Monday, April 25, 2022

A Little More on the Resurrection Narratives?

Indulge me, please, with another resurrection post ... we are still well within the "50 Days of Easter"! It will be last one for Pascha 2022.

I have never noticed before the unusual character of the verse, Luke 24:12.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (NRSV)


1. Not all ancient manuscripts have this verse. That means it may not have been known to Luke himself and may have been added later (e.g. to bring Peter into the story at an earlier stage than otherwise, see Luke 24:34). REB confines the verse to a footnote.

2. The verse is reminiscent of aspects of Peter and the Beloved Disciple's racing/running to the tomb and seeing into it, in John 20:3-10: thus:

20:3 Then Peter and ... set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together ...

20:5 He [the Beloved Disciple] bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there ...

20:6 ... Simon Peter ... saw the linen wrapping lying there ...

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes ...

The emboldened words in Luke 24:12 and John 20:5 are exactly the same in Greek.

3. How to explain the relationship between Luke 24:12 and John 20:3-10. Did one copy/adapt from the other? Did they both draw on a common tradition? 

C.F. Evans, in his commentary, Saint Luke (SCM/Trinity Press International, 1990), pp. 899-900 lists three explanations for Luke 24:12:

A. "Luke wrote the verse, and it was later used by John." He then observes, "Against this is that some of the common language is characteristic of John rather than of Luke."

B. "Luke and John have used a common tradition of the empty tomb story in which disciples (Peter) were connected with the tomb, each doing so in his own way. Luke has combined it with Mark's story, while John has incorporated the beloved disciple into it." Evans then observes, "Against this, apart from the Johannine character of the language referred to above, the verse would be the only evidence for such a common tradition to be found in Luke's version, which is otherwise based on Mark's, and it follow awkwardly after 'an idle tale', giving the impression of something tacked on.

Yes, explanation C is the one!

C. "The verse is a later harmonizing addition to Luke's text, formed largely out of language borrowed from John 20:1-10, with the object of improving the transition to the narrative of appearances, and of brining Peter (cf. v. 34) into relation to the tomb." For Evans, "This is the most likely explanation of the presence of the verse here, and of its clumsiness."

Now various things can be contested here (e.g. I have seen a commentator deny that the language in v. 12 is Johannine), but the verse is a clumsy one relative to the verses preceding and succeeding it, and explanation C has a certain plausibility to it.

What does this mean for insight into the composition of the resurrection narratives?

Perhaps there are many insights!

Here is one insight:

The narratives across Mark, Luke and John are interested in the role of Peter as a witness to the resurrection - noting that Paul's tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:5 reports a specific appearance "to Cephas" prior to an appearance "then to the twelve."

Matthew, who follows Mark to a significant degree in Matthew 28:1-7, fails to follow Mark 16:7, where the messenger from God at the tomb says, "But go, tell his disciples and Peter ...".

Luke (who avoids any talk of appearances of Jesus in Galilee, in both Luke 24 and Acts 1) notes in 24:34 a specific appearance to "Simon", but via an indirect report. Luke 24:34 is consistent with 1 Corinthians 15:5. 

Luke 24:12 places Simon Peter at the tomb but without account of an appearance of the risen Lord to him. 

Otherwise, we assume in Matthew's Galilee appearance (28:16-20) and Luke's Jerusalem appearance to all the gathered disciples, that Peter is present in that group.

Similarly, in John 20, we assume that Peter is present in both accounts of appearances to the gathered disciples - only Thomas is noted as missing from the first account.

Nevertheless, in John 21, the appearance of the Lord to seven disciples gathered together at the Sea of Tiberias (i.e. in Galilee) becomes a major encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Is there a developing interest in the role of Simon Peter as a witness to the resurrection, through the decades in which the gospels are composed (and, in the case of Luke 24:12 edited)?

But, why then does Matthew show no interest in Peter in his post resurrection narratives?

A possible deduction is that Matthew is a Palestine-based gospel and Peter is long gone from Palestine to Rome.

By contrast, if Mark is Rome-based (as many have supposed), then his interest in Peter is understandable. Luke is not as interested in Peter as he is in Paul, but Peter is important, and Paul himself does not omit the "appearance to Peter" tradition from his list in 1 Corinthians 15.

John, as best we can tell, is neither a Palestine nor a Rome based gospel. Possibly he composes his gospel in Ephesus. But his gospel represents a distinctive form of early Christianity, Johannine Christianity and this development is in contrast, if not in tension with the Pauline - Petrine Christianity across the water in Rome. So Peter figures prominently in John's Gospel, especially in the epilogue which is chapter 21. But the emphasis on Peter is not about boosting Petrine Christianity; it's about defending Johannine Christianity as a worthy form of Christianity, with as strong a foundation in the ministry of Jesus Christ as Petrine Christianity has.

