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Re: [XTalk] contruction of messiahship

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  • Jim West
    ... excellent question! messianic expectations differed from group to group in first century judaism... and you are right to point that out. what the word
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 4, 2000
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      At 08:06 AM 9/4/00 -0600, you wrote:

      >
      >The question is, however, whose vision of the Messiah was he? Or, more to
      >the point, which messianic expectation was Jesus supposed to fulfil? Jewish
      >peasant expectations, as Crossan notes? Perhaps, but wasn't 1st century
      >Jewish peasant culture somewhat xenophobic? I don't know how well Jesus'
      >message of breaking down the walls of separation between Gentile and Jew
      >(i.e. his proclamation, if we accept it, that his goal was not to make the
      >Gentiles Jewish, but to present both as children of the Father) would have
      >gone over with them. He certainly didn't fulfil zealot expectations -- at
      >least not fully -- and neither did he fulfil the expectations of the
      >Pharisees or other religious elites. I suppose in some ways he fulfilled the
      >Essene vision of "teacher of righteousness" -- but the post-easter
      >construction of Christ would not have thrilled them -- the Essene teacher
      >was not expected to be "divine" was he? So my question is simply which
      >vision of messiahship in 1st century Palestine would the emergent Jesus have
      >fulfilled: one of the visions, all of them, none of them? Or is the
      >messianic vision a wholly new one, perhaps a Gentile vision?
      >
      >Corey Liknes

      excellent question! messianic expectations differed from group to group in
      first century judaism... and you are right to point that out. what the word
      "messiah" denoted meant something different to the differing groups and you
      would get a different answer from each of them. there is an EXCELLENT
      collection of essays you will want to get a hold of which discuss this very
      issue:

      "The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity", ed. J.
      Charlesworth. Fortress.

      Best,

      Jim

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      "When the authorities are clever, and the poor are loyal, it is the effect
      of the blessing of Arrata" Sumerian Proverb.

      Jim West, ThD
      http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
    • Jeffrey B. Gibson
      ... Please note that I am sympathetic with what you are claiming here, but I wonder what it is that allows you to read the mind of Jesus with the certainty
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 4, 2000
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        forrest curo wrote:

        >
        > Jesus was certainly aware of his role, and certainly knew it was not what
        > the nationalists meant by "messiah."

        Please note that I am sympathetic with what you are claiming here, but I wonder what
        it is that allows you to read the mind of Jesus with the certainty which your
        statement indicates you feel you have on the matter?

        Your use of Ched Meyers [snipped here] to back up your statements seems to me to
        assume not only that Meyers' has got things right, but to ignore that what Meyers is
        expositing is **Mark's** portrait of Jesus, which cannot be assumed, without further
        argument, to be an accurate historical record of the HJ.

        While there is no doubt that the author of GMark believed Jesus to be the Messiah and
        portrays him as such, can we really take Mark's (or any other evangelist's) portrait
        of Jesus at face value?

        Yours,

        Jeffrey Gibson

        --
        Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
        7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
        Chicago, Illinois 60626
        e-mail jgibson000@...
      • Corey W. Liknes
        ... Messiah and ... evangelist s) portrait ... I don t want to get off topic here -- but do you think the writer(s) of Q believed Jesus to be the Messiah?
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 4, 2000
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          >
          Jeffrey Gibson wrote:

          > While there is no doubt that the author of GMark believed Jesus to be the
          Messiah and
          > portrays him as such, can we really take Mark's (or any other
          evangelist's) portrait
          > of Jesus at face value?

          I don't want to get off topic here -- but do you think the writer(s) of "Q"
          believed Jesus to be the Messiah? What about the writer of Gospel of Thomas?

          If Q's messiah and Mark's messiah are similar, then do we not have a couple
          of good, possibly early, fairly independent witnesses as to what kind of
          "messiah" we are talking about here? I would be interested to know how
          closely GTh resembles the other gospels on the question of messiahship --
          and what kind of Messiah GTh was interested in constructing.

