Bock

The Jesus Puzzle Point 9 The Nature of the Gospels– Midrash? Oct 11

We now come to Point 9.

Here it is:

9) The Gospels are not historical accounts, but constructed through a process of "midrash," a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion is a pastiche of verses from scripture.

 

We now come to Point 9.

Here it is:

9) The Gospels are not historical accounts, but constructed through a process of "midrash," a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion is a pastiche of verses from scripture.

 

Evaluation: The idea the gospels are simply midrash has several problems associated with it. One is that the genre as such did not exist yet in Judaism as the Midrashim are a few centuries later. Now one might reformulate the idea to say that in spots midrashic technigue is displayed in the gospels. This claim would be true in spots, but need not mean the text’s being "midrashed" are unhistorical. To associate texts can be a way of explaining what is or has taken place. However, most importantly, certain teachings in the New Testament cannot be explained as the product of midrash because they represent distinct takes on Jewish teaching. For example, the important idea of a resurrection in the midst of history is not a Jewish idea, but a Christian adaptation of a Jewish idea. No midrash of a text brings us to this fresh idea. Rather it is the claim of an empty tomb and appearances that does (see 1 Cor 15). Had a Jewish idea been midrashed, then Jesus could simply be a raised judge at the end of history such as the idea appears in a text like 1 Enoch. Such distinctions mean that something generated the new belief. One could claim it was simply made up, but if so why die for the idea? The other explanation is that soemthing happened that generated the new beief, which is what Christians claim took place. Either way midrash was not at work at this key juncture.

7 Comments

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    dan

    Random Question on Mary’s Magnificat
    Dr. Bock,

    My apologizes for this random question, but I was wondering if you can give me your thoughts on Brian Mclaren’s interpretation of the Mary’s Magnificat in what seems to be in strictly social concerns.

    Please see:

    http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=2916

    This kind of interpretations makes me worried because it seems to downplay the need of Christ being our personal savior. And I know that you have recently wrote a commentary on Luke so I was just wondering what you thought.

    Blessings,

    dan

    • Avatar

      bock

      Magnificat dlb

      Dan:

       

      I am not certain that the interpretation that does observe a social note in such a text necessarily denies a spiritual element in it as well. I tend to see such texts as a both/and versus an either/or. It fits with what Jesus says later in Luke 6:20-26 or 7:22-23. These texts tell us that our call to be spiritually impacted by God also calls us to think about the world with fresh sensitivities as a result. In other words Jesus saves us and in the process our world view and perspectives about the world are impacted in fresh ways.

      I hope this helps. I do discuss this in more detail in my Baker commentaries on both Luke and Acts. 

      dlb 

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    ChrisB

    midrash
    I think it’s also useful to say that other parts of the New Testament, some written arguably before the gospels, clearly treat events handled in the gospels as historical, not midrash — e.g., I Cor 15, 1 John 1, 2 Pet 1. Even if we might be confused as to the nature of the gospels, you wouldn’t expect first century Christians to be.

  • Avatar

    Deke

    New Tablet?
    Greetings in Christ Dr Bock,

    “certain teachings in the New Testament cannot be explained as the product of midrash because they represent distinct takes on Jewish teaching. For example, the important idea of a resurrection in the midst of history is not a Jewish idea, but a Christian adaptation of a Jewish idea. No midrash of a text brings us to this fresh idea.”

    Have you heard of that tablet supposedly from the 1st Century BCE that MAY speak of a messiah-like figure that diesand rises? How would you think this affects what you said here? As far as I know, the tablet cites no scriptures for what it says, and Paul and Jesus both claim the idea of Jesus dying and rising in three days can be found in the scriptures. What do you think? That at least some Jews though about a rising Messiah in history before Jesus?

    On the other hand, no body else seems to know about this. Most of the people of Israel and the disciples seemed totally taken by surprise when Jesus died and rose again. It is certainly not what they were expecting. It is still true that the practice of Midrash did not begin for a couple more centuries.

    Thanks