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re: Context and Nuance in Jesus' Sayings

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  • John E Staton
    Bob, Certainly those who aver that the historical Jesus was primarily a teacher of wisdom must take some such line as yourself on this. It is characteristic of
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 12, 2006
      Bob,
      Certainly those who aver that the historical Jesus was primarily a
      teacher of wisdom must take some such line as yourself on this. It is
      characteristic of the bulk of the proverbs in the OT book of that name,
      that their meaning is to be determined in a large measure
      independently of their context. These saying are grouped in blocks for
      teaching purposes, often centering around catchwords. Their position in
      the text owes more to aiding the process of teaching and memorising than
      to any connection of thought or logic. Presumably those who grouped
      Jesus' sayings (in Q or in the gospels) followed similar processes. They
      too believed the particular historical context was irrelevant, but the
      general historical context (i.e. early first century Palestine) may well
      have been, in the same way that knowledge that the book of Proverbs is
      the result of a long tradition of Wisdom originating perhaps in the
      bureaucracy of the United Kingdom and stretching into the Persian era
      (and indeed continuing long after the Book of Proverbs was actually
      written) may well help us understand that book. Certainly, the attempt
      to track down the precise incident in the life of Jesus that led to a
      particular saying (unless the tradition links the saying firmly with an
      incident) is likely to owe more to guesswork and imagination than to
      historical evidence.

      Best Wishes

      JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)

      Penistone, Sheffield UK

      www.christianreflection.org.uk
    • Ron Price
      ... John, I don t understand the relevance of the word primarily here, let alone of the word wisdom . If we can reconstruct a large collection of Sayings
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 13, 2006
        John Staton wrote:

        > Certainly those who aver that the historical Jesus was primarily a
        > teacher of wisdom must take some such line as yourself on this.

        John,

        I don't understand the relevance of the word "primarily" here, let alone of
        the word "wisdom".

        If we can reconstruct a large collection of 'Sayings of Jesus', and if we
        can fairly confidently attribute (say) 50 of these sayings to the historical
        Jesus, then surely that will be enough to tell us a lot about him. We should
        at least expect clues in the sayings as to whether he had a nationalistic or
        a world vision, and perhaps also as to how he may have seen himself towards
        the end of his life (e.g. as Messiah?).

        Ron Price

        Derbyshire, UK

        Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
      • John E Staton
        Ron, It all depends what your 50 sayings are. If you truly believe (and the tone of your post suggests you don t - don t worry I m not sure I believe this
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 13, 2006
          Ron,
          It all depends what your 50 sayings are. If you truly believe (and the
          tone of your post suggests you don't - don't worry I'm not sure I
          believe this either) that it is the gnomic wisdom sayings which are the
          most authentic, they may well tell you next to nothing about the
          historical Jesus. However, a person who tended to see Jesus as an
          apocalyptic prophet may come up with a different set of "authentic"
          sayings which may well give a fair amount of information along the lines
          you suggest. However, my impression of attempts to derive historical
          knowledge about Jesus, his community, the gospel writers and their
          communities from historical allusions in apocalyptic suggests most of it
          is an exercise in guesswork and wish-fulfillment anyway. Only if one
          works from a basic attitude of trust in the manuscripts and the
          tradition process that lies behind them can form any idea of the
          historical Jesus.

          Best Wishes

          JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)

          Penistone, Sheffield UK

          www.christianreflection.org.uk
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