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

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  • Theodore Weeden
    ... Bob, to restrict the issue of whether John contains authentic Jesus sayings, for the sake of the argument here, to sayings in which the Johannine Jesus
    Message 1 of 83 , Aug 4, 2005
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      Bob Schacht wrote on August 03:

      > At 09:28 AM 8/3/2005, Theodore Weeden wrote in response to Jeffrey Gibson
      > on August 1:
      >>...methodologically, I begin with those first century
      >>Christian texts where Jesus is cited as alluding to or referring directly
      >>his death. The earliest of those texts is, likely, the eucharistic
      >>tradition depicted by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:23-24, followed chronologically
      >>later by the canonical Synoptic Gospels and John. These are the primary
      >>first-century sources in which Jesus is cited addressing the issue of his
      >>death, the sources where one is most likely to find authentic sayings in
      >>which Jesus alludes or refers to his death, if such sayings exist.
      >>However, I rule out John as a reliable source of authentic sayings of
      > On what grounds? You might be justified in excluding the long "pastoral
      > prayers" at the end, but I do not agree to any ex cathedra pronouncements
      > about the whole corpus of Johannine sayings.

      Bob, to restrict the issue of whether John contains authentic Jesus sayings,
      for the sake of the argument here, to sayings in which the Johannine Jesus
      possibly alludes to or refers to his death, my reading of John produces the
      following such passages: 2:19; 3:14, 17; 6:51; 7:19; 8:28; 10:17; 12:8,
      23-25, 27, 32; 14:28; 16:5, 10, 28; 17:11, 13. All these sayings, in my
      view, are constructed in the service of Johannine theology/christology. If
      you find any which you think are authentic, please let me know and on what
      basis you judge them to be authentic.
      >>But there are also non-canonical Christian texts of the first century that
      >>need also to be considered as possible sources for any indication that
      >>ever alluded to or referred to his death. ...
      >>Before I treat the authenticity of the Pauline eucharistic tradition known
      >>as the Lord's Supper or Last Supper, let me focus on Jesus sayings in
      >>Jesus is protrayed in the Gospel of Mark as possibly alluding to or
      >>referring to his death. They are (1) the three passion predictions
      >>9:31; 10:32-34), (2) the cross saying (8:35), (3) the ransom saying
      >>(4) the Last Supper episode, and (5) the Gethsemane prayer (14:36). The
      >>passion predictions are widely held as post-Easter and fictive inventions
      >>Mark in the service of his apologia of the cross. The ransom saying is
      >>widely held to be a Markan creation. I have already argued in my essay
      >>that the Gethsemane prayer cannot be authentic (who heard it to report
      >>it?), ...
      > I'm beginning to think that this rejection is overly facile. Certainly,
      > *as
      > presented*, the prayer cannot be authentic. But elsewhere we often
      > distinguish between frame and message, so why not here? What I am
      > proposing
      > is the possibility that elements of the Gethsemane prayer were not unique
      > to this occasion and were actually transposed from elsewhere because they
      > seemed especially germaine to the occasion.

      I find the entire Gethsemane episode to be constructed largely from motifs
      found in the Davidic saga of 2 Sam. 15-17 (see, for example, the cameo in
      the Jesus Seminar's _The Acts of Jesus_, 150; I have expanded on the
      parallels in motifs in my "Two Jesuses" thesis manuscript). With specific
      reference to Jesus' prayer, (14:36), Jesus' resignation ("not what I will
      but what thou wilt") is an imitation (MIMESIS) of David's resignation in 2
      Sam. 15:25: "If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back
      [to Jerusalem] . . . ; but if he says, 'I have no pleasure in you,' behold,
      here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him." The cup which Jesus
      wishes removed is the cup of death, which I contend was imaged by Mark after
      the Socratic cup of death. Thus, none of the elements of the prayer, in my
      judgment, originate with Jesus, whether in the context of a Gethsemane
      event, which I consider fictive, or otherwise.
      >>Now with respect to the cross saying. It is held by a number of scholars
      >>(Crossan being of particular note [_Historical Jesus_, 353}) as being
      >>authentic to the historical Jesus. But I am not convinced that it is, in
      >>either its Markan, Q or Thomastic versions. These are my reasons.
      >>First, it is not clear how Jesus understood himself.
      > This is true. But you appear not to have given much attention to E. P.
      > Sanders' reconstruction of Jesus' self-conception. IIRC, in his
      > reconstruction Jesus was convinced that God was about to do something
      > extraordinary, and that he (Jesus) had an important role to play in that
      > extraordinary situation. I think Sanders concluded that Jesus envisioned
      > some kind of apocalypse. Now, I agree with your thesis that Jesus didn't
      > consider this triumphal event as "salvific," at least, not in the usual
      > sense, but it seems to me that it was something that seemed to lend itself
      > to salvific re-interpretation. In other words, it is not necessary to
      > postulate that the "Death tradition" was operating ex nihilo, but rather
      > was adapting and re-interpreting something that was a part of the Jesus of
      > history.

      I concur with Marcus Borg, Crossan and Stephen Patterson, contrary to
      Sanders and Dale Allison to cite two scholars, that Jesus was *not* an
      apocalyptic eschatologist (see _The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate_, ed. Robert
      J. Miller, in which Borg, Crossan and Patterson debate Allison on the
      issue). That Jesus envisioned God was imminently going to actualize the
      domain of God and that Jesus saw himself as in some way actualizing that via
      table fellowship, etc, I concur. But I do not think that Jesus saw himself
      as helping to implement some divine apocalyptic intervention into world
      affairs. Thus, I do not find that the post-Easter Death Tradition is based
      upon seeds sown by Jesus with respect to his interpretation of his own role
      in the in-breaking of the domain of God.

      >>... Rather, it is most likely that Jesus viewed himself in the role of a
      >>teacher or prophet
      >>(eschatological, apocalyptic, or otherwise). And his prophetic message
      >>addressed not against Rome but the Judean cult (see my XTalk post of
      >>3/26/05, entitled "Prelude to Replies: Jesus' Hidden Transcript"). Thus,
      >>as a scathing critic of the Judean cult,...

      > If I remember correctly, "salvation" to most Jews of the First Century was
      > usually expressed in corporate terms-- that is, what was to be "saved" was
      > the Jewish people, not the individual Jew who was supposedly more pious or
      > faithful than other Jews. It was Christians, IIRC, who developed a more
      > personal soteriology based, e.g., in Paul's concept of "election" or
      > whatever, but tied much more closely to "faith", and not at all limited by
      > parentage. This seemed to have something to do with re-visioning the
      > "covenant" in terms of the individual's relationship with God, rather than
      > any collective relationship.

      Yes, I think that salvation from the Jewish perspective was understood as a
      corporate phenomenon and not an individual actualization of personal
      salvation. Thus, in the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3, the salvific reference to
      Jesus dying "for our sins" is still, I would argue, envisioning a corporate
      salvation, and not the person salvation of individual members of the
      Jerusalem community.


    • 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
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        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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