Author Topic: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered  (Read 23135 times)

Mike Bennett

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #120 on: July 27, 2007, 10:35:45 PM »

I can see clearly from your posts why there needs to be both an LCMS and an ELCA. I could not, in good conscience, preach the text as you suggest, and you couldn't do it the way I do. We belong in different church bodies.

And yet, several ELCA pastors here would, I think, preach the text much more as Peter suggests rather than as you suggest.  And as one of them pointed out a few replies downstream, the Church has forever interpreted the text much more as Peter suggests.  I don't think it's realistic to suggest that your way is the ELCA way.  There is in fact a current discussion going on in ELCA pitting "your" way against "Peter's" way of interpreting Scripture.  I think it's useful for the LCMS participants in this forum to know that; presumably the ELCA participants already did know it.

Mike Bennett
“What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”  2 Kings 9:22

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #121 on: July 27, 2007, 10:49:09 PM »
BTW #2 -- Check out John 21:13.  Here, Jesus takes bread and fish and gives it to the disciples. Perhaps he levitated it?
Do such questions help understand the meaning of the passage? Why was this story remembered? Why was this story significant in John's community (and then for us)? "John," or whoever added this epilogue, certainly intends it to be connected with the feeding of the 5000. Those are the only two places in the NT that a particular word for fish is used. It is often argued that the feeding miracle is John's teaching on the Eucharist. Which suggests that both of these "fish" stories have meanings related to the celebration on Holy Communion. (It's been argued, and I think they are pursuasive, that the continued celebration of the eucharist grew out of these post-easter eating stories rather than just what happened in the upper room. Jesus was present in the disciples' eating at Emmaus and on the shore.

John 21 also has many other more-than-historical/factual meanings, such as 153 fish being a symbol for all nations, such as the connection between the word helko found in 21:6, 11 and its use in 6:44; 12:32; and 18:10. Hauling in the fish is similar to what Jesus does in drawing all people to himself. Peter's actions in hauling in fish is in contrast to his drawing out his sword.

I don't have any problems with the various connections you are making here.  My point is, quite simply, that you can ask all these questions, make all these connections while at the same time pointing out that Jesus actually did this thereby authorizing these various connections in fact and not just in poetic theory.  Once again, there is no tension at all between the facticity of these events, their inspired interpretation and present-day proclamation.  They all fit together seemlessly.  But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.

But that, of course, was not my point in the BTW #2.  It was addressing your claim that Jesus did not have a some type of physical body where he could actually pick up bread and fish and eat the fish (as in Luke).  You had mentioned previously that if Thomas had touched Jesus, he wouldn't have touched anything.  These post-resurrection stories indicate that Jesus' resurrected body was of such a type that physical activities -- even eating -- could be engaged in.  So while you addressed something that was not my point in my BTW #2, it does illustrate the point that I'm trying to make and which I still don't see you as clearly responding to.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 10:54:41 PM by Scott._.Yakimow »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #122 on: July 27, 2007, 11:54:01 PM »
And, of course, the interpretation of the church for two millenia. I don't disagree with Peter, though I might be more inclined to say the reverse is also true: The Bible says it happened because it happened.
Which is also one of the human interpretive ways of approaching scriptures.

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Oh, I don't think so. Think about textual criticism: scholars generally assume the the "most difficult reading" is most likely to be original. Besides, lest we forget, Bethlehem was a nothing backwater town of low population. Herod's slaughter of all the children under two (which likely wouldn't be all that many children, though obviously still horrible) would hardly catch the notice of the world beyond Bethlehem--particularly in light of Herod's known brutality.
But we aren't dealing with textual criticism. We do not have copies of Matthew with the text and other copies without it.

You are right that the number of children living in Bethlehem at the time were not great. For those whose human interpretive approach requires the story to be historical and factually true, this, as well as Herod's cruel nature, such as murdering some of his own relatives, are used to support that interpretation. However, that doesn't answer the question: What message is Matthew (or God, if you will,) telling us through this story? Why does Matthew remember this story (and none of the other gospel writers do)?

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Whatever that message might be, huh? Whatever they think it might be, or hope it might be on any given day.
Every message of the Bible is what someone thought it might be. When enough people come up with the same message, that becomes standard; but, nearly every edition of the Journal of Biblical Literature, there is an essay that takes exception to some standard message from scriptures and argues for a new or revised interpretation. My guess is that biblical studies are not too different from historical studies. The biases of the author and their particular methods and paradigms affect the way they see and interpret historical events.

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So on the Festival of Holy Innocents, you preach about the need for affordable health care? OK then.
No, that may be part of the sermon for 9 Pentecost C. Since Jesus doesn't seem to be healing mutlitudes any more, like the Bible reports, we might find other ways to bring healing and wholeness and shalom to the world.

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Or maybe different universes?
Certainly, or as Borg argues, different paradigms for seeing Jesus. He suggests that "perhaps the major conflict in American Christanity today" is "between two very different paradigms for seeing the 'data' of Christianity: the Bible (including the gospels), Jesus, postbiblical teachings and doctrines (including the creeds), the nature of Christian language, and ultimately the nature of the Christian life. Both are Christian paradigms -- millions of Christiand affirm each. So it is not that one of them is Christian and the other is not. And it is not that one of them is 'traditional' Christianity and the other an abandonment of much of the Christian tradition. Rather, both are ways of seeing the Christian tradition and what it says about the Bible, God, Jesus, and what it means to follow him." (p. 15)

As he describes the "earlier" or "belief-centered" or "literal" paradigm, it sounds very much like what the LCMS people are espousing here. When he describes the "emerging" or "way-centered" or "metaphorical" paradigm, it's very close to what have been taught and espouse. These ways of seeing the universe are different and they are often in conflict. Just like starting with a belief that the earth is the center of the universe will affect the way one sees and interprets movements of the heavenly bodies (which was the normal way of understanding the universe for about 1500 years, and could predict some things quite accurately). However, in the 1500s and 1600s Copernicus and Galileo offered a radically different way of understanding the universe. They moved the earth out of the center and put the sun at the center of what is now "a solar system". That change in the overall understanding of the universe affects the way everything else is seen and interpreted.

It is not inaccurate to state that we are in two different universes. We see the world of the Bible as differently as Ptolemy (earth-centered) and Copernicus (sun-centered) saw the universe.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Richard Johnson

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #123 on: July 27, 2007, 11:57:45 PM »
When the texts are not important anyway, as they aren't for those of Brian's ilk, it doesn't matter, and you can twist them and turn them and make them say whatever you want. Brian, ultimately, is a charismatic/enthusiast who doesn't need the text, nor reality of the texts. All that matters is the "transformational" nature of the texts.

Brian does not even clearly affirm that he believes that the resurrection of Christ's body is a fact.

OK, McCain, Benke, the word "ilk" is hereby banned from further use. (Unless I use it, of course.)
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #124 on: July 28, 2007, 12:15:48 AM »
And yet, several ELCA pastors here would, I think, preach the text much more as Peter suggests rather than as you suggest.
I note that you qualified which ELCA pastors would preach in Peter's way -- those "here". I'm not sure that the ELCA pastors in this forum are an adequate sampling of ELCA clergy. There are a whole lot of them who are more like Charlies and I out there -- but they tend not to read Lutheran Forum or Forum Letter.

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And as one of them pointed out a few replies downstream, the Church has forever interpreted the text much more as Peter suggests.  

That could be someone's doctorate thesis -- to delve into the historical and contempoary commentaries on Matthew 2 and see how many of the stress the historicity of the event or skim or skip over that to what meaning(s) they believe Matthew implied by including the story. I do know that at one time in history, allegory was seen as the normal way of interpreting scriptures.

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I don't think it's realistic to suggest that your way is the ELCA way.  There is in fact a current discussion going on in ELCA pitting "your" way against "Peter's" way of interpreting Scripture.  I think it's useful for the LCMS participants in this forum to know that; presumably the ELCA participants already did know it.

The "United Testimony on Faith and Life," which was approved by the Uniting Churches at their Conventions in 1952, prior to the formation of TALC contains this statement (emphasis added): "The Bible is the Word of God, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit through human personalities in the course of human history. ... We acknowledge with humble gratitude the condescending love of God in speaking to men through the agency of human language. We reject all rationalizing processes which would explain away either the divine or the human factor in the Bible." From that point on, Lutheranism had a paradigm of viewing the Bible as God speaking to us through human authors -- that it wasn't just God speaking to us, but God speaking to us through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. We see the writers' personalities in the Bible. We see the writers' emphases and nuances. We approach the books as human writings written in human history that are vehicles for the Divine Word.

For full disclosure, the paragraph that precedes the quoted one says: "We bear witness that the Bible is our only authentic and infallible source of God's revelation to us and all men, and that it is the only inerrant and competely adequate source and norm of Christian doctrine and life. We hold that the bible, as a whole and in all its parts, is the Word of God under all circumstances regardless of man's attitude toward it."

