Author Topic: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered  (Read 23133 times)

pastorg1@aol.com

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #135 on: July 28, 2007, 01:52:16 PM »
Here's the hard fact about the Bible:
It is God telling us these three things-

1. God is God.
2. We are not God.
3. We have to get used to it.

Pete (Jesus can do whatever Jesus wants to do with his risen and glorified body) Garrison

Pete Garrison, STS

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #136 on: July 28, 2007, 02:04:33 PM »
Here's the hard fact about the Bible:
It is God telling us these three things-

1. God is God.
2. We are not God.
3. We have to get used to it.

Pete (Jesus can do whatever Jesus wants to do with his risen and glorified body) Garrison

I have a friend who has three lines from which he is relatively sure that he can derive all of Lutheran theology:

1. God is God
2. You are not
3. Don't seem right

Pretty similar, but I like the "Don't seem right" part better because our sinful nature simply does not like the situation at all.  We'd much rather be God.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2007, 11:31:18 PM by Scott._.Yaki mow »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #137 on: July 28, 2007, 06:01:29 PM »
But it also sounds like you are arguing that they are "less-than-literal" and "less-than-factual" stories.
I have never said that. Borg never says that. That's an assumption you are making.

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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.
Jesus was really raised from the dead. Jesus really appeared to people after the resurrection. Whether the stories in the gospels and Acts are accurate, historical, and factual accounts of those appearances is the issue. Interpreting them parabolically, and saying that such an interpretation doesn't rely on the historicity of the story is not a denial of the resurrection or appearances by Jesus. It is saying that each gospel writer tells the appearance stories in ways that fit into their entire story of Jesus. (As Powell suggests, the normal way of reading a narrative is (a) all the way through, and (b) beginning to end.)

To repeat again my example, we know that the story as told in Mark 16:1-8 cannot be completely historically accurate. Silence about the resurrection of Jesus is not how the real events ended. At the same time, that literary ending, I think, fits perfectly well with Mark's portrayal of Jesus' disciples throughout the gospel -- every single one of them fails Jesus. At the same time, Jesus does not fail them. Jesus will appear to them in Galilee, whether the women tell anyone or not.

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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.
First of all, it is you that implies "less-than..." not I.

Secondly, there is truth in what you say about the "for-us-ness" of the stories. An interesting observation that Powell makes when conducting experiements in biblical studies with different groups. With clergy, he found that the questions about a text: "What does this mean?" and "What does this mean to you?" are understood as two different questions. With lay people, they don't make such a distinction. For them, "What does this mean?" implies, the autobiographical response: "What does this mean to you?"

He theorizes why clergy might respond differently. There is a sense that we, at least in the ELCA, are taught to try and exegete a text objectively. It has a meaning "out there" that we can try and discover. Most lay people don't have such training. A text's meaning is what happens to them "in here". A text always has a "for-me-ness" about it.

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This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected.

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

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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 haven't read the book. I have read, (some time ago,) The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q by Werner H. Kelber. (I think that's the title, it's at the office and I'm at home.) As I recall, he argues that the Living Word died when it was written down. It was no longer a living, dynamic conversation between people, such as a witness speaking the gospel story to a potential believer. It became a static text that was read and studied. (This is part of the reason for the other thread on autobiographical theology. How do we make the gospel a living, dynamic word again? One answer is through personal testimonies. We continue the gospel story. The gospel

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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.
I can agree that they refer to real events. At the same time, when we start comparing the details of the "real events" in the gospels and other biblical books, we sometimes creates inconsistencies that cannot be reconciled without doing a disservice to one or more of the stories, e.g., when did the ascension take place, on Easter evening as Luke reports in the gospel; or 40 days later as Luke reports in Acts?

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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.
The two natures of Christ can be found in scriptures, but they certainly are not articulated as well as in the Nicene Creed. That was a doctrine that developed (or was clarified) over time. Similarly, we will not find anything in scriptures espousing the Trinity with the words or as clear as in the Athanasian Creed. These creeds are not contrary to scriptures, but they are not taught in such detail in scriptures. One can look to scriptures, especially the gospel of Mark, and conclude that adoptionism is taught there. The "developing tradition" opposed that interpretation while clarifying the relationship between the Son and the Father.

