Almost from the beginning this "Jesus movement" was
split among many different communities who each had their own
ideas about who Jesus was and what his teachings meant to them.
Over time a kerygma emerged, a message "which is proclaimed"
(the literal translation of kerygma from the Greek). But it wasn't
always clear what this proclamation was in the decades immediately
following Jesus' death since each community enjoyed the freedom
to interpret their stories about Jesus for themselves.
[We will get to the Bauer-guy (and his followers) in a moment, but let me give a example of how more modern research has pointed out the rather obvious 'reading back into the NT' of his reconstruction of post-NT heretical movements: "In the proposals of Koester and Robinson concerning Q and its genre, the trajectory-critical approach has a retrojectory character. It is fair to say that the approach as a whole is under the spell of Bauer's view of orthodoxy and heresy, retrojecting his picture of early Christianity after the New Testament into the New Testament era, indeed to traditions behind the New Testament documents themselves. Needless to say, that is a questionable method." (RNC:17)]
To see how 'diverse' the original communities were, we will need to look at the evidence from (1) the NT and (2) the post-NT documents of the early church (and related evidence.)
The data in the NT--with all of its ACTUAL diversity manifest--STILL manifests a uniformity and apostolic 'control' that would NOT generate such a scenario as imagined above. Consider the actual data:
First of all, the differences are MUCH more easily understood/explained as differences in literary style/purpose. For example, Matthew left the 'bad' stuff in about the apostles, whereas Luke 'left it out'. Could this really be a fundamental difference in the faith?! The selectivity in the author's use of material simply cannot be made into propagandistic warfare!
Secondly, the three synoptics simply CANNOT represent 'warring factions' within the church, because they were accepted by ALL of the communities THROUGHOUT our 'measurement' period. We do not have ANY data to support even MILD rejection of any of the Gospel documents in the early church. [We have TONS of data, of course, on their rejection of the apocryphal NT works...but more on this later.]
For example, Lemcio [LPJG: 118ff] is representative of those who have begun to delineate the structure of the unifying (and NORMATIVE!) kerygma of the early church. He lists:
After looking at the various traditions in the NT, in light of the above structure, Lemcio concludes:
These data demonstrate that, amid the unquestionable pluralism of the NT, there lies a unifying, kerygmatic center. It is formal and specific, rather that abstract and general, internal and native, rather than external and artificial. Among the several trajectories along which development of thought can be discerned, there remains a complementary stability. (italics HIS).But when we looks for this early kerygma in later, non-canonical writings, he reaches these conclusions:
That the pattern identified in the NT continues to appear well into the second century is clear. But it is also obvious, judging by its infrequency, that there is a tapering off. Of course, the basic themes continue to be repeated in fragmentary form and elaborated upon. Yet they are not as concentrated in expression. Thus, it seems that the phenomenon of a well-defined, circumscribed outline of Christians' fundamental story belongs primarily to the NT.
For another example, Hultgren [RNC:53]
But there are some commonalties, and the beginnings of a normative tradition in the pre-70 era can be discerned. All three areas investigated [the churches of Palestine, the Q community, and the churches of Paul], for example, continue the Jewish heritage of belief in the God of Israel as Creator, the Father of Jesus, and the Father of humanity. All affirm the essential humanity of Jesus, on the one hand, and his role in redemption made possible by his crucifixion and exaltation/resurrection by God. All understand that a new era has been inaugurated in consequence of the cross and resurrection, attested by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. And in each case the believers constitute communities of faith that are marked by an ethos in which the individual gives himself or herself over to others in love and service, which is inspired by and modeled on Jesus' own giving himself over...Although these matters may seem, because of their familiarity, theological and ethical commonplaces, they ought rather to be considered remarkable achievements of communities of faith and life in their infancy. The are marks of a normative tradition that resonates elsewhere in the writings of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.
So also, Martin Hengel (in New Testament Studies 40/3, 1944) rejects the "widespread opinion today" that the early church was filled with a 'multitude of contradictory messages." He affirms that there was indeed "an original unity of the church given through the Christ-event".
[This type of argument/conclusion--working with REAL data--can be advanced from many RECENT mainstream (and often non-conservative) NT scholars today: D.A. Carson, Dunn, Farmer, Marshall, McGucken, Osborn, N.T. Wright, et. al.--see biblio in CSSG:331].]
The golden calf of the last few years has been the use of the concept of trajectory as a means for filling in significant gaps within the history of primitive Christianity...But the problem with this paradigm is that it may misrepresent the way ideas develop or decay. The human dimension complicates the paradigm.He then goes on to give an example from the Reformation where that paradigm would specifically mislead a historical researcher.
And E.P. Sanders (one of the pre-eminent modern scholars of the 1st century period) devoted a special section of his book "Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A comparison of patterns of religion" (Fortress: 1977) to criticism of this concept. One of his more basic objections is that it can be misleading (p. 23):
A lot of things do not move in trajectories...and the trajectory paradigm may mislead one into attempting to impose sequential development where none exists.
Take, for example, Paul's account of the resurrection in I Cor 15. Blomberg (BLOM:108) illustrates the lack-of-freedom Paul had in the transmission process:
Almost no one doubts that Paul wrote this letter or that he was telling the truth when he 'delivered' to the Corinthians the list of witnesses of the resurrection in verses 3-7 as one which he had 'received' from Christians who preceded him. The Greek words for 'deliver' ("paradidomi") and 'receive' ("paralambanomai") in this context are often used as fairly technical terms for the transmission of tradition. Almost certainly such information would have been related to Paul by the disciples in Damascus (c. ad 33) or in Jerusalem during his first visit there after becoming a Christian (c. ad 35).
And Bock (JUF:80) echoes the 'transmission mentality' of the early Jewish-Christian church:
The New Testament shares this approach to the important of what Jesus taught and how it was transmitted. I have already noted how Luke affirmed that the tradition he received had roots in those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word (Luke 1.1-4). When Paul writes about the gospel message or the tradition of the Last Supper that he passed on to the Corinthian church, he uses the language of tradition carefully passed on: "I preached to you [the gospel] which you received (I Cor 15.1), and, "I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you" (11.23). The terms "received" and "passed on" are technical terms for hearing and passing on tradition. In fact, Paul's version of this event reads virtually the same as how Luke recorded the event (Luke 22.14-23), showing that the church "passed on" events in much the way Judaism did.
This is not your normal 'telephone game' or rumor-mill.
