Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 7
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Chapter 3. Names in the Gospel Traditions
In the following I briefly summarise the general argument Bauckham employs in justification of his case as detailed in the previous post. His focus concerns the significance of the naming of i) the women at the cross and the tomb, ii) Simon of Cyrene and his sons and iii) certain recipients of Jesus’ healing miracles.
i) In all the Synoptic Gospels the role of women as eyewitnesses is, as Bauckham notes, crucial: ‘they see Jesus die, they see his body being laid in the tomb, they find the tomb empty’ (Here I must refer to Bauckham’s excellent work, Gospel women: studies of the named women in the gospels [Grand Rapids, Mich. : Eerdmans, 2002]. Click here for more information on the Eerdmans website, with access to a free excerpt – the whole introduction!). A comparison of the difference in variation of names of the women mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels could suggest that the writers were not interested in historical accuracy at this point. However, Bauckham insists that the variations are evidence of ‘the scrupulous care with which the Gospels present the women as witnesses’. The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events, even when this left the edges of the narrative unpolished. Furthermore, these women arguably remained prominent in the early church and were associated with the transmission of these traditions.
ii) While readers of Mark would naturally assume that the Twelve disciples were the major sources of the traditions within the Gospel, when they vanish from the narrative (at 14:72) the reader is left wondering who the witnesses to these events were until the mention of the women in 15:40. Who, then, witnessed the events in 15:1-15:39? Enter Simon of Cyrene. The only variation in the Synoptics is that Mark names his two sons, while Matthew and Luke omit them. Bauckham argues that Mark cites them as he appeals to Simon’s eyewitness testimony not first-hand but through his sons. And they were named as they remained well-known figures in the early church and could be asked about the events themselves, whereas by the time of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel, they were no longer available or well known.
iii) The recipients of Jesus’ healings were not often named so appeal to genre cannot explain why some were named in specific stories. To take an example:
‘In the cases of Jairus, whose name is dropped by Matthew, and Bartimaeus, whose name is dropped by both Matthew and Luke, we encounter once again the phenomenon of a character who must have been named by Mark because he was well-known in the early Christian movement but whose name was dropped by one or both of the later Synoptic evangelists, presumably because at the time at which they wrote or in the part of the Christian movement with which they were most familiar this figure was not well-known’This alleged eyewitness function of the recipients of Jesus’ healings is also suggested by the words of Quadratus (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4.3.2), who reminisces about a time in his life ‘of which it could credibly be said that some people healed by Jesus were still alive’.
Finally, and displaying the fair and honest judgment that typifies Bauckham’s handling of matters throughout the book, he notes that while the existence of vivid detail within a story is not strictly evidence for or against it be reflective of an eyewitness retelling, ‘it is at least interesting that some of the stories we have suggested come from those who are named in them are among the most vividly told’.
(Artwork via https://www.scholarsresource.com/browse/work/258952936)