How late might the gospels be?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Stuart
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Stuart » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:52 pm

lsayre wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:04 am
Unless I'm misunderstanding him, Stuart Waugh makes the case that they are all post the Bar Kochba revolt. Hopefully he will chime in and elaborate.
Yes. ... Is that sufficient chiming in?

While I think some form of Christianity, or pre-Christianity existed or was evolving into Christianity in the 1st century and early 2nd century, the literature, the New Testament books and Apocrypha is almost entirely post-Bar Kokhba, and some of it even 3rd century. The basic assertion is the text can almost entirely be explained in terms of internal Christian debate between mostly well known 2nd century sects.

The basic concept is the Gospels, or in this case prototype Gospels (really one, but variants sprang up in different locals), started life as something like a script to a play -- this is not unusual in the Greek and Roman world where religious plays were performed for nearly every cult (Detering wrote about the Theraputea and mentions their hymns and plays of Moses and Red Sea crossing, an example of a possible pre-Christian movement). But this changed when their purpose became evangelism, starting with Marcion. And Evangelism quickly became a form of sectarian competition with the success of the Marcionites in their evangelism. In my estimation, Matthew (early version) came about as reaction to Marcion, and John (early version) came in reaction to Matthew. Luke was last, replacing the Marcionite Gospel, and all the Gospels got a good Catholic layering. Mark I have more difficulty placing. But the forms we have are probably from when they stabilized in the 3rd century, our earliest complete textual witnesses are 4th century.

I do not accept the current dating models or for the most part, nor the unity of the works of the Church fathers . They are even more optimistically dated than the New Testament, and demonstrably more interpolated. What is especially unreliable are the supposed autobiographical material which are commonly used to date the church fathers, much of which I feel is interpolated much later, even centuries later. But that is another topic.


For a demonstration of why I date the Gospel later, I would start with the Gospel of John, that is the first two of five layers (I'm in agreement with Turmel that that this was the first "published" version) which is basically a point by point refutation of Matthew. And I am going to suggest an different take on the meaning of ἀποσυνάγωγος by relating it to Matthew 5:22. I believe what we are dealing with in John is the excommunication of one Christian sect by another Christian sect, and not Jews expelling Christians. Quoting one of my blog posts below:
The Gospel of John, if I may continue the allegory, touches on the excommunication of heretics, putting them out of the church. I argued in my analysis of Chapter 5 of Matthew, that Matthew 5:22 appears to be referencing the authorization for excommunication, when it states

But whoever says to his brother, "Raka", will be liable to the council (συνεδρίῳ).

The Sanhedrin (συνεδρίῳ) or council, is a formal hearing, and Matthew clearly means a convening of Christian bishops and elders. It's not a trivial matter and requires assembly. This only makes sense to convene for a significant charge. As I argue that a "brother" here has much the same sense as today in the Catholic church, that is representing a church official such as a bishop, priest, elder, or monk, and that the mysterious term "Raka" (Ῥακά) must be similar to the Islamic insult of hypocrite. This suggests the offense is along the lines of challenging the official's authority and probably along theological grounds. Essentially it's a charge of speaking heresy and claiming authority. Little else makes sense for such a formal hearing, which requires fetching bishops and elders in the region and even beyond. The purpose is clearly for excommunication, putting the offender out of the building (synagogue) and separating them from the assembly (ecclesia).

The gospel of John sees the excommunication process from the viewpoint of the heretical movement. In verse 9:22 we encounter the first reference to this action, when the parents of the man blind from birth refuse to openly admit that Jesus did gave him sight,

for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed him to be the Christ,
they would be put out of the synagogue (ἀποσυνάγωγος)

And in fact, in verse 9:34, after their son, after being questioned and found to be a disciple of John's Christ (see verse 9:28, 9:33), "they threw him out" (καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω). The threat was very real.

After Jesus talks of the light in the world, John again presents the specter of being thrown out of the Synagogue for believing in Jesus in verses 12:36-37, 42 [22]

Jesus spoke these things, and having departed was hidden from them.
Though having doing many signs before them, they did not believe in him. ...
But nevertheless even many of the rulers believed in him,
but because of the Pharisees they would not confess [him]
lest they would be put of the synagogue. (ἀποσυνάγωγοι = excommunicated)

The Pharisees (i.e., orthodox priests) appear to have the authority to expel from the synagogue (i.e., the actual church building) those confessing heretical views of Christ such as John presents. Jesus, it should be noted, is presented as having already gone away, suggesting a gap in time. I suggest this gap in time in actually from the time of the first instructions in the Gospel by the evangelists that John knew. The situation has changed and those holding the orthodox views now control the church. That many of the rulers believed suggests that we should understand their identity allegorically here. The word for ruler (ἄρχων) can also be taken as an official, which is what is meant here. This is verified from verse 7:47-48 the Pharisees after being told Jesus 'spoke like no other man' by their own underlings reply,

"Are you led astray, you also?
Have any of the authorities (ἀρχόντων) or of the Pharisees believed in him?"

John is saying then that even many church officials, represented in this story by the ruler Nicodemus, who do believe the heretical Christ but are now silent due to the strong arm tactics and power of the orthodox clergy. This seems to be a new power, and suggests the era after Marcion left, no doubt taking several clergy with him, and shifting the power balance of the remaining clergy strongly in the orthodox favor. The excommunication (ἀποσυνάγωγοι) of some of those that remained likely forced the rest to go underground; hence the failure to confess the heretical Christ. (Note, this forcing underground of heretics is likely why they formed secret societies within the church, a feature strongly associated with the Gnostic movement, but not the Marcionite.)

John actually summarizes to us the purpose for his writing this gospel in verses 16:1-4

These things (Ταῦτα) I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.
They will put you out of the synagogue (ἀποσυναγώγους)
but the hour is coming that everyone who kills (ἀποκτείνας) you
supposes he is offering service to God.
These things they will do because they have not known the Father nor Me.
But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes,
you may remember that I told you of them.
These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Though using the voice of Jesus, the author is speaking directly to his target audience. The problem is not external, but internal. A crisis is afflicting every member of his camp within the church. John is seeing members of his camp fall away from the faith he knows, either leaving altogether or succumbing to the increasingly powerful orthodox authority which is gaining a stranglehold on the church, which is excommunicating (ἀποσυναγώγους ) opponents. It has gotten to the point where nearly all the clergy accept the orthodox Jesus and believe they are doing God's will in removing the heretics. Hence the plea to remember the (original) teachings given them. Teachings that are disappearing from the church.

The writer hints that the one who taught his church is gone from the scene now. And he says that the encourager (παράκλητος = Paraclete) will come and teach the way in verse 16:7-10. It is probably a stretch to say at this point, but it does suggest Paul, or rather the Pauline letters, which will teach the correct Jesus. John's community is persecuted, as many have suggested, but not by Jews in the first century, rather by Christians in the second.
What I am saying here is the Jews in John's Gospel are in fact stand-ins for Jewish Christians, that is those who accept the OT and the Davidic Jesus, who oppose John's own "Gentile" Christian sects version of Jesus, who rejects the Jewish God. This is a mid to late 2nd century debate, not a 1st century debate. Hence I date the earliest published version of John in the early part of the 2nd half of the 2nd century. Matthew I date after the Marcionite, and I think the traditional dating of the Marcionite Gospel around 140-145 AD is surprisingly correct. Those script prototype Gospels make mentions to things which suggest they cannot be earlier than the end of Trajan's reign; but these were were never evangelized or published outside of local churches, so they were not written with sectarian polemic in mind, making them extremely difficult to pin down.

It is my view that the Gospels are a genre with an established time frame for events, the fixing of the date probably belongs with Marcion and his 15th year of Tiberius opening. They can be thought of as like the Western movie genre, which always depicts events as occurring between the end of the Civil War to the end of the 19th century, and with a known set of famous characters. But the screenplays often focus on current topics and conflicts of the current day, but displace them to fit the performance setting of the genre, with certain characters filling certain roles, that are at least subliminal if not outright obvious and apparent to the more astute in the audience. The Gospels of John and probably also Marcion used the term Jew to be synonymous with Jewish Christians rather than Judeans, and thus Pharisee meant Christian Priest and High Priest the Bishops/Apostles of theirs. Thus a literal Jewish identification would mislead someone to place John and ἀποσυνάγωγος in the 1st century, whereas in fact it is a commentary on the state of the church in the late 2nd century.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:15 pm

Kapyong wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:49 pm
Gday neilgodfrey :)
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:20 pm
There are also the several possible anachronisms (synagogues, rabbis, Nazareth, anti-semitism and anti-Pharisaism, Roman coins for tax...) that are best explained by a composition some time well after 70.
Is synagogue really an anachronism ?

Philo mentions them several times, e.g. :
Philo, Every Good man Is Free, XII wrote:(81) Now these laws they are taught at other times, indeed, but most especially on the seventh day, for the seventh day is accounted sacred, on which they abstain from all other employments, and frequent the sacred places which are called synagogues, and there they sit according to their age in classes, the younger sitting under the elder, and listening with eager attention in becoming order.
Philo, Embassy to Gaius, XX wrote:(132) But as the governor of the country, who by himself could, if he had chosen to do so, have put down the violence of the multitude in a single hour, pretended not to see what he did see, and not to hear what he did hear, but allowed the mob to carry on the war against our people without any restraint, and threw our former state of tranquillity into confusion, the populace being excited still more, proceeded onwards to still more shameless and more audacious designs and treachery, and, arraying very numerous companies, cut down some of the synagogues (and there are a great many in every section of the city),
Kapyong
My understanding is that synagogues were not the prevalent feature of the Galilean landscape until after 70 CE. Synagogues were in existence prior to then elsewhere, of course, but I know of no evidence to support their presence in Galilee. Hence some have sought to argue that in the gospels the literal building was not meant.

neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:27 pm

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neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:31 pm