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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. 
Nope, just the opposite. It was communities of believers that formed Scriptures at the beginning. I would agree that such communities were formed by the gospel before there were written records of Jesus; but it was these communities who wrote down their remembrances of Jesus -- who believed that something more concrete than an oral tradition was needed, that something authoritative was necessary as eye-witnesses were dying off. It was the communities of believers who collected and maintained, first of all the oral traditions about Jesus, and then the written traditions, including the letters that were important to them. Because such writers were so important to communities of believers, they were compiled after about 350 years into the canon of scriptures.

Since that time, post 400 or so, I would agree that communities are formed by Scriptures.

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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.[/b]
Huh, where did the "Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scriptures" come from? I do think that Christians at different times in history have interpreted scriptures in different ways. I do not believe in the days of Matthew and Luke would any have asked, "Is the story of Virgin Birth true?" That was not an issue with them. (There are commentaries I've read who agree with that assessment.)

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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.
Nope, just that at different times people have approached scriptures with different biases. The doctrines of Pentecostals lead them to read and interpret scriptures differently than most Lutherans. I just read an article about African Christians, and they have different biases in their approach to scriptures than western Christians. "Doctrines" are prescribed biases. Some of those may not have been the baises of the earliest readers (prior to the development of some of those doctrines). For example, did the churches in Paul's letters have a doctrine of the Trinity? If they did, I don't believe it was as developed as we get in later Christian writings about that doctrine.

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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 don't believe that all Christians have taken those differences seriously. There are groups who seek to harmonize the gospels -- make everything fit into one narrative. That is not taking the differences seriously. There are groups whose "doctrine" of scriptures requires them to approach all four gospels as coming from one author, God, and thus downplay or even ignore differences by each writer. (By claiming that there are four different writers, I indicate a different "doctrine" of scriptures than the "It-was-written-by-God" doctrine.)


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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.

Yes, but some of that setting aside of one set of doctrines is recognizing that they were developed later in church history. The fleshed-out doctrine of the two natures of Christ, I don't believe is present in the scriptures. So, in doing exegetical work, that is laid aside; and a bias of "the-early-believers-were-still-trying-to-figure-out-Christ" becomes a bias when looking at the scriptures.

Specifically, the doctrine/bias that Borg posits by the early believers in their remembrances of Jesus is that they knew of and had experienced the resurrected Jesus. They believed that Jesus is alive and that Jesus is Lord because of the resurrection. I'm not sure that the disciples at the time of Jesus had those beliefs about Jesus. They did not believe that he would be raised from the dead. (The women go to the tomb expecting to find a body.) If they had believed Jesus was the Messiah, that belief was temporarily shattered when he was arrested and executed. So, when we read christological statements about Jesus, we can wonder if that's what really happened or was said prior to the resurrection, or is that a bias (albeit a good bias) that was imposed onto the story by the post-Easter remembrances. For instance, a variant reading at the end of Matthew's Lord's Prayer is "For the kingdom and the power and the lgory are yours forever. Amen." A similar doxological statement is found as part of the Lord's Prayer in the Didache. That sounds like, and is probably a statement about Jesus that arose from the believers' post-Easter experiences and beliefs about Jesus rather than something Jesus said during his earthly life.
"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 #138 on: July 28, 2007, 06:04:00 PM »
Dr. Okamoto of CSL has three lines that from which he is relatively sure that he can derive all of Lutheran theology:

1. God is God
2. You are not
3. Don't seem right

Pretty similar, but I like the "Don't seem right" part better because our sinful nature simply does not like the situation at all.  We'd much rather be God.
However, there seems to be some people who enjoy pointing out to others, "You are not God," while they feel free to act a bit godlike in doing so.
"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 #139 on: July 28, 2007, 06:05:38 PM »
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #140 on: July 28, 2007, 06:23:31 PM »
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.
And so does your wife, if she's like mine.
"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 #141 on: July 28, 2007, 06:27:21 PM »
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.
And so does your wife, if she's like mine.

