Σάββατο, 18 Μαρτίου 2017

Neil Godfrey : Thomas Brodie : Staying Christian With a Symbolic Jesus (1)

Neil Godfrey : Thomas Brodie :  Staying Christian With a Symbolic Jesus

by Neil Godfrey


Thomas Brodie’s Odyssey

Dominican priest Thomas Brodie has written an autobiographical narrative of how he came to the realization that the New Testament writings about Jesus, in particular the Gospels, do not derive from reports about the life and teachings of an historical person at all but are entirely sourced and re-created from other theological writings. The Jesus of the Gospel narratives was created as a kind of parable or theological symbol.
Eventually Brodie’s literary studies of the New Testament led him to go even further than realizing the Jesus narratives were entirely theological-literary creations. The same even had to be concluded of the persona behind the bulk of the New Testament epistles.
His book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery, is a recounting of how his ideas developed and also of the lessons he learned along the way as he attempted to share and subject his research to independent scholarly criticism.
More, it is also a survey of the history of scholarly interpretations of the Bible, sweeping the reader through a panoramic view of how we got to where we are today with how we critically read the Bible.
Anyone not aware of Brodie’s background can learn a little more from my earlier posts in relation to Beyond the Quest. (Check the Index of Topics drop-down list in the right margin to see posts on other works by Brodie.)
Beyond the Quest is divided into five parts. Below are the intellectual themes of each part. These are narrated within the context of Brodie’s own life-experiences, exchanges with other (sometimes highly prominent) scholars, personal aspirations and challenges. He also reveals the background to each of his major publications.
  • Part 1
    • Learning the fundamentals of historical criticism. . . .

  • Part 2
    • Discovering literary sources of the Gospels

  • Part 3
    • Discovering the practices of the wider literary world and how they illuminated the New Testament writings in unexpected ways
  • Part 4
    • Grasping the first rule in historical inquiry (see my earlier post for an outline of Brodie’s chapter here), understanding the flaws in the oral tradition arguments (posts one, two, three, four detail his arguments from his earlier book), and the fate of Paul.

The book concludes with an epilogue reviewing Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?
In this post, Act 1, Scene 1, I’ll highlight the principle intellectual discoveries in Brodie’s early career as a student. These in themselves are well-known today among most readers with a critical interest in the Bible. They do not themselves directly lead to Brodie’s mythicist views. But we need to start at the beginning. There is much of Brodie’s own personal experiences that form the background to his education, and I encourage anyone interested to read his book to appreciate a little the personal odyssey this proved to be for Brodie. There is much of human interest as he relates his intellectual journey to his personal and wider social experiences.
And more than that, the reader will likewise begin to share Brodie’s learning and understanding of the sweep of critical biblical studies since the eighteenth century and even earlier.

Part 1

The First Revolution: Historical Investigations

Chapter 1

At one moment in his high school years Brodie was struck by the “extraordinary experience of depth and calm and truth” in Jesus’ farewell speech in the Gospel of John. He went on to learn by heart that entire Gospel.
One day an older Dominican remarked casually that the words of Jesus in the Gospels were not necessarily the exact words Jesus spoke. Brodie describes the slightly disheartening feeling that probably many other young believers have felt on first learning this.
But that is the sort of stuff most of us go through in our teen years. We learn to understand more the ways of the world, accept reality, and move on with faith unshaken or even cemented.

Then in the 1960s Brodie was taught in the tradition of Jerusalem’s Dominican-run biblical school, Ecole Biblique, a school that emphasized history and archaeology. Here is where Brodie was introduced to the historical-critical method.
“Historical” means trying to establish the facts.
The process is like that of a wise court-room where the facts of a case are in doubt, or of a calm history department in a university. The various biblical accounts of an event or life are examined individually, compared with one another, and compared also with other accounts or with other pertinent evidence. (p. 4)
Example. The Book of Jonah. “It seems highly unlikely” that anyone could survive being swallowed by a sea creature for three days and nights. But let’s suppose God sent a survival capsule to make that possible. We still have the (conceptually greater) problem of the inhabitants of the capital of the Assyrian empire collectively falling on their knees in repentance at the words of Jonah. This is
like an account of the 1950s conversion of Moscow, capital of the Soviet Union . . . . All the available historical evidence indicates that it never happened. (p. 5)
But biblical scholars speak of history Plus. That is, of “historical-critical” methods. Why the “critical” tag? When I studied the history of the ancient and medieval worlds and of modern nations and systems I always thought I was doing simple ‘history’. Not so in Biblical scholarship. Brodie rightly explains:
‘Critical’ is added because historical investigation needs help. . . . [Biblical] historical method then has various allies, various helpful ‘criticisms’ [viz. from the department of theology, of from the department of literature, or of archaeology. . . ] (p. 5, my emphasis)
And of those helps two were supreme:
  1. the search for the sources to the documents in hand
  2. archaeology

The Bible’s Early Engagement with Literary Studies

It has taken a long time for biblical studies to find a way to work harmoniously with literary studies. Both are concerned with how books are written so one would expect the two to be natural allies, but that’s not what has happened from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.
Brodie compares this situation to Leonardo’s flying machines — he developed some of the concepts for flight but could never complete the process to create a real flying machine. Partnership with the right concepts eluded him.
Tertullian denied outright that Jerusalem had anything to do with Athens, and that included reading the Greek works of the New Testament with the aid of the tools and traditions of secular Hellenistic literature. Bultmann flatly declared the Synoptic Gospels to be unliterary. So that killed off any incentive to understand them in their original literary contexts.
The Bible was generally regarded as a book of history, a history book, with a theological message. Literary study seemed to many to be relatively unimportant.
Nonetheless, two questions were prominent:
  1. What were the sources used by the authors of the biblical books?
  2. What was the nature, or genre, of the books of the bible, and how were their different parts composed?
That second question is crucial. It is fundamental to knowing how to interpret everything we read and hear. Is a tough statement a threat or a joke? Is a story fiction or non-fiction?

