Studies in Philology
and the Second Christian Generation
E Bruce Brooks
The Gospel of Mark covers the early period in the history of the Jesus movement. It was finally completed about the year 45, before any of the surviving epistles of Paul were written, and before the death of Paul (c60) and Peter (c64), the two most notable of the early Apostles. With their deaths ended the first phase of Christianity. By then, about 20 years (almost one human generation) after the end of Mark's story, Christian doctrine and the terms under which Christians lived with their neighbors had changed so much that a new Gospel, superseding Mark, was felt to be necessary. Two people, Luke and Matthew, undertood to write Gospels which would replace Mark. In addition, Luke appended to his Gospel a history of the Christian movement up to the death of Paul; that is, a history of the Apostolic Period. By this time, the doctrine of the Atonement, which had been mentioned only in two very late passages in Mark, had become prominent through its advocacy by Paul. One question, then, for Luke and Matthew, was how to handle this new development. As it happened, they found radically different answers to that question. This book investigates how they responded to that and other challenges, and how they influenced each other in so doing.
The sequence of the Gospels, in their finished canonical form, is Mk > Mt > Lk > Jn. But within this simple formula there are several complications. Mark, for example, was not written at one time, but rather added to and adjusted over the course of 15 years, to keep it up with the best current thinking about Jesus and his death. This fact is of no consequence for the later Gospels, since all that text growth had been accomplished by the time Luke and Matthew came along.
Matthew seems to be all of one piece. But Luke was evidently written in two stages, one of them earlier than Matthew (and serving as an inspiration for Matthew), and the other after Matthew (and adopting some of the new material in Matthew). This mutual awareness resulted in the presence of similar or related material in both Matthew and Luke, which does not appear in Mark. This material is sometimes credited to an otherwise unknown outside "source," but is better seen as an artifact of the competition between the two revisionist Second Generation Gospels.
Along with the second phase of Luke (Luke B) was written the original Acts (Acts I). Both texts borrow Matthew's device of validating Christian belief by referring to Old Testament prophecy. Acts I in particular shows the Apostles as constantly guided by dreams and visions and other supernatural guidance from on high. Acts I ends with Jewish and Gentile Christians living together, and eating together, in perfect amity and in mutual acceptance. It is an irenic history, just as Luke, on the whole, is an irenic Gospel,
At some time in the 80's, Jewish tolerance for Christians in synagogue communities ceased. As a device for expelling them, an anti-heretical prayer, cursing the Christians and other misguided persons, was added to the daily Benediction prayers. which were mandatory for Jews. This represented the systematic rejection of Christianity by Judaism, and it was countered by the Acts II extension (plus some compatible additions of Luke's Gospel), which depicted a rejection from the Christian side also, expressed as a meeting of Paul with the Jewish community of Rome, at the end of which, finding the Jews obdurate, Paul declares that salvation is now taken from them, and given instead to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28). This imaginary and symbolic event was Luke's way of bringing to an end the story of Christianity as a movement within Judaism; it would thenceforth have its own entirely separate identity.
Some parts of chapters are presently available as extracts from Luke:
Chapter 1: The Death of the Apostles
Chapter 2: Luke A and the Gospel of Poverty
Chapter 3: Matthew and the Gospel of Wealth
Chapter 4: Luke B
Chapter 5: Acts I
Chapter 6: Jewish Rejection and Acts II
Chapter 7: The Beloved Physician
Chapter 8: Epilogue: The Post-Pauline Literature
Matthew, the ecclesiastical Gospel, has always appealed to those in authority, and from the moment of its appearance it exerted a great influence on all Christians, including those of different theological tendencies. For example, the Alpha liturgical manual Didache added many passages, and a whole final Apocalyptical section, in imitation of Matthew. It is thus no surprise to find Matthew placed at the head of the Gospels in our New Testament, as is already the case in the Muratorian Canon of c180. So pervasive is Matthew in Christian education that early scribes (perhaps sometimes unconsciously) often harmonize other Gospels to the wording of the parallel passage in Matthew, and in our time it can be difficult for anyone of Christian background to read the other Gospels without reference (perhaps sometimes unconscious) to what Matthew says on the same subject. Among other things, this book seeks to show how Matthew, which in strict chronological sequence was the third attempt to present Jesus to the Christian world, represented a considerable departure from the doctrines and practices of the first Christians, and to open up the subject of Christian history in general.
This book concludes a series of studies on early Christianity that began with The Gospels of Mark and continued with Xristos.
E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Luke and the Second Christian Generation
Approximately 256 pages.
Tentative $50.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-45-9
Tentative $27.95 paper. ISBN 978-036166-85-5
Tentative Release Date: November 2018
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press
14 August 2010 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page