Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Building a fense around Othdoxy

think unless you can understand and relate to frustration, you aren't going to really understand what I'm talking about. But my faith doesn't' really fit the church. It doesn't' really fit what Christianity is as I see it in American or what it's become.

Well, let me just cut to the chase. I have a major core argument that I. Leonard about I guess 1998 when I bought the Kestrel book Ancient Christian Gospels. The book itself is published in 1994. Well, I use this material on a lot of things because it works for many issues. I use it as an argument on the empty tomb. It proves that the church was talking about the empty tomb at least as far back as AD 50. But that means it had to be discussing it before that, because that's just wen they wrote it down.

To me this is a gain boon to apologetics. The only problem is, due to the nature of the material, one must make certain assumptions of a liberal nature, although we dot' have to go wild and become Baultmannians or Jesus Seminar heretics. The basic assumption would be that there was diversity in the early church, and that there are many sources and many attempts at writing Gospels. One can get that from the NT, both points. Luke says there were many attempts.

Here's how it works. Textual critics find in documents readings the form of which indicate an older layer of copying than the document itself. In other words, even though the Diatesseron was written about 170 AD, there are readings in it that are so old they indicate that it was copied from a doc that probably pre dated Mark. By "a reading" I mean the way its written.


The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniel's in his Claremont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources. (John B. Daniel's, The Egatron Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont: CA 1990). Daniel's states "egerton 2's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract). The unknown Gospel of Egarton two is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice versa. which, "permits the conjecture that the author knew all and everyone of the canonical Gospels." (Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings, "An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha 1.96). The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Egatron 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Egatron 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"? Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egatron 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egatron 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egarton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)

In other words, for reasons I wont go into, the Egerton 2 readign is deemed to be older than that of Mrk (primarily because it's seen as more Jewish). So through this method they find many readings which are in latter works, but the readings have clearly been preserved through redaction and come from a much elaier period.

Through this method we can prove that the empty tomb was part of the ealiset formation of written gospels and goes back to at least AD50, and so since that's just the beigning of the writing it had to be part of the older oral tradition and goes back to the very begining.

To me this is a valuable tool. The only price to pay is to figure out how much diversity was really part of the early church, and how much would really wreck Othodoxy? But since we are talking about the very early period, we can assume there was some diverity, especially since we see diverity in the NT. the Corinthians are not like the Galations, and they are not like the Jeruslaem Christians. Jeruslaem Christians were into keeping law, Asian minor Christians were getting into gnosticism and Corinthians were into liscncenous living.

So there was diverity and Luke says many attempted to write Gospels. In spite of that fact a certain Christian apologist who has often been an ally attacked me on CARM right in the middle of an atheist fire fight and totally destoyred my apolgoetical edge by claiming that there were no other goepels for 300 years! there were only the four and the chruch spoke with one voice and no diverity for 300 years. He then went on a long tirad about how these attempts to indotuduce other gospels hae got to stop.

In this argument that guy and another Christian helping him both proceeded to totally ingore the textual criticism and to look at the whole issue as a matter of competing sources of authority.

I want them to look at these non canonical gospels as lamps or pot shards, just artifacts that help us date something, it has nothing to do with underming the authroity of the Orhtodox chruch. Yet they went on to speak as though its a contest between the chruch fathers, (who say nothing about any of this) vs. these non canonical Gospels. they argue the CF's just aknolwedege four Gospels so that's all there are. Even tough Luke clealry says other people attempted writting them.

But this has nothing to do with authroity. I'm not trying to replace the canonical gospels with Gopsel of peter or thomas, 'm using them purely as artifacts but they can't even listen to what's beign said.

they they mutter veg bS about textual critgicism is no good.

But that just makes our apolgoetics a lie. Because how many times have we asserted for exxampe the FF Bruce thing about the texts being 98% valid? that comes from textual cirticism. Anyone using Criag for defense of the res is using work derived form info given by textual critics. So i think that's totally disingenous to put down a took and a method merely because it is somehow threating our sloganism.

It make me really angry and make me re consider where my allegence should lie? Should i really be spending my time arguing with atheits when my alledged allies really have a way of thinking that is totally anathama to me; that is authority matters more than facts.

I can't sand that. I feel I'm being smothered by an attempt to build a fense around othrodoxy. its not the doctirnes of Scirpture they are even defending but the fense they built around othodoxy which makes the chruch frathers into a supiror sor to scritprue that validates the olde scritprue by pronocing it true.


Anonymous said...

quote: "Should i really be spending my time arguing with atheits when my alledged allies really have a way of thinking that is totally anathama to me; that is authority matters more than facts."

You have a point Meta. Atheists don't care. And most Christians are embarrassingly ignorant of the faith. I certainly understand your point which only underscores the historical validity of the account. Far too many put their faith in a particular set of words on a page rather than the truthfulness of an historical event. You might be better off educating the Christians and creating an army of mini-meta's that can brow-beat the Atheists into crying uncle (hahaha).

J.L. Hinman said...

Thanks Anonymous! An army of Metas! Talk about the blind leading the blind. But I try to include stuff for Christians on Doxa. I guess I should I shoud ptich it for them more. In some ways I think Christains are mosre stuborn than atheists. I know I am ;-)

Anonymous said...

Naw, the atheists have their stubborn religion too(Atheinity!). Like many evangelicals, tho, I came to the faith without much background, just sucked up the evangelical mantra (kinda like Christian-lite if you know what I mean!) until i found out otherwise. I was smart enough at least to realize it wasn't Christianity that was the problem tho, but what I'd learned. You'd do a lot of good teaching Christains. I think I remember you once saying that maybe fewer would fall away if they had a better understanding of "stuff" (my word not yours). I think you're right. Ya gotta immunize these young'uns Dr. Meta!

J.L. Hinman said...

thanks. Both sides can be madeningly dobmatic.

metanoia said...

hey Meta, this sounds interesting

"its not the doctrines of Scripture they are even defending but the fence they built around orthodoxy which makes the chruch fathers into a superior sor to scripture that validates the old scripture by pronouncing it true."

maybe i agree, but i'm not sure i follow exactly here, care to expand some more on this?

J.L. Hinman said...

The Bible doesn't reallay spell out the rationation of God to time, or the nature of Time. It says poetic things like "God is from ever lasting to everlasting" or "the frist and the last," but it never says 'God is outside of time and can vew the whole of creation in one eternal moment.'

To make that a scared doctrine that one can't critciize is building a fense around the doctirne. The phrase comes from the idea that the pharisees built a fense around the law. They made their interpritation of the law just as important as the law itself.

so if someone says "you are a heratic to believe open theology because is outside of time," then that's making a fense around the doctirne; it's protecting our interpritation rather than the doctrine itself.

The doctrine is that God is eternal, but how That eternality works in reationtion to time is not a doctrine.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Meta

Lots of us spend time on both sides -- problems within the church and leading people towards God. You might try floating some of these posts on Christian Carnival ... But on either side you can't worry too much about whether someone with a head full of steam gets what you're saying the first time they hear it ...

Take care,