Sunday, October 18, 2009


I had planned to read and respond to articles analyzing Baukham's book. However, when I went back to the link to the articles I had saved, I find that to access these articles I would have to pay the theological journal they appear in $25.00/article.  There are at least 6 or 7 articles plus a responding article by Baukham.  I'll have to pass on that.  Also, I switched to a new version of blogger and I don't see a spellcheck option anywhere.  Can anyone tell me how to find it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Jesus And The Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Baukham

In a perfect world, "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" by Professor Richard Baukham, Professor of New Testament Studies at St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, would be the stake that would finally kill Form Criticism's century plus long view of New Testament origins and authorship. It has been the contention of Form Criticism that the Gospels are not the accounts of eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry, or accounts by those who heard directly from such witnesses. Form Criticism has maintained that the Gospels are nothing more than folklore and the process by which they became what we now possess is no different from the development of mythology or folk tales. Form Critics envision a process of the original Gospels being reshaped by each generation for its own needs. The changes were the result of communities retelling the Gospels with no controlling authority making sure each retelling remained true to the original. Form Critics believe that the Gospels we now have resulted from several centuries of retelling and that if one can remove layer after successive layer of Gospel retelling that occurred over the centuries, one can discover the true Gospel, as it was first told. The Gospels, according to Form Critics, were the product of Oral Tradition and were not written down during the lifetimes of the original witnesses to Jesus' ministry. "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" demonstrates that the overwhelming evidence indicates that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to Jesus. The Synoptics were the result of the witness of the original twelve disciples, John was written by an eyewitness, and those accounts of personal encounters with Jesus by named individuals originated from those named in those accounts. Baukham fashions his argument from a wide array of sources and disciplines. The Scripture references to the Gospels being written in the lifetime of the disciples is overwhelming. The list of names that appear in the New Testament, when compared to the list of all known names of Jews living in Israel before and centuries after Jesus lived on Earth, makes it plain that the Gospels were not folk tales retold over time. Baukham provides the reader with studies in Folklore which demonstrate that the model of Folklore's development over time does not conform to what the original Form Critics, such as Bultman, envisioned. Folk lore did not by in large develop through uncontrolled community involvement. There were processes by which the message of Folk Tales and Myths remained true to the original form. Baukham also demonstrates that the original Church drew on the tradition of Jewish and Hellenistic Schools to preserve knowledge of history, secular and religious. Such methods included teachers certified to pass on the knowledge, students whom teachers deemed worthy to be entrusted with such knowledge and who could memorize vast amounts of information. Paul received just such an education; as Baukham points out, Scripture makes it clear that even Paul had to learn from Peter and other Apostles in Jerusalem. Baukham also points out that the Form Critics ignore the role of Jerusalem in guarding the purity of the Gospel message. While most of Baukhams evidence is irrefutable, some of his evidence is not as strong. Baukham points to a literary device he calls an "inclusio" to prove the authorship of Mark and John. In Mark, Peter's name is the first of the disciples to appear, and the last to be mentioned. This phenomenon, which Baukham calls an inclusio, shows that Peter is the source Mark used when compiling the Gospel. While this is an intelligent theory, even Baukham admits that it is speculation on his part. There are no examples of this literary device in other documents of the same time period, though a few appear later. In John, the Beloved Disciple, named John, appears before Peter and after Peters last appearance, indicating that this disciple has greater credentials to expound the message of John's Gospel than Peter does. Baukham believes that the author of John, John's Epistles, and Revelation, were not written by John Son of Zebedee, but by another John, the Beloved Disciple. I found the language of his case quite speculative. Yet dispite my disagreements with some of Baukham's arguments, I can do nothing but heartily endorse this book, which is one of the most important works in New Testament study to appear in many a year. It is amazing that while the methods and conclusions of the Form Critics have been refuted convincingly by Baukham and earlier scholars, many New Testament scholars still cling to Form Criticism. Why? Some think that if it could be demonstrated that the Gospels changed over the centuries before they reached their final form, the commands in the Gospels we now have can be disregarded. Others seem to be addicted to the idea of the Gospels developing in the same manner as folklore. Others are simply brain dead.

