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Re: [XTalk] From the HJ to the historical disciples

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  • Tony Buglass
    Just time for a couple of brief comments about your theory, Joseph. Most of what you write touches upon issues which have been the stuff of critical gospel
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 29, 2005
      Just time for a couple of brief comments about your theory, Joseph.

      Most of what you write touches upon issues which have been the stuff of critical gospel scholarship for years, summed up I suppose by the difference between the post-Easter retelling of the pre-Easter story. On that wavelength, I think I'm asking "so what's new?" You don't seem to me to have developed anything which can't be examined by the usual tools of scholarship.

      If I read your theory correctly, the heart of it seems to be the belief that the disciples experienced some dissonance because they had to falsify the pre-Easter stories in order to explain the post-Easter faith. So we're really looking at the gospels (well, Mark in the first instance) with a psychological filter to see the significant clues in wha you have chosen to call "coded language".

      The first weakness which I see is that if you assume a troubled mind, and look for evidence of a troubled mind, you will find it. In reality, what is being adduced as evidence may have other meanings, but the theory can create its own circularity. (For example, someone once accused me of having a drink problem - quite funny, really, for a Methodist whose alcohol consumption doesn't normally register on most survey scales. I denied it, and was told that just proved it, because denial is the first sign of the problem. Complete circularity, and utter nonsense.)

      The question therefore is whether you can show that teh disciples *would* have had a problem, and thus experienced what you call psychopathological symptoms. Allowing that the per-Easter stories have been radically altered to fit a post-Easter proclamation (and that is a lengthy conversation for which I really have no time at the moment), the question is whether the disples would have been troubled by that process. And that brings me to the comment I made a few days ago that I suspect you are importing modern Western (or post-Enlightenment) historicism into an ancient and different culture. I've already referred to midrash. I'm not at all persuaded that everything can be explained by midrash, but it is a significant tool of narrative which until recent years was not a all understood by Western scholarship. The disciples and their contemporaries told stories which later readers thought were history, when in fact they weren't. So some of the questions which were applied to those stories, and certainly some of the answers they came up with, were inappropriate. In this case, to see the changes in the stories as lies, which cause guilt and troubled minds, may be inappropriate, because that isn't what the disciples were doing. If the stories were midrashic in style, or in some cases legend, or fiction, then that's what they were. If there is a historical kernel to some of the stories, or to the life-story into which they were allegedly inserted, then that is also fair enough - the issue is whether the dsicples would have been troubled by the process of moving from one to the other. Perahps they ae saying "yes, we know *that* is what happened, but *this* is what it meant", and in their eyes tha is a perfectly legitimate method. No dissonance. No trouble. On the contrary, they speak with confidence about their gospel, with the kind of brightness which is typical of the evangelist. Not surprising, really, when you remember who they were! :)

      So, interesting theory, but I'm still not sure about the primary assumption on which it stands.



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    • Tony Buglass
      Joseph wrote: The eyewitnesses play here a pivotal role. All we know about the historical Jesus is based on their testimony. So if there is a discrepancy
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 1, 2005
        Joseph wrote:
        The eyewitnesses play here a pivotal role. All
        we know about the historical Jesus is based on their testimony. So if
        there is a discrepancy between what the historical Jesus was and the way
        he is described in the gospel, they are likely to be responsible for it.

        Wieland has already touched on this. Changes to the testimony could have
        happened at a number of stages in the transmission - either in the telling
        by the original eyewitness, or in the passing on by the first (oral?)
        tradents, or in the writing and assembling of what eventually became the
        canonical gospels. Changes might therefore have nothing to do with the
        original story-tellers, and whether they did or did not, they might not
        cause the psychopathological esponses which give rise to your coded

        I have no problem reading the infancy gospels as midrashic.
        They express a legitimate theological point of view through the use of
        legends. This means that they were not invented by eyewitnesses
        purporting to report exactly what had happened in their presence. Those
        stories are pious legends. They have very little, if any, historical
        value. Their value is theological. ..[snipped] If, on the other hand, the
        are honest enough to admit, in a coded language, that no such prediction
        has taken place, then I would speak of a "theological event" instead of
        a midrash. A theological event is an event that has no historical

        You're making a distinction here *within* what has often been described as
        midrash, and a distinction which I have touched upon in other discussions by
        referring to midrash as "the new myth". Briefly, when Bultmann identified
        material which he believed to be mythological, he assumed it was therefore
        not historical - mythological could not be historical. Wolfhart Pannenberg
        argued however that one of the distinctive features of Hebrew thought was
        its ability to use historical events in a mythological way. The exodus from
        Egypt was a historical event, albeit probably not in the form of the story
        in the book - Hebrew tribes did leave Egypt. Whatever the true historical
        nature of that event (where it happened, how many or few of the tribes were
        involved, etc) something happened which in Hebrew awareness became the
        mythological foundation of their identity as the nation of Israel. He
        concluded that just because an account was mythological, it is not
        impossible that the story was based on a historical event of some kind.
        Midrash seems to have become a popular word in the last ten years or so of
        NT scholarship, and has carried the assumption that any story which is
        midrash is therefore not at all historical. Personally, I think that is too
        sweeping an assumption, and each instance needs critical examination to

