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

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  • 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 1 of 3 , Nov 3 2:19 PM
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      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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