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The Resurrection and early Christian faith


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#1 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 10:41 AM

In the Last Temptation of Christ thread, Darrel wrote:

And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances.

Why does Mark want to do that?

#2 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 11:45 AM

If the empty tomb is a Markan invention, then what do we do with the empty tomb in John? Is John's gospel based on Mark's somehow? Did John invent an empty tomb too? Couldn't there be an earlier empty-tomb tradition that both Mark and John are aware of?

#3 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 11:51 AM

Actually, I guess the more intriguing question here is not why Mark would invent the empty tomb, but why Mark would want to avoid writing about any resurrection appearances.

Our earliest source when it comes to the resurrection is not Mark or any of the other gospels, but the writings of Paul. And Paul specifically cites a few resurrection appearances in I Corinthians 15.

So the "resurrection appearance" meme was already out there in the Christian community before Mark wrote his gospel. There were people like Peter and Paul and James who had already been claiming for years that they beheld the resurrected Christ. It wouldn't have been something that Mark had to invent. And yet he doesn't explicitly mention any of these appearances.

Now why is that?

#4 Ryan H.

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 12:17 PM

In the Last Temptation of Christ thread, Darrel wrote:

And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances.

Why does Mark want to do that?

And furthermore, I'd like Darrel to explain his use of the word "invention." To me, the word suggests that Darren rejects a historical resurrection, but I suppose it's possible he didn't quite mean that.

So the "resurrection appearance" meme was already out there in the Christian community before Mark wrote his gospel. There were people like Peter and Paul and James who had already been claiming for years that they beheld the resurrected Christ. It wouldn't have been something that Mark had to invent. And yet he doesn't explicitly mention any of these appearances.

Now why is that?

He ran out of ink and/or time? :P

Edited by Ryan H., 19 March 2010 - 12:25 PM.


#5 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 12:22 PM

Our earliest source when it comes to the resurrection is not Mark or any of the other gospels, but the writings of Paul. And Paul specifically cites a few resurrection appearances in I Corinthians 15.

1 Corinthians 15:3ff are, I think, generally thought to attest one of the earliest extant formulations, if not the very earliest, of Christian kerygma. St. Paul's language of "receiving" and "delivering" clearly indicates that the substance of these verses, and perhaps the actual verbal formulation (who saw Jesus in what order, etc.) is pre-Pauline credal testimony, and represents the message that Paul was taught upon his conversion. It seems safe to say that we know of no earliest Christianity without a well-established tradition of resurrection appearances.

Beyond that, I think the evidence is overwhelming that St. Paul himself believed in bodily resurrection (the notion of any other kind being a straight-up oxymoron by first-century Jewish and Christian lights, so far as we can know them), both in general and with respect to Jesus; that 1 Corinthians 15 is entirely concerned with bodily resurrection; that even 15:3ff, which follow Jesus dying on the cross, being buried, and then being raised on the third day, suggest a continuity of what died on the cross, what was buried, and what rose from the dead, and not some sort of spiritual glorification -- which among other things would seem to make it difficult to account for the insistence on three days.

That motif of three days clearly links 1 Corinthians' earliest testimony of resurrection appearances with Mark's resurrection material, both in Jesus' threefold prophecy and in Mark's own passion narrative. And while Mark doesn't actually narrate resurrection appearances, he does indicate that they will happen (16:7). So it's not like Mark is either unaware of the resurrection appearance tradition, or is attempting to suppress it.

All of which makes me curious of the "school" of thought Darrel to which Darrel alludes, that for some reason Mark wanted to narrate a resurrection account without resurrection appearances. I don't mind admitting I have no explanation of why Mark's Gospel lacks resurrection appearances; I would be interested in any theory, however contrary to my general outlook, that offers a putative explanation for why this would be the case.

Edited by SDG, 19 March 2010 - 02:08 PM.


#6 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 12:35 PM

In Mark? What of the resurrection? The women came. The tomb was empty. They told no one. ...

In Mark, the resurrection isn't much more than a coda. OK, that is a severe overstatement, but it barely makes it to the Gospel that Mark put together. And I am of the school that the empty tomb is a Markan invention to portray a resurrection without having any resurrection appearances. (I'm also of the school that thinks the book really does end at 16:8.) Just as TLTOC has no need for a resurrection account - it is all about the cross.

Mark's resurrection account is brief and puzzling, I grant. But that's not the total of Mark's resurrection material. There's also Jesus' thrice-repeated prediction of his passion, dying and rising in three days -- as well as the twice-repeated charge, made both at his trial and at the cross, that he had supposedly promised to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (a new temple not made with human hands).

Edited by SDG, 19 March 2010 - 02:08 PM.


#7 Tyler

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 03:08 PM

When we talked about the end of Mark at my church last year, my pastor suggested that the reason no one proclaims the resurrection at the end of the account is because, throughout the book, the disciples have been serving as negative examples--that is, they consistently do the opposite of what they should--and when they're scared and silent at the empty tomb, the understood implication is that we should do the opposite, namely, proclaiming the gospel and resurrection.

#8 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 03:25 PM

When we talked about the end of Mark at my church last year, my pastor suggested that the reason no one proclaims the resurrection at the end of the account is because, throughout the book, the disciples have been serving as negative examples--that is, they consistently do the opposite of what they should--and when they're scared and silent at the empty tomb, the understood implication is that we should do the opposite, namely, proclaiming the gospel and resurrection.

Hm, interesting. And does that account for the absence of resurrection appearances? Would the idea be that actually reporting the appearances would undermine the disciples' fearfulness and silence?

I'm not sure. After all, in the Marcan coda we do get a resurrection appearance, in which Jesus upbraids the disciples for their lack of faith, and it isn't until the very last verse that they actually go out and preach. In principle, Mark could have written something like 16:9-19, and just left off the substance of verse 20.

No matter how you slice it, verse 8 is just an odd ending ... at least, as far as I can see. Perhaps Darrel has an explanation?


Edited by SDG, 19 March 2010 - 03:26 PM.


#9 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 05:28 PM

Of course, there is another possibility, one I should have mentioned before: Just because we recognize Mark 16:9-20 as an editorial coda grafted onto 16:8 to bring the Gospel to a more satisfactory conclusion, it doesn't follow that 16:8 is actually where Mark originally ended his Gospel. It may well be that Mark did write more, but the original ending has been lost.

In favor of that theory, among other things, are points already noted, that Mark not only reports Jesus' threefold predictions of rising on the third day, but also in 16:7 specifically anticipates the coming resurrection appearances. To deliberately end one verse later without the fulfillment of this prediction would seem very odd indeed.

It is even plausible (hat tip: N. T. Wright) that the gist of Mark's lost ending has been preserved in the parallel accounts of Matthew and Luke, especially Matthew. In particular, convergences in the Matthean and Lucan resurrection material would seem to point to a common source in much the same way that earlier Matthew-Luke parallels converge in Mark. Checking Aland, the most striking such case looks to be Matthew 28:1-8 / Luke 24:1-12. (Presumably this narrative pericope would not be likely ascribed to Q.)

Wright advances other textual arguments for considering Mark 16:8 not to be the authorial ending of the text. He also proposes that the Marcan coda may not be a patch written specifically to wrap up truncated Mark, but may represent (a fragment of?) an originally independent, parallel account grafted onto truncated Mark. (Note that verse 9 does not pick up where verse 8 leaves off, but begins in parallel with verse 1.)

Edited by SDG, 19 March 2010 - 05:43 PM.


#10 Fred K

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 09:45 PM

Isn't this the same situation as the disciples: interpretation? We say this mountain, you say that mountain; Saducees say no afterlife, Pharisees say yes. Some say Elijah, others a prophet. We are ripe for a new John the Baptist who could point and say, "Behold, the Lamb of God."
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Edited by Fred K, 19 March 2010 - 09:48 PM.


#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 11:16 PM

SDG, I remember coming across Wright's theory that Mark's original ending is lost to us when I first got into historical-Jesus studies some 15 years ago.

I also read a few books by members of the Jesus Seminar at that time, and through them I learned about Morton Smith and his theory that the canonical Gospel of Mark is actually an edited-down version of a so-called Secret Gospel of Mark that was supposedly made available only to people who had been initiated into the church. His theory rests on a fragment that he claimed to have discovered (and photographed) at the Mar Saba monastery in 1958 -- and if memory serves, the fragment has been interpreted as suggesting that the man dressed in white at the empty tomb may be identical to the man wearing nothing but a white robe in Gethsemane.

For whatever that's worth.

#12 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:17 AM

SDG, thanks for moving this here. I'll try to respond when I get a bit more time.

#13 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 07:10 PM

Let's see how much I can answer at this sitting.

PTC commented:

Actually, I guess the more intriguing question here is not why Mark would invent the empty tomb, but why Mark would want to avoid writing about any resurrection appearances.

Our earliest source when it comes to the resurrection is not Mark or any of the other gospels, but the writings of Paul. And Paul specifically cites a few resurrection appearances in I Corinthians 15.

So the "resurrection appearance" meme was already out there in the Christian community before Mark wrote his gospel. There were people like Peter and Paul and James who had already been claiming for years that they beheld the resurrected Christ. It wouldn't have been something that Mark had to invent. And yet he doesn't explicitly mention any of these appearances.

Now why is that?

Yes. That is the real question isn't it. And without trying to get to that answer yet, it does make a good starting point.

One of the reasons that some (myself included) see the empty tomb as a Markan invention (by which I mean essentially that Mark made up that story - not that it isn't true, just not actual) is very much because appearances seems to be how the resurrection was known. I don't claim to understand just what those appearances were like. Were they a protoplasmic body? People in appearance stories that we have sometimes did touch or were invited to touch him. OTOH, protoplasm doesn't materialize and dematerialize that easily. Certainly some appearances were probably what we would categorize as visions. (Please, do not read that as merely visions. Rather visions may well be as real as anything protoplasmic.) Certainly Paul's experience of the risen Christ was a vision. As Peter noted, 1 Cor 15 has a list (a partial list) of those to whom Jesus appeared after his death. I expect there was a wide range of what those experiences were like. But in some way his earliest followers continued to experience the living presence of Jesus in ways that are beyond what we might say of the way the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. lives on. So I hope I am clear that I believe in the resurrection, even if I don't believe in the factualness of the empty tomb stories.

That said, let's look a bit at the tomb stories. First of all, in all the references outside the gospels - all of those lists of appearances - never include what somebody saw at the empty tomb. Never is it said, "and we know where he was buried and there is nothing there." Given, this is arguing from silence, but I think it's a notable silence. It should also be noted that with one exception ("the other disciple" in John), no one believes that Jesus is raised because of the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene thinks somebody has stolen the body. The women in Luke are bewildered before and angel tells them what has happened; when they report to the disciples, the disciples think it an idle tale. Even in the gospels that speak of resurrection through the empty tomb, it's not really an offer of proof.

The empty tomb in Mark. Here the issue of the ending of Mark is important. To be sure, the most reliable manuscript evidence has neither the longer nor shorter ending of Mark. (The shorter, btw, has very poor attestation and I'll pretty much leave out of discussion.)There are stylistic differences between 16:9ff and the rest of Mark. So it is fair to say (as Metzger does in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament) "Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16:8." SDG has offered a fair synopsis of some ways of dealing with that. Let me outline some possibilities.
  • The book ends where it ends. This is not without problems. Ending the book with "ephobounto gar" is not just bad grammar - it is unparalleled to end an entire work in a way you would not even end a sentence. there are those who try to work around that issue, but I don't know enough about their solutions to argue them. Vv. 9ff in this scenario are seen as an attempt to "fix" the gospel. They pulls mostly from Matthew to complete the story that some early readers likely found unsatisfactory.
  • The book did not originally end here, but the last bit has been lost - such things happen. Vv. 9ff then represent a kind of summary of what was there.
  • For some reason (e.g., Mark's death) the gospel wasn't finished. Vv. 9ff then may be the addition of an amanuensis or other such assistants.
All of these are possibilities. Each has something to be said for it. Each has problems. It is appealing to try to think in terms of 2 and 3, because ending at verse 8 does seem very unsatisfactory. We want it fixed. But at the end of the day, we still have the fact that the gospel as it has come to us ends at 16:8. There is a sense (but only slightly, I think) that 2 and 3 are looking for zebras because you hear hoof beats.

So (I know I'm wandering more than the Hebrews of the Exodus), if Mark ended the gospel at 16:8, what does that mean? Why does he not have appearances? I don't know. I've heard theories, but none that have entirely convinced me. But since he doesn't include appearances, how then can he speak of the resurrection? Is there some metaphor that he can develop to say that the Jesus who died in chapter 15 lives? And if so, how do you explain that nobody has known about this before?

Well, there are women who went to the tomb and found it empty. They were suppose to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to meet Jesus, but they were afraid and told no one. How will it speak to Christians reading this story?
Perhaps it reflects the continued failure of disciples in Mark. As readers we are called to consider if we also are too afraid to proclaim a risen Christ. Or, perhaps, like the ending of Matthew, we are to understand that he is abroad in the world - even if we no longer see him. (Matthew was just more explicit with "I am with you always.")

I think that is it for now.

Edited by Darrel Manson, 20 March 2010 - 07:11 PM.


#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:15 PM

Darrel Manson wrote:
: I don't claim to understand just what those appearances were like. . . . I expect there was a wide range of what those experiences were like.

Just wondering, Darrel, are you familiar with Phillip H. Wiebe's Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today (Oxford University Press, 1997)? Wiebe is a professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University, one of Canada's more established evangelical post-secondary institutions, and his book gets into some of these issues; I interviewed him about it here.

Granted, Wiebe's book might not please those people who believe that the Resurrection appearances ended with the Ascension ... but then, the same book (i.e. Acts) that reports the Ascension ALSO reports the appearance of Jesus to Paul some time later, and Paul, in I Corinthians 15, does lump his vision of Jesus in with all the others (while possibly acknowledging that there was something kind of different about the vision that he had, compared to the visions that the others had). So that ambiguity is already there in the New Testament.

: First of all, in all the references outside the gospels - all of those lists of appearances - never include what somebody saw at the empty tomb. Never is it said, "and we know where he was buried and there is nothing there."

FWIW, I don't know how pressing an argument this would have been, given that the audiences in question lived nowhere near the tomb (or where the tomb would have been). To piggyback on something SDG said, there is a certain simplicity in the existing kerygma and its flow of action -- died, buried, raised -- that might have become more cumbersome if extra details had been tacked on there.

: It should also be noted that with one exception ("the other disciple" in John), no one believes that Jesus is raised because of the empty tomb.

FWIW, the thought I'm about to express had never occurred to me before, but the exception that you note here seems, to me, to be a very significant one, mainly because "the other disciple" is basically the disciple who is credited with the authorship of that very gospel. And it is not only tradition that credits him as the source of that gospel, but the editors of the gospel itself ("This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true").

Some people might be quick to dismiss this claim of authorship as spurious, but I am not so sure that we can, because the editors of that gospel apparently felt obliged to refute a rumour about this disciple that had proved somewhat embarrassing when the disciple died. And the rumour in question went all the way back to ... something that Jesus said during one of the Resurrection appearances! Anyway. Pseudepigraphal works generally don't have to jump through hoops like that: they just assert their authorship and carry on. But John's gospel, I think, definitely bears the marks of a community that had known "the other disciple" intimately. And if "the other disciple" had told them about the empty tomb and its effect on him, then I don't think we can dismiss that lightly.

But even if we do dispute the notion that the gospel bearing John's name was actually written by John himself, I think one of my earlier questions still stands: If Mark invented the empty tomb, then why is there an empty tomb in John? Is John not as independent of Mark as many (most?) scholars claim? It is certainly possible that John is borrowing from Mark. But I would argue, at a minimum, that there was an earlier tradition that both Mark and John were privy to. In which case the tomb would not be an "invention" of Mark's -- but at the same time, your argument that the empty tomb is non-historical would not necessarily be refuted.

#15 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:57 PM

Darrel Manson wrote:
: I don't claim to understand just what those appearances were like. . . . I expect there was a wide range of what those experiences were like.

Just wondering, Darrel, are you familiar with Phillip H. Wiebe's Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today (Oxford University Press, 1997)? Wiebe is a professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University, one of Canada's more established evangelical post-secondary institutions, and his book gets into some of these issues; I interviewed him about it here.

Granted, Wiebe's book might not please those people who believe that the Resurrection appearances ended with the Ascension ... but then, the same book (i.e. Acts) that reports the Ascension ALSO reports the appearance of Jesus to Paul some time later, and Paul, in I Corinthians 15, does lump his vision of Jesus in with all the others (while possibly acknowledging that there was something kind of different about the vision that he had, compared to the visions that the others had). So that ambiguity is already there in the New Testament.

I'll have to take a look at your interview. I'm not one that would limit visions to pre-Ascension (in no small part because I think Ascension is a minority report among the gospels - all the others have the risen Jesus among us). When Borg was talking about that this weekend, he noted that he would expect about 10% of those who were at his lectures might report such an experience. I have certainly felt the presence of the risen Christ, but have never had a vision. That does not mean that I discount the visions of others. So I do not limit the experience of Resurrection to before the Ascension, or even to apostolic times. But I am also content to be one of those mentioned in the Gospel of John who believe without seeing.

: First of all, in all the references outside the gospels - all of those lists of appearances - never include what somebody saw at the empty tomb. Never is it said, "and we know where he was buried and there is nothing there."

FWIW, I don't know how pressing an argument this would have been, given that the audiences in question lived nowhere near the tomb (or where the tomb would have been). To piggyback on something SDG said, there is a certain simplicity in the existing kerygma and its flow of action -- died, buried, raised -- that might have become more cumbersome if extra details had been tacked on there.

: It should also be noted that with one exception ("the other disciple" in John), no one believes that Jesus is raised because of the empty tomb.

FWIW, the thought I'm about to express had never occurred to me before, but the exception that you note here seems, to me, to be a very significant one, mainly because "the other disciple" is basically the disciple who is credited with the authorship of that very gospel. And it is not only tradition that credits him as the source of that gospel, but the editors of the gospel itself ("This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true").

Some people might be quick to dismiss this claim of authorship as spurious, but I am not so sure that we can, because the editors of that gospel apparently felt obliged to refute a rumour about this disciple that had proved somewhat embarrassing when the disciple died. And the rumour in question went all the way back to ... something that Jesus said during one of the Resurrection appearances! Anyway. Pseudepigraphal works generally don't have to jump through hoops like that: they just assert their authorship and carry on. But John's gospel, I think, definitely bears the marks of a community that had known "the other disciple" intimately. And if "the other disciple" had told them about the empty tomb and its effect on him, then I don't think we can dismiss that lightly.

But even if we do dispute the notion that the gospel bearing John's name was actually written by John himself, I think one of my earlier questions still stands: If Mark invented the empty tomb, then why is there an empty tomb in John? Is John not as independent of Mark as many (most?) scholars claim? It is certainly possible that John is borrowing from Mark. But I would argue, at a minimum, that there was an earlier tradition that both Mark and John were privy to. In which case the tomb would not be an "invention" of Mark's -- but at the same time, your argument that the empty tomb is non-historical would not necessarily be refuted.

If I'd had a chance to ask Borg a question it would have been about "the other disciple" at the tomb. You are right that it is a significant exception. There are other interpretations as to who "the other disciple" or "the disciple whom Jesus loved" are, but I'm really not a John scholar. (I really kind of dread Eastertide because John is always the Gospel. Luckily, I have Acts and 1 John, 1 Peter or Revelation to choose from - I'll be doing Revelation this year.)

Yes, John is independent of Mark, but so much later that perhaps the empty tomb had become the primary way of affirming the resurrection. Perhaps there is an issue of what his readers would have thought if he had left out the empty tomb ("What? Don't you believe in the bodily resurrection?") Remember, I'm much more comfortable in the Synoptics than I am in the Fourth Gospel. And John also pulls in the feeding of the 5000 from the synoptic tradition, so I don't think they are unknown to him.

Edited by Darrel Manson, 20 March 2010 - 10:04 PM.


#16 Ryan H.

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:02 PM

One of the reasons that some (myself included) see the empty tomb as a Markan invention (by which I mean essentially that Mark made up that story - not that it isn't true, just not actual) is very much because appearances seems to be how the resurrection was known.

Are there any other moments in the canonical gospels that you believe are "true, just not actual"?

For what it's worth, I find your evidence that Mark's tomb story is somehow an invention a bit of a reach. To make the bold claim that it was something Mark invented (a claim that strikes me as odd, since Mark doesn't seem to be too imaginative and/or creative), I think you have to go on significantly more than "arguing from silence."

I fail to see how the evidence that resurrection appearances were considered with more weight than any "empty tomb tradition" somehow suggests that Mark's empty tomb is fictional. That's a very, very big leap. Nevermind that if Mark's story was a pure invention, I find it fairly unlikely that the other gospel writers would have picked up on it and expanded on it as they seem to do. Particularly John.

Edited by Ryan H., 20 March 2010 - 10:14 PM.


#17 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:18 PM

One of the reasons that some (myself included) see the empty tomb as a Markan invention (by which I mean essentially that Mark made up that story - not that it isn't true, just not actual) is very much because appearances seems to be how the resurrection was known.

Are there any other moments in the canonical gospels that you believe are "true, just not actual"?

Sure. Quite a bit perhaps. It is always hard to separate the historical from the theological. For example, in the accounts of the crucifixion, how much of what we are told is through a lens of a particular understanding of the Hebrew scriptures? E.g., did the Roman soldiers really shoot dice for Jesus' clothing or was that the evangelist's reference to Psalm 22?

The idea of metaphor also needs to be taken into account throughout the gospels. (Metaphor is not "less than real", but "more than real".) The stories that are told, factual or not, are told as metaphors. Does it matter at the feeding of 5000 that there are five loaves and two fish, or could any numbers have worked - or that there were 12 baskets of leftovers? John is certainly clearly metaphorical with miracles, such as restoring sight to Bar-Timmaeus, and the discussion amongst the council. The miracle stories are not told to show us that Jesus was a wonder-worker, but to shed light on his proclamation of God's Kingdom.

Is the empty tomb also metaphor?

Something I didn't include above is how unlikely it was that the Romans would have permitted Jesus to be buried. The idea of crucifixion was to publicly torture and humiliate, and to provide an example - which almost always meant leaving the body there for the dogs and birds to feast on.

#18 Ryan H.

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:49 PM

It is always hard to separate the historical from the theological.

Which hermeneutical principles aid us in distinguishing the two?

(Metaphor is not "less than real", but "more than real".)

Explain, since a fictional/metaphorical "empty tomb" does, indeed, strike me as "less than real" rather than "more than real," and deeply damaging to the integrity and trustworthiness of all four gospels. Nevermind that the empty tomb seems to be a rather lousy metaphor.

Something I didn't include above is how unlikely it was that the Romans would have permitted Jesus to be buried. The idea of crucifixion was to publicly torture and humiliate, and to provide an example - which almost always meant leaving the body there for the dogs and birds to feast on.

Yes, but all four of the canonical gospels account for that by detailing that Joseph of Arimethea made a special request to Pilate for Christ's body (and Pilate's granting of the request doesn't seem too impossible given his portrayal in the gospel accounts). Do you think that Mark just made that bit up too? If so, why? Just to lend some internal narrative credence to his metaphorical/fictional finale?

Edited by Ryan H., 20 March 2010 - 11:25 PM.


#19 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:24 PM

It is always hard to separate the historical from the theological.

Which hermeneutical principles aid us in distinguishing the two?

I'd refer you to various Historical Jesus folk and the Jesus Seminar for ways of looking at these question. I think Borg and Crossan are very good for doing this from the context of faith rather than only scholarship.

(Metaphor is not "less than real", but "more than real".)

Explain. A fictional/metaphorical "empty tomb" does, indeed, strike me as "less than real" rather than "more than real," and deeply damaging to the integrity of all four gospels. Nevermind that a metaphorical empty tomb doesn't seem to be much of an effective metaphor. It seems like a pretty lousy one.

I see no damage done to the integrity of the gospels -- unless one is working from a perspective of literalism. I do not understand the gospels about being about what happened (although they are about what happened), but rather about what it means that such things happened. If stories are told in a way that are lot historical - that really doesn't matter. Such an expectation that stories such of this would be historical are not necessarily the way stories were told in the ancient world. Certainly the stores of the imperial cult were just as outlandish, and had to be taken as metaphor. Why would these stories (which have to be seen as stories in opposition to the imperial cult) be taken differently?

Something I didn't include above is how unlikely it was that the Romans would have permitted Jesus to be buried. The idea of crucifixion was to publicly torture and humiliate, and to provide an example - which almost always meant leaving the body there for the dogs and birds to feast on.

Yes, but all four of the canonical gospels account for that by detailing that Joseph of Arimethea made a special request to Pilate for Christ's body (and Pilate's granting of the request doesn't seem too impossible given his portrayal in the gospel accounts). Now, I suppose you'd argue that Mark just made that bit up too?

It might fit with the picture of Pilate in the gospels, but not with the picture of the ruthless military administrator of the Roman Imperial system that we have elsewhere (and even occasionally in the gospels).

#20 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 11:28 PM

Darrel Manson wrote:
: There are other interpretations as to who "the other disciple" or "the disciple whom Jesus loved" are, but I'm really not a John scholar.

I've heard some alternate theories, yeah. But the basic point here doesn't really hinge on WHO the "other disciple" is. The point here is simply that the "other disciple" who went to the tomb is identical to the disciple who is credited with writing the gospel that records this event. The empty-tomb story in John's gospel is essentially autobiographical, however filtered through editors it may be.

So unless we suppose that the editors ADDED an empty-tomb encounter to the "other disciple's" autobiographical account, we don't really have to posit any sort of pre-Johannine tradition, or any sort of textual interdependence. The gospel of John itself is a primary source, even an eyewitness source, rather than a secondary or tertiary source.

Unless, of course, we suppose that the "other disciple" in question didn't really write this gospel. But like I say, I think it's pretty darn likely that the "other disciple" was an actual historical figure, and one who was fairly well known to the gospel's editors and original readers, given how his editors are at pains to explain that his death didn't really disprove what Jesus said to Peter during one of his Resurrection appearances. I can't see why the editors would have had to jump through hoops like that if the "other disciple" were fictitious.

: Remember, I'm much more comfortable in the Synoptics than I am in the Fourth Gospel.

FWIW, so am I. Though there are certain points where I think John may be more "historical" than the Synoptics (e.g. the way he dates the Crucifixion to the day BEFORE Passover rather than the day OF Passover).

: And John also pulls in the feeding of the 5000 from the synoptic tradition, so I don't think they are unknown to him.

Does he necessarily "pull" this in from the Synoptics? Is there a word-to-word correspondence in the original Greek? I must admit, it has been a long time since I studied this, so I don't know what the answer to that would be.

I do seem to recall that John Dominic Crossan hypothesized a pre-Markan, pre-Johannine source that contained something like six or seven events that appear in both gospels in more-or-less the same sequence. But my memory is very fuzzy on this point.

: The miracle stories are not told to show us that Jesus was a wonder-worker, but to shed light on his proclamation of God's Kingdom.

To a point, sure. But the miracle stories are not told simply about Jesus; they are also told about the apostles, both in the gospels and in the Book of Acts. What is more, Paul himself speaks of the miracles that he performed in the presence of his own readers (II Corinthians 12:12: "...for I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing. The things that mark an apostle -- signs, wonders and miracles -- were done among you with great perseverance"). So the miracles shed light, yes, but only because there is a wick to burn in the first place.

If, however, we say that the miracles are "metaphors", then we have to ask what Paul was telling the Corinthians when he reminded them that he had performed "signs, wonders and miracles" in their presence. Was he speaking about events that were "true, not actual"? Would his readers have thought that that was what he meant? Again, the claim being made here is essentially an autobiographical one -- and I would say it's much more clearly autobiographical here than it is in John's gospel, since there don't seem to be any editors tweaking Paul's epistle.

: Something I didn't include above is how unlikely it was that the Romans would have permitted Jesus to be buried.

Unlikely, sure, but again, our earliest source for this is not the gospels but Paul. "Died, buried, raised" is the kerygma that he reminds his readers about in I Corinthians 15.

For the sake of argument, though, I am willing to allow for the possibility that Jesus might have been buried in a mass grave or something, rather than a dedicated tomb. Then again, if we follow SDG's point about the physical continuity between "died", "buried" and "raised", then we have to wonder how Jesus would have gotten out of this mass grave. I now have images from zombie movies and other films coming to mind, of hands clawing their way up through the dirt. :)