Bauckham-Peter, John and the women

Bauckham, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, continues to try to make a case that there was in the early church an institution consisting of eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. His strongest evidence comes from Luke/Acts.

Acts 1:21-22 tells about a formal selection for a replacement of Judas. The qualifications are that the candidates must be people who accompanied Jesus from the beginning. Their role was to be “witnesses to the resurrection” with the eleven.

In his preface in Luke 1:1-4 Luke says he has accounts passed on by “eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning” (also see John 15:27).

“From the beginning” in both passages means from the time of Jesus’ baptism. In other words these were witnesses to the full ministry of Jesus, including especially, his resurrection. The term “eyewitnesses and servants of the word”, according to Bauckham, did not refer to two different offices, but to guarantors of the word that included both the twelve and those others who met the qualifications of having been with Jesus from the beginning.

Mark’s gospel shows evidence of having derived its testimony from Simon Peter. Bauckham disagrees with those who think the only thing that points to Peter is the quote from Papias that says Mark was Peter’s interpreter. Rather, the use of the names Simon and Peter in Mark from the beginning of the gospel and at the end point to Peter as precisely the kind of witness who was with Jesus from John’s baptism and also could witness to the resurrection.

Bauckham also makes an argument based on a rhetorical analysis of John’s gospel playing off of Mark (he doesn’t think Mark was a source for John, but that John counted on his readers being familiar with Mark). In this analysis he sees the gospel deliberately replacing Peter with John. John, then, becomes the disciple who was with Jesus from the beginning and also bears witness to the resurrection. The beloved disciple is John.

This may persuade others. The reason it does not persuade me is that it depends, first on the ending of Mark being intended by Mark. I think the original ending to Mark was lost. Second, it depends on John 21 being an integral part of the gospel of John, rather than an appendix. I think it is more complicated than that. The lost ending of Mark might even lie behind John 21.

If you think that John has been cannonically shaped by a process within the church, I understand that you can make a theological argument based on the final shape of the book. But can you make a historical argument? And, if the ending to Mark was lost, that can’t even be cannonical shaping. It was just an accident. However, I must admit that my view of Mark is not in fashion these days.

Nevertheless, I am open to the possibility that Peter’s preaching was an important element in molding Mark’s gospel and that some eyewitness stood at the early stages of the formation of John’s gospel.

Bauckham makes a very interesting argument as to who the primary eyewitnesses behind Luke’s gospel were. He makes note of a paradox that it is Luke who makes the most of the role of the twelve, and yet Luke seldom refers to them outside of the material he derives from Mark. Luke is different from the other gospels in that they only name several women followers of Jesus in the passion story. Luke says they followed Jesus around during his ministry as well (Luke 8:2-3).

Bauckham has found in Mark and John an inclusio with the eyewitness behind the gospel mentioned at the beginning and again at the resurrection. He uses the word inclusio again for the women, although it is not exactly the same. He argues that Luke picks up Mark’s inclusio by following Mark in making Peter the first disciple mentioned and naming him again as a witness to the resurrection. But within that inclusio, there is another involving the women at 8:2-3 and 24:10. The implication of this is that Luke wants to point to the women as sources for at least some of his special material.

You don’t have to totally buy into this rhetorical analysis to see that Luke may well have had access to eyewitness material from the women.

Matthew does not fit this kind of analysis. But as Bauckham said, when he argued that Matthew made the apostle Levi identical with Matthew, the gospel wants to claim that it draws on eyewitness material from a disciple named Matthew.

So all the gospels go back to eyewitness testimony.

I think Bauckham is likely right that the gospels saw themselves going back to eyewitness testimony. However, the situation in the early church seems to have been messier than Bauckham contemplates.

The eschatological discourse and the letters to the churches in Revelation cause me to think that prophets who spoke in the name of Jesus got many of their words marked with red letters in our Bibles. The idea that there was an institution for preserving the historical words of Jesus just does not seem to me to reflect the reality of the early first century.

Our best source for the early days is Paul. Paul does talk about tradition that has been passed down about the Lord’s Supper and the Resurrection. He also knows some sayings of Jesus. Some of this he got from the Peter and James when he visited Jerusalem in the very early days. Some of it he may have gotten from the traditions of the church at Antioch.

It seems more likely to me that individual preachers or community founders like Peter, the beloved disciple, or Mary Magdalene passed on eyewitness accounts, but not as part of an institution of the twelve.

My understanding is that most of the authority in the earliest days was charismatic, not institutional. Later in the first century authority became more institutionalized, because charismatic authority did not prove effective against developing heresies. This is reflected in Luke, John, and, especially, the Pastoral Epistles.

So for now, I am still assuming that Luke’s idea of the twelve as an institution contains some projecting of late first century institutionalism back into the early days.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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