Monday, December 14, 2009

The Historical Jesus: Five Views - A Review 10 - Responses to Bock

We come now to the final set of responses in our survey of The Historical Jesus: Five Views. Darrell Bock is the Evangelical of the bunch and I expected he would get a fair amount of criticism but some of it I was not prepared for. Price responds directly to Bock's claim that none of the critics of Jesus denied his historicity. He says, "Why is it not at least a natural, viable reading of Justin's Rabbi Trypho to understand him this way? 'You have invented a messiah for yourselves.' Everyone takes this to mean, 'You Christians have made the wrong man into a messiah.' which indeed it might conceivably mean, but that seems to me to bear apologetical stretch marks." (285) He then points to how some New Testament events are probably simply stories based on Old Testament events. Jesus riding in Jerusalem on a donkey is borrowed from Zechariah 9:9 and 1 Samuel 9:5-14 where "Saul and his companions are likewise looking for donkeys and enter a city." (287) Jesus' trial probably comes from 1 Kings 22:24-27.

Crossan actually turns Bock's uses of the criteria of embarrassment against him. Bock observed how Mark portrays the twelve disciples consistently in a bad light and when Jesus calls Peter Satan he asks "would the church create an event where it compares its lead apostle to the paragon of evil?" The answer would seem to be no they wouldn't. But Crossan disagrees. The church wouldn't do such a thing "but Mark would--and did." (289) "Mark created much of them precisely to 'embarrass' the (presumably, later theological heirs of the) Twelve, the Three, and especially Peter." (289) So, for Crossan the criteria of embarrassment is only when Jesus is the object of embarrassment.

But the two members of the Jesus Seminar have nothing on the cutting criticism of Luke Timothy Johnson. For him almost all of Bock's essay is "disqualif[ied]" from "serious consideration as a historical study. In effect, Bock reads the Gospels as reliable on every point and capable of revealing Jesus' inner thoughts and motivations. . . If at any point he had entertained the possibility of some passage of the Gospels not yielding real historical knowledge, his essay would have gained in credibility." (294) Bock believes the Gospels--all of them in every detail--therefore his essay has no credibility! Never mind that Bock argues time and again for the historicity of the passages he considers. For Johnson, Bock would be a serious historian if only he would find a few errors. Then, and only then, would he deserve a hearing. He ends his essay with this: "Bock has not yet really engaged the Gospels critically as sources. Despite the statements that open his essay, he has not yet grasped what historical analysis requires." (296) Now don't misunderstand me--Johnson does interact and provide detailed criticism of many of Bock's points. But above them all stands the impression that Johnson is simply humoring us by even considering a response to this amateur attempt at Gospel criticism.

No comments: