Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Jesus and the Eyewitnesses thesis advances

In the Svenska Exegetiska Sällskapet 74 (Uppsala 2009), Richard Bauckham has published a new article, 'The Eyewitnesses in the Gospel of Mark', developing aspects of his groundbreaking Jesus and the Eyewitnesses thesis. One major part of that work, and one of its main innovative proposals, is that the Gospels are not only based on eyewitness testimony, but that the Gospels have ways of indicating their main eyewitnesses (see my two earlier posts on this matter here and here). His new article explores this proposal once again with special focus on Mark's Gospel. He responds particularly powerfully to Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's critique in RB 114 (2007).

'Given the stress that B. has laid on the preference of ancient historians for eyewitness testimony, one might have expected to find that it was they who directed his attention to the device of the eyewitness inclusio. In fact, he does not bring them into the argument at all…. For extra-biblical parallels B. has to go to Lucian's Alexander (C2 AD) and Porphyry's Life of Plotinus (C4 AD)' (p.626)

Murphy-O'Connor asserts that these parallels are not only irrelevant, because of their dates, but they also 'cannot be evidence for a literary convention in popular lives of such figures' (Bauckham's summary, 23). Bauckham's response seeks to offer the kind of evidence Murphy-O'Connor seeks, and to this end he examines Polybius and Plutarch. In both cases we read extremely compelling evidence that 'some of the personal names in the Gospel of Mark indicate the eyewitness sources of his narratives, especially in the cases of Peter, Simon of Cyrene and the three named women disciples' (37). In particular, material from Polybius shows that Bauckham's Markan eyewitness inclusio is highly plausible, and Plutarch's Life of Caesar presents evidence to affirmatively answer the question whether there are 'parallels in Greco-Roman history and biography to such a practice of indicating eyewitnesses without explicitly saying this about them' (33).

To be honest, I think Bauckham has hit a home run with this new evidence. His argument is very compelling.



At 11/13/2009 12:15 AM, Anonymous Mark Stevens said...

I cannot convey strongly enough what a difference reading his Eyewitness' book made to my understanding of the Gospels. However, the one area Bauckham appears to be scant on is the Gospel of Matthew. It seems to me that Matthew may indeed be the exception to the eyewitness hypothesis.

Anyway, the book is supurb and helped me come to grips with the nature of the Gospels and there purpose fo preaching.

At 11/13/2009 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more one learns, the more one believes Sacred Tradition.

At 11/13/2009 7:45 AM, Anonymous Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Chris. Any suggestions on how we can access Bauckham's new work? I'm not familiar with this publication.

I suspect that Simon of Cyrene was already a follower of Jesus before he was forced to carry the cross. Mark presents him as a passer-by, lest the Romans think that he was a trouble maker who was there to agitate for a condemned criminal. That is to say, Mark's wording is protective. So, perhaps Simon was a witness of a lot more than just the crucifixion.

On the inclusio thing, I wonder whether Titus forms an inclusio for the Acts of Paul. He is mentioned at the very end and also at the beginning of the extant portion.

At 11/13/2009 9:05 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Not one Christian in the first century put his name to a document saying he had ever heard of Simon of Cyrene.

And the fact that people take 'inclusio' seriously indicates that mainstream Biblical scholarship is only slightly above the level of Michael Drosnin.

I suspect that Simon of Cyrene was already a follower of Jesus before he was forced to carry the cross. Mark presents him as a passer-by, lest the Romans think that he was a trouble maker who was there to agitate for a condemned criminal. That is to say, Mark's wording is protective. So, perhaps Simon was a witness of a lot more than just the crucifixion.

All of this is totally made up.

I think Richard is a genuine Biblical scholar. He certainly has the required degree of imagination and fantasy.

At 11/13/2009 12:15 PM, Anonymous Pstyle said...

"parallels in Greco-Roman history and biography"

This is one area of textual scholarship which I think is often lacking. Literary data from the period is all we have. Despite Mr Carr's insistence that modern works provide us with adequate data (book of Mormon?) it is the anceint writings that provide historians with their comparative data. Unfortunately, there just isn't the volume of data needed to come to soild scientific conclusions. If only web-archive had been around in 100CE.... Shame really.

At 11/13/2009 12:34 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Despite Mr Carr's insistence that modern works provide us with adequate data...

No, the Old Testament provides us with adequate data to see where 'Mark' got his ideas from.

Or where Luke got his ideas from.

Luke seems to have based some of Acts on classical Greek literature, especially Euripides' Bacchae.

In Acts 26:12, Luke says that Paul heard Jesus say , in Aramaic or Hebrew, 'It is hard for you to kick against the pricks'. 'Kick against the pricks' (laktizo pros kentron) was a well known Greek saying, which first seems to appear in line 790 of Euripides' Bacchae.

In Euripides' Bacchae, line 447, we read the following 'Of their own accord (autamato), the chains were loosed from their feet and keys opened the doors (thura) without human hand.'

