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Re: [XTalk] "Authentic Sayings vs. Fictive Creations" (was: Authorial Confidence)

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  • Matthew Estrada
    ... It seems to me, Brian, that the reason why certain scholars have felt it necessary to focus on what Jesus actually said and did vs what He did not say and
    Message 1 of 12 , Dec 1, 2002
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      --- Brian Trafford <bj_traff@...> wrote:

      >Here I am in agreement with Luke Timothy
      > Johnson who, in his
      > book, _The Real Jesus_, laments the state of affairs
      > common in
      > historical Jesus studies that focuses excessively on
      > which phrases,
      > parables, sayings, and even specific words actually
      > came from the
      > mouth of Jesus, at the expense of looking for what
      > the life of Jesus
      > meant to his followers, and ultimately, to us today.

      It seems to me, Brian, that the reason why certain
      scholars have felt it necessary to focus on what Jesus
      actually said and did vs what He did not say and do is
      because traditional chistianity, at least in the past,
      has assumed that everything that we have in the
      gospels are the "actual" words and deeds of the
      historical Jesus. These scholars, therefore, have
      tried separating the "actual" from the "fictive" with
      the purpose (I assume) of trying to get to the
      historical Jesus. In separating the "actual" words and
      deeds of Jesus from the "fictive", hopefully one can
      better understand, as you suggest, what the historical
      Jesus meant to His followers and to us.

      >In studying the Gospels we will not
      > necessarily find the
      > literal words and deeds of Jesus, but we can learn
      > what his earliest
      > followers thought about him and what he taught and
      > did.
      > In my view it is less interesting and important to
      > determine exactly
      > what Jesus said or did, than to uncover what he
      > wanted those who
      > followed him to learn and understand about him, and
      > especially about
      > God.

      I agree with you here. I do not think that we can
      uncover much of the literal words nor deeds of Jesus,
      but that we can learn what his earliest followers
      thought about Him. However, again, I think that the
      reason why certain scholars feel it necessary to
      emphasize what "they believe" (and their reasons for
      believing it) Jesus did not actually say nor do is to
      steer the traditional church away from their belief in
      the gospels as records of the historical words and
      deeds of Jesus. Once they have accomplished this, then
      can we get on to consequent task of trying to discover
      what the earliest disciples of Jesus believed about
      Jesus, and how they expressed those beliefs.

      =====

      Matthew Estrada

      113 Laurel Court

      Peachtree City, Ga 30269


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    • Brian Trafford
      ... I am unclear as to how getting to the actual words and deeds (as opposed to the fictive ones) of Jesus would help us to do this however. For example,
      Message 2 of 12 , Dec 2, 2002
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        --- In crosstalk2@y..., Matthew Estrada <matt_estrada@y...> wrote:
        > It seems to me, Brian, that the reason why certain
        > scholars have felt it necessary to focus on what Jesus
        > actually said and did vs what He did not say and do is
        > because traditional chistianity, at least in the past,
        > has assumed that everything that we have in the
        > gospels are the "actual" words and deeds of the
        > historical Jesus. These scholars, therefore, have
        > tried separating the "actual" from the "fictive" with
        > the purpose (I assume) of trying to get to the
        > historical Jesus. In separating the "actual" words and
        > deeds of Jesus from the "fictive", hopefully one can
        > better understand, as you suggest, what the historical
        > Jesus meant to His followers and to us.

        I am unclear as to how getting to the "actual" words and deeds (as
        opposed to the "fictive" ones) of Jesus would help us to do this
        however. For example, Mark tells us that Jesus raised a girl from
        the dead. Now, whether or not he did this (or even appeared to do
        something like this), Mark wanted to tell us about this event.
        Clearly there was something about Jesus that motivated him to report
        it. Even if one argues that Mark made this up from whole cloth, the
        fact remains that Jesus had an impact on Mark and his readers that
        caused them to connect Jesus to this kind of miraculous deed. In
        this specific instance we can examine what would motivate them to
        make such a connection, but I do not see how we can, beyond
        metaphysical presuppositionalism, determine that Jesus actually DID
        raise Jairus' daughter from the dead.

        On a more mundane level, when we consider the words of Jesus as the
        Last Supper, where he commands his followers to "eat of his flesh"
        and "drink of his blood." This is reported to us in three
        independent accounts (the Synoptics, John, and 1 Corinthians), and on
        the basis of multiple attestation tells us that very early on, these
        words were ascribed to Jesus. Now, did he actually say them, or
        something approximating them? Many scholars doubt this. Yet,
        whether one finds such arguments persuasive or not, we are still left
        with the fact of this early belief and the impact it had on the
        followers of Jesus. If someone other than Jesus invented these
        words, and then ascribed them to Jesus, something about the life of
        this man (as well as of his earliest follwers) made it credible
        enough to be widely embraced by those earliest followers.

        > I agree with you here. I do not think that we can
        > uncover much of the literal words nor deeds of Jesus,
        > but that we can learn what his earliest followers
        > thought about Him. However, again, I think that the
        > reason why certain scholars feel it necessary to
        > emphasize what "they believe" (and their reasons for
        > believing it) Jesus did not actually say nor do is to
        > steer the traditional church away from their belief in
        > the gospels as records of the historical words and
        > deeds of Jesus. Once they have accomplished this, then
        > can we get on to consequent task of trying to discover
        > what the earliest disciples of Jesus believed about
        > Jesus, and how they expressed those beliefs.

