The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus

HarperSanFrancisco, 1998 - 569 páginas
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Chapter OneTHE FIRST STORYTELLERSThe followers of Jesus no doubt began to repeat his witticisms and parables during his lifetime. They soon began to recount stories about him, perhaps about his encounters with critics or about his amazing way with the sick and demon-possessed. As time went by, the words were gathered into compounds and clusters suggested by common themes or by catchwords to make them easier to remember and quote. His parables were retold and adapted to new audiences with each performance. The stories were likewise repeated by individual storytellers, who retold them in their own words, sometimes adding or omitting details as imagination or memory dictated. The gospel tradition was a living, breathing body of lore whose outside dimensions continued to grow.Since the gospels consist of individual tales that were formed and circulated within this highly fluid body of lore, scholars find it necessary to analyze the structure of the simple anecdote.A story or anecdote is the verbal representation of an event. To tell a story the narrator must bring two or more persons together in the same time and space and allow something to happen. That something is an event. In the gospels, the report of an event nearly always involves Jesus as the central character, although some anecdotes feature John the Baptist, Simon Peter, or Judas.Storytellers sometimes report events on their own authority: they insert themselves between the event and the listener as though to say, "This is what happened; take my word for it." When storytellers frame their stories this way, literary critics call it "recounting." As an alternative, storytellers may take their listeners to the time and place of theevent and allow them to see and hear what went on-all by means of words, of course. In that case, critics say the storyteller is "enacting" the scene. Because enactment seems more realisticthe words of participants in the story are quoted and their actions are described, sometimes in graphic detail-it is often assumed to be more historically reliable. That assumption is misleading: writers of fiction know how to narrate realistically by enactment, and when they do a good job of it, readers willingly accept as true what they are being told. To be convincing, writers of fiction must of course achieve a high level of plausibility. Recounting, on the other hand, appears less convincing because it seems to depend on the reliability of the narrator. If an evangelist assures us that something happened, and we are inclined to think the evangelist is reliable, we conclude that the evangelist was telling the historical truth. That conclusion can also be deceptive. In determining whether a story depicts fact or fiction, plausibility and the distinction between enactment and recounting are not trustworthy guides. In historical reconstruction, caution and skepticism are always in order.How do we know when a storyteller is telling the historical truth? How do we know whether the narrator is recording a legend or myth or simply embellishing a tale with imaginative touches? How can we tell when a storyteller is concocting a composite "typical" event out of bits and pieces of historical lore? While scholars rarely achieve absolute certainty about historical facts, they are guided in the sorting process by their knowledge of how human beings acquire and record information.Knowledge of the real worldThefoundation of our knowledge of the real world is the face-to-face encounter. We get to know people and things through contact with them. The level of our knowledge improves if we have repeated contact with the same persons or events. It is difficult to determine what actually happened during an automobile accident, for example, because the event is fleeting and not repeatable. It is less difficult for a scientist to make an accurate measurement during an experiment that can be reenacted numerous times, or for one person to form a firm estimate of another through extended contact. Much of the reliable information human beings acquire about each other and the physical world comes to them through repeated direct observations.In the everyday world, however, human beings interpret their encounters with persons as well as with things largely in terms of typifications they have previously acquired from their family, society, or culture. When crystallized, typifications become stereotypes. Many judgments people make about each other, especially when one party views another from a distance, are based on stereotypes. The more removed people are from personal encounters, the more their knowledge of others becomes generalized, the more their knowledge depends on shared typifications that neither originate with nor are corrected by face-to-face contact. It is for this reason that someone has said that all enemies are faceless: it is more difficult to hate someone who has a real face. And it is for the same reason that Jesus' admonition "love your enemies" is often a paradox: one cannot love someone who is faceless. The ultimate form of remote, anonymous knowledge is information that is mostly orwholly dependent on "they say. . . "or "it is said. . . ." Information derived from what nameless or unnamed people say is called "hearsay."

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For nearly 100 years Biblical scholars have developed ways of telling when when a story has been revised or edited, when two stories have been combined together, when a tale has been added to, when ... Leer reseña completa


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