Monday, November 10, 2008

SBL Paper on Dating the Crucial Sources in Early Christianity

My paper for a session at the SBL is now available online here. I was invited to write this paper for a new consultation on the Cross, Resurrection, and Diversity in Earliest Christianity (I have also been asked onto the steering committee). Session details are at the previous link, along with other papers for this consultation, and the paper is available here:

Dating the Crucial Sources for Early Christianity (MS Word)

Dating the Crucial Sources for Early Christianity (PDF)

Regular readers may spot some overlap with my blog sketches on the same topic, though the paper is longer and more detailed and on the whole post-dates the blog posts.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the Synoptics, there is an alternate criterion for suggesting dates once the correct sequence is established. If, as seems most likely, the correct order is Mark>Matthew>Luke, then it may also be possible instead of establishing the earliest date for the earliest to establish instead the latest date for the latest, in this case Luke.

The more I read, the more convinced I become that Luke's obsession with the temple, and specifically with the continued worship of Christians in the temple, makes the most sense if one of his goals is to defend Christianity against a potential charge of "atheism" in the Roman Empire. By showing that Christians have continued to sacrifice in the temple, this would be an argument that Christianity is a valid Jewish sect (indeed, THE valid Jewish sect), and hence the allowances for Jews within the Empire to sacrifice ON BEHALF of the emperor instead of TO the emperor would also apply to Christians. If so, then such an argument would be meaningless unless the temple were still standing at the time Luke wrote his Gospel.

In support of this, Luke seems careful to avoid any statement in Jesus' trial regarding destroying and raising the temple and his Mini-Apocalypse deflects the words of destruction away from the temple itself and onto the city of Jerusalem (although admittedly he does still keep the introduction that no stone will be left on another - editorial fatigue? [just kidding]). The ending of Acts may also point toward a date prior to AD 70, but that is another whole can of worms.

But if this interpretation of Luke's intentions is correct, then it would necessarily push the dates of Matthew and Mark well before AD 70 as well, which would then require a different understanding of what the purpose of the Mini-Apocalypse is in all the Synoptics. I do not think that this is out of the question. We may note that the Gospel writers never point to Jesus' ability to predict this event as a sign of his Messiahship or divinity, as they do point to his miracles and resurrection. Plus, the Synoptics include the caveat that even Jesus didn't know "the day or the hour", which could possibly be included specifically because it had not yet happened when they were written.

Thomas J. Mosbo

F said...

