Monday, January 02, 2012

Story of Empty Tomb Dated to Mid First Century (part 2)


this is the part that's not in the book Defending the Resurrection.

Authorship and Inspiration

Skeptics tend to assume that redaction means no inspiration. They tend to have a very fundamentalist view of inspiration, the author is a robot essentially or doing automatic writing and just copying words God speaks in his head. We need to not assume this. Avery Dulles, in his fine work Models of Revelation, shows that many of the major conservative evangelical theologians who deal with inspiration have different views of what inerrancy means. Here are the examples that he uses:

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

*Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett[23]

These are conservative Evangelical options remember. Anyone of these options could include the redaction process by a community, this does not rule out the process of inspiration.
Skeptics also tend to assume that if the autographs were not written by the name sakes, Matthew not written by Matthew, John not written by John, then it can’t be inspired. Many conservative evangelicals in the pew believe this as well but I am not sure any serious evangelical theologians argue it. I do not accept this idea. The names were put on latter; we only go by what the apostolic fathers told us. But we need not assume that even the Apostles were not part of the process of authorship. Modern scholars think of authorship more in terms of community now then of a single author, but as will be argued below that does not remove inspiration form the picture. While the final products as we know them (ie “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” “John”) are more the products of communities than of single authors that need not indicate that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John themselves were not the originators of that process. For one thing Mark and Luke were not Apostles, we all know this. No one ever claimed they were. In fact I really see much less reason to doubt those authorship's because why would anyone trying to lend prestige to a manuscript by ascribing it to a great authority choose Mark and Luke rather than Peter or Paul? Mark and Luke were secondary figures, they were not very well known and don’t play major roles in Acts (aside for writing it). So while authorship by a community for Mark or Luke is not the death knell of those gospels, it is not necessary to assume that they not authored by Mark and Luke.
Why would Mark and Luke use the Ur Gospel reading when they had Peter and Paul to draw from? Luke also had Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16) who were apparently in on the early days of the faith, and others? Luke tells us he consulting the many attempts already made at writing the account of Jesus life. Mark, Papias tells us, recorded the Memoirs of Peter, but not in order.[24] The lack of chronological order could be significant because it would furnish a reason why the redactors would redact it; to change the chronological order to one that was known from other witnesses to be more accurate. In fact we can assume perhaps the Ur Gospel would be that source. Mark himself could have used the Ur Gospel of the reason but the redactors after Mark could have done so. The theory of an Ur Mark, a primary core to the Gospel of Mark has been circulating since the nineteenth century. The Ur Mark could be the original core that Mark recorded.[25] We know that Matthew and Luke did not use quite the same versions of Mark, so Mark was a work in progress that started very early around a core set of data and continued to be worked out in many versions.[26] There are reasons to assume that Mark did hear from Peter and used his memoirs as the basis for the work, because the action in Mark tends to center around Galilee. Galilee is the realm of goodness in Mark, as opposed to the evil city.[27] Luke Timothy Johnson states: "Two main preoccupations characterize the study of Mark's Gospel today. The first takes seriously the ability of Mark's Gospel to reveal something of the historical setting it addressed, and seeks to find within Mark's narrative clues for the deciphering of history."[28]
Matthew need not be removed from the proceedings either. As a child it always bothered me when I learned that Mark was written first and Mat copied him, why would an Apostle who was there follow the outline of a non Apostle who was not? Latter I learned to rationalize by saying because he knew Mark followed Peter’s account. There’s a much better explanation. There is a way Mat could have bee responsible for the gospel that bears his name without having it written it. Papias says that he wrote the Gospel in his own language (presumably Hebrew or Aramaic) and “everyone copied it and translated it as best he could.”[29] The translation would be one level of removal from Mat. Moreover, Papias refers to Matthew’s works as “the Logia.” This literally means “the words.”[30] Thus is could well be that he wrote a saying source, and someone else latter worked the sayings into a narrative. Again here’s this idea of a core work looking for a narrative order. The same chronological order that Mark’s core was pumped into also could have served as the narrative framework for Mat’s saying source. Mat’s Logia could have been Q for that matter, although that is getting a bit fanciful.[31] We might also speculate that the names were applied to the community and the gospels named after the communities that produced them. Thus the “Matthew community” followed Matthew and produced the Gospel of Matthew by redacting the saying source with a narrative frame.
My feeling has been to remove John the Son of Zebedee (John the Apostle) from the process, and this has been my view for some time now. Cullman, in The Johnnie Circle, effectively argued the Apostle out of authorship.[32] Richard Buckham doesn’t buy authorship of John the Apostle and seems to think the beloved was the Elder John whom Papias mentions.[33] What seems pretty clear is that it’s doubtful the Apostle would call himself “that disciple who Jesus loved.” There are other reasons Cullman and Buckham use, for example places where the “BD” (beloved Disciple) is mentioned In addition to the son of Zebedee. It also doesn’t make sense that the author would set up anonymity by calling himself “the Beloved disciple” then blow it by naming himself as John the son of Zebedee. It may not make much sense that he would call himself “that disciple whom Jesus loved” at all, but we can understand this as an addition by redactors, the same redactors who make their appearance at the end of the book and attest to the greatness of the author “this is that one.” We have always known this group of other people stuck their say on the back of the gospel. Why assume they had no other hand in its production than this? It makes perfect sense they would redact it and call the author “the beloved disciple.” They did feel authorized to stick their say on the end of the book. In so doing they also give us the indication of communal authorship, the elders of emphasis who actually produced the book in its final form and in so doing they all attest to its eye witness nature. They are at least if nothing else eye witnesses to the teachings of this disciple who Jesus loved.

