Saturday, February 24, 2007

Source Theory Logo

I've recently added an icon (logo) to the blog, as well as adding a link to Mahlon H. Smith's website, A Synoptic Gospels Primer. Click on "synoptic problem."

UPDATE: Apparently the picture icon is not yet working properly. Hopefully I can solve the problem soon, should be easier than solving the Gospel relationships!

UPDATE: Icon in web address seems to appear more regularly when "www" is present.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mk 9:1 a failed prediction?

I notice a recent post of James Crossley (Dating the Synoptic Gospels) in which he suggests dates for the canonical gospels. He has a book arguing for a extremely early date for Mk (late 30s) "largely based on issues of law observance." In his recent post he uses eschatological predictions as a indication of date for the other canonical gospels.

I am not going to enter the debate about dating but will only comment here on the relevance of Mk 9:1 as a failed predication:

And he was saying to them, "Amen I tell you that there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the empire of God having come with power."
In his post James Crossley uses eschatological predictions as a chronological indicator and so Mk 9:1 is treated as a predication of an imminent kingdom:
There are predictions of an imminent kingdom within the lifetime of some of Jesus’ audience (Mark 9:1) and a prediction that the second coming of Jesus will occur within a generation (Mark 13:30).
It is usually assumed that Mk 9:1 presents a failed predication but this is to misunderstand its context in Mk 9:1 in which Jesus has just tried to challenge the disciples' understanding of what God's empire or "kingdom" (basileia) was about (Mk 8:32-33) and Jesus is pictured as challenging the notion of what is true power: followers of Jesus will save their lives by having them destroyed; the Human One will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of Jesus' non-violent kingdom-mission; to attempt to save oneself from physical death is in some sense seen as anti-kingdom and anti-true-power (8:38). In this context we should be willing to take the following mention of "power" (dunamis) in Mk 9:1 in a redefined way.

If we see that the notion of "power" in Mk is not to be equated with natural conceptions of power, then we might take the predication as having come true for all those who did see Jesus' power of resurrection at work. Would not seeing the increased number of believers (who believed in the resurrection and power of Jesus) be seeing the kingdom come with power? Arguably the whole of Mk is to challenge and redefine notions of power so I don't see why we should take 9:1 as a failed predication.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eight Steps to Solving the Synoptic Problem?

Mark Goodacre has had the sudden urge to simplify the synoptic problem in eight steps over at his weblog.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bauckham attempting too grand a theory

I’ve managed to read a few more pages of Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and at times I get the sense Bauckham is attempting to address too many issues, without managing them sufficiently. For instance Bauckham follows Dunn in asserting that oral transmission should not be understood using a literary model:

We should think of each performance of an oral tradition as differing from others, but not in such a way that each builds on the other. With oral tradition there is no linear development, layer on layer. [p248]

Dunn does a good job of showing, through study of a range of examples from the Gospels, that parallel texts in the Gospels are best understood as varying performances of tradition... [p257]

As we have seen, against the form-critical conception of oral tradition operating like successive editions of a literary text, Dunn insists that each performance of a tradition is a performance of the tradition as such, not a further development of the last such performance. There are no layers of tradition. . . [p259]

But it seems difficult to maintain the supposition that there are no layers when it comes to oral transmission. How could the preceding performance cease to exist or cease to have any effect on the current performance? It seems a bit circulatory (and overconfident) to use the written Gospels as evidence for this (as Dunn does) against a written model.

It would be difficult to know when differences in the various Gospel accounts are non-editorial and free from any layers. Are the aphorisms and parables that Bauckham and Dunn have in mind to be taken as written versions of various oral performances independent from all other performances (oral and written) in all three synoptic Gospels? Some traditions (particularly in Mk) may have been written to be performed orally, but can we assume the same thing for Lk? Why see Lk or Mt as dependent on Mk for any of their traditions, if they each already knew them independently from Mk? This would seem also to do away with using a literary model for aphorisms and parables found in Mk and re-used in Mt and Lk. Is Bauckham aware of the ramifications of following Dunn?

At the same time it seems Bauckham also wants to warn us not to distinguish too sharply between written and oral transmission, doubting the opinion that "before the Gospels the Jesus tradition was purely oral and made no use of writing" [p251-2] and when it comes to memorization, oral traditions are suddenly to be understood on an analogy to the written model:
Although Dominic Crossan has argued that a sharp distinction should be made between these two [memorizing material from books or oral material], such a distinction is inappropriate in a society that, though predominantly oral, did make use of written texts. [p280]

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Group Discussion of Bauckham

Since I haven't managed any spare reading time this week, I will simply mention the following group discussion lead by Joseph Codsi. I reproduce his post from the crosstalk group:

This is an invitation to discuss Richard Bauckham’s last book, Jesus and the Eyewitness - The gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K., 2006.

Please go to the following group:

Sign in, go to ‘files’ and open the folder ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses’. I will upload documents to this folder as they become available. To post your comments, use the group’s E-mail:

I propose to go through the book one chapter at a time. There are 18
chapters.Chapter 1 - From the Historical Jesus to the Jesus of Testimony.- The Historical Quest and Christian Faith- Introducing the Key Category: Eyewitness Testimony- Samuel Byrskog and the eyewitnessesQuestion: “Is Bauckham’s ‘Jesus of Testimony’ any different from the ‘Jesus of the faith’?Joseph CodsiBeirut, Lebanon

I should perhaps also mention the review of Bauckham over on Chris Tilling's blog appearing in sixteen parts.