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10476[XTalk] Davies Re: Paul and Jesus' teaching

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  • sdavies0
    Jul 3, 2002
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      --- In crosstalk2@y..., Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...> wrote:

      > In fact, one of the burdens under which attempts to understand
      > teaching has labored is the lack of clarity about the difference
      > Jesus' teachings, whatever they might have been, and his sayings
      > general. This stems, I think, from a Docetic view of Jesus, in
      which, as
      > One who was One with God, Jesus was viewed as Omniscient, so that
      even if
      > he said, "please pass the Ketchup" at dinner, one would assume
      that he was
      > teaching something (please excuse the blatant anachronism). In my
      > this is not helpful.

      I have tried to make the same point myself. If we take the "turn the
      other cheek" saying, as our text, then it may have been said at some
      particular point for some reason altogether lost. Or it may have
      been said to a particular sort of audience with a general
      application for members of that audience, e.g. destitute itinerants.
      But on the whole I think it is utterly wrong to think that Jesus'
      every utterance properly should be taken to apply to all humans at
      all times. But, as we see, this is often done.

      And it is easy to do, especially with Seminary training. Hobbled by
      the lack of same I will still venture to say that when Jesus
      said "please pass the Ketchup" we hear the voice of one who has
      humbled himself into the human form so that he does not force a
      miraculous Ketchup upon us but humbly begs for human Ketchup to be
      passed. His use of "please" is a particularly telling point, because
      we know from contemporary archaeological work that in his time and
      place the word "please" was used by Jews as a signifier or "word of
      politeness" initiating a formal request during mealtimes and
      elsewhere. The quoted "Ketchup saying" is very probably of the
      ipsissima verba (John Meier says so, as does N. T. Wright, two
      giants of scholarship) because it fits so well into the Lukan
      pattern of table fellowship which we know traces back to Jesus
      himself. This inference is confirmed by its coherence with the Q
      saying found only in Luke: "eat what is set before you." Note that
      we learn from Jesus that while we "eat what is set before us" even
      he shows us by his own example that we must call upon the assistance
      of others to improve that which we find before us. Through the
      assistance of others, by their provision of Ketchup, we can take
      what is set before us and make of it a better and more whole-some
      meal. We find Jesus opening up a world of sharing and world-
      improvement that lessons us to move out into the world and pour our
      Ketchup upon those affairs that are set before us, just as he did,
      with the help of those to whom he turned.

      > I think it is more helpful to ask questions such as the following:
      > * Did Jesus' contemporaries (i.e., people who, as adults, knew
      > him) regard him as a teacher?

      I do not think you can assume that if the Synoptics say so it was
      so. But the preservations of his sayings leads to legitimate
      inferences that for some reason what he said was considered quite

      > * If so, what did it mean to them?

      I think we are safer if we just make up stuff for it to mean to us
      and then blithely attribute that to them. Based on thinking about
      Thomas sayings, synoptic ones, which are strikingly devoid of
      context, I have basically concluded that it is literally impossible
      to say what they meant originally. Hence, I would say, Mark comes up
      with the idea of giving them a context so that they can mean
      something. Which, as you know, is what Mark thinks they meant,
      rather than what Jesus or the audience thought.

      > * Did Jesus' contemporaries regard him as having a didache
      (teaching or
      > doctrine?) If so, what did they think it was?

      Here I must reiterate what I keep iterating and that is that the
      answer appears to be NO. Why? Because they (Mark, Thomas) insist
      even his most intimate followers didn't understand. Because they all
      felt free to make up things for him to teach. Because they, Paul,
      John, Hebrews, do not care enough about that teaching or doctrine to
      include it. The standard theory that he had a didache but it was
      essentially forgotten by the time we have any records of his stuff
      doesn't appeal.

      > * What were other people described as didaskolos and rabbi
      doing in
      > Roman Judea and Galilee, and how did they do it, during Jesus'
      day? (this
      > might cast light on the second bullet above.)

      Or not. We have a frightening tendency to fall into the "drunk under
      the streetlamp" fallacy, which is to look for our lost keys under
      the streetlamp because that's where the light is rather than look in
      the darker vicinity of the place we lost the keys. So we look for
      information from the writings of General - Priest Josephus or the
      Essene (Priestly?) collection from Qumran for the "how did they do
      it" of a Galilean peasant prophet because we have no good
      information about how Galilean peasant prophets did it.

      > We must also avoid rampant anachronism and ethnocentrism.

      Good idea. Can I include in "ethnocentrism" the notion that the
      Nazarene was a Judean?

      > To most people
      > today, "teaching" means something done by a "teacher" in
      a "classroom."

      I don't think this is true for HJ aficionados.

      > Consequently conservative Christian circles,
      > in trying to make sense of the fact that in all of the gospels he
      > addressed as "teacher," that Jesus WAS the Faculty (all of it,
      except maybe
      > also J the B), and the classroom was anywhere he was. I don't find
      > approach very helpful, either.

      Why do you write "conservative?" I think our liberals do exactly

      > So, besides looking for the Authentic Sayings of Jesus, I want to
      > which of those sayings were regarded as teaching, and which were
      of the
      > "Please pass the grits" stuff of daily non-teaching life.

      But here you quote as authentic a non-canonical saying. In the canon
      it reads "Please pass the Ketchup" and not "Please pass the grits."
      It does us all a disservice, Bob, for you to bring into the
      discussion material that clearly is Gnostic and second or third
      century. Grits, as we know, are not a flavoring-device to improve
      the quality of the food set before us, as is Ketchup, but is an
      alternative food in and of itself. Jesus, in the saying you quote,
      is dissatisfied with his food and wants more or better food. But we
      know from the sayings in the Bible that he insisted that we should
      eat what is set before us. It does not say that we should demand
      other foods. Because of the verbal identity in the initiational
      phrase "Please pass theĀ…" we can tell that the variant with "grits"
      is dependent on the original "Ketchup," but changed in such a way as
      to reject this world, symbolized by the food upon which the Ketchup
      is to be poured, in favor of a different higher world symbolized by
      the term "grits," in a way typical of third century Gnosticism.

      > Furthermore, I want to know about forms of teaching as well as
      content, and
      > other clues to when Jesus was in "teaching" mode, and when he
      > And I also want to know whether he also taught by deed as well as
      by word,
      > and how that was recognized and understood.
      > Your humble student,

      Oh, you're not as humble as all that.

      Steve Davies
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