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Old 02-28-2001, 05:38 AM   #1
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Post Response to Layman on John

Hiya Layman!

I promised I would get back to you on issues regarding the Gospel of John.

Frankly I don't see how we can have meaningful arguments about John, so let's see if we can order the ground so that argument is possible.

The fundamental problem to me is that John does contain material from the Synoptics, though not much. Since some of the stories in all four are obvious fabrications --the feeding of the five thousand and the walk on water, to name only two, while MacDonald would have others, such as the cleansing of the temple and the annointing,to be fictions as well. Let's stick to the obvious fictions, such as the water walk, for our discussion below. I don't want to get into another fruitless discussion about MacDonald.

The way I see it, there are several reasonable solutions:

1) John had the Synoptics and copied them.

2) John drew on the same oral traditions that the Synoptics did.

I don't see how we can resolve these differences through discussion, since you can always claim that identical material is due to oral tradition, and I due to copying, and we can never get anywhere. The fact that fictional episodes are present in both Synoptics and John could indicate either. They become decisive as to the independence of John only if MacDonald is right. If MacD is right and Mark himself fabricated the obvious miracles, then ipso facto John had access to the Synoptics, either directly or through word of mouth. Which doesn't indicate anything about other traditions he might have had access to, indeed, would have to have had access to if he could write so much that basically contradicted what the Synoptics wrote.

Comments?

Michael
 
Old 02-28-2001, 07:38 AM   #2
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Question

I know this is addressed to Layman, so I will keep this short, but if I may, I would like to ask a question Michael:

What other books about the Gospels have you read to date besides MacDonald?

Thanks,

Nomad
 
Old 02-28-2001, 11:45 AM   #3
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
I know this is addressed to Layman, so I will keep this short, but if I may, I would like to ask a question Michael:

What other books about the Gospels have you read to date besides MacDonald?

Thanks,

Nomad
</font>
Why is this important? When you posted about Hitler, I didn't ask you how many books you've read on him. What claims have I made about John that have been erroneous?

Michael

[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited February 28, 2001).]
 
Old 02-28-2001, 01:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

Why is this important? When you posted about Hitler, I didn't ask you how many books you've read on him. What claims have I made about John that have been erroneous?
</font>
I will address the points about John (and especially his independence from the Synoptics), but I do think that it is important to know how well read are those with whom I am talking. If your only exposure to a critical look at the Gospels is MacDonald, that is cool, but it will give you a very one sided view of the arguments as a whole (and a very bad one I believe, as the posts from Bede, Polycarp, Layman and I show).

So, for example, are you familiar with the theories of a primative Passion Narrative? Or the traditions related by Q, L, M and the like? Matthew's use of the Old Testament offers much richer territory to look for parallels in the life of Jesus, especially with Moses and Elijah.

Crossan offers even more arguments (although personally I have rejected them) for the priority of the so called "Cross Gospel".

The arguments in support of these various early traditions is quite complex, and it may be more useful to go through some of them first before jumping right into the differences between John and Mark, with possible explanations for these differences.

Now, personally, I LOVE discussions like this, but if I am going to be repeatedly told that I do not understand the subtlety of someone else's position simply because I have not read their source material, and at the same time know that these people have not read my own source material, I suspect we will spend a great deal of very frustrating time speaking past one another.

All of that said, I am willing to look at the narrow question of the independence of Mark and John. My hope is that in so doing, we can cover off some additional pertinent details.

Let me know if you agree.

Nomad
 
Old 02-28-2001, 04:06 PM   #5
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While I appreciate you getting back to me I can't tell that you did any research. You still fail to address the majority opinion that John represents an independent tradition of Jesus. Instead, you just reassert your previous assertion that John must be dependent on Mark because Mark is dependent on Homer. Form, source, and literary criticism all point to John's independence. Given such independence, the fact that there are some similar events described in both Mark and John is a common source. You claim that no discussion can be had on the issue of John's dependence or independence. Why not? This is what scholarship and history is all about.

You want to pretend that the independence of John doesn't affect Mac's theory. Nothing could be further from the truth. If form and source criticism tells us that John is an independent tradition from Mark, ITSELF is evidence that MacD's theory is largely incorrect.

Also, I have pointed out Paul's discussion of Jesus' human birth, selection of 12 disciples, having a brother named James, having a lead disciple named Peter (known as Cephas), and having another disciple named John, last supper with the wine and bread, execution by cruficixion at the hands of Jewish and Roman authorities, physical burial, physical resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. All these attestations predate Mark. Moreover, most scholars do not believe Mark had possession of any of Paul's letters.

So, do any of MacD's alleged parrallels cover any of these points? And if so, in the light of Paul's attestations, do you concede that MacD was incorrect about them? If not, why not?
 
Old 03-02-2001, 02:05 PM   #6
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Hi guys --

I realize I've been rude and not responded. But a client called me wednesday night and moved up a project by a week. So I am swamped until monday or so, and limiting myself to posts in the evo/cre forum. I'll be back in no time, never fear.

Michael
 
Old 03-02-2001, 02:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
Hi guys --

I realize I've been rude and not responded. But a client called me wednesday night and moved up a project by a week. So I am swamped until monday or so, and limiting myself to posts in the evo/cre forum. I'll be back in no time, never fear.

Michael
</font>
Take your time.
 
Old 03-04-2001, 07:51 PM   #8
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Hi guys…let's have some fun!

Here is the first post, on miracles. I have envisioned this as a series of posts…

This first post examines the problem of miracles and what it means for the independence of John (and doesn't even mention MacDonald, so be happy).

