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The Sermon on the Plain

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Crosstalk On: The Sermon on the Plain From: Bruce Hey, guys, do you want to know something neat about the Gospel of Luke? Michael Goulder (let
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 20, 2010
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Crosstalk
      On: The Sermon on the Plain
      From: Bruce

      Hey, guys, do you want to know something neat about the Gospel of Luke?

      Michael Goulder (let Drury also be mentioned, and for that matter McNicol) did a fine job of showing Mt > Lk directionality for all the common passages, thus eliminating the two-way directionality which since Harnack has been the prime support of the Q edifice. Trouble is, to the ordinary unsophisticated eye such as mine, for certain passages the directionality is still unmistakably Lk > Mt. I have previously noted that some of these look like formulaic material (the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes), and thus might be attributed to the practice of Luke's church; he doesn't need to have found it in a rare scroll brought to him by the attendants at the British Museum. I think this is a useful line of thought.

      Looking over the whole Sermon on the Plain, recently, I was reminded of the conniptions which the faithful go through at the very thought of that vile Luke tearing the beloved Sermon on the Mount into bleeding hunks and strewing them promiscuously all over his own pathetic and inferior Gospel. The indignation! However, on reflection, all those deeply indignant people are also believers in Q, and it is a tenet of Q faith that Luke better preserves the order of Q. Then Matthew, in writing his sermon from Q material, will have in fact stolen Luke's sermon, and then fouled it by dragging in all and sundry random passages from elsewhere in Luke, from lane and byway, from bush and tree and cesspool, and slamming them all in together, on a discordant and promiscuous mess. But does anybody get indignant, get wroth, get all het up, about thnis monstrous behavior? Not on my radar. They sit around petting lambs and feeling seraphic and noticing nothing.

      Well, let them sit, as long as they do it outside, since the rest of us are in here working, and trying to understand something about the texts (and hey, don't get your pizza on my clipboard; I want to save that paragraph).

      -----------

      Following up the previous line of thought, then, and ignoring Q as a figment of the whatever, I find that little or nothing in the Sermon on the Plain (the presumptive original, from whatever channel) goes beyond the limits of the sermon which constitutes the Epistle of James, or the teaching explicit or latent in the early parts of Mark.

      That is, the Sermon in Luke is an Alpha document.

      So is the Lord's Prayer in Luke.

      Both these things, as earlier noticed, may easily derive from Luke's own experience of Christianity (I call it that because I can't prove Luke was a Nazarene, or anything else more specific). People forget that Luke was himself a Christian, and as such possessed the tradition, or at least one version of it; he didn't have to look it up in some book. I now add that these passages in Luke re either Alpha texts or at most Alpha survivals. Luke is either an Alpha spokesman, or a careless Beta includer of old inherited Alpha material.

      Which? Or to put it in terms in which philology can deal with it, Does Luke receive, and even develop, Beta hints in his sources, of which the only one we have before us is Mark? In which case the Sermon and the Prayer in Luke may be merely careless survivals. Or does he ignore those Beta hints, in which case the absence of Beta in Luke's Sermon and Prayer may actually reflect Luke's own ideas?

      In search of an answer, we might look at the few places where Mark exceptionally shows signs of Beta belief, and see how Luke handles them. The two really unmistakable ones are the reference to Jesus's death as a "ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) and the Last Supper characterization of the cup as the Blood of the Covenant that is "poured out for many" (Mk 14:24).

      And how does Luke handle them? See your synopsis. He omits them, or rewrites them so as to leave out the specifically Beta part. Instead of the bit about "ransom for many," Luke has "But I am among you as one who serves." Is there a suspicion that at this point we have a textual insecurity in Mark? Nope; Matthew repeats it verbatim. Luke refuses to do so; he generalizes backward into a form which would quite possibly be acceptable to the Philippians 2 people: emphasizing the humility of Jesus, without invoking the sacrificial death of Jesus. The two are not the same, and the difference seems to have been important to Luke. As for the other passage, we have

      Mk: my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
      Mt: my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.
      Lk: the new covenant in my blood.

      What the covenant means, we might sit down to inquire, but the point of the moment is that where Mark specifically invokes a salvation value for Jesus's death, and Matthew further specifies that it leads to the forgiveness of sins, Luke has simply a blank at that point.

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      I first thought that Alpha was primitive Christian belief. I next found that it might be liturgically developed (the Didache) and acquire a high Christology (an exaltation Christology, even including pre-existence in divine form; Philippians) without ceasing to be Alpha. What I think I am now seeing is that a late text (Luke) might actually reverse the evolution toward Beta which represented in some very late passages in Mark.

      Alpha, then, is not always the belief to which change happens, the belief that is suppressed or simply occluded by a later belief. Sometimes it fights back. Like the Epistle of James, slugging it out toe to toe with Paul on the Faith vs Works business. And now with Luke, quietly abandoning the intrusions of Beta into Mark, and giving scope to what at this point I can only call second generation Alpha kerygma.

      As to how that kerygma was structured and sourced, that will have to be the subject of another note.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      Copyright © 2010 by E Bruce Brooks

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    • Ronald Price
      ... Bruce, I would like to point out that not only the Lord¹s Prayer, but also all the sayings in the Sermon on the Plain (not necessarily with Luke¹s
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 21, 2010
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        Bruce Brooks wrote:

        > I find that little or nothing in the Sermon on the Plain (the presumptive
        > original, from whatever channel) goes beyond the limits of the sermon which
        > constitutes the Epistle of James, or the teaching explicit or latent in the
        > early parts of Mark.
        >>
        >> That is, the Sermon in Luke is an Alpha document.
        >>
        > So is the Lord's Prayer in Luke.

        Bruce,

        I would like to point out that not only the Lord¹s Prayer, but also all the
        sayings in the Sermon on the Plain (not necessarily with Luke¹s wording) are
        in my reconstruction of the early sayings source (see the web page below).
        The former is the first saying in what I have labelled ŒSection C¹, and the
        latter form the backbone of ŒSection A¹. Indeed the whole source, comprising
        the four sections A, B, C and D, constituted what you call an ŒAlpha¹
        document.

        You¹re on the way there; keep it up and you may get there in the end! ;-)

        Ron Price

        Derbyshire, UK

        http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/syno_sQet.html




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