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

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Kym Smith From: Bruce KYM: There were certainly contentions in the early churches but that is something quite different from
    Message 1 of 3 , May 24, 2007
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Kym Smith
      From: Bruce

      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>

    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Synoptic In Response and Farewell to: Kym Smith On: Johannine Solution From: Bruce I think I have said enough by now to indicate why I did not care to
      Message 2 of 3 , May 27, 2007
        To: Synoptic
        In Response and Farewell to: Kym Smith
        On: Johannine Solution
        From: Bruce

        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
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