.
I had called for "something with more meat on its theoretical bones to
explain what of Mk was omitted by Lk. I still think that John Hawkins went a
long way in this direction, and I can't imagine that the real answer will
differ greatly from the one to which his work pointed." And we had in
KYM: There are parts of Mark 6, the details of John the Baptist's arrest and
death and Jesus' visit to his home town, which Luke has not covered or not
BRUCE: Luke has not so much "not covered" Jesus's visit to Nazareth as moved
it, at a later stage in his carefully but also gradually crafted Gospel, to
another part of the narrative (Lk 4:16-30, a most generous allotment of
space) than the one in which it originally stood. The Salome's Dance story
is indeed lacking in Lk, but that fact too may be part of a narrative
strategy in Lk as vs his source Mk. Mk tells that probably legendary story
at length, at the point in his narrative where he probably thought it
occurred. Lk has a theory of ages of the world, and he wants John out of the
way before the age of Jesus gets going. He does this, out of what Mark
thought was the real historical order, in Lk 3:19-20. Lk does represent
John as "sending to Jesus" in Lk 7:20, but this does not change the fact
that John, as a minister of the Gospel, is out of commission. Jesus, when he
is a minister of the Gospel, is the only such that Lk recognizes.
I find it indicative that in Lk, immediately after John is removed from the
mission field in Lk 3:19-20, Jesus experiences his first access of spiritual
power in the form of a descent from Heaven and a voice of divine approval
(Lk 3:21-22), begins his ministry (Lk 3:23, and there is time out here for
his genealogy), and undergoes his first deeds of power, including the
renunciation of power, in his Temptations (Lk 4:1-13), and begins his
preaching (Lk 4:14-15). This takes us, consecutively, to the Nazareth
Both the John incarceration and the Nazarath preaching are in Lk placed
violently out of Markan order, with absurd consequences for the
consecutivity of Lk's own narrative (the Nazarath inconcinnity I expounded
earlier, and won't here repeat). Both are done for plausibly assignable
Lukan authorial and theological motives. That is, Luke acted as both an
author and a theologian: an interpreter of Jesus and especially of the ages
of the world as partly defined by Jesus. In those particular decisions, he
is unique. He seems to that extent to be acting alone.
I don't find that Kym's statements about the handling of John and Nazareth
in Luke are correct, and I beg reconsideration. I also offer the above
account as useful in any such reconsideration. I suspect that it is
incompatible with the role Kym supposed Luke to have had vis-a-vis the
supposed and intermittently powerful Council. That I cannot help. I think
the conjectured Council is untenable.
KYM: When it comes to John I have to say that it is unified, wonderfully
unified. Though ch 21 may be an appendix, it is original to Jn and an
essential part of it.
BRUCE: Wonderfully indeed. But that does not mean that it is early, let
alone Apostolic; as above said, I would take its wonderfulness as evidence
in the opposite direction. As for Jn 21, Kym wants to concede its
afterthought character and also give it an "essential" function. But since
it contradicts the previous material in Jn, "essential" is surely going too
far. Again we have, as it seems to me, as with the above reductions of
discord in Paul's churches to mere food matters, a failure to take the
measure of the difficulties with which this or any theory of the Gospels
must content. I think that failure dooms the theory.
KYM: I can only point you to my book, 'The Amazing Structure of the Gospel
of John', almost all of which can be viewed at
www.sherwoodpublications.com.au . See particularly pp 32 and 45-53.
BRUCE: I looked at it last time. It seems chiasmus all over the place, and
relies on those chiastic structures as proofs of literary intention and
integrity. I confess myself more than a little allergic to chiastic
structures. They certainly occur, as an intentional decoration, in some
ancient texts, West Asian as well as East Asian. But that they were an
obsession of Paul and every other ancient author strikes me as an
exaggeration. What, in any text in which others have seen chiastic
structures, does Kym see as the information content of those structures?
Chiasmus occurs very naturally whenever a speaker or writer ends by invoking
or referring to his initial point; we then automatically have ABA. If in the
middle of the main discourse, the writer should diverge from his main topic
for a moment, we immediately have ABCBA. That is an advanced chiastic
structure, but I submit that it means nothing: it is just a very natural
byproduct of the rhetoric of address in its simplest form. Mozart used it
all the time, without in any deep way abandoning or compromising his nominal
sonata-allegro form, which in any case is built on the musical ABA urform.
This stuff is all too easy to see. I can't think that Kym's book
successfully overcomes the much more manifest evidences that certain blocks
of original GJn were later displaced, by himself or some henchman in the
same Ephesian community.
KYM: This same book shows that nothing has been displaced in Jn (see p 53).
