Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:46 pm

But I must admit that I don't understand fully your view on how and why this teaching ended up in this context. Do you think Mark had this tradition of the incident with the scribes, the 'Beelzebul controversy', and he then thought that would be a fitting way to endow this teaching (witnessed in Did 11:7) with the authority of Jesus, and then he inserted it?

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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:06 pm

I think blaspheming against the Holy Spirit was invented by the final editor so as to protect him from accusations of forgery and editorial manipulation. Like a pirate of digital material adding a line to Stairway to Heaven like "whatever people do with our records after we release them we're fine with it and approve."
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:10 pm

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:46 pm
But I must admit that I don't understand fully your view on how and why this teaching ended up in this context. Do you think Mark had this tradition of the incident with the scribes, the 'Beelzebul controversy', and he then thought that would be a fitting way to endow this teaching (witnessed in Did 11:7) with the authority of Jesus, and then he inserted it?
Could this be because you still view "blasphemy of the holy spirit" as a cryptic concept? To wit:
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:48 pm
Heh, that's a good question... first we need to try and get a sense of what that cryptic phrase even means, "blasphemes the holy spirit"? Because it is cryptic, it is far from clear. But the important part is, as I see it, that it's not meant to be clear, it's meant to be cryptic.
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:42 pm
And also (as you know) I don't think that it makes immediate sense to speak about "blaspheming" the spiritual entity of the holy spirit, and for me, that's another indication that there's more to the sin mentioned in 3:29 than merely the concrete act of saying something 'bad' about the holy spirit.
But I do not know how you can still find this to be mysterious given that the scribes blaspheming the holy spirit by questioning the spirit's spokesperson is exactly analogous to the example I gave from 2 Kings 18.28-19.7 in which the Assyrian king blasphemes God by questioning God's spokesperson. It is one thing to suspect that something figurative lies beneath the literal surface, but quite another to completely obfuscate the literal and obvious surface meaning simply because you suspect there must be something deeper.

If someone quotes a scripture to the effect that sleeping with one's neighbor's spouse is unlawful, nobody is surprised if the quote is later paraphrased as adultery being unlawful, since adultery means sleeping with someone else's spouse. Likewise, if one accepts that Jesus speaks and acts by the spirit, then what the scribes say about him is blasphemy of the spirit, with no mystery or obscurity about it, according to the direct analogy of 2 Kings 18.28-19.7.
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:49 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:10 pm
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:46 pm
But I must admit that I don't understand fully your view on how and why this teaching ended up in this context. Do you think Mark had this tradition of the incident with the scribes, the 'Beelzebul controversy', and he then thought that would be a fitting way to endow this teaching (witnessed in Did 11:7) with the authority of Jesus, and then he inserted it?
Could this be because you still view "blasphemy of the holy spirit" as a cryptic concept? To wit:
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:48 pm
Heh, that's a good question... first we need to try and get a sense of what that cryptic phrase even means, "blasphemes the holy spirit"? Because it is cryptic, it is far from clear. But the important part is, as I see it, that it's not meant to be clear, it's meant to be cryptic.
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:42 pm
And also (as you know) I don't think that it makes immediate sense to speak about "blaspheming" the spiritual entity of the holy spirit, and for me, that's another indication that there's more to the sin mentioned in 3:29 than merely the concrete act of saying something 'bad' about the holy spirit.
But I do not know how you can still find this to be mysterious given that the scribes blaspheming the holy spirit by questioning the spirit's spokesperson is exactly analogous to the example I gave from 2 Kings 18.28-19.7 in which the Assyrian king blasphemes God by questioning God's spokesperson. It is one thing to suspect that something figurative lies beneath the literal surface, but quite another to completely obfuscate the literal and obvious surface meaning simply because you suspect there must be something deeper.

If someone quotes a scripture to the effect that sleeping with one's neighbor's spouse is unlawful, nobody is surprised if the quote is later paraphrased as adultery being unlawful, since adultery means sleeping with someone else's spouse. Likewise, if one accepts that Jesus speaks and acts by the spirit, then what the scribes say about him is blasphemy of the spirit, with no mystery or obscurity about it, according to the direct analogy of 2 Kings 18.28-19.7.
I think you misunderstood me here, I fully understand this part of your view, I just disagree with it (first of all because I don't think the holy spirit can naturally just like that be considered a person to be blasphemed, contrary to God in 2 Kings). What I mean is that, if I accept that there's nothing strange about saying the holy spirit is being blasphemed (I don't think it must be ruled out), then I think your explanation could be the right explanation, but there are still some things that are obscure to me to make for a full explanation. Such as what the full historical development might be with regard to how this teaching came about and then entered Mark's text. In a way, maybe I think it's only a half-explanation, unless there is something I've missed (which is entirely possible!)

If you think it doesn't make sense in the specific context we find in Mark 3 that this sin is unforgivable, then you must also think that Mark likewise didn't think the graveness made sense in the context in which he placed it. And I think that's one problem. That Mark would include this teaching without any explanation as to why it is so extremely grave when that really is the strongest element to stand out in this teaching. And by explanation I mean the explanation as to why God considers it so grave, because it is of course God who won't forgive this sin, and we're left wondering why. It's like 'Jesus said it, that's all you need to know', but is that how it works?

And so that's the other thing: If the teaching originated as a practical measure, even an embassering one as we can agree, for the leaders of the communities needing to guard their authority, then surely they would have needed to append some theological rationale to it? Surely they couldn't just come along one day and say "don't question the leaders when they speak in the spirit, because that's the single one thing which God will never forgive, because we say so". And if it originated as a Jesus saying, thereby having its authority, wouldn't it still need a context to supply the rationale? As I see it, there would have needed to be a theological rationale to underpin the practical motivation behind the teaching. I think a rationale is there in Mark 3 with my suggested reading, but we don't get clues to it in Did 11:7 (unless the "because" refers to Matt 12).