All this is pretty well known.

Luke 24:12 offers the possibility of a strengthening of this analysis.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Empty Tomb and the Subsequent Appearances

It is that time again, to make observations about the resurrection narratives. (For reccent previous years see: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 (Pt 1), 2018 (Pt 2).)

This year a couple of things have struck me in reading the gospel accounts in preparation for two sermons (one re Luke 24:1-12 and one re John 20:1-18). I am treating Mark 16:1-8 as the original ending of that Gospel.

Empty Tomb then Appearances

Now, this is pretty obvious, but it has struck me that each of the gospel accounts tells us the tomb is empty (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13) and only then tells us of the first appearance of Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:14-18 - Mark anticipates a later appearance, 16:7).

None of the accounts mixes up the Empty Tomb with an Appearance (e.g. imagines Jesus himself is in the tomb, waiting for visitors). The "guide(s)" at the tomb ("angel", Matthew 28:5; "young man", Mark 16:5; "two men ... in dazzling apparel", Luke 24:4; "two angels in white", John 20:12) are distinct from Jesus.

So, the appearances (with a modest exception in Matthew*) then become the second part of the resurrection narratives for each gospel (including Mark's narrative, by implication).

Clearly, picking up Paul's account of Appearances of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, there were - between "died ... buried ... raised on the third day" and Paul's conversion - appearances of the risen Jesus to a range of individuals and groups. 

Understandably, the Gospels tell us about Appearances. 

Not so understandable, of course, is that the Gospels (a) do not offer between them a particularly coherent account of these appearances, and (b) do not match well with Paul's list (with its air of authoritative tradition).

But, I muse ... were there a range of appearances of Jesus to people? From near the tomb to Galilee, were there many appearances during a limited period of time? And, so, from that range, are we now able to read in the gospels a selection of testimonies of those appearances? Thus: near the tomb (Matthew, John), in Jerusalem (Luke, John), near Jerusalem (Luke), and in Galilee (Matthew, anticipated in Mark, John).

Clearly there is a degree of creativity as the gospel writers (c) support the narrative of the Empty Tomb with a narrative or narratives of Appearances of Jesus, and (d) draw their overall accounts to a conclusion. So, we find on the matter of Jesus commissioning his disciples that there are three different commissionings by the risen Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-53/Acts 1:1-8; John 20:21-23/21:15-22).

Then, Luke and John show extraordinary theological depth as well as the ability to include a wide range of theological themes as they respectively tell of the Road to Emmaus appearance (Luke 24:13-35) and the "third appearance" in the Big Catch of Fish (John 21). 

*That modest exception is that between Matthew's first appearance account (28:9-10) and second account (28:16-20), Matthew refers back to the Empty Tomb by wait of a story about how a rumour was initiated by the authorities to explain the emptiness of the tomb (28:11-15).

Sight and Recognition

There is a lot of "seeing" and "recognising" (or not) going on in each of the resurrection narratives, with respect to the actual or anticipated appearances of Jesus.

Matthew 28:6: "Come, see the place where he lay."

Matthew 28:7: "... he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him."

Matthew 28:10: "... there they will see me."

Mark 16:6: "... see the place where they laid him."

Mark 16:7: "...he is going before you to Galileee; there you will see him."

Luke 24:12: " ... But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves."

John 20:5: "and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in."

John 20:8: "Then the other disciples, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;"

John 20: 14: "Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus."

John 20:18: "Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; 

Luke 24:16: "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him"

Luke 24:24: "... but him they did not see."

Luke 24:31: "And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight."

Luke 24:37: "But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit."

Luke 24:39: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."

John 20:20: "When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord."

John 20:25: "So, the other disciples told him [Thomas], "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands ..."

John 20:29: 'Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."'

John 21:4: "Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus."

John 21:12: "Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord."

Matthew 28:17: "And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted."

To be honest, I am not sure what to make of these texts. Perhaps, at the least, they make the point that the first witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus were eye-witnesses. They could be questioned as to what they saw, whether they understood what they saw, and what led to their recognition of the Lord.

Ultimately the gospel writers are painting word pictures of the risen Jesus for their readers (for you and me): we may not see Jesus with our own eyes, but we see Jesus with their eyes.

And we see Jesus with the eyes of faith: we believe because of their testimony.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

What is Holy Week and Easter without the Gospel of John?

Just as hot cross buns are nothing much to taste without sultanas and diced dried apricots [my faves for this year's homemade buns], so are the Gospel accounts of the events of Holy Week and Easter if we imagine only having Matthew, Mark and Luke and no John.

Here are a few of the ways in which John enriches us (if not entrances us with loads of puzzles):

- a key event is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, an event not even hinted out in the other Gospels (John 11);

- John tells the anointing of Jesus by a woman differently (but with enough similarities for us to accept that it is the same anointing): "six days before Passover" (not two); at the home of Lazarus (not Simon); with the anointing woman named, Mary (not anonymous);

- John's Last Supper is devoid of elements of "the institution of the Lord's Supper" narrative, otherwise made known to us not only in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but also in 1 Corinthians 11:17-31;

- Only in John's Last Supper is a ceremony of foot washing narrated;

- And there is the somewhat oodles of doctoral theses generating challenge of John's chronology re his timing of the Passover: the Synoptics place the Last Supper on the evening of Passover (so Jesus dies the next day, during Passover), whereas John times Jesus' death to occur when the lambs for the Passover meal are being slaughtered (19:14), so the Last Supper is not actually a Passover meal;

- only John supplies the so-called Farewell Discourses through his chapters 14-17;

- then there are his Resurrection Narratives, though we can note that when it comes to Resurrection Narratives, there are considerable divergences across all four Gospels: only John tells us of Jesus' encounter with Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter and the Beloved Disciple.

Now my point here is not rehearse things likely well known to readers of ADU but to note that I am delighted this Holy Week and Easter to have the assistance of a new commentary on John's Gospel.

David F. Ford is a renowned British theologian and tells us at the beginning of The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2021) that he has been working on this book for a couple of decades (p. vii). 

At the end of the commentary, as he discusses at greater length the people and books that have influenced him and been conversational partners with him, he mentions an opportunity in 2009 to engage in a "sustained conversation around John that has acted as an inspiration and a benchmark. Richard Bauckham had retired from St Andrews University to Cambridge and Richard Hays was in Cambridge for a six month sabbatical. We put twenty-one three-hour sessions in our diaries, and the three of us read the whole Gospel together" (p. 439-40). Oh, to be a fly on the wall ... 

Like all commentaries, there is much to look up on specific passages and their associated puzzles and controversies, and I intend to do that over the next week re the kinds of matters I have listed above. It could be a bit boring, however, from a blogging perspective, to list all the things he says (even if each is interesting in its own right) so I will simply finish here with his opening paragraph, not least because I have never previously thought of his summary description of John's Gospel before, though it is one of those brilliant, lovely insights that are completely obvious (especially if we think of John 10:10 as both a summary of Jesus' intended mission and as the centre/middle of the Gospel)!

From page 1, my bold:

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16). John is a Gospel of abundance. The prologue first sounds this note; the first sign that Jesus does turns a huge amount of water into good wine: the Spirit is a wind that blows where it will and is given "without measure" (3:34); the "living water" that Jesus gives is "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (4:14); when Jesus feeds five thousand with five loaves, there are twelve baskets of fragments left over; through Jesus there is abundance of glory, healing, light, life, trugh, fruitfulness, joy, and love; the last sign that Jesus does brings about a large catch of big fish; and John's closing sentence responds to the impossible task of writing all that could be said about what Jesus did: "if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (21:25).

There is, indeed, an abundance in this commentary of things to be enriched by. 

May all readers of ADU have an enriched, abundant Holy Week and Paschal Festival full of meaning and significance.

Bonus Feature:

This is my recipe for Hot Cross buns (using a breadmaker, in my case a rather recent and IMHO brilliant Panasonic one):

(in this order in the bread maker)

1 cup of sultanas and diced dried apricots (either in the nifty breadmaker device which releases them automatically at the right time, or added to the dough cycle when your breadmaker signals for that to happen).

3 to 3.5 teaspoons of breadmaker yeast mixture (can this be obtained outside of NZ?)

3.5 cups of high quality flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 tablespoon oil

270 mls water (with the Panasonic this can be as it comes out of the tap; otherwise slightly warm)

Press start on the "raison dough" cycle

Near the end of the alotted time, prepare a thick flour-and-water mix for the crosses.

Once dough is ready, make eight (possibly nine) balls of dough and place in a container such as a roasting dish and let rise for about 30 - 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn oven on to bake at 180 degrees Celsius

Add the crosses to each potential bun

Once 180 degrees is reached:

Place container in the oven for however long it takes to cook the buns.

Option: make a hot syrup from brown sugar and a little water (or brown sugar, honey and a little water).

When the buns are cooked, pour the syrup over the buns (hence the roasting dish as this catches any excess syrup flowing off the buns).

Place the buns on a cooling rack


Monday, April 4, 2022

Down a Rabbit Hole, in a good way, I hope

There has been quite a bit, lately, of going down rabbit holes, and not in a good way, perhaps most noticeable when some folk start alerting us to conspiracy theories filled with misinformation (some of it quite dangerous, Ivermectin anyone?) and before you know it, leaders and media in our country are "Wanted" for a Nuremburg style trial, all because malevolent folk interviewing their laptops have started digging rabbit holes for the gullible to descend into.

But there are other rabbit holes, of arguably a warmer, and healthier nature, in which one thing leads to another, and eventually one might find something rather good. Obviously, here on ADU I am speaking about theological quests (such as each week, me seeking an idea for a post!). Here goes for this week.

"Salvation is Unity with Humanity in Christ."  

I love that phrase, which Bowman put as an opening statement at the head of a comment to last week's post. It captures pretty much the whole thesis of Anglican Down Under.

Now, naturally, that leads me to the Anglican Primates' Meeting held last week which, I suggest, represented a modest triumph for the ABC. As reported here, most of the Communion's Primates showed up, in fact only three Primates (Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda) did not show up to the meeting (in person or on Zoom). While those three provinces represent a significant numerical proportion of global Anglicans, and if their bishops (and others, e.g. from Australia, Kenya) do not attend Lambeth (for reasons other than Covid-related), there will be a significant number of bishops missing due to disagreement about That Topic, it looks like some 39 of 42 Anglican provinces will be represented at the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. That is, I suggest, a sign of some hope for "salvation is unity with humanity in Christ."

So far so good, but what is "unity with humanity in Christ"?

Well, it (at the least) has something to do with some rather large (or far reaching) but somewhat arcane debates in global theology.

So, on Saturday, looking at the sidebar of this blog, where Edward Fese resides, I noticed that he had posted with an intriguing title, On Hart's Post-Christian Pantheism, and that led me to a book review by Feser (on another site) of a recent book (previously unknown to me) by well known Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, titled You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature (University of Notre Dame Press, 2022). 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, that took me further down an intriguing rabbit hole, because Feser's review leads the reader into a significant debate (some say the most significant debate of the 20th century) between the nouvelle theologians (think, especially, de Lubac) and the Thomists (think, especially Garrigou-Lagrange) over (in my words) the role of God in our salvation, that is, whether God reaches from the supernatural into our natural mode of life to save us, or whether God has so created nature (including ourselves) that (if we could remove all distractions) our pure natures - our pure souls - by design are intent on union with the divine. Thomists (including Feser today) argue the former, and when holding sway in the inner counsels of the papacy in the 1950s led to de Lubac etc receiving a fierce theological rap over the knuckles, i.e. inhibition as teachers of the faith. The nouvelle theologians argue the latter and eventually come to new prominence in the Roman church as the Vatican 2 conference unfolded. Much later, de Lubac would receive a cardinal's hat.

This intra-Roman debate has immense implications for all the rest of Christianity because on the matters Thomists are keen on herein, Protestantism more or less falls in line; and the theology of de Lubac and co has some significant alignments with Eastern Orthodoxy's interest in theosis (or, our becoming participants in the divine nature as God transforms our lives, 2 Peter 1:4), to say nothing with interests of (e.g.) Ramon Pannikar who has sensitively explored the interface between Hinduism and Christianity.

The latter name came up in correspondence as I shared the review of Feser with a colleague who has had a strong interest in "Vedantic Christianity" (to pick up a phrase in the review).

Another colleague over the weekend pointed out that John Milbank sorted everything out (or did he? I've seen an interesting review, or two!) when he wrote The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate Concerning the Supernatural and argued therein for a way forward beyond the kind of Feser/Thomist, goodies and baddies of theology approach.  (Incidentally, I have purchased the book on Kindle for $21, but that link advertises the paperback version at US$296!!!!!!!). I have started reading the book - it is very complicated.

Our unity as humanity in Christ is illuminated by the kind of work Aquinas, de Lubac, Feser, Pannikar and Milbank engage in because they explore who we are as creatures in relation to the purpose of the Creator in making us and the role of Christ in redeeming or, we could say, re-making us.

So, there is at least another post for this blog coming, via Milbank on de Lubac, but in the meantime, we can perhaps ponder that behind, beyond and within the wonderful statement, "Salvation is Unity with Humanity in Christ." there lies a lot to think about, informed by some sharp, if complicated theologians who make my brain hurt. In the deepest part of a rabbit hole there is not always as much oxygen as we would like.