Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: The Johannine Solution
- 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