December 10, 2006

You can skip this book note, unless... happen to be a history/religion nerd like me, in which case you might find Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham totally thrilling. You really don't even need to be interested in early Christianity to enjoy learning a lot of stuff about how things were done in the ancient world. That, for instance, Greek and Roman historians thought that the highest expression of their craft was to be what we would call oral historians, artfully arranging the testimony of those who had seen what happened....or even better, what they had seen with their own eyes. And how they would often heap scorn on historians who only used written records!

But if you know a little about how scholars have long viewed the evolution of the Gospels and early Christian writings, then this book will be an eye-opener. Bauckham points out that, while all the specific conclusions of Form Criticism have been discredited, we are still totally stuck in the form critic's general schema that the Gospels percolated up like folk-tales or "collective memory" out of communities of early Christians, and were shaped by the various needs of those groups. Groups who were not really much interested in recounting what actually happened.

I won't try to summarize the author's arguments, but he makes a convincing case that, in fact, eyewitnesses were treasured as repositories of the facts of Jesus' life, and that the four Gospels were either written by eyewitnesses, or taken directly from their stories. And also that certain eyewitnesses were not named in Mark, which was written first, but were mentioned by name in the later books, because they were still alive when Mark wrote, and could be put in danger. Such as Bartimaeus, or a certain chap who cut off another feller's ear.

Personally I just love delving into the mucky details of how things work, and what happens behind the scenes. What makes it all tick. I would love this kinda stuff even if I were an atheist...

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Posted by John Weidner at December 10, 2006 4:53 PM
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