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Re: [XTalk] How did Jesus pray?

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  • 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 1 of 7 , Apr 9, 2000
      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.

      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
      > > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > that is every bit as courageous and pious and a true role-model for
      > as David ever was. Without them we would have just another near
      > 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
      > 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

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