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Re: [XTalk] Scholars and the eschatology of Jesus

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  • Mark Goodacre
    ... Here s the conclusion to Allison s article, A Plea for a Thoroughgoing Eschatology The eschatological Jesus is theologically troubling . . . the truth,
    Message 1 of 19 , Jul 4, 2002
      On 4 Jul 2002 at 9:43, Bob Schacht wrote:

      > Ehrmann and Allison, on the other hand, view Jesus in terms that make
      > absolutely no sense in modern terms-- unless you are a Christian
      > fundamentalist, in which case an eschatological Jesus is OK because he
      > is Different and stands outside of the Normal anyway. So although
      > Ehrmann and Allison might not be viewed as congenial to Christian
      > conservatives as N.T. Wright or Ben Witherington, they are
      > nevertheless willing to conceive of Jesus in terms that are completely
      > out of sync with modern cultural heroic ideals.

      Here's the conclusion to Allison's article, "A Plea for a
      Thoroughgoing Eschatology"

      'The eschatological Jesus is theologically troubling . . . the truth,
      however, is like God: we can run from it but it is always there. I
      myself do not know what to make of the eschatological Jesus. I am,
      for theological reasons, unedified by the thought that, in a matter
      seemingly so crucial, a lie has been walking around for two thousand
      years while the truth has only recently put on its shoes. But there
      it is.'

      There is something in Allison's tone here that I find admirable, even
      moving, and it comes closer to the pathos of Schweitzer than anything
      else I've read in recent Historical Jesus scholarship.

      Mark
      -----------------------------
      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
      University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
      Birmingham B15 2TT UK

      http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
      http://NTGateway.com
    • Rikk E. Watts
      ... Out of the mouths of babes... (Brian, definitely no offence intended); you ve just hit Charlesworth s nail on the head for him. I ll keep grinning all
      Message 2 of 19 , Jul 4, 2002
        on 7/4/02 1:37 PM, bjtraff at bj_traff@... wrote:

        > .... yet if you read Borg, or
        > Crossan, or Funk there seems to be little room for such a view of
        > Jesus in modern scholarly circles.
        >
        Out of the mouths of babes... (Brian, definitely no offence intended);
        you've just hit Charlesworth's nail on the head for him.

        I'll keep grinning all afternoon :)

        Rikk

        Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
        Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
        Regent College
        5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Bob Webb
        ... In a 1986 article, Marcus Borg reports a survey in which he polled scholars on the question of the eschatological Jesus, both within the Jesus Seminar and
        Message 3 of 19 , Jul 5, 2002
          Brian wrote:

          >In any case, I am curious, how widely accepted are the respective
          >views of an eschatological and non-eschatalogical Jesus? Ehrman, for
          >example, has always struck me as a bit of a maverick in the field. Is
          >he more mainstream in his belief on this subject, however, than Borg
          >or Crossan (or even Wright and Witherington)? I do wonder.

          In a 1986 article, Marcus Borg reports a survey in which he polled scholars
          on the question of the eschatological Jesus, both within the Jesus Seminar
          and outside it (Historical Jesus Section at SBL). The question was:

          "Do you think Jesus expected the end of the world in his generation, i.e.,
          in the lifetime of at least some of his contemporaries?"

          Four possible responses were allowed:
          - strongly think so
          - inclined to think so
          - inclined to think not
          - strongly do not think so

          Jesus Seminar results (21 responses):
          - 6
          - 4
          - 5
          - 6

          Historical Jesus Section in SBL (18 responses):
          - 3
          - 3
          - 6
          - 6

          Source: Borg, Marcus J. "A Temperate Case for a Non-Eschatological Jesus."
          SBLSP 25 (1986) 521-35.

          Of course, this immediately raises the question of Borg's definition of
          eschatological as "imminent end of the world". I would think this skews the
          results. I would think many would answer "don't think so" to this question
          and still view Jesus as eschatological.

          Bob Webb.



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Mark Goodacre
          ... Good point. After all, one of the things Tom Wright is so insistent on is that Jesus did not expect the imminent end of the world, yet at the same time he
          Message 4 of 19 , Jul 5, 2002
            On 5 Jul 2002 at 7:43, Bob Webb wrote:

            > Of course, this immediately raises the question of Borg's definition
            > of eschatological as "imminent end of the world". I would think this
            > skews the results. I would think many would answer "don't think so" to
            > this question and still view Jesus as eschatological.

            Good point. After all, one of the things Tom Wright is so insistent
            on is that Jesus did not expect the imminent end of the world, yet at
            the same time he regards himself as strongly advocating an
            eschatological Jesus.

            Mark
            -----------------------------
            Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
            Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
            University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
            Birmingham B15 2TT UK

            http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
            http://NTGateway.com
          • Bob Schacht
            ... It has wider implications than this, if we want to understand the growth and development of the Church in the early centuries, because such questions can
            Message 5 of 19 , Jul 6, 2002
              At 12:02 PM 7/4/2002 -0400, you wrote:

              >I am bothered by statements such as his aim being to "show how scholars have
              >come to the conclusions they have reached over many years, and what these
              >conclusions might mean for someone -- or a church -- who wants to take
              >seriously their implications for the big questions that make life
              >worthwhile: Who am I? What is life for? What is real? Who is God?"
              >
              >While I appreciate that the results of historical criticism must have
              >repercussions among the faithful who accept its principals,

              It has wider implications than this, if we want to understand the growth
              and development of the Church in the early centuries, because such
              questions can help us understand what motivated early Christians.

              >this kind of talk makes it seem, at least to me, like Patterson thinks
              >critics such as
              >himself *have* found a "Rosetta stone" for understanding ourselves as human
              >beings with basic psychological needs that theology helps satisfy. At times
              >I have mentioned my observation that the religious spectrum, at least in
              >modern times, has a right wing that clearly sees Jesus functioning as a
              >"personal savior" reconciling individuals with God, and a left wing that
              >just as clearly sees Jesus functioning as the focus for a gospel of social
              >enlightenment, reconciling society with God. Perhaps this explains the
              >modern fascination with interpretations of Jesus as a prophetic reformer or
              >wandering cynic-like social critic. Is it a coincidence that to many critics
              >Jesus seems more and more to resemble a beatnik of the 50's, Allen Ginsberg
              >of the 60's, and social radicals of the 1960's & 1970's, all rolled into
              >one? It appears that we are simply gazing at our own reflections in the
              >well, and a reflection that is at least 30 years old!

              Much older than that, since the observation is Schweitzer's, no?

              You then quote me:

              > >>He also argues that "the search for the historical Jesus should not be
              >about replacing the biblical stories with history, throwing out the
              >'confessionally biased gospels' in favor of the 'indisputable facts of
              >history'." (pp. 8-9). Instead, he argues that we need the confessional
              >elements to understand what Jesus *meant* to his followers.<<
              >
              >And what Jesus meant to the authors of Christian literature is all we
              >actually can "know" about him. If anything about a real Jesus is to be
              >found, it must be deduced from the rhetoric by which that understanding was
              >framed. But to speak of their understanding of Jesus in ethical terms, as if
              >it has tremendously deep meaning for all humankind in all ages, is "social
              >gospel" ideology, pure and simple.

              I think what you may be missing is that Patterson's method is meant to
              parse the rhetoric into its various components, some of which have to do
              with meaning, and others of which may reflect history.

              >...I say, if he wants to be all soft and fuzzy, move Patterson's books to the
              >"Inspirational" shelf along with Og Mandino.
              >
              >Respectfully,
              >
              >Dave Hindley
              >Cleveland, Ohio, USA

              I think this does not fairly characterize Patterson's book. Perhaps you
              have mistaken my commendation of the warm and fuzzy parts for the sum total
              of his effort. But Patterson, after all, is/was a member of the Jesus
              Seminar, and uses as the basis of his discussion the red and pink sayings
              from The Five Gospels.

              Bob
            • David C. Hindley
              ... criticism must have repercussions among the faithful who accept its principals], if we want to understand the growth and development of the Church in the
              Message 6 of 19 , Jul 6, 2002
                Robert Schacht says:

                >>It has wider implications than this [i.e., that the results of historical
                criticism must have
                repercussions among the faithful who accept its principals], if we want to
                understand the growth and development of the Church in the early centuries,
                because such questions can help us understand what motivated early
                Christians.<<

                I doubt that we are going to discover how ancients answered questions like:
                "Who am I? What is life for? What is real? Who is God?" in the way Patterson
                would like us to. I am even doubtful the ancients would have asked these
                questions in the form some of these take. "Who is God?" should be "Which
                God?" One of the others is pretty cut & dried: "Who am I?" "Why, you are a
                low-level retainer of me, an elite big-wig, mainly because you are a
                non-inheriting son with no land to farm, and you can't learn a trade, so get
                back to work."

                The middle two, however, might be better asked as "Is this all there is?"
                How various communities answered that question might be illuminated by the
                study of Thomas and other early Christian documents. Yet the POV of Thomas
                does not appear to be reflected strongly in early Christian theology,
                including even the early Christian gnostic circles. It is a side track to
                the mainline, but there is this strange modern insistence in thinking of it
                as an important marshalling yard to the mainline. Why?

                >>Much older than that, since the observation is Schweitzer's, no?<<

                I was speaking of the modern reflections. Schweitzer, who popularized the
                image in the well imagery, saw Jesus as a teacher of a messianic secret, but
                not as a wandering radical social critic (at least as far as I can recall
                off the top of my head). The well, to Schweitzer, was his commentary upon
                the character of the then-modern "Liberal Lives of Jesus.' He felt they
                reflected the bias and ideologies of the humanist liberal critics who wrote
                them more than the actual life and teachings of an historical Jesus. Of
                course that did not stop Schweitzer from doing the same thing himself with
                his messianic secret hypothesis.

                A couple years ago I read a magazine article on management strategy at large
                corporations (since I work for one then as well as now). It said that the
                buzz-words used by high-level management types usually turn out to be
                technical terms used in cutting-edge trade journals coined about 10 years
                earlier. The reason, I suspected, was that the high-level corporate leaders
                were attempting to interpret circumstances prevailing in their own time by
                using descriptive terms they heard of (but did not actually learn formally,
                as no school is *that* "cutting-edge") in their business school graduate
                programs 10 years prior.

                I say, look at the social trends and popular ideas of the days when modern
                critics were in undergraduate and graduate school, and you will find the
                ideas that permeate their interpretations today. Not that there's anything
                *wrong* with that <said while taking a step back>, but I feel the 60's
                radical intellectual interpretation still dominant today is over-done and
                ready for replacement. All the rough edges of the revolutionary Jesus (of S.
                G. F. Brandon and some others) have been sanded off and Jesus has now been
                polished into a caricature of a university professor, but it is all getting
                quite worn out. Now if we stripped off the old polish and brought up the
                grain, we might have another go at shaping the idea of an eschatological
                Jesus ...

                Respectfully,

                Dave Hindley
                Cleveland, Ohio, USA
              • sdavies0
                ... there is? ... by the ... Thomas ... theology, ... track to ... thinking of it ... Well, I think there s an answer to that question. Let s take your own
                Message 7 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
                  --- In crosstalk2@y..., "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@c...> wrote:
                  > The middle two, however, might be better asked as "Is this all
                  there is?"
                  > How various communities answered that question might be illuminated
                  by the
                  > study of Thomas and other early Christian documents. Yet the POV of
                  Thomas
                  > does not appear to be reflected strongly in early Christian
                  theology,
                  > including even the early Christian gnostic circles. It is a side
                  track to
                  > the mainline, but there is this strange modern insistence in
                  thinking of it
                  > as an important marshalling yard to the mainline. Why?

                  Well, I think there's an answer to that question. Let's take your own
                  observations:

                  > At times
                  > I have mentioned my observation that the religious spectrum, at
                  least in
                  > modern times, has a right wing that clearly sees Jesus functioning
                  as a
                  > "personal savior" reconciling individuals with God, and a left wing
                  that
                  > just as clearly sees Jesus functioning as the focus for a gospel of
                  social
                  > enlightenment, reconciling society with God.

                  I think this is quite true, although I suspect it applies to the
                  USA specifically. There is a third wing on the dove, and that's the
                  New Age, the Spiritual Questers, the folks who have become fed up for
                  good with the Christian Church of the two sorts and who want
                  something else to massage their spiritual goodness with.
                  Those folks are still Christian from their childhood training and so
                  for them the POV of Thomas is very reassuring.

                  As our very Stephen Patterson took pains to demonstrate, in
                  "The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus" book the Gospel of Thomas is
                  independent of the Canonical scriptures. It is probably
                  first century in date.
                  This fact is strong evidence against the
                  common presumption that because Mark and its revisions are
                  in the canon therefore Mark and its
                  revisions are the only possible ways of viewing Jesus (pace half of
                  Crosstalk). Thus as it becomes clearer that the canonical scriptures
                  are a particular point of view (or related set of points of view)
                  chosen by people who, we have reason to think, hated and
                  suppressed the POV of Thomas (cf. Irenaeus)
                  Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that
                  Jesus was not either an American Social Gospel Protestant, or
                  an American Born Again ProtestantÂ… but Jesus may have been
                  an American New Age Spiritual Quester.

                  That's why Thomas assumes such importance to some. Just as
                  prootexts from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount become the
                  essential HJ to the Social Gospelers, and the Born Agginers
                  pick prooftexts from Paul, so the New Agers find in Thomas their
                  prooftexts of choice.

                  Oh, incidentally, I've revised and cleaned up the
                  Gospel of Thomas Homepage, especially in light of
                  the fact that Stigmata the godawful movie is showing up on TV.

                  http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html

                  Steve Davies
                • David C. Hindley
                  Steven, ... Questers, the folks who have become fed up for good with the Christian Church of the two sorts and who want something else to massage their
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
                    Steven,

                    >>There is a third wing on the dove, and that's the New Age, the Spiritual
                    Questers, the folks who have become fed up for good with the Christian
                    Church of the two sorts and who want something else to massage their
                    spiritual goodness with. <<

                    In *this* neighborhood? There goes the intellectual property values!

                    >>Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that Jesus was not either an
                    American Social Gospel Protestant, or an American Born Again Protestant� but
                    Jesus may have been an American New Age Spiritual Quester.<<

                    Whew, you had me goin' there for a minute!

                    Respectfully,

                    Dave Hindley
                    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                  • bjtraff
                    ... I m sorry, but which fact is this Steve? That GThomas is probably 2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-) ... Good heavens. The known first
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
                      --- In crosstalk2@y..., "sdavies0" <sdavies@m...> wrote:

                      > As our very Stephen Patterson took pains to demonstrate, in
                      > "The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus" book the Gospel of Thomas is
                      > independent of the Canonical scriptures. It is probably
                      > first century in date.
                      > This fact...


                      I'm sorry, but which "fact" is this Steve? That GThomas is probably
                      2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-)

                      > is strong evidence against the
                      > common presumption that because Mark and its revisions are
                      > in the canon therefore Mark and its
                      > revisions are the only possible ways of viewing Jesus (pace half of
                      > Crosstalk).

                      Good heavens. The "known" first century documents are in the Canon.
                      Those that "might be first century, but are probably second and later
                      are not. Yet many silly scholars appear bent on using the earlier
                      texts over the later ones. How odd.

                      >Thus as it becomes clearer that the canonical scriptures
                      >are a particular point of view (or related set of points of view)
                      >chosen by people who, we have reason to think, hated and
                      >suppressed the POV of Thomas (cf. Irenaeus)

                      Oh dear. Poisoning the well now? Is this why they elected not to
                      include 1 Clement? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be
                      apostolic? Now, if you could prove that it is a FACT that GThomas
                      was 1st Century, that would be interesting to say the least.

                      >Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that
                      >Jesus was not either an American Social Gospel Protestant, or
                      >an American Born Again ProtestantÂ… but Jesus may have been
                      >an American New Age Spiritual Quester.

                      Hmmm... which one of these are the Catholics? ;-)

                      >That's why Thomas assumes such importance to some.