Community as Author

The idea that the whole community was the author may be confusing to some. It really does explain the facts far better than the idea that the gospels were written by their name sakes. The fact of redaction is obvious; anyone who compares the gospels in a gospel parallel has to realize this. The idea of four or two (Matthew and John) telling what they saw from their own perspectives cannot be the same because no two witnesses could match up on exact syntax and have all their sentences clearly related to one another. Yet the community authorship thing also means eye witness testimony is the basis of the documents. The idea skeptics argue for, wild rumor spreading unchecked has nothing to do with it. The community told the story in controlled and orderly fashion so that each and every member would understand it and know it by heart. It makes no sense that eye witnesses such as Matthew would copy non eye witness John. To deny that conservatives get into dyeing what the vast majority of scholars see, that Mark was written first. But the communal authorship theory explains it. The community told the stories in communal setting, the eye witnesses probably began the process and then latter as the eye witnesses died off the other members demonstrated their memorization and told the stories with those who heard them countless times checking to make sure they got it right. Eventually he church began to grow and spread beyond Jerusalem and they could not hold that sort of transmission together forever. But they only had to hold it together for about 20 years, and then began to circulate the written documents. Of course this is speculation. How do we know this is what happened? There are good reasons to believe that here was some sort of controlled telling in a communal setting.

Fist, by “controlled telling” I don’t mean too controlled. They did not have the modern concept of “court rooms” and “eye witness testimony.” They were not telling the story to prove to skeptics that they had eye witnesses. They were telling it for reasons related more to the life and health of the group. They wanted to remember the events and the teachings of Jesus, not to prove to anything to anyone, but as a devotion to their beliefs. But the expectation of literal history is a false one. The Gospel of Mark is not a biography; it doesn't provide enough information to be a biography. Nor is it an attempt at writing a history book. In fact the Church's claim for the document is that Mark wrote the memories of Peter but he did not record them in order. Rather he records units placed in order by narrow bridge passages which are often rather veg. These units are known as pericopies and they are the point of the work; they are like pearls on a string, placed in a certain order to get across a point. That point is not a literal blow by blow description of what happened in the sense of a literal history book; rather, they are there for the edification of the church. The Gospels are primarily oriented around the needs of the church community and pertain to worship rather than apologetics.[34] We should not expect to find that the material is arranged in such a manner as to form a history book. While the mistakes in geography and other aspects of Palestinian Jewish life do indicate that the author is not Jewish, there is also an indication that the "author" is really a redactor. It is not the original source of the material that is not Jewish but the redactor who put it in its present form probably in Syria around A.D. 70. But a much older layer of material stands behind this surface reading, a layer of historical material which does link the Gospel of Mark with he original events and may actually link the work with its namesake and with Peter's Testimony. Secondly, the period of “controlled telling” would not have lasted long. After just 20 years the movement has spread to other cities[35] and began to change and grow to an extent that there could not have been even one eye witness in every group. The controlled nature would have fallen apart. On the other hand it’s obvious certain facts had been set into stone even at this early period, since there are a basic set of facts common to all tellings of the Gospel story even in non canonical Gospels; he’s always crucified in Jerusalem at noon, his mother is always Mary, his side kicks are always Peter and John, and there’s always an empty tomb. That configuration only had to hold together for about 20 years before it began to circulate in writing, by that time the facts had been established.

