Lydia McGrew's comments have been piling up in response to two of my posts. I'll consolidate them and respond to them here:
On the cleansing of the Temple, your hypothesis (if I understand you correctly) seems to be that John is *not* trying to give the impression that it took place early in Jesus' ministry.
Now, I disagree with this fairly strongly, but more importantly, it must be _sharply_ distinguished between saying that John _moved_ the cleansing of the Temple *to the beginning of Jesus' ministry*. The two hypotheses are, in fact, in complete contradiction to one another! The latter says that John _was_ attempting to write as if the Temple cleansing took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, even though he knew that this was not the case! Your hypothesis, in contrast, interprets John as _not_ implying that the cleansing took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry.
I don't see how that follows. In principle, John could relocate the temple cleansing without implying that it took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry–or intended to make it look that way. Gospel writers can rearrange events without implying that their narrative sequence is chronological.
Now, I disagree with this. For one thing, we don't have nearly the evidence for John in other, uncontroversial places, that we have for Matthew that he arranges non-chronologically, so why think he is making such a major non-chronological move here?
Because, unless we think one or more of the Gospels is either mistaken or fictional in this case, we need to harmonize their respective reports of the temple cleansing in one way or the other. And that's one option. It wasn't pulled out of thin air.
More specifically, the narrative of the Temple cleansing in John is flanked on either side with geographical markers that are far more reasonably interpreted by holding this to be a chronological narrative. Just before, Jesus is in Capernaum, following which he goes "up" to Jerusalem (not meaning north, of course) for the Passover. In the next chapter we find him apparently still in Jerusalem and visited by Nicodemus by night, following which he has a baptizing ministry in Judea, leaving Judea only at the beginning of chapter 4. All of this makes sense as following upon the Passover recounted along with the temple cleansing in chapter 2.
I don't see how your supporting argument selects for your conclusion. John records three passovers. The temple was in Jerusalem, so any temple cleansing would require a trip to Jerusalem from whever Jesus happened to be living or ministering at the time.
The end of chapter 2 says that many were believing on him during that Passover because of miracles he was doing during that Passover and then only that he "did not entrust himself to them because he knew what was in man." As a description of passion week, this seems quite implausible. Mark's detailed discussion of Passion week gives no such picture.
Well, the only recorded miracle in Jn 2 is at the wedding of Cana, not in the temple complex, so I don't see how you derive your conclusion from John's narrative. As for Mark's, you have the cursing of the fig tree.
It seems to me extremely strained to try to make the cleansing of the Temple in John be occurring during Passion week and merely for (largely unknown and necessarily highly conjectural) thematic reasons of some kind or other narrated at this point in John's gospel. And, strangely and coincidentally enough, connected up with a Judean ministry immediately thereafter!
There are good scholars who think positing two temple cleansings to harmonize the Gospels is "extremely strained". The problem, such as it is, isn't generated by a particular harmonization, but by the data to be harmonized. Scholars didn't create that difficulty.
However, if you _do_ take that position, you are *at least* not saying that John was *trying* to imply that this Temple cleansing happened early in Jesus' ministry. So that theory should *not* be described by saying that John knowingly and deliberately "moves the Temple cleansing to the early part of Jesus' ministry."
Again, that's a non sequitur, which trades on an equivocation between "moving the temple cleansing to the early part of Jesus' ministry" and moving the temple cleansing to the early part of John's narrative. You illicitly conflate narrative sequence with chronological sequence, but that's the very issue in dispute. To relocate an incident doesn't ipso facto insinuate that that's when it really took place. Where it occurs in the plot and where it occurred in real time are not interchangeable concepts. Take movies with flashbacks and flashforwards.
I'm not saying John consciously relocated the temple cleansing. I'm just saying that even if he did, your conclusion is fallacious.
Again, that is a _much_ more problematic theory from the perspective of John's trustworthiness as a narrator.
I think it would be helpful for you to disambiguate the term "relocate" as you use it between
1) John wishes to give the impression that the cleansing did take place early in the ministry, though he knows it didn't,
2) John doesn't mean to give the impression that the cleansing took place early in the ministry.
That's a valid and useful distinction. However, I put it that way because you and Licona use "relocate" the same way, and so I preserve the ambiguity in the interests of consistency.
