Friday, February 24, 2017

The Structure Of Luke 4:14–9:50

TWH: The Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20–49) is situated near the middle of the fourth section of Luke's Gospel. For the purposes of this content analysis, it is necessary to identify the point in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus delivers this discourse. While the unit and episode divisions are less important, identifying something about them assists in showing the sermon's context in Jesus' ministry leading to the cross. Donald Guthrie (New Testament Introduction, 133–34) points out two units before the SOP and two that follow:
1. 4:14–44. This section includes Jesus' inaugural message and rejection in Nazareth (4:16–30), Jesus' teaching and authority over demons in Capernaum (4:31–37), and other teaching and healings (4:38–39, 40–41, 42–44).
2. 5:1–6:16. This section includes Jesus' call of Peter, James, and John (5:1–11) and, later, Levi (also called Matthew; 5:27–32). It concludes with the selection of twelve disciples as apostles (6:12–16).
3. 7:1–8:56. This section includes teaching and healing episodes around Capernaum.
4. 9:1–50. This section includes the mission of the Twelve (9:1–6), Peter's confession that Jesus is "the Christ of God" (τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ; 9:20), two predictions concerning Jesus' approaching death and resurrection (9:22, 44–45), and the Transfiguration (9:28–45).
Robert H. Stein (Luke, 151) identifies six units, two preceding the SOP and four that follow it. The primary difference between Stein's and Guthrie's divisions pertains to Luke 7:1–8:56. Stein provides three divisions in place of Guthrie's single unit: (1) 7:1–50, (2) 8:1–21, and (3) 8:22–56. The first concentrates on who Jesus is, the second his teachings, and the third Jesus' demonstration of his authority over all things. Joel B. Green (Gospel of Luke, 27) has two divisions in place of Guthrie's unit: (1) 7:1–50 and (2) 8:1–56.13 Stein also concludes the second unit at 6:12, a move that has linguistic support.

Fearghus Ó Fearghail (The Introduction to Luke-Acts, 39–66) divides the unit slightly different: (1) 5:1–6:11; (2) 6:12–49; (3) 7:1–50; (4) 8:1–56; and (5) 9:1–50. He concentrates on Jesus' movements and characteristic ways in which Luke opens and closes units, especially his use of ἐγένετο δέ to identify the author-intended structure and to mark the openings of pericopes. He views 5:1—9:50 as the major unit. Despite not including 4:14, he recognizes the way Luke concludes in 4:44, using the periphrastic imperfect. He says it is "eminently suitable for the conclusion of a major section of Luke's work, given that it has the character of a general summary (cf. 24,53; Acts 28, 30–31) and represents a pause in the narrative" (42). He also notes how Luke tends to conclude pericopes "on a note of climactic opposition mingled with perplexity or the inability to act" (45). In 5:1–2 and 9:51–52, Luke uses ἐγένετο δέ, something Ó Fearghail considers an element "typical of Lucan pericope-openings" (42). In fact, this construction is unique to Luke in the NT, occurring seventeen times in the Gospel and twenty times in Acts; in the LXX this construction occurs primarily in Genesis. The ἐγένετο δέ construction and Jesus' movement mark the beginning of the SOP discourse unit (6:12), thus connecting the selection of the Twelve after an intense night of prayer with Luke's complement to the Sermon on the Mount. Identifying the end of the SOP is rather obvious given Luke's immediate geographical reference following Jesus' teaching (εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναούμ, 7:1).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Better Structural Outline Of John 17 (Part 2)

Part 1 of this series is here.

TWH: The structure of John 17 is typically identified with a three-fold division. As Ridderbos has mentioned, there have been a few that have attempted to divide the verse in a variety of ways, but this remains the typically accepted division. Ridderbos writes:
"Expositors have attempted to further divide the prayer in a variety of ways and on the basis of a number of methods and criteria. Some proceed from the structure representatives of the farewell prayer genre, others from the rhythmic cadence that the prayer is said to show or from the recurrent transitional formula ‘and now’ and the use of certain transitional keywords. The majority, however, attempt to lay bare the structural outline on the basis of the content of the prayer. But neither form nor content has thus far led to a consensus" (Herman N. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans], 547).
Verses 1–5 constitute Jesus’ prayer for himself. Verses 6–19 contain Jesus’ prayer for his immediate disciples. Verses 20–26 pertain to his future disciples. Ridderbos is perhaps the most clear in his distinction writing that Jesus prayed for those "followers whom he has not yet met" (The Gospel of John, 142).

