James Still's "Critique of New Testament Reliability and 'Bias' in NT Development"--my initial response.


My Comment 21:

[date: June 7, 1998] 

James Still continues...

There existed many different varieties of proto-gospels, each based on the local communities own oral tradition as it was preserved from the time of Jesus. Although Q is the most famous of these early Sayings Sources (as Q is also called) it was not the only one. The Gospel of Thomas, for example, is based on a more primitive strata of Q; a strata that swapped stories about Jesus before the apocalyptic expectations that came to be attributed to Jesus and the "Son of Man" sayings found their way into the Q.

James here makes several rather significant assumptions (generally following the party-line of the Jesus Seminar folk), which need close examination. Some of these are:
 

Let's look at each of these carefully, and 'test' them...




1. Local communities maintained oral tradition from the time of Jesus. (Elsewhere James delineates these early communities as Judea, Samaria, Galilee).

Were there really long periods of 'oral only' transmission of the sayings of Jesus, from the times of Jesus?

Was the early oral tradition ONLY made up of 'sayings' of Jesus?

Was this alleged oral tradition transmitted without 'controls' or quite loosely?

The interesting thing about this is that there is absolutely no data to support this, and what little data exists argues that it is simply not true.

All indications are that the ministry of Jesus--during His earthly life--DID NOT focus on developing local communities of believers (capable of preserving Jesus' sayings), nor did it actually PRODUCE those (there were no separate "Christian" or messianic meetings commemorating the life/words of Jesus until after His death).

Quite simply, when a person encountered the person of Jesus during His life, and became a believer in His Person and Mission, Jesus simply told them to either "follow Him" (abandoning all) or to remain in the status quo. The "Status Quo" was simple synagogue worship with a focus on praising God for His messenger/Son. During the life of Christ, the "church" was still future:

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. " (Matt 16.18) Believers that did not join the travelling band of Jesus disciples (such as Mary/Martha/Lazarus), did not exit the synagogue and form a break-off group. And indeed, they didn't do this until after Pentecost. And the socio-political situation would have greatly retarded any open discussion about Jesus: His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (John 9.22)

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; (John 12.42)

Furthermore, when the apostles in Acts began evangelizing Samaria and other communities, we have NO indication that ANYONE remembered the words of Jesus. Jesus introduced several Samaritans from the city of Sychar (at Jacob's Well) to the messianic faith (John 4), but this community never shows up in any subsequent literature of the first 2-3 centuries. [The evangelization of Samaria by Philip in Acts 8 was at the capital city of Samaria/Sebaste, some 8 miles from Sychar.]

Indeed, even when Paul and friends begin evangelizing the outlying areas, the only "sayings from the time of Jesus" he encounters are from John the Baptist! So:

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; (Acts 18.24)

And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, 2 and he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." 4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." (Acts 19.1ff)

So, if there WERE residual bits of information about Jesus, it would have come from the message of John the Baptist, either concerning Christ's atoning sacrifice ("behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world") or His divine nature/mission/authority ("but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 "And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.")

One must remember that the response to Jesus was quite varied during His lifetime. Whereas the tiny village of Sychar in Samaria welcomed Him (John 4), the only other Samaritan village recorded did NOT receive Him (Luke 9.51ff). Galilee was extremely divided in its response, and even those of His home town rejected Him. Jerusalem and the Judean countryside also were quite divided in its response to Jesus, with the crowd of celebrants (or anti-Roman hopefuls?) at the Triumphal Entry counterbalanced by the mercenary mob of the Trial of Pilate. He only made the briefest of trips outside of Israel (one to the "region" of Tyre/Sidon, and one to Caesarea Philippi), hardly staying long enough to create a 'community'.

There simply were no "communities" created by Jesus during His lifetime--that was the task for the Apostles. Their forays out into the Judean towns (the Sending of the Twelve and the Sending of the Seventy) were basically the same messianic message of John the Baptist, and although their ministry seemed to be powerful (Luke 10.17), its success was not reported in terms of 'conversions'. Their message was the "shared" one of "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (Luke 10.9) and we have no indications that it included any "Sayings" of Jesus.

No doubt those whose lives were deeply touched and transformed by our Lord would have had a vivid memory of their encounter, but this would hardly have constituted "oral tradition" at the level of a 'proto-gospel'. (And it certainly would not have been a 'community' product.) In fact, the vast majority of known 'transformation encounters' recorded about Jesus and non-disciples do NOT contain any generic preaching-type statements. All of His remarks to healed people or 'touched' people were of a personal nature "go home and tell..." or "watch out for sin..." or the such like. The sermon-quality or Sayings-quality remarks given to non-disciples were given only occasionally, and probably not to the same group more than once.

Jesus was focused on accomplishing His messianic and salvific work, and He focused on building ONE SPECIFIC community--the apostolic band--to carry this message forward. He did NOT even aim the majority of His teaching at the public, but rather at the disciples. So, after a most detailed and careful analysis of Jesus' major speeches in Matthew, Byrskog [HI:JTOT:228] summarizes:

"In short, Jesus' major speeches are directed mainly to Jesus' own disciples. Jewish crowds are also often present. But the speeches are not preaching aimed for an audience of outsiders first of all. They are mostly information to the disciples. The disciples are the primary recipients of Jesus' teaching. They are his pupils." And Matthew 10.27, illustrates this "train the trainer" program further: "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."