Do you intend to use "relocate" throughout the post to refer to #1, or might it refer to either? For example, you say that John may have "put it there simply because that's what he was thinking about on the day he dictated that section of his Gospel," but in that case by "put it there" do you mean just "put that material at that point in his narrative" or "tried to relocate the incident in his narrative so that it actually appeared to happen at that time"?
i) You're shadowboxing with Licona, which is fine, but that's not my position.
ii) There's a distinction between a writing giving a false impression and leaving a false impression. In the former case, he intends to create a false impression in the mind of the reader. That isn't inherently wrong, although it can be. Take the author of a Whodunit who confuses the reader by giving clues that point in the direction of the wrong suspect. To build suspense, the author tries to throw the reader off the scent with decoys. Make a reader finger the wrong character. Now, these clues aren't false. They happen to be true of the character. Yet they are intentionally misleading.
But in the course of the novel, the author will correct the reader's misimpression. By providing the reader with additional evidence, the reader will see that his initial suspicions were premature. Sometimes a writer will withhold information in order to subvert the reader's initial impressions. In a sense that's deceptive even though all the information he provides is true, and by the end of the mystery the reader will understand who did what.
Incidentally, we have something like that in the Joseph cycle, where Joseph's premonitory dream appears to be thwarted by events, but as it turns out, the same events which initially seemed to scuttle the premonitory dream are the very means by which the dream is fulfilled.
I'm not saying this is directly applicable to the Gospels. I'm just making a point of principle.
iii) Apropos (ii), writers don't necessarily have a duty to avoid all possibility that a reader will mistake what they meant. Indeed, any statement, however qualified, can be misconstrued. And it would be very pedantic and cumbersome to write in a way that tries to forestall the possibility of a reader drawing a false impression of what was written.
On the one hand, the writer did not intend to give the reader a misimpression. On the other hand, a writer may not go out of his way to avoid the possibility of misconstrual, both because the effort would distract from his main point, and because the misimpression would be innocuous. No matter how careful a writer is, he can't prevent some readers from mistaking what he meant, but it may be a harmless inference, because it wasn't important for the reader to know that.
This isn't just hypothetical. Take the way Matthew and Luke simplify Mark's Holy Week chronology.
iv) Incidentally, putting words in the mouth of a speaker isn't necessarily fabrication. For instance, Bible translators must decide what to do with Biblical idioms that have no direct counterpart in the receptor language. If they substitute a different, but conceptually equivalent, idiom, they are putting words in the mouth of the speaker. But that's different than fabrication or falsification.
v) Likewise, if a Gospel writer summarizes a speech by Jesus, his paraphrase may use words Jesus didn't use, but so long as he accurately captures the sense of what Jesus said, that's true to what Jesus said. That's a trustworthy record.
"It's unclear why defenders of the two-cleansings view think it's okay for Matthew and John to give the reader the impression that it happened on a different date than Mark, but misleading for John to give the reader the impression that it happened on a different date than the Synoptics."Because a difference of a day is much easier to leave out without being willfully misleading than a difference of three years.
Which may be a valid objection to Licona, but in general that's a prejudicial way of framing the alternatives.
Moreover, you're guilty of special pleading. If Matthew and Luke change the Holy Week chronology, that's innocent, but if John changes the Holy Week chronology, that's willful deception which makes him historically unreliable. You have your thumb on the scales.
Because the evidence is much stronger that John intended to say that Jesus cleansed the temple early in his ministry than that Luke and (especially) Matthew intended to say that Jesus cleansed the temple on the same day he arrived. (For example, there is also, in John, the geographical evidence that gives a sequence of Jesus' movements to and away from Judea for the Passover in which he cleanses the Temple.)
I've discussed that above.
"This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." One would have to postulate a completely unheralded break of *three years* at vs. 13. Moreover, get this: John gives this "beginning of miracles" (water into wine) in chapter 2. Then, not only are Jesus' movements within and then out of Judea described *after* the cleansing of the temple in chapters 3 and 4, including more material involving John the Baptist, but we have this in John 4:54: "This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee."
These are clear tie-ins of the whole sequence of events with chronology and place this whole trip to Jerusalem, which includes the cleansing of the Temple, into that chronology early in Jesus' ministry.
