Re: [Synoptic-L] ascripture
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Dennis Dean Carpenter
On: 2Pt Etc [nominal heading: ascripture]
DENNIS: Can one have any confidence, historically, in the "authority" of any
of the Christian canon (or for that matter, the Tanakh), inasmuch as the
books being written by a particular person? Isn't this a theological claim,
based loosely on Eusebius and his literary references, many which are no
longer with us?
BRUCE: For myself, I don't so much care about "us," the question is what the
people at time thought. And at least some of them, at the time and long
before Eusebius, seem to have thought that putting a doctrine or a doctrinal
comment under the name of a recognized Apostle was more effective, for
achieving the intended purpose, than signing it Sine Nomine, Cappadocia.
There are modern parallels, if one needs modern parallels. Thus, after the
deaths of Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, mysteries involving the same
lead characters continued to issue from the respective presses, not as
commanding belief, but (the basic equivalent) as exploiting an established
market share. A known name is better than an unknown name, even when (as in
those cases) the known name is recognized as fictive. Those applying to
graduate school, please take note.
Hence the ascripture.
Doctrinal authority was a burning issue at the time, and also for many
today. What historical value these same texts have, in recovering the early
history of the Church, is a separate matter. In brief: *all* texts have
value for history, the problem is to place them at the *right point* in
history, so that they testify to the time when they were written, rather
than confusing us about the time which they instead purport to describe. In
2Pt, the issue was a tendency to abandon the doctrine of the Second Coming.
2Pt, on present understanding, cannot be taken as evidence that this
occurred during the lifetime of Peter. On the contrary, it attests that
problem at a considerably later date, after the first generation of Apostles
had passed from the scene (the previous Epistle of Jude also is written from
that temporal perspective, albeit claiming to come from within Apostolic
DENNIS: I guess I wonder if that is history or theology.
BRUCE: It's history, but with inevitable consequences for theology. In the
consequences lies the rub. At bottom (as was determined from the other side,
in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis of 1907), history and theology
don't mix. The view from within theology is that theology is constant;
specifically, it is what Thomas Aquinas said it was. History, by which I
mean the historian, sees it as changing. Biblical scholars speak of
"bracketing off" their theological commitment when functioning as
historians. It must be somewhat difficult to do this successfully and
consistently. Pascendi Dominici Gregis puts it in the correct terms: more
than the shepherd, it's the interest of the flock that is paramount. A given
Biblical scholar may reject the ascription of 2Pt to Pt, and remain
personally comfortable with the rest of the belief and ascription nexus; he
manages to keep his personal equilibrium. But when he puts on his Sunday hat
and addresses his flock, what then? Will 2Pt be citable in that context, as
[to paraphrase one mid-20c commentary] The Word of God? And if not, what is
the effect on the flock of his refusing to so regard it? The whole thing is
radically untenable. Whence the encyclical, and one readily enough sees
where it was coming from.
DENNIS: A question: When I tried to comment, "reply" gave me the name of the
person to whom I was attempting to respond, not Synoptic. Why?
BRUCE: It's the way the list is set up at Yahoo. Most lists operate the
other way. But to reply to Synoptic in responding to a Synoptic message, use
instead Reply All. Messes me up all the time; I should keep a note on my
desk. Problem is finding room on my desk for another note.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Thanks for the tip on reply to the group, Bruce.
I like your modern parallels. I would, however, choose The Stratemeyer
Syndicate as a relatively modern parallel. In those many books published
(Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift and others), none were
actually penned, as far as I know, by the author named, but to this day
children are fans of "Dixon," "Hope," "Keene," etc.
I think one of the issues in scholarship today is when "at the time" was.
Were Luke and Acts written after the Apostolic Age, leading into the
Apologetic Age, as some have proposed? Was Acts written, to a large part, to
counteract Marcion and to "clean up" Paul for the orthodoxy (or
proto-orthodoxy)? Can not the uncontested Paulines be contested as being
later than assumed? I would submit that "at the time" has quite a bit to do
with the synoptic problem, which seems to become less and less a problem
when the distance between the writing of Matthew and Luke is widened.
(I realize you were talking about 2nd Peter, so I'll leave it there.)
Dennis Dean Carpenter