Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

17 Comments

  1. Mario
    January 1, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

    Rivers,

    by Jove, I think I’ve got it! You didn’t really agree with the obvious PURPOSE of my questions to Mike. You are interested in his replies, so you provided him with NT citation for him to further ruminate upon …

  2. Mario
    January 1, 2015 @ 11:49 am

    Rivers,

    OK, I will be left to guess (and I am pretty good at guessing). One thing I can say with reasonable confidence: Mike’s understanding of the Second Coming as (merely) “spiritual event” certainly entails a reading of the NT that is NOT “simple”, so your “reconciliation” of the issue is not likely to be “simple” … 😉

  3. Rivers
    January 1, 2015 @ 9:26 am

    Mario,

    Thanks, but, trust me, you don’t want to know how a fully preterist hermeneutic “reconciles” the issues. Since Dale didn’t create this blog for discussing eschatology, I’d rather not go down that road here. 🙂

  4. Mario
    January 1, 2015 @ 9:10 am

    Rivers,

    I am glad to read that, at least on this occasion, you agree with the points I’m raising.

    I honestly cannot see how you reconcile an understanding of the Second Coming as a not (merely) “spiritual event”, with your avowed full Preterism.

  5. Rivers
    January 1, 2015 @ 8:39 am

    Mario,

    I agree with your questions to “Mike.”

    I don’t see any evidence in the apostolic testimony that they were expecting a “spiritual” or invisible Parousia. Jesus and the apostles also never spoke of anything happening to anyone “at death” either. Paul understood that the “alive and remaining” and “the dead” would instantaneously inherit immortality at the time of the Parousia (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-56).

    It seems that their understanding was that there would be a “last day” when all would be raised and judged (John 6:39; John 12:48). Jesus also said that some who were living and believing in him “would never die” (John 11:26) because he understood that “the hour comes and NOW IS” when the resurrection and judgment was about to take place (John 5:25, 28).

  6. Mario
    January 1, 2015 @ 4:37 am

    Please [Dale] reconsider whether the Second Coming must be the fleshly event demanded by historical Evangelicalism, or if a spiritual event will suffice for a spiritual people.

    Mike,

    what do you mean by “spiritual event”? Are you suggesting to replace the simple faith in the Second Coming with “meeting Jesus at your death”? To replace the General Judgment with the “particular judgment”? To replace the resurrection with the “conscious survival of the disembodied soul”? What?

  7. Mario
    January 1, 2015 @ 3:57 am

    Dale,

    The questions I asked were perfectly clear, so there really was no need for you to interpret them. Anyway, you have answered the first. You have ignored the second, though.

    As for your question, for Jesus to be the Son of God means to be “generated, not created”, which has nothing to do with being eternal. Not as a person, anyway.

  8. Dale
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    Mario, if you’re asking what “Son of God” means in Mark, I think it is a title of the Messiah, like “Son of man,” “Son of David,” and “the christ.”

    Do you think Mark, in call him “Son of God” is asserting that Jesus is uncreated (or eternal, or divine)?

  9. Mario
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

    What McGrath is saying is very clear – just as a prophet speaks for God (11:17) and acts as/for God (11:12-13), so Jesus’s coming, his whole public ministry, is the coming of God, to his people, to reveal their messiah, and so to reveal more about himself and his will, and to judge them for their unfaithfulness. God is acting through his Son.

    Why, then, would you refer (ONLY to Jesus, NOT to any of the prophets) as “God’s Son”?

    Perhaps because, in the very first verse of the Gospel of Mark …

    “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

    … you read that Jesus is NOT ONLY the “Christ”, BUT ALSO the “Son of God”.

    Are you perchance rationalizing that “Son of God” as a honorific title, or something?

    Are you perchance interpreting that “Son of God” as a creature, ONLY differing from Adam for the MODE of his creation?

    Thank you in advance for your clarifying reply. 🙂

  10. Jaco
    December 25, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    Hi there, Father Aidan,

    “Rather than asserting that the historical-critical reading of the synoptics *will not* bring one to the confession that Jesus is God, let me just say that it *may not*. Certainly there are plenty of historical-critical critics who have realized in their work this possibility [etc].”

    It is an interesting impression you have of liberal (or disinterested) scholarship and arriving at “Jesus is not God.” But it sounds awfully circular: if you arrive at Jesus-is-not-God, then you are liberal by default; and vice versa. Again, as if the recorded life and legacy of Jesus was so open to interpretation, elaboration and even embellishment that any meaning of it would be just ok. Why the almost blasé and indifferent approach to the quest for truth? Or even to the commitment to approximate truth? If that is the case, then why bother with Christianity at all, if what one wants to arrive at can be achieved without Christianity… (these are rhetorical questions not aimed at you necessarily. I’m battling to come to grips with what you’re trying to say). There is indeed a general trend by very good and capable scholars applying the best of historical and analytical techniques to give us a glimpse into this first-century sage. Not only in recent times, but history has given us several groups and individuals who had compelling reason NOT to believe in the divinity of Jesus. Theology-based scholarship, especially by Evangelicals is increasingly being marginalized and for very good reason.

    “To the question at hand: if we isolate the Gospel of Mark from the rest of the Bible and indeed the Christian Church altogether and read it just as historical artifact, will we come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is God? I doubt it. Indeed, the more we locate it in its Jewish monotheistic setting the more unlikely the claim becomes.”

    Then why burden oneself with anything else? If this human (and nothing else but human) was so profound that people encountered God in him, causing them to realize that this was the very intent of human creation since eternal time past, and moving them to record his life and legacy, then why tamper and contaminate the historical records of this man to the extent that the crux of the paradox was lost: God is found in man. Imitating this man Jesus enables every human imitator to be the hands and feet and voice and face of the same God. The Jesus story crowns man again as “theophoric.” Removing Jesus from his human and utterly human origins betrays a devaluation of man which was exactly what the Christ event wanted to eradicate. I can go on and on about the morality behind the doctrine of the trinity, but I think you get the gist of what I want to say.

    “Jesus is, rather, said to be eternally begotten of the Father and of one substance with the Father. Do you see what I am driving at? The way that Dale has formulated the challenge automatically determines the results. Of course the Gospel of Mark does not say that Jesus is God, because God is the One who has named Jesus his Son (Mk 1:11) and the One whom Jesus addresses as Father (Mk 14:36).”

    But still, why elaborate and embellish to the point of irreparable contamination of the greater picture? The Nicene Creed is still a mis-fit if we appreciate that the Father is also but a Sharer of Essence, instead of the Original Cause according to whom Jesus (and eventually every believer) was patterned. Not even to mention the original culture-bound and culture-rich associations with the expressions about Jesus.

    “So what we really want to know is not whether Mark says that Jesus is God but whether Jesus is divine alongside YHWH.”

    I think there were enough rabbinical, pseudepigraphal, mystical, mythical and Scriptural resources at their disposal to adequately define who Jesus was. And if we study these (thanks to disinterested scholars such as the ones you mention above), we discover richness beyond what Nicaea and Chalcedon have ever been able to give us.

    “How could a Jew, even one who confessed Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, easily locate Jesus on the creator side of the creator/creature divide, without thinking that he was transgressing into blasphemy and abandoning the Shema?”

    There was no such clear-cut division of Creator and created as Bauckham so neatly dish up in his books. Dunn adequately made it clear in his Christology in the Making that Jesus was the logos by type: he made God present and he also brought man into God’s presence. Jesus embodied God’s original plan for creation. No co-creator/sharer-in-creation conundrums and enigmas there.

    “Given these obstacles, I am not surprised to find that the earliest gospel, i.e., Mark, treads lightly on these questions.”

    If obstacles are artificially introduced and sprout from a partial understanding of ancient interpretive grids and patterns, then one would expect endless, yet futile attempts, to surmount the contradictions.
    “Our knowledge of apostolic Christianity is extremely limited.”

