Re: Church and Synagogue
Thank you for reading my article. It has only been uploaded a few days
and I hadn't got around to publicising it. Indeed I was not sure I
should do so on this forum, as it is not concerned with the Historical
Jesus. However, it does give some hint as to where I am coming from in a
number of my posts on other issues.
To take the points you make in turn:
1. I accept James claimed an authority over all Christians, but we
differ in that I believe Paul (albeit reluctantly) accepted that fact
and sought to live with it. He did, however, seek to establish a level
of authority for himself which was almost as great if not greater. This
may seem to be contradictory, but we are talking about human beings, and
human beings are frequently contradictory. Paul would *say* he only
wished to exercise authority over the churches he had founded, and then
he would write to the church at Rome, which he did not found. He would
acknowledge the authority of the Jerusalem council, and then undermine
it by his actions. He reminds me very much of the founder of Methodism,
John Wesley, who proudly claimed that he lived and dies a priest of the
Church of England, but who then ordained ministers to serve in America,
completely contravening Anglican polity. Someone once said of Wesley,
that though he set his face towards the Church of England, like a master
oarsman every stroke he took took him in the opposite direction. Believe
me, it is possible in the church to accept someone's authority and then
to oppose them every step of the way (I speak from bitter experience!).
2. I think Burtcheall suggests weekly meetings, rather than daily, but
not just for prayer. He suggests their would be prayer, reading from the
TANAKH and discussion, followed by (or even mixed with) discussion of
business, and even (where the Romans had delegated that authority) the
adjudication of legal matters. Of course, no-one could say there was
100% attendance. Even the Church of England did not get that in the days
when one was fined or worse for non-attendance! But Burtchaell suggests
more than one sect had the practice. Indeed, where the Jewish community
constituted a politeuma (I think I have got the right term. It is more
than a year ago that I read Burtcheall, and I loaned it from the
library. I cannot currently reference a copy), this was almost essential
for legal reasons. But the sects did meet separately, and call their
meetings by different names, where the Jewish community was sufficiently
large. I concur with your point that those who did meet together may not
always have had much amity with one another.
3. Paul and James were almost certainly at loggerheads, though it has to
be remembered that Paul was himself a Pharisee, as he himself testifies
in Philippians 3. I suspect this probably made the division between
himself and James deeper. James would think "he ought to have known
better". What I am concerned about, however, is an almost unconscious
imposition of modern denominationalism on first century Christianity.
Whenever division of opinion is perceived there are cries of "schism".
Actually, I believe schism does not occur until later in Christian
history. During the first century, perhaps because the movement is still
growing and still fluid, it can contain a surprising amount of
dissension, even dissension which a century or two later *would* have
caused schism, and which 18 or so centuries later would have given rise
to multiple denominations! I am not trying to paint a picture of an
early church where all is sweetness and light, but where disagreement,
even strong disagreement, was lived with and contained. I am also
convinced this could not last.
4. Re: Hengel's thesis on Hellenisation. I agree, we need to talk about
degrees of Hellenisation. But there are traces of Hellenisation in the
Dead Sea Scrolls, which are undoubtedly nationalistic and Palestinian.
When something gets into the psyche of a people, and begins to infect a
culture, it is not always possible even for determined opponents of that
trend to *completely* purge themselves of its influences. I suspect that
in our own day there is more of Western European Enlightenment think in
both Christian *and* Islamic fundamentalism than either group would care
to admit, and that subconsciously that unadmitted affinity makes their
opposition to Western society more furious.
5. As for whether James felt comfortable with drinking the "blood" of
Jesus at communion, maybe he did not. But throughout Christian history
there have been parts of the Christian tradition (even the Jesus
tradition) with which Christian believers of one or another stripe have
been uncomfortable. Oddly, the parts which make *me* feel uncomfortable
are the parts of the tradition that I feel are probably most authentic.
JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)
Penistone, Sheffield UK