Professor Baukham is a Fellow of the British Acadamy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a member of the Doctrine Commission of the church of England.

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" was originally published by Eerdmans.

To read my reviews of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" on my study blog, click here and scroll down.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baukham Chapter 18

I finally finished "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Baukham. This concluding chapter, "The Jesus of Testimony" mainly concerns how scholars are to treat statements by eyewitnesses to events or those who have heard directly from such eyewitnesses. Baukham points out that past sources for historians which were treated uncritically have received a more thorough investigation. Yet the pendulum has swung too far the other way in that all sources of testimony are considered suspect until proven otherwise. Baukham traces this phenomenon to the Enlightenment which produced an individualism never experienced before. In the field of history, this has led to the view of the historian as interrogator of his sources, not bound to believe any source. This has not boded well for the study of the origin of Scriptures. This professional attitude has led to a distrust of all Biblical claims as to the origin of Scripture. Baukham believes that the approach of Samuel Bysork, in treating the Gospels as documents of ancient historiography, is the best approach in evaluating who wrote them and when were they written. This approach leads to the conclusion that the Gospels were written by either eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry, or by those who heard from those who were original eyewitnesses. Of course this synopsis does no justice to the final chapter or the book as a whole. In an ideal world, this book should be the stake that is finally driven into the heart of Form Criticism. While I enjoyed the book, I am glad to be finished so I can move on. But first, I will read articles from a theological journal responding to "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses"; this journal contains articles critical to the book as well as articles supporting it, with a final article by Baukham in response. I will also post a brief review on my main blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baukham Chapters 16 And 17

In chapter 15 of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony", author Richard Baukham expresses his view that John the brother of Zebedee and the Beloved Disciple who appears in the Gospel of John are not one and the same person. In chapters 16 and 17 Baukham states his case in detail, also claiming the the Beloved Disciple, also named John, wrote the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John, and Revelation; he believes that John the Son of Zebedee did not write these documents.

In Chapter 16, "Papius on John", Baukham points out that the Synoptic Gospels list the twelve Apostles and that these lists acknowledge the debt to the twelve for the contents of them. But the Gospel of John contains no such list. To Baukham, this is evidence that the one most responsible for this Gospel's contents was not one of the twelve. Also, the Son of Zebedee is mentioned only once in this Gospel, Jn. 21:2. Baukham also points to the quote of Papius, see here for the quote, where Papius lists the Apostles in the same order listed in John's Gospel, indicating to Baukham that Papius used that Gospel in constructing his document. Baukham believes Papius made a distinction between John the apostle and the Beloved Disciple. I did not pick up that impression reading the quote.

In chapter 17, "Polycrates and Irenaeus on John", Baukham examines quotes from Polycrates and Irenaeus, both 2nd Century church figures. Polycrates was a bishop of Ephesus who was related to past bishops of Ehphesus and knew those who, like Polycarp,had learned from the original Apostles. A tradition that the Beloved Disciple lived in Ephesus in his final years was well established by the time Polycrates was writing. Baukham believes this document shows that Polycrates claimed a blood relation with both the Beloved Disciple and Philip the Evangelist through one of Philip's daughters. I do not make that connection from reading the document Baukham presents in his book. Baukham also believes that this document is evidence that John was a member of the High Priest's family and may have briefly served as High Priest. I find neither Polycrates document nor Jn. 18:16 evidence for this claim. Baukham also states that the tradition linking the Beloved Disciple to Ephesus never labels this disciple and John the Son of Zebedee the same person. According to Baukham, neither does any of the writings of Irenaeus link the two.

There is much information in these chapters that I can not delve into detail because of time constraints. While I am not competent to establish the correctness or lack thereof for much of what Baukham asserts, the language Baukham uses is more in line with speculation rather than assertion of fact. Baukham himself admits that there is no hard evidence to back up either his theories on this subject or those who advocate alternatives. He also states that the majority of scholars attribute all the writings of John in the New Testament to John the Son of Zebedee.

Only one more chapter to go.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Baukham Chapter 15: "The Witness Of The Beloved Disciple"

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospel as Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Baukham is greatly influenced by the work of Samuel Bysork. Bysork applies the standards of ancient historiography to the concept of "witness" in the New Testament. Baukham applies these standards to the Gospel of John in chapter 15. According to Bysork, the histories considered the most credible in the ancient world were those which were written by or relied upon those who had direct contact with the events in question. Josephus advertised his qualifications as a historian this way: "My qualification as a historian of the war was that I had been an actor in many, and an eyewitness of most, of the events." The portrayal of Jesus' ministry in the Gospels is taken from the direct testimony of those in direct contact with Jesus' ministry; the text of the Gospels is closer to the original eyewitnesses reports than most modern scholars will allow, according to Bysork/Baukham. Not only are the original eyewitnesses the active guarantors of the factual record concerning Jesus' ministry, the are the chief interpreters of that ministry and its message through the four Gospels, which preserve their witness for the Church until the second coming of Christ.

The concept of witness in the Gospel of John confuses some because of the English translation of such words as witness, testify and testimony. English can only translate the word from the martureo word group, which are classified as legal metaphors. (Jn. 15:27, 1:21-22) But there is another word for witness which not tranlated into English because English has no corresponding word. This word is autopes, a word denoting first hand experience. (Lk. 1:2) Some scholars take the position that "witness" is only a legal term, and that John's Gospel was not written by a personal eyewitness to Jesus' ministry but one who was giving theological witness to the message of Jesus's teaching. But the concept of personal eyewitness as participant is contained in the words translated from the autopes word group.

Baukham returns to a concept he introduced earlier, "the inclusio." Baukham believes that Mark's Gospel witnesses to Peter's influence by the use of inclusio, a literary device in which Peter is the first disciple introduced and the last one heard from in Mark. In John, Baukham sees an inclusio that represents the eyewitness testimony of John, a witness that makes John more qualified than Peter to witness to the Gospel in written form. The inclusio begins with the unnamed beloved disciple seeking Jesus out in Jn. 1:35 and ends at Jn 21:22. In 1:35, the beloved disciple is still a disciple of John the Baptist. He is a witness to John's testimony of Jesus being the Lamb of God and is later able to fully understand the significance of the fact that Jesus died with no bones broken and that when pierced, blood and water flowed from Jesus' body. Peter, not a disciple of John the Baptist, had not fully grasped this yet. In Jn. 21:22, Jesus states that John's witness of Him will continue until He returns. The inclusio concerning John, showing that he has a witness apart from Peter's, shows that Johns witness began before Peter's and continued after Peter's witness was finished. It is not that Peter's witness was any less valuable than John's, but Peter's ministry was to be the Shepherd of the new Church, while John was to be a witness to the full meaning of Jesus' acts and teachings. I am not giving full justice to Baukham's presentation because of time constraints, yet the inclusio argument is not the strongest argument in Baukhams book. Baukham himself says that the inclusio is based on speculation more than hard evidence. Part of his argument for an inclusio in the Gospel of John is that the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel is not the Apostle John listed in the lists of Apostles in the Synoptics. Where he gets that from I do not know. I have been reading the book for a while and remember no such previous reference to this claim. I am very sure I would have remembered it if I had come across it earlier in the book. The claim seems to pop up out of thin air.

Some scholars believe that John could not have written the Gospel bearing his name because to designate himself as the disciple Jesus loved would be an act of self aggrandisement. Baukham states that this view reflects modern sensibilities rather than the thinking of the world the disciples lived in. John was showing his readers the intimacy he had with Jesus so that he could demonstrate his qualifications as a witness as portrayed in the Gospel. Paul was no less willing to remind readers concerning his special call to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1-5, Gal. 1: 15-16).

