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Re: [XTalk] How did Jesus pray?

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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