C The Surprising Authority with Which Jesus Taught

This feature is picked out more explicitly in the Jesus tradition. He is remembered as one who provoked surprise and questioning at the authority with which he taught.399 For example, Mark characteristically links Jesus' teaching with his exorcisms and mighty works: 'What is this? A new teaching with authority (kat'

395. D. E. Aune, 'Oral Tradition and the Aphorisms of Jesus', in Wansbrough, ed., Jesus 211-65, has catalogued 147 aphorisms in the Synoptic tradition plus 8 in John, 4 in Thomas, 8 in other Gospels (242-58). See further Ebner, Jesus 393-412, who contests the 'Cynic Jesus' and 'subversive wisdom' hypotheses by pointing out that Jesus did not set himself against the law (cf. §14.4 above).

396. See, e.g., Hultgren, Parables 5-11, and further above, §§12.6e and 13.1.

397. Gerhardsson, Origins 70; see also Vermes, Religion ch. 4. For a useful review ofre-cent literature on the parables and an indication of outstanding issues in current parable interpretation, see C. L. Blomberg, 'The Parables of Jesus: Current Trends and Needs in Research', in B. Chilton and C. A. Evans, eds., Studying the Historical Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 1994) 231-54.

398. The only seeming exception is Mark 10.17-18/Luke 18.18-19; but the reaction there is to the epithet 'good teacher'.

399. Mark 1.22/Matt. 7.28-29/Luke 4.32; Mark 1.27/Luke 4.36; Mark 11.27-33/Matt. 21,23-27/Luke 20.1-8; Matt. 8.9/Luke 7.8; see also Mark 2.10 pars.; 3.15 par.; 6.7 pars.; Luke 10.19.

exousian)! He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him' (Mark 1.27); 'Where does he get all this? What wisdom has been given to him! Such mighty works take place through his hands!' (6.2). The centurion at Capernaum is recalled as likening Jesus' authority to his own: 'I too am someone under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to one "Go", and he goes, and to another "Come", and he comes, and to my slave "Do this", and he does it' (Matt. 8.9/Luke 7.8). As a final example we should note the tradition that a high-powered delegation400 asked Jesus, 'By what authority do you so act? Who gave you this authority?' (Mark 11.28 pars.). The considerations of Taylor and Pesch in favour of the historicity of the encounter401 have not won very much port.402 But such an encounter would have been memorable, and it is less plausible to explain the origin of the exchange in the subsequent history of the early Jerusalem community (contrast Acts 3-5), as Bultmann suggested.403

In short, the motif of surprise at the authority implicitly claimed by Jesus has undoubtedly been made much of in the telling and retelling of the Jesus tradition — understandably so. But it would be even more surprising if the motif was not well rooted in memories of the reactions which Jesus' teaching evoked. The character of so much of the teaching still raises eyebrows today. How much more then! The quest for an uncontroversial Jesus whose mission created no furore must be about the most futile of all the quests.

What was it about the authority implicit in Jesus' teaching which caused surprise and offence? Several answers have established themselves with a fair measure of consensus and can be rehearsed quite briefly.

(1) He lacked formal training. He came from a very modest background; his level of literacy may not have been very high The only teacher he was known to have associated with was John the Baptist, who evidently also lacked formal training.

(2) His teaching did not appeal to past tradition or earlier authorities. Such appeal certainly became the standard form for subsequent rabbinic teaching, but

400. This is the only occasion in which 'chief priests and elders' are recalled as engaging Jesus in dialogue.

401. Taylor, Mark 468-69; Pesch, Markusevangelium 2.212; see also Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit 77; Fitzmyer, Luke 2.1272-74; Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.157-58.

402. Funk, Five Gospels 100; Lüdemann, Jesus 80.

403. History 19-20. The Jesus Seminar voted strongly against the historical value of the episode, because Jesus' words 'did not take the form of a parable or an aphorism, which means that it is difficult to imagine how they could have been transmitted during the oral period, except as part of this story' {Five Gospels 100); this concept of oral tradition suffers from acute anorexia. Dodd notes that the implication of Jesus' reply 'is that there is a kind of authority which is self-authenticating; either you recognize it or you don't, and if you don't there is nothing more to be said' (Founder 148).

already in the Jesus tradition we reference to 'the tradition of the elders'.404 And the implication of Jesus' debates with other teachers regarding various matters of halakhah is that present conduct was based on the developing halakhah being passed down. Jesus is recalled as resisting that trend in one degree or other.405

(3) The main thrust of Jesus' teaching was not directed to the exposition of Torah. As already noted, claims that he set himself against the Torah are seriously overstated; on the contrary, we can certainly say that his teaching was thoroughly rooted in Scripture.406 At the same time, however, the main category in his teaching (the kingdom of God) and the principal mode of his teaching (parables) were more innovative than traditional in character.

(4) Two features of Jesus' teaching style have attracted considerable attention. First, his use of 'Amen' to introduce a particular utterance. The term is familiar in both Hebrew and Aramaic (amen) as marking a strong solemn affirmation of what has been said, most typically in a formal liturgical context.407 The Jesus tradition gives clear testimony that Jesus used the term consistently in his own ing.408 And that he did so in a quite distinctive way. For whereas in regular usage 'Amen' affirmed or endorsed the words of someone else, in the Jesus tradition the term is used without exception to introduce and endorse Jesus' own words.409 This quite unique use can hardly be attributed to the early Christians; their own use of 'Amen' was in accord with the traditional pattern.410 Of course, we can hardly exclude the likelihood that in performing the tradition the tradents/teachers extended the motif within the tradition. But neither can it be seriously doubted that the usage began with Jesus and was a distinctive feature of his own teaching style. Why else

405. See above, particularly §14.4.

406. See the conclusion to §14.4 above.

407. Num. 5.22; Deut. 27.15-26; 1 Kgs. 1.36; 1 Chron. 16.36; Neh. 5.13; 8.6; Pss. 41.13; 72.19; 89.52; 106.48; Jer. 11.5; 28.6; in Isa. 65.16 Yahweh is twice described as 'the God of truth C'lohe-'amen)'. In the DSS the formula is usually the double 'Amen, Amen' (1QS 1.20; 2.10, 18; 4Q286 fragment 5 line 8; fragment 7 4.1, 5, 10; 4Q287 fragment 1 line 4; fragment 4 line 3; fragment 5 line 11; 4Q289 fragment 2 line 4; 4Q504 fragment 4 line 15; fragment 17 2.5; fragment 3 2.3; frags. 1-2 1.7; 7[recto].2, 9; 4Q507 fragment 3 line 2; 4Q511 fragments 63-64 4.3).

408. See below, n. 418. Parentheses in the list there indicate where the Synoptic parallel lacks 'Amen'. The list shows that the formula ('Amen, I say to you') was favoured by Matthew, but not by Luke; if Matthew extended the motif, equally Luke may have reduced it.

409. Jeremias, Prayers 112-15: 'It has been pointed out almost ad nauseam [referring to et that a new use of the word amen emerged in the four gospels which is without analogy in the whole of Jewish literature and in the rest of the New Testament' (112). See also Fitzmyer, Luke 536-37; Keck, Who Is Jesus? 101-102.

410. Of some thirty other examples in the NT, 1 Cor. 14.16 is the most interesting; otherwise it is characteristically attached to the end of a doxology.

would it have been retained throughout the Jesus tradition, and in transliterated That must be one of the most secure conclusions capable of being derived from a serious engagement with the tradition history of Jesus' teaching. And an obvious corollary lies close to hand: Jesus used this formula to call attention to what he was about to say and to give it added weight.412

(5) The second striking feature of feus' teaching style is the 'I say to you (legö hymin/soi)' formula. This was a feature which attracted Käsemann, and in effect he launched the new quest on it. But he focused too narrowly on the adversative form — 'but I say to you (egö de lego)' — and on its use in the antitheses of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. He saw there an authority claim which rivalled that of Moses and even set Jesus over Moses.413 That was unfortunate, since it put the motif in service to the older Jesus versus the law debate and laid too much weight on the antitheses of Matt. 5.21-48. We have already noted that that line of argument has been pushed too far (§14.4), and the strong likelihood that the repetition of the motif is the work of the teacher (Matthew?) who laid out the antitheses of the Sermon (§14.4f). And the absence of egö in most cases414 rather blunts the description of the feature as 'the emphatic egö'. However, the motif itself is too firmly rooted within the Jesus tradition to be dismissed entirely, both in affirmative416 and adversative417 form (between which there is often not much difference).

411. Note that Luke uses the alternative forms: 'Of a truth (ep' aletheias) I say to you' (Luke 4.25; parallel to amen legöhymin in 4.24); 'Truly (alethös) I say to you' (9.27/[Mark 9.1]; 12.44/[Matt. 24.47]; 21.3/[Mark 12.43]). Since it is unlikely that Luke knew or translated Aramaic himself, the distinctive Lukan formulation must mean that his (oral) source had been put into Greek by someone who knew that the 'amen came from the verb 'aman ('confirm, support'; niphal 5: 'reliable, faithful'; hiphil 2: 'trust, believe', BDB) and who therefore translated rather than transliterated the 'amen.

412. See also Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 523-24.

413. Käsemann: 'the words egö de legö embody a claim to an authority which rivals and challenges that of Moses' ('Problem' 37). Similarly Jeremias: 'the one who utters the egö de legö hymin in the antitheses not only claims to be the legitimate interpreter of the Torah . . . but also has the unparalleled and revolutionary boldness to set himself up in opposition to the To-rah' (Proclamation 253).

414. Egö appears in the formula only in the antitheses (Matt. 5.22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44); the only well attested exception is Luke 16.9 (cf. Mark 11.33/Matt. 21.27).

415. Jeremias, Proclamation 250; 'the remarkable accumulation of the emphatic egö in his sayings' (251)!

416. Mark2.il/Luke 5.24; Mark 11.24; Matt. 6.25/Luke 12.22; Matt. 11.9/Luke7.26; Matt. 23.39/Luke 13.35; Matt. 5.20; 12.31; 16.18; 18.10; 19.24; 21.43; Luke 7.9, 28, 47; 10.12, 24; 11.8, 9, 51; 12.5, 51, 59; 13.24; 14.24; 15.7, 10; 16.9; 17.34; 18.8, 14; 19.26, 40; 22.16, 34, 37 (the overlap with Lukan items in n. 418 indicates how frequently Luke, or his tradition, omitted 'Amen').

417. Mark 9.13/Matt. 17.12; Mark 13.37; Matt. 5.44/Luke 6.27; Matt. 6.29/Luke

More striking still, in the light of the previous observation (4), is the regular appearance of the form, 'Amen, I say to you',418 elaborated in the Johannine tradition to the double, 'Amen, amen, I say to you'.419 Here again the corollary lies close to hand: Jesus was remembered as regularly speaking with an assertion of personal authority, not appealing to another authority but giving his own view on some point in a tone of confidence as to the importance of what he was

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