Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 10

OK, I think I’ll speed up this series and attempt to finish it sooner rather than later.

Click here for the series outline.

Differences between the lists of the Twelve

However, to maintain this argument (cf. the previous post here), Bauckham must deal with the obvious objection that the differences in the lists suggest that the members of the Twelve were no longer accurately remembered.

Bauckham first stresses that the differences between the lists are not great. They exhibit the same basic structure of three groups of four, with the same person mentioned first always, and Judas likewise always last (I would add that such accuracy and variation in remembering a list like this is typical of the findings in memory studies – I can’t remember if Bauckham touches on this point later in chapter 13 and ‘Eyewitness Memory’) Bauckham, however, goes on to suggests conceivable redactional reasons as to why Mark, Matthew and Acts changed the order of some of the names.

However, the Mark/Matt Thaddaeus becomes the Judas of James in Luke/Acts, so there appears to be at least one instance of real discrepancy between the lists. This has led to some bloated claims concerning the inaccuracy of the lists entirely [Bauckham notes Fitzmyer (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX (AB 28; New York: Doubleday, 1981) 620)]. His solution to this apparent problem, building on his argument in the previous chapter (that ‘Palestinian Jews sometimes - perhaps often - bore both a Semitic and a Greek name’), is elegant. In a nutshell, ‘To distinguish him [Judas of James in Luke/Acts] from Judas Iscariot, this Judas could have been called by his patronymic, Judas son of James (Yehudah bar Ya‘aqov), or, alternatively, he could have been known by his Greek name, Thaddaeus (Taddai)’.

Thus, a strong argument has been mounted such that the lists of the Twelve can be recognised as carefully preserved. And given many of the names of the Twelve are amongst the most common Jewish names from this period, it is no surprise that the many strategies that were used to distinguish, say, one Simon from another, are also preserved in the lists to distinguish one member from another. Indeed, within the lists of the Twelve, Bauckham observes the use of many of these strategies. This last fact leads to the astonishing conclusion that the lists ‘must have originated within the circle of the Twelve themselves’ as such epithets were naturally used to ‘distinguish members of the Twelve among themselves’. Why, then, were the Twelve remembered not only with great care but also ‘to preserve precisely the way they were known in their own milieu during the ministry of Jesus and in the early Jerusalem church’? For Bauckham, the answer is straightforward:
It is difficult to account for this phenomenon except by the hypothesis that the Twelve were the official eyewitnesses and guarantors of the core of the Gospel traditions.
A Note on Matthew and Levi

In the last section of this chapter Bauckham shows that is no mere apologist and that he uses his own criteria even-handedly. Using the onomastic studies of the previous chapter Bauckham argues that the Thaddaeus of Mark and Matt is the same person as the ‘Judas of James’ in Luke and Acts. However, in light of the same arguments the identification of the Matthew of Matt 9:9 with the Levi son of Alphaeus of Mark 2:14 must be judged as implausible, as one would then ‘be confronted with the virtually unparalleled phenomenon of a Palestinian Jew bearing two common Semitic personal names’. Of course, Bauckham’s argument in this section does more than show that he is no apologist as he also offers an explanation as to why Matt 9:9 changes the name, namely because the Gospel author ‘has appropriated Mark’s story of the call of Levi, making it a story of Matthew’s call instead’. This implies that the author ‘intended to associate the Gospel with the apostle Matthew, but he was not himself the apostle Matthew’.

(Bauckham does not develop this last point which is rather typical of the whole study in terms of Matthew’s Gospel: The implications of Bauckham’s thesis for Matthew’s Gospel, and vice versa, is an area waiting to be developed)

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At 1/16/2007 6:16 AM, Anonymous Richard Fellows said...

It is to Bauckham's credit that he rejects the identification of Levi as Matthew and the identification of Nathanael as James son of Alphaeus (p110n61), even though both identifications would have supported his general hypothesis that the names of the disciples were well known when the gospels were written. However, I think Bauckham is incorrect to dismiss these identifications. He argues that we have little evidence of people receiving two common Hebrew names. However, as I have argued before, he does not account for the fact that the circumstances of the first disciples were quite atypical. These were people who experienced a life changing calling into a dynamic close-knit group and in such circumstances we should not be surprised that new names would be taken to reflect transformed lives and loyalties. In such circumstances the new name was no given primarily to distinguish the individual from others with the same birth name, so there is no reason why the new name could not also be a common birth name.

Now, Jesus saw his disciples as gifts from God (see Matt.9:38; John 6:37-40; John 17:1-2), so it is not implausible that he would give Levi son of Alphaeus and his brother James the names "Matthew" and "Nathanael", which mean "Gift of God". These names were more or less popular birth names because parents often considered their children to be gifts from God, but this is no compelling reason to believe that "Matthew" and "Nathanael" WERE their birth names.

C.E.Hill (JSNT 67 (1997)) argues that the Epistula Apostolorum equated Nathanael with James son of Alphaeus in the mid second century. He also shows that the allusions to Jacob, the patriarch in the account of Nathanael's calling make most sense of John and his readers knew that Nathanael's other name was Jacob (i.e. James). Hill explicitly appeals to Bauckham's theory that the readers of the gospels knew the names of the early disciples.

So I feel that by rejecting the Levi-Matthew equation and the James-Nathanael equation, Bauckham has denied himself some important evidence that he could have employed to strengthen his basic theory, which I consider to be a major breakthrough in NT studies.

Richard F.


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