Baker Academic

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Craffert's SBL Paper

I've been reading through an early draft of Pieter Craffert's upcoming paper for the Historical Jesus section. This session is themed "Jesus beyond the apocalyptic – non-apocalyptic divide: options and openings". Here is his abstract:

What Are Apocalyptic Gospel Texts Evidence For?  The debate in historical Jesus research regarding the apocalyptic/non-apocalyptic (or eschatological/non-eschatological) Jesus is characterised, like most other aspects of historical Jesus research, by two features. The one is whether such sayings are authentic; that is, whether the historical Jesus in fact made certain claims about the kingdom of God, the end of the world, God’s reign and the like. The other is to provide as clear a summary as possible of the authentic sayings; that is to say, to provide a description of the content of what is taken as authentic. In short, the authentic testimonies of the sources (after duly cleansed from unauthentic parts) serve the historian’s purpose of finding out what Jesus actually said about apocalyptic topics. An alternative way of doing historiography and asking historical questions are to analyse what the data about the rule of God, the son of man and the end of the world sayings are evidence for. In other words, in order to move beyond the apocalyptic/non-apocalyptic divide the first step would be to find meaningful categories in order to deal with the apocalyptic data in the Gospels. Is it possible to derive information about apocalyptic sayings from comparative material and to determine why such language was used? That would include questions such as: Who spoke about the rule of God and the son of man and towards which ends? What kind of people generated such terms and why were they used in Jesus' world? And, under which conditions were apocalyptic language generated? That is to invoke in the historical quest interpretive categories that are not derived from the informants (the content of their testimonies) themselves but to use their testimonies in order to establish what they are evidence for.

I am looking forward to discussing this very interesting topic.


  1. Whether Jesus actually spoke the words in the Gospels or not is one question, but there's another it doesn't answer. Whether he had comparable ideas or not. For instance, he probably never uttered any of the sayings which indicate that he was the messiah, but that says nothing about whether or not he believed himself to be the messiah. I'm not sure how we proceed with this one, when absence of evidence often seems to be taken as evidence of absence.

  2. It sounds like the advantage to this approach, the one taken by Craffert, is that it works to engage the evidence rather than create hoops for the evidence to jump through before it can be considered.