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Re: One Canon; Many Jesus'

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  • bjtraff
    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
    Message 1 of 26 , Jul 1, 2002
      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
      is pointless.

      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
      is "unorthodox".

      >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. :-)


      Brian Trafford
      Calgary, AB, Canada
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