"Communities" are defined not only by a belief-structure, but also by corresponding rituals, ceremonies, cultic actions. The first one of these we find for the 'Jesus movement' was the Last Supper, instituted the night before He died. Accordingly, this constitutive element would have also been missing from any alleged pre-Passion 'communities'. [The entry-rite, that of baptism, was NOT associated specifically with a Jesus movement, since it was shared by John the Baptist.]

Frend illustrates some of the dynamics of the Galilean ministry and aftermath[FRC:68,69,.70]:

"How long the Galilean ministry lasted is uncertain. It must have been more than a year, and more likely two. It was long enough for Jesus to visit much of northern Galilee and preach beyond its boundaries in Tyre and Sidon, to have made one journey at least to Jerusalem via Samaria and to have left him time for silent solitary prayer in the hills. It was long enough, too, for opposition to consolidate and render much of Jesus' efforts fruitless...For a time Jesus was to withdraw from public teaching and concentrate on his disciples alone...Meanwhile the disciples, people who had truly left all to follow him, were to be built up as the nucleus of the new Israel...After another quick and secret journey through northern Galilee including his old base Capernaum, Jesus, his disciples, and friends set out for Jerusalem." So, this first point is simply false. We have no reason to believe that "local communities maintained oral tradition from the times of Jesus" and we have several reasons to believe that this in fact did NOT occur.

Indeed, the historical record supports this as well. Jesus spent the majority of His ministry around the Sea of Galilee, and we do not encounter any historical evidence of a Jesus movement there until after the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in the early 2nd century.

Galilean Christianity only appears in the later rabbinic sources, showing the conflict between Rabbinical Judaism (which mostly settled in Galilee after the expulsion from Jerusalem) and the Nazarenes, a Jewish-Christian group of highest orthodoxy. We know that there were Christians in Galilee during the book of Acts (hardly surprising, since the vast majority of Church leadership was from Galilee!), but Palestinian Christianity seems to have been dominated by the Church of Jerusalem. Indeed, Luke can speak of "the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria" (Acts 9.31).

Now, IF WE ALLOW "assumptions" to be considered, then the most logical 'assumption' would be that of Pritz' [NT:NJC:120]:

"The talmudic sources seem to return us to the area of the Galilee, where a Nazarene presence can be supposed to have been constant since the ministry of Jesus."" But if Pritz' assumption can be allowed, then James is a tough spot, for the only real and early data we have about the Nazarenes concerning biblical content comes from Epiphanius (7,2; 7,4; 9,4): a. They use both the Old and New Testaments, without excluding any books known to Epiphanius (7,2): 

"For they use not only the New Testament but also the Old, like the Jews. For the Legislation and the Prophets and the Scriptures, which are called the Bible by the Jews, are not rejected by them as they are by those mentioned above [Manicheans, Marcionites, Gnostics]. "

b. They have a good knowledge of Hebrew and read the OT and at least one gospel in that language (7,4; 9,4): 

"They a good mastery of the Hebrew language. For the entire Law and the Prophets and what is called the Scriptures, I mention the poetical books, Kings, Chronicles and Ester and all the others, are read by them in Hebrew as in the case with the Jews, of course."

"They have the entire Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. It is carefully preserved by them in Hebrew letters."

In other words, when they first appear in the 'fossil record', they have a full gospel-not a 'sayings source'. And they are careful to preserve it in written form. (In fact, they were quite scribal in nature-they even wrote a commentary on Isaiah that is used/quoted by Jerome.)

And before I move on, let me make one additional point about this whole 'oral tradition' issue. Although I have already dealt with this in Comment 12, some additional data is worth reviewing.

The old Form-Critical school of Bultmann/Dibelius, upon which much of the Jesus Seminar superstructure rests, assumed that a long period of 'oral transmission' occurred, in which the tradition grew/developed without controls, after the analogy of folklore.

Over the past half-century, this assumption has been shown to be unwarranted by historical and comparative studies. For example,

  1. First-century Palestine was literally CRAWLING with scribes! Qumran had tons, they show up in the gospel records, they show up in the Pseudepigraphical Jewish literature of the period (e.g., the theme of the Heavenly Scribe, for example Enoch), they show up in the Apocrypha (e.g., Sirach), they show up in the earliest rabbinical literature we have. It simply was NOT an 'oral' culture!

  2. The Qumranites were known to write down the words of the Teacher and preserve them very, very carefully. Josephus points out that the Essenes (likely the basic stock of Qumran) are careful to preserve their books (BJ 2.8): "Moreover, he swears to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself; that he will abstain from robbery, and will equally preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the means of the angels [or messengers]. These are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes to themselves." This sect came into existence merely years before they had the flourishing literature that we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were very quick to record the words of the Righteous Teacher.

  3. The Uppsala school has demonstrated how closely the apostolic circle approximated a scribal 'rabbinate' which would have produced fixed traditions of Jesus' teachings ever BEFORE His death. Davids summarizes some of their findings in GP1:87, 88, 89-90:

  4.  
      "First, we have pointed out both in relation to Jewish traditions and in relation to the language of Jesus that there is no reason to assume that the early transmission was exclusively oral."

      "The narrative of Acts 1:21-22 indicates that at least to some in the church the role of the apostles was not only that of a witness to the resurrection, but also that of a witness to the life and presumably the teachings of Jesus. It would be hard to believe that men with such a role did not by their presence exert some control upon the development of tradition."

      "So long as the apostles existed, then, and particularly so long as they existed in Jerusalem, the respect in which they were held had the effect of dampening variation in the tradition..."

