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RE: [XTalk] comments please

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  • Matson, Mark (Academic)
    Jeffrey: Jeffrey Gibson wrote: But the difficulty with all of this is that, even granting that what Matthew and Luke report as the content of Jesus vision is
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 16, 2008

      Jeffrey Gibson wrote:

      But the difficulty with all of this is that, even granting that what Matthew and Luke report as the content of Jesus' vision is rooted in a recitation by Jesus himself of a wilderness vision vouchsafed to him in which his resolve to be obedient to God was put to the proof by God's tester, we have no way of knowing, let alone proving, that what Matthew and Luke transmit is an accurate reproduction of the form and wording and narrative substance of that recitation.

      In fact, at least one feature of Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13 strongly suggests that what they "transmit" is not, not, namely, the style of debate Jesus is depicted as using in the temptation story, which has with justification been deemed by many as "thoroughly Rabbinic".

      The question, however, is whether this experience actually unfolded and transpired with even a minimal resemblance to the particular way that we are told by the Evangelists it did.

      As is indicated by the conflict stories in the Synoptic tradition, this is not Jesus' usual manner of argumentation, even when he is engaged with opponents versed in Scripture or who use scripture to make their case. Nor can one find anywhere else in the Synoptic Tradition a portrait of Jesus issuing responses to /anything/ said to him that are made up, as Jesus responses in Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13 are, entirely of scriptural citations. Moreover, even if Jesus did report that in his vision he had found himself using and exchanging scriptural quotations with the devil, would he have cast his recollection of the quotations he and the devil used according to their LXX formulations? And adding to the suspicion that Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13 is /not/ a faithful reproduction of a dominical report is both (a) the fact, pointed out by Gouder and Wilkens, that a significant portion of the vocabulary we find in both of the "transmitted" versions of the report is characteristically Matthean. and

      (b) the consideration that Jesus never elsewhere casts anything he recounts, including, notably, /his other visions of Satan "falling" and at work in "sifting" God's elect/, in anything like the form or the genre of haggadic midrash in which the "transmitted" report of his Wilderness "temptation" vision is cast.

      OK, I see your basic argumentation – the events as an “objective” event can’t be seen as real. So that leads to the question of whether Jesus, as visionary, might have imagined this test in some form similar to what we have, and then related it to his disciples or other listeners. And that brings us to this point in your argument.

      Here are my problems:

      1. Does the inability to “know” create a negative result? Certainly we can’t “prove” he saw this, or spoke it. Does that mean he didn’t? I always have trouble at this step – from agnosticism to “gnosticing nothing.”

      2. But you base your argument at this point on a feature in Mt 4:3-11 and Luke 4:3-13 that implies that Jesus did not transmit this. Here all I see is assertion.

      a. Is the issue that Jesus was not being “rabbinic” enough in his discourse style? But what does that mean? I think you need to flesh this out? And would talking about a vision ever be “rabbinic”? Argumentation over a point of halakah I can see as rabbinic. But how does relating a story of a vision ever be told in rabbinic fashion? In other words, is this an issue really of style, or of content?

      3. But to continue,

      a. Does use of LXX (admittedly Matthean) point to Matthew creation, or Matthew editing?

      b. Does Matthean vocabulary point to Matthew creation, or Matthew editing?

      c. Does use of “haggadic midrash” (as opposed to simply telling a story of his vision?) point to Matthew creation or editing?

      My concern with these is how do we make the argument. My overall concern, Jeffrey, is that your argument is too brief at the critical points.

      Don’t take from this my disagreement…. I just am nervous about arguments that are based on “everyone knows”, when in fact these issues above are the real crux of the matter. But rather than nail them down, you simply point to them and say “voila – here is the proof”.


      Mark A. Matson

      Academic Dean

      Milligan College


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