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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:06 pm

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:49 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:10 pm
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:46 pm
But I must admit that I don't understand fully your view on how and why this teaching ended up in this context. Do you think Mark had this tradition of the incident with the scribes, the 'Beelzebul controversy', and he then thought that would be a fitting way to endow this teaching (witnessed in Did 11:7) with the authority of Jesus, and then he inserted it?
Could this be because you still view "blasphemy of the holy spirit" as a cryptic concept? To wit:
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:48 pm
Heh, that's a good question... first we need to try and get a sense of what that cryptic phrase even means, "blasphemes the holy spirit"? Because it is cryptic, it is far from clear. But the important part is, as I see it, that it's not meant to be clear, it's meant to be cryptic.
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 12:42 pm
And also (as you know) I don't think that it makes immediate sense to speak about "blaspheming" the spiritual entity of the holy spirit, and for me, that's another indication that there's more to the sin mentioned in 3:29 than merely the concrete act of saying something 'bad' about the holy spirit.
But I do not know how you can still find this to be mysterious given that the scribes blaspheming the holy spirit by questioning the spirit's spokesperson is exactly analogous to the example I gave from 2 Kings 18.28-19.7 in which the Assyrian king blasphemes God by questioning God's spokesperson. It is one thing to suspect that something figurative lies beneath the literal surface, but quite another to completely obfuscate the literal and obvious surface meaning simply because you suspect there must be something deeper.

If someone quotes a scripture to the effect that sleeping with one's neighbor's spouse is unlawful, nobody is surprised if the quote is later paraphrased as adultery being unlawful, since adultery means sleeping with someone else's spouse. Likewise, if one accepts that Jesus speaks and acts by the spirit, then what the scribes say about him is blasphemy of the spirit, with no mystery or obscurity about it, according to the direct analogy of 2 Kings 18.28-19.7.
I think you misunderstood me here, I fully understand this part of your view, I just disagree with it (first of all because I don't think the holy spirit can naturally just like that be considered a person to be blasphemed, contrary to God in 2 Kings).
What does this mean? The spirit seems to have personal agency of some kind in other parts of Mark: it descends into Jesus (1.10); it casts him into the desert (1.12); it speaks (1.11); it inspires (12.36). I am not seeing (at all) how blaspheming the spirit can be problematic as a viable concept.

Does something even have to be a person to be blasphemed anyway? In Revelation 13.6 the tabernacle is blasphemed.
If you think it doesn't make sense in the specific context we find in Mark 3 that this sin is unforgivable, then you must also think that Mark likewise didn't think the graveness made sense in the context in which he placed it.
I am not saying that it does not make sense. I am saying that it makes perfect sense to a readership who already knows (from personal experience in Christian meetings) that questioning the spirit's spokesperson is unforgivable. We can plainly see how different people interpret the saying so very differently when they do not have or at least do not consider that background knowledge: modern interpreters who do not consider it are in the position of guessing at why Mark says that this particular sin is unforgivable:

Robert H. Stein, Commentary on Mark, pages 168-169: In the present context it refers to attributing Jesus’s exorcisms to the work of Satan, but what is it about this that caused it to be an unpardonable sin? Perhaps it is because the act of blaspheming the work of the Spirit is to resist his work in the human heart, and without the Spirit’s work, repentance and faith are impossible. Traditional Christianity, whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Arminian, and so on, asserts that only through the work of the Spirit is saving faith possible. Thus to blaspheme the Spirit’s work, which seeks to lead a person to faith, is unforgivable in that it makes faith impossible.

Mary Ann Beavis, Commentary on Mark, pages 69-71: The amēn (“truly”) saying may arise from accusations that members of the Markan community cast out spirits by demonic agency; in the text as it stands, the saying implies that it is the scribes, not Jesus, who are guilty of serious sin by attributing divine activity to demons (cf. Exod. 20:7). .... The brief but famous saying about the “unforgivable sin” against the Holy Spirit, which is uttered in the context of Mark 3:28–29 (cf. Matt. 12:31–32; Luke 12:10), has given rise to much speculation and consternation throughout Christian history. .... In the seventeenth century, the Arminian theologian John Hales noted that no one could have committed the ultimate blasphemy but “the Scribes and Pharisees, and their confederates” (Hales 1667, quoted in Tipson 1984, 325). The Markan interpretation of the saying is even more restrictive, confining the accusation of blasphemy to those who have just accused Jesus of having an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30). C. E. B. Cranfield (1959, 143) insightfully noted that the warning of the verse today applies especially to theologians and church leaders, who, like the scribes, are charged with the leadership of God’s people. The warning against the “unforgivable sin” might also be applied to religious leaders who are resistant to new ways of doing things (cf. 2:21–22).

James Edwards, Commentary on Mark, pages 109-110:

The sin against the Holy Spirit must be understood in light of the opening testimony of John the Baptizer. John heralded the messianic era by foretelling the coming of a More Powerful One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:7–8). Jesus here depicts himself as that More Powerful One who by the power of God’s Spirit binds Satan and routs his minions (v. 27). The gravity of the offense of the scribes, as Mark declares in v. 30, is that they accuse Jesus of having an evil or unclean spirit. The sin against the Holy Spirit is thus not an indefinable offense against God, but a specific misjudgment that Jesus is motivated by evil rather than by good, that he is empowered by the devil rather than by God.

From his baptism onward Jesus as God’s Son has been authorized by God’s Spirit. Whoever, like the scribes, can look at him and say, “This is the devil”; or, conversely, whoever can look at the devil and call him God’s Son, as does Milton’s Satan, who “felt how awful goodness is” and said, “Evil, be thou my Good,” that person is hopelessly lost. This is “an eternal sin” (v. 29) since anyone who, willingly or not, cannot distinguish evil from good and good from evil, darkness from light and light from darkness, is beyond the pale of repentance. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isa 5:20).

In addressing the warning of 3:28–30 to the scribes (see v. 22), Mark signifies the unique pitfall that this sin can pose for religious people. Sinners and tax collectors are less likely to commit this sin than are the learned, religious, and moral. In this respect, wickedness poses a lesser problem to the grace of God than do pride and self righteousness. The early church, of course, recognized the role that the Jewish religious leaders played in Jesus’ death. Mark’s sandwiching of this warning between two episodes related to Jesus’ followers and associates, however, is a sober reminder that the danger before the scribes, which was obvious, is in fact a paradigm of a similar danger before Jesus’ disciples, which was not so obvious. Nor is Mark alone in this sober admonition. There is evidence from other sectors of the early church that Christians received essentially the same warnings that had been delivered to the Jews (Heb 6:4–6; 10:26; 1 John 5:16; Gospel of Thomas 44). How wrong the church has been to single out Jewish rejection of Jesus as something distinctive! It is a human problem, and Jesus’ closest confidants are as liable to misjudging and rejecting Jesus as are the scribes. Finally, it is imperative to note that Mark places this saying as a warning, not as a condemnation or cause for anxiety. The same saying that warns against ascribing evil to Jesus also assures of God’s willingness to forgive “all the sins and blasphemies of men.” Anyone who is worried about having committed the sin against the Holy Spirit has not yet committed it, for anxiety of having done so is evidence of the potential for repentance. There is no record in Scripture of anyone asking forgiveness of God and being denied it!