What was new in this section is that the words "inerrant" and "infallible" were applied only to "Christian doctrine and life." This left open the possibility that the Bible did error in other matters, such as science or, might we even say, history?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #125 on: July 28, 2007, 12:25:08 AM »
But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.
I think that's a false dichotomy. Parables are powerful proclamations -- perhaps the most powerful things Jesus said; and their power is not based on their facticity. Myths are powerful stories in perhaps every religion and their power is not based on their facticity. (Technically the word "myth" does not necessarily mean something made up. They can be based on historical events, but that isn't where their power comes.)

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You had mentioned previously that if Thomas had touched Jesus, he wouldn't have touched anything.

Not quite. I said that if Thomas had touched the hole in Jesus' hand, he would have touched nothing.

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These post-resurrection stories indicate that Jesus' resurrected body was of such a type that physical activities -- even eating -- could be engaged in.  So while you addressed something that was not my point in my BTW #2, it does illustrate the point that I'm trying to make and which I still don't see you as clearly responding to.
The Jesus in the story of John 21 is portrayed as having a physical body. The Jesus portrayed in the first appearnce story in Luke 24 does not seem to have a physical body, because it disappeared and was not recognized as Jesus, until the great theological moment of breaking bread; but the Jesus in the second appearance is portrayed has having a physical body of flesh and bones that they could touch; and he ate before them. Yet, this same Jesus, was carried away into heaven. In the stories of the risen Jesus' appearances to Paul in Acts he does not have a physical body -- unless light is considered something physical.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #126 on: July 28, 2007, 01:20:04 AM »

For full disclosure, the paragraph that precedes the quoted one says: "We bear witness that the Bible is our only authentic and infallible source of God's revelation to us and all men, and that it is the only inerrant and competely adequate source and norm of Christian doctrine and life. We hold that the bible, as a whole and in all its parts, is the Word of God under all circumstances regardless of man's attitude toward it."

What was new in this section is that the words "inerrant" and "infallible" were applied only to "Christian doctrine and life." This left open the possibility that the Bible did error in other matters, such as science or, might we even say, history?

Brian,

Perhaps I have gotten confused, so correct me if I misrepresent you.  Can I take it that you would agree that it is possibile that the Bible did err in matters of science or history?  And that such errors should not be considered significant since what is important for us is the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach?  Is this your position?  If I have understood you incorrectly, please clarify.

However, is not the discernment of the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach and hence the "Christian doctrine and life" taught therein also a matter of interpretation?  I read a story and it says something to me in my life situation and interacting with my life story.  Someone else reads the same story who is at a different place in her/his life and with a different life story and the Bible story tells them something else.  It may even mean to them something opposite to what it said to me.  Whose interpretation should be privileged?  Is it even legitimate to ask who is right and who is wrong?  Both interpretations appear valid to the person interpreting the story for its true significance.

In what way then would it be meaningful to talk about the Bible being "inerrant" and "infallible" or even authoritative?  Perhaps its significance is that these stories resonated and were seen as meaningful for the followers of Jesus who first wrote them down and for the communities that remembered and in which they were recorded.  They have been meaningful - inspirational - for believers who have continued to read, tell and meditate upon them through the ages.  So also they are meaningful and inspirational for believers today even if they do not derive the same meaning from the stories.  (Or not if they do not appeal, like the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem to the couple attending a service, in which case why not discard them from my personal canon of meaningful Bible stories?)   We have a continuity of stories even if not a continuity of belief about what the stories mean.  Is this the faith handed down by the fathers?

Is there any way in which a preacher, or a church body could say of a Bible story that it means this and not that?  Or even if we cannot determine what it "really" means, rule out some suggested meanings?  Is the only absolute truth we have that we have no absolute truths?  And do we know this absolutely?

If a story can mean anything at all, that is it has no definate meaning but has whatever meaning the reader assigns it, can it actually mean or teach anything?  Do not the Bible stories (especially since their meaningfulness do not lie in their reportage of historic events - which they may or may not have done with undeterminable degrees of accuracy) become a kind of Rorschach inkblots, meaningless in themselves until the reader pours meaning into them, what they mean to me?

Is this your understanding of the faith?

D. F.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

ptmccain

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #127 on: July 28, 2007, 07:25:40 AM »
OK, McCain, Benke, the word "ilk" is hereby banned from further use. (Unless I use it, of course.)

But it's such a fun word, both to say out loud and write. But, I understand you are of the ilk that doesn't like it so much...so, ok.

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #128 on: July 28, 2007, 09:07:49 AM »
But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.
I think that's a false dichotomy. Parables are powerful proclamations -- perhaps the most powerful things Jesus said; and their power is not based on their facticity. Myths are powerful stories in perhaps every religion and their power is not based on their facticity. (Technically the word "myth" does not necessarily mean something made up. They can be based on historical events, but that isn't where their power comes.)

