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Re: Good News

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  • John E Staton
    Actually, Gordon, I do think Jesus was a life-long Jew, who was preaching a radical re-interpretation of Judaism, Not the only one to do that, of course. But a
    Message 1 of 7 , May 15, 2009
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      Actually, Gordon, I do think Jesus was a life-long Jew, who was
      preaching a radical re-interpretation of Judaism, Not the only one to do
      that, of course. But a radical re-interpretation *is* an ideology. I
      cannot see the kind of homespun wisdom you are talking about causing the
      kind of ripples Jesus caused. Plenty of Jewish wisdom literature in the
      period, but I hear nothing about the authors getting crucified. I'm
      afraid I find Bob's explanation fits the facts better.

      Best Wishes

      --
      JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)
      Hull, UK
      www.christianreflection.org.uk

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    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: Crosstalk In Response To: John Staton On: Alternatives for the Historical Jesus From: Bruce JOHN (Summarizing a previous position): I do think Jesus was a
      Message 2 of 7 , May 15, 2009
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        To: Crosstalk
        In Response To: John Staton
        On: Alternatives for the Historical Jesus
        From: Bruce

        JOHN (Summarizing a previous position): I do think Jesus was a life-long
        Jew, who was preaching a radical re-interpretation of Judaism, Not the only
        one to do that, of course. But a radical re-interpretation *is* an ideology.
        I cannot see the kind of homespun wisdom you are talking about causing the
        kind of ripples Jesus caused. Plenty of Jewish wisdom literature in the
        period, but I hear nothing about the authors getting crucified.

        BRUCE: Not that we necessarily would, the record of Jesus's crucifixion
        itself being so lacking outside the documents of his own movement. But with
        that slight amendment, I agree entirely with this.

        Roughly speaking, there are two chief images of Jesus out there: (1) the
        Markan or activist Jesus, the oppositional Jesus who was finally crucified,
        and (2) the Nice or Matthean Jesus, the meek and utterly inoffensive Jesus.
        Which is likely to be historical? I think that every possible way of looking
        at the evidence favors the former as the original. I will list three ways of
        looking at the evidence.

        One is the argument that John well summarizes: If Jesus in his lifetime was
        as mild and inoffensive as Matthew and Luke (in their nonMarkan material)
        make him out to be, how do you explain his crucifixion? As I have said
        before, You can't. Then that reading of the evidence, that choice between
        the two alternatives, fails the test of plausibility. We must accordingly
        adopt the other as the Historical Jesus.

        Two is the argument from directionality. Of the two Jesuses, considered
        simply as points on an evolutionary tradition, and not in relation to
        external probabilities, which is likely to precede the other? This is
        basically the Tischendorf Question. I would answer: If Jesus was in fact a
        virtual rebel against Rome, leveraging God (as he hoped) to expel the Roman
        army of occupation, we can easily see why his chastened followers after his
        execution adopted a low-profile and conspicuously innocuous stance. But
        there is no readily imaginable reason why the disciples of a preacher of
        meekness and civil obedience should have later represented him as a rebel
        and disturber of the peace who was executed by the keepers of the peace.
        That latter option failing to generate an imaginable scenario, we can only
        adopt the former.

        Three is the argument from sources. Consider what I have called the Synoptic
        Trajectories: increasing divinization of Jesus, increasing respect for Mary,
        increasing marginalization of John the B, increasing insistence on Jerusalem
        as the center of early Christianity, increasing concentration on the
        Crucifixion as the message of Jesus himself, in his lifetime, and a few
        others. These separately, but identically, and therefore convincingly,
        determine the relative age of the Gospels as Mark > Matthew > Luke/Acts >
        John. Then by the standard rule that the earlier evidence is to be preferred
        over the later evidence, the contentious and oppositional Jesus of Mark is
        to be preferred, as more closely reflecting the historical person, than the
        meek and conciliatory Jesus of Matthew and Luke (in their new material).

        When all lines of approach converge, I think we have operational certainty.
        I think we have reached a point that deserves to be developed, rather than
        continually debated. As I ventured to say in a recent note to Synoptic (not
        cross-posted, to avoid wearying the cross-membership).

        This is not to say that the origin and details of the second or Nice Jesus
        image do not deserve investigation. They very much do. How exactly was the
        transform effected, how many details of the original picture were retained,
        and which others were omitted or reversed, and in what order, and why? What,
        in short, was the strategy of the leaders of the Jesus movement under whose
        oversight, and perhaps at whose direction, these changes of image were
        brought about? All these are questions of enormous interest. The only
        caution is that the textual evidence for the construction of the Nice Jesus
        should not be confused with the remaining evidence for the Historical Jesus.
        Now that we know, with operational certainty, which one is which.

