Wednesday, February 22, 2012

GOSPELS AS EYEWITNESS ? February 22, 2012..note to Edward Fudge

Only a scholar well-versed in form criticism can accurately sort out these layers and levels now scattered throughout our canonical Gospels, say the form critics. That also means that only teachers who are trained in the deconstruction and analyses of this guild can really understand what is being said.(From Edward's article below.)

Edward. I do not think that the above is true at all as consequence of  Form Criticism and  other literary type critique, such as the Jesus Seminar, of the nature of the Bible. It simply means that a person should carry in their mind that the specific words of  the gospels are not essentially a dictation of God but are there as a result of all the ways that creative and spirit led people contributed to it, especially in the first several centuries . The gospels are here as they are. They have had the influence with  Western culture that they have had and I believe 'good' is the right word  to give to that influence overall. Much, but not all,  of that influence has been in the minds of people who took them as historic eye witness accounts. This is simply the fact of where we are. 

But now we know more and we know that we will never know exactly which words were first written down and how much of those very first words were of  literal historic events or spiritual interpretation. And today the sincere and honest Bible teacher simply pledges to keep all this in mind so as to not make false claims. To the extent that the images and symbols of the gospels still are able to stir the human spirit to touch heart and soul, then these documents still are a living spiritual influence. (And most anyone who watched the Whitney Houston funeral can testify that these gospels do still have powerful healing and inspiring effects on  our cultural mindset. Many tears and smiles  coming from  a wide range of emotions were experienced from the use of gospel words. And I'm confident that happens in many times and places every day in America. Christians  can take great delight and thankfulness in that reality.)They still have that effect on me and I think many others. I will  gladly and with open mind watch the video.  I'm sure he is a scholar and a gentleman. But to think that more than a century of  sincere of Biblical literary critique of the gospels is going to be swept  away and not have its genuine, deserved  and honest effect on how  the future person will read the Bible is not truthful or respectful of God and man made in God's image. There are those who feel that such a view of the Bible  is forsaking God and leaves one without any spiritual foundation or connection to the Spirit of Christ.  That is only the case if the spiritual longing of  the human is a matter of the head and of outside material content or as I believe is a living part of the inner reality of the  soul that contains the living images of God.  

All the Bibles in the world could be destroyed and the image of  the Christ would still be alive, even if in different detail than we are accustomed to. For the Christ symbol is an eternal part of the Collective Unconscious and the archetypes that reflect its  truths to human consciousness.(I realize this last statement is my use of Jungian concepts to offer a lens to help explain the facts of  the religious nature of Humankind. I do not apologize for that. Such a model can be a great service in helping postmodern humans to get a handle on our new situation, including how to deal with our new knowledge about the Bible and so many other mysteries.) It was never a matter of  concrete history that made Him a living and healing and justice-keeping reality in large parts of the collective human family. To think of the Bible otherwise is to cling to  a  one-sided  pre  post-modern materialistic view of  God, Human and the world.  And that is where much of our religious and secular culture is now.

But we are in a great transition and there is much longing for life with spiritual foundations to be reestablished.  This gives me hope. But our clinging attempt to base our spiritual life on supposedly exact  historical contents of  materially written text precipitates the   NEED that some have for an 'eyewitness account' of what Jesus did and said.  I think that fear is unfounded and if persisted in can become unfaithful to the heart's genuine yearning and call. That is why I may be bored as I watch this video but I will hope for something more. Such wished for efforts to coerce  from uncertain history the  ongoing desire and search for  a deeper  truth is  not consistent with spiritual longing or  with the highest intellectual and spiritual aspirations of the human being. None of this is saying that such desires and claims are insincere  or do not make their own kind of contribution but trying to hold back the overall change in our cultural view of the nature of the gospels  is to attempt to live as if  His Truth Is not Marching On at all.  Cordially, Jim 

You will not likely be bored.

I am constantly aware (and remind my church classes from time to time) that most of the faithful through the ages could not even read and write; that the essence of redemptive faith is a spirit of creaturely dependence; the core of worship is gratitude; and the sum of piety and religion is loving one’s neighbor. That does not mean nothing else is important, but it helps put  things in perspective.


And I appreciate that perspective Edward.   Though I would add that with present knowledge  we are moving into a time where 'the essence of redemptive faith  can be a spirit of Human-Divine interdependence."  With Best Wishes, Jim
On Tue, 21 Feb 2012 23:59:00 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

For the past century, much of scholarly opinion has held that the Gospels as we have them were not written by the men whose names they bear, or at a time anywhere near the events or sayings that they supposedly report. It is true, according to an analytical method known as “form criticism,” that some of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are just as Jesus said them. But, form critics say, other Gospel sayings are included as they were said by the people, largely unknown and much later, who wrote the final Gospels. (Remember the childhood game “Telephone” or “Gossip”?). Still other sayings of Jesus supposedly originated with God--Knows-Who, during a period of God-Knows-How-Long, the time that passed between Jesus and the actual Gospel writers.
Only a scholar well-versed in form criticism can accurately sort out these layers and levels now scattered throughout our canonical Gospels, say the form critics. That also means that only teachers who are trained in the deconstruction and analyses of this guild can really understand what is being said. Since form criticism decreased confidence in the credibility of the Gospels, can we acknowledge that it bore any useful fruit. Yes, I believe we can. It is good to try to understand the time, place and recipients of the Gospels. We are benefitted to learn that the Gospels contain not only sayings of Jesus but sometimes also some later “commentary” on those sayings (John 2:21-22; 12:15-16). And it is edifying to understand that varying circumstances and particular needs of the Gospels’ original recipients might account for some differences in wordings of what appear to be direct quotes from Jesus.
Today, form criticism is becoming passé, and the Gospels are finding a renewed appreciation and trust among more and more sophisticated New Testament scholars. Helping to lead the way to this new respect is one of the world's foremost New Testament scholars. He is Dr. Richard Bauckham, now at Cambridge University, formerly longtime professor of New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and a fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The publication in 2006 of his groundbreaking, 551-page book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, was met with critical acclaim. Since then, it has fueled the ongoing demise, not only of form criticism itself, but also of the negative presuppositions with which scholars often were presumed to be obligated to approach the text of the Gospels. Professor Martin Hengel, himself a pioneer in the form criticism movement, lauds Professor Bauckham’s “convincing historical method and broad learning” that “help to overcome widespread modern Jesus fantasies.”
I add four notes in closing. First, in my opinion, any serious and experienced reader of English can understand and appreciate this book, some perhaps deciding to skip the technical footnotes. Second, for a sample of spoken discourse from this gentle but brilliant scholar, see this ten-minute video on eyewitnesses and the Gospels. Third, I just received word that Professor Bauckham will be the honored guest speaker at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society this coming November in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Fourth, I am pleased and grateful to mention that Professor Bauckham contributed a most commendatory foreword to the third edition of The Fire That Consumes.

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