Stefan Kristensen, forum comments on Mark, page 1 of this thread:

Basically, I think that the graveness of the sin can be explained by the unique role of the holy spirit. The holy spirit is untouchable.

The reason that the holy spirit is such a sensitive matter is that it is the entity that executes the whole work of God's eschatological salvation on the individual plane. Not Jesus. Therefore the spirit is untouchable. Any action to severely counteract the holy spirit constitutes counteracting God's eschatological salvation. Counteracting the setting up of his eternal kingdom. Counteracting the very purpose of creation itself.

Now, this action was not a possibility before God chose to send the gospel into the world by the holy spirit. But everything changed the moment the holy spirit brought the gospel into the world through Jesus. Now the gospel has come, now is the time for choosing sides, not there are no excuses.

All the various things the holy spirit has been doing throughout history beforehand, before this heated eschatological time of the gospel, is incomparable to the work it is engaged in now. Building the kingdom of God.

If blaspheming in some way means 'counteracting', then that's explanation enough for me. Simply because of the unfathomable importance of the work of the holy spirit.

Four commentators: four rather different approaches. Stein takes the tack of a lot of modern Christians and supposes (acknowledging the supposition with that admirably honest "perhaps") that to blaspheme the spirit is to resist the part of the spirit's work that leads to repentance (and thus to salvation). Beavis admits that the saying has caused much consternation, while simultaneously limiting the scope of its warning to exactly what is on the page and no more: scribes accusing Jesus of having an unclean spirit; she adds that it might apply to Christian leaders who resist change, all along completely sidestepping the issue of why this one sin is unforgivable (an issue which Stein at least addressed). Edwards insists that John the Baptist's ministry and prediction are the exegetical key to the saying, but his actual definition of the blasphemy of the spirit (the judgment that "Jesus is motivated by evil rather than by good, that he is empowered by the devil rather than by God") inexplicably has far more to do with Jesus than with the spirit! And I have already commented on your own theological construct.

Nobody is on the same page, and if that is how things have to stand, so be it. But none of these commentators is even considering the parallels in the Didache and the other early literature I have mentioned. As soon as one becomes aware that questioning a person speaking in the spirit was considered unforgivable in some circles, the solution to the problem becomes obvious. It is not very palatable to some (though I imagine it can be expressed less cynically than I chose to express it), but it is obvious.

It is rather like aliens from another planet trying to figure out why pairs of humans so often share grave markers in a cemetery and then stumbling upon the knowledge that humans practice marriage. Aha!
And I think that's one problem. That Mark would include this teaching without any explanation as to why it is so extremely grave when that really is the strongest element to stand out in this teaching.
Ex hypothesi, Mark was writing as a Christian who already knew that questioning the spirit's spokesperson is unforgivable and for Christians who also knew this. He was not writing for our modern benefit.
And so that's the other thing: If the teaching originated as a practical measure, even an embarrassing one as we can agree, for the leaders of the communities needing to guard their authority, then surely they would have needed to append some theological rationale to it?
No, I do not think that is the kind of literature the Didache is. It is most often little more than a list of rules, precepts, guidelines, and commands; it very often lacks any explicit rationale for what it enjoins upon its readers. I feel certain that theological rationales existed in the early churches, but the Didache is not the kind of text to reveal what they may have been.
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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:20 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:06 pm
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:49 pm
I think you misunderstood me here, I fully understand this part of your view, I just disagree with it (first of all because I don't think the holy spirit can naturally just like that be considered a person to be blasphemed, contrary to God in 2 Kings).
What does this mean? The spirit seems to have personal agency of some kind in other parts of Mark: it descends into Jesus (1.10); it casts him into the desert (1.12); it speaks (1.11); it inspires (12.36). I am not seeing (at all) how blaspheming the spirit can be problematic as a viable concept.
Yes, it has personal agency "of some kind". As I see it, the "holy" spirit is different from the other spirits in gMark (the demons and unclean spirits), in that it's not independant of God in the way the unclean spirits and demons seem to be independant beings from Satan. I don't think we should imagine the holy spirit as a separate being which is obediant to God's will. Rather it is a direct extension of God in a way Satan's minions are not of him, like a member of one's body, but maybe you see it differently. The way I see it is that the kind of personal agency the spirit seems to have is exactly God's personal agency, not its own. It is also not like an angel who from his own accord chooses obedience to God.

And if that's the way we should understand the holy spirit, then I don't see any person to slander, no entity with its own 'good name' or 'reputation', just some intangible force of God, outside of the perception of humans. The concept of slander applies basically to persons in a social context, in that they have a 'reputation' (-φημη) which can be 'hurt' (βλασ-, βλαπτω). But as we can see, the term can be extended to the Christian teaching also, as this is in some way understood to also have a 'reputation'. This I think makes sense, because the Christian teaching is something concrete that humans can take and investigate and judge to be genuine or not. Some would wander about at the time and say that the Christian teachings are the truth, others that the Christians are full of nonsense. There's the sense of 'reputation' with regards to the Christian teachings. But the holy spirit? Who goes around and speaks badly about the holy spirit, because they think it's bad and/or they want to hurt the 'reputation' of it? Not the scribes. The very idea is bizarre, I think.

To my eye, the spirit comes across in gMark as a force, a force of God, cf. its agency in exorcisms and healings referred to as "δυναμεις". It can move things around and influence human minds. But so can bulldozers and drugs (especially in combination). And it cannot speak with a voice, obviously it is God speaking in 1:11. I think it is really hard to get a grasp on what exactly the nature is of the holy spirit, and I hardly think I'm the only one. And I think that's also a big part of why this saying has been wrestled with by interpreters through the centuries. But I think the people of Did 11:7 were interpreters, and I think they got it right.

That's why I think one has to view the holy spirit from one of its particular angles for the notion of "slandering the holy spirit" to make proper sense. And that angle, as I've tried to argue at length, is it's intimate connection with preaching/teaching the divine Christian truth which saves a human being as long as he/she believes it at the same time, i.e. if he/she accepts its divine authorship. It is about the grander aspect of the "Word" as described by Mark in the Sower, the very thing which builds and sustains the Christian community which is the kingdom-to-be. The same fundamental idea of the Word through the spirit in both in Mark 3:29 and Did 11:7.

As I've delved into this subject more and more I've found more and more things that, to me, support that proposition. I've tried to argue it, but I know that I've not made myself clear at all, that's of course my mistake. That which is dimly expressed is that which is dimly thought. However, I really do think there are some very solid arguments to line up properly some day, so that you at least understand them. I hope you don't feel that you've wasted your time, then I hope you can forgive me!

Does something even have to be a person to be blasphemed anyway? In Revelation 13.6 the tabernacle is blasphemed.
Like I said, I can see how it makes sense to talk about "slandering" the Christian teaching (1 Tim 6:1; Titus 2:5; 2 Pet 2:2 - Did 11:7? Cf. 11:10) And I think that "the holy spirit" in 3:29 is Mark's cryptic way of referring to the divine Christian teaching, which is what lies behind the exorcisms of Jesus, which the scribes don't recognize.

Can the notion of blaspheming God's tabernacle make sense? Only if we understand tabernacle in some specific way, like we have to understand the holy spirit in a specific way, as I argue. However, in Rev 13:6 I don't think there is any talk of the tabernacle (σκηνη) but instead of God's dwelling (σκηνη), i.e. in heaven, and there is an apposition which apparantly qualifies the meaning of this "dwelling" as "those who dwell in heaven":
It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven.

It is those who are blasphemed, not the concrete dwelling itself (and not the tabernacle). This notion is perhaps the same notion as in Jude 8 (and 2 Pet 2:10 which is most likely dependant on Jude 8):
Jude 8 Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones.

2 Pet 2:10 - especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. ¶ Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones,

A few manuscripts inserts an "and" in Rev 13:6, so that it's not an apposition, whereby it's not just "those who dwell in heaven" but also God's "dwelling" which is being "slandered", but I also think that's a strange notion, even though the KJV translators also has this reading.
If you think it doesn't make sense in the specific context we find in Mark 3 that this sin is unforgivable, then you must also think that Mark likewise didn't think the graveness made sense in the context in which he placed it.
I am not saying that it does not make sense. I am saying that it makes perfect sense to a readership who already knows (from personal experience in Christian meetings) that questioning the spirit's spokesperson is unforgivable.
But you are saying that the graveness doesn't make sense in the specific context of Mark 3, only in the context outside of gMark, and that's what I think is a problem. This is not just some vague statement about this and that. It's a statement that here is the one thing which angers God's feelings the most among all the many things we already know anger him. So is this a new commandment from him? To me it seems implausible that Mark would allow this strong teaching to stand without it's theological rationale: Why is this so grave - in the mind of God.
We can plainly see how different people interpret the saying so very differently when they do not have or at least do not consider that background knowledge: modern interpreters who do not consider it are in the position of guessing at why Mark says that this particular sin is unforgivable:
Or when they don't consider such things as I have presented. But I think Stein is right, for one. Because it is not just "traditional Christianity" that asserts that "only through the work of the Spirit is saving faith possible". It is also the NT writers, including Mark. From your citations, you should be able to see that here are two interpreters who are in fact on the same page, me and Stein. Although he backs it up from a view held by "traditional Christianity" rather whereas I back it up from the text of gMark. But can't you see that what Stein is saying is what I'm saying also? And as I'll argue at the end of this post, I think the author(s) of Did 11:7 is yet another interpreter who agrees with me and Stein.

The reason that everyone keeps guessing as to the meaning of the saying is because they, like me, are asking for the theological meaning, because that is exactly expected to be there when speaking about God's mind in such an extreme manner as 3:29. A practical motivation for the historical origin of the saying is one thing, but what might be the theological rationale for the saying? Why did Mark think this was so extremely important to God?
But none of these commentators is even considering the parallels in the Didache and the other early literature I have mentioned.
Again, yes, I do.
As soon as one becomes aware that questioning a person speaking in the spirit was considered unforgivable in some circles, the solution to the problem becomes obvious. It is not very palatable to some (though I imagine it can be expressed less cynically than I chose to express it), but it is obvious.
There's no evidence for that. Only one single text, purported to be written by the twelve apostles. It may be true, but even so, it doesn't solve the problem which interpreters are trying to solve: Why would God consider this sin so grave?
Ex hypothesi, Mark was writing as a Christian who already knew that questioning the spirit's spokesperson is unforgivable and for Christians who also knew this. He was not writing for our modern benefit.
Our modern concern as interpreters of gMark is the same as Mark and his fellow Christians: What does God want. And any answer to that question needs to have divine authority, i.e. revelation. When and to whom did God reveal this extremely strong feeling of his?
And so that's the other thing: If the teaching originated as a practical measure, even an embarrassing one as we can agree, for the leaders of the communities needing to guard their authority, then surely they would have needed to append some theological rationale to it?
No, I do not think that is the kind of literature the Didache is. It is most often little more than a list of rules, precepts, guidelines, and commands; it very often lacks any explicit rationale for what it enjoins upon its readers. I feel certain that theological rationales existed in the early churches, but the Didache is not the kind of text to reveal what they may have been.
I didn't mean that I think there should be a theological rationale appended to the teaching within the text of the Didache, that's not the kind of text, as you point out. I meant generally, there needed to be a rationale to go with this harsh teaching from the very beginning, and if you can't suggest any such theological rationale that may have been appended to it, then I think your explanation lacks a crucial element.





But I have a suggestion for such a rationale, and that's what I've been trying hard to explain, so let me try one more time, just for the record. The authority within the early communities of these so-called "prophets" is not just to be understood as institutional authority. Their institutional authority, which would without a doubt also have been important to protect from the 'average Joes', was fully merged with the authority which Jesus had received from God. And that authority manifests itself by the presence of the holy spirit.

It is no coincidence that in gMark Jesus gets the holy spirit at the same time he gets his authority, i.e. when God declares him to be his son, Mark 1:11. It is here Jesus gets his authority, in a proleptic measure from God before his actual royal victory over Satan at his crucifixion, where he wins that authority. But he gets it beforehand from John's baptism which is "from heaven" (Mark 11:17-33), in the same way every Christian will get it post-easter. And it is also at the baptism he gets the spirit, because those two things go hand in hand: His "authority" ("εξουσια") lies in his permission to wield the holy spirit.

His authority has to do with only one thing, his kingship, the "messiah", however his kingship is a special heavenly one because he is God's son in this special Christian sense. And everyone who submits themselves to king Jesus, or "Jesus Christ", can use his authority. Having "faith" in Jesus means willingly submitting oneself to his authority in the belief that he is one's king, the "Christ". And then they can act with his authority, 'in the name of the king', in Jesus' "name" (Mark 6:14; 9:39).

