Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I like the gospels...

I've been working on the nuances of the word "gospel" in Matthew, Mark, and Luke recently, and I was just thinking today how much I like the gospels.  I've taught Acts through Jude in my teaching life and only presented sparingly on the Gospels.  I hope maybe Wesleyan Publishing House will let me follow up my three popular level Paul books with a couple books on Jesus and the gospels.

There is so much depth (of course, it could be in scholars' heads rather than real ;-) when you dig down and begin comparing gospels.  It also can get very sensitive since most simply take the gospels as video recordings.  But I find it fascinating to see how each gospel writer seems to have tweaked sayings and the presentation of events and their order to bring out particular themes.  And I find it invigorating to see as it were layers of the early church from Jesus to John, somewhat like an archaeological dig.

Again, speculation on reconstructions require great caution, since it is so easy to let one's imagination go wild.  But I think a popular Christian audience (not to mention pastors) would find a journey through some of this territory fascinating, indeed that it would make Jesus and the gospels come alive in 3 dimensions.  

10 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are you suggesting that the writers of each "gospel" has their own personal approach to "Jesus" because of their own innate interests and tendencies? This would still suggest that there was some "transcendental realm", where either "the Jew, the Gentile or the common person" would be addressed for equality, as to "the Kingdom". One could agree to this approach if they believed that the Church should be politically empowered and they believed in a transcentdental realm....(useful for equalization, not elitist views).....what equalization? equalization is not possible, except in one's dreams! And I think approaching these differences must be done with caution, as all are not equal (ten talents, versus the one talent parable, pluse the real realities and complexities of life.).

The fundamentalists view would try to collaborate the differences....while you suggest using scripture as a means to an "outcome based" goal....what is that goal? One must agree to the goals upfront, as scripture can be used to support many views!

Ken Schenck said...

I'm reinforcing what is known to all gospel experts. The gospels did not aim at dispassionate history in the modern sense (not even Luke) but present Jesus in such a way as to highlight certain truths. So for Matthew, Jesus provides the authoritative understanding of the Law. For Mark, Jesus' death is a ransom for many, including the Gentiles. For Luke, Jesus is savior of the poor and oppressed. For John, Jesus is the only path to eternal life.

Christians believe all these things are true, but each gospel has presented the story in such a way as to highlight these particular themes.

Robert said...

I'm not sure about 'truths'; I'd agree that Jesus' (or it it Matthew's?) undertanding of the Law is cetral for Matthew, but would it be 'true' for Mark or Luke?

Ken Schenck said...

Robert, this is where it gets fun. I suspect that Christians over the years have found ways to systematize teaching that the gospel authors themselves may have considered points of disagreement.

For example, I personally do not think that Paul and James' theologies of works are irreconcilable... but I suspect James thought he was disagreeing with Paul. ;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

so James is in line with Aristotle's habit forming "work" oriented, character building training, in the real political world, while Paul's was a spiritualized "Platonic" "message to the Gentile"...and the inclusion of the Gentile into the Church...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

One does have to question whether one's work is of one's own choice, and whether the "Gentile" is the 'pagan" that is to be included in the "Church"...

Paul's understanding was a universalization of "the human" (God image), while James sought to "secularize" the religious message of "faith"....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Sounds like America, huh?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I mean, America values productivity, and universal rights....how these are understood and "interact" make for political philosophy...

Random Arrow said...

“ .. speculation on reconstructions require great caution ..”

Applications too.

Maybe the debt ceiling on speculation about reconstructions (and speculation in theology in general) is less well understood than fiscal debt ceiling as giving ourselves permission to spend money (in theology – to spend belief - i.e., to spend good faith dealing with ourselves) that we’ve already spent? All this speculation borders on the definition of bankruptcy. You know what they say about speculative markets. Bankruptcy (in speculative theology and in debt ceilings) is what happens when our accounting gimmicks run out. Including the accounting gimmick of saying that we’re only speculating when we really believe our cherished speculations deep down.

I practiced poverty law in Indiana awhile. And saw no few Christian bankruptcies there because of ‘speculation’ about the ‘reconstructed’ prosperity gospel. The speculative prosperity gospel turned from a speculative mental state into a certain, fixed, rigid spending-belief. With no cap on the debt ceiling. Or should I say no Cap. The spending-praxis-belief that God is a vending machine. Put the tithe in. God drops product out. Homes, cars, boats. And in Indiana – as much corn fed roasted pig as you can eat at Indiana pig roasts.

Perhaps it would be a virtue for practical theology professors to teach huge doses of Hume? Even some forensics? – how to move carefully from speculation to inference to accumulated facts? – are reconstructed biblical texts (stipulate the reconstruction is valid) any more than primers for real and everyday life? – where’s the pay-off of reconstruction if not in that? – are these holy writs no more than the private intellectual domains of high cognoscenti?

Speculation – the debt ceilings which we think exist on it (on our theological speculations and on our speculative financial spendings) – are accounting gimmicks dangerously close to bankruptcy.



Cheers,


Jim

Random Arrow said...

Correction final sentence: “speculation – the debt ceilings ... [and on] ... is an accounting gimmick dangerously close to bankruptcy.”