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Re: Ending of Mark? (Murphy)

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  • Antonio Jerez
    ... Dear Donald, and I would very much want to meet you in Belize. These dark wintermonths here in Sweden I have been daydreaming quite a lot about the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 1999
      Donald Murphy wrote:

      >Antonio Jerez wrote:
      >> I remember the discussion we had months ago on Crosstalk with Donald
      >> Murphy about Ched Myer's book. At that time I hadn't read the work but
      >> had to rely on the excerpts and interpretations Donald gave us. Since then
      >> I have given Myer's opus a thorough read, and I can't say that I am positive
      >> to it as D. Murphy is. I found a lot of Myer's readings of the pericopes and
      >> scenes in GMark extremely forced - chapter 13 and his interpretation of the
      >> Son of Man is a prime example. The apocalypticism outlook of Mark and
      >> the early Christians is obviously something that Myer's does his best to
      >> explain away - Origen would have been proud of him.
      >> Best wishes
      >> Antonio Jerez
      >Dear Antonio,
      >I'm still waiting for you to visit Belize again so that we can meet face to face!

      Dear Donald,
      and I would very much want to meet you in Belize. These dark wintermonths
      here in Sweden I have been daydreaming quite a lot about the glittering
      beaches of the Yucatan and the verdant jungles of Belize and Guatemala.
      Unfortunately I don't know when I will have the opportunity to return to
      Central America. Ojala, it will soon.

      ...PART DELETED...

      >In light of your present message, however, what interests me yet more specifically is
      >the way that you and others on Crosstalk ever since its beginning in 1995 reject the
      >arguments especially of Crossan regarding the non apocalyptic message of the
      >historical Jesus. Can you recall -- or, even better, pull up from the files -- any
      >message in which you or others have confronted the careful complexities of Crossan's
      >historical and literary grounding of his position on this matter?

      I'm glad that you mention Crossan. He is never far away from our thoughts
      on Crosstalk. To judge by your comments you do not appear to have followed
      the discussion on the list the last few weeks. Actually we had a discussion about
      Crossan's methodology just a few days ago. The reason was a new book by
      Dale Allison - "Jesus, millenarian prophet - where Allison heavily criticizes all
      those who argue for a totally de-eschatologized, non-apocalyptic Jesus. Though
      I think Allison's own methodology is far too rough and imprecise I think that he
      has, despite all, given the deathknell to readings of the evidence of people
      like Crossan, Borg and N.T Wright.

      >When I first read Crossan's interpretation, I was surprised and skeptical. But I
      >have come more and more to respect the way his argument is very carefully developed
      >and presented.

      When I first read Crossan some years ago I was quite impressed by his
      detailed arguments and his stratification and his charts. But as the years
      have passed by and I have digested more viewpoints I have become
      less and less impressed by Crossan. I increasingly see his longwinded
      argumentation and all those charts as a kind of smokescreen. The man
      is not consistent in his methodology anyway. How on earth he manages to
      put singly attested parables like the prodigal Son and the good Samaritan
      on the account of the historical Jesus is beyond me. It is also increasingly
      obvious that so much of the soundness of his vision of HJ depends on him
      being right about a lot of extremely controversial theories . And often his
      arguments rest on him being right about the hypothesis of a hypothesis. A
      prime example is his assertion about a Q-document (the existence of a
      hypothetical document) and in the next step a stratification into non-apocalyptic
      and apocalyptic in this hypothetical document. This is shaky ground to build
      on to say the least. How shaky can easily be shown in Crossan's latest
      book "The birth of Christianity" where the author is at least honest enough
      to point out on almost every page that if "this particular hypothesis of mine is wrong
      my whole theory falls to the ground". And as can easlily be seen he does not
      present one controversial hypothesis, but dozens upon dozens. Quite frankly
      I stopped having much confidence in Crossan when I learnt more about his
      dating documents like Secret Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Hebrews before
      the ALL the canonical gospels. I certainly do not think a scholar who builds
      castles on a few verses from a gospel that nobody has yet seen stands for
      sound methodology.

      I'll give you an excerpt from what I wrote in the Crosstalk debate just a few
      days ago:

      <<I was very glad to see that Allison later in the book hooked on to something in Crossan's argumentation that is quite crucial to his hypothesis. In his earlier
      Jesus book Crossan put a colossal amount of weight on Q 7:28 - the unit says
      that the least in the kingdom is greater than John. Crossan reads this
      pericope as meaning that HJ criticized and abandoned John's apocalyptic
      eschatology. Allison thinks there are several problems with the conclusion;
      first the fact that many exegetes attribute the saying to the Church, secondly
      that "even if Jesus uttered Q 7:29, it scarcely disengages him from John's
      eschatology. If Jesus uttered the saying before John died, then it probably
      meant that the least in the kingdom (when it comes) will be greater than
      the greatest (John) is now. If Jesus uttered it after John died, then it probably
      meant that those now alive, who experience the precence of God's reign, are
      the most priviliged and blessed of all, even more blessed than the Baptist of
      revered memory. In either instance John's eschatological proclamation is
      not overturned."
      Personally I believe that Allison is absolutely right, and I was utterly
      dismayed to see Crossan putting forward exactly the same argument
      about the same saying in his new book "The birth of Christianity".
      Again Crossan lets almost EVERYTHING depend on the (dubious)
      reading of ONE particular saying. And so you will find Crossan again
      discarding hundreds of sayings because they do not fit his reading
      <<of this particular pericope. This is preposterous!