So if a Christian evidently acts by the spirit, either in exorcism (9:39) or in verbal speech (Did 11:7), that means this person acts on Jesus' divine authority from God. But all these actions by the spirit is not just some hobby activity. Wielding the spirit by Jesus' royal authority from the creator himself is part of the great eschatological war against the kingdom of Satan which will sooner or later come to its dramatic conclusion. I don't see any reason to doubt that this was also the basic understanding of the people behind Did 11.

When these prophets who are spoken of in Did 11:7 do their thing, which is among other things teaching, cf. 11:10 (also 2 Pet 2:1 where false "teachers" of the present mirror the false "prophets" of old), then they are engaged in fighting the good fight against Satan's evil influences on the minds of the humans. It is important not just to come to faith but also to cultivate the faith continually to ensure that the Christians win their own battles against Satan. Same with Jesus' teachings and exorcisms, they have everything to do with 'the saving work of the holy spirit', which is the defeat of Satan's kingdom. It's wartime.

There's the theological rationale for the graveness of the sin, explaining both the teaching in Did 11:7 and in Mark 3:29. I know there are probably some premises that I take for granted here, but I've tried now to make myself clear, and I hope that you at least understand the gist of the argument.

As I see it, this theological rationale for the teaching can explain either why the author(s) of Did 11:7 felt it could be imported from Matt 12 into that context (as I think), or why Mark felt it could be imported into his context from being an oral teaching (as you think, if I understand you correctly). And even how it could have been invented as an oral teaching motivated by not-so-pious practical needs.

If you feel we have already moved as far as we can on this subject, fair enough! ;)

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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:49 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:20 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:06 pm
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:49 pm
I think you misunderstood me here, I fully understand this part of your view, I just disagree with it (first of all because I don't think the holy spirit can naturally just like that be considered a person to be blasphemed, contrary to God in 2 Kings).
What does this mean? The spirit seems to have personal agency of some kind in other parts of Mark: it descends into Jesus (1.10); it casts him into the desert (1.12); it speaks (1.11); it inspires (12.36). I am not seeing (at all) how blaspheming the spirit can be problematic as a viable concept.
Yes, it has personal agency "of some kind". As I see it, the "holy" spirit is different from the other spirits in gMark (the demons and unclean spirits), in that it's not independent of God in the way the unclean spirits and demons seem to be independent beings from Satan. I don't think we should imagine the holy spirit as a separate being which is obedient to God's will. Rather it is a direct extension of God in a way Satan's minions are not of him, like a member of one's body, but maybe you see it differently. The way I see it is that the kind of personal agency the spirit seems to have is exactly God's personal agency, not its own. It is also not like an angel who from his own accord chooses obedience to God.

And if that's the way we should understand the holy spirit, then I don't see any person to slander, no entity with its own 'good name' or 'reputation', just some intangible force of God, outside of the perception of humans. The concept of slander applies basically to persons in a social context, in that they have a 'reputation' (-φημη) which can be 'hurt' (βλασ-, βλαπτω).
Here we just flat... disagree, I guess. I mean, not so much on the details. I agree, for example, that the spirit is an extension of God in some way. But it never would have occurred to me to think of that as a problem for the concept of "blasphemy of the spirit," nor does it occur to me now, even after paragraphs of detailed exposition on the topic. It feels like an exercise in trying to find problems where none exist.
But you are saying that the graveness doesn't make sense in the specific context of Mark 3, only in the context outside of gMark, and that's what I think is a problem.
No, it is more like I am saying that the graveness is unexplained in the specific context. It is not nonsensical for one particular sin to outrank all the others; that is a comprehensible concept. But, if one wants to know why that particular sin outranks the rest, one has to search outside of Mark. The concept itself seems to presume either previous or private knowledge (private insofar as the answer is not found in the text), just like a discussion of sin in a Catholic context might presume previous knowledge of mortal and venial sin.
But none of these commentators is even considering the parallels in the Didache and the other early literature I have mentioned.
Again, yes, I do.
Sure, you are considering it now, but your original post on this saying did not reference the Didache, and your subsequent thread OP considered it only as a counter to what I myself was saying about it. Your conclusion about the Didache was:
Because your first argument, the Sitz-im-Leben argument, i.e. that we might deduce a Sitz (and therefore prior to gMark) by using the appearance of the saying in Didache in a different context, I will dismiss flatly on the ground that I regard Didache as dependant on gMatt (I know you disagree with me on this). So for me the saying in Didache does not point to any original Sitz at all, but is instead an interpretation and usage of the saying as it appears in Matt 12:32.
I am not trying to be pedantic here; I am suggesting that your interpretation of the "blasphemy of the spirit" would probably be exactly the same as it is even if the Didache remained undiscovered. Mine, on the other hand, almost certainly would not. In my view, the information gleaned from the Didache is well nigh essential to understanding why Mark was able to call this one sin unforgivable without further explanation (both he and his readers already knew that this was the unforgivable one). In your view, as I understand it, the bit in the Didache is an explanation well after the fact, having no explanatory value as to why Mark felt he could skip an explanation. So, when I say that my view "considers" the Didache while yours does not, that is all I mean. I am not saying that you have no explanation for the Didache, so gotcha. I am saying that the Didache does not figure into the origins of the saying from your point of view.
But I think Stein is right, for one. Because it is not just "traditional Christianity" that asserts that "only through the work of the Spirit is saving faith possible". It is also the NT writers, including Mark. From your citations, you should be able to see that here are two interpreters who are in fact on the same page, me and Stein.
I agree, sort of (though Stein is speaking explicitly of personal faith, while you seem to be focusing on eschatological salvation, and the two ideas are not quite identical; they are, of course, compatible though), but I included Stein mainly because his wording ("perhaps") admits that your shared solution is a guess. Not a bad guess, so far as theological guesswork is concerned, but a guess nonetheless.

(It was too much for me to say that "nobody" is on the same page; that was an exaggeration, since obviously lots of people will read the commentaries, both ancient and modern, and then agree with one over and against another. My overall point was how diverse the various ideas necessarily are: "necessarily" because the answer is not found in Mark, and must therefore be either imagined or found elsewhere.)
The reason that everyone keeps guessing as to the meaning of the saying is because they, like me, are asking for the theological meaning, because that is exactly expected to be there when speaking about God's mind in such an extreme manner as 3:29. A practical motivation for the historical origin of the saying is one thing, but what might be the theological rationale for the saying? Why did Mark think this was so extremely important to God?
Okay, so here you are seeking the theological rationale of the saying. This endeavor on your part has confused me before, since no theological rationale is actually given, either in Mark or in the Didache (or anywhere else to my knowledge). (No historical origin is actually given, either: the scholars to whom I am indebted on this point have deduced the historical origin from the Didache.) You even pose a question which I, for one (as an agnostic atheist), am certainly not asking:
It may be true, but even so, it doesn't solve the problem which interpreters are trying to solve: Why would God consider this sin so grave?
And this endeavor on your part continues to confuse me, since you go on to write:
There's the theological rationale for the graveness of the sin, explaining both the teaching in Did 11:7 and in Mark 3:29. I know there are probably some premises that I take for granted here, but I've tried now to make myself clear, and I hope that you at least understand the gist of the argument.

As I see it, this theological rationale for the teaching can explain either why the author(s) of Did 11:7 felt it could be imported from Matt 12 into that context (as I think), or why Mark felt it could be imported into his context from being an oral teaching (as you think, if I understand you correctly). And even how it could have been invented as an oral teaching motivated by not-so-pious practical needs.
So, if this theological rationale is compatible with both scenarios and also with the purported background for at least one of them, how does it help us decide between those two scenarios? All along I have been limiting my inquiry to the issue of why Mark wrote about the unforgivable sin in the way he did; I have been arguing for one of the above scenarios as more likely than the other. Your focus on the theological rationale confused me right from the start, and it still baffles me what you think its relevance is to the question of which scenario explains the text the best, since you seem to be saying that it lines up with both scenarios.
Our modern concern as interpreters of gMark is the same as Mark and his fellow Christians: What does God want.
There is definitely a parting of ways here. "What does God want?" That is not my concern at all while interpreting Mark. Sorry, but I have no interest in what God wants. I do have an abiding interest in what Mark (and other early Christians) thought that God wants. In this case, I imagine they thought that God wants orderly Christian meetings (1 Corinthians 14.33, for example) and obedience to church authorities (lots of references), so it would be counterproductive to allow much, if any, questioning of the prophets purporting to speak by the spirit of God. So important was this principle of accepting the prophetic word that a rule was created: to question the prophets is, not only a sin, but the greatest sin. (Again, we find analogies to this kind of taboo in modern Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith churches.) Doubtless certain theological rationales were developed as for why God might enjoin such a rule upon his people, but those rationales are not extant in our available literature. Perhaps your own suggested one is correct. At any rate, since such a rationale is compatible with all of the relevant texts, it does not impugn or impact the development of the concept of the unforgivable sin that I have laid out here.
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:07 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:49 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:20 am
But you are saying that the graveness doesn't make sense in the specific context of Mark 3, only in the context outside of gMark, and that's what I think is a problem.
No, it is more like I am saying that the graveness is unexplained in the specific context. It is not nonsensical for one particular sin to outrank all the others; that is a comprehensible concept. But, if one wants to know why that particular sin outranks the rest, one has to search outside of Mark. The concept itself seems to presume either previous or private knowledge (private insofar as the answer is not found in the text), just like a discussion of sin in a Catholic context might presume previous knowledge of mortal and venial sin.
And that's one thing I find problematic. In itself. I don't think Mark would do that, because that specific teaching (1) concerns God's will and (2) is so extreme.
But none of these commentators is even considering the parallels in the Didache and the other early literature I have mentioned.
Again, yes, I do.
Sure, you are considering it now, but your original post on this saying did not reference the Didache, and your subsequent thread OP considered it only as a counter to what I myself was saying about it. Your conclusion about the Didache was:
Because your first argument, the Sitz-im-Leben argument, i.e. that we might deduce a Sitz (and therefore prior to gMark) by using the appearance of the saying in Didache in a different context, I will dismiss flatly on the ground that I regard Didache as dependant on gMatt (I know you disagree with me on this). So for me the saying in Didache does not point to any original Sitz at all, but is instead an interpretation and usage of the saying as it appears in Matt 12:32.
I am not trying to be pedantic here; I am suggesting that your interpretation of the "blasphemy of the spirit" would probably be exactly the same as it is even if the Didache remained undiscovered. Mine, on the other hand, almost certainly would not. In my view, the information gleaned from the Didache is well nigh essential to understanding why Mark was able to call this one sin unforgivable without further explanation (both he and his readers already knew that this was the unforgivable one). In your view, as I understand it, the bit in the Didache is an explanation well after the fact, having no explanatory value as to why Mark felt he could skip an explanation. So, when I say that my view "considers" the Didache while yours does not, that is all I mean. I am not saying that you have no explanation for the Didache, so gotcha. I am saying that the Didache does not figure into the origins of the saying from your point of view.
My greatest apologies here. I really thought I had written about Did 11:7 in my previous posts, because I have given it alot of thought. I don't think the bit in the Didache is 'an explanation after the fact'. Rather, I think it helps to back up my proposition, that there is an explanation to be found within gMark for the graveness, and that this explanation also applies perfectly to Did 11:7. What the scribes are doing is denying Jesus' divine authority which is evidenced by his deeds of the spirit. What Did 11:7 is talking about is denying the divine authority of the prophets which is evidenced by their deeds of the spirit: cf. 11:8-12. At the same time, of course, this also means denying their institutional authority, but that institutional authority of theirs rested solely on the divine authority they have from Jesus and evidenced by their conduct.
But I think Stein is right, for one. Because it is not just "traditional Christianity" that asserts that "only through the work of the Spirit is saving faith possible". It is also the NT writers, including Mark. From your citations, you should be able to see that here are two interpreters who are in fact on the same page, me and Stein.
I agree, sort of (though Stein is speaking explicitly of personal faith, while you seem to be focusing on eschatological salvation, and the two ideas are not quite identical; they are, of course, compatible though), but I included Stein mainly because his wording ("perhaps") admits that your shared solution is a guess. Not a bad guess, so far as theological guesswork is concerned, but a guess nonetheless.
Of course I'm speaking about personal faith, what else. I think I've used the term "the individual plane" several times. Calling my proposition a "guess" sounds like you discard all my arguments without further ado. I have arguments, actual, concrete, serious arguments, so why is my proposition just a "guess" and yours is not?
The reason that everyone keeps guessing as to the meaning of the saying is because they, like me, are asking for the theological meaning, because that is exactly expected to be there when speaking about God's mind in such an extreme manner as 3:29. A practical motivation for the historical origin of the saying is one thing, but what might be the theological rationale for the saying? Why did Mark think this was so extremely important to God?
Okay, so here you are seeking the theological rationale of the saying.
I am and every other interpreter ever. This is what it means to interpret the text. Concluding that there is no theological rationale for the graveness, as you do, that's interpretation. And concluding that there is one, that's also interpretation. And concluding that it is this and that, that's also interpretation.
This endeavor on your part has confused me before, since no theological rationale is actually given, either in Mark or in the Didache (or anywhere else to my knowledge). (No historical origin is actually given, either: the scholars to whom I am indebted on this point have deduced the historical origin from the Didache.)
Searching for a theological rationale is interpretation, exegesis. Maybe there isn't one, but you can only arrive at that conclusion, Ben, by interpretation of the text, not by the witness of the Didache alone or any other text. Apparantly, for some reason, you discard my arguments, but you must realize that this is your opinion, not an a priori fact.
You even pose a question which I, for one (as an agnostic atheist), am certainly not asking:
It may be true, but even so, it doesn't solve the problem which interpreters are trying to solve: Why would God consider this sin so grave?
I'm posing this question as an exegete, not as a believer. I don't know what I should call myself, but I'm not the least religious in any way, so there. I'm talking about the character "God" in the story of gMark. Why would God consider this sin so grave?