It makes sense to think that they had controlled telling, by “controlled” I mean they conformed to known methods of oral tradition that can be found in all bardic cultures and in the Hebrew culture for oral traditions. The earliest Christian groups lived together communally. They are reputed to have shared everything, studied together and to have been of one mind.

Acts 1:12-15

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olive Grove, which is near Jerusalem--a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. 15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers--the number of people who were together was about 120--

From the first time the community is mentioned we see the story is being formed and the attitudes toward it are being shaped.

Acts 2:42-47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added those being saved to them.

Devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching has to include a recitation of the events of Jesus life and his arrest, death, and resurrection. Why they devote themselves to the Apostle’s teachings but not mention what happened at the end, or discuss the great confirming miracle that grounded everything in the stamp of God’s approval? Moreover we see the communal structure that extended to ever facet from eating to studying the teachings.

Acts 4:32-37

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. 36 Joseph, who was named by the apostles Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

In this quotation we see they were using the resurrection as testimony and they were talking about it the communal setting. In spite of the fact that we can be sure this was an idealized account, few scholars believe Luke just fabricated the events in Acts. He had some people from that era to draw upon. Paul got in on the end of it, Andronicus and Junia were there, and Pricilla and Aquialla were around. The four daughters of Philip of Hiropolis probably served major sources for Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Even though some of this is an exaggeration, he could easily have known the basic flavor of the times and the events.
Moreover, we know that the Hebrews had an oral tradition, and as an oral culture they knew how to keep orally transmitted information straight and correct.

"No one is likely to deny that a tradition that is being handed on by word of mouth is likely to undergo modification. This is bound to happen, unless the tradition has been rigidly formulated and has been learned with careful safeguard against the intrusion of error"

This is exactly the way in which the tradition was handed on among the Jews. IT is precisely on this ground that Scandinavian scholar H. Risenfeld in an essay entitled "The Gospel Tradition and its Beginnings (1957).”[36]

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans:

"...[T]he early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditional 'teaching'. In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.*

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal..[37]

The classical skeptical argument that the Gospels were written sixty years or latter after the original events so myth developed and changed and evolved into a resurrection that never happened, is invalidated by the fact that the empty tomb was part of the early telling and circulated in writing from a period only twenty years after the events. For only two decades (at most) the infant church had to hold together the truth as passed on to them by eye witnesses, and they would have had eye witnesses among them to help keep it in check. The argument that myth takes a long time to develop is not saying that it takes a long time to make up a rumor. Skeptics have pointed this out always, myth could begin in one afternoon, but what takes time is a concrete from of story telling. A mythos is more than just a bunch of wild rumors; it’s a literary work that includes a standardized form. This standardized form is seen clearly in the canonicals. Due to this fact we know there are traces of an earlier from shared by the canonicals and latter finished works such as the Gospel of Peter. This standardized form includes the empty tomb. These facts speak clearly to presence of the empty tomb as an early historical event that was part of the earlier telling of the resurrection and existed in the life of the community from the beginning.

[23] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985
I highly recommend Dulle’s book for anyone interested in thinking through the nature of Biblical inspiration and understanding the major schools of thought in modern theology.

[24] Richard Buckham, Jesus and The Eye Witnesses: The Gospels as Eye Witness Testimony. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing co. 2006, 203

[25] Neil, 239

[26]Koester, 289

[27] Neil, 239

[28] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, Philadelphia: Fortress Press p.1986, 148

[29] Papias quote on Mat’s logia, in New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, online version, URL: . article on “st. Papias.” Visited 1/19/10

[31] Buckham remarks in fn 1 that he does not translate the term “logia” because its meaning not clear and its disputed. But he also says it would mean “something like “amounts of what Jesus did and said.” My attempt at translating as “the words” is based upon my pigeon Greek derived form three years of struggle to fulfill my undergraduate language requirement, but that is literally what the words mean. That doesn’t mean my translation is good as a finished product. As Buckham says “it means something like…”

[31[Major scholars such as Koester have speculated that Q could be the Logia because Q contains many Q sayings.

[32] Oscar Cullman, the Johanine Circle, Philadelsphia: Fortress Press, 1976

[33] Buckham, 411-420.

[34] Neil,.234, 258

[35]Johnson 117.

[36] Neil, 250

[37] B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans* (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998): 53-55

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