Announcement

Collapse

Biblical Languages 301 Guidelines

This is where we come to delve into the biblical text. Theology is not our foremost thought, but we realize it is something that will be dealt with in nearly every conversation. Feel free to use the original languages to make your point (meaning Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). This is an exegetical discussion area, so please limit topics to purely biblical ones.

This is not the section for debates between theists and atheists. While a theistic viewpoint is not required for discussion in this area, discussion does presuppose a respect for the integrity of the Biblical text (or the willingness to accept such a presupposition for discussion purposes) and a respect for the integrity of the faith of others and a lack of an agenda to undermine the faith of others.

Forum Rules: Here
See more
See less

Can We Trust the New Testament? by J. A. T. Robinson

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE RESURRECTION
    The evidence falls into three classes.

    1. There is first, in order of what was seen, the evidence of the tomb found empty. This looks like the most solid piece of evidence of all. Here is something the historian can really get his hands on: either it was empty or it was not. And, indeed, despite all its offense to our historical and scientific presuppositions, this is something that it is very hard to dismiss―so much so that for most people, as I discover from virtually every question I am asked on the subject, 'Do you believe in the resurrection?' means 'Do you believe in the empty tomb?'. Yet it comes as a surprise to most to be told that though the resurrection was the lynch-pin of Paul's whole gospel, never once does he mention the empty tomb nor does he appear to attach any significance to it. This is not to say that he knew nothing of it. Let alone that he denied it. It is a false conclusion to draw from his silence that it was a story that was only invented later. On the contrary, his statement in 1 Cor. 15.3f of the gospel as he himself first received it, that 'Christ died ...; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day'., clearly presupposes some connection of the resurrection with the tomb and not simply with the visions of the living Christ, which alone he goes on to narrate and which on his account might, like hos own, have taken place anywhere. Yet the fact that he does not take up this connection or stress its evidential value suggests that it did not in itself have the significance that has been attached to it. In the Gospels too it is notable that the empty tomb as such convinces no one, except one man, who looking back in faith, 'saw and believed' (John 20.8). Everyone else saw and was dismayed: by itself it persuaded no one.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE RESURRECTION
    Let us be clear that belief in the resurrection is in the first place a judgement of faith. It expresses the conviction 'Jesus lives!', that he belongs not simply to the dead historical past but is a present spiritual reality. Now this is not a judgement that the historian qua historian can make or take away. To that extent the resurrection is on quite a different level from the crucifixion. No one in the New Testament claims to have seen it happen. The crucifixion of Jesus was a public event, witnessed by all and sundry, whatever they made of it. The evidence for the resurrection rests on those who believed in it, and, with the exception of the appearance to Paul, was given only to those who had previously known and accepted Jesus. Yet the claim of the entire New Testament is that on the third day something happened. And, as Paul says, this is the hinge-event on which the whole Christian witness turns: 'If Christ was not raised, then is our gospel null and void, and so is your faith' (1 Cor. 15.14). If nothing happened, there is no more to be said. The historical evidence is not decisive in the sense that if it could be exploded there would be a hole at the heart of the Christian faith. To use the philosophers' distinction, the historical evidence is not sufficient, but it is necessary. So what are we to make of it?

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS
    Whatever the interpretation, which of course is just as much a part of history as 'the facts', few historians (except those who claim from time to time to revive the desperate theory that Jesus never lived) would question the basic historicity of the arrest, crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Yet what came of him in the end does not stop there: if it had there would have been no story to tell and no Church to tell it. But when we move in the last chapter of the Gospels to the story of the resurrection we find ourselves apparently in a very different world. Is this the point at which history leaves us and theology, myth and legend alone take over? Certainly not, according to the claim of the whole New Testament. But how, and in what sense, are we to trust it at this point above all?

