Circles of Discipleship

The ambiguity which we noted at the beginning of this chapter has reappeared again and again in the intervening discussions. Jesus seems to have preached with a view to reaching as many in Israel as would hear him, though probably he was well enough aware, or soon became so, that the commission of Isaiah was likely to be played out in his mission too. How he saw his call to particular individuals to follow him as fitting into the larger vision of an Israel returned to its Lord and trusting him afresh, and of both as fitting into his expectation of the

244. See above, §9.3c. The echoes of such hostility are plain in Luke 9.52-54; John 4.9; 8.48. See also M. Gourges, 'The Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan Revisited: A Critical Note on Luke 10:31-35', JBL 117 (1998) 79-103. The Good Samaritan is one of relatively few passages attributed to Jesus which are given an unreserved vote of confidence by the Jesus Seminar (Funk, Five Gospels 323-24; similarly Ludemann, Jesus 332; other bibliography in Hultgren, Parables 100 n. 40; Meier, Marginal Jew 3.602 n. 172, with critique of the Jesus Seminar's rationale in n. 173).

245. We may perhaps envisage a specific protest against limiting Lev. 19.18 in the way that Leviticus 19 implied (including 19.33-34).

246. Wright's claim that 'the story dramatically redefines the covenant boundary of Israel' (Jesus 307) overstates the implication.

247. Davies and Allison argue that Matthew was drawing the parable from tradition (.Matthew 3.417-18); see further above, chapter 12 n. 219.

248.1 have already discussed Mark 13.10/Matt. 24.14 in §12.4h above. The alternative case is made by E. J. Schnabel, 'Jesus and the Beginnings of the Mission to the Gentiles', in Green and Turner, eds., Jesus ofNazareth 37-58.

kingdom, remains unclear. As also whether we should recognize the distinction between 'disciples' and 'followers' as significant. Certainly Jesus seems to have been especially concerned to include those whom most others, or the main opinion-formers in particular, regarded and treated as outside the realm of covenant grace. Not just the poor, in line with the deeply rooted priorities of To-rah and prophet, but also, surprisingly, 'sinners', who ought to be disapproved of by the faithful, until we remember that the 'righteous' were so stringent in their reading of the law that many practitioners of 'common Judaism' were in effect excluded in the perspective of the righteous. In all this the vision of a renewed Israel was little different from that of Jesus' prophetic predecessors. But Jesus did look for its fulfilment in the near future, and he did seek to anticipate it in the circle of discipleship which he drew around him.

The ambiguity suggests that we should speak of circles (plural) of ship, rather than of a single coherent circle.249 The innermost circle seems to have been the twelve, with Peter and the brothers James and John at its heart,250 and Peter as the chief spokesman.251 But round the twelve we have seen a wider circle of followers, including women who followed (Mary of Magdala and others) and women who stayed at home (Mary of Bethany); the two Marys were evidently among Jesus' dearest companions. Should we characterize a further circle in terms of those who followed Jesus secretly, such as the owner of the upper room and Joseph of Arimathea? But then we have to mention also those who heard Jesus gladly (Mark 3.35) and sought to live out his teaching (Matt. 7.2425), those whom he healed (Mark 10.52), those who turned and became as children (Matt. 18.3), the poor who trusted (Luke 6.20), the sinners who repented (Luke 18.13-14; 19.1-10), the Gentiles who displayed a faith which Jesus hardly met elsewhere (Matt. 8.10), and indeed, according to Luke, sympathetic Pharisees (Luke 7.36; 11.37; 14.1). What is striking about these circles of discipleship is the way they overlap and intertwine, forbidding us to make any hard and fast distinction between disciples and followers, or to designate different grades of

249. Cf. Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom 248-54; Lohfink, Jesus and Community 31-35; Sanders, Historical Figure 123-27; Meier, Marginal Jew 3.627-30.

250. It makes better sense of the evidence to deduce that the prominence of the three in the earliest days of the new movement (Acts 1.13; 3-4; 12.2) is a reflection of an earlier pre-Easter prominence (Mark 1.29; 3.16-17; 5.37; 9.2; 13.3; 14.33) rather than the reverse. James the brother of John hardly features in the post-Easter story, and his early execution (Acts 12.2) leaves it unlikely that he made a deep enough impression in the traditioning process for that impression to be extended back into the tradition itself. Somewhat surprisingly, Meier concludes that 'the group of three may be a creation of Mark's redactional activity' (Marginal Jew 3.21112).

251. Mark 8.29, 32 pars.; 9.5 pars.; 10.28 pars.; 11.21; 14.29 pars.; Matt. 15.15; 17.2427; 18.21; Luke 8.45; 12.41; John 6.68; 13.6-9, 36-37; 21.3.

discipleship.252 Mark recalls that those who tried to do so were rebuked by Jesus (Mark 9.38-41/Luke 9.49-50).253

In the light of all this, and still unable to resolve whether the response of discipleship was a condition of the kingdom's coming or the mode of its presence, we can at least attempt further clarification by asking: How should the dis-cipleship for which Jesus called be characterized?

252. See particularly Ethics

253. See further Stauffer, 'Jesus' 61-63.

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