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James and "the Way"/(earliest Christianity)

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  • Gordon Raynal
    Mike, 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2001
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      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.

      mgrondin@... wrote:
      > --- 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.

      First... a terminology clarification. I think "the Way" refers to the
      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...
      > > 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),

      Again... the issue this raises is group formation, the stages thereof
      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
      inviting way...

      > And what stage do you think this "circle of friends" was at in
      > 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
      > disagree.
      No, I mean James son of Joseph... Jesus' brother.

      But with respect to Jacob 'the Righteous', the issue
      > isn't so clear-cut. The JSem voted the saying "Those here who do
      > 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?

      I think they and many others have turned to a beloved modern
      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.

      Gordon Raynal
      Inman, SC
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