What Did Jesus Say

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					What Did Jesus Say?
The Development of the Oral Tradition (40 – 50 AD)

Background
• Depictions of Jesus as a savior or messianic, divine, or apocalyptic figure appear to have come later in the gospel tradition. • Instead the earliest sayings of Q, Thomas, and Mark all reflect the more Jewish concepts of Jesus as the Righteous One, a Miracle Worker, and Spiritual Master. • The first followers focused upon the Word (mishnah) of the prophet Jesus and the Way

Themes
Instead of looking to salvation or apocalypse, the first followers focused upon an earthly Kingdom of God, which they saw as both a social vision of an ideal society and a call to an alternative lifestyle -- i.e. the Way – which they were called to spread. • They called themselves “Brethren,” the “Poor,” and the “Sons of Light.”

The Development of the Oral Tradition
• Scholars feel that the first missionaries spread the sayings of Jesus as an easily memorized catechism along with a handful of stories about His miracles and Passion. • Early Jesus communities collected the sayings and stories of Jesus as written pericopae on amulets, potshards, and scraps of papyrus or animal skins (parchment).

The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
• There were 6 million Jews in the 1st Century • Only 2 million lived in Palestine, but most of these were marginal Jews, i.e., “sinners.” • Almost that many still lived in Babylon; the rest were spread out all across the Eastern Mediterranean in small Jewish enclaves. • Samaritans and others of mixed parentage were as well a focus of the early missions.

Targeting the Lost Sheep
• Part of the need for a formalized oral tradition, a mishnah, was that most of the first missionaries spoke an obscure dialect of Aramaic. Greek was a second language. • The first proto-gospels were collections of sayings, miracle stories, or the Passion epic in Greek that were transformed into written gospels three to four decades later by the second and third generation of followers.

Discovering the Mishnah in the Gospels
• Thomas seems to have stemmed from just such an early sayings proto-gospel. • So also does the hypothetical “Q” that was the second source for Luke and Matthew. • The Jesus Seminar of Scholars (Robert W. Funk, Roy Hoover, et al.) voted on sayings: red for most authentic, pink for “maybe,” gray for “questionable,” and black for “no way.”

Critiquing the Jesus Seminar
• Published before wide release of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The seminar misinterpreted some of the imagery of John as stemming instead from late 1st Century Gnosticism. • They found only two “pinks” in John, even though “I Am” may be the most Jewish of all revelations. • Too Greek. They sound more like the cheria of a Stoic philosopher than a rabbi

1. The Pronouncement Stories in Mark
• Scholars give great credence to a handful of Pronouncements in Mark’s (and Thomas’) gospel that appear to have come from an early catechism. • They are both pithy and memorable because they respond to a pressing social issue with a startling twist of conventional wisdom. • Scholars trust the saying but question the theological elements of the set-up story.

Pronouncement Q and A’s
• Why did Jesus eat with sinners? “Those who are well have no need of a physician.”

• Why didn’t He fast? “Can the wedding guests fast

while the bridegroom is with them?” • Why didn’t Jesus observe the Sabbath? “The Sabbath was made for man . . . .”
• Why didn’t He follow the traditional laws of purity (i.e., kosher)? “There is nothing outside a man which

by going in can defile him.”

How Can We Follow the Way?
• How should we behave? “If any one would be

first, he must be last of all.” • Should we pay our taxes? “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s . . . .” • Why do you pool your wealth? “It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.” • Why do you allow Gentiles? “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

The Jewish Pronouncements in John
• Why did Jesus eat with sinners? “I came so that those

who do not see may see . . .”
• Why didn’t He follow the traditional purity rituals? “He

who has bathed does not need to wash, but is clean all over.” • Why didn’t Jesus observe the Sabbath? “My Father is working and I am working still.” • Why didn’t He keep kosher? “Do not labor for food which perishes, but for food which endures.”

