We have been making progress in understanding how the Gospels were edited by Ananias. That insight has been driving a bunch of updates to the various TT related apps. In this post I explain how we are thinking about this problem.
We have long known from Acts 15 about the various OT editors. The NT writers wanted us to know them and how they think so that we as readers could reason about and avoid their work.
Each of those editors had an agenda that can be identified. So avoiding their nefarious work falls out directly from the Acts 15 clues.
The New Testament (NT) was edited after the Jerusalem Council was recorded in Acts 15, so there are no specific directions given there about how to handle the NT. So finding NT edits is often harder. Especially because the NT editing in the gospels usually involved duplicating stories rather than writing new stories. (Mark being the exception.) This is a peculiar feature of the Gospel editing style that we need to understand.
We have long identified Ananias as the primary NT editor. This is the same Ananias that gave a prophetic word over Paul to receive his sight. This happened in Damascus after Paul's encounter with Joshua on the Damascus Road.
Ananias was a disciple of Joshua at that time, and able to take direction for the prophetic word over Paul. Most Christians today that you are likely to run into would not be able to do such a thing, so we can deduce the seriousness of Ananias' early prophetic walk.
This prophetic word over Paul is the backdrop to Paul's later encounter with Ananias as High Priest in Jerusalem. Paul could not imagine this would be the same person thus Paul's exclamation that he did not know Ananias was High Priest.
Like Judas, Ananias' life path was one of serious betrayal of Joshua.
Are these stories about Ananias enough to build a set of rules equivalent to the other editors? So we can identify his handiwork? Perhaps. Let me explain.
The first point in this discussion is that Ananias most likely learned as an early disciple that there were identifiable differences between inspired text and the material originating with the earlier editors. This difference is fundamental to Joshua' primary message, that the text passed publicly by history is not what Joshua originally inspired.
So, when it became Ananias' time to edit the gospels he needed some way to avoid an obvious editor fingerprint in his edits. The early readers of the edited Gospels would have spotted such an editing style immediately.
The trick of copying stories around within the gospel material handles this problem easily. Though at times there are very subtle differences in details, most of the key stories themselves actually happened. So as an editor his hand in the work cannot be easily deduced by readers.
This is why our work in finding the inspired stories in the Gospels has been so difficult. Identifying edits in the Gospels does not usually work by the normal rules of additions given in Acts 15. This is in stark contrast to the way editors of Moses' can be readily spotted by careful readers.
Edits later on, say in Paul's writings, are more conventional, and can be spotted via the Acts 15 rules. These edits may have been done by someone else, not Ananias himself. Or, those edits may have been done by Ananias late in life.
If late in his own life he may have realized he had won, or he no longer had the same audience. The pattern of edits in the Epistles, though still difficult, are easier to solve.
Only someone like Ananias who knew the game could come up with the trick of duplication to hide the inspired story. A good trick it was.
If we are using Ananias' life story to build a motive to his edits, as we do for the other OT editors, then we need to notice another detail. Ananias first appears in the story in Damascus. The significance of that city is lost to NT readers, but accept for now it is just far away from Jerusalem.
When we last encounter Ananias, as did Paul, we find him as High Priest back in the city of Jerusalem.
This life arc is telling us his betrayal involves moving from following Joshua in far places to seating himself in the center of the religious world back at the temple in Jerusalem.
This is a likely additional pattern for Ananias' edits, one that we have been exploring intently in our TT updates over the past few weeks.
Ananias' edits attempt to reign in the excitement and popular attraction the public had for Joshua. His goal was to redirect that popular engery into something that supports the Jerusalem priesthood.
So as an editing pattern Ananias' goal is to make all locations other than Jerusalem inconsequential. He does this in 2 different ways. First, brings stories to Jerusalem that did not actually happen there. Second, he spreads stories across the country, away from their original locations, making no other location particularly important in his edited Gospel narrative.
From within that spread of unclear locations, there are 2 locations important in the Gospels that we are currently studying. Those locations seem to have been erased by Ananias' editing hand. Let me share those locations and our reasoning.
We know Sychar as the NT name for Shechem, the location of Abram's ranch. This is the valley where the promises to Abram were made. On the hills near by are Ebal and Gerezim, the locations of stone carved copies of the Testimony from Moses' day down to Jeroboam's day.
We know the location as the place for Joshua's encounter with the woman at the well. We know it as the location of the 'Field Ripe for Harvest.' This was the field Abram originally purchased from the Hittites. There were other owners, but the most interesting was Jeremiah who purchased that field from his cousin.
We also know that Joshua appears to have inherited that field after the wake at Cana for his dead step father Joseph. Once in control of that field he made haste to open the vault to dig up the inspired OT stored there.
We also know Sychar as the Samaritan town where Philip later visited.
Do we know anything else about this location? Some of what I've given here is deduced and there appears to be no other stories located in or near Sychar. It is a foot note in Ananias' version of the NT that takes Joshua and his disciples all over the countryside.
The first clue of more stories in or very near Sychar is hinted at in Matthew 12:1.
Here we find Joshua walking through fields and they begin to pluck ears of grain and to eat. The story then turns to the Pharisees who complain about what he is doing on the Sabbath, and we read the story as a dispute over Sabbath practice.
The more important detail is to ask who owns this field? This is a ripe field of grain. So they are NOT gleaning. This is likely part of the condemnation of the Pharisees, complaining about Sabbath rather than theft.
After thinking about this for awhile, it becomes obvious from other stories that show his character that Joshua would not do this. He would not be stealing someone's grain. So we as readers must be able to readily explain why this is not breaking the commandment to not steal.
The original author most likely told this story in some context where this problem of this story can be readily answered. It is not obvious to modern readers because Ananias moved, or at least disconnected, that story from its original location.
Why was this not a story of theft? A very good reason would be if Joshua OWNED that field himself. The field we already know he owned was that same field ripe for harvest near Sychar. We also know, by the way, that it was a field ripe for harvest, and we also know he had food there that the disciples knew nothing about.
So, this story at Matthew 12 begins a set of other stories that all happened in or very near Sychar too. This is a setup for the next chapter were we have a bunch of parables related to sowing and reaping and buying and selling fields. These are of course all parables about the text, but they get stronger and easier to understand once we see them taking place in the context of Joshua's own field.
The other place that is taking on a much more prominent role in our recent work is the location at the Jordan river where John was originally baptizing.
John explained that Joshua was coming and would be greater than himself. We typically read this as coming later in time, or coming in a more complete ministry. Those of course are true.
But if you look at verses like John 10:40 we find Joshua returning to that exact location later in his public ministry. So that exact location is important to the writer to name later, but, at that location, in the edited Gospels, Joshua does very little of significance.
So perhaps part of what John was doing was preparing some exact location along the Jordan where Joshua was going to be doing the BULK of his public teaching. John was preparing the place and figuring out how to handle crowds. Getting crowds familiar with travel to that location, and so on.
The upper end of the Jordan river is about 1/2 way between Jerusalem and Damascus. To this day there is a large tourist destination for Jordan river baptisms near where that river flows out of the Sea of Galilee.
The first written account of a Jordan river baptism is Naaman the Commander from Damascus who is told to baptize in the Jordan to be healed of his leprosy. So Jordan river baptisms point at Damascas, not at Jerusalem.
So the high priest's goal in his editing is to hide as much as possible from that location.
So in recovering of the Testimony we are looking for passages which likely happened there and were moved to Jerusalem or away from Shechem and away from the Jordan.
Speaking of Jerusalem, Joshua likely did not travel there for anything consequential until passion week, when he showed the city to be run by murderers.
So as you read and poke around in the Testimony and related apps you will find major reorganization of the material. That material is forming into runs springing from locations outside of Jerusalem.
This is a major set of updates and the first time we have had a significant organizing principle based on understanding Ananias as a principle editor.