The 'stories about Jesus' were general pre-interpreted by either Jesus Himself or by the Old Testament. Differing perspectives on the meaning of Christ's death, varied from Paul's emphasis on sacrifice to Hebrew's emphasis on the Priestly work of Christ to John's theme of 'lifting up'--ALL OF WHICH are extensions/completion's of a pre-existing strand of OT prediction! The theological variety and richness of the NT is almost totally derived from the pre-existing variety and richness in the OT writings! It was not a 'freedom to interpret stories'--they were ALREADY interpreted by the theological context in 1st century Judaism!
EVERY indication we have from the NT documents (and the early church, but we will look at some of that later) indicates that the earliest communities (1) 'received' interpretive tradition/teaching from someone inside the circle of Jesus' disciples; that (2) these churches were often 'authenticated' by apostolic visits (cf. Acts 8, esp. vs 14: When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. ); that (3) church leadership often convened to 'check themselves' against the others (cf. Acts 10-11, Acts 15, Gal 2); and that the shared material between the synoptic gospels ITSELF testifies to fact that the gospel authors did not vary the tradition much.
It is simply false to maintain the position that the communities operated in either relative isolation, ignorance, or independence from the formative leadership of the early church.
first realized that this diversity existed throughout the early
communities and regions of the Jesus movement. Bauer, (Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest
Christianity, ed. G. Strecker, R. A. Kraft, and G. Krodel
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971; German original, Tubingen:
Mohr-Siebeck, 1934; 2nd ed., 1934).
Koester developed Bauer's work three decades
later, calling this diversity Gnomai Diaphoroi. Today,
scholars refer to the diversity of those early Jesus movements
simply as "Christian trajectories." (Ron Cameron, The Gospel of Thomas
and Christian Origins, in The Future of Early Christianity,
ed. Birger A. Pearson (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991) p. 381-392.)
Fredriksen  describes these communities
and how their diversity played an important role in formulating
"[Early Christians] grouped together, preserving some of
Jesus' teachings and some stories about him, which became part
of the substance of their preaching as they continued his mission
to prepare Israel for the coming of the Kingdom of God. At the
same time or very shortly thereafter, these oral teachings began
to circulate in Greek as well as in Jesus' native Aramaic. Eventually,
some of Jesus' sayings, now in Greek, were collected and written
down in a document, now lost, which scholars designate Q
(from the German Quelle, "source"). Meanwhile, other
oral traditions--miracle stories, parables, legends, and so on--grew,
circulated, and were collected in different forms by various Christian
communities. In the period around the destruction of the Second
Temple (70 CE) an anonymous Gentile Christian wrote some of these
down. This person was not an author--he did not compose de novo.
Nor was he a historian--he did not deal directly and critically
with his evidence. The writer was an evangelist, a sort of creative
editor. He organized these stories into a sequence and shaped
his inherited material into something resembling a historical
narrative. The result was the Gospel of Mark." (Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to
Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus,
(New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1988) p. 3-4. )
First of all, the Bauer/Koester hypothesis. In a nutshell, this view of the early church was that "heresy" appeared both EARLY and STRONG, and in many cases, PRE-dated "orthodoxy". I have already dealt in detail with this issue in my comment #14, showing heresy to be neither EARLY nor STRONG.
Let me make an aside here. It has always troubled me (with a science background) how so much of what is called 'biblical scholarship' is so uncritical of itself. In science, we are ALWAYS questioning the position we held YESTERDAY--asking if there is new data, or better ways to interpret the old data. But in such much of 'modern scholarship' in the NT/OT arena, they don't give up positions for scores and scores of years!
In the OT, this is pre-eminently illustrated by the birth of the Graf-Wellhausen/Documentary theories--which EVEN IN THAT DAY major contrary data existed but was simply 'ignored' by the zealous founders! (RKH:33-82; AOOT:17-38, chapter 6). It eventually 'catches up' (e.g. the 'control data' on much of OT literary theory NOW comes from comparison with actual ANE materials--NOT from comparison to Hegelian systems or cultural evolutionary theories!!!).
In the case of Bauer's thesis, we are faced with a similar situation. His hypothesis of 60 years ago IGNORED key elements of the data (BTE:129-161), and considerable data has come to light (in both literary and archeological arenas) documenting the "early and strong" appearance of orthodoxy (e.g. RNC:47ff; BTE:35-91). His position is called 'overly simplified' by even the editors of his 2nd edition (!), and yet his hypothesis is often assumed uncritically (by many more than just James Still!).
To illustrate how sometimes it is only the CRITICAL scholar that will 'step into the new world', let me cite the very non-traditional Robin Lane Fox, in his acclaimed Pagans and Christians (PAC:276):
In the West, in short, early Christianity has lost its history, but there is one general point on which we can be more confident. An older view that heretical types of Christianity arrived in many places before the orthodox faith has nothing in its favor, except perhaps in the one Syrian city of Edessa. In Lyons and North Africa, there is no evidence of this first heretical phase and the likelier origins are all against it. In Egypt, the argument has been decisively refuted from the evidence of the papyri. Details of practice and leadership did differ widely, but the later existence of so many heresies must not obscure the common core of history and basic teaching throughout the Christian world.Notice that his view has assimilated the new archeological data (that tends to subdue rampant speculation) and that the author has gone 'beyond' Bauer, labeling it 'an older view'. Would that more contemporary scholars would review periodically the assumptions of their 'school' for current validity!
Now, I am not suggesting that we 're-invent the wheel' each generation, but rather that as hard data and/or control data surfaces that we re-examine our assumptions and abandon (without partiality) 'older views' that have proven to be mistaken.
Now, about Fredriksen's quote...
There are a few observations I would like to make about it.
In no way can this be taken to represent a 'consensus' of modern scholarship.
Virtually EVERY statement in this brief passage has come under scholarly attack within the last 20 years, and those statements that have NOT have been shown to support opposite conclusions from Still's.
As I demonstrated from the historical sources earlier, early Christians grew out of the core set of apostolic witnesses in Acts1-2. They all STARTED AS A GROUP, with a common core of beliefs, a basically unified kerygma, and a central proclaimation that incorporated Jesus' teaching and stories. Their grouping is currently not understood as people with pre-formed Christian beliefs "getting together" and sharing disparate traditions, but rather as a group CREATED by a unified kerygma. This "grouping" function would accordingly LIMIT distortions and diversity within the remembered message! The normal corrective function of group-dynamics (and even the regulative functions of oral tradition) would have pared down differences within the group.