In Acts 10:12, we read how doors opened for Peter of their own accord (automatos) and in Acts 16:26, we read how an earthquake loosed the chains from everybody and all the doors opened by themselves.

Did an earthquake really loose a chain from a prisoner, not a noted result of seismic activity? Or did Luke base his account of Peter and Paul's escapes on Euripides' play about the persecuted followers of a persecuted and misunderstood deity, the son of Zeus and a young , mortal woman?

Just out of curiosity, Euripides play 'Alcestis' is about a person who dies voluntarily in the place of another and then conquers death by being raised from the dead by a god.

This is speculative, but perhaps 'Alcestis' is what first drew Euripides to Luke's attention.

Less speculative is the admission by F.F.Bruce in his book 'The New Testament documents - Are they reliable?' that Acts 14:12 'ho hegoumenon tou logou' comes from 'The Egyptian Mysteries' of Iamblichus, where Hermes is described as 'the god who is the leader of the speeches' (theos ho ton legon hegemon).

Clearly, Luke was well acquainted with Greek classical literature.

At 11/13/2009 12:50 PM, Anonymous Pstyle said...

"This is speculative, but perhaps 'Alcestis' is what first drew Euripides to Luke's attention. Less speculative is... Luke seems to have based some of Acts .."

My point exactly. All of these assertions are specuilative. Why this kind of "research" is pursued in supposedly scientific institutions (universities) is beyond me

"Acts 16:26, we read how an earthquake loosed the chains" - umm, no we dont. We read that
1. there was en earthqauke that "shook the oundations" of the prison.
2. that doors flew open
3. that chains were loosed.

Wherther or not the author thinks the earthquake did the 'loosening' or whether or not the author thinks the loosing was its own little "miracle" is not in the text. Asserting any more than that is reliant on conclusions that the data does not support. Now, I agree, the data does not rule out either conclusion, but it does not demonstrate one over the other either.

At 11/13/2009 1:02 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are singing hymns to their God, with their feet in chains, locked up in the public jail.

In Bacchae, people are locked up in the public jail, the chains just fall off their feet and then they are calling on their god.

All 'Luke' did was put the calling on the god first.

At 11/14/2009 12:06 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

I am sure Richard would be very happy to hear that, Mark!

Steven, if you are so sure about your criticisms, why not publish them in a peer review journal?

At 11/14/2009 5:37 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Steven, if you are so sure about your criticisms, why not publish them in a peer review journal?

Don't peer review journals want original work, rather than things which are already well established facts?

At 11/14/2009 2:24 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Not sure I understand your question - at least not the implied premise. You surely aren't suggesting that your opinions of Bauckham's book are "established facts". So what do you mean?

At 11/14/2009 3:14 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

By 'established facts' I meant the way the NT writers re-used Old Testament stories to become stories about Jesus.

I claimed no ancient writer or reader ever discussed this 'inclusio' technique that Bauckham has discovered (using totally ad hoc reasoning,that in my opinion just drags the reputation of Biblical scholarship into the mire)

That is an established fact.

So how did people learn to use such a technique or recognise that it had been used,if it was never mentioned?

Just like no ancient writer ever mentions the literary technique that Michael Drosnin claims to have discovered.

At 11/15/2009 1:32 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Steven, why is the way NT writers re-used OT stories at all relevant to this particular discussion in the way you seem to presuppose?

But having stated that was the "established fact" you meant, then you state another “established fact” having already stated one (“I claimed no ancient writer or reader ever discussed this 'inclusio' technique that Bauckham has discovered ...”)! Are there two established facts in your rhetoric now? If so, how do they relate?

By the way, the matter is not whether ancient writers ever discussed Bauckham’s inclusio technique, but whether they used it. If you have a way of refuting his evidence, then why not publish your findings in a peer review journal?

Something I have mentioned to you before: I would also suggest you mistake historical hypotheses with “facts”. Hypotheses are there to make sense of the “facts”, a framework into which the details fit, a way of explaining the “facts” and how they relate to one another. Here Bauckham’s argument has much to commend it. If you can refute this then you will need to offer alternative hypotheses to explain the “facts”. If you can, publish it so we can all discuss it.

But you will of course need to change your “tone” or no peer review journal will let you get near them. That is something you still need to learn, it seems.

At 11/19/2009 3:59 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

It must be said however, that many will remain unconvinced by the alternative model of a “Formal Controlled Tradition” that Bauckham proposes in this book. It may be true that the literary features of Mark show a closer connection with the testimony of Peter than is commonly assumed.

But the evidence fails to sustain Bauckham’s hypothesis of a fixed body of Jesus tradition formulated by the Twelve in Jerusalem and mediated directly to the author of Mark through the apostolic preaching of Peter. Without accepting Bauckham’s dubious claim that Peter’s appearance at the beginning and end of Mark represents a literary device for identifying the work’s authoritative witness, it is very difficult to affirm the other alleged indication of the author’s reliance on Peter’s testimony, which are ambiguous at best.

