Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

[Synoptic-L] Jesus' baptism

Expand Messages
  • Anthony Buglass
    I wrote: This looks like one of those places where the criterion of embarrassment is a key tool, and that the most likely explanation is that Jesus was in fact
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 11, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      I wrote:
      This looks like one of those places where the criterion of embarrassment is a key tool, and that the most likely explanation is that Jesus was in fact baptised by (his supposed inferior) John.
       
      Leonard Maluf replied:
      Sorry, I know it is very popular, but I don't buy the argument from embarrassment at all, and never have found it convincing. It presupposes that there was some compulsion for the evangelists to tell the story of John and Jesus even though they found it embarrassing. This is nonsense. There is no reason why the evangelists would have felt any compulsion to include the story of John baptizing Jesus, and it may well have been "invented" by Matthew to make some profound theological point, most likely along the lines of Poirier's suggestion.
       
      Sorry, Leonard, but I don't buy your scepticism on this.  The issue of popularity or otherwise of the criterion is irrelevant; the question is whether it fits in this situation, and I think there is at least a case to be made.   What do you mean when you say the baptism story could have been invented by Matthew?  He got it from Mark, and developed it accordingly.  The reason why the evangelists might have felt compelled to include it despite its Christological implications is because it was a well-established and early part of the Jesus-tradition.  It happened.  It was historical.  Gerd Lüdemann (Jesus after Two Thousand Years, p.9) is very clear about the historicity of the event, and about its embarrassment.  He notes that the synoptics had to tone it down, that John ignores it, and that the Gospel of the Nazoreans argues that it was suggested but unnecessary (according to Jerome, Adv. Pelag.III,2).  So I think you need to be a little less dismissive and a little more analytical before simply writing off the proposal.
       
      As to the 'whyness' of the event, I have always assumed that Jesus did it in order to get alongside those who themselves needed it, but I am willing to accept that is the preacher in me more than the scholar and exegete :-)!  It would fit Matthew's "fulfil all righteousness" bit, in terms of meeting the requirements of the Law for the inclusion of the uncircumcised.  Or something like that.
       
      Cheers,
      Rev Tony Buglass
      Superintendent Minister
      Pickering Methodist Circuit
       

    • Maluflen@aol.com
      ... I guess you must be new to this list. I don t believe Matthew got this story from anyone, and I certainly don t believe he knew, or got it from, Mark s
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 12, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        In a message dated 6/11/2004 11:15:57 AM Eastern Daylight Time, tonybuglass@... writes:

        > Leonard Maluf replied:
        > Sorry, I know it is very popular, but I don't buy the argument from embarrassment at all, and never have found it convincing. It presupposes that there was some compulsion for the evangelists to tell the story of John and Jesus even though they found it embarrassing. This is nonsense. There is no reason why the evangelists would have felt any compulsion to include the story of John baptizing Jesus, and it may well have been "invented" by Matthew to make some profound theological point, most likely along the lines of Poirier's suggestion.
        >
        > Sorry, Leonard, but I don't buy your scepticism on this. The issue of popularity or otherwise of the criterion is irrelevant; the question is whether it fits in this situation, and I think there is at least a case to be made. What do you mean when you say the baptism story could have been invented by Matthew? He got it from Mark, and developed it accordingly.<

        I guess you must be new to this list. I don't believe Matthew got this story from anyone, and I certainly don't believe he knew, or got it from, Mark's Gospel. The priority of Mark is another one of those theories that has been swallowed more because of its popularity than because of its logic. It is very clear that Mark's version of the baptism of Jesus, e.g., is later than Matthew's. In Mark there is a clear subordination of John to Jesus from the very beginning. John is presented as the one who heralds the coming of Jesus. This is quite close to the perspective of another late gospel, John. In Matthew, there is instead a parallelism between John and Jesus which is early. John has a ministry to Israel independent of Jesus, prior to Jesus, and with a summarized message that Jesus simply repeats in 4:17! In Mark, the baptism "with the Holy Spirit" John predicts Jesus will bring is probably the sacramental baptism of the church, wouldn't you agree? This expression is likewise most closely paralleled in the last Gospel (Jn 1:33) and has to be an adaptation of an older story where, in Matthew, Jesus' baptism with fire and holy spirit is a metaphor for the eschatological judgment of which Israel's Messiah will be the agent. Mark's version is an ecclesiastical adaptation, like Jn's.

        >The reason why the evangelists might have felt compelled to include it despite its Christological implications is because it was a well-established and early part of the Jesus-tradition. It happened. It was historical. Gerd Lüdemann (Jesus after Two Thousand Years, p.9) is very clear about the historicity of the event, and about its embarrassment.>

        Gerd is just following the crowd on this one, I am afraid. I have no inclination to do likewise, especially not under Luedemann's patronage.

        <He notes that the synoptics had to tone it down, that John ignores it, and that the Gospel of the Nazoreans argues that it was suggested but unnecessary (according to Jerome, Adv. Pelag.III,2).>

        This theory is so established as to bore to death, and is not convincing at all. It is an extremely important theological point, dear to Matthew, (and therefore suspect historically) that Jesus would not be the kind of Messiah that would be indicated on the basis of well-known and established Jewish expectation. Rather, he would be one who would be obedient to God his Father even to the point of identifying with sinful humanity in a voluntarily accepted death for their sake. Symbolically, this is what is being played out here: Jesus for the first time is resisting the (all too) human attempt (here, by JB) to deflect or prevent him from doing the Father's will. This is Matthean theology, not (necessarily) history. The later evangelists, beginning with Luke, do their best to make sense of the story for their own purposes. The very verse here in Matt (3:15) that is supposed especially to be late, says something that would be almost unthinkable in a later Gospel: "for so it behooves US to fulfill all righteousness" (i.e. John and Jesus together will "fulfill all righteousness!)