So Stuhlmacher (GAG:7): Already before His resurrection he sent out his disciples to preach (for a time) and in the last phase of his ministry initiated them into the meaning of his death. Since the leadership circle of the primitive Church in Jerusalem derived from the circle of Jesus' disciples and his family, one must, with regard to the gospe tradition, reckon with a continuum which was not a fortuitous coincidence but deliverately cultivated, a continuum which leads from the time of Jesus to the post-Easter Church.
As I have repeatedly shown, there is a major emphasis in current scholarship on the non-oral character of this information, ranging from the rabbinic methods of note-taking (Reisner, Gerhardsson) to the listening-literacy of the general populace (cf. BREC). The establishment of local churches from the central core required the transmission of written materials (also discussed above) and this process was VERY early.
The literary milleu demonstrated in the pre-Christian Pseudepigraha was that plenty of written literature was produced in the beth sofer ('houses of learning') of Jerusalem--of which there were scores. All the evidence we have is that the earliest materials were WRITTEN.
The Q source is a very odd thing. It is TOTALLY hypothetical--there is not the SLIGHTEST evidence of its existence--it is never found in the mss., it is never referred to by ANY ancient writers, and it is never found in any archeological data. The existence of Q is POSTULATED, solely to account for differences between the synoptic gospels. It is a pure hypothesis without ANY 'hard evidence'--you might say, a veritable "document of the Gaps." This is NOT to say that Q did not exist, nor that it was not used, but rather that we should perhaps be less dogmatic about (and critically dependent on!) such a gossamer document.
As such, it is only necessary (or useful) IF ONE BELIEVES that Matt/Luke were dependent on Mark. If one believes in Matthean priority (i.e. that Mark was independent of Mt, or dependent on Mt) then the "need" for a Q source disappears (and so does the embarrassment of not HAVING any evidence of its existence!).
There is a major shift in the last ten years on this issue of "Which came first--Matt or Mark?" A new book from Trinity Press (due in Dec96) makes a surprizingly strong case (according to reviewers) that Luke was dependent solely on Matt. Compare the statement of E. Earle Ellis (in GAG:35):
Criticism of the two-document hypothess (tank note: Mark and Q as basis for the others) has centered on the alleged priority of Mark and several objections to the hypothethical source Q. (1) Q has never been shown to be one document, and (2) its character and limits are difficult if not impossible to establish. (3) It is, some charge, an unncesessary assumption since the synoptic problem can be resolved without invoking such a hypothethical source. The last objection was supported inter alia by A. Farrar and, together with an attack on Marcan priority, by B.C. Butler. In recent years it has been pursued persistently by a "task force" of a considerable number of scholars made up largely but not altogether of advocates of a new Griesbach hypothesis (tank note: Mark dep. on Matt and Luke).Ellis cites scholars like W.R. Farmer and B. Orchard as leading proponents of the new Griesbach position. (For an excellent example of how the Matthean priority can be argued, see Wenham's RMML).
[We will get MUCH farther into the Q issues later.]
Several things about this are questioned today.
First, the process wasn't purely oral (GAG:39):
There are other historical objections to a purely oral stage of transmission of gospel traditions. (1) Literacy was widespread in Palestinian Judaism, (2) The occasion that necessitated written teachings in early Christianity, the separation of believers from the teaching leadership, was already present in the earlthly ministry of Jesus, in Galilee, and also in Judea. (3) The bilingual background of his followeres also would have facilitated the rapid written formulation and transmission of at least some of his teachings. (4) Even among the establishment rabbis of the first century the teaching process was apparently not totally oral.Second, any intermediate sources were probably written (as Luke 1.1f suggests). Gamble in BREC:22f argues that several pre-Gospel sources were obviously written very much earlier than the gospels:
Third--But the identification of these units are based on literary features; the manuscript evidence is ALTOGETHER MISSING. The gospels show up in the digs in there existing forms. We NEVER find little independent units. The documents we have today are fully-formed and rhetorically-complete. We have NO reason for actually believing the pieces circulated before or independently.
Fourth, the evidence of the larger structural units (e.g. passion narrative) and the evidence of highly controlled transmission generates the conclusion that "the whole idea of isolated units gradually coelescing into large wholes falls by the wayside " (Ellis, GAG:38). We simply do not have any evidence that this occured, and indeed, have considerable evidence that the ONLY extant written documents were created IN THAT FORM--that is, they manifest the characteristics of literary compositions--as opposed to mere compilations or agglutinations.
As one might expect, there are a number of contested positions in this statement!
The dating of the gospel of Mark is now in vigorous debate from both archeological grounds and literary grounds.
On archeological grounds, there appears to be a fragment of Mark that is dated around 50 ad. by papyrologists (TRKW:38-39):
Thus it was indeed a sensational surprise, when, back in 1972, the leading Spanish papyrologist Jose O'Callaghan claimed that there was a tiny fragment of Mark's Gospel among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Quite apart from the question as to how it could have reached the caves of the Essene settlement, the latest possible date of the Greek papyrus fragment, 7Q5, was striking. Since the settlement and the caves had been left in AD 68, when the 10th Roman Legion Fretensis marched on Qumran, and since a neutral, paleographical dating of the fragment had suggested the year AD 50 as the latest (a dating confirmed by later analysis), there suddently appeared to be papyrological evidence fro the existence of this gospel in AD 50, and of a copy in the vicinity of Jerusalem prior to AD 68.[Thiede's work is fascinating, but not without its critics! To trace some of the discussion, I recommend reading the debate in order-- start with TRKW; then read the "rebuttals" by Stanton in GTQ and the one at https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~petersig/thiede2.txt; followed finally by his replies to these critiques in Eyewitness to Jesus, written by him in collab. with Matthew D'Ancona, Doubleday: 1996.]
https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~petersig/thiede2.txt On literary grounds, the German scholar Rudolph Pesch has argued persuasively for a VERY early dating for the core of Mark. Guelich summarizes Pesch's contribution in GAG:xix:
In several previous works, R. Pesch has suggested that the passion narrative behind Mark's Gospel represents "the oldest tradtion of the early Church," originating in the Aramaic-speaking Church of Jerusalem before A.D. 37. He defends on literary-critical, tradition-critical, and form-critical grounds his claim that the pre-Markan passion narrative was transmitted as an entire complex of connected events rather than constructed of isolated episodes, a claim that has gained in prevalence in contemporary studies of Mark's passion narrative.So, the "late" dating is a problem today.
Then the statement that the author of Mark's Gospel was anonymous and Gentile.