Equally questionable are the historical conclusions Backham draws from Paul’s Letters about the formal transmission of Jesus traditions. The level of institutionalization thus ascribed to the Jesus movement in the earliest stages of its development strains credibility. Likewise, Bauckham’s hypothesis about the Beloved Disciple as the eyewitness author of the Fourth Gospel will not convince many. Often resting on unproven assumptions, the argument frequently invokes highly conjectural explanations of textual evidence that are not easily affirmed.

For examples, most will find fanciful the attempt to account for the infrequency and obscurity of references to the Beloved Disciples by appealing to the author’s need to establish his credibility as a perceptive disciple before disclosing his identity as the actual author of the Gospel. Even if we were to accept as probable many of the conclusions Bauckham draws from the Gospels, there still remains a larger question that weakens the argument of the book. If it is true that the Evangelists attached such importance to eyewitness testimony, then why are indications of this not more obvious and explicit?

In response, Bauckham claims that ancient readers would have expected the Gospels to have eyewitness sources and so would have been alert to the subtle indications provided by the text. This explanation ascribes to the Evangelists and their readers a full measure of literary sophistication and an informed familiarity with the canons of Greco-Roman historiography. But this seems to far exceed what we can claim to know about the first eyewitnesses and those who listened to their testimony.

--Dean Bechard of the Pontifico Instituto Biblico, Rome--final paragraph of his review of Richard Bauckham’s, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Review published in Biblica, v.90, fasc.1, 2009, p. 126-129.

At 11/19/2009 4:13 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Who wrote Luke-Acts? Neither says.

And why does Jesus rise up into the sky the same night he appears to the apostles in the Gospel of Luke, but in Acts, Jesus remains on earth for weeks of instruction prior to rising into the sky?

And why did no one write down the words of Jesus during those weeks of instruction from the resurrected Jesus, and share them and preserve them?

Why did no one recall words from Jesus' alleged sermon on the way to Emmaus in which Jesus went "through the whole Bible" telling them about himself?

And why did Jesus leave the earth and rise into the sky without a vast crowd watching him? According to Acts only the remaining apostles followed him out before he rose into the sky, the eleven. Wow, quiet exit.

And why does the Gospel of Luke say that the raised Jesus showed himself to the apostles, proved to them he was "not a spirit" at all, ate some fish, and then "led them to Bethany," but nobody noticed, and nothing was made out of a raised dead man with fish in his belly leading the apostles through the huge city of Jersualem and them out to a nearby town, where again, a quiet rising into heaven took place? No knocking on anyone's doors? Like Ciaphas's? No trail of gawkers looking on? No apostles shouting HOSANNA as they walked through the streets? No crowds shouting HOSANNA and laying palms at Jesus' holey feet?

IN OTHER WORDS, the Jesus story ends as if Jesus snuck out of town.

In Mark even the empty tomb story ends with the women "telling no one." So no one heard about the empty tomb in other words, until WHEN?

Luke changes the message at the tomb. Check it out, compare it with Mark and Matthew's message at the tomb. Who is lying? WHO WHO? And why should anyone be required by God to believe such lying writings?

For all anyone knows, Ciaphas could have had the body removed and placed a young man (Mark) there to tell the disciples "Jesus has gone BEFORE YOU to Galilee, for THERE YE SHALL SEE HIM," just to get those damned fanatics out of Ciaphus' province and jurisdiction.

We honestly don't know. And even Acts says the preaching of the resurrection didn't start until seven weeks after the so-called resurrection. Seven weeks. Heck, maybe even that's a lie. Maybe the preaching started a year later, and Acts is trying to make it appear quicker than that.

At 11/24/2009 7:36 AM, Anonymous Jonathan Robinson said...

Man, that Edward T Babinski is some sort of crazed flaming blog parasite!

I went to have a look at his blog to see how he would like it if people left incredibly long rambling and irrelevant comments on his blog only to discover there was no need. His blog posts already sufficed - magnificently. The guy has some sort of severe communication problem.

Still I was touched that he bothered to read my blog, even if he never replied to my reply to his comments or returned to survey the devestation after his amazing five consecutive comment flame.

Pax vobisum

At 11/30/2009 7:19 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

If you have a way of refuting his evidence, then why not publish your findings in a peer review journal?

I can't refute something that doesn't exist.

Bauckham has no evidence that ancient writers had even heard of this inclusio technique let alone used it.

Nor evidence that readers ever spotted such a technique being used.

At 12/02/2009 11:37 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

"I can't refute something that doesn't exist"

B. presents a hypothesis about how the data fits together. The hypothesis and the data exist. How do you fit the data together? Why not peer-review publish your thoughts?

At 12/09/2009 8:04 PM, Anonymous Ralph said...

Even if it can be shown that this literary device was a common way of indicating that the account is supposed to be based on eyewitness testimony and that this literary device is being used in such a way in the gospels, I don't see why this would mean that the gospels actually were based on eyewitness accounts. All it shows is that this is what the writer wanted to imply. To my admittedly untrained eye, the evidence for that seems rather tenuous.


Post a Comment

<< Home