Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [XTalk] XTalk on Peter: Originating Proclamation

Expand Messages
  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG; WSW [on methodology] In Response To: Mark Matson On: Peter From: Bruce The idea of looking at the Historical Peter is one I have been
    Message 1 of 2 , May 7, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG; WSW [on methodology]
      In Response To: Mark Matson
      On: Peter
      From: Bruce

      The idea of looking at the Historical Peter is one I have been advocating
      for some time now, and I am watching with interest what may develop from Bob
      Schacht's present (and apparently revived) initiative on that subject. I
      here add a comment from the sidelines on one recent contribution to the
      conversation. (I am copying that comment to the Sinological tribe because
      similar methodological issues crop up there too).

      MARK: 1. At root, a basic issue is what was the major impetus for the rise
      of the early church? According to Acts, . . .

      BRUCE: Hold it right there. Acts is a highly schematic History of
      Christianity. It is not a primary document. If we want to understand Roman
      history, we have roughly two choices: (1) read Gibbon, or (2) read Roman
      documents. I favor the latter. Everyone will be aware that in some current
      scholarly opinions, Acts dates from well into the 2nd century. To the extent
      that these opinions may be well founded, Acts is out as a source for Early
      Christianity. And even if those opinions are ill founded - if Acts is as
      early as anybody so far cares to make it (namely, later than Luke, with Luke
      in turn put at the earliest tenable date so far advanced, which is not
      itself very early) - we are a long way, not only in date but also in
      intention, from any really early material we may happen to possess. We are
      grabbing hold of the elephant at a perhaps inadvisable end. This I would
      call the Risk of the Late Source. Standard historical methodology deprecates
      the use of late sources. I recommend standard historical methodology.

      MARK: . . . it was primarily the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that
      this singular event interpreted all of
      Jesus' previous teaching, and also interpreted the entire Old Testament.

      BRUCE: That is the Acts take on it. But there is widespread and early
      evidence that at least some segments of the early Church (and I think it is
      methodologically risky to regard that as a singular noun) were not
      Resurrection centered, but were otherwise centered. The OT was cited, as far
      as I can make out, by most of these groups, but not always in the same
      sense. This I would call the Risk of the Unitary Assumption. Standard
      historical methodology deprecates Unitary or any other assumptions; it
      advises looking at the evidence before forming any assumptions. I recommend
      standard historical methodology.

      MARK: . . . It was preaching first about Jesus, and secondly contained the
      content of Jesus' own preaching.

      BRUCE: Surely not yet proved. If we are to guess, I would think that the
      least risky guess is that Jesus preached his own view of things, and the
      Church (churches) preached their view (views) of Jesus. And I would think it
      methodologically wise to reserve judgement about the extent to which the
      early preaching of the churches coincided with the lifetime preaching of
      Jesus. For one thing, if Jesus' message in his lifetime had been the
      importance of his own death and nothing else (as the Gospel of John goes
      some distance to tell us), then how do we explain the fact that among the
      early churches, some did, but some also did not, center themselves on the
      death of Jesus? It looks from here as though the variation in doctrine among
      the earliest attested churches, and the early-attested opposition to the
      Resurrection doctrine among some of Paul's hearers, tend toward the
      inference that the Resurrection was a late doctrine, developing after the
      death of Jesus, and that the message of Jesus in his own time had been
      different.

      This inference, though perhaps (as I think) the least risky inference, is
      still only an inference. But it can be checked, to an extent, on available
      material. The check, as I see it, would go like this: (1) if the
      Resurrection doctrine was introduced in one or more of the early churches,
      and does not in fact go back to Jesus, and (2) if, as above suggested, the
      early churches were not uniform in holding this doctrine, then (3) it may be
      the case that the doctrines of the non-Resurrection churches deserve a
      separate look. To see, in particular, (4) it those doctrines make any sort
      of sense as the kind of thing Jesus might have said in his lifetime, or if
      they are more plausibly seen as simply alternative early Christian
      innovations after the death of Jesus. To me, working from the outside but
      hopefully along general methodological lines, this seems one obvious
      question to ask. I don't recall seeing it asked, let alone answered, in that
      small part of the vast NT literature with which I am acquainted. Can some
      more widely read person recommend a reference to such an approach?

      MARK: 3. Assuming Q (as most economist jokes start "assume a free market",
      we can also begin many hypothetical discussions with "assume Q), Jesus
      appears to focus on the coming kingdom.

      BRUCE: But I don't think that a joke, and admittedly a bad joke, is a good
      scholarly model.

      Do we have a better scholarly model? Not to repeat myself, but I can only
      recommend examination of the material. The most natural assumption from the
      distribution of the material which the so-called "Q" contains (and by "Q" I
      mean the thing published by the IQP) is that "Q" is simply an anthology
      drawn from Matthew and Luke, and more precisely (if we accept the signs of
      Mt > Lk directionality, which are many) consisting of the parts of Mt that
      Lk exceptionally liked. Nothing in that pattern of distribution puts "Q"
      earlier than Mk, which (among many, and I am content to hold the
      conversation among those many) is manifestly a source of, and thus earlier
      than, both Matthew and Luke. Then "Q," if any, is excluded from a
      historically-oriented discussion for the same reason that Acts, and Luke by
      itself, are excluded. They all belong to the second tier of Gospel
      materials, and somehow or other, the second tier seems unlikely to be as
      good a place to begin an investigation as the first tier.

      MARK: Of course Mark does too at the beginning of his gospel, the first
      preaching of Jesus. But that is not
      the necessarily the preaching of the church in its earliest evangelical
      form.

      BRUCE: To be sure. But what exactly are we after here? The preaching of
      Jesus or the preachings of the early churches? Both (all) are valid objects
      of study. But if we are interested (as Bob began by suggesting) in the
      Historical Peter, then we probably do better to consult the earliest
      available documents. In that case, this seeming objection to the Gospel of
      Mark as a relevant source ought not to be allowed.

      (I have earlier remarked that everyone (pretty much) accepts the priority of
      Mark, but nobody (in actual applied fact) does anything about it. Here would
      be another illustration. "Q" is pretty: the "Nice Jesus" in a distilled and
      gnomic form; rosewater in a small bottle. Acts is dramatic. But these
      qualities, though immensely attractive to the general public, do not
      necessarily commend themselves equally to the analytical few. I have always
      thought that it would be fun to confine discussion to the analytical few,
      and see how it might come out. Such would seem to have been the motive
      behind this and certain highly overlapping E-lists. As a mere matter of
      heritage, then, I would suggest not getting distracted by popular
      preferences, and sticking with the earliest evidence, insofar as we have it
      and can identify it).

      MARK: The sending of the 12 or 70 was not evangelistic so much as exploring
      the power of God in his kingdom -- though it could be anticipatory
      (progymnasmata training exercises) for a coming evangelism
      of the church.

      BRUCE: Sending of the 70? Does anyone really put this Lukan fantasy on the
      same footing as the Sending of the 12? (Tenuous though that, in my
      estimation, proves to be in its turn). I can only see here a disposition to
      mix Luke and Matthew in various forms (and we now have three forms: Acts, Q,
      and Luke proper) into the earlier material, and stirring. I doubt that any
      good, analytically speaking, is likely to come of it. The best results are
      more likely to be gained by confining ourselves to the best evidence.

      MARK: What I would want to know from Gordon, is whether he sees the death
      and resurrection of Jesus as the primary formative event for the church. Or
      does he see a church formed based on Jesus' preaching, and which only later
      added on the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, was
      it Jesus as subject of the preaching content or Jesus as object of preaching
      content that drove the earliest church to form as an
      ongoing replicative social unit?

      BRUCE: On that matter of opinion, Gordon can speak for himself. If I take
      the question as more generally put, I would have this comment:

      There can be little doubt that the death of a leader is traumatic for the
      led. So much we may take for granted. But the actual specific response to
      that event, and the degree to which, in one corner or another, that response
      superseded any persisting response to the doctrines taught by the Historical
      Jesus, are not in the nature of things predictable. Some people respond to a
      crisis by suppressing it, others by elaborating it; for still others it may
      not constitute as much of a crisis as we, thousands of years after the fact,
      might think would be inevitable. We can only look at the evidence. I have
      indicated above where I think the best evidence is likely to be. With the
      additional hint that the evidence is likely to indicate more than one
      response to the death of Jesus. For that matter, there was probably more
      than one response to the teaching of Jesus during his lifetime.

