Re: [XTalk] Word pictures in the synoptics (mission agenda)
Thanks again for sending you understanding of a re-constructed sayings
Gospel. Most interesting. I want to make two observations and so
will send two emails, under different titles... so this one about the
On Feb 9, 2011, at 7:03 AM, Ronald Price wrote:
> Gordon Wrote:
>> I would be most interested to hear your take on the selection of
>> sayings that gets to "the gist" of this early "voice print."
> That’s easy. Among the logia sayings reconstructed on the web page
> below, I
> think those in sections A, B and C probably all go back to the HJ.
In B4, which you do attribute as going back to HJ, your create your
understanding of the Mission Agenda saying by choosing different parts
of the sayings cluster from the Synoptic Gospels. You take, "Go
nowhere among the Gentiles..." from Matthew 10:5. You, however,
change the tense of the verb in the proclamation of the significance
of the Agenda from, "the kingdom of God has come near" (Mt. 10:7 & Lk.
9) to "The Kingdom of God is getting near." In the mission you drop
out the charge to heal. And finally you accept as from Jesus the
judgment comparison about Sodom.
What to say? First, your own reconstruction is an amalgam. As
presented, it describes simply a proclamation task for the "sent
ones" (apostles). It is entirely circumscribed as an exclusive
national mission. And framing this activity with "is getting near"
means that the effort is rather much a promotional tour for "a coming
attraction," so to speak, and not something complete unto itself.
This certainly fits the assumption that Jesus is a prophetic figure
inspired by an apocalyptic hope. The problem is that you've created
Leaving aside the question of Q for a moment, save for G. Thomas, all
the testimonies we have of the agenda itself (Matthew, Mark and 2
renditions in Luke) include healing. Paul, when he talks about the
movement in I Cor. talks of "healers." Now, it is a separate question
as to what that word and the recommended task actually included, and I
leave that aside for now. What I want to emphasize is that you have
taken out 1/3 of the ***demonstration*** acts of those sent. (the
actions of lodging in welcoming homes (presence/ relating), dining
(commensality) and "healing.") The effect of this is that the mission
is really reduced to a proclamation movement and so the apostles are
now "prophets." That reframes the action of the agenda significantly.
Second, by changing the tense of the verb about the significance of
this agenda from "has come near" to "is getting near," you completely
reframe the point of the agenda and the expectation of what is being
demonstrated. Now picking up Q and going to the earliest rendition in
Q 1 (found in Luke 10), the significance of the actions and shared
relationships in a welcoming home is that there ***is*** a
demonstration of "the KOG come near." In plain terms, where there is
joy and welcome, the sharing of shalom, the delight of shared
commensality and where illness is tended to, then the closing
summation "has come near" points to those activities as exemplifying
"God's rule." If you will look at Psalm 103:1-5, for example, we can
find a description of the experience of God's presence, and the
complete range of recommended actions cohere with making that
experience come alive. This charge to "speak Peace," then has actual
connection to commanded actions and has real life consequences of
actually sharing a meaningful "peace experience."
Third, by accepting the Matthean framing about the exclusivity of this
mission, you are forced to push aside what Mark really wants to
emphasize with Jesus in the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman and
what earlier Paul was obviously excited about, namely that this
"ministry of reconciliation" had no boundaries, but was for the
world. Retrojecting a Matthean frame on top of HJ and the original
enactors of this mission overruns not only Paul and Mark, it also
actually overruns the Torah notation from Genesis 12 that God's
Covenant of Blessing was for the whole world and all that Prophetic
dreaming language of a world that is redeemed. Hence your choices
paint Jesus to be an ultra nationalist "talking head" prophet who
decided to ignore or just didn't believe the very significance of the
apocalyptic dreams, a world redeemed.
I, of course, do not think that "apocalyptic dreaming" was on Jesus'
mind, and one reason for that, besides the language that he majored in
and the clear evidence of sayings that tell otherwise, is precisely
the mission agenda language as we have it. "Say to them that the
Kingdom of God ***has*** come near." This is not a longing for a
future dream, but rather a call to "make it real."
Again, I appreciate your sharing your reconstruction. I very much
think it is your own and that it vitally misses not only key elements
of the actual mission agenda, but also misses the point of the
experienced significance of the agenda. Per Paul in 2 Cor. 5, I think
this is best described as "a ministry of reconciliation," and I think
it worked! This is to say, I think people experienced reconciliation
and hence a reconciliation movement was begun.
Here's my second reflection. In the note about the mission, I cut out
your link for others to refer to. Sorry! Here I will leave it so as
readers can easily check out your rendition of the aphorisms of Jesus.
On Feb 9, 2011, at 7:03 AM, Ronald Price wrote:
> Gordon Raynal wrote:
>> ..... I note, however, that your connection point is to "Semitic
>> poetry" and
>> not the aphorisms and proverbs found in the Hebraic tradition. Why
>> not this
> I was trying to be more general. But “Hebrew poetry” is fine by me.
> Ron Price,
> Derbyshire, UK
In A 8 you maintain the cluster (in short form) "other cheek," "coat
as well," "give to anyone who begs," "[from borrowers], do not ask
back," "love your enemies," "sunrise/ rain fall," and "be
compassionate." Matthew, Luke and the Didache work to preserve this
clustering in their own ways, and I would note in the Didache that
this is at the very heart of the interpretation of "the Way of Life"
and interprets the core meaning of "Love God, neighbor, self." If one
does accept Q, then this tight clustering of the core of these sayings
likewise connects to the sum of Torah as both Hillel and Jesus framed
it (found in Luke 6:27-30). Q/ Luke 6:31 gives Jesus positive framing
of "Do unto others...." Hillel had framed the core of Torah in the
negative, "Don't do to others."
My first comment is that I think this saying cluster gets us to the
heart of the ethos of the "ministry of reconciliation" (per Paul's
language). I think that both Paul's "fruits of the Spirit" in
Galatians 5 and James' "Wisdom from Above" are poetic ethos
reflections precisely on this core of sayings.
Second comment. Whether in Q or in your rendition of an early sayings
Gospel, and is true in Mark, Matthew and Luke as regards the aphorisms
attributed to Jesus, we find them clustered. The act of clustering
aphorisms changes their function. In all these works they now become
"proclamations" and/ or "teachings." Quite understandably, after the
speaker is long gone, there is clear purpose in this. One purpose is
simply to remember the sayings by association with similar sayings or
similar themes. A second purpose is to focus on proclamation and or
teaching. This both works to frame an understanding of Jesus as a
preacher and/ or teacher and serves therefore to authorize these words
as "original preaching/ teaching" and therefore as the curriculum for
the readers/ hearers of the works they are found it. These are worthy
and very necessary goals. Aphorisms may indeed be used to preach and
teach. In general terms this effect from the clustering produces the
moral stance and so education of the community. Allegorizing
aphorisms (and parables) is a key task so that one has "word pictures"
to direct learning and action based in this curriculum. As nearly 2
millennia of lessons and sermons show, a lot has been made out of the
aphorisms (and parables) by this starting with the clustered sayings
as proclamation/ teaching. All good. One need not plumb behind
Aphorisms are wisdom words. They are word puzzles. Spoken aloud they
are a form of present tense speech and interaction communication. At
the living level of communication with others, the use of such
language forms is not so much about educating (you can think about a
conversation/ interaction later), but about "puzzling" together "in
the moment." The aim of such is "to make sense." And obviously the
importance of "making sense" is not some abstract activity, but a real
life encounter issue.
Consider this analogy. At cross roads on streets there are (or should
be) "Stop" signs. Now that sign is indicative of laws. One may see
the sign and inquire into such issues as public safety, the state of
the courts, the justness of it being placed on one corner and not
another (who has the right away at a given intersection), etc. But
the ***immediate*** purpose of this sign is to get you to do something
when you see the sign. If you don't do that something, you could well
Now that analogy is to a present tense "command" example. A "Stop"
sign is not a puzzle:)! The word commands. The color red commands
(and so stop lights don't need the word written on them). The
octagonal shape commands. All of this is for a very good reason, of
Continuing on. There are times in life, although dangerous, that one
should ignore the Stop Sign. Ambulances and firetrucks, for instance
are allowed to do this so lives can be saved. Hence they are armed
with loud sirens and when they are blaring, one needs to pull over to
the side, not proceed across an otherwise clear street ahead until one
knows where they are and their path. The command to Stop in that sign
is therefore conditional. Real life is not at simple as even a stop
and go sign.