Yuck.  Slogging through mud again.

I'm not talking about the parables that Jesus told -- I am talking about the things that I have mentioned repeatedly, i.e., the suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascenscion of Jesus (I was going to substitute to the word "we" for "I" in this sentence, but I realized that that would be false -- we have not been talking about much of anything except what apparently comes to mind at the time).

But in any case, my point has always been that you cannot and must not separate the facticity of Jesus suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension from the proclamation of it.  So when we are talking about what Jesus actually did for us, there is no dichotomy between the two.  BUT YOU ARE SAYING THAT THERE IS -- THAT ONE CAN TAKE OR LEAVE WHAT JESUS ACTUALLY DID FOR US AND STILL HAVE THE MESSAGE.

To repeat, I am not speaking of Jesus' parables, but of his suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

Think you can stay on that point?

Not quite. I said that if Thomas had touched the hole in Jesus' hand, he would have touched nothing.

So your only point was that someone who "touches" a hole actually touches nothing?  Geez.  Thanks for the help.

The Jesus in the story of John 21 is portrayed as having a physical body. The Jesus portrayed in the first appearnce story in Luke 24 does not seem to have a physical body, because it disappeared and was not recognized as Jesus, until the great theological moment of breaking bread; but the Jesus in the second appearance is portrayed has having a physical body of flesh and bones that they could touch; and he ate before them. Yet, this same Jesus, was carried away into heaven. In the stories of the risen Jesus' appearances to Paul in Acts he does not have a physical body -- unless light is considered something physical.

Yet if the Jesus of John 21 has a physical body, it's pretty clear that the one of chapter 20, being the same Jesus, also has a physical body.  Surely it is a type of body that can do things ours can't (which is also in line with the teachings on glorified bodies in general), but it is physical in some sense.  There is nothing in that story to contradict such a reading.  Likewise in Luke 24, Jesus actually had to pick up bread to break it (unless he levitated it again).  So there, too, we see a physical body.

The point being that talking about the resurrected Jesus having a physical body is scriptural, even by your own admission.  To say that he does not would contradict Scripture.


But, again, to return for a fifth time to my main point, I'll just quote myself:

My point, for the fourth time, is that there need be no dichotomy or tension between the reality / facticity of Jesus suffering, death, resurrection and ascension (along with its canonical interpretation) and the present-day proclamation of what Jesus has actually done for us, a proclamation that the Spirit uses to convert us, to regenerate us.  To put the two in tension is neither scriptural nor in line with the classic Christian proclamation.  It changes the very structure of Christian theology so that the Christian story itself is told in another manner.

This is to say, that this is another Gospel.

And we do know what Paul says about that in Gal 1.

Would you care to respond directly to this critique?  You do realize that my point is that Paul is right about the seriousness of proclaiming another Gospel -- even if it is proclaimed by angels in heaven or by Paul himself.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #129 on: July 28, 2007, 12:08:52 PM »
Perhaps I have gotten confused, so correct me if I misrepresent you.  Can I take it that you would agree that it is possibile that the Bible did err in matters of science or history?  And that such errors should not be considered significant since what is important for us is the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach?  Is this your position?  If I have understood you incorrectly, please clarify.
Yes, and, that is the way I remember be taught in seminary 30+ years ago, and how, I believed the United Testimony of 1952 was understood. Thus it is not a new way of thinking within Lutheranism.


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However, is not the discernment of the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach and hence the "Christian doctrine and life" taught therein also a matter of interpretation?  I read a story and it says something to me in my life situation and interacting with my life story.  Someone else reads the same story who is at a different place in her/his life and with a different life story and the Bible story tells them something else.  It may even mean to them something opposite to what it said to me.  Whose interpretation should be privileged?  Is it even legitimate to ask who is right and who is wrong?  Both interpretations appear valid to the person interpreting the story for its true significance.
I think Luther opened up that possibility when he believed every believer should have a Bible in their own language so that they can read and interpret it for themselves. He trusted that the Spirit (and I think he might add, the church) would guide them into right interpretations. We know that this doesn't always happen.

Borg talks about avoiding "uncritical subjectivity." There are two forms of this. (1) All the differences interpretive differences are tolerated and considered valid because they are subjunctive. It's all a matter of "where you're coming from." (2) A failure to recognize one's own subjectivity where views are presented as dogmatic certainty that "this is the way things are."

