Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hengel and the Gospels

Something I've read recently and really enjoyed and actually learned something from is Martin Hengel, ‘Eye-witness Memory and the Writing of the Gospels: Form Criticism, Community Tradition and the Authority of the Authors,’ in The Written Gospel, eds. Markus Bockmuehl and D.A. Hagner (FS Graham Stanton; Cambridge: CUP, 2005), 70-96. Here's a few gem quotes and key observations:

‘In reality, however, the Synoptic Gospels consciously intend to narrate a temporally removed event of the past, i.e., Jesus’ unique history, which, of course, has fundamental significance for the present time of the evangelists and the communities addressed through them, indeed for all humanity, since what is narrated is already for Mark euangelion which wishes to convey saving faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. The closing statement of John 20.31 basically applies to all four Gospels.’ (pp. 70-71).

Plutarch also has two biographies that could be described as passion narratives with extended introductions: Cato the Younger and Eumenes. (p. 72, 72 n. 11).

Martin Dibelius' review of Bultmann’s History of the Synoptic Tradition: ‘It must be said quite emphatically that B’s scepticism in all questions of historicity is not necessarily connected with form-critical criteria but with his conception of the nature of the primitive Christian community as well as his emphasis upon the difference between Palestinian and Hellenistic Chrisianity’. (pp. 81-82).

‘A further neglected factor in form criticism, therefore, is personal memory, which can hold fast what is seen and heard for decades. It is closely connected with the phenomenon of the “eye-witness”. To begin with, everyone has individual memory. Particular “eye-witnesses” may observe the same process rather differently and often only in a limited way. Of course, there was simultaneously a constant exchange, which was then “institutionalized” in primitive Christian worship through the community of witnesses, in that “the memory of Jesus” from his baptism by John to his passion and its interpretation was narratively proclaimed. There arose thus a “treasure of memory”, which could be supplemented but also controlled.’ (p. 86).

‘An anecdote about the later career of F.C. Baur (d. 1860) was related to me by my teacher, O. Bauernfeind (1889-1972); he heard it from his teacher Eduard von der Goltz (1870-1939), and he, in turn, from his father Hermann von der Goltz (1835-1906), who attended Baur’s Tübingen lecture on the book of Revelation. He is reported to have commented with reference to the number 666 in Rev 13.17: “And Hengstenberg in Berlin [the leader of strict conservatives in Berlin, 1802-1869] says that’s me”.’ (p. 86, n. 64).

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