A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth
Trouble in Paradise? Helmut Koester was a Liberal!
By Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) - April 16, 2018
Image result for Helmut Koester
Helmut Koester 1926-2016
Much of the arguments that I make on this blog revolve around the basic concept that I call "PMPN" (pre Mark Passion Narrative). It is a particular document but it is also a hypothetical constrict like Q. The important thing about this notion is that it includes the empty tomb. Helmut Koester and John D. Crosson say it ends with the empty tomb: Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that "this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE." Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century! Both scholars dated the document about AD 50. This is a powerful testimony to the truth of the resurrection because it means the empty tomb was not invented byMark, it existed well before mark was written. It also means it was preached very early in the history of the Kyrigma, (the preached gospel). The problem is some atheist apologists think they have the death blow to this argument,So let's examine that.
The death blow is that they have a quote from a scholar saying that Helmut Koester, my major source on the PMPN, believed that the empty tomb was made up. Koester's theory says that Christians were venerating Jesus' tomb prior to AD 66 when they were forced to leave Jerusalem due to the revolt against Rome. When they came back they had to explain why non one was venerating Jesus' tomb. They said it's because it's empty. Now he points out in his view, it's empty not because he rose but possibly for any number of reasons, including they took the body with them when they split town. He also mentions other possibilities. That was in 66. By the time Mark was written they Incorporated the empty tomb as an apologetic device into the Gospel narrative. At this point, in the heat of message board battle, they start trying to shame me. O my major source says it I have to accept it. If he right about the one thing (PMN and it;s date) how could he not be right about the other?
First let's set some boundaries, if one quotes a source because said source is expert in some area and one is documenting a point with in the domain of that source's expertise one is not then obligated to believe everything the source said. This is especially true if one considers things beyond the expertise of that source. Dating the probable writing of a hypothetical source is is much different from expressing a conjecture about the resurrection. Koester was an expert in Biblical scholarship no one is an expert in the resurrection. No expert can tell us Jesus did or did not raise from the dead. Dating the PMPN is a matter of scientific investigation. Textual criticism is a science. It is tied to physical evidence (reading Manuscripts). not believing in the resurrection is an opinion.
Nor am I shocked to know that Koester did not believe in the resurrection. He studied under Rudolf Bultmann so it was to be expected,even though Craig studied with a guy (Kasemann) who also studied under Bultmann (Craig was Bultmann's "grand student"). Be that as it may I expected as much from Koester. I am not shocked nor does it dampen my faith. In fact it strengthens my position in terms of the argument, since Koester is less likely to support the early date for empty tomb for religious reasons. Since it actually supports a position contrary to his view he is less likely to argue for that position out of bias.
There is an important contradiction between Koester's exploitation of the creation of the empty tomb and his statement about the PMPN. The two come almost ten years apart. His theory places the the beginning of talk about an empty tomb after AD 66 and yet his statement about the PMPN dates the document around AD 50.(see FN1). So in that almost ten years he apparently changed his mind about the theory of invention. The really significant thing to note is the PMPN negates his whole theory because that theory depends upon the disruption of Christian life in Jerusalem as related to the Jewish revolt. But the PMPN comes about 20 years earlier, it misses that whole process of leaving town.
Koester clearly states that the PMPN ends with the empty tomb, He says it more than once:
A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source....Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based.
He is saying the four gospels draw upon the same source for passion narrative and empty tomb but the individual sightings of the release Jesus come from a variety of different source; yet in saying this he clearly says: "Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." [ibid]
Many scholars agree with Koester,certainly Crosson did. Gerd Theissen supports it and argues vociferously for it, Reginald Fuller.The PMPN remains consensus in the field: "the idea of a pre-Markan passion narrative continues to seem probable to a majority of scholars."Perhaps the most noteworthy source of agreement is the Catholic Scholar Raymond Brown. While he does not necessarily speak of the PMPN as particular document he clearly believed there were sources prior to Mark that spoke of the resurrection and the empty tomb.
Brown, who built his early reputation on study of GPet, follows the sequence of narrative in GPet and compares it in very close reading with that of the canonical Gospels. He finds that GPet is not dependent upon the canonical, although it is closer in the order of events to Matt/Mark rather than to Luke and John.
GPet follow the classical flow from trail through crucifixion to burial to tomb presumably with post resurrectional appearances to follow. The GPet sequence of individual episodes, however, is not the same as that of any can canonical Gospel...When one looks at the overall sequence in the 23 items I listed in table 10, it would take very great imagination to picture the author of GPet studying Matthew carefully, deliberately shifting episodes around and copying in episodes form Luke and John to produce the present sequence.
"In the Canonical Gospel's Passion Narrative we have an example of Matt. working conservatively and Luke working more freely with the Marcan outline and of each adding material: but neither produced an end product so radically diverse from Mark as GPet is from Matt."
"I shall contend that the author of Gospel of Peter drew not only on Matthew but on an independent form of the guard-at-the-sepulcher story, and in GPet 8:28-11:49 the basic story is still found consecutively (even if the details in the story are modified by later developments.)" 
Finally, Koester;s theory was wrong bcasue they they did venerate the tomb n the first century they never lost tack of it. This is too complex to go into herelIrefer thereader to my two part essay on the matter.[12
Here is a source that understands Brown the way I read him to see GPet as using an early independent source not connected to Mark but equally old or older,Ron Cameron argues that the Gospel of Peter is independent of the canonical four (The Other Gospels, pp. 77-8):
Identification of the sources of the Gospel of Peter is a matter of considerable debate. However, the language used to portray the passion provides a clue to the use of sources, the character of the tradition, and the date of composition. Analysis reveals that the passion narrative of the Gospel of Peter has been composed on the basis of references to the Jewish scriptures. The Gospel of Peter thus stands squarely in the tradition of exegetical interpretation of the Bible. Its sources of the passion narrative is oral tradition, understood in the light of scripture, interpreted within the wisdom movement. This accords with what we know of the confessions of the earliest believers in Jesus: in the beginning, belief in the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was simply the conviction that all this took place "according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3-5). In utilizing scriptural references to compose the work, the Gospel of Peter shows no knowledge of the special material distinctive to each of the four gospels now in the New Testament. The developed apologetic technique typical of the Gospel of Matthew and of Justin (a church writer who lived in the middle of the second century), which seeks to demonstrate a correspondence between so-called prophetic "predictions" in the scriptures and their "fulfillments" in the fate of Jesus, is lacking. The use of quotation formulas to introduce scriptural citations is also absent.
 Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, London. Oxford, New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2nd prt. edition, 1992, 218.
 James D.G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus. Louisville, Kentucky: The Westminster Press, 1985,77.
 Jesus The Evidence (episode 3) Video. published you tube (May 11,2012) begin frame 12:08
Caveat: this source is a very heavy handed anti- Christian propaganda of the dying rising savior God-copy cat savior kind,
 Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, op cit,220.
 Ibid, 218
 Peter Kiby, "The Passion Narrative," Early Christian Writings, (updated April 2018)
Peter Kirby is an atheist,a talented amateur he does not an advanced degree of which I am aware he did do some seminary I believe, He is a fine researcher.
 Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, Anchor Bible; Box edition (February 1, 1994)1322
 Ibid, 1325
 Ibid., 1287
Joseph Hinman, "Have Tomb Will Argue," The Religious a prori (No date given) website
13 Rod Cameron, lThe other Gospels: Non Canonical Gospel Texts. Louisville, Kentucky:Westminster John Knox Press; 1st edition (January 1, 1982 77-78.