Monday, May 05, 2008

The Elusive Son of Man

Does the "one like a son of man" in Dan 7:13 refer to a an individual or a corporate body of righteous ones -- the "saints of the Most High" in Dan 7:18, as Maurice Casey claims? How did Jesus and/or the gospel evangelists use the term "Son of Man"?

First Daniel. I don't agree with Casey that the "one like a son of man" is a corporate figure. I was convinced years ago by John Collins that it's an individual, probably the archangel Michael. The same holds for the Similitudes and IV Ezra: the Son of Man is an angelic individual, and this time the messiah. As Collins notes, a collective interpretation isn't clearly attested in Jewish sources until the time of Ibn Ezra (The Scepter and the Star, p 187). In Daniel, the Similitudes and IV Ezra, the Son of Man figure is a heavenly counterpart to the righteous on earth, yet distinct from them. In my view, it relies on incredibly strained readings to identify one with the other.

What about the gospel traditions? In some places Jesus is portrayed as in Daniel -- an angelic Son of Man who will come in glory on the clouds leading more angels (Mk 8:38/Mt 16:27/Lk 9:26, Mk 14:62/Mt 26:64/Lk 22:67b-69; Mt 13:41,25:31). But in other places the usage is less heavenly, more murky, and refers to a generic/corporate entity, no doubt under the influence of traditions like Ps 8:4 and 144:3 (cf. Job 25:6). Jesus and his followers were itinerant human beings in need of food and shelter (Mt 8:20/Lk 9:58). As Scot McKnight sees it, Jesus found in Psalms 8/144 and Daniel 7 equally important scripts for his mission: a prototype for humiliation and opposition after which God, as the Ancient of Days, would vindicate those who suffered in the tribulation (Jesus and His Death, pp 191-194). The result is a collective spin on Daniel's individual figure.

Dale Allison lists strong arguments in support of this idea -- that Jesus thought he and his disciples in equal measure fulfilled what was expected of Daniel's Son of Man figure (Millenarian Prophet, pp 65-66; though note that Allison, like McKnight, also seems to think the collective understanding traces back to Daniel itself). They include:
* The collective understanding helps explain why the term Son of Man never became a Christological title outside the Jesus tradition.

* The collective interpretation explains the Son of Man passages which are used in a generic sense, even when lacking apocalyptic context, like Mt 8:20/Lk 9:58 (as seen above). In such passages, as in the psalms, "Son of Man" means "human beings".

* If Jesus interpreted the Son of Man as the saints of the latter days, then we can understand why he is closely associated with the Son of Man and yet the two don't seem quite identical in places like Lk 12:8-9.

* I Thess 4:15-17 is closely related to Mk 8:38-9:1/Mt 16:27-28/Lk 9:2627 and Mk 13:24-27/Mt 24:29-31/Lk 21:25-28. In the synoptics the Son of Man comes on the clouds; in I Thessalonians the Lord Jesus and the saints do, but the saints don't wait for Jesus to come to earth -- they join him on the clouds. This makes sense if Jesus and/or the early tradition envisaged the coming of the Son of Man as equivalent to the coming of the saints.

* Mt 19:28/Lk 22:28-30 probably alludes to Dan 7:9, and puts a collectivity on the thrones, meaning the disciples will have the role of the "one like a son of man" ruling in the kingdom. (Others would argue that Dan 7:18,27 do the same thing, but I don't think the conclusion is warranted. However much the "holy ones of the Most High" were to share in the rule of God's kingdom, they were still firmly distinct from the "one like a son of man". Simply put, there's no generic use of the term attested in Daniel that allows us to assume a collective understanding.)

* There's a pervasive correspondence between the Son of Man predictions and Jesus' demands of his disciples. Discipleship is basically synonymous with sacrifice and suffering on the cross (argued at length by T.W. Manson).
Many (if not all) of the above texts stand a good chance of being authentic, and I suspect that the historical Jesus identified "the Son of Man" with the faithful remnant who would save through humiliation, suffering, and sacrifice in the tribulation period, and in the end be vindicated by God. It was a short step for the evangelists to conflate this usage with Christ the heavenly redeemer who would come again in judgment, returning to an angelic emphasis. So we're stuck with a gospel tradition in which Daniel's individual usage (the angelic) is almost inseparable from Jesus' collective usage (the saintly).

UPDATE: Also see Michael Bird's review of Casey's The Solution to the 'Son of Man' Problem, as well as Casey's response to the review. As others (James Crossley, Antonio Jerez) have pointed out below in comments, Casey's Aramaic approach deserves full attention and may the subject of a sequel blogpost.

40 Comments:

Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
you have opened up a bee´s nest! I am working on an answer. See if I can get it ready for tomorrow ;)

5/05/2008  
Blogger Paul said...

Gee, and you didn't even bring up Ezekiel either.

5/06/2008  
Blogger James Crossley said...

Woah, there are some big issues here!

Loren wrote: 'First Daniel. I don't agree with Casey that the "one like a son of man" is a corporate figure. I was convinced years ago by John Collins that it's an individual, probably the archangel Michael.'

I'm not going to defend Casey all the time but I will have to ask, why? In other words, how are you going to convince those Daniel scholars who go along with the type of interpretation Casey does?

Loren:
'The same holds for the Similitudes and IV Ezra: the Son of Man is an angelic individual, and this time the messiah.'
There are some very complex textual and linguistic issues here. How would you deal with all the work done on that?

'As Collins notes, a collective interpretation isn't clearly attested in Jewish sources until the time of Ibn Ezra (The Scepter and the Star, p 187).'
What would you make of the whole Syrian tradition?

Loren: 'In Daniel, the Similitudes and IV Ezra, the Son of Man figure is a heavenly counterpart to the righteous on earth, yet distinct from them. In my view, it relies on incredibly strained readings to identify one with the other.'
Can you give an example of such an argument?

'...and refers to a generic/corporate entity, no doubt under the influence of traditions like Ps 8:4 and 144:3 (cf. Job 25:6). Jesus and his followers were itinerant human beings in need of food and shelter (Mt 8:20/Lk 9:58). As Scot McKnight sees it, Jesus found in Psalms 8/144 and Daniel 7 equally important scripts for his mission: a prototype for humiliation and opposition after which God, as the Ancient of Days, would vindicate those who suffered in the tribulation (Jesus and His Death, pp 191-194). The result is a collective spin on Daniel's individual figure.'
Er, what about the basic idiomatic Aramaic which would cover issues of suffering etc??? Vermes, developed by Lindars, Casey and others, all showed this function of the Aramaic idiom.

Loren: 'Dale Allison lists strong arguments in support of this idea -- that Jesus thought he and his disciples in equal measure fulfilled what was expected of Daniel's Son of Man figure...'

Ok, I think it would be much more illuminating to deal with those scholars who have worked at length on these issues and published a great deal but for now, let's look at some points:

*The collective understanding helps explain why the term Son of Man never became a Christological title outside the Jesus tradition.

Well, wouldn't that be explained by the Aramaic idiom not being a Greek idiom?

* The collective interpretation explains the Son of Man passages which are used in a generic sense, even when lacking apocalyptic context, like Mt 8:20/Lk 9:58 (as seen above). In such passages, as in the psalms, "Son of Man" means "human beings".

Again, why resort to Hebrew and not Jesus' language?

* Mt 19:28/Lk 22:28-30 probably alludes to Dan 7:9, and puts a collectivity on the thrones, meaning the disciples will have the role of the "one like a son of man" ruling in the kingdom.
Why does there have to be s precise allusion to Dan. 7.9? Can it not be broader than that?

* There's a pervasive correspondence between the Son of Man predictions and Jesus' demands of his disciples. Discipleship is basically synonymous with sacrifice and suffering on the cross (argued at length by T.W. Manson).
Again, this has been explained in terms of the Aramaic idiom and that is, I think, worth emphasising.

Loren: 'Many (if not all) of the above texts stand a good chance of being authentic'
Mark 13? You sure???

the biggest problem in relation to the Jesus tradition is that you need to engage with the Aramaic idiom and explanations which show how this accounts for the development of the idea. while Allison is undoubtedly a fine scholar, would it not be better to also (at the very least) engage with the key literature on the subject and the complex linguistic issues?

5/07/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

James,

I was deliberately ignoring the whole Aramaic-idiomatic approach, not because it's not worth discussing, but because I don't buy into it and a blogpost can only cover so much ground in any case. (I was thinking of covering the issue in a sequel post; we'll see.) I did read some material a while back by Burkett, who scored good points against the Casey/Vermes/Lindars crowd, showing how they often proceed with an uncritical understanding of Eastern vs. Western linguistics. But as you imply, that's obviously a subject that would need unpacking.

For present purposes, it's enough for me to infer that Jesus put a collective spin on an originally individual figure. I think this had little to do with linguistics, and more to do with a prophet's revisionist approach to certain scriptures when used in conjunction with others.

As for "how I am going to convince Daniel scholars who follow Casey", I won't!

5/07/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
I am getting a headache! Have been reading more on the SOM problem since yesterday, and the more you read the more confused you seem to get...
I had Maurice Casey´s "the aramaic sources of Mark´s gospel" in my hands yesterday and managed to finish it. I learnt a lot from it although I have a few quibbles with Casey´s approach in some instances. I hope to return to that later.
But what is clear (and here I have to side with James C.) is that you cannot sidestep the question about the relevance of using Aramaic to solve the problem of the SOM the way you have done so far. I hardly think Burkett is an authority on Aramaic (does he even know the language?)so I don´t see how he can really engage with the arguments of Casey. I just finished reading Casey´s rebuttal to Owen and Shepherd in JSNT 2002:25 and although I don´t know ANYTHING about Aramaic I certainly get the impression that Casey knows what he is talking about and can back up his claims with example after example. My impression is that he makes mincemeat of folks like Owen and Shepherd (who do know Aramaic) and can do even more mincemeat of folks like Burkett. As James said earlier, there are probably only a handful of people in the world who knows as much about Aramaic as Casey (can James count up some more names...Fitzmyer?...), and if you are going to rebutt him you´d better know your subject at least as well as him.
I am waiting for Casey´s "the SOM man problem" solved to arrive at our library this week and until then I can´t really say if he seems to have solved ALL of the SOM problem (I doubt it based on what I have read in "the aramaic sources of Mark"), but at least he appears to have come a long way toward a a solution that is more satisfactory than most versions that are out on the market.
And Loren, here´s a little gift for you. Don´t know if you have it already, but I found it stored in one of my hard disc drives this evening. Take a look at an article in "The journal for the study of the historic Jesus". It´s an article by Thomas Kazen published in 2007:5 with the title "The coming Son of Man revisited". I think Kazen makes as good a case as can probably be made for the collective sense of the SOM in the gospels that you seem to be advocating. I have still not been persuaded by most of his arguments, but I will have to digest Kazen and Casey for a while to see where I will finally end up.

