Part B Of My Exploration And Application of Robyn Faith Walsh’s Book Has Been Published

ABSTRACT: This is Part B of a three-part literary application and defense of Robyn Faith Walsh’s recent (2021) hypothesis that the Gospels are not, as is usually thought, the product of literate spokespersons conveying the oral tradition of their community, but rather are birthed out of networks of elite Greco-Roman-Jewish writers in dialogue with one another, not downtrodden illiterate peasants. For example, what if the empty tomb narrative did not originate in the oral tradition of a Christian community, but in empty tomb apotheosis narratives that the author had read from ancient novels like that of Chariton? As a literary test of a hypothesis, I ask what predictions we can make of the kinds of concepts that we should find in the New Testament on Walsh’s literary elite education model, compared to what we should find if the oral tradition model is correct. I show that Walsh’s approach is certainly plausible and makes good sense of the evidence, such as pervasive intertextual haggadic midrash (Jewish) and mimesis (Greek) going on in writing the Gospels, which seems less likely on the “oral tradition of the community” hypothesis. In other words, what sorts of predictions about the text can we make to test Walsh’s hypothesis? If the writers are the product of elite Greco-Roman education (paideia), then certainly the hallmarks of such an education should be visible in the writing. New Testament Jewish intertextuality can be explained away by claiming an oral culture where everyone just has the scriptures memorized (though why a peasant farmer would have the time or inclination to do such a thing is unclear), but what if there was an equal amount of Greco-Roman intertextuality in the New Testament (as Dennis MacDonald has long argued)? And how might this kind of elite Greco-Roman Jewish-educated writer make us rethink core issues, like Jewish polysemy techniques/puzzles in reading the New Testament? My aim is not to extensively recapitulate or assess Walsh’s presentation, but to see if the New Testament writers were experts in Greco-Roman/Jewish literary practices and were sophistically engaging in the content from those traditions beyond what one might expect from a mere literate member of a community enshrining oral traditions about Jesus. Walsh’s critique of the community oral tradition model is important because that model is what bridges the gap from the opaque period of Jesus’ life and death in the 30s through Paul (who is silent on the details of Jesus’ life) to the destruction of the Temple in the 70s, when Mark’s gospel appears. A few bare details aside, without this chain of sources, reconstruction of the events of Jesus’ life is essentially impossible.