Thursday, August 05, 2010

Evolutionary Christology?

Liberals typically allege that the gospels reflect legendary embellishment as we proceed from the earliest gospel (Mark) through Matthew and Luke to John.

There are some obvious problems with this allegation.

i) Mark is more miracle-laden than John. And Mark already has a high Christology (as Simon Gathercole, among others, has documented).

ii) John could be dated to the 60s. And even if, ad arguendo, we go for liberal dates, it isn’t clear on what basis liberals date John later than Matthew or Luke. Basically, they use the circular argument that John is more theologically advanced.

iii) However, Larry Hurtado has furnished another argument against the facile thesis of legendary embellishment:

“The human ‘realism’ of Mark’s presentation of Jesus noted by John Donahue also furthers a connection between Jesus and intended readers…The Markan emphasis on Jesus as example explains the treatment of the Twelve, which has been so misconstrued by some scholars…In fact, this concern to make Jesus both the basis of redemption (10:45; 14:22-24) and the pattern for his followers probably gives the best explanation for the overall shape and limits of the Markan account, for what Mark does and does not include in it. We have in Mark a story of Jesus that is shaped just like the life of the disciples. In the words of Philip Davis, the Markan story is ‘a blueprint for the Christian life’: it begins with a baptism and then issues in mission, opposition, and persecution involving death, and ends with divine vindication by resurrection,” Lord Jesus Christ (Eerdmans 2003), 310-11.

“Whether Mark knew of any miraculous birth tradition we cannot say. But if he did, he had good reason for not including one in a story of Jesus shaped to serve as a paradigm for his readers. As Christians, their life too began with their baptism, and Mark emphasizes that they too are called to follow Jesus in proclaiming the gospel and with a readiness to undergo persecution, trusting that if they lose their life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, they shall receive eschatological vindication (e.g., 8:34-38). Likewise, no resurrection appearance was necessary or even appropriate. For readers who are to live with trust in God for their own vindication, it was sufficient to affirm that God has raised Jesus, the paradigmatic figure for their lives and hopes (16:5-6),” 311.

“Of course, the empty tomb and the announcement by the ‘youth’ in 16:5-6 are to be read in light of Jesus’ prophecies of his resurrection (8:31; 9:9,31; 10:34; 14:28). For the intended Christian readers of Mark, the ending was not nearly so doubtful in meaning as it has often been made by modern scholars,” 311n138.

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