17 April 2007

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

Reading Richard Bauckham's fascinating Jesus and the Eyewitnesses right now, which argues that the Gospels are not the result of a vague, nebulous, communal, layer-upon-layer, oral transmission process (as the form critics have taught us--Bultmann, e.g.), but that they are quite self-consciously the written record of individual eyewitnesses or those who were in direct contact with eyewitnesses (Mark with Peter, Luke with numerous eyewitnesses, Lk 1:1-4), and read this excellent and representative paragraph today:

The early Christian movement was interested in the genuinely past history of Jesus because they regarded it as religiously relevant. But why should this have been the case? Dunn offers a sociological explanation: The early Christians, distinguished from other groups by terms referring to Jesus ("Nazarenes" and "Christians"), "would almost certainly have required a foundation story (or stories) to explain, to themselves as well as to others, why they had formed distinct social groups" (Jesus Remembered, 175). It was for purposes of self-identity that Christians transmitted Jesus traditions and wrote Gospels. While this explanation has the advantage of cross-cultural comparison, it is lacking in the cultural specificty necessary for an adequate explanation. Early Christians were less concerned with self-identity than with salvation, though the two are in their case closely related. Jesus was more than the founder of their movement; he was the source of salvation. Moreover, this salvation was understood within the thoroughly Jewish context of Christian origins. It was fulfillment of the promises made by the God of Israel to his people Israel in the past. It was a new chapter--the decisive, eschatological chapter--in God's history with his people and the world. The events of Jesus' history were charged with all the history-making significance of the activity of Israel's God. Thus, at the deepest level, it was for profoundly theological reasons--their understanding of God and salvation--that early Christians were concerned with faithful memory of the really past story of Jesus. The present in which they lived in relationship with the risen and exalted Christ was the effect of this past history, presupposing its pastness and not at all dissolving it.

--pp. 277-78 (italics original)

Schlatter and Cullmann are applauding in their graves!


Micky said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staffs were very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

Chris Tilling said...

Dane, you may be interested in my recent podcast in which I summarise Bauckham's book in 25 minutes. (I've also written a long blog review of it, but it is, well, long! - though Bauckham himself comments on it from time to time)
All the best,

Dane Ortlund said...

Thanks Chris. Your review was one of the things that spurred me on to read the book. Visited Tubingen last summer and loved it. Blessings.