      "Gerhardsson was correct over against the form-critical school in looking at the gospel material, especially the didactic parts, as traditions deliberately taught by Jesus to the disciples and in part passed on by them before the passion. Further research, however, has shown that at an early date at least part of this process was in a written form (i.e. the Qumranic model was as much that of Jesus' milieu as the later rabbinic) and that the material was from the beginning partially in Greek.

      "After Easter the early church did take an intense interest in the life and teaching of Jesus. Translation of Aramaic traditions into Greek must have been almost immediate in Jerusalem, where Hellenistic Jews were part of the early church. The presence of eyewitnesses of that life up until the period when the written gospels were appearing, witnesses who were in high church positions, must have had a strongly conservative effect on the tradition (remembering that the church as much as the rest of its society valued the authority of elders). The church was clearly conscious that it was passing on tradition, not creating new ex nihilo (cf. even Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1ff., 11:23ff., which are some of the few places where his arguments overlap gospel concerns.). Yet this transmission was also probably more in writing than Gerhardsson allows."
       

  5. Byrskog has shown that at least Matthew conceived of the apostolic mission as specifically a scribal one, based on Matthew 13.51:

  6.  
      "Have you understood all these things?" They *said to Him, "Yes." 52 And He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old." (See also 23.34, and 28.18-20)
       
  7. And this accords well with Eusebius' famous remark about Matthew and "sayings" of Jesus:
"Matthew compiled the oracles in the Hebrew speech, and each one interpreted them as best he could." (Eccl. Hist., 3.39.16).

Notice here that Matthew did not USE a 'compilation' but actually put a 'sayings document' together. And, given the emphasis on note-taking and scribal-type disciples above, there is no reason why the compilation could not have occurred as the speeches of Jesus were given. There is no reason to suppose that Matthew waited until Jesus had died or ascended to do such a student-like task (as a tax-collector, such procrastination of documentation would have been suicidal!); and there is every reason to suppose it was done as they traveled about.
6. That any such oral transmission was not uncontrolled (after the pattern of folklore), we can give the summary by E. Earle Ellis [GAG:40-41]: "The uncontrolled transmission of the gospel traditions, understood largely from the analogy of folk traditions, owed more to J.G. Herder's eighteenth-century romanticism than to an analysis of first-century Jewish practices and rightly raised a number of questions. (1) The limited chronological framework, first of all, does not inspire confidence in the analogy: the development of "holy word" traditions over a few decades in a relatively small and closely knit religious group is quite a different matter from the development of folk traditions over a century or more. (2) The postulate was also at odds with the conceptions about the transmission of religious traditions that were present in early Christianity (I Cor. 11:23; 15:1-3) and rabbinic Judaism, as O. Cullmann, H. Reisenfeld, B. Gerhardsson, and R. Riesner have shown. Finally, (3) it is difficult if not impossible, in a continuous traditioning process, to account for the transmission from folkloric (communal) oral transmission with its milieu and techniques to the (individual) written result in the Gospels with its milieu and techniques." 7. Additionally, Gamble points out that this assumption of 'folk lore' approaches was NOT based on empirical studies [BREC:15]: "The idea of the folk community taken up by form criticism was not, however, an analytical concept based on empirical ethnographic studies, but a constructive concept rooted in a romantic notion of history and culture, a view characterized by a nostalgic concept of primitive societies uncorrupted by civilization. The value of this idea for form criticism was above all its emphasis on the anonymous and collective nature of authorship, and thus on the nonliterary character of folk tradition." In summary, the old 'oral tradition-"long and loose"-position has lost its general strength, in the face of the data of first-century Palestinian practice.

But this need not deter James from his proto-objection; he could simply start the 'tradition cycle' later, with the apostles. The apostles will immediately start the evangelization process, and presumably create communities that preserve the words of Jesus--as taught by the apostles--in some 'oral tradition' form (perhaps). And this might allow James the latitude he will need to come up with "different traditions", but the facts will unfortunately (for James) indicate otherwise.
 
 

When the evangelization of the world begins--Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost earth--the apostolic message (1) ALREADY contains more than "sayings" of Jesus and (2) ALREADY is tightly overseen and controlled by the apostolic band.

That the apostolic message was larger than Sayings Sources can easily be seen from the simple "sermons" of Peter in the early chapters of Acts.

Consider the first one in Acts 2. After the opening quote from the book of Joel (filled with apocalyptic imagery, by the way), Peter delivers his message--without a single "Saying" of Jesus:

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know- 23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 "For David says of Him, 'I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 'Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; 27 Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 28 'Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.' 29 "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet." ' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified." Now, even a cursory glance at this sermon will reveal a very, very high Christology! (Something even the 3rd century church would have been proud of!) The emphasis is quite clearly what God had accomplished in the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of the Davidic messiah (with a dash of Throne-apocalyptic thrown in). There is not the slightest mention of the "Sayings" of Jesus in this passage; the focus is on what the prophetic OT spoke about Jesus!

Ditto for Peter's second sermon in Acts 3:

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 "Moses said, 'The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. 23 'And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' 24 "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' 26 "For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways." Here again the focus is on what GOD promised to do through His prophets in the Tanaach/OT, and what GOD did through the work of Christ--nothing about cynic witticisms or "Sayings" of Jesus.

Of special importance is Peter's message to the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10.36ff:

"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)- 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. 39 "And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 "God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." Stuhlmacher points out the interesting understanding of how this impacts the question of the earliest apostolic preaching [GAG:22]: "Since the logos declared by Peter in Acts 10:36-43 is not simply a summary of the Lucan gospel but rather presents a concise version of Mark's Gospel, I am of the opinion, again in company with C.H.Dodd and M. Dibelius [note: the father of form-criticism, upon which the Jesus Seminar is critically dependent!], that what we have in Acts 10:36ff is the fundamental kerygmatic model of the gospel account first offered by Mark. This fundamental model is pre-Pauline or contemporary with Paul and shows not only that in the Church's mission Jesus' resurrection is proclaimed and his return announced but also that the story of the deeds and fate of the earthly Jesus is old, all this in the frame work of scriptural references in to the Old Testament." In other words, the earliest records we have of the apostolic preaching is the "gospel" as we have it today--not some 'sayings source'. The earliest data we have indicates a composite message.
 
 

Secondly, the apostolic message 'content' is ALREADY tightly overseen and controlled by the apostolic band. There are a number of indications of relatively CLOSE apostolic oversight of the spread of the gospel content:

1.The early church had a center (Jerusalem) and leaders (apostles).

2.When the church expanded into Samaria, there was interaction with the leaders of the founding church (Acts 8.14): "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them". [By all accounts, Peter and John would have been closest to ANY information about Jesus' acts/words.]

3.When the church expanded into Antioch, we see the same pattern occur (Act 11:22): "News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch."

4.When the issue of circumcision came up, the church in Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabas "to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15.2)

5.The first church council was held at Jerusalem (Act 15:23-29)

6.The reference in Acts 15:24--"We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you..."--is a STRONG indication of a 'sense of control'!

7....as is 16.6: "As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. .

8.Paul accepted the importance of the Jerusalem center (Gal 2.1-2): "Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain."

9.Davids points out how significant this was [GP:I:87f]: 

"Confirmation of the picture in Acts comes from the fact that even Paul felt the power and authority of the Jerusalem church and the apostles. While Paul insists that his legitimacy as an apostle comes directly from Christ, he still reports that he found it necessary to go to Jerusalem at least twice and on one occasion to seek formal approval of his gospel from the apostles (Gal. 2.1-10). This would be most astounding if Paul did not feel that the apostles had at least some type of authority over the content of the tradition. Thus although Paul refuses to become dependent upon Jerusalem, he has the highest respect for the role of the community as a stronghold of pure doctrine and tradition".

10. At Jrs. Paul was welcomed and sent to the Gentiles (Gal 2.9f): "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

11.Paul (a native of Tarsus!) returned to Jerusalem after EACH missionary journey.

12.Even Peter is subject to the apostles as a group (Acts 8.4).

13.The leading apostles and evangelists had traveling ministries, bringing them into contact with churches and believers everywhere.

14.The early churches did NOT live in a vacuum. They corresponded with each other (cf. I Clement, a letter from Rome to Corinth, a.d. 95, see ATNT:48-49) and exchanged NT documents (cf. Col. 4.16).

15.Bauckham summarizes the authority succinctly [BAFCSPS:450]: 

"The Jerusalem council presupposes the authority of Jerusalem to decide the issue of Gentile Christians' obedience to the Law (Acts 15). Its decision binds not only Antioch and its daughter churches (15.22-31) but also the churches founded by Paul and Barnabas (16.4). When James recalls the decision in 21.25, the effect is to imply that Paul's Gentile mission is still subject to it."
Notice that every indication we have--from the only sources we have--supports a very narrow range of "content flexibility" by local communities and leads us to believe that the message of the earliest church was predominantly on the deeds of Jesus instead of His sayings!

But let's raise the hypothetical case, perhaps suggested by James' scenario. WHAT IF a Galilean village HAD maintained a memory of some of Jesus' sayings during one of His trips up, and they then encountered an apostolic preaching journey into their town--what would have been likely to happen?

There is no reason to suppose that their response to the obvious "informational superiority" and/or authority of the apostles would not have been the same as others:

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2.41f) In other words, the apostolic preaching (and the frequent visits) would have exercised a 'corrective' influence on any incorrect memories of Jesus' teaching. Those who had been touched by the life and words of Jesus earlier would have been eager to learn more about the Savior from those who accompanied Him "from the Baptism of John on" (Acts 1.22).

Notice carefully at this point, that this argument makes a case that NO SAYINGS SOURCES COULD HAVE ARISEN AT ALL, except as part of the apostolic records! If the socio-historical scenario constructed above (i.e., most of Jesus' teachings aimed at disciples, and no significant community formation until post-Pentecost), then the only place that Jesus' words/sayings could have been preserved would have been within the apostolic community (broadly considered to the 100+ of Acts 1).

And when you couple this with (1) the facts of very close interaction among the apostolic band over the next twenty years or so, and with (2) the deeds-oriented preaching of the earliest sermons of the apostles, you are basically locked OUT of James' position. A Sayings Source simply cannot manifest itself 'early', unless you can demonstrate that the early preaching of the apostles was radically different from that preserved in our earliest sources. If there will be any 'oral tradition' scenario, it will have to be apostolic or post-apostolic in time; NOT from the pre-apostolic period. To get to a place where James can assert that the individual apostles created communities with different 'gospels', he will have to demonstrate--against the evidence above--that the apostles generally worked alone, and generally did not interact (or accept correction!) with each other. And the data on frequent apostolic interaction is considerable--especially concerning the preaching/teaching content (and its written forms).

