Friday, September 23, 2011

THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL WRITINGS...Note To Edward Fudge..april 15, 2011(edited sept. 23, 2011)

Introduction: In this essay I attempt to offer another  specific explanation of how we can get closer to the origins of the Gospel writings and  avoid  the traditional lack of appreciation for the actual challenge and  humanness of these writers. The four Biblical gospels, and also some of those that were discarded but have recently been rediscovered, are amazing and influential creative writings  that helped form likely the single most powerful influence on Western Society, orthodox Christianity.(The blue text below is a quote from Edward's essay that is in total at the end of this essay.)

The Bible story most likely on the author's mind as he reinterpreted the story for his gospel, that day in the meadow(the  setting given by the author in the gospel narrative), was the one in which Elisha feeds 100 men with 20 barley loaves and ears of grain, with "some" food left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). ......Then the writer shows Jesus using his one-fourth as much bread to satisfy fifty times more men than Elisha does (don't even count the moms and toddlers). Then, as if that were not enough, the author depicts Jesus' disciples recover a dozen bread baskets full of edible leftovers.

A Gospel Author With His Resources...9th Century CE
Hi Edward. With the editing liberties I add the above paragraph I think  becomes a  reasonable explanation of the creative  literary nature of the gospels. I would like to expand on that notion here. The gospels are replete with examples showing how the author takes the central OT hero stories and weaves them to say,' and  Jesus was this and far more'. The Jewish gospel author in the Midrash* tradition is completely within bounds to write a heart felt, thoroughly Jewish  description  and  explanation of the impact that the carpenter of Nazareth had had on him or his   immediate heirs some 50-90 years before. (The Midrash was an accepted practice of the Hebrews producing  creative commentary and interpretations of the O.T. stories suited to the *Midrash author's and the Hebrew people's present day situations and needs. This is the very style and function of the literary form the writers of the gospels used.)   That time with Jesus was followed by his  horrific, humiliating and hope-dashing murder. Jesus had become more and more to be religiously  seen as one who could only be described(looking back to when he was with them as a full bodied human being) as the very Presence of God. 
Gospel Authors Reinterpreted  The OT Similarly as Ancient Midrash Writers.

You say the disciples missed the point. The author is surely showing them as missing the point. It was not the original disciples who  this was being written for.(For The Gospel of John some seventy years had passed since Jesus was killed,) They surely could  not  have recognized as they were with Jesus just what they would eventually  think of him after his death;  after the loss and shock and hopelessness they would go through, not just for three days but for some years and decades. Just like our mourning for a dearly loved one is never completed.  It was in the first generation  of broken hearts  that the creative psyche began to, in ways we can have some understanding of now,  consider that  Jesus was still among them.  Among them in ways that were absolutely real and life changing.  Among them in ways that gave them the inner experience of  'hope full of glory.' At first and for no doubt some years they were convinced that he would return in human form any moment, any day.  Then it would be in Palestine what it was when he was alive and  their original hopes would be realized. Besides, they could stand anything if He were only with them as they re-imagined him being  before. As that did not happen day after day, year after year, their devotion, need and 'God with us' impression did not become less but more real.  This is how a religious perspective is born in the real human world. They began to desire and hope to be 'like him' and many saw their and others' lives changed  for the better by that deep sincere longing and aspiration.

Then third and fourth generation creative minds of  'the Christ  way' communities  began to write their own Jewish stories such as the one you refer to, most showing how Jesus was like and far  more than their Hebrew heroes.(Christians are often oblivious of how this is seen as an egotistic put-down to Jews who still honor these heroes and do not see Jesus as supplanting them like developing Christianity did and does.) They were naturally able to cast Jesus into being the long awaited  mysterious  Messiah and the 'suffering servant' as well as one like but  more than Moses ( eg they both providentially escaped death as infants  in Egypt) Elijah and Elisha.  Jesus is thus described as the  'real' present day  'manna'  of God, the  'bread of life.'   Another event in the OT  story of Elijah is his experience in the wilderness. This story is seen in the gospel account of Jesus' also being 'Tested in the Wilderness.' Also there is a strong connection between the names Elijah and Jesus, causing some to think of Elijah being a previous incarnation of Jesus. All these kinds of associations and reinterpretations of  the OT Hero stories  are  part of the style that the gospel authors used which had been modeled for centuries by a similar  free use of OT scripture in the Midrash  tradition.

' Elijah In Wilderness' Is Also Used For Jesus In Gospels.

