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Re: [Synoptic-L] Alternating Primitivity (#3-4)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Ron Price On: The Sign of Jonah From: Bruce In responding to Chuck Jones, about the Sign of Jonah saying (#4 of the Twelve list),
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 22, 2008
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Ron Price
      On: The Sign of Jonah
      From: Bruce

      In responding to Chuck Jones, about the Sign of Jonah saying (#4 of the
      Twelve list), Ron had said:

      Ron: Matthew and Luke both attribute the saying to Jesus. I am generally a
      sceptic, but I can't see any reason to deny this attribution *except* for
      the bit about 3 days and nights in a fish's stomach, which was clearly
      introduced to illustrate the resurrection of Jesus. Thus (unless you
      introduce another piece of magic, namely Jesus prophesying the time his body
      would remain entombed) Matthew's version is inconsistent with the
      attribution of the saying to Jesus. When we add to this the fact that there
      are two other authentic-looking sayings with a similar message but no trace
      of magic (Mt 13:16-17 // Lk 10:23-24; and Lk 12:54-56), it surely becomes
      obvious that Lk 11:30 was most likely part of an authentic saying of Jesus,
      and therefore that Mt 12:40 was a Matthean embellishment of the saying.

      Bruce: We seem to be substituting, for the old criteria, a new and to me
      worrisome one: the probability that a given saying goes back to the
      historical Jesus. I'm only a stranger in these parts, so what do I know, but
      frankly, I would recommend keeping these thoughts in abeyance for the time
      being. Proper methodology, as I understand it, is seeing what the sources
      give us, as to whatever they may contain, whether Jesus or any other figure,
      rather than reading them on the assumption that we already know the answer
      to that question. The danger of wishful circularity is too great. Ne nos
      inducas in tentationem.

      Just as an experiment, though I normally try to keep my responses clear by
      avoiding "Q," I sat down and read straight the thing that the IQP has now
      officially defined. Did I get the sensation of a historical person speaking
      to his own times? Not a bit of it. I got the sensation of advice to later
      times being retro-attributed to the movement founder.

      One gets exactly the same thing, by the way, at enormously greater length,
      in the Pali Buddhist canon, where in sutta after sutta some question of
      monastic discipline comes up for decision, and is referred to the Buddha.
      Are those authentic utterances of the Buddha, or can they be seen as going
      back to the Buddha? Not very credibly. Buddhism began in an early phase of
      Ganga urbanization, and it wasn't until a hundred years later that things
      had progressed to the point where sufficient excess money was available to
      fund such a thing as a monastery. Buddha himself (like other people I might
      mention) was an itinerant, enjoying progressive hospitality at a series of
      houses (let me tell you, those who know this material get a special
      resonance out of certain recently discussed Mt/Lk sayings), but not himself
      permanently resident, or serving as the abbot of a permanent monastic

      The leading NT workers of the early 20c, now a hundred years ago, had by and
      large come to the conclusion that the Gospels, under the rubric of Jesus,
      tell us chiefly about the early Church. The further down the Mk > Mt > Lk >
      Jn line we go, as it seems to me, the more obviously true that gets (and the
      Church about which they tell us becomes itself more and more advanced).
      Here, I suggest, is the expectation to hang onto. People are naturally
      curious as to any earlier stages, but all I can offer them is the advice to
      be patient. We have not yet finished assessing the texts, and taking full
      account of what in them is directed to their readers. There will come a time
      to consult the residue for hints as to what might have come before, but I
      can't myself see that time as arriving within the present weekend.

      Best wishes of which to all present,


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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