E The Remembered Jesus

We can therefore press Kähler's point still further to one of fundamental principle. The Synoptic tradition provides evidence not so much for what Jesus did or said in itself, but for what Jesus was remembered as doing or saying by his first disciples, or as we might say, for the impact of what he did and said on his first disciples. Bearing in mind the point just made, we may say that it is precisely the process of 'remembering' which fuses the horizons of past and present, by making the past present again What we actually have in the earliest retellings of what is now the Synoptic tradition, then, are the memories

108. Cf, particularly the repeated emphasis of H. Schürmann on the pre-Easter beginnings of the Synoptic tradition — 'Die vorösterlichen Anfange der Logientradition: Versuch eines formgeschichtlichen Zugangs zum Leben Jesu', in H. Ristow and K. Matthiae, eds., Der historische Jesus und der kerygmatische Christus [Berlin: Evangelische, 1961] 342-70); also Jesus: Gestalt undGeheimnis (Paderborn: Bonifatius, 1994) 85-104, 380-97: 'With the help of form-critical principles it can be shown . . . that the beginnings of the tradition must lie in the pre-Easter circle of disciples, and therewith in Jesus himself. Therewith would a form-critical access be opened to the "historical Jesus", for the "historical Jesus" is now himself a factor in the history of the tradition (as its initiator)' (103).

109. The argument here is similar to that between J. A. Sanders and B. S. Childs on 'canonical criticism', in which I side with Sanders; see my 'Levels of Canonical Authority', HBT 4 (1982) 13-60 (particularly 15 and n. 14), reprinted in The Living Word (London: SCM, 1987) 141-74, 186-92 (particularly 142-43 and n. 14).

110. Cf. particularly J. Schröter, Erinnernng an Jesu Worte: Studien zur Rezeption der Logienüberlieferung in Markus, Q und Thomas (WMANT 76; Neukirchen-Vluyn; Neukirchener, 3-4; 'Recall of the Jesus tradition can be understood accordingly as a selective process by which the actual present becomes meaningful by reference to the person of Jesus' (463-64). See further Schröter's 'Markus, Q und der historische Jesus', ZNW89 (1998) 173-200; also 'Die Frage nach dem historischen Jesus und der Charakter historischer Erkenntnis', in A. Lindemann, ed., The Sayings Source Q and the Historical Jesus (Leuven: Leuven University, 2001) 207-54, where the overlap of our programmatic concerns is clear (especially 213-34, 252-53).

of the first disciples — not Jesus himself, but the remembered Jesus.111 The idea that we can get back to an objective historical reality, which we can wholly separate and disentangle from the disciples' memories and then use as a check and control over the way the tradition was developed during the oral and earliest written transmission, is simply This observation would have been more obvious had more attention been given to the narrative tradition, as distinct from the sayings tradition, over the past 150 years. For narratives about Jesus never began with Jesus; at best they began with eyewitnesses. From the first we are confronted not so much with Jesus but with how he was perceived. And the same is actually true of the sayings tradition: at best what we have are the teachings of Jesus as they impacted on the individuals who stored them in their memories and began the process of oral transmission.

In one sense, of course, we are simply recognizing the nature of the evidence which any biographer has to weigh who has no access to any writings of the biography's subject. That is to say, a portrayal of Jesus as seen through the eyes and heard through the ears of his first disciples is neither an illegitimate nor an impossible task, and such a portrayal, carefully drawn in terms of the evidence available, should not be dismissed or disparaged as inadmissible. As Lee Keck observes: 'the perception of Jesus that he catalyzed is part of who Jesus was'.113 After all, it is precisely the impact which Jesus made and which resulted in the emergence of Christianity which we (not just Christians) want to recover. Of course it would be wonderful and intriguing if we could portray Jesus as seen by Pilate or Herod, by Caiaphas or the house of Shammai. But we simply do not have sufficient evidence for that, and even if we had, what would it us about

'We do not escape the fact that we know Jesus only as the disciples remembered him' (Dahl, 'Problem' 94). 'An act of remembrance — the remembrance of a real and well-known person — is a built-in feature of the faith that inspired the writing of the gospels' (Dodd, Founder 28-29). Meyer also emphasises 'the overarching fact. . . that Palestinian Christianity was nourished on the memory of Jesus' (Aims 69,12-73). Others who recognize the importance of disciples' recollection in the traditioning process include, e.g., Schillebeeckx, Jesus 45-47, 72, 226-29; Goppelt (Theology 1.6); and Charlesworth (Jesus 24). John Knox frequently referred to the Church's memory of Jesus, but in too broad and ill-defined a manner to be helpful here; see the critique of P. Carnley, The Structure of Resurrection Belief (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) 268-75, 280-94. As the title of the present volume indicates, the remembered Jesus will be a leitmotif of the present study.

Dahl continues (in the passage quoted in n. 'Whoever thinks that the disciples completely misunderstood their Master or even consciously falsified his picture may give fantasy free reign (sic)' ('Problem' 94).

113. Keck, Who Is Jesus? 20. Worth pondering also is his further comment: 'All too often historians of early Christianity use Jesus' words about what is to be done as evidence of what early Christians did, instead of using it as evidence for the norm from which they were deviating but needed to be brought back into alignment' (165).

the beginnings of Christianity, about the character and impact of a mission which transformed fishermen and toll-collectors into disciples and apostles? In terms of pivotal individuals on whom the history of the world has turned, it is the latter in whom we are most interested. And the Synoptic tradition is precisely what we need for the task.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Study Aid

Study Aid

This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting A Scholarship And Financial Support For Your Studies.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment