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4615RE: [Synoptic-L] J and P (with Excursus on Mk 13 and the Gentiles)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Nov 13, 2012
      To: Synoptic
      On: Scholarship
      From: Bruce

      We had this rather cryptic remark from Chuck Jones:

      Chuck: Your remarks do help me get a bigger picture of your approach to the
      scholarship of others.

      And there was David Inglis's recent query about what one does with earlier
      and now perhaps obsolete (eg, pre-P75) scholarship. The topic thus seems to
      be current. Perhaps I might add a word to what I earlier said in reply.

      If previous scholarship (meaning, research results) were consistent and
      cumulative, as is certainly the expectation in the other sciences, then one
      would simply read previous scholarship, especially its upper layers, to see
      where the field was at, and then go forward from that point in one's own
      work. In an organized world, one would not even need to read the
      scholarship, it would be cumulated in pocket size, so that if we wanted the
      atomic weight of germanium, we would simply turn to that page of the CRI
      handbook. Very nice.

      But it can sometimes happen that the expectation is not valid.

      Take classical Chinese scholarship, which, for the millennium ending only
      recently, was dominated by the state examinations. The state examinations
      specified which commentaries on the classical texts were approved, and those
      in search of a career therefore concentrated intensely on those approved
      commentaries. The idea of looking independently at the evidence - at the
      classical texts themselves - either did not arise, or was quickly suppressed
      for practical reasons. During that period, as far as I have been able to
      discover, the number of what we over here would call critical scholars, the
      ones who considered the matter independently, and whose work survives in
      print, number perhaps a couple of dozen. Critical scholars in the modern age
      will thus attend closely to the couple dozen, and at most skim the rest for
      the useful tidbit here or there.

      This amounts to a differential approach to previous scholarship, one in
      which one's own judgement plays a larger role than it otherwise might. How
      does one nourish one's judgement? I should think: by doing some of the work
      oneself, the better to recognize a good effort, or a sound inference, when
      one meets it in the work of someone else. William James once said that the
      mark of an educated person was a capacity for judgement. I warmly concur.

      What with experience of one's own, in contact with the material, and also
      with experience of other people, one arrives at whatever level of decision
      finesse one is going to have. Part of that experience is discovering which
      past authors seem to be consistently in the right direction, or anyway in a
      promising direction. Some authors are spotty - Vincent Taylor's book on Mark
      is to me one of the enduring monuments of Markan research, but his
      exploration of Streeter's Proto-Luke idea leaves me somewhat worse than
      cold. Mitton's Ephesians I find consistently careful and convincing; I can
      detect none of the same qualities in his James. Others are more consistently
      interesting. David Inglis began with the question of Michael Goulder, and I
      will end the same way.

      I find Michael to be consistently interesting. Not always right (I think I
      am not alone in the wish that Michael had never heard of lectionaries), but
      always interesting, and (an additional blessing) always fun to read. For me,
      he is someone worth getting used to, one of the people in the past century
      whose works I find it useful to read in toto - I think I have nearly all of
      them, including his volumes on the Psalms.

      But even there, judgement comes into play, and I don't mean simply
      predisposition. In Michael's Luke Paradigm, which looks to me like being his
      monument, there are times when he exposes the absurdity of Luke mixing
      Matthew with something of his own, something that doesn't work very well.
      He, and I with him, conclude that this is a clear case of Mt > Lk. Then
      there are other passages where the best that Michael can say is that the
      Luke version is very Lukan. But this would be likely to obtain for both an
      original Luke story and for one Luke adapts from Matthew. It is at these
      points - and they too are intensely valuable, though in a different way -
      that a careful reader may think of considering a different directional
      possibility. I aspire to being that careful reader.

      Potentially, my Relocated Passages in Luke paper, years ago at SBL, showed
      the way in which Michael's work on Luke may in time be undermined. This was
      not lost on the audience of that time, and they asked, in effect, what about
      Goulder? My answer was more or less this: In my opinion, Goulder's Luke is
      going to be one of the permanently valuable works of the past century. Not
      unchanged, not in all details, but as one foundation of a new view of the
      whole Gospel tradition.

      I would still stick by that, and the moreso as my alternative picture of
      Mt/Lk seems to be developing self-consistently. To me, in the end, it
      matters little whether a given contribution was perfect; what matters is
      whether it moved things forward.

      The same question, it seems to me, is going to be asked of each of us. In a
      scholarly sense, in the sense of the world of interest being better observed
      and more adequately reported, did we leave it better than we found it? Or
      were we just along for the ride?

      I think the deep core of methodology is not only the how, but the why. The
      deep point of methodology is not to be just along for the ride.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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