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Re: The Johannine Solution

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  • Kym Smith
    Bruce, so much for a little at a time! It will take me two or three days to get to the rest so you will need to be patient.
    Message 1 of 5 , May 24, 2007
      Bruce, so much for a little at a time! It will take me two or three days to get to the rest so you will need to be patient.

      <<<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." >>>

      Not at all! There were certainly 'contentions in the early churches' but that is something quite different from contentions between the apostles. Apart from Gal 2:11f, there is no record of conflict between the apostle. And why can't we believe that Peter would have taken Paul's rebuke and been grateful for it? Further, how does 2 Pet 3:15-18 figure in such a discussion without resorting to it not being genuinely Petrine?

      James refers to a 'shallow man' in his passage on faith and works (Jas 2:14-26) but it is our imposition on the text to insist that that was Paul. This is the same James who '.saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel; to the uncircumcised.and when [he] perceived the grace that was given to me.gave to me.the right hand of fellowship.' (Gal 2:7-9).

      Apart from the passage already mentioned Paul's anger is only addressed to the false or superlative apostles, not to any of the twelve. His respect for the work and word of the other apostles meant that he preferred not to work where any of them had already begun (Rom 15:20).

      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).

      Again, Paul is not addressing fellow apostles here but false apostles.

      <<<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.>>>

      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). On the other hand, do you mean to say that one need not repent to receive the 'unmerited forgiveness of sin' through the gospel of grace? 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 atonement. (An excellent book on this is P.T. Forsyth's, 'The Preaching of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ'). My view, as you know, is that there is an insignificant time-gap between the gospels.

      <<< 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. >>>

      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. I can only add more speculation by saying that the strength of the Fathers' views on succession would not have been possible unless there was some event at which the (or some of the) apostles, probably collectively, authorised that new (i.e. archiepiscopal) ministry. I believe it was at the Ephesian council that those apostles present acknowledged the value of that form of government - which they had set up for the period of the expected tribulation - and authorised its continuation. (Perhaps this is not for this list) .

      <<<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.>>>

      Yes and yes to the first sentence. Robert Gundry in an appendix to his exhaustive commentary on Mark suggests the only reason Mk would have survived - especially after the publication of Mt and Lk, was an awareness of its Petrine origins. 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: 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? >>>

      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: 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. >>>

      Yes, it gives them 'unimpeachably authentic source and status'. I wonder why we would resist this? 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. I suspect this was another reason why the apostles abandoned AEEMark.

      <<< 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? >>>

      I cannot comment because I do not accept your order of priority. Each of the gospels is adequate for the purpose for which it was written. Three were, in there final state, individual works, one was a corporate work (Jn). I see their order as Mk, Jn and MT and LK (both with Mk and Jn in hand) last and simultaneously and both with the commission to expand Mk for their respective Jewish and Gentile readerships.

      <<< 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. >>>

      There's that 'tilt' again! In Mk, Peter produced one work which would be useful for all. Once the Church realized that it was going to continue - possibly even beyond the lifetime of the apostles - they also knew that they had to provide gospels which would be directed to the two groups which God himself had recognized and for which he had called and appointed different apostles (e.g. Gal 2:7-8). Peter was writing for a crisis which he assumed would last for no more than a few years, the council commissioned works which would serve a Church for a time beyond what they could foresee.

      Kym Smith

      St Luke's Anglican Church


      South Australia


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    • Kym Smith
      Bruce, I would like to have completed my response to your former post but I had better keep up with your current rather than have you running too far ahead.
      Message 2 of 5 , May 27, 2007

        I would like to have completed my response to your former post but I had better keep up with your current rather than have you running too far ahead. Perhaps we will return to the other.

        <<<BRUCE: . 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? . 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?>>>

        No, they may have been self-proclaimed apostles, but they were NOT apostles that the Church should have recognized. If you are going to allow that the PSEUDAPOSTOLOI (2 Cor 11:13) were only different from the twelve in degrees, will you also allow that the only difference between the PSEUDOCHRISTOI of Mk 13:22 and Christ is one of degrees?

        And there is no siding between Paul and Apollos, it was not with Apollos or Cephas/Peter that Paul had difficulties but with the Corinthians who wrongly preferred one over the other (1 Cor 3:4-9,22).

        <<<BRUCE: Why can't we believe that Apollos would have taken the Pauline reindoctrination and been grateful for it?>>>

        Obviosly he did, he was encouraged and given a letter of recommendation by the Pauline camp (Acts 18:27) and he became a co-worker with Paul (1 Cor 4:6; 16:12).

        <<< 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.>>>

        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: 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.>>>

        Oh? "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

        <<<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.>>>

        This development, if you are right about the sequence and timing of the gospels, takes Jesus from a sinner to a Saviour. So what kind of Jesus do you believe in? The former can do nothing for anyone else's sin, the latter would appear to be a fabrication to improve on earlier, inadequate ideas. Neither, then, could do us any good!

        <<<BRUCE: .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. >>>

        In one sense, it did not matter what he was preaching. The people held him, as they did John the Baptist, to be a prophet. Add to that the miracles he performed and it is no wonder the people flocked to him. What we are told, whatever the actual content of his teaching was, that Jesus:

        '.went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people' (Mt 4:23).

        What he did teach was primarily for his disciples and veiled from others (e.g. Matt 13:10-17). Even what he opened up for the disciples was often not understood (e.g. Mt 16:2123; Mk 6:52; 9:9-10, 32; Lk 9:45). Jn, of course, holds much of his 'plain' teaching which, for its directness, put him in conflict with those who were threatened by it and him. Besides healing the sick, we know that he did encourage the people in forgiveness (Mt 9:2) and righteous living (Mt 5-7). Those who were just on for the ride were, no doubt, tantalized by his parables or amused and often self-seeking with the signs he performed (Mt 8:16; Mk 6:53-56; Jn 6:26). The main issue continues to be that Jesus could not teach plainly about the Atonement, for example, until he had actually made atonement. A major part of what he spoke about after his resurrection - which formed the basis of the apostles' doctrine - must have included this matter (e.g. Lk 24:26,32,44-45; Acts 1:3) .

        <<<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.>>>

        Firstly, I hope that your mention of some peoples understanding of the 'youth' of the earth is not to imply that that is my view. It is not - though I think God would be capable of doing so if he so pleased. The issue at stake, however, the time-lapse between the Gospels, is not affected in anyway by one's view of creation. The layering of the rock strata has nothing to do with the layering of the Gospels. Even so, if we are capable of imposing a preconceived understanding on the rock strata which can be clearly observed, we are even more capable of imposing a theory of stratification on the various, ambiguous and at times enigmatic literary forms of the gospel. Our motives in such things are often less than pure!

        Well Bruce, that's it! I concede defeat. Not defeat in what may be true about the gospels but defeat as far as being able to keep up with you on the list. I hoped to be able to chip away at some essential points but your output has overwhelmed me. I've been thinking today as I have tried to find the time to give to your posts and it seems to me I have other priorities which will neglected if I try to keep up the level correspondence your posts demand. Sad, because I asked for some interaction, got it, and now I'm bailing out. Succinctness - both in length of posts and subject (i.e. the Synoptic Problem) may have allowed a longer and more fruitful discussion. The time I am giving to reading and responding, however, is too much given my primary, pastoral responsibilities in a parish and a hospital. I suspect some interesting issues have been uncovered on both sides - perhaps some unexpected ones.


        Kym Smith

        St Luke's Anglican Church


        South Australia


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