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Re: [John_Lit] Notetaking?

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  • fmmccoy
    ... From: Bob Schacht To: Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2003 4:32 PM Subject: Re: [John_Lit]
    Message 1 of 18 , Oct 10 6:45 AM
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Bob Schacht" <bobschacht@...>
      To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2003 4:32 PM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Notetaking?

      At 06:57 PM 10/8/2003 -0500, Frank McCoy wrote:

      >...In this regard, it is noteworthy that William E. Arnal, in Jesus and the
      >Village Scribes, suggests that much of the literary history of the
      >postulated Q took place in the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, with the
      >literary activity possibly centered at Capernaum, and that it was
      >by village scribes. So, he (p. 172) states, "Internal evidence suggests
      >that the document was composed, at least in its first two major stages, in
      >Galilee, probably at the northern edge of the lake, and quite conceivably
      >Capernaum itself, which, as Kloppenborg notes, would probably have had a
      >sufficient density of bureaucrats to allow for such developments....And,
      >finally, the persons apparently responsible for the document, village
      >scribes involved in the administration of formerly autonomous village
      >If, as Arnal suggests, there was a network of village scribes in this area
      >where Jesus apparently did most of his preaching and they had become Q
      >Christians, then it is plausible to hyothesise that some of these scribes,
      >using wax tablets on occasion in the conduct of their daily business, wrote
      >down some of what he said on wax tablets while listening to him and then,
      >an opportune moment, recorded these notes on a permanent medium, such as
      >papyrus. If so, then some of the Q sayings might be actual quotes of what
      >Jesus said....

      I wondered about this characterization of Arnal's book, so I asked him.
      Here are the relevant portions of his reply:

      >...In any case, two things: 1) It's very difficult to pin down the numbers
      >or density of scribal characters in ANY setting outside of Egypt. One of
      >the reviews of my book, in fact, roundly criticized it on precisely this
      >ground. I happen to think the critic is wrong, but the fact is, we simply
      >can't know with any certainty where such folks would have been located and
      >how many there would have been, nor how prominent they might have been in
      >daily life. Frank has in essence taken the single most speculative aspect
      >of my hypothesis and turned it into a "fact," and then a platform for
      >further speculation. 2) What we probably can say with some confidence is
      >that there would NOT have been tablet-toting characters lurking around
      >rural villages. This just makes no sense at all. Literate administrators
      >would be necessary in cities (like Tiberias and Sepphoris) and, in lower
      >density, in large towns like Capernaum. Probably they would have STAYED in
      >those large towns for the most part, that being where their full-time
      >services would have been most required. It is possible that they may have
      >been sent to villages to record inventories and such, but not just to hang
      >out and write down the rantings of street preachers. ...

      (Frank McCoy)
      Robert Schacht has done us all a great service in getting input from Arnal

      I apologize for incorrectly assuming that the term Arnal uses of "village
      scribe" in the above cited quote from his book means that such a scribe
      lived in a village.

      BTW, I did not take Arnal's speculation as "fact". Note that I state, "If,
      as Arnal suggests,..."

      Even if the scribes were limited to towns and cities of about 1,000 or more
      people (for Capernaum likely had about 1,000 inhabitants at the time of
      Jesus--see Excavating Jesus (p. 81) by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L.
      Reed), there still had apparently been many opportunities for scribes to jot
      down notes on what Jesus said and did.

      For example, Mark pictures Jesus as staying at Capernaum on several
      occasions. John has him twice in Capernaum.. According to Matthew, he
      even resided in Capernaum (4:13).

      Again, all the canonical gospels agree that Jesus had made a trip to
      Jerusalem, where he stayed for a number of days before being crucified unto

      death. According to John, he made several other trips there.

      It is noteworthy that all the major discourses of Jesus in John occur in
      locales where there had been scribes. Most of them occur in Jerusalem. The
      discourse on the heavenly bread and on eating his flesh and drinking his
      blood occurs in Capernaum. The discourse with the Samaritan woman occurs
      just outside a Samaritan city. Is this a mere coincidence, or are these
      discourses based on written notes--either made on the spot by one or more
      scribes or else made shortly thereafter by one or more scribes based on
      eyewitnes testimony?