Searching for sources

Brodie starts at the beginning of “modern” biblical scholarship with the first scholar, a French medical doctor of the Versailles court and professor at the University of Paris, Jean Astruc, to suggest that the author of the Pentateuch used sources. By doing so he was
  • proposing an explanation for the contradictions in the books
  • identifying different sources used for their composition (even though now lost)
  • and most important of all, saving the honour of Moses as the author of them all — he used sources and allowed their diversities to remain.
But Astruc knew he was deep in dangerous intellectual waters. He only published his book in his seventieth year, in 1753, and without his name appearing on it, and ostensibly through a publisher outside France. Three times in the title and subtitle he used the diffident “conjectures”.
The revolution had begun. Scholars began to interpret every tension and contradiction in the texts as evidence of different sources.
The Pentateuch was falling into hundreds of sources, and two things were being lost: the unity of the actual books (Genesis to Deuteronomy); and the underlying history — the history of Moses and Israel. (p. 7)
Julius Wellhausen arrived in the 1870s to impose some order on this chaos with his conclusion that there were four sources behind the Pentateuch. This was the beginning of the Documentary Hypothesis.
Brodie comments:
The work of Astruc, Wellhausen and their followers was a bold effort to identify sources — and it did in fact identify real features of the narrative — but it was not a reliable indicator of specific sources. It was not possible, on the basis of just one text, to subdivide that text into lost sources. The process was out of control, and proved not to be a reliable ally. (p. 8 — a search on Documentary Hypothesis on this blog will bring up several posts dealing with more recent challenges to the Documentary Hypothesis.)

Searching for art and form

 Brodie compares the identifying forms of literature with bird-watching.
An area may have many diverse birds, but if you can identify the nature/form/genre of a particular bird you many well be able to say where it has come from. The form is a clue to the history. In biblical studies the process became known as form-history . . . often called ‘form criticism’. (p. 9)
The pioneer in highlighting the importance of understanding a book’s nature/kind/genre/Gattung was German folklorist and biblical scholar Hermann Gunkel.
By the 1960s the importance of understanding the literary form of a book was well established.
“We have a problem on our hands, if the book of Jonah is a historical book. This problem vanishes when the book is taken for what it really is, a work of fiction. . . .”
Though the principle is understood, its application has not always been followed consistently. The form of the New Testament books is, for most part, still “surprisingly elusive”. Are the Gospels and Acts history, biography, fiction, or something else? Are the other twenty-one documents letters (spontaneous addresses to specific situations) or epistles (studied compositions, like essays)?
To understand the form of a book requires us to some extent to understand its general background. Do the stories in Genesis derive from folklore transmitted through oral traditions or do they derive from literary craft, being assembled in a deliberate way in accordance with principles shared in the wider literary world?
Gunkel argued that the Genesis stories derived from the former, folklore strongly influenced by oral traditions.
For Gunkel, history-writing was a sophisticated art that was not known among uncultured peoples. Uncultured peoples had limited attention spans and dealt mostly with the oral tellings of short episodes of folklore.
So the various short episodes of Genesis were interpreted not as integral parts of developed literature, but as loose-fitting elements, like diverse folkloric episodes that came from diverse situations in life. And, as in folklore, he believed that if he could identify the form, the precise kind of episode, he would be able to trace the history behind it. (p. 9)
Sometimes the forms of specific episodes could be identified, but it was much more difficult (“far more than with birds”) to identify their provenance.
And meanwhile the literary form of entire biblical books remained obscure.
The Gospel of John was a special problem. Brodie’s “gut feeling said it was deeply true” but then one had to ask why it was so different from the other gospels. And what sort of writing were the gospels? History? Or history of a special kind? And how to explain John?
What was clear in Brodie’s mind was that while literary study was sometimes appealed to for help by biblical scholars, as a rule it was left largely unexplored.


Archaeology of the Middle East was meanwhile galloping ahead. The lands of the Bible were being recovered literally. (Eventually there would be material or external controls against which to read the Bible’s books.)

Chapter 2

The next phase of Brodie’s learning came when he was sent to teach in Trinidad.
As a teacher he felt compelled to advance his own studies: Wellhausen, Gunkel, Bultmann, de Vaux, Albright, Bright, Benoit, Dodd, Raymond Brown. Particular help was found in the Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer and Roland Murphy.

Two Cities

Amid the complex discussions about historical facts I realized as never before that trying to say something about the interpretation of the Bible and its history has always been partly a tale of two cities, each located about 300 miles from Jerusalem: symbolic Alexandria, and literal Antioch. (p. 13)

Alexandria  – symbolic

Alexandria had a strong Jewish population and was a leader in biblical interpretative scholarship. It is renowned as being the key location for the creation of the Greek “Old Testament”, the Septuagint. It was also the city from where leading allegorical studies emanated. Philo is the most well-known. The Bible’s stories were, to him, spiritual symbols. Then there were the highly influential Clement and Origen to embraced the allegorical principle of interpretation as Christian scholars.
Brodie might also have mentioned the Nag Hammadi texts found in Egypt.

Antioch — literal

Antioch had a checkered history in relation to Jerusalem and Jews, but to jump to biblical interpretations, we note that this was where Paul says he had his confrontation with Peter; where the disciples were said to be first called Christians; and where Ignatius was renowned as bishop. . .
and, above all, a place which developed a tradition of interpretation that, in comparison with Alexandria, was generally more literal. This literal tradition, which was later than that of Alexandria, was inspired especially by Lucian, head of Antioch’s theology school until he was martyred in 312, and was developed by others, including Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and to some degree, John Chrysostom — all of whom died around 400.(p. 15)

‘Islands . . . [that] did not survive’

The significant point for Brodie was that at the origin of Christianity there were two competing ways of interpreting scriptures: symbolic or literal. Sometimes the two approaches were interwoven. St Augustine, for example, managed to interpret the Bible both ways. Meanwhile in southern France John Cassian distinguished four different senses of scripture. Jerusalem, for example, had four different meanings:
  1. Literal: the actual city
  2. Allegorical: the church
  3. Moral: the individual’s soul
  4. Final (or eschatological): the heavenly city.
Three of these four are symbolic. Throughout the Middle Ages the allegorical reading often dominated through the influence of such figures as Eckhart, John Gerson and Denis the Carthusian.

Philip R. Davies (departing here from Brodie’s chapter) has also identified at least ten different meanings of the word “Israel” in the Old Testament portion of the Bible:

  1. the name of the ancestor Jacob
  2. the name of the league of 12 tribes
  3. the name of a united kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem
  4. the name of the northern kingdom whose capital was Samaria (after the above kingdom broke up)
  5. after 722 BCE, another name for Judah
  6. after the exile into Babylon, another name for the socio-religious community in left in the province of Yehud
  7. the name of a group within this community, the laity (as distinct from ‘Aaron’)
  8. the name for the descendants of Jacob/Israel
  9. a pre-monarchic tribal grouping in Ephraim
  10. adherants of various forms of Hebrew and Old Testament religion.