Affirmation of Judaism
• “If you do not fast as regards the world, you will not find the Kingdom. If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath, you will not seek the Father.” Thomas 27 • “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but [rather] to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5: 17

How to Follow the Way in John
• How should we behave? “A new command-

ment I give you, that you must love one another,’ and “I have given you an example (i.e., foot washing), a servant cannot be greater than his master.” • Why do you accept sinners? “I have other sheep who are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

A Jewish or a Gentile Way?
it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circumcised.” Thomas 53 • “You worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we know; for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4: 22 • “You must be born again . . . of the Spirit.” • “He who walks in darkness does not know where he goes ” and “I came not to judge the world, but to save it. John 12; 35 and 47
• “If

2. The Kingdom Teachings
• Another possible catechism of early sayings are referred to by scholars as the Kingdom Teachings. They, too, are short, pithy, and fly in the face of conventional logic. • Usually they are presented as a straightforward teaching without any of the kind of set-up story found in the pronouncements. • Most seem to have existed as the punch line to a more extended parable.

The Kingdom of God is like . . . .
• a grain of mustard seed: Mark 4:31/Thomas 20 • a sower with a handful of seeds: Mark 4: 3-8 /
Thomas 9

• a pearl of great value: Mark 13: 46 /Thomas 76 • A shepherd with 100 sheep: Luke 15:3-7/
Thomas 107

• A hidden treasure: Matthew 13: 44/Thomas 109 • A little leaven: Matthew 13: 33/Thomas 96

Kingdom Teachings - mini parables or the wisdom of Rabbi Jesus?
is impossible for a servant to serve two masters . . . . new wine is not put into old wine skins . . . . And an old patch is not sewn onto new clothes.” Mark 2:21 /Thomas 47 • “Those here who do the will of my Father are my brothers and my mother.”
Mark 3: 32-35 /Thomas 99 • “No • “It

prophet is accepted in his own village; no physician heals those who know him.”
Matthew 13: 57 / Thomas 31

Rabbinical Wisdom or Greek cheria?
• “For no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel . . . .” Mark 4: 21 /Thomas 33

what is in your sight, and that which is hidden will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest.” Mark 4: 22 / Thomas 5 • “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods; unless he first binds the strong man.” Mark 3:27 / Thomas 35

• “Recognize

3. The Mishnah of Rabbi Jesus in Q
• Scholars feel that the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 / Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6: 20–49 come from an early Mishnah that included a handful of other verses (i.e., Luke 9: 57 – 10: 11; 11: 1-1; and 12: 2-34). • Most of these have close parallels to the logia or sayings in Thomas. • Luke’s version is generally accepted as the most authentic.

The Lord’s Prayer in Luke and Matthew
“Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be

thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” • Luke’s version is briefer, more Jewish, and points to a present kingdom (not an apocalyptic one).

The Mishnah of Rabbi Jesus in Q
• “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. . . .” • “Love your enemies . . . Turn the other cheek . . . And as you wish that men would do to you, do also to them . . . .” • “Judge not, and you will not be judged . . .” • “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye . . .?”

Mini-Parables in Q (and Thomas)
• The parable of the persistent neighbor who keeps knocking until he gets his due. • The parable of the rich man who built new store houses for all his goods. • The parable of the mustard seed • The parable of the rich man’s banquet that was shared instead with the poor.

Wisdom Teachings in Q and Thomas
• “Can a blind man lead a blind man . . .?” • “For no good tree bears bad fruit . . . .” • “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few . . . .” • “Do not be anxious about your life . . . Consider the lilies of the field . . . .” • “Salt is good; but if it has lost its taste. . ..”

A More Earthly, Spiritual Kingdom in Q and Thomas
• “ . . . The Kingdom is inside of you, and it is

outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become . . . . Sons of the living Father.” Thomas 3 • “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed . . . For behold [it] is in the midst of you.” Luke 17: 20-21 • “The Kingdom . . . Is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.” Thomas 113

The Spiritual Kingdom in Thomas
• “When you make the two one, you will become the sons of man, and when you say, ’Mountain, move away,’ it will move away”
Thomas 106

• “He who is near me is near the fire, and he who is far from Me is far from the kingdom”
Thomas 82

• “He who seeks will find . . . .”

Thomas 94

Rabbi Jesus as a Spiritual Master
• “There is a light within a man of light and it lights up the whole world. If it does not shine, he is in darkness.” Thomas 24 • “Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see Him, and are unable to do so.” Thomas 59 • “I shall give to you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard . . . .” Thomas 17

Parallels Between John and Thomas
• “I am He who exists from the Undivided. I was given some of the things of My Father.”
Thomas 61

• “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone and you will find Me there.” Thomas 77


				
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