The corrective he suggests to uncritical subjectivity is to (1) be critical about one's own subjectivity, which means (2) putting one's positions in critical dialogue with others -- engaging in "public argument." However, the "public argument" is not just stating: "This is the way I see things," period, but includes why one sees things the way one does. As he writes: "It provides reasons for the perspective and the conclusions to which it leads -- and all of it subject to public examination and evaluation: does it make sense?" (pp. 294-295)

I've frequently quoted Mark Allan Powell, who writes about "reader-response criticism." This method is subjective. It starts with the observation that different people read the Bible differently and it asks why this is so. He writes under a section called "Theological Evaluation," "... it [a reader-response interpretation] is necessarily autobiographical and subjective. It need not be entirely autobiographical and subjective...." (Chasing the Easter Star, p. 175)

A little later he sums up the section: "Thus, the standard fro truth is not the bible per se but the gospel of Jesus Christ, and all interpretations of the Bible (expected readings and unexpected ones) must be evaluated in light of this. the Bible remains authoritative because the gospel itself is derived from the Bible. Protestants recognize this as the principle of 'scripture interpreting scripture.' Lutehrans recognize it as the principle of 'a canon within the canon.'" (p. 180)

Earlier he lists some norms in coming to reader-response interpretations. This include (1) reading a work in its entirety. Even before reading his book, whenever I taught a biblical course, I asked the students to read through the entire book, preferably in one sitting. (2) Reading it in sequential order -- from beginning to end. We assume that's the way the author intended the work to be read. (Powell tells about a friend who always reads the last chapter of a mystery first. That is not what the author intended the readers to do.) (3) Knowledge of the language that the text is written in. With my two years of high school German, I could pronounce the words in a German text, but I wouldn't be able to interpret the text. (4) Knowledge of literary styles. We should know that letters to the editor should not be intepreted in quite the same way as the front-page news stories. Such norms would be part of the arguments of why someone responds to a text the way they do.

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In what way then would it be meaningful to talk about the Bible being "inerrant" and "infallible" or even authoritative? 

At least in the ELCA, we don't talk about "inerrant" and "infallible". Those terms are problematic. Our confession is:    "This congregation accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." (C2.03.) The Bible is the authoritative source and norm for the congregation's proclamation, faith, and life. (Yet, in some congregations, many if not most of the council members haven't been in a Bible class since confirmation. As one speaker suggested, "Many of our congregations are run by a bunch of people with an eighth grade [biblical] education."

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Perhaps its significance is that these stories resonated and were seen as meaningful for the followers of Jesus who first wrote them down and for the communities that remembered and in which they were recorded.  They have been meaningful - inspirational - for believers who have continued to read, tell and meditate upon them through the ages.  So also they are meaningful and inspirational for believers today even if they do not derive the same meaning from the stories.  (Or not if they do not appeal, like the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem to the couple attending a service, in which case why not discard them from my personal canon of meaningful Bible stories?)   We have a continuity of stories even if not a continuity of belief about what the stories mean.  Is this the faith handed down by the fathers?
I would go beyond "meaningful" as the reason these stories were remembered and written down and preserved and used for centuries -- they are also powerful. They transform people's lives. People are encountered by God in these stories. As our Confession of Faith states: the Gospe is "the power of God for salvation to all who believe" and "Through them [Scriptures] God's Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world."

Luther did consider discarding James from the Canon. For Lutherans some writings are more important (powerful) than others -- and that's OK.

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Is there any way in which a preacher, or a church body could say of a Bible story that it means this and not that?  Or even if we cannot determine what it "really" means, rule out some suggested meanings?  Is the only absolute truth we have that we have no absolute truths?  And do we know this absolutely?
Yes. Our ELCA's Confession of faith is in a priority order. Our understanding of the Trinity comes first. Interpretations that deny that truth are wrong. At the same time, the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't necessarily lock us into a particular language about the Trinity. As I noted somewhere else in this vast forum of notes: sometimes the word "God" refers to the Triune Being and this uncludes "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Sometimes "God," like in 2 Cor 13:13, refers to the First Person and is thus distinguished from the other persons of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Our second confession of faith declares that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. Interpretations that deny these facts are wrong.

