Monday, July 23, 2007

Being in the Minority

Having consensus on our side can be consoling at times, but thinking outside the box and testing unpopular ideas is really where scholarship grows. This isn't to say that being unpopular makes us right -- only that we don't wish to stagnate in our own dogmatisms. My take is that if you find yourself in the minority too regularly, you're probably idiosyncratic, given to pet theory, or agenda-driven. If you're almost always on the side of consensus, you're likely an unimaginative or lazy thinker, and a crowd-follower.

Off the top of my head, I came up with the following list of ten items where I'm in the minority. These are common assumptions which I believe to be mistaken:
(1) Luke-Acts was addressed primarily to Gentiles.

(2) The Antioch controversy was over food laws.

(3) The "weak in faith" in Rome were Christian Jews.

(4) Q existed.

(5) By the question "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus already knew he was the messiah, and was testing the disciples to see if they could answer correctly.

(6) An early form of Thomas can be traced to the first century.

(7) James is pseudononymous.

(8) "Jew" is an acceptable word for a follower of Yahweh in the 2nd-Temple period.

(9) The event most responsible for Jesus' arrest and execution was his action against the temple.

(10) The fathers, kings, landowners, and masters in Jesus' parables were originally metaphors for God.
On these points I go against the majority (though a few are barely majority positions, like 4, 6, and 7). I say that Luke-Acts was addressed to a community of Jews and God-fearers; that Antioch was about circumcision; that the "weak in faith" in Rome were non-Christian Jews; that Q is a mirage; that Jesus didn't know who/what he was, and was asking his disciples to tell him; that Thomas is a 2nd-century gnostic document; that James wrote the epistle ascribed to him; that "Jew" is a mistranslation in the bible (though I continue to use it, slap my wrist); that Caiaphas was more nervous about Pilate's trigger-finger when dealing with popular prophets than Jesus' act in the temple per se; and that the father in The Prodigal Son, the king in the The Unmerciful Servant, the landowner in The Talents, and the master in The Dishonest Steward are all exactly as portrayed and not ciphers for God.

Well, even if I'm wrong about any of these, it's healthy to think outside the box -- and fun if you like to argue and solve puzzles.


Anonymous Eddie said...


On your mention of Christ asking, 'who do men say I am?' I have recently come to look at this passage as concerning the resurrection of the righteous.

Out Of The Box.

God Bless.

Anonymous Ralph Hitchens said...

I for one would like to hear more of your reasoning about James as the author of the epistle bearing his name. It's an appealing hypothesis.

Blogger Chris Weimer said...

I agree that thinking outside the box is healthy. I'm glad that I fit right in between your two extremes - I have some ideas in the minority (Matthew, for instance) and some that are well mainstream (HJ, for instance, taking the "Context Group" to be mainstream, however).

I disagree that Q is an illusion, merely because there is not enough Matthew in Luke for me to posit dependence. I totally disagree with you on Thomas, and take April's side. James is clearly pseudonymous, and that becomes more evident once you look at how it abuses the faith v. works problem that genuinely existed in the Pauline debates. I just argued with you over number 8, and hope that you'll respond soon. Let me know if you need the papers I cited.

Let's have some fun, shall we?


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