And now to the meat of the matter. In this analogy, imagine someone
going around and painting the Stop signs green! If not done as an act
of vandalism or outright banditry, that would ***really*** present
drivers with a puzzle. The word would say "Stop," the color would
say, "Go!" What would the sign actually be communicating? This
puzzling sign would serve to challenge the whole basic education about
safe driving and traffic flow!
Now, admittedly this is an absurd example, but it allows me to get to
the point. "Love your enemies" said out loud and heard as a wisdom
puzzle is indeed quite the puzzle. Per the many who have said it (and
I heard it out the mouth of Robert Funk, for example), "if you love
others, they're not your enemies." As a word puzzle it blows up the
usual ways in which basic human interactions occur. So what's the
point of doing that?
Well, obviously, somethings in life... like safely driving down the
street are as simple as learning and following commands (one
exception, if you're going to be an ambulance or fire truck driver).
Life typically is about problems and solutions and "command language"
is all about "the typical circumstances in life." But then we also
face in "real life" situations and circumstances for which problem/
solution and so, command and obedience is simply inadequate. Simple
right and wrongs, even if they are discoverable, are not adequate to
figuring out the best course of actions given the circumstances. It
takes "puzzling" to figure that out. Best of all, if persons are
awakened to puzzling together, then the chosen course of action has
the potential, at least, to resolve the puzzle in the best manner
possible. Therefore, speech that can arouse such puzzling, especially
in significantly confusing times, has the potential ("if one has ears
to hear!") to help foster "a common sense." And when typical "common
sense" fails, then "extraordinary good sense" is the order of the
day. If and when that is found, well that is just amazing.
Understanding how wisdom language works is not about philosophizing or
theologizing abstractions, it is all about "making sense" in the here
(and hear) and now. When the issue of the circumstances cry out for
"reconciliation," then the potency of language that enables such a
social interaction to come alive is potentially amazing. To say the
least (watch what is going on now in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen) ***real
reconciliation*** is one tremendously tough puzzle to figure out.
Multi-party spirit reigns. If a voice arrives that effectively will
unite the voices in discord, ***then*** some real progress can be made
towards the new day of freedom. When the realities of finding the
cords that bind are effected (thus overwhelming the sense of discord),
something amazing can happen. Let us hope some one or ones are able
to effect this.
Back to Jesus. To insist on listening to each aphorism on its own is
not a plea to forget the effectiveness and meaning found in the
clustering of the sayings towards moral edification. That is a
valuable thing unto itself. But to not plumb behind that clustering
and past that educational (problem/ solving) function is to miss the
present tense function of the language. It is to actually miss Jesus'
voice at the most vital level for it is to miss the opportunity to be
more than educated. It is to miss the invitation to puzzle together.
"Love your enemies" is a WHOPPER of a word puzzle! Per the Jesus
Seminar, it pretty much sums the center of the puzzle that Jesus
raised. (see "The Five Gospels" page 147). And so finally to your
division of aphorisms from parables, the very reason "Good Sam" makes
it to the list of authentic Jesus speech even though we only have it
from Luke, is that heard as a parable, and not just a moral admonition
about being nice to strangers, it very much enlivens the very heart of
the "Love your enemies" puzzle. Even if Luke created the parable, it
***is not*** an allegory. It is a jaw dropping puzzle.
To conclude, I'd rather like to leave you with the image of Jesus
going around Galilee, Herod Philip's domain, up into the region of
Tyre and finally down to Jerusalem painting all the Stop Signs green.
Some thought he was a criminal. Some thought he was insane. Some
didn't get it. Some got it and were horrified. But, now connecting
to that Mission Agenda, some really "got it" and shared home and table
and experienced social/ relational healing. That was "real stuff,"
not some future hope. That was reconciliation experienced and
enlivened in the sharing. As opposed to "Party Spirit," that was
"Shalom Shared." And far from being some pontificating on grand ideas
or simply teaching Jewish ethics, this was then and now dangerous (run
the list of those who turned to at least some aspects of real
reconciliation work: Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Malcolm X after he returned from Mecca, Anwar Sadat, Rabin, it is
often deadly work where precisely those on the inside get most upset
and murderous). Historically Jesus belongs with that group of folks.