Just to demonstrate that this view is not 'consensus'(!), let me quote from the leading scholar Martin Hengel on this issue (in GAG:230):
Mark was a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian who also understood Aramaic. That is evident from the correct Aramaic quotations in his Gospel. I do not know any other work in Greek which has as many Aramaic or Hebrew words and formulas in so narrow a space as does the Second Gospel....Presumably Mark came from Jerusalem; while he was unfamiliar with Galilee, he does know Jerusalem and Palestinian Judaism.Mark is described in 120ad as the author of the Second Gospel, as the interpretoer of Peter (by Papias, cited in Eusebius), and according to Irenaeus, docetic Gnostics had a preference for Mark (GAG:235). Mark lived in a house church in Palestine, run by his mother (Acts 12.12), and the form of the gospel is of high Greek literary style (GAG:209-220).
The title of the 2nd Gospel (ascribing it to Mark) is very ancient in the textual tradition and goes back to the beginning of the 2nd century (BREC:153-154). Indeed, Hengel can say (cited by Stuhlmacker in GAG:24): it must be asserted that in the present state of our knowledge the titles of the Gospels are by no means late products from the second century but must be very old. With a considerable degree of probability they can be traced back to the time of the origin of the four Gospels between 69 and 100 and are connected with their circulation in the communities.
And this early association of the second Gospel with "Mark, the interpretor of Peter" gave that gospel enough weight to be used by the subsequent authors. As Lemcio asks almost sardonically: ...how would a document like Mark, written anonymously...achieve the kind of authority that led Matthew and Luke to appropriate 90 and 50 percent (respectively) of its content and to adopt its basic outline?" [LPJG:24]
In short, Fredrikson's statement is neither 'consensus', nor correct. ;>)
Although ambiguity is high in this passage, let me simply point out that the picture drawn here of Mark's literary efforts is grossly misleading. Current estimates of Mark's literary skill are very high. His literary genre has been compared with a number of outstanding genres (see the survey by Guelich in GAG). Hengel states "In fact more recent investigations have again disclosed how marvelously Mark has arranged his Gospel" (GAG:213) and demonstrates that Mark's structure matches that of the laws fo ancient tragedy worked out by Aristotle in Poetics [GAG:214ff], but that it still adheres to very high standards of historicity [GAG:219,221ff].
He shows affinities to a number of available genres of his day (cf. WAG and NTLE for full discussions of the subject). It is simply misleading to understate his literary skill or to hint at some possible 'creative fabrications.'
The above points were summary statements, simply to demonstrate the Fredrikson'sstatement--quoted approvingly by Stills--does NOT represent a consensus view, andindeed, represents a view that is increasingly being abandoned, as more historical and literary data is becoming available.
This gospel, written around 70 CE, was the Original
Mark. Original Mark was much shorter than Canonical Mark,
the Mark which is in the Bible today. It did not contain Canonical
verses or the resurrection appendix of 16:9-20.
Those passages were interpolated (or inserted) after 70
CE, but sometime prior to canonization in the fourth century.
What may have happened was that a dominant community took the
gospel and incorporated their own oral traditions into it, with
the result being passages 6:45 through 8:26. This provided them
with a complete codified form of their own values along with the
authority of the written gospel, all in one book. In the earliest
versions of Mark and Q, Jesus' resurrection account was not yet
included. At some point in the second century however verses 16:9-20,
the resurrection account, was included in order to harmonize it
with the other gospels.
This section is a great example of "tragic speculation!" that runs COUNTER to all available evidence we have! Consider the details (often ignored by Stills):
The point is--this section was considered PART of, and therefore authoritative for use in doctrinal and practical discussions.
Just another case of gossamer speculation, uncontrolled by the historical data available.
This section IS generally accepted as being a later addition to the original ending of Mark (16.8), although it shows up in the vast majority of the mss. It was apparently a section added for teaching purposes (it mentions the ascension). So Lane (NICNT, Mark, "Additional Note on the Supplementary Endings to the Gospel"):
As it now stands, Ch. 16.9-20 is a mosaic which is clearly secondary in character, which serves to round off the kerygma of the primitive Church with a reference to Christ's ascension (Ch 16.19). The tradition may hav ebeen composed originally as a ceteghetical summary of post-resurrection events.This ending (known in the literature as the "longer ending") appeared a century after the original Mark. (There was ANOTHER spurious ending, the "shorter ending" that also showed up during this time.) The ACTUAL ending of Mark in verse 8 is AMPLY supported from the hard data: "The earliest Greek, versional and patristic evidence supports the conclusion that Mark ending his Gospel at Ch. 16.8...The evidence allows no other assumption than that from the beginning Mark circulated with the abrupt ending of Ch 16.8". (Lane, op.cit.).
The problem with Still's usage of this item is that he may mislead the naive reader. He refers to it as Jesus' "resurrection account" twice, although the actual ending of Mark (16.1-8) is the "resurrection account." (
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. )
The spurious 9-20 is, at best, an Ascension account.
The only reason I bring this up is so readers might not be accidentally mislead by James' terminology into believing that the Mark did NOT have an account of the resurrection of Jesus in the original. The resurrection account in Mark was present from the writing.
[Tank note: The actual ending of Mark is called the 'abrupt ending' because some have not seen it 'fitting' to end the glorious gospel and resurrection in 'fear'. But this is a bit arbitrary, from a literary standpoint. So William Lane: "In point of fact, the present ending of Mark is thoroughly consistent with the motifs of astonishment and fear developed throughout the Gospel. In verse 8 the evangelist terminates his account of the good news concerning Jesus by sounding the note by which he has characterised all aspects of Jesus' activity, his healings, miracles, teaching, the journey to Jerusalem. Astonishment and fear qualify the events of the life of Jesus. The account of the tomb is soul-shaking, and to convey this impression Mark describes in the most meaningful language the utter amazement and overwhelming feeling of the women." (Lane, op.cit.)]
It is simply PURE and "UNTAINTED-by-evidence" speculation that (1) a dominant community could make such an insertion (to an existing and circulating document) and then 'pass it off' as the original (!); that (2) the early church ethic would allow such a thing--esp. in light of the hyper-sensitivity they developed to false-traditions (cf. Paul in 2 Thess 2.2); and that (3) they would be able to influence the global church so quickly in such a 'loose conferdation' model of the churches (which probably did not even exist--see below).
It is even difficult to see how this passage 6.45-8.37 could be considered a unique 'code of values of a dominant' community. This passage has so much shared info with the passages in Matthew (which, under Still's scenario would represent 'rival' communities) that it wouldn't make any sense to maintain this position, and soon was endorsed (via that gospel) by ALL communities.