          C. Liknes
        • Bob Schacht
          ... You are not off topic as long as you are asking the historical question: who believed what, and as long as we can accept the witness of written documents
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 4, 2000
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            At 01:39 PM 9/4/00 -0600, Corey W. Liknes wrote:

            >
            Jeffrey Gibson wrote:

            > While there is no doubt that the author of GMark believed Jesus to be the Messiah and
            > portrays him as such, can we really take Mark's (or any other
            evangelist's) portrait
            > of Jesus at face value?

            I don't want to get off topic here -- but do you think the writer(s) of "Q" believed Jesus to be the Messiah? What about the writer of Gospel of Thomas?

            You are not off topic as long as you are asking the historical question: who "believed" what, and as long as we can accept the witness of written documents as a surrogate for the author's belief statements.

            If Q's messiah and Mark's messiah are similar, then do we not have a couple of good, possibly early, fairly independent witnesses as to what kind of "messiah" we are talking about here? I would be interested to know how closely GTh resembles the other gospels on the question of messiahship -- and what kind of Messiah GTh was interested in constructing.

            These mostly seem like legitimate historical questions-- except for the question about "what kind of "messiah" we are talking about here?" In this question, you seem to be departing from the historical questions to a more problematic question about "who" Jesus was in a theological sense. Let's discern 3 kinds of questions here:
            1. What kind of messiah did various first century groups believe Jesus to be (or not be)?
            2. What kind of messiah, if any, did Jesus himself believe himself to be?
            3. Was Jesus the Messiah?

            The third question is not really a historical question, except if rephrased as "did Jesus fulfill [in a historical sense] any of these messianic expectations?"

            Your tactic of looking for the earliest witness to what kind of messiah various groups believed Jesus to be is certainly worthwhile, but won't necessarily get us much closer to *Jesus'* thoughts on the matter. In fact, one school of thought holds that *none* of them had it right, and that
            1. Jesus was trying in a radical way to shift messianic expectations from the views commonly held in the first century to an older (and less popular) prophetic perspective (e.g., the Servant messiah of Isaiah), or
            2. Jesus did not view himself as messiah at all, and that this interpretation was the creation of friends and followers after his crucifixion.

            There is actually not that much distance between these two views.

            Bob
          • Richard Anderson
            ... Corey, greetings: I recall that there was discussion on this list about a recently published fragment from Qumran, 4Q521, that is strikingly like a
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 4, 2000
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              > At 01:39 PM 9/4/00 -0600, Corey W. Liknes wrote:

              Corey, greetings:

              I recall that there was discussion on this list about a recently published
              fragment from Qumran, 4Q521, that is strikingly like a messianic description
              from an early strand of Jesus tradition in Luke 7:18-23.

              Richard H. Anderson
            • Corey W. Liknes
              Dear Bob et al. Thank you for responding to my questions. Perhaps I should now clarify some of my questions. Bob, you noted 3 main questions that one could ask
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 5, 2000
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                Dear Bob et al.
                 
                Thank you for responding to my questions. Perhaps I should now clarify some of my questions. Bob, you noted 3 main questions that one could ask re: messiahship:
                 
                Bob wrote:
                1. What kind of messiah did various first century groups believe Jesus to be (or not be)?
                2. What kind of messiah, if any, did Jesus himself believe himself to be?
                3. Was Jesus the Messiah?

                My interest is in the relationship between the first 2 above; the third one -- as you noted -- is really a question of faith rather than historical inquiry. I am trying to determine why Jesus might have been so popular in 1st century Palestine if he did not really fulfill any Messianic expectations, or at least not those of any major group; and secondly I am trying to determine why the gospel writers might have constructed the messiahship of Jesus the way they did. In other words, if Messianic expecations were at marked variance with the picture Jesus painted of himself, AND with the picture the disciples painted of him after his disappearance, how do we explain his appeal, and the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah by large numbers of Jews and Gentiles?
                 
                Bob wrote:
                Your tactic of looking for the earliest witness to what kind of messiah various groups believed Jesus to be is certainly worthwhile, but won't necessarily get us much closer to *Jesus'* thoughts on the matter. In fact, one school of thought holds that *none* of them had it right, and that
                1. Jesus was trying in a radical way to shift messianic expectations from the views commonly held in the first century to an older (and less popular) prophetic perspective (e.g., the Servant messiah of Isaiah), or
                2. Jesus did not view himself as messiah at all, and that this interpretation was the creation of friends and followers after his crucifixion.
                And these two possibilities are really the crux of the matter aren't they? My earlier posting asked the question as to whether all of the extant writings agreed in some way on the issue of Messiahship. If Q and GTh seem to support the claims of messiahship made by the writers of the canonical gospels then it would seem to me that we have two attempts at "construction" which turn out remarkably similar either by coincidence, or more plausibly because the writers observed Jesus and reported faithfully the way in which he presented himself. Of course, this argument is contingent on points of similarity between GTh (in particular) and the other writings. Is this not the same method we use to suggest that John's gospel must be older, probably written by a number of writers, and heavily influenced by late first-century "theology"? We note the disimilarity between John and the synoptic gospels and that causes us to think that John must be "constructing" something a little different.
                 
                As always my questions here are an attempt at understanding rather than argument. I appreciate all of the responses very much.
                 
                Blessings
                 
                Corey W. Liknes
                Arts and Sciences Department
                Prairie Bible College
                Three Hills, Alberta
                CANADA  T0M 2N0

                 
                 
              • forrest curo
                Okay, we have little fuss beginning here. I started by saying that ... wonder what ... That was an excellent question, although I am unsympathetic with what
                Message 7 of 7 , Sep 5, 2000
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                  Okay, we have little fuss beginning here. I started by saying that
                  >> Jesus was certainly aware of his role, and certainly knew it was not what
                  >> the nationalists meant by "messiah."

                  and a list-mate responded:
                  >Please note that I am sympathetic with what you are claiming here, but I
                  wonder what
                  >it is that allows you to read the mind of Jesus with the certainty which your
                  >statement indicates you feel you have on the matter?

                  That was an excellent question, although I am unsympathetic with what its
                  author was implying. Namely, that certainty as to what Jesus was up to is
                  inevitably out of reach. I think we can work (are working) through a series
                  of increasingly illuminating approximations. Admittedly, I have many times
                  said "That's IT!" when some new writer would add an unexpected insight to
                  my portrait-in-progress, only to have someone later come along and
                  completely transform it, while somehow bringing it closer to the original
                  intuition.

                  I claim that I can read the mind of Euclid because there is an internal
                  logic at work that would allow me to reconstruct what he was about even if
                  much of his text was missing.

                  In the case of Jesus, I think we can assume that he was intently aware of
                  the religious traditions of his people, at least in an oral formulation,
                  which would have laid heavy emphasis on the prophets against the
                  centralised monarchy and the Temple priesthood (coming from Galilee, with a
                  pretty strongly- attested sympathy towards the rural poor of the area.)
                  What he is quoted as saying, particularly in Mark, alludes to passages in
                  the prophets that are thoroughly appropriate, assuming that he knew what he
                  was saying and doing, and intended precisely what he did say and do, which
                  seems a fair enough assumption.

                  >Your use of Ched Meyers [snipped here] to back up your statements seems to
                  me to
                  >assume not only that Meyers' has got things right, but to ignore that what
                  Meyers is
                  >expositing is **Mark's** portrait of Jesus, which cannot be assumed,
                  without further
                  >argument, to be an accurate historical record of the HJ.

                  Meyers claims no more than that this is a portrait of Jesus as seen by the
                  community in which Mark was written. But this does seem to be the first
                  gospel written, which gives its portrait the best claim to authenticity,
                  and gives that community some claim to being closest to the understanding
                  and practice Jesus was inculcating. This is the best evidence we're going
                  to get.

