Tuesday, February 05, 2008
The Gospels in Early Christianity
I spent a couple of years looking at the place of the Gospels in early Christianity and in particular testing Richard Bauckham's thesis of the Gospels for All Christians against the actual phenomena of the circulation of the Gospels. One thing I continue to find interesting is how the Gospels represent an integration point or funnel for various Christian traditions. Consider the following:
1. Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark clearly has a Pauline view of the Torah for Gentiles (Mk. 7.19c), a Pauline view of Christ's death (Mk. 10.45), and a similar view of gospel (Mk. 13.10); see Joel Marcus on this. And yet, the biographical material in Mark has a largely Petrine flavour and it elevates Peter among the disciples (so Bauckham et. al.).
2. Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has often been regarded as anti-Pauline (e.g. D.C. Sims) but more recently R.T. France has argued that it represents a synthesis at Pauline and Jewish Christian traditions. It is clearly Jewish Christian on the Law (e.g. Mt 5.17) but essentially a Pauline perspective on the Gentiles (e.g. Mt. 28.19-20).
3. Gospel of Luke. In a previous generation Luke was associated with an "early catholicism" which was where Pauline and Petrine Christianities were reconciled (e.g. Baur to Kasemann). This category is pretty much defunct (despite J.D.G. Dunn's modification of it) and I think it better to see Luke as representing a form of post-Pauline Hellenistic Christianity that wants to remain in continuity with Jewish Christianity whilst maintaning its cosmpolitan vision in the Greco-Roman world and holding out hope that Israel may yet respond positively to the gospel and to the followers of Jesus.
4. Gospel of John. John is pretty much in his own tradition (with the exception that he has probably read Mark or heard it). He stands between an incipient Gnosticism, a post-70 Judaism, and a Hellenistic Jewish Christianity.