      People like Luke are very concerned to make those many events and multiple
      responses unilinear. That makes for more convenient history writing, and
      also for more dramatic history reading. We can unproblematically concede
      that Luke achieved both his aims - convenience and drama. But to substitute
      his convenient and dramatic picture for the one we might get by going back
      to such sources are may still be available to us, and working on them
      ourselves, strikes me as very much the second best way to go about it.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Matson, Mark (Academic)
      Bruce Brooks wrote, responding to me: MARK: 1. At root, a basic issue is what was the major impetus for the rise of the early church? According to Acts, . . .
      Message 2 of 2 , May 7, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        Bruce Brooks wrote, responding to me:

        MARK: 1. At root, a basic issue is what was the major impetus for the rise
        of the early church? According to Acts, . . .

        BRUCE: Hold it right there. Acts is a highly schematic History of
        Christianity. It is not a primary document. If we want to understand Roman
        history, we have roughly two choices: (1) read Gibbon, or (2) read Roman
        documents. I favor the latter. Everyone will be aware that in some current
        scholarly opinions, Acts dates from well into the 2nd century.

        Mark in response: Well, I would disagree on two counts: 1), this issue was not discussing Roman history. In fact I'm not sure where you jumped to that. I wouldn't use Acts for that. But... I don't think Luke's second volume is inherently out of bounds. It does, after all, deal with the church's growth (which was, by the way, the issue -- whether Acts' speeches contained a summary of Peter's or the early church's early proclamations in any way useful for our consideration). Granted, it is Luke's interpretation. But every history is interpretation.. so that doesn't rule out Acts as possibly useful. 2) I would disagree on your dating of Acts. Granted, some argue for 2nd century. I would argue that Luke and Acts are the last of our written canonical gospels. But I would still put Luke and Acts in latter first century. Besides, lateness doesn't inherently mean inaccurate. But those who suggest very late Acts usually have a tendentious point.

        MARK: . . . it was primarily the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that
        this singular event interpreted all of
        Jesus' previous teaching, and also interpreted the entire Old Testament.

        BRUCE: That is the Acts take on it. But there is widespread and early
        evidence that at least some segments of the early Church (and I think it is
        methodologically risky to regard that as a singular noun) were not
        Resurrection centered, but were otherwise centered. The OT was cited, as far
        as I can make out, by most of these groups, but not always in the same
        sense. This I would call the Risk of the Unitary Assumption. Standard
        historical methodology deprecates Unitary or any other assumptions; it
        advises looking at the evidence before forming any assumptions. I recommend
        standard historical methodology.

        Mark in response: Well I would be most interested in very many examples of the early Church (or churches) that did not focus on the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly Paul, being the earliest example we have (and you do like early) focuses on Jesus as having been crucified and died and risen as an essential feature of the gospel. Just look at 1st Thessalonians right off the bat in his initial blessings. And Galatians, which engages disagreements reemphasizes Jesus as crucified, and 1 Corinthians, also engaging disagreements, keeps coming back to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

        We might look to gnostic gospels, but it is unclear that these are indeed early documents or point to early expressions of the church.

        Even if the specific language is missing (eg Didache), the emphasis on Jesus' lordship, the baptism in Jesus, incipient either binitarian or trinitarian language, etc., nonetheless point not to maintaining some early preaching of Jesus, but rather preaching about Jesus.

        I am not suggesting any simplistic unitary view (heavens, my recent paper on the Chronology of the passion should put that unitary view to rest). But I am not assuming a variety of views of the church's early preaching. Something happened that awakaned people to begin a new religious movement that grew very rapidly. One has to explain that. I think it was the belief that Jesus, although killed by crucifixion, was nonetheless raised and thus "alive" in a real if not fleshly sense.


        MARK: . . . It was preaching first about Jesus, and secondly contained the
        content of Jesus' own preaching.

        BRUCE: Surely not yet proved. If we are to guess, I would think that the
        least risky guess is that Jesus preached his own view of things, and the
        Church (churches) preached their view (views) of Jesus. And I would think it
        methodologically wise to reserve judgement about the extent to which the
        early preaching of the churches coincided with the lifetime preaching of
        Jesus. ...

        Mark in response: I have no doubt that there was great continuity in much of the teaching of the church with Jesus' own teaching and preaching. But Jesus did not preach about his death as a primary issue (even if you think his predictions of his death are indeed prophetic)... he preached the kingdom of God and the way that people should think of both God and people in this kingdom. Still, (again following Paul.... and Acts) the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection, and what that meant as a cosmic reordering event... well I stand by my own assessment that the early church was blown away by their understanding of who Jesus was based on his resurrection (and probably other connections that led quickly to his being conceived of as "divine".... or at least worshipped in some way (see Hurtado here on this...))



        Mark A. Matson
        Academic Dean
        Milligan College
        http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.