'Orality and the Gospels': A Discussion with Eric Eve and Rafael Rodríguez
Eric Eve (Fellow and Tutor in Theology, Harris Manchester College, Oxford), author of Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition (SPCK, 2013)
Rafael Rodríguez (Professor of New Testament, Johnson University, USA), author of Oral Tradition and the New Testament: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2014)
Discussion (30 mins.)
The Battle with Beelzebul: Eschatological Violence, Jesus’ Exorcisms, and the Coming of the Kingdom of God
All three Synoptic Gospels record the accusation made against Jesus that it is through being in league with Beelzebul, the archōn of the demons, that Jesus is able to exert his mighty power over the evil spirits he encounters (Mt. 12.22-32 // Mk. 3.19b-30 // Lk. 11.14-23). In all three, Jesus responds with familiar words about kingdoms divided against themselves and the binding of the strong man. However, Matthew and Luke both add an intriguing extra statement, with which Jesus makes it clear that his casting out of demons, rather than indicating partnership with the powers of evil, in fact signifies the presence of the kingdom of God (Mt. 12.28 // Lk. 11.20). Using this pericope as a starting point, in this paper I will explore the connection between Jesus’ exorcisms and the inauguration of the kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels, in the context of the historical eschatological expectations of second-Temple Judaism. Although the portrayals of eschatological events in Jewish writings from this period are diverse, one of the nearly unanimous expectations was that the arrival of the kingdom of God would entail the violent destruction of all the enemies of God and/or his people (cf., e.g., Dan. 7; 1 En. 85-90; 1QM). I will discuss how this component of second-Temple Jewish eschatology was represented and manifested in the kingdom-ministry of the Synoptic Jesus. I will argue that, counter to many of his Jewish contemporaries, who expected that this would involve a holy war waged by the faithful against their Gentile oppressors, Jesus understood himself to be prosecuting the expected eschatological battle in his encounters with evil spirits – the true enemies of God and his people. In these mighty deeds, the anticipated victory which would attend the inauguration of the kingdom of God was being won.
Jesus’ divine self-consciousness: a proposal
This paper will sketch the conceptual framework for a new approach to the study of the historical Jesus; specifically Jesus’ own contribution to the origins of the early Church’s so-called “Christological monotheism” and Christ devotion. The paper will summarise the relevant sections of the second volume of my forthcoming book (Jesus Monotheism: A New Paradigm for the Shape and Origins of the Earliest Christology), in which I argue that, taken together, the OT and the NT—along with the historical evidence for Second Temple life and thought—all point to Jesus’ own self-consciousness as a heaven-sent, and uniquely “divine”, priest-king of a new eschatological order (or covenant) as a decisive, determining, factor in Christological origins.
The God of Israel and the Eschatology of Jesus
Contrary to recent critiques of monotheism’s supposedly intrinsic authoritarianism, Jesus of Nazareth's strongly theocentric eschatology shaped a nonviolent opposition to evil—whether its manifestation appeared individual or communal, moral or political, demonic or structural. At the same time, an active negotiation of eschatological tension and deferral arises from another characteristic thread of the Jesus tradition: the Synoptic Jesus buttresses his calls for constant watchfulness with the strangely ambivalent insistence that ‘the day' or 'the hour’ is unknown even to him. Jesus’ teaching is marked by both urgency and restraint, and surprisingly short on unambiguous specifics; proximity and postponement keep close moral company here. An urgent eschatology of definitive judgment and redemption thus stands side by side with the charge to cast out demons and ‘bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (Luke 14.21; cf Mark 3.15 par.).
Panel review of Jens Schröter’s From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon (Baylor University Press, 2013)
Professor for Exegesis and Theology of the New Testament and New Testament Apocrypha
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Helen K. Bond
Senior Lecturer in New Testament
University of Edinburgh
Professor of Bible, Culture, and Politics
University of Sheffield
Professor of New Testament Studies
King’s College London