Sunday, April 03, 2011

Allison: more argument that Paul knew a pre-passion narrative

So far:

Today, 406-21.
I am less than impressed with Allison's attempt in this section to make a cumulative argument that Paul knew a pre-passion narrative, based on tiny little verbal parallels.  As I said in the previous post, (if I remember what I said ;-), I have no problem with the idea that Paul knew the general contours of the passion story.  Indeed, I think it very likely that he knew oral traditions about Jesus' final days.  I'm just not sure we have enough evidence to argue objectively that he knew a specific narrative like Mark's passion, especially a written one.

Here are Allison's little parallelobits:

1. Paul had a definite impression of Jesus' character as he faced death.
Check, no problems here (cf. Phil. 2).

2. Paul associates Psalm 69 with Jesus' character (Rom. 15:3; 11:9-10).  The gospels associate Psalm 69 with Jesus' passion.
It is quite possible that the earliest Christians quickly came to associate Psalm 69 with Christ's death and that Paul inherited some of this association.  It does not prove a pre-passion narrative.

3. Romans 15:3, as the gospels do extensively in their passion narratives, have Jesus quoting Scripture in the first person, a phenomenon Hays has explored most famously.  Maybe Paul learned this from a passion narrative.
I consider Allison's conclusion beyond question that "from a very early time, Christians identified Jesus as the speaker of several psalms of suffering" (411).  Indeed, I find it quite plausible that Jesus himself did so, and that Jesus himself is the origin of the practice.  This does not prove, however, that Paul knew this hermeneutic because he had read a pre-passion narrative.

4. Paul twice uses a very rare verb systauroo ("to crucify together").  Does he get it from a pre-passion narrative mentioning two criminals he was crucified together with.
Whaaaatt?  I like Allison, but this one just jumps the shark.  This is something you write down on a napkin while down to your final coffee in a restaurant late at night with friends... and you probably throw the napkin away in the morning.

5. Paul mentions the Passover in 1 Cor. 5:7... could he be reading a pre-passion narrative?
Are you serious?

6. Colossians 2:13-14 uses the image of nailing to a cross... could he be...
Come on.

7. Paul uses paradidomi ("hand over") on five occasions... could he be...
All these are easily explained as oral traditions about Jesus' death.  They in no way demonstrate that Paul knew a pre-passion narrative in an expanded form like Mark's passion.  And although I don't find him entirely clear, Allison gives off the vibe of talking about a written pre-passion narrative, which would be even harder to prove.

8. "thorn in the flesh"... Paul thinking of Gethsemane?
This is possible, but as even he says, the parallels asking of God to let something involving a thorn pass "hardly establish beyond reasonable doubt" (416).  Insufficient evidence.

The last few pages of this section try to add more evidence, but are less and less helpful.   
a. Allison argues that the Gethsemane story was widely circulated.
I don't have a problem with the possibility that Paul knew Jesus had wrestled in the Garden.  I'm just not sure he gives any substantial evidence of that knowledge in his writings.

b. Paul uses abba; Mark's passion uses abba.
Weak, weak, weak.

c. Colossians 4:2 says "continue in prayer, watching," which is reminiscent of the Garden.
Insufficient evidence.

d. Romans 15:2-3 could evoke images of the Garden.
Could.  Might not.  Again, no problem with the possibility that Paul knew of Jesus' struggle before the cross in some general way.

e. Paul carries around Jesus' sufferings
f. the verb to torment.

Just weak all around.

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