Re: [GTh] Authorship and Dating GTh
- Tom Wrote: "Professor Russell's approach assumes that the author had a point which may not be true with GTh. In addition, it may take some considerable [sic] redaction on out [sic] part of the current GTh to arrive at a text that contains the original author's intent even if there is one."
Rick Replies: What you seem to be saying here is that we (readers) must redact" (=excise) the text until the remnants cohere with a pre-determined menu of possible intentions. That, it seems to me, imposes an extreme injustice to the text as it stands now.
Tom Wrote: "However, these difficulties do not mean we shouldn't try it because most authors of texts DO have a purpose. In my view, simply dismissing a GTh as a list of sayings is a decision that should be revisited using the varied and creative capabilities of this forum. We should try to make sense of GTh using whatever method we desire to postulate the original text."
Rick Replies: First, I concur that nothing is written without a reason. For example if I write a phone number on a sticky note, I probably did so because I want to call the number later. Of course there are other possibilities as well. Maybe I want to give that number to someone else for some reason. Maybe I want to find out who the number belongs to. Hell, maybe I just like to collect phone numbers; who knows?
Second, I somewhat agree that "dismissing GTh as a list of sayings" is not a good tactic, but at the same time we can't deny that it COULD be just a list of sayings (perhaps similar, for example, to the Sentences of Sextus" or even that is a repository of snippets recovered from discarded manuscripts in a trash heap). Whether or not there exists the necessary competencies held by the members of this forum to appropriately revisit the issue is another matter. Personally, I would prefer to discuss the arguments about "authorship and dating "already made in peer reviewed literature (although I concede that you do not agree with this approach)
Tom Wrote: " .., I can personally assure this group that this process had provided me new insite [sic] into various NT texts and those conclusions are often at odds with respected scholars conclusions."
Rick Replies: When a single individual is "often at odds with respected scholars" I immediately see a red flag. It prompts me to wonder about the qualifications said individual might have in order to be so frequently in disagreement with credentialed scholars. I wonder also about the depth and breadth of research (beyond the two works of Malina and Rohrbaugh, both of which are secondary works). Has the person done research on the PRIMARY texts involved (which begs the further question, "Does the person have competency in the original languages?").
Finally, arbitrarily discarding portions of the text of GTh "on the assumption that they were added to provide legitimancy [sic]" in order to arrive at a more workable text is simply bad, bad scholarship for anyone. I repeat what I said above: "That, it seems to me, imposes an extreme injustice to the text as it stands now."
BTW, would you be considerate enough to spell-check your posts before you send them (or have you decided to be "at odds" with spelling conventions?).
- Reply To: Rick HubbardIf you are of the opinion that my approach presented is ill advised or will likely be unfruitful, I can certainly understand your position.However, some of your comments underline why I tend to distrust conventional scholars. For example, estimates range from 2%-4% literacy to 5%-10% with literacy concentrated in the upper classes so it is unlikely you would be unable to make a list of phone numbers and even if you could, it would be difficult and expensive given the writing apparatus of the day. This is the point that Malina makes, that the culture was vastly different in NT times and we need to remove or colored glasses of our 21st century industrial revolution society in order to understand the texts of that time. It is possible, but very unlikely, that the original GTh was simply a list of sayings in an unorganized manner.Another lesson from cultural anthropology is that detailed study of the text without understanding the culture is unfruitful. As you rightly point out, the sayings of Jesus were spoken in Aramaic, written down in Greek and the copy we have is Coptic. What is left out is that the sayings were spoken by Jesus in Aramaic, distributed orally in Aramaic, translated orally from Aramaic to Greek and written down much later in Greek and later in Coptic. (We have Greek and partially Greek speaking churches long before any of the Gospels were written) When Luke researched his Gospel/Acts he noted that there were many written text and eyewitnesses remaining and he identifies both a sources. So, scholars conclude that Matthew/Luke is dependent on Mark (and a Q document) and Thomas is dependent on all three or maybe all three were dependent on Thomas when cultural anthropology says the eyewitness source would be preferred. Possibly nobody is dependent on anybody for all simply used the same oral source. In fact one writer states that he would rather talk with companions of the Apostles than consult the text.An example of interpretation from social science is the curious statements of female becoming male (GT114). However in Lk 10:38-42 we have Malina’s commentary that Martha was acting properly (in the role of a woman) while Mary was acting improperly (in the role of a man) yet Jesus commends Mary (“has chosen the good part” NASB) Malina talks about 1st century culture being high-context (everybody knew their roles). Lk 10:38-42 may well have been instantly understood as Jesus commending Mary as rejecting the woman’s role in favor of the man’s. Therefore I am not so sure that GT 114 has no parallel in a Synoptic. The concept may be there but not the text.In fact I am looking at a recurring thread in GT where Jesus is saying that one must throw off the roles defined by society in light of NT teaching that makes the identical point once one understands the culture.Regards,Tom Reynolds
- Tom- It looks like you found a spell checker. Many thanks.