Who follows or adopts this structure? A great many expositors and commentators do with some slight variations. Whitelaw writes, "With almost perfect unanimity the prayer is recognized as falling into a threefold division; according to which Christ prays, first, for Himself (ver. 1–5); secondly, for His immediate disciples (ver. 6–19); and, thirdly, for His future followers (ver. 20–26)" (Thomas Whitelaw, Commentary on John [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993], 349). Stallings calls this the "natural outline" (Jack W. Stallings, The Gospel of John, Randall House Bible Commentary [Nashville, TN: Randall House, 1989], 245). Morris writes: "The prayer is difficult to subdivide, for it is essentially a unity, but it is possible to discern a movement" (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, rev. ed., NICNT [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995], 634). The movement is seen through the three-fold division. There are some varying flavors to this typical three-fold division. Some split the first and second division between verse eight and nine.

This structure hinges on the participants. One determines the "natural outline" and the "movement" based upon those who are involved in the prayer. The most disappointing aspect about this division is the tendency to view the last division as referring to future disciples as if it does not refer to the eleven remaining with Jesus. Stallings, even though he does not actually provide an outline, does exactly this. Not everyone does this, however. Many avoid the distinction and clearly state that it includes the present and future disciples. Is it important? Absolutely, if you think Peter, James, John, and the rest are part of the "they" group in verse 24.

Another common trait, a cousin of the three-fold division, is to divide the last six verses in half. Sometimes verses 20–23 and verses 24–26 represent the divisions while for others the division comes between verses 24 and 25. For example, Barrett sees a shift at verse 25 with Jesus reviewing his ministry. There are some other types of divisions that are more complicated like the ones mentioned by Becker, and others that are much simpler.

The question remains whether or not one should identify structure based upon the participants involved. Some problems are evident, as demonstrated above with the absence of the eleven from the final part of the prayer if it only refers to future disciples. This is not the only weakness. The requests cannot be subordinated beneath other parts of the prayer. The fact that other parts of the prayer can be understood subordinately is one proof that the mainline element of the requests is not being imposed upon the text. Others have recognized the importance of the petitions. Neyrey has done the best work thus far in this respect. He says that the three-fold division reduces "the entire prayer to a series of petitionary prayers" and points out that "while John 17 contains many prayers of petition, it also expresses prayers of other types and purposes" (Jerome Neyrey, The Gospel of John, NCBC (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007], 278). In his analysis, he identifies petitionary, informative, self-focused, and petitionary/self-focused prayers. His work is not definitive or without its own issues, but it is extremely helpful. Lincoln paid close attention to the petitions writing, "In line with the evangelist's fondness for structuring episodes in seven parts, the prayer contains seven specific petitions, the first and last sections having two each and the longer middle section three." Quast bases his outline off of the petitions as well. He comes short, however, when he only identifies three: glorification, sanctification, and unification. Quast's division is helpful to show the danger in the three-fold division (Kevin Quast, Reading the Gospel of John: An Introduction, rev. ed. [Mahway, NJ: Paulist Press, 1996]). He obviously observes the importance of the petition for the structure. Sadly, he still ended up with the typical structure. By doing so, he omits Requests #2, #3, and parts of Request #5 (such as that the world might believe). It could be argued that believing falls under the umbrella of unification. It could also be argued that Request #6, that the disciples would be with Jesus and experience his glory, is under the same umbrella. But one element of the prayer is completely missed––namely the final commitment. Most miss it.

There are a minimum of four significant contributions for giving prominence to the requests/petitions of Jesus in order to determine the structure of the passage. First, when the requests are viewed as primary, one of the most overlooked and under-stressed points in the prayer is uncovered. The requests are made in the aorist (1, 5, 11, and 17) and present (15, 20, and 24). The presence of the future, the only future tense verb, is striking in comparison. Second, when the requests are viewed as primary, they uncover how intentionally congested the prayer becomes toward the end. The prayer is moving toward a climax, most likely the future tense declaration at the end. This congestion helps to build the climax. Observing the verbs more carefully alerts the reader of this. Third, when one pays closer attention to the verbs uncovers the inclusio in verses 1–5, which is missed many times. And finally, paying attention to the verbs uncovers the Great-Commission element in John’s Gospel which this prayer provides.

Again, if you're interested in seeing the entire discourse analysis, you can read it here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Better Structural Outline Of John 17 (Part 1)

