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Re: [XTalk] Re: Apologetics

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  • Jan Sammer
    From: Rikki E. Watts ... a ... point ... As insignificant as it was, we know that Paul managed to appeal his case to the highest
    Message 1 of 22 , Feb 27, 2002
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      From: "Rikki E. Watts" <rwatts@...>

      > ... Why, in the early days of the movement (within thirty years or
      > so), would a pagan buy a book, replete with thoroughly Jewish elements (in
      > society that was somewhat anti-semitic), that defended Jesus? At this
      > the early Xn movement seems far too insignificant for someone to write an
      > apologetic for it.

      As insignificant as it was, we know that Paul managed to appeal his case to
      the highest court in the Empire ca. 58 A.D. (64 A.D. being the more commonly
      accepted date). Paul's accusers, specifically the lawyer Tertullus, employed
      by the High Priest Ananias, were claiming in effect that he was spreading a
      religio prava; it was up to Paul's defenders to try to show that on the
      contrary, he had been preaching the true form of Judaism, a religo licita.
      They were thus at pains to show that 1) Jesus was the long-awaited messiah
      of Israel and 2) not a threat to Rome. It was this urgent need, I submit,
      that coerced Paul's defenders to draw up their apologias in the form of
      hagiographies of Jesus. Of course these postulated apologias/hagiographies
      are not necessarily identical with any of our extant gospels. They may more
      in the nature of what the late Brian Wilson called Notebooks, which in his
      view served as the common source of all three synoptics.

      > That kind of thing seems to be more of second century
      > phenomenon than a mid-first century one. It seems more likely to me that
      > the gospels were written to be read to believers (but this without
      > the more structured liturgical proposals). In terms of Mark I think he is
      > writing to Christians in Rome and tackling the same kinds of issue Paul
      > raises in Rom 9-11: if this Jesus business really was the fulfillment of
      > IsraelĀ¹s hopes then why did Israel by and large reject it (and as a
      > subsequent theme, which made the first question more pressing, why are we
      > suffering?)?.

      Recall in this context that Israel's rejection took the concrete form of
      legal action against Paul by the High Priest Ananias, advised by his lawyer
      Tertullus. If we are to believe Acts on this, the Jewish High Priest went
      personally to Caesarea in the company of his lawyer to press the case
      against Paul with Felix, the Governor of Judea. The case against Paul was
      indeed a high-profile one. The legal machinery of Rome's highest court took
      at least two years to prepare the case for trial. Are we to believe that
      Paul's followers did nothing in that period of time to prepare a defense of
      Paul before the Roman authorities? If they did write a defense, as we must
      presume they did, it would have to be a piece of writing acceptable to
      gentile ears, yet of necessity dealing with the issues of Jewish law that
      were at stake in the trial. Such a defense brief would have to contain a
      biography of the one that Paul described as the Messiah of Israel, the
      reasons why he should be considered such (miracles, healings), and above all
      the shameful way he had been treated by the Temple establishment. In an
      attempt to turn the tables against Paul's accusers, such a defense would
      surely try to explain that Jesus had been unjustly accused by the High
      Priest and Sanhedrin, the very institutions that had now conspired against
      Paul, and executed by the Roman procurator at their instigation and against
      the procurator's own better judgment. In an attempt to defend Paul's
      flaunting of the strictures of Jewish law, the apologia or defense of Paul
      might be expected to contain authoritative statements by the Jewish messiah
      Jesus sanctioning the flaunting of these strictures. The defense might
      further be expected to try to distance Jesus from some of his more
      embarrassing followers, such as Peter, who had caused trouble in the
      provinces, and even influential family members, such as James, who opposed
      Paul. These followers, the apologia would be expected to allege, had failed
      to understand Jesus' true teaching, as well as failing him personally.

      Thus in terms of genre, an issue raised on this list a number of times in
      recent postings, the outlines of the hypothetical defense of Paul are
      congruent with the outlines GMark or possibly those a pre-synoptic Notebook
      on which the gospel writers depended.

      Jan Sammer
      Prague, Czech Republic
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