Joseph D. L. wrote: ↑
Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:54 pm
lsayre wrote: ↑
Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:34 am
I'm of the opinion that all of the Gospels were stage type performances.
I can't accept this. The original point of the Gospel, Evangelium, was as a new Torah, and was not be performed, but used as a means of study and revelation. Now plays may have been inspired by the Evangelium (similar to Ezekiel of Alexandria), but the text that went into the canonicals, John and Hebrews, was not such a text.
You assume they held in their earliest moments the same properties we associate with them in later eras, certainly the 4th century onward, but possibly earlier in the 3rd and some argue the 2nd centuries (evidence is very dicey and for much earlier than the end of the 2nd and start of the 3rd century). This is a serious reach on your part, an example of having a preformed view from an already Catholic understanding of that later era and projecting it backwards.
But when we look at how the Gospels got to where they are, and to a point where they could be used like you note, they had to deveop enough and acquire enough prestige first in order to be worthy of such reflective study. I would liken your argument as like saying thatt feathers are for flight, when we know they existed long before flight, and winged arms developed gradually before any bird took flight -- they had another purpose prior that favored their development. Same development concept here for the Gospels to acquire the exegetical reverence to be studied for revelation.
The Gospels were almost certainly not initially studied like Torah (although their precursors might be a different story). They were instead written by competing sects that wished to overturn the positions of their rivals. And they were used for Evangelism (hence the word, which is derived from Gospel), as this allowed the church to grow rapidly in the 2nd half of the 2nd century and through the 3rd century. Sectarian competition created the form. As the church became more organized and Catholicized, the Gospels became more bloated and less suited for traveling preachers.
I will grant that Matthew was set up more along the lines of an exegetical text than the others, and early. But this reflects the early proto-Ebionite theology of this Sect. It was clearly meant to have the LXX as companion, referenced numerous passages and marked those ("it is written", as the prophet ..."), which was a priority for that sect (see Matthew 5:17). The same cannot be said of John (especially in early form), Mark, and Marcion's gospel, which lacked almost all explicit references to the OT. The Marcionite sin fact developed another completely different document for the document for the purposes of such Torah-like exegesis, the so-called Antithesis (of course even this shows the focus on sectarian competition, as it is meant more as a refutation for pre-Gospel Torah -likely LXX form- Christian competitors). It worked well for evangelism, likely first for the Marcionites, and hence every sect felt they had to have one to compete with them, and so the either wrote one or used another one which was already published which suited their sect sufficiently. Were there no sectarian competition, there would have been only one
But this story begs the question, where did the structure and scenes come from? Where was the literary base each of these Gospel writers able to draw from? I think looking to the Theraputae and their plays about the crossing of the red sea and other transformational events surrounding Moses and Joshua/Jesus (same name in Greek) gives an example of where to look for such texts - in the cloisters of monasteries, much like those of the Theraputae. The prototype(s) for the Gospel(s) very much fit a the play scripts. They are easy to set.
Remember when you argue about the lack of formal structure. Early scripts are like note, everything strung together. People knew from repetition of performance with part was theirs and others. The mention of a scene would not have required setting instructions, they would have done what was necessary. And if like the Theraputae (Jewish ascetics and definitely not Christian, but very similar, including the monasticism) the earliest Christians performed the play at night, then even light staging would have been simple, as just covers to dim lights as performers rush on and off. This would actually make Christianity far more like other religions than different. But the format and presentation changed when they became evangelical tools.
Put another way the argument that the Gospels were plays, IMO is more an argument the prototypes were religious plays, than the book carried by a wandering preacher. Long reflective study is not the game he is in, and their will not be a copy where he goes, except his own. Only he can reflect and study. So like the flightless feathered dinosaurs the Gospel had to perform a function for him -and well- to have ever developed to the stage of being a new Torah for similar study and devotion (you really need a large stable church for this, and you don't have that in the early evangelizing days -- had they all stayed in the monastery to have such Torah like reflective study there would have been no evangelism, and no Gospel. This success for preachers with this new Gospel is what spurred the writing of competing Gospels for sects who wanted to correct the message and tell the "true story." Hence we have more than one.
“’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