Gospel Fictions


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Both Elijah and Elisha, for example, mediate two striking miracles, the creation of abundance from little and the resurrection of a dead son. H these sound familiar to a reader of the Gospels, we should not be surprised. The raising of a dead child or loved one is perhaps Jesus' most characteristic miracle. Lazarus in John , Jairus' daughter in the Synoptics , and the widow of Nain's son in Luke are aU depicted as raised from the dead in order to present major themes of each of the evangelists. Since Luke's account of the raising of the widow of Nain's son so clearly betrays its literary origins in tbe Septuagint, I shall begin witb it: And it came to pass [ka; egeneto] afterwanls that Jesus went to a town ca1kxl N Bin, accompanied by his rnsaples and a large crowd.

As he approached the gate of the town he met a funeral. The dead man was the on1y son of his widowed mother; and many of the townspeople were thete with her.

When the Lord saw her his heart went out to her, and he said, "Weep no mote. Then he spoke: "Young man, rise up! Deep awe fell upon them all, and they praised God.

Gospel Fictions (1988 Helms), book

Luke Either Luke or some Greek-speaking Christian behind Luke composed this story on the basis of the account 10 the Septuagint version of Kings depicting the raising of the dead son of the widow of Sarepta: And it came to pass [kai egrnelo] that the word of the Lord came to Eliu.

And it came to pass afterward, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, was sick; and his sickness was very severe, until there was no breath left in him. And he breathed on the child thrice, and called on the Lord, and said, "0 Lord, my God, let, I pray thee, the soul of this child return unto him. In both stories the prophets speak and touch the dead son, who then rises and speaks. It is clear that either Luke or his source consciously modeled the story set in Nain after the miracle at Sarepta; what is even more striking is that all the Gospel stories of Jesus' resunecting a dead loved one are based on the resurrections in the Books of Kings.

The prooesses culminating in this fact seem fairly easy to trace. Early Christians knew, on the basis of Isaiah 19, that raising of the dead was to be one of the signs of the advent of God's kingdom, an event they saw happening in the person and ministry of Jesus; they knew equally well that events portrayed in the Old Testament were not merely descriptions of the past, but typological foreshadowings of the future, namely of Jesus.

The only Old Testament narratives of resurrection are in the stories of Elijah and Elisha.

Forged Fiction - Gospel of Matthew

After that, it is not unimaginable to see the widow of Sarepta, bewailing an only son, as the widow of Nain, doing the same. Though only Luke of the four evangelists knew the story of the widow of Nain, the early Christian understanding of the Old Testament demanded that other Jesus; John about loved such stories be told of thus, Matthew, Mark, and also contain narratives Jesus' resurrecting a dead one, stories related, like Luke's, to the book of Kings.

The Synoptic version is the raising of Jairus's daughter; the Johannine, the raising of Lazarus. This chapter examines the former. At this, she goes to the prophet Elisha, falling at his feet to entreat for her son; but Elisha's disciple, Giezi, tries to thrust her away. Elisha rebukes Giezi, allowing the woman to plead for her child's lost life. The prophet sends his disciple on ahead, to lay his staff on the child, then rises and goes with the distraught mother. On the way. And Elisaie went into the house, and, behold.

And Elisaie went into the house, and shut the door upon themselves, the two, and prayed to the Lord And he went up, and bowed himself on the child seven times; and the child opened his eyes And the woman went in, and feU at his feet, and did obeisance to the ground; and she took her son.

Gospel Fictions

In Matthew, to align more closely with the story's Old Testament source- as is typical of the careful and knowledgeable first evangelist- the child is already dead. At this point all three Synoptics intercalate the story of the woman with the issue of blood. In both stories the prophet seeks privacy for the miracle: "After turning all the others out, [Jesus] took the child's father and mother and his own compamons and went in where the child was lying," just as Elisha shut the door upon himself and the child.

And in both, the prophet touches the child and speaks, and the child awakes. In Mark, the parents were "ecstatic with great ecstasy" exeslesan ekstasei megale - Mark ; in Kings, the mother of the child is "ecstatic with all this ecstasy" exestesas. Just as the widow of Nain's son began as the widow of Sarepta's son, so the daughter of Jairus began as the dead child at Shunnam. Go and show yourseJf to the priest, and make the offering laid down by Moses for your cleansing; that will certify the cure. In these stories, as m Mark's, the suppliant approaches the prophet and kneels, making his plea for a miracle.

The prophet speaks, touches the beseecher, and the miracle happens. The prophet then sends him away healed. As Bultmann notes, "Mk. As he was entering a village, he was met by ten men with leprosy. They stood some way oft and called out to him, "Jesus, Master, take pity on us. One of them. He threw himself down at Jesus' feet and thanked him.. And he was a Samaritan. At this Jesus said,"Were not all ten cleansed? The other nine, where ate they? Could none be found to come back and give praise to God except this foreigner?