As for there not being any resurrection account in Q, this would be obvious by definition--it is a SAYINGS SOURCE! It allegedly records ONLY sayings of Jesus (and not deeds and events--such as a resurrection), and therefore would never be expected to have a 'resurrection acount'. James statement is thus incorrect about Mark, and trivial about Q (and even misleading in his use of the word "yet").
This editorializing was common and acceptable practice in the ancient world.[Footnote: It is sometimes difficult for us moderns
to remember that attention to fact and accuracy is a relatively
recent phenomenon of the post-Enlightenment period. To the ancients,
poetic license was not just an aesthetic, it was the commonly
accepted practice of the day.]
Now, this statement in the text by James (above) is a little ambiguous as to what all would be included in "editorializing", but if his footnote can be taken to be explanatory, then his meaning is clear. "Editorializing" includes adding non-original material (and passing it off as 'original') for purposes of harmonizing (e.g. the longer ending of Mark), and "poetic license"--which seems to be equated with a lack of concern for "fact and accuracy". Stills also says that this lack of concern over historical/factual truth was THE acceptable practice of the day, and that there were no conventions against 'making stuff up' for various reasons.
Unfortunately, James seems to have swallowed some more dogma uncritically from his information sources (which are increasingly looking like what is called in the literature the "Harvard-Claremont axis"--that very VOCAL and VISIBLE minority of scholars that make headlines in Time and Newsweek all the time). If he had inspected ACTUAL historiographical data/literature, he would have seen a much different picture.
Indeed, even a brief review of ancient history writers can surface numerous statements about concern over "fact and accuracy", and the scholarly estimates of those perspectives will bear this up. If we then examine the Gospel writers to see if they intended to write "history" in this 'ancient' sense, and find that it was so, we will have a good case for their 'professional ethics relative to fact and accuracy'.
So, our approach will be as follows:
Note Well: We are not looking to find out how well these ancient authors DID 'fact and accuracy' but rather their orientation and commitment to that ideal. (For a litany of their failures, shortcomings, and inconsistencies, see Grant in GRH.)
Let's look first at some statements from the ancient writers (the BIG NAMES) themselves, about the matter of fact and accuracy.
At this point I find myself compelled to express an opinion which I know most people will object to; nevertheless, as I believe it is true, I will not suppress it [The Histories 7.138-139]
[A person interested in the past] must not put more reliance in the exaggerated embellishments of the poets, or in the tales of chroniclers who composed their works to please the ear rather than to speak the truth. Their accounts cannot be tested; the lapse of ages has made them in general unreliable, and they have passed into the region of romance. [The Peloponnesian Wars 1.21]
The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. [The Peloponnesian Wars 1.22]
We consider most trustworthy those who give most detail about contemporary events. But we believe that those who write in this fashion about ancient events are completely unpersuasive. We postulate that it is not probable that all of the deeds or the greater part of the speeches were kept in [exact] memory for so great a span of time. [FGrHist 70 F9]
There is a proverb which tells us that a single drop, taken from even the largest vessel, is enough to reveal to us the nature of the whole contents, and the same principle may be applied to the subject we are now discussing. Accordingly when we find one or two false statements in a book and they prove to have been deliberately made, we know that we can no longer treat anything that is said by such an author as reliable or trustworthy.[10.25a]
A living creature that has lost its eyes is entirely helpless. Equally, when truth is removed from history, the remainder turns out to be a useless tale. [ I.14]
...the historians who are reputed to be the most expert authorities on it [the first Punic War], have failed, in my opinion, to report the truth as they should have done. Now, if I may judge by the lives and principles of these men, I do not suggest that they deliberately set out to mislead their readers...[I.14] (TankNote: notice that Polybius finds fault with factual error that is caused EITHER intentionally OR unintentionally!)
Who does not know history's first law to be that an author must not dare to tell anything but the truth? And the second that he must make bold to tell the whole truth? [De oratore 2.15.62]
For the man who has given no thought to virtue and to practical wisdom, and to what has been written about them, would not be able even to form a valid opinion either in censure or in praise; nor yet to pass judgment upon the matters of historical fact that are worthy of being recorded in this treatise. [Geography I.1.22]
Now, let's look at some other situations in which scholars have noted strong attitudes of commitment to fact and accuracy.
With all his passion for accurate reconstruction, Thucydides had no use for history as the object of intellectual contemplation. With all his passion for accuracy, he never aimed at a simple reconstruction of what actually happened but joined the other ancient historians in holding fast to a public purpose for the study of the past.
Polybius accused Timaeus of misstatements, ignorance of warfare and politics, mistakes, poor observations, insufficient inquiry, lying, errors in chronology, and telling only the bad things about Agathocles.
But Lucian, like other ancient historians, was keenly concerned with accuracy and truthfulness, putting to shame those who have naively assumed that the mere association of history with rhetoric turned history into fiction. He exhorted historians who served rulers and other benefactors to realize that "the dividing line and frontier between history and panegyric is not a narrow isthmus but rather a mighty wall." Only a true history could be a useful one. Otherwise history became just one of the many entertainments for the curious or the bored.
Now, let's look at some summary statements by scholars from this and related fields...
...the great historians attempted with some success to do something that had not been done before, namely to use critical methods to construct a narrative and to explain the logic of political events.
This selection...is sufficient to illustrate the historical tendencies that are as characteristic of the Hellenistic Renaissance as were its scientific undertakings. There was a widespread need of factual information which was filled more or less well by scholars most of whom were not trained historians and were certainly much below the Thucydidean level, yet they prepared the way for Polybius.
Questions of historical truth stayed reduced to the demand for narrative accuracy. Greek historians had generally understood the concern with the truth of their accounts in that sense...Truth depended solely on the historian's skills, available material, and will to be truthful. Hence one discussed the wisdom of relying on eyewitness accounts, documents, one's own experience, reliable reporters, and other sources. With the sifting of mythical accounts by Hecataeus of Miletus had begun the trend to accept only accounts of the past which human reason could approve of. Decades later, Antiochus of Syracuse had searched for the "clearest and most convincing elements" in the Greek mythical tradition. In the fourth century Ephorus had simply ignored that tradition as unreliable" [HAMM:31]
Ancient historians, whose main methodological concern was simply accuracy of reporting...[HAMM:72]
Lacking the intent to reconstruct the past in detail and affirming history's practical purpose, ancient historians found the ideals of accuracy of reporting and reliance on "good" authorities sufficient to maintain historiography's standing in rhetoric as the nonfiction category of narration. [HAMM:75]
Of the various principles laid down by the ancients, none is more fundamental than the honest and impartial presentation of the facts, and it is entirely consistent with their clarity of vision and intellectual emancipation that the Greeks gave it to the world. The principle was a natural, indeed, reflexive inheritance from the ethnographic-scientific Ionian school: historia, unless accurate, is a contradiction in terms.