Hah, true. She does like me to think that she worships the ground I walk on, but....it's actually the reverse.


LutherMan

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #142 on: July 28, 2007, 08:00:21 PM »
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths."
2 Timothy 4:3-4  NASB



Gladfelteri

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #143 on: July 28, 2007, 08:19:02 PM »
Pertaining to such things as Christ's Resurrection, at the risk of sounding simplistic, it seems to me that either something is true or it is not.  If, in a courtroom, a witness was asked if something was true, if he answered something like, "that depends on what you mean by 'true," I would expect an objection from the other attorney, and the Judge to tell the witness to answer the question - - - or, perhaps the attorney asking the question would say, "I'll take that as a 'no.'"

I know, theology is not a judicial procedure.  But still, it seems to me that either something (the resurrection) is true or it is not - with no further parsing; and that is all there is to it.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2007, 09:01:07 PM by Irl Gladfelter »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #144 on: July 28, 2007, 09:34:36 PM »
Pertaining to such things as Christ's Resurrection, at the risk of sounding simplistic, it seems to me that either something is true or it is not.  If, in a courtroom, a witness was asked if something was true, if he answered something like, "that depends on what you mean by 'true," I would expect an objection from the other attorney, and the Judge to tell the witness to answer the question - - - or, perhaps the attorney asking the question would say, "I'll take that as a 'no.'"
In one case, if the witness saw the crime, it is more likely that the attorney would ask, "Tell us what you saw." Then the witness would relate what was witnessed. In cross examination, the attorney might ask, "Is it true that you said...." Then might produce evidence that what the witness claimed to have seen would have been impossible at time or from the particular angle.

In another case, if the witness is offering "expert testimony," the question seems always to include, "In your opinion,...."

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But still, it seems to me that either something (the resurrection) is true or it is not - with no further parsing; and that is all there is to it.
The resurrection is true. I don't think anyone here is denying that. Even Borg maintains that it happened. That, to me (and to others I've read) is the most logical explanation for the drastic change in the disciples from being fearful cowards in a locked room to bold witnesses facing arrest and death. Or, in Paul's case, the drastic change from persecuting Christians to preaching the faith. Something transformed their lives. Seeing the resurrected Jesus transformed them. The question is about the NT stories of resurrection appearances. They are certainly told to tells us more than just that Jesus was raised, but in that "something more," have the authors adapted or revised the stories -- perhaps without even consciously knowing it, because of the message(s) they want to proclaim throughout their gospels?

Again, I look to the example of Mark 16:1-8, there is no denial of the resurrection. The angel declares it. The angels instructs them "Go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

Did the angel historically and factually say, "and Peter," or in Mark's remembrance of the story, in conjunction with his remembrances of Peter's failures throughout the gospel, did he add it for emphasis? (We could also ask if there were only "one young man" {Mk} or one "angel of the Lord" {Matthew} or "two men" {Luke} of if no one was seen at the empty tomb {John}.) It is quite likely that the women trembled and were bewildered and were fearful, but other historical records suggest that Mark's statement of their silence is not historically accurate. He tells his story for reasons that are more than the historical facts.
"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]

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #145 on: July 28, 2007, 11:45:58 PM »
Jesus was really raised from the dead. Jesus really appeared to people after the resurrection. Whether the stories in the gospels and Acts are accurate, historical, and factual accounts of those appearances is the issue. Interpreting them parabolically, and saying that such an interpretation doesn't rely on the historicity of the story is not a denial of the resurrection or appearances by Jesus. It is saying that each gospel writer tells the appearance stories in ways that fit into their entire story of Jesus. (As Powell suggests, the normal way of reading a narrative is (a) all the way through, and (b) beginning to end.)

Let’s see if we can come to some type of conclusion, then.  Apparently, you are saying that Jesus really died and that he really was raised.  Good.

