Notes: Chapter 8 of Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Notes: Chapter 8 of Ehrman’s Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium
Topic: The Core Case for an Apocalyptic Jesus

Review: Sources and Methods for Reconstructing the Historical Jesus
-Historical Jesus scholars reconstruct the most probable account of who Jesus was by (i) finding the earliest sources with eyewitness information, and then (ii) using objective criteria to determine which units of material within these sources are probably authentic.

  • The earliest sources are Paul’s letters, Q, Mark, M, and L.
  • Later, less reliable sources that may have some eyewitness information are the canonical gospel of John, and the non-canonical gospels of Peter and of Thomas.

-The criteria applied to these sources are (i) early strata, (ii) lack of theological adornment, (iii) absence of author bias, (iv) multiple attestation, (v) dissimilarity, and (vi)contextual credibility

-The material from these sources that can be verified by these criteria are then used to reconstruct an account of who Jesus probably was, and what he probably said and did

Overview: Three Main Lines of Evidence for an Apocalyptic Jesus

  • #1: The earliest sources portray Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet
  • #2 The later sources tone down the apocalyptic language in the earlier sources
  • #3: Those connected to Jesus and his message before and after his earthly ministry were apocalypticists

First Line of Evidence: The earliest sources portray Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet

  • Multiple attestation: Attested in Mark, Q, M, L (also: Paul’s letters)
  • Embarrassment: Jesus’s false prediction of the apocalypse within his generation goes against the aims of the early church
  • Contextual credibility: there were a number of apocalyptic prophets in Jesus’s time, and it was a popular view among Jews at the time

Second Line of Evidence: The later sources tone down the apocalyptic language in the earlier sources

  • Matthew, Luke, John and Thomas progressively change, remove, or repudiate Jesus’ prediction of an imminent apocalypse in Mark and Q (128-132)
  •  Lk 9:27 mutes Jesus prediction of imminence in Mk 9:1; see also Lk 11:20, 17:21
  •  Lk 22:69 mutes Jesus prediction of imminence in Mk 14:62
  • Jn almost completely eliminates Jesus’s message of an imminent arrival of the kingdom of God through the Son of Man and replaces it with talk of eternal life through belief in Jesus
  • Thomas repudiates Jesus’s message of an imminent apocalypse (saying 113)
  • This pattern of progressively watering down Jesus’ prediction of an imminent apocalypse makes perfect sense if Jesus really did predict it, and his followers muted the message when his predictions didn’t come true

Third Line of Evidence: Those connected to Jesus and his message before and after his earthly ministry were apocalypticists

  • Before his ministry, Jesus associated with and was baptized by an apocalyptic prophet: John the Baptist (multiple independent attestation, embarrassment)
  • After his death, his earliest followers and the early church were apocalypticists (multiple independent attestation, early strata: Paul’s letters: I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-57)
  • The apocalyptic teachings associated with Jesus both before and after his ministry are best explained if he himself was an apocalypticist

Bringing it All Together: The Core Case for an Apocalyptic Jesus
-Scholars use criteria of authenticity to sift the earliest sources with eyewitness testimony to reconstruct the historical Jesus

-Applying these results yields three main lines of evidence that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet:

  • #1: The earliest sources portray Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet
  • #2 The later sources tone down the apocalyptic language in the earlier sources
  • #3: Those connected to Jesus and his message before and after his earthly ministry were apocalypticists

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