Biographical writing for the ancients was a much wider venue, ranging from sketches in Herodotus to "Paid-Commercials" by court writers. The category of Bioi, however, had a somewhat more restricted focus, and had substantial overlap with a number of genres--esp. history. There were sub-genres under bios, such as political biography or philosophical biography (categorized by teaching and doctrine) [WAG:247].
Aune draws attention to one of the main differences between history and bios [NTLE:30]:
Plutarch and Nepos did not want to write complete accounts of the deeds of their subjects (that would be history), but wished to selectively emphasize sayings that reveal character (which is biography).and farther points to the progressive overlap between the genres--for good or ill [NTLE:30]:
Distinctions between history and biography, however, were more theoretical than practical. During the late Hellenistic period history and biography moved closer together with the increasing emphasis on character in historiography. Biography and history became more and more difficult to distinguish; encomium (TN: "eulogy or praise") could and did pervade both. (TN: we will see why in a moment)(For a detailed discussion of the overlap of the genres, see the excellent discussion by the classicist Burridge in WAG:65-69.)
In keeping with this closeness of genre, Bioi, while giving an author a little more artistic room to paint his character-canvas (BLOM:238), nonetheless was fact-and-accuracy oriented enough for writers to accuse OTHER writers of 'fraud'(!) or misrepresentation.
For example, Grant [GRH:81ff] gives examples of where Lucian called a Bioi fraudulent and where Cicero urged his readers to watch out for "mere inventions of fact" in such writings.
In short, since Bioi had an element of characterization, that was often best related by 'telling a story about the person', the elaboration of contextual elements was less "controlled." Vividness was important, but still, since the piece was generally historical (rather than rhetorical) the canons of accuracy and fidelity were still operative. (Indeed, the canons of 'detail' was actually heightened--due to the need for painting the picture...)
But...could the ancients have every MET these high standards? Could they actually recover the past, so as to achieve these high standards of reliability?
The difference in the genre-conventions of ethnography and history demanded it. So, Fornara [NHAGR:15]:
...the conventions of ethnography vitally differed from those of history. The laws of evidence and obedience to truth were at least in theory mandatory in history. Ethnography permitted the publication of the unconfirmed report of even the improbable.So, not only was accuracy in the genre MANDATORY, it was also ACHIEVABLE--cf. the statement by the outstanding historical scholar Momigliano, in EAMH:162-163:
Methods had existed since the fifth century B.C.--that is, since the beginning of historiography in Greece--of getting correct information about the remote past. These methods were critical, in the sense that the user, after reflection and study, was satisfied as to their reliability. The first Greek historian, Hecataeus (end of the sixth century), had developed methods of correcting and rationalizing many mythical stories. Herodotus knew how to go about Egypt and other countries and to ask about their antiquities. Even Thucydides used ancient poetry and archaeological and epigraphical evidence to formulate conclusions about the state of archaic Greek society and about specific events of the past. Chronological problems were systematically dealt with by Hippias and Hellanicus at the end of the first century. Later, the practice of consulting ancient texts and of criticizing ancient traditions was vigorously pursued by Hellenistic scholars. The Romans themselves--as their antiquarian tradition shows, from Varro in the first century B.C. to Virgil's commentator Servious at the beginning of the first century A.D.--knew very well how to collect reliable facts about the past.In other words, they had both the attitude and ability for accuracy . They were "on the whole much more reliable than is usually supposed, and that, despite our pretensions, the principle difference between them and us is that most of them wrote a good deal better." [Robin Seager, review comment on back cover of NHAGR]
There are THREE specific issues that come up in this arena, that I want to address. Two of them WILL impact subsequent discussions in this series.
We know that Herodotus (AL:80) and Thucydides (GRH:47) "invented" speeches that might not have occurred--in spite of their emphasis on accuracy of reporting. So, the issue is: if their definition of 'accuracy' includes what we would consider "falsification", then isn't James' position correct?
This is a common perception to moderns, as Fornara notes [NHAGR:142]:
The fact that they [the speeches] are not direct quotations, but have the effrontery to masquerade as such, probably has much to do with the formation of this unshakable prejudice, for the practice, to modern eyes, approaches deliberate perjury. Nevertheless it seems to me that a much more positive view is indicated.There are several points to consider here:
Let's look at the passage closely (1.22.1)...
With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one's memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the total opinion expressed by the actual words.Observations:
The principle was established that speeches were to be recorded accurately, though in the words of the historian, and always with the reservation that the historian could 'clarify'--provide arguments expressing what the circumstances required of the speaker when the latter presented his case imperfectly...In theory, at least, Thucydides set down a positive methodological rule: speeches were deeds or actions requiring accurate reproduction in substance, always with the possibility, when necessary, of expansion, truncation, or reduction.
However, if I am to convince those who are inclined to be captious, I must say something of the principle which Timaeus applies in composing the speeches of politicians, the addresses of generals, and the discourses of ambassadors, in short all such kinds of public utterance which summarize events and bind the whole history together. Can any of Timaeus' readers have failed to observe that his reports of these pronouncements disregard the truth and that this is done deliberately? The fact is that he has neither set down what was said, nor the real sense of what was said. Instead, after first making up his mind what ought to have been said, he catalogues all these imaginary speeches and the accompanying details, just as if he were exercising on a set theme in the schools: in other words he tries to show off his rhetorical powers, but provides no account of what was actually spoken. [12.25a]
The truth of this proposition can best be demonstrated from the various kinds of public utterance which Timaeus introduces: that is, the debating speeches of politicians, the harangues of commanders, and the discourses of ambassadors. There are few situations which allow scope for every possible argument to be set forth, and most leave room merely for the few brief statements which naturally present themselves. ...But what is untrue to the facts, besides being full of affectation and pedantry, is to expand a speech without point or occasion so as to include every possible argument, and this what Timaeus with his trick of inventing arguments does to every subject. [12.25i]Notice that Polybius' focus is on accurate representation of what was actually communicated. He speaks of "what was said" and even "the real sense" of what was said. He talks of what was "actually spoken." He circumscribes the range of potential 'unpackings' to an almost minimalist model--the "few brief statements which naturally present themselves".
There are four listed/modeled in the literature:
The only one of these four that could be/was dangerous was number one--and we have already explored the severe limitations on that.