Tom Writes: If you are of the opinion that my approach presented is ill advised or will likely be unfruitful, I can certainly understand your position.
Rick Replies: Let me clarify. I have no objection to the idea of examining GTh against its socio/political backdrop (insofar as that is possible). Many of the scholars that you seem to hold in disdain are doing that very thing. I daresay, however, they have prepared for their work by reading more than just a few commentaries. Unless and until you can demonstrate that you are equally well prepared I am not likely to be persuaded by someone who proclaims a demonstrated history of "being at odds with the conclusions of respected (or at least well-credentialed) scholars.
Tom Writes: <snip> "….. [C]ulture was vastly different in NT times and we need to remove or [sic] colored glasses of our 21st century industrial revolution society in order to understand the texts of that time."
Rick Replies: What you write is a truism if there ever was one. We are no less than 17 or 18 centuries temporally removed from the probable time of composition for the Gospel of Thomas manuscript. It is written in a language few people can even name, much less read. We know with near certainty that there is a Hellenistic Greek vorlage behind the sayings manuscript. It is also likely that there may have been some other antecedents to the Coptic version of Thomas, perhaps in written in Aramaic and Syriac. How do you propose to divine the "author's purpose" unless you have competency in at least **some** of those languages? (Of course maybe you do have such competency, however given your independent streak, I'd be surprised if you have bothered to take the time to become even vaguely familiar with them.) Moreover, the vast cultural difference of which you speak extends far beyond the matters of time and language. Aside from reading about the culture of the Levant during the early centuries of the Common Era, how do you propose to merely remove "21st century colored glasses" and gain intimate cultural familiarity?
Tom Writes: <snip> ". . . .[T]he sayings were spoken by Jesus in Aramaic, distributed orally in Aramaic, translated orally from Aramaic to Greek and written down much later in Greek and later in Coptic.
Rick Replies: Let me just ask: Can you cite two or more credible secondary sources that concur and two that do not agree with this summary? It sounds to me like you are picking and choosing that which suits your fancy without acknowledging that this matter is not firmly settled.
Tom Writes: (We have Greek and partially Greek speaking churches long before any of the Gospels were written).
Rick replies: This is an interesting assertion, Tom. What date would you assign to the composition of "the gospels"? What do you mean by "partially Greek speaking"? How would you define a "church"?
Tom Writes: "So, scholars conclude that Matthew/Luke is dependent on Mark (and a Q document) and Thomas is dependent on all three. . . ."
Rick Replies: Your flair for making broad (and often unsubstantiated) assertions is of truly biblical proportions, Tom. I am flabbergasted that you have managed to condense a century's worth of Synoptic problem research into such a dramatically over-simplified and misleading sentence. Have you heard of the Farrer theory? How about the Griesbach hypothesis? What do you make of Mark Goodacre's book, The Case Against Q?
Finally: Tom, did you really mean to say that you are "….looking at a recurring thread in GT where Jesus is saying that ONE MUST THROW OFF THE ROLES DEFINED BY SOCIETY IN LIGHT OF NT TEACHING. . ."? Of course you didn't say that. I took it waaaaay out of context but it really struck me as amusing after I butchered the sentence a bit.
- To: GThos
In Comment on: a remark of Rick Hubbard
I recently posted a comment on methodology with texts, not much at variance
with much of what Rick says in his most recent post. At one point, however,
I think a correction might be in order.
Tom Reynolds: . . . So, scholars conclude that Matthew/Luke is dependent on
Mark (and a Q document) . . .
Rick [Addressing Tom]: Have you heard of the Farrer theory? How about the
Griesbach hypothesis? What do you make of Mark Goodacre's book, The Case
Bruce: I, for one, have heard of these and other theories. But if we fairly
survey the recent NT scene, I cannot think that it is objectionable to
describe the consensus as Markan Priority Plus Q.
Other stuff is certainly out there, but at the fringes. It is true that the
fringes have been getting a lot of play at recent SBL meetings. Matthean
Priority (Griesbach), Johannine Priority, the 2nd century Luke; you name it,
and SBL 2013 has a panel devoted to it. That is a fact with its own
historical basis, a basis which it would perhaps be indiscreet to examine
As for Farrer (or Farrer-Goulder) in particular, I suggest looking at
Michael Goulder's last writings. In them he speaks of convincing his
colleagues as a matter in the possible future tense. He does not speak of
that theory as having conquered the world of NT scholarship, or even as
having a secure position of acceptance within a substantial part of it. That
other persons since Michael died (2010) have continued to explore it, and
even advocate it, is true. But that truth probably does not overturn
Michael's own sense of how far FG had progressed, in the academy of his day.
If MkG, who is present, has a different sense of the state of the balance of
present-day NT opinion, he is perhaps the right person to give it. Pending
which, Mk/Q strikes me as a fair description of what most NT persons who
think about the matter at all, actually think.
Not that the majority, or even the consensus (presumably a supermajority)
need be correct. My 7th grade civics teacher used to surprise the class by
saying, The majority are always wrong. But that is a different question than
what the majority opinion IS.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Hi Jack -Even the first item in your long list of Mark-Thomas parallels indicates what'swrong with the list, namely that it doesn't show what you think it shows. Thefirst item (in Markan order) is L104, which in Thomas talks about fasting andpraying. But the Markan parallel doesn't mention praying. Nor does Matthew.But Luke does - in spite of the fact that the main emphasis of the pericope ison fasting, not prayer. So what's your explanation? That when Mark wrote hisgospel, he dropped the two mentions of prayer that were in his "notes" at thatpoint, and that later, Luke snuck it back in again? What this comes down to isthat it isn't sufficient to just compare Thomas and Mark. That's only the oneside of it. You also have to account for the prima facie contrary evidence ofuniquely Matthean and/or Lukan touches that are paralleled in Thomas butnot in Mark.Cheers,Mike G.
- So what's wrong with assuming a basic original Thomas was incorporated into a new Greek expanded edition/ revision/redaction of the Sayings of Jesus created circa 90-110 CE that also eclectically borrowed from the Matthean/Lukan Gospels along with other then-extant works. Must we assume a Matthean/Lukan dependence?Don't see it.Not that I agree with Jack's thesis. either.Ron McCannSaskatoon, Canada----- Original Message -----From: Mike GrondinSent: Sunday, February 10, 2013 3:19 PMSubject: Re: [GTh] Authorship and Dating GTh
Hi Jack -Even the first item in your long list of Mark-Thomas parallels indicates what'swrong with the list, namely that it doesn't show what you think it shows. Thefirst item (in Markan order) is L104, which in Thomas talks about fasting andpraying. But the Markan parallel doesn't mention praying. Nor does Matthew.But Luke does - in spite of the fact that the main emphasis of the pericope ison fasting, not prayer. So what's your explanation? That when Mark wrote hisgospel, he dropped the two mentions of prayer that were in his "notes" at thatpoint, and that later, Luke snuck it back in again? What this comes down to isthat it isn't sufficient to just compare Thomas and Mark. That's only the oneside of it. You also have to account for the prima facie contrary evidence ofuniquely Matthean and/or Lukan touches that are paralleled in Thomas butnot in Mark.Cheers,Mike G.
In Response To: Ron McCann
On: Original Thomas
Ron: So what's wrong with assuming a basic original Thomas was incorporated into a new Greek expanded edition/ revision/redaction of the Sayings of Jesus created circa 90-110 CE that also eclectically borrowed from the Matthean/Lukan Gospels along with other then-extant works. Must we assume a Matthean/Lukan dependence?