It is quite easy to demonstrate that the various writers/sources of NT documents were in constant communication and collaborative work. Some of the data are as follows:

1. The letters of James, I Peter, and the Pauline letters were written by apostles who--according to Paul and his sometime companion Luke--worked together. The data is extensive: Gal 1.18; 2.1, 9; I cor 3.22-4.1; 9.5; 11.16, 23ff; 14.33ff; 15.3-7; Rom 15.25; Acts 11.29f; 12.25; 15.6-35; 21.17f; cf. 2 Pet 3.15f; Jude 17f with I Tim 4.1).

2. The letters and the Book of Acts connect their authors with the synoptic authors:

3. Peter and Paul with Mark (Col 4.10f;2 Tim 4.11; Phlm 24; I Pet 5.13; Acts 12.12-25; 13.5, 13; 15.37ff).

4. Paul and James with Luke (Paul: Col 4.14; 2 Tim 4.11; Phlm 24; Acts 16.10-17; 20.5-21.17; 27.1-28.16 ["we"]; James: Acts 21.17f ["we"]).

5. Acts puts James and Matthew together in Jerusalem (Acts 1.13f with 12.12-17, 25)

6. The epistles reveal that Paul and Peter and James know a number of synoptic traditions [GAG:44] 

Paul: I Cor 7.10; 9.14 (I tim 5.18); I Cor 11.23; 15.3; cf. Col2.8; see GP:II:345-375 for a substantial list of Pauline overlaps with the Synoptic Apocalypse. [see also some significant verbal overlaps with Jesus' words]

Peter: I Pet 1.10ff Luke 10.24=Matt 13.17); 2.7 (Mark 12:10); 2.12 (Matt 5.16); 4.13f (Matt 5.11f=Luke 6.22f).

James shows special affinities to Matthew: 1:5,6, 22f; 2:5, 13; 4.10; 5.12. 


7. Peter was apparently the source of much information for Paul--Gal 1.18.
The NT writers were in constant communication and collaboration with each other, and demonstrate this in their writings. It would have been difficult if not impossible for one of this group to have held to variant/dissident views/memories without it becoming widely known. We even know of disagreements within the early church, and that they are surfaced quite visibly(!)--such as Peter vs. Paul in Galatians and the circumcision issue in Acts 14-15. All the indications along these lines indicate frequent and healthy feedback loops in the early decades of the Church.

Back to James' assumptions...
 
 
 

2. This oral tradition somehow constituted a 'proto-gospel'.

Well, we have already seen how this 'oral tradition' could not/did not exist, and James even admits in his later piece that there is not the slightest shred of textual or archeological data to support this.

And, it should be pointed out, that the genre of the real gospels is that of Greek bioi. And any of the supposed Saying Sources do not have any relationship to this genre. So, it is misleading to even term these non-existent sources as 'proto-gospels' on genre grounds.

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

3. There were significant differences between these proto-gospels

Since these proto-gospels don't exist, it is difficult to assess the differences between them (sardonic smile here)...

This, of course, is the area of Rampant Speculation that dominates the discussion about "Sayings Sources" and the like. James will have to make tons and tons of speculative judgments about what this community would have believed and what that community would have believed, with the result being so incredibly gossamer...

It is difficult for me to know what else to say here, to be frank, since this area is so subjective and without critical controls. Just let me point out that the data presented above about the apostolic control, when coupled with the data on the fidelity of the apostolic preservation/transmission surfaced in the last couple of decades by scholars such as Gerhardsson, Reisner, Harris, and Byrskog, make a very, very strong case for the accuracy of the transmitted intra-gospel words of Jesus, as well as the episodal narratives about His deeds.

Differences among the Synoptic Gospels do not provide prima facie evidence that the information presented in them came from 'competing proto-gospels'. But the issue of the Synoptic Problem is for later...

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

4. These proto-gospels consisted ONLY of sayings of Jesus

Notice here that the best data we have, on the earliest preaching of the apostles (noted above) contradicts this clearly and forcefully. Notice also that we have argued above that a "sayings source" could not have surfaced from the apostolic band (the only possible place from which it could have occurred).

This leaves us with a simple negative verdict on this assumption as well.

It must also be remembered that one of the main topics in Jesus' disclosures to His disciples before His death was ABOUT His death and resurrection. Repeatedly, He attempted to teach them this, and the unflattering portrait of their 'dullness' and even downright rejection of His words [Matt 16.21-24: "From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 23 But He turned and said to Peter,"Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.""], makes a strong case for the authenticity of these attempted teaching 'events'.

[And, by the way, "Q"--one of the hypothetical "Saying Sources" of James' is FILLED with biographical detail about Jesus. It is not remotely "ONLY" the sayings of Jesus, nor is it even ONLY about Jesus. It includes stories about John the Baptist (Q1-Q4), and numerous supernatural elements (e.g., the Satanic temptation in Q6-Q8 and the Voice of God at the baptism in Q5). And current Q-scholarship believes Q was written, not oral anyway (Sato, in NT:TSOQ:156)]

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

5. The document called "Q" was such a Sayings Source

Again, James has admitted (as do all scholars) that there are no traces of this document in the historical record. James has to fall back on the vagueness of the "Synoptic Problem" to support the claim that Q existed. Q is a logical construct that is a 'document of the gaps' required by the Two-Source view of gospel criticism. [I will cover this issue below].

Although I have pointed out some of the problems with the Q hypothesis earlier, let me just make a summary point again from one additional source, Ralph Martin, who generally supports some kind of Q-layer [NTF:147]. He cites as the "best summary" of the pro-con arguments about Q, from Knox:

"It is necessary to insist that Q is simply a hypothetical document; its claim to have existed rests on its being the best hypothesis to explain the fact that there is much material to be found in these two Gospels [Matthew, Luke] which shows so close a resemblance of wording (sometimes amounting to complete identity) that it must have been derived by both of them from a common written source, or at least an oral source which was regarded as authoritative and memorized by Christian teachers" Let's be clear on this: Q is a 'sayings' COLLECTION-not necessarily a sayings SOURCE. As a hypothetical document, it is defined (roughly) by an equation: "Common (Matthew, Luke) minus Mark = Q". As it just so happens, this equation yields mostly sayings of Jesus (reasons for which we will discuss below). But let's not forget that we have no textual, literary, or archeological evidence for this document or body of tradition-it is PURELY 'logic' (or better, our lack of information about the formation of the gospels) that suggests such a Q (assuming one rules out OTHER solutions to the 'synoptic problem', of course).

Orchard still has one of the most incisive comments about Q (cited in RMML:260):

"Apart from the fact that no two scholars agree on its content, 'Q' stretches credulity to the limit--to imagine that in the first Christian century a document, so highly treasured and copied so carefully and lovingly by both Matthew and Luke quite independently, should have disappeared without leaving a single trace or any real objective clue to its existence and nature." [Now, it is important to mention here that "Q" is not as big of an issue as might first appear. The existence of Q-tradition is held by scholars of all persuasions and religious commitments. This is NOT a matter of 'faith' per se, but simply a matter of historical and textual science. I will indicate in a longer piece on the synoptic problem why I (and a growing number of non-amateur scholars) are abandoning the Two-Source theory (which needs a Q) in favor of the Two-Gospel theory (which doesn't).]

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

6. The Gospel of Thomas was such a sayings source, and pre-dated Q.

I have demonstrated elsewhere that:

  1. Gthom is too late for this;
  2. Gthom is too fuzzy for this;
  3. Gthom is dependent on the 4 canonical gospels already!
  4. Gthom is held to be early ONLY by a small, small minority of NT scholars (mostly Jesus Seminar types)
On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

7. The apocalyptic expectations did NOT come from Jesus.

Could Jesus really not have had any 'apocalyptic expectations' because they were allegedly only later?

This is another of those positions that is hopelessly out of date. [James needs more gadfly DNA in him (smile)].

The data of the literary sources before/during the time of Jesus would suggest that if Jesus did NOT voice 'apocalyptic expectations', then He would have been ABSOLUTELY unique in the milieu of the period! Every other group within Judaism (with the possible exception of the Sadducees) voiced 'apocalyptic expectations' in one degree or another.

Without getting into technical definitions of 'apocalyptic', let us simply note it involves the use of geo-astronomical images to describe either present or future actions of God in history. It is generally assumed to have originated in the 'throne visions' of Isaiah and Ezekiel, and to have been 'formalized' by Daniel.

If we survey the literature of the period, we find that apocalyptic works crop up EVERYWHERE, and even the most "sedate" of authors appeal to apocalyptic passages as a means of understanding their present/future.

The literature is too vast to do more than simply illustrate this, so let me just give a quick sampling of the works/texts of the period.

  1. Qumran. This community, of course, KNEW that they were living in the last days, and that THEY were the remnant that God would save. There are literally DOZENS of apocalyptic scrolls found there.


  2. Palestinian Pseudepigrapha. This refers to works written in the period that are not part of the biblical canon. In this category we can place I Enoch (the first 36 chapters of which are pre-Maccabean):

  3.  
      I Enoch 14.17-21: "As for its floor, it was of fire and above it was lightning and the path of the stars; and as for the ceiling, it was flaming fire. And I observed and saw inside it a lofty throne--its appearance was like crystal and its wheels like the shining sun; and (I heard?) the voice of the cherubim; and from beneath the throne were issuing streams of flaming fire. It was difficult to look at it. And the Great Glory was sitting upon it--as for his gown, which was shining more brightly than the sun, it was whiter than any snow...No one could come near unto him from among those that surrounded the tens of millions (that stood) before him", with Dan 7.9-10: ""I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.


       
  4. Diaspora Pseudepigraha. This refers to works written in the period by Jews outside of Palestine, generally in Greek, that are not part of the biblical canon. In this category we have The Apocalypse of Zephaniah (1st century BC, Greek-speaking Jew), of which it can be said:

  5.  
      "The author's interest in angels, thrones, and apocalyptic judgment represents a more direct influence form the later Old Testament collection of writings, particularly Daniel and Psalms." [OTP:1:504]

    Another example would be from Book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles. (in comparison with Daniel):
     
      14.361: "Then the holy nation will hold sway over the whole earth for all ages, with their mighty children" with Dan 2.44 (above) and 7.27:"Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.'"


  6. Palestinian Apocrypha. This refers to works written in the period by Jews in Palestine, which are NOT in the Jewish and Protestant canons, but are in some groups within the Catholic and Orthodox communities. And example of this would be 2 Maccabees, which draws from the apocalyptic traditions in Daniel extensively.
  7. 2 Maccabees was probably written right around 161 bce--earlier than 1 Maccabees [Harrington, HCSB; Kee CASA], and Chester points out that "it is also at pains throughout to show, at least implicitly, that the prophecies of Daniel 7-11 hold true" and that "it is certainly clear that 2 Maccabees sees Daniel as an inspired and authoritative work, and takes up important themes from it" [HI:IIW:154].