TWH: I have a discourse analysis of John 17 published in Eleutheria journal. The title is "An Application of Discourse Analysis Methodology in the Exegesis of John 17." The first paragraph reads as follows:
"Not every word is equal in a sentence with regard to its force, focus, and the attention it demands. Not every verb in a discourse unit shares the same amount of weight and prominence. Silva has used the illustration of a chessboard with its pieces distributed. He suggests that the location of each chess piece on the board may not actually reflect the state of a particular match. Instead, he says, 'there is a dynamic relationship among the pieces that reveals the true ‘meaning’ of the game.' Moreover, 'analyzing its individual components without reference to their place in the linguistic system' is dangerous. Building upon his illustration, it would not do justice to the game of chess to consider that each piece is equally important. The loss of one’s rook or one's queen is a devastating blow in the game of chess, more so than the loss of one's pawn. The requests in prayer genre, especially in John 17, must carry, like the rook or queen, more weight, especially in determining the structure of the passage, than supportive material."
Now the reason why this is important is because most people––especially in my circles––divide the structure according to the participants or referents mentioned in the prayer. In other words, Jesus first prays for himself (17:1–5), then for his disciples (17:6–19), and then for his future disciples (17:20–26). Only on occasion have people suggested a structural division different than the one I just mentioned. You'd have to read one of the following texts to find something really different:
1. A. Laurentin, “We'attah— καὶ νῦν. Formule caractéristique des textes juridiques et liturgiques (a propos de Jean 17,5),” Bib 45 (1964): 168-432.
2. Edward Malatesta, “The Literary Structure of John 17,” Bib 52 (1971): 190-214.
And to these I might add the structural division that I identified in my discourse analysis, which is based on distinguishing mainline and supportive material. In the case of prayer discourse, mainline is viewed at the requests. The supportive material that I identified were grouped into the following categories: (1) accounts and (2) statements of fact. There is one final category. You might call it the "most mainline" section of the prayer since it constitutes a deviation from the rest of the discourse. That category is a commitment, which is how Jesus ends his prayer. You can read the whole discourse analysis by clicking here. But let me also give you the rough outline that I ended up with. You'll see it's quite different.

One quick note before I give you the outline and hit post though: When people think about John 17, almost everyone thinks about the standard division that has been adopted so often. In other words, people don't really remember very much about the actual content of the prayer, just who Jesus prayed for in the prayer. This is one reason why it's so important for us to think about the structure of a discourse. Structure is closely tied to intent, and when we miss the structure, we open the door to also miss the intent. The outline that follows, in my opinion, is based a closer analysis of the prayer. Identifying referents is hardly scientific. The goal of discourse analysis isn't to make things complicated or decorate the analysis of syntax, style, and structure in ways that camouflage the original intent from your average reader of the New Testament. It's to get at the text, into the text, and then out of the text with the actual "heart" of the discourse.

Here's my outline:

I. Transitory introduction. (17:1)

II. Request #1: Jesus' request for glorification. (17:1-11a)

III. Requests #2 and #3. (17:11b-19)
A. Request #2: Jesus requests for the Father to keep the disciples. (17:11b-16)
B. Request #3: Jesus requests for the Father to sanctify the disciples. (17:17-19)
IV. Request #4: Jesus requests a unity for his disciples that results in the salvation of souls. (17:20-23)

V. Request #5: Jesus requests that the disciples will be with him and experience his glory forever. (17:24)

VI. Jesus’ Final Commitment: Jesus commits to making known the Father’s name. (17:25-26)

You'll want to read my whole discourse analysis to see the problems with the traditional three-fold division, or wait for the next post. But this will get you started and hopefully open to rethinking (1) whether structure matters in exegesis and (2) whether there is a better way to understand the structure of John 17.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 8)

Antonio's discussion of the "Son of Man" is found in the following places: Part 1 is here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here, and Part 7 here.

TWH: One of the types of uses in the Old Testament that is usually considered entirely human (I'm sure there is someone somewhere who argues for a messianic interpretation of some of them) is the Hebrew expression "[. . .] man, [. . .] son of man." One example is Ps. 144:3: "O Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that you think of him?" Another is Isa. 51:12: "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass?" Notice the progression from talking about man, then son of man. This shows up elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 8:4; Isa. 56:2). To this type of expression we can add the direct address "son of man" that is ascribed to prophets, also human. This use is found almost exclusively in Ezekiel (see Ezek. 2:1 and numerous other examples throughout his prophecy); only one such use is found in Daniel (8:17). The messianic usage of "Son of Man" is tied to a single passage in Daniel:
"I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, one like a Son of Man was coming. And he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away. And his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed." (Dan. 7:13–14)
There's always a debate going on about the identity of the "Son of Man" in Daniel. Some have argued that he is a symbol for the people of God; some that he is a heavenly being, but not divine; some that he is divine. The question I want to address is why Jesus used this title in reference to himself. If he is the "Son of God," then why didn't he just refer to himself as the Son exclusively, or why not as the Christ, or why not in some other way?

