Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 13
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14

For the first thirteen chapters of Dr. Richard Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses; The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, the discussion has been dominated by the Synoptics. This is inevitable. The Synoptics are so similar and The Gospel of John is so unique one is almost forced to treat them separately. Yet from chapter 14 to the very end, Bauckham focuses on the fourth Gospel to round out his argument that all four Evangelists record eyewitness testimony.

In essence, Bauckham argues in this chapter that the writer of John, a subject he'll tackle later, was an eyewitness of the events the Gospel records. This should be uncontroversial.  John 21:24-25 says as much. Bauckham state's what ought to be obvious:
Taken at face value, this conclusion to the Gospel seems to claim that this disciple wrote it. This was the traditional understanding of the words until the modern period. But most modern scholars have been reluctant to accept this claim. (358)
Of course they are. This forces Bauckham to defend what the average reader already knows. The writer is claiming to be an eyewitness to the contents of the book. Those who argue otherwise suggest that the word "write" is causitive meaning that the author was caused to write the words contain in the book. These scholars point to Paul to show that though Paul is given credit as the author of his letters, most of them were dictated and thus, strictly speaking, not written by him. But all of this is foolish. Bauckham writes:
It is not that the author has merely caused the work to be written, but that he or she has been assisted in writing his or her own work. This kind of assistance does not require a special "causative" sense of "to write." (359)
He goes on to state:
It must be stressed that no one has yet produced any evidence that graphein can be used to refer to a relationship between "author" and text more remote than that of the dictation of a text to a scribe. No one seems even to have looked for such evidence. (361)
Bauckham then goes on to argue that the mysterious Beloved Disciple was in fact an eyewitness. For our purposes we will just highlight one part of his argument. The Gospel concludes rather strangely suggesting that an unidentified "we" bears witness that the contents of the book are true. We all want to know, who are the "we" there?

There have been four general answers to that question. First, and less likely, the "we" refers to the writer and the readers. Secondly, the "we" is a board of elders, who have added their testimony to the gospel, identifying its author and recommending it (369). This is the answer I have often heard. Assuming the Apostle John is the author and he is writing from Ephesus, then the "we" would refer to the elders (and perhaps a few fellow eyewitnesses) approving of the book and its contents. Thirdly, the "we" could be a circle of leaders or eyewitnesses within which the Beloved Disciples includes himself (369). Although Bauckham admits this is a possible interpretation especially when isolated, he prefers the final option: the "we" should be interpreted as "I."

My first reaction was one of skepticism but Bauckham makes a compelling case. He calls this the "'we' of authoritative testimony" and its purpose is to add additional emphasis and authority. To prove his point, the author provides a few examples in Greek writings at this time. He ultimately concludes that:
James Moulton writes of "examples from late Greek literature and from papyrus letters, which prove beyond all possible doubt that I and we chased each other throughout these documents without rhyme or reason. (372) 
From there he examines other possible "'we' of authoritative testimony" in the Johannine writings of the Gospel and 1-3 John. I will not trace his arguments here only to note that Bauckham makes them persuasive enough. Ultimately one will have to read Bauckham and the argument he makes as to whether he is right. Yet we must not forget the author's more broader point. What does the mysterious "we" have to do with the assertion that the writer of John was an eyewitness to its content?

Everything. Concluding that the "we" is an authoritative "I" only heightens this argument. The Evangelists is not requiring affirmation from other sources - be they elders or other witnesses. Instead, he is boldly proclaiming with special emphasis that this Gospel is trustworthy because it is the record of one who was there.


For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series   
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