If the historical writer can re-create speeches "rigidly appropriate" to a setting, does the same apply to circumstantial details of the events? Can I take an event that happened in country X and displace it to country Y in the narrative, and it still be truth in the canons of historical accuracy?
It would seems from the Thucydidean rules, that this would have been unacceptable, but the line needs exploring. If the author had the responsibility to "draw a picture" with vividness, he was virtually forced to add elements that were not explicit in his sources (as WE do everyday). This could be a huge license to creative fabrications, falsification, etc. (similar to many charges levied against the Gospel writers!), but a closer examination reveals the limitations placed upon this, and the inner-logic within those limitations.
The theme in Herodotus/Thucy we have seen above of 'vivid' portrayal was expanded later by Duris of Samos (ca. 340bc-240bc). Although we are not sure of how closely together he tried to move history and poetry, it is generally accepted that he championed a "reader engagement" model. This idea shows up in Plutarch who defined the most successful historian as that writer who "paints" with "emotion and dramatic characters," "making the hearer a spectator (and) eagerly desiring to infuse the dizzying and upsetting emotions of the actual participants into the reader." [NHAGR:129]. For Plutarch, this involved the vivid and dramatic treatment of sudden reversals, dizzying sequences, and the unexpected in human events.
Duris' addition to historiography was subtle but created a tension within mainstream historians:
In Hellenistic times, the literary-historical vocabulary appears to have been substantially enriched by poetic terminology, and it is reasonable to seek the explanation in the popularity of Duris' theories among the critics. A special insistence on visual effects--that history should place a scene before your very eyes--is unmistakable. Thus Duris attempted to add the pleasure of poetry to history's own. The emotions were to be excited, especially pity and fear, by the use of vivid writing pointed toward the description of surprising turns and calamitous events. [NHAGR:130]Now it must be pointed out that the vividness of Duris is in the events themselves--not the setting or circumstance thereof. It is the 'shock of fate' that creates this vividness, so it would be incorrect to attribute 'circumstantial embellishment' ideas to him. Nevertheless, this notion of adding "details" that were not EXPLICIT in the sources (and hence unverifiable) provides some license to the historian--
That Duris envisaged a technique involving the use of abundant and unverifiable circumstantial detail is a necessary implication of his theory of mimesis. He can only have done so, however, because it was long since an established principle that the bare historical facts required both supplementation and deductive interconnection in order to provide a narrative that was at once intellectually and artistically satisfying. From the beginning, with Herodotus and Thucydides, the historian assumed the right to picture a scene consistently with the reports of witnesses or common knowledge. [NHAGR:134]
The need for imaginative recreation and inferential elaboration from the facts was the necessary consequence of the demands placed on all subsequent historians by Herodotus when he decided, following Homer, to present events with verisimilitude. [op.cit.]Now, if you inspect the above two quotes, you can see that what is involved is NOT the addition of 'foreign' elements into the narrative but an articulation of 'intrinsic and implicit' elements ALREADY THERE. It is not 'extraneous detail' but 'unverifiable detail' in the quotes. It is not 'rhetorical interconnection' but 'deductive interconnection' in the quotes. It is not 'irrespective of the reports of witnesses or common knowledge' but 'consistently with the reports of witnesses or common knowledge' in the quotes. It is not 'imaginative creation' but 'imaginative recreation' in the quotes. It is not 'creative elaboration' but 'inferential elaboration' in the quotes.
The point should be clear--the historian was allowed to 'unpack' or 'unfold' the event, not hybridize it with foreign elements.
In all this, the rules of historical responsibility were still in convention [NHAGR:13]:
The process here described is irrelevant to the categories of "fact" and "fiction," "truth and falsity," "honest and dishonesty" so often applied to the discredit of the ancients. Certainly some writers will have been dishonest and others will have written fiction or approached it in their zeal to excite the emotions of the hearers and otherwise to please them. Such excess, however, for which there are enough modern parallels, was a gross evasion of the rules of historical responsibility, while the latter [TN: i.e., the "rules"] were entirely compatible with the process of the imaginative and intuitive reenactment of events. [Emphasis mine. Notice also that Fornara's application of the 'truth/falsity' axis is radically different that that of Still's: Still's would say entire sections would be 'imaginative'; Fornara would apply it only to unverified circumstantial/background details in an otherwise historically reliable report.)Cicero presents a good case study in this area, for he had feet planted both in rhetoric and in history, and there are a couple of 'theoretical and critical' passages that deal with this subject. Overall, Breisach notes that even in his 'adorning' of the truth, Cicero was still far from falsification [HAMM:58]:
Cicero was diverted here from his demand for unadorned truth by a second ideal, the effectiveness of history as teacher, which required that historians must create artistic compositions and not dull annals. In doing so historians could, just as other writers, arrange and select their material in a manner which would produce a useful memory of the past and lead readers to act properly. Cicero's history still remained at a safe distance from fictional tales or falsifications.In De legibus 1.1-2, Cicero is responding to a criticism of his epic poem Marius from a historical purist, Atticus. Atticus questions Cicero as to whether Cicero invented salient details in the epic, reminding Cicero that there are readers who do not know the difference between truth and error. Cicero's response is instructive: he replies that a historical poem offers a poet's truth, not that of a witness, and adds that there are different laws and standards for poetry and history, namely, those of pleasure and those of truth, respectively. [NHAGR:135]
In Brutus 11.44, Cicero criticizes Clitarchus and Stratocles for 'inventing' the dramatic suicide of Themistocles; that this is an improper 'ornating' of the narrative.
Cicero uses the word ornare to designate this 'unfolding' or 'adorning' of a narrative in several places (De legibus 1.2.5; De oratore 12.54; Brutus 11.44). To explore this word is to see the limits and potential of this 'unfolding/adorning' process [NHAGR:136]:
One must conclude that the Latin verb means something more than "adorn superficially," "decorate," "embellish." It implies description and amplification, and it extends considerably beyond the mere introduction of political commentary, praise and blame, and other common historical elements. Clitarchus, for example, did not merely brush in strokes but painted a scene, and he not only painted it but invented it [TN: for which he was censured by Cicero!]..Ornare in itself is to take a fact and from it to set a scene, developing its latent potentialities. But in a historical work ornare subserves the laws of history and is tested by the standard of the truth....
Thus, if you develop the inherent possibilities of a true datum, ornare is legitimate; if from a fiction (where the psychology may be a delight to the reader), the practice is culpable.The NET of this is that development/amplification of a scene from WITHIN that scene (i.e. from within the historical datum) is legit, and that correspondingly, the introduction of 'foreign' elements--regardless of motive--was inappropriate, incorrect, anti-historical, and against the historiographical norms of the day.
