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The book’s final chapter draws on recent scholarship on cultic imagery in the New Testament to demonstrate that Jesus likely used temple and priestly imagery in his teaching, yet without the intention of repudiating the validity of the temple. Among other narratives, the Last Supper traditioins are given special attention.
Although an increasing number of works are focusing on depictions of God in the New Testament, none so far specifically focus on how these depictions rely on anthropomorphic language in their presentation of God. This article attends to this oversight by turning to the Synoptic Gospels (and the book of Acts) as a test case. Not only do these narratives lack an explicit anti-anthropomorphic agenda, but they also rely on divine anthropomorphisms that are derived from Jewish Scripture. To demonstrate this claim, the article concentrates on how Matthew and Luke expand Mark's anthropomorphic presentation of God and how Luke's presentation emerges as the most anthropomorphic of all. It also discusses how Mark, Matthew, and Luke's respective narratives depict God's human, or human-like, characteristics according to the following four categories: (1) God's human roles and titles, (2) God's depiction as an acting subject who speaks and desires to be in relationship with humans, (3) God's concrete presence located in space, and finally, (4) God's description as a character with recognisable body parts and other markers of corporeality. In the end, we shall see that anthropomorphism is a central component of God's characterisation in the Synoptics and that this anthropomorphic characterisation better enables readers to see the Jewish, scriptural shape of God as a personal deity who desires to be in relationship with humans.
Having demonstrated a more plausible social context for the gospel writers in the previous chapter, Chapter 4 establishes how many of the features of the gospels traditionally associated with their exceptionalism – for example, anonymity or consulting eyewitnesses – can be understood as evidence of rhetorical strategy and literary influence. By comparing the Synoptic gospels to the Satyrica, in particular, we see how these writings were in dialogue with the literary interests of the age in subjects like funerary meals, crucifixion, resurrection, and so forth.
Chapter 5 argues that the Synoptic gospels can be read as a “subversive biography” in the tradition of similar treatments of notable underdogs like Alexander the Great in the Alexander Romance or the notorious Aesop. Situating the gospels securely within a new genre classification demonstrates their engagement with the literary culture of the imperial period. Thus, specific characteristics of Jesus’ portrayal in the Synoptics need not be a function of oral tradition, but a reflection of the rational interests of elite, imperial writers.
Conventional approaches to the Synoptic gospels argue that the gospel authors acted as literate spokespersons for their religious communities. Whether described as documenting intra-group 'oral traditions' or preserving the collective perspectives of their fellow Christ-followers, these writers are treated as something akin to the Romantic poet speaking for their Volk - a questionable framework inherited from nineteenth-century German Romanticism. In this book, Robyn Faith Walsh argues that the Synoptic gospels were written by elite cultural producers working within a dynamic cadre of literate specialists, including persons who may or may not have been professed Christians. Comparing a range of ancient literature, her ground-breaking study demonstrates that the gospels are creative works produced by educated elites interested in Judean teachings, practices, and paradoxographical subjects in the aftermath of the Jewish War and in dialogue with the literature of their age. Walsh's study thus bridges the artificial divide between research on the Synoptic gospels and Classics.
Despite numerous studies of the word κύριος (‘Lord’) in the New Testament, the significance of the double form κύριε κύριε occurring in Matthew and Luke has been overlooked, with most assuming the doubling merely communicates heightened emotion or special reverence. By contrast, this article argues that whereas a single κύριος might be ambiguous, the double κύριος formula outside the Gospels always serves as a distinctive way to represent the Tetragrammaton and that its use in Matthew and Luke is therefore best understood as a way to represent Jesus as applying the name of the God of Israel to himself.
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