And my point here is that this was not a moral education movement, nor
a dreaming of the future movement, as the actual mission agenda words
show. And further, the language of aphorisms and parables precisely
worked to foster the movement. Reconciliation is never simply "a
problem to be solved." It is a kind of healing that must be figured
out. Whether in marital therapy or all the way up to the contest of
nations, "problem/ solution" thinking is necessary, but never enough.
Engagement in real puzzling is what is needed and that is precisely
the value of the language heard as word puzzles. Whatever one's
source theories.... however valuable the words brought together are
for proclamation and educational purposes, to not slow down and to not
listen to each saying on its own... in the present tense... in the
present circumstances... is to miss the very core of how the language
functions. I'm not in any way for underrating the other uses of the
language. But, I am very much for "trying to hear." That means... a
saying at a time... a parable at a time... and the willingness to "let
the puzzle sink in."
Your own listing nicely preserves the core language of Jesus. I don't
think any such animal ever existed, but that actually doesn't bother
me much. As is evident in this note, I ardently hope that folks will
take the time to not start with bundles or clumps or particular
Gospels, but simply listen and be puzzled.
- Gordon Raynal wrote:
> Thanks again for sending you understanding of a re-constructed sayingsGordon,
> Gospel. Most interesting.
Thanks for expressing an interest.
> In B4, which you do attribute as going back to HJ, your create yourThe 'Critical edition of Q' is an amalgam. Why would you expect my
> understanding of the Mission Agenda saying by choosing different parts
> of the sayings cluster from the Synoptic Gospels ... your own reconstruction
> is an amalgam.
reconstruction be any different in this respect?
> The problem is that you've created this text.Of course I have. That's what reconstruction is all about, recreating what
is deemed to be the original from the various extant texts.
> ..... You, however,The context (B7, from Mt 10:23) indicates that this is the original meaning.
> change the tense of the verb in the proclamation of the significance
> of the Agenda from, "the kingdom of God has come near" (Mt. 10:7 & Lk.
> 9) to "The Kingdom of God is getting near."
The change of tense probably suited the synoptic writers, and especially
Luke (c.f. the Lukan agenda reflected in Lk 11:20; 17:21)
> In the mission you drop out the charge to heal.Yes I do. In my opinion this is clearly derived from Mark, who was the first
to claim that Jesus had been a healer. Note how in Mark the basic
instructions (6:8-11) make no mention of healing. Mark redactionally wrapped
the healing around the outside (vv.7 & 12-13).
> It is entirely circumscribed as an exclusive national mission.So you think the original mission was to the whole world? That seems a tad
over ambitious to me. Twelve men to evangelize the whole world? I don't
think so. In any case this view is contradicted by certain texts which
Matthew retained, but Luke deemed inappropriate for the mission to the
> And framing this activity with "is getting near"Indeed. This seems to be indicated by Mt 10:23b.
> means that the effort is rather much a promotional tour for "a coming
> attraction," so to speak, and not something complete unto itself.
> Leaving aside the question of Q for a moment, save for G. Thomas, allAnd Matthew and Luke both copied many of the Markan stories about healing,
> the testimonies we have of the agenda itself (Matthew, Mark and 2
> renditions in Luke) include healing.
so it is not surprising that they would adjust the mission statement in line
with the Markan version to match the stories.
> ..... What I want to emphasize is that you haveIndeed. The mission was about a message, just as the Christian mission has
> taken out 1/3 of the ***demonstration*** acts of those sent. (the
> actions of lodging in welcoming homes (presence/ relating), dining
> (commensality) and "healing.") The effect of this is that the mission
> is really reduced to a proclamation movement and so the apostles are
> now "prophets." That reframes the action of the agenda significantly.
been in modern times except for some evangelicals who claim to be able to
heal. On scientific grounds we must judge the latter to be a sham.
> where illness is tended to .....You sound like Burton Mack. The gospel writers had no such inhibitions, and
I cannot believe that the "healing" to which the synoptics refer is merely
tending the sick. When Mark refers to healing he is clearly referring to
miraculous healing (Mk 6:13). Mack's 'pay attention to the sick'
interpretation is a liberal fudge.