        The two, the Historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Chastened Jesus Movement,
        are separate Quests. I wish them both well. But I also hope that they can be
        pursued along separate paths. The best service which either enterprise can
        render to the other is to keep clearly separated from the other.

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      • Gordon Raynal
        Hi John, ... Several things: 1. So, you go with Bob s explanation and his view that the original and originating proclamation begins with Peter s speech
        Message 3 of 7 , May 15, 2009
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          Hi John,

          On May 15, 2009, at 4:12 AM, John E Staton wrote:

          > Actually, Gordon, I do think Jesus was a life-long Jew, who was
          > preaching a radical re-interpretation of Judaism, Not the only one
          > to do
          > that, of course. But a radical re-interpretation *is* an ideology. I
          > cannot see the kind of homespun wisdom you are talking about
          > causing the
          > kind of ripples Jesus caused. Plenty of Jewish wisdom literature in
          > the
          > period, but I hear nothing about the authors getting crucified. I'm
          > afraid I find Bob's explanation fits the facts better.

          Several things:
          1. So, you go with Bob's explanation and his view that the original
          and originating proclamation begins with Peter's speech (however
          stylized) that we find in Acts? In his note from the other day he
          listed "repentance," "baptism in the Holy Spirit," and "the promise
          of the Holy Spirit" as his list of essential features. Just to be
          clear, is this your list, as well? And if so, how exactly is that "a
          radical re-interpretation of Judaism?" If it is not your list and/
          or you want to amend it, then let me know how that is "radical?"

          2. I frankly don't like such terms as "radical," because it usually
          rather anachronistic, it's not native language to the materials we
          have and such a term is perspectival in nature (as in "radical" for
          whom/ to whom/ compared to whom?). My own preference is to talk of
          Jesus and friends as talking up a particular strain of Hebrew
          "theology" ( way of talking about YHWH Elohim's rule... realizing
          that the term "theology" has troubles with being secondary and
          foreign to the speech and texts, themselves). That said, I don't
          think being a "radical ideologue" is how best to understand Jesus and
          his friends. I don't think "theology" is ever simply a matter of
          ideology, but rather of social, interpersonal and personal devotion,
          practice, values, beliefs, hopes and dreams. For instance, I don't
          think when Christians say "the Apostle's Creed" they are simply
          voicing an "ideology." I don't think they're even essentially
          voicing such. Rather, standing together in worship they are joining
          a chorus of voices to, in summary and collective fashion, make
          affirmation of faith (trust), beliefs, values, hopes and dreams. All
          this very modern "ideology" talk generally tends to isolate what we
          find in the materials, as essentially an idea contest. What an
          utterly "gnostic way" of reading:)! I would simply remind you that
          the call to "repent," is the call to "turn around and move in a new
          direction." Change of mind is a part of this, but more essentially
          change of heart, change of values, change of practices. And very
          much to the point regarding theological wisdom communication, change
          in how a person and communities "make sense." Even in Luke's time,
          these folks are first remembered as the people of "the Way."

          3. In this note you use the phrase "homespun wisdom," and I guess are
          suggesting that such is generally gentle kind of speech that just
          isn't the sort of speech either to inspire much interest in
          listening, nor rise to the level of causing Jesus and friends any
          trouble. Is this what you're implying? In response to this:

          a. I'd remind you that tradition has it that Aesop was thrown off a
          cliff for his "impertinent speech."

          b. Theological wisdom language is the kind of speech that gets at the
          essence of the fabric of God's ruling power. In simple terms, such
          speech raises sharp questions about the nature of ruling power, the
          values forwarded by such power and those who wield it, and so
          practices, beliefs, social positions, etc. etc. etc.
          To be sure, there are forms of wisdom speech that are essentially non-
          questioning, but rather simply supportive of the status quo. But
          this certainly isn't the sort of wisdom speech majored in. I'd
          invite you to take out Dom Crossan's little book, "The Essential
          Jesus" and ponder his collection of Jesus wisdom speech. Such speech
          is hardly "meek and mild."

          4. Just to be clear. I think Mark created the Passion Narrative as a
          very powerful theological story some 50 years after Jesus' time. I
          do think it is a fact that Jesus was crucified. I really don't think
          we have access to the particulars of those events. I'll get to the
          whole issue of the development behind Mark's powerful story, but in
          my own notes I'm still working at the originating proclamation of
          Jesus and friends when he and they were quite alive. I say this here
          because you mention Bob better dealing with "the facts." I'm pretty
          sure that your idea of what "the facts" are and my idea about those
          "facts" is probably pretty different.