Luke needs to indicate that the ten lepers could be either Galilean or Samaritan, people of two different nations and religions. At least one of the ten is a Samaritan, and clearly Luke or his source is composing partly on the basis of Mark or a story similar to it , since what would a Samaritan need with a Jewish priest?

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Based on both Mark and the Septuagint account of the cleansing of the leprous Naaman by Elisha, the story In a Greek-speaking arose Christian environment. In the Kings version, the prophet tells Naaman to "go" poreutheis wash in the Jordan and "be cleansed" katharistese-IV [II Kings 5: IO LXX , just as Jesus tells the ten lepers to "go" poreuthentes to the priests, and they were cleansed ekatharisthesan. The literary lineage of the rest of Luke's story is likewise a of Mark and combination Septuagint Kings.

The cry of the lepers "Jesus, Master, take pity on us' comes from the cry of the blind man at Jericho "Jesus, take pity on me! Similarly, Jesus' response to the blind man at Jericho, "Your faith has cured you" Mark , has become the basis for Jesus' words to the leper. One more relationship clinches the connection of Luke's ten-lepers pericope to Mark's blind man at Jericho.

It has long been known that Matthew 34 and Luke got their story of the healing of the blind man at Jericho from Mark chapter ten. But whereas Mark places the healing when Jesus "was leaving the town," Luke places it when Jesus was "approaching" Jericho. Apparently Luke read his sourae correctly, despite what our copies of Mark.

It would seem, then, that Luke, or his source, constructed the narrative of the ten blind men on the basis of the stories of Elisha and Naaman and of the blind man at Jericho, forgetting in the process the irrelevance of a Jewish priest to a Samaritan ex-leper. Third Kings in the Septuagint tells of an unnamed man of God who healed the withered hand of King Jeroboam. The man of God had just prophesied against the king's altar at Bethel, at which Jeroboam "stretched forth his hand" exeteinen..

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The king repentantly pleaded with the prophet to restore the withered band; so the man of God entreated the Lord, "and he restored the king's hand" lll [I] lUngs This narrative became the basis for the pericope about Jesus' healing a man's withered hand on a sabbath Matt. The fIrst Gospel fIction stemming from the story appears in Mark and is based on a Greek-speaking Christian tradition: In synagogue, on a sabbath, Jesus encounters a man with a withered exlrammenin hand cheva Matt changes "withered" to the adjectival xeran, making it closer to the Septuagint ; Jesus then instructs him to "stretch out" his hand: and he "stretched [it] out [exeteinen, as in LXX], and his hand was restored.

Jesus must, therefore, perfonn miracles even they could not. So we find parallel and related tendencies in the literary history of the Gospel miracles: 1 The miraculous element is heightened, and any hint of limitation in Jesus' power IS removed; 2 there is an ongoing "novelizing" process, a fleshing out of the stories to make them more "realistic," "detailed," "believable.

One of the bystanders drew his sword, and struck at the High Priest's servant, culling off his ear. Then Jesus spoke: "Do you take me for a bandit, that you have come out with swords and cudgels to arrest me? Day after day I was within your reach as I taught in the temple. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.

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It was not long before readers of the Old Testament noted that Amos had "predicted" that a "shepherd" would rescue from the mouth of a lion "two legs or the lobe [laban] of an ear" Amos LXX. Jesus must therefore have healed the ear, and by the time of the writing of Luke's Gospel, he does. We even learn which ear: And one of them struck at the High Priest's servant. But Jesus answered, "Let them have their way. John's sources supplied this information: "'Simon Peter drew the sword he was wearing and struck at the High Priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.

The servant's name was Malchus " John The other process, the heightening of the miraculous and the elimination of hints about the limitation of Jesus' power to work miracles, is evident in later treatments of Mark's account of Jesus at Nazareth.

There In his own hometown, says Mark, he was not notably successful: Jesus said to them, "A prophet will always be held in honour except in his home town, and among his kinsmen and family. Mark Matthew, with a more "advanced" theology and a more fully deified Jesus, could not accept Mark's assertion, so he treated it as fiction, untrue; it was not that Jesus could not perform great miracles in the face of lack of faith in him, rather he chose not to do so: "He did not work many miracles there: such was their want of faith" Matt.

Matthew's theology has been satisfied: Jesus' limitation of power has been eliminated; but in enlarging Jesus' power, Matthew has shrunk his compassion, making him retaliate against the ordinary human limitation of weak faith. The more "primitive" picture in Mark of Jesus as surprised and partially helpless against faithlessness is more attractive and beguiling, less hardhearted. Bearing this in mind, we may more readily grasp why Matthew and Luke chose to leave out altogether two of Mark's miracle stories. In the latter, Jesus is asked to heal a deaf mute: He took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his [the man's] ean, spat, and touched his tongue.

Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened. Mark In the next chapter, Jesus asked to cure a blind man; He spat on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, and asked whether he could see any thing. The blind man's sight began to come back, and be said, '" see men; they look like trees, but they are walking about.

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