22315Re: [XTalk] once more, Jesus and angels
- Jun 6, 2007To: XTalk
In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson
I had suggested, based on the Markan evidence as against the rest of the
Synoptic evidence, that angels were not a strong part of Jesus' worldview,
and amounted to no more than decorative enhancement in visions of God. I had
further suggested that the stronger and more numerous angels in the later
Synoptics might represent a reversion of early Christianity to a Jewish view
of things, just as the practice of baptism and fasting in the early Church
seems to represent a reversion to the Baptist movement of which it had at
first been a part. The last line of a paragraph of mine quoted by Jeffrey
went: "Might not angels fit into this category also? Angels seem to be
highly developed in Judaism, but it is, again, only in the second tier of
the Christian writings that they make much of an effect."
JEFFREY: I think you can make this claim only if you neglect the "angel
talk" that appears in Paul, of which there is a decent amount, yes?
BRUCE: Well, a certain amount. But Paul is perhaps a different story. One
point of difference among the various Gospels is how far they are
assimilated to the Christianity of Paul. In Mark, those points of
assimilation are few and textually suspect; that is, they may be intrusions
into, or adjustments in, what at an earlier stage would have reflected a
pre-Pauline Christianity. In Luke/Acts, the assimilation is total: Paul's
mission defines the direction that Luke/Acts sees Christianity as moving in;
he is the hero of the story. If Paul's genuine Epistles show some angel
talk, and if Mt/Lk also show some angel talk, there would seem to be little
ground for surprise. But all of this would still seem to postdate Mark, and
to attest a later stage, or several parallel later stages, of doctrinal
evolution beyond the point of which, whenever it was written down, the
Gospel of Mark is aware.
I take Mark, whenever it was written down, as our best witness for Jesus.
One thing you can say about Paul, he sure didn't leave Christianity the way
he found it. Mark (and a few other documents; I would include the earlier
layer of James) gives us a much better chance to see what Christianity was
like before Paul found it. While, in fact, he was still persecuting it, and
had not yet, in his masterful way, taken up the chore of managing it.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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