5/07/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Antonio,

Thanks for this. I'll take the Aramaic approach to heart, I promise, though doubt I will be convinced anymore than I was before. Believe me when I say I'm not trying to sidestep anything. This blogpost was originally three times as long for precisely this reason. In the end I decided to remove my sections on (1) the Aramaic issue and (2) Crispin Fletcher-Louis' priestly approach. It's a tricky business when blogging for a diverse audience. People like you and I think the more the better, but other readers, particularly layfolk, have less attention span.

I'll have to check out the Kazen article.

5/07/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
I you want I´ll send the Kazen article to you. I am sure you will like it since it bolsters your claims. I had not read Kazen´s article until tonight. Must have been something I downloaded months ago and just stored in my computer for reading in the future. We are really blessed here in Goteborg, Sweden. Not only do we have one of the best university libraries in the world, but I can also get online access through my computer at home to almost ALL academic journals in the world on almost ANY subject. And its all for free - courtesy of the swedish state. Don´t know how it works in America, but for a person like me Sweden is absolute heaven...

5/07/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
a further comment before you go to bed. Good to see that you are going to bring up the Aramaic question in a separate entry. And it may be worth to get Fletcher-Louis High priestly SOMinto the debate, although both me and James Crossley are already in total agreement that it´s a lame duck ;)

5/07/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Yes, Antonio -- by all means send along Kazen's article. I work in a library, and so can obtain things easier than most, but I would have to get this article via interlibrary services, so please go ahead and email it to me.

Maybe I'll move to the Swedish paradise. :)

5/07/2008  
Blogger James Crossley said...

Antonio has pretty much covered what I wanted to say so just to add a couple of points...

I did read some material a while back by Burkett, who scored good points against the Casey/Vermes/Lindars crowd, showing how they often proceed with an uncritical understanding of Eastern vs. Western linguistics.
Well there has, as Antonio pointed out, much been written since Burkett's book, some of it in direct reaction to Burkett (some of it agressively so) and on the problems of 'Eastern' versus 'Western'. Is it not important to look at the ways in which this has been discussed in the technical literature?

Loren: 'For present purposes, it's enough for me to infer that Jesus put a collective spin on an originally individual figure. I think this had little to do with linguistics, and more to do with a prophet's revisionist approach to certain scriptures when used in conjunction with others.'

The problem is there is no reference to Daniel 7 in a load of SofM passages and SofM is an Aramaic idiom whether we like it or not. Given that it was an Aramaic idiom how could anyone have picked up an allusion to Daniel 7 in a passage like Mark 2.27-28 or Mt 8:20/Lk 9:58, not forgetting the contexts in which the Aramaic idiom was being used, and not to mention plenty of others??? This is a point made a long time ago and has to be addressed. (Aside: son of x, y, or z is a common expression in Hebrew and Aramaic).

I'd also like to see how you'd explain Mark 2.27-28 because Matthew and Luke drop the generalising Mark 2.27. Mark 2.27-28 looks like a classic case of the particular/generalising use of the Aramaic idiom.

5/09/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Antonio,

That was a good article. And like you I'm going through Casey (more thoroughly than I did before) and it may "change my mind" about a few things. Or not. But now I think I'm going to wait for that upcoming book to be published next year (that I mentioned in email) before deciding where I stand once and for all. Assuming it doesn't leave me completely confused. :) :) :)

5/09/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
I suppose you must mean the article by Kazen (he lives here in Sweden). Yes, I found it very interesting although I am not persuaded by his arguments yet.
As a matter of fact I just finished reading Casey´s article in JSTN 1991 "METHOD IN OUR MADNESS, AND MADNESS IN THEIR
METHODS. SOME APPROACHES TO THE SON OF MAN PROBLEM
IN RECENT SCHOLARSHIP". What a wonderful title for an article! Haha! One of the "mad" scholars Casey takes to task is another exegete here in Sweden - Chrys Caragounis. Casey makes absolute mincemeat of him. I actually lambasted Caragounis myself in an article in "Kyrkans tidning" (the newspaper of the Church of Sweden) years ago and called his book on the SOM problem "garbage". Caragounis swallowed the bait and responded and then I gave him more trashing in my own response in the newspaper. Caragounis thinks ALL SOM sayings in the gospels are authentic.
But what strikes me after reading the JSNT article is that Casey has the same line of reasoning that I have had for a long time (although he must have found out before me obviously): most SOM sayings as they stand in the gospel (specially the parousia sayings) WOULD NOT HAVE MADE ANY SENSE TO JESUS ARAMAIC SPEEKING HEARERS. Listen to what Casey has to say:

"The effect of not using Aramaic reconstructions is, however, most serious in dealing with the term 'son of man' itself. Declaring that Jesus 'apparently looked upon himself as that Son of Man', Caragounis could call upon Moule.2 In exactly the same quandary, Moule declared that behind the Greek 'must be some Aramaic expression that meant, unequivocally, not just "Son of Man" but uthe Son of Man" or athat Son of Man" ', and that this phrase was thus demonstrative because it expressly referred to Daniel's 'Son of Man*. Moule was not, however, able to produce a satisfactory expression. The definite state, wraGO "a, is not sufficient to do this, for two reasons. One is that it does not tell us which son of man is referred to. Given that it was a normal term for 'man', reference to Dan. 7.13 requires sufficient contextual indicators, which are absent."

So true! So true! If Jesus talked the way he does in most SOM sayings
he would have had to specify his references to SOM with clarifications about what SOM he is talking about ((is the one in Daniel? Is it the one in Ezekiel? is it just any man? Is it the one in Psalm 8). The kind of confusion Jesus would have raised if he talked in a first century aramaic context the way he does most of the time in the gospels would be exactly the kind of confusion we find in John 12:34.
And the simple fact that Jesus could not possibly have talked the way he does in most SOM sayings in a first century aramaic setting is what makes me so sceptical about Dale Allison´s approach as in his book of Jesus where he picks and choses among both nonapocalyptic and apocalyptic SOM saying without any obvious methodology or understanding about what might or might not have been understandable in a first century galileean aramaic context.
I have some major criticisms about Casey´s aproach too. I will return to it tomorrow.
I could also mention that I finished reading Michael Goulder´s article "Psalm 8 and the Son of Man" in NST 2002. It´s always fun to read Goulder. He always writes with such clarity and he usually has some good things to say. Yes, I agree with him that Psalm 8 is an important ingredient when the early church created Jesus as the humbled and heavenly SOM. Just as Daniel 7:13 (although I have difficulty seeing how the Church got the suffering SOM motif from Daniel).
But if I can throw in my own penny to the debate I think an often overlooked text that has contributed to the SOM concept in the gospels is found in the Wisdom of Solomon, specially chapter 2.

5/09/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ok, here are a few comments on one aspect of the methodology of Maurice Casey that I find questionable. I haven´t read "The solution to the SOM problem" yet but after reading "The aramaic sources of Mark´s gospel I think I
know what we can expect of Casey.
The basis of Casey´s thesis is that the language of Jesus was aramaic and that a gospel writer like Mark used, among other things, written (and oral?) traditions in aramaic about Jesus. Mark tried as best as he could to translate those aramaic traditions into greek. So far I am 100 % with Casey.
In "the aramaic sources of Mark" Casey takes four examples from GMark as a test case; Mark 9:11-13, Mark 2:23-3:6, Mark 10:35-45 and Mark 14:12-26. I will focus on Mark 9:11-13 to show what I find questionable about some of Casey´s conclusions. Casey thinks he can reconstruct the original aramaic source of 9:11-13 with some confidence into this:

"And (they were) asking him and saying, 'Why do (the) scribes say that Elijah is going to come first?' And he said to them, 'Elijah comes first and turns back all, and how it is written of (a/the son of) man that he suffers much and is rejected! And I tell you that, moreover, Elijah has come, and they did in the case of him whom they desired according as it is written concerning him/it."