My only important assumption is: multiple redactions of John. As for date of earliest writings, I would set it in the 60s, with redactions occurring as late as the 90s. I suspect the confusion over the dating of John (and its relationship to the Synoptics) reflects multiple redactions, and multiple choices by those redactors over what to draw on. I have no trouble with a core layer of sayings/discourses with miracles added later by redactors.

Why Miracles are Fictions

The miracles are one of the main reasons for the chronic problem of methodology in NT scholarship. For example, the Jesus Seminar carefully limits its "rules of evidence" to Jesus sayings declining to pass judgement on the miracle stories. Even in the minor healings, which are numerous, they critique only the words Jesus uttered.

This is because, quite simply, no substantive critical method could regard them as anything but fiction. Indeed, it would have to regard them as fiction. Once you concede the possibility of miracles, as Meier and even Crosson do, you are not in a position to separate truth from fiction, since there is no methodology that can account for the properties of events considered by definition to have no known properties. You're not really even in a position to do something that is orthogonal to truth claims about miracles, like redaction-criticism -- it might really be true that God himself wrote those words, so redaction-criticism is not only wrong but evil. When you strip his arguments down to their base, Crossan, who has probably gone farther than anyone to develop a social science approach to Jesus, also seems to accept that miracles are a matter of faith. He never really confronts their awful methodological implications; hardly anyone I've read so far does.

As I noted in the discussion about Lourdes in another thread, the miraculous always leads to solipsism. Consider the beautiful story in which Jesus heals the Centurion's slave. The centurion comes, says he is not worthy for the master to visit, but could he please do something for the man's dying slave? Astounded at the man's faith, Jesus proclaims the slave healed. Theology (and aesthetics; it is a deeply moving story) aside, let's consider what "miracle" could have happened:

Jesus actually healed slave from a distance;
Jesus reprogrammed the centurion's mind to believe that the slave had been healed;
The centurion was an apparition summoned by Jesus to help him convince the crowd;
Neither centurion nor Jesus existed; all were apparitions by god(s), technologically-
advanced aliens, etc.
There was a miraculous appearance of god(s) but it was to Mark, to whom it(they) dictated the whole (fictional) story. I mean, why bother to get one's Son killed, when you can just tell the story and save the time and effort?


and so forth. We could be making such scenarios all day long. Eventually we wind up in one of those scenarios where the whole world is simply a fiction in the mind of beholder. If we allow miracles, where do we stop? Once the miraculous is allowed in, we are at the mercy of the scholar with the most active imagination.

Of course, the miraculous is also denied by our experience of the world using modern scientific methodologies. There are no cases of confirmed miracles. By scholarly and scientific principle we cannot assume that the universe operated under different principles in the recent past. Such claims as were made by the various writers and redactors of Jesus' words are irrelevant. Similar claims are made today, and no criteria exist that allow us to separate Jesus' miracles from those of other ancient or modern miracle workers, as I demonstrated to Layman in the thread "Jesus the Miracle Worker." Thus, the only proper critical move is to rule out the miraculous.

What the Fictionality of Miracles Implies

Some of the same miracles are found in the Synoptics and John. Other events, such as cleansing of the Temple, the Passion Narrative, the anointing with oil and so on, are also found in both, but for the nonce we will leave them out. The following major miracles in John are known from the Synoptics:

*walking on water
*feeding of five thousand

Because healings are so common, and so mundane (just turn on the TV) I have ignored them as unimportant. The two major miracles are known from both John and Mark, and only from both. They are not found in Paul or the putative Q or Crossan's reconstructed Cross Gospel. All of the earliest traditions of Jesus are sayings. Their first appearance is in Mark, which argues strongly that Mark himself invented them.

Now, because these miracles are known from both, and only from both the Synoptics and John, there are only three possible explanations.

1) they actually happened and John either saw or heard eyewitness accounts

2) they are inventions of John

3) they are copied directly (from text) or indirectly (word of mouth) from the Synoptics, particularly from Mark.

But, as we discussed above, these two stories are both fictions. They have to be. Possibly there is a some deep, underlying core to feeding the 5,000, but in its current form, it has to be a myth. It is hard to believe these astounding events occurred, left no record in Q, no record in Paul, and no record in the earliest layers of John. Thus, (1) above is impossible. (2) is highly unlikely, given that the number fed is the same and that the sea in both is whipped by (specifically-mentioned) wind when Jesus walks on water. That leaves only (3). Since Mark invented these fictions, they had to be copied from him by John.

Why do I say copied? I suspect a text is in front of the redactor/writer because the two miracles occur side-by-side in John 6, the feeding followed by the water walk, and by the occurrence of the phrase "200 denarii" in both Mark and John 6:7, as well as "5,000" for the number of persons fed. It seems that John 6 is simply lifted from Mark, edited and presented.

Michael
 
Old 03-04-2001, 10:05 PM   #9
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Hello Michael

Are you aware that atheist scholars (like Michael Grant for example), while rejecting miracles as you do, admit that SOMETHING must have happened in order for those stories to be recorded in the Gospels, and for people to believe in Jesus as being someone special?

What you have done in your post is called "poisoning the well", and effectively terminated discussion before it begins. Perhaps you and other atheists can bat around varying hypothesis, but if you are going to ask the theists to begin a discussion with the a priori rejection of even the possibility of the miraculous, then at least so far as I am concerned, we are done.

I hope you reconsider your preconditions. I also hope you are open to ideas you had not considered before.

Nomad
 
 

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