On to chapter 16.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baukham Chapter 14: "The Gospel Of John As Eyewitness Testimony."

Chapter 14 of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospel as Eyewitness Testimony" is so full of information that it would be difficult to summarize as I have done with the previous chapters. Not that it cannot be done, but the time is just not available to me now.

As author Richard Baukham points out, the Gospel of John is the only one of the four Gospels to claim that its contents originate in eyewitness testimony and that the Gospel itself was written by such an eyewitness. John 21:24-25 claims that the author is who had been referred to in key points in the Gospel as "the beloved disciple." This claim was taken at face value until the modern period. The only scholar to present evidence for disputing the claim for John's authorship did so in 1928. His sole evidence was that the Greek verb graphein appeared in the causative sense, that is, John caused the Gospel to be written but did not write it himself. The word appears in Jn. 19:19 where it is stated that Pilate had the inscription proclaiming Jesus as King of the Jews written and placed on the Cross. Also, Paul used graphein to indicate that he was dictating certain portions of his letters (Rom 16:22, cf. Gal 6:11, IPet 5:12) as opposed to Paul informing his readers that he was actually writing (Rom 15:15, ICor 4:14, 5:9, 9:15, 14:37). All this indicates, according to Baukham, is that graphein CAN refer to authorship by dictation. But it still means that the author dictates; nowhere does the use of graphein by John indicate that John was not solely responsible for the content of the fourth Gospel. Only a zeal among those devoted to form criticism can see in the use of the word graphein evidence that John was not the author of the Gospel of John. Baukham quotes K.J. Vanhoozer in making his point:

"...The Fourth a finely tuned work, depending on subtleties of structure, irony and so forth to achieve its effect. It is difficult to see how the substance of the witness could be preserved if the beloved Disciple were not also responsible for its form. But if he is responsible for its form and substance, would he then not be the sole author?"

Some scholars believe that the Gospel of John actually ended at chapter 20 and that chapter 21 was a later add-on. These scholars isolate Jn 21:24 from 21:25. Yet most scholars believe both these verses are meant to be read together to indicate that the author was claiming authorship not only of chapter 21 but of the whole Gospel. Jn. 21:24 means that John wrote the entire Gospel, whether or not he actually wielded the pen.

Jn 21: 21-23 is meant to be a Narrative Epilogue framed by a conclusion divided into two carefully designed stages: Jn. 20: 30-31 and 21: 24-25. The portion fenced off in chapter 21 serves as a narrative epilogue balancing the prologue which appears in Jn 1: 1-18. The prologue in chapter 1 concerns pre-history going all the way back to creation. The epilogue deals with the disciples mission which will extend all the way until Christ's return. The prologue contains 496 syllables while the epilogue contains 496 words. The two frames that fence off chapter 21 each contain 43 words. These examples of symbolism were important to ancient writers.

Baukham spends the second half of the chapter focusing on what scholars call "the 'We' of authoritative testimony." This is in reference to Jn. 21:24 in which John states "We know that his testimony is true." Some believe that the use of "we" in this verse shows that John was not the sole author of the Gospel that bears his name. Baukham compares the use of the word "we" in Jn. 3:11, IJn. 1:1-5, 4:14 and 3Jn. 9-10, 12 to prove otherwise. It is here the attempt to summarize this chapter becomes too time consuming.

