Showing posts with label Mark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark. Show all posts

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Sitting across from the treasury







Our history is filled with violence
Demolish its icons

Our heritage is loaded with exploitation
Sue their asses off

We cannot undo the wrongs of our past
Demonetize those deviants

We must acknowledge truth to begin to heal
Censor rival narratives

We need to work together to fight fascism and restore justice
Donate today and pledge your last two lepta












Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Harmony of the Olivet Discourse




Below is a parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. I must apologize in advance for it being in the format of successive photos pasted to the wall, and not the most clear quality either. For now it is the best I can do. The source of these parallels is from Burton's English edition of Gospel parallels (as footnoted at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, the English looks like it uses the KJV, which provides a notoriously misleading translation of Matt. 24:3, which reads: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

For those who have access to the Greek text underlying that translation, it is obvious that the word translated as "world" is actually "age." Jesus is asked what would be the sign of his coming (parousia) and the sign of the end of the age (not the "world", which is an entirely different Greek word).

For those interested in viewing the parallels, a pdf of Burton's greek parallels can be found here. As far as the formatting is concerned, that is my own; it was the only way I knew how to share it publicly with very little time at my disposal this evening.

The reasons why I am sharing this parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse are very straightforward:

1) The average Christian in the pews nowadays has little patience to map out the parallels between each verse of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. So here it is. I have copied and pasted it all for you. 

2) The average Christian who takes Jesus' teaching seriously, and has been taught in Church (or by reading Christian books) that the so-called "end of the world" is clearly taught in the Olivet Discourse, now has the means by which each version can be carefully traced in context, to see if that is actually so. As I have already noted (here), dozens of very important Church Fathers viewed Matthew 24:4-35 as references to the historical destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the historical signs of persecutions and turmoils leading up that cataclysmic event. Most New Testament historical scholars over the last one hundred years concur with that assessment. But then a shift takes place, where virtually all scholars nowadays think that the comments made in Matthew 24:36 and afterward either refer to cataclysmic events in our future, or they are inauthentic and "fanatic" vaticinium ex eventu redactions by later scribes after AD70. 

3) I am convinced that there is a third alternative: Jesus was describing the parousia and the "end of the age" as to-be-fulfilled in that generation (cf. Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). 

4) When you have finally studied all of these parallels, matching phrase upon phrase, and following the descriptions of each Gospel author, feel free to study the chapters and verses surrounding the passages in Mark outside of chapter 13, and the passages in Luke outside of chapter 21, as contained in bold-typed brackets below.

I believe that there is absolutely no way to take any portion of this Olivet Discourse of Matthew's Gospel seriously as authentic teachings of Jesus without also seriously studying its parallels in Mark and Luke. That means that there are not two cataclysmic events about "the end" in this Discourse. There is no fulfillment of "the end" that has "already" happened in Matthew 24:4-35 and also a future fulfillment of Christ's parousia in judgment that has "not yet" happened, and still awaiting fulfillment in our future. The "already-not-yet" paradigm advocated by too many Christian tribalists simply cannot be taken seriously when the exact same historical discourse is mapped out in parallel between all three synoptic Gospels. 

Take the time. Don't be lazy. See for yourself. Think for yourself. 

I have shared other thoughts of mine here and here and here. The thoughts of Church Fathers can be found here.






















Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ex Eventu Deviance




Consider this my second post in a potential series that started earlier this month. That first post is found hereIn that post, I mentioned a few personal views:

1) People either believe the so-called 'New Testament' witness is historically reliable and rhetorically coherent, or they don't. 

2) Almost all academicians unswervingly swear allegiance to the same dogmas: that the end of the ages did not come in the first century, and the parousia was delayed (and must still be delayed); therefore all "data" collected from new testament witnesses and even non-canonical literature of that general era must be jammed through a peer-reviewed process that, in the very least, attempts to cohere with those dogmas.

3) All the eschatological mumbo-jumbo of academic guilds theorizing about imaginary sources seems more convoluted than just taking the new-testament texts at face value. Either something cataclysmic occurred as promised (or prophesied) in first century Israel, and that fulfilled promise influenced the course of history, or the New Testament witness is false and unreliable.

4) I also don't think 'already-not-yet' paradigms are helpful in mediating the tension between what the texts are and what meaning those texts would have communicated if they were historically reliable and rhetorically coherent. 

Even though I have not traced out a history of that paradigm (because that would be an exhaustive study), I nevertheless imagine, based on what I have studied over fifteen years, that every traceable, popular tradition thereof was conjured up and defended because Christians throughout history have, in large part, been highly influenced by inescapable social expectations, dogmas, and politics. In social-psychological parlance, this natural movement away from some dogmas and toward others is described as the black sheep effect, where Christians have renegotiated the boundaries of permissible thought in response to perceived deviants.1

5) Last of all, if 'already-not-yet' paradigms are only partially adequate (which is to say, they are not wholly adequate), then I think one might as well seriously consider playing around in the Jumanji of source-critical dogmas. 



* * * * * * *


In this post, I just want to say a few words about point #5 above: playing around in the wild and enticing jungle of source-critical dogmas. 

Over many years I have marked up a few hundred books in my personal library that attempt to apply the 'science' of Vaticinium ex eventu to the Tanakh, the New Testament scriptures, the so-called 'intertestamental' scriptures, the so-called 'Apostolic Fathers,' and the pseudopigraphical writings surrounding them all. I am well aware of scribal traditions and the ever-shapeshifting attempts of scholars to pinpoint sources and the reasons for redaction or composition after the events. Undoubtedly, some manuscripts manifest reasons for redaction. 

I also do not (personally) deny that there exists a plethora of redacted religious documents related to the Christian Scriptures; nor do I blow off the reality of ex eventu compositions between 1,000 BC and AD 1,000. Nevertheless, I have remained intrigued and perplexed by the voluminous conjectural dogmas surrounding the list of first-century time sensitive texts that I presented in the previous post (in footnote #74). All of those, if one looks back, relate to Jesus and his claims about the so-called "end of the world" in some future. Most Christians nowadays imagine it referred to our future, and not merely the near future of that generation in which Jesus and his apostles lived (i.e. the first century). 

Scholars nowadays have combed through each and every one of those time-sensitive statements and have cataloged reasons why some statements were about our future, and others were not. Pseudo-explanations range between why those statements were made, to what culturally sensitive memories were behind or underneath the final edit. Needless to say, there once was a day when such conjecture was considered both silly and dangerous. Yet it is no longer considered deviant to honestly believe and promote the dogma that all predictive references to AD70 and the events leading up to it throughout the Scriptures were vaticinium ex eventu. Accordingly, none of them must be or can be definitively asserted to be part of Jesus' genuine gospel, and therefore it is probable that they were not.2 Such prophesies, instead, were "likely" Christian reflections of a later era, imposed upon much clearer, more reliable apocalyptic messages about the end of the physical cosmos.

So then, what I want to do next is play with that idea. Let's take one example and toy with it accordingly. 

Let's take for granted that the Gospel of Matthew is a Jewish-Christian scribal amalgamation, and the final redacted form (or composition) was truly after the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. We then select Jesus' Olivet Discourse as a specimen. We look at the texts of Mark chapter 13 and compare them with Matthew 24. After examining them carefully, we conclude, along with F.F. Bruce and countless others over the last hundred years of western civilization, that the Markan form of Jesus' Olivet Discourse is earlier than AD 70, as indicated by those modifications of it in the Gospel of Matthew, which reflect the situation after AD 70.3 We also conclude, based on our lack of absolute certainty, that "Mark" was likely not even alive prior to AD 70, nor did he know Jesus' apostles (as older, sacred tradition asserts). 

Indeed, we conclude that based on the raw data left to us now, almost two thousand years ex eventu, that it is highly improbable that the Markan form of the Gospel was composed prior to AD70. In the very best and most idealized circumstances, it is merely the Olivet Discourse contained in the Markan form which could possibly be authentically reported from sources prior to AD70. As F. F. Bruce dogmatically asserted, such deductions seem to be self-evident. Regarding the ex eventu composition of Matthew 24 in relation to Mark 13, he mentions that:
In the Markan form of the question they apparently belong to the same temporal complex as the destruction of the Temple. But in Matthew the question is re-worded so that the destruction of the Temple is separated from the events of the end-time: 'Tell us, when will this be [the destruction of the Temple], and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?' (Matt 24:3). For, when Matthew's Gospel was written, the destruction of the Temple had taken place, but the parousia and the 'close of the age' were still future. A distinction which was patent after A.D. 70 was not so obvious at an earlier stage, and it is such an earlier stage that is implied in Mark's wording.4

Below are some questions in my mind, to serve as a little push-back to these popular ex eventu assertions. 

1) Because the entirety of the New Testament texts indicate a seamless historical context anticipating imminent events to take place within the first century (see the previous post), why not assume that the authors or redactor after AD70 edited the texts to make future readers think Jesus did actually refer to AD70 and the events leading up to it? 

2) Why do we, in the 21st century, imagine some dude (tradition calls him "Matthew") changed or inserted “prophecies” about the so-called “end of the world” into discourses about AD70 and the events leading up to it? 

3) Given the consistent first century, soon-coming emphasis of the entire New Testament corpus (as I illustrated plainly in the previous post), why not imagine Matthew (and all the NT authors) edited just those statements that appear to pertain to the “end of the world”, and not those pertaining to AD70? 

4) Given the nature of contemporary source-critical ventures and the liberty available within such enterprises, why not imagine that the Matthean "form" of the Olivet Discourse was composed to communicate the truly reliable and fulfilled (past) events of AD70 alongside an imaginary and contrived (yet psychologically hopeful) view about Jesus teaching a “literal” end of the world as his Parousia and as the 'close of the age'? 

5) Why not instead imagine that the original intent behind the composition or redaction of Matthew 24 was entirely about AD70 and the events leading up to it, and that whatever modifications were ever made to it based on earlier sources, those are evidently indicated by later imaginary scribal conventions and folklore about the literal end of the world



* * * * * * *


Here is my point behind all of these questions:

Given one's commitment to the slipperiness of redaction criticism, "Matthew" very likely left us with chapter 24 in order to highlight the truth that Jesus really did prophesy, preach, teach, and emphasize the upcoming turmoils, persecutions, and trials leading up to and culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Even if the destruction of the Temple had taken place in the past by the time Matthew's gospel was written, that does not mean he wrote about the Parousia or the 'close of the age' as something in our future (or his future, after AD70). Even if Matthew was not a contemporary of Jesus or his apostles at all, the final form as we have it today (and we have no other Matthean form of the Olivet Discourse, by the way) would likely have been designed to portray Jesus and his message as it was truly believed, as it was understood to be. That's the whole point of Matthew's Gospel: to present a believable message, one that is both historically reliable and rhetorically coherent. And that message, regardless of whether it was composed before or after AD70, need not be that Jesus taught about AD 70 and then, afterward, about the literal end of the “world” a few millennia beyond AD70, all within the same discourse. 

As I have pointed out in detail elsewhere, there is no noticeable form of the Olivet Discourse among the Synoptics that makes a sharp or clear distinction between the destruction of the Temple and events after AD70 (i.e. events which could potentially be in our future, thousands of years after the discourse).

So then, here I am, being all deviant. Please don't waste your time trying to crucify me on social media (or privately) for thinking out loud on my own blog. Although it certainly is in vogue nowadays, it's certainly not godly to crucify Christians for simply pointing out what Jesus taught. I'm aware that this paradigm of first century fulfillment is perceived nowadays to be heterodox. It actually is not, either hermeneutically or factually because I don't think philosophical commitments to Christian dogmas about the "end of the world" absolutely must be proof-texted from the "Bible." There are lots of Christian dogmas that are derived philosophically from sources outside the "Bible" to justify what they believe is also taught within the Bible, yet their case from inside isn't as tightly sealed as they imagine. 

I happen to believe such is the case surrounding preterist convictions, too. Two significant reasons why I think Christians nowadays imagine first century fulfillment to be heterodox (or they overreact in rage against imagined trajectories toward other heterodoxies) is because catalogs of sacred traditions and confessional standards have so much dogma surrounding these texts that serious, detailed attention to first century fulfillment of the entire Olivet Discourse has continued, in large measure, to be completely overlooked, ignored, or deflected over the last 500 years; adding to that gaping chasm of presumption, other paradigms have been inserted to fill in and reorient public perspectives about that gap (like "already-not-yet" templates), as an attempt to synthesize sacred traditions of Reformational and Counter-Reformational dogmas with the crystal clear first century time-sensitive statements. But i'll save a detailed discussion about all of that for the future. 













1. See Outi Lehtipuu, Debates Over The Resurrection Of The Dead: Constructing Early Christian Identity [Oxford Early Christian Studies] (2015). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 67-108
2. For a specimen of such views, carelessly asserting autobiographical remarks about the certainty of vaticinium ex eventu scribal redaction throughout the New Testament, see G.H.W. Lampe, "A.D. 70 in Christian Reflection" in Jesus And The Politics Of His Day [Edited by Ernst Bammel & C.F.D. Moule] (1992 Reprint). New York, NY: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, pp. 153-71 
3. F.F. Bruce, "The date and character of Mark" in Jesus And The Politics Of His Day [Edited by Ernst Bammel & C.F.D. Moule] (1992 Reprint). New York, NY: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, p. 81
4. Ibid. 














Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Shall I Cry? (A homily for Advent, Isaiah 40:1-11)

Advent  (Second Sunday, Year B)
Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a, 18
Mark 1:1-8



In the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib the king of Assyria waged war against the cities of Judah—including Jerusalem. But Hezekiah, king of Judah, was not willing to surrender to the Assyrians. So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, sent his ambassador—the Rabshakeh—along with a huge army to Jerusalem to intimidate Hezekiah, and to persuade the people of God to think differently about their situation.

Once the Rabshakeh arrived outside the gates of Jerusalem, Isaiah tells us that he addressed the people Israel with a loud voice, informing them that their surrounding cities had been laid to waste, and that their city was next, unless, of course, they surrendered peacefully. And if they were to surrender peacefully, not only would they not be destroyed, but the King of Assyria would give each of them their own fig tree and vine from which to eat and their own cistern from which to drink. By making an agreement with the King of Assyria, they would no longer need to worry about their warfare, for they would receive care by the hand of a good shepherd who leads his sheep to a new land of promise, “a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards” much like their own (36:10-17).

King Hezekiah had a decision to make. He and his people could surrender to the Assyrians, or they could repent before the Lord, ask for His help, and hope that the Lord would answer favorably according to their prayers.

Hezekiah made the wise decision and he went into the Temple and prayed. That night the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, and Isaiah let King Hezekiah know that the Lord heard His prayer and was pleased with it. And in response to his prayer, the Lord promised to end the war of the Assyrians against them. That night the angel of the Lord would pass over Jerusalem and plague the Assyrian armies, causing many to die and the rest to flee away from the city.

Jerusalem was then spared. Her warfare had ended. The Lord delivered His people once more from their enemies. Now it was time to celebrate the Lord’s victory.

All of these events I just described are recorded in the book of Isaiah, chapter 36-37, only a few chapters prior to our reading in Isaiah 40. And if you were to gloss over chapters 38 and 39, at first glance the message of Isaiah 40 seems to be describing that victorious event (i.e. that event of Jerusalem’s deliverance from Assyria). Consider how Isaiah 40 begins:
Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her in iniquity is pardoned… (vv. 1-2)

Here the Lord declares that His people ought to be comforted by His good news, and His good news is this: her warfare has ended, and the Lord has pardoned her iniquity. That sounds like a reference to the warfare which ended in the previous story about the King of Assyria attacking Jerusalem.

Then Isaiah hears another voice crying out:
Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness!
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God!
…Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  (vv. 3-5)
Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news!
Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news! Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”  (v. 9)

Because Israel’s warfare is over, now the time has come to prepare a path for a procession of the Lord to His throne. The imagery of paving a highway for God through the wilderness is reminiscent of Israel’s exodus from bondage in Egypt, when God first claimed Himself as Israel’s King and carried them into the promised land. In chapters 36 & 37, we found a “Passover” theme: The people were in bondage and the angel of the Lord passed over His people, striking down all of Israel's enemies. Here in chapter 40, we find a clear “Exodus” theme. Here we see God leading His people in a victorious procession through the wilderness and into the promised land.

However, as I said a few moments ago, if you were to read Isaiah 36-37 and then gloss over chapters 38-39, Isaiah 40 seems to be describing that victorious event mentioned in 36-37. But Isaiah is not actually talking about Israel’s deliverance from the King of Assyria. And we know this because of chapters 38-39. In those chapters, Isaiah tells us a strange little story that doesn’t appear to be very important until we connect it with the message of chapter 40.

In chapters 38-39 Isaiah tells us that King Hezekiah became very sick and when the king of Babylon heard he was sick, he visited him and brought him lots of gifts; and Hezekiah not only accepted his gifts, he expressed his gratitude to the King of Babylon by giving him a tour through all of Jerusalem and even inside the Lord’s Temple, showing him all his treasures (Isa. 39). That action of Hezekiah provoked the Lord, and so the Lord sent Isaiah to give an important message to Hezekiah:

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (39:5-7)

And take special notice of Hezekiah’s following response as well (39:8). Then Hezekiah responded to Isaiah saying,

“The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” (For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’)

This rise and fall of King Hezekiah, and God’s promise to send his people into exile in Babylon, is the background of our reading today from Isaiah (40:1-11). If we were to skip over Isaiah’s brief mention of Hezekiah’s sickness (Isa. 39), we would be missing out on the fact that this great promise of comfort was not supposed to be fulfilled in the days of Hezekiah, even though many people of Israel probably thought it was. Isaiah's proclamation of God's promise was for a future generation, long after the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel's exile to Babylon.

Even Isaiah seems to have believed God’s word of comfort was too good to be true. He hears a voice telling him to cry out God’s good news, but he doesn’t know if God’s message really is good news for his generation. “What shall I cry out?” Isaiah asks, for “all flesh is grass and all of its loyalty is like a flower of the field.” Isaiah knows that the people of Israel in his generation were not loyal to God. “Surely the people are grass,” Isaiah says. And just as surely as the people are grass who will fade away by the breath of the Lord,  so shall the word of the Lord stand firm. The days were coming when Jerusalem and the glories of its Temple would be carried away to Babylon, and nothing would be left; all would be destroyed, and the people of Israel would be taken captive to Babylon too.

Now, at this point you might be wondering what all of this has to do with Advent.

Advent is a season when we—people of God—are called to wait upon the Lord to enter our lives again. And as we wait up Him we’re supposed to be preparing ourselves for His coming by repenting of our sins and by meditating upon His promises.

But what has God promised for us? What has God promised that we need to be preparing ourselves to receive?

Perhaps it’s best to answer those questions by imagining ourselves as the people of God in Isaiah’s day. Are we that much different than them? Are the people of God today much different than the flowers of the field in Isaiah’s day? When the Lord speaks to us—His people—addressing our foolishness directly, just as He did with His people in Isaiah's day, what is our response? Even when Hezekiah received a warning from the Lord directly, all he seemed to care about was peace and security while he was alive. Are our ways of thinking much different than Hezekiah's? Are we willing to sacrifice our time, energy,  and petty inconveniences to ensure greater peace and security for the next generation, or do we care more about having peace and security in our own lifetime at the expense of future generations?

When we want God to come to our rescue, of course then we pray fervently to Him, and we teach our children to pray too. When we need rescuing, then we wait attentively for Him to respond favorably to our prayers; but let's be honest: when God graciously delivers us from our sins, our tendency is to go right back to where we were before, to our old foolish ways. And to make matters worse, sometimes we don’t even seem to care much about what happens to the next generation because of our foolish sins. We care far more about what happens to us. We care far more about having peace and security in our lives, even if that means a future generation of God’s people would suffer from our foolish decisions today.

So what message should we be crying out? What message should we be crying out in a generation like ours, whose loyalty is like a flower of the field that fades away with every gust of wind?

The answer to that question comes from our Gospel reading today (Mark 1:1-8). John the Baptist referred to this prophecy of Isaiah as confirming his ministry of baptism, which means that Isaiah’s message of hope was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus and in John’s baptism of Jesus. Jesus was the one of Isaiah’s prophecy for whom a highway was to be cleared, and John’s baptism was the way that highway to Jesus was paved. Jesus was the one for whom even the mountains of Johns world were to make room. Jesus was the one whom the people of Israel needed to repent before and receive forgiveness. Jesus was the Word of comfort for Israel.

But Jesus wasn’t simply the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Jesus was and is the glory of God revealed for all “flesh” to see (Isa. 40:5), therefore Jesus is the one for whom even the mountains of our world need to make room. Our world has mountains of pride, valleys of despair, crooked places of perversion, rough places of bitterness, but Jesus comes as our Word of comfort and paves a highway for us. He is the one who pays the penalty for our iniquity and delivers us from exile. His body, into which we have been baptized, is the Temple he destroyed and raised to life again. Jesus is the name above all names that we lift up without fear before the world, saying “Behold your God!”

Jesus is also the one who makes good on his promises as the King of kings. Jesus is the one who rules over all nations and subdues our enemies under His feet, declaring and end to our warfare. Jesus is the one who calls us to lay down our carnal weapons of warfare and surrender to His rule; and by surrendering to Him, he promises to fulfill His word as our good Shepherd, leading us to rest in his good land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

And as we learned in our Epistle reading for today (2 Peter. 3:8-15a, 18), Jesus is not slow to fulfill this promise to us either. Rather, he is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 


Therefore, this is the message we ought to be proclaiming: Come to Jesus for your warfare to end and your iniquity to be pardoned. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Confess your sins and surrender yourself unto God, then accept His invitation to feast on the grain and vineyards of His good land. Feast on the bread and wine which your King has prepared for you this day at His Table, so that you may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

* * * * * *


Heavenly Father, stir up your power, and with great might come among us; and, because we are greatly hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.