There's the theological rationale for the graveness of the sin, explaining both the teaching in Did 11:7 and in Mark 3:29. I know there are probably some premises that I take for granted here, but I've tried now to make myself clear, and I hope that you at least understand the gist of the argument.

As I see it, this theological rationale for the teaching can explain either why the author(s) of Did 11:7 felt it could be imported from Matt 12 into that context (as I think), or why Mark felt it could be imported into his context from being an oral teaching (as you think, if I understand you correctly). And even how it could have been invented as an oral teaching motivated by not-so-pious practical needs.
So, if this theological rationale is compatible with both scenarios and also with the purported background for at least one of them, how does it help us decide between those two scenarios?
That's a different question. Don't you see that my interest is understanding the meaning within the text. This includes with regards to a possible explanation within the text for the graveness. If you can convince me that there is no meaning within the text with regards to this explanation, then I understand the text, i.e. then I understand that there is no meaning in the text with regards to an explanation for the graveness. But for you to convince me of that, you need not merely to present another proposition, you also need to engage and refute my arguments. Because I really think I have some good arguments for what the explanation within the text is for the graveness.
All along I have been limiting my inquiry to the issue of why Mark wrote about the unforgivable sin in the way he did; I have been arguing for one of the above scenarios as more likely than the other. Your focus on the theological rationale confused me right from the start, and it still baffles me what you think its relevance is to the question of which scenario explains the text the best, since you seem to be saying that it lines up with both scenarios.
Well, the theological rationale is the 'explanation for the text', that's the kind of 'explanation of the text' that I'm searching for, the exegetical interpretation. One or the other historical scenario as to how the text came about is not the 'explanation of the text', that I'm searching for.

But as you know, since I regard Did 11:7 as dependant on Matt 12, that's not even a question for me here. I'm looking for the exegetical interpretation. If that interpretation includes that there is no theological rationale in the text, ok, fine, I'm happy. But I think I have found it.

Our modern concern as interpreters of gMark is the same as Mark and his fellow Christians: What does God want.
There is definitely a parting of ways here. "What does God want?" That is not my concern at all while interpreting Mark. Sorry, but I have no interest in what God wants. I do have an abiding interest in what Mark (and other early Christians) thought that God wants. In this case, I imagine they thought that God wants orderly Christian meetings (1 Corinthians 14.33, for example) and obedience to church authorities (lots of references), so it would be counterproductive to allow much, if any, questioning of the prophets purporting to speak by the spirit of God. So important was this principle of accepting the prophetic word that a rule was created: to question the prophets is, not only a sin, but the greatest sin. (Again, we find analogies to this kind of taboo in modern Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith churches.) Doubtless certain theological rationales were developed as for why God might enjoin such a rule upon his people, but those rationales are not extant in our available literature. Perhaps your own suggested one is correct.
Again, I mean asking this question as an exegete: What did the author of gMark think God wants. I believe that's the basic question all along, but nevermind that.

Your right, they definately imagined that God would want orderly Christian meetings. But that fact in itself hardly explains the graveness theologically. Did they really think that order in the organisation was the single most important thing for God, more important than anything else?
At any rate, since such a rationale is compatible with all of the relevant texts, it does not impugn or impact the development of the concept of the unforgivable sin that I have laid out here.
I agree completely! If I want to argue that it originated with Mark (which I don't necessarily want), then I need completely different arguments. I'm just saying, that I conclude that the rationale fits all the relevant texts. Including Mark's. But thereby I also conclude that it is possible that it originated with Mark, which would not be so clear cut if I didn't think the rationale was there in his text.

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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:27 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:07 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:49 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:20 am
But you are saying that the graveness doesn't make sense in the specific context of Mark 3, only in the context outside of gMark, and that's what I think is a problem.
No, it is more like I am saying that the graveness is unexplained in the specific context. It is not nonsensical for one particular sin to outrank all the others; that is a comprehensible concept. But, if one wants to know why that particular sin outranks the rest, one has to search outside of Mark. The concept itself seems to presume either previous or private knowledge (private insofar as the answer is not found in the text), just like a discussion of sin in a Catholic context might presume previous knowledge of mortal and venial sin.
And that's one thing I find problematic. In itself. I don't think Mark would do that, because that specific teaching (1) concerns God's will and (2) is so extreme.
This one is easy enough. I just simply disagree. I find it perfectly plausible that Mark would not explain why this particular sin is unforgivable, since ex hypothesi both he and his readers knew about the unforgivable sin in advance. I doubt any progress can be made on this point, since we approach things so differently when it comes to what Mark would or would not have, must or must not have done.
My greatest apologies here. I really thought I had written about Did 11:7 in my previous posts, because I have given it alot of thought.
No problem at all. I was just reacting to my perception, whether right or wrong, that Didache 11.7 could be vanished out of existence and your explanation would remain unchanged.
I don't think the bit in the Didache is 'an explanation after the fact'. Rather, I think it helps to back up my proposition, that there is an explanation to be found within gMark for the graveness, and that this explanation also applies perfectly to Did 11:7. What the scribes are doing is denying Jesus' divine authority which is evidenced by his deeds of the spirit. What Did 11:7 is talking about is denying the divine authority of the prophets which is evidenced by their deeds of the spirit: cf. 11:8-12.
Why does denying the divine authority of Jesus or of the prophets amount to the one and only unforgivable sin? Why not, say, suggest that killing the son of God is unforgivable?
Calling my proposition a "guess" sounds like you discard all my arguments without further ado. I have arguments, actual, concrete, serious arguments, so why is my proposition just a "guess" and yours is not?
I am happy to call my proposition (which, again, is not actually "mine," but rather comes from certain scholars' work on the topic) a "guess," to the extent that the outcome is not expressly stated in any text. It is a hypothesis, which can be and has often been called an "educated guess." So I can say that both of our propositions are "educated guesses." But yes, there is a sense in which I discard your arguments "without further ado," because if my guess is correct, then your guess hardly matters for the issue which I am investigating. That is, if the notion of the unforgivable sin was initially formulated in order to protect the prophets of the church from criticism, then any and all theological explanations for why that sin must be regarded as unforgivable are, by definition, rationalizations after the fact. Those theological explanations are ruled out as the reason why the rule was created in the first place.

