Re: [XTalk] GOSPEL (OF THE KINGDOM) OF GOD
- To: Crosstalk
In Response To: Gordon Raynal
I here indulge my sense that it is not very productive to debate who said
what to who, and with a certain authority in Gordon's own presention, I will
take Gordon's suggestions simply as made by him.
GORDON: Even if one thinks that Jesus was essentially "apocalyptic" in
BRUCE: I doubt the validity of the word "essentially." One can be oriented
toward a future Kingdom (however drastic the transition to it might be), and
still have a doctrine of how one emerges from that transition IN the Kingdom
and not OUT of it. Which is more essential to the operation of a 1943
Chevrolet, gas or water? I suspect that the question is meaningless: don't
leave home without either.
GORDON: . . . if one casts off the parables and aphorisms as late or worse,
not from Jesus, one is going to slash from the man a major part of his
BRUCE: This is a familiar sort of rhetoric. "casts off" and "worse" and
"slash" are negative terms; they imply a sense of violence and impropriety.
And to that extent, they prejudice the discussion. As for "major part of his
genius," that is circular. It amounts to saying, If we ignore as later
developments the things said of Jesus only in Mt/Lk and later documents, and
confine ourselves to what is attested in the earliest document (Mk), we have
a picture of Jesus that excludes some elements that are present if we do NOT
make that restriction. If we have a bag of white and red marbles, and take
out only the white marbles, we will have fewer marbles. I think that sort of
follows arithmetically. It is not a refutation to say, But I like red
GORDON: Paul in I Corinthians 1:30 notes the first thing about understanding
both Jesus and the cross: he was "wisdom come from God..." The ethos
summation that is found in Galatians 5:22 ff (Paul's poetics of the "fruits
of the Spirit") is a poetic rendering of wisdom words. (the parallels for
this are clearly seen in James 3:17-18, and the opening frames of "the Way
of Life" in the Didache.)
BRUCE: This is not a problem with the picture I get from this and other
early writings. James and the Didache (or more precisely, its incorporated
Two Ways document) are, in my view, early Alpha documents. It is not
difficult to discover that they do not contain any reference to the Cross,
to Atonement, or in general to any part of the theologia crucis. That, to
me, is what marks them as probably descended from the pre-Crucifixion
teaching of Jesus, which is what I here and elsewhere call Alpha. That Paul,
coming later (the writings Gordon cites, be it remembered, are from more
than 20 years after the death of Jesus), knew about - but was not
necessarily limited to - the teaching of Jesus in his lifetime, is not
necessarily improbable. That he, and the Deuteropaulines and Hebrews after
him, preached steadily against the early Alpha view of Jesus, on behalf of
their own later Beta theory of Jesus, is clearly discernible in Paul's own
record. A high spot is surely the clash between James and Paul over the
faith/works controversy. This latter confrontation, of which we are
fortunate to possess both sides, occurred in the mid 50's, and brought the
old Christianity and the new Christianity (Paul being a great
standard-bearer for the new) into their sharpest conflict to that point.
(And so on; I will not here expound later efforts by other writers to
somewhat defuse and gentle down the controversy, but Luke and Acts A are
primary material in case anyone is interested in following that thread on
GORDON: On to Mark: 4:33-34 says what it says!
BRUCE: Mk 4:33-34, "With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as
they were able to hear it;  he did not speak to them without a parable,
but privately to his own disciples, he explained everything."
This should be read with the obviously related Mk 4:10-12 and the following
4:13-20, in which Jesus, suddenly and inexplicably alone with his disciples,
identifies them, and only them, as privy to the SECRET of the Kingdom, and
quotes Isaiah to the effect that his PUBLIC preaching was intentionally
misleading, "lest they should turn again, and be forgiven." That is, Jesus,
who elsewhere in Mk is preaching repentance and forgiveness, and
recommending forgiveness also to his followers, in order to merit in turn
the forgiveness of God, suddenly desires, and arranges his teaching to bring
it about, that the crowd do NOT understand, and can NOT repent, and will
thus NOT be forgiven, and thus will presumably be damned to hell forever. I
should imagine that students in Homiletics 101 sit up late hoping that the
final exam will not be to preach to a real audience on that text. It is the
most monstrous thing in all Scripture.
And why is it there? I will try to explain.
Mk 4:10f are clearly an interpolation in Mk 4; they involve an unexplained
change of scene, and doctrinally, they amount to a rejection by Jesus of all
that Jesus is otherwise portrayed in Mk 4 as preaching. We here see a text
in conflict with itself. That conflict is somewhat analogous to the
James/Paul conflict mentioned above (note also Paul's excommunication in 2
Cor). These were not casual issues, but rather tense and conflicted issues,
at the time. I think the evidence is at hand to conclude that early Mark and
late and textually intrusive Mark are fighting that same war, in a different
part of the field.
GORDON: And the summary words that close chapter 9, before Jesus sets his
face towards Jerusalem is an aphorism and accords with the above noted
Mission which Mark has laid out in chapter 6.
BRUCE: Mk 9:50, "Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltness, how
will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one
another." The first sentence of this is unlikely to be a Galilean popular
housewifely saying; salt in fact does not commonly lose its savor (though
parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme definitely do). It comes at the end of a
keyword-associated series, including the hellfire series, and what it means
is something of an enigma. Whatever it meant, or whatever Mark thought it
meant, he proceeds in the next sentence to link it to the Dispute About
Precedence (Mk 9:33-35), which he thus ends by having Jesus say, Don't
dispute among yourselves. So this saying is editorial. Is it also invented,
or did Mark here draw on an authentic saying as a way of bringing this
sequence to a close? I can't tell, but my first cautious assumption would be
that the material at the edges of a sequence is more likely to be editorial
than the material in the sequence itself, just as the mortar is prior to the
trowel. I would accordingly date the hellfire sayings earlier than the salt
saying that now concludes them.
But whether authentic or not, the "be at peace with one another" saying is a
conclusion and not an anticipation; it has nothing programmatic to do with
the journey to Jerusalem in 10:1. At the same time, to relate it to anything
as far back as Mk 6 is surely stretching things, further than the attention
span of an imagined reader or hearer will plausibly warrant. That reader or
hearer is already doing pretty well, it seems to me, to relate Mk 9:50 to Mk
[I would identify that sort of unit as about right for a single reading, and
if I misremember not, Michael Goulder has said something of the sort about
the ideal compositional unit in Luke. I think Michael's lectionary theory
(in Luke and everywhere else he introduces it) is the artifact of a too
regal Anglican upbringing, but the idea of practical delivery modules seems
to me sound and productive and generally worth considering].
[How long can one go on talking before the audience loses the thread?
Depends a little on the speaker's vocal skills and on the sophistication of
the audience. For a start, would someone who is good at reading Greek like
to speak Mk 9:33-50 with a stopwatch, and tell us the result? Of course it
will be better to omit the obviously intrusive Mk 9:38-41, which interrupts
the thematic connection between the child of 9:37 and the little ones of
9:42. With that adjustment, let someone then give it a try, and tell the
rest of us how it comes out. My untutored guess would be somewhere around
1:25 plus or minus 10 seconds].
[It is not often that we can see Mark's mind at work, as he weaves his
material into his story, but it seems to me that the last part of Mk 9 is
such a place. He is in effect asking, I have all this stuff left over, and I
am about to start the Jerusalem part of the story; what am I going to do
with it? And he makes his best effort (not perhaps very convincing, but one
sees the problem, and the authors and anthologists among us will sympathize)
by linking it together, fore and aft, with 9:50 being a final response, and
rebuke, to the disciple argument of 9:33-34. What this tells me is not that
Mark is a smooth writer, but that he was working with the stuff in the
middle of that segment, which now, as arranged, has keyword links, but which
originally (if there was an "originally") had no mutual connection at all;
just individual things. It is at such places that Papias' comment about
Mark's lack of taxis may have some real point].
I seem to be digressing, and anyway, I think that's as far as I need to go
in response. The main point I would make is that acknowledging that Jesus
did have a doctrine, a "wisdom" if one likes, does not rule out the idea
that he also had a plan. The plan (whatever exactly it was) miscarried, if
the crucifixion of the leader may be admitted as relevant evidence, whereas
the doctrine, or certain aspects of it (not including the failed prediction
of the Second Coming), proved to be fruitful in an ethical sense. It is
these two facts that we see being developed, and in more than one direction,
in the later documents, and indeed down to the present day.
The demonstration that one of the two existed does not constitute a
judgement about the existence of the other.
Of course it is nicer, tidier, more convenient, if we can get rid of the
rather embarrassing Davidic escapade (or the too confident predictions about
the date of the Last Days), and focus on the kindlier and more universal
statements. To a considerable extent, some of the early writings do work to
adjust Christian memory in somewhat these ways. We can see them doing it.
Would it not be better to just get rid of these Jewish nationalist (and for
that matter, Jewish period) aspects, and just adopt the Gentile-adapted
later picture of Jesus? So someone might sooner or later ask.
Whence Marcion. And a lot of us since that time, including (if we consult
only our feelings) the undersigned.
But the doing of history is a different thing, and for that, we need to park
our feelings somewhere on the shore, and trek upstream, and face whatever we
find at the source end. Or so it looks from here.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- <<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.
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.
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