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Re: [XTalk] Jesus, James et al and Their Observant Parents

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  • Steve Black
    ... Firstly, I want to thanks you Ted for a fascinating essay! I have been wrestling through Mt s use of some of Q s family material, Namely that found in
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 2, 2002
      >(5) Jesus, at one point, severed ties with his family or at least
      >disassociated himself from his family...

      Firstly, I want to thanks you Ted for a fascinating essay!

      I have been wrestling through Mt's use of some of Q's "family"
      material, Namely that found in the "missionary discourse" of Mt 10.
      It strikes me that this material is best explained as a post-Easter
      creation. The divisions which in 10:35 are not just the result, but
      the *purpose* of Jesus' coming sound to me like a (desperate?)
      attempt to make theological sense of the serious divisions created
      from a radical decision to accept Jesus as God's eschatological
      agent. (I've been reading a lot of Bultmann these days - his
      terminology is getting under my skin...) I think of other times of
      unrest and social chaos where family turned against itself. (This
      might be anachronistic, but I try to make sense of what I don't know
      by way of connecting it to things that I do know) I think of the
      American civil war - of Nazi Germany where children betrayed parents,
      of the Civil war and genocide in Cambodia (in the 70's?). The point
      of this anachronistic list is to suggest that this social breakdown
      often happens in the context of larger social/political breakdown. In
      Mt's case this would be obvious - the destruction of the temple and
      the loss of a whole way of life and world view with it. In such a
      context where everything becomes instable and insecure, religious
      symbols begin to take on an all-consuming importance. As Xn's were
      proclaiming symbols that undermined the symbols being uses by other
      non-Xn Jews it is not surprising that this would result in harsh
      mutual polemics. Thus the imperial powers are forgotten - the ones
      actually responsible for this situation, and those closest become the
      targets of battle - and this is because of the total significance
      placed upon the religious symbols on both sides of the debate. The
      point being that all this makes sense in the context of a society in
      turmoil and destruction. This makes most sense in the 67-100CE range
      - namely the time of the evangelists.

      What might this have meant for "Q"? Turmoil preceded the actual
      destruction of the temple by many years would think, So I guess this
      same turmoil could be seen as religious symbols are being questions
      earlier in the century. Religious symbols are always touchy things to
      question in any event, but when they are "all you have" (as it were)
      it results in full on in-fighting. However these passages might be
      construed in "Q", it still makes sense to think about two communities
      battling it out, and the Xn one projecting that battle back in
      history upon Jesus.

      With this theme in place, I wonder if the other family in-fighting
      stories (ie. "Who is my mom, and bro, not those outside but those who
      do God's will..."etc) might not be literary creations designed to
      illustrate in narrative form the division that Jesus "came" to create
      mentioned in Mt 10.
      Steve Black
      Vancouver School of Theology
      Vancouver, BC

      Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand...

      -Robert Hunter From SCARLET BEGONIAS
    • Mark Goodacre
      Many thanks, Ted, for sharing your interesting piece with us. You speak of much of it as being admittedly speculative and I think that that s the value of
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 3, 2002
        Many thanks, Ted, for sharing your interesting piece with us. You
        speak of much of it as being "admittedly speculative" and I think
        that that's the value of it. I reckon New Testament scholarship
        would be much more interesting if we did not think of "speculative"
        as a negative term! I think that it's in the nature of ancient
        history, where the evidence is often severely limited, that we have
        to make the choice either to speculate or to go ignorant. I
        particularly enjoyed the case for linking Judas and Simon with the
        Maccabeans of the same name, and of preferring this to Meier's thesis
        that the names are simply patriarchal. If you didn't already know,
        I'm sure you'll be delighted to hear that in this you are aligning
        yourself with Tom Wright -- see his _Jesus and the Victory of God_!

        One or two additional thoughts on the piece:

        (1) Your alignment of James with Pharisaic interests ties in closely
        with Michael Goulder's exposition of Mark's Gospel, in which he sees
        the scribes and Pharisees as cyphers for followers of James in his
        (Mark's) Church. See Goulder, Michael D. "A Pauline in a Jacobite
        Church." In The Four Gospels 1992. Festschrift Frans Neirynck. Volume
        II, ed. Van Segbroeck, F. and u.a., , 859 - 875. Bibliotheca
        Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium 100. Leuven: Univ. Press,
        1992. I'd strongly encourage you to have a look at Goulder's work if
        you haven't yet had a chance to.

        (2) What do you make of John Painter's claim in _Just James_ that we
        should be wary of accepting at face value the Gospels' negative
        portrait & distancing of James (and the family of Jesus) during
        Jesus' ministry? In other words, perhaps the family were much more
        closely involved with Jesus' ministry and much more sympathetic to it
        than we assume when reading the Gospels.

        (3) I am still concerned about one of the things that really niggles
        for your thesis and that is the evidence from the Protevangelium of
        James. I know that you are sympathetic with both Koester's and
        Crossan's work on Christian origins, and if there is one legacy they
        will leave us it is surely the importance of avoiding canonical bias.
        I am concerned that you are simply avoiding the evidence from the
        Protevangelium altogether, particularly in relation to its
        identification of James & the brothers as sons of Joseph from a
        previous marriage. Of course the narrative in the Protevangelium as
        a whole is fiction, but there are interesting questions over what
        elements of the fiction are based on authentic or reliable
        traditions. And one of the major candidates here is the idea that
        James and other brothers were sons of Joseph by a previous marriage.
        I mentioned that I am not yet convinced on this, but let me be a
        little bolder and argue in favour of this tradition by drawing
        attention to the following points:

        (a) The brothers never appear to be called sons of Mary, even on
        occasions when they are mentioned alongside her (e.g. Acts 1.14).
        They are either sons of Joseph or brothers of Jesus.

        (b) The author of Protevangelium does not appear to be grinding an
        axe on this one. The identification of the brothers as sons of the
        widower Joseph is rather taken for granted -- the implied reader is
        not expected to be surprised by it. This suggests that the fictional
        narrative is built up around a tradition "known" to the readers.

        (c) Mary outlives Joseph and Jesus in spite of the fact that, on the
        assumption that she mothered James et al, she has given birth to a
        substantial number of children in an age when death in childbirth was

        (4) Finally, let me briefly press you in a somewhat different
        direction and toy with something else that arises. Our earliest
        sources, Mark, Paul etc., do not tell us the name of Jesus' father.
        We hear of Mary, the names of the brothers and the existence of
        sisters. The earliest reference to the name of Jesus' father is in
        Matthew, whose birth narrative you see as "for the most part
        fictive". So did Matthew really know the name of Jesus' father or
        did he, in the process of describing this dreamer of dreams who
        journeys to Egypt, give him the predictable name "Joseph son of
        Jacob" (Matt. 1.16)? If the rest of Matthew's birth narrative is
        unconvincing as history, why accept this feature?

        With best wishes and renewed thanks for sharing your work with us

        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

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