James and "the Way"/(earliest Christianity)
Thanks for this reply. As you will note I have changed the subject line
to befit this conversation. These brief posts we've and others have
exchanged raise the very large issue of how we understand the stages of
group development related to HJ and friends/ "followers." Let me try to
present the basics of the model of understanding I propose in response
to some of your particular inquiries.
>First... a terminology clarification. I think "the Way" refers to the
> --- Gordon Raynal wrote:
> > Mike ... Your view seems to rest in "the Way" (to use the earliest
> > title) coming into being as a discipleship movement started by HJ.
> I guess the use of the word 'Yeshuines' must have given that
> unintended impression. "The Way" would be what I was calling
> 'Resurrection-Yeshuinism', and that would have been post-Easter,
> of course, and must certainly have included _some_ of J's own
> thinking, but of course it would not have been simply J's program
> (whatever that was) with resurrection tacked onto it.
coherent (yet surely diverse) reconciliation movement of which Jesus,
some of his family members, other key folks mentioned in the materials
we have were a part of. So let me get at the roots issue, the coming
together of a distinct social entity and the development of subgroups
from the original...
>Again... the issue this raises is group formation, the stages thereof
> > Just FYI, I think that "the Way" had its roots in and among a
> > circle of friends and that the key folks we hear about were all,
> > in their on way, in on the movement towards a group with an
> > articulated "mission and message." Thus I think Jesus, by
> > virtue of his startling "voice," became ... the groups' key
> > parabler in life and THE PARABLE in death).
> Of course this kind of thing has happened (some rather unsavory
> characters spring to mind),
and the roles of known individuals...
but any evidence for it in this case?
...I would propose the following to understand this process and herein
the evidences for this as relates to "the Way"/ later "Christianity:"
1. Rather than starting with "parties/ sects" per se, I want to begin
with the idea of individuals and groups who articulate ("profess")/ do
theology and ethics in a certain sort of way. The Hebrew Scriptures
contain a number of "theo-ethical paradigms," of course, and these show
a redactionary history. (for single simple reference think of "the
Classical Prophetic paradigm" and the developments in the Isaianic
literature). One of those paradigms is a wisdom theological and ethical
articulation. The Hebrew Scriptures contain not only wisdom words/
sayings, but also sections and whole works of wisdom. Wisdom comes in
what can be described as 3 types... common wisdom, characterological
wisdom and parabolic (transformative wisdom). Such as Proverbs contains
a collection of all three types. Jonah and Ruth are parabolic/
transformational wisdom works. Thus in terms of long roots we have
speakers/ authors/ writers who did theology and ethics from this
articulation base and those for whom this articulation/ paradigm was the
centrally operative one in the Hebraic/ Jewish past.
2. The intertestimental literature shows a continuation of the
production of these kinds of works and thus reveals a continuation of
those so oriented.
3.The period of time from the rise of the Roman hegemony... especially
pronounced after Augustus smashed Antony and Cleopatra... and the rise
therefore of HTG to the throne --to-- the beginning of the 1st century
of the Common Era was a time of a whole flurry of articulations and
experiments in voicing the ancient/ received faith in light of this era
of incredible changes. Looking to ca. 100ff. CE we know of 5 enduring
movements that survived and/or came into being or newly into being.
Rabbinic Judaism arose out of especially the Pharisaic articulation of
the faith. Samaritanism survived and continued on. The followers of
John the Baptizer (some at least) forged a continuing movement that
would be known as Mandeanism. Gnostic/ "spiritualists?" wrote and
formed groups. And "the Way"/ Christianity came into being. All of
these groups drew from the Hebraic heritage. Who knows exactly how many
others there might have been/ might have endured? (The Essenes, of
course, come to mind... the followers of Honi the Circle Drawer, etc.)
But again... all of these survived and as they worked out of a common
heritage mixed and borrowed from that heritage and as time went on...
from each other.
In this huge exciting mix... the parabolic/ transformational wisdom
words of Jesus did stand out... thus Josephus notes Jesus among the many
and precisely calls him a "sophos aner." Just as a general point... I
think "like minds" tend to congregate... and I think "wisdom sorts"/
"sages" (if you will tend to find one another). With a heritage behind
them and in light of the rapidly changing circumstances I think a
congregating of those with similar articulations should be surmised.
4. Although it is hard to tell as specific biographical data is lacking,
the resources we have seem to indicate that "this congregating" was
multigenerational. For purposes of a thought model/ not exact parallel
I would point you to the development of the Civil Rights movement
regarding most especially African Americans. This movement has a long
history with many groups and many important individuals. In a nutshell,
Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in Martin Luther, Sr. (and moms!)
household. In the 1950's a circle of friends and colleagues formed a
new movement in relation to the rapidly changing circumstances and
dissastisfaction with the traditional groups response. Thus in the mix
of the tensions in Alabama... the brave action of Rosa Parks... King and
friends formed the SCLC. Others formed yet other groups out of
different paradigms/ articulations (thus we also in the years to come
got such as C.O.R.E., the Black Panthers, the Black Muslims came to the
fore... and then Malcolm X split off from the main group). At any
rate... and sticking with King and friends... they articulated afresh
and in a new way the cause of Civil Rights. This was multi
generational. This came together as the result of many key players, but
King certainly stood out!
In like fashion, I'm proposing that Jesus, at least certain members of
his family, and friends and acquaintances were of the lineage, so to
speak, of the wisdom articulation of the theology and ethics of the
Hebraic faith... that this was shared across generations and across
lives... that the rapidly changing circumstances also enlivened
conversations/ reflections among "these sorts of Jews"... and that a
tumble of key events and a particular articulation brought "a fresh new
day" to this articulation/ paradigm of Hebraic theology. If you will
allow me an analogy from music: There was the guitar... and then Les
Paul attached an amplifier! Whole new musical possibilities and combos/
groups became possible out of this "renewed instrument." I think the
parables of HJ and a few key aphorisms were "amps;)!"
5. I think a whole series of events led to heightening conversations and
creativity that bumped up the talk and action across the board, but key
in Palestine... the proverbial straw that broke the camels back... that
aroused the wisdom sorts to respond in a more coherent group way was
dear old Pontius Pilate's (pardon) crashing onto the scene. I take G.
Mark's basic chronology of about an 18 month flurry of activity... from
John the B's "Baptismal Desert Theater;)!" to the articulation of a
house connecting reconciliation strategy to John's execution to Jesus'
own "Jerusalem protest" to his execution... as being one of those
concentrated "moments in time" that connected and organized "a
movement." The core reconciliation foci of this movement I've written
about before... the core is attested to in one way or another across the
texts we have. The historical reality I promote is that this was a
group happening/ organization process with a group of key people. Jesus
was "the keyest;)!," so to speak... but I think the other notables...
inclusive of some of Jesus' family members were also "key." Again back
to the Civil Rights era of the 1960's... mention "key figures" and there
are a number. Mention THE KEY figure... the one who spoke with a
clarity, acted with integrity and in his person "embodied" the ideas/
ideals and actions... well who comes to mind? (so to speak, "the name
that is above every name!"... well we know who go the holiday, roads,
buildings, squares, etc.) The process of the forming of tributes,
rituals of remembrance and continuation, holiday thoughts, "special
places" never takes long in human history in any old community. And
geniuses like Jesus... well it should come as no surprise.
6. The go to source/ resource for continuing articulation, reflection
and continuation was THE resource book... the Hebraic Scriptures, of
course. And what the writings we have reveal is a broadening and ever
widening access first and foremost of stories, themes, identifications,
etc. rooted in the TANAK. That one who spoke in parabolic ways about
"the Kingdom" would quickly be centrally identified as "the Anointed,"
"the Prince of Peace," "Imanuel," etc. should come as little surprise!
