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Re: [XTalk] Essay: Orthodox Death Tradition Misrepresents Jesus

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  • Tony Buglass
    Ted wrote: I find no historically credible evidence that the historical Jesus interpreted and proclaimed his death as having salvific purpose or meaning,
    Message 1 of 83 , Aug 2, 2005
      Ted wrote:
      I find no historically credible evidence that the historical Jesus interpreted and proclaimed his death as having salvific purpose or meaning, which is the cardinal tenet of the Death Tradition, the post-Easter tradition which has so misrepresented the historical Jesus and distorted his life mission and purpose, in my judgment.

      Jeffrey has asked the methodological question behind this one, as to what you would consider credible evidence. I just want to underline your comment about post-Easter traditions, and say that every scrap of evidence we have is post-Easter tradition; to define the so-called Death Tradition as such does not actually carry the pejorative weight your statement seeks to give it. The question of course is how much of that post-Easter tradition has its roots in pre-Easter tradition.

      But in most all cases that I am aware of this interpretation
      of the death of a hero does not derive directly from the hero's own
      wrestling with death and its possible meaning for others, but rather is an interpretation retrojected back upon the hero by the community who idealizes him and chooses to see benefaction for themselves or others as a result of the hero's martyrdom or whatever. That is certainly the case with respect to 4 Maccabees

      Yes, of course this is the case with 4 Maccabees. However, aren't we now looking at a community for which 4 Maccabees has already happened, and martyr-theology already become part of the tradition? It is by no means inconceivable that Jesus and his followers did have a martyr-theology as part of their source material, that in facing up to the opposition of the Jerusalem authorities they knew death was a possible outcome, and that a martyr theology would be helpful to them in wrestling with the possible meaning of that death.

      His death took his followers by surprise and, as Gerd Luedemann (_The
      Resurrection of Chrtist_) has suggested, they went through the normal grief process. In the course of the grief process they experienced, as is often the case, the sense of the grieved-for-dead, in this case Jesus, being still present with them in some real sense. Voila! The claims for post-death Jesus epiphanies!

      Luedemann and Spong have both made a great deal of bereavement and grief as the primary cause of the Easter traditions. In 25 years of pastoral ministry I have dealt with many bereaved people, including those who have caught a glimpse or heard the voice of their loved one in the weeks after the funeral. However, none of them have ever made the consequent claim that their loved one was in some sense back from the dead or even still alive. The followers of Jesus weren't the only ones to lose someone, and weren't the only ones to lose a leader. They were to my knowledge the only ones to develop the understanding of atoning death and vindicating resurrection on the basis of their experience and their tradition. I am not persuaded that the grief process of the disciples would lead to that reflective response.

      Rev Tony Buglass
      Superintendent Minister
      Upper Calder Methodist Circuit

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Theodore Weeden
      Bob Schacht wrote on September 2, 2005 ... Actually, Bob, I was trained as a form critic by my mentor James M. Robinson, and fully immersed in Bultmann and
      Message 83 of 83 , Sep 15, 2005
        Bob Schacht wrote on September 2, 2005