Can you also say that this matters and is central to Christian theology and proclamation?  That is, if Jesus were not raised, our faith would be in vain? 

If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?

One way to look at this is to see how much such an approach has helped the church.  If you notice, the historical critical method is being abandoned as a primary method in many quarters and not just in places like the LCMS.  The Postliberal school (among others) is gaining power and credibility with the onset of post-modern, pragmatic thought, and even these guys see that while historical criticism can help with some things, it ultimately has little to say to the church.

A case in point is an interview I had with a prominent biblical scholar at Yale.  She was writing a new commentary on Mark in a very prestigious commentary series.  I asked her what she was currently studying and what questions she was bringing to her study.  She then discoursed for a while on the current question – did Jesus say a certain thing or did he not?  After about 10-15 minutes of conversation, I asked her what her conclusions were.  She said that it depends on what you thought before you approached the text.

I left wondering why I would want to spend my time on something like that.

Such an approach where the text is dead and primarily worthy of dissecting of has little interest outside of a small group of scholars in the academy (and maybe some few others); it has little to say that might be helpful to the church as she struggles in this world.

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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.
The two natures of Christ can be found in scriptures, but they certainly are not articulated as well as in the Nicene Creed. That was a doctrine that developed (or was clarified) over time. Similarly, we will not find anything in scriptures espousing the Trinity with the words or as clear as in the Athanasian Creed. These creeds are not contrary to scriptures, but they are not taught in such detail in scriptures. One can look to scriptures, especially the gospel of Mark, and conclude that adoptionism is taught there. The "developing tradition" opposed that interpretation while clarifying the relationship between the Son and the Father.

So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.

 
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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. 
Nope, just the opposite. It was communities of believers that formed Scriptures at the beginning. I would agree that such communities were formed by the gospel before there were written records of Jesus; but it was these communities who wrote down their remembrances of Jesus -- who believed that something more concrete than an oral tradition was needed, that something authoritative was necessary as eye-witnesses were dying off. It was the communities of believers who collected and maintained, first of all the oral traditions about Jesus, and then the written traditions, including the letters that were important to them.

Good so far.

Because such writers were so important to communities of believers, they were compiled after about 350 years into the canon of scriptures.
Since that time, post 400 or so, I would agree that communities are formed by Scriptures.

Actually, the compilations were largely complete long before then.  Paul’s letters always circulated together.  Likewise, the Synoptics were always found together, and John was almost always included as well.

Go to iTunes U for Concordia Sem and listen to an excellent series of lectures on this by Prof. Jeffrey Kloha.


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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.[/b]

Huh, where did the "Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scriptures" come from?

From your assumption where you said: “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.”

Here you say that we should assume that Christian doctrines (which Christians believe are taught in the Scriptures) are not found in Scriptures.  That’s where it came from.

Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.

But you say that we should assume that they aren’t in Scripture because they hinder its reading, they don’t allow us to take “seriously” what Scripture teaches.

A strange situation.  If a teaching is scriptural, then it should aid the interpretation of Scripture, not hinder it.  If a teaching hinders the right reading of Scripture, then it is not scriptural.


I don't believe that all Christians have taken those differences seriously.

Of course.  All have not.  Neither was I claiming that every Christian everywhere was, just in case you were wondering.

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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.


Yes, but some of that setting aside of one set of doctrines is recognizing that they were developed later in church history. The fleshed-out doctrine of the two natures of Christ, I don't believe is present in the scriptures. So, in doing exegetical work, that is laid aside; and a bias of "the-early-believers-were-still-trying-to-figure-out-Christ" becomes a bias when looking at the scriptures.

Well, either the doctrine of the two natures of Christ is a scriptural doctrine or it isn’t.  If it is, it should be asserted.  If not, chuck it.  If you mean that we don’t find Leo’s Tome reproduced verbatim in the Bible, again, we agree.

Specifically, the doctrine/bias that Borg posits by the early believers in their remembrances of Jesus is that they knew of and had experienced the resurrected Jesus.