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If a story can mean anything at all, that is it has no definate meaning but has whatever meaning the reader assigns it, can it actually mean or teach anything?  Do not the Bible stories (especially since their meaningfulness do not lie in their reportage of historic events - which they may or may not have done with undeterminable degrees of accuracy) become a kind of Rorschach inkblots, meaningless in themselves until the reader pours meaning into them, what they mean to me?
I believe that it is the job of an exegete to try and determine what the author intended the text to mean. We use historical-critical and narrative-critical tools to help discern the intended meaning(s) of the author. To use Powell's terms, a reader's interpretation may be what we deem to be an "intended" reading or an "unintended" reading. An unintended meaning -- something that we believe the author did not intended -- may not necessarily be wrong, if it falls within our understanding of the gospel as the power of God for salvation. For example, if readers interpret Matthew 2 and the slaughter of the children as God telling them to work for universal health care at least for children so that no child needs die because of lack of medical care -- that is, I think, an unintended reading. Matthew didn't have that in mind when sharing the story. However, I think that it could be argued that such an interpretation fits in with God's kingdom of shalom for all people -- the coming kingdom that was prefigured by Jesus healing diseases and blessing and healing children. Health care for children is good news. I wouldn't say that such an interpretation is "wrong," but probably unintended by the author; but it could be what God intended the person to hear from the passage.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

ptmccain

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #130 on: July 28, 2007, 12:26:19 PM »
Cutting through the verbiage, the bottom line remains:

Any interpretation that does not confess that Christ rose bodily from the grave and appeared bodily and visibly to his followers after his death is not acceptable in the Christian Church.

Endless speculations about "intentionality" finally are useless.

The text states what is intended: to teach us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, truly, bodily, physically. If he did not, as Paul says, then we are truly among all men most to be pitied.

Suggesting that all these historical facts do not matter, or may be denied, is simply not the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, which, thankfully has seen heretical notions like Borg's come, and go.

I've said it before, but I still can find no difference at all in how Brian is approaching the Gospel texts than how one could well use Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. They all contain truth, they can all be transformational, while they can all be absolutely factually untrue, which is irrelevant to their power to transform.

That's precisely what I hear being advocated over against the inspired texts of the Gospels.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2007, 12:42:11 PM by ptmccain »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #131 on: July 28, 2007, 12:42:50 PM »
I'm not talking about the parables that Jesus told -- I am talking about the things that I have mentioned repeatedly, i.e., the suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascenscion of Jesus (I was going to substitute to the word "we" for "I" in this sentence, but I realized that that would be false -- we have not been talking about much of anything except what apparently comes to mind at the time).
But what we have about the suffering, curcifixion, resurrection, and ascension are stories of the events. We don't have a video-tape. These stories are not accounts from eyewitnesses, unless one maintains that Matthew, Mark, and John were part of the original 12 -- even though none of the gospels state who wrote them. I am arguing that these stories from the time they were written, were meant to be understood as more-than-literal and more-than-factual stories.

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But in any case, my point has always been that you cannot and must not separate the facticity of Jesus suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension from the proclamation of it.  So when we are talking about what Jesus actually did for us, there is no dichotomy between the two.  BUT YOU ARE SAYING THAT THERE IS -- THAT ONE CAN TAKE OR LEAVE WHAT JESUS ACTUALLY DID FOR US AND STILL HAVE THE MESSAGE.
I am saying that the gospel stories are not all that clear about exactly what Jesus did for us. I am certain that he suffered and was crucified. Part of that certainty is the fact that all four gospels are pretty similar in their stories of his suffering and crucifixion. In a sense, to argue against what I said above, it is like having four eyewitness report the same or similar things about an event. If they all agree, it is more likely that it happened as they have told the story. There is agreement in the gospels about the empty tomb. There is agreement about a resurrection, both in the gospels and other NT writings. Where there are wide differences is in the stories of the appearances of the risen Jesus. No two gospels contain the same stories. How should we approach those stories? The accounts of the ascension are even more problematic. They occur twice, by the same author, but one happens on Easter evening and the other 40 days later. That makes trying to see the stories as historical and factual difficult, if not impossible. We can say that the developing tradition of Jesus included the ascension. We confess it in our creeds. Thus Luke's stories with Jesus leaving the disciples by the ascension, so that the Spirit might come, took precedence over Matthew's ending where the abiding presence of Jesus is affirmed -- and there is no ascension. Matthew tells us that Jesus will be with us wherever two or three gather in his name. Luke and John have Jesus leaving and his presence is replaced by the Holy Spirit. Those are different theologies (ways of talking about God).

I'm arguing, as I do for any miracle stories, that we look for the meaning(s) of the event; which is what I am calling a parabolic interpretation of the story. I don't think that the stories are told just to inform us, "This is what happened." That is part of it, but asking questions such as "Why does Matthew include this story?" "How does it fit into his entire work?" I think that it is significant and part of Matthew's message that at the beginning of Jesus' life and at the end, the idea of Emmanuel: "God with us / I am with you always" are affirmed.

