[HJMatMeth] Re: Mission in Jerusalem
- Let me begin, Jim, by repeating what I am more secure about: I am not sure
that Jesus went up to Jerusalem often, I am not sure that Jesus went up to
Jerusalem only once, but I am sure that Jesus went up at least once and did
not return. If I took Mark's story, for example, as historically accurate
for the life and intention of Jesus, I would have to agree with Schweitzer
that he went up either to hold or to force the hand of God. The reason I do
not accept those three prophecies of death-resurrection in Mark as original
is not because I consider them a priori impossible, but because I consider
them Markan redaction. Each time Jesus makes one of those stunning
proclamations, the disciples, and especially the Inner Three make absolute
fools of themselves in counterpoint. I can only read that as Mark's
statement (a commentary not on the historical disciples of Jesus, but on the
traditions that developed in their names) that they did not understand the
death-resurrection of Jesus as Mark thought they should.
Leaving all of that aside, let me focus for a moment on the Temple incident.
It is, I hope we can now agree, not a necessary "cleansing," but a symbolic
destruction. (The framing fig-tree, a Markan intercalation, was also
destroyed not "cleansed.") In that story Mark appends two biblical
citations. One from Isaiah 56:7 and one from Jeremiah 7:11. The one from
Isaiah, I would argue, is redactionally Markan. It is also quite unfair and
inaccurate. Just think of that huge Court of the Gentiles which surely must
have been there not just as an ornament, but because lots of Gentiles, be
they pilgrims or tourists, came to Jerusalem for the great feasts. (I agree
with Paula Fredriksen on that very important point.) That leaves, however,
the quotation from Jeremiah as possibly pre-Markan. If we go back and read
the Jeremiah text (in chapters 7 and 26), its original meaning is very
clear. If you think, says God, that you can avoid divine justice outside my
Temple and get away with it as long as you conduct worship inside my Temple,
that is, if you use worship as an escape from justice, I will bring my
Temple down around your ears. A "den of thieves" is not where thieves do
their thieving but where they run for safety and security--their safe-house,
their hideout, their refuge. That is, of course, part of the well-known
prophetic critique against those who separate divine justice from divine
worship or replace the former with the latter (BofC 197-205). The most
straightforward interpretation of what Jesus did in the Temple from that
pre-Markan Jeremiah-quote is that he is bringing that prophetic threat to
fulfillment. I see absolutely nothing there that indicates apocalyptic
consummation. Since I only have that Jeremiah quotation in Mark, I cannot be
sure that its pre-Markan existence is equivalent to historical-Jesus
existence. My point is simply this. It is a destruction, not a cleansing and
the pre-Markan justification for it is prophetic fulfillment, not
apocalyptic consummation. If Sanders. or anyone else, takes it back to the
historical Jesus, I will still rest my adversarial case on
Jeremiah-fulfilment and not on apocalyptic urban renewal (do I get away with
one crack?) Finally, with regard to the parable of Tares, it is certainly
interpreted by Matthew in terms of apocalyptic punishment, from Mt 13:24-30
into 13:36-43. It is, however, also present in the Gospel of Thomas 57,
without any such appended interpretation, and whatever it meant there, it
did not mean apocalyptic punishment or anything whatsoever to do with
apocalyptic consummation, a theme dismissed and derided by that gospel's
"protology," to use Stevan Davies very precise expression.
>From: Jim Crutchfield <jdcrutch@...>
>To: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
>Subject: [HJMatMeth] Mission in Jerusalem
>Date: Thu, Mar 2, 2000, 6:00 PM
> Here is the question I would most like to ask Prof. Crossan:
> What was Jesus doing in Jerusalem at the end of his life? His symbolic
> destruction of the Temple (I am fully persuaded by Prof. Crossan's
> interpretation of the "cleansing" episode) seems to be a climactic event
> of some kind--not the type of thing he might have done every time he
> went to the Temple as part of a continuing mission, but a gesture
> designed to make a certain point once and for all. Is its climactic
> appearance an artifact of later tradition? Or is there evidence that
> the historical Jesus was taking decisive action towards some end?
> Prof. Crossan has argued persuasively that the apocalypse Jesus preached
> was a sapiential one: one that takes place in the heart and mind of the
> person who finds the Kingdom of God, not a supernatural or political
> cataclysm in the material world. That is the view of Jesus I would
> prefer to take; but the episode in the Temple hangs me wonder if Jesus
> might not have been expecting something else.
> My perplexity is increased by Jesus's sayings about the harvest, which
> Prof. Crossan takes as authentic. The parable of the tares suggests the
> possibility that Jesus expects some kind of culmination of his "Kingdom"
> program, in which the wicked will be weeded out. The image of the
> growing grain also suggests that Jesus expects an eventual culmination.
> What evidence is there that Jesus is not talking about a divine harvest
> at the end of time, as is conventionally thought?
> It has been suggested somewhere that Jesus hoped to force God's hand by
> going into battle with a patently inadequate army as Gideon had done
> (And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them,
> "It is enough." Lk 22:38), so that the Lord would fight for Israel as
> He had in the past.
> The Temple incident, in the light of the harvest parables, certainly
> seems to support an interpretation that Jesus was trying somehow to
> provoke either God or God's enemies into a cataclysmic battle in which
> the Kingdom would be conclusively established as the world-order. I
> don't find that interpretation appealing, or particularly consistent
> with my understanding of the program Jesus put into effect in Galilee;
> but I don't know how to account for these data otherwise.
> Many thanks to Prof. Crossan--and to my fellow participants--for this
> enlightening and enjoyable seminar.
> Best wishes,
> Jim Crutchfield
> Sojourning in New York City
> >"I left you specific instructions:
> > Don't do anything stupid!"
> > --Overheard on the London Underground
> Hey! Look at my band's web page at
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