  8. Rabbinic Judaism. Even the later rabbinical data that we have demonstrates that a non-trivial apocalyptic theme was present in rabbinical thought, which might have stretched back into the pre-70 period. So Urbach [SWWRT:311, 579, 682,passim]:
"The Amoraim in the fourth century who created their vision of the Messianic era, and did not, like Samuel regard it only as a time devoid of the bondage of the kingdoms, but gave it a Utopian and apocalyptic character, came, as a result of these portrayals, to endow the Messiah also with authority to give decisions and expound Halakhot transcending the existing Torah."

"The homilies of Sages and others that contain hyperbolical descriptions of the world to come recall the visions of the apocalyptists [pre-Christian]."

"Needless to say, it was just the apocalyptic stories and dicta of the Sages that were not always handed down in their original form; sometimes the narrators presented them in a sharp dialectical form that appeared to nullify their original intention."

Where this nets out should be clear: the vast majority of Judaism held to apocalyptic ideas for at least 2-3 centuries before Jesus, and several centuries AFTER Jesus, so the evidence is quite strong that apocalyptic expectations on the part of Jesus are to be expected. Indeed, it would be very surprising if Jesus had NOT expressed this common theme in His day-in one form or another.

Indeed, this area was one of the major problems (and embarrassments!) of the older Form-Critical school. Gamble points out that they really missed the mark on this, especially in light of the vast amount of data available to them [BREC:19f]:

"I have also noted that form criticism regarded the eschatological expectations of early Christianity as a powerful disincentive to writing and thus to the production of literature. In the face of what was already known about Jewish apocalyptic literature, it is astonishing that this claim could ever have been made, but after the discovery of the Qumran scrolls, it simply cannot be sustained." And the Jesus Seminar and James are still talking about this?! (James, "come out from among them...")

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

8. The Son of Man sayings did NOT come from Jesus.

This assumption is very close to the previous one, since the Danielic "Son of Man" motif was a frequent sub-theme in Jewish apocalyptic of the day.

Could Jesus really not have had any 'Son of man' sayings, because they were allegedly only later?

However, in this case, the data is less extensive (which makes sense since it is a sub-theme of apocalyptic) than that for the broader 'apocalyptic', but is still strong that "son of man" ideas were still held by various pre-Jesus "Judaisms". [We also have the complication that in the passage in Daniel, the "Son of Man" figure is sometimes interpreted as the nation of Israel, and sometimes as the representative of the nation (as in the case of Jesus). As Israel can be seen through the eyes of various individual figures, such as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah or the Exodus Son of Hosea 11, both understandings are probably involved, but interpreters may sometimes see only one and not both.]

The summary statement by Nickelsburg in ABD will point out that this was common in Jewish (not just Christian) texts of the time of Jesus:

"Used in Dan 7:13-14 to describe a cloud-borne humanlike figure, the expression-or at least the figure so designated in Daniel-became traditional in some forms of Jewish and early Christian speculation which anticipated a transcendent eschatological agent of divine judgment and deliverance." To show that Jesus' usage of this was not unique we need only to consider a couple of strands of data: Overall, then, we see that the 'son of man' terminology, images, and themes were very much a part of the milieu of 'messianic Judaism' and as such, provides a perfectly reasonable backdrop for Jesus' use of the term Himself. In other words, it makes perfect (and preferable, actually) historical sense to state that Jesus' used of the 'son of man' terminology and images to describe His identify and mission. And, as in the case of 'apocalyptic expectations', it might be considered surprising if He had not done so.

On to the next assumption...
 
 
 

9. The apocalyptic expectations and "Son of Man" sayings were "put on the lips of Jesus" later.

Did the early church really create 'new' sayings of Jesus and 'write these into' the stories of His pre-Easter life?

So far we have seen that it would be much more historically plausible to maintain that Jesus DID use these images to describe His messianic identity and mission-given the pervasiveness of these in the common religious understandings of the day. So all I would like to do here is make the point that the early Church appeared to AVOID ascribing post-Jesus sayings to Jesus, and indeed, even appeared to PROTECT the Jesus traditions from 'encroachment'.

There are several strands of evidence and argumentation that I think will make this clear:

First of all, from the above discussion, there was probably no need for Jesus' followers to ascribe this to Him, since He probably used those categories/images Himself-given His thorough 'Jewishness'. If the Judaisms of the day used such terminology, why would we believe that the disciples were 'more Jewish' than was Jesus?! He certainly didn't seem to have a problem with the 'exclusivity' of the locus of salvation. In His conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4 (allegedly a gospel with anti-semitic leanings!), Jesus flat out told her: "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. 22 "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews." (John 4.21-22). We simply do not have a plausible reason to deny that Jesus said these things, but that His disciples did.

Second, Byrskog has pointed out that the 'school' model of Jesus/disciples operated such that Matthew seems to have deliberately protected the Jesus tradition [HI:JTOT:360-361]:

"The evidence available implies that the prophetic influences in the Matthean community manifested themselves as interpretative activities. As E. Schweizer puts it, 'the true prophet is the interpreter of the commissions of Jesus' Jesus-sayings from the past remained the basis of any contemporizing address to the community. It is indeed possible that the prophets did utter new and independent oracles. But Matthew did apparently not allow them to enter into the Jesus tradition as pre-Easter Jesus-sayings. There was no entirely free incorporation and intergration of new and independent oracles into the Jesus tradition. Within the creativity, there was the aim to preserve. [italics Bryskog's; bold mine]

"Matthew's aim to preserve--even protect--the Jesus tradition implies the existence of criteria which controlled the incorporation of additional material. J.D.G. Dunn stresses the early Christian' need to test prophetic oracles."

Third, Lemcio has demonstrated rather forcefully that the gospel writers went to great pains to preserve the pre-Easter sayings of Jesus in distinction to the post-Easter sayings of the Risen Lord. He summarizes this consistent trend [PJG:108,109] "The hardest available evidence from the gospels has confirmed the thesis that the Evangelists produced narratives about Jesus of Nazareth that were free of blatant attempts to infuse and overlay his story with their own later and developed estimates of his teaching, miracles, passion, and person."

"With a consistency that can be charted on virtually every page of text, the thought and idiom of his era are not reproduced in theirs. Or, more correctly, they do not retroject theirs into his. Such a claim, when carefully qualified, can even be made of John. At significant moments (5:24, 12:44), the most christocentric of Evangelists reveals a synoptic-like theocentricity that dominates the entire gospel." 

Fourth, the original assertion that later Christian writers would attribute later sayings to Jesus came from the form critical school assumptions. Bultmann and Dibelius believed that later Christian prophets could, when speaking by the 'spirit of Jesus', would think it okay to put THEIR 'inspired words' onto the mouth of Jesus.

But the work of Otfried Hofius, admittedly one of the main experts in agrapha (i.e., non-canonical sayings of Jesus), is a definite counter-trend to the assumptions of 'free creation' of sayings of Jesus. Compare some of his remarks in GAG:359:

"With regard to the agrapha which originated within the ancient Church--and are therefore nonheretical--and which do not qualify for classification among the group of sayings in section 4 above, we have before us on the whole an astonishing picture: apart from haggadic-legendary pronouncements and deliberate or mistaken attributions, we are dealing predominantly with expansions, with modification, with blends of synoptic (occasionally also Johannine) logia, and in rare instance with formations modeled on canonical dominical sayings or with the conversion of narrative notations in the Gospels into direct statement by Jesus. By comparison the number of completely free creations is quite minimal. This most be noted as a phenomenon worthy of consideration and reflection. The palpable tie-in with the pre-existing tradition of dominical sayings makes it definitely doubtful, in my opinion, that the early Church freely, on a large scale, and without inhibitions, produced sayings of the earthly Jesus...What we do have to doubt, however, is that the Church was very productive in the minting of new sayings of Jesus." 

Fifth, Byrskog also reaches the same conclusions that the church did NOT ascribe post-Easter prophetic utterances to the pre-Easter Jesus [HI:JTOT:369]: "Two negative implications emerge. First, early Christianity did not easily shift the authorial identification of sayings from a Christian prophet to Jesus. This observation is in harmony with the distinction that Paul makes between what he himself says and what the Lord says (1 Cor 7:10-40; 9:14; 11:23; 15:3; 1 Thess 4:15). Paul may have considered his apostolic commission as a call to preach in prophetic terms. But regardless of whether the sayings of the Lord in all cases actually go back on a dominical tradition or not, it is evident that Paul is anxious to keep sayings ascribed to himself and sayings ascribed to the Lord separate...Second, the normal procedure in early Christianity was not to project port-Easter sayings into the pre-Easter ministry of Jesus. In the NT, as often also in later texts, the explicit prophetic oracles appear on the lips of the risen Christ...There are no episodal comments implying a projection back into Jesus' earthy ministry." [emphasis Bryskog's]

Sixth, there is a definite "what's wrong with this picture?" issue here. If the later church put THEIR words, reflecting THEIR issues, into the mouth of the pre-Easter Jesus, why didn't they do a good job of it?! The controversies of the later church (e.g., organization, re-baptism, etc.) would be the best "candidates" for spurious sayings, yet these simply do not appear at all. The very motive would contradict the actual data of the alleged retrojected sayings. Blomberg makes this point [BLOM:32]: "Further, if the gospel writers felt so free to include prophetic messages as words of the earthly Jesus, it is astonishing that there are no 'sayings' of Jesus addressing some of the most divisive controversies in the early church, for example the role of circumcision or speaking in tongues"

Finally, David Aune, in the most detailed study of prophecy in the period so far, points to the radical lack of evidence to support this theory [NT:PEC:245]: "scholars, it appears, have seized the hypothesis of the creative role of Christian prophets because it both accounts for the additions to the sayings tradition and absolves the early Christians from any culpability in the forging of inauthentic words of Jesus. In spite of the theological attractiveness of the theory, however, the historical evidence in support of the theory lies largely in the creative imagination of scholars."

All in all, we can summarize the verdict on this assumption: 1. there is no data to support the hypothesis that Christians invented ANY sayings of the pre-Easter Jesus;

2. there is no motive to support the hypothesis, either;

3. the absence of Jesus sayings that would have been 'convenient' for the disputes of the early Church counts against the theory;

4. there is textual evidence that supports a view that the gospel writers deliberately 'protected' the Jesus tradition from intrusion of spurious elements;

5. "Control data" from the agrapha supports the view that words were NOT put on Jesus' lips in the gospel traditions;

6. there is a wealth of textual and literary evidence that the synoptic writers made a deliberate effort to distinguish between the pre- and post-Easter sayings of Jesus.

In other words, the case is decidedly AGAINST the assumption of James (and the older Form Critical school, and its modern derivative the Jesus Seminar).

.....................................................................................................................................

Overall, this position of James is considerably out-of-date, not even according well with the data that was available at its first articulation in the days of Bultmann and Dibelius. And the data has accumulated further against it over the intervening decades, so that the fact that the Jesus Seminar (and James) is still maintaining this position demonstrates how 'fringe' (and way out there along an increasingly discredited "trajectory"!) they really are. The data is simply 'otherwise'.


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