                  Furthermore, this portrait coheres and matches the most plausible picture
                  we have been able to construct of the situation in rural Galilee at the time.
                  The portrait is clearer and more accurate if you add What's-his-name's
                  Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God to the mix. He takes Crossan's
                  thinking a little further, gets rid of the wandering cynics, grounds things
                  in the scriptures Jesus would certainly have known, as a Jew with a
                  religious vocation certainly would.
                  The question as to why Jesus would answer "Heal me" with "Your sins are
                  forgiven"--Well, Crossan sheds some light but this guy takes it further,
                  and makes it very clear why this, which does NOT claim that Jesus was doing
                  the forgiving, so much angered the religious authorities. ie He was
                  infringing on their racket as well as the view of the world which made
                  these people cursed and them blessed agents of God's will. Well, Crossan
                  does get into that...
                  He was very illuminating as to why Jesus answered the rich landowner (the
                  camel-through-the-needle-eye person) the way he did.
                  But what Jesus was doing in the Temple is central. When (WISH I remembered
                  his name!) starts digging through the passage in Jeremiah where "den of
                  robbers" came from, it gets pretty obvious that Jesus was doing much the
                  same as Jeremiah in the same place. The possibility that this incident is
                  simple midrashing plus biography-by-prophecy-stretching, well... The
                  incident made it into all the canonicals, but being in the first would make
                  that likely. The incident is consistent with the Temple establishment being
                  angry enough to turn Jesus over to the Romans, and in fact is the best
                  explanation of "Why did they do it THEN?" Finally, it is consistent with
                  the picture of Jesus pretty consistently standing with the
                  downtrodden-and-outcast population against the religious establishment of
                  the day, which was pretty clearly a crushing burden on people who would
                  have been precarious enough without that.

                  While I doubt that the early Friends (Quakers) were REALLY restoring
                  original Christianity (as they certainly intended) there are probably
                  instructive parallels with how they fared in northern rural areas, where
                  the established church personnel had been largely withdrawn for some time
                  due to civil war, while the tithes were burdensome & the benefits of
                  establishment clergy-service questionable.

                  >
                  >While there is no doubt that the author of GMark believed Jesus to be the
                  Messiah and
                  >portrays him as such, can we really take Mark's (or any other
                  evangelist's) portrait
                  >of Jesus at face value?

                  No.

                  There is another assumption of mine which you may take vehement exception
                  to. The prophets were right. Israel's history (and our own) coheres. Jesus
                  came when he did and said what he said because this plays a part in God's
                  plans for this world. I don't have to be privy to the blueprints or the
                  timetable (or even persuaded that God's needs to work with anything so
                  tight & mechanical--perhaps he simply "grows" history with a little
                  watering now & then) to postulate that history makes sense (even to me
                  sometimes) and that Jesus' mission fits into that sense.
                  Is this a no-no in historical reasoning, a reversion to letting pious
                  devotion to doctrine determine our conclusions? I THINK there is a
                  distinction. Furthermore, while I prefer my history accurate & defensible,
                  my purpose is not to "do" historian proceedure, but to find out Jesus'
                  practice (& the spirit in which it was conducted) as a guide to my own.
                  As far as we know, Jesus never wrote (or more to the point, dictated) a
                  book. Our historical information on him will never be closer than second
                  hand. And I think that this was God's intention, that we would never have a
                  document that we could safely give more authority than our own intuition &
                  inspiration. We have seen how tyrannical religious establishments could get
                  even by wielding extremely questionable sources of authority--& if we'd
                  had an unimpeachable statement of Jesus' doctrine the authorities would no
                  doubt have imposed it on us all, entirely losing sight of what it MEANT.

                  Hmmm. Forgive us our verbosities!

                  Forrest Curo
                  San Diego
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