Good.  This brings us to perhaps a way we can come to agreement.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, does it matter to your theology that Jesus actually and really died and was actually and really resurrected and actually and really ascended?  That is, do these real events play a central, structural role in your theology to the point that you can say with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith would be in vain?

LutherMan

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #146 on: July 29, 2007, 12:07:41 AM »
I like believing and having faith in Jesus' resurrection for my salvation.  But them I am a simple layman...

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #147 on: July 29, 2007, 02:22:10 AM »
Can you also say that this matters and is central to Christian theology and proclamation?  That is, if Jesus were not raised, our faith would be in vain?
Yes

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If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"
I can certainly make that claim. Deciding that the angel's words, "and Peter," were probably added by Mark and weren't really said, doesn't change one bit about the reality of the resurrection, but it does suggest that some things in the story didn't really happen. Were Matthew and Mark mistaken when they only have one man/angel at the tomb, or was Luke mistaken when he has two angels? One of those accounts says something that "didn't really happen," because they both couldn't have happened. Saying that indicates something about those stories of the empty tomb, but not a denial of the empty tomb. Did an earthquake really happen or was that a Matthean insertion? (It's not found in any other gospel.) I say that whether or not an earthquake happened historically and factually or whether there were one or two men/angels doesn't matter when concentrating on the message(s) that the author is giving in the text.

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Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?
Ah, but the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying. Perhaps by slicing up the dead word, we find that it comes back to life even stronger and more powerfully than before -- something like a resurrection! :)

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One way to look at this is to see how much such an approach has helped the church.  If you notice, the historical critical method is being abandoned as a primary method in many quarters and not just in places like the LCMS.  The Postliberal school (among others) is gaining power and credibility with the onset of post-modern, pragmatic thought, and even these guys see that while historical criticism can help with some things, it ultimately has little to say to the church.
I argued at least 25 years ago that the historical-critical method is a tool that can be used helpfully or harmfully. It's like driving a car. It can be done in ways that kill people; or done in ways that make life easier for people. Just because hundreds of people are killed by cars each year, we don't ban the use of cars. We try to get people to use them rightly and in helpful ways.

Right now, according to Powell, there are two basic approaches to scriptures: author-oriented approaches that use historical criticism; and reader-oriented scholars who use literary criticism. He admits that the following is an extreme rending and a caricature, but he gives it anyway to indicate one of the differences in these approaches: "historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct intepretation: the meaning that was intended by the author" and "literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standards."

Then offers a less exaggerated explanation of the differences: "it is safe to say that scholars who favor authors maintain that some interpretations are right and others are clearly wrong, while scholars who favor readers think it is abusive to impose understandings that limig people's creativity of imagination." [quotes from Chasing the Eastern Star, p. 2]

There are some of us who use a little of both.

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Such an approach where the text is dead and primarily worthy of dissecting of has little interest outside of a small group of scholars in the academy (and maybe some few others); it has little to say that might be helpful to the church as she struggles in this world.
There is truth to what you say. I've been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature since 1976. I've received their quarterly journal since then. Many of the essays are dissection of texts, and they have little interest outside the small group of scholars. This was also true at the one annual meeting I attended. Hundreds if not thousands of papers are presented, by academicians for others of the same ilk. I seldom sat through all five 30 minute lectures at each session.

Perhaps the most exciting event at the meeting was a meeting to possible start a new group dealing with the Bible in congregational life. The presenters were Barbara Brown Taylor, Marcus Borg, and Ben Witherington.

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So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.
I think I would say that the creeds go beyond scriptures. What they say is included in scriptures, but they also go further than scriptures to limit ways scriptures may be properly interpreted. I used the example before that Mark can be interpreted as God adopting Jesus at his baptism and then abandoning him on the cross. The later creeds rule that interpretation unacceptable to proper Christian understanding. It doesn't mean that an exegete won't explore that possibility, and wonder if is what Mark meant or not -- recognize that some answers surfaced by good exegesis may not square with orthodoxy.