Bruce: What’s wrong with it is that the supposed “original Thomas” has not been displayed. What would seem to be required is to (1) strip present Thomas of all Synoptically related passages, and any others which can be argued to be secondary, and then (2) show that what is left makes consecutive sense as a text in its own right.
A complete account would also include (3) an assessment of the extent to which the addition of the Synoptic material (and any other passages thought to be late additions) changed the focus or content of the original Thomas.
I would be content to see (1) and (2). Without at least that much of a statement of the hypothesis, I don’t see that there is anything to discuss.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- [Ron McCann, emphasis mine]:So what's wrong with assuming a basic original Thomas was incorporated into a new Greek expanded edition/ revision/redaction of the Sayings of Jesus created circa 90-110 CE that also eclectically borrowed from the Matthean/Lukan Gospels along with other then-extant works. Mustwe assume a Matthean/Lukan dependence? Don't see it.Hi Ron,I think 'assume' is the wrong word here, since it's surely wrong to assume eitherof the views you mention. If one thinks that Mark Goodacre (or someone else) haspresented a good case that some Greek GThom sayings mimic textual mannerismstypical of Matt or Luke, but not typical of GThom itself in general, that isn't anassumption, but rather a judgement about the strength of a case. As to your own (?)view, I wouldn't go as far as Bruce Brooks, in suggesting that it would be necessary tojettison all synoptic-related material in order to find a hypothetical original GThom (isn'tthat rather like jettisoning everything commonplace in order to find the authentic Jesus?),but I do agree that such a view can't be assumed, either. You may, of course, subscribeto the results of attempts by DeConick or others to do this sort of thing, but of coursethey themselves had to justify their views via the justification of their methodologies.Regards,Mike Grondin
- Isn't this basically what they do to uncover Q? (The original Jesus sayings)We do not know that the coptic sayings list , presumably from the Greek ,may have been modifiedafter the fact( been more or less aimed at responding to the Gospel or other accounts the Thomas community had issues with.Does that really make them dependent?RegardsJohn MoonSpringfield,TNOn Mar 4, 2013, at 2:13 AM, Mike Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:t it would be necessary tojettison all synoptic-related material in order to find a hypothetical original GThom (isn'tthat rather like jettisoning everything commonplace in order to find the authentic Jesus?),
- Thanks, Bruce.For what it's worth, some 20 years ago, I did some of what you suggest. I stripped Thomas of all it's sayings with synoptic parallels- to have a look at what was left, and to see if it "made consecutive sense as a text in it's own right".It didn't.What was left was a dog's breakfast of sayings of different styles, content and ideas, all of them unfamiliar and with little cohesion.If anything these seemed like sayings from a variety of sources that had been added later to the rest of the text by either some later collector or editor or perhaps by slow accretion as Deconick suggested. Oversimplifying and generalizing, these approaches both hold that the remaining portion of Thomas- pretty much all those sayings in Thomas WITH synoptic parallels (with the exception of a few that might have been lifted from Matthew and Luke later)- was itself the Original Thomas.I don't think anyone has suggested that the "dog's breakfast" portion is the original Thomas, although in my own view, at least some of those sayings, more than have been proposed thus far, were probably in the original.Ron McCannSaskatoon, Canada
- To: Mike GrudenFrom: Tom ReynoldsMy hypothesis is somewhat different from Ron'sMy Hypothesis: That the original GTh is theologically similar to LK, MK.My analysis is based on a reconstruction of what the original hearers of the Aramaic oral-history would conclude upon hearing the saying/passage that is now preserved in Greek/Coptic. If passages make a similar point I include them in my theoretical original GTh independent of the actual text.My question: From the Greek loanwords that you have identified in GTh, is there evidence that one text is dependent on the other, specifically that the exact Greek construction is used in more than one text?Regards,
