Archive for April, 2010

Here I want to place Luke and John in closer relation to Mark’s 20 verses on the period between the arrest and the trial before Pilate, and to changes in Mark introduced by the author of Matthew

To me it seems unusual that Mark has recounted everything he has heard about this night as if it happened at a single location.  The confinement of Jesus, the denial of Peter, the first Jewish trial, the spitting, mocking, beating, and taunting, and the second, early morning consultation of the council – everything seems to occur at the same Jerusalem address.  One  reason to doubt the authenticity of this feature in Mark is, as I  suggested in a previous post , the fact that Luke contradicts Mark’s single-location storyline, and is  supported by the author of the gospel of John.

Attention to details of location is a characteristic quality of a good eyewitness report.  If we can believe Luke and John, Mark’s sources have missed an important change of scene. For the purpose of retelling the events which he has in hand, Mark has pretty good control of his ‘collapsed’ singularity of location.  However, when the author of Matthew blithely accepts Mark’s single-location story but attempts to flesh it out with additional facts and assumptions, the results are even less acceptable to John and arguably to Luke as well (For signs of Luke’s knowledge of Matthew’s passion, see Michael D. Goulder, Luke: A New Paradigm,1989, pp. 6-7, etc.).

The Gospel of Matthew adds to Mark’s opening verses two new things (Mk14:53-4/ Mt 26:57-8).  First, in 26:57, is the  assumption that the location to which Jesus was taken immediately after his arrest was the residence of Caiaphas.  This addition, which seems at least to be a  reasonably well-educated guess,  is not confirmed by Luke and is flatly contradicted by John. Next, in 26:58, is the elimination of Mark’s courtyard fire, and the addition of a specific intent of Peter to ‘see’ the result of the trial.  This could be an attempt to raise Peter’s status as eyewitness, but more to the point, the implied darkness and outerness of Mark’s fire-lit courtyard is gone in Matthew – we now appear to be in an indoor court.  I think it is very interesting that Luke and John, who do not follow Matthew in this matter of identifying the residence with Caiaphas, retain Mark’s outdoor fire.

Too often I think modern critics of the gospels ascribe to the apostles and evangelists unworthy aims and ulterior motives in their writing.

Duccio di Buoninsenga - Jesus before Annas/Peter's first denial

But I find three practical and historical inducements for the author of John to make changes in the recorded history of events immediately following the arrest of Jesus: 

(1)  Correction of the tendency  of Matthew’s  additional matter to alter events remembered differently by his own sources;

(2)  Support for Luke’s tradition of a second location for the Jewish trial over the single-location version of Mark (followed by Matthew);

(3)  Introduction of eyewitness material  which builds on Luke’s two-location story by correcting the location of Peter’s denial – in the courtyard of Annas before Jesus is taken to Caiaphas for the official trial.

Note:  The right of Annas to interview Jesus before trial seems indirectly confirmed by the report of the historian Josephus (Ant.xviii.2.1 f) – that the wealthy former high priest was long a power in Judaism after the Romans arbitrarily removed him as high priest (an office traditionally granted for life).  I think Edersheim has evidence that Annas retained rule over the temple trade in animals and coin (I’ll confirm that).

For a treatment of the problem from a strictly synoptic viewpoint, without the help of the Fourth Gospel, see Matthew D. Larsen’s series on the Jewish trials.

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Markan Priority is the dominant critical theory used to explain the fact that Mark, Matthew and Luke exhibit a certain conformity of content and narrative superstructure – despite all their differences.  The theory dominates for good reason – because it really does offer the best of all possible explanations for this conformity among the three gospels called the synoptics.

To my evangelical friends who would suggest that the Holy Spirit was the likely source of this conformity, I want to say we are talking about a very human type of conformity here which has its share of contradiction and confusion.  I question the need of invoking the Spirit to secure such a plainly human outcome, when a perfectly natural explanation is available.

The four Evangelists - Carolingian miniature

In a nutshell, Markan priority goes like this:  A comparison of all three synoptic gospels in unison shows that the Markan structure and language is usually the default position for Matthew and Luke when either one disagrees with the other in content or chronology covered by Mark.   This does suggest that these later writers very likely had a copy of Mark’s writing before them, and incorporated as much of this original account into their work as seemed warranted to them by the demands of their own unique material.  This editorial process included mostly retention and revision of Mark, and some outright rejection (without much re-arrangement of Mark’s order).

According to my English authority, Vincent Taylor (The Gospel According to St. Mark, 1953), Markan priority was first enunciated in this very general way by C. Lachmann in 1835 and was soon elaborated by C.G. Wilke (1838) and C.H. Weisse (1838).  It was finally established as a convincing element in the solution to the synoptic problem by the work of Bernard Weiss (1886) and H.J. Holtzmann (1901).  The theory began to attract the attention of British and American critical scholars at the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, but was not treated adequately in a major commentary, according to Taylor,  until that of Rawlinson in 1925 (Taylor, pp.10-12).

[NOTE 25 April: as early as the 1907 ICC commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, I find author W.C. Allen making a thorough application of Markan priority to his subject – to brilliant effect.]

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Research Day

Thursday I took a vacation day in honor of mother Earth and visited my favorite seminary library.  I count it a great good to live within 50 miles of such a fine theological school, and I am able to use it about twice a month (community patron privilege).  OK, I used more fossil fuel getting to the library than if I had gone to work.

I spent most of my time sitting in the stacks and reading in front of the (est.) 600-volume section on the Gospel of John.

Brought home:
Rudolf Schnackenburg,  the Gospel According to John, vols. 1 and 3 (1965/68, 1975/82)
Tom Thatcher, Why John Wrote a Gospel (2006)
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006)

I have already checked out or own copies of Westcott (1881), Bernard (ICC 1928), Dodd (1963), Bultmann (1964/68), Robinson (1985), and Vol. 1 of the John, Jesus, and History Project symposium (Ed. Anderson et al, SBL 2007).

On the trials of Jesus (a current interest) I picked up a challenge in Dominic Crossan’s Who Killed Jesus? (1995 – I don’t like Crossan’s work, but I’m a little embarrassed about that).  While among the ‘Trial of Jesus’ call numbers, I was surprised at the number of attorneys who have over the past 200 years published books on the illegality of trials.

Finally, my antique pick sounds very retro but actually anticipates E.P. Sanders by 100 years in some regards – the 2-vol. Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (8th, 1896).

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My aim in this series is simply to demonstrate an example of how the Gospel of John can contribute to the solution of problems of historical detail in cases where the synoptics offer conflicting or confusing reports of events in the life of Jesus – in this case the events occurring after the arrest of Jesus and before he is brought to Pilate.

For analysis of the synoptic side of the problem I am glad to have Matthew D. Larsen’s three recent posts on the Jewish trials only a click away. 

Larsen illustrates the matter and degree of Luke’s divergence from Mark and Matthew in his account of this night’s events, and offers an explanation of this divergence on the basis of the synoptics alone.  For my part, I wish to show that the Fourth Gospel narrative holds a key to a better explanation of Luke’s differences.

Modern criticism has long taken note of the uncanny similarities between Luke and John in some particulars of their accounts following Jesus’ arrest.    The point is not that Luke follows John here (hardly possible), but rather that John, knowing the work of all three predecessors, lends support to Luke’s version by contributing to the story a key fact to which he alleges himself an eyewitness.

I will start with the first two particulars of the Luke-John resemblance and continue with some others in my next post.

1a. In Luke 22:54 Jesus is brought after arrest ‘into the high priest’s house’ (Caiaphas is not named by Luke) with Peter following afar off, but there is no report of an official trial until Jesus is moved to a different location.

1b.  In John’s narrative (Jn18:13), ‘they led him away to Annas first’ (the former high priest), with Peter (and John) following him there.  There is no report of an official trial at this first location (only an interview between Annas and Jesus).  From here Jesus is taken to a different location (to Caiaphas).

2a. In Luke, it is at this (unnamed) high priest’s house that Peter’s denial takes place, and not in a location associated with a trial.

2b. In John it is the walled courtyard (Jn18:16) of the house of the high priest Annas (not any place associated with a trial) that Peter’s denial of Jesus takes place.

The Johannine tradition of Peter’s denial separates it spatially and temporally from the trial before Caiaphas.  If Luke has also heard of this two-location tradition, and judged it closer to the truth, it would explain his stubborn rejection of Mark’s single-location setting for Peter’s denial and the official trials and abuses, etc., of Jesus.

[to be continued]

Part 1 of this series can be found here

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Church fresco in Overselo, Sweden. Photo by Klafui

As announced by JohnDave Medina at Near Emmaus, Dr. Paul N. Anderson’s lecture series on John, Jesus, and History should begin today at Reedwood Friends Church, Portland, Oregon.  JohnDave indicated to me that Dr. Anderson was agreeable to the idea of uploading audio and/or video of one or more key sessions in the program.  I’m eager to see that happen.

It’s a Sunday-Wednesday split venue.  The Sunday series, Reading John again … for the First Time, is scheduled to begin today and finish next Sunday.  The Wednesday series, Jesus, Christ, and John, begins this Wednesday, April 21, and concludes April 28. 

Paul N. Anderson is founding co-chair of the John, Jesus, and History Group at the national Society of Biblical Literature.  I am currently reading Volume 1 of this group’s work (ed. Anderson et al, 2007 by SBL).

Capping off the series, Anderson promises a joint session with Marcus Borg entitled, The Origin of the Gospels – The Synoptics and John, scheduled for Wednesday, May 19.  There will also be a public symposium tabled by Anderson and Borg at Reedwood the following Saturday, May 22, Jesus in Bi-Optic Perspective: Latest Scholarship on the Synoptics and John.

Has the Fourth Quest for the historical Jesus already begun?  How fitting if it is to be characterized by a just resort to the Fourth Gospel – a supplementation of the synoptic approach with this very promising ‘Bi-Optic’ approach which Anderson is talking about!

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This morning’s studies have been illuminated by the ongoing Wheaton Conference blogging of Nijay Gupta especially the link I found there to the conference videos and MP3

Needless to say I was very much edified to listen in full to Marianne Meye Thompson’s talk on “The Gospel of John Meets Jesus and the Victory of God.”  Thompson gives a convincing recommendation of the value of John’s Gospel as a supplement (and more than a supplement) to the ostensibly limited synoptic views of NT Wright’s book.

I doubt Wright will contradict, although I haven’t been able to find interaction between him and Thompson yet. 

Thanks to Brian LePort at Near Emmaus for the initial link to Nijay’s post.

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I have been looking on at Matthew D. Larsen’s blog as he analyzes the differences between the synoptic versions of the Jewish trial[s] of Jesus.  Matt has made it pretty clear that Luke differs too much here to call this part of the story a ‘synoptic’ view of events.  I think the synoptics fail here to deliver (as a threesome) a cohesive ‘history’ of events between Jesus’ arrest and his appearance before Pilate.

Mr. Larsen has exercised his critical right to attempt an explanation of why Luke isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Mark and Matthew at this point.  Now I want to suggest that – not in all cases but in this particular case – when the synoptics are in conflict, an examination of the Fourth Gospel is warranted before attempting a solution based upon the synoptics alone.

Recently I was pleased to find a very early modern example of a fruitful resort to the Gospel of John to solve the riddle of Luke’s diversion from Mark and Matthew in the matter of these trials.  F.D.E. Schleiermacher applies the text of John to the problem of this particular synoptic conflict in his lectures of 1832 on the life of Jesus (The Life of Jesus, Eng 1975, p.395-401).  And Schleiermacher was not ignorant of the modern criticism of John’s historicity – neither Strauss nor FC Bauer had yet published, but he knew and rejected Karl Bretschneider’s early (1820) attack on John (Ibid, Introduction, p.xxxi).

John’s account differs significantly from the account in Mark by its rejection of Mark’s report of an immediate appearance before Caiaphas.  And this is a place that Luke differs from Mark as well.  John states that Jesus (with Peter and ‘another disciple’ following) was first taken to the house of Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law to Caiaphas.

Could John be here offering an eyewitness account which enables this synoptic ‘problem’ to be solved?  Schleiermacher thought so (p.398).  Is John’s claim of relation to the high priest (whether by business or marriage) absurd for a son of Zebedee of Capernaum? And is it fair to assume that ‘another disciple’ (18:15) is an authorial reference?  In future posts I want to examine what special characteristic of ‘eyewitness’ accounts scholars have noticed in John.

In my next post I will show how huge this material from John can be for a better understanding of events which transpired between the arrest of Jesus and his appearance before Pilate.  Larsen has done his work by showing how tenuous our ground of resort to the synoptics is (since Luke differs so much from the other two).

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Matthew D. Larsen is blogging a series “investigating the trial[s] of Jesus (or lack thereof) by means of a synoptic analysis of Luke 22.54–71, Mark 14.53–72, and Matthew 26.57–75.”

From the looks of his stated goals, Larsen’s study will culminate in a summary of the Luke passion “especially in light of its Synoptic parallels.”

I will be suggesting other approaches to one or two of the points which Larsen treats, but I am not seeking any controversy with Matthew.  The appeal for me here is twofold:

(1) the chance to open up a study of Michael D. Goulder’s theory about the sources for the Passion in Luke in conjunction with a current example of high-quality text-critical blogging (without jamming up another writer’s blog with lengthy comments) and

(2) the chance to write out an idea found in my recent study of Schleiermacher’s Life of Jesus about a possible supplementary role here for the Gospel of John.

I have Goulder’s 1989 book, Luke: A New Paradigm, home from the library only today.  Goulder has become a new fascination of mine in conjunction with my study of problems with the Q-based Two-Source theory (challenges to ‘Q’ by Austin Farrer in the 1950s and by Goulder in the 80s and more recently prof. Mark Goodacre at Duke).

 The real question is:  can I keep up with the pace I expect Matthew Larsen to set?

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A 5-night camp in a primitive area gets a person away from workplace and Internet all right, but does not afford as much study time as you might think.  With a night on the road in both directions, and the bulk of the five layover days given to the simple tasks of conducting life without conveniences, one’s free time must be very deliberately set aside (with the nights too cold for comfortable reading). 

For me a great benefit of being unplugged is the return to the old rigor of focused attention on a book, without recourse to electronic search engines offering attractive digressions along the spurs and side tracks of related trivia and close detail. 

Of the seven books selected for the trip, 2 bore fruit.

1. John, Jesus, and History, Vol.1, (Paul N. Anderson & others ed., SBL, 2007).  I tapped this book in preparation for some Fourth Gospel blogging here in the weeks to come.

2. F.D.E. Schleiermacher’s The Life of Jesus (Lecture notes 1832/ German 1st 1864/ Eng 1st 1972).  The English translation was edited (with 50-page Introduction) by Claremont emeritus Jack Verheyden – a key contributor to the JJ&H volume, above.  Schleiermacher was himself a great interpreter and proponent of the Fourth Gospel. 

This would be the third spring retreat in four years in which I have spent rewarding time with Schleiermacher, having studied the Monologen in 2008, and his Religion (a close re-reading) in 2006.

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