Still hacking away at Chapter 2, but I had a discussion with my chair earlier this afternoon, to pitch an idea concerning Judas that has cleared things up. I thought I was going to have to write a very long Chapter 5 on the disciples – now, I think, it will center on Judas, with a smaller, more elegant argument.
For the unfamiliar, the entire dissertation has 3 goals.
The first goal is to present an approach to rhetorical criticism of the gospels – one with a “strong” authorship model (leaning towards the Farrier-Goulder hypothesis and the concept of the author in composition studies), half a ton of narrative theory (notably Walter Fisher), and a skeptical, secular viewpoint. This is the bulk of the project, requiring a chapter that gives an statement of intent and theory, and three chapters of exemplar case studies to demonstrate its value.
The second goal, requiring one chapter (Chapter 1!), is to argue that early Christian texts – including but not limited to the gospels – get short shrift in the big theories of rhetorical history, and that this is a salvageable situation, but it requires some readjustment of some basic assumptions about what makes ancient texts rhetorical.
The third goal is to discuss how the approach in goal #1 might be introduced to undergraduate and graduate students in rhetoric classes, with the pros and cons inherent in doing so. It will involve some historical poking into how ‘Bible as Literature’ has generally been taught in America, and likely argue for a more aggressive, rhetorical replacement, though we’ll see if it goes that far. That will be the final chapter, and with some luck, maybe I can test-drive some of it in a fall class.
Of the three case studies for goal #1, I’ve drafted two so far.
In the first, Chapter 3, I go through all the post-resurrection narratives of Jesus and argued that the Gospel of Mark ends where it does at 16:8 for Pauline reasons, to strip the apostles of the authority that they seem to have in 1 Cor 15, as the first witnesses to the resurrection. It’s not an argument that I’ve seen elsewhere, though I’m still reading, and it is a reasonable conclusion from a pro-Pauline, anti-disciple reading of Mark.
In the second, Chapter 4, I go through all the narratives mentioning John the Baptist, including Josephus, and argue that the Gospel of Mark invented a connection between Jesus and John for a variety of rhetorical purposes. This including a fairly lengthy (and necessary) discussion of Paul’s view of baptism and Josephus’s view of false messiahs.
What I’m thinking of for Chapter 5 is something that I noticed while finishing up translating Mark – Judas doesn’t seem to be a necessary part of the narrative. He’s only mentioned 3 times in Mark, at 3.19, 14.10, and 14.43-44, and Mark carefully defines him each time: ‘Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Jesus’ and ‘Judas, one of the twelve,’ once as his betrayal begins, and again when he arrives with the crowd.
I suspect this careful defining is because Mark’s audience didn’t know who Judas was. In 1 Cor, Paul refers to some sort of supper narrative as “the night he (Jesus) was being betrayed,” (the Greek is more literally handed over) but he gives no name, or an indication that it was one of the disciples, a group, the chief priests, etc who did the handing-over. The argument that Paul is making there would lend to using a “betrayer” as a stand-in for unworthy Corinthians, but he does no such thing. It’s a curious problem, and worth investigation. Someone, I’m sure, has explored this already, but as I discovered in the previous two case studies, there’s always something new to add.
Anyway, that future chapter has me excited. It’s also another opportunity to demonstrate, as the other two chapters did in passing, that the Gospel of John knows the Synoptics – the Judas material in Matthew-Luke-John, I feel, adds another nail. Too bad that my 1-chapter-a-month schedule forces me to wait until May to write it.
Ugh. Back to Chapter 2.