Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 9
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Chapter 5. The Twelve
Bauckham’s central contention in the historical argument of book is that Gospel traditions were associated with named eyewitnesses of the teaching, life death and resurrection of Jesus, and that these traditions remained, in transmission, closely associated with these specific eyewitnesses. Gospel traditions should not, then, be understood as the product of tradition circulated in anonymous church communities. The Twelve, while not alone (Bauckham contends that Gerhardsson’s stress on the authoritative status of the Twelve is exaggerated) should nevertheless be seen as central in the transmission process.
But, and to be blunt, is the appointing of twelve disciples by Jesus historical? Along with the ‘majority of recent scholars’ Bauckham, accepting the judgements of John Meier [J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 3 (New York: Doubleday, 2001) 128-147:], S. M. Bryan [S. M. Bryan, Jesus and Israel's Traditions of Judgement and Restoration (SNTSMS 117; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 123-124.], M. Hengel [Hengel, The Charismatic Leader] and others, confidently affirms the historical veracity of the Twelve. And these disciples were, importantly, appointed first and foremost to be Jesus’ companions. [Though they were not the only ones as, e.g. ‘there were also the women (Luke 8:1-3)’]. Bauckham’s key claim is that the disciples remained the authoritative transmitters of the Jesus tradition in the earliest Christian communities. Not only is this a most natural assumption given that the Twelve would be the most obvious group to formulate and organise a body of Jesus traditions, Bauckham will develop an original case for his theory through an analysis of the Synoptic lists of the Twelve.
The lists of the Twelve
Bauckham claims that the lists of the Twelve that are found in all the synoptic Gospels (he will examine the significance of the fact John doesn’t have one later) are confirmation ‘that the Twelve constituted an official body of eyewitnesses’. Given the presence of Judas in all the lists, and his being allocated the final position, Bauckham fairly reasons the lists, while detailing the pre-Easter situation, are written from the perspectives of the early Church, and are thus ‘fashioned precisely to display the continuity of this group during and after Jesus' ministry, i.e. with Jesus and in the early Christian community’. This is so not least because the lists were clearly not added to the Gospels merely to introduce the characters as ‘no less than seven of these persons are never elsewhere mentioned again or appear as individuals in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, while the same is true of six of them in Matthew’.
So why are the names of the disciples listed in the Gospels?
‘They are named, not as the authorities for this or that specific tradition, but as responsible for the overall shape of the story of Jesus and much of its content’.This is a suggestion made most explicit in Luke 1:2, but is, Bauckham urges, ‘surely implicit in Matthew and Mark’.