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Good so far.
Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good. :)

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Actually, the compilations were largely complete long before then.  Paul’s letters always circulated together.  Likewise, the Synoptics were always found together, and John was almost always included as well.
Yes compilations occured earlier, canonization occured at the end of the fourth century. I also note that some of the compilations, such as listed by Eusebius (early 300s) are a bit different than the canonical listing. He included 1 Clement as a recognized book, and the following were disputed books: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.


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Here you say that we should assume that Christian doctrines (which Christians believe are taught in the Scriptures) are not found in Scriptures.  That’s where it came from.
Ah, it's sort of true, and sort of not. The quick example I think of is the ascension. It is taught in scriptures (two places), but it is also ignored in Matthew, Mark, and John, and perhaps Paul, too. Trying to impose the ascension into those texts is doing a disservice, I believe to those texts. The virgin birth is taught in scriptures (two places), but trying to impose that in Mark or Paul is trying to make them say something they don't say.

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Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.
It depends. If we let Luke help us understand the virgin birth and the ascension, that's fine; but if we go looking for those events in Mark and try to make Mark say something about those two events, then I think the doctrine becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Conversely, as I noted before, if one concludes that Mark presents an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, it may be good exegesis, but it is contrary to our doctrine. Similarly, trying to make Mark say that there is no virgin birth and no ascension, is making Mark also say something that he doesn't say, and that is contrary to doctrine.

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But you say that we should assume that they aren’t in Scripture because they hinder its reading, they don’t allow us to take “seriously” what Scripture teaches.
We should find the doctrine in the scripture passages where they occur and are supported. "Salvation through faith alone" is a wonderful and a key doctrine of our Lutheran theology; however, we can't make James say that. He says just the opposite: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (2:24). Attempts to make James fit a Lutheran "faith alone" doctrine is likely to do injustice to the book of James.

I think that the Christianity presented by Matthew's gospel is a bit less salvation by grace through faith than we might like. Jesus is presented as a teacher and his followers are to obey his teaching. In my notes, there are times I will state that what a text is saying is not very Lutheran. There certainly are many texts that affirm our Lutheran theology, but there are others that say something different.

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A strange situation.  If a teaching is scriptural, then it should aid the interpretation of Scripture, not hinder it.  If a teaching hinders the right reading of Scripture, then it is not scriptural.
Scriptures is not all uniform in what it teaches. I think I wrote elsewhere that doing biblical theology is a lot messier than systematic theology. We have to deal with Paul's faith centered theology without works in Galatians and James's necessity of works theology.

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Well, either the doctrine of the two natures of Christ is a scriptural doctrine or it isn’t.  If it is, it should be asserted.  If not, chuck it.  If you mean that we don’t find Leo’s Tome reproduced verbatim in the Bible, again, we agree.
It developed out of scriptures. In Mark, the earliest gospel, I think, has little about two natures. Jesus' human nature is emphasized. (Only demons, the "bad guys," refer to Jesus as Son of the Most High, etc.) Jesus' miracles are hindrances to properly believing that Jesus is not a mythical divine man, but a son of man (a human being?) who dies. The only person who "gets it" in Mark is the centurion, who at Jesus' death confesses that he is the Son of God, but that title has to be understood as coming from his death, not his miracles.

In contrast, in the latest gospel, John, miracles are presented as "signs" that point to properly understanding Jesus. The connection between Jesus and the Father is much stronger in John than in earlier gospels.

One interpretation of this is that in the years between Mark and John, there was a growing understanding of Jesus' divinity and how that related to the Father.

Another way this is indicated: In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism. Matthew traces back a type of natural pre-existence of Jesus to Abraham and a supernatural connection to the divine at conception. Jesus was divine at the moment of conception. Luke also has the supernatural conception and traces back a type of natural pre-existance to Adam, "son of God." John traces back a supernaturel pre-existance before creation. Jesus was divine before the beginning of creation. One way of looking at such patterns is as a "developing tradition" -- a traditional that continued to develop into the creeds. The two natures are biblical, but not in all biblical books.

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Good.  This brings us to perhaps a way we can come to agreement.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, does it matter to your theology that Jesus actually and really died and was actually and really resurrected and actually and really ascended?  That is, do these real events play a central, structural role in your theology to the point that you can say with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith would be in vain?
Yes, I can and do say that. To repeat, the issue is not whether or not Christ was raised from the dead. He was. The question center around whether or not the stories related to the resurrection (the empty tomb and appearances) are like video-tape accounts or more-than-historical-and-factual accounts.
"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]

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #148 on: July 29, 2007, 09:46:24 AM »
If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"
I can certainly make that claim. Deciding that the angel's words, "and Peter," were probably added by Mark and weren't really said, doesn't change one bit about the reality of the resurrection, but it does suggest that some things in the story didn't really happen.

My question actually had to do with the "reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension".

Here, if Jesus were not crucified and resurrected, our faith would be in vain.  And the way you speak has to reflect this reality.

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Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?
Ah, but the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying. Perhaps by slicing up the dead word, we find that it comes back to life even stronger and more powerfully than before -- something like a resurrection! :)

This sort of reminds me of the neighbor kid when I was growing up: "Hey, let's kill it and see what happens!"

But anyway, the theme throughout the NT is that God kills and makes alive through the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son and brings this salvation through the working of His Word in the power of the Spirit.  One is an existential assertion ("the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying") that could apply equally well to a teaching of the Mahatma, the other is a specifically Christian assertion.  I know that you were being light-hearted, but the existentialist approach does seem to be part of what is at issue here.

Right now, according to Powell, there are two basic approaches to scriptures: author-oriented approaches that use historical criticism; and reader-oriented scholars who use literary criticism. He admits that the following is an extreme rending and a caricature, but he gives it anyway to indicate one of the differences in these approaches: "historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct intepretation: the meaning that was intended by the author" and "literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standards."

Yeah, that's an over-simplification reflecting the disciplinization of theology.

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So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.
I think I would say that the creeds go beyond scriptures. What they say is included in scriptures, but they also go further than scriptures to limit ways scriptures may be properly interpreted. I used the example before that Mark can be interpreted as God adopting Jesus at his baptism and then abandoning him on the cross. The later creeds rule that interpretation unacceptable to proper Christian understanding. It doesn't mean that an exegete won't explore that possibility, and wonder if is what Mark meant or not -- recognize that some answers surfaced by good exegesis may not square with orthodoxy.

Yes, the creeds do limit the ways that the Scriptures may be properly interpreted.  It's one of their primary functions.  A lot of effort, courage and concern for the flock went into their formulation, and God has used them for thousands of years to properly form the members of His Church.  I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure. 

If the creeds are a form of protection, helping us to read the Scriptures rightly (essentially pointing out the bounds beyond which "There Be Dragons"), why would we want to read as if we did not have the benefit of using them?  Why eschew what Christians have held to be true for millenia?

Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.

If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.

I think that the creeds give us a great binding summary of the rule of faith, a rule that is crucial if one wants to really understand what the Scriptures are saying.  Theology and exegesis always go together, despite their arbitrary, post-Schleiermachian (sp?) division into distinct disciplines in today's academy.  Many departments are recognizing that this is silly and attempting to try to create "inter-disciplinary" tracks where theology and biblical interpretation go together.  But the truth is, the problem is only in how the academy has organized itself; theology and biblical interpretation always go together whenever one actually reads the Scriptures.  It may not be good theology, it may be a different gospel, but it is still theology.

My point is that since theology will be involved anyway (not being omnipotent, we can't help but bring our prejudices into how we read -- it's just a matter of which ones), let's use the right theology.  The creeds and ecumenical councils are at least a good place to start, though I also think that the BoC should be included here, too (but that may start another controversy).


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Good so far.
Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good. :)

Ahhh, yes.  This nicely plays into what I said above.  Someone who would mistake the referent of my adjective for himself does seem to have a desire for the omnipotence, the "objective" intepretation that only God has.  Our interpretations come from within our situations, and the Christian situation is bounded by the creeds.  One can certainly desire to have other interpretations, but these aren't, then, Christian interpretations.

Ah, it's sort of true, and sort of not. The quick example I think of is the ascension. It is taught in scriptures (two places), but it is also ignored in Matthew, Mark, and John, and perhaps Paul, too. Trying to impose the ascension into those texts is doing a disservice, I believe to those texts. The virgin birth is taught in scriptures (two places), but trying to impose that in Mark or Paul is trying to make them say something they don't say.

Yeah, I never said we should do something silly like that.

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Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.
It depends. If we let Luke help us understand the virgin birth and the ascension, that's fine; but if we go looking for those events in Mark and try to make Mark say something about those two events, then I think the doctrine becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Conversely, as I noted before, if one concludes that Mark presents an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, it may be good exegesis, but it is contrary to our doctrine. Similarly, trying to make Mark say that there is no virgin birth and no ascension, is making Mark also say something that he doesn't say, and that is contrary to doctrine.

Again, why would I speak of the ascension in a setting where it's not mentioned?  That would be like reading, say, the healing of the Gerasene demoniac and then importing speaking of the virgin birth in that connection.  This seems just a silly thing to suggest.

We should find the doctrine in the scripture passages where they occur and are supported.

Of course.  And then we use what is central to interpret what is less central; we let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.

"Salvation through faith alone" is a wonderful and a key doctrine of our Lutheran theology; however, we can't make James say that. He says just the opposite: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (2:24). Attempts to make James fit a Lutheran "faith alone" doctrine is likely to do injustice to the book of James.

Then justification is not by grace through faith alone and is by works so that, I guess, we can boast.  If this is true, then the entire doctrine of justification by grace through faith is wrong, and we have a denial of the Gospel.

Here, James does need to be understood in his relation to Paul (and the rest of Scripture, too) in order to be understood rightly.  If you would rather claim that James teaches the divine doctrine that salvation is not by grace through faith alone but by works, you are denying the heart of the Gospel.

I think that the Christianity presented by Matthew's gospel is a bit less salvation by grace through faith than we might like. Jesus is presented as a teacher and his followers are to obey his teaching.

Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?

The way that Lutherans have understood this doctrine has never been in an antinomian fashion as if we do not follow Jesus' teachings.  This is fully compatible with the doctrine of justification as is James, rightly understood.

Your desire to eschew Christian doctrines as prior assumptions in your exegesis is leading to precisely what I said it would lead to -- another Gospel.

Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture.  This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.  But it also now shows the importance of this claim for biblical interpretation -- that if you ignore the fact that God took thousands of years to develop the canon of Scripture so that His action in Jesus would have the necessary context to be properly understood, you will, in fact, not understand what He's saying.

And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.

Another Gospel.

[Leo's Tome] developed out of scriptures.

<snip>

One way of looking at such patterns is as a "developing tradition" -- a traditional that continued to develop into the creeds. The two natures are biblical, but not in all biblical books.

Yes.  So why would you want to develop a different trajectory than the Christian one, the one that developed out of the Scriptures and the early church?  The one that God kicked off long ago through His people Israel so that through them all the nations of the earth might be blessed?  All this tradition, all this trajectory of the people of God is not dispensable because God did not, apparently, consider it dispensable.  Christ came in the fullness of time when all was ready so that his mission could be understood.  This took a while -- thousands of years -- why would anyone think that all this is unnecessary for right understanding?  Or even more strangely, why this could actually hinder biblical interpretation rather than help it?
« Last Edit: July 29, 2007, 01:45:40 PM by Scott._.Yaki mow »

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #149 on: July 30, 2007, 01:51:01 AM »
In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism.

St. Mark 1:1. 

I know, pick your ancient manuscripts; some do not include "the Son of God."  Yet even most modern scholars do, contrary to your bald assertion.

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