                      Are you saying that it is important because it is congenial to the
                      theology of some, and antithical to others? I thought historicans
                      were supposed to treat data on the basis of its independence and
                      early dating, as well as its probable authenticity and closeness to
                      the historical Jesus.

                      >Just as rootexts from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount become the
                      >essential HJ to the Social Gospelers, and the Born Agginers pick
                      >prooftexts from Paul, to the New Agers find in Thomas their
                      >prooftexts of choice.

                      Fortunately, scholars are above all of this, and work from the
                      evidence on the basis of how reliable it is in itself, right? ;-)

                      Peace,

                      Brian Trafford
                      Calgary, AB, Canada
                    • David C. Hindley
                      My apologies if my Steven should have been StevAn ... Respectfully, Dave Hindley Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
                        My apologies if my "Steven" should have been "StevAn" ... <gotta get me some
                        of them there spectacles>

                        Respectfully,

                        Dave Hindley
                        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                      • smithand44
                        ... probably ... Canon. ... later ... ? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be ... Isn t it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jul 9, 2002
                          --- In crosstalk2@y..., "bjtraff" <bj_traff@h...> wrote:

                          > I'm sorry, but which "fact" is this Steve? That GThomas is
                          probably
                          > 2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-)


                          > Good heavens. The "known" first century documents are in the
                          Canon.
                          > Those that "might be first century, but are probably second and
                          later
                          > are not. Yet many silly scholars appear bent on using the earlier
                          > texts over the later ones. How odd.

                          ? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be
                          > apostolic? Now, if you could prove that it is a FACT that GThomas
                          > was 1st Century, that would be interesting to say the least.

                          Isn't it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
                          century documents when it wasn't even the first century at that time?
                          It isn't a FACT that Thomas is first century, but then it isn't a
                          FACT that the canonical gospels are, either. I happen to think that
                          both are, but how could it truly be a fact without external evidence?

                          Best Wishes

                          Andrew Smith
                        • bjtraff
                          ... {Snip my stuff} ... Hello Andrew Actually, I was tweaking Steve a bit for his hyperbole, as curious assertion about the *factual dating* of GThomas and why
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jul 14, 2002
                            --- In crosstalk2@y..., "smithand44" <smithand44@h...> wrote:

                            {Snip my stuff}

                            >Isn't it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
                            >century documents when it wasn't even the first century at that
                            >time? It isn't a FACT that Thomas is first century, but then it
                            >isn't a FACT that the canonical gospels are, either. I happen to
                            >think that both are, but how could it truly be a fact without
                            >external evidence?

                            Hello Andrew

                            Actually, I was tweaking Steve a bit for his hyperbole, as curious
                            assertion about the *factual dating* of GThomas and why it never made
                            it into the Canon in the first place. As you have rightly noted, the
                            question of dating ancient texts can often prove quite problematic,
                            though I would add that this does not make the effort impossible. I
                            would argue that given the criteria that we use in dating ancient
                            texts, it can be more confidently demonstrated that many of the books
                            found in the Canon are 1st Century. Using this same criteria, and
                            applying it objectively, we can demonstrate that other texts are more
                            likely 2nd Century. Can any of Christian text be called 1st Century
                            as historical FACT? Well, perhaps FACT is too strong a word
                            (excepting the undisputed Pauline's, which do look to be 1st Century
                            as historical fact). After all, in the past I have argued that
                            *facts* are pretty scarce commodities in historical studies. All of
                            that said, I will stick with my original argument that all of the
                            KNOWN 1st Century Christian documents available to us are found in
                            the Canonical NT. Some of those books are very likely 2nd Century
                            (i.e. 2 Peter and probably the final form of GJohn). But the fact
                            (pun intended) remains that nothing has been proven about the
                            apocryphal texts visa vie their date ranges, outside of the
                            possibility that some of them MIGHT be 1st Century.

                            As you can see, when it comes to the specific case of GThomas, I have
                            yet to be convinced, but remain open to arguments that others may
                            wish to put forward.

                            Peace,

                            Brian Trafford
                            Calgary, AB, Canada
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