Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hurtado's New Blog - A Gold Mine

One of the features of Larry Hurtado’s blog is a collection of his essays including a couple that are difficult to find. I’ve read two so far and would highly recommend them to you if either of the subjects interests you.

The first one is on the ending of Mark. Hurtado believes that Mark 16:1-8 provides an appropriate ending to the book. One of the foundations to his premise is the three passages which include named women in the Gospel (15:40-41; 51:47; 16:4-6). These women become a note of continuity as they are eyewitnesses to three significant events: the crucifixion through the moment of death, the burial and the vacant tomb. He says, “the repeated naming of the women in three consecutive Markan scenes in 15:40-16:8 likely functions to link more emphatically these particular scenes.” (3) The apex of the Gospel for Hurtado is not seen as the centurion’s statement in 15:39 (“Truly this man was the Son of God!”) but rather the proclamation of the young man sitting in the tomb who says in 16:6 “He has risen”. “The centurion is portrayed as uttering something that has one sense for him (basically, Jesus’ death as heroic), but readers are able to see a further connotation . . . But in 16:6 there is no ambiguity or irony, and the figure who speaks is clearly a ‘reliable voice’ in literary terms, much like the divine voice from heaven in 1:11 and 9:7.” (8) Hurtado takes issue with the portrayal by modern commentators that the women were disobedient or failures. The phrase in 16:8, “they said nothing to anyone”, “quite readily can be taken as indicating, not a complete failure to communicate, but that the women spoke to no one else beyond those to whom they were directed.” (12) So why is there no “resurrection-appearance scene” in Mark? It’s neither because of ignorance nor from discomfort with them. This leads Hurtado to suggest it was deliberate. I quote him at length:
"As we have it, the final section of Mark’s story of Jesus culminates in the triumphant annunciation of Jesus’ divine vindication and his renewed status leader of his followers. But more specifically, the distinctive Markan stress on the reality of Jesus’ death, burial of his ‘corpse,’ the empty tomb, and the ability of certain known women to vouch for all this combine to underscore the real, bodily continuity of the risen Jesus with the crucified and buried Jesus. The primary concern, however, was probably not to assert one theory about the nature of the resurrection body over another for its own sake. Instead, the author aimed to emphasize the kerygma must include both Jesus’ cross and resurrection. The Markan narrative stresses that the crucifixion of Jesus is not simply overcome in his resurrection, as an ordeal that could now be regarded as a temporary setback like the trials of a Greek here. Instead, Mark insists that the risen Jesus remains the same Jesus who was crucified (16:6), and that the events of death, burial and resurrection together are essential in mutually interpreting one another.” (16) Hurtado goes on to say that “for such narrative purposes, a resurrection-appearance is not so obviously necessary.” (17) He suggests that if we understand the Markan story of Jesus as presenting “Jesus as the model and ‘blueprint’ for the intended readers” then such an appearance would be “unnecessary for addressing his emphasis on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as a model for believers. Indeed, the author may have thought that an appearance-narrative would have detracted from the sharp focus that he intended to place on Jesus as the sole valid model, as well as the basis, for Christian existence.” (17-18 emphasis his)
Whether you agree or disagree with Hurtado’s conclusions it is one of the finest arguments for viewing the ending of Mark as we have it in 16:1-8 as a “fully satisfactory climatic episode that was designed to thrill and empower intended readers to follow Jesus in mission, through opposition and even their own personal violent death, confident in an eschatological vindication by resurrection for which Jesus’ resurrection was the inspiring model.” (18)

The other essay is called “Jesus as Lordly Example in Philippians 2:5-11” which was included in a book dedicated to honor Francis Wright Beare called From Jesus to Paul. I won’t go into as much detail on this one (though it is shorter than the above article). Those familiar with this passage will know that there are, among a myriad of other issues, two primary ways of viewing the passage based on the translation of 2:5. The traditional translations (NIV, TNIV, HCSB, KJV, NLT, GW) read something like “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (NIV) or in the NKJV “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This clearly makes Jesus our example to follow. This has become known as the “ethical interpretation.” The other interpretation says Jesus is not being promoted as our example. This is reflected in the ESV (and its parent the RSV) as “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” “This is known as the kerygmatic interpretation and is best associated with Ernest Käsemann and R. P. Martin. Hurtado interacts mostly with Käsemann and argues against him that the ethical interpretation is the better position. I believe Hurtado makes a strong case for the ethical interpretation but I think the translation by the ESV may, in fact, be the better translation. Indeed Hurtado recognizes that the translation of 2:5 is a small part of the interpretation of the passage when he says "However we translate the somewhat elliptical ho kai en Christō Iesou, the following verses determine more fully the interpretation to be given to the passage as a whole."  (121)  (See also Moises Silva’s Philippians in the BECNT series. As Silva points out the less traditional translation does not necessarily commit you to adopt the Kerygmatic interpretation. He comments that “much of the current discussion is plagued by false dichotomies.” Silva offers the best argument for the translation reflecting the Kerygmatic interpretation but does not believe we have to abandon the ethical interpreation as a result and says the passage is "best understood thus: 'Be so disposed toward one another as is proper for those who are united in Christ Jesus."  (97)  See also Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos, p. 332 n.198.  For one of the best arguments for the traditional translation along with a critique of the Kergmatic interpretation see Peter T. O'Brien's The Epistle to the Philippians in the New International Greek Testament Commentary, pp. 253-262)

Hurtado’s contributions to the blog world are sincerely appreciated. His scholarship is always impressive and his writing style is extremely accessible. There’s gold in “them thar blogs.” If you’ve not yet made a visit don’t waste another minute.

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