Re: One Canon; Many Jesus'
- I have to admire the dedication of a man who takes a minivacation,
and then takes time out during the Canadian long weekend to post to
us here at XTalk! ;-)
In any event... onward as they say.
--- In crosstalk2@y..., Steve Black <sblack@a...> wrote:
>The canon seems to encourage us to write a sort of a "neo-
>Diatessero" of sorts in in our minds. This "harmony" produces the
>"canonical-Jesus" where the *diversity* of portrayals in the NT is
>"silenced". I think the canon is thus an obstacle to overcome in
>regards to HJesus research. (This, I think, is also why such books
>as GThomas are not always taken as seriously as perhaps they should
First off, I won't speak for others, but my reason for rejecting
GThomas as a source for Historical Jesus studies is based on my
belief that it is a late (i.e. 2nd Century) document that shows
dependence on the Synoptics and GJohn. One might as well go looking
through Irenaeus for new data on Jesus of Nazareth.
As for attempts to produce "harmony's" from the Canonical texts, I do
not necessarily have a problem with that, so long as one does not
engage in special pleading or leaps of logic that defy all sense.
When they disagree, as they do, for example on the genealogy of
Jesus, one should simply accept this data, and move on. Determining
which is the more accurate is a guessing game, and reconciling them
But most importantly, as I stated previously, one should not place
too much weight on the supposed diversity of views presented, as this
can skew the final picture, and make the task look more difficult
than it may well be. For example, imagine that we had four complete
(and roughly contemporaneous) stories about any other ancient. Would
we then conclude that nothing could be known about this individual at
all? Or would one accept (correctly in my view), that the task may
be difficult, but worth while, and could lead to some remarkable
insights into the man we call Jesus of Nazareth.
>I guess the word "completely" (as in "completely different") might
>have been hyperbolic. Yet the point stands, and it seems that you
>even agree with it at bit. How much different does something have to
>be before it becomes "completely[/very]" different?
Is this a rhetorical question? If I may, I wonder why we must take
some kind of "all or nothing" dichotomy in which we must either find
total agreement, or we must reject the entire project. Is uncovering
the historical Jesus that impossible of a task?
For example, was the ministry of Jesus about a year long (as
suggested by the Synpotics), or was it approximately three (as we are
told in John)? And if Jesus did not say any of the "I am" statements
in John, does that mean that he said nothing like what we find in
John at all?
>Of course there
>are SOME similarities. There was, after all, a real HJesus at ground
>zero (perhaps an unfortunate term now...) that all the
>various "shock waves" reflect in some way or another. The fact that
>both Mt & Lk are based on Mk (by my understanding of the Syn. Prob)
>also explains a lot of the commonality. It is striking, at least to
>me, how different Mt & Lk's Jesus are from Mk's, despite their use
>of the same source.
I am still unclear as to what you mean exactly when you say that
Jesus is "different" in each of the Gospels. This is simply
axiomatic, of course, but any author is going to present a different
picture of the person they are reporting, so I am unsure why you
think that this is so critical. Is it your view that we should
simply throw up our hands, pack our bags and go home (is that enough
mixed metaphors for one sentence?) on the question of who was the
historical Jesus? If it is, I do not share your pessimism, and if it
is not, what are you trying to say here?
> (I wonder if Mt didn't think that his "correction" of Mk's "flawed"
> gospel was going to make Mk's gospel entirely redundant?)
Interesting thought. My question is how did you get inside Matt's
head in order to know this in the first place? For example, why do
you think that Matt saw Mark as "flawed" and in need of "correction"?
>Once again, I think the canon is an obstacle to overcome in regards
>to HJesus research. The (often Xn) impulse to interpret scripture by
>scripture enabled Mk to *appear* fully orthodox.
Perhaps it would help if you would explain how you believe Mark
>How often have I
>heard clever attempts to see the virgin birth, for example, where it
>doesn't exist (Paul & Mk).
This looks like another rhetorical ;-), but I do not see what this
has to do with historical inquiries, as I am sure no historian worth
his salt is going to make this attempt in any event.
>I suspect - and I could be wrong - that
>the impulse behind trying to have a Paul that knows and uses the
>teachings of Jesus is driven by the canonical impulse to find a
>"unity of scripture".
Well, I cannot address your suspicions, but in my own case I think
that past and present scholars place too much weight on the arguments
from silence that must be made about what Paul may or may not have
known about the historical Jesus. Any attempts to then extend this
argument to perceived (but unarticulated) differences between the
Jesus found in each of the Gospels is not helpful, and may even be
For example, if we find two different images of any other ancient
personage in the texts, do we then automatically conclude that we
cannot decide which source is better, or closer to the truth? If
that is your contention, then I would challenge your agnosticism as
being unnecessarily pessimistic. The purpose and methods of
historical inquiries may not be perfect, but they are not as flawed
and meaningless as you appear to be suggesting here.
> I think the canon itself encourages us to put
> all the various authors and points of view reflected in the NT on
> "the same page".
Of course it does. The people who selected the Canon saw a unity of
purpose and theme within these texts. If modern historians wish to
dispute this unity, however, it is incumbent upon them to point to
the wide discrepancies (and preferrably outright contradictions), and
to examine them within the possible frameworks of the texts
themselves, and to then employ the tools of the trade as it were.
After all, we do have a lot of material on the historical Jesus
(someone once called it an "embarrassment of riches"), and much of it
far closer to the life of this man than what we find on other ancient
individuals. I would hope that you would not find this wealth of
sources to be an impediment to our research. After all, would we
rather have only as much as we do, say, on Apollonius of Tyana, or
Socrates, or Hannibal, or even Peter and Paul? I sometimes wonder
what it would take to make a classical historian happy! Speaking
personally, I happen to love the diversity of material. :-)
Calgary, AB, Canada