Ok, and here is my first objection to Casey. Casey presupposes that because he has found clear signs in GMark that some aramaic source lies behind 9:11-13 and he is therefore able to reconstruct that source into aramaic, those words he has been able to reconstruct go back DIRECTLY to the historical Jesus. But, and I think it is a great but, Casey´s argument seems to be flawed. From the fact that Casey may have been able to reconstruct a gospel saying in greek into aramaic does not follow by logic that those words in aramaic go back to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus earliest disciples - Peter, James an the others - appear to have been as much aramaic speaking as Jesus himself. In fact, the whole earliest Jerusalem church appears to have been composed mainly of aramaic speaking Jews like Jesus. Therefore those aramaic sayings that Casey claims to have been able to reconstruct can just as well go back to members of the Jerusalem church.
I take Mark 9:11-13 as an example of a Jesus saying that I believe was actually composed by aramaic speaking followers of Jesus in the early church. This saying may very well go back to only a year or so after the crucifixion of Jesus. It is very probably from the 30ies anyway.
Casey thinks that Jesus himself built up this saying (notice that Casey DOES NOT argue that the context in Mark 9:2-13 is original to the saying itself)after the execution of John the baptist and tried to find some meaning in the death of his mentor by taking a look in the OT. After reflecting on his OT Jesus found references to the fate of JB in texts like Malachi 3:23, Isaiah 4:3, Job 14, Jeremiah 6-7 and Psalm 116:15.
My, my seems like the historical Jesus was quite an expert in finding hidden meanings in that nostradamic book that the Tanakh appears to have been to most first century Jews. Seems like Jesus himself was as good as those Qumran folks in doing a good pesher by weawing different verses from the OT and finding them fulfilled in his own life.
But wait, doesn´t this method of weawing pesher out of the OT and applying it to Jesus sound suspiciously like the method critical scholarship in the mold of Bultmann claimed members of the early church like Mark, Matthew, Luke and John actually did?
And here is exactly where I think
Casey´s logic is shipwrecking. Yes, the pesher in Mark 9:11-13 may very well originally have been in aramaic, but from that doesn´t follow automatically the conclusion that the pesher goes back to Jesus. The pesher could just as well go back to some aramaicspeaking followers of Jesus in the early church who got into a discussion with nonbelieving Jews (but how come your rabbi can be the Messiah when he has been shamingly crucified and he hasn´t even been preceded by Elijah as the Tanakh says???)and found hidden meanings in the OT to have as counterargument.
And why do I believe that despite its probable aramaic pedigree Mark 9:11-13 is a creation of the very, very early church. Because by a stroke of fortune (imagine if we only had the synoptics in a situation like this!)I find comfort in a verse in GJohn - more specifically John 1:21. And because I believe that the author of John is very aware of the early church pesher that Mark and the other synoptics have hooked on and is out to counter the tradition in some parts of the church that John the baptist was Elijah redivivus. I very much doubt that John would have denied that JB was Elijah redivivus if the words in Mark 9:11-13 did really originate with Jesus himself. It is precisely because he knows that those words did not go back to Jesus that he feels free to deny the pesher about JB that originated in another part of the church.

Now I expect James to jump on me. I fear I have commited the unforgivable sin of questioning his mentor :)

5/10/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

You know nobody minds anybody questioning somebody when they have considered the work of that somebody!

Maurice doesn't say that because Mark 9.11-13 must have been Aramaic it goes back to Jesus - instead he argues for the Sitz im Leben in the life of Jesus who was baptised by John. He says it has no role in the early church because it was written in such a way that it could cause confusion between the roles of John and Jesus. And he concedes that it could be an abbreviated account of Jesus' teaching here, not an exact transcript.

5/10/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
maybe I may have missed some of the finer points of Casey´s argumentation when I read through his book. But he certainly gives the impression that he is reconstructing the ipsimma verba of Jesus in the four examples I mentioned from his book. I quote from page 111-112:
" In this chapter, we shall see that it is only when Mark 9:12 is reconstructed in its original Aramaic that we can recover what Jesus actually said and meant. In subsequent chapters, we shall study Mark ".28, 10:45, 14:21. In these cases we shall see that the Greek translations make excellent sense for the target culture, but that some of the original Jewish assumptions of these sayings of Jesus have been lost in the translation process".
And Casey´s assertion (according to you at least)that the original aramaic saying had no role in the early church because it could cause confusion between the roles of John and Jesus very much depends on a hypothetical reconstruction of a text in Mark that taken into its wider context in the Mark 9:2-13 makes a lot more sense in the greek Mark we have than in Casey´s reconstruction.
And my main criticism about some of Casey´s aproach still stands. Because we find arameisms or can reconstruct a saying in aramaic it doesn´t follow that it goes back to the historical Jesus. It makes it more likely, but one thing certainly doesn´t follow from another.
And I wonder what you and Casey make of John 1:21?

5/10/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

just quickly - the point I was trying to make was that Maurice does not argue that just because something was Aramaic it follows that it goes back to Jesus. He has other reasons discussed in both Aramaic Sources of Mark and The Solution to the Son of Man.

5/10/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

and ... If John was in a Greek world which wouldn't have been comfortable with one person being identified with another, he might deny a tradition which did.

5/11/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
I really don´t follow your logic. The author of John does not appear to have written his gospel to the Greek world alone, he also seems to be in a very active engagement with his own people, the Jews. And the author of John also seems to be in a very active engagement with some of the traditions we find in GMark. I am personally of the opinion that John had read GMark and knew full well the traditions and theology that Mark represented. I therefore find it almost inconceivable that John would unequivocably and clearly deny that John the baptist was Elijah if that tradition really went back to Jesus.

5/11/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Before James Crossley cuts me to pieces I think I must make an apology to Maurice Casey. Yes, it seems like I misrepresented part of his methodology in his book. After taking a closer look at the book this morning it is clear that I must recant. Casey is not actually implying that because he has been able to reconstruct a saying in aramaic it therefore follows that it goes back to Jesus. Casey is a lot more careful than that. On page 109 under point 4 Casey writes:

"The mere fact of an
Aramaic source takes us one stage back in the tradition, but not
necessarily back to Jesus himself. We must then use all the
necessary criteria to determine whether Jesus said and did what our
sources attributed to him. The Aramaic sentences will be found
especially helpful in reconstructing the cultural context of Jesus ministry. They cannot, however, function properly without a full
cultural context."

Casey isn´t even arguing that he is reconstructing the ipsimma verba of Jesus in a case like Mark 9:11-13. But Casey thinks his reconstruction "gives us an accurate account of Jesus teaching, even if it is an abbreviated account" (page 135)

But that said still I believe Casey´s hypothetical reconstruction of Mark 9:11-13 depends on so many ifs and might have beens that one asks if there are not a few too many to buy all of them. Based on his reconstruction of a few key aramiac words in Mark 9:13 Casey thinks he can show that Jesus glanced through the whole of the OT to find a halfdozen scattered references to the fate of John the baptist. Then Jesus weawed them all together in a pesher style and a glimmer of it can be found in Casey´s aramaic reconstruction.

Personally I find it a bit hard to believe that Jesus was as sophisticated as Casey´s picture of him implies, but who knows. Given what John 1:21 says I find it far more likely that Mark 9:11-13 is a pesher by the early church and that the greek version gives a better overall view of how that pesher looked like than Casey´s aramaic reconstruction.

I also have doubts about Casey´s claims that Jesus appears to have been somewhat of an expert in reading and interpreting the HEBREW version of the OT. On page 87 Casey writes:

"All this bears witness to his detailed knowledge of the scriptures,
his complete trust in the truth of the scriptures, and his absolute
confidence in his own innovative exegesis. He must therefore have
known the text. We can imagine all this in a language other than
the original Hebrew. Had he taught in Alexandria, for example, we
can imagine such confidence in the LXX. In first-century Israel,
however, only the original Hebrew text (with Aramaic in Ezra and
Daniel) was sufficiently canonical for him to have relied on it like
this. For him to have used Aramaic versions like this, we should
have to suppose that there were virtually canonical Targums for the
whole of the Hebrew Bible. It is clear from the evidence of the
preservation of texts that this was not the case. We must therefore
infer that Jesus knew the scriptures in the original Hebrew."

And Casey also writes:

"If Jesus read the scriptures in Hebrew, could he then speak
Hebrew? This does not necessarily follow, and is very difficult to
determine"

What I wonder is in what way Jesus could have been able to READ and INTERPRET the hebrew version of the OT and then not be able to SPEAK that same language. Doesn´t it follow that if Jesus was as skilled in the reading of the OT (on a scribal level?) as Casey implies then the most natural thing is that he also spoke Hebrew. But I wonder how likely it really is that a carpenters son from a small village in Galilee had the kind of education in Hebrew that Casey is implying. Is it likely that Jesus and the other village folks in the prayer house in Nazareth had the OT read to them in Hebrew? Or isn´t it more likely that they already had some kind of OT Targums since for most village folks Hebrew would have been as foreign as latin was in church service to french peasants in the Middle Ages.

5/11/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Antonio wrote:

Casey isn't even arguing that he is reconstructing the ipsimma verba of Jesus in a case like Mark 9:11-13. But Casey thinks his reconstruction "gives us an accurate account of Jesus teaching, even if it is an abbreviated account" (page 135). Still I believe Casey's hypothetical reconstruction of Mark 9:11-13 depends on so many ifs and might have beens that one asks if there are not a few too many to buy all of them. Based on his reconstruction of a few key aramiac words in Mark 9:13 Casey thinks he can show that Jesus glanced through the whole of the OT to find a halfdozen scattered references to the fate of John the baptist. Then Jesus weawed them all together in a pesher style and a glimmer of it can be found in Casey's aramaic reconstruction.

Personally I find it a bit hard to believe that Jesus was as sophisticated as Casey's picture of him implies, but who knows. Given what John 1:21 says I find it far more likely that Mark 9:11-13 is a pesher by the early church and that the greek version gives a better overall view of how that pesher looked like than Casey's aramaic reconstruction.


Nor am I especially confident about the authenticity of Mk 9:11-13 (I realize Casey isn't exactly claiming this), which is the reason I omitted this text from Allison's list (from pp 65-66 of Millenarian Prophet).

In favor of its authenticity: If we equate the Son of Man in Mark 9:12 with a collective body of saints, then the argument in 9:10-13 clarifies itself. Jesus would be saying that the saints must suffer in the end time. It follows that if Elijah comes in the end time, he will suffer, just as has happened to John the Baptist. "They did to him whatever they pleased."

But it's a tricky text for more reasons than one, as you note, and because of this I simply omitted reference to it.

5/11/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren wrote:

"In favor of its authenticity: If we equate the Son of Man in Mark 9:12 with a collective body of saints, then the argument in 9:10-13 clarifies itself. Jesus would be saying that the saints must suffer in the end time. It follows that if Elijah comes in the end time, he will suffer, just as has happened to John the Baptist. "They did to him whatever they pleased."

I don´t a collective body of suffering saints clarify anything in Mark 9:12. Come, on Loren. Are we going to find collective suffering saints crawling all over the place in the gospels now? "Suffering" in Mark seems to imply death and martyrium as the ultimate outcome, and I hardly think Jesus was ever implying during his lifetime that all of his followers were going to die as righteous martyrs.

5/11/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Which is more or less why I omitted it. It's just not a secure text on which to base the collective argument.

5/11/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

Maurice doesn't "imply" anything about education. There is evidence of the importance of education in Jewish households. See for example Josephus who says it is prescribed by Jewish law.. in 'Life' 1.60, 2.171,294. Also there are other reasons for Jesus speaking in Aramaic to his Aramaic speaking audience, not Hebrew (for example Mark's cry from the cross) and these are all discussed in the first chapter and throughout his work. Have you read his book on John

5/12/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
so you are going to have me believe that because of what Josephus says we would probably find every peasant hut or artisans house in Galilee filled with caring parents who where experts in Hebrew. Or are we going to expect that every little village in Galilee had som kind of school were folks like Joseph and Mary could send their little toddler Jesus to get a really thourough education in Hebrew. And are we also going to believe that the little toddle Jesus learnt so extremely well to read and interpret Hebrew, but didn´t learn how to talk that same language.
Yes, I have read Casey´s book on John a long time ago. I am rereading it at the moment.

5/13/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

I can't be bothered with sarcasm. I said "for example" as Josephus is only part of it but I don't care what you believe.

5/13/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
I may have poked a little fun at what may be the consequences if we take those statements from Josephus as fact about what was the reality in Galilee in the first century. But I am interested in knowing what those other sources are that might show us that knowledge of Hebrew was a widespread phenomenon in firstcentury Galilee. And so far I haven´t been able to spot any place in Casey´s book "Is John´s gospel true" where he talks about the the level of Hebrew litteracy in first century Palestine. There is a section on the "aramaic question" (if the author of John was an aramaic speaker himself) but I don´t see what this has to do with the subject we are discussing.

5/13/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

Palestinian Talmud y.Ket.832 reports the rule of Simeon ben Shetach about 100BC that all children should go to school, Philo etc. See the work of Alan Millard.

The point of John is that he is not likely to offend the Gentiles in his audience by identifying one person with another.

5/13/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
thanks for the references. I´ll take a look at Miller´s works. But your mention of Philo raises some questions. Does Philo really say that a majority of Jews in the diaspora went to schools where they learnt Hebrew? If so one wonders why the Jews in Egypt had to come up with the LXX. Why get a greek translation of the Hebrew bible if most Jews already knew Hebrew? On the contrary the evidence seems to point in the direction that greek was basically the only language most Jews knew in places like Egypt, Asia minor and Greece.
And are we not talking past each other? Yes, the palestianan Talmud you cite may well indicate that there were a lot of schools, but it hardly follows from there that we should take Simeon ben Shetach´s words at face value and conclude that normal peasant children or even artesan children were taught Hebrew in a systematic way. I doubt that a majority of peasant children were even taught Hebrew at all, since illiteracy was probably a norm in those circles.
And the point you are trying to make about John 1.21. Is that something Casey argues for in his book on John or is it something that you have come up with yourself? Personally I don´t see why the gentiles in John´s audience would have been offended if John had done like the synoptics and identified the baptist with Elijah. Mark´s gospel (like Luke´s)was also written for a gentile audience and why doesn´t he also feel there is a risk of "offending" his gentiles? And I believe that if the choice for John was of offending some gentiles or outrightly denying some words about the baptist that originally came from his Lord Jesus (the synoptics on JB/Elijah) then I think I know what the most probable answer is.

5/14/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

As I said, read Alan Millard "Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus" and find examples and read them.

As for John it was something Maurice said.

5/14/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
I´ve done a little research on Millard and read some of his articles on the subject. Surfing through the Internet I also managed to find a book that was published almost simultanously with Millard´s - Catherine Hezser´s "Jewish literacy in Roman Palestine". She comes to the opposite conclusion from Millard. Here are a few of her conclusions after sifting through more or less (if not more)of the same
epigraphic and litterary evidence as Millard:

"Catherine Hezser’s recent exhaustive review of the literary and inscriptional evidence for literacy in Roman Palestine concluded that less than 10% of the Jewish population would have been able to read simple texts and sign their names throughout the imperial era. Hezser describes Jewish literacy using the image of concentric circles: “At the center one has to imagine a very small number of highly literate people who could read literary texts in both Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek. Then there was another, slightly broader circle of those who could read literary texts in either
Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek only. They were surrounded by people who could not read literary texts but only short letters, lists, and accounts. A broader proportion of the population may have been able merely to identify individual letters, names, and labels. They as well as the vast majority of their entirely illiterate contemporaries had access to texts through intermediaries only.”

“Most Jews will have been aware of the symbolic value of the Torah,… but [they] did not study its contents or participate in the intellectual discourse which developed among its experts. They may have occasionally listened to scholarly disputes, attended Torah-readings in synagogues, and memorized some central texts and stories, but they did not actually study the text of Torah for
themselves.”

And here a summary of some of Hezser´s conclusions from a review of her book in JBL:

"The main result is easily stated: Jewish society in Palestine, both in the Early and
Late Imperial periods, was characterized by lower literacy and more restricted use of
texts than the Greco-Roman society of which it was a part. Rabbis can certainly be
classed as literate intellectuals, though Hezser believes that this intellectual effort took
place more on the oral rather than the written register. The Mishnah, Tosefta, midrashim,
and the Jerusalem Talmud contain fewer remarks about quotidian textual usage than
might have been expected. And beyond the religious sphere, she finds a surprising dearth
of evidence for the use of texts in business transactions, in familial and amicable
relations, and in public display. Well aware of the hazards of making claims based on the
presence or absence of surviving evidence, she nevertheless finds it significant that “tens
of thousands of inscriptions have survived in Roman Italy but only a few hundred in
Palestine” (488). Likewise for the documentary evidence: the Bar Kokhba letters and the
Babatha and Salome Komaise archives are rather thin pickings when compared with the
thousands of documentary papyri yielded by the Egyptian desert.
Conclusions about educational practices follow in tandem with these results.
While certain hellenized elites in Palestine would have schooled their children broadly,
after the Greco-Roman model, education among Palestinian Jews generally was a very
spotty affair. Hezser finds very little evidence of systematic attempts to educate children
from an early age (b. B. Bat. 21a; y. Ketub. 8:11, 32c notwithstanding), and she considers
views by an earlier generation of scholars—Aberbach, Safrai, among others—as much
too optimistic about the existence of Jewish schools. Even when such education did exist,
emphasis was placed on reading the Torah, and this narrowly focused skill would have
had less utility for participation in literate society than a more general education that
included attention to writing and calculating skills (74). Taken together, these results
“must lead to a new assessment of our understanding of ancient Judaism as a ‘bookreligion’
and a greater emphasis on other, non-textual forms of religious expression”

As for Millard and biblical archeology I get the feeling (after seeing a few of his writings) that his evangelical bent is all too obvious.

5/14/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

That's fine, think what you like. Write off the book without reading it. It doesn't really fit with your opinions so stick with the authors who support you. I think I'll retire from this properly. I have my own thesis to work on.

5/14/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

oh but why don't you look up the references cited through Millard from antiquity and consider them.

5/14/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
who has said that I won´t read Millards book. Or that I am dismissing it right of hand. Not me anyway. I was just trying to show you that the position Millard holds is not unchallenged in the scholarly world. Hezsers book is clear proof of that. And from seeing the chapter content of Millards book (only chapter 6 seems to deal directly with the question about the literacy level in Palestine) it looks like Hazsen´s book is the more thorough investigation of the problem (470 pages). Of course the amount of pages in a book doesn´t say anything about the quality of a book. Bye the way - have you read Hazsen´s book? If so it would be interesting if you could have some thoughts on why you think that she failes to prove her case while Millard does.

And as for my comments on Millard and archeology and his evangelical bent that was not referring to his book about literacy in Palestine. It was referring to some of his other works and his dubious methodology in the field of biblical archeology. See the devastating reviews of Miller and some of his evangeligal companions in JBL. Here:

http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=4521&CodePage=4521

5/15/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

You're quite right about Millard's other work. As for Hezser I haven't read her personally but my supervisor who has read widely on the subject and we have looked at it and discussed it. I'm not convinced that her conclusions follow from her evidence but she's right in parts about the type of education. I wonder what her background is.

5/15/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
glad that we can finally agree about something. I got hold of Millard´s book today and am reading it. As for you can read all about her background here:
http://www.tcd.ie/Religions_Theology/staff/hezser_catherine.php

Seems like she is definitely Jewish. And given her background and her more deepdigging "excavation" about literacy in Palestine my instinct tells me that her conclusions are more to be trusted than Millard´s. But I think a final judgement will have to wait until I´ve read her book. Seems like both you and me have some more homework to do on the matter.

5/16/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
could add a litltle more on Hezser. She is teaching in London at the moment:
"Prof. Hezser is currently teaching a broad range of Judaism courses in the Department of the Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London."

Given her long curriculum it seems like she is one of the worlds foremost experts on Judaism in antiquity. Specially when it comes to a subject like literacy in first century Palestine. We certainly cannot bypass her on a subject like the one we are discussing.

5/16/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

You can never disregard anyone. That's why we must take people from Robert Price and Hyam Maccoby to N.T. Wright, seriously.

5/16/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

There seems to be alot that Hezser agrees with Millard about - it just hangs on whether her conclusions follow from her evidence.

5/16/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Steph,
I am sure you could learn some things from N T Wright. His study on the idea on the afterlife in antiquity is quite good. But to take him seriously as a historian - that is to go a step too far. Not after his apologetics on miracles and his total disregard for the standard methods historians use.

5/18/2008  
Anonymous steph said...

Precisely: that is taking him seriously.

5/18/2008  

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