Re: [Synoptic-L] Fwd from Anthony Buglass
- Anthony Buglass writes:
Leonard Maluf wrote:
(Crossan) seemed to take the lecture series as merely another outlet for
airing his radically liberal political world-view to a largely sympathetic
audience. Feuerbach would have been proud of him, I guess. I would be
happy to supply details, in bits and pieces, to substantiate my negative
judgment of his performance as an exegete, if anyone is interested. But in
the meantime I just wanted to ask, since I do not know, whether there are
any substantive New Testament exegetes involved in the Jesus Seminar,
since I don't personally know many who are (involved), or whether Crossan
would be fairly representative of the group.
I would be interested in more detail, particularly in any observations you [have]
about Crossan's method, otherwise it simply becomes a list of points at
which you disagree with Crossan.
I think my cited paragraph says all that needs to be said, in general, about Crossan's method -- namely, that exegesis was employed by him in this lecture series not to come to the truth about what the biblical authors wrote and meant, but simply as an opportunity to score certain political points. But perhaps this is too general an observation about method to be helpful. That is why I thought a few examples might be useful, and, in a later post, I gave one such example, to wit, Crossan's view of what is meant by "resurrection" in the NT. Namely, (in essence) communism as the new view and practice of Jesus' Kingdom followers.
But perhaps I can take the occasion of your question to give another example, this time from Crossan's second lecture -- on (The Historical Jesus) Death. I do this from memory, so I hope I am sufficiently faithful here to Crossan's point of view. This lecture was in fact largely devoted to saying negative things about Mel Gibson's Passion film (and very little about the NT texts). Here, I would agree with Crossan about the fact of a certain disproportion in the film's emphasis on Jesus' suffering. This was one of Crossan's major points in the lecture. But methodologically his argument against this emphasis of Gibson was weak. He spoke at length about the lack of emphasis on suffering in the biblical notion of "sacrifice". The texts do not speak in detail, or even in passing for that matter, about the suffering of the animals that are used in the sacrificial rites which the Bible describes sometimes in great amplitude. All of this is true, I thought, but irrelevant. The assumption at the base of it all was that Jesus' death was simply "a sacrifice", or that it was universally so understood by New Testament authors. The fact is that the "suffering" of Jesus is much more frequently referred to by (a wide range of) New Testament authors than is his sacrificial death. So the relevant issue with reference to Gibson's emphasis on the suffering of Jesus is not the extent to which suffering is spoken of by biblical texts in connection with sacrifice, but rather the extent to which suffering is spoken of in connection with the death of Jesus. After all, the film is named the "Passion" of Jesus, not the "sacrifice" of Jesus, and there is good biblical support for that focus. The point I would have made against Gibson's graphic portrayal is precisely that the NT texts do not use graphic portrayal in their (highly theological-conceptual) emphasis on Jesus' suffering. They emphasize this suffering as a fact, and in connection both with OT prophecy and with the seriousness and depth of Jesus' filial obedience to his Father's redemptive plan for the world. Crossan recoils particularly at any notion of redemptive suffering. Although this precise concept may not be found expressis verbis in the New Testament, I think the construct represents a legitimate theological interpretation of the texts with reference to the death of Jesus. This point could be debated, perhaps, but my main point is that Crossan's argument here was methodologically unsound because it focused on the lack of a biblical link between "sacrifice" and "suffering" and ignored the strong NT emphasis on the suffering of Jesus in connection with his death.
Blessed John XXIII National Seminary