Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religion, New Testament PhD
Robert M. Johnston
George E. Rice
The problem of the portrayal of the disciples of Jesus has been the focus of much scholarly investigation. Discussion has been pursued primarily from the Marcan perspective, in keeping with its assumed priority. Consequently, Mark is seen as creating the disciples' incomprehension to serve his theological intent. The correctness of this notion is questioned in this study which seeks to determine whether incomprehension was an authentic experience of Jesus' original disciples, and whether slowness of understanding was to be expected in teaching and learning contexts.
Recent scholarship on the disciples is surveyed to identify the main issues, approaches, trends, and the scope of the ongoing debate. A Synoptic approach to the motif of incomprehension is proposed because of the unsettled question of Marcan priority, the equality--if not at times more--disparaging portrayal of the disciples in the other Synoptics, and the need to explain the tradition history of the seemingly negative portrayal of disciples (chapter 1).
The ascription of the prevailing image of the disciples to Mark, or the extent to which theprevailing image is Marcan, is questioned (1) in light of the parallel pericopae dealing with the disciples in the other Synoptics whose authors may no longer be seen as mere redactors of Mark (chapter 2) and (2) by tracing the tradition history of disciples' initial incomprehension, and eventual understanding when hearing and sight converge (chapter 3). In the first instance, the respective portraits of the disciples in each of the Synoptics seem to betray a well established tradition from which it was difficult--if not impossible--to break away. In the second instance, this tradition is recognizable in the common terms and concepts of comprehension/incomprehension in Old Testament theophanic and didactic contexts and in later canonical and extra-canonical Jewish writings of the Second Temple period as well as in Greek literature, especially in texts relating to Greek paideia.
The convergence of hearing and sight for comprehension seems to be a recurring feature in Jewish writings and Greek literature. A more accurate image of the disciples emerges when these observations are brought to bear upon the Synoptics (chapter 4).
Melbourne, Bertram L., "Slow to Understand: the Disciples in Synoptic Perspective" (1986). Dissertations. 94.
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