As for Lk, I have not done the same degree of work as I have in Jn but I
would be very surprised if any of the Synoptics have the same kinds of
unifying structures that Jn does. A displaced section would be harder to
prove/disprove but I am inclined to believe that what we have is what the
authors, in all four cases, intended.
BRUCE: Not material. That an author left his work in what he thought was
final condition does not preclude his having had different ideas about it,
earlier in the authorial process. I have done that myself; I did it an hour
and a half ago in revising a publication proposal, in part by moving blocks
of material around (and did it ever louse up the font codes, in being moved:
my personal version of the present Lukan inconcinnities).
However, my own theories are another question,and I will leave them to be
expounded, if at all, in some more proper venue or venues, and end the
present reconsideration with the comment, or anyway the impression: Not
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Kym Smith
KYM: There were certainly 'contentions in the early churches' but that is
something quite different from contentions between the apostles.
BRUCE: There were both, and both are material for the present discussion.
The first is conceded. As to the second, the apostles whom Paul stigmatizes
as "false apostles" are still called by him "apostles," he just disagrees
with what they preach. They would doubtless have said the same or worse of
him. And as for the perspective from which we in our time might reject some
apostles (teachers of the Way) as false, why should we side with Paul
against Apollos? Except for childhood habituation, and that's not a reason.
KYM: Apart from Gal 2:11f, there is no record of conflict between the
BRUCE: Gal 2:11f attests conflict between people Kym is willing to call
apostles. I should think that clinches it. And what of the Peter/Paul
conflict implied in 1 Cor 1:12?
KYM: And why can't we believe that Peter would have taken Paul's rebuke and
been grateful for it?
BRUCE: Why can't we believe that Apollos would have taken the Pauline
reindoctrination and been grateful for it? In either case, churchmanly
behavior at the end does not cancel out the fact of ideological disagreement
at the beginning. And I do not accept Kym's treatment of "contentions in the
early churches" as though they were of no account. At stake here are things
like the Doctrine of the Resurrection. Basic and consequential. The large
point is that Christian doctrine, even about fundamental things like whether
Christ died for your sins, was diverse, and stridently so, in the earliest
times for which we have anything like evidence. Sometimes named apostles, or
named other figures, are associated with one or the other side of these
differences; sometimes not. Either way, the basic fact is the fact of
ideological disagreement. The early Church did not know what to make of
Jesus, or rather, it knew all too many things to make of Jesus.
KYM: Further, how does 2 Pet 3:15-18 figure in such a discussion without
resorting to it not being genuinely Petrine?
BRUCE: Tilt. Attempt to make prejudicial rules for the discussion. The
entire question is whether it is genuinely Petrine. And can anyone seriously
imagine that it is? Irenaeus quotes as "words of Peter" only 1Pt, he either
does not know, or does not accept, 2Pt. Jerome records doubts as of his
time. Internally, consider 2Pt 3:16, which knows Paul's letters *as a
collection,* a thing which cannot have existed until well after the death of
Paul, which in the usual chronology also means after the death of Peter. 2Pt
3:4 refers to the "fathers" as dead; Peter himself would have belonged to
that group. I should have ranked 2Pt as a nice homework problem for a 4th
grade philology class, and now look at me, explaining it to grownups. The
new century is not opening very auspiciously.
Whoever wrote it, what does 2Pt say about our issue: the idea of divergent
ideology in the early Church? It says that there was a serious problem of
divergent ideology in the early Church. It follows Jude (in fact, it
swallows Jude whole, and please note that even Jude speaks of the apostolic
age in the past tense), and it is even more concerned about the kind of
thing about which Jude is concerned. Jude is perhaps a little obscure, but
it is clearly enough a polemic against divergent views within the
congregation(s) to which it is addressed.
Turn what NT stone one will, and chances are that a worm of contention will
crawl out. This is the larger point, to which the conjectural meekness of
any one false teacher under reproof is completely irrelevant.
KYM: Hands up all those who see the gospel of repentance as allowing a
'merited forgiveness of sin'! Repentance itself is an admission that
forgiveness is not merited - especially as repentance is a gift, not a work
(e.g. Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25).
