Sunday, March 22, 2009

it don't matter...

For those of us who grew up in the church, listening to the rich and familiar deatils of the crucifixion story, it is easy to assume that those passion narratives contain historical or at least quasi-historical details. In fact, an entire generation passed without any written record of the events leading up to the death of Jesus. because Paul's writings are the earliest New Testament material available, his account of the cross is both revealing and utterly spare: "For I handed on to you as of first importance, what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and the he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3-4)

That's it. That is the "totality of the only written story of the cross that Christians had until the eighth decade CE." Although Paul speaks often of the death of Jesus and the meaning of the cross, there is no crucifixion story placed in the week of Passover, no familiar and beloved passion narrative:
Robin R. Meyers, Saving Jesus from the Church, p. 58

Setting aside the fact that I think he and his Jesus Seminar fellows play fast-and-loose with the dating of the Gospels (not to mention their color-balling of those same Gospels)...

As he notes, Paul says much about the cross of Christ in his writings. It would have been meaningless for him to have said anything about it if the people he was writing to had no idea that that was how Christ had died.

So, when Paul tells those same Corinthians in the same book that "...we preach Christ crucified...", we may well think that they were familiar with what he was saying.

Did they know all about it? Did they know of Pilate, and Herod? Did they know of Peter and the disciples in the Garden?

I am left wondering "Why not?", because Meyers' argument is essentially an argument from silence--that since Paul doesn't go into details here, than he had not mentioned any details at all to them.

As well, in Acts we have Paul mentioned as being in Jerusalem not long after Christ's crucifixion. I'm not sure how long after it Stephen was stoned, but it seems to have not been very long after. Whether Paul was actually in the city when it occurred or not (I kind of doubt it, as he seems to say that he did not see Christ until seeing the resurrected Christ while going to Damascus), he was familiar with the early church (even if only as an enemy), and likely was filled in on events by those around him.

The question Meyers' seems to be asking is, "Why didn't Paul go into more detail here", and his assumption seems to be that it is because there were no details.

As to why Paul didn't give more details, perhaps the most knowing thing I can say is, "I don't know".

Another thing we can ask is "If he had mentioned more details, would it have mattered to Meyers?" Later on in I Cor 15, Paul goes into the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Here is what Meyers' thinks of the resurrection.

We know that the infancy narratives cannot be history any more than the four accounts of the resurrection, all contradictory, can be considered historical.
p. 27

We may conclude that Paul's thoughts are essentially secondary to the presuppositions of Meyers and his Jesus Seminar cronies. No detail Paul could have added would have made them believe

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