[John_Lit] Re: Jesus as the Word
- Dear Frank,
Much of this probably belongs to the Synoptic list. However, because
of what I see as the relationship between John and Q, I will continue
here. If it is considered that we are getting too far off the
Johannine track, I trust someone will tell us so.
<<<You appear to be stating that everything in Luke and Matthew comes
solely from Mark and Q except for, possibly, some use of John by one
or both of them.>>>
I am saying that both Luke and Matthew had copies of John prior to
writing their own gospels. I believe both men were present at
the `council' at Ephesus which requested the gospel. Matthew was one
who contributed to it and was part of the group which added its
imprimatur in 21:24. Luke clearly used John in some instances, if
Matthew did it is not obvious. This is not unreasonable as Luke would
have been totally dependant on other sources whereas Matthew knew
Jesus, was one of the Twelve, and was, therefore, less dependant on
other sources. Both men, of course, were expanding Mark.
<<<I see a problem with this. Luke contains material from three
the Q, the Markan, and the Lukan. Matthew contains material from three
traditions: the Q, the Markan, and the Matthean. If Q existed, it is
normally assumed that it consisted solely of the Q tradition.
However, if I understand you correctly, you think that Q consisted of
the Q, Lukan, and Matthean traditions.
What is your justification for thinking this way?>>>
Certainly I believe that Q existed, but not as a document that
circulated widely. It was the leftovers after John (and others) had
taken what he wanted for the FG from the combined recollections of
the apostles and eyewitnesses who contributed them. And only two
copies were necessary.
I am not sure that I am saying there was no Lukan or Matthean
tradition material, though it could be so. Luke has material that is
not in Matthew, but that does not mean that it was not in Q. Unless
there is some other criteria for assessing what was in Q other than
its inclusion in Matthew also, we cannot be certain either way. It is
the same for the material unique to Matthew. One reason for thinking
that the non-Markan material in Matthew and Luke must be from Q is
that both men may have added to Mark only material that had been
attested to by other apostles and eyewitnesses. If Q was the
leftovers from the material amassed by the `council' at Ephesus
(according to my reconstruction of the post Nero events) and intended
originally for the gospel that that gathering resolved to produce (Lk
1:1), then it was material well attested to. While Matthew was
capable of introducing other material (and he may have, I do not
know), he may also have restricted himself to the `attested'
material, taking liberty only to rearrange that material according to
his understanding of the events/dialogues it contained (e.g. the
order of the temptations).
I believe that there is a way of demonstrating at least a strong
likelihood that some material from Q and some unique to Luke (i.e. Lk
24:13-25 the Emmaus Road) was intended for the FG. If I am correct,
then that ties at least a portion of what has been considered as part
of the Lukan tradition with Q and with John and leaves the door open
for the same to be considered of other Lukan tradition material. It
also raises the possibility though it probably cannot resolve it
that Matthean tradition material also came from Q. As I have already
offered but no one, as yet, has asked for it - that evidence is
contained in an appendix that I am happy to send as an attachment to
any who request it.
<<<Also, I'd like to run an idea past you that is based on the
hypothesis that Q really existed and consisted (as in the standard
scenario) only of the Q tradition.
The idea is this: The apostles met as you envisioned. At the time
Thomas was in existence. However, thinking it a misleading gospel,
they deliberately took all the material they possessed that was
similar in nature to the material in Thomas and published this
material as a gospel (i.e., Q) meant to supplant the Thomas gospel.
Then, they took the material left over and used much of it in
This hypothesis explains two key observations.
First, there are many parallels between the Q tradition material and
the material to be found in Thomas. Both primarily consist of rather
short sayings of Jesus. Further, many of these sayings are
parables and many of these sayings regard the Kingdom. In both, a
life-style in which one renounces one's family and material
possessions is extolled. In neither does Jesus predict his
crucifixion, nor is his crucifixion even mentioned.
Second, in marked contrast, the Johannine material primarily consists
of long discussions by Jesus with other people and, at times, long
monologues by himself. There are no parables in it and the Kingdom is
only rarely mentioned. There is no extolling of a lifestyle in which
one renounces family and possessions. Jesus predicts his passion and
his passion is narrated at great length.
In this case, these two observations are valid because the Apostles
deliberately used all the material they had similar to the material
in the Thomas gospel to create a gospel designed to replace Thomas
and used much of the remaining material, almost all of it very unlike
the Thomas material, to create John. They did have some material left
over that fit the design of neither document, e.g., their material on
the birth of Jesus. This material remained unpublished by them.
In this case, the conference might not even had Mark in mind. In this
case, the most probable scenario is that later (perhaps even much
later--c. 85 CE?) the idea indepentendly arose in two locations to
combine Mark, Q and some other material into one gospel--leading to
the production of Luke (based on Mark, Q, and some previously
unpublished material--particularly on the birth of Jesus) in one
location and to the production of Matthew (based on Mark, Q, and some
previously unpublished material--particularly on the birth of Jesus)
in the other location.
What do you think of this hypothesis?>>>
Like my hypothesis, yours needs to be tested against what evidence we
do have. I am not game to pass judgement on yours, though I do think
that it adds unnecessary processes. I do not think that the apostles
would have bothered taking parts of a `misleading' gospel if that
is how they saw it (if they saw it at all) and attempt to produce a
good one from it. I think they were more likely to have gone straight
to one that was true and useful. It seems to me easier to conceive
that Thomas according to your assessment of its contents (I have
not read it) was the result of someone using Matthew and/or Luke.
Your two observations are equally valid in the simpler scenario.
Given my lack of familiarity with GT, I do not think I can really
speculate any more on its origins.
- Thomas W Butler wrote:> If this story were made up out of whole cloth, it
> When I say that a passage of scripture in the 4G is a midrashDisciplined or not, either John recounted the raising of Lazarus as an event,
> commentary, I am NOT suggesting that it was "made up out of
> whole cloth." As I indicated in a previous post, the midrash
> process is very disciplined.
or John was inspired by Luke 16, performed some sort of literary magic on it
(quite unparalleled that I can see from testable examples), then John
invented the story out of whole cloth. When someone writes a fairy tale,
they follow an established form. The discipline of doing so does not make
Cinderella an historical account.
> It requires a deep knowledge andNo, I am not overlooking the genre of midrash. Let's try this one more time
> understanding of the language used in the source material (in
> this case the language of the parable in Luke) as well as the
> issues being presented to generate faith in Jesus. This is no
> small challenge.
> Even within tradition, you are overlooking the genre of midrash.
and then I'm done with this discussion. "Midrash" as used in ancient
literature referred to a rabbinic method of interpretation. This method was
delineated and used in rabbinic literature, from after 200 A.D. Its roots
might have come from an earlier period, but we have no documentation of
that. Some of its principles may have been used at an earlier stage, but we
have no explicit record or demonstration or assertion of that from texts of
What we have instead is a technical term, which applies to a form of
interpretation which seems to take some liberties with the text, and
therefore, has been appropriated by scholars to refer to any number of
phenomena, as though simply giving it that label a) tells us something
meaningful (which it doesn't -- any more than saying "this is an articular
infinitive") and b) arguing based on a that you can then say "this text means
something totally different than what it appears or has a totally different
origin than you expect because it owes its existence to a technique only
documented 200 years later". The way midrash is being used by some
participants in this discussion reminds me of the article title, "Q is
whatever you make it" (or similar wording). It is methodologically improper,
IMO, to take a term from 200 A.D., which has a very specific meaning, and,
ignoring that definition, apply it to works of an earlier period, while
failing to define it. If one won't define pizza enough to make it distinct
from something else, then there's no reason to not call a Big Mac a pizza.
If you define pizza strictly enough, however, that you can actually say,
"This qualifies as a pizza but this does not," then "pizza" is a useful
term. I've referred to a work which critiques the application of the term
midrash to phenomena which came into being before the rabbis defined midrash
or its approach. If you wish to grab that label and slap it on whatever you
wish, I cannot stop you. I, however, prefer a non-Humpty Dumpty approach to
language. Words have specific referents. They don't mean anything you'd like
them to mean.
I ask again then: if John used some technique to turn, say, the parable
of Luke 16 into a very different story for very different purposes, none of
which can be an historical account, what genre does the FG belong to? You
only get three choices. It's not methodologically valid to say "First
century people in the Med knew three genres. I'm going to think outside the
box, and invent another and impose it upon a First century document."
There was NO genre of midrash in John's day. He could not apply it because
it did not exist. Pesher as an approach existed but not midrash because
midrash should refer only to the procedure which its practitioners referred
to by that name, not any old phenomenon from earlier days. Why is it such a
problem to give up an anachronistic label?
>I never denied this. I denied that anyone in John's day used a technique
> Simply because the process was not codified until around the
> second century does not mean that the method was not used
> in the first century or even earlier. To suggest that it was a
> rabbinical method, so it should not be considered as a method
> used in Christian circles ignores the fact that the first Christians
> were all children of Israel. The Gospel of John provides ample
> evidence that great Jewish teachers like Nicodemus were
> disciples of Jesus. Of course pedagogical techniques used in
> rabbinical schools would have been used in early Christian
> schools! Why wouldn't they be used?
which, so far as we can tell from known documents, did not exist as a
technique in John's day. It's like telling me that alchemists measured gram
atoms, when they didn't even know for sure that atoms existed. Or, it's like
calling Apuleius sci-fi, even though that genre didn't exist.
>That only means the tools are inappropriate, in part because they depend on a
> > John is absolutely clearly not a romance (and those who claim
> > that any Gospel is a Greek romance have obviously not read
> > closely enough a Greek romance).
> > Therefore, its genre must be one in which we ought to take the
> > narrative as intending to talk about actual events, regardless of
> > how they are presented or reported.
> Here I suspect that you and I have different starting places. I am
> absolutely convinced that the writer(s) of the Fourth Gospel were
> presenting THE TRUTH. In the first century mind set, that does
> not mean that they were attempting to write a history of Jesus.
> Modern scholars have been frustrated time and again when they
> have attempted to use the tools of historical criticism developed
> to study the Synoptics - on the Fourth Gospel. The results are
> very confusing and often frustrating to the scholars who try it.
flawed notion of historical research, viz., a van Rankean-Positivist
approach. First century audiences knew three genres: historia, Bioi and
romance. You don't get to choose another because you don't like those
choices. Well, I can't stop you from doing so but I can't responsibly
consider the result as having validity. What you are suggesting is that same
thing as an example of ideological criticism, reaping from the text what is
not there according a worldview that the author could not possibly have had.
>In some cases this is true, but it does not fit the case of Josephus, the
> A history in the first century was an account written by servants
> of a king or conqueror of events that detail the great victories of
> that king.
author of LAB, other Hellenistic Jewish historiographers, nor even, so far as
I can see, the advice of either Lucian or Dionysius of Halicarnassus. This
goes back to my point above. Hellenistic historiogrpahy's definitions should
be gained from pieces of the period, not imposed from without.
> The TRUTH about Jesus does not fit such an objectiveThis seems contradictory to me. If it is not an historical account of a
> exactly. In fact, such truth cannot be conveyed using such a form.
> There is a need to reflect in greater depth about the meaning of
> the resurrection than a mere history could achieve.
resurrection, then surely it does not recount a real resurrection and there
is nothing "true" about resurrection reflected by it to talk about. You are
certainly permitted to call John's Gospel fiction, and say that John used
fiction to present "truth". That's a theoretical possibility. IN that case,
however, we are free to completely ignore any questions regarding what
happened because John was not thing to ell us what happened. He's using the
license granted by "midrash" to crate any old thing that will suit his
purposes for "truth" telling. That sure makes the prologue easier to deal
with. We don't have to interpret it. We just have to decide what all that
midrash is trying to tell us truth-wise. If midrash is what I want to make
it, then the entire Gospel can be a midrash. Since you won't define this
term precisely, anything fits it.
>No. What I assume is that the term midrash is being completely misapplied
> I suspect that when you see the word "midrash commentary"
> you are assuming that someone has made up a story and tried
> to pass off that story as history. That is not what I am saying
> at all. Using my theory I can say that Lazarus is not a historical
> person without suggesting that the story of the raising of Lazarus
> is fiction. For those two sentences to be true, we as scholars
> must be able to look for truth in a category other than history.
to refer to some other phenomena which no rabbi would have understood as
valid hermeneutically as an example of midrash. Choose a different term.
Call it a fable. Call it a parable. Call it whatever you want to call it,
but don't overload one term with a specific referent for something unrelated.