Re: [XTalk] Jesus, James et al and Their Observant Parents
>Firstly, I want to thanks you Ted for a fascinating essay!
>(5) Jesus, at one point, severed ties with his family or at least
>disassociated himself from his family...
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.
Vancouver School of Theology
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand...
-Robert Hunter From SCARLET BEGONIAS
- 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