The title "Son of Man" was closely associated with the role of a prophet, as we mentioned above. Jesus was the prophet that was promised through Moses (Deut. 18:15). This is the same one that the crowds deduced that Jesus was in John 6:
“When therefore the people saw the sign that he had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus then, perceiving that they were intent on trying to take him by force and install him as king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone” (John 6:14–15).
It's clear from that passage that the Jewish people did not draw a sharp distinction between the promised prophet of Deuteronomy and the Messiah. Their reaction to attempt to install Jesus as king is strong enough evidence for anyone to arrive at that conclusion. But what about the title "Son of Man"? R. G. Hamerton-Kelly is one who has put forth the position that "Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man in contexts in which his authority was challenged, or his person rejected" (Pre-Existence, Wisdom, and The Son of Man, 96). He continues: "He implied by the title that he would appear as the heavenly advocate in the future, and then men would see who he really is" (96). Of course, there's an issue at times in these discussions as to what verses some scholars actually consider to be historical or part of the teaching of the Jesus of history. If someone has whittled away at the text, then there's a chance they end up looking at a collection of Jesus' sayings that is different from another person who accepts as historical a passage not in that collection. But what about the argument that Jesus only used this title in contexts of confrontation or rejection? Let's think about that for a moment, using only the Gospel of Matthew as a test case.

The first use of "Son of Man" in Matthew is found in 8:20: "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." No further details are provided in the context about whether or not the scribe (he was also a disciple of Jesus at that point, given the use of ἕτερος in 8:21) who came to Jesus and wanted to follow him actually gave it all up and began following Jesus. This seems like the most difficult passage to fit into the view that Jesus only used the title in confrontation or rejection contexts. There's no question that there was conflict in most of the other passages leading up to the ultimate rejection of Jesus by the religious elite in Matthew 13: 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40. The use of the Son of Man title in Matthew 13 (vv. 37–41) with the parables could certainly fall into this category of conflict, since Jesus switched to parables as a result of the people's rejection of him. But there's another connection and that is the definite picture of the his return to earth as judge.

The figure of the Son of Man was of particular interest to Jesus and the nation of Israel. The people were looking for this individual. This is why we see Jesus begin his inquiry of the disciples in Caesarea Philippi with the following question: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matt. 16:13). They respond with the answers John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets (Matt. 16:14). This could very well be one of the reasons that Jesus opted for this title during his ministry. There was a readiness in the hearts and minds when it came to this particular individual. Sure they were were looking for the Christ, the heir to the David throne, but this particular passage would have harmonized with them like none other. The Son of Man was going to come and judge the wicked, and to him would be given the kingdom, meaning he had to be the heir to the Davidic throne.  The presence of the title in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) becomes then the most expected place to find such a title.

Another reason that we ought to point out for why Jesus used this title––one we can't help but make––is that Jesus taught strategically throughout his ministry so as not to hasten an arrest and punishment. That was all going to come, but in due time––at the time fixed by the Godhead––and teaching in the third person allowed him to avoid scenarios that would have sped up the events of his ministry, even cutting out a significant and necessary portion of that ministry, namely preparing his closest disciples for the work that they would need to do once he returned to the right hand of the Father and issuing a call of repentance to the people of Israel.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 7)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, and Part 6 here.

AP: So in this post we want to pick up on the last two steps of our hypothetical reconstruction of how the Christian community formed these christological notions around Jesus as the Son of Man.

8. The confusion we now perceive in the Gospels concerning the meanings of the "Son of Man" originates when the authors of the Gospels, many years after Jesus' death, applied to him all the sayings about the "Son of Man" which had circulated in Christian groups––many of them uttered by Christian prophets in his name––as if they had been pronounced by Jesus about himself. The reasoning was quite simple: If Jesus, after his resurrection, is the "Son of Man" that is next to God, he also must have been during his life and ministry on earth.

The principle is exactly the same that operates in the minds of the authors of the apocryphal Gospels: If Jesus was a miracle worker during his adult life, he also had to be a miracle worker during his childhood, which we see in the apocryphal Gospel of "Thomas the Jewish Philosopher" (or Pseudo-Thomas).

9. This was how the first Gospel, Mark, assembled and mixed in his work these ideas without any distinction––as if they had been uttered by Jesus himself--as did the other Gospel authors who copied his Gospel, e.g., Luke and Matthew. Thus the expression "Son of Man" went from being a mere modest self-designation of Jesus to becoming a Messianic title "The Son of Man" with the special characteristics ascribed to him by Daniel, both in his life and after his death.

It was then, too, when the sayings of the historical Jesus were reinterpreted as containing this neutral and modest expression with which Jesus sometimes referred to himself and adding to it––naturally also by Christian prophets––other new sayings that proclaimed––as if they were historical as well––what was already known: death and resurrection. The Synoptic Gospels make no distinction between the three kinds of sayings about the Son of Man which we distinguish above (the symbols of modesty, those dealing with passion and resurrection, those who speak of the final judge), and the simple reader also, ascribing all of them to the historical Jesus.

So who is the "Son of Man"?

