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22315Re: [XTalk] once more, Jesus and angels

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Jun 6, 2007
      To: XTalk
      In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson
      On: Angels
      From: Bruce

      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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