The 1500s and All That

Brodie sees a sudden shift from the primacy of symbolic interpretation of the Bible to a literal one around the 1500s.
This was the era of Columbus, of Copernicus, of Luther and Ignatius Loyola. Copernicus and Galileo defied the word of God and shifted the locations of the earth and sun.
Luther’s challenge to the authority of the Papacy was especially critical. In place of the Pope he exalted a new authority: the Bible itself.
And for Luther the meaning of the Bible was clear. It was the literal meaning that was the word of God.
The Pope was challenged, then, not to decide how the sun and earth really moved or didn’t move, but to affirm just as surely as Luther the truth of the Bible, which meant asserting its literal meaning.
So both the Papacy and the Reformers were drawn into defending the literal truth of the Bible.
And the general development of historical studies which occurred around that time pushed the literal meaning further towards the historical, the factual.
Years later, in 2010, I heard Ernan McMullin, a vastly experienced professor from Notre Dame University, summarize the shift of interpretation in two short sentences: ‘The Reform shifted interpretation from symbolic to literal. And the Catholics said: ‘If you go literal, we’ll outdo you”‘. (p. 16 — this brings us back to my other ongoing series on Nineham’s Use and Abuse of the Bible.)
Thus the emphasis fell increasingly on the events behind the Bible rather than on the pages of the Bible itself. And these events were increasingly in need of proving.
Until around 1500 the Church, Brodie tells us, generally allowed a fair degree of freedom to question and challenge. But the Reformation ended that. The Reformers were seen as having abused that relative freedom and in reaction the Church began to expect complete obedience. (We know the Jesuits played a significant role in this change.)

More Trouble-makers

The problem raised by Copernicus and Galileo about the positions of the sun and earth could be easily deflected. One merely had to say that the real theme of Genesis was in arguing God was the originator of all things, so throwing out the literal meaning of Genesis 1 didn’t matter much.
But other problems were to arise. In the 1650s Bishop James Usher had appeared to have once and for all resolved the questions of chronology and dating in the Bible. Meticulous calculations established creation in 4004 BCE.
Then in 1795 James Hutton argued before the Royal Society of Edinburgh that erosion and rock formations meant that the earth must be much older than that. 1830 and Charles Lyell argued for slow geological changes that were still taking place. By the end of the nineteenth century the argument was over whether the earth was somewhere between 100,000 and billions of years old. Usher’s date was fast being eroded into dust.
Next, of course, was Darwin‘s Origin of Species, and the emergence of plants and animals were no longer as Genesis described.

In 1872 a printer’s engraver from Chelsea, George Smith, was given an opportunity to share the results of his studies in ancient Assyria and Mesopotamian literature, and argued before an audience new to the topic, including Prime Minister Gladstone, that the story of Noah’s Flood was not an original narrative but could be traced back to the Epic of Gilgamesh.
These ideas were revolutionary. They opened up the possibility of asking an even more challenging question: Were Adam and Eve real or only symbols?
Pope Leo XIII declared the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 to 3 was still valid.
The people of Tennessee passed the Butler Act forbidding the teaching of evolution. We know the outcome of that: the famous Scopes Trial (or “Monkey Trial”).
Then in 1948 the Roman Church allowed the symbolic interpretation of Adam and Eve.
But more walls were yet to fall . . . .

Chapter 3

While teaching a class in Trinidad during the late 1960s Thomas Brodie found himself repeating a line he had heard from an experienced Dominican teacher in Rome, Peter Dunker:
the biblical account of Abraham was a story, a powerful meaningful story, but not historical.
His students challenged him. What did he mean by this? In Trinidad, with no-one else to ask,  he was forced to rely upon his own studies in the library, to apply historical-critical methods in his need to keep ahead of his students.
His initial answer was to explain that the early chapters of Genesis, Creation to the Tower of Babel, did not reflect historical stories of real persons, but that the rest of Genesis, from Abraham on, was different and did appear to be recording the lives of real people.
But the more he studied and questioned, the harder Brodie found it to accept as historical even much of the remainder of Genesis and the primary history (Genesis to 2 Kings):
  • Did Abraham and Sarah really have a child in their nineties?
  • Could Moses and Joseph have really played such prominent roles in Egypt yet have left no trace in the Egyptian records?
  • Jericho’s walls simply fell down flat?
  • What facilities would be required for Solomon’s thousand wives and concubines?
  • Above all: Solomon built such a magnificent temple yet not a trace of it was to be found by archaeologists?
Then the archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon established that the walls of Jericho had been demolished well before 2000 BCE, centuries before the supposed Exodus and time of Joshua.

Around the same time Trinidad was in political and social turmoil. The Church could not remain aloof. Demonstrators occupied the Catholic Cathedral and denounced an economic system that exploited the poor.
Some called for the demonstrators to be expelled the way Jesus had expelled the money-changers from the Temple. The demonstrators said they were in the role of Jesus expelling the wicked. Saint Paul was declared to be on the side of the revolutionaries: “He who does not work, let him not eat.” But Paul was also, Brodie comments, on the side of the oppressors. The motive of his charity was nothing but an example of Christian manipulation,
to heap fire on the person who received it. The Irish priests were an extension of the British Empire. (p. 22)

Chapter 4

Yet one thing seemed bedrock secure. Jesus’ historical existence.
It was backed both by faith and by witnesses:
  • Faith: Christian faith seemed to presuppose Jesus’ historical existence.
  • Non-biblical witnesses: unlike characters such as Joseph and Moses, the figure of Christ is mentioned in some way by outside writers — Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger and Lucian of Samosata.
  • Biblical witnesses: this is the main evidence — Jesus’ story is given not just once but by four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, John) and, partly, by Paul’s epistles; altogether five distinct sources of witness. (pp. 24-25)
But even here there were problems:
Faith is essentially in God, and Christian faith does not require the truth of contradictory accounts of specific events — as happens sometimes between the Gospels.
As regards Josephus, Tacitus and the other non-biblical witnesses to Christ, some of them were always recognized as weak.
But the biggest problems were with the biblical witnesses. However much history there might have been behind the Gospels it was smothered in a heavy fog of theology. Their narratives were tales of faith, not plain history.
Besides, were the evangelists, and Paul, really independent of one another?
Or were they essentially copying from one another?

From the search for Jesus to the search for communities

Meanwhile Albert Schweitzer had put a dampener on efforts to reconstruct the life of Jesus. His final paragraph of his 1906 publication of The Quest for the Historical Jesus became a classic:
He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.
The way was being cleared “for a new edifice of religious thought”, wrote Schweitzer. (I have singled out in past posts his hopes for Christianity being built upon a new metaphysic in place of an earthly historical event that would always be open to challenges.)
So from around 1920 to 1950 the main focus of New Testament scholarship had been on form-criticism or form-history — attempting to identify the forms of specific sayings and episodes in hopes of detecting their historical origins. Bultmann, “influenced by Gunkel’s eighteenth century Romantic ideas about people and writing”,
visualized Jesus stories in a rather Romantic way as ‘springing up’ among the early Christians, and has having virtually no link to the historical Jesus but as providing clues as to how these Jesus stories developed among distinct communities.
So the search for Jesus was replaced by a search for these distinct communities.
Early Christian communities

The Second Quest

I recently posted on Käsemann and earlier on his distinct contribution to initiating the Second Quest for the historical Jesus. Hopes were revived that there might yet be a way to find “authentic” teachings of Jesus himself.
But there was, for Brodie, an even more significant development under way in biblical studies from the 50s and 60s . . . .

Redaction Criticism

While the Second Quest was searching for the pathway to historical events behind the Gospels, there was another scholarly pursuit that was examining how those written episodes were assembled or edited into the wholes to create the Gospels we read today. These studies of the editing process (or redaction criticism) was of key significance for Brodie:
They started to move the focus from an elusive history behind the Gospels towards the Gospels themselves — the present Gospels in their finished state. And so, from the shadows, the Gospels would soon emerge once more as books! (p. 26)
Recall from Act One, Scene One, Brodie’s historical overview of the way biblical scholarship has had a difficult history working with the Bible with tools of literary criticism and insights. The Reformation ushered in the clouds of literalism and the view that what was important was the literal history behind the Bible’s stories.
This context thrusts into high relief the real significance of redaction criticism.

Two Steps Forward . . .

Brodie found himself doing the 1960s/1970s equivalent of blogging. He was fascinated and intrigued enough by all that he was learning to want to share it as widely as possible with the public. He wrote regular newspaper articles. Controversy followed. Meetings were held.
The fascination with these studies was equaled by the difficulty of some of them. The possible dependence among the five biblical sources for Jesus remained elusive. The Synoptic Problem was legendary.
Galileo, George Smith and Darwin had wedged apart old assumptions and opened up major insights. But there had been major advances even in grappling with the Synoptic Problem. The long held view that the Gospel of Matthew was the earliest written gospel, most scholars were slowly coming to conclude that Mark’s Gospel was in fact prior. Matthew had expanded Mark.
This conclusion, the priority of Mark, was not reached overnight. It had taken decades of testing, of trial-and-error — essentially of carefully comparing Matthew and Mark, first to try to verify that one had really used the other, and then to figure out who had used whom. Detective work, but with much methodical plodding. And the same was done regarding establishing Luke’s dependence on Mark. (p. 27)
Meanwhile, other investigators continued to seek proof that the Bible’s tales were literal records of historical events. People continued, from time to time, to set off for Mount Ararat in quest after quest to locate Noah’s Ark.

John’s Gospel and Raymond Brown

Thomas Brodie was not losing any love for the Bible. On the contrary, he was — largely through his experiences of the disturbances in Trinidad — coming to appreciate its value as well as its vulnerability. Its value lay in its teaching of what is important in life; its vulnerability in that its hold on historical events was not strong.
It is easy for many to dismiss the literalness of the Jonah in the whale story without suffering any negative impact on their faith.
But in other biblical narratives the historical interpretation seemed more crucial. (p. 27)
Recall Brodie’s love of the Gospel of John. Now there were questions. At one level the Gospel was written to sound very much like history. But it differed so profoundly from the other Gospels and appeared to be the most concerned with theology as distinct from history.
Eusebius had quoted Clement of Alexandria as saying that
John, last of all, seeing that what referred to externals [literally, “to bodily things”] in the gospel of our Saviour was sufficiently detailed [in the other Gospels], wrote a spiritual gospel. (Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.7)

But modern scholars were still committed to finding history behind it. Renowned commentator on the Gospel of John Raymond Brown, Brodie tells us, often spoke of the pressure he was under from his mentor, William Foxwell Albright, to focus on history in his study of the Gospel of John.
Accepting the Gospel of John as grounded in history was a welcome antidote to Schweitzer’s influence in causing scholars to believe the recovery of the historical Jesus was impossible. With oral tradition in the mix, Brown revived the theory that this Gospel was formed out of an independent chain of tradition back to the historical Jesus.
At this point Brodie leaves Trinidad and we are about to move to Act 2 . . . .

Brodie’s Odyssey

 The earlier posts, “Act 1” covered Brodie’s Part One of Beyond the Quest. That covered the period of Brodie’s intellectual discoveries from his late teen years till June 1972 (when he was about 30 years of age). Much of the setting was Trinidad. Brodie titled that Part of his book, his first four chapters, “The First Revolution: Historical Investigations” and explained its theme:
Becoming aware that biblical narratives are not necessarily reliable accounts of history.
The posts covering this section:
We now come to Part Two.

Part II

The Second Revolution: Literary Sources

Becoming aware of where biblical writers found much of their material

Chapter 5

The setting is Europe, Normandy. 1972. Brodie is studying for exams in Rome.
While in Trinidad he had taught the Gospel so Matthew knew it well. Now he was studying Deuteronomy when the abductive moment flashed:
Now I was focused on Deuteronomy when I suddenly said ‘That is like Matthew, that is so like Matthew’ — something about the sense of community, the discourses, the blessings and curses, the mountain setting. (p. 31)
Other similarities suggested themselves in the following days:
  • aspects of the Elijah-Elisha narrative “showed startling similarities to Luke-Acts”
  • the book of Wisdom’s confrontation between Wisdom and the kings of the earth was in some ways suggestive of the meeting between Jesus and Pilate in the Gospel of John
While in Jerusalem, at the École Biblique, a center of biblical historical and archaeological studies, Brodie continued his study of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) with Matthew in mind. Only flimsy and tenuous connections with Matthew could be noticed, however, until he reached Deuteronomy 15.
Since beginning this series I have discovered James McGrath’s distortion of Brodie’s book so where appropriate I should make clear what Brodie really says. McGrath speaks of Brodie’s “extreme parellelomania”. It is one thing to question and debate specific claims that certain passages were borrowed from others, but quite another to dismiss any such argument out of hand because we don’t like its implications. I emphasize the passages that clearly escaped McGrath’s notice.
Connections with Matthew seemed few and flimsy. Then suddenly, in Deuteronomy 15, the search came to life. The repeated emphasis on remission resonated with Matthew’s emphasis on forgiveness (Mt. 18). Both use similar Greek terminology. Obviously such similarity proved nothing. But further comparison revealed more links. And the Deuteronomic word for debt, daneion, is unknown elsewhere in the Bible — except in Matthew 18. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Matthew 18 had used first-century materials, including Mark, but it had also absorbed Deuteronomy 15. (p. 32)
Here is a copy of Brodie’s table on this particular comparison from another work of his, The Birthing of the New Testament:

If you rely on that table alone you will be short-changing your understanding of Brodie’s analysis. That table forms a basis for an eight page detailed analysis (link is to the Google book where those pages — 241 to 248 — can be read online).
Obviously, Matthew does not reproduce Deuteronomy word-for-word. It was of the essence of the New Testament message that the existing scriptures needed reinterpretation, and so Deuteronomy is reinterpreted and synthesized. Even Mark’s gospel, despite all its newness and its New Testament character, had already been subjected to Matthew to a certain process of interpretation and synthesis. For instance, the episode . . . concerning the epileptic demoniac had been reduced by Matthew from sixteen verses to seven. . . If Mark often needed reinterpretation and synthesis, then all the more so did Deuteronomy.
Unlike Deuteronomy 14, Mt. 17.24-27 does not mention a variety of animals (clean and unclean) nor does it refer to the temple tithe. But it tells the incident of the temple tax and the fish. And unlike Deuteronomy 15, Matthew 18 is not directly concerned with granting remission (aphesis) to debtors and slaves. But it lays great emphasis on remitting or forgiving (aphiemi, 18.15, 21-22), and it illustrates forgiveness through a parable involving debtors and selling a debtor (into slavery; 18.23-25).
What emerges is that Matthew has modernized Deuteronomy 14-15, for instance by replacing the temple tithe with an incident involving the temple-tax. But he has also done something more fundamental: in accordance with a strategy which is found elsewhere in the ancient world and in the New Testament, he has internalized the older text. Where Deuteronomy was concerned with a remission which was primarily external, Matthew shifts the emphasis more clearly to the internal, to the remission which occurs within the heart.
The essence of this policy of internalization had already been indicated by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount. . . . (p. 241)
Brodie sums up:
In the preceding array of similarities, there are indeed some which are obscure or questionable. . . .
But there is a whole series of similarities which in varying ways are striking or even unique:
  • Position: both texts, taken in their totality, occur within the central discourse of their respective documents (within the second discourse in Deuteronomy, and within the third discourse of Matthew).
  • Broad themes: Both texts deal with variations on the same ideas: temple payment and remission.
  • Similarities of the subsections: Again and again, the basic elements of the Old Testament text may be found in adapted form in Matthew.
  • Order: By and large, the order both of the themes and of the subsections is the same in both texts.
  • Linguistic continuity: Several of the subsections share words or word-clusters which are (almost) without parallel in either testament.
Furthermore, the differences, great though they are, are not meaningless. Most of them can be accounted for through a few consistent practices: synthesis, modernization, and internalization, and through adaptation to the requirements of Matthew’s new narrative. Nor are these practices alien to what is otherwise known in Matthew. . . .
Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that Matthew engaged not only the broad outlines of Deuteronomy, as Frankemölle and Grassi [this link is to an English language abstract] indicated, but also the down-to-earth body of the text. He has synthesized part of Deuteronomy’s center and has adapted it for a new age. He has not written to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. (p. 248)

My own mixed responses

Excuse me while I interject here with my own responses to some of Brodie’s arguments. I sometimes find myself in a love-hate relationship with them. Some of his literary borrowings strike me as spot-on! But sometimes I have questions and want to take time to consider all the ins and outs before committing to the next step. Brodie’s deeper discussions do not come across to me as being for the impatient or lazy scholar or general reader. It takes time for me, at least, to consider fully his arguments and then to weigh and evaluate them. That’s why in the past I have skimmed his points, laid them aside, forgotten them, — only to return to them later and take a closer look — still not sure I lay them aside again, — until finally I settle down to think through point by point what he is arguing. Then I wonder.
Other readings in fact help me to appreciate some of Brodie’s points. Shwartley, Roth, Kee, Kelber and most recently Rikki Watts have made significant progress in helping us identify the idea behind the larger structure of the Gospel of Mark. Why is it structured the way it is, with Jesus
  1. criss-crossing the lake and wandering around Galilee and beyond, performing miracles, calling disciples and meeting religious challengers;
  2. followed by a middle “on the way” section in which he performs fewer miracles, teaches a lot about discipleship, speaks in riddles about his coming passion;
  3. and finally moving on from Jericho and into Jerusalem, being hailed as a king, cleansing the temple, debating authorities and finally being put on trial and executed as “king of the Jews”?
Is this structure based on historical reminiscence or is it a “re-writing”, embedding a “transvaluation” (for the benefit of a “new people of God”) of the history (Exodus – Sinai – Wilderness – Conquest – Temple – Kingdom) and prophecies (Isaiah’s New Exodus and Return) of Israel in the Old Testament?
If so, once we see Mark’s Gospel as a new history of a new people of God modeled upon the old, then I think it becomes a lot easier to accept some of Brodie’s detailed correlations as more plausible.
One thing is clear. Brodie’s arguments do NOT lend themselves to a facile “parallelomania”. They require study, thought, argument, rebuttal. By rebuttal I mean grappling with the detail. Testing them. Not mindlessly scoffing at them. They invite follow-up with the other scholarly works he cites for a broader context and appreciation (e.g. Frankemölle and Grassi). A lazy or incompetent scholar, or one inflicted with a “mythicist derangement syndrome”, would be left behind in such an exercise.

Brodie’s first feedback

The first response Brodie received to his Matthew-Deuteronomy link was “resoundingly negative” — it lacked, so the feedback said, both method and logic.
The solution?
Brodie was advised, no, he was “instructed” (he writes) by the same source to compare how Matthew worked with other Gospels and especially with Q.
But other scholars were not so negative in their assessments.
Langlamet, professor of Old Testament, said Matthew’s dependence on Deuteronomy made immediate sense to him (‘Some form of midrash’, he said). He had once thought of the idea, but had never developed it. Boismard, lecturing on John, simply asked, “Are you learning?’,, and when I answered yes, he said ‘Then stay with it’.
And that’s what he did.
Soon the pattern of the Gospels’ literary dependence upon the Septuagint and on some of the epistles began to emerge.
Will look at that outline in the next post in this series.