This complex hypothesis which we have just discussed, consisting of several steps with more or less variants, is quite normal among independent investigators of the life of Jesus. The distinctions between the sayings about the "Son of Man" and the historical judgments about them, so contrary to what is inferred from a mere reading of the Gospels, are therefore a product of criticism. Now if, according to these analyses, the subject of the "second coming" is not Jesus, nor did he think so, but was probably a character different from him . . . then to whom did it refer?

We do not really know this precisely because here the tradition of thinking about the Jesus of history is indissolubly interwoven in the Gospels with the interpretation of his mission carried out by his disciples after the events of Easter, beginning with firm belief in his resurrection by the work of God. The answers would have to be sought a priori in Jewish texts of the time, which are supposed to show relatively similar conceptions.

But here the opinions differ, because the Jewish books––more or less contemporaries of the Gospels––harboring similar beliefs, the Apocalypse of Baruch, Book IV of Ezra, the Book of the Parables of Enoch, and a couple of centuries before, The Book of Daniel, do not have a unanimous position.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 6)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, and Part 5 here.

AP: So how do we account for the way the "Son of Man" sayings were ascribed to Jesus? Well, one hypothetical solution could go as follows:

1. It was probably based on a clear and verifiably historical premise: Jesus used this enigmatic phrase in reference to himself, to allude to himself in a modest sort of way (i.e., "this man who is here and speaking to you"). We said that this is something of which there is no doubt because it of multiple attestation in the Gospels and because it was an Aramaic expression used during Jesus' day, although not really that often. One example is found in Mark 2:28: "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

2. Jesus, influenced by and according to the tradition of Daniel, also spoke of a semihuman figure, a "son of man" who would come in the name of God as judge of the living and the dead in the last days, referring most probably to what we have called the second and definitive part of the kingdom of God. For example, Mark 8:38: "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

3. When the sayings of Jesus were translated from Aramaic to Greek as part of the missionary work that was being done, an error of translation was committed that had serious consequences. Instead of "son of man" (without the article) in Daniel, it was translated into Greek "the son of the man," with two articles. This led one to think that the phrase––not as easily understood by a regular Greek––meant not merely "a human being," though certainly close to God, but a man with special, messianic divine characteristics.

4. The erroneous translation into Greek thus led to expressly relating the expression "the son of man" to the mysterious figure of "a son of man" in Daniel (7:13). This apocalyptic character, who descends to earth from heaven and who "receives the dominion, the glory, and a kingdom," that is, implants the kingdom of God, has in common with the Jesus of history the fact that the central nucleus of his preaching was precisely the coming of the kingdom of God from which he was considered a herald.

5. After the firm belief in Jesus' resurrection had spread among the followers of Jesus, the early Christian teachers affirmed that Jesus, as a special messiah and "Son of Man" (he himself had used the expression!), would come upon the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7:13) . . . naturally to judge all nations, which we see if we continue reading that passage in Daniel. The resurrection of Jesus by God implied a vindication of him over his enemies. The Christians affirmed that with that vindication it was united that God declared him "Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:36). "Lord," for to be beside him in heaven he must have a delegated power similar to that of the divinity for some things. "Messiah," because God does not leave things half-done. Since Jesus could not complete his messianic work during his mortal life, he will have to complete it now, after his death.

It should be emphasized that it was not at all difficult, in this testament of the reinterpretation of life and the figure of Jesus, for the early Christians to associate the messianic function of Jesus after his death and resurrection with the messianic function of that mysterious figure of Daniel. Christians thought that all the ancient Scriptures pointed to Jesus ("promise" = Scripture / "fulfillment" = Jesus). It didn't take long for followers of Jesus to view Jesus as is in heaven and waiting for God's command to return to earth with his new mission, namely that of the Son of Man.

That figure is at least semi-divine, but one in human form. He took on this form because he will operate on earth as the lieutenant of a transcendent divinity that does not operate in the universe more than indirectly. This one will be visible to men, they will feel the effects of their actions and of their decisions and therefore has a similar figure to them. But in the first-century Jewish religious conception, as we know from the Qumran texts, especially from 11QMelchizedek, this mysterious person is not simply a common man on earth, but preexists as God and awaits the moment decided by God.

That this theological step was really taken––that is, applying to Jesus a passage from Scripture––has been captured in two passages of the Acts of the Apostles. The first: Stephen the deacon, at the time when the Jews were stoning him precisely because he was formulating a new and dangerous theology that exalted Jesus too much, exclaimed: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man that is at the right hand of God." This phrase already implied a union of the figure of Jesus with that of the Son of Man found in Daniel. The second: Peter put forth the same idea but spontaneously complemented it with the role of future judge, as found in a discourse in Caesarea before pagans: "God has commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he, God, has made him a judge of the living and the dead."