And this being the case... this midrashic reflection and the
articulation of a theology in relation to it... accounts first and
foremost for the ordering of all other relationships to the one
understood to be THE PARABLE. Obviously... there's only ONE king;)! In
a heritage wherein the King is an agent of forgiveness, among other
things... all are going to need to be shown to absolutely need that!
And indeed the other key leaders are going to be shown as "needing it
the most!" (thus Peter's huge mistake in identification and denial/
James and John Z's power hunger and put-down... and along in years later
dear old Paul getting in on this game and proclaiming himself "right up
there";)! ("chief of sinners"). [see below for my thoughts about James
the Just/ Thomas... perhaps Simon, one of the Mary's and Salome]
7. I think one thing that accounts for the original circle of key folks
was the nicknaming/ and/ or trait or place association, and I wonder if
Jesus wasn't responsible for this as there is an aphoristic/ tongue in
cheek part of this that is consistent with Jesus' use of humor in a
number of Jesus' parables and aphorisms. James had a nickname, Judas
did... perhaps of those later listed as part of the 12... the Simon
there is one of the brothers. (James the Just/ Judas Thomas/ Simon "the
Cananean"/ and of "Zealot"). This is surely guess work, but I think
going along with the above this goes together as a part of cohering of a movement.
This has been rather long and winding... but to conclude simply... I
think there is a heritage... and association of like minded folks... a
new articulation in rapidly changing circumstances... and among those a
genius voice... who when "killed for the cause"... not surprisingly
became the very "living embodiment" rallying center. Some would go on
focusing on like deeds. Some would study Scripture and write. Some
would focus on his words. Some would focus on his death. Some would
focus on "his spiritual presence." Some would seek to articulate old
practices in a new way. Some would shun the old and come up with new
modes of celebration. And so on... And all this we see in the records
we have. And so a faith heritage was enlivened and articulated in a very
> And what stage do you think this "circle of friends" was at inNo, I mean James son of Joseph... Jesus' brother.
> their "movement towards a group" when Jesus was executed? Seems
> like the effort must have been well underway. But since you think
> there was no "discipleship movement started by HJ", I'm curious
> as to how you would differentiate this from that.
> > Thus I think such as James and Simon (also bearers of nicknames)
> > were a part all along.
> Well, if you mean Jacob bar Zebedee, then I certainly wouldn't
But with respect to Jacob 'the Righteous', the issue
> isn't so clear-cut. The JSem voted the saying "Those here who doI think they and many others have turned to a beloved modern
> what my Father wants are my brothers and my mother" (GTh99) pink,
> and thought the most likely context for its utterance would have
> been an attempt by some family members to "take him away" (T5G,
> p.525). It seems unlikely that the family would have had reason
> to act this way toward Jesus if another brother (Jacob) had also
> been part of the group, but in any case, this saying seems to cut
> against the relatively cozy and peaceful scenario you suggest, so
> I'm wondering how you deal with it?
psychological/ family dynamics hermeneutic to talk about those words and
those scenes. I think this aphorism is first and foremost about the
First Commandment as it intersects with the 5th. I think it does
contain a sharp twist, but I think the use of this in Mark was first
theological... again there can only be one king, second
organizational... and the extant synoptics are in the business of
supporting Peter and the 12 as the originals... and then later in
Matthew/ John and Luke... polemical regarding the in-group politics.
But from HJ... I think these sayings are provocatively amusing. Oh I
have no doubt that Jesus "had issues" with family... what individuals/
families don't;)? But I think that sort of interpretation in the 5G is
full of modernistic concerns as relates to psychological interpretation.
As a side note... I think all this rumination about Jesus being distant
from family... perhaps illegitimate... not having a Dad... or trouble
with mom and dad and sibs... is a bunch of silly nonsense;)!
Well... This has run rather long and may not get at your points. What I
wanted to do is sketch out an alternative way to conceive of the era and
the people involved. I hope this helps a bit.