Re: [XTalk] Mighty deeds
- Thanks, Rikk, for the interesting response and apologies for the
delay with this one. Let me try and boil down my concerns to a
couple of points before returning to your post in more detail:
-- I read you, I am not sure whether correctly or not, as expressing
surprise at the "set" of miracle stories you find in the Gospels.
You speak of an "integrated model" and a "creative synthesis". You
see Jesus as ultimately the author of this integrated model.
-- I have been attempting to press you to defend the very notion that
there is such an integrated model / unique set with its own internal
logic in the Gospels. It may be that there is, but I am not sure
that it can be taken for granted. The main competitor to your thesis
is, it seems to me, the view that the miracle stories in the gospels
are the result of interaction between a complex series of factors
which we can only penetrate by engaging in historical Jesus,
tradition-historical and redaction-critical study. In my posts I
have been attempting to draw attention to these different factors in
producing what we now see.
On 23 Oct 2002 at 17:02, Rikk E. Watts wrote:
> I'm not sure harmonizing is the best word since it conjures up a way
> of reading the gospels that is somewhat different from what I'm doing.
> But having said that, it is true that John, for whatever reasons,
> does not include a single exorcism (though I can't think of many
> recent NT scholars who would doubt that Jesus was seen to exorcise
> demons). Even so, I would argue that John's "set" is still much
> closer to, and of the same ilk as, the Synoptics than say the signs of
> the so-called sign prophets, or the deeds attributed to the so-called
> charismatic rabbis. John alone has water into wine but wouldn't you
> agree that everything else is pretty much cut from the same cloth?
> The next test would be to see if there is some kind of "set" logic
> behind the Synoptics and then behind John and thus see if both sets
> are compatible. I think they most definitely are, though I can't
> present my case here. These two lines of observation, viz. comparison
> to other wonder/sign-workers and the close coherence of the Syn and
> John when understood under my proposed rubric, suggest there is an
> intentional pattern here.
Clearly there are points of contact and points of divergence between
John and the Synoptics and yes, there is an obvious family
resemblance, some overlap and so on. My point would be that the
complex model, taking in the various factors of historical Jesus
study, tradition history and redaction-criticism, makes sense of both
the points of contact and the points of divergence. The "intentional
pattern" model would, for me, need some more fleshing out before it's
able to compete really effectively. So I suppose here I need to wait
to hear more of your unpacking of your thesis in due course.
> > I suspect that
> > part of the answer comes in your original post where you spoke of
> > provisionally accepting the record of the Canonical Gospels. But if
> > that is the case, I am not sure how legitimate it is to express
> > surprise at the "set" you see there, for the "set" is generated by
> > your own methodology of provisionally accepting the Gospel record.
> This seems a rather odd argument. It's a bit like saying well yes of
> course you can describe aircraft as having wings, engines, etc. but
> then you've chosen to look only at aircraft. Yes, and ... ? I'm
> starting with the four earliest "biographical" accounts we have (apart
> from which there's actually precious little in the way of descriptions
> of Jesus' mighty deeds that goes back to the first or even second
> century). But after that I'm hardly generating the data since I'm
> simply trying to explain what I see in these accounts.
But what you are doing, it seems to me, is this: you "provisionally
accept" the Gospel record, explicitly prescinding from engaging in
historical Jesus, tradition-historical, redaction-critical questions.
You then ask, "how can we explain this unique set?" I want to
answer, "By using the standard means, engaging in tradition-history,
redaction-criticism and the like", but this is the very answer you
are ruling out before you have begun, i.e. by "provisionally
accepting" the Gospel record. In other words, the method you are
laying down before beginning is effectively ruling out your major
Your very choice of the aircraft analogy is an interesting one and I
wonder if it shows how you see the Gospel record -- there is
intentionality from the beginning -- all the parts go to build a
unique, clearly identifiable and functioning whole, no part
redundant. But what I am asking is whether what we have in the
gospel miracle stories *is* an aeroplane. But what if what we have
is more akin to walking through an eclectic collection on a
particular theme at an art gallery, different artists working with
different but overlapping materials with similar goals yet
> You could
> rightly question whether or not there's an internal logic to be seen,
> but if it's there I've hardly generated it. To use my analogy, I'm
> asking why these aircraft have wings and engines and where that idea
> came from. Even if there were other different-looking aircraft, I
> fail to see how that would invalidate my asking why these particular
> aircraft look like they do.
The choice of analogy does help me to see your perspective because I
think you are effectively taking for granted that there is a singular
presentation, a unique viewpoint, an integrated logic. You may be
right, but if so, it's a perspective I'd like to see defended,
particularly given that the standard view does not see that but sees
instead points of contact and points of divergence, different voices,
overlapping but not identical presentations.
> Here's the rub. The "many minds" and "it just evolved" model sounds
> reasonable as a general explanation, not least because of our
> society's plausibility structures. But, my contention is that things
> get rather more difficult once one starts to ask just exactly what
> that means (I don't know that the pericope analogy really applies).
> I've yet to see any reasonable unpacking of how that evolution might
> have progressed.
I don't think the standard explanation is an "it just evolved" model
if by that you mean something that happened by chance or accident.
