Excerpt from Thomas Brodie

Neil Godfrey has made chapter 7 of Thomas Brodie's recent book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, available online. It provides a wonderful illustration of the sort of forced parallelomania that I recently parodied.

There might perhaps be an allusion – whether by Jesus or by the Gospel author – to the stories about Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19. A phrase like “I will follow (after) you” [ἀκολουθήσω ὀπίσω σου in the LXX, ἀκολουθήσω σοι in Luke] is hard to avoid in a context related to discipleship, and is scarcely a clear indication of dependence, or even deliberate allusion. But even if one hears some echoes of those earlier stories in Luke 9, Brodie tries to force as much material as he can into the mold of literary transformation of that portion of the Jewish Scriptures, no matter how slim the connection or how awkward the fit.

For instance, he treats the references to various people putting others or seeking to put others to death as the source of inspiration for the demand that one who would follow Jesus “leave the dead to bury their dead.” And the reference to Elijah lying down, and having food near his head, is supposed to be the source of Jesus' statement that “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” And words like “someone” and “another” are also highlighted as indicating a connection.

All this may perhaps seem plausible to some. To me, it looks like a sort of Biblical connect the dots.

There is a longstanding Rabbinic tradition of exploring the additional meaning that surfaces when two texts which feature the same keywords are related to one another. It has always been possible to relate texts in this way, and the ability of interpreters to do so scarcely means that, in all the instances where this has been done, what we are dealing with is one literary text that was created entirely by a reworking of the other. The same words appear over and over in countless texts, and not all of them are connected. The ability to see such patterns more vividly than others may be indicative of a beautiful mind – but whether it is a healthy one is another matter.

The question of literary allusion can be a highly subjective matter, and those who seek to make sense of texts need to be cautious – as do those who would make sweeping assertions about ahistoricity on the basis of similarities that are, at best, slim and superficial.

You can click through here to read my review of Brodie's entire book.

 

  • Joe Wallack

    “There might perhaps an allusion – whether by Jesus or by the Gospel author – to the stories about Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19. A
    phrase like “I will follow (after) you” [ἀκολουθήσω ὀπίσω σου in the
    LXX, ἀκολουθήσω σοι in Luke] is hard to avoid in a context related to
    discipleship, and is scarcely a clear indication of dependence, or even
    deliberate allusion. But even if one hears some echoes of those earlier
    stories in Luke 9, Brodie tries to force as much material as he can into
    the mold of literary transformation of that portion of the Jewish
    Scriptures, no matter how slim the connection or how awkward the fit.”

    JW:
    First of all, who cares about “Luke”. Regarding “I will follow you” the parallels are much better than you have noted between Elisha/Disciples:

    1) Boss sees disciple working.

    2) Boss asks/instructs/commands to give up flesh job for spirit job.

    3) Disciple immediately goes to work without even filling out an application.

    4) Disciple does/does not say goodbye to Parent (Simon didn’t say).

    5) Disciple brings even less with him than Steve Martin brought when he left home in “The Jerk”.

    And this would be found where else exactly in the ancient literature? But just relax, Tea Partiers don’t read your blog so they won’t discover that this is direct Biblical support for abolishing minimum wage laws. Less importantly, it’s just Literary Criticism evidence against historicity. That’s a long way from good evidence for myth here (you’d need Source Criticism for that, you know, so and so said that so and so said so and so made it up).

    You don’t need to be so afraid of unwanted parallels between the Christian Bible and the Jewish Bible. I hereby label this irrational fear “ParallelO(T)phobia”.

    Joseph

    • Paul D.

      Agreed. I thought it was well-established that the calling-of-the-disciples motif in the Gospels harkened back to Elijah’s calling of Elisha.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        As I thought my post made clear, I don’t have a problem with there being allusions to the stories about Elijah and Elisha. There are (as comments below also point out) other allusions as well, in other places. My point is that, while there may be some echoes of those stories present, the attempt to move from there to viewing the entire episode as merely a rewrite of those stories is unpersuasive.

        • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

          I think reasonable minds might differ as to whether “there may be some echoes” accurately describes the situation.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Where does Brodie argue that “the entire episode [is] MERELY A REWRITE of those stories”? If you can’t support your accusation will you post a retraction?

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I find it hard to make any sense of James and John asking Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the inhospitable Samaritans prior to Jesus’s journey to the place where he was to be taken up to heaven in Luke 9:51-55 other than as an allusion to Elijah calling down fire from heaven to destroy the king’s men prior to his journey to the place where he was to be taken up to heaven. That seems to be a very solid connection which I find hard to attribute merely to Brodie’s subjectivity. Given that connection, looking for further parallels to Elijah in the subsequent verses doesn’t seem forced at all to me.

    • Steven Carr

      ‘ find it hard to make any sense of James and John asking Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the inhospitable Samaritans prior to Jesus’s journey to the place where he was to be taken up to heaven in Luke 9:51-55 other than as an allusion to Elijah calling down fire from heaven to destroy the king’s men prior to his journey to the place where he was to be taken up to heaven.’

      Parallelomania!

      James has already explained that this is just Biblical connect the dots.

      The fact that you are not convinced merely means that can see things that Biblical scholars can not see.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Just one more question: If Brodie’s arguments are so incompetent why were they published in peer-reviewed journals (and books) before anyone realized that he believed the implications of his arguments supported mythicism?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Longtime readers will know that I decided some time ago not to try to engage Neil Godfrey in conversation, since he has shown himself time and time again to be unwilling to do so in an honest and respectful manner.

      But I will point out what a librarian ought to know, which is that being published in peer-reviewed venues does not make one right. And mythicists must know this, since if merely being published in a peer-reviewed journal or book made you correct, then the agreement of such publications about there having been a historical Jesus would prove mythicism wrong, and yet mythicists continue to dismiss such peer-reviewed publications when it suits them to do so.

      And so here we have the old ploy, used by creationists as well as mythicists, of appealing to the status of something as peer-reviewed when it suits them, yet ignoring both the nature of peer-review, and the overwhelming majority viewpoint expressed in such publications.

      As I have said before, Brodie’s views on the alleged adaptation of other texts in the composition of the Gospels have long seemed to me mostly unpersuasive – an occasional brilliant insight in a sea of imagination. Peer-review means that you have followed certain academic procedures, not that you are correct or persuasive.


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