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Re: [XTalk] Gospel of God

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Joseph Codsi On: Markan Secrets From: Bruce The point to get clear is that Mark does not tell one story of Jesus. Mark as
    Message 1 of 42 , Jan 16, 2011
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      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Joseph Codsi
      On: Markan Secrets
      From: Bruce

      The point to get clear is that Mark does not tell one story of Jesus. Mark
      as it stands tells two stories of Jesus, and the two stories are
      incompatible with each other. I should think it is obvious that whoever (or
      whatever series of early Christian thinkers) wrote that book first put down
      Jesus as they then saw him, and later went back and overlaid that story with
      new material, both neutralizing the old story and insisting on the new one.

      So which one is the old one and which is the new one?


      The old story (if I may here venture on an interpretation) takes place in
      the open, in public space. Jesus preaches to admiring crowds in Galilee, he
      is welcomed into Jerusalem as a liberator from Roman oppression, in
      fulfilment of God's promise to David, and he is also crucified publicly. Now
      it is possible that this Davidic Jesus actually did bring an end to Roman
      rule in the East, but if so, the Romans in their time, and the Roman
      historians in our time, are doing the niftiest job of coverup that you ever
      saw. I have no firsthand impression of Romans, but considering the Roman
      historians I have personally met, I doubt that they are, individually or
      collectively, capable of such a feat. The only alternative is that what Mark
      reports as taking place in public space actually did (with perhaps some
      overestimating of crowd size, and stuff like that) take place in public
      space and in real time.

      To the followers of the recently dead Jesus, his death will have been a
      shock. How did this happen? And to this very natural question, the majority
      of Mark is arranged to give an answer: the doctrine of salvation taught by
      Jesus (individual salvation being the necessary prerequisite for state
      salvation) involved a simplified code of laws, and this deeply offended the
      Pharisees, who were deeply invested in a highly complicated set of laws
      partly of their devising (they OWNED the concept of salvation), and who
      accordingly connived with the High Priests to destroy Jesus. Herod, for his
      part, the puppet King of the area, saw any Davidic movement, whether or not
      successful, as threatening his own privileged status, and so he too had
      targeted Jesus. It was this gang of Roman sympathizers and Quislings and rat
      finks who were able to discover Jesus's whereabouts in Jerusalem and bring
      about his arrest, from which his execution for sedition by the Romans
      followed as a matter of course. But for those evil Jews, the Jesus party
      could have driven out the evil Romans and their lackeys, or anyway that had
      been the feeling among the Jesus party.

      That is the aetiology which much of Mark sets up. The plan to bring about
      the Return of God to Israel had to be kept under cover, and even Jesus's
      preaching had to be circumspect, precisely because it was highly illegal.
      Hence the indirect expression of the Parables in Mark 4, all of which look
      to the eventual revealing of something which is now small and secret. One of
      these Parables, the Seed Growing Secretly, makes perfect sense as an image
      of the underground Jesus movement. No later Synoptist could think how to
      rehabilitate the thing, and none of them ventures to touch it; they all
      leave it out.

      For that matter, apart from adrmiring the scenery, what is really the
      meaning of the Parable of the Mustard Seed?

      Doesn't anyone remember the French Underground? Secret passwords, spurious
      identities, safe houses, clandestine meetings, public print with coded
      meanings. The penalty for a misstep was that you got arrested, tortured, and
      eventually machinegunned by the occupation police. Doesn't anyone remember
      historian Marc Bloch, who died this way, not through his own misstep but
      because of a traitor in the group? Doesn't anyone remember Sinologist Henri
      Maspero, who himself did nothing against the Nazis, but who died in
      Auschwitz because one of his sons had been caught in an indiscreet bit of
      small sabotage. (The other son lived to dynamite bridges in support of the
      Allied invasion, when it finally came, and at last report he is living

      Anyway, the First Jesus Followers went to a revised version of their
      previous expectation. Jesus would not bring on an immediate Restoration of
      Israel, but he would soon return from the skies (where the Transfiguration
      scene had placed him) to judge the world, and then everyone would get what
      was coming to them. The triumph of Jesus was deferred and upgraded, but
      otherwise recognizably maintained. The theory was, as it had been since John
      the Baptist, that people are saved by doing good (not evil), and that God
      forgives even evil if the doer truly repents.

      That was how the First Jesus Followers repaired their expectations, and
      rested in them, content that they knew what had gone wrong (that rat fink
      Judas), and assured that something essentially comparable would soon come
      right. God, and God's righteous judgement, would after all soon come to


      But as the idea of Jesus in Heaven gained acceptance, and as the image of
      Jesus increasingly acquired divine qualities, his death seemed increasingly
      inexplicable. There must be a reason for it, it must be for good and not
      some mere circumstantial accident. That would be a nobler and more
      consistent picture. So the Scriptures were ransacked, and ancient ideas of
      sacrifice were scrutinized, and presently the theory emerged that Jesus's
      death was NECESSARY to salvation; it was in fact the mechanism of salvation,
      the sacrifice that purges everyone, past and present, from sin. In place of
      repentance and forgiveness (requiring initiative on the part of the one
      seeking forgiveness), we have a single act of sacrifice which discharges all
      that debt of inherited sin (the Old Adam theory). Individuals then (or so it
      seemed as the new theory gained ground) did nothing to merit salvation, the
      merit was all on Jesus's side, and no initiative was left to the
      individual - even the impulse to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus was a
      gift of God, an act of grace.

      Now, how do we fix up Mark so as to make this drastically new point? (1) We
      insert several passages where Jesus predicts his own death, which being
      foreseen is also necessary in the scheme of things. (2) We show the
      resistance of those who held the old idea, and have Jesus himself rebuke it
      as an error ("Get thee behind me, Satan"). (3) We have Jesus himself deny
      the content and the meaning of his former public preaching, again with an
      Isaiah quote (he is being obscure IN ORDER THAT they may misunderstand;
      easily the hardest passage in the NT). So Jesus changes his tune, the
      disciples (who do not understand) are rebuked, and the crowds (who perfectly
      understood the earlier message) are said to be mistaken and confused.

      The passages in Mark which accomplish this second task are not many, but
      they are highly visible, and as history has by now shown, they do their job
      sufficiently well.

      But not so well that a better solution could not be imagined, and every
      Gospel written after Mark seeks, in its own way, to do the job better, to
      have the Second Theory be not a sort of afterthought and textual overlay,
      but a consistent and even thing. The climax of the series is John, in which
      Jesus is made to do the seemingly impossible thing, to preach Himself
      Crucified from the very outset.


      That the Jesus Crucified story is the later one seems obvious from the fact
      that it became the dominant one, already by the end of the 1st century. It
      is also obvious in a technical way from Mark, since many of the key passages
      argue explicitly with passages which present what I have called the Old
      story. The directionality of those arguments always runs in that direction.
      Never the other way. The Old Story is presented both as a doctrine and as a
      wrong doctrine. The New Story is always presented as an update or refutation
      of the Old Story. Never vice versa.


      That is perhaps a little longer statement than before. I hope it will at
      least show what I meant by the previous shorter statement. The First Secret
      in Mark is the public but coded preaching of a teacher and Messianic
      candidate. It is the part of Mark that von Soden pointed to as unproblematic
      and open (von Soden's layer theory does not entirely succeed, but he was on
      the scent of it). The Second Secret in Mark is the imposed secret, the
      secret that Jesus (it was claimed) knew, but which, as Mark still shows,
      neither his crowds nor his circle of intimates understood.

      They didn't understand it because it had in fact never been preached to
      them. What was preached to them, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they
      or the most trusted of them did understand (and Simon was commended for just
      this understanding, in a part of the original layer of Mark). The
      Death-based Theology, the Second Christianity, was written into that
      primitive record at a later time.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      Not to take anything away from the above, but Reimarus saw the whole thing
      very clearly in the, let's see, 18th century. It was with that challenge, as
      Schweitzer correctly points out, that the modern study of NT began. How far
      have we gotten in the several centuries since?
    • Ronald Price
      ... Joseph, Jesus¹ symbolic enactment of the prophecy of Zech 9:9 attracted crowds (Mk 11:8-10). This would have come to the notice of the Roman authorities,
      Message 42 of 42 , Jan 17, 2011
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        Joseph Codsi wrote:

        > In the Passion narrative, Jesus is called "the king of the Jews." Pilate
        > and the soldiers use this expression in 15:2, 9, 12 and 18. Add to this
        > the inscription on the cross (15:26) and the sarcastic remark: "Let the
        > Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now" (15:32). If
        > this language is to be considered historical, how did the enemies of
        > Jesus acquire this knowledge?


        Jesus¹ symbolic enactment of the prophecy of Zech 9:9 attracted crowds (Mk
        11:8-10). This would have come to the notice of the Roman authorities, who
        would have enquired what the commotion was all about. Finding that the
        person on the donkey was said to be a king (³Lo, your king comes to you
        ...²), and taking note of the crowds he had attracted, would probably have
        been quite enough in the eyes of the authorities to have Jesus arrested as a
        threat to Roman rule.

        Ron Price,

        Derbyshire, UK



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