The next three chapter focus on the Gospel of John as well. On to Chapter 15.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baukham Chapter 13

I did my best, but I could not get into chapter 13 of Baukham, which consists mainly of forty pages of psychological studies on memory. I tried to give it the attention that I gave to chapters 1-12, but was unable to do so. I choose to skip it because:
1. I have no interest in the subject.
2. I cannot envision a scenario where this information would be taught in a pastoral setting.
3. I still have nearly 200 pages to go to finish the book. I am enjoying the book and consider it to be one of the most important works in its field, but I do want to move on to other things. On to chapter 14.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baukham Chapter 12

In this chapter, entitled "Anonymous Traditions or Eyewitness Testimony?", Baukham continues to analyze the models of transmission that have been put forward to explain how the testimony of the original eyewitnesses of the acts and teachings of Jesus ended up in the form of the four canonical Gospels. While Baukham lauds the theories of Kenneth Baily, who greatly influenced the work of Dunn and N.T. Wright, Baukham contends that Baily's model of oral transmission is not an adequate model. Baily believes that the traditions concerning Jesus came into being through a community controlled process, as opposed to authorized individuals maintaining the purity of the teaching. Baukham disagrees. First, he points out that the Form Criticism that has been applied earlier to Biblical studies by figures such as Bultman has almost uniformally dismissed the value of individual recollection in favor of a collective memory. Much current scholarship in the field is now challenging this attitude. Baily and Dunn focus their models upon Palestinian villages without reference to the authority exercised by the Jerusalem Church during the first decades after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Although as the Gospel spread and the individual churches covered a wide geographical area, the churches were part of a network which was engaged in close communion with each other. Individual leaders traveled frequently so that it was not uncommon for villages to be visited by an original witness to the ministry of Jesus or one who was trained by such eyewitnesses from the Jerusalem Church. Apparently, those churches addressed by the writer of Hebrews were formed by the testimony of such eyewitnesses (Heb. 2:3-4). Paul himself acknowledges the authority of the Jerusalem Church in Gal. 1:1-10 and Rom. 15:19. The Jerusalem Church's authority was the purpose for the collection Paul organized (cf. Rom. 15:25-27). Such authority should not be surprising considering that the early Christians considered Christ's teachings and ministry to be the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. In I Cor. 15: 3-8, Paul's account of Christ's appearance after the His resurrection is dominated by the names of key figures in the Jerusalem Church. Paul was counting on the continuing accessibility of those key figures if those he was writing to wished to investigate on their own. In fact, the ultimate purpose of the Gospels was to preserve that accessibility to eyewitness testimony after the original eyewitnesses died. Of all the testimony available to the Church, the fact that the four canonical Gospels survived as the authorized accounts of Christ's ministry can be attributed to the strong belief as to their origins as the testimony of the original eyewitnesses. The mode of transmission of the four Gospels has its antecedents in the manner in which Pharisees and Hellenistic Philosophical Schools transmitted their teachings. No where in the New Testament or in early Christian Literature is the model of Community control mentioned as the main source of transmission. This quote from Papius, which appears more than once in Baukham, is example of the testimony available to us as to how the original testimony of the eyewitnesses to Christ's ministry was transmitted:

"I shall not hesitate to put into properly ordered form for you (sing.) everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down well, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else's commandments, but those who the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and preceding from the truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I enquired about the words of the elders-[that is,] what [according to the elders] Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any of the Lord's disciples, and whatever Ariston and the elder John, the Lord's disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice."

Papius wrote these words long after the original eyewitnesses died, but he was writing of a time in his life when many eyewitnesses were still alive and when Matthew, Luke and John were compiling their Gospels, using the same criteria for authority as mentioned by Papius.

Those listed in the Book of Acts as original eyewitnesses to Christs ministry:

Peter (chapters 1-15), James (12:2), the sons of Zebedee and the rest of the original twelve (1:13), Matthius (1: 23-26), James the Lord's brother (12:17, 15: 13-21, 21: 18-25) and other brothers (1:14, not named), Barnabus (4:36-37, 9:27, 11:22-26,30, 12:25-15:39), Mnason (21:16-an early original disciple of Jesus, one of the founders of the Jerusalem Church), Silas (15:22-18:5).

Those listed in Acts who may have been original eyewitnesses to Christ's ministry:

Agabus (11:28, 21:10-11), Ananius and sapphira (5:1-10), John Mark (12:12, 25, 13:5,13), Stephen (6:5-8:1), Philip the Evangelist (6:5-6, 8:4-40, 21:8-90 and the rest of the seven (6:5), Philip's daughters (21:9), Rhoda (12:13-15).

Those mentioned by Paul to have been original eyewitnesses of Christ's ministry:

Peter (I Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Gal. 1:18, 2:9, 11-14), John the son of Zebedee (Gal.2:9), the rest of the twelve (I Cor. 15:5), James the Lord's brother (I Cor. 15:7, Gal. 1:19, 2: 9, 12), and the other brothers (ICor. 9:5), Barnabus (ICor. 9:6, Gal. 2: 1,13, Col. 4:10), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7) Silvanus (IICor. 1:19, I Thess. 1:1, IIThess. 1:1).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Baukham Chapter 11

Baukham points out in Chapter 11, "Transmitting The Jesus Traditions", that there is unequivocal evidence located in the Scriptures themselves that the early Church practiced a formal method of transmission of the teachings of Jesus and the stories of what He did. This formal method was employed to ensure that the traditions were faithfully handed down from qualified "traditioners" to others. Such evidence appears in Paul's writings. Paul uses the technical term for handing down a tradition, paradidom (corresponding to the Hebrew word masar), in I Cor. 11: 2, 23; he used the term for receiving a tradition, paralambano (corresponding to the the Hebrew word qibbel) in I Cor 15:1,3, Gal. 1:9, Col. 2:6, IThess 2:13, 4:1, IIThess. 3:6. These terms were commonly used in Hellenistic Schools signifying methods of transmitting and preserving information. These terms would have been familiar to Paul's Gentile readers and listeners. These terms may also be found in Mark 7:4, 13, Acts 6:14. Paul also spoke of faithfully speaking and retaining tradition in ICor 11:2, 15:2, IIThess 2:15, 3:6. These terms were also used to denote Jewish traditions in Matt 15:2, Mk. 7:3,4,5,8,Gal. 1:14. These terms would be familiar to Paul as he came in contact with them in his training as a Pharisee. Outside Paul, these terms were used in Jude 3, Lk 1:2, Acts 16:14, the Didache 4:13, and Barnabus 19:11. Traditions were taught by those qualified to be authoritative in such a manner as to guarantee retention. While Paul was certainly capable from the beginning of his ministry to expound upon the Old Testament witness to Christ, where did he learn about the teachings and actions of Jesus? He learned them when he first went up to Jerusalem to confer with the Apostles, where he learned from Peter (Gal 1:18). If Paul wanted to add weight to his teachings, he could have claimed that he learned from the Lord all that he taught. But ICor 7: 10-16 shows that he made a distinction between what he taught and the original teachings handed down to him. In v. 10-11, he refers specifically to what Jesus taught concerning marriage, while in 12-16, he teaches on matters not mentioned in the earliest traditions of what Jesus taught. As for using Kenneth Baily's model for the transmission of tradition (see previous post) Paul does speak of entrusting the community with the accuracy of his teaching (ICor 11:2, 23, 15: 1-3, IIThess 2:15) and entrusting chosen individuals to pass on what he taught (Rom 12:7, ICor 12: 28-29, Gal. 6:6, Eph 4:11) Examples of this second type appear outside of Paul (Acts 13:1, Heb 5:12, James 3:1) Baukham also points out that Jesus is spoken of in different terms before and after the Resurrection. As to the contention of Form Criticism that communities had no interest in preserving the past, only in presenting traditions that reflected current need, Baukham pointed out in the previous chapter that some communities had more interest than others in preserving their history. The Christian community preserved history because that history concerned salvation and it was the fulfillment of the Old Testament. There was a mixture of freedom and restriction in preservation of tradition, some material was seen to be presented differently, such as the stories of Jesus actions, while others were not open to any alteration, namely the teachings of Jesus. While traditional Jewish culture and the culture of the early Church was mainly oral, writing did serve the purpose of emphasizing what should be memorized. In IITim 4, Paul mentions his notebooks. These were no doubt aids in remembering oral tradition.