Synoptic Gospels 2020 Programme

Chairs: Andy Angel and Elizabeth Shively

Session One

John Dennis, London School of Theology, ‘Jesus as Isaiah’s Divine Strong One: The Echo of Isaiah 40:10a in Mark 1:7’

The contention of this paper is that the Baptist’s declaration of Jesus as ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου in Mark 1:7 echoes Isa 40:10a so that Jesus plays out the script of Yahweh both in Isa 40:3 and Isa 40:10a. Rikki Watts and Elizabeth Shively have alerted us to the significance of Mark 3:23-30 and particularly v. 27 for John’s designation of Jesus as ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου in 1:7. In the immediate context, Jesus is ‘stronger than’ John (1:7) because he is endowed with the Spirit ‘to engage in conflict with Satan (vv. 10, 11-12)’ (Shively). The prologue thus anticipates Jesus as the implied strong man in the parable of Mark 3:23-30 where he overcomes Satan the ‘strong man’ (ὁ ἰσχυρός, 3:27). Mark 3:27 most likely echoes Isa 49:24-26 (Shively, Watts) and thus it appears that Jesus is playing out the script of Yahweh in Isa 49:25-26. Watts contends that this Isaianic backdrop to 3:27 ‘is highly suggestive of Yahweh’s INE [Isaiah’s New Exodus] coming ‘in strength’… (1:7, 14f.).’ But further argumentation is needed to establish the Isaianic backdrop to Jesus as the stronger one in Mark 1:7. Building upon Shively and Watts concerning the Isaianic context of Mark 3:27 and the implications for Jesus’ identity there, I suggest that, given the established importance of the larger context Isa 40 (cf. 1:3) for Mark’s Christology in the prologue and beyond, Mark intends that the ‘stronger one’ in Mark 1:7 echoes LXX Isa 40:10a which promises that Yahweh, on his ‘way’ to deliver his people (40:3), ‘is coming’ with divine ‘strength’ (ἰσχύς) and ‘kingly authority’ (κυριεία) (LXX 40:10a). If this is the case, Jesus plays out the script of Yahweh not only in Isa 40:3 but also in Isa 40:10a.

Tobias Siegenthaler, University of St Andrews, ‘“Remember me, when (…)” (Luke 23:42)—The Cupbearer, Remembrance, and Three Days’

In contrast to the two other synoptic gospels Luke includes a curious conversation in his narrative of the crucifixion. It is the conversation of the two criminals who were crucified right and left to Jesus. (Luke 23:39-43) One of them says to Jesus ‘remember me, when (μνήσθητί μου ὅταν) you come into your kingdom.’ (NRSV) This phrase may remind us of Joseph’s words to the cupbearer after interpreting his dream in Genesis 40:14: ‘remember me through yourself, when (μνήσθητί μου διὰ σεαυτοῦ, ὅταν) it should go well with you’ (NETS). This paper aims to compare the two narratives, which contain more striking parallels: Both include someone being hung on a pole or tree, in both the motif of three days is mentioned, and in both a cupbearer plays an important role. Furthermore, the imagery of bread and wine are in the background of both stories. Most strikingly Luke casts Jesus not in the role of Joseph–as we might expect him to do, as Jesus is assumed to be the son of Joseph–but rather in the role of the cupbearer. What is he achieving through that intertextual play and how does it support Luke’s unique portrayal of Jesus?

Emma Swai, Liverpool Hope University, ‘The Ideal Synoptic Mind?’

Being of ‘right mind,’ in Mark 5:15, is often understood to be a sign of healing, but ‘mind’ is a problematic term which presupposes a similar understanding between the original language texts of the synoptic gospels and modern English translations, when in fact the term ‘mind’ is a single translation for numerous corresponding Greek references.  In Luke 24’25, the use of νοῦς describes the capacity of reason in relation to the positive attribute of having that ‘mind’ opened, following on from the negative assumption that the mind had previously been closed.  Where the focus is on the ideal ‘mind,’ it is reasoning and understanding that is being described, not a particular part of the body, as would potentially be understood from a twentyfirst century perspective; ‘You shall love the Lord your God…with all your mind’ (Matt 22:37) stems from διάνοια and the human faculty of understanding, focusing on the reasoning behind a love for God rather than the modern interpretation of an emotional reaction.

By bringing together the synoptic gospels’ fragmentary comments on the ‘right mind,’ defined as proper understanding and reasoning, this paper will construct the multi-faceted concept of ‘right mind’ contained within the gospel texts, as opposed to the modern view of a singular, healthy mental organ.  It will introduce the social and cultural models of disability to the study of the synoptic mind, thereby paying particular attention to the importance of external social factors, and will show how interpreting the synoptic standard of a ‘right mind’ can contribute to the judgement of those individuals who challenge social expectations of what correct reasoning and understanding is deemed to be.

Session Two Book Review Panel [joint with NT and Second Temple Judaism]

Book: Sean A. Adams, Greek Genres and Jewish Authors: Negotiating Literary Culture in the Greco-Roman Era, Waco: Baylor University Press, 2020.

Panel: Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh and Elizabeth Shively, University of St. Andrews

Book description: The ancient world, much like our own, thrived on cultural diversity and exchange. The riches of this social reality are evident in the writings of Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Jewish authors drew on the wide range of Greek literary conventions and gave fresh expressions to the proud traditions of their faith and ethnic identity. They did not hesitate to modify and adapt the forms they received from the surrounding culture, but their works stand as legitimate participants in Greco-Roman literary tradition. In Greek Genres and Jewish Authors, Sean Adams argues that a robust understanding of ancient genre facilitates proper textual interpretation. This perspective is vital for insight on the author, the work’s original purpose, and how the original readers would have received it. Adopting a cognitive-prototype theory of genre, Adams provides a detailed discussion of Jewish authors writing in Greek from ca. 300 BCE to ca. 135 CE—including New Testament authors—and their participation in Greek genres. The nine chapters focus on broad genre divisions (e.g., poetry, didactic, philosophy) to provide studies on each author’s engagement with Greek genres, identifying both representative and atypical expressions and features. The book’s most prominent contribution lies in its data synthesis to provide a macroperspective on the ways in which Jewish authors participated in and adapted Greek genres – in other words, how members of a minority culture intentionally engaged with the dominant culture’s literary practices alongside traditional Jewish features, resulting in unique text expressions.

Session Three John’s Use of the Synoptics [joint with Johannine Literature]

Four 15-Minute Papers (circulated to seminar members 2 weeks in advance) from Helen Bond (University of Edinburgh), Catrin Williams (University of Wales Trinity St David), Wendy North (Durham University), and Elizabeth Corsar (University of Edinburgh), followed by a 30-minute Panel Discussion and Q&A.