The Verdict Falls

Continuing . . .
Brodie is discovering where the New Testament writers found their source material. This is the pattern of literary dependence that he was beginning to see (elaborated with details from Birthing of the New Testament):

  • A series of sayings in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 5 and 11 — beatitudes, antitheses, revelatory cry . . .)
    • were a distillation of Deuteronomy
    • and to a lesser extent, Sirach
  • Early epistles, following tone of Matthew’s “sayings/logia”,
    • also drew upon the Septuagint (e.g. 1 Corinthians’ use of the Pentateuch, esp Deuteronomy)
  • An early form of Luke-Acts, Proto-Luke,
    • modelled on the Elijah-Elisha narrative,
    • also drawing upon Deuteronomy (other scholars first discerned this),
    • and 1 Corinthians
  • The Gospel of Mark,
    • drawing upon Proto-Luke,
    • some epistles (e.g. 1 Peter)
    • and Septuagint (also the Elijah-Elisha narrative)
  • Gospel of Matthew is completed in its current form,using
    • the earlier kernel of sayings (see above)
    • the Gospel of Mark,
    • and with further input from Deuteronomy,
    • and probably Tobit,
    • and Romans.
  • The Gospel of John,
    • using Matthew,
    • Mark
    • and Proto-Luke
  • Canonical Luke-Acts,
    • making use of Matthew,
    • Mark,
    • Proto-Luke,
    • John,
    • Deuteronomy,
    • and epics such as the Aeneid
    • and Josephus.

I like the idea of a pre- or proto-Matthean collection of sayings. The earliest “Fathers” seem to make a lot of use of such a compilation with apparently little or no knowledge of a fuller Gospel of Matthew. (But of course I also like to date the Gospels to the second century, with Mark’s imagery linked more pointedly to the Second Jewish War — Bar Kochba and Hadrian — than the first.)
I’d also like to study Brodie’s idea of Proto-Luke to see if it is compatible with Joseph Tyson’s understanding of an Original Luke.
And I’m especially happy to see Brodie also places canonical Luke-Acts AFTER John! That really does have so much going for it — ever since another “mythicist”, Paul-Louis Couchoud, broached the idea. But also see Shellard, Matson, Lawrence Wills, and others.
Such a sequence pointed to a complex literary and historical process, provided a framework for approaching the NT writings, outlined a solution for the Synoptic Problem, and a context for discussing John.

But was it correct?

After 48 hours in an overcrowded Beirut prison on suspicion of being a spy for Israel (in the wake of an Israeli raid on Lebanon) Brodie returned to Normandy.
There, for what eventually became two and a half years, I scrutinized the primary texts more closely, elaborating all the time, trying to some degree to articulate the criteria for establishing literary dependence, and constantly testing, testing, testing. (Beyond, p. 34)
We have seen that McGrath tells his readers that Brodie indicates the reason his work was rejected by publishers was because it lacked things like proper footnotes and poor grammar, along with some presumably perverse attempt to insist on a “Christian” publisher. He also makes the delinquent claim that Brodie appears never to have questioned his thesis or sought any genuine criticism of it — an assertion that will be shown to be blatantly false through this and other posts.
Here is Brodie’s version of his initial attempt to have the above outline published:
In Spring of 1975 I produced a manuscript and immediately showed it to a British publisher, and then to a second, but their responses indicated that it was not at all what publishers wanted. What ruled it out above all else was its conclusion that Jesus had not existed. As the first publisher said, ‘It’s not just that we won’t take it. Nobody will take it.’ The second publisher said no Christian publishing house would take it. (Beyond, p. 35)
Brodie later explains (p. 36) that he was approaching editors of “biblical journals” and publishers of such scholarly works.
Brodie comments on these initial rejections (again with my emphases):
And yet the evidence was very strong. In testing the Gospels, essentially every strand concerning the life of Jesus consistently yielded clear signs of being dependent on older writings — on the epistles, and on the Old Testament, especially in its Greek version. The clincher was 1 Corinthians. I knew I had not analyzed its sources fully, but the evidence was sufficient and consistent — especially regarding its use of the Pentateuch, particularly Numbers and Deuteronomy — to know that its picture of Jesus was essentially a synthesis and adaptation of older Jewish traditions. Even Paul’s list of possible resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15.5-9) turned out to be largely a synthesis and adaptation of the diverse descents and appearances of the Lord during the crises of Numbers 11-17 (note esp. Num 11.25; 12:5; 14:10; 16:19; 17.7). (Beyond, p. 35)
So Brodie turned to old friends in Trinidad who were well trained in the scriptures to go over his manuscript again and see if it should be scrapped or not.

That’s where Brodie’s evening conversation with Everard Johnston comes in. I quoted it as the introduction to my recent post, Brodie’s Argument That Jesus Never Existed. The conclusion:
Suddenly he said, ‘So we’re back to Bultmann. We know nothing about Jesus.’
I paused a moment.
‘It’s worse than that’.
There was a silence.
Then he said, ‘He never existed’.
I nodded.
There was another silence, a long one, and then he nodded gently, ‘It makes sense’.
This, of course, is indeed the natural conclusion to be drawn from Brodie’s analysis of Gospel (and epistolic) sources. If the writers were drawing from earlier literature their writings about Jesus then, of course, we are no longer left with any reason to believe that their understanding was handed down via eyewitnesses and oral tradition. The only Jesus we can know is a literary Jesus, and if that literary Jesus is drawn from other literary sources quite independent of Jesus (rather than from oral tradition), then . . . . .
Brodie tells us another anecdote, one that is less dramatic and somewhat comical. One of his parishioners had gathered there was something he was not saying, and when she pushed him, Brodie was quite worried about what his confession would do to her faith. But she only laughed it off saying that she had never believed Jesus really existed!

Turning to the Dominicans: Rome, Paris

Unfortunately Brodie’s friends were too busy with their own affairs to give his manuscript the attention it needed.
The answer?
The Dominicans! Rome!

So Brodie dashed off from Trinidad to Rome to meet with the Magister Generalis with the following in mind:
If I could get a group of Dominican biblical scholars to examine the manuscript they would be able either to demolish it or to issue a calm and confident statement about its value and implications. And it seemed that the one person who might gather such a group was the head man. (Beyond, p. 36)
I quoted part of Brodie’s conversation with “the head man” (Vincent de Couesnongle) in Joel Watts Acclaims Thomas Brodie a Scholarly “Giant” and His Work “A Masterpiece”:
He listened to me patiently, and looked carefully through some of the manuscript. I brought the conclusions to his attention.
‘You cannot teach that’, he said quietly.
I explained that I didn’t want to teach the conclusions, just the method, as applied to limited areas of the New Testament. If the method was unable to stand the pressure of academic challenge, from students and other teachers, then I could quietly wave it good-bye and let the groundless conclusions evaporate in silence.
It was a Saturday afternoon. He needed time to think it over. He would see me in a few days. (Beyond, p. 36)

The Master General denied Brodie’s request. He could not call up busy people to examine “un truc“.
Brodie approached journal editors and
  1. One had a two year waiting list that could not be broken for anyone;
  2. The next said the manuscript material was beyond his competence;
  3. The third said he was interested and took an excerpt to read overnight.
Brodie called back to see #3. He was out. But he had left a message:
I am not interested in this or in anything of a similar nature.
So back to Normandy it was. On his way he stopped by the Dominicans in Paris. He had written a minor thesis on Yves Congar so chose to approach him for feedback:
He glanced at the manuscript and then looked at me rather sadly, ‘I have neither the time nor the competence‘.

To print or not to print?

Brodie was prepared to pay a printer £3,000 to produce a book from his manuscript —
so that it would have a chance either to make a contribution or to be roundly rebutted. (Beyond, p. 37)
Is not this what most serious “mythicists” (Price, Doherty, Wells, Ellegard, . . . ) want? A genuine critique and engagement with their arguments? The same old avoidance has been there from the beginning. Instructively, even one of the internet’s most hostile of anti-mythicists has acknowledged the strength of Brodie’s methods and arguments — but only after reading them whilst unaware of the logical conclusions to be drawn from them. Note that Brodie was making a habit of drawing the conclusions of his methods to the attention of those he wanted most to provide critical feedback. (As I also recently pointed out, it is quite amusing and sad to see other scholars who advance the same types of methodology consistently making something akin to a faith declaration along with their arguments: “Don’t ‘misunderstand’ (meaning, ‘Don’t understand the obvious’), I still believe Jesus was historical!”)

Brodie allowed his friend Damian Byrne to talk him into cancelling the costly printing of his manuscript, a decision he later regretted.
This was the late 1970s.
The Documentary Hypothesis — the view that the Pentateuch was based on four sources — was in trouble. The traditional historical-critical-methods were being questioned. At the annual meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association (Detroit) Brodie even raised the possibility that part of the Pentateuch was a response to the writings of the Prophets. Later that same year (1978), after formally joining the CBA and SBL, Brodie wrote up this thesis as a Research Report for the CBA. This was actually an application of the same methods he had used for discerning NT indebtedness on the OT, but here he was using them to argue that part of the Pentateuch was sourced from the Prophets.
It is at this point that Brodie relates the reason he late in becoming proficient in the use of footnotes and bibliographies, and how this gap in his training made his efforts at writing “tortuous”. It is also at this point that Brodie sought critical comments from the renowned scholar, Raymond F. Brown, who responded to one of his articles to be submitted to the Catholic Biblical Quaterly with:
You need to tighten the grammar. . . It has a chance.
Unable to have his articles accepted by the CBQ he asked its editor for advice. He said,
Try another journal.
I include this sort of detail here as a response to McGrath’s distortions of Brodie’s explanations.

Geza Vermes delivers his verdict

Meanwhile Brodie’s friend, Damian Byrne, had submitted his manuscript to “scholars with international reputations”. Or so Brodie understood. Later he wondered if it had been, rather, shown to just one scholar — Geza Vermes.
As an Oxford-based eminent Jewish scholar who had become a Catholic priest and later returned to the Jewish faith, Vermes had huge standing. He had worked on the rewriting of Scripture and I could see how he might have seemed to be a good referee. The only details I remember from Vermes’ statement, apart form his negative assessment, was that, given his personal history, his judgment was not due to any faith-based prejudice, and that I was not accurate in my comments on the Pharisees.
At the time the scholarly assessment seemed an important event, decisive. It meant that the best international opinion judged the thesis to be untrue. (Beyond, p. 42)
Brodie knew he needed “the discipline of producing an extensive piece of work that, in addition to being well-argued, would be well-documented and well-presented.” That is, he needed a doctorate. He had done the necessary courses preparatory to it. So to that goal he turned his focus.

“That is an important thesis”

The theme of Act 2 is how Brodie learned that the biblical writers found much of their material in literary sources.
In 1980 Brodie met Joseph Fitzmyer in Washington, DC, and asked him to comment on an article he (Brodie) had had published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament the previous year. It was on Luke’s use of Chronicles. After considering the argument Fitzmyer set Brodie on a new journey with one question:

‘Is the process you are invoking found elsewhere in the ancient world?’

Brodie had no answer.
So this is what followed:
As never before I started wading through libraries, and eventually hit on the obvious — the pervasive practice of Greco-Roman literary imitation (mimēsis) and its sundry ancient cousins, many of them Jewish. Jewish practices included rewriting and transforming older texts; and Jewish terms included rewritten Bible, inner-biblical exegesis, and the processes known rather loosely as midrash, Hebrew for searching — in this case searching for meaning.
What I had noticed within the Bible was the tip of the iceberg. Here was a whole world of diverse ways of deliberately reshaping diverse sources.
The process I was invoking was not just present in the ancient word — it was at the very centre of ancient compositions. And the New Testament use of the Old, pivotal though it is, is just part of the larger pattern whereby the Bible as a whole distils the larger world of ancient writing. (Beyond, p. 44 – my bolding and formatting)
Biblical studies, Brodie reflects, “had developed in a world where the very concept of any form of imitation was fading, and aversion to the notion of imitation had affected even classical studies.” Though he had studied both Virgil and Homer in high school there was no teaching that one had imitated the other. The Oxford Classical Dictionary had no entry for imitation until its 1996 (third) edition.

Traditional source criticism

Biblical scholars had long used source criticism as one of their fundamental tools. But this traditional method had not managed to maintain a good name. What it essentially involved was taking one text, say the Gospel of John, and on the basis of that one text alone attempt to reconstruct a hypothetical source that no-one had ever seen or heard of elsewhere.
By means of this method, the favourite source for the Gospel of John was the Signs Source. But this document, the Signs Source, was given such a wide diversity of shapes. John’s chapter 9 account of the man born blind was allocated
  • 34 verses in the SS by Becker
  • 28 verses in the SS by Bultmann
  • 3 verses in the SS by Schnackenburg
  • 2 1/2 verses in the SS by Boismard
Clearly the method of determining the shape of this hypothetical source was broken.