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS
    This is nowhere again made clearer than in the Gospel of John. No one is arguing that the Johannine account of the trial or anything else is primarily to be assessed by the canons of tape recorded accuracy (though if there had been a tape in the Praetorium would it have put the issue beyond doubt or suspicion any more than the tapes in the White House?). That is indeed to judge things 'as the eyes see' rather than with true discernment. Nevertheless, the truth of the history is nowhere, I believe, at this point brought out better than in John. Not only is the reader appraised unequivocally of Jesus's own position: 'My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it did, my followers would be fighting to save me from arrest by the Jews' (John 18.36)―and this still remains a decisive reply to any such construction. But the disingenuousness of the Jewish religious leaders over their charge against Jesus is subtly conveyed. They begin their dealings with Pilate by trying to get away without having to be specific at all: 'Pilate went out to them and asked 'What charge do you bring against this man?' 'If he were not a criminal,' they replied, 'we should not have brought him before you' (18.29f). When that fails, as it obviously must in a court o law, they go on for the capital charge of high treason (18.33―19.6). When Pilate finds no case on that one, they fall back on the real offense (for them) of his blasphemous claim to be the Son of God (19.7). Finally, with that getting them no-where, they return to the political tack and out-maneuver Pilate with the utterly cynical claim of being more loyal to Caesar than he (19.12-16). So far from John's account being the end-term of an increasing anti-semitic bias (he is after all a Jew writing to persuade Jews), it exactly preserves the balance of the earliest Christian summary, when Peter is made to say to the Jerusalem crowd on the day of Pentecost:'You used heathen men to crucify and kill him (Acts 2.23).
    Last edited by John Reece; 07-10-2015, 10:54 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS
    The first requirement of any satisfactory account of the trial of Jesus is that it should be able to show how the political charge, though recognized to be disingenuous, could still have seemed plausible. The strength of the interpretation that reads Jesus as a political revolutionary is that his position must have been open to the construction put upon it in Luke 23.2: 'We found this man subverting our nation, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar and claiming to be the Messiah, a King'. The weakness of such an interpretation is that it does not do justice to the evidence that everyone in the drama (the Jewish leaders, Pilate and Jesus himself) knew that this construction was fundamentally a lie.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS
    The one charge that met both these requirements was that of claiming to be the Messiah. This could be interpreted from the religious point of view as the blasphemous one of making himself the Son of God and from the political point of view as the seditious one of pretending to the throne of Israel. And the Gospels all agree on the fatal way in which these three terms, Christ, Son of God and King could slide, or be made to slide, into one another.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    However, rather than criticize these theories in detail, I would simply invite the reader to compare the assessment to be found in Dodd's last book, The Founder of Christianity. This is how he sums up the situation that faced the Jews before the trial:
    Jesus must be removed by death; he must also be discredited. The death sentence therefore must be legally and formally announced by the governor. The surest way to secure such a sentence would be to cite the Defendant on a charge of political disaffection. But such a charge would by no means discredit him in the eyes of the Jewish public; quite the contrary. It was for the Sanhedrin to show that he was guilty of an offense against religion.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    It is to be observed first, as I mentioned earlier, that the Roman historian Sherwin-White, who has studied the story of the trial, like the narrative of Acts, from the point of view of its accuracy on points of law and social practice, gives it high marks. If the whole thing is a rewriting of history (on the Stalinist model), then the Church employed some very good historians. It is in fact the alternative scenarios which have been offered, of Passover plots and Zealot links, that are in my judgement the really tendentious readings of the evidence. It is notable that the Jewish historian Joseph had a very poor view of the Zealots but a very respectful view of Jesus and never suggests any connection between the two movements.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    The passion narratives as a whole raise more questions than we can possibly treat here, but at one point in particular it is perhaps worth trying to correct a balance. For much recent popular writing has taken the line that the trial of Jesus is written up in a way that is largely propaganda rather than history. Two distorting tendencies have been detected. The first is an anti-Jewish bias, of seeking to throw all the guilt for the crucifixion on the Jews, while whitewashing the Romans. The second is a rewriting of the evidence to disguise the fact that Jesus and his followers were hand and glove with the Jewish nationalist cause and to dissociate them from the revolt that failed in 66-70 (showing them again to be good citizens of the Roman Empire).

