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Explain the use of Old Testament texts in the Passion Narratives you have studied by examining the theological intentions of the evangelists. To what extent does this make the narratives unreliable as historical sources.

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Introduction

Explain the use of Old Testament texts in the Passion Narratives you have studied by examining the theological intentions of the evangelists. To what extent does this make the narratives unreliable as historical sources. Adaptation or redaction of the chronology of events by the evangelists to stress their underlying theological ideas can render sections of their gospels totally useless from a historical perspective, but far more valuable from a theological perspective. When addressing the issue of historical accuracy our main method of identifying theological adaptations is via a process of establishing the main intentions of the relevant evangelist and then attempting to assert where the gospel has been altered to reinforce the underlying themes. Old Testament allusions or direct quotation can be useful as they allow us to see more clearly where the evangelist wishes to stress, or in some way verify, the ideas contained in the gospel and in some cases make the ideas more lucid. For the purposes of this question it may be helpful to examine each gospel individually, making fundamental differences apparent which is where it is most plausible redaction has occurred, and hence establish some form of judgement on historical accuracy. In Mark's gospel the narrative is intriguingly different from the rest of the gospel in that it does not bear the characteristic 'piropi' or small joining phrases which would imply a synthesis of sources. ...read more.

Middle

The false testimony in 14v57 is mentioned extensively in the Psalms at 27v12, 35v11 and 109v25. The idea of a false testimony to some extent serves a double purpose in that it not only helps with the idea of Jesus' innocence but also serves to reaffirm ideas of Jewish culpability and hence to some extent exonerates the Roman authorities. This is another prominent theme in Mark's gospel, which potentially could affect historical accuracy. John's gospel places theological emphasis on different issues. Most obvious is the relative irrelevance of the suffering theme, upon which Mark lavishes such attentions. While Mark uses extensive and regular description of the suffering endured by Christ John is satisfied to explain this aspect of Jesus' death in a short 3 verse summary at the very beginning of chapter 19. Also the incident at Gethsemane (Agony in the Garden) is treated in a drastically different fashion by John. John seems keen to convey that Jesus was aware of his duty and was in perfect and constant unity with God. This difference of theological opinion is lucidly apparent when we one considers the last words uttered by Jesus in the two respective gospels. Mark's finishes with 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' implying feelings of both confusion and betrayal. This is not the case at all in John's gospel where the theme is much more one of completion of duty and responsibility, Jesus' dying words are 'It is finished' or 'It is completed' due to variations in translation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Later editors may have felt some need to add Old Testament proof texts to authenticate the document and this could be a partial explanation for why this theme is mainly confined to the Passion Narrative and does not feature very prominently outside of this section of the gospel. When examining the two narratives together it becomes clear that although the documents follow much the same general chronology of events there are important omissions and additions. These two aspects of the both gospels, we must assume, are theological devices. Indeed, it is quite clear that the emphasis is placed on radically different theologies regarding Jesus' death. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to pass a judgement on the historical accuracy of these documents given that they are the only two sources from the period we have studied. To make any valuable or worthwhile assessment on historical accuracy one would presume the wisest option would be to consult a large number of sources and attempt to identify which events are common to all or most sources. What one can obtain from the study of these two documents is that both evangelists were prepared to edited and place emphasis unequally in order to clarify the theological point they are attempting to convey and for this reason we must be wary of their historical accuracy and try to first assert that no theological motivation lies behind the account with which we are presented. ...read more.

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