Many of you will recall my research into the significance of Nazareth and related terms. You'll know that it was my intention to write a scholarly paper on the matter and I've had various formulations of said paper over the years, so much so that it might be seen by some as a smokedream. I thought I would here post the current conclusion of the work, as it might be of interest to other issues discussed on the forum. First though, here are the section titles to the paper:
|1. Hometowns in Mark|
4. Nazarene & Nazorean
5. Chronology (relating to the use of the terms)
Jesus as a Nazirite for life is not consciously stated in the synoptic gospel tradition, though it underpins the earliest thought on Jesus, as the independent references to Samson and Samuel demonstrate. Jesus as Nazirite marks the start of an evolution of ideas that first leads to the Marcan reference to Ναζαρηνος (through the connection made in Mk 1:24 to Jdg 13:5 & 7). The appearance of this as an apparent gentilic provides context for the next development on record, the manifestation of a place called Nazara—as “Gadarene” is derived from Gadara and “Magdalene” from Magdala, so obviously “Nazarene” by analogy comes from “Nazara”. Prior to the emergence of Nazara, the Matthean literary tradition had lost the Marcan references to Ναζαρηνος for there would be little reason to remove them on accepting the toponym Nazara. At the same time the Matthean tradition received Nazara it also received Ναζωραιος, whose ascendancy later caused it to leach its way into Luke through scribal fatigue. Last to appear in this evolutionary story is Nazareth, to be found only in the birth narrative in Luke and the unique Matthean description of Jesus as “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (21:11). So, while the phrase “Jesus of Nazareth” has been extremely successful as the principal reference to the central figure of Christianity, it does not reflect the earliest thought seen from close analysis of the synoptic gospels.
Perhaps more importantly, if the few chronological changes I’ve described are correct, there are signs of an evolutionary development of gospel materials that may reflect a wider trend in the production of the gospels. The well-known movement through the redaction of Mark to both Matthew and Luke may be grand indications of many more smaller steps involved in the production of the gospels. There may be a layering effect which tends to hide previous tradition developments, such that earlier theological ideas are reformulated, perhaps even obfuscated or obliterated and, if preserved in the current state of the literary tradition, may now be opaque and ritualized, making some or all attempts to extract historical information from these literary texts fishing expeditions at darkened water holes. Can we for instance say anything of historical significance about John the Baptist and his role in the gospels or has this figure been transformed into a purely literary one that fulfills a theological role as an Elijah figure prophecied to be a precursor to the messiah? If so was the development a single step or were there intermediary steps?
The historicizing trend of modern biblical studies which sees a profusion of historical Jesus figures in scholarly texts is a modern phenomenon that requires the gospels to be the sorts of (semi-inscrutable) historical sources that they cannot be shown to be. We have to face the epistemological issue of how we can know the real world significance of literary content, content full of allusions and references to the past, content that has been reworked in such a manner as to have possibly obscured the significance of earlier formulations of itself. Scholars have the task of lifting the veil from the gospels in order to uncover what lies beneath, but it would seem that what lies beneath may itself be further veiled by generations of redactional activity whose aim is to clarify or improve the narrative for the audience of the day. Just how much evolutionary change has been shrouded by each redaction. There may have been very little and the Nazareth/Nazarene evidence may be an aberration.
I won't be discussing the material content of the analysis of the range of terminology I deal with in the paper, though some of you will have seen my dealings with various aspects of the chronological movement from the Marcan use of Nazarene to adoption of Nazareth. My analysis requires no existence of Nazareth, though the town named Natzrat
probably did exist & aided the final form in Greek that gave us Nazareth, rather than the earlier Nazara. However, the existence of the town is not meat for this thread.
I'm posting this conclusion both as a sign that the project is still alive and as a means of critiquing simpler approaches to the gospel material, such as the "lone penman" theory.
How do you consider the synoptic gospels (I deal only with the synoptic tradition, as there is no way of relating John to the others) got to be in the state underlying our translations? The answer will affect your approach to your understanding of the materials you talk about!