BRUCE: Kym quotes Pauline materials, and post-Pauline ones at that, in
support of Pauline doctrine. It may be conceded that these materials support
Pauline doctrine. The question is, was there any other doctrine? Consider
John the Baptist. He preached a Gospel of Repentance, and be baptized the
repentant as a symbol of the washing away of their sins. John was not the
Christ, and he had no doctrine of Atonement, or of other mechanism of
forgiveness, to rely on, either at the time or prospectively. In John's
world, which is also the world in which Jesus began, what gets the sinner
forgiven is the sinner's repentance. This is very OT, but not for that less
likely as a doctrine of John. It is then relevant that Jesus follows in the
line of John, and is himself baptized by John, and is himself said at that
point in Mk to preach a gospel of repentance. The Markan story implies (if
you think about it, and Matthew evidently thought about it) that Jesus had
sins to forgive; Matthew's account of it answers this difficulty by making
the baptism pro forma merely; in Lk and Jn it is pushed further and further
offstage, and Jn, John the Baptist himself articulates the Doctrine of
Atonement, with Jesus right there in front of him, and thus still a long way
from the Cross. This last, at least to me, is unreal in the extreme. What
the Gospels together show is first a naive acknowledgement of the Baptism as
a fact, then an increasing discomfort with it as a rite with implications
for the purity of Jesus, and finally with a replacement of the theology of
forgiveness implied by John's baptism with a new theology of atonement. This
progression through the Gospels, always in the order Mk > Mt > Lk > Jn
(though Mt/Lk can be very close together on some issues) is what I have
called a Trajectory. The Baptism of Jesus is to me one of the clearest
Trajectories, and it clearly shows the evolution of theories of Jesus in the
period to which the Gospels collectively are witnesses.
KYM: That the doctrine of the Atonement is largely missing in any of the
Gospels is understandable. Jesus' teaching could hardly deal with what even
the disciples could/would not hear until after he had accomplished that
BRUCE: Exactly. But I ask, with von Soden and others: What exactly was Jesus
preaching in the meantime, in synagogues up and down Galilee; what doctrine
struck the Capernahumites as both new and authoritative? He must have been
SAYING something in advance of establishing himself as a dead, and thus a
risen, person. What does Kym think that was? With what teachings did he
temporize in those years, with what doctrinal place-holders did he hold the
thousands spellbound for days? It's a real question, and I would appreciate
an answer from anyone who has one to give.
KYM: My view, as you know, is that there is an insignificant time-gap
between the gospels.
BRUCE: I know it; few better. And I reject it. The Gospels show, not signs
of simultaneity, but signs of linear growth, the kind of growth that takes
years rather than weeks to happen. In an earlier age, faith was troubled by
the evidence in the rocks, and in the fossils that they contained, that
geological and biological processes of fantastic duration had taken place
long before the present age. Yet Scripture (as interpreted in orthodox
circles) held that the Earth had been created only 6,000 years ago, and the
evidence of geology must thus be some sort of misleading anomaly. Was it
Kingsley, who said at that time that he could not believe that "God has
written on the rocks one enormous and superfluous lie?" Well, I stand with
Kingsley. I cannot believe that men have contrived to write, in the folded
and fissured and fossilized record of the Gospels, an intentional simulacrum
of something that did not actually take place, namely, a slow development of
Jesus theory and indeed of congregational practice, over many decades.
KYM: By the end of the first century and start of the second, there was a
very strong view of apostolic succession (e.g. Ignatius). They had no doubt
that the apostles had appointed successors.
BRUCE: That would be, what, about three human generations and two
transmission generations after Jesus. There is every reason to suppose that,
by that time, the question of who in that time spoke with anything like
apostolic authority would have come up, and a succession mechanism (perhaps
even a transmission mechanism, or two or three) would have been excogitated.
But this, though likely enough for the period of which it is asserted, is
not evidence for any earlier period.
On my suggestion of an accretional Mk, we next had:
KYM: I am not qualified to assess 'interpolations [and] accretions.' Are
there sufficient variations in the text of the ancient copies of Mark to
indicate this (apart from its ending/s)?
BRUCE: That is not the question. The question is whether the archetype, the
text which stands behind extant manuscripts, the first public text, had
itself undergone a prior period of growth before being handed over to the
copyists to multiply. Kym has earlier asserted that gMk was distributed
immediately on being written. In that case, there would be no time during
which authorial reconsiderations or house church updates could have
occurred. If so, then the archetype (first distributed text) is indeed
identical with the author's original (final authorial text), as text critics
are in the habit of assuming in all cases. But there are many
counterexamples. Horace's Carmina IV are distinct from Carmina I-III in many
ways, including literary sophistication and a special way with the Sapphic
meter; in addition, they come after what is clearly an overridden original
ending in the last poem Carmina III. Are Carmina IV then extrinsic to the
Carmina of Horace, as John 21 is extrinsic to John 1-20? That is a matter of
literary judgement. The facts as otherwise known are that Carmina I-III were
published, as Horace's intentional farewell to poetry, in 23, and that
Augustus induced him to resume writing poetry, the additional material being
added to the previous core and published as a set in 13. Then, yes, Carmina
IV are distinct, and distinct precisely in a way that implies a more mature
poet (sometimes also a more bored poet; you have to pick from Carmina IV
with some care). They are an extension of the previous text which
nevertheless lies wholly within the lifetime of the author, and were
produced by his own hand.