It’s certainly the case that the “them” in Th 57.3 can be explained through the hypothesis that this saying is based on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Mt 13:24-30 and has a missing middle.
Still, there are several features to Matthew’s explanation of this parable in Mt 13:37-43 that are explicable under the hypothesis that Mt 13:24-30 is based on Th 57 and that Matthew had writer fatigue in Mt 13:37-43.
For example, while the parable speaks of the “Kingdom of the Heavens (13:24)”, the explanation speaks of “the Kingdom of their Father (13:43)”.
The proposed explanation: Matthew based Mt 13:24-30 on Th 57. One of the changes he made was to change “the Kingdom of the Father” in Th 57.1 to “the Kingdom of the Heavens” in Mt 13:24. However, when writing Mt 13:43, Matthew forgot making this change and, so, wrote a phrase rather similar to the Thomasine original of “the Kingdom of the Father”.
Again, let us look at Mt 13:37-39, “The one sowing the good seed is the Son of Man and the field is the world, and the good seed: these are the sons of the Kingdom. But the weeds are the sons of the Evil One and the one having sown them is the Devil and the harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are angels.”
Conspicuously, there is no mention in this passage of the slaves of the one sowing the good seed.
They are introduced in Mt 13:27-28a, “And, having approached, the slaves (douloi) of the housemaster (oikodespotou) said to him, ‘Master (Kurie), did you not sow good seed in your field? Then, from where have the weeds come?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy man did this.’”
Here, Matthew hearkens back to Mt 10:25, “It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher and for the slave (doulos) to be like his master (Kurios). If they called the housemaster (oikodespoten) Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”
As a result, in Mt 13:27-28a, the sower of the good seed, who is the housemaster and Lord, is Jesus (and, so, is also the Son of Man) and his slaves are his disciples and the enemy man is Beelzebul—the Evil One.
Why, then, in Mt 13:37-39, despite Matthew telling us that the sower of the good seed is the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus) and that the enemy is the Evil One, does he omit telling us that the slaves are the disciples of the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus)?
The proposed explanation: Matthew based Mt 13:24-30 on Th 57. One of the changes he made was to change the “them” of Th 57.3 into the slaves of man who sowed the good seed. However, when writing 13:37-39, he forgot that he identified them as a specific group (i.e., the slaves of the man who sowed the good seed) and, so, inadvertently omitted telling us that these slaves represent the disciples of the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus).
The bottom line: while the hypothesis that Th 57 is based on Mt 13:24-30 can explain the “them” in Th 57.3, the contrary hypothesis that Mt 13:24-30 is based on Th 57, with Matthew being fatigued when writing Mt 13:37-43, can explain why the Kingdom is the Kingdom of their Father in 13:43 and why there is no mention of the slaves in 13:37-39.
Which hypothesis, then, is more likely to be correct?
This is difficult to say, but there is a line of thinking which, while speculative, is supportive of the hypothesis that Mt 13:24-30 is based on Th 57.
Matthew believed that Jesus would come with the angels at the end-time as the Son of Man to judge mankind: see Mt 16:27—which, apparently, is Matthew’s interpretive read of the meaning of Mk 8:38.
But where did he get the inspiration for the further idea, found in Mt 25:31-46, that the Kingdom, into which go the saved, is at the right hand of the Son of Man as the judge of mankind, while hell-fire, into which the damned go, is at his left hand?
I suggest that Matthew got the inspiration for this further idea from Th 82, “He who is near me is near the fire, and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom.”—with Matthew thinking that Jesus is speaking, in Th 82, as the Son of Man in his role as Judge, with hell-fire to one side of him (hence, he who is close to the fire is close to him) and the Kingdom on the other side of him (hence, he who is far from him is far from the Kingdom).
Compare Mt 3:12, where we have a Coming One (in the context, apparently the Son of Man as the end-time Judge) sifting the wheat (the saved) from the chaff (the damned) and, nearby him, there is both a barn (i.e., the Kingdom) and a fire (i.e., hell-fire)—with he gathering the wheat into the barn and the throwing the chaff into the fire.
Also compare Mt 13:30, where the harvest time is the end-time—the time for the man who sowed the good seed (i.e., the Son of Man) to come with the angels (the reapers)--who then bundle the tares (the damned) and toss them into a fire (i.e., the hell-fire), but gather the wheat (the saved) into the barn (the Kingdom).
So, possibly, Mt 13:24-30 is based on Th 57, with Th 57 being amended/expanded in terms of a Matthean belief, inspired by Mk 8:38 and Th 82, that, at the end-time, Jesus will be coming, with the angels, as the Son of Man and that he will then judge mankind with hell-fire for the damned at one side of him and the Kingdom for the saved on the other side of him.

Frank McCoy said...

Sorry--the name should be Frank McCoy

Richard Fellows said...

Mark, you starts with the (unsupported) assumption that Paul instructed the Galatians on the collection just before writing 1 Corinthians, and conclude that the letter to the Galatians was written after 1 Corinthians. Gerd Luedemann attempted the same argument in "Colloquy on New Testament Studies" by Bruce Corley p298. However, the instructions to the Galatians were given years earlier (see my previous comments).

steph said...

Hi Mark: You seem to have missed completely one of James’s main points, which is what Mark assumes, not just what he says. Of course Mark could repeat what Jesus said at any date, hopefully so can we, but the argument from Mark’s assumptions seems to me to be a very strong one. Maurice has written a detailed version of this argument somewhere but I have to find it - or easier, ask him.

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Richard. Thanks for your comments. The stress is not so much on "recently" (how recent is "recent"?) but on the sequence of the collection as we can trace it in these epistles. He is still on friendly terms with the Galatians in 1 Cor. 16, and they are still involved in the collection; but by 2 Cor. they have dropped out, something further confirmed by Romans. Galatians makes much better sense, therefore, if it comes after 1 Corinthians but before 2 Corinthians, and so much of what we have in 1 Cor. and Gal. lines up with that sequence.

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Steph. Thanks for taking an interest in my paper and for your comment. On the contrary, I make clear that James's argument is based on "what Mark assumes":

p. 26-7: "Crossley argues against the consensus that Mark should be dated somewhere in the region 65-75CE, suggesting instead that Mark’s knowledge of Jewish Law, and the assumptions he makes about it, make best sense at a very early point, as early as the mid to late 30s or early 40s . . . It is always going to be a tall order to demonstrate that assumptions apparently made in given traditions are identical with assumptions made by the author of the work in which they appear."

A large part of James's case rests on the notion that Mark is surprisingly accurate and precise about the Law, something that is compromised, I think, by the remark "and all the Jews" in 7.2, which James admits is a "Marcan exaggeration".

Richard Fellows said...


you seem to have missed my point. I am questioning your assumption that the collection in Galatia was still on-going when 1 Corinthians was written. The collection from Galatia may have been completed and delivered years before 1 Corinthians was written. We could have the following sequence:
1. Paul visits Jerusalem and is asked to 'remember the poor.
2. He immediately arranges a collection from Galatia and it is delivered.
3. The crisis occurs in Galatia
4. Paul writes Galatians and either restores the Galatians or does not.
5 Paul writes 1 Corinthians, perhaps 6 years after the Galatian collection was completed.

Remember that in 1 Cor 16:1-3 Paul is trying to reassure the Corinthians that he has no intention of pocketing the money.
It seems to me that 1 Cor 16:1-3 would make good sense if the Corinthians knew that the collection from Galatia had been delivered without any suggestion of financial impropriety on Paul's part. Paul would then be implying in 16:1-3 that the procedure for the collection that he proposes is a tried and tested procedure, and he would be reminding the Corinthians that he had a track record of scandal-free collections.

As I explained before, a problem with your reconstruction is that it has a long delay between the request of the apostles (Gal 2:10) and the delivery of a collection in response to it. Even with the Knox chronology you have the request of Gal 2:10 in ~53 and the delivery of the collection in ~56. You have a gap of three years. This is hardly consistent with Paul's statement in Gal 2:10 that he had been eager. The Galatians would have replied, "if you had really been eager you would have got us to deliver a collection within months of when you passed through our region on your way to Ephesus (with the Knox chronology) or to Macedonia (with the better chronology): you would not have scheduled the collection to be at least two years later". Why would Paul write something that his readers knew to be false?

I have not been able to find any indication that the collection in Galatia was still in progress when 1 Corinthians was written.

Take a look also at Riesner (Paul's early period) p233.

steph said...

Hi Mark, Sorry - yes, but then you go on to avoid the argument yourself and in the reviewers you cite. Maurice discusses the argument from Mark's assumptions in some detail in his Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel.

steph said...

oh and Maurice also discusses it in alot of detail in his current book on Jesus but you won't have read that yet!

I don't like the Temple argument either. Apart from anything else, why did Mark get it so wrong? It burned. Surely Jesus foresaw it's destruction. Plenty of others did. They got the time wrong and the method wrong but the destruction was inevitable.

John C. Poirier said...

In note 35, you wrote "C.F. Evans", but the article was written by C. *A.* Evans.

Thanks for this paper. I look forward to your presentation.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, John. I have made the adjustment there.