Re: [XTalk] GOSPEL (OF THE KINGDOM) OF GOD
- To: Crosstalk
Not to reply in particular to anything recent on Crosstalk, but rather to
reflect on the general situation, and to paraphrase something to which one
member seems to have taken exception:
The NT field is somewhat distinctive in that those who work on NT are,
overwhelmingly, professing Christians, many of whom are employed in
institutions which train future preachers to professing Christians. It is as
though Homer were studied only by Greeks, or Confucius by Chinese, or the
legend of Mukuyakalangi only by Nigerians. It creates what I have above
called priorities: things that come before one picks up the pencil to work
on the Synoptic Problem.
For professing Christians (and for many outside Christianity proper, as far
as I know), the Sermon on the Mount is somehow central. The Jesus it
presents is thus likely to be the default Jesus of the collective Christian
imagination. Does this at all hamper the Christian imagination, collectively
speaking, when it puts on its scholarly hat and takes up the pencil?
I think the effects can be very clearly seen. On a quiz, most would say that
Mark is the earliest Gospel. But much professional effort in the last
century or so has gone into putting something else in place of Mark as the
best source for Jesus. The Q industry, going back to 1838, which seeks to
privilege a selection of Mk/Lk (including the Sermon) as older than Mark, is
one very thriving approach. The Gospel of Thomas has its enthusiasts who
also date it beforeMark (despite demonstrations that Thomas is indebted to
the three Synoptics; my own attempts to date a Thomas core earlier than that
have not won wide acceptance). The Gospel of Mary is selling big at the
little bookstore in my hometown. And of course Paul has always had his fans.
Let's call that Position A - that Mark may be nominally first, for purposes
of the midweek quiz, but it is in practice ignored or superseded in favor of
I think this result is doubtful, not only for technical reasons, some of
which I have recently mentioned without drawing a technical refutation, but
because its end result too much resembles what the community of faith was
always likely to find acceptable.
This of course is classic methodology. Methodology - how one does these
sometimes subtly difficult things. My best understanding on this particular
My own line of work in NT, which is pursued from an outsider perspective (my
academic home perch is classical China), is to ask, given the literarily
demonstrable earliness of Mark, its superiority in time to the Matthew/Luke
generation, and still moreso to the John development of a yet later time,
what can we learn by observing the evolution of doctrine, the development of
practice, and yes, the growth of legend, over the 1st century, as it is
reflected in the series Mk > Mt > Lk > Jn, and by the series of Pauline and
other texts that parallel that sequence in time. What would happen if we
take Mark seriously, as earlier than its adaptation and supplementation in
Matthew and Luke, and follow that thought where it goes? For that matter,
what would happen if we finally make the leap and disqualify 2 Thessalonians
and Titus and Colossians as Pauline, and let them bob around until they find
more accurate places on the timeline? And a few other things of that kind.
Let's call that Position B.
I am myself working from Position B. So are some others. But it is
characteristic of mixed discussions that B workers are very reluctant to
differ openly with A workers. There is a certain delicacy involved. The
result for me, in recent discussion, is that several have indicated their
interest or agreement with the general B approach, but they have done so
off-list, privately to myself. This is understandable, it is even
commendable, but it is perhaps not very productive as far as making headway
with the project of choosing between results, and developing the indicated
directions. As one contributor said, the discussion simply continues and
continues. It does so, it seems to me, because it is stuck at the point
where a decision needed to be made about what the evidence indicates, and
what is the best evidence in the first place.
So as I have said before, at corresponding points in analogous discussions,
if those who are interested in pushing on in what I have called the B
direction would care to indicate themselves to me privately, perhaps a place
can be found - a quiet corner of the parlor, and if necessary, a pizza
parlor - where that can be done without fear of disturbing the peace of
those who have found peace in another place.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
PS: I was looking for something else, and came across this page
in which some of these questions, of bringing a text into a second culture
without too greatly coloring it in the hue of the second culture, are asked
and, if not answered, responded to. (It deals with my translation of the
Analects of Confucius, Columbia 1998). Many of us translate, or deal closely
with translations, and perhaps some may find this or that point useful. If
not, some of the pictures are kind of nice. Enjoy.
- <<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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