6. With this belief, the Christian prophets, speaking in the name of Jesus, who were convinced that the end of the world was very close, and that Jesus Christ was to come immediately to install the kingdom of God, which implied the end of the present world, they spoke in the name of the Master, announcing that they had to believe in him if they wanted to escape punishment at the end of days. For example, something like: "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God's power and coming in the clouds of heaven." One observation is pertinent here. It points to the active participation of the Christian prophets: in these sayings Jesus never speaks, or almost never, in the first person. What is said about the "Son of Man" always seems to be said by others about him.

7. Finally, the oracles of these prophets pronounced in the name of Jesus then passed on to the tradition that picked up the words of this one without even a hint that they weren't original, as if Jesus had really said them during his earthly life. In other words, they didn't transcribe this information in the following way: "A Christian prophet said that Jesus said . . ." They just simply said, "Jesus said . . ."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 5)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

AP: Once this foundation is established, the reasoning goes on as follows: It seems clear that all early Christian theology, based on the firm belief that the Master had been resurrected by God, reinterpreted the figure of the earthly Jesus, idealizing him, modifying him and ultimately deifying him. This process is technically called a belief in an "exaltation" of Jesus. He is believed to have been elevated to the category of divine because he has been God himself, beginning with the fact of his resurrection, which has exalted him to that category.

Most of the texts transmitted on the Son of Man and Jesus in the Gospels are tinged with faith in that divine character of Jesus: They convey not only the historical words of the Nazarene, but also the testimony of a post-Paschal faith in his resurrection and exaltation. In reality, all the problems to correctly understand the sayings about the "Son of Man" in the history of theological tradition of primitive Christianity come from the fact that in the Synoptics themselves we find sentences about the Son of Man without finding even one direct and explicit interpretation of the phrase.

Nor was the Scripture of the Old Testament a clear guide to its interpretation. Daniel 7:13 is a very obscure text. About ninety times the Hebrew expression בן-אדם ("Son of Man") appears in Ezekiel, with diverse meanings, the majority of which are untranscendent, although never in the Gospels is it alluded to or reflected upon. The same Synoptic tradition does not always link the expression with the special characteristics of an unusual character, or with continuous traits of power. One speaks of both poverty and the power of this character; there is no continuous and natural connection between "Son of Man" and messiahs in the sense that ordinary people who heard Jesus understood the last term, but rather a somewhat confused whole.

That faith in the risen Jesus consists in thinking that Jesus, already exalted to God, is of some celestial being, sitting or standing at the right hand of God. In this case, in particular, it consisted of identifying him with the "Son of Man" as he was presented in the Daniel and as many Jews of the time understood this character. Let's see how:
1. After Jesus' followers had developed their belief in the resurrection, and since Jesus himself had used the phrase "Son of Man" to refer simply to himself but without further explanation, his followers were able to use the text of Dan. 7:13 ("And I saw the coming of one like the Son of Man upon the clouds of heaven . . . and to him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom") as proof of the Scripture.
2. The necessary apologetic tendency to justify the Passion of the Master, ignominious to the eyes of many Jews, led to merging Dan. 7:13 with Zech. 12:10 ("They will look on me whom they have pierced and they will mourn . . ."), where the complex notion arises that the" Son of Man" is pierced (i.e., crucified), exalted to heaven after his death, until later returning to earth, where the wicked, when they see him, shall mourn.
3. Later were added other similar ideas to the the Dan. 7:13 and Zech. 12:10 passages: E.g., Mark 13:26 and 14:62: "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" and "You shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven."
This process of theological creation of the Christian community after the death of Jesus imagines, therefore, the Master as the heavenly Messiah sitting, or standing, at the right hand of the Father, as "Son of Man" in the style of Daniel 7, as a human being with divine characteristics or actual divine something in some way, ready to judge Israel and the nations, from a theological reflection whose fundamental basis was the prophecy of Dan. 7:13.

Therefore, the phrase "Son of Man" seems to be a self-designation chosen by Jesus for himself in a harmless sense, although a designation that is not too common in the spoken and written Aramaic of the time. As a messianic appeal, it seems to be a construction of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels.

In conclusion: It seems sensible to think that the remodeling of the concept of Messiah by means of the inclusion of the new image of a "Son of Man", or rather the recreation of a new concept of messianism, since Judaism lacked the idea of a suffering messiah, to die and be raised and to return from heaven immediately as judge of the living and the dead, was not carried out by Jesus, but by theologians of the primitive community. The culmination of this process is reflected in the theology of the Synoptic Gospels. Theology around the mysterious figure of the "Son of Man" does not belong to the "gospel" of Jesus, nor does it belong to his messianic self-consciousness.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 4)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

AP: In this post we want to ask ourselves whether it is obvious that Jesus referred to himself when he spoke of a universal and future judge who would die and rise again.

