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  1. PHILOSOPHY 206 (STOLZE) Introductory Notes on the New Testament

  2. A Key Distinction • Bible Studies = devotional or ritual use of the Bible from the standpoint of committed faith • Biblical Studies = study of the socio-historical background to, and the oral/literary formation of, the Bible from the standpoint of critical rational inquiry

  3. The Long Trajectory of the New Testament The Jesus Movement(s)  Oral Traditions in Aramaic  Oral Performances in Greek and Other Ancient Languages  Written Texts in Greek and Other Ancient Languages  Complete Gospels, Letters, etc.  Formation of the New Testament  History of Translations into Latin and Modern Languages  Contemporary Reception

  4. Books of the New Testament 27 Books: Four Narratives of the Live of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) One Narrative of the Earliest Christian Communities (The Book of Acts) Seven Letters likely written by Paul of Tarsus to specific communities or individuals (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon,1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans) Seven Letters likely written by followers of Paul (2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians,1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews) Two Letters attributed to Peter (1 and 2 Peter) Two Wisdom Letters: James and Jude Three Letters attributed to John (1, 2, and 3 John) One Apocalyptic Work: The Book of Revelation

  5. A Brief Chronology of Christian Origins (1) 1-30 CE: John the Baptizer, the precursor and mentor of Jesus (died c. 27) Jesus of Nazareth, a popular prophet and worker of “acts of power” (died c. 30) 30-60 CE: Paul of Tarsus, chief founder of Christianity among non-Jews (letters written c. 50-60) Sayings/Discourse Gospel “Q” (first edition c. 50) Gospel of Thomas (first edition c. 50) 60-80 CE: Signs Gospel (eventually incorporated into John) Gospel of Mark, the first narrative Gospel (first edition c. 70) 80-100 CE: Gospel of Matthew, incorporating Mark and Q (c. 80) Gospel of Luke, incorporating Mark and Q (c. 90) Gospel of John, incorporating the Signs Gospel (c. 95)

  6. A Brief Chronology of Christian Origins (2) 100-150 CE: Oldest fragment of Gospels is papyrus, P52 (c. 125) Gospel of Thomas, second, surviving edition (c. 120 -- later found in 1945 in Egypt at Nag Hammadi as one of fifty-two literary works (many previously unknown) included in thirteen ancient books written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language— one of the so-called Gnostic (= “secret knowledge or wisdom”) Gospels 150-325 CE: Emergence of four “recognized” Gospels Emergence of an official collection of Christian writings ("New Testament") Under Emperor Constantine Christianity becomes a legal religion (313) Council of Nicea (325) First official creeds First surviving copies of complete “Bibles” (c. 325-350)

  7. Six Anachronistic Assumptions about the Gospels • Lack of attention to whole story/narrative. • Separation of religion and politics. • Religion is reduced to individual faith/belief. • God is associated with religion but not politics and economics. • Christianity is supposedly more universal than Judaism. • Reality is reduced to what is natural and comprehensible by reason.

  8. Three Key Features of the Gospels • They are full of political conflict. • Jesus is depicted as carrying out a renewal of Israel. • They are about a struggle between opposing powers.

  9. An Important Distinction At the start we must distinguish between historical questions (Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What did he teach? Why was he killed by the Romans?) and faith questions (Was Jesus the Son of God? Was Jesus the Messiah/Christ? Did Jesus rise from the dead and appear to his followers?)

  10. Relatively Reliable Historical Facts about Jesus/Yeshua (Joshua) of Nazareth (1) • born ~4 BCE near time of death of Herod the Great • spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village • was baptized by John the Baptist • was a charismatic Galilean who preached, healed, and exorcised • called disciples, presumably twelve key figures among them • taught in the towns, villages, and countryside of Galilee (apparently not in the cities) • taught in parables about the “Kingdom/Empire of God/Heaven” • around 30 CE he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover • became engaged in a controversy about the Temple and created a disturbance in the Temple area • had a final meal with his disciples

  11. Relatively Reliable Historical Facts about Jesus/Yeshua (Joshua) of Nazareth (2) • was arrested and interrogated by Judean authorities, specifically, the High Priest • was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate (26-36 CE), by being crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities • at first his disciples fled • then they saw him, in some sense, after his death • as a result, they believed he would return to found the new Kingdom/Empire • they formed a community to await his return and sought to win others to faith in • him as God’s Messiah (“Christos” in Greek) • at least some Jews persecuted at least parts of this new movement

  12. The “Four-Source Theory”of the Composition of the Synoptic Gospels

  13. The Imperial Gospel of Caesar Augustus “The most divine [Lord]…we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things. For when everything was falling into disorder, he restored order once more and gave to the whole world a new aura. Caesar, the common Good Fortune of all, …[t]he beginning of life and vitality…[A]ll the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year….Whereas the Providence which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us the emperor Augustus, whom Providence filled with virtue [power] for the welfare of humankind and who, being sent to us and our descendants as our Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and whereas, having become god-manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times…in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…; and whereas the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel concerning him, [therefore let a new era begin from his birth].” (From Orientis graeci inscriptiones selectae, vol. 2, ed. W. Dittenberger [Leibzig, 1903-5), no. 458. Translated and quoted in Richard Horsley, “The Gospel of the Savior’s Birth,” in Christmas Unwrapped: Consumerism, Christ, and Culture, edited by Richard Horsley and James Tracy [Harrisburg, PA, 2001], p. 116.)

  14. An Example of Judean Resistance to Roman Imperial Rule “As procurator of Judaea Tiberius sent Pilate, who during the night, secretly and under cover, conveyed to Jerusalem the images of Caesar known as standards. When day dawned this caused great excitement among the Jews; for those who were near were amazed at the sight, which meant that their laws had been trampled on—they do not permit any graven image to be set up in the City—and the angry City mob was joined by a huge influx of people from the country. They rushed off to Pilate in Caesarea, and begged him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to respect their ancient customs. When Pilate refused, they fell prone all round his house and remained motionless for five days and nights. The next day Pilate took his seat on the tribunal in the great stadium and summoned the mob on the pretext that he was ready to give them an answer. Instead he gave a pre-arranged signal to the soldiers to surround the Jews in full armour, and the troops formed a ring three deep. The Jews were dumbfounded at the unexpected sight, but Pilate, declaring that he would cut them to pieces unless they accepted the images of Caesar, nodded to the soldiers to bare their swords. At this the Jews as though by agreement fell to the ground in a body and bent their necks, shouting that they were ready to be killed rather than transgress the Law. Amazed at the intensity of their religious fervour, Pilate ordered the standards to be removed from Jerusalem forthwith.” (From Josephus, The Jewish War, p. 138. Translated by G. A. Williamson, revised by E. Mary Smallwood. NY: Penguin, 1981.)

  15. Tendencies within First-Century Galilee and Judea (1) • Sadducees = Judeans of the upper classes who were closely connected with a strong advocates for the Temple cult in Jerusalem; they were largely in charge of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the council that advised the high priest concerning policy and served as a kind of liaison with the Roman authorities, e.g., Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor • Pharisees = Judeans who were strongly committed to maintaining the purity laws set forth in the Torah and who developed their own carefully nuanced laws to help them do so--for example, Rabbi Hillel was approached by a pagan who promised him that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could recite the entire Torah to him while standing on one leg. Hillel replied as follows: “Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. That is the whole of the Torah: go and learn it.”

  16. Tendencies within First-Century Galilee and Judea (2) • Essenes = Judeans who had serious disagreements with both Sadducees and Pharisees, the former corrupt leaders and the latter too lax in their interpretation of the Torah; formed monastic-like communities in which they could preserve their own purity apart from the rest of Judaism and the outside world, were apocalyptic in that they expected God soon to intervene to overthrow the forces of evil (including evil leadership in Jerusalem)--possibly John the Baptist was or had been a member--possibly the same group as produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1946-47 in earthenware jars in caves east of Jerusalem in the wilderness area near the Western shore of the Dead Sea--an area today called Qumran • The Fourth Philosophy (among these were the so-called Zealots, as they were known later during the revolt against Rome) = political radicals who were "zealous" for the law and urged armed rebellion against the Romans to take back the land God had promised to his people--fled from Galilee especially to Jerusalem during the early stages of the 66-70 CE Jewish revolt against Rome, overthrew the priestly aristocracy in the city, and led armed opposition to the Roman legions that ultimately resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple in 70 CE

  17. The Parable about the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32) [Jesus] also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

  18. The Rich Man (Mark 10:17-27) “As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.”’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is* to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another,*‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’”

  19. The Question about Paying Taxes (Mark 12:13-17) “Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.”

  20. The Two Yokes (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all who are exhausted from labor and weighed down with a burden, and I shall give you rest. Place my yoke (zugos) upon you, and learn from me, since I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and kind (chrestos) and my burden is light.”