- [Tom Renolds]:> My Hypothesis: That the original GTh is theologically similar to LK, MK.It's not going to be easy persuading anyone of that, considering the amount ofcontrary evidence in the text and the number of scholars who believe otherwise.> My question: From the Greek loanwords that you have identified in GTh, is there> evidence that one text is dependent on the other, specifically that the exact Greek> construction is used in more than one text?Well, let's say that I highlighted the Greek loanwords. The actual identificationof them is in Stephen Emmel's index in Bentley Layton's critical study of Codex II.As to the question itself (as I understand it), although there may be special caseswhere the loanwords can tell us something, generally they can't. There are at leasttwo reasons for that: (1) the loanwords are almost always different in some way fromthe corresponding Greek words, and (2) the loanwords don't occur in clumps, i.e.,they're almost always isolated from each other, with Coptic in between. That's whygood analyses (like Mark Goodacre's) of the relationship between Thomas and theSynoptics focus primarily on the wording in the Greek POxy fragments rather thanthat in Coptic Thomas.Mike Grondin
- To: Mike GrondinWell Mike, what I believe is that IF GTh is not similar in thought to the Synoptics then it wasn't the product of the dominant thouroughly Jewish-Christian community that produced Mk, Matt and had a profound effect on LK.Therefore:1. GTh is a second century work of a different community2. A first century work of an alternate community to the dominant Jewish-Christian community that produced the Synoptics3. 2,000 years of the intrepretation of GTh is wrong.This is based on my understanding of the 1st century culture. They were not like us. They were group oriented and defined by the group and defined others by whatever group they were part of. Independent thought was not encouraged. It was a group think culture. Gnostic-like thinking would be rejected by the dominant Jewish-Christian community.Each of the above possibilities presents problems. If it was a second century work, why are quotations from 1st century works included? If it was a first century work of a different community what was that community and what is the evidence that it existed?Regards,Tom Reynolds
To: GThos (GPG to see)
In Response To: Tom Reynolds
Methodologically, it seems that something might be added to Tom’s recent suggestion to the GThomas group. Here are my suggestions.
Tom: IF GTh is not similar in thought to the Synoptics then it wasn't the product of the dominant thoroughly Jewish-Christian community that produced Mk, Matt and had a profound effect on LK.
1. GTh is a second century work of a different community, [or]
2. A first century work of an alternate community to the dominant Jewish-Christian community that produced the Synoptics, [or]
3. 2,000 years of the interpretation of GTh is wrong.
Bruce: I pass by the last. If there are still things to discuss, that is, if the question is still open, then we may gratefully take what seems helpful from previous discourse, and move on.
Jewish-Christian: Is this actually a term with a definite content? In my own experience, it can be used to cover any community of mixed Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, irrespective of their specific beliefs. We know from Paul’s vituperations that there was a wide range of opinion (and partisan affinity) in the churches to which he writes, which of course include little or nothing of Egypt, Asia, Nabatea, or for that matter Palestine.
Synoptics. Do the Synoptics completely represent the “communities” in which they arose, and were those “communities” in the same place? Mark would seem to represent Galilean tradition, though perhaps from a Jerusalem viewpoint; Matthew’s take on the law implies at least a partial rejection or reconsideration of Paul’s attitude toward the law, a position that one can easily associate with Jerusalem, whether or not the work was written there. Luke, probably Antioch. but evidently from the poorer environs of Antioch, and Matthew might merely be the richer High Christian Churches of that same city. The opposition of rich vs poor is very dramatically developed in Matthew vs Luke; do we take adequate account of these vertical differences? If we do, are the vertical differences sufficient to explain the doctrinal differences? If so, then the term “Antioch” has become nonexclusive to any one of those doctrinal viewpoints.
One way or another, it seems that the categories on which Tom here relies may not be tight, and that there are thus other options on offer from the 1c, let alone any later time, then the ones he mentions.
I would like to see someone comb Paul for signs of spirit enthusiasm leading to a proto-Gnostic position, a position that some have seen further developed in the post-Pauline Colossians and (slightly later) Ephesians. Has such a study been done? If so, I would appreciate a reference.
Communities, as I think Paul is there to remind us, are not homogeneous in themselves, and even if they were, different ones may overlap (as the migrations of known individuals back and forth between Rome and Ephesus suggest).
