Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus

Archive for the ‘Thesis’ Category

March 20th, 2013 by Joel Watts

Starting but not but I am my dissertation

Northumbrian Gospels -- John

Northumbrian Gospels — John (Photo credit: manuscript_nerd)

Does that make sense? No?

Anyway, I am starting to develop my dissertation. I need to keep most of this quiet at the moment, so sorry for the redactive style of this post. Anyway, so I have the requirements to start a phd program — location redacted for the moment. But before I do, I have to present thesis proposal. That’s what I am doing now.

The good thing is that I have narrowed it down pretty fast thus far. Because of this, I am developing with an eye towards making it my first chapter the state of current scholarship on a particular Gospel.

No, it’s not Mark. It is the second most creative Evangelist out of the six.

You know, five for the guy who wrote Revelation and the six for the guy who wrote Thomas.

Just had to share, because, well, I’m stuck.

June 26th, 2012 by Joel Watts

Thinking of doing a new thesis… Singing Solomon’s Song: The Deuteronomist’s Sexual Ethics

That’s just a working title. I wouldn’t want to spend a month or so on it, since I am doing my second draft of my book starting next week.

But any suggestions? Any critical commentaries on SoS?

Things like that?


April 12th, 2012 by Joel Watts

Fishermen and Peter…. in Jeremiah 16.16

ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τοὺς ἁλεεῖς τοὺς πολλούς λέγει κύριος καὶ ἁλιεύσουσιν αὐτούς καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἀποστελῶ τοὺς πολλοὺς θηρευτάς καὶ θηρεύσουσιν αὐτοὺς ἐπάνω παντὸς ὄρους καὶ ἐπάνω παντὸς βουνοῦ καὶ ἐκ τῶν τρυμαλιῶν τῶν πετρῶν (Jer 16:16 BGT)

Can’t say much about this…. but honestly, if you think that Mark is using classical Greek myth to tell his story, your theory is completely unsupported.

March 27th, 2012 by Joel Watts

A Lucan Reading of Mark’s Gospel – Part I

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This is going to be a bit of a different type of post. As many of you know, my thesis work will be in the Gospel of Mark, and further, I will use Lucan as a basis of my viewpoint on Mark. In reading the book to the right, I’ve decided to posit a what-if scenario which will help me explore the connection between Lucan’s work and Mark’s Gospel.

Imagine the scene as a sort of modern author interview. Lucan (who died in 65 due to his involvement in an assassination attempt against Nero) is interviewing Mark right after the publication of his Gospel (73 or so). Now, I’ve taken some liberties with the situation, but…


Lucan: Good evening my fellow Romans – lend me your ears!

Tonight, we have a special guest with us. You know him as an author who has already published an epistle. He is a Christian, but, don’t hold that against him! At least he’s not lion…. Get it… lion! His latest work, published by Ecclesia Press, is already flying off the shelves, and is expected to be republished later in an expanded editions.

Folks, welcome to the conversation, John Mark, Evangelist!

Mark: Thank you, Lucan. I tell you, when I got this call to do this interview, I was surprised.

Lucan:  Oh?

Mark: I am your biggest fan. I’ve read all of your works, and really tried to pattern my present work on some of the things you’ve done in De Belle Civili. I mean, what you’ve done, putting all of those deep things into that one poem – I tell you, if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I could attempt such a project.

Lucan: Well, it’s not everyday you get gushed over by the person you are gushing on. Thank you, John Mark – do you prefer John or Mark, or?

Mark: Well, I’ve often considered using John for some works, but I usually like Mark.

Lucan: And your first work – anonymous right?

Mark: That’s right.

Lucan: I’ve read it, and I have to say, that the language you use in that one is a little bit different than this one.

Mark: That’s right. In writing that letter on seeing Jesus as the Temple’s High Priest, I had to use the language of the elite. Of course, this was before the late war, but even then, I felt like that I needed to appeal to a group who would only receive the good stuff. With this latest work, I followed your style. I used the clipped language of an oppressed community.

Lucan: Now, some are saying that it is just suffering from a bad translation.. that your native Aramaic and your second language, Greek, doesn’t go good together.

Mark: Hardly. After all, I’ve had the Greek Scriptures all my life. I know Greek – I’ve written fine Greek. It’s just this time – I needed a different style. Look, we all know what the Empire did to Jerusalem – why use their language to tell my story? Sure, I need to use some of it to tell it, but I wanted to butcher it like they did my people.

Lucan: No, I understand. In Civil Wars, my Latin is so awful, my agent thought my pias wrote it. But, why use the language of Empire? Use it and destroy it. It makes for a good listener, I think.

Mark: Oh, I agree. Using Greek badly allows the work to be really focused on. I mean, you can either read a book or you can get in and chew on it for a while. Use the language of Empire means that it has been conquered just like Jerusalem – but, if I use the language baldy – it’s a…

Lucan: …rebellion all of its own.

Mark: Exactly. Plus, the traditor, Josephus tries to make an excuse for any poorness in his work by suggesting that he doesn’t know Greek as well as he should. While he too is a native Hebrew, speaking Aramaic, he doesn’t both Greek – but he is doing it to call attention to himself, I think. Here, by using Greek badly, I am answer him and the Empire. Rebel – in always.

Lucan: Wow… that’s a pretty powerful statement.

Mark: Yup – I just hope that my readers keep getting this point.

Lucan: Oh, I think they will. No one will ever say that John Mark didn’t know how to write Greek.

Mark: Indeed.

Lucan: Okay, so on to another subject. As you know, in my work, I make a lot to do about boundaries. I think I’ve noticed a few things like that in your work. Can you tell us about them?

Mark: You have a good eye, master Lucan. What I tried to do in telling the story of Jesus is to show that he often crosses boundary lines. Look at the times he crosses Palestine. He isn’t confined to just one area. His interactions with the sick erases those boundaries as does his interaction with the Gentiles. As you know, the Jews and Gentiles have a dividing line – something Josephus and Philo both point out is the Law. Well, in my story, I show how Jesus really breaks down those boundaries. In the Temple, when Jesus finally dies, the curtain separating the final sacrifice from the outside world is split down the middle. In his passion, Jesus suffers the cruel fate of having his body virtually destroyed. And, their is also the boundary between the narrator and the audience. It is broken several times. As you know, the story is often told in almost a first person sense. I mean, Jesus’s actions are almost always present. This breaks the boundaries between the narrator and Jesus.

When Jesus is carrying his cross – bam! Another boundary is broken. We get an audience member to carry the cross – who we know his name and his children’s name.

And of course, there is the boundary lines between Jesus and those, um, demons. They want him gone and away, and he rushes in.

Lucan: And, of course, a lot more. Now, tell me about Jesus. In my poem, I use Pompey, but I create Pompey. Does that make sense?

Mark: Oh, yes. As you know, words are representational. They are metaphors and allegories all by themselves. The Jesus which figures in my story is my own recreation of the Jesus who founded the community. Look, we all tell stories, that’s for sure, but each story is rooted in the fact – something people just don’t get. The Jesus in my story is based on fact. Our community traditions affirm that he was a prophet, a Son of Man, a miracle worker, an exorcist and that he was crucified. We also believe that he – no, I don’t want to ruin the rest of the book.

Lucan: No, I guess not! Well, we are coming up on our first commercial break. Hang tight, and we’ll pick right back up shortly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll be right back with our guest, the author of the Announcement of Jesus the Messiah.

March 26th, 2012 by Joel Watts

The Historical Pompey v. The Historical Jesus

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First, I’m not going to get into the full discussion – I will side with McGrath because I happen to trust his scholarship, and what’s more, that his scholarship is not driven by an agenda; however, I do find that a study of the way history was recorded, used, and promoted is one which helps the conversation with those who have somewhat of a sane view of the acceptance of facts.

One of those ways is Lucan’s use of the Roman civil wars several generations before his to create a hope for a return to the Republic. In writing De Bello Civili, Lucan uses several rhetorical techniques of the time, and some he seemingly invented, to juxtapose tyranny and freedom. He develops historical characters of which little is actually known, into full fledged heroes of the Roman people – if only the Roman people could accept them as such. Lucan’s hero, his one out of the many, is Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Pompey, the great Roman general. But, Pompey is nearly a complete fabrication of the author’s mind. It’s not that Pompey didn’t exist, but Lucan’s Pompey (we’ll call him LPompey) never did as Lucan portrays him. Lucan creates LPompey to be his hero, to play up the themes of honor, laws, and a host of other issues which the author needs symbolized in a shorten manner. Bartsch writes,

One Pompey is more or less the narrator’s creation; his presence relies on the frequent intervention of the narratorial voice to praise his achievements and his character and to paint them in as tragic a light as possible. For the narrator, Pompey is in the end a hero and Rome’s darling; his death is the last gasp of the moribund Republic.

Pompey is brought to life, and perhaps a different life than his actual one, by the voice of the narrator. Different LPompeys exist for the different crowds. Lucan is not so much concerned with the historical figure of Pompey, but for the reception of LPompey. LPompey appeals to the many because he is the one who stood against Caesar. Lucan quietly asks the audience to do the same, with the warnings and caveats of martyrdom and the like. I would go so far as to suggest Lucan’s Republic (LRepublic) which he is desperately fighting to restore hope for is itself a creation of the author. Yet, they exist because not because of the historical situation, but because they are constructed first in the mind of the audience and then in the mind of the author (the reverse is true in propaganda, after all. The author is not just telling a story, but crafting a story which the audience will accept; therefore, it is only proper that the audience comes first in story creation). Why does Lucan’s story work? Because LPompey and LRepublic were known to exist, but their memories are resurrected in such a way as to allow the author to shape them into his creation, so that they fit his need.

The same must be said for the Historical Jesus. Paul’s Jesus (PJesus) was no doubt a historical figure. But, when we come to the Gospels, we begin to see a development of Jesus – MJesus, MatJesus, and LJesus along with JJesus. The new reauthors of PJesus use an existing pattern in the mind of the audience, their audience which they know quite well, and rebuild the main character and his story in such a way as to effect something in them. For Lucan, it was the hope of the Republic. For the Evangelists, they sought to renew their communities in PJesus (which no doubt is why Mark seems to have something of Paul in his story. It’s about Plato’s patterns, after all).

For those unconvinced that PJesus existed, there is really no hope for you.

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