> Third, by accepting the Matthean framing about the exclusivity of thisI am not pushing anything aside, but carefully placing texts in their
> mission, you are forced to push aside what Mark really wants to
> emphasize with Jesus in the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman and
> what earlier Paul was obviously excited about, namely that this
> "ministry of reconciliation" had no boundaries, but was for the
appropriate historical context. We then have the natural sequence: the
original mission to Israel instigated by Jesus and his first followers was
transformed by Paul and the synoptic writers into a mission to the world.
The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman was a part of the latter
> Retrojecting a Matthean frame on top of HJ and the originalThe frame was correctly retained by Matthew. Mark and Luke omitted it
> enactors of this mission .....
because it contradicted their Paul-inspired vision of a worldwide mission.
> Hence your choices paint Jesus to be an ultra nationalistWell he was surely a nationalist. Christ = Messiah = God's anointed king.
Had his vision not included an element of nationalism, he would not have
> ... "talking head" prophet whoJesus was expecting the imminent arrival of the kingdom - there wasn't even
> decided to ignore or just didn't believe the very significance of the
> apocalyptic dreams, a world redeemed.
going to be time to evangelize all the towns in Israel. So what would have
been the point of planning a world mission?
> I, of course, do not think that "apocalyptic dreaming" was on Jesus'You make a great deal about the tense, but it really doesn't make a lot of
> mind, and one reason for that, besides the language that he majored in
> and the clear evidence of sayings that tell otherwise, is precisely
> the mission agenda language as we have it. "Say to them that the
> Kingdom of God ***has*** come near." This is not a longing for a
> future dream, but rather a call to "make it real."
difference. The real question is whether the kingdom is near in space or in
time. My wording "is getting near" unambiguously indicates the latter
because that's what the whole context implies, and if you're unhappy with Mt
10:23b, then look at e.g. Lk 17:30, where "on the day" refers to a future
time, not a place.
The net result of my interpretation and my consequent reconstruction is a
realistic historical sequence for the emergence of the new religion of
Christianity out of the older religion of Judaism, and that's in addition to
a credible sayings source, which Q as normally reconstructed is certainly
I appreciate your response in contrasting our differences. I'll let
most of them stand for others to see and or comment on the list.
On Feb 10, 2011, at 12:07 PM, Ronald Price wrote:
>> In the mission you drop out the charge to heal.
> Yes I do. In my opinion this is clearly derived from Mark, who was
> the first
> to claim that Jesus had been a healer. Note how in Mark the basic
> instructions (6:8-11) make no mention of healing. Mark redactionally
> the healing around the outside (vv.7 & 12-13).
For the record regarding whether or not Jesus was a talented folk
healer, I don't know. I'm fine either way. There's no point arguing
that the Q rendition is the earliest gathering of the whole agenda
(the Thomas version is the earliest and simplest, in my view).
Whatever the medical level of care Jesus or these earliest folks
offered (whether praying with/ for individuals or "casting out
demons"), the central gist of the "healing" in the text is certainly
"social healing." And this is simply derived from not only Paul's
description of the movement, but also a whole cluster of sayings/
scenes that serve to sum up the mission. Certainly by the time
Corinthians was written, however, there were medicinal healers
actively involved in the movement.
>> It is entirely circumscribed as an exclusive national mission.
> So you think the original mission was to the whole world? That seems
> a tad
> over ambitious to me. Twelve men to evangelize the whole world? I
> think so. In any case this view is contradicted by certain texts which
> Matthew retained, but Luke deemed inappropriate for the mission to the
I perhaps didn't say this well. I think the initiation and praxis was
regional (again Galilee, the region of Tyre-Sidon, Herod Philips
domain, Samaria and Judea). But I think Jesus understood quite well
the implication of Torah and the Prophets. Matthew, especially, is
emphasizing the unique focus on Israel. This a part of his theology,
and in my view represents the important arguments that were going on
in the 80's and 90's.
>> And framing this activity with "is getting near"
>> means that the effort is rather much a promotional tour for "a coming
>> attraction," so to speak, and not something complete unto itself.
> Indeed. This seems to be indicated by Mt 10:23b.
So, a plain statement is in the text is changed on the basis of "an
indication" outside the text? I certainly don't think Mt. 10:23b
belongs to HJ.
