8:10 AM Saw this today:

One of the many curiosities in the study of the NT and earliest Christianity is the early history and fortunes of the Gospel of Mark (hereafter, GMark). On the one hand (assuming the dominant view of Mark’s priority), the GMark appears to have been very influential. It is widely thought that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were likely prompted to write the kind of Jesus-books that they did by GMark.

“Assuming the dominant view of Mark’s priority.” This is precisely, I argue, what we cannot and must not do today.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

Gospel Dates in Relation to Philippians

7:16 PM Mark over at Alternation continues his excellent discussion of the book of Philippians, which we are now studying in Greek 3. His current passage is 1:12-18. In verse 14 Paul refers to the “word” which the Romans believers were speaking boldly and fearlessly. Concerning this word, Mark states:

The word is not yet written down in the four Gospels or any creed, but it has been summarized in creed-like confessions and hymns, and is contained in a recognized body of traditional teaching.

This view is, of course, possible, but it is my contention (as argued in Why Four Gospels?) that the Gospel of Matthew was written within 10 years of the resurrection and that Paul quite possibly had a copy of it with him on his missionary journeys. It’s a fascinating hypothesis, isn’t it, that Paul may have actually possessed a copy of the First Gospel in his hands and that he may have alluded to or quoted from it in his earliest writings (e.g., 1 Thessalonians). I imagine that very few students today realize that there is more than a handful of sound arguments for this theory. Mark’s point nevertheless holds:

The word they are speaking is the story of Jesus Christ, how he defeated sin, death, and hatred by enduring them on the cross and rising again, how he will come again to finish the work of transforming all creation into the place where God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, and how he empowers his followers through the Spirit of God to live a life that is a foretaste of and witness to the glory and victory that is to come.

And that is very well put.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

The Church Fathers and Study of the Gospels

5:50 AM I’m glad to see that the Gospel of Mark is being discussed on several blogs these days. The latest hubbub seems to have to do with something called Mark’s “community.” However, the elephant in the room, it seems to me, is the absence of any discussion of the church fathers. Of course, a full account of the patristic testimony would fill several volumes. I have made a partial case for Mark’s Sitz im Leben in my book Why Four Gospels? Sadly, the patristic evidence is today hardly known in New Testament scholarship, although everyone claims to regard it with a certain respect. The average person doesn’t have a clue because he or she hasn’t done the reading. Such investigation would raise questions too complex — and perhaps too uncomfortable — for the sort of subjective and superficial overview one finds in the typical New Testament Introduction. I myself was ill-taught in this respect while in seminary. Not once were we asked to crack open a patristic tome, and thus I was ill prepared for vigorous debate on the subject. I don’t mean to imply that students of the Gospels know absolutely nothing about the fathers. Certain New Testament scholars were famous for their knowledge (e.g., William Farmer). To become familiar with the field would ask a lot of your average student of the Gospels. In the eyes of some, I suppose, any interaction with the fathers is a subversive menace to the status quo. Those who (like myself) hold to somewhat traditional views of authorship and provenance are sometimes subjected to ad hominem innuendo (“Why Dave, you must be a Catholic!”). Merely questioning the consensus opinio can get you into hot water from the establishment. None of this is challenged front and center by the mainstream academy. Thus protected from all the evidence, many of our students have bought into what I consider to be a highly defective product. To call this merely a “bias” against the fathers is to understate the belligerent emotionality one sometimes encounters. The grain of truth which is the Markan Priority Hypothesis should not mean that we accept the theory without questioning it (the existence of “Q” alone should cause one to pause).

So let the discussion continue and expand. It certainly will in my New Testament classes, where students are exposed to the Mark-Q Hypothesis, Mark Without Q, the Two Gospel Hypothesis, and even the position espoused by their professor (the Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis) — testing and thinking and pondering before coming to a conclusion, their own conclusion. Enough of this, however. I’ve got to get to campus for grading and for two commencement services. Heartiest congratulations to all of our graduates and especially to my doctoral student Alex Stewart as well as my pastor Jason Evans who also will be receiving his doctoral hood today. Well done, one and all.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

Jesus of Faith or Jesus of Histroy

6) Who is Jesus? The “Jesus of history” or the “Jesus of the church”? Yesterday I listened to an interesting discussion of this topic called Der Mann aus Nazareth. It’s not surprising that this is a hot topic in Germany. And it was good to hear scholars calling us back to the biblical, core revelation about Jesus that is found in the Gospels. All too often German scholarship has concluded that the Gospels enshrine merely the kerygma of the early church. They are neither historical nor literary, but dogmatic and cultic – legends in which the Hellenistic mythological interpretation of Christ has been superimposed on the historical Jesus. I plan on returning to this subject in my book Godworld. In any event, I am convinced that it is unnecessary to separate the theological from the historical. The circumstances of the origin of the fourfold gospel will always be a matter of speculation, but historical evidence is not lacking (see my Why Four Gospels?).

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

External Evidence and the Synoptic Problem

2:36 PM I continue to be fascinated by the synoptic problem. My book Why Four Gospels? examines different elements that play an essential role in resolving this question.

My position is based on two foundational pillars: the external evidence provided by the earliest fathers that Matthew was the first of the canonical Gospels, and the internal evidence that suggests Mark is a conflation of Matthew and Luke (Orchard called this the “zigzagging effect”). I have yet to see a refutation of the external evidence. Most scholars reject the patristic testimony as being of little or no value for source-critical research. Since the internal evidence can never be probative (it can never prove anything about the sequence or interrelationships of the Gospels), it would seem that Gospel scholars would be all the more willing to take the external evidence into account. Whatever option is ultimately preferred, the internal evidence ought to be supplemented by considerations about the empirical circumstances under which the traditions about Jesus were developed in the earliest church. It may be that future generations of New Testament students will perform this task. If they don’t, I predict very little progress in this great area of research. I would dare to hope that my re-examination of the leading church fathers will offer some helpful suggestions for the next generation of scholars.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

Embellishing Stories

4:45 PM If you are a Civil War buff (as I am you) have probably seen the movie Gettysburg starring Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain. There’s an unforgettable scene that takes place on the first day of battle. Union cavalry General John Reynolds is in the copula of the Lutheran Theological Seminary when General John Reynolds of the Union I Corps rides up. “Thank God,” says a tearful Buford. “What goes, John?” asks Reynolds. “There’s a devil to pay,” replies Buford. “Can you hold?” inquires Reynolds. “I reckon I can,” says Buford. At this point, Buford descends from the copula and the two generals ride off toward the sound of battle on McPherson’s Ridge.

Continue reading “Embellishing Stories”

Motivation for Matthew

10:12 AM On the original motivation for Matthew:

As soon as the first wave of converts had been baptized and their instruction organized by the Twelve, the apostles’ thoughts turned to the practical question of how to unify and consolidate their teaching about Jesus. The apostles realized that they somehow needed to promulgate those passages of the Holy Scriptures from “Moses and all the prophets” (Luke 24:27) that Jesus had explained to Cleopas on the road to Emmaus. It also became clear to them that their main apologetic task was to demonstrate to the Jewish authorities that Jesus had literally fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah. These considerations were the original motivation for the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.

From Why Four Gospels?

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

Dave Black on Textual Criticism

Dave Black has written a new essay on textual criticism.   Here’s an extract:

In textual criticism, one enters a discipline that is as much art as it is science, so that what is all too clear to one scholar may be opaque to another. My friend Dan Wallace — who, incidentally, also took Harry Sturz’s textual criticism class at Biola — has explained how he left the Sturzian fold and returned to the camp of the Critical Text — much to the joy, I surmise, of the coaching staff.

I have never changed my mind.

You can read the rest at Dave Black Online.