The Weekly Roundup – 2.8.19

“The assertion by the opposing narrative that Elijah’s wife was a prostitute and later, that Elijah ate her son, does seem a little over the top and may indicate that the opposing narrative itself was propaganda and was responding to an even earlier narrative. But that is a mirror-reading of a mirror-reading, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty.” – @MiraScriptura

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Gerd Luedemann: Matthew’s Easter Theology

Gerd Luedemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Fortpress Press, 1994), 135.

[There] is no really no longer an appearance tradition in [Matthew 28:18-20], although with his meagre ‘when they saw him’, Matthew is indicating that he wants to relate an Easter story. Rather, what we find here is Easter theology, which forces any vision that happened at the time to the side, or replaces it with words. In this way the scene remains open to the present. So what we have here is almost no longer an appearance but an enthronement of Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth, which here, as often, is directly connected with the resurrection, indeed is even identified with it. (Perhaps here it would be better to term the event an appearance of the enthroned Christ.) So the theme of authority as such does not serve to distinguish the Risen Christ from the earthly Jesus but virtually combines the two. The new element is the universal extension of the authority of the risen and the earthly Christ over heaven and earth. So the special feature is not just the combination of appearance and mission, but that of exaltation and mission to the Gentiles.

Gerd Luedemann: Elias Bickermann’s Thesis

Gerd Luedemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Fortpress Press, 1994), 120-121.

It seems to me that the thesis of Elias Bickermann must be discussed once again. He referred to the numerous stories from Christian legends of the saints and Hellenism (including the story of Aristeas related above), in which the empty tomb proved the rapture of the person concerned. ‘By contrast the resurrection is never indicated nor proved by the disappearance of the body but exclusively by the appearance of the person who has come to life again’ (277). However, this sharp distinction may not help much for the above narrative from Herodotus, in which Aristeas appears and the tomb is empty. Moreover, according to early Christians, rapture or exaltation and resurrection are closely connected or even identical (cf. Phil. 2.6-11), as Bickermann also stresses. For example, he writes: ‘Luke 1.33; Acts 5.31; John 3.10; 12.32, 34 … also occasionally use the word “exaltation” instead of “resurrection” unconcernedly. For the one unconditionally presupposes the other according to their faith’ (281). Bickermann again sees correctly that the first christophanies refer ‘to the belief of the first disciples in the immediate exaltation’ (282). In the same passage he identifies this with a rapture. However, there is a lack of clarity here, since raptures really presuppose not-dying, whereas Jesus was exalted as the one who was crucified and dead. It was as such a figure that he appeared to Cephas (from heaven).

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon: The Silence of the Women

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, In the Company of Jesus: Characters in Mark’s Gospel (Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), 64-65.

Perhaps one’s initial impression is of a certain irony to the women’s silence: throughout the narrative Jesus asks various characters to be silent and they rarely are; here the “young man” who speaks for Jesus asks the women not to be silent and they are. But the closest Markan comparison with oudeni ouden eipan in Mark 16:8 is mēdeni mēden eipēs at 1:44, and the earlier passage may help clarify the later one. At 1:44 Jesus charges the healed leper to “say nothing to anyone (mēdeni mēden eipēs); but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” Surely in showing himself to the priest the former leper would say something to the priest; the priest, however, would not be just any one, but the very one the leper was instructed to inform. At the close of Mark, the disciples and Peter are not just “any one,” but the very ones the women are instructed to tell. Thus oudeni ouden eipan, like mēdeni mēden eipēs, may mean “said nothing to any one else” or “to any one in general.” Who but a disciple, a follower, of Jesus would be able to accept and understand the women’s story? And the story of Jesus’ resurrection, like the story of Jesus’ healing of the leper (1:45), does seem to have gotten out.

Gerd Luedemann: Jesus’ Appearance Before the “More than 500”

Gerd Luedemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 107.

Conclusion: The appearance before the ‘more than 500’ [1 Corinthians 15:6] as a historical phenomenon can plausibly be represented as mass ectasy which took place in the early period of the community. Given the nature of mass psychology, the stimulus towards it may have been provided by one or more individuals. Again that fits well with what has been worked out so far, namely that at least a first appearance took place to Peter (and the Twelve). Here we may pursue this notion just a little further: Peter saw the crucified Jesus alive (as did the Twelve). They also spoke of it, for example, at the next great festival (after the Passover at which Jesus died) in Jerusalem, the Jewish Feast of Weeks (=Pentecost), on which many festival pilgrims met. (Indeed it was such a festival which first made possible the appearance to a large number of people.) This preaching and the recollections of Jesus which were generally present formally led to a religious intoxication and an enthusiasm which was experienced at the presence of Jesus, indeed as the presence of the Risen Christ as Peter had seen him.

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Gerd Luedemann: Peter in “Psychoanalytical Terms”

From Gerd Luedemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, Press, 1994), 99-100.

To further an understanding of Peter’s “mourning” and “vision”, reference should be made in this connection to investigations at Harvard into cases of mourning and the painful loss associated with them. The researcher followed forty-three widows and nineteen widowers through the process of mourning and interviewed them at intervals of three weeks, eight weeks and thirteen months after the death of the partner. The aim of the work was to investigate what made it possible to work through mourning. Among other things three factors were mentioned which prevented mourning: 1. a sudden death; 2. an ambivalent attitude to the dead person associated with guilt feelings; and 3. a dependent relationship.

Applying this finding to the situation of Peter and the disciples, we should note that all three factors which make mourning difficult apply to them: 1. the crucifixion of Jesus happened unexpectedly and suddenly; 2. the relationship of the disciples to Jesus was marked by ambivalence and guilt feelings: Judas betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide; Peter denied Jesus and wept bitterly; 3. a dependent relationship of the disciples on Jesus can be seen in the fact that most had left their work and homes to be with him. The dependence was perhaps further intensified by the fact that the followers of Jesus represented a small religious group which had detached itself from its original social structures and thus had formally parted company with the outside world. Jesus was one and all to them. (Granted, these are conjectures, but they may have a historical foundation.)

Conclusion: the mourning hindered by the three factors mentioned was enormously helped in the case of Peter by a vision, indeed concentrated in a moment of epiphany. The mourning first led to a deeper understanding of Jesus, and this in turn helped towards a new understanding of the situation of mourning. Recollections of who Jesus was led to the recognition of who Jesus is. Seeing Jesus here included a whole chain of (potential!) theological conclusions.

Musings on Mark: The First Witness to the Empty Tomb

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
Mark 16:5, NRSV

The ending of Mark’s Gospel is famous for what it doesn’t have, namely appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples. In fact, the Gospel ends with the words, “So [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). That is awfully anticlimactic. It is no wonder that a longer ended was fabricated and tagged onto the end of it, an ending that in some ways reflects the endings of Matthew and Luke. In the other two Synoptics, Jesus does make some post-mortem appearances: in Matthew he first appears to the two Marys as they are on their way to tell the disciples what the angel had told them (Matthew 28:1-10) and then he meets the disciples in Galilee (28:16-20); in Luke he appears to two disciples who are on their way to Emmaus (24:13-35), then to the rest (24:36-49) before being carried off to heaven (24:50-52).

But in Mark there are no appearances to either the women as in Matthew or to the disciples only as in Luke. The first witness to the resurrection is “a young man, dressed in a white robe” (16:5). A young man? In Matthew’s version we read of “the angel of the Lord” (28:2), a character lifted from the pages of the Hebrew Bible. In Luke the women meet “two men in dazzling clothes” which are later identified as angels (Luke 24:4-5, 23). Not in Mark. In Mark it is a young man – a neaniskos. Is he an angel? I used to think that he was but now I’m not so sure.

Another Neaniskos

Mark only refers to a neaniskos one other time in the entire Gospel. In 14:51-52 we read,

A certain young man [neaniskos] was following him [i.e. Jesus], wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They [i.e. the Jews who arrested Jesus] caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

This is an odd detail to include in the story. I’ve heard it suggested that the young man was Mark himself, inserting his own remembrance into the narrative. That is far-fetched for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that there is absolutely no exegetical warrant for it. But Mark isn’t one to throw in details for absolutely no reason. So what is going on here with this neaniskos?

Notice how he is described. For whatever reason, this neaniskos is following Jesus as he is being led away. He is wearing “nothing but a linen cloth [Greek, sindōn].” When the guards attempt to catch him, the neaniskos runs off naked, leaving the cloth behind. He is just like the rest of the disciples of Jesus who had “deserted him and fled” (14:50). In the rest of the Markan Passion narrative, none of the disciples stand by Jesus. In fact, Peter denies knowing him three times (14:66-72). And as Jesus expires, only his female followers were there (15:40-41) and it is they who wrap him in a sindōn for his burial (15:42-47). The disciples are nowhere to be found.

So we see a neaniskos following Jesus fleeing naked after his sindōn is taken from him by the guards. Then we have the women who bury Jesus in a sindōn. The only time we read of a sindōn in Mark is in the story of the neaniskos and in the story of the women’s burial of Jesus. Now we come to Mark 16.

Dressed in White

Following the sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome travel to the tomb wherein Jesus had been buried to anoint him with spices. They were concerned that they would not have access to the body since the entrance to the tomb had been covered by a stone. But when they get to the tomb, they notice the stone has already been rolled away and when they enter it they see a neaniskos. But this neaniskos isn’t naked. Rather, he is “dressed in a white robe.” What is going on?

The robe is a stolē, a flowing garment worn by those of great prestige (see Mark 12:38). But it isn’t just a stolē but a stolēn leukēn, a “white robe.” The only other time someone’s clothing is described as leukos in Mark is at the Transfiguration – “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white [leuka], such as no one on earth could bleach them” (9:2b-3). These aren’t incidental details. They are part of Mark’s story. That the neaniskos in 16:5 is described as wearing a white robe is clearly intentional.

Mark is contrasting the first neaniskos with the second. The first followed Jesus but fled when the guards attempted to arrest him as they had Jesus; the second is there at the empty tomb to give instructions to the only ones of Jesus’ inner circle who saw him die on the cross. The first fled the scene naked, leaving behind his sindōn; the second is clothed in a stolēn leukēn and greets the ones who had buried Jesus in a sindōn. The first was the last to flee from Jesus; the second was the first to find the empty tomb.

This is a story of restoration woven into the Passion narrative and the subsequent Resurrection account. It is a symbol of the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is able to take a naked deserter who left behind a symbol of death and clothe him in a robe whose color represents a transfiguration, a glorious change. And therefore, far from being an incidental detail in Mark, the story of the fleeing, naked neaniskos is a Markan symbol of the power of the Easter message. The last one to flee from Jesus is the first witness to his resurrection.

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