>> ..... What I want to emphasize is that you have
>> taken out 1/3 of the ***demonstration*** acts of those sent. (the
>> actions of lodging in welcoming homes (presence/ relating), dining
>> (commensality) and "healing.") The effect of this is that the
>> is really reduced to a proclamation movement and so the apostles are
>> now "prophets." That reframes the action of the agenda
> Indeed. The mission was about a message, just as the Christian
> mission has
> been in modern times except for some evangelicals who claim to be
> able to
> heal. On scientific grounds we must judge the latter to be a sham.
A clear statement of our fundamental disagreement.
>> where illness is tended to .....
> You sound like Burton Mack. The gospel writers had no such
> inhibitions, and
> I cannot believe that the "healing" to which the synoptics refer is
> tending the sick. When Mark refers to healing he is clearly
> referring to
> miraculous healing (Mk 6:13). Mack's 'pay attention to the sick'
> interpretation is a liberal fudge.
I don't mind sounding like Mack in this regard. It is not "a liberal
fudge," it a fair description of a social movement centered on
>> Hence your choices paint Jesus to be an ultra nationalist
> Well he was surely a nationalist. Christ = Messiah = God's anointed
> Had his vision not included an element of nationalism, he would not
> been crucified.
I would urge you to re-read precisely the prophetic hope language
regarding the Promised King and I would also remind you that the term
"Messiah" is used to talk about Cyrus of Persia! Even if Jesus were
centrally formed by the apocalyptic dreams of the Israelite
apocalyptic materials, that language is very much about the
restoration of the whole of creation. And in terms of service to the
world, Daniel is renowned for that!
>> ... "talking head" prophet who
>> decided to ignore or just didn't believe the very significance of the
>> apocalyptic dreams, a world redeemed.
> Jesus was expecting the imminent arrival of the kingdom - there
> wasn't even
> going to be time to evangelize all the towns in Israel. So what
> would have
> been the point of planning a world mission?
According to your gathering of the language. I simply do not buy this.
>> I, of course, do not think that "apocalyptic dreaming" was on Jesus'
>> mind, and one reason for that, besides the language that he majored
>> and the clear evidence of sayings that tell otherwise, is precisely
>> the mission agenda language as we have it. "Say to them that the
>> Kingdom of God ***has*** come near." This is not a longing for a
>> future dream, but rather a call to "make it real."
> You make a great deal about the tense, but it really doesn't make a
> lot of
> difference. The real question is whether the kingdom is near in
> space or in
> time. My wording "is getting near" unambiguously indicates the latter
> because that's what the whole context implies, and if you're unhappy
> with Mt
> 10:23b, then look at e.g. Lk 17:30, where "on the day" refers to a
> time, not a place.
> The net result of my interpretation and my consequent reconstruction
> is a
> realistic historical sequence for the emergence of the new religion of
> Christianity out of the older religion of Judaism, and that's in
> addition to
> a credible sayings source, which Q as normally reconstructed is
It certainly represents a reconstruction of Christianity. We will
continue to disagree about not only the core nature of the mission,
but also the sequence.
Thanks again for sharing your link.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Gordon Raynal wrote:
> I think the initiation and praxis was regional (again Galilee, the region ofGordon,
> Tyre-Sidon, Herod Philips domain, Samaria and Judea).
That¹s not too dissimilar from Mt 10:5b.
> But I think Jesus understood quite wellThat may be so, but I think Jesus had enough problems trying to find God¹s
> the implication of Torah and the Prophets.
solution for his compatriots. If he thought that the imminent arrival of the
kingdom would affect the whole world, it was surely a secondary effect. If I
remember correctly, the restoration of Israel was assumed to be first in the
> So, a plain statement is in the text is changed on the basis of "anI¹m not so much changing the text as trying to reconstruct the underlying
> indication" outside the text?
text, and I may not have got all the wording exactly right. Anyway, here is
another try at my reasoning.
(1) There are some authentic statements about the kingdom which are
ambiguous as regards timing, but those that are clear point to a future
coming, A21, C1, C12, c.f. C21.
(2) The redactional tendency to portray the kingdom as having arrived is
already clear in Matthew (Mt 11:11-12) and in Luke (Lk 17:21).
(3) On Mk 1:15, Hooker makes the perceptive comment that when asking about
the meaning of particular words, we are asking questions about Mark¹s use of
language, not about the words of Jesus. (Admittedly I believe there was an
intermediate stage here, namely putting in writing the sayings of Jesus, and
that does complicate the issue.)