That is the model. It is common all over Eurasia at this period. There may
well be examples in the NT as well. I have mentioned a couple already, in
passing. This is why the "no manuscript evidence" argument fails. It fails
because what is being asserted in these cases is not scribal corruption, but
authorial or proprietarial growth and augmentation, prior to the onset
general copying process.
KYM: The view of many commentators that Mk was written for a suffering
Church may not prove my scenario but it does support it. 1 and 2 Pet seem to
view the end as nigh which is interesting if, again as a number of
commentators consider, 2 Pet 1:15 refers to the Gospel of Mark.
BRUCE: Are we equating "suffering" and "scared?" I would caution against
doing so. As for the end being nigh, people turn up on my doorstep every few
months to share that conviction with me. The presence or persistence of that
conviction can therefore have little direct bearing on how far removed from
Jesus a given NT writing was. What DOES have more bearing is whether a given
NT writing betrays uncertainty about the delay of the End Days. As for
evidence that Mark has the feel of a document written under conditions, and
with intentions, that Kym has previously attributed to it, I ask for
passages and he gives me commentators. This whole theory is disturbingly
removed from the actual words of actual texts.
KYM: The divergences in Mt and Lk are explained by their adaptation of
material for their respective readerships and that they wrote in isolation
from each other. The differences also indicate that the early church was
more interested in presenting gospels which evoked faith rather than
attempted to prove Jesus was the Christ by conformity of details.
BRUCE: Let's go back a bit. There were Matthew and Luke, together at the
conjectured Council, with a previously winnowed and authentic body of
eyewitness material in front of them. Why, in the name of all that is
institutionally puissant, were they allowed to separate, each to his home
and constituency, and proceed independently? Did they at least take with
them some of the previously winnowed common material? We may answer that by
asking: Is the genealogy of Luke a Gentile adaptation of the genealogy of
Matthew? Not conceivably. It is a new item, founded de novo; it is neither a
failed scribal copy of Matthew nor a Gentile-adjusted copy of Matthew (for
that transDavidic purpose, the easiest thing would have been to simply add
more stuff onto the beginning of the Matthean genealogy). In short, Kym has
Mt and Lk behaving, after the Council, as though no Council with its vetted
eyewitness files available to all comers had ever existed. Each Evangelist
is somehow on his own, improvising as he may find suitable. The behavior of
Mt and Lk is the same, either on Kym's view of a Council, or on my view of
no Council. Then the theory of the Council is "doing no work" in the
explanatory system, and should be given up as a matter of theoretical
parsimony and tidiness. I accept the implication that the Council, in fact,
never existed. And I recommend it to Kym as well.
Or failing that: If there are passages in Mt/Lk which directly support Kym's
view, and do no equally support my view, what are they? Where, in those
texts as we have them, are there signs or leavings of the process that Kym
persists in supposing>
- To: Synoptic
In Response and Farewell to: Kym Smith
On: Johannine Solution
I think I have said enough by now to indicate why I did not care to respond
at the time to Kym's earlier posting on his Johannine Solution. From my
merely personal point of view, the present discussion has reached the point
of reiteration. Just one more comment by way of farewell, and then I have
KYM: No difference was of no account, but contentions between true and false
apostles is one thing, 'ideological disagreements' between true apostles
would have destroyed the Church.
BRUCE: I suspect that in fact they *did* destroy the Church, perhaps more
than once. I think, for example, that the thing that Acts represents in its
history of the Church as original, primitive Christianity, the thing
presided over by James the Lord's Brother, to the extent that it ever
existed otherwise than as a conflation of two different lines of Church
development, is not only different from, but discontinuous with, the Church
we now have. The large scenario of Acts itself, as I read it, makes that
very point, and emphasizes that very discontinuity. What began as a Jesus
movement among Jews, and within Judaism, ended up as a Gentile Christianity
which was rejected by Jews, and which itself rejected all Jewish elements,
save those which were transformed symbolically into the possession, indeed
the heritage, of Gentile Christianity alone.
But now I think I should relinquish my place at the table to any one, or to
any six, who would like to engage some of the points Kym raises (whether or
not Kym himself is available to respond), but may have hesitated to do so
while it seemed that Kym and I were having a private conversation. The
conversation, or at any rate the topic, is now open.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst