A Weekend Roundup (1): Early Christian Prophets and the Jesus Tradition

A few good things landed into my Google Reader over the weekend:

Michael Barber discusses the plausibility/possibility of the idea of early Christian prophetic activity being a facor in the development of the Jesus tradition.  I have to say I am not convinced by Michael's arguments against such plausibility.  While there may be lots of truth in the Byrksog/Bauckham eyewitness explanation, and in Burridge's identification of gospel genre, none of this seems to me to rule out that notion that there are sayings in the gospels for which the most plausible explanation is that (a) Jesus didn't say them; that (b) they therefore probably owe the existence to some kind of Sitz im Leben within the primitve church and that (c) early Christian prophetic activity is among the more plausible hypotheses for such Sitzen (more so than notions of e.g. early Christian disputes over the law; or liturgical settings).  This is particularly so for those sayings that appear on the lips of the risen Jesus in the tradition or which, while appearing on the lips of the pre-Easter Jesus (to use Borg's term for a moment) are so historically problematic that another explanation has to be sought: I would count Matthew 28.18-20  within this category (although now having gone through some major Matthean redaction) and also a good deal of the Johannine tradition makes sense to me on this model.

That doesn't mean that we need to adhere to Bultmannian skepticism, but it does mean that we can still allow for a scenario in which a prophetic word to an early Christian community: – "Jesus says to us 'Go into all nations and I am with you'" or "The Lord says 'I give you a new commandment, to love one another as I have loved you'" – finds its way into the tradition as an authentic word.  The question of whether or not the eyewitnesses were there to verify the authenticity of the tradition is less the point if we are dealing with sayings of the risen Jesus that are then incorporated into the tradition as such (I admit that my own views on the likely historicity of much of the Johannine material colours my own views here).  The key criteria against which such sayings would be tested would not be 'did we ever hear Jesus actually say that?' but ''is this what the risen Jesus is saying to the church?'.

Gosh, I only meant to give the link to Michael's post!!

Update: see further reflections from Doug Chaplin (broadly sceptical of the prophetic words hypothesis) and as James McGrath (broadly in favour in relation to the Johannine tradition) and Michael's further articulation of his view here.