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Re: [XTalk] How did Jesus pray?

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  • Robert M Schacht
    On Thu, 6 Apr 2000 10:28:11 +0300 Sakari Häkkinen ... Sakari, Thanks for these interesting observations! But of course the big question, related to #3
    Message 1 of 7 , Apr 6, 2000
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      On Thu, 6 Apr 2000 10:28:11 +0300 "Sakari H�kkinen"
      <sakari.hakkinen@...> writes:
      > Bob Schacht wrote:
      > > I had an interesting thought today: How did Jesus pray?
      >
      > I have wondered that too. I am quite convinced that he did
      > not pray quietly for these reasons:
      > 1) In the history of Jewish prayer the absolutely dominant
      > way of praying is speaking, singing or crying loudly. Even
      > the sighs to God (e.g. in the Psalms) could be heard.
      > Compare this with reading in ancient times: it was always
      > loud. The modern private prayer in the sense of thinking
      > something in one's innermost is quite far away from the way
      > Jesus and other people at that time prayed. Also, I suppose
      > that most of the prayers were common and traditional.
      > 2) Praying was something that was not only heard by others
      > but also seen. Praying meant some discernible moves: hands
      > lifted up and the look at heaven, or throwing oneself to the
      > ground, depending on the sort of a prayer. Bob, you already
      > referred to some passages in the NT, where this is obvious:
      > Mark 14:32-38 and also Matth. 6:6 (if praying was just
      > thinking or mumbling quietly without any moves of the body,
      > why should one retreat to a chamber in order that no one
      > sees?).
      > 3) From Jewish and Jewish-Christian sources we get the data
      > that the usual way of praying was either standing or
      > throwing himself to the ground (himself, because I do not
      > know if women prayed like this at all?). The direction of
      > the person praying was towards Jerusalem. So the way Moslems
      > pray reminds quite a lot the way (some) Jews and Christians
      > prayed in the first centuries.
      >
      > Of course, what comes to Jesus of Nazareth, we do not know
      > if 3 fits him. This way of praying might have been, and most
      > probably was, only used by the religious elite, by whom we
      > have the written data preserved. I suspect that the common
      > poor people had obeyed the regular times of prayer. And we
      > do not know how much the Galilean people in Jesus' lifetime
      > was influenced by Jerusalem, or do we? This leads to much
      > bigger questions, so I'll leave it now.
      >

      Sakari,
      Thanks for these interesting observations! But of course the big
      question, related to #3 above, is: did Jesus pray like his peers, or did
      he pray differently?

      > You also wrote:
      > > Scholars have jumped to conclusions about Mark 14:32-38// (Jesus in
      the
      > > Garden at Gethsemane), demanding to know how the disciples could have
      > > heard what Jesus was praying, perhaps on the basis of the text
      claiming
      > > that Jesus returned to find the disciples sleeping, ...

      > Bob, have you ever had a good and long dinner with your best
      > friends where you ate and drank a little bit too much? It
      > might have been difficult to be totally awake in the night
      > when it finally is almost silent (only someone praying -
      > talking or crying alone). Could the *sleeping* of the
      > disciples be just the heavy feeling after too much wine?
      >

      Well, I suppose that is one possibility. However, what I had in mind are
      several anecdotes:
      1) My father, who retired at the age of 80, said that in his later years
      he would nap through boring faculty meetings, but if his name came up, he
      would become alert and participate. Obviously, his ears were still open.
      2) Some musician friends on another list tell of a musician in an
      orchestra who "napped"
      through long passages where his instrument was not involved, but would
      always awaken
      on cue when it came time for him to play again.
      3) I have myself had experiences of being "half asleep" with my eyes
      closed, in a semi-comatose state, while being quite aware of sounds going
      on around me. Anyone who saw me would have concluded that I was asleep.

