Friday, August 20, 2004

It's my birthday today! I'm rather busy preparing for a small gathering of friends this evening but I did just want to say another word about Historical Jesus ("HJ") studies. Regular readers will know I think that the whole scholarly subject is seriously flawed. One aspect of this is the continuing insistence of HJ scholars to read far more into the text of the New Testament than it can bear. Every jot and tittle is carefully considered for significance with obscure theological import attached to the tiniest aspect of the Gospels, even things which are probably just slips of the pen or copy errors. Furthermore, Mark, whose Gospel is written in crude Greek and is clearly not an author of great skill is elevated to a genius who cleverly molded together his sources with constant subtle references to the Old Testament. All rubbish. Mark's Gospel is a hodge-podge of sayings and stories thrown together into a slightly coherent narrative by a man with no sense of art or editorial control whatsoever. He even includes the feeding miracle twice because he does not have the critical facilities to realise he has heard the same story from different people. Trouble is, when academics study something for ages (and nothing is as studied as the Gospels) they always start to believe the authors think like they do. So Mark has to become an author whose ability is worthy of the attention paid to him, when clearly he isn't. If you see someone lauding Mark's literary abilities you will know that they have got the bug bad and you should treat their speculations with extreme scepticism.

Another effect of recycling the same material over and over again is that pretty much anything has to be tried in the effort to produce original research. Thus, as it is my birthday, I present Bede's Laws of Historical Jesus Research.
  1. Anything that can possibly be said about the Historical Jesus will be said.
  2. It already has been.

Perhaps all the intellectual energy spent on this subject might be better directed elsewhere. Leave the Gospels to theologians who know that they are not doing history.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Reynolds Price's "Three Gospels." He has some interesting things to say about Mark's literary quality.

Happy Birthday!


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, James. Lovely post today :-) God bless

jack perry

Layman said...

Happy Birthday, Friend.

Anonymous said...

The truth is the GoM is not just a "hodge-podge of sayings and stories thrown together". IMHO, it is a highly organized writing - and there's a reason why virtually everything is where it is. There's a reason why Mark has two 'Feedings' stories. Perhaps a miraculous 'second touch' is needed here? GoM is more than 'trees in motion'. :-) ... Happy Birthday. I enjoy your site.

Anonymous said...

Is there two miracle feeding stories, because two miracles happened?

See for an excellent artikel about how to tell

'Before concluding that there is a discrepancy, be sure that the accounts are discussing the same fact, event, or saying. This is especially important when reviewing the Gospels. Too many critics take it for granted that similar sounding sayings or events must be variant accounts of one original utterance or happening.'

Does Bede take it for granted that there was only one miralce?