This part of The Meaning of Jesus deals with Jesus' conviction and execution. There are several points of interest in here, and I'm not going to get to them all tonight, but this has gotten pushed back long enough and I really need to get started. So part 2 of this should come tomorrow. (By the way, a note for those who don't know: I haven't read Telford's remarks on the section. The deal is that we post separately, then read each other's posts and comment on them.)
The differences between the two scholars that appeared in the earlier chapters continue on here. Borg, for whatever reason, doesn't like the idea of a Jesus who's that abnormal; so just as he resisted the idea of Jesus knowing he was the Messiah, he resists the idea that Jesus foresaw his death as being a big deal:
It seems a strange notion to me: that Jesus thought that his own death would accomplish all of this. Of course, people have thought very strange things about themselves. Moreover, we would be rash to say what a person in a very different culture a long time ago could and could not think. Further, I think Tom's claim in his next chapter is correct: the notion of one's death having an atonng effect for others was present in the Jewish milieu in which Jesus lived and died. I accept that it was possible for a first-century Jew to think this. But I have difficulty affirming that Jesus believed this about himself.
Why not? Borg doesn't give a very firm answer. The uncannily exact correlation between Jesus' predictions of his death and the way it actually happened in Mark strike him as reason to think they were added later (which seems like rather peculiar logic: would he have believed them more if they were inaccurate?).
He also mentions that Jesus' followers were shocked by his death, which would be strange if J had really been predicting it. That's a more interesting point, and Wright never addresses it, but it doesn't strike me as that compelling. Jesus' followers generally come across as being dumb as posts, understanding hardly anything that he says; but they didn't have the benefit of hindsight like we do. They would have been expecting a conquering Messiah, not a dying one, and people are awfully good at not hearing what they don't want to hear.
But then Borg reveals what seems to me to be the ultimate reason:
Honesty compels candor: I find this not only a strange notion, but an unattractive notion to attribute to Jesus. I don't want Jesus to have seen his own death as having the significance Tom gives to it. As a Christian, I want Jesus to be an attractive figure.
This pretty well sums up my frustration with Borg: his personal likes and dislikes are way too obviously influencing everything. It's also apparent, as I said, that he doesn't like the idea that Jesus is "strange." It seems to me that if J was God incarnate there could hardly be anything stranger than him, but Borg chafes against anything that seems weird to his mind. The most baffling example of this, to me, is when he expresses doubt that Jesus actually passed around bread and wine and said "This is my blood," and "This is my body." In a footnote, he admits this is as well sourced as anything, but says, "If I could imagine a plausible meaning for them as words of Jesus, I would be very open to seeing them as history remembered." Uh ... huh? Hasn't the meaning of the eucharist been kind of known for 2000 years?
It's getting late, but I'll mention one more bit in the Borg chapter I thought was interesting. He refers to the story in Mark where Jesus goes to a fig tree, finds it fruitless, and curses it, causing it to die. Borg points out that this happens right before Jesus throws the money-changers out of the temple, and suggests that the fruitless tree is a symbolic image of the fruitless temple.
I always thought that story was bizarre -- why was it the tree's fault it had no fruit? I never thought about its location in the narrative, but Borg's explanation does sound plausible.
To be continued...Posted by Camassia at July 10, 2003 10:14 PM | TrackBack