2016 Synoptic Gospels

Session 3 is a joint session with Book of Acts.

Session 1

Castration for the Kingdom Before the Thorny Threat of Adultery: Matthew 19:10-12 in Narrative and Rhetorical Context

R. Jarrett Van Tine 

University of St Andrews

The difficulties raised by the form and content of Matthew’s eunuch pericope (19:10–12) have provoked unfavorable evaluations. Evans relegates the passage to an “appendix” (2012, 341). Hare concedes: “Verses 10–12, found only in Matthew, are among the most difficult to understand in the Gospel” (2009, 222; cf. Nolland 2005, 775; Luz 2001, 499-500). I have shown, however, that 19:10 should be rendered, “If such [i.e. adultery] is the charge against the man (ἡ αἰτία τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) who illegitimately divorces his wife and then marries another (cf. 19:9), it is better for that man not to marry [i.e. marry another].” In so doing, the eunuch metaphor is inextricably linked to Jesus’s call to self-dismemberment (5:29-30; cf. 18:8-9): would-be disciples who have illegitimately divorced their wives are summoned to “cut off” (figuratively) what causes them to stumble (i.e. their male organ; cf. 5:27-32), lest they commit adultery by marrying another (cf. 19:9; Worse 171–176). The purpose of my paper is to situate this new reading of 19:10-12 within the broader narrative and rhetorical strategy of Matthew’s Gospel.  Specifically, I will argue that the above reading unveils a striking interrelationship between 15:1–20, 19:3–12, and 19:16–26. By virtue of shared linkages, these passages work together to contribute to the broader motif of Israel’s response to τὸν λόγον [τῆς βασιλείας] (15:12, 19:11, 19:22; cf. 13:19) as portrayed in the parable of the sower (POS; 13:1–23). In this manner, chapter 19 is patterned on the explanation of the thorny soil (13:22), with the passages on divorce-remarriage (19:3–12) and the rich young man (19:16–26) pre-eminently illustrating “the concerns of this age” (ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος) and “the deceitfulness of wealth” (ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου) respectively. Although these issues threaten disciples from bearing fruit to enter the kingdom, Jesus emboldens them to be the fruit-producing soil their Father has enabled them to be. 

Salvation History and Revelation in Markan Apocalyptic Epistemology

Jamie P. Davies 

Trinity College, Bristol

Scholarship on ‘apocalyptic’ theology in Mark’s gospel has proliferated in recent years, not least due to Joel Marcus’ two-volume Anchor Bible Commentary (New York: Doubleday: 2000). Marcus’ work has highlighted the importance of cosmic warfare and eschatology in Markan apocalyptic, largely following the distinctive approaches to this subject developed by John Collins and Paul Hanson. However, in his definition and use of the category of ‘apocalyptic’ in Mark, Marcus has arguably underplayed the most significant theme of apocalyptic thought, its epistemology. This is surprising given the importance otherwise attached by Marcus to the apocalyptic ‘open heaven’ motif. The centrality of epistemology in the apocalyptic mode of thought is particularly load bearing in much recent scholarship on the apocalyptic literature, owing a particular debt to the work of Christopher Rowland (The Open Heaven (London: SPCK, 1982). This paper will examine the particular Markan approach to knowledge in an apocalyptic mode. Building on Marcus, with reference to the work of Rikki Watts (Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997))Donald Juel (Messianic Exegesis (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988)), and now Richard Hays’ work on ‘figural reading’ (Reading Backwards (Waco: Baylor, 2015) and Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Waco: Baylor, 2016)), this paper will argue that this approach to Markan epistemology demonstrates a careful and deliberate combination of the apocalyptic- epistemological imagery of the ‘open heaven’ with the theme of Messianic expectation. I will argue that Mark thus combines an emphasis on ‘irruptive’ divine revelation with reflection on the ‘long story’ of salvation history. This combination of epistemological themes, attested elsewhere in the apocalyptic literature (mutatis mutandis), throws light on contemporary study of the New Testament and theological epistemology, and is particularly relevant to some recent would-be ‘apocalyptic’ readings that mistakenly (as I shall argue) hold them in antithesis.

Making God Owe You: Reconsidering the Parable of the Unjust Servant in Light of Ancient Gift

Tommi Karjalainen 

University of St Andrews

The commentators of the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1–9) have not properly considered the ancient gift. Ancient gifts, according to John Barclay (2015, 183–84), “create or reproduce social bonds…[and] foster mutuality.” Although giving gifts is a “non-legal” practice, there exists an inherent “expectation of return.” Furthermore, the payback may be “generally different from the gift in quantity and kind.” The master’s praise of his steward’s shrewdness does not create a moral problem because it is a recognition of his ability to make use of the dire situation. The social norms relating to the idea of gift bind the borrowers to respect the steward very concretely. It saves him from the momentary plight because a gift would be considered in terms of an ongoing relationship. Climactically the master recognizes that the steward had accomplished all this with money that did not even belong to him. The disciples should realize that they do not have ownership over money. Money only exists to be used. It is an idol in the hands of the former master and is to be exploited in order to make the new master grateful. By application, the story reverses the roles and makes God the forgiven borrower. The steward is thus instructed to bind the future master into lasting gratitude by using money shrewdly. The notion that the steward’s action is unjust is, therefore, itself unjustified because it does not take into account the concept of ancient gift. 

Session 2

We engage the scholarship of Eric Eve on the role of memory in the Jesus tradition, in 'Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition' (2014) and 'Writing the Gospels: Composition and Memory' (2016)

Eric Eve 

University of Oxford

Francis Watson 

Durham University

James Crossley 

St Mary's University, Twickenham

The session will consist of a review of these books followed by an open discussion.

In Behind the Gospel, Eve addresses a question scholars have asked for a hundred years: what is the nature and state of the tradition between Jesus and the Gospels? Eve surveys the major proposals about oral tradition, offers critical and constructive commentary, and gives appropriately nuanced suggestions regarding memory theory and the Jesus tradition. In the follow-up volume, Writing the Gospels, Eve challenges anachronistic assumptions about how the Gospels were written in light of recent work on ancient media studies, and develops his argument that memory is central to the composition of the New Testament Gospels.

Session 3

The “Church” of the Synoptic Gospels: Social Identity Construction through Narrative Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts

Andrew Byers 

Durham University

The concern of this paper is not with the historical communities behind the Synoptic Gospels, but with the visions of community set forth within their narratives. The ecclesial vision of each evangelist is certainly informed by historical realities, and reconstructing plausible Sitze im Leben through mirror-readings is now a major historical-critical enterprise in New Testament studies. In the inevitable hermeneutical circle, however, scholarly discussions have been disproportionately focused on providing reconstructions of ecclesial social groups behind the Gospels rather than on the social identity the evangelists are seeking to construct through the Gospels. Just as a "narrative Christology" presents the identity of Jesus through the linear axis of a story, "narrative ecclesiology" casts a vision for the identity of the new people of God reconfigured around Christ through the unfolding development of a sequential account. Narrative ecclesiology conceives Gospel writing as an ecclesial practice exercising a hermeneutic through which Jesus-material and Israel's Scriptures are selectively appropriated by pastoral motivations. This paper puts forward suggestions for how Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be approached as narratives presenting not only nuanced portraits of Jesus but also nuanced visions of the new humanity to be formed around him. Attention will then be directed to Luke's multivolume account of Jesus' ministry and the subsequent genesis of early Christianity in the Mediterranean world. In his Gospel, Luke offers a prescriptive ecclesial vision that is then enacted (at times only partially) in the book of Acts. Luke is not only an apologist for Christ-devotion; he is also an ecclesial theologian who narrates the divine identity of Jesus while also narrating (prescriptively and descriptively) the social identity of a new society called “church.”

Messianic Reunification in Luke-Acts: Fulfilling Prophesied Davidic Inclusion of Northerners (Samaritans) in Restoring “All Israel”

James T Mace 

University of Kent

Royal Davidic typology is the unifying factor for Lukan Christology, including the Davidic covenant constellational element of ruling over a united kingdom of all Israelite tribes (Hahn 2009). Thus, in displaying Davidic covenantal fulfillment, Luke-Acts includes messianic reunification (MR), restoring unity by joining both southern and northern kingdoms’ constituents (Judaeans and Samaritans) under Jesus the Davidide, which phase of Israel’s Heilsgeschichte must occur before inclusion of Gentiles. MR coherently synergizes with several additional established Lukan themes (the people of God, ecclesiological identity, inclusion of marginalized Israelites, table-fellowship, economics). Although widely expected in prophets used by NT authors, scholarly consideration of MR is frequently neglected (conversely, see Jervell, Ravens, Pao, Bauckham, Samkutty, Butticaz). Moreover, the fifty-year Samaritanological revolution is generally unappreciated in NT studies. This paper describes the prophetic MR paradigm then shows literary thematic progression in Luke-Acts foretelling, initiating, proclaiming, teaching, consummating, and summarizing MR: the Davidic son of God (Luke 1:32-35; 10:22, etc.) must fulfil all elements of Davidic covenant restoration; that awaited by “many prophets and kings” (10:24) includes the scion of David’s MR into kingdom unity (Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-17); this royal Son teaches Samaritan Israelism, that faithful Samaritans are also Israelites inheriting his reunited messianic age (10:25-37; cf. 17:11-19); this eschatological MR theme mirrors the Chronicler’s pan-Israelite ideology, displayed in Jesus’s use of 2 Chr 28:15 in 10:33-34; Samaritan inheritors represent the northern kingdom in the 2-stage resurrection of Israel (Acts 2-8), fulfilling Ezek 37 and vindicating the Son’s enthronement; Acts 9:31a and 15:16 summarize, declaring fulfillment of Amos 9:11’s rebuilding of Davidic dominion. This MR hermeneutic revitalizes theological exegesis (e.g., Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 2015, Gospel of John). Most significantly, MR shows Luke’s Samaritan parable not to address universalized ethics but to ecclesiologically reinforce Lev 19:18 as performing purely intra-covenantal ḥesedism, including almsgiving (Giambrone 2016).