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neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:35 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:50 am
At any rate, the word that Papias uses for "order" has a particular meaning in ancient literary contexts; it does not (necessarily) mean what we would mean if we were to call a piece of writing "out of order."
Indeed. And part of my difficulty with understanding what was meant by what we read as attributed to this "Papias" is trying to figure out how noticeably different such "order" is from Matthew, for example. Later evangelists seemed to accept the general order of things as in Mark, according to what we would consider "order". But against the Papias reference referencing what we know as Mark is that our gospel can almost surely be shown not to be any sort of "recording" of an eyewitness narrative.

neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:52 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:15 pm

My understanding is that synagogues were not the prevalent feature of the Galilean landscape until after 70 CE. Synagogues were in existence prior to then elsewhere, of course, but I know of no evidence to support their presence in Galilee. Hence some have sought to argue that in the gospels the literal building was not meant.
And as per Stuart above, I see the Pharisees fanning out across Galilee prior to 70 CE as another anachronism -- and quite plausibly a cipher for "Jewish Christians".

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:55 pm

I think it is patronizing for modern readers to think that Mark didn't realize that "no stone upon another" at some unspecified date will likely be true - someday - of all human constructions, and never provably false of any stone building in the meantime. Since it is a realistic trait of "prophets" to speak in terms that are durably neither verifiable nor falsifiable, verisimilitude suffices to explain why the focal character in Mark speaks that way.

Suppose that Mark actually is capable of grasping the obvious. That opens the question of whether or not Mark thought that Jesus was a preternaturally effective forecaster.

Maybe not. Mark depicts Jesus as unable to discern who touched him in a crowd (except by the naturalistic means of exerting undirected social pressure, which persuaded someone, the woman with the irregular bleeding as it turned out, to come forward). When invited to perform a similar discernment feat immediately after his Jewish trial, Jesus seems unable or unwilling to oblige.

So, I think the allegory hunter might consider that what's happening in chapter 13 is the realistic depiction of "prophetic speech" by a good writer (and I suspect somebody with a non-trivial theatrical background). The disciples' question "When?" is met with a reply, but not a definite answer. Between then and now there will be a lot of suffering (yuh, probably). The answer is so generic, that it could just as well be an allegory of the upcoming Passion (which I think Mark very much wants his reader to notice), and of every other episode in human experience where suffering precedes a reversal of fortune ('which happens a lot, since if there is a reversal of fortune ...).

The "abomination of desolation" which Mark's Jesus places in his listeners' future may well not correspond uniquely to anything (beyond the phrase itself being borrowed from a book about a fictive prophet). Anything bad that ever happened or would happen in or around the Temple, or where the Temple used to be, will fit. For example, Josephus tells us that there were murders thereabouts in the 60's, and he links those with the later destruction of the city, because they disgusted God. Another winner!

In general, the chief purpose of prophetic forecasts is to influence present-tense belief and behavior. If the prophet rolls the dice, says something definite, and the forecast later turns out not to be acurate, then God is merciful, as is plainly laid out in Jonah. Mark just may have read that book, or maybe he had simply observed for himself how the game is played in real life.

I agree with archibald that Mark's Jesus is attempting to foster a belief that he will literally appear in the skies in glory not long after he dies. The idea of a literal post-mortem appearance is not original with Mark; it is a fair reading of Paul's letters, which Mark seems to know. That the attempt to foster such a belief is informed by and upholstered with references to Jewish scripture is unsurprising coming from a Jewish preacher, which both Paul and Jesus were.

neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:53 am

Further, Mark 14:62, Jesus says that it is not only a few disciples who will "see the coming of the Son of Man at the right hand of power among the clouds".

The imagery is taken from Daniel which parallels the fall of an earthly kingdom and the introduction of the kingdom of God through the people or saints of God.

neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Jan 14, 2018 1:10 am

Further, Mark 14:62, Jesus says that it is not only a few disciples who will "see the coming of the Son of Man at the right hand of power among the clouds".

The imagery is taken from Daniel which parallels the fall of an earthly kingdom and the introduction of the kingdom of God through the people or saints of God.

This does not argue for either a late or early composition of Mark. What it does do is limit to some extent the strength of one particular argument used to suggest (even dogmatically insist) that Mark must have been written close to 70.

Context is everything, yes? When we see the other literature Mark knew with the same prophetic imagery, is it not at least reasonable to suggest our author of the gospel used it in a similar way as it was found in Isaiah, Daniel etc?

archibald
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by archibald » Sun Jan 14, 2018 1:17 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:31 pm
I do indeed believe that it is very easy for us to have wrong ideas about Jewish apocalyptic literature..
Sure, but you sort of didn't address the point about early followers (in Thessalonia for example) apparently expecting an actual big 'coming' event.

Also, if you want to suggest a non-literal 'coming' as part of 'all these things will happen' then you have a metaphorical 'not one stone shall be left upon another' and Jews being advised to non-literally flee to spiritual mountains during the subsequent tribulation.
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