You seem to be assuming that every anecdote between chap. 2 and chap. 5 must be part of a continuous chronological sequence. That's a very novelistic approach to the Gospels, as if John's Gospel is a carefully planned, tightly integrated literary production. But I think oral history is a more realistic model of how observers remember and report incidents they witnessed. A smooth storyline with carefully coordinated plot elements is what we associate with good fiction, rather than a string of autobiographical recollections. Compare the autobiographical novels of Mark Twain with his actual autobiography. The organization of the latter is much looser than the former.
In contrast, there are no such positive statements in Matthew concerning the second cleansing of the temple that clearly place Jesus' second cleansing on the day of the triumphal entry. There is merely a failure to relate a day's break, and this is consistent throughout Matthew's relation of Passion week that he does not bother to count off all the days like Mark does.
No one who just read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John would have any reason to suppose there was more than one temple cleansing. No one who just read John would have any reason to think there was a temple cleansing at the end of Christ's public ministry. No one who just read the Synoptics would have any reason to think there was a temple cleansing at the beginning of Christ's public ministry. No one who just read Matthew would have any reason to think Jesus cleansed the temple the day after he arrived in Jerusalem.
On your own view, there are multiple opportunities for readers to draw the wrong impression of when or where the incident occurred. But that's innocuous, because the Gospel writers don't intend to be exhaustive or rigidly linear.
Notice that once we admit as remotely plausible the hypothesis that John *deliberately* implied, *though he knew it was false*, that Jesus cleansed the Temple at the beginning of his ministry, then one can simply say that all the arguments from differences in purpose, setting, etc., were part of John's clever work in moving the account! In other words, once we admit the hypothesis of deliberate falsification, John the evangelist becomes a lot like Descartes' imaginary Deceiver. Whatever one might point to as evidence that the event really happened early in Jesus' ministry is turned into so-called "evidence" of John's literary abilities in making it look like it happened early in the ministry even if it didn't!
In contrast, an approach to the text that assumes that the gospel writers are telling the truth as they remember it is able to take seriously the obvious evidential impact of considerations like the differences between the accounts. Those considerations _should_ cause us to consider that there may well have been two cleansings, but if one thinks that John was a deliberate falsifier of the timing of events, one loses the correct evidential impact of those considerations. One just says, "Yes, yes, of course that's all there, of course John is making it look like it took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He's _moving_ the cleansing of the Temple to early in the ministry."
This is not only a problem theologically. It's a huge problem epistemically. Like all ad hoc theories, conspiracy theories, etc., such a theory of an (in effect) Deceiver John will make it impossible to see the effect of evidence aright.
i) You're shadowboxing with Licona, which is fine. But in doing so, you typically impose an artificial constraint on the available alternatives.
ii) Redaction criticism usually presumes that differences between Matthew and Mark (to take one example) must be theologically motivated. I think that's rarely the case. For instance, I suspect Matthew generally simplifies Mark for the prosaic reason that he needed to free up space to make room for his own independent additions, while making the narrative fit onto one scroll. Ancient books were often not preserved because they were too long, because they required two or more scrolls.
iii) Likewise, I don't assume that John consciously relocated the temple cleansing. It may just be, as I said, that that's the order in which he remembered events on the day he dictated those anecdotes to a scribe. I don't know for a fact that he used a scribe. But that's a reasonable hypothesis.
iv) Even if he did consciously relocate the temple cleansing, that doesn't necessarily (or even probably) mean he was deliberately making the reader think there was only one temple cleansing, which occurred at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Rather, as I've said, that could function as a flashforward. A preview of the end.
v) Matthew's simplified chronology makes it look like the temple cleansing happened on the same day as Jesus arrival in Jerusalem–even though it didn't. Mark's chronology is likely more precise at this juncture. So we need to distinguish between the effect of what he wrote and the intent of what he wrote. Which is applicable to John.
vi) In addition, the average Bible reader doesn't engage in the kind of systematic comparative analysis of the Gospels that harmonists and redaction critics do. Indeed, that's an artificial way of reading the Gospels. They weren't designed to be read side-by-side. They were meant to be read lengthwise, not horizontally, with an eye to the other Gospels.
vii) The problem with Lydia's Cartesian analogy is that she thinks there are probably errors in the Gospels. But if God allows undetectable mistakes to creep into the Gospel accounts, doesn't that make God a Cartesian Deceiver? Nearly all our information for these incidents comes from the Gospels. We have no independent source and standard of comparison. How is a reader is a position to distinguish truth from error under that scenario?