        So your distinction between midrash and theological event is helpful in
        itself, but of course begs the question that lies behind my comments above -
        how do we determine whether there was any event behind the midrashic
        account? We're back to where we started, and the need for the critical
        tools developed for the task. In the case of the triple resurrection
        prediction in Mark, it is pretty much conclusive that those accounts in the
        gospel have been edited into that shape and place by the gospel author for
        dramatic and theological reasons. Only the most conservative of readers wil
        insist that they happened exactly like that. The question is whether Mark
        created what you call theological narratives de novo for his own theological
        reasons, and they are entirely theological fiction - ie Jesus never
        predicted his resurrection - or whether Mark had received a tradition that
        Jesus did in fact predict his resurrection. To illustrate the point Wieland
        and I have made, that tradition could have changed at any stage in its
        transmission. For example, it is quite possible that Jesus, as a devout
        Jew, anticipated his resurrection on the last day. If he and his disciples
        discussed the risks of his martyrdom at the hand of the authorities, it is
        not unlikely that the reward of resurrection featured in the conversation,
        possibly in a manner similar to the Books of the Maccabees. When Jesus was
        killed, and the first Easter event/experience took place, such conversations
        would be recalled and dwelt upon, and possibly given new significance. So
        the tradition handed on by the first eyewitnesses could indeed have included
        prediction of a resurrection on the third day rather than the last day -
        "well, this is what we thought he was talking about, but obviously this is
        what he really meant..." Or that could have taken place as later hearers
        received the simple eyewitness testimony that Jesus predicted his
        resurrection. And Mark then developed the tradition he received for his own
        dramatic and literary purposes. Which raises the question - according to
        your definitions, is the resurrection prediction essentially teological
        event (ie entirely non-historical) or midrash (ie midrashic development of a
        historical kernel)?

        What is particularly significant for your theory is the role played by the
        eyewitnesses, their response to that role, and whether the evidence we have
        allows us to see it. In the above example, disciples discovering what they
        thought Jesus really meant would not feel any dissonance or discomfort at
        retelling the story to draw out the proper meaning. There would be no
        psychopathological response, and no coded language. What you have seen as
        coded language on the part of the disciples may instead be theologically
        influenced language from a later stage of the traditioning process. In
        order to demonstrate the grounds for your theory, you would need to
        demonstrate in the first place that you do have the words of the
        eyewitnesses, and then that they would respond as you suspect to changes
        they made in the tradition. I don't think you have yet established those
        grounds, and I wait to see how you will do so.

        To open up to new ways of thinking is no simple
        matter. This can be a formidable task. We tend to reduce these questions
        to good or bad will. I think they go beyond this kind of problematic to
        the depth of our unconscious. It is possible to open up to new ways of
        seeing the world. But they necessitate an initiation of sorts that can
        be slow and, at times, difficult.

        Teilhard avait raison, je crois! However, I have been a member of this list
        (predominantly lurking, but occasionally surfacing) since about 2000. Very
        rarely have I seen disputes arising out of ill will. This has seemed to me
        to be an excellent forum for people who are engaged in honest study, and
        developing their thinking through open debate and discussion. I have
        learned a great deal, and am very grateful to my fellow-listers. Clearly,
        everyone brings an agenda to the debate, and sometimes that agenda is more
        obvious than others. The important thing is that the discussion is open and
        honest -how each of us deals with the implications for our personal agenda
        may or may not be relevant. I admit to a degree of curiousity about you,
        Joseph - apart from knowing that you are in Lebanon, and suspecting that
        your first language is French, I know nothing about you. Is there a
        particular professional insight that you bring to the discussion? Might
        help us to know!

        Rev Tony Buglass
        Superintendent Minister
        Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
        W Yorks

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      • Tony Buglass
        Jospeh wrote: Can a midrash be written by an eyewitness? A midrash, it seems to me, can only be produced by a non eyewitness and in the midst of a community
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 3, 2005
          Jospeh wrote:
          Can a midrash be written by an eyewitness? A midrash, it seems to me,
          can only be produced by a non eyewitness and in the midst of a community
          who has specific views as far as political and religious questions are

          Says who?

          The midrash reflects the condition of place and time in which
          the said community was trying to say itself by redefining its distant

          Why distant past?
          I don't accept this definition. I suspect this confirms my view of "midrash" as the "new myth".

          Is there a historical kernel to a theological event? This is possible
          but not necessary. In what pertains to my theory, only the theological
          events that are attributable to the disciples and eyewitnesses are of
          interest. The way Matthew has altered the profession of faith of Peter
          as it had reached him in the Markan version has no importance for my

          The question is not whether or not it is necessary, but whether or not it is true. Granted that we might not be able to recover it, but anytheory which simply brushes it aside is open to question.

