Saturday, February 23, 2008

Author's Note (2005)

It's fun to browse around in your old notes sometimes. Here is what I found. My "author's note" from the last completed draft of my 49 part mythical musings on first century characters.

Beloved, we have reached the end of our chronicle. When I began to write, not in the fourteenth year of Trajan (111 CE), but in 1994, I thought it might be instructive to flesh out the lives of some minor characters of the first century. Perhaps we know only a name, a city and an action. For example, Phoebe of Cenchrae carried Paul’s letter from Corinth to Rome. How did she come to have such a responsibility? Someone called Rufus has a connection to Rome and to Paul. Is this the son of Simon mentioned by Mark? In the letter to Rome, we meet Tertius, Paul’s amanuensis, and Gaius, Paul’s patron. How did Tertius get his prosaic name? How did the patron Gaius relate to Paul, who was careful to avoid patronage? Is this the Gaius whom Paul baptised? Is it the same Gaius addressed in John’s third letter?

In the course of re-imaging the lives of what E. M. Forester called flat characters, I also imagined some lives in Galilee, Ayala (hart), Mayim (water) and Tsame (longing). David and Claudius remind us of the cure of the centurion’s boy. Samuel is a tender counterfoil to the perceived intensity of a young Saul.

It was a long time before I allowed a major character like John the Evangelist, John the Theologian of Patmos, John called Mark, Saul called Paul, John the Baptist, or Jesus into the book. I thought explicitly of seeing first with peripheral vision. And what could I do with James and Jude, the brothers of Jesus? Were they associated with Qumran? And does Mark who uniquely records the love in the story of the rich young man use this touch as an author’s signature? Is he also the young man in the garden who ran away naked?

Most scholars accept that Paul wrote the bulk of his letters during the time of the emperors Claudius and Nero. Some scholars accept Ephesians and Colossians as from his hand. Most ascribe Hebrews and the Pastorals to later authors. I have allocated these letters to various authors as it suited my agenda. Luther was the first to suggest Prisca for Hebrews. The family conventions in Ephesians and Colossians suggested to me a Greek author familiar with Aristotle, so I chose Phoebe. I left the Pastorals as personal letters from Paul to give him a beloved son named Timothy as Gaius had in Titus Vetti, also called Timothy.

With respect to the gospels, the story suggests neither the two-source theory nor the priority of Mark. Following the work of Alan Millard (Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus), I have assumed that adequate technology was available for a written record earlier than many scholars infer. With respect to the issues related to the calendar, I have taken my dating of the years 28-30 from Robinson’s The Priority of John.

I am convinced that the writers and collectors of the canonical texts wished to communicate to each other and to us something of profound importance and joy for them and for us. So my desire was to find the metaphors they used and point them to the obvious focus – the death of Jesus and their experience of the Spirit of God both before and in the aftermath.

I would not have imagined what I have learned from their words as pointers to things worthy of good report. It has also become clearer and clearer to me that the experience of God’s love as documented in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings is identical to what the Gentiles discovered from the mission of Paul and the fourfold Gospel. We do not know what each of us finds in this mystery. Poetry, music, art and story have a better chance than definition or policy of pointing us to our necessary engagement.
For the full story - long, sometimes tortuous and in need of an editor see here. Then click on the synopsis where you will find each of the seven parts with their seven sections outlined. Read in any order desired. Of course it is a concentric structure.

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