      > With kind regards,
      >
      > Sakari
      >
      > Sakari Hakkinen, PhD

      thanks for your interesting comments,
      Bob
      Northern Arizona University
    • Michael Zarb
      ... snip ... mind are ... years ... up, he ... open. ... would ... going ... asleep. ... But the authors seem to mean that the disciples were asleep; Jesus
      Message 2 of 7 , Apr 7, 2000
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        --- In crosstalk2@egroups.com, Robert M Schacht <bobschacht@j...>
        wrote:
        >
        snip
        >
        > > Bob, have you ever had a good and long dinner with your best
        > > friends where you ate and drank a little bit too much? It
        > > might have been difficult to be totally awake in the night
        > > when it finally is almost silent (only someone praying -
        > > talking or crying alone). Could the *sleeping* of the
        > > disciples be just the heavy feeling after too much wine?
        > >
        >
        > Well, I suppose that is one possibility. However, what I had in
        mind are
        > several anecdotes:
        > 1) My father, who retired at the age of 80, said that in his later
        years
        > he would nap through boring faculty meetings, but if his name came
        up, he
        > would become alert and participate. Obviously, his ears were still
        open.
        > 2) Some musician friends on another list tell of a musician in an
        > orchestra who "napped"
        > through long passages where his instrument was not involved, but
        would
        > always awaken
        > on cue when it came time for him to play again.
        > 3) I have myself had experiences of being "half asleep" with my eyes
        > closed, in a semi-comatose state, while being quite aware of sounds
        going
        > on around me. Anyone who saw me would have concluded that I was
        asleep.
        >
        > > With kind regards,
        > >
        > > Sakari
        > >
        > > Sakari Hakkinen, PhD
        >
        > thanks for your interesting comments,
        > Bob
        > Northern Arizona University


        But the authors seem to mean that the disciples were asleep; Jesus
        chides them for being asleep and a shame on them that they could not
        keep vigil with him. This would not make any sense if the authors
        meant the disciples were just nodding soporifically. These
        explanations are poor attempts to explain the unlikelihood of any one
        knowing what Jesus said in his prayers, special pleading for the
        historicity and accuracy of the narratives. The context is important
        for the correct understanding of the details.

        Regards

        Michael Zarb
      • Robert M Schacht
        ... First of all, note that in my original message was a query about the semantic range of asleep in Greek. But let me take your point, and grant that the
        Message 3 of 7 , Apr 7, 2000
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          On Fri, 07 Apr 2000 17:43:31 -0000 "Michael Zarb" <mzarb@...> writes:
          >
          > But the authors seem to mean that the disciples were asleep; Jesus
          > chides them for being asleep and a shame on them that they could not
          > keep vigil with him. This would not make any sense if the authors
          > meant the disciples were just nodding soporifically. These
          > explanations are poor attempts to explain the unlikelihood of any one
          > knowing what Jesus said in his prayers, special pleading for the
          > historicity and accuracy of the narratives. The context is important
          > for the correct understanding of the details.

          First of all, note that in my original message was a query about the
          semantic range of "asleep" in Greek.

          But let me take your point, and grant that the author *meant* asleep to
          mean stone cold, unconscious sleep. The issue, however, was in the
          context of how did Jesus pray? -- that is, about what happened, not what
          was meant. I see that you have bought, lock, stock & barrel, the idea
          that the disciples cannot possibly have known what Jesus said in his
          prayers. But I commend for your consideration several questions:

          1. Is it not the case that Mark generally has a high opinion of Jesus,
          and a rather lower opinion of the disciples?

          2. Given this editorial propensity, which is more likely: that Mark (a)
          decided to portray the disciples as asleep at a critical moment, or that
          he (b) decided to portray Jesus as indecisive, hesitant, and fearful?
          Where, indeed, anywhere else in Mark is Jesus so portrayed? What
          editorial purpose of his would be served by such a portrayal? Indeed, by
          the criterion of embarrassment, the anguish of Gethsemane seems
          authentic-- if not word by word, at least in overall gestalt.

          What is more historically credible: that Jesus would have been in anguish
          at this critical juncture, or that the disciples would be completely
          oblivious to the significance of the moment?

          Which alternative, (a) or (b), suits Mark's editorial purpose more?