Of course along the way there are figures in the process who are
powerful, major players. I'd say that one of the major figures known
to us was Mark -- he exercised a huge influence. And of course the
most important figure of all was Jesus -- I can't even begin to make
sense of the Gospel miracle stories unless, with the vast majority of
contemporary historical Jesus scholars, he was known as a healer in
his lifetime. But it stands to reason, does it not, that there were
many other playes in between Jesus and Mark?
> Even if I grant your Elijah/Elisha tradent a voice
> in the tradition, such a paradigm does not explain a) the variations
> from the E-E paradigm (the widow of Nain is not a Gentile and if
> these stories are being shaped by such models why don't they look more
> like them?), b) those mighty deeds that clearly do not fit the E-E
> model, nor c) the selectivity that is evident when compared to other
> first century accounts.
But as I've attempted to stress, I'd only see the Elijah/Elisha theme
as one element in the complex. The fact that this does not provide
an overarching explanation does not thereby invalidate it.
> > Second, I am not convinced yet that we should
> > describe the "set" of Gospel miracle stories as a "creative
> > synthesis". It's this claim, which I think relates to your talk of
> > a "particular set" with its own logic etc., that I'd like to see
> > defended.
> I don't think I understand you here. What exactly is it that you
> understand by and don't like about "creative synthesis"?
It comes back to your beginning point, of talking about the unique
set, the integrated model etc. It may be that the Gospels, taken as
a whole, do not offer us a "creative synthesis". They may do; I'd
just be interested to hear the case for that view.
> Indeed as do I. But since I started with the gospel writers'
> perspective (my only hard data), one needs to explain how one moves
> from the tradents to the gospel writers. That was my point. In other
> words, the invocation of an E-E tradent seems both unnecessary and
> insufficient to explain the gospel writers' viewpoint.
Actually I think I prefer to go in reverse, from the gospel writers
to the tradents to Jesus, e.g. if we see strong evidence of Lucan
creativity in a given pericope, we may not even need to ask the
question about Luke's tradition(s) for that pericope (etc.). But I
would see the Elijah tradent as in evidence in Mark's double attempt
to quosh the idea that Jesus might be identified with Elijah; but
that needs some more defending.
> For the sake of argument, I'm prepared to allow even this (though as
> I've argued above the data we have seems not to have gone this way but
> rather in the direction of Malachi's reconciliation). Still, there is
> the fact that the earliest hard data we have goes not to Elijah texts
> but to Isaianic ones for explanation of Jesus' mighty deeds.
It's this kind of opposing of these two strands that I find
unnecessary, "not to Elijah . . . but to Isaianic". Why not both
strands, and more, as the tradents, evangelists et al grappled with
the attempt to make sense of the miracle stories they were telling?
Thanks again for sharing your work and apologies if I am
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
- Hi Mark,
Goodness this exchange has all the makings of a small book!
on 11/3/02 4:23 PM, Mark Goodacre at M.S.Goodacre@... wrote:
> Thanks, Rikk, for the interesting response and apologies for theGood idea, I'll try to do the same.
> delay with this one. Let me try and boil down my concerns to a hit
> couple of points before returning to your post in more detail:
> -- I read you, I am not sure whether correctly or not, as expressingYes, when compared to other contemporary sets attributed to various figures
> surprise at the "set" of miracle stories you find in the Gospels.
that set, along with its explanatory materials (e.g. Jesus' answer to John
the Baptizer), associated with Jesus is quite distinctive, even unique. In a
much earlier post I laid out what I saw as the basic paradigm underlying the
> You speak of an "integrated model" and a "creative synthesis". YouYes. I think the best explanation is that this paradigm originates with
> see Jesus as ultimately the author of this integrated model.
Jesus. Given that NT scholarship now accepts that Jesus must have performed
some kinds of healings (interesting how times change), I'm assuming he must
have had some view on the significance of his healings and how they related
to his message.
> -- I have been attempting to press you to defend the very notion thatQuite so. As noted I have earlier laid out what I thought that model was,
> there is such an integrated model / unique set with its own internal
> logic in the Gospels. It may be that there is, but I am not sure
> that it can be taken for granted.
but essentially I would argue that the vast majority of the 35 or so
specific mighty deeds attributed to Jesus fit extremely well within a new
creational/new exodus paradigm (as per the prophets) which also happens to
fit nicely with the content of Jesus' message as recorded in these final
documents. In terms of distinctiveness, I would need to lay out all the
data but that would take up too much space. However, Eric Eve has done
something similar wrt the Jewish background (see also C. A. Evans on
miracles in JESUS AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES) and they both note the
distinctiveness of the set of Jesus mighty deeds.