Do the non-Synoptic parts of GThos suggest anything about the material condition, the economic base, of the people for whom those sayings were written?
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project]
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- To: BruceI apologize for not defining my term more accurately. In this case I am using Jewish-Christian as the Jewish-Christian residing in Jerusalem. This Church was extremely conservative and objected to Pauline theology. A proper author-centric, historical reading of Romans will disclose that the purpose of the letter is unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians. The historical setting is that Jews were expelled from Rome for a time, losing their leadership in the Roman Church. Returning, they apparently asserted their right to regain leadership because they were Jewish. Paul's rebuke of this is located in Romans 2:25-28. Shortly after writing Romans, Paul arrives in Jerusalem. The extreme animosity between Paul and the Jewish Christians starts in Acts 21:17. The Jewishness of the Jerusalem Christians is evidenced in Acts 21:20 and their objection to Paul's view in Romans 1:25-28 is related in Acts 21:21.What is the point of all this? Simply that the community that the oral traditions that were the basis for all the Gospels was a very conservative Jewish-oriented group. This group would neither develop nor tolerate a Gnostic-slanted oral tradition.I am not certain what you mean by “spirit enthusiasm leading to a proto-Gnostic position” but the early letters of Paul evidence a strong sense of spiritual connection. Notice that in Galatians, possibly written as early as AD49, Paul interrupts his logical rebuke of Gentiles becoming circumcised and appeals to their experience in the Spirit Gal 3:1-5. A very interesting presentation by Luke Timothy Johnson called Experience of the Divine examines the earliest Christian worship and emphasizes their receiving spiritual power from the risen Lord.“Do the Synoptics completely represent the “communities” in which they arose?” No.It is clear that Luck-Acts is influenced by Pauline thought. Luke clearly says that he checked all the evidence Lk 1:1-4 but only includes the Galilean ministry. Understanding that, in the 1st century, thought tended to emanate from the city to the countryside, the foundation of LK was the Palestinian oral tradition but was modified by another community, the community of Paul.Matthew is probably a polemic targeting Jews to become Jewish Christians. It was most probably written after the destruction of the Temple and the loss of the Promised Land. Having lost two of the three pillars of Judaism (Land, Law, Temple), the book of Matthew exhorts Jews to become Christians by demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah in various ways that would be recognized by the Jewish and Jewish-Christian community.Most interestingly, there is another community, the Johann community probably located in Ephesus, which was able to influence the basic oral tradition. Looking at GTh 46-50 as a unit I see a mishmash of Pauline and Johann thought, thought that would be rejected by the Jewish-Christians of Jerusalem but embraced by both the Pauline and Johann communities.To say GTh 46-50 in modern Christian terms:Christians are a new creation, old things have passed away, they are born again. Christianity is not an evolutionary form of Judaism. It’s a new thing. (46-47)Christians have received power from On High. They are more than conquers and cast mountains into the sea. (48)Christians are from the light, adopted sons of the Most High God. (50)I submit that GTh could not have simply been a product of the basic Jewish-Christian oral tradition and we must find a community that modified that tradition. I have had private discussions with people who audit this forum that find the modifying community in Paul, in John, in a community of Thomas, in the Sethians and, of course, in the 2nd century. Each approach has its attractions and its problems.The alternative is that 2,000 years of interpretation is wrong.Regards,Tom Reynolds
In Response To: Tom Reynolds
On: Jewish-Christian Tradition
I pick out only one sentence.
Tom: I submit that GTh could not have simply been a product of the basic Jewish-Christian oral tradition.
Bruce: I never said it was. More fundamentally, I would counter-submit that (1) the term “Jewish-Christian” does not work very well in making distinctions in this period, (2) there is no “basic” version of early Christian belief, however defined, as the ideological disputes in Paul’s churches will show, the split between “works” (Epistle of James) and “faith” (Paul in Romans) being only the most divisive of many; and (3) in case it should make a difference, the idea that early traditions were transmitted “orally” for decades before being written down in the Gospels is widely held but arguably fallacious: Mark (as some agree) shows all the signs of being early, and Matthew/Luke as belonging to a second generation, when Mark was still respected but had become obsolete theologically.
In short, the terms of analysis are too different for me to make any useful comment on the details of Tom’s latest, and I indicate the differences in lieu of a more extended reply.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- To: Bruce1-There were two versions of Christianity, the Jewish-Christian version in Jerusalem and the Pauline version preached by Paul and his followers. The Jewish-Christian version is the one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus on earth. The fundamental issue was whether Christianity is a variation of Judaism or something new.2-That an oral tradition developed before any written material is axiomatic in the 1st century culture. At most 10% of the population was literate and as little as 2%. (One estimate 5-10% one 2-4%)3-Nobody dates Mark before AD 50 and very few before AD 60 so the oral tradition was around for 2 decades at least and probably 3.One really need to understand the 1st century culture. I recommend Bruce Malina book "New Testament World"Regards,Tom
To: GThomas (GPG)
In Response To: Tom Reynolds
On: The 1st Century
Tom seems to be very positive about his postulates, but I can only respond that they are not the only ones being relied on in the larger NT community, and even if they were, they do not necessarily prove his point. I dislike repeating things, and do so here only on the chance that somebody may find these notes useful. Here, then, are the postulates, with my responses.
Tom: (1) There were two versions of Christianity, the Jewish-Christian version in Jerusalem and the Pauline version preached by Paul and his followers.
Bruce: Paul himself reports at least four versions of Christianity within his own churches, and his direct information is probably not complete. He himself might not include the Jerusalem Christians as real Christians (see Galatians), and the Alexandrian Christians were certainly beyond his ken (whether or not Luke’s claim that Paul had to reinstruct the Alexandrian Apollos is correct, it emblematizes a quite likely situation). I don’t think the question can be reduced to this degree of simplicity.
Tom: The Jewish-Christian version is the one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus on earth.
Bruce: There is likely to have been more than one view of Jesus held by his Jewish followers, probably including the idea that Jesus was dead and that the whole program was off. Else, why the frenzy throughout the rest of the 1c to prove, or assert, that the program was still on, and Jesus would come any minute to bring the world to an end?
Tom: The fundamental issue was whether Christianity is a variation of Judaism or something new.
Bruce: Maybe to modern historians. At the time, I doubt the question presented itself in this way. Were the Essenes new? Were Hosea and Malachi new? Was John the Baptist new? I would think that the answer in all cases is Yes, but this need not mean *entirely* new, having no connection with previous Jewish tradition, let alone defining a departure from Jewish tradition. The process of Christianity and Judaism disentangling from each other seems to have gone on all through the latter part of the 1c and into the 2c (eg, Marcion), with a certain amount of bad language on both sides.
Tom: (2) That an oral tradition developed before any written material is axiomatic in the 1st century culture.
Bruce: or in any other century and culture, including the present age. But we cannot place an exact number on “before.”
Tom: At most 10% of the population was literate and as little as 2%. (One estimate 5-10% one 2-4%).
Bruce: I have seen these figures, and I have seen other figures. Mediterraneanists of my acquaintance, sober and eminent people whose advice I have asked, have not found them convincing, or even felt that there is a firm basis for any such numbers. Literacy (and in what language?) is likely to have varied radically in different places, so even if we did have a Mediterranean average, what good would it be as a factor in a particular situation? Would the Mediterranean average help us or mislead us when applied to the Roman Senate? To the slaves in a Greek silver mine?
Consider also: If one walks down the halls of SBL and shouts “progymnasmata” one will get a large response, from people who emphasize the rhetorical training widely available in the 1c (some near-contemporary teaching manuals survive). There are people out there who maintain that everyone in Galilee was bilingual in Aramaic and Greek. Not that they are automatically correct, but they seem to have the makings of a case. And it goes in the opposite direction from these “literacy” figures.
But suppose that only 3% or 8% of the NT-relevant persons WERE literate in the sense required to produce and profit from the written texts with which we are familiar. What then? Will not the tradition have been in the hands of that 3% or 8%? The rest can have things read to them, and Paul seems to envision that process. On the other hand, for what looks like evidence of a primary readership and not a hearership for Mark, note Mark’s comment in his Caligula prediction of 13:14, “Let the reader understand.” I am not sure that this line has been given the analytical prominence it seems to deserve.
