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Re: [XTalk] GOSPEL (OF THE KINGDOM) OF GOD

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk In Response To: Bob Schacht On: Kingdom of God From: Bruce Bob warns us not to disregard the conclusions of the JSem (2010): BOB: The Fellows of
    Message 1 of 48 , Jan 17, 2011
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      To: Crosstalk
      In Response To: Bob Schacht
      On: Kingdom of God
      From: Bruce

      Bob warns us not to disregard the conclusions of the JSem (2010):

      BOB: The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar are inclined to the second option:
      Jesus conceived of God's Rule as all around him but difficult to discern.
      God was so real for him that he could not distinguish God's present activity
      from any future activity. He had a poetic sense of time in which the future
      and the present merged, simply melted
      together, in the intensity of his vision. But Jesus' uncommon views were
      obfuscated by the more pedestrian conceptions of John, on the one side, and
      by the equally pedestrian views of the early Christian community, on the
      other.

      BRUCE: In other words, Jesus was misunderstood by nearly everybody in his
      own time and for decades thereafter. Nothing is impossible, but this theory
      makes Jesus out to be about the worst communicator in the history of
      communication.

      Some people, and I find myself among them, are interested in the historical
      Jesus: the Jesus that really lived and talked and happened. Others are more
      interested in the tenable Jesus: the one that can be preached and held up as
      edification to the young in our current world. I think the JSem as a group
      pattern with the latter, and that this is nowhere clearer than in the idea
      Bob quotes: that Jesus preached not a literal but a pervasive Kingdom. I
      would fill in this statement in three ways.

      THE KINGDOM IN THE GOSPELS

      There is a clear Kingdom Trajectory in the Gospels, and I here consider it
      previously established and operationally certain that the order of the
      Gospels, or more specifically of their final textual states, is Mk > Mt > Lk
      > Jn.

      1. John the B clearly thought that the world was going to end, and a new
      order of things would replace it. Just what that order would be like, we may
      leave undecided, but he (and his audiences) anticipated a near-future
      historical event. Something not true now, but about to be true.

      2. Jesus . . . well, that is the argument. But at least in Mk 13, Jesus is
      describing a geophysical catastrophe which will accompany the last days, and
      this is certainly compatible with the kind of things John was saying. The
      more so if, as some of us find, Mk 13 is even a late addition to Mk, but in
      any case the demonstration for Mk comes out this way.

      3. Luke largely takes over the Mk 13 talk, and much else compatible with it.
      His own additions are heavy on the theme of, You do not know when the master
      will return, so keep yourself in shape (etc etc). This too, and there is a
      lot of it, presupposes a future event, unpredictable (which Jesus is made
      also to insist in Mk 13), but finite; not yet realized.

      At the same time, Lk also has Jesus say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within
      you." Meaning, it is already near and is resident in the community of
      believers, rather than (so to speak) vice versa. This idea has no precedent
      in Mk. Here is a little idea beginning to sprout up alongside the inherited
      idea, and to point in a quite different direction.

      4. In John, this "already here" and "not of this world" theme is even
      stronger.

      In sum, and insofar as the Gospels are any clue, an original historical
      expectation is giving way to a presentist affirmation. To coin a phrase,
      imminent becomes immanent.

      I think we see here a group moving away from what was increasingly an
      untenable position, and into something more teachable and less vulnerable to
      one more week when nothing happens.

      THE KINGDOM OUTSIDE THE GOSPELS

      1. In Paul, if we take Paul seriously (meaning, chronologically and minus
      interpolations), we see the same progression: less and less assurance about
      whether Paul himself would be present for the expected Final Event. The same
      line is followed, but increasingly so, in the postPauline material.

      2. In that segment of the postPauline material which is not directly
      attributed to Paul, we find serious discomfort, as a practical matter, with
      the idea of a literal future Kingdom. This explodes more or less in 2 Peter,
      where people outside are jeering at the expectation of a near future end of
      the world. According to my dating of 2 Peter (and nobody I know puts it
      earlier), it is about 60 years since Jesus died, or more than two
      generations (never mind the one generation to which a firm promise was made
      in Mk 13), and people are saying, Where is this Coming of Jesus? And then
      they laugh themselves silly. And 2 Peter, not following the usual
      deuteroPauline line, says rather lamely, Well, you see, God's timescale is
      not the same as ours. Leading to jokes like the one that begins, God, what
      to you is a million years?

      So there are two strands of development, both tending to abandon, or if not
      to abandon, to be embarrassed in public by, the idea of the Kingdom as a
      future literal historical event. Unless we want to invert the order of the
      Gospels, or to stand the Paulines and the Deuteropaulines on their heads,
      that's what the early Jesus followers were doing, across two or three
      generations.

      It follows, I think, that we are on pretty safe ground in identifying the
      Literal Future Kingdom as the early idea, and the Community of Believers
      Kingdom, the presentist Kingdom, as the late idea. And it would also seem to
      follow that Jesus, being at the early end of the Kingdom Trajectory, most
      likely held and preached a version of the Literal Near Future Kingdom.

      PRAYER

      Every meeting should close with prayer, right? I am not certified to
      administer a whole prayer, and so instead I will quote part of one. This is
      not in Mark, so it is not demonstrably early, but it is in all probability
      pre-Lukan, and the form in which Luke gives it was somewhat elaborated by
      Matthew. Here is the part of the prayer:

      Thy Kingdom come,
      Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

      This does not speak of believers emulating God, or of the community of
      believers as a whole emulating Heaven. It expects a future situation, in
      which (as is not now the case) God's way of doing things will obtain also on
      earth.

      This is not the Gospels (though it does show up in the Gospels), and it's
      not Paul, and I am not going to use the tricky word Church. I am going to
      call it early praxis: what the early believers (or a recognizable subset of
      them) did and sang and prayed, not too long after the death of Jesus. I
      think it qualifies as a third piece of evidence, in contact with but not
      dependent upon, one or more of the other two, that the Kingdom expectation
      was originally future.

      CONCLUSION

      If so, it must follow that the JSem have gone with the wrong end of the
      timeline. This is not surprising. They did as much (as I and some others
      pointed out, oh, decades ago) with their Gospel evidence, their dance of Red
      and Pink. Not a single saying in Mark is either red or pink in the eyes of
      JSem. All the good stuff is in Mt/Lk, that is to say, they credit the Nice
      Jesus of the Second Tier Gospels. And ignore all the rest.

      So now we have explained the JSem, and perhaps that is a step in the
      direction of clearing up the Historical Jesus question at least a little
      bit.

      That the JSem enterprise is successful, I need not say; it is on the record.
      If you tell people what they are predisposed to like, they will welcome it.
      If they sold stock in JSem, I would buy some, as a hedge against, well, the
      coming global economic conflagration. But their position seems to me at
      bottom sentimental and not historical; it is reached by ignoring what to the
      historian is the earliest evidence. I am accordingly not moved by the JSem's
      many pronouncements, and their publications in many colors, to neglect what
      the body of evidence for 1c Jesus and his followers, left to itself, can
      perhaps still tell us.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • RSBrenchley@aol.com
      Message 48 of 48 , Jan 30, 2011
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        <<Ariel, D.T., A Survey of Coin Finds in Jerusalem,
        Liber Annuus 32, 1982, pp 273-326.

        Unless we have an old print copy in the pre-1985 stack here,
        the data for denarii in Jerusalem is out of reach
        just now, so, at least for the time being, I'll just shift to your
        view that there weren't that many around in the city.

        David M.>>

        I'm having trouble getting hold of it as well, so I'll have to go by
        memory, unfortunately. I did contact Ariel himself, but he's got nothing beyond
        a single paper copy. While it's not strictly on topic, I do have H Gitler's
        'A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF NUMISMATIC EVIDENCE FROM EXCAVATIONS IN JERUSALEM'
        (Liber Annuus 1996), which covers bronze coinage from the city. No
        imperial bronze is recorded from before the 4th Century, after the abolition of
        the provincial mints, and their replacement with imperial ones.

        Regards,

        Robert Brenchley
        Birmingham UK


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