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Friday, November 28, 2008

Response to Mark Goodacre's SBL dating paper

I have been meaning to respond to Mark Goodacre's stuff on dating from his SBL paper. There are some general issues I have about the idea of a session on dating, esp. if it will say anything new and, if not, is there a need for such a session...? I don’t mean that polemically, I was and am curious because I sadly wasn’t able to attend that session though I dearly wanted to. Perhaps someone present can help...? Anyway, I initially meant to respond to the whole of this SBL paper but because of nasty old time I’ll get egotistical and respond to the places where I was mentioned. I’m of course grateful to Mark G [I’ll use this name so not to confuse with the gospel writer – I suppose ‘Goodacre’ seems too formal for a blog] for interacting with me, giving arguments the time and for being typically non-polemical and engaging. It also seems like we agree on Jesus as law observant (this seems to be the most agreeable part of the book for most) and if I remember there was an old blog debate where Mark G had some reservations on the conventional reading of Mk 7.19, as do I (see ch. 7 of Date of Mark). But let’s get away from the nice bits…

Mark G claims that I argue that the ‘originating circumstances of the tradition correlate directly with perspective of the evangelist’ and this is ‘problematic’. However, this would depend on what is meant by ‘directly’. In general terms I think a) that the historical Jesus was law observant and b) Mark thought that too. If that is direct then yes. But, as for precise correlation between individual traditions, it would depend and often I’m agnostic and so no. I don’t make too many precise claims about historicity in the book for this reason (and others). As an aside from the law issues, on some occasions in that book, I am quite happy to talk of invention and difference between Jesus (e.g. on kingdom and eschatology in Mk 13 – see ch. 3; see also the conclusion of the book for a chaotic model of tradition). Mark G talks of the difficulty in tallying up assumptions between tradition and gospel and I quite agree, hence I spent a chapter (ch 4) on the tendencies in Mk, Matt and Luke and their portrayal of Jesus and the law before moving on to specific passages which were treated as both individual passages and part of the tendencies (chs. 6 and 7).

Mark G also talks of Markan redaction in Mk 7 that points way from argument, especially the phrase ‘all the Jews’ which sets up a difference and does not point to an intra-Jewish dispute. I think this actually misses my point. My point was that the legal debate is intra-Jewish in the sense that debates over hand-washing were the kinds of halakic debates known in early Judaism. As for issues of identity and Mk this is much more difficult, as identity usually is. Mk may well have identified his group in distinction from the rest of Judaism or over against Judaism but this does not mean he could have portrayed Jesus as a legal debater. Elsewhere in Mk there are supportive Jews, inc. those not seen as being over against Judaism, and there are hostile Jews. So, then, the picture is more complex.

But as it happens, that’s another issue in terms of my arguments for dating. The legal issue is the point of my argument, not the identity issue. Mark G says that I concede ground here when I say Mk was exaggerating (though I’m not exactly sure what he means by this – any help Mark G or others?). Mark G refers to my reference to Aristeas 305f. and exaggeration and says that the persona of an outsider changes things. In this case, not really. The exaggeration about ‘all the Jews’ washing hands in the water is an exaggeration so why could Mk not make an exaggeration about all Jews washing hands etc? Besides, as I pointed out, Mark makes various other exaggerations that are clearly exaggerations and not meant to be taken wholly literally so I don’t see the problem making another. Mark G says that his counter argument undermines my case for Mark being accurate and precise but it does not. My case on Mk 7 being accurate etc involved the referencing to cups and beds etc (Mk 7.4) and the very precise details of hand-washing and the transmission of impurity from hands-to-food-to-eater. This wasn’t discussed by Mark G and it *precisely these details* that are so crucial. In terms of my argument, does Mark G not have to show that *these details* are inaccurate and *not* the generalisation?

As for Talbert’s comments, which Mark G cites, on the law observant issue possibly being a memory of him, yes, it could be and I think it was. But this a) this quotation used by Mark G doesn’t change anything and b) it needs qualifying.

A) It doesn’t change anything because Matt and Lk still have to make it clear that Jesus was Law observant as I explicitly argue. So I’m not sure how this functions as a counter argument for Mark G. This also stands for Mark G’s reference to Gower and that these things could have been referred to in the 60s. Sort of but I think with qualification. Matt and Luke make qualifications not in Mark so why did they make qualifications? The obvious reason is that law observance had changed and this started to happen in the 40s so the Gower quotation in Mark G’s paper does not work as a counter argument to me, if Mark G is using it as a counter argument rather than simply adding an opinion (presumably a counter argument though…?). A counter argument (or supportive quotation) would need to show why Mark did not feel the need to qualify in *direct contrast* to Matt and Luke. That is really the heart of my argument and I don’t think it is addressed by Mark G.

B) As for qualification, on the whole, as far as we know, but John’s Jesus, as I argued, does look a little different (see e.g. John 5).

As for early gentile observance and non-observance, I would add that issues of perception were important and how this fed into the Pauline view. I’ve argued that at length in Why Christianity Happened (esp. ch 5) and won’t repeat here.

On the whole then, while being obviously grateful to Mark G for engaging with my arguments, I don’t think he has engaged with the heart of my arguments in Date of Mark, such as the details of the legal debates and the qualifications made by Matt and Luke and why these qualifications were made. So there you go.


Anonymous steph said...

That's why somebody like you needs to write a big book on the Law... :-)

November 29, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G. wrote:“It is important, for example, to distinguish clearly between the date of a given
work and the date of the traditions within it and to avoid allowing document
dating to get bound up with tradition history. How, then, should we conceive the
question of dating a literary work?”

I have to wonder what Mark Goodacre means by tradition history? Is all history tradition then? I have to think of tradition as a practice or idea that did not necessarily have any real historical origin or basis. Yet there are ideas and practices in the NT documents that could well have had very real origins in early Jewish theology and history. It seems as though Mark G really does want to gloss over these possibilities in his dating methodology. Thus it would be far more representative of an NT document’s dating to recognise that it was a literary development over time and that it should be given a dating range rather than an earliest possible date of completion based on the youngest data in it. Goodacre’s dating stems from the fact that he cannot face-up to the possibility of literary development from earlier documents that probably bore no recollection of: Jesus, Christ, resurrection, crucifixion, the twelve, John the Baptist, Paul, the mission to Gentiles, justification by faith, the receiving of the Holy Spirit after belief in Jesus, Pharisees, Sadducees, circumcision, the destruction of the temple, the church – a minimalist’s dream for those who like labels. In other words the NT documents were originally written entirely in the Jewish context of a historical confrontation between prophets and priests, over the issue of how a person can be cleansed before God. The prophets had concluded from the behaviour they observed in priests that it wasn’t to be by keeping the Law, and in particular the Law as applied to animal sacrifices.

November 29, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G. wrote:"Thus we can observe Matthew using Mark in the story of
the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6.14-29 // Matt 14.1-12), beginning the pericope by changing Mark’s Herod 'the king' (Mark 6.14) to his own more
accurate 'Herod the tetrarch' (Matt. 14.1)."

Mark G. strains at a gnat by going on about 'fatigue' in Mark and Matthew. At the same time Mark G. swallows a camel by ignoring the question: why did Mark have 'king Herod' as the destroyer of his 'John' in the first place? And then how does Goodacre know that Matthew was more accurate with his 'Herod the Tetrarch' than Mark with his original 'king Herod'? After all Goodacre considers that Mark’s gospel was the first on the block, so presumably its author was the best informed. But were both writers trying to achieve the same end, in a similar blame game, namely to obscure the fact that ‘John’ wasn’t ‘John’ and the opposer of ‘John’ wasn’t either ‘king Herod’ or ‘Herod the Tetrarch’, or Herodias for that matter? My answer is, yes they were.

So which ‘king Herod’ did Mark have in mind to blame for the death of his ‘John’? It could only have been king Herod Agrippa I. And was Agrippa I too close for Matthew’s comfort? Yes he was. And did Matthew want to shift the blame onto someone more remote from Jerusalem, namely Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee? Yes he did. And would you believe I can think of other places where Matthew apparently ‘corrects’ Mark with the same ulterior motive, that is to increase the obfuscation already introduced by Mark. Instead of Goodacre talking about ‘fatigue’ he should be talking about Matthew’s embarrassment at Mark.

I have said before that I believe that Agrippa I was a follower of the prophets. If that was so, then it would be quite natural for Mark wishing to obscure the truth, to portray Agrippa I as being opposed to his ‘John’. And it wasn’t Mark’s ‘Herodias’ who “nursed a grudge against ‘John’ and wanted to kill him” (Mk.6:19), but more likely it was a high priest such as Ananias. So it wasn’t “she was not able to” kill ‘John’ but 'he' “was not able to”. (Mk.6:19). Then we have the real truth of the matter in Mk.6:20. The reason ‘he’ could not kill ‘John’ was because Agrippa I ‘followed’ (not Mark’s “feared”) ‘John’, “and PROTECTED him, knowing him to be a” ‘prophet’, (not Mark’s “righteous and holy man”). Agrippa I protected the prophet ‘John’, which was why he was able to have free reign in the temple in opposition to the high priests.

November 30, 2008

Blogger Leon said...

The language we use very often pre-determines the conclusions we come to. Thus, if scholars use expressions like the antitheses, the Cleansing of the Temple, the symbolic act of destruction of the Temple, the Passion, etc., you already know what conclusions they will come to. They have already built hostility between Jesus and other Jews into their assumed conclusions.

Using the expression "the Law" and speaking of being "observant" of the Law is also problematic. Is that really the best way to describe what Pharisees and rabbis were doing? I don't think it is. In fact, I am pretty sure it is not. Not only are you putting Jesus into or over against certain categories which are entirely inappropriate for him, but you are putting a whole segment of ancient Jews into the wrong way of seeing all this.

The goal in all good scholarship, in any science and any historical subject, is to see the facts again for the first time, to experience them with the same freshness that these ancient people lived them. "Observance of the Law" has nothing to do with the way certain ancient Jews lived and everything to do with theological preconceptions about ancient Judaism. It is a tired old expression that comes from theology. Theological terms will not help us to understand history in a fresh light. It just gives us more theology. That's not what history is about. There is a better way to see all this.

Leon Zitzer

December 01, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G wrote: “What is remarkable is that literary works set a generation
before 70 appear to speak so clearly about the destruction of the Temple. For
Robinson, “That Jesus could have predicted the doom of Jerusalem and its
sanctuary is no more inherently improbable than that another Jesus, the son of
Ananias, should have done so in the autumn of 62”.34 The problem for this
perspective is that Jesus ben Ananias’s prophecy occurs in a literary work that
post-dates 70, Josephus’s Jewish War.”

My question here would be: does Jesus son of Ananias’s prophecy occur in a block of text that in its original form as written by Josephus did indeed pre date 70.

Clearly the passage in War about Jesus ben Ananias is an interpolation that has been pulled from somewhere else, adapted for the editor’s ridiculous propaganda covering the supposed events at the end of his supposed war, and pasted into a convenient point of War 6, Chapter 5.

It is my view that Josephus was Nero’s historian and that Nero’s large army under him finished the Jewish war in a short period of time during 66 before Nero went to Greece with that army. The year 1 to 5 coins of the so-called revolt were produced in time of peace.

Goodacre writes that there are three striking parallels between the prophet’s oracle in Jewish War and that in Matthew. But there are no similar parallels in Mark. The time Jesus ben Ananias started his prophesying was 62 – a very dangerous period for a prophet to be prophesying. It seems very unlikely that our prophet would have lasted more than a few months, and certainly not until 70.

It seems that the same editorial team that worked on Matthew also had a hand in producing the extant War. By then the original text of Mark had been edited and was in the public gaze.

December 04, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G quoted: "1 Cor. 16.1-4: Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I
gave to the churches of Galatia. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside
and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. 3 And
when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If
it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me."

I suggest that this was originally a prophet in Rome writing to fellow followers or prophets in Jerusalem. He was advising them to make collections to pay for itinerant prophets (such as those in the Didache), so that when they visited, no collections would have to be taken. This was traditional 'Essene' practice.

This local collection was changed by the editor to one in which Paul apparently gathered gifts during the fabricated travels of his mission to Gentiles. "The collection for the saints" is a myth.

December 05, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G wrote: "Is it significant that the earlier epistles, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, are light (to put it mildly) on the forensic language while the later epistles (Galatians, Romans, Philippians 3) feature it heavily?"

May be it wasn't simply a question of later documents being more 'forensic' because they were later. May be the original pre-edited documents were also more 'forensic' but with a different theology in the first place, and perhaps they contained more explicit history too. I suggest that earlier 'forensic' theology, and history had to be obfuscated by the editors. Here is an example from a 'forensic' document, 'Galations' which I would suggest was late in the original series of epistles, say 50CE being 36 CE, the year of the death of the prophet, plus 14 years.

Thus I suggest 'Galations' was originally written by a prophet in Rome to Judean prophets who were being lured back to the priest's practices of cleansing by animal sacrifices. So the prophet wrote something like (based on 2:1 and (2:2): "Fourteen years ago, I came to Rome with Simon. I came in response to a revelation, and set before the brothers the Spirit that I proclaimed among the Judeans." And if we look at Acts 1:3,4, we can get a sense of what that revelation or "command" "spoke" by the Spirit was, namely: "Leave Jerusalem." (Acts 1:4) Acts starts off in Rome. And the writer of 'Galations' did not go up to Jerusalem fourteen years "later" where he supposedly saw James, because, I suggest, it was James who had left Jerusalem fourteen years before the time when he wrote 'Galations'. And I suggest he wrote the 'forensic' words: "Did you receive the Spirit by Sacrifice or by obeying the Spirit you heard", i.e. the Spirit that "spoke".

Paul going up to Jerusalem at any time is fiction.

December 06, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

The original version of 2 Cor was a very early letter written (perhaps around 40 CE) from Rome shortly after the arrival there of the writer. He explained to the prophets he left behind in Jerusalem the reasons for his leaving. In 1:8,9 he wrote about the level of persecution experienced in Jerusalem (Jerusalem to be understood, but the editor added "in the province of Asia"): "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death." Thus in 1:23 he wrote: "I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Jerusalem" (not the editor's "Corinth"). Thus the writer was implying that he had previously the focus of the priest's persecution of the prophets, and it was to protect his prophet friends from the persecution surrounding him that he left Jerusalem.

And you could hardly have a more 'forensic' document, and explicitly so. So I see 3:14-18 as originally being something like:
3.14.But their spirits were darkened, for to this day the same spirit of darkness remains when the old covenant is obeyed. It has not been removed.

3.15.Even to this day when Moses is obeyed, a spirit darkens their hearts.

3.16.But whenever anyone obeys the Lord, the spirit of darkness is taken away.

3.17.NOW the Lord IS THE SPIRIT, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is light.

3.18.And we are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The Law had become defunct for the prophets, from the time of the prophet, since the writer was a follower of the prophet. And considering how the writer refers to his grief, I would think he was also the son of the prophet who had been executed a few years before. Thus I see 2:4 as originally: "For I am writing to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my grief for Jxxxx."

December 08, 2008

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Mark G. describes Acts as: being 'set' in a pre 70 period (page 34); as having a hint of authorial self-representation in the “we” passages (page 38); and as having Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem brought forward to 9:25-6 and the Jerusalem council, brought forward to 15 from its “true” location in 18:22. (page 18).

For me, the document has more than a hint of authorial self-representation. In many places, one could well imagine it to have been autobiographical. The contents of the detailed speech of ‘Stephen’ could only have been known to the writer, even if written down later. That the speech doesn’t mention Jesus once is surely an indication that it hasn’t been concocted. It has the ring of genuineness. But I don’t believe that the speaker was ‘Stephen’.

When Mark G. says stuff has been “brought forward”, he is presumably alluding to his belief that later editorial work was done to an original document, so that it became only 'set' in a pre-70 period. Mark G. thus avoided any consideration that a good chunk of it was written pre 70. Large sections of Acts appear to be fabricated, interpolated, or garbled material, much of it subjected to the editorial device of reversal. The implication is that Acts was once a document with great political and religious significance that was heavily edited and expanded to conceal its original evidence, as well as being adapted for the new cult of Jesus.

‘Paul’s’ first visit to Jerusalem in Acts 9:25-26 is clearly a fabricated interpolation. There never was a first visit by a ‘Paul’, and here we have one ‘Saul’ not ‘Paul’ which may indicate uncertainty about what name to use for the fictitious character. In fact 9:23(b) to 9:28(a) could all be seen as fabrication. The editor invented a plot by the Jews of Damascus to kill ‘Saul’, and then had him instantaneously beamed over to Jerusalem where he was apparently safe with the supposed disciples. (9:26) There for some strange reason he could move around freely, as if the Jews of Jerusalem were more benign than those in Damascus.

The real clue as to who ‘Saul’ was is in the words: “after three years had gone by”. (9:23). They are parallel to these words in Josephus’ Life 2: “and continued with him three years.” Josephus was referring to the time he spent with ‘Banus’. He had been “informed of one who lived in the ‘desert’.” I suggest he had been informed of one who lived in the city, not the desert. And that the person he had been informed about lived in the house of (would you believe it!) Judas on Straight Street. (Acts 9:10) – a street of Rome where there were ‘straight streets’. And this person didn’t bath “himself ‘in’ cold water frequently, both ‘by’ night and ‘by’ day” (a long time to be in cold water!), but he prayed ‘in’ the Spirit both ‘by’ night and ‘by’ day. He had done exactly that in the sanctuary when he lived in Jerusalem, which was why his “knees grew hard like a camel’s” according to Hegessippus as quoted by Eusebius. And the house? Was it called the house of Judas because that was where the followers of the prophet Judas were living in Rome?

So “the Lord told him” (I suggest Josephus), “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a prophet (not a ‘man’) from Jerusalem (not ‘Tarsus’) named James (not ‘Saul’), for he is praying” (as we know he did).

Josephus originally wrote about himself: “ I was myself brought up with Nero, whose name was Lucius, for he was named, by both Claudius and Agrippina; and I made mighty proficiency in the improvements of my learning, and appeared to have both a great memory and understanding. And when I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to make trial of the several schools that were among us. These schools are three: - The first is that of the Platonists, the second that of the Stoics, and the third that of the Epicurians.” So we can have a pretty good guess how the Flavian editors came up with their creation of Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.

We may not have an accurate date when Acts was first written, but we have a good internal date of the event when Josephus went over from the priests to the prophets. Josephus was born in 37 CE, the same year as Nero. At the age of 16 when Josephus was experimenting with different schools he joined James and the prophets in Rome. The year would have been around 53 CE.

December 12, 2008


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