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    This again may be illustrated supremely by the Fourth Gospel which, as well a being theologically the most profound, is full of historical and geological details for which no plausible doctrinal or symbolic reason can be found. They are there because that is how it happened―though how it happened, and when, and where, is also, for those with the eyes to see through the detail, of profound significance. Indeed, in a test study I once did of time and place in the Gospel narratives John came off the best, and Luke, surprisingly, the worst. In Acts, where he knew and covered the ground, he is very sharp. His narrative of Palestine, which evidently he did not know, apart from the environs of Jerusalem and Caesarea, is often extraordinarily vague. But it is a tribute to him as a theologian that where he does not know he does not invent: he generalizes. John, however, gives us a much more detailed topographical and chronological framework of the ministry. It is very different from that which we could deduce from the Synoptists alone―beginning with a pre-Galilean ministry of Jesus alongside John the Baptist in Judea and extending in all for at least three years and probably four. (The others mention only one Passover). The Synoptic account can be fitted into it but not vice versa. When we come to the passion narrative there is a major divergence―John dating the death of Jesus before the Passover meal was eaten (John 18.28), the Synoptists treating the last supper the previous evening as the Passover meal (Mark 14.12) and thereby making the trial and crucifixion take place during the festival. The resolution of this problem is far too complex to go into here, and scholars of course differ; but I think it would be fair to say that a majority if English scholars would believe John to be right. Whatever Jesus and his friends may have observed as their Passover celebration, it is almost incredible that the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus could have taken place during the public festival in blatant defiance of all its detailed regulations. It seems far more likely that the Pharisees and chief priests should have pressed to get it out of the way before the festival started, as John says. In any case at this and many other points it is clear that the evidence of the Fourth Gospel has to be taken very seriously, if not preferred. It is in the historical and not simply the theological business.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    For as well as their theological interest in the meaning of the events it is surely evident that the early Christians had an interest in the historical story for its own stake. The passion narrative in all the Gospels is the Achilles' heel (and it is a pretty large one) of the theory of many of the form-critics that the Church had no concern for the historical framework of Jesus' life. According to this view, individual units of tradition (miracle-stories), parables, pronouncements and the rest) were simply handed down like collections of loose pearls and the Christian communities neither knew nor cared how they fitted together. The connecting thread, supplied later by the evangelists or redactors, was topical and theological: it affords no confidence for reconstructing the order of events. I believe this to be a perverse and one-sided reading of the evidence, even of the pre-passion narrative. I am convinced that their theological interest did not cancel but rather controlled their historical interest―and that their historical interest did not cancel but rather controlled their theological interest.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS

    The story of the death of Jesus and of what led up to it and flowed from it, which occupies such a disproportionate space in the Gospels (a third of Mark and nearly half of John) reflects the decisive importance for the early Christian preaching of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is this that dominates the early sermons in Acts and the Epistles―his birth is not mentioned and his ministry hardly at all (the most it rates is three verses in Acts 10.37-9). The disproportion then should not surprise us and it is clearly not determined by biographical considerations. What surely must surprise us, though, is the manner in which the subject is treated. We should not be led to expect, for instance, that the author of Acts was at all interested in the story of the passion. He follows up that curt summary of the ministry with the baldest possible account of Jesus' end: 'He was put to death by hanging on a gibber; but God raised him to life on the third day' (10.40). Yet how wrong we should be! In fact it is almost certain that Luke takes the trouble to weave together two independent stories of the passion, one which he shares with Mark and Matthew and one from a separate source; and this latter has interesting points of contact with John's, again apparently independent tradition.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 7: WHAT CAME OF HIM?


    If the question from which the Gospels begin, and indeed which they continue to pose throughout, is Who is this man?, the question to which they lead up and which dominates their second half is What came of him? In a real sense too this question is there from the beginning, since they are all written from the end, presupposing in everything they say about him what came out. And the question What came of him?, like the question Who is this man?, has to be answered both at the historical and at the theological level. In one sense it is a plain story with the events of Jesus's life working themselves out to their inevitable end, and to their utterly unexpected reversal on the third day, told with an attention to detail, a restraint and lack of doctrinal elaboration which is remarkable. On the other hand, 'what came of him' was theological through and through: the Spirit, the Church, the new age, the resurrection order―that total reality which led Paul to exclaim: 'When anyone is united to Christ, there is an new world; the old order has gone, and a new order has already begun' (2 Cor. 5.17). And that could only be described in language, like the language of the birth narratives, which bursts the bounds of factual description. Indeed there is no description of the resurrection―that is left to the apocryphal gospels. Naturally too the meaning colors the facts themselves, and sometimes it is difficult to know what is intended as interpretation and what is event. For instance, the rending of the temple-veil from top to bottom (and notice the symbolism of the direction) at the moment of Jesus's death (Mark 15.38), seen as destroying the barrier between man and God and declaring all things holy, is clearly a highly theological statement―whatever its factual basis, if any (and it has left no trace, amid many portents of the end, in Jewish records). Yet the amount of legendary material in the passion narratives is much less than in the birth stories. They are obviously controlled by the memory of what happened.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 6: WHO IS THIS MAN?


    THE MIRACLES

    If we do not distinguish the levels at which the New Testament writers are speaking and take the language of pre-existence like the language of myth and legend literally, as the sort of thing you might have heard if you had been around a tape-recorder, then we have only ourselves to blame―though we do not only have ourselves to put off. But if we can learn to trust the New Testament for what it is trying to say, rather than for not what it trying to say, then we may find ourselves concurring with the claim of St John as much as to of the say of the others, that 'his witness is true'―the real, inner truth of the history.

    Leave a comment:


  • John Reece
    replied
    Can We Trust the New Testament?
    Chapter 6: WHO IS THIS MAN?


    THE MIRACLES

    This picture of one who in utter faith and obedience is the Father's agent, and therefore the supreme representative of his love and power, is one that comes through all the Gospels. John merely draws it out in the paradox that he is completely one with the Father because the Father is greater than he (John 10.29f; 14.28). And he does this by stressing more than the others both Jesus's total dependence (as the one 'sent') and his complete freedom and intimacy with the Father. There is nothing he has that is not the Father's―and therefore nothing the Father has that is not his.The way in which he draws this out―when Jesus speaks, for instance, of the glory that he had with the Father before the world began (John 17.5)―often makes it sound as if Jesus for him was not a genuine historical human being at all. But that would be completely to misunderstand and misrepresent him. It would deny all that he has to say about the Word being made flesh. Such language is not to be taken at the level of psychological verisimilitude, of what he is most likely to have said (that would make Jesus a madman, as indeed the Jews, who do take it at that level, frequently say), but of theological verity, of what deep down is the truth lying behind him and his person. For the truth about this man is not to be exhausted by his physical origins. At that level, of course, he comes 'from Nazareth', and as a historical individual he is no more preexistent that you or I. (Lack of discrimination at this point has done a good deal in Christian theology to throw doubt on his humanity.) But as the embodiment of the self-expressive activity of God, as 'the Word', he goes back before John the Baptist (John 1.15), before Isaiah (12.41), before Abraham (8.58), and indeed before creation itself (1.1f; 17.5, 24). John never confuses the two levels (people like Nicodemus do that), but like a television or film producer he 'mixes' or superimposes his pictures, with great dramatic effect and often with irony and double entendres.

    Leave a comment:

Related Threads

Collapse

Topics Statistics Last Post
Started by Cow Poke, 11-18-2022, 10:38 AM
0 responses
8 views
1 like
Last Post Cow Poke  
Working...
X