      <<I think Jacob Knee gave a good picture of Allison's overall method
      the other day. As I see it Allison first looks at all the hundreds of pieces
      in the puzzle and asks himself if he can find something recognisable.
      He does - a lot of the pieces appear to look like coming from a kind
      of puzzle he has seen before. In this case the puzzle picture is "apocalyptic
      Judaism". So Allison starts to look at the pieces one by one to figure out
      if they are stamped with anything resemling "apocalypticism". He throws
      all the positive ones into a bag and in the end finds that there are very few
      pieces that do not fit the picture. And so he concludes that it is very, very
      probable that Jesus himself belonged to the apocalyptic wing of Judaism
      and himself proclaimed it in some form or another.
      You could almost say that Crossan's method is the reverse of Allison's
      Crossan takes a look at the hundreds of puzzle pieces, grabs one (Q 7:29)
      that he thinks doesn't fit with the others and says that this single piece is the key to
      the puzzle. The 99.9% that don't fit with this piece can be thrown away without
      much qualms.
      I think that for all the apparent sophistication of Crossan's method,much of
      it is really just a smokescreen. Crossan is often not consistent anyway - a lot
      depends on subjective guesses. And often it is not even good guesses or good
      readings, like in the case of Q 7:29. His building is a stack of cards that blows
      down on the merest whisper of a wind.
      So I agree with Allison's overall conclusion (that Jesus was some kind of
      millenarian), though I think that we should do more than just put all the
      apocalyptic puzzle pieces in a bag without scrutinizing them further. I
      do after all believe that there was a development in the apocalyptic picture
      from Jesus to the time of his later followers (like Mark, Matthew, Luke...).
      And here is where we should try to use tools like tradition-criticism, redaction -
      criticism etc, but always keeping in mind that these are highly imperfect

      >Before rejecting Crossan's position, I suggest that one would have, with equal
      >carefulness to that shown by Crossan, to point out invalidities or inconsistencies
      >in his treatment, for example, of the following areas:

      I agree with your suggestion that "before rejecting Crossan's position...". This
      is precisely what I have done. I have read and digested all his books carefully.

      > -- the important difference in meaning between "eschatological" and "apocalyptic"
      >for understanding the very different

      I think I understand his distinction. But I still find too much in the
      material we have pointing clearly in one direction - that HJ and
      the early church shared an apocalyptic outlook.

      > outlooks and attitudes of Jesus and various NT writers;
      > -- the background and history of the development of "Son of Man" as a title
      >specifically referring to Jesus;

      Crossan and I are in no disagreement that the use of the Son of
      Man as a title (with apocalyptic associations) does NOT go back
      to HJ. And my own studies have convinced me that there is a trajectory
      in the development of the Son of Man concept in the NT. My own reading
      is from a present/future Kingdom of God that HJ preached to a Son of
      Man/Parousia/Kingdom concept in GMark to a more developed Son
      of Man/Kingdom of God-Christ/Parousia concept in Matthew and Luke.

      > -- the evidence of the broad textual tradition that Jesus as "Son of Man" very
      >seldom appears in connection with apocalypic
      > outlooks of NT writers; and

      Agree. That is one of the reasons I believe that the title Son of Man
      does not go back to HJ. The Son of Man concept is mostly a synoptic
      phenomenon. The future Kingdom of God concept goes like a thread
      through all NT texts. That is a clear indication that it originates with HJ.

      > -- the considerable evidence, presupposing the priority of Mark and the
      >(independent) use of Mark by both Matthew and
      > Luke, showing that in case after case it is Mark who _first_ brings together
      >strictly apocalyptic imagery and the title of
      > "Son of Man" applied to Jesus.
      >Only after such serious study of Crossan's position would it be valuable for us to
      >engage in further serious study of the arguments that Myers gives for his completely
      >surprising interpretations of passages such as Mark 8:38-9:1; 13:24-28; and 14:62. In
      >that later discussion I think you will agree that it will be only fair to Myers always
      >to keep in mind his clearly set out presentation of the theoretical and practical
      >aspects of his use of "narrative analysis" throughout his commentary. In light of
      >such a discussion I think we could more profitably return to discussing Myers's basis
      >for interpreting the appearance of both the "young man" and the "linen cloth" in Mark
      >15 and 16 -- the topic that led to this present exchange of messages.
      >Isn't it amazing that, to all appearances, Crossan (1991 for his The Historical Jesus)
      >and Myers (1988 for his Binding the Strong Man) did not at all know one another's work
      >but reached strikingly similar interpretations -- given their very different purposes
      >(Historical Jesus investigation and strictly Markan commentary, respectively) and
      >methods. How much joy it would give this one student of the NT and the Historical
      >Jesus to see the two of them seriously coming to know one another's work!

      I don't find it amazing at all. Both Crossan and Myer, although coming at it
      from different angles, are doing their best to present the world with a Jesus
      who still has some meaning - a liberal, anti-establishment Jesus that is
      all the liberation-theologians of the 90ies could ask for. Crossan gets to his
      goal through contorted readings of pericopes and parables and building
      one dubious hypothesis upon unother, while Myer does it through all kinds
      of Origenist readings.

      >That joy may not be on the horizon. But I have hopes that I will experience the joy
      >of seeing you, Antonio, carefully grappling with such aspects of both authors as I
      >outline above. The matters involved, I suggest, are of considerable importance for
      >all of us who are interested in either the study of the Synoptic Problem or the study
      >of the Historical Jesus.

      I'm open for any further, deeper discussion. I have after all already tried
      to grapple with Crossan and Myer. Some more grappling surely won't

      >Every best wish, Antonio! And please let me know if you are still contemplating a
      >return visit to Belize!

      I sure am. If I pass by again I promise to give you a call.

      Best wishes

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