          Bob
          Northern Arizona University
        • Neil Godfrey
          ... If Jesus fear served no literary purpose or even momentarily unravelled the plot by itself being the trigger for the demoralization of the disciples then
          Message 4 of 7 , Apr 8, 2000
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            Robert M Schacht wrote:

            > 2. Given this editorial propensity, which is more likely: that Mark (a)
            > decided to portray the disciples as asleep at a critical moment, or that
            > he (b) decided to portray Jesus as indecisive, hesitant, and fearful?
            > Where, indeed, anywhere else in Mark is Jesus so portrayed? What
            > editorial purpose of his would be served by such a portrayal? Indeed, by
            > the criterion of embarrassment, the anguish of Gethsemane seems
            > authentic-- if not word by word, at least in overall gestalt.
            >
            > What is more historically credible: that Jesus would have been in anguish
            > at this critical juncture, or that the disciples would be completely
            > oblivious to the significance of the moment?
            >
            > Which alternative, (a) or (b), suits Mark's editorial purpose more?

            If Jesus' fear served no literary purpose or even momentarily unravelled the
            plot by itself being the trigger for the demoralization of the disciples then
            the "criterion of embarrassment" would be a strong argument. But the
            description of Jesus' fear and "psychic sorrows" surely serves to extol him as
            a greater David, role model and hero for the reader.

            The amazing thing for the reader or audience of this passage is that such
            pressure and torment does not tempt Jesus to flee but stirs him to "stay and
            watch"; more to the point, such distress prompts him to pray, as David also
            did on the mount of Olives, for God's will, not his own, to be done. Such a
            prayer, indeed the rest of the scene here, would lose all its dramatic impact
            if the author had failed to portray any flesh-weakening anguish besetting the
            central hero. The dramatic shock value of these verses serves to exalt Jesus
            to awe-inspiring greatness in his ensuing mastery of his mental state. It is
            at such a moment of personal crisis that he finds the wherewithal to seek to
            save his disciples from their human weaknesses; to submit himself flint-like
            to the will of God despite his fears; and rather than run he goes out to face
            his betrayer. These verses serve to throw into high relief a Jesus character
            that is every bit as courageous and pious and a true role-model for "everyman"
            as David ever was. Without them we would have just another near mechanical,
            probably forgettable, "prayer-for-deliverance".

            (While the meanings of the words chosen to describe this extreme anguish and
            fear etc. may well include the notions of "indecisive" and "hesitant" in many
            contexts, none of the actions or words of Jesus in response to these feelings
            show any such traits. Quite the reverse.)

            So in answer to the question, as to whether (a) or (b) serves Mark's editorial
            purpose more, I would conclude there is no alternative to consider. Am I
            missing something?


            Neil Godfrey

            Toowoomba, Qld.
            Australia
          • Michael Zarb
            ... Jesus ... not ... one ... important ... mz: I did not comment on your first query which is interesting, but on the aftermath. ... asleep to ... what ...
            Message 5 of 7 , Apr 8, 2000
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              --- In crosstalk2@egroups.com, Robert M Schacht <bobschacht@j...>
              wrote:
              >
              >
              > On Fri, 07 Apr 2000 17:43:31 -0000 "Michael Zarb" <mzarb@...>
              writes:
              > >
              > > But the authors seem to mean that the disciples were asleep;
              Jesus
              > > chides them for being asleep and a shame on them that they could
              not
              > > keep vigil with him. This would not make any sense if the authors
              > > meant the disciples were just nodding soporifically. These
              > > explanations are poor attempts to explain the unlikelihood of any
              one
              > > knowing what Jesus said in his prayers, special pleading for the
              > > historicity and accuracy of the narratives. The context is
              important
              > > for the correct understanding of the details.
              >
              > First of all, note that in my original message was a query about the
              > semantic range of "asleep" in Greek.

              mz: I did not comment on your first query which is interesting, but
              on the aftermath.

              > But let me take your point, and grant that the author *meant*
              asleep to
              > mean stone cold, unconscious sleep. The issue, however, was in the
              > context of how did Jesus pray? -- that is, about what happened, not
              what
              > was meant. I see that you have bought, lock, stock & barrel, the
              idea
              > that the disciples cannot possibly have known what Jesus said in his
              > prayers. But I commend for your consideration several questions:

              mz: My primary consideration of the gospels and Acts is as fiction
              not as history. Those who claim their historicity have the onus of
              supporting it with some evidence.

