Adding Stories to the Jesus Narrative: Truth or Lie?

I. Stories attributed to Jesus continued to circulate and be ascribed to him long after his death

A. The criterion of appropriateness

1. New Testament writers like Matthew ascribed sayings to Jesus which fit their own circumstances

2. In the ancient world, students of a sage collected his sayings in their schools

3. These sayings were regarded as distilled wisdom

4. Other sayings, similar to the type attributed to the sage, could be added if they were "like" the ones known to be by him

B. The criterion of ethos

1. Sages were judged by the correspondence between what they said and what they did

2. Sayings could be added that represented the sage's character (ethos)

3. Students used these sayings to create biographies

4. Did the saying fit the character of the sage?

C. The criterion of effective speech (rhetoric)

1. One could compose a speech-in-character for someone else if it were "as they would say it"

2. Would the speech encourage conformity to the sage's character?

3. People believed that recital of sayings would eventually reproduce character in the reader

II. Methods of learning in the ancient world

A. Mimesis (copying and imitation)

1. By imitating the character of someone who was known for his good character and wisdom, you can make his character your own

2. One way to do that is through active dialog (conversatio) with the words of a sage

3. Developing character is what counted, not individual personality

4. Conversatio as a vehicle for ethos

B. Loyalty to Jesus expressed through loyalty to his sayings

1. His ethos, however, could change over time

2. New sayings could be added that were thought to represent his ethos

3. People invented (or attributed) appropriate speeches in character as they understood his ethos

III. Some Possible Evolutions of Jesus's Ethos

A. The Cynic who challenges the status quo

1. Challenges social standards

2. But no attempt to reform society or convert others to a different social standard

3. Expectation of the end of this world as we know it

B. Codification of this kind of ethos by followers

1. Imperatives for living generated

2. Sense of expansion of the movement

3. Still un-reformist, apocalyptic in view

C. Social conflict

1. Judgment language

2. Prophetic pronouncements against those in opposition

3. Arguments over the right way of expressing Jesus's ethos

D. Origin myths developed

1. Jesus becomes authorizing figure for human history

2. As such, possesses foreknowledge of events

3. Jesus himself quotes scriptures, is part of Jewish piety

4. Jesus is aligned with figures of the past: the prophets, angelic figures