Friday at ETS New Orleans

I spent the day in the Synoptic Gospels section, which was divided into two separate topics.  The morning sessions were devoted to Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories With Intent.  I was already quite taken with this mammoth contribution to the study of the parables, as were the three presenters. For the most part, all three presenters were extremely impressed with the book and had only token criticisms and all concluded that everyone ought to own the book.  Snodgrass then gave a brief response and a panel discussion followed.  Most disappointing was the attendance of this session – maybe 30 people at the most.  The fact that VanHoozer was in the next room did not help us at all!

Mark Alan Powell gave an excellent and entertaining overview of the book, and responded to criticisms from an RBL review by van Eck of the book which he felt were unfair.  As Powell observed, every reviewer can complain that a book was “not they one they would write.”  With that in mind, Powell suggested that the book could have been better if Snodgrass had employed some form of Narrative Criticism to enhance his exegesis of the individual parables.

Scot McKnight dealt with the thorny problem of eschatology in the parables.  McKnight offered  the sharpest criticism of Snodgrass, although even here the differing viewpoints were obvious. This lead to a long (and rather interesting) exchange during the panel discussion on the eschatology of Jesus (or lack thereof).  Snodgrass refuses to see the destruction of Jerusalem as predicted by Jesus in the parables, while McKnight disagreed – pointed out that the Olivet Discourse says that says that “these things will happen” before the present generation passes away.  Since this is part of my dissertation topic, I was quite fascinating to see this discussion play out.  I happen to agree with Snodgrass here, especially in Matt 22, although I think the details are a bit different.  I think that I will digest this section a bit more and return to it after I get back to my office (and my own copy of Stories with Intent!)

Robert Stein wondered about the goal of the book, to get back to the intent of Jesus, as if that is separate from the intent of the Evangelist.  For Stein, one cannot say that the words of Jesus are “more inspired” than the words of the Evangelist, and thinks that any attempt to use “criterion of authenticity” or other tools of Historical Jesus research run the risk of making the words of the Evangelist “less inspired” than the words of Jesus.  This too was a fascinating exchange which was really about methodology and the uselessness of many Historical Jesus studies.  I think that I have a bit more use for these sort of studies, these warnings are appreciated.

The afternoon sessions were devoted to four recent commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels, although three were on Matthew and one on Mark.  Four short papers were presented reviewing Robert Stein (Mark, BECNT), R. T. France (NICNT), David Turner (Matthew, BECNT) , and Ben Witherington III (Matthew, Smyth and Helwys).  Other than France, each of the authors made a brief response to their reviews. Darrell Bock did a great job moderating this long session and moderated a panel discussion and Q&A with all the presenters.

7 thoughts on “Friday at ETS New Orleans

    • Yes, He was “featured” in a series of short papers critiquing recent Synoptic Gospel commentaries. He had a brief response which I found rather interesting. His low-key personality was overwhelmed by Ben Witherington, who is just about as opposite in every way.

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  1. All the big names that I would love to meet…slip through my fingers if though I had the money…

    Having said this…my grades in any of my classes are not high enough for me to sustain such a loss of attendance…however, it would ave been extremely cool!

    Next time I sign up for 18 credits of hard core classes someone needs to slap me…

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  2. “Snodgrass refuses to see the destruction of Jerusalem as predicted by Jesus in the parables” (Long). If this is true, what impact does that have the idea of God passing his judgment on Israel for denying The Messiah? In dealing with the idea of a transition period of during the first century, that seems to be a key theme.

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    • I am not sure that is a problem, since (IMHO) that happens by Acts 7, the speech of Stephen is the judgment. One of the presenters, might have been Robert Stein, asked why AD 70 was that much more important that 135, when Jerusalem was destroyed yet again, but in that case Jews were banned from the city by Rome. Between 70 and 135, there was always a hope that the temple would be rebuilt.

      I am not sure of anyone that would string out any “judgment on Israel” to AD 135. Some preterists want to make 70 the final judgment on Jews for killing the messiah, Ken Gentry for example in the Four Views text from Zondervan.

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  3. You said, “For Stein, one cannot say that the words of Jesus are “more inspired” than the words of the Evangelist, and thinks that any attempt to use “criterion of authenticity” or other tools of Historical Jesus research run the risk of making the words of the Evangelist “less inspired” than the words of Jesus.”
    You also say that this was more about methodology and the uselessness of the Historical Jesus studies.
    I am very curious what kind of Historical Jesus studies where used?

    According to Stein in his writings on the “criterion of authenticity” there are various different ways we use the criterion. He answers this question with various number of ways. He says, “One popular method was to evaluate the general historicity of the gospel materials by comparing those historical portions of the gospel materials which have parallels in secular or non-Christian historical records and see whether these records support or tend to deny the historicity of the gospel parallels. By this means perhaps some general attitude might develop toward the accuracy or inaccuracy of the gospel accounts as a whole. Another attempt has been to establish if a gospel writer was an eyewitness to the accounts he records in his Gospel. If he was an eyewitness, then this would lend credence to the historicity of his account.” (225).

    Are there any problems with these approaches?

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    • Josh – Interesting your should find the article from Stein in the Gospel Perspectives series. While those have been out of print for a long time, they were recently republished by Wipf and Stock. I was deeply effected by the articles in that series when I first read some years back.

      The “criterion of authenticity” are a set of historical controls imposed on the text which seek to determine what Jesus did (or did not) say and do. The goal is to separate the voice of Jesus from the voice of the Evangelist. For example, scholars like John Meier use a “Criteria of Embarrassment,” stating that anything that might of be embarrassing to the early church is unlikely to have been created by the early church and read back into the life of Jesus. That Jesus was baptiszed is virtually certain, therefore, since the early church would not make that sort of thing up: Jesus was sinless and had no need of baptism.

      Stein felt strongly (at this meeting) that these methods that try to separate the words of Jesus from the evangelist are not particularly helpful, although he himself will do something like this in his own commentary on Mark. I do alot more of this sort of thing in the Gospels class, these sorts of historical Jesus questions are not really applied to Pauline studies.

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