    And when scholars come along to shed light on it, they are tarred and feathered, branded “liberal” or “heretic” and fed for the dogs… This self-sabotaging pattern is bound to keep those falling for it captive and addicted to an inadequate theological system. I am also inclined to think that you paint a rather grim picture of what we do have. A glass half empty is still half full. And the more we do discover about first-century Christian-Jewish worship, the less divine Jesus becomes. The Church and her legacy do not provide us with much that would compel us to take her word any more seriously than that of the earliest sources (which is what you are so fondly doing). So I tend to think that your skepticism might betray a more Freudian caution to disrupt what has been embraced and treasured as truth, than a fully rational position to be so suspicious of the evidence.

  11. Fr Aidan Kimel
    December 21, 2013 @ 10:16 am

    Part 2 of “Tuggy, Christ, and the Gospel of Mark”: http://goo.gl/peVTlB

  12. Fr Aidan Kimel
    December 20, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    Part 1 of my response to this article: “Tuggy, Christ, and the Gospel of Mark” (http://goo.gl/Kfahbx).

  13. Tuggy, Christ, and the Gospel of Mark | Eclectic Orthodoxy
    December 20, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

    […] I wasn’t planning on doing any more blogging until after Christmas, but Dale Tuggy’s recent articles on Jesus and the Gospel of Mark encouraged me to leave a lengthy comment on his blog. It then occurred to me that I might as well take that comment and edit and post it. First take a look at Tuggy’s articles: “Does Mark Teach that Jesus is God?” and “Mark: Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah.” […]

  14. Fr Aidan Kimel
    December 20, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    Hi, Jaco. You ask:

    1) “Do I understand you correctly, namely that a historical/narrative reading of the Synoptics won’t bring one to arrive at the ‘Jesus is God’ confession?. It surely brings one to Jesus as the Messiah, one who would restore humanity! Why is arriving at Jesus as God so stubbornly elusive?”

    Rather than asserting that the historical-critical reading of the synoptics *will not* bring one to the confession that Jesus is God, let me just say that it *may not*. Certainly there are plenty of historical-critical critics who have realized in their work this possibility. Indeed, it seems that every ten years a new group of New Testament scholars emerge into the full light of media day to claim they have disproven Christianity. Remember the Jesus Seminar. And now there’s Bart Ehrman. And before all of them there were a whole bunch of German scholars. Now I’m not a NT scholar and therefore lack the competence to get into those kinds of discussions and debates. Besides, everyone just chooses the scholars they like and quote them against the positions they dislike. I like to quote N. T. Wright, myself. 🙂

    To the question at hand: if we isolate the Gospel of Mark from the rest of the Bible and indeed the Christian Church altogether and read it just as historical artifact, will we come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is God? I doubt it. Indeed, the more we locate it in its Jewish monotheistic setting the more unlikely the claim becomes.

    But please note the problematic nature of the clause “Jesus of Nazareth is God.” In his writings Dale repeatedly uses equivalent expressions; but of course, the Nicene Creed does not say that Jesus is God, because the Nicene Creed identifies the Father as God: Jesus is, rather, said to be eternally begotten of the Father and of one substance with the Father. Do you see what I am driving at? The way that Dale has formulated the challenge automatically determines the results. Of course the Gospel of Mark does not say that Jesus is God, because God is the One who has named Jesus his Son (Mk 1:11) and the One whom Jesus addresses as Father (Mk 14:36).

    So what we really want to know is not whether Mark says that Jesus is God but whether Jesus is divine alongside YHWH. But consider how difficult this is for a Jewish sect to do. Every 1st century Jew, including Christian Jews, knew that there is only one God, and every Jew knew that this one God had created the heavens and the earth, including all spiritual beings. How could a Jew, even one who confessed Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, easily locate Jesus on the creator side of the creator/creature divide, without thinking that he was transgressing into blasphemy and abandoning the Shema?