It seems to me that it is by no means obvious. If such sayings are carefully analyzed, doubts arise. Let's take as an example the sentence in Luke 12:8: "And I say to you, everyone who confesses me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God." The sentence is understood perfectly, and even better, separating a human Jesus, who preaches the kingdom of God on earth, from the heavenly figure of a Son of Man who in the moments of the final judgment acts as a lawyer for the human being ("is declared by him") to have heeded the message of Jesus as God's agent on earth.

Another example is the well-known scene of the Jewish trial of Jesus shortly before being handed over to Pilate to be put to death. The text reads as follows:
"The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, 'Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?' But he kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning him, and saying to him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' And Jesus said, 'I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.' Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?' And they all condemned him to be deserving of death." (Mark 14:60–64).
In the first place, this passage cannot be historical down to every detail because of the great implausibility of a Jewish trial with the result of capital punishment during the night and on a date about to begin the Passover. It follows that there is, in any case, a mixture of possible historical data and much of Christian reinterpretation.

The non-confessional exegesis of the passage is usually the following: It is possible that at some point during the process of arrest, passion, and death of Jesus that could last longer than the Gospels say, the high priest asked Jesus if he was considered the Messiah. Jesus was able to respond in the affirmative, and was able to put forth as proof of truth the argument that his testimony would be vindicated when at the end of the process of establishing the kingdom of God, which he considered absolutely close, the celestial figure of the "Son of Man" with great power would be a judge of the wicked who condemned him.

It does not follow strictly from his expression that Jesus said that the Son of Man was himself. It is widely believed today by the investigators that "Son of Man" was not a usual Jewish designation for a salvific character or figure (messiah) related to the kingdom of God. This conclusion has been strengthened thanks to repeated studies of the few sources that the Jewish antiquity has handed down to us regarding the expression and the characteristics of the possible figure of the "Son of Man." If Jesus had taken the expression "Son of Man" from the religious environment of his day, that is, as usual and well-known, and applied it to himself, it would be incomprehensible to be silent about the rest of the ancient contemporary sources of the Nazarene.

The accusation for blasphemy, on the assumption that Jesus himself was the Messiah and Son of Man, is unprecedented and unlikely in Judaism, who never considered blasphemy or a matter of the death penalty for anyone who considered himself the Messiah. This condemnation is only an interpretation of the Christians in publishing the Gospel to make the main fault of the death of Jesus fall on the Jews.

To this non-confessional exegesis is usually added an observation that affects all the sayings discussed: Curiously, in the history of the transmission of the tradition of the words of Jesus, the sentences of categories 2 and 3 are mixed. That is, the prophecies of passion never speak of the parousia; and, on the contrary, the announcements of the parousia never mention that the Son of Man must die and be resurrected. This means that at first the two categories of sayings were independent. The Christian tradition, which ascribes the two categories simultaneously to Jesus, is thus suspect.

Therefore, one can reasonably doubt that Jesus referred to himself when he spoke of a universal and future judge who would both die and rise again.

Finally, it is argued in concrete with respect to the sayings of category 3 ("future, universal judge of divine status") that we do not keep in the whole tradition about Jesus a reasonably authentic saying in which he considered himself divine in some way.

Of the approximately 1,315 times that the word "God" appears in the New Testament, there are only seven texts that clearly or most likely affirm that Jesus is God. They are the following: John 1:1; 1:18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:18; and 2 Pet. 1:1. Now in them there is none in which Jesus speaks of himself and his nature and expressly says that he is God. None of these statements comes from the lips of the historical Jesus. Others make that statement. We can therefore affirm: In the opinion of the critic it is more than doubtful that Jesus considered himself as truly God, since we do not keep any authentic word of his that affirms it. Few independent exegetes, or none, in the Protestant camp know that they defend that the Nazarene believed himself to be God in the right sense. Even some Catholic interpreters join this position.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 3)

Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 here.

AP: In this post we want to consider the following question: "Did the historical Jesus consider himself the "Son of Man" living at the end of time?"

Despite the clarity of what we find in the passages transcribed in the previous post, critical research of the New Testament has wondered, and rightly so, whether the historical Jesus actually regarded himself as the "Son of Man" living at the end of time. When we consider the question with a critical eye, in my opinion, a considerable amount of doubt arises that Jesus considered himself in this way.

Historians of early Christianity do not doubt for even a moment that the Jesus of history thought he was living in the end times. We can see that in the passages that were quoted in the previous post. The backdrop was already painted so to speak in Judaism at least for one kind of tradition in Judaism. They were living in the birth-pang era of the Messiah. Basically, what we've said thus far about things can be ascribed one-hundred percent to the Jesus of history.