          Right now, I can only notice the dual parallelism between those
          two events and the confrontations with the demons. The disciples
          identified themselves with the demons, and peter is identified with
          Satan. Connections of this nature are very important in my theory. They
          allow me to see what is going on in the mind of the disciples and what
          they are struggling with.

          Is that parallelism significant in these terms, or simply part of the wider dualism of a Judaism and Christianity which believed itself to be in a permanent struggle with Satan and sin? And does the language arise from Jesus, from the disciples (in this significant way), from the disciples (in a differently significant way), from Mark, etc?

          I have been asking questions of this sort since the beginning this thread. I have yet to see an answer to my questions. I have seen frequent re-assertions of your theory, but without any really attempt to address the difficulties I have with the grounds for your theory. It's a bit frustrating, Joseph. How can a conversation take place when the participants simply talk past each other?

          One last remark. I don't think there was a historical kernel to the
          triple prediction of the resurrection. The reason is simple. The
          witnesses who are responsible for that theological event are honest
          enough to admit, in a coded language, that no such prediction ever took
          I will stop here. I want to go back to the parable of the sower.

          And here we are again, with this stubborn return to assertions of "coded language" and a theological event. You have not yet established that there really is a coded language. What you term coded language can be explained by existing means of analysis, and arguably better explained by those means. In order to demonstrate that your theoory is better, and prior theories inadequate, you must address some of the questions which are raised by your claims. If you can do that, I wll take your theory and its method seriously. But I do need to feel that you are taking other points seriously. How can you simply assert that "no such prediction ever took place"? You weren't there. It might be likely that Jesus didn't make *that* prediction, but I have already offered you a perfectly possible alternative explanation, which I you simply ignore.

          So you have some work to do, I think, before you are in a position to carry listmembers with you in your exposition of the sower.

          Rev Tony Buglass
          Superintendent Minister
          Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
          W Yorks


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        • Tim Crosby
          Joseph Codsi writes ... It seems to me, Joseph, that you simply don t have enough evidence yet to prove your point. Mere plausibility is not enough. There is
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 4, 2005
            Joseph Codsi writes

            > How do I propose to "prove" my theory?
            > Everything is based on the gospel of Mark. The proof takes the form of a
            > novel reading of the Markan texts. Among the major passages I have
            > identified as important, the parable of the sower and the
            > misunderstanding about the yeast of the Pharisees play a pivotal role.
            > They allow me to identify the question that was troubling the disciples.
            > On the one hand, they acknowledge that Jesus initiated them into the
            > mystery of the Kingdom of God. He treated them as those who are
            > "inside". He told them: "To you has been given the mystery of the
            > Kingdom of God" (parable of the sower). On the other hand, they admit
            > that Jesus treated them as those who are "outside" (the yeast of the
            > Pharisees). This different treatment cannot be pertaining to the Kingdom
            > of God. It must be about something else. So the first thing we should do
            > is identify the topic in relation to which Jesus kept them "outside".
            > Here we do not have a clear identification of the Christian mystery as
            > it is said in the Easter revelation. The identification is done
            > indirectly, and through the mediation of the Eucharist. The allusions to
            > the feedings of the five and four thousand are linked, in the mind of
            > the disciples, to the Eucharist. Now the Eucharist is a recollection of
            > the death of Jesus and a participation in the Easter mystery. The
            > reference to the Eucharist allows me to link the blindness of the
            > disciples to the Easter mystery.
            > This dual admission, on the part of the disciples, means that they had
            > been initiated into the Kingdom of God, not into the Easter mystery.
            > This is how I prove that, on the basis of the disciples' own testimony,
            > they had not been instructed in the Easter mystery. What follows
            > immediately and without any doubt is that all the things that are
            > mentioned in the gospel and which locate, in a pre-Easter context,
            > things that pertain to the Easter revelation are not historical.

            It seems to me, Joseph, that you simply don't have enough evidence yet to
            prove your point. Mere plausibility is not enough. There is probably no such
            thing as "proof" of such a hypothesis. Even if Mark appeared before us in
            the flesh and admitted that he lied, that would not be proof. Even if we
            discovered an ancient copy of Ur-Mark that told the story as you claim it
            really happened, and all scholars in the field agreed in dating the text to
            the early first century, that would not be proof.

            But we can amass evidence, and assign a weight of probability. Here is one
            example of the kind of evidence I am looking for: You might give historical
            examples of other literature (in any field) where other scholars have said
            that the text clearly betrays that the writer knows he is creating a lie
            because of certain artifacts in the text. Failing that, can you at least
            give other examples from the text of Scripture, outside of Mark, where this
            same phenomenon occurs?

            As soon as you claim to "prove" something or assert that "what follows . . .
            without any doubt," you run into trouble. If that were true, then everyone
            on this list would immediately agree with you. If instead you would use
            language like "it seems compelling to me that . . ." it might be more

            Tim Crosby
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