      (Robert Schacht)
      I might add a little to Bill's summary, based on my own work in the ancient
      Middle East:
      There were probably absentee landlords who lived in the towns (like
      Capernaum) and cities (like Tiberias and Sepphoris), and who had estates
      out in the countryside. How many such estates there were is a matter of
      conjecture, but Crossan in BOC seems to think that the number in Galilee
      was on the increase during the life of Jesus. In any case, such absentee
      landowners (oikodespotes), especially if Roman (latifundia?) might have
      occasionally sent scribes out to their estates to make an accounting. This
      setting of absentee landowners seems much like the setting presented in the
      Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mat 21:33-41), except that before the
      landowner would send the "slaves" to collect the rent, he might first send
      a book keeper to tally the accounts. [Matthew seems to be the only NT
      author to use oikodespotes.] The institution of absentee landowners was, of
      course, commonplace in the Middle East for thousands of years before the
      time of Jesus (I did my dissertation partly on Old Bablylonian land
      contracts). Since this term is not used in the Johannine literature, this
      discussion may be getting off track.

      (Frank McCoy)
      I'm not aware of any archaeological evidence of there having been any rich
      landowners residing in Capernaum.

      In any event, wouldn't there also be other activities by book keepers and
      other literate employees of an oikodespote, such as making periodic
      estimates of how the crops were doing, counting livestock, and making
      collections of debts from peasants with small holdings who have been lent
      money by such an oikodespote--with the oikodespote eagerly awaiting the day
      when a such a payment could not be made so that (s)he could seize the
      peasant's small holding and add it to his/her estate? If so, then might not
      the sight of such employees of an oikodespote, carrying portable writing
      tools such as wax tablets, have been a not uncommon occurence in rural
      areas of Galilee?

      (Robert Schacht)


      Matthew's reported profession of "publican" (KJV, Mat 10:3) or "tax
      collector" (NRS) (telones) is linked to this
      >5057 telw,nhj telones . 1) a renter or farmer of taxes 1a) among the
      >Romans, usually a man of equestrian rank 2) a tax gatherer, collector of
      >taxes or tolls, one employed by a publican or farmer general in the
      >collection of taxes. The tax collectors were as a class, detested not
      >only by the Jews, but by other nations also, both on account of their
      >employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they
      >did their job.

      as was Zaccheus, a "chief of publicans" (architelones) (Luke 19:2-8).

      (Frank McCoy)
      Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, had many taxes. In Herod Antipas
      (p. 76), Harold W. Hoehner states, "In Roman times the government seems to
      have claimed the fishing rights in the rivers and lakes, and to have gained
      revenue from this source. Customs were also collected on the trade routes.
      Levi was such a collector in Capernaum, this city being on the route from
      Damascus to the Meditteranean Sea. It may also have been a place for port
      duties and fishing tolls. Levi, then, was a customs collector not for Rome
      but for Herod Antipas....No doubt in Antipas' administration, as in his
      father's, there were other taxes such as purchase and sales taxes."

      Note that a number of tax collectors were apparently needed at Capernaum for
      making customs collections on the nearby trade-route, for collecting port
      duties, for collecting fishing tolls, and for collecting purchase/sales
      taxes. Note, too, that, according to Mark 2:15, when Jesus and his
      disciples ate at Levi's residence, there had been many tax collectors and
      sinners present. If this is based on accurate information, then the other
      tax collectors present had probably been neighbors of Levi living, like him,
      in Capernaum.

      Due to the nature of their job duties, such tax collectors in Capernaum
      would have found wax tablets handy on occasion for taking notes that could,
      if need be, later recorded in a more permanent fashion with ink. So,
      especially since Jesus seems to have been buddy-buddy with them, might not
      one or more of them have taken notes about what Jesus said and did while at

      (Robert Schacht)
      But again, these terms appear only in the synoptic gospels and Romans, so I
      digress from explicit Johannine concerns. However, the terms do help us
      understand the sitz im leben of the times. Arnal's assessment shows us,
      however, that the evidence for the presence of scribes equipped to write in
      Galilee in the vicinity of Jesus is rather slim and cannot be assumed as
      typical or commonplace.

      (Frank McCoy)
      As respects Galilee, there at least had been scribes in Capernaum, where
      Jesus apparently stayed on occasion and might even have made his
      headquarters. Also, all the major discourses in John occur in or near a
      place where there were scribes and the question arises as to whether this is
      mere coincidence or whether these major discourses are based on notes taken
      by scribes: either first-hand (e.g., on wax tablets) or second-hand shortly
      thereafter on the basis of eyewitness testimony.

      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 15
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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