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To repeat, I am not speaking of Jesus' parables, but of his suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
To repeat, I am talking about the stories we have of Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

A difference in approaches to scriptures that is suggested by Borg are those who approach scriptures through a doctrinal lens. The later doctrine, as confessed in the creeds is that Jesus ascended into heaven. So the ascension is assumed when we read any of the gospels. The later doctrine of the Trinity declares that in terms of being God, Jesus and the Spirit are one, even though two different persons; so from a this doctrinal point of view, it doesn't matter than Matthew talks about Jesus' abiding presence, and Luke and John talk about the Spirit's abiding presence.

The other approach, is to assume that such well-defined doctrines that developed over the years, are not present in the scriptures, and we study each Gospel on its own merits. We take each gospel, I think, more seriously when we do not try to impose later doctrinal matters onto the writings. Matthew has a different theology than Mark, Luke, and John. The ascension is not part of his story. Resurrection appearances are not part of Mark's story. I believe that we need to take those differences seriously. God gave us four different gospels.

I think that when you talk about suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, you are speaking doctrinally, e.g., what we confess in our creeds. I am talking about the stories in the gospels (and in Acts and Paul where they relate to these events). Doctrines are important. As I noted elsewhere, interpretations that deny the gospel are false interpretations. However, trying to fit something like the Ascension or Pentecost into Matthew or Mark's stories of Jesus, is to misuse the stories God has given us. (This isn't to deny either event, but taking even more seriously the messages of Matthew and Mark.)
« Last Edit: July 28, 2007, 04:48:41 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #132 on: July 28, 2007, 01:03:04 PM »
The text states what is intended: to teach us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, truly, bodily, physically. If he did not, as Paul says, then we are truly among all men most to be pitied.
Paul insists that Christ was raised from the dead. Without that our preaching is "useless" and so is faith (1 Cor 15:14). He says that without the resurrection our faith is "futile" and we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). He says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others" (1 Cor 15:19). However, he says nothing about "bodily, physically" in terms of Christ's resurrection. In fact, he describes the resurrected body as "spiritual" (1 Cor 15:44b). By analogy, he even indicates that Jesus, the last Adam, is "a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45).

I note that in our creeds we state: "On the third day he rose again". Insisting on a bodily or physically resurrection is not part of our confession. We confess that Jesus was raised from the dead. Scriptures sometimes presents the risen Jesus in bodily form and sometimes not. Since for the ELCA scriptures is the "authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." I will continue to proclaim, believe, and live what scriptures say.

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I've said it before, but I still can find no difference at all in how Brian is approaching the Gospel texts than how one could well use Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. They all contain truth, they can all be transformational, while they can all be absolutely factually untrue, which is irrelevant to their power to transform.
If there were a Church of Aesop or a Church of Grimm, they probably would argue that the fables and tales are authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life; just as worshipers of Thor or Odin or Zeus believed that tales about their gods were authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life. Isn't that what distinguishes the religions? The stories they believe are authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life?

Part of what makes you and I Christians is because we do believe the Bible is different from Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. It's a matter of faith. It's not something that can be proved; except to witness how scriptures and the God revealed therein has changed our lives. (Thus my other thread about autobiographical theology.)
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #133 on: July 28, 2007, 01:12:04 PM »
I think Luther opened up that possibility when he believed every believer should have a Bible in their own language so that they can read and interpret it for themselves. He trusted that the Spirit (and I think he might add, the church) would guide them into right interpretations. We know that this doesn't always happen.

Well, that's probably overstating it. Luther certainly believed the Scripture ought to be available in the vernacular. As to "every believer should have a Bible . . . so that they can read and interpret it for themselves"? Well, considering both the low literacy rate at the time, and the rather recent development of the printing press, I doubt Luther ever conceived that this would happen.
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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #134 on: July 28, 2007, 01:45:22 PM »
I am arguing that these stories from the time they were written, were meant to be understood as more-tha-literal and more-than-factual stories.

But it also sounds like you are arguing that they are "less-than-literal" and "less-than-factual" stories.  My point is that the point is that what really happened has universal signficance rather than simply a local, only-at-that-time-in-history significance (take that modifier as a German extended adjective construction), and what actually happened authorizes the universal significance.  If it didn't happen (that is, if Jesus was not really crucified, resurrected and ascended), why do we care?  I know that I wouldn't.  Rather I cling to that fact that Jesus actually did something back then, and because he did, he now transforms my life by forgiving my sins and reconciling me to God because he has already reconciled God to us through Jesus' death and resurrection.

So rather than speaking of a "more-than-literal" or "more-than-factual" stories (which also, in your usage, implies that they are also "less-than..."), we can get the same sense by speaking of the universal significance, the for-us-ness of the stories of what Jesus really did.

I am saying that the gospel stories are not all that clear about exactly what Jesus did for us.  I am certain that he suffered and was crucified. Part of that certainty is the fact that all four gospels are pretty similar in their stories of his suffering and crucifixion. In a sense, to argue against what I said above, it is like having four eyewitness report the same or similar things about an event. If they all agree, it is more likely that it happened as they have told the story. There is agreement in the gospels about the empty tomb. There is agreement about a resurrection, both in the gospels and other NT writings.

This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected. Have you ever read Hans Frei's "The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative"?  It speaks to this point and gives a historical account of how biblical interpretation came from living within the biblical narrative to dissecting it based upon foreign presuppositions.  Some of these foreign presuppositions came about post-Descartes and were begininng to be codified with the publication of the "Port-Royal Logic" (which first introduced the principle of internal evidence).  It is to these presuppositions that you are appealing, and they are only a couple hundred years old in biblical interpretation and have done much to make the "scholarship" of the academy irrelevant to the life of the church.  Check out Jeffrey Stout's "The Flight from Authority" for an interesting analysis of how this shift in thinking (not necessarily Christian thinking) came about..

I'm arguing, as I do for any miracle stories, that we look for the meaning(s) of the event; which is what I am calling a parabolic interpretation of the story. I don't think that the stories are told just to inform us, "This is what happened." That is part of it, but asking questions such as "Why does Matthew include this story?" "How does it fit into his entire work?" I think that it is significant and part of Matthew's message that at the beginning of Jesus' life and at the end, the idea of Emmanuel: "God with us / I am with you always" are affirmed.

Noting the bolded, underlined and blued portion, I see that we agree on this.  I have never had a problem with saying that you need to ask what the stories mean, but that they refer to real events as well.  This is the dichotomy that I saw you drawing and still see you drawing elsewhere.  It creates needless controversy.

The other approach, is to assume that such well-defined doctrines that developed over the years, are not present in the scriptures, and we study each Gospel on its own merits.

If the doctrines the Church teaches (say, in the Nicene Creed) are not taught by Scripture, then no one is bound to them.  In fact, those who have taken them to be scriptural and therefore divine are blaspheming God by erroneously attributing teachings to Him.  This would seem to be the consequences of what you're saying.

It is also a strange assumption in other ways.  You seem to be saying that the community that was formed by the Scripture are precisely the ones incapable of interpreting it rightly.  Rather, according to this line of thinking, true interpretation occurs when precisely that community's interpretation is eschewed. 

This would also seem to indicate that my contention is correct -- that what you are saying is a de facto assertion of a competing narrative that is specifically asserted over against the way Christians have read their own book.  After all, the starting point is that Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scripture rather than what is taught by Scripture.  And as such, what you are advocating for is a different Gospel.


We take each gospel, I think, more seriously when we do not try to impose later doctrinal matters onto the writings.

See above, but this would be equivalent to saying that everyone else who has gone before has gotten it wrong, and only if we can get rid of those pesky Christian interpretations, we'll get at the real meaning.

Matthew has a different theology than Mark, Luke, and John. The ascension is not part of his story. Resurrection appearances are not part of Mark's story. I believe that we need to take those differences seriously. God gave us four different gospels.

They certainly do say different things to different communities, and there is a variety here.  The great part is that Christian proclamation can and has taken those differences seriously even as it maintains a consistent overarching narrative.

I think that when you talk about suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, you are speaking doctrinally, e.g., what we confess in our creeds. I am talking about the stories in the gospels (and in Acts and Paul where they relate to these events). Doctrines are important. As I noted elsewhere, interpretations that deny the gospel are false interpretations.[/u] However, trying to fit something like the Ascension or Pentecost into Matthew or Mark's stories of Jesus, is to misuse the stories God has given us. (This isn't to deny either event, but taking even more seriously the messages of Matthew and Mark.)

So you see that doctrine does have a role in scriptural interpretation, even by your own admission (see bolded, underlined and blued portion).  Positing a false dichotomy between doctrine and scriptural interpretation simple leads to laying one set of doctrines by the side in order to adopt a different set.  As you mentioned above, you are saying that we should leave behind the way Christians read (and have read) Scripture by jettisoning Christian doctrine, but all that is substituted will be another set of doctrinal presuppositions, such as modes of evaluating eyewitness testimony (an example of the doctrine of "internal evidence" that gained currency in the 17th century) or your own doctrine where you explicitly assume that Christians have mis-read their own scriptures in stating their doctrines.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2007, 01:50:24 PM by Scott._.Yaki mow »