Under the empire, the issue of speech-reporting (discussed above), split the history-writing community in two.
There developed the 'rhetorical' historians, who abandoned the Thucydidean restrictions on speech-introduction in favor of 'free invention' for purposes of rhetorical display (so Lucian, Curtius Rufus). The more traditional historians were still adverse to speechifying (and even less inclined to re-construct them at all in the narrative) and were represented by Tacitus and Ammianus. The actual practice of these traditional Roman historians conform to the careful Hellenic historiographical commitment to accuracy. So Fornara [NHAGR:154].
The fact that most speeches in the Annales are brief reveals that Tacitus' intentional avoidance of rhetorical declaration and utter dissociation from the type of writer known from Curtius. If we discount his resort to the quotation of group opinion, a traditional exception to the rule, the little evidence we possess indicates that he presented speeches responsibly, refused to invent them, and searched them out when it was possible to do so. It is notable, for example, that he acquired a copy of the unadulterated speech of Otho's that he "inverted" in Historiae 1.90; he even knew that it was the product of a speechwriter. It is evident, therefore, that Tacitus stands in the tradition established by Duris [TN: of scarcity of speech production and inclusion] and, like Ammianus thereafter, he may be viewed as the heir of sound Hellenic theory. For the absence of rhetorical overstatement we perceive in the speeches of Ammianus carries the clear message, particularly from so rhetorical a writer, that he wished there to be no mistake about his faithful reproduction of the substance of the speeches.The only reason I bring this up, is that the "bad examples" of some of these 'history-looking' writers MIGHT be assumed to be the 'real and only historiography' of NT times--which WOULD diminish some of the force of the 'high accuracy' evidence I have presented. What I wanted to show was that mainstream history-writing stayed 'honest' and that the 'looseness' of the "rhetorical camp" was confined to speeches--not to events or circumstances. Indeed, one can look above at the quotes/examples from Lucian as to the fact that this group (despite its interest in rhetorical creativity) still held each other accountable to the basic norms. This can even be seen in those writers who were MORE rhetorical than historical, like Dionysius of Halicarnassus (50bc-10ad), who faulted ANOTHER rhetorician, Xenophon, for putting philosophic speeches in the mouths of common people--inappropriately (AFCSALS:277,TN:this entire article by Gempf on the Speeches in Acts is work looking at closely.).
In this way, it can be seen that this minority camp does NOT impact our analysis thus far.
What we have seen so far is that historical writing (contra Stills) was very concerned about accuracy and fact. It elaborated principles and canons that applied uniquely to history-writing. It even developed careful and logical principles dealing with the difficult subject of speech-recording and the issue of 'filling in the picture' in historical narrative. This commitment to accuracy was EXPLICIT and a definite convention of the time (contra Stills). Fornara states it clearly, in the area MOST DIFFICULT to be controlled [NHAGR:154-155]:
...we are not entitled to proceed on the assumption that the historians considered themselves at liberty to write up speeches out of their own heads. That some or many or most actually did so is perhaps hypothetically conceivable. We must recognize, however, that such a procedure would have been contrary to convention and not, as all too many moderns seem to suppose, a convention in its own right. [emphasis mine]
In this issue we have the magisterial work by the classicist Richard A. Burridge [WAG]. In a thorough-going analysis using genre criticism and literary theory (plus a classicist's approach to genre determination in the field of Greco-Roman history/biography), he builds a solid methodology for approaching the issue of identifying the genre of the Gospels.
First, he delineates the features needed to identify a genre. He derives this list from literary criticism theory (for the widest possible set of features to analyze). His feature-list is [WAG:109-127]:
He then examines examples (i.e. actual documents called "bioi" by the ancients) to critically arrive at some description/concept of the genre 'bioi'. He uses five examples from early lit, and five from later (chapters 6 and 7). These are:
He then examines the gospels for these features and concludes:
Thus, there is a high degree of correlation between the generic features of Graeco-Roman Bioi and those of the synoptic gospels; in fact, they exhibit more of the features than are shown by works at the edges of the genre, such as those of Isocrates, Xenophon and Philostratus. This is surely a sufficient number of shared features for the genre of the synoptic gospels to be clear; while they may well form their own subgenre because of their shared content, the synoptic gospels belong within the overall genre of Bioi. [WAG:218f; emphasis his.]
These results place the Fourth Gospel clearly in the same genre as the synoptic gospels, namely Bioi. [WAG:239, emphasis his.]
Thus, the four gospels fall squarely into this genre--and all the conventions of accuracy and truth-commitments.
What I want to do here is simply to relate a few bits of additional data related to Mark's and Luke's orientation, relative to 'facts and accuracy'.
Of the (two) forms of discourse, one concerns itself with the audience (tous akroatas), the other with the facts (ta pragmata): the former is [the one] pursued by poets and orators, the latter by philosophers (Fr.64 Witmer)What this would mean for us here, is that EVEN IF rhetoric had corrupted history significantly by Luke's time (which I demonstrated above was NOT the case), Luke's orientation is even MORE PURE--it has NO concern for artistic/rhetorical excellence--a "Just the facts, ma'am" kinda approach. This makes sense for Luke the physician, of course, and also fits his stated intention "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have learned"--and express statement of fact and accuracy.
Mark certainly does not deal with his material more freely than, say, Plutarch. He selects examples from the tradition and shapes it, and of course he has a theological bias, but he does not simply have to invent things out of thin air. [GAG:221]
Mark does not narrate events and traditions simply by chance: what he selects and describes has a deeper significance, as a "typical ideal," from the call of the disciples up to Gethsemane and the crucifixion of Jesus as king of the Jews. However, this strictness in his overall plan does not simply dispense with historicity; Mark only reports history which has undergone the deliberate reflection of faith. Even apparent incidental remarks like 7:3f; 13:10, 14b; 14.9 and so on are significant as theological reflection. He does not create new narratives and sayings of Jesus in order to develop his own christology and soteriology, but uses a very deliberate process of selecting and ordering material in which hardly anything is left to chance. [GAG:219, emphasis his]These two quotes from a German biblical scholar sound like they were pulled right out of Thucydides or Polybius! Mark has ordered his document in true historie style, and, in contrast to the 'rhetoricizing historian' movement that was nascent at the time, MINIMIZES the number of Jesus' speeches in his gospel! He is emulating (as a well-educated Hellenistic Jew) the best of the traditional Hellenic historiographical heritage.
Several things should be quite obvious from the mass of evidence above: