Monday, December 27, 2010

Constructing Jesus 2 (S)

The first post in this review:
Chapter 1: Memories of Jesus

Chapter 2, "The Eschatology of Jesus" is about 190 pages.  At my pace, it will take me over a month to get through it..  And I have some other things I need to fit in.  So here are the next thirty pages or so, pp.31-59.

The basic point of these pages, as of the chapter as a whole, is that "Jesus held what we may call... an 'apocalyptic eschatology'" (32).  By this he means a cluster of themes from post-exilic Jewish literature relating to coming crisis between good and evil in which things on the earth will get very bad but God will come at set everything right.  Allison does not believe that such expectation was usually if ever about the distant future but was by assumption a near expectation.  "The rule in the ancient sources is this: if it is coming, it must be close" (45).

Pages 33-43 are what seems to be a typical sort of list for Allison.  He catalogs point after point of apocalyptic expectation in the gospels.  Allison's point is very commonsensical and persuasive.  It doesn't matter whether any one of these events or sayings was historical for the general impression to be true.  "[M]ore material pertains to eschatology than to exorcism" (43).  I perceive a global pattern and it is apocalyptic" (44).  "[O]ur choice is not between an apocalyptic Jesus; it is between an apocalyptic Jesus and no Jesus at all... The pertinent material is sufficiently abundant that removing it all should leave one thoroughly skeptical about the mnemonic competence of the tradition" (46-47).

He then begins a list of nine supportive considerations, two of which were part of my reading this week.

1. Jesus' location between John the Baptist and the early church.
This is again such a no brainer it amazes me that anyone seriously questions it.  You find it in Sanders, Wright, earlier in Meyer.  If John the Baptist preached the imminent coming of God's kingdom and if the early church did, then Jesus must have.

2. "God raised him from the dead."
Again, Allison makes imminent sense.  Paul knew Peter and James.  They all claimed to believe Jesus had risen bodily from the dead.  Therefore, "that settles the issue" (55).  He of course is not saying that all the initial followers of Jesus believed this.  He is only saying that these individuals must have.

Further, if they had not believed in resurrection prior to the Jesus event, they would not have interpreted it in this way.  "[T]he disciples looked for the resurrection of the dead before Good Friday; otherwise they would have interpreted their experiences in some other way" (59).


Bob the Moore boy said...

Allison's first support for an apocalyptic Jesus rests on the circularity of claiming that John the Baptist was an eschatological preacher (a claim of the church; not Josephus).

Ken Schenck said...

He addresses this possibility. Without getting out the book, my own sense is that it is more likely that Josephus would tame JB than that the Gospels would apocalypticize him. It fits, for example, with the way he makes Jewish groups like the Essenes look like Greek philosophers.

Also, it seems unlikely that the early Christians would invent Jesus' baptism by John. Why would they invent that Jesus was baptized for the forgiveness of sins? Baptism has connotations of reform.

Not foolproof, I admit. It just seems more likely than not. Maybe I'll take a look at what he says later.