James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Danny Rocking

Now a response to Danny Deinde who should realise that there was presumably a Soviet side to the Rocky story...

What I find interesting about this is that this kingdom saying is left in the same sequential spot by all of the synoptics. Although Crossley pointed out some changes that Matthew and Luke made to Mark 9:1, they still narrated the Transfiguration directly after it. They were free not to do so. I think this at least substantiates my claim that they ought to be connected--they continued to be after Mark wrote them down.

What reasons would Luke or Matthew have to remove Mk 9:1 from the narrative setting? And Matthew changes it to the coming of the son of man, something he also thinks is future (Matt 24) so given Matt's change, how do we reconcile the two?

If the Transfiguration is confirming Jesus' authority on earth, how is this not confirming that the Kingdom is present when he is its inaugurator?

Where does it say that? It takes some creative reading to do that and the only reason that has a serious textual basis is that the kindgome saying comes just before it in the narrative. And in what sense is Jesus the inaugurator of the kingdom? He predicts it, yes, but it is God's kingdom and Matthew has to make a fairly dramtic change which presumably he wouldn't if it was obvious that Jesus role as the inaugurator was Markan.

Another point I made was the use of the perfect participle in Mark 9:1, "has come with power." As I said, the kingdom is present in Mark's narrative already (the already/not yet scenario that I think we both agree to). I think Mark 9:1 is talking about confirmation of something that "has (already) come with power".

Is it? How does this account for, '...there are some standing here who will not taste death until...'?

James used Mark 13:30 as an example of an imminent return prophecy (which ultimately was wrong). He asked, "what about 13:26? Has Danny divorced it from context by not mentioning it?"Perhaps I should have made it more clear, but in my first response I said, "Previous to 13:30, Jesus--in typical jewish apocalyptic language--has been describing the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple."In other words, I think the entire section is talking about the Temple destruction, using popular Jewish apocalyptic themes. I don't think the quotation from Joel was signalling the destruction of the cosmos and Dan 7 signalling the final return of Jesus.

So what is the reference to Daniel 7:13 referring to? What exegetical traditions would support a reading that it is being used to refer to the Temple destruction?

Making this a prophecy of the second advent just adds a whole other can of worms that we would need to account for. I looked in some of my critical apparatus (admittedly briefly) and can't see any major changes made by later copiers and scribes- the same seems to hold true for the parallels in the other synoptics. Was no later Christian scribe bothered by this "failed prophecy?" This not only helps with the criterion of embarrassment, but it also indicates to me that perhaps this saying wasn't "embarrassing" at all. Perhaps Mark's readers, especially after 70 CE, recognized that the apocalyptic language of the olivet discourse was not talking about the end of the world or the second coming, but the final destruction of the Temple.

Again, how could the son of man coming on clouds after the destruction be understood as apocalyptic language for the destruction of the temple and not the second coming which we
know was anticpated? Compare Matt 24 and 1 Thess on this issue. As for non-changes, that matters little. John and 2 Peter provided all the justification Christians would need for the second coming not happening. They may not be the most wonderful arguments ever given but they would do.

To use this this as criterion for determining dating would push all of the synoptics to pre-70 CE, and there are some good indications that this is not the case (though I am very open to early dating). And even if this were a prophecy of the second coming, it does not give an adequate paradigm for helping us date Matthew, in my estimation.

On dates, maybe but not necessarily. Luke is still written in the aftermath of 70 in my estimation. Matt around 70. I have no problem with that and it is a big question that needs to be answered more broadly, esp. Matt - why does Matt have no problem with the second coming within a generation and heighten the expectation?

Matthew can say something odd like "you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes," (Matt 10:23) and not think it wrong.

And did they? And could this not just be hyperbole or not-wholly-literalistic?

To rub salt in Crossley's wounds, I will refer him to his mentor N. T. Wright's work, Jesus and Victory of God pp.360-65, and The New Testament and the People of God ch.10. Since these works are Crossley's second bible, it should resolve the matter fully. (Interestingly enough, I have not read through all of Wright's work and had not read these sections previously. We came to the conclusions separately--heretical minds think alike!)

Woah! Well now here's a counter...Read Crossley Date of Mark ch. 2 where I challenge Wright's readings on these very issues and show that the second coming was a much bigger issue than Wright claims, that people did read texts in much more literalistic ways, and that son of man exegesis was different to what Wright thinks (elsewhere in Date of Mark).

2 Pet, surely dated decades after the Temple falling, seems to be dealing with similar misunderstandings that paul dealt with in the Thessalonian letters.

But Jesus could still return within a generation despite 1 Thess. Not for 2 Pet though. A subtle but important difference I think.

This whole contention seems to have been a continuing problem both before and after the Temple was destroyed.c)"no one saw problems when Mark was written".

But again: no problems with the non-return of Jesus/kingdom of God within a generation.

Ayway, Rocky 3 was miles better than 4. That plea for world peace...urrhh

UPDATE: Danny has responded but so has Tim Lewis on a new blog for me (sorry, I'm slow like that), Source Theory. I'll get back to this soon-ish.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Predicting the End

Ok, pool-not-winning Danny Deinde (who once had some very intersting friends it seems) has responded to the post on dates and things with his take on imminent predictions. Let’s show him the truth with a Rapture Ready-worthy response ;-)

Crossley says, " There are predictions of an imminent kingdom within the lifetime of some of Jesus' audience (Mark 9:1) and a prediction that the second coming of Jesus will occur within a generation (Mark
13:30)." Now I hate to accuse, so I'll just point the finger instead. I have serious doubts that this is the correct view of these verses…First off, to do this you are at bottom assuming that these words [Mark 9:1] were placed on the lips of Jesus by the author/community because Crossley is using it for clues to dating. If this is not the case, then you have to believe that the historical Jesus was expecting to leave and "return" again during the lifetime of the hearers for 13:30.
The key thing on Mark 9:1 is not whether or not the words go back to Jesus but the fact that no one saw fit to tamper with the prediction (unlike later writings). Of course, Danny reads 9:1 in the context of the transfiguration and we’ll come back to that. Not sure if Danny is implying this but Mark 9:1 does not refer to the second coming. It refers to the
kingdom of God. Matthew alters it to refer to the second coming (Matt. 16:28)

…he [me] has ripped two verses out of very important contexts that are crucial to their understanding.
Not quite. I was summarizing previous stuff on Mark and we’ll come to that too.

Now I realize there is debate over Mark 13 and what it refers to, but in my estimation the events of c.70 CE are in view here (or at least the front view- I'm open to multiple layers). Previous to 13:30, Jesus--in typical jewish apocalyptic language--has been describing the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. These are the "things" that will happen within the "generation"- not the second advent.
Hmmm, one thing not mentioned by Danny is Mark 13:26 which obviously comes before Mark 13:30 and it says this: ‘Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.’ This is also tied in with the desolation. How can you exclude the second coming from ‘these things’? (On the Son of Man coming with clouds of heaven being a reference to the second coming see: Date of Mark ch. 2). As for 70, well there’s always the combination of old predictions with Caligula crisis and other options…

I do not think that the reference to the coming kingdom in Mark 9:1 ought to be read in light of the transfiguration. Firstly it would be a bizarre prediction to say some will not die before the kingdom would come and mean that it referred to an event six days later. For what it is worth I think that the transfiguration ought to be read in the wider narrative context concerning Jesus’ authority on earth (out later this year I think and don’t worry more on it in the future). Besides, how would the transfiguration scene equal the kingdom in any particular way? Also, if it is necessary to insist on narrative cohesion, then I don’t see why Mark could not have placed a kingdom saying here to tie it in with the related theme of the second coming just prior.

This is confirmation for the disciples that the kingdom has (already) come. The kingdom of God is already present in Mark's narrative (see 1:15), the utterance in 9:1 and its fulfillment in the transfiguration is just confirmation of that.
There is nothing unusual about Mark’s use of kingdom. On Mark 1.15, I’m not sure how it implies the kingdom is already present in Mark’s narrative. Of course Mark has a kind of present kingdom And future. These are combined (Mark
4:26-34). This idea is not unknown. Daniel can talk about God’s kingship overall but that there will be a kingdom that will dominate in the future.

That the evangelist used a time marker of 6 days in 9:2 (Mark doesn't often use time markers) helps clue in the reader that this stuff is connected, as R.T. France says in his commentary on the Greek text, it invites "the reader to interpret the one in the light of the other" (345).
Does it? It would invite plenty of ancient readers to follow a fairly standard way of moving the narrative on.

Speaking at a literary level, it is the bolstering of the hero figure that is going on. Jesus prophesies in 9:1 and a mere 6 days later it comes to pass. This is narrative bolstering of the hero figure.
…who makes some strange predictions if that is the case!!

…we would have to have a very good reason to divorce it from that context. The same goes for Mark 13:30.
Again, what about 13:26? Has Danny divorced it from context by not mentioning it?

But there are the old problems with reading and how people read and what they read etc etc so let’s look more broadly. If Mark or the other synoptic writers do not have an imminent eschatology, why does John drop all the references to kingdom and have John 3 where it is re-interpreted in the light of the present and being born again/from above? And this needs to be tied in with John 21:20-23 –

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’

Clearly someone thought there were predictions of Jesus’ second coming around. And that they were wrong. Given that it is not particularly difficult to read Mark 13:30 as including a reference to the second coming, the fact that no one tampered with it (and there is a strong case for Mark 13 being almost entirely secondary) would suggest that no one saw problems when Mark was written. Why does John have to do this to the Jesus tradition? And why does 2 Peter 3 have to defend against delays?

There is only one reasonable explanation that I can think of: Jesus predicted the imminent kingdom and the early church added the second coming within a generation to this. Both were mistaken.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Matthew Collins on AAR/SBL

April DeConick has published an email from Matthew Collins, the Director of Congresses and Professions of the Society of Biblical Literature, giving some helpful comments on the AAR/SBL split.

NT Today and Casey's forthcoming book

Matthijs den Dulk (NT Today) has plugged Maurice Casey's forthcoming book, The Solution of/to [I keep finding different versions] the Son of Man Problem. Being a wee bit biased on this issue I thought I'd simply note this too. I've read the book and, well, I'm convinced. It is very comprehensive and on the there are some entertaining polemics on top.

Dating the Synoptic Gospels

In The Date of Mark’s Gospel, I argued for a very early date for Mark’s gospel (late 30s) largely based on issues of law observance. I supplemented this with a few more arguments near the end of an article on the death of John the Baptist in Crossley and Karner (eds.), Writing History, Constructing Religion (2005), based on the historical context of Mark 6:17-29 (the downfall of Antipas and Heriodias and the rise of Agrippa). I always felt I should have a go at the other canonical gospels so here’s what brief attempt might look like…

One of the basic boundaries for chronology is eschatological predictions. Clearly, John 21 and 2 Peter 3 clearly show serious problems with the second coming not happening. John also gets rid of virtually all the kingdom sayings and when he keeps them (John 3) they have nothing to do with predictions of the imminent coming of the kingdom. In Mark this is not the case. There are predictions of an imminent kingdom within the lifetime of some of Jesus’ audience (Mark 9:1) and a prediction that the second coming of Jesus will occur within a generation (Mark 13:30). Taking into account the not particularly long life span and the standard definition of a generation this gives us an outline of about 30-40 years when these things should have taken place and support the fairly obvious, namely that John and 2 Peter were finished sometime after the 70s.

What is interesting about Matthew is that he changes Mark 9:1 but does not downplay the prediction. On the contrary, it now refers to the second coming (Matt. 16:28). Elsewhere Matthew retains the idea of the second coming within a generation (Matt. 24:34). For this reason I am sceptical about the later dates for Matthew and would put it close to 70 CE (before or after) with the addition (well, if you believe in any kind of Q) of Matt. 22:7.

Luke, I think, is tricky. I think Luke was written after the destruction of the Temple, hence obvious additions to the Markan narrative well and truly stressing the destruction of the Temple (Luke 19:41-44; 21:20-24). The fact that it is a clear narrative change is important because it could be argued and has been argued that Luke has some old sources from before the destruction (cf. Dodd’s article in Journal of Roman Studies, 1947). But despite changes to Markan predictions (Luke 9:27; 21:32) there is no removal of imminent eschatology. So I could see a date in the 70s, perhaps not too long after the destruction.

But here is a problem that I can’t quite resolve. I once came very close to being persuaded by Robinson on an early date for Acts but the Lukan material prevented me from accepting his case. But there’s another problem: where has the imminent eschatology gone from Acts? Obviously such an issue was present in first century Christianity. What has Luke done with this in his history? I don’t know the answer to this and I suppose it may not have a dramatic impact on the date of Luke as I see it if Acts were written a few years later when things were not coming to pass.

AAR/SBL split

April DeConick is discussing the AAR/SBL split and I share the same kind of worries, as I mention there. I've found some AAR sessions very useful and I wonder if SBL could lose some good people to AAR. I also wonder, given the widespread use of the Bible, not least in contemporary politics and culture, if AAR wants to lose so many experts (or will they go to AAR). Whatever the rights or wrongs, I suspect that many AAR people would be happy to distance themselves from biblical studies. I wonder how many SBL people care? Anyway more discussion here, here and here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education Interview

There is an short Q&A/interview with me in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the emergence of the gentile mission, shifts in law observance, causality and historical change in the study of Christian origins, and the nature of the discipline (yes, including the faith/secular thing), that kind of stuff. I think the online version requires subscription.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chris Weimer's Biblical Studies Carnival

Chris Weimer has done the Biblical Studies Carnival and lots of links to look through, so many there was no room for classics. Note also the inclusion of rabbinics. Job well done.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

The one we've all been waiting for...

The Biblioblogs.com interview is, at long last, with a very smart looking Jim West. Lots of details that will help explain what makes the Zwingli-for-the-Twenty-First-Century tick.

Another response to Danny

Danny Deinde has some final thoughts on Why Christianity Happened. Here is his big question in a nutshell:

James Crossley, tell me why Acts didn't play a large role in your work and do you think Acts has any value in the (socio)historical reconstruction of the rise of early Christianity? I look forward to your answer.

And here are the details:

Notable by its absence through Crossley's book is the book of Acts, so it is the question I would like to pose to Crossley (he'll probably answer on his blog). Crossley barely even touches on Acts and it seemed clear from its absence in the discussion that Crossley doesn't highly value it in a reconstruction of the rise of early Christianity. Is this methodologically sound? I realize that many Lukan scholars say Luke toned down the problems and presented a harmonious movement, but that knowledge can help us "look behind" the text, no? If we are trying to reconstruct the earliest days of the Jesus movement, there is no writing on the subject closer than the book of Acts. In some cases in the book, I think the arguments would have been strengthened by a critical socio-historical reading of Acts.

Actually, I take a relatively conservative approach to Acts. The reason I don't discuss it in detail is because I already did in The Date of Mark's Gospel. In many ways Why Christianity Happened is the socio-historical side of the argument about law and chronology presented throughout The Date of Mark's Gospel. I used Acts and the Pauline letters to establish a chronology focusing on law observance. The question of Why Christianity Happened was to explain how we get from Jesus to gentile Christianity in terms of observance to non-observance so there was no need to repeat all this (I mention the key outline of law/chronology in the Intro or something to WCH). The Acts bits I add in Why Christianity Happened involve god-fearers (and I make some fairly conservative comments on Acts in chapter 5 of WCH) and households.

The reason it seems absent, in my humble estimation, is that the "sociological model" utilized by Crossley is more gradual and slow shifts, i.e. from law-observant to non-law observant. But Acts portrays it rather differently. It happens like one gargantuan slap in the face--the conversion of Cornelius.

Ah, there I would be less conservative (at last, eh?). Yes, Acts presents it that way but there are problems with the vision, not only in terms of tradition-history, but also in terms of chronology: it seems Luke has no real clue as to precisely when it happened and given Luke's obvious chronological interests presumably he did not know.

but certainly the Acts account isn't immune to sociological critique. In the instance of Cornelius, I think the sociological research done on ecstatic speech may play no small part in understanding why Peter believed the Spirit accepted uncircumcised Gentiles.

Quite possibly, yes. But I don't think it was vision to Peter then gentile mission without law happens. If Peter's vision did happen (certainly plausible, even if Acts has well and truly written it up - I gave some arguments on this in The Date of Mark's Gospel) then I suspect it would be more in the context of non-observance already being one feature of earliest Christianity and the vision allowing Peter to accept this. A vision was a pretty good option given the problematic nature of scripture being very clear about Jews and food laws.

An important p.s.- I would like the readers of deinde to pray for James Crossley. As many know, he will be debating the resurrection with William Lane Craig. Craig is the man in debates--and the resurrection really did happen!-- so James Crossley is going to get his pants pulled down. Just pray with me that his drawers won't come down too! ;-)

Now that will encourage people to pray for the exact opposite of that last sentence.