A fit analogy might be Paul's theological and scriptural reasoning for believers supporting their leaders financially in 1 Corinthians 9.7-12. If the poster named Robert J. on this forum is correct in one of his more extreme views, then Paul's entire enterprise was basically a moneymaking scheme, and any and all theological reasoning for the necessity of financial support for one's spiritual leaders thus falls into the "after the fact" category. The real reason for the theologizing would be the monetary scheme, the actual theological reasons given being afterthoughts. I happen not to agree with Robert J. on this point, by the way, at least not yet; I suspect that Paul was sincere in his endeavor overall. But I readily admit that Robert's hypothesis undercuts mine in the sense that, if his is correct, then all of my speculations about the theological concerns lying behind the Pauline concept of monetary support for spiritual leadership become instantly secondary to the true historical origins of the "rule" that people ought to give money to their leaders. As soon as Robert is deemed correct, it is no longer a matter of Paul meditating on the scriptures one fine morning and coming to the unbiased conclusion that financial support for one's leaders is the divine will; rather, the primary motivation was personal gain, not scriptural authority.

That said, and quite independently from how my guess undercuts yours, I also think that my guess is a better guess than yours on its own merits, at least partly because it is easier to deduce my point from Didache 11.7 than it is to deduce yours from the entirety of the gospel of Mark. There is less guesswork involved in suggesting, based on Didache 11.7, that spiritual leaders might be protecting themselves from criticism, because that kind of self interest is a universal human experience not dependent upon any particular theological concern.

Also, if one seeks a theological explanation from Mark, then there are multiple options available. If one seeks a sociological/historical explanation from the Didache, however, I think the explanation suggests itself. It is immediately understandable why religious leaders might wish to protect their prophetic pronouncements from questioning.
Okay, so here you are seeking the theological rationale of the saying.
I am and every other interpreter ever.
I do not believe this to be true. I believe J. D. Crossan, for example, agrees with the basic trajectory I have sketched out, and there is no theological rationalization necessary.
This is what it means to interpret the text. Concluding that there is no theological rationale for the graveness, as you do, that's interpretation.
I agree. And yes, that is my interpretation so far as the origin of the saying is concerned. I do not doubt that theological rationalizations for the rule arose at some point after the fact.
And concluding that there is one, that's also interpretation.
Yes, and this is yours.
And concluding that it is this and that, that's also interpretation.
Yes, and this is one that I have no need of, by definition, because I do not think that it originally existed. I do, as I said before, imagine that it was probably added at various points, in order to answer questions and objections, but it does not survive in our earliest texts.
I'm posing this question as an exegete, not as a believer. I don't know what I should call myself, but I'm not the least religious in any way, so there.
I apologize. I did not originally take you to be religious, but the way you were writing in that last post was so consistently eliminating the middleman that it sounded like you were trying to discern God's will. I was not sure how to respond.
So, if this theological rationale is compatible with both scenarios and also with the purported background for at least one of them, how does it help us decide between those two scenarios?
That's a different question.
And yet that is the only question I have been considering: the origin of the concept of the unforgivable sin. Was somebody meditating on the holiness of God when suddenly it became clear to him or her that questioning the messenger was tantamount to indicting the divine authority, and that to do so thwarts forgiveness? Or was somebody trying to protect the interests of the prophets who regularly issued pronouncements in the meetings and/or the interests of keeping good order within those meetings?
Don't you see that my interest is understanding the meaning within the text.
I think so, but do you not see that, in this case, my interest is understanding the origin of the concept behind the text? (And "behind the text" here could mean either in the author's thinking or in the church's history. I hold with that second option, but the first was not ruled out arbitrarily.)
This includes with regards to a possible explanation within the text for the graveness. If you can convince me that there is no meaning within the text with regards to this explanation, then I understand the text, i.e. then I understand that there is no meaning in the text with regards to an explanation for the graveness. But for you to convince me of that, you need not merely to present another proposition, you also need to engage and refute my arguments. Because I really think I have some good arguments for what the explanation within the text is for the graveness.
I will take a look again at your arguments and will try to get back to you on this, but again, it seemed right from the start to me that an entire theological template had been laid out over Mark from above, forging connections and propositions that never probably occurred to Mark himself. But I will give it another go.
Your right, they definitely imagined that God would want orderly Christian meetings. But that fact in itself hardly explains the graveness theologically. Did they really think that order in the organisation was the single most important thing for God, more important than anything else?
Yes, when preserving that order also happened to shield the religious leaders from criticism, why not? Again, there are analogies. There are modern preachers who have asserted that their critics, for example, merely by subjecting their claims to scrutiny, have damned themselves for all eternity. You write as if applying the concept of the unforgivable sin to the questioning of religious leaders is a weakness of my claim, but that is clearly not the case. That is one of its strengths; that is what makes it so eminently understandable, especially in this kind of charismatic religious context. The idea that religious leaders would make questioning their own claims the most serious offense against God is so incredibly understandable psychologically and historically that I am not sure why I would have to defend it.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Is "blasphemy against the holy spirit" a Markan invention?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:35 am

If you look at the history of the gospel of Mark (especially as outlined in Clement - however you want 'Clement's testimony' to be defined) there is a sense that Mark's gospel relates to something written or said by Peter but where Mark did not simply 'carbon copy' the gospel of Peter. Leaving the Letter to Theodore to the side for the moment, there is the same sense in Clement's testimony that Peter neither approved nor rejected the gospel of Mark when he heard it. To some degree then Mark is the product of 'actual history' + 'spiritual interpretation' on the part of the author/redactor of the various versions of Mark (assuming again that Mark is related to Peter but not 'the gospel of Peter'). To that sense it makes perfect sense that the redactor/author added the bit about 'blaspheming the holy spirit' because in the end his work was a spiritual composition - i.e. not simply a translation or transcription of the gospel of Peter. In other words, he's saying 'anyone who denies my (spiritual) insight is blaspheming my source - viz. the Holy Spirit.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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