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Re: [XTalk] Re: [Synoptic-L] bibliographical references: the historical unreliability of the sayings of Jesus in GJohn

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk In Response To: Bob Schacht (answering Jeffrey Gibson) On: Authenticity of Jesus in John From: Bruce gJn is interesting as the only Gospel which
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2009
      To: Crosstalk
      In Response To: Bob Schacht (answering Jeffrey Gibson)
      On: Authenticity of Jesus in John
      From: Bruce

      gJn is interesting as the only Gospel which (albeit teasingly) not only
      claims Apostolic authorship (as Matthew may be thought to have done), but
      *favored* Apostolic authorship. The ultimate insider document. Many modern
      people find John to be the most theologically and chronologically consistent
      of the Four, and the substitution of gJn's timetable for, eg, the Last
      Supper is quite common in our time ("John got it right"). Whether
      consistently or not with this respect for John's calendar, the question of
      Jesus tradition in John is not as firmly championed. Bultmann's proposals of
      a "signs" (miracles) source continues to guide gJn thinking, but in
      directions away from saying authenticity, and toward early Church legend
      character. So also, and even moreso (see below) does the Q hypothesis. No
      reflective Trajectory argument will fail to put gJn last among the Gospels.
      My personal view is that it is also last in the calendar department, and has
      ingeniously framed a chronology which resolves the major questions now asked
      of the Last Supper event, which are largely liturgical ones. gJn is also
      last in the Biographical Trajectory department: Mark shows Jesus as
      discovering his vocation, and identifying his betrayer, only gradually
      during the course of his ministry; Mt/Lk retain (in Markan material and its
      developments) that view, but increasingly dilute it with more consistent
      pictures; gJn is from beginning to end wholly consistent. The "Synoptic"
      perception has tended to automatically push gJn to the margin; it is a great
      help to have gJn included in the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum of Kurt
      Aland, in its many forms (1970 and later).


      Jeffrey had asked: "Can someone here point me to one or two books or
      articles (with full bibliographical references) which could be used in a
      footnote to buttress the claim that it is usually maintained by
      NT/Historical Jesus Scholars that the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John
      have less of a claim to representing what the HJ actually said than those we
      find in Matthew Mark and Luke?"

      Bob had replied: "I think this is so commonplace that you'll probably have
      to go back to the 19th century or even earlier to find it as a novel
      argument. The usual case, IIRC, is just to point to the long supposedly
      "pastoral prayers" of Jesus in GJohn, say the obvious about their
      impossibility as transcripts, and use that as an excuse to throw out all of
      John's sayings of Jesus, long or short.

      BRUCE: There is a useful albeit discursive summary on the "Johannine
      Question" in the front matter of Schnackenburg's commentary. His references
      to earlier surveys of opinion on the matter range from Loisy and others (p11
      n1) through Evanson 1792 and others (p13 n11), to J├╝licher and Fascher who
      feel that the "Gospel has no value for the history of Jesus" and Haenchen,
      who allows it a certain subordinate interest (104n90-91).


      BOB: I think what The Five Gospels has to say is that comparing the sayings
      of Jesus in the Synoptics and GJohn that you just have to pick one or the
      other as a blanket rule, and they opt for picking the synoptics, whether it
      makes the most sense in any specific case or not. I don't particularly care
      for that assessment. Unfortunately, my copy of T5G is packed away, so I
      can't look that up for you.

      BRUCE: T5G p3: "Other scholars in the German tradition [than David Friedrich
      Strauss 1835] developed a safer, but no less crucial, contrast between the
      Jesus of the synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke - and Jesus of the
      Gospel of John. . . the second pillar consisted of recognizing the synoptic
      gospels as much closer to the historical Jesus than the Fourth Gospel, which
      presented a "spiritual" Jesus."

      p10: "The first step is to understand the diminished role the Gospel of John
      plays in the search for the Jesus of history. The two pictures painted by
      John and the synoptic gospels cannot both be historically accurate. . . . In
      sum, there is virtually nothing of the synoptic sage in the Fourth Gospel.
      That sage has been displaced by Jesus the revealer who has been sent from
      God to reveal who the Father is. / These differences are summarized in
      Figure 1, facing." What we have here is primary argument; no footnotes.

      It will I think be intuitively obvious that acceptance of Q, as a document
      equal or [more recently, and more assertively] greater in antiquity and thus
      authority to Mark, otherwise the most plausibly early of the Gospels, has
      exerted a huge effect in directing attention away from gJn. This dates from
      1838, which in fact is also the date when Markan Priority was first asserted
      in anything like its modern form (nobody considers Lachmann 1835). My
      suspicion is that Markan Priority is not theologically tolerable unless it
      is simultaneously balanced by a way of privileging, from the Second Tier
      Gospels, at least the core Sermon on the Mount matter; that is, the Nice
      Jesus image, which is also the "sage" image, which is developed or perhaps
      even created by Mt/Lk. Acceptance of Q is thus probably, for many, the
      prerequisite to accepting Mark. All this tends to take the thunder away from
      gJn, without necessarily weakening claims of gJn's intimate origins in one
      who was personally favored by Jesus above all the other disciples.

      Given T5G acceptance of this disesteem of gJn, one pages through the T5G
      section on gJn with a certain amount of curiosity to see how much red or
      pink it contains. That tale is soon told. There is exactly one pink saying,
      namely Jn 4:44. Eschewing the, ahem, Jesus Seminar translation, I will give
      it in RSV form:

      Jn 4:43. After the two days he departed to Galilee. [44] For Jesus himself
      testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

      It is the latter phrase (cf Mk 6:4, Mt 13:57, Lk 4:24, and yes, gTh 31:1)
      that gets the pink. It is notable in gJn as being not directly presented as
      a saying of Jesus, but rather *narratively remembered* as a saying of Jesus.
      Here, gJn seems to be making its own distinction between Synoptically
      attested Jesus sayings and its own stuff.

      The box on p419 "The I Am Sayings in the Gospel of John" contains a list and
      an overview comment, and concludes with this paragraph: "The readers of the
      Fourth Gospel are told from the outset who Jesus is and what he is. Many of
      the I AM sayings are designed, in the present form of the gospel, to expand
      on who Jesus is by adding identifying phrases. In virtually every case, the
      reader is being confronted with the language of the evangelist and not the
      language of Jesus."

      Again, a determination rather than a survey of previous arguments for or
      against that determination.


      Walter Schmithals' Introduction to the English translation of Bultmann's
      commentary (1971) contains a summary but no specifics. There is a useful
      brief summary of the scholarly position in Raymond E Brown, Introduction
      (1997) 362f. More informative in matters of fine detail about scholarly
      positions is the colossal tome of Benjamin W Bacon, The Fourth Gospel in
      Research and Debate (1910), which opens with Lightfoot as a defender of gJn,
      and goes on to treat the major topics of contention. To bookend that
      century, there is D Moody Smith's John Among the Gospels (2ed 2001), which
      explicitly does not attempt to update the bibliographical reach of the 1ed
      (1992); it concentrates on the question of gJn's knowledge of the Synoptics.
      Smith is not averse to quoting, eg, Origen. His Chapter 2 is on "The
      Development of the Independence Theory, from Bacon to Gardner-Smith [1938]."
      Among the more exciting of the later chapter titles is Chapter 6, "The
      Dissolution of a Consensus." And so on. Fully annotated, and major positions
      are extensively described. May be helpful. May also be upsetting, in that it
      shows that positions as to the authenticity of gJn material (that is, the
      Jesusness as against the Synopticity of its Jesus sayings) have not been
      either stable or uniform in the century or so preceding ours.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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