    Given these obstacles, I am not surprised to find that the earliest gospel, i.e., Mark, treads lightly on these questions. What I think we may find in Mark, though, are intimations that the inherited categories of Messiah, Sonship, and divinity may be inadequate to handle that which the 1st century Church wanted to say about Jesus One just doesn’t jump from the confession that Jesus is the Son of God (whatever that means) to Jesus is God the Son who has hypostatically assumed human existence.

    And let’s also remember the disadvantage under which we are operating even just historically. Our knowledge of apostolic Christianity is extremely limited. All we have are the written documents of the New Testament. We know very little about how Christians preached, not only in evangelism but Sunday after Sunday. We know very little about 1st century Christian liturgy and prayer. We know very little about how first century Christians interpreted the Hebrew Bible, though we can certainly assume that they did not read the Bible through the lens of historical criticism. Etc. Hence we someone tells me that historical critics do not believe that Jesus is acclaimed as God in the Gospel of Mark, I’m inclined to shrug my shoulders and say in reply, Why should I take this report seriously? I do not think I’m being an irrational fundamentalist in treating this kind of report with a large degree of skepticism. I’m just acknowledging the serious limitations of this kind of reading of the gospels.

    (I’ll get to your second question later. Perhaps this is sufficient for the moment.)

  15. Mike Gantt
    December 20, 2013 @ 10:46 am

    Dale,

    You are quite right that Mark does not present Jesus as God but rather as the agent of God. You are also right that Mark gives no trinitarian teaching, nor does he even given building blocks for it (e.g. two natures, three persons, etc.).

    None of this, however, means that Jesus was not God. It just means that He did not reveal Himself as God to Mark. That was to come later. As God said to Moses, “I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by (Ex 33:19-23).

    I rejoice to see your devotion to Jesus – regardless of whether you think He is divine or human – for obedience to Him should transcend our views of His ontology. That said, by believing that He has yet to come as He promised, you inadvertently consign Him to false prophet status (Deut 18). Please reconsider whether the Second Coming must be the fleshly event demanded by historical Evangelicalism, or if a spiritual event will suffice for a spiritual people.

  16. Jaco
    December 20, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    Father Aiden!

    Hello again and hope you are well.

    Do I understand you correctly, namely that a historical/narrative reading of the Synoptics won’t bring one to arrive at the “Jesus is God” confession?. It surely brings one to Jesus as the Messiah, one who would restore humanity! Why is arriving at Jesus as God so stubbornly elusive?

    My second question is, if meaning-making of the recorded texts is the actual intended reason for their recording, would reading the texts with such an interpretive frame bring one to the Trinity doctrine by default? Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan arrived at the exact opposite destination! And the Apostolic and Apologetic Fathers were more Arian than Chalcedonian to be sure.

    Always nice to read your criticism,

    Jaco

  17. Fr Aidan Kimel
    December 20, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    If “God” in the synoptic Gospels is the One to whom Jesus prayed, then by definition we should not expect to see Jesus explicitly named or described as God. This is neither surprising nor telling. In fact, I suggest that the more reliable the gospels as historical documents, the less we should expect them to explicitly express the resurrection faith of the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.

    So what is your hermeneutic, Dale? Are you reading the gospels exclusively as historical documents? Are you searching for the authorial meaning of the text? Are you treating the words of the Markan Jesus as the words of the historical Jesus? etc. I think you need to make explicit your historical-critical methodology. What biblical scholars are you relying on here? Surely you are not coming to the texts simply as an analytic philosopher–at least I hope you are not.

    I suppose there are still some evangelicals around who might be distressed to discover that Jesus is not explicitly named “God” in the synoptic gospels; but most of the rest of us have already lived through the crisis of historical-biblical criticism and have come to realize that the faith of the Church does not exclusively rest on a historical-critical reading of the gospels. One thing for sure: the first- and second-century Christians sure didn’t read the gospels through a historical-critical hermeneutic.