028 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 028 Before the Angels in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

Crossan Inventory | 028 Literature | 028 Parallels | 028 Commentary | 028 Poetry | 028 Images | 028 Synopsis


John Dominic Crossan

Crossan discusses this cluster in Historical Jesus, pages 247-49, as part of a larger treatment of the apocalyptic Son of Man in early Christianity.

He begins by citing Ernst Kasemann's work on "sentences of holy law" in NT writings [in New Testament Questions of Today Fortress Press, 1969. Pages 66-81]. Negative examples of such apocalyptic sanctions can be found in 1 Cor 3:17a; 14:38; 16:22a; Gal 1:9; and Rev 22:18-19, but they also are found in both negative and positive styles among the cluster of the early Jesus tradition: 060 Measure for Measure [1/3], 118 Judgment for Judgment [1/2], 370 Mercy for Mercy [3/2], 382 Gift for Gift [3/2], 441 Condemnation for Condemnation [3/1], 481 Action for Action [3/1] and 482 Kindness for Kindness [3/1].

Apocalyptic sanctions were threats and/promises that related the believer's future treatment by God to their own behavior during their lives, and their power derived from the prospect of an imminent parousia rather than individual death.

In this case, Crossan suggests the following reconstruction of the original Q version:

Every one who acknowledges me before men will be acknowledged before the angels of my Father;
but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of my Father.

After considering the persistent passive across the various versions of this saying, Crossan concludes that it has passed trough three successive stages:

1. The first used a consistent passive voice and is recoverable as a doubled aphorism in Q.

2. The next stage (Matt 10:32-33; 2Tim 2:12b; Rev 3:5c) moved from passive constructions to Jesus himself, as either "I" or "he".

3. Finally Mark 8:38 introduced the "Son of Man" into a single positive version of the saying, a usage Luke was to adopt when using the Q version of the saying.

International Q Project

The IQP reconstruction reads:

Anyone who [may] speak out for me in public,

[the son of humanity] will also speak out for him before the angels ...

But whoever may deny me in public [will be] den[ied] before the angels ...

Jesus Seminar

The voting of the Seminart on this item was as follows:

  • Luke 12:8-9
  • Matt 10:32-33
  • 2Clem 3:2
  • Mark 8:38
  • Matt 16:27
  • Luke 9:26
  • 2Tim 2:12b

The brief commentary in The Five Gospels (p. 80) notes that this saying is found in "two versions, the one recorded by Mark 8:38 and parallels ... and the other preserved by Q (Matt 10:32-33//Luke12:8-9). The first promises shame for shame. The second is given a legal twist: acknowledgment for acknowledgment, denial for denial. It is unclear which version is earlier, or whether the Q version even mentioned 'the son of Adam' ..."

In both versions Jesus is identified with the apocalyptic son of Adam coming in power, and the fate of those to whom he comes at the End is directly related to the way in which they treated him in the meantime. This does seem to reflect the influence of Daniel 7:13-14, which reads:

As I looked on, in a night vision, one like a human being came with the clouds of heaven; he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented to him. /14/ Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; all peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingship one that will not be destroyed.

As the voting results indicate, very few Fellows of the Jesus Seminar considered that this cluster had its origins as a saying of Jesus. Most were persuaded that this saying was created by the early Jesus movement as it faced rejection of its mission and message, and as it came to interpret Jesus in apocalyptic categories such as those provided by Daniel and 1 Enoch.

Gerd Luedemann

Luedemann [Jesus], (344) states " this is a prophetic admonition from the post-Easter community. For it, Jesus and the Son of man were 'identical in the future: Jesus will return in the near future as the Son of man with the clouds of heaven. In his earthly life he was not yet the Son of man, since he will come to judgment only with the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7.13f) at the end of days' (Haenchen)."