Tom: (3) Nobody dates Mark before AD 50 and very few before AD 60 so the oral tradition was around for 2 decades at least and probably 3.
Bruce: Actually, I am not the only one to envision an early Mark; several have made that suggestion. Let me say at once that I am perfectly willing to be the only one holding this view, because I would then have an entire monopoly of the logical future of NT studies, which would be neat. And perhaps even profitable. But in all honesty, I am going to have to acknowledge a few predecessors, and in fact, am glad to do it. I appreciate their company, and their help in pointing out some of the key passages. I am prepared to share.
I admit that if headcount were all, Mark would be a late text. But on what grounds?
There is something in historical studies called a terminus a quo, a point which a given passage *cannot be earlier than.* Thus, when Jesus warns James and John that they are courting martyrdom by asking for leadership, the chances are extremely good that this was written in view of the actual martyrdom of at least one of them, under Herod Agrippa I in c44 or 45. That passage was thus, at earliest, written in c45, and not before. Is there any passage in Mark which requires a later such date? The Caligula prediction of Mk 13:14, which I mentioned above, can only have been written in the summer of 40, when the threat of desecration of Jewish temples by Caligula’s demand to be worshiped in them, was a live worry (see Josephus). In this case, the limit works both ways: it could NOT have been written in 41 or any subsequent year, because Caligula died in early 41, and the threat immediately vanished (and the prediction thus embarrassingly failed to come off). Then we can say of these two passages in Mark, with some confidence, that one was written in 40 and the other not earlier than 45.
I think, subject as always to correction by those with better information, that these two are the only intrinsic dates in Mark. I notice that both of them precede the year 50. Others have noticed the same thing, as I mentioned above. If nothing in Mark requires a completion date later than 45, and if Luke (with his explicit description of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus’s army in the year 70) must be dated to after 70, we have at minimum a 25-year gap between Mark and Luke. Is this reasonable? 25 years, as it happens, is exactly one average human generation. If we think of Mark as a first-generation Gospel, and Matthew and Luke (clearly close in time) as the second-generation Gospels, a lot of other evidence then comes in to support. For one thing, both Matthew and Luke treat Mark with respect, which is hard to understand if he were merely a competitor, but highly intelligible if he were an established and widespread authority, with whom any prospective later and revisionist authority had to reckon.
And so on. I invite general consideration of the implications. I think they will help us in reading GThos, or any other text from the early Christian age.
Tom: One really need to understand the 1st century culture. I recommend Bruce Malina book "New Testament World"
Bruce: I have dipped into Malina’s writings, and frankly, I don’t find them cogent. He and many others seem to me to be using particular “approaches” to get more, or different, out of the texts than has previously been obtained. I am familiar with the same pattern of “approaches” in literary studies generally, and in my specific field of Sinology. I find the whole tendency unhelpful. Or worse, because it takes attention away from what to me are sounder and more productive (and as is happens, also more traditional) ways of dealing with a text or a corpus of texts.
Efforts (like Malina’s “cultural anthropology”) to get us out of our rut of self and into the mindset and foodset of a different culture are certainly in a sound direction. The discovery by the NT community some decades ago, that Jesus was a Jew, was an important moment of recovery. I just don’t think that anthropological or cultural or any other generalizations about the early Mediterranean world are necessarily helpful in sensitizing us to the dynamics of creation and reception surrounding the specific NT texts and their noncanonical brethren. The “Mediterranean Peasant” approach looks to me like an earlier effort of this type. Trouble with that one is that, though Jesus was undoubtedly a Jew, he was neither Mediterranean (he lived and died in a backwater of the otherwise dominant Greco-Roman culture) nor a peasant (he was the eldest son of a probably prosperous artisan of Nazareth, and probably never sickled a sheave or stomped a grape in his life). We can substitute the Greco-Roman culture of, say, 1c Ephesus (Paul’s late HQ) for our own immediate circumstances, as a check on our unconscious extrapolations of the familiar, and it’s useful in a negative way. But how close does this really get us to Jesus? Or the Zebedee brothers?
I have to wonder.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst