In 1993 the journal Mishkan published an issue focused on the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. That issue included a review by Dr. Michael Brown of David N. Bivin and Dr. Roy B. Blizzard’s Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. The review, entitled “Recovering the ‘Inspired Text’?” was highly critical both of Understanding the Difficult Words and of the Jerusalem School’s entire approach to the Synoptic Gospels. In this post we have reissued Bivin’s response to Brown’s review.
In this article, Dr. Robert Lindsey discusses the importance of the so-called “minor agreements” of Luke and Matthew against Mark for properly understanding the interrelationship of the Synoptic Gospels. David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton collaborated with Lauren Asperschlager to bring this article, which previously existed only as an unfinished draft, to Jerusalem Perspective subscribers.
When three eager prospective disciples asked permission to follow Jesus, Jesus responded to each of them with a riddle. Why would God allow Jesus and his followers to sleep on the ground when he provides safe places even for the animals to sleep? How can the dead bury a corpse? Why would a disciple set his hand to a plow when Elisha had given up plowing in order to follow Elijah? These riddles would have to be puzzled over before their meaning was fully understood. But each of the riddles were ominous, and it appears that each of the three prospective disciples reconsidered his desire to join Jesus.
This excursus, which is a work in progress, is an attempt to identify and collect certain redactional words and phrases characteristic of the editorial style of the author of Mark’s Gospel, specifically the “Markan stereotypes” (words that appear with unusually high frequency in Mark) and “Markan pick-ups” (words that the author of Mark borrowed from other sources). We will continue to add to the catalog as further Markan pick-ups and Markan stereotypes are identified in the course of our research for “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.”
The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes attempt to explain why full-time discipleship was not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others. Jesus was willing to take on as full-time disciples only those whom he believed were up to this extraordinary task.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what ‘good’ can I do to obtain eternal life?”
Yeshua replied: “Why do you refer to a deed as ‘good’? Call only one thing ‘good’—the Torah. You know how to obtain eternal life: keep the commandments—‘Do not commit adultery; Do not murder; Do not steal; Do not give false testimony.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a child,” the man interrupted.
At that, Yeshua said: “There is something more you should do: Give away all your wealth to charity—you will have heavenly wealth—and become my disciple.”
Supposing that these twin parables once belonged to the same narrative-sayings complex as the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident enables us to understand their message. Jesus’ demand that the rich man sell everything wasn’t an onerous or unreasonable request; to the contrary, Jesus had offered the rich man an extraordinary bargain.
In Widow’s Son in Nain, David Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton ask “Which Nain was the town where Jesus raised the widow’s son?” and “What is the meaning of the people’s exclamation that a prophet had arisen among them?” The possibility of a Judean ministry early in Jesus’ career and of the messianic connotations of the Widow’s Son in Nain story are discussed in detail in this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary.
It is easy to claim new solutions and new approaches to familiar problems. But in the field of New Testament research it is much harder to make these claims stick. Some years ago I wrote an article in which I attempted to correct the prevailing view that Mark was the first of the Gospels. When the article was discussed in a seminar at Cambridge, the objection was raised that there was nothing new in my contentions or approach. Perhaps not. Perhaps I am simply unable to find in the enormous mountain of scholarly contributions to our knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels the special line of solution and methodology to which I found myself driven as early as 1962.
Despite the continuing debate between Matthean and Markan priorists, some form of the widely-accepted Two-Source Hypothesis seems necessary for a proper understanding of the synoptic relationships. The Two-Source Hypothesis as generally conceived, however, cannot cover the evidence of dependence and interdependence found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The same must be said for the theory of Matthean priority.
The Gospel of Mark was never popular in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic church. Papias, the mid-second-century bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was the first church father to mention the Gospel and his statement was probably dictated by the general criticism voiced against Mark by the early Greek readers of the Gospel: “Mark,” Papias says, “did no wrong in writing down the things [he had only heard Peter say].”