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Re: [XTalk] Mighty deeds

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  • Rikk E. Watts
    Hi Mark, Goodness this exchange has all the makings of a small book! ... Good idea, I ll try to do the same. ... Yes, when compared to other contemporary sets
    Message 1 of 30 , Nov 4, 2002
      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 the
      > 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:
      Good idea, I'll try to do the same.

      > -- 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.
      Yes, when compared to other contemporary sets attributed to various figures
      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". You
      > see Jesus as ultimately the author of this integrated model.
      Yes. I think the best explanation is that this paradigm originates with
      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 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.
      Quite so. As noted I have earlier laid out what I thought that model was,
      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 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.
      This statement of the competing view would require that Jesus' understanding
      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 "provisionally
      > accept" the Gospel record, explicitly prescinding from engaging in
      > historical Jesus, tradition-historical, redaction-critical questions.
      Yes but this is only a first step. Methodologically, properly understanding
      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 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
      > dialogue partner.
      Pardon me but again this an very odd argument. Even redaction critics must
      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 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
      > distinctive emphases?
      This might frustrate you terribly, but I don't have a problem with any of
      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 theme
      > as one element in the complex. The fact that this does not provide
      > an overarching explanation does not thereby invalidate it.
      Even if I hold on my questions on the existence of such an explanatory
      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.
      > 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?
      My grounds would be those stated above. First, the E/E pattern is simply
      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
      Regent College
      5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
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