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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Friday, May 30, 2014

Language of Jesus II

As to the last post, I meant no disrespect for the Prime Minister.  He may have been correct. On this subject of the spoken language of Jesus,  the late Professor David Flusser, a Jewish scholar in Jerusalem, wrote:

The spoken languages among the Jews of that period were Hebrew, Aramaic, and to an extent Greek. Until recently, it was believed by numerous scholars that the language spoken by Jesus’ disciples was Aramaic. It is possible that Jesus did, from time to time, make use of the Aramaic language. But during that period Hebrew was both the daily language and the language of study. The Gospel of Mark contains a few Aramaic words, and this was what misled scholars. Today, after the discovery of the Hebrew Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus), of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and of the Bar Kokhba Letters, and in the light of more profound studies of the language of the Jewish Sages, it is accepted that most people were fluent in Hebrew. The Pentateuch was translated into Aramaic for the benefit of the lower strata of the population. The parables in the Rabbinic literature, on the other hand, were delivered in Hebrew in all periods. There is thus no ground for assuming that Jesus did not speak Hebrew; and when we are told (Acts 21:40) that Paul spoke Hebrew, we should take this piece of information at face value. 

David Flusser,  Jewish Sources in Early Christianity,  POB 7103, Tel Aviv 61070: MOD Books, 1989.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Language of Jesus - The Pope in Jerusalem

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated during a meeting with Pope Francis yesterday that Jesus’ native language was Hebrew.   Here is the Haaretz reporting:
“Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu told Francis at a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday. The pope was quick to correct the prime minister and tell him that Jesus in fact spoke Aramaic, as mainstream biblical scholars generally agree.  There is compelling evidence for this: evidence from the Christian Bible itself, and historical evidence about the linguistic milieu Jesus was raised and lived in.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

James Dunn Part 3 - Gospel of Mark and the Jewish War

Dunn argues that the first 'readers and auditors' of the Gospel of Mark likely included people who had experienced the Jewish war (70 A.D.) or the events leading up to it: 
All this suggests in turn a close knowledge of the Jewish revolt and its antecedents shared by the writer and the recipients of the Gospel— that is, somewhere close to the land of Israel, probably Syria. Our knowledge of Christian communities in Israel-Syria during and immediately after the war is almost nonexistent. But it is certainly plausible to allow the possibility that someone who had endured some of the early hardships of the revolt wrote his Gospel for the benefit of Jesus-Messianists who were still in Judea and when his note to the reader in 13.14 would still have relevance. Or, alternatively in the wider region of Syria, when there would be many readers or auditors who had experienced the war and who resonated with its warnings and encouragement.
 James D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmanns Pub. Co.  2011).

James Dunn Part 2 - Earthly Mission of Jesus

Dunn challenges those who claim that Paul's gospel message ignored the earthly mission of Jesus: 

The good news about Jesus must have included some narrative explaining who Jesus was and recounting something at least of the character of what he had said and done during his mission. The gospel which converted so many Gentiles could hardly have been simply that an unidentified ‘X’ had died and been raised from the dead.   On the contrary, since new believers in Paul’s gospel were beginning to be called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11.26), baptised ‘in the name of Christ’ (1 Cor. 1.12–15), that would inevitably have prompted them to ask more about this ‘Christ’, not least so that they could give an answer to any questions as to why they had changed their lives and now based them on this ‘Christ’.

James D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmanns Pub. Co.  2011).  Yes, an "unidentified 'X' " would not have turned the world upside down the way the risen Jesus did.  Believers get to know him through a study of his words and deeds.   I have blogged about Frank Sheed's comments on this subject: 

To know Christ Jesus:  If we do know  not him as he lived among us, acted and reacted and suffered among us, we risk not knowing him at all.  For we cannot see him at the right hand of the Father as we can see him in Palestine. And we shall end either in constructing our own Christ, image of our own needs or dreams, or in having no Christ but a shadow and a name.
Frank J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus (Sheed and Ward, Inc. 1962) at page 11.


Friday, May 9, 2014

James Dunn Part 1 - Jesus, Paul and the Gospels

I am reading a great book by James D.G. Dunn titled Jesus, Paul and the Gospels.  Dunn argues that NT students fail to appreciate the importance of the oral tradition of the words and deeds of Jesus which preceded and provided the material for the written Gospels:

That Matthew and Luke had access to much more material than Mark is clear. That some of it was already in writing is highly probable. But that they also knew the Jesus tradition as living oral tradition, with the sort of diversity we still find in the Synoptic tradition, is equally probable.   

James D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Gospels (Wm. B. Eerdmanns Pub. Co.  2011).