        I would find it very interesting if most modern scholars were hoping
        to influence (and presumably reshape) the Church. I do not doubt
        that some are so motivated, but my hope is that the great majority
        would be less ambitious. The use of scholarly caution is a double
        edged sword. It is useful to point out the limitations of classical
        historical studies, and to recognize the problematic nature of
        evaluating ancient evidence. But to then mover beyond such truisms,
        and insist that theology, or even conclusions about the "real"
        historical Jesus must be drawn from what history alone can teach us
        is to go too far. Historical Jesus studies, at best, can tell us a
        little about the man himself, and his environment. What it cannot
        tell us is what he "actually" believed, said or did, simply because
        the evidence will not be sufficient to warrant such certitude. At
        most, we will know how he impacted on the lives of others, and from
        that, we can draw firmer conclusions about those followers. It is
        here, after all, that we have the most evidence.

        Peace,

        Brian Trafford
        Calgary, AB, Canada
      • Matthew Estrada
        ... Brian, your point in the beginning seemed to be that instead of focusing on trying to divide the authentic from the inauthentic words and deeds of Jesus,
        Message 3 of 12 , Dec 2, 2002
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          I wrote:
          > > It seems to me, Brian, that the reason why certain
          > > scholars have felt it necessary to focus on what
          > Jesus
          > > actually said and did vs what He did not say and
          > do is
          > > because traditional chistianity, at least in the
          > past,
          > > has assumed that everything that we have in the
          > > gospels are the "actual" words and deeds of the
          > > historical Jesus. These scholars, therefore, have
          > > tried separating the "actual" from the "fictive"
          > with
          > > the purpose (I assume) of trying to get to the
          > > historical Jesus. In separating the "actual" words
          > and
          > > deeds of Jesus from the "fictive", hopefully one
          > can
          > > better understand, as you suggest, what the
          > historical
          > > Jesus meant to His followers and to us.


          Brian Tafford responded:

          > I am unclear as to how getting to the "actual" words
          > and deeds (as
          > opposed to the "fictive" ones) of Jesus would help
          > us to do this
          > however. For example, Mark tells us that Jesus
          > raised a girl from
          > the dead. Now, whether or not he did this (or even
          > appeared to do
          > something like this), Mark wanted to tell us about
          > this event.
          > Clearly there was something about Jesus that
          > motivated him to report
          > it. Even if one argues that Mark made this up from
          > whole cloth, the
          > fact remains that Jesus had an impact on Mark and
          > his readers that
          > caused them to connect Jesus to this kind of
          > miraculous deed. In
          > this specific instance we can examine what would
          > motivate them to
          > make such a connection, but I do not see how we can,
          > beyond
          > metaphysical presuppositionalism, determine that
          > Jesus actually DID
          > raise Jairus' daughter from the dead.

          Brian, your point in the beginning seemed to be that
          instead of focusing on trying to divide the authentic
          from the inauthentic words and deeds of Jesus, the
          scholars (and we) should be focusing more upon what
          the early disciples of Jesus believed, and how they
          were motivated by those beliefs. I am now agreeing
          with you on this. This does not mean that I do not
          think it important to try and discern what is
          authentic Jesus' sayings and deeds and what is not. I
          do think this is important, but I think this will be a
          conclusion drawn from discovering the true meaning of
          the gospel texts. In other words, once we discover
          what it is that the early disciples of Jesus (i.e. the
          gospel writers) believed about Jesus, via discovering
          their genre used in the writing of the gospels, then
          will we also come much closer to knowing what it is
          that Jesus did NOT say and do. So instead of focusing
          on trying to discern the authentic from the
          inauthentic (the historicity of the gospels), we
          should instead focus on the genre of the gospels.
          Taking your example above, yes, Mark wrote about Jesus
          raising a girl from the dead. For me, the question is
          not, "Did Jesus really raise a girl from the dead or
          didn't He?" but rather, "What did Mark wish to
          communicate through that story that he told of Jesus
          raising a girl from the dead?" Yes, Mark was motivated
          by Jesus to tell that story, but what does the story
          mean to Mark, and why did he tell it to his community?
          You may respond, stating that I already presuppose
          that Mark "invented" the story for theological
          purposes, which is why I ask the question "What did
          Mark wish to communicate through that story that he
          told of Jesus raising a girl from the dead?" instead
          of asking the question first, "Did Jesus really raise
          a girl from the dead or didn't He?" In this you would
          be correct, for I am presupposing that this story is
          fiction. But if I did not have that presupposition,
          nor the presupposition that the gospels are historical
          records of the words and deeds of Jesus, then I would
          be asking the question that you say we should not
          focus upon, namely, "Did Jesus really raise a girl
          from the dead or didn't He?" So I am asking you- where
          do we begin? With the question of genre, or with the
          question of the authentic vs the inauthentic?

          =====

          Matthew Estrada

          113 Laurel Court

          Peachtree City, Ga 30269


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