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Chreiai Formation & Q

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  • Corey W. Liknes
    I have recently read an older article by Burton Mack in which he suggests that Cynic-like aphorisms associated with Jesus were elaborated upon or expanded by
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2001
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      I have recently read an older article by Burton Mack in which he suggests
      that Cynic-like aphorisms associated with Jesus were elaborated upon or
      expanded by the Q community (or other Jesus communities I suppose) for the
      purpose of social formation. (Burton Mack, "Q and a Cynic-like Jesus" in
      _Whose Historical Jesus?_ , Michael Desjardins & William Arnal, Eds.
      Waterloo, ON: 1997).

      I have two questions about this thesis. First, I have been made aware of the
      way in which chreiai are expanded into "stories," and I understand that what
      we have in Q3 (for example) fits the pattern of elaboration common to other
      chreiai. However, I wonder where these original sayings came from. Gerald
      Downing and Robert Price point out the connections with cynical sayings of
      the time, but why would these sayings have to have been associated with the
      teachings of Jesus? In other words, did someone just compile a compendium of
      cynical sayings out of thin air as it were, and then apply the name "Jesus"
      to them? And what purpose would that serve the author?

      On the other hand, perhaps many of these sayings were in fact things Jesus
      said. If we take that as a reasonable probability how does that affect the
      process of chreiai formation Mack talks about? I can imagine Jesus saying
      something like "Let the dead bury their own dead" in a particular context. I
      can then imagine these contextual situations--and the aphorisms that go
      along with them--being remembered in a kind of oral tradition for several
      years. Then perhaps someone decides to strip the aphorisms away from their
      context, to form a list like Q1. When the aphorisms are expanded upon
      "later" the expanders could have used features from the original context, or
      embellished it with a new narrative frame to fit the new social or religious
      realities of the authors' time. Does this happen? Is this a reasonable
      possibility?

      I guess I am just wondering how this concept of chreiai elaboration works.
      It seems to me that the elaboration cannot take place in a vacuum, but must
      instead be reliant to some degree on the original narrative context in which
      these statements were made -- unless of course the statements were never
      made by Jesus at all.

      Corey Liknes
      Prairie Bible College
      Three Hills, Alberta, Canada
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