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A modern radical itinerant? re: Luke 10 & Didache

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  • Bob Schacht
    Jesus is often depicted (e.g., Thiessen, Crossan, and others) as a radical itinerant. Luke 10 portrays Jesus sending out disciples on a trial run of a massive
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 8, 2001
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      Jesus is often depicted (e.g., Thiessen, Crossan, and others) as a radical
      itinerant. Luke 10 portrays Jesus sending out disciples on a trial run of a
      massive program of itinerancy. The Didache includes a program for
      discernment regarding these itinerants. But do we only have brief literary
      accounts of what
      that was like?

      If I may, I would like to suggest a modern parallel(?) as an experimental
      glimpse of what real life itinerancy of this kind might look like. Most of
      you probably don't know who Carl Joseph is. More than a year ago, he made
      the news because he was wandering around eastern Pennsylvania in a white
      robe with long hair and a beard, preaching the Gospel. Like the Seventy, he
      had virtually no possessions other than the clothes on his back. He either
      walks barefoot or maybe with sandals. Of course, his unusual attire (for
      the 21st century) and Sunday-school Jesus appearance drew lots of
      attention. He preached a somewhat standard, middle of the road, Catholic
      gospel. So far as I have been able to determine, there is nothing that
      distinguishes his Gospel from Catholic doctrine. He takes no money and,
      like the Seventy, he accepts hospitality from those whom he meets. I became
      fascinated with his case, wondering when it would be revealed that he was
      doing it all for some base motive, like money, or fame, or devoted
      disciples, but remarkably, he doesn't seem to care about any of those
      things. Someone asked him once if he ever preached the same Word while in
      normal 21st century clothes, and he apparently said yes, he tried that, but
      no one paid any attention. And yet, it seems that he does not want fame or
      glory. Unlike the Seventy, he makes no claim to heal or exorcise, although
      some have claimed to be healed by him, or by his presence (apparently in
      the fashion of the Woman with a Hemorrhage, who was healed by touching
      Jesus' robe, and not by any intentional act of healing.) One indication of
      this is that he does not use his name (Carl Joseph), but when asked what
      his name is, he simply turns the question back, saying "What's your name?",
      so that he has become known as "Whatsyourname." He does not appear to want
      any followers or disciples, and instead directs people's attention to
      conventional Catholic teachings. He does not pretend to have any
      particularly deep knowledge about the Bible, and yet when he speaks, he
      makes frequent reference to Biblical passages in a somewhat conventional way.

      Those who meet him seem always to come away with a favorable impression.
      Several Bishops in Eastern Pennsylvania have given him their blessing to
      speak at public gatherings (e.g. in Catholic schools and churches), but
      other Bishops want to see a Vitae and references, etc. before they will
      allow him to speak to high school students at Catholic schools. Since he
      has made no attempt to compile any such documents, some settings are closed
      to him. Thus we see the "discernment" process of the Didache being
      re-created, with some modern twists.

      Anyway, he spent some time in Hazelton, PA last year-- long enough that the
      media there has set up a web page with information about him. If you want
      to visit this site, go to the URL printed below, which leads to the media
      website. Look at the list in the sidebar on the left, going down the list
      until you see "Whatsyourname?" Click on that word, and your browser will
      take you to a web page that has some pictures of him, and links to a number
      of articles about him on the web (I have electronic copies of a number of
      the articles, some quite long). The information below was sent to me by a
      contact out East who has talked with Carl Joseph. That website is:

      www.samsonproductions.com


      I find this story fascinating. How long can one sustain a life of radical
      itinerancy? Jesus managed it, apparently, for 3 years at most, and for his
      pains was killed in degrading fashion. Do we know anything about the career
      of any other radical itinerant? Did any of them last more than 3 years? How
      about Paul? was he, in essence, a radical itinerant? If I recall correctly,
      the Didache basically says radical itinerants are OK so long as they stay
      on message, don't ask for money, and don't stay too long. Would Carl Joseph
      pass the Didache litmus test? Or, for that matter, would Paul-- who,
      famously, did ask for money, but not for himself?

      I hope this is not too far off topic. But sometimes I think our literary
      models need some reality testing.

      Bob
    • David C. Hindley
      ... it, apparently, for 3 years at most, and for his pains was killed in degrading fashion. Do we know anything about the career of any other radical
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 8, 2001
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        Bob Schacht asks:

        >>How long can one sustain a life of radical itinerancy? Jesus managed
        it, apparently, for 3 years at most, and for his pains was killed in
        degrading fashion. Do we know anything about the career
        of any other radical itinerant? Did any of them last more than 3
        years? How about Paul? was he, in essence, a radical itinerant? If I
        recall correctly, the Didache basically says radical itinerants are OK
        so long as they stay on message, don't ask for money, and don't stay
        too long. Would Carl Joseph pass the Didache litmus test? Or, for that
        matter, would Paul-- who, famously, did ask for money, but not for
        himself?<<

        Gerd Theissen, followed by Aaron Milavec, offer motivation for the
        wandering itinerants - shame and rage over the loss of everything they
        valued (property & family lost to debts) coupled with an intensified
        interest in end-times eschatology. Carl "Whatsyourname?" Joseph would
        not, I think, pass that test. He is penniless and wanders out of
        admiration for Jesus and a desire to imitate his example, at least as
        represented in the NT gospels.

        As for other examples of wandering itinerants, sometimes healers and
        exorcists, I'd suggest looking towards the "starets" (sp?) of the
        Russian Orthodox Church. FWIW, Rasputin was such a starets, and he
        followed a long and venerable tradition of such itinerants. I'd
        provide a reference, but cannot seem to locate the source. Starets is
        not in the index of _Making of Modern Russia_, so it was probably in
        _Nicholas & Alexandra_.

        Maybe, and I have only briefly checked this out before posting, a
        "Judaizing" tradition such as existed in the region of Kiev in the
        15th century CE lays behind the existence of these starets. If that
        were the case, it is possible that the Didache or the ideas of the
        people who wrote the Didache influenced the tradition as well. Robert
        Eisler treated this Judaizing movement in _Messiah Jesus_ (Methuen,
        1931, pp. 155-162). However, this was more of an ecclesiastical
        movement with popular overtones driven by political expediency, and
        Eisler mentions nothing of any itinerant factions. However, it might
        explain how itinerancy (in the form of Jewish-Christian radical
        itinerancy) could have entered the Russian Orthodox sphere.

        I *did* find an itinerant element in the 10th century and later
        Bogomil movement of Bulgaria, in their class of Perfects, which had
        its effect in Russia. See _A Study of Manicaeism in Bulgaria_
        (Carranza & Co, 1927). However, their primary influence was
        Manichaeism, not Judaism, unless the 9th century Jewish Khazar empire
        contributed to existing Russian traditions somehow.

        Anyhow, I think you will find the "starets" very interesting.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Rick Hubbard
        The report about Carl Joseph is intriguing. I m not certain either if it is off topic. Regardless, it seems to invite one to ponder about the nature of
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 8, 2001
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          The report about Carl Joseph is intriguing. I'm not certain
          either if it is "off topic." Regardless, it seems to invite one
          to ponder about the nature of "Radical Itinerancy."

          In particular it seems to me that it would be worthwhile to
          reconsider whether "Radical Itinerancy" is a manifestation, or
          symptom, of a deeper discontent. Perhaps it derives from a
          profound existential dissonance. When one is confronted with the
          observation that the structures of reality do not conform with
          individual or communal expectations, the response is
          unpredictable. Abandonment of convention is, however, not an
          unusual response to that realization.

          Itinerants, radical or otherwise, carry with them more baggage
          than we can see with our naked eyes! If one aspires to "see" that
          baggage, then certainly one must try to look beyond what is most
          observable (e.g., documentary artifacts).

          Rick Hubbard
          Humble Maine Woodsman
        • Bob Schacht
          ... So, at least in your eyes, Carl Joseph would not pass the *Thiessen-Milavec* test, but what of the Didache? One of the reasons for asking this question is,
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 8, 2001
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            At 02:30 PM 7/8/01 -0400, David C. Hindley wrote:
            >Bob Schacht asks:
            >
            > >>How long can one sustain a life of radical itinerancy? Jesus managed
            >it, apparently, for 3 years at most, and for his pains was killed in
            >degrading fashion. Do we know anything about the career
            >of any other radical itinerant? Did any of them last more than 3
            >years? ...Would Carl Joseph pass the Didache litmus test? Or, for that
            >matter, would Paul-- who, famously, did ask for money, but not for
            >himself?<<
            >
            >Gerd Theissen, followed by Aaron Milavec, offer motivation for the
            >wandering itinerants - shame and rage over the loss of everything they
            >valued (property & family lost to debts) coupled with an intensified
            >interest in end-times eschatology. Carl "Whatsyourname?" Joseph would
            >not, I think, pass that test. He is penniless and wanders out of
            >admiration for Jesus and a desire to imitate his example, at least as
            >represented in the NT gospels....

            So, at least in your eyes, Carl Joseph would not pass the
            *Thiessen-Milavec* test, but what of the Didache? One of the reasons for
            asking this question is, do Thiessen & Milavec adequately understand the
            motivations of the radical itinerants, or are they projecting modern
            liberal outrage onto them? The danger of the Thiessen-Milavec model for
            radical itinerancy is that it is in constant danger of spinning off-track
            into zealotry and overt rebellion. The historical roadside of Judea and
            Galilee is littered with the corpses of such attempts, even if some, like
            the Maccabean revolt, were successful. Most others were not, and led
            instead to Masada, the numerous insurrections recounted by Josephus, and
            the Bar Kochba revolt. But John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul represented
            something different, it seems to me. What I am wondering if Thiessen,
            Milavec and Crossan got the base idea of radical itinerancy correctly, but
            have misconstrued the motivations. I am not trying to deny that outrage
            over the loss of property, etc. was an issue. But it may provide an
            excessively materialist understanding of motivations.

            How is it that radical itinerancy based on outrage over loss of property
            could produce such literature as Matt 6:25-33//Luke 12:22-31//GTh 36--
            which, BTW, The Five Gospels rates as "pink" (i.e., probably historical),
            and they comment (T5G p. 152),
            Among the more important things Jesus said are a series of pronouncements
            on anxieties and fretting. It is possible that we have before us the
            longest connected discourse that can be directly attributed to Jesus, with
            the exception of some of the longer narrative parables. The parallels
            indicate that the bulk of the cluster on anxiety has been taken from Q,
            although a Greek fragment of Thomas also preserves some parts of the same
            discourse.

            Most of this discourse they identify with Matthew 6:25-34&// + Luke 12:26
            (no //) + Greek Thomas 36:3-4 (no //).

            And then of course there is Mark 6:8-11//Luke 10:1-12//Matt 10:1-15, in
            which poverty in radical itinerancy is worn like a badge of honor, with no
            talk of regaining possessions.

            Furthermore, if they were in a rage over being dispossessed, why would
            their literature include Acts 2:44-45 and 5:1-11 (Ananias & Sapphira)?

            I think radical itinerancy fits John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul, but it
            seems to me that Thiessen, Milavec and Crossan have misconstrued the
            motivations by placing outrage over loss of possessions as the defining
            issue. Radical itinerancy is *not*, IMHO, about materialism.

            Bob


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