However, all this is not the same as saying that Jesus thought that he was exactly that "Son of man" who would come as judge to judge all the nations and inhabitants of the world. On the contrary, they think that although the Jesus of history believed himself the herald or herald of the coming of the Kingdom of God, and even at the end of his life the Messiah of Israel,  he was alluding to someone else when he alluded to that figure who was to intervene in the final judgment––namely the "Son of Man"––which referred to a special assistant of God for those last moments of the universe. Again, that person, according to Jesus, was not himself.

Why? Basically there is only one reason. It is not safe to ascribe to the Jesus of history any of the judgments of the Gospels that point to him as the Son of Man, who is presented as speaking of his resurrection and of his coming as the final judge.

These scholars maintain that it is not certain that the historical Jesus would say of himself that he was the character drawn by the author of the book of Daniel (7:13), or later by Book IV of Ezra (13:1ff.), namely the "eschatological judge." In other words, once the scalpel of criticism has been used, it is not clear in what sense Jesus could use the expression "Son of Man", specifically if he did so as a messianic title to predict the passion and resurrection of the same Messiah(!) or in another, simpler sense.

And if this is so, a question would arise: How does early Christianity come to interpret Jesus as the Son of the future Man, a universal judge, who implies a divine status in some way?

It is not easy to give an absolutely satisfactory answer. In order to do this, a number of critical observations must be made about the Gospels and some hypothesis should be formulated: I will re-think the steps, abbreviate them or amplify them as necessary, given in the section on Jesus' possible self-understanding as the "Son of Man" in the New Testament.

Hypothesis about how the theology about the "Son of Man" was formed within Christianity:
1. That Jesus used this enigmatic phrase to modestly allude to himself is something that is certain, since it appears attested multiple times in the Gospels and was an expression of the Aramaic language of his time, although not all that frequent.
2. An even brief analysis of the sentences in which this expression appears leads to the conclusion that three categories or classes of use of it must be distinguished: 
Category 1: Those that refer to the performance of Jesus on the earth in its present moment, which are interchangeable by an "I" or by "this man who is here." Thus Mark 2:28; 3:28; 10:45a; 14:21b.
Category 2: Those that speak of the passion of the "Son of Man" followed by his resurrection. Thus, Mark 9:31ff.; 10:33ff.
Category 3: Those that refer to the parousia or coming of the Son of Man as judge of the living and the dead. Thus, Mark 8:38.
3. The sayings of the first group do not affirm anything special about Jesus as a divine person (not even the fact that he is "Lord of the Sabbath," 2:28, a phrase to be interpreted in the light of the one on the side: "The Sabbath is for man and not man for the Sabbath"). In these texts the expression "son of man" is only a circumlocution to designate himself with some modesty, without expressly saying "I". These sayings are considered by the critic as authentic.
Those in category 2 are technically considered "prophecies ex eventu", that is, "prophecies" once the events happened, namely the death of Jesus. Therefore, they are necessarily later than this and could not be pronounced by him. Many Catholic critics accept this argument, although a rationalistic criticism beats within it: It is not permissible for Jesus, as a man, to be able to predict the future.
Those in category 3 are certainly interpreted as a reference of Jesus to a character in some heavenly way who acts as an intermediary or helper of God in the transcendental moments of the Great Judgment. Now, as in the whole Synoptic tradition, there is no word of the same Jesus in which he affirms that he would return in the near future except the very sayings which are being investigated .The critic thinks that this leads to prudence until these items should be carefully considered. It is possible that the authors of the Gospels have applied these words to Jesus as if he had used them in reference to himself, although it is quite possible that this was not so.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: We continue with the main texts of the New Testament in which relates the coming of the Son of Man with Jesus, as promised in the previous post.

Mark describes the scene of the coming of the Son of Man in the following way:
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send forth the angels and will gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven." (Mark 13:24–27).
The same is basically communicated by the authors of the other two Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Luke). John does not include this material. Matthew adds that before the appearance of the Son of Man as such, his banner will appear in heaven: "Then the standard of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the tribes of the earth will mourn" (Matt. 24:30).

Luke is more colorful in his description:
"There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:25–27).
Matthew states that the coming of the Son of Man will be absolutely sudden and also describes the scene in these words:
“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." (Matt. 24:27–31).
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. (Matt. 25:31)
Revelation makes a fleeting mention of a "Son of Man." It occurs only twice, once at the beginning of the discourse (1:13) and once in chapter 14, in a clear context of final judgment, although this will be described later:
"Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a Son of Man, having a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, 'Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.' Then he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped." (Rev 14:14–16).
That this Son of Man is Jesus is made clear by the context of the book:
"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across his chest with a golden sash. His head and his hair were white like white wool, like snow; and his eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and his face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. And he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." (Rev. 1:12–18).