          Will be away for a couple of days.

          >
          > Best Wishes

          and to you,
          Gordon Raynal
          Inman, SC
          >
          > --
          > JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)
          > Hull, UK
          >
        • John E Staton
          Gordon, I see nothing unjewish about Bob s list. Repentance is a frequent theme in the Old Testament (cf, inter alia, Isaiah 30: 15. The word is often
          Message 4 of 7 , May 15, 2009
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            Gordon,
            I see nothing "unjewish" about Bob's list. "Repentance" is a frequent
            theme in the Old Testament (cf, inter alia, Isaiah 30: 15. The word is
            often translated "returning" in English Bibles, but this is the same
            concept referred to as metanoia in the NT), and the baptism in the
            Spirit and promise of the Spirit are concepts that are prefigured in
            texts such as Isaiah 44: 3, Ezekiel 36: 26-7. Joel 2: 28-9. What Bob is
            suggesting is an elaboration of some aspects of the Judaism Jesus and
            his contemporaries grew up with, in the same way as your suggestion is.
            You only differ in your selection of the bits of Judaism you think the
            Jesus movement majored on, and as far as that question is concerned it's
            a matter of you pays your money and you takes your choice.

            I note your aversion to talk of "ideology", because you want to
            emphasise the praxis element. Such is also the concern of John Vincent,
            to whom I referred in a recent post. However, people often need an idea
            to inspire them to do the right thing. You may wish to speak about
            "heart" as opposed to "mind", and "values" as opposed to "ideas", but in
            essence these pairs of words express the same concept. Whether a person
            responds to an "idea" or a "value" depends on their personality, but the
            content of the one person's "idea" and the others "value" is likely to
            be identical.

            Best Wishes

            --
            JOHN E STATON (BA Sheffield; DipTheol. Bristol)
            Hull, UK
            www.christianreflection.org.uk

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          • Gordon Raynal
            Hi John, ... Perhaps I wasn t clear, but yes, of course, Bob s list is Jewish, as well. What I was wondering about is how you deem this a radical re-
            Message 5 of 7 , May 17, 2009
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              Hi John,

              On May 16, 2009, at 2:51 AM, John E Staton wrote:

              > Gordon,
              > I see nothing "unjewish" about Bob's list. "Repentance" is a frequent
              > theme in the Old Testament (cf, inter alia, Isaiah 30: 15. The word is
              > often translated "returning" in English Bibles, but this is the same
              > concept referred to as metanoia in the NT), and the baptism in the
              > Spirit and promise of the Spirit are concepts that are prefigured in
              > texts such as Isaiah 44: 3, Ezekiel 36: 26-7. Joel 2: 28-9. What
              > Bob is
              > suggesting is an elaboration of some aspects of the Judaism Jesus and
              > his contemporaries grew up with, in the same way as your
              > suggestion is.

              Perhaps I wasn't clear, but yes, of course, Bob's list is Jewish, as
              well. What I was wondering about is how you deem this "a radical re-
              interpretation" within Jewish beliefs/ practices?
              >
              > You only differ in your selection of the bits of Judaism you think the
              > Jesus movement majored on, and as far as that question is concerned
              > it's
              > a matter of you pays your money and you takes your choice.

              True enough. Bob "pays" for starting with Peter's proclamation that
              comes after Jesus and that we find in Acts. I am for paying for what
              we find in Jesus' lifetime and following that as best we can. But on
              this note, let us leave aside the present contrasts of positions and
              just stick with the fact that we have all of these wisdom sayings,
              various collections of wisdom sayings, various interpretive patterns
              applied to these sayings and affirmational language related to these
              sayings. There is a whole bunch of this stuff, whether primary and
              central or secondary and illustrative. Either way, there's a lot of
              this stuff. No matter which side one comes out on, I think it is
              extremely important to spend some serious time within the Jewish
              wisdom tradition and with the broader wisdom traditions to, a.
              understand the roots, b. understand the primary and secondary ways
              such language works, and c. to trace those uses from primary to
              secondary, tertiary, etc. Far too often, this is not done. The
              language is not heard for what it primally communicates. And I
              simply want to note that we broadly find Jesus making plea for "real
              listening."
              >
              > I note your aversion to talk of "ideology", because you want to
              > emphasise the praxis element.

              That is your interpretation of what I'm doing. Again, is Christian
              theology and your Christian faith first adequately described as an
              ideology?

              > Such is also the concern of John Vincent,
              > to whom I referred in a recent post. However, people often need an
              > idea
              > to inspire them to do the right thing. You may wish to speak about
              > "heart" as opposed to "mind", and "values" as opposed to "ideas",
              > but in
              > essence these pairs of words express the same concept. Whether a
              > person
              > responds to an "idea" or a "value" depends on their personality,
              > but the
              > content of the one person's "idea" and the others "value" is likely to
              > be identical.

              Let me quote some Paul: "Now faith, hope, love abide, these three,
              and the greatest of these is love." (I Cor. 13, of course). Is that
              most essentially described as an ideology? I'm not speaking in
              oppositional pairs, at all! I'm speaking of the web of devotion,
              trust, (yes) ideas and beliefs, relationships and relational bonds,
              hopes and dreams, ethos and the attendant values and morals, and the
              acts and practices which fold together to make religious devotion
              (including talking about it and thinking about it) living faith. My
              resistance to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jainism and the worship
              of Thor as being ideological is that ideology is only ***a*** feature
              in a whole web of features.

              Back to "good news" and the power of this wisdom language: context is
              everything. Aesop's little fable about a tortoise and a hare can be
              as calm inspiring as a mother cuddling her toddler and reading a
              story. Then again, told to the leaders at the recent G 20 meeting,
              it might (if truly heard) raise an entirely different conversation.
              Likewise with Jesus aphorism on paying taxes. What exactly does it
              mean to "render unto God the things that are God's?"

              Wisdom speech has the potential to raise the most profound wonderings
              and questions about how we make sense, how and why we feel the way we
              do, how and why we think the thoughts we do, how and why we act in
              particular ways, how and why "the system" and "systems" behave the
              way they do, how and why we relate the way we do, etc. Wisdom words
              are sneaky like that! They're puzzling words. And one thing is
              certain, people who are straining to establish and maintain what they
              want to be "the status quo" are none to happy to have that status quo
              seriously puzzled over. So whether you think this language is
              primary or secondary to the proclamation of God's rule (aka, "the
              Kingdom of God"), I hope you'll delve into the power of the use of
              these language forms. I'll leave you with three citations, two from
              the story we find about Jesus going back to his childhood home and
              Luke's description of how Jesus grew up:

              Mark 6:2 "...many who heard were astounded. They said, 'Where did
              this man get all of this? What is this ***wisdom*** that has been
              given to him?"

              and Luke's story of what nearly happened in Nazareth after Jesus
              comments on his own aphorism about "prophet's welcome" in their
              hometown:
              (v. 28-29) "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled
              with rage. They got up, drove him out of town, and led him to the
              brow of the hill on which their town was built, so they might hurl
              him off the cliff." (Aesop's fate! BTW, I rather imagine Luke knew
              the Aesop traditions:)!)

              "Good News?" Well the "good part" depends on the hearer's, doesn't
              it? And context is everything!

              Finally, Luke says in 2:52, "And Jesus increased in ***wisdom*** and
              in years, and in divine and human favor."

              Why do I prefer to begin with wisdom? Well, those citations are
              pretty good indicators of why:)! (plus, of course, the abundance of
              sayings and responses to those sayings we find in Q, Mark, Thomas,
              Matthew, John, Luke, Paul's authentic letters, deutero and trito-
              Pauline epistles, James.... to the Didache and not to mention the
              Gospel's of Mary, the Apocryphon of James, etc. etc. etc.)!

              Gordon Raynal
              Inman, SC
              >
            • John E Staton
              Actually, Gordon, ideology is not a trem of my choosing, it is one I have picked up from the discussion. And the more you elaborate your vision of what it
              Message 6 of 7 , May 18, 2009
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                Actually, Gordon, "ideology" is not a trem of my choosing, it is one I
                have picked up from the discussion. And the more you elaborate your
                vision of what it was Jesus was teaching, the more ideologically driven
                it appears. "Ideology" is one of those words, like "religion" which mean
                different things to different people and the only thing they agree about
                is that whatever it means it is bad. I am suggesting Jesus must have had
                a message he wanted to preach that upset people. You are saying that he
                was trying to overturn the contemporary social reality by means of
                teaching wisdom. But that is just another way of saying a very similar
                thing. I accept, of course, that Jesus perached the kingdom of God.
                Though who Jesus was, was a very important part of that teaching.
                Obviously it became a much more important part after his death, and the
                wisdom teaching was a greater part during his life, but the latter was
                not entirely lost sight of after the death and the former was part of
                Jesus' proclamation during hsi life. I am not suggesting Jesus was *not*
                saying the things you are saying, but I am not convinced that was all.

                Best Wishes

                --
                JOHN E STATON
                www.christianreflection.org.uk

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              • Gordon Raynal
                Hi John, ... Okay, let s move past how we each understand ideology. ... I think people, whether ideologically or theologically driven to seek reconciliation,
                Message 7 of 7 , May 18, 2009
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                  Hi John,
                  On May 18, 2009, at 4:41 AM, John E Staton wrote:

                  > Actually, Gordon, "ideology" is not a trem of my choosing, it is one I
                  > have picked up from the discussion. And the more you elaborate your
                  > vision of what it was Jesus was teaching, the more ideologically
                  > driven
                  > it appears.

                  Okay, let's move past how we each understand ideology.

                  > "Ideology" is one of those words, like "religion" which mean
                  > different things to different people and the only thing they agree
                  > about
                  > is that whatever it means it is bad. I am suggesting Jesus must
                  > have had
                  > a message he wanted to preach that upset people.

                  I think people, whether ideologically or theologically driven to
                  seek reconciliation, are aiming at finding a healing common ground.
                  To be sure, those who oppose the proffered "common ground" will be
                  upset! Were that not the case there would be no need for
                  reconciliation:)! Back to your word that you have avoided yet again,
                  "radical." From my reading of the OT, the whole book brims with a
                  theological understanding of a God who is up to reconciliation. It
                  is pretty much at the heart of the traditions. I don't think Jesus
                  was "being radical," I think he was being a good Jew. People were
                  killed all the time in ancient Imperial states, as they are now in
                  totalitarian ones. That a good Jew talking up reconciliation in such
                  a way as to form a reconciliation movement was killed is actually no
                  big surprise in this world. Sad, isn't it?

                  > You are saying that he
                  > was trying to overturn the contemporary social reality by means of
                  > teaching wisdom. But that is just another way of saying a very similar
                  > thing. I accept, of course, that Jesus perached the kingdom of God.

                  Glad to hear that you are on side with the angel voices:)! (as in,
                  "Peace on Earth and goodwill toward humanity...")

                  But I'll quibble with you about whether Jesus ever "preached" or
                  really did much "teaching." Wisdom words shared as wisdom words are
                  not didactic words, they are sense making words. It was his
                  followers, after his death, who collected them into "sermons" and
                  "teachings." Such is a secondary use of wisdom language and a
                  valuable one. But wisdom words as wisdom words have their potency
                  not as educational language or affirmational language, but as words
                  that point others to find and discover sense. No doubt you've heard
                  and maybe used the expression, "Common sense isn't all that common."
                  Well, really good sense in the best of times is even rarer. In
                  deeply unsettling times it can be rare or even absent.... until
                  someone starts "making sense." Jesus was good at that. Quite a talent!
                  >
                  > Though who Jesus was, was a very important part of that teaching.

                  By him?

                  Let me ask "a what if" question, just for fun. Let's say that Jesus
                  decided not to go to Passover that year (30, 31, 33? We don't even
                  know the year, do we.), and that he kept on promoting this "ministry
                  of reconciliation," lived a long life and died in his bed as an old
                  man. Would you still think of him as the Christ of God, the Son of
                  God, the High Priest after the order of Melchizidek, the Lamb of God,
                  the Light of the World, etc. etc. I am asking this "what if"
                  question because you've now raised the "who Jesus was" point. So was
                  and is "who he was" defined by his death? Is "who he was" defined by
                  his post death glorification? What is it that most centrally defines
                  "who he was?"
                  >
                  > Obviously it became a much more important part after his death, and
                  > the
                  > wisdom teaching was a greater part during his life, but the latter was
                  > not entirely lost sight of after the death and the former was part of
                  > Jesus' proclamation during hsi life. I am not suggesting Jesus was
                  > *not*
                  > saying the things you are saying, but I am not convinced that was all.

                  Again, I'm glad you do want to pay close attention to a very large
                  part of what we find in the materials we have:)! Let me leave you
                  with this musing question and questions: Who means the most to you
                  in your life? Is it someone who really loves you? Has that person
                  (and those persons) helped you make sense of your life? Isn't it
                  truly profound when someone not only teaches you and shares things
                  and ideas in common with you, but also helps you discover a
                  refreshing sense of life, the world, possibilities? When things have
                  been really confusing, unsettling and divisive, don't you seek out
                  those who can help you "straighten out," settle down and find
                  wholeness? (wholeness of feelings, thoughts, intentions, plans,
                  actions).
                  >
                  > Best Wishes

                  and to you,
                  Gordon Raynal
                  Inman, SC
                  >
                  > --
                  > JOHN E STATON
                  > www.christianreflection.org.uk
                  >
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