Did some gospel accounts begin as church plays?

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Skeptic44, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. Skeptic44

    Skeptic44 New Member

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    According to most sources, the Gospel accounts were written (in part) in response to the popularity of Paul's letters. Peter gave a sermon in Rome and after he left, the church there asked Mark to write down what Peter had said....

    I think there was another source for some of the stories. I think the early churches wrote plays about Jesus and performed them for new converts before the gospels were written. The plays were so popular and the lines so well known that they were written into the gospel accounts.... one of them by Luke, a man who said he used several existing sources to prepare his gospel.

    Doesn't this sound like a play that would be performed in a church?


    Luke 2:1
    And it came to pass in those days, there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world be enrolled - this enrollment first came to pass when Cyrenius was governor of Syria -- and all were going to be enrolled, each to his proper city, and Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, that is called Bethlehem, because of his being of the house and family of David, to enroll himself with Mary his betrothed wife, being with child.

    Luke 2:6
    And it came to pass, in their being there, the days were fulfilled for her bringing forth,

    Luke 2:7
    and she brought forth her son -- the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.

    Luke 2:8
    And there were shepherds in the same region, lodging in the field, and keeping the night-watches over their flock,
    ___________

    Here's the line I like best. Imagine a narrator reading this from behind the stage, as the actors take their places. The messenger wears a white robe and steps out center-stage.
    _________________

    Luke 2:9
    and lo, a messenger of the Lord stood over them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they feared a great fear.

    Luke 2:10
    And the messenger said to them, 'Fear not, for lo, I bring you good news of great joy, that shall be to all the people -- because there was born to you to-day a Saviour -- who is Christ the Lord -- in the city of David,
    and this [is] to you the sign: Ye shall find a babe wrapped up, lying in the manger.'
    ________________

    We could add a chorus. Other actors join in, humming.
    ____________________

    Luke 2:13
    And suddenly there came with the messenger a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,

    Luke 2:14
    'Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men -- good will.'

    Luke 2:15
    And it came to pass, when the messengers were gone away from them to the heavens, that the men, the shepherds, said unto one another, 'We may go over indeed unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that hath come to pass, that the Lord did make known to us.'

    Luke 2:16
    And they came, having hasted, and found both Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger,

    Luke 2:17
    and having seen, they made known abroad concerning the saying spoken to them concerning the child.

    Luke 2:18
    And all who heard, did wonder concerning the things spoken by the shepherds unto them;

    Luke 2:19
    and Mary was preserving all these things, pondering in her heart;

    Luke 2:20
    and the shepherds turned back, glorifying and praising God, for all those things they heard and saw, as it was spoken unto them.

    Luke 2:21
    And when eight days were fulfilled to circumcise the child, then was his name called Jesus, having been so called by the messenger before his being conceived in the womb.

    Luke 2:22
    And when the days of their purification were fulfilled, according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present to the Lord,

    Luke 2:23
    as it hath been written in the Law of the Lord, -- 'Every male opening a womb shall be called holy to the Lord,'
     
  2. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Here's you're displaying very anachronistic thinking - the play as we have it in modern times is very different from what it was during the time of the Roman Empire. It was a very differently structured affair, and never involved more a couple of different actors and a chorus. Although there was room for a narrator (there were certainly variations - innovations, if you like - pioneered by the Greeks), your perception does seem quite flawed. (Apologies - I'm a little rusty on Greek theatre - been a few years).

    More likely, the heart of your argument is merely that there'ss an oral source for the Gospels - a typically Eusebian idea!

    Also note that you are being critical of the English - I hope you're quite aware that that the New Testament was primarily writtern in Ancient Greek - which means that at best your criticisms are rounded on the translators, not the actual source itself.
     
  3. Skeptic44

    Skeptic44 New Member

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    I wasn't critical of the English.

    I said the announcement of the messenger was so emotional, so polished, it seems to me that it was written and re-written as dialogue performed in front of an audience.

    Luke 2:9
    and lo, a messenger of the Lord stood over them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they feared a great fear.

    And the messenger said to them,

    'Fear not, for lo, I bring you good news of great joy, that shall be to all the people -- because there was born to you to-day a Saviour -- who is Christ the Lord -- in the city of David, and this [is] to you the sign: Ye shall find a babe wrapped up, lying in the manger.'

    Luke 2:13
    And suddenly there came with the messenger a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men -- good will.'

    So, the text says that "suddenly" there was - well, what I would call a chorus - multiple voices all reciting the refrain, "Glory to God in the highest."

    This seems IMO to be a description of a play that was so familiar, people assumed it was part of the history.

    think about this: when you're reading a history, how many times does the author tell you that suddenly there were a chorus of voices singing the praises of a hero?

    The greater picture is, the Gospel of Mark was one of Luke's sources.

    Luke says that he used other sources and placed the events in order, to compose a single document about Christianity.

    If Luke had another document - the text of a play - he might not have known its' origin. But he thought the language was beautiful and wanted to include it.

    "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth to all men..."

    A great message. All we know is that Luke found it written somewhere, but we don't know where.
     

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