The gospel authors write like this, using their copy of the Greek Old Testament and  probably copies of already circulating gospels,  to explain the phenomenal historical presence and memory of Jesus; and what the ripples of his real life and death had created in the heart and soul of some groups of  Hebrew people. This effect was at a time when  their religious, social and economic lives were threatened with complete extinction. Life in every regard was in shambles.  They wrote to explain and they wrote to evangelize, to give others who had not been a part of the 50-90 year ripple but who also were ripe for a new perspective, for new  images and visions of God, Human and the world. A great social/religious ferment was in progress.  The gospel writers became far more successful in their very  inspired  desire and effort than they likely ever dreamed of. I think of them writing about what must have, at the point of writing, been to them like a dream they or their immediate forebears had been through. It might be compared to some elements of a prolonged social  'post traumatic syndrome.'   It is so hard, even impossible,  for us  to begin to comprehend the psychological  and physical suffering that are the background of  the Christ story(including its gospel writers) and its development first into numerous religious communities and eventually into a World religious/social/political power. Because their lives had been devastated  by the brutal crushing of their Jewish heritage and religion and also, for the Hebrew Christians', by the murder of the godly person whose life, words and  fresh interpretations of Hebrew scripture had brought much hope. His life, love and passion for the outcast and marginalized  had begun to give them hope of a far better life and for a vindication from God that all their Hebrew history had assured them of.  The common 'cross' of crucifixion became  no longer a symbol of sin and humiliation but one of conquering glory and transcendence. In some ways that transformation is similar to how the American black community, long before most white people were aware of it, changed the word 'nigger' from a brutal word of humiliating bigotry and hate to one of affection, acceptance and appreciation. An image that no one should take as a right to use, except those who have experienced it. Both of these symbols are examples of spiritual transcendence.

I do not think this kind of explanation of the nature of the gospels and of the spiritual/historical/psychological/social/religious event that happened around the life of a peasant  Jewish carpenter diminish their meaning,  or the astonishing story they tell. This became the launch pad for  Western Civilization's religion, culture and law. As this civilization now faces a whole new set of problems and needs(unimagined until recent centuries), it is time that we use our new place in history and our newer  kinds of knowledge to give our people a more full and true, but not less important, explanation and interpretation of   the impact  that life has had on us all. We greatly need also to acknowledge  that no ripple effect,  however amazing, alive, astonishing and unpredictable, can last forever. It is time for us to wonder how anything similar could begin to happen again to effect another millennia or more. It no doubt would be a very different and unexpected experience and story. Maybe such a story, or stories, are happening right now. Stories that will some day seem like a societal dream  we went through and  ones that demand as good of an explanation, and true to the best of present knowledge,  that  our most creative and  brightest can deliver. Best Always, Jim
*Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural midrashim, lit. "to investigate" or "study") is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible.
Midrash is a way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings. It fills in many gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at.[1]

On Sun, 17 Apr 2011 03:59:00 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

Click here for 100 popular topical links to 1100 past gracEmails.

A gracEmail subscriber writes that her daughter is reading about Jesus feeding the multitude, and she wonders why he wanted to save the leftovers.
* * *
According to John's Gospel, Jesus ordered the disciples to collect the uneaten fragments (not crumbs or scraps) of flat-bread and fish to prevent wasting good food (John 6:12). Matthew's Gospel also suggests that Jesus hoped to impress the disciples with God's power, which they had just observed in action (Matt. 16:8-9). As they moved from person to person through the crowd, the disciples might have recalled other stories of God's special provisions of food. For example, there was the manna in the wilderness (Ex. 16). Perhaps they thought of Elijah's multiplication of a widow's oil and meal (1 Kings 17:7-16), and a similar miracle by Elisha (2 Kings 4:1-7).
But the Bible story most likely on their minds that day in the meadow, was the one in which Elisha feeds 100 men with 20 barley loaves and ears of grain, with "some" food left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). Just imagine what the Food Channel could do with these two scenarios! The episode opens, and the host gives Elisha four times more bread than Jesus gets. But before the program ends, Jesus uses his one-fourth as much bread to satisfy fifty times more men than Elisha does (don't even count the moms and toddlers). Then, as if that were not enough, Jesus' disciples recover a dozen bread baskets full of edible leftovers. Unfortunately, after all this, the disciples still miss the lesson of the day (Mk. 6:51-52).
John alone follows this narrative with Jesus' discourse about himself as the "bread of life" -- the manna truly sent down from heaven. For John, Jesus' feeding the 5,000 is not only a miracle (a work of "power") and a wonder (an act that produces "awe"). It is also a sign (a deed with significance because it points to a deeper truth or reality). This gustatory gala on the grass "sign-ifies" who Jesus really is and what he is about. He is the incarnate Son of God who gives and sustains life, life "eternal" in longevity and in quality. Whoever, by faith, regularly feeds on Jesus has something far better than a take-home bag for another meal. Indeed, that person will never hunger or thirst again (John 6:34-35).

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