Re: [XTalk] Word pictures in the synoptics (mission agenda)
- 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.