(4) Unlike the majority of commentators, I take the sayings collection to
have been in Aramaic. So there is often an inevitable slight change in
meaning between what was written in the collection and what the synoptic
authors wrote in Greek.
(5) I believe Jesus was seriously concerned about the plight of his people
under the yoke of the Roman occupation. I cannot therefore picture him
indicating that the kingdom had in any sense come already. There may be a
partial analogy in Egypt right now.
By the way, in criticizing some evangelicals who claim to be able to heal, I
was not of course referring to what you call social healing¹, but rather to
claims of miraculous healing.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Hi Ron,
Thanks for the continuing dialogue. Let me say that I think you are
doing a good job of painting out the understanding of Jesus that
begins with the understanding that the key is found in "the imminent
expectation" of the Kingdom of God. Ever since Schweitzer this has
certainly garnered the majority appreciation of those specifically
working on the Historical Jesus/ Early Christianity questions/
issues. As you noted yesterday and is certainly true, starting with
these sayings/ this part of the Israelite tradition and so this
mindset for Jesus, one can assuredly paint out a plausible
reconstruction of the historical figure of Jesus, his earliest
followers and the development of a new religion out of an old one. I
certainly see no end in sight of the basic contest of starting points
and the result "word picturings." And I am fine with that because of
the richness of the literature we have access to (multiple
perspectives increase the vantage points to understand it) and because
even amidst the different perspectives there are a number of
commonalities which the diversity helps us understand in richer ways.
This said, then a couple of responses.
On Feb 11, 2011, at 10:22 AM, Ronald Price wrote:
> That may be so, but I think Jesus had enough problems trying to find
> solution for his compatriots. If he thought that the imminent
> arrival of the
> kingdom would affect the whole world, it was surely a secondary
> effect. If I
> remember correctly, the restoration of Israel was assumed to be
> first in the
> prophetic pronouncements.
"If he thought that..." is, of course at the center of our dispute.
I, of course, think that the "center of thought" is found in the "here
and now" nature of wisdom communication, in the directed action of the
mission agenda as exemplifying/ making alive forgiveness/ redemption/
reconciliation (not sorta making it happen, but actually making it
alive), and then in the specific aphorisms that precisely indicate
this "here and now/ hear now!) sayings.
Bottom line, there are both anticipation and realization sayings
attributed to Jesus. Generally "your school of thought," sees "the
anticipation" sayings at the critical heart of the matter and then
"the realization" sayings the later reflections of the community.
Those of my school of thought see it exactly the opposite. Therefore,
not to endlessly argue, but rather to "paint it out," then simply
consider this alternative. And I do this, probably overly
simplistically, but simply here for a short note to show the alternate
Situation: The Israelite homeland had been essentially a province of
the Rome since Pompey came in and basically overwhelmed a Civil War,
siding with Hyracanus II and his Pharisee faction against Aristobulus
II and his Saducee faction. Thereafter between the parties known to
us from Josephus and the Jewish and Christian writings, there was all
manner of internal conflict between the political leaders, the Temple
establishment, the majority Pharisee Party (parties?), the Saducees,
the Essenes and such as "bandits, prophets, messianic wannabees" (per
Horsely's language). And never forgetting that the religion of Israel
was an international religion (Jews dispersed from old Babylon all the
way to Spain), and never forgetting either, the old "family" divide
between "Jews" and "Samaritans," the situation was complex,
multifaceted and there were sharp internal divides. The example of
the conflicts at the death of Herod the Great, as Josephus reports,
were but one example of the complexity and the contest of voices.
This noted, focus on "the anticipation" sayings leads to various kinds
of portraitures of Jesus best understood in relationship to the voices
"for Liberation," in some manner. In your above statement you use the
language of "trying to find God's solutions for his compatriots."
And, of course, I'm really interested in how expansive your and
anyone's understanding "of compatriots" is? Galileans? Galileans and
Judeans? All Jews in the Diaspora and the homeland? The question of
"national"/ "international" very much relates to "the Jewish
situation." (Obviously, according to Josephus, for example, there were
a lot of Jews quite happy to live in Rome.) At any rate, those who
focus on the anticipation language regarding an actual change in the
political circumstances, obviously have to admit that this
"anticipation" was utterly wrong. For those who say it's all about
some sort of "religious or spiritual liberation" and really an "after
life," then Jesus can either be excused for his wrongness about the
imminent timing issue or focus can be placed that his "imminent"
language was about quickly arousing a movement and that his head was
actually into "only the Father knows the hour." In broad strokes
those are the basic options. And so the understanding of the ordering
of texts basically proceeds in a fashion of a forceful anticipation
movement that inexorably became an institutionalized movement that
later led to the explosion of all kinds of writings and factions. For
example, pretty much the Gospel of Thomas has to be late, dependent
and basically quasi heretical, if not outright heretical on this
And so quickly, the alternative of " here and now reconciliation"
movement. In the above situation, the very nature of the question of
"what defines us" was huge! And in such circumstances, having a clear
vision of identity that effectively communicates is sure to get
attention, if effectively shared. Second, a reconciliation movement,
in principle, is about gathering as much diversity that can
cooperatively function together as possible. Such movements are by
their very nature very dicey, because "Party Spirit" can blow them
apart. But where actually effective a new kind of identity can be
effected that supersedes the former divided understandings of
identity. And effectively this kind of effort can even have effects
reaching far beyond the original particular situation and issues. And
this is the picturing that I favor as original. And therefore I find
it no surprise at all that there was quite the diversity of writings,
because reconciliation movements even when effective gather
individuals and groups from a number of perspectives who continue to
use their primary interpretive lens to communicate about the new
movement they are a part of. And in my view, this is what we see.
The literature we have shows Jesus being "pictured" from a whole
variety of lens and thus quite naturally he was variously titled,
"Christ," "Son of God," "Son of Man," "High Priest after the Order of
Melchizedek," etc. etc.... I do not think we have the founding of a
particularly ideological movement that was reframed, rather a
reconciliation movement that brought together a whole array of Jewish
voices who left us this rich heritage of reflections.
I'll simply end this very sketchy reply with this note. I have no
need to Q to come up with this. I don't even need to go outside the
Canonical materials and extant texts therein. But the two gems that
absolutely do help me sketch this out are Thomas and the Didache. And
sometimes for a thought experiment I'd ask you to simply do a sayings
comparison between Thomas and Mark. The tradition way of seeing the
relationship will be to suggest that Thomas shows a later
"spiritualizing" or Gnosticizing redaction of the more pure Markan
forms. I think that has the order wrong ***as regards*** a comparison
of the individual sayings/ stories. (I do think Extant Thomas is
later than Mark and shows a clear redaction spin put on many of the
sayings, but I quite think the there is a core in Thomas that is
indeed pre-Markan.) So, forgetting Q and your own reconstructed
sayings Gospel, I urge you to do a comparison of these two actual
texts and not ones based on theoretical constructions. And again,
simply try reading the individual sayings in both orderings.
>> So, a plain statement is in the text is changed on the basis of "an
>> indication" outside the text?
> I’m not so much changing the text as trying to reconstruct the
> text, and I may not have got all the wording exactly right. Anyway,
> here is
> another try at my reasoning.
But you do change the wording of the sayings as is presented in the
> (5) I believe Jesus was seriously concerned about the plight of his
> under the yoke of the Roman occupation. I cannot therefore picture
> indicating that the kingdom had in any sense come already. There may
> be a
> partial analogy in Egypt right now.
Again, I'm wondering the extent of his concern went and what it would
look like, if say the Antipas, the Sanhedrin and the majority of the
Pharisees had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. What would that have
But from my perspective... the creation of an effective reconciliation
work clearly gives evidence to Sabbath made alive in the world. My
actual preference what what the phrase "Kingdom of God" is indicative
of is "the Ruling Suasion of YHWH Elohim's Shalom made alive." (Or
something like that!) In the Israelite Wisdom heritage such as
Proverbs 3:14-18 and in the Psalmic heritage Psalm 85 do nice jobs of
expressing the sense and the poetry of what this makes for in life.
> By the way, in criticizing some evangelicals who claim to be able to
> heal, I
> was not of course referring to what you call ‘social healing’, but
> rather to
> claims of miraculous healing.
I understand. I really have no clue if Jesus himself was a talented
folk healer or not. That the movement made this a specific priority
was obviously early and important.