              > 1. Is it not the case that Mark generally has a high opinion of
              Jesus,
              > and a rather lower opinion of the disciples?
              >
              > 2. Given this editorial propensity, which is more likely: that Mark
              (a)
              > decided to portray the disciples as asleep at a critical moment, or
              that
              > he (b) decided to portray Jesus as indecisive, hesitant, and
              fearful?
              > Where, indeed, anywhere else in Mark is Jesus so portrayed? What
              > editorial purpose of his would be served by such a portrayal?
              Indeed, by
              > the criterion of embarrassment, the anguish of Gethsemane seems
              > authentic-- if not word by word, at least in overall gestalt.

              mz: I miss Jesus€  '² indecisiveness and hesitancy but I see fear and
              anguish in that Mark presents him as unwilling to drink the cup but
              at the same time determined, not €  '±indecisive, hesitant€  '² as you
              put it, to do the will of his god, his father. a) and b) are not
              mutually exclusive; the author gives us both. It is natural for the
              story teller to portray Jesus, who is presented elsewhere as a
              clairvoyant, foreseeing his death ( cf. also the triple prediction)
              and experiencing fear, anguish and all round rejection, even
              abandonment by his god. Who should be embarrassed by this
              portraiture?
              Perhaps those steeped in the Trinitarian theology which was alien to
              the author and his early readers. The criterion of embarrassment does
              not apply.

              > What is more historically credible: that Jesus would have been in
              anguish
              > at this critical juncture, or that the disciples would be completely
              > oblivious to the significance of the moment?
              >
              > Which alternative, (a) or (b), suits Mark's editorial purpose more?

              mz: These are not alternatives. Both fit in with Mark€  '²s views.
              The disciples here, as in the rest of the book, are among those who
              did not fully understand / acknowledge Jesus - they are dimwitted,
              unable to understand his teaching, they sleep (triple emphasis) at
              the time of his anguish, they all forsake him and flee, Peter denies
              him three times (another triple emphasis of the author). This accords
              with the author€  '²s picture of the acceptance of Jesus or rather the
              lack of it, by his contemporaries: the religious leaders reject him,
              even plot his death; his own family misunderstands him, his disciples
              flee and deny him and at the climax, on the cross, Jesus feels
              abandoned even by his god - those who were supposed to accept him
              rejected him.
              Ironically it is his enemies who acknowledge him, namely the demons
              when he exorcises them, and his executioner, the centurion.
              Regarding Jesus€  '² prayers: story tellers and fiction writers do
              not find it unreasonable to tell what a character does or thinks when
              alone, they obligingly provide the inner thoughts and private actions
              for the benefit of the listener / reader; it is part of the
              entertainment or information. So Mark, the fiction writer, envisions
              Jesus, after he had distanced himself from the three, praying by
              gestures, €  '±on the ground€  '² and possibly by audible words,
              since
              the word used is €  '±said€  '² and not €  '±thought€  '², same as
              many Muslims
              and others pray today, but it is hard to understand Mark meaning that
              Jesus shouted his prayers so loud that sleeping people at a distance
              would know each and every word he uttered.
              We also have to bear in mind that credibility and plausibility do not
              establish factuality.


              > Bob
              > Northern Arizona University

              Michael Zarb
            • Robert M Schacht
              ... Michael, Thank you for your candor. Why are you on this list, then? To remind us that our list s stated purpose is futile? At any rate, your assumption
              Message 6 of 7 , Apr 9, 2000
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                On Sun, 09 Apr 2000 05:13:00 -0000 "Michael Zarb" <mzarb@...> writes:
                > ... mz: My primary consideration of the gospels and Acts is as fiction
                > not as history.

                Michael,
                Thank you for your candor. Why are you on this list, then? To remind us
                that our list's stated purpose is futile? At any rate, your assumption
                greatly simplifies our debate, casting aside any need for tradition
                criticism, historical criticism, or need for debate about whether any
                particular saying or deed attributed to Jesus is historical. That leaves
                us, I think, with literary criticism:

                > ...mz: ...It is natural for the
                > story teller to portray Jesus, who is presented elsewhere as a
                > clairvoyant, foreseeing his death ( cf. also the triple prediction)
                > and experiencing fear, anguish and all round rejection, even
                > abandonment by his god. Who should be embarrassed by this
                > portraiture? ...

                I had written:
                > > What is more historically credible: that Jesus would have been in
                anguish
                > > at this critical juncture, or that the disciples would be completely
                > > oblivious to the significance of the moment?
                > >
                > > Which alternative, (a) or (b), suits Mark's editorial purpose more?
                >

                Michael responnds:
                > mz: These are not alternatives. Both fit in with Mark���'�s views.