        > At 07:50 AM 9/2/2005, Ernest Pennells wrote:
        >>[Ted Weeden]
        >> >I would wonder if you would not, after reading my thesis, agree with me
        >>that Mark is close to being a literary genius.<
        >>The strongest component of your argument is the parallel motifs in the
        >>stories. The explanation you have explored is that Mark worked from
        >>Josephus. There are other explanations. Unfortunately we have little
        >>information on sources used by Mark or Josephus. It is generally accepted
        >>that literacy was limited - particularly among the peasant community from
        >>which HJ drew his first adherents. Storytellers played a major role in
        >>preserving and shaping tradition. The extent to which the Evangelists
        >>directly upon that oral tradition is not known but is surely the earliest
        >>source. Verbal similarities often suggest copying, but we simply don't
        >>know when that process commenced.
        >>You portray Mark as a literary genius, and your frame of thought is
        >>reflected in this quote: "When Mark sought material to fashion his passion
        >>narrative, he turned to two primary sources which he may well have had at
        >>hand, the Septuagint and, I suspect, Book VI of Josephus' Jewish War."
        >>That grants no acknowledgement to oral tradition. I don't think I am
        >>unfair in plucking this sentence from your essay because, on my reading,
        >>it captures the flavour of your line of thought, focusing upon the
        >>word. ...
        > Actually, I had been meaning to add something along these lines to my 8/17
        > post to Ted, and that is basically this: Ted was trained in the arts of
        > literary criticism, and he does a most excellent job within that paradigm.
        > As I understand it, they are basically trained to look for prior *written*
        > sources-- and as we see in the case of Q, reconstruction of written
        > sources
        > is included. In the literary paradigm, as I understand it, operates with
        > the idea that if you can't find a prior written source, then the author of
        > your earliest known source created it. There is usually some wave of the
        > hand to oral tradition, but their scholarly apparatus (again, as I
        > understand it) does not include much on how to deal with it.

        Actually, Bob, I was trained as a form critic by my mentor James M.
        Robinson, and fully immersed in Bultmann and Dibelius, first courses Jim
        taught in seminary at Candler School of Theology in 1955-56 (when I was his
        student), and then as his Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate School (now
        Claremont Graduate University) from 1960 to 1964, when I received my degree.
        Robinson introduced me to redaction criticism, particularly
        redaction-critical analysis of Mark, via Willi Marxsen's _Der Evangelist
        Markus_, and with that as a foundation I moved in my own direction with Mark
        as I wrote my dissertation, "The Heresy That Necessitated the Gospel of
        Mark" (1964). In the dissertation and more clearly so in my 1971 book,
        _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_, I imaged Mark more as exercising the freedom
        of an author, which without me knowing it, was, if I may say so, was
        something of a precursor to the literary-critical study of Mark, though I
        self-consciously wrote from the vantage point of redaction criticism. In
        1966, I presented my redaction-critical thesis on Mark as a paper, "The
        Heresy That Necessitated the Gospel of Mark," (subsequently published in
        revised form in 1968 by _Zeitschrift fuer die neutestamentliche
        Wissenschaft_) at the SBL annual meeting to the entire New Testament section
        of SBL (in those days the SBL was much, much smaller and all New Testament
        papers were read at the New Testament session). Norman Perrin was present
        in the New Testament session that day (along with Dieter Georgi and others
        whose work I had drawn upon in my dissertaation) and read his own paper on
        the Son of Man to the session following my paper. Following his reading of
        his paper, there was a break, and he rushed down to me and asked me, having
        heard my paper, where he could get my work. At the time, he was writing
        his little volume for Fortress Press, "What Is Redaction?" Perrin
        subsequently wrote me and asked if he could have a copy of my paper in order
        to present my argument as an example of redaction criticism of Mark, and he
        did so on pp. 54-56 of _What is Redaction Criticism. Perrin, thereafter,
        encouraged me to produce a book based upon my dissertation thesis and went
        to bat for me with the editors of Fortress Press who were initially
        reluctant to publish my controversial thesis. But under the urging of
        Perrin, _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_ so the light of day. I am very
        indebted to Norman for his advocacy of my work in the guild.

        So I was trained as a form critic, basically following Bultmann's
        perspective on the oral tradition, and became a redaction critic. It has
        only been in the last 20 years or so that I have become interested in
        literary criticism as a methodology. And I do tend to begin with
        literary-critical methodology now in the investigation of biblical texts.
        With respect to oral tradition, I still tend to be more Bultmannian in my
        view of the evolution of the oral tradition. My reading of Werner Kelber,
        James C. Scott and Jan Vansina has only served to enforce that Bultmannian
        orientation, though, unlike Bultmann, I do think that one can recover
        evidence of the oral tradition prior to the Gospels (including Q and Thomas)
        preserving authentic Jesus tradition. And I have posted as much in XTalk


        Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
        Fairport, NY
        Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
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