Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chapter Three: Names in the Gospel traditions. (Or, whats in a name?)

In chapter three Bauckham starts to make good on one of the explanations that his thesis requires... that is that there should be some evidence of eyewitness testimony within the Gospel's themselves. If we can find none, then it might possibly nail the coffin down on Bauckham's thesis, especially if we were instead to see evidence of oral tradition, and not oral history (for the difference see my review of chapter 2).

So, Bauckham starts of by remarking that there is a phenomenon in the Gospel's that he has not seen satisfactorily explained. This phenomenon is names. Why are names a phenomenon in the Gospels? Well, the main reason is that when we look at the names in the canonical gospel's (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) we see that there are both named and un-named people. Why is this the case?

Finally we see Bauckham tackle the form critics arguments head on. Here he takes on one of the preeminent form critics of the 20th Century. Rudolf Bultmann. Rudolf argued that the names were evidence of oral tradition, as people would like to give names to people that were previously unknown. So, as we read the gospels in the chronological order in which they were written, we would expect the number of named characters to increase across them.

However, we do not find this, and after a series of complicated arguments that would take forever to summarize here, he calls Bultmann's hypothesis 'Preposterous' (although he hides his own judgement behind the veil of a quote by one Joseph Fitzmyer). He then notes another theory which states the exact opposite tendency, that of names disappearing as time wears on, and more people becoming unknown. Then, upon looking at the gospels we see this very tendency, we do not see names appearing (in the synoptics there is not a single example of a previously un-named character becoming named in either Matthew or Luke), but we do see names disappearing.

Why is this an interesting phenomenon? Well, the most widely accepted theory regarding the compiling of Matthew and Luke is that they are copying Mark when they can. So when we see Mark, Luke & Matthew agreeing, that is evidence of them copying Mark (this theory is known as 'Markan priority'). But, if names are disappearing, when they in fact have the source of Mark there with the names written, then we have an an odd puzzle to solve.

At the end of this chapter Richard has a load of tables with all the names listed in them and where they appear. Here I will give you an example of this random disappearing of names:

First go to Mark 5:22 and note that there is a man named Jairus. Now, turn to Matthew 9:18 and note the same story but Jairus is now just a 'ruler'. Luke mentions Jairus in Luke 8:41.

Now for another even more thorough example:
Mark 10:46 and we have Blind Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus. Now turn to Matthew 20:30 where we have two blind men whilst Jesus is leaving Jericho. Neither are named. Now turn to Luke 18:35 where we meet this blind man at Jericho who is nameless.

So, how can we account for this interesting lack of names? Bauckham thinks this is evidence of eyewitness testimony. Why? well, in brief, his argument goes that, since Mark is the first gospel written, he was talking to these eyewitnesses. (I.e. Bartimaeus.) And he included their names since they were important members of the early Christian community, this is so that the Christian community who heard this story when hearing Mark's gospel read out, could go and check the facts or hear the story from Bartimaeus himself. However, by the time of Matthew and Luke they may have been dead or not a part of the community in which this gospels were written, so using their names would be irrelevant to them, since nobody that heard their gospel's could check with the people anyway.

Bauckham then gives a few more interesting case studies involving the woman at the cross and the empty tomb, which he examines in some detail (and it also gives me an idea for a future post series...) and he also looks at simon of Cyrene and his sons. Finally he looks at the rare case of 'recipients of miracles' and how they are treated across the gospels.

He then finishes off this very convincing chapter by adding a qualification about Mark's gospel as it were. Here he says that vivid detail in and of itself is not indicative of eye witness testimony, but could just be evidence of the author's artistic flair, and in fact if no flair is detected, then that is also not indicative of mere oral tradition, instead it has nothing whatsoever to do with the debate Bauckham claims, and he then mentions he will deal with this more fully in chapter 13.

Any objections?

This chapter to me was super convincing. I, with my limited knowledge, could not begin to form an argument against it. However, it would be interesting to see what date these manuscripts are found at exactly, and when are the earliest dates known of the names of say Jairus or Bartimaeus. Perhaps one could pull an argument that says, no, the names are going the other way, Marks gospel has been tampered with and the names are being added in later by some scribe. They could then back this up with an argument that Bauckham mentions on pg 44 (note: this is not an argument in use today, but it could be potentially used) where he states that it was common practice for Jews to add names to characters in their scriptures which were not previously named and he gives an example from pseudo-Philo's book Biblical antiquities in which Cain's wife is given a name and so is Jephthah's daughter. However, Richard assures us that the evidence suggests this did not happen. I would like to see more development in this area. So, if an early manuscript of mark was found which leaves say, Bartimaeus unnamed, then that would effectively sink this hypothesis.

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