                Regarding the second alternative:
                > The disciples here, as in the rest of the book, are among those who
                > did not fully understand / acknowledge Jesus - they are dimwitted,
                > unable to understand his teaching, they sleep (triple emphasis) at
                > the time of his anguish, they all forsake him and flee, Peter denies
                > him three times (another triple emphasis of the author).

                Perhaps regarding the first alternative?:
                >This accords
                > with the author���'�s picture of the acceptance of Jesus or rather the
                > lack of it, by his contemporaries: the religious leaders reject him,
                > even plot his death; his own family misunderstands him, his disciples
                > flee and deny him and at the climax, on the cross, Jesus feels
                > abandoned even by his god - those who were supposed to accept him
                > rejected him.
                > ...
                > Regarding Jesus���'� prayers: story tellers and fiction writers do
                > not find it unreasonable to tell what a character does or thinks when
                > alone, they obligingly provide the inner thoughts and private actions
                > for the benefit of the listener / reader; it is part of the
                > entertainment or information. So Mark, the fiction writer, envisions
                > Jesus, after he had distanced himself from the three, praying by
                > gestures, ���'�on the ground���'� and possibly by audible words, since
                > the word used is ���'�said���'� and not ���'�thought���'�, same as many
                Muslims
                > and others pray today, ...

                This is a very pretty just so story, but where do you find any precedent
                for it in Mark's writing? Where previously does Mark "provide the inner
                thoughts and private actions" of Jesus? Is it not somewhat bad form for
                a writer of fiction (if that is what it is) to conceal from us an
                important personal characteristic in the first 75% of the work, then
                spring it on the unsuspecting reader/listener suddenly, in the climax?


                Meanwhile, Neil wrote:

                > But the
                > description of Jesus' fear and "psychic sorrows" surely serves to
                extol him as
                > a greater David, role model and hero for the reader.
                >
                > The amazing thing for the reader or audience of this passage is that
                such
                > pressure and torment does not tempt Jesus to flee but stirs him to
                "stay and
                > watch"; more to the point, such distress prompts him to pray, as David
                also
                > did on the mount of Olives, for God's will, not his own, to be done.
                Such a
                > prayer, indeed the rest of the scene here, would lose all its dramatic
                impact
                > if the author had failed to portray any flesh-weakening anguish
                besetting the
                > central hero. The dramatic shock value of these verses serves to exalt
                Jesus
                > to awe-inspiring greatness in his ensuing mastery of his mental state.
                It is
                > at such a moment of personal crisis that he finds the wherewithal to
                seek to
                > save his disciples from their human weaknesses; to submit himself
                flint-like
                > to the will of God despite his fears; and rather than run he goes out
                to face
                > his betrayer. These verses serve to throw into high relief a Jesus
                character
                > that is every bit as courageous and pious and a true role-model for
                "everyman"
                > as David ever was. Without them we would have just another near
                mechanical,
                > probably forgettable, "prayer-for-deliverance".
                >
                > (While the meanings of the words chosen to describe this extreme
                anguish and
                > fear etc. may well include the notions of "indecisive" and "hesitant"
                in many
                > contexts, none of the actions or words of Jesus in response to these
                feelings
                > show any such traits. Quite the reverse.)

                This is all quite reasonable. In fact, I like it. However, just as
                Michael has avoided the question of how the portrayal of Jesus angst in
                the Garden can be shown to be consistent with his previous portrayal of
                Jesus, so also you avoid the question: How can you show that Jesus angst
                is a *Markan* creation? Perhaps you are approaching this with the
                "greater David" hypothesis. Can you tell us the various points at which
                Mark develops this theme? It seems odd, if this is his tendenz, that he
                has not included a Davidic birth narrative, as Matthew and Luke do.

                Michael closed with:
                > We also have to bear in mind that credibility and plausibility do not
                establish factuality.
                >

                Exactly. You (Neil) have posed a credible and plausible interpretations
                of Jesus' angst at Gethesemane, but have not demonstrated that it is a
                *Markan* creation. An ad hoc explanation, however plausible, is not
                adequate.

                Bob
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