The “revolution” of the new source criticism

Brodie’s first revolution in understanding (Act 1) was when he became aware that biblical narratives are not necessarily reliable accounts of history.
His second revolution was a new method of source criticism. Unlike the traditional approach, this new method compared two known texts in order to see if one had used the other as its source.
This method had been used to a quite limited extent in biblical studies before, but what was new was
the quantity of the biblical text that was so indebted, plus the complexity of the ways in which the source texts had been used.
This new source criticism could also offer the prospect of verifiability. That promised genuine progress in identifying sources.

It needed patience, patience, patience.

Brodie puts his finger on what I think has been the major bulwark against the wider reception of his thesis. To explore the possibility of sources this way required “patience, patience, patience”, and Brodie explains what he means. It is not the same as endurance:
Patience means being receptive to something different, even strange, something that goes against one’s established picture, that challenges the imagination. (Beyond, p. 45)

Radical implications

The Synoptic Problem — the study of the literary interrelationships among the first three gospels — is essentially a question of sources. The search for the sources of these gospels has been intense, but as Brodie points out, that search
made little reference to the complexity of how the rest of the world used sources.
The study of the sources for the Gospel of John likewise made little reference to the ways authors used sources in the wider world.
Brodie compares his dawning understanding of how the ancient literary culture made use of sources, and how the biblical authors fitted into this culture, with a sailor’s discovery of a new continent and how it slowly emerges from the horizon.

Getting that thesis done

Throughout 1981 Thomas Brodie taught at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, while he completed his dissertation under the direction of his Rome-based supervisor who was living there at the time.
Its title: Luke the Literary Interpreter: Luke-Acts as a Systematic Rewriting and Updating of the Elijah-Elisha Narrative in 1 and 2 Kings.
Eventually Brodie handed his supervisor what he thought was his thesis — “350 pages magnificently and expensively typed.”
A week later he called me in. ‘That will do fine”, he said, “as an initial, preliminary, opening first draft. You will re-write it according to the following specifications.” And he spelled out a methodical sequence for analyzing and presenting the material. (Beyond, p. 46)
Brodie did, and produced a clearer and more convincing work as a result. At the end of the year, December 1981, his thesis was accepted in Rome.

Research fellowship @ New Haven

With a recommendation from Brevard Childs Brodie had meanwhile taken up a research fellowship in New Haven, Connecticut, at Yale Divinity School. This was August, 1981.

There he attended a seminar led by Luke Timothy Johnson, “Method and Madness”. The methods used in New Testament research were analyzed.
His critiques were thorough and devastating. Here was a man who could think. Ultimately I was disappointed. I felt that at the crucial moment, when the time came to synthesize the conclusions of all his critiques, the seminar flinched. Maybe it seemed there was no alternative. (Beyond, p. 47)
Yup. Know the experience well. Brodie was encouraged the way the seminar clearly spelled out his own “half-formulated concerns”.

Brodie also profited from Abraham Malherbe‘s seminar on history (Luke and Greco-Roman background), and was given the opportunity to present to the class his own evidence that part of the Stephen story in Acts 6-7 was sourced systematically from the story of the false accusing and stoning of Naboth in 1 Kings 21.

Malherbe was genial enough but deflated Brodie’s ego when he said with a smile,
I hope, Tom, that you don’t think you convinced me.
Brodie realized he still had a lot to learn in order to present the evidence in a “sufficiently clear and strong” way. Discussing the problem with Luke Johnson, Johnson advised Brodie to keep working on clarifying the content and presentation and to submit it for publication to the Catholic Biblical Quarterly.

Struggling with the Gospel of John

For most of the 1982-1983 year Brodie turned from the Synoptics to try to understand the Gospel of John’s sources. He focused on John 9, the account of the man born blind. Back in the 1970s he had already linked this chapter to the Namaan narrative in 2 Kings 5, but now he was seeing the Synoptic gospels (in particular Mark 8.11–9.8) as more immediate and substantial sources.
The evidence favouring John’s dependence seemed overwhelming — dozens of links, many of them substantial; but there was no clear pattern, and so the evidence as a whole was not convincing. I realized I was trying to explain how John 9 used sources without knowing John’s meaning. . . . (Beyond, p. 47)
The study of that chapter’s meaning necessitated a study of the meaning of the rest of the Gospel. It was a long road to travel.

Reward: A toehold

The experience of completing the dissertation and the time spent at New Haven taught Brodie (“for the first time in my life”) how to present a proposal and set out an argument according to the proper academic manner, adding the necessary qualifications and providing adequate supporting documentation.
(Apparently James McGrath in his review did not manage to read as far as the sixth chapter of the book and that’s why he claimed Brodie never learned to do scholarship; we do know that he has felt qualified to write reviews of books by mythicists after skimming no more than the first few pages.)
Attending conferences enabled Brodie to meet other researchers and share valuable lessons.
One person who heard him deliver a presentation at one of those conferences was Charles H. Talbert. Talbert invited Brodie to contribute a chapter to a book he was preparing, Luke-Acts: New Perspectives from the Society of Biblical Literature that appeared in 1984.
(You can still buy a new copy of this online for over $400 or a second hand copy for about $12. Brodie’s article, “Greco-Roman Imitation Of Texts As A Partial Guide To Luke’s Use Of Sources”, is the second chapter of the book.)
Two other articles were published in 1983: one in Biblica and the other in CBQ (the Stephen-Naboth article).
Nine years after finishing the basic manuscript in Normandy, I had recovered energy and had gained a toehold in the academic world. The former editor of the CBQ — the person who told me to try another journal — offered a quite but genuine word of appreciation. (Beyond, p. 49)
Again through the recommendation of Brevard Childs, Brodie was invited by Wilfrid Cantwell Smith, director of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions, to join twelve others at a two-month post-graduate summer Seminar to explore a new modern concept of scripture. Brodie particularly wanted Smith’s feedback:
I asked him would he be interested in a manuscript, and he responded positively.
Within a short time he returned it to me.
That is an important thesis.
He wanted it published.
I told him about some publishers’ doubts, but he still thought it would be good to try again, and, on his suggestion, I sent it to Beacon Press, Boston. (Beyond, p. 50)
You guessed it. Beacon Press eventually rejected it, too.

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