> The main competitor to your thesisThis statement of the competing view would require that Jesus' understanding
> is, it seems to me, the view that the miracle stories in the gospels
> are the result of interaction between a complex series of factors
> which we can only penetrate by engaging in historical Jesus,
> tradition-historical and redaction-critical study. In my posts I
> have been attempting to draw attention to these different factors in
> producing what we now see.
of his mighty deeds would have been significantly at variance to that found
in the gospels? If not, the gospels would simply be a clarification of
Jesus' essential view. If so, then the creative moment originates somewhere
in the web of oral tradition. My problem here is twofold. Extending the
process in one sense doesn't address the nub of the problem since there must
still be a point at which a paradigmatic quantum leap occurs. Second to
attribute this jump to some nameless player whose creativity would be of
singular moment, exceeding that even of Jesus, not to mention Mark, seems,
sorry, highly improbable. Just as Dodd argued that the distinctive
integration of OT traditions by NT authors originates with Jesus, so I would
argue, he was responsible for this particular understanding his mighty
> But what you are doing, it seems to me, is this: you "provisionallyYes but this is only a first step. Methodologically, properly understanding
> accept" the Gospel record, explicitly prescinding from engaging in
> historical Jesus, tradition-historical, redaction-critical questions.
the concrete phenomenon whose origin one seeks to explain surely precedes
seeking its origin.
> You then ask, "how can we explain this unique set?" I want toPardon me but again this an very odd argument. Even redaction critics must
> answer, "By using the standard means, engaging in tradition-history,
> redaction-criticism and the like", but this is the very answer you
> are ruling out before you have begun, i.e. by "provisionally
> accepting" the Gospel record. In other words, the method you are
> laying down before beginning is effectively ruling out your major
> dialogue partner.
start by first looking at the gospels; i.e. provisionally accepting what
they see as data the seek to explain through e.g. tradition, source, and
redaction criticism. They notice seams, what they regard as Markan language
etc, and then proceed by trying to explain how what they see came about. Am
I not, methodologically, doing exactly the same thing? I first look at the
same hard data, even if asking different questions. Then I look at this data
vis-à-vis contemporary backgrounds. On noticing the distinctiveness of the
set of mighty deeds attributed to Jesus, I ask how this could have come
about. How does seeing a "unique set" effectively rule out my major
dialogue partner, any more than noting Lukan redactional tendencies
effectively rules out dialoging with the Q hypothesis? Just as you do not
accept the inference of the existence of Q as part of the best explanation,
because you think the data is best explained on other grounds, I am
skeptical of a gradual process of development since I think it lacks the
necessary explanatory power. I certainly don't rule it out ahead of time,
as I would hope my engagement with your proposals indicates.
> Your very choice of the aircraft analogy is an interesting one and IThis might frustrate you terribly, but I don't have a problem with any of
> wonder if it shows how you see the Gospel record -- there is
> intentionality from the beginning -- all the parts go to build a
> unique, clearly identifiable and functioning whole, no part
> redundant. But what I am asking is whether what we have in the
> gospel miracle stories *is* an aeroplane. But what if what we have
> is more akin to walking through an eclectic collection on a
> particular theme at an art gallery, different artists working with
> different but overlapping materials with similar goals yet
> distinctive emphases?
this. If by "eclectic" you mean the gospel writers choose the best from
various sources, well of course. I am indeed arguing for exactly this kind
of selection process and am assuming that the authors are choosing from
various sources the materials that best suit their theological perspectives,
their "similar goals yet distinctive emphasis. This is why I include the
stories included in John: different but overlapping materials, similar goals
However, I would not want to push "identical" too far. Nevertheless, there
is, I think, an identifiable and shared perspective (even if expressed with
slightly different emphases: sorry I had just taken that for granted) that
is sufficiently distinct from its background to raise questions about its
re the details:
> But as I've attempted to stress, I'd only see the Elijah/Elisha themeEven if I hold on my questions on the existence of such an explanatory
> as one element in the complex. The fact that this does not provide
> an overarching explanation does not thereby invalidate it.
theme, it remains to be shown how such a theme contributes to a larger new
creational/new exodus model (as per Luke's Jesus' answer to John B). I
can't see how it does. Of course this presupposes the accuracy of my
paradigm. But, if for sake of argument you'll allow that accuracy of my
paradigm, I would be grateful to see how you would see the E/E theme being
On the other hand, I think I can explain why there is an E/E theme in Luke
(e.g. Brodie, Evans), and why more broadly Jesus was seen to be Elijah. But
I think they are largely unrelated. I suspect the former is a secondary
subset reflecting Luke's particular redactional concern to legitimate
Gentile participation in a salvation (already understood on other grounds,
namely an innovative understanding of Isaiah texts originating in Jesus) by
appealing to an Elijah/Elisha precedent (as per Lk 4; 7.11-17; perhaps
17.11-19). The identification of Jesus with Elijah in general (note: nobody
apparently confuses him with Elisha) is because of his reconciling message,
for which expectation (unlike an expectation of wonder working) we have some
hard data in terms of Malachi and the latter rabbinic traditions.
>My grounds would be those stated above. First, the E/E pattern is simply
> It's this kind of opposing of these two strands that I find
> unnecessary, "not to Elijah . . . but to Isaianic". Why not both
> strands, and more, as the tradents, evangelists et al grappled with
> the attempt to make sense of the miracle stories they were telling?
insufficient to explain the data, second, a new creational/new exodus
pattern largely renders it redundant, and third, its limited appearance in
Luke can be explained on other, secondary and redactional, grounds.
Take good care,
Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4