        Leonard Maluf
        Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
        Weston, MA
      • Anthony Buglass
        Leonard wrote: I guess you must be new to this list. Tony: I joined just before Christmas, but I ve been aware of Synoptic issues since I did my first degree
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 16, 2004
        • 0 Attachment
          Leonard wrote:
          I guess you must be new to this list.
           
          Tony:
          I joined just before Christmas, but I've been aware of Synoptic issues since I did my first degree in the late 70s.  I've been on Crosstalk2 for years.
           
          Leonard:
          The priority of Mark is another one of those theories that has been swallowed more because of its popularity than because of its logic
           
          Tony:
          You seem to like trashing "popular" theories.  Is it not possible that theories become popular (ie widely accepted) because they are found to be persuasive?  So popular doesn't necessarily equal wrong.  And to argue that "Gerd Lüdemann is just following the crowd on this one" did make me look twice.  I quoted him because he is one of the more sceptical of the scholars whose works are available to me, and perhaps the least likely to follow the crowd on anything - he has demonstrated a willingness to follow a theory even if it takes him out on a very unpopular wing.  As I said in my last post, the issue of popularity is not relevant.
           
          If you are right in your argument that Mark's version of the baptism account is later than Matthew's, that suggests that Matthew may have had access to an earlier form of the story than the version in Mark.  It might be that Matthew was using the hypothetical "UrMarkus", an earlier version of the story than that in canonical Mark.  If Dunn's theories on oral tradition are right (in Jesus Remembered), namely that oral repetition may preserve early tradition beyond the point of development of later versions.  It is also possible that what you posit as Matthew-to-Mark development in the exaltation of the role of the Baptist may instead be Mark-to-Matthew development: John and Mark both preserve an early belief that John was preparing the way for Jesus, which Matthew wishes to play down.  Perhaps there was a local issue in his area with followers of the Baptist, as there seems to have been in the area where John's Gospel was written.
           
          In general, there seems to me to more sense in the theory of Markan priority - language, literary relationships, etc - than the theory of Matthean priority.  In this specific example, if your argument that Matthew's baptism story is earlier holds true (and I'm not yet persuaded) it doesn't on its own indicate Matthean priority, but against the background of other evidence for Markan priority may suggest a more complex relationship between the two.
           
          Cheers,
          Rev Tony Buglass
          Superintendent, Pickering Methodist Circuit
        • Maluflen@aol.com
          In a message dated 6/16/2004 11:36:39 AM Pacific Daylight Time, ... This is possible, and I would go even further to say that it actually happens, even
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 17, 2004
          • 0 Attachment
            In a message dated 6/16/2004 11:36:39 AM Pacific Daylight Time, tonybuglass@... writes:


            Leonard:
            The priority of Mark is another one of those theories that has been swallowed more because of its popularity than because of its logic

            Tony:
            You seem to like trashing "popular" theories.  Is it not possible that theories become popular (ie widely accepted) because they are found to be persuasive?


            This is possible, and I would go even further to say that it actually happens, even frequently -- but in this particular instance the arguments for the theory are not persuasive, whether or not they are found to be.

               And to argue that "Gerd Lüdemann
            is just following the crowd on this one" did make me look twice.  I quoted him because he is one of the more sceptical of the scholars whose works are available to me, and perhaps the least likely to follow the crowd on anything - he has demonstrated a willingness to follow a theory even if it takes him out on a very unpopular wing.


            Yep, he seems to have the peculiar habit of liking to trash popular theories. That it is precisely why I said he is following the crowd (uncharacteristically) "on this one". And you know he is.

             

            If you are right in your argument that Mark's version of the baptism account is later than Matthew's, that suggests that Matthew may have had access to an earlier form of the story than the version in Mark.


            Or, more probably, that Matthew IS an earlier form of the story than the version of Mark.

            It might be that Matthew was using the hypothetical "UrMarkus", an earlier version

            of the story than that in canonical Mark.  If Dunn's theories on oral tradition are right (in Jesus Remembered), namely that oral repetition may preserve early tradition beyond the point of development of later versions.  It is also possible that what you posit as Matthew-to-Mark development in the exaltation of the role of the Baptist may instead be Mark-to-Matthew development: John and Mark both preserve an early belief that John was preparing the way for Jesus, which Matthew wishes to play down.  Perhaps there was a local issue in his area with followers of the Baptist, as there seems to have been in the area where John's Gospel was written.


            All of this is only theoretically possible. What I don't understand is why the theory of Markan priority is so sacred that it needs to be defended, at any cost, against the evidence of directionality in individual sets of Synoptic parallels.


            In general, there seems to me to more sense in the theory of Markan priority - language, literary relationships, etc - than the theory of Matthean priority.  In this specific example, if your argument that Matthew's baptism story is earlier holds true (and I'm not yet persuaded) it doesn't on its own indicate Matthean priority, but against the background of other evidence for Markan priority may suggest a more complex relationship between the two.


            But what if, as I maintain, Matthew proves to have the earlier version of the event in by far the majority of individual cases of parallel material in Synoptic Gospel pericopes? Then, I think, the macro-arguments in favor of Markan priority should be re-examined. And when this is done, they will be seen, unfortunately, not to hold up to a strict logical standard. George W. Bush wears a suit and tie and is able to speak with utter sincerity about the necessity of defending freedom and democracy around the world. For some people, this is decisive evidence against the charge that he is a war criminal. The evidence as stated has an enormous power appeal, but, of course, it lacks any logical force whatsoever.

            Leonard Maluf
            Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
            Weston, MA
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.