Posted: April 27, 2002 | Back to the Miracles Index
8. Were the authors so influenced by their mythic ANE or Greco-Roman context that they 'accidentally' created miraculous elements to conform the story of Jesus to that cultural/mythic model of Royal/Divine ANE kingship--completely unaware that they were doing so? In this understanding, the gospel literature would portray a Jesus in substantial agreement to some assumed ANE model of such a figure (the DARGs are sometimes suggested?), and the authors of those gospels would have been perhaps 'surprised' to notice that pattern in the final product.
We have already addressed two related questions:
(1) Did the NT authors deliberately dress Jesus up to look like "one of these"?
(2) Did there exist a pervasive model of divine-kingship or DARG (Dying and Rising Gods) to conform the stories of Jesus to?
Our researches (both in this series and in the CopyCat articles) so far indicated that the answer to both of these questions were 'no'.
In this version of the question, I am asking whether or not the gospel authors unconsciously created miracles stories--as false memories--in their writing of Jesus' words and deeds. These false memories would have been created by their sub/un-conscious, in conformity to culturally-assimilated mythic imagery of DARGs or divine-kings.
Now, let me preface this piece with a caveat: I have not seen this specific question raised/argued by others; it is included here for comprehensiveness. Most of the arguments along this line have to do with conscious embellishment of the narratives/stories, in order to portray Jesus in some way. Those forms of the argument we have shown to be out-of-synch with the data of the historical period and with the data of the biblical narratives. So, I don't have a good statement of this specific question to work from--I am simply trying to address every practical alternative.
Accordingly, my arguments here will be very brief.
At first blush, this first question seems decisively "no", for an obvious reason: if the extra-biblical literature of the period never presents a model of such a miracle-working divine figure, then there is no reason to believe such a model existed--much less that such a model was a culturally-pervasive, subconsciously-efficacious influence on ANYONE.
In other words, if there was no such model detectable at the conscious level from the historical data, then we have absolutely no historical reason to believe this theoretical influence operated at an unconscious level.
We have already seen that there was no such model, and that the portrayal of Jesus as a miracle worker in the gospels was at variance with all OTHER cultural models of the day.
And to this we might add that there are no other instances (in the period) where someone did such a thing, unconsciously.
So, this first aspect of the question--at least as far as I can construct is--is decidedly inappropriate to our quest:
There is no warrant for believing there was such a 'model'
operative in the culture at the time (Hellenistic or Jewish).
There is inadequate correspondence between the portrayal of
Jesus in the gospels and the various 'proposed' models of the miracle-working
man/king, to warrant either conscious or unconscious 'imitation'.
3. There are no examples in the extra-biblical literature of the period that provide an 'example case' that would suggest otherwise.
[As we shall see in the next question, I do not mean to imply or argue that the symbolic 'world' of a specific culture does not influence our language, literary productions, and interpretations of our experience--not at all. Nor do I suggest that the not-quite-as-culturally-constructed hopes, dreams, and wishes of distressed humanity (even semi-Jungian structures or semi-structuralist) are not operative in our understanding of experience. In fact, biblical interpreters rely on such understandings of human life to exegete the biblical text (cf. the numerous works on bible 'background' and the growing body of social-scientific studies of the worlds of the biblical peoples). But what I AM pointing out is that the actual cultural and historical data relative to the miracles of Jesus do not suggest this specific exemplar-and-match pattern.
Accordingly, I have to conclude that the data does not support the belief that the evangelists unconsciously created miracle stories/accretions about their dead leader which were fashioned and expressed in ways that brought their memories of Him into conformity with some culturally-pervasive paradigm (e.g., wonder-working king, divine ANE king).
On to the next one…
April 27, 2002