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Re: [XTalk] Scholars and the eschatology of Jesus

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  • 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 1 of 19 , Jul 5, 2002
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      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 2 of 19 , Jul 6, 2002
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        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 3 of 19 , Jul 6, 2002
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          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 4 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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            --- 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 5 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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              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 6 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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                --- 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 7 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